as brave as traffic
Following the coordinates Traci gave in her latest letter, Jaime heads up and eastward, eventually heading over the Atlantic. Ocean trips make him a little twitchy, despite the Scarab's gentle teasing that [space = scarier than ocean lol] Jaime deals with it by zoning out a little and letting his co-pilot handle the controls for a while. Scotland is... awfully green when it pops up on the horizon. It's a little surreal.
Jaime initially thinks that somebody's got the coordinates wrong, even as Scarab huffs at him about this not being the case. There's nothing here that he can see. “So. It's another field. Yay. Are you sure we didn't get turned around somewhere at the second to last flock of sheep?”
But there’s a glimmer of sorts down below him, like someone holding a mirror up to the sun, and as he watches the glimmer becomes a trail of light, which becomes a hole through which Jaime can see someone waving to him, waving him in.
Magic. He'll never understand it.
He lands, and there's a flock of ten year-olds gaping at him as he armors down. (Unarmors? Jaime's never found a good way to describe it.) They’re in black monk-like robes and floppy hats. They congregate around Traci, staring at Jaime in unconcealed awe.
“I told you I was a superhero,” Traci tells them. “Now scatter. The grown-ups are talking.”
“You're not a grown-up,” one of them accuses. He kinda sounds like Tim on helium.
Traci puts her hands on her hips. “I'm more grown-up then you.” The kids scatter at that, and she smiles at Jaime. “Hey there, stranger.”
“Hi.” How does one greet exes, anyway? Because Jaime's first instinct is to hug, but this is the first time they've seen each other in person since they mutually decided to stop dating and he's totally not up on the etiquette here.
And Traci must have read his freaking mind, because she rolls her eyes at him fondly and says, “Come here, silly,” and hugs him.
Jaime looks around. There's an entire castle hiding under the magic shield, with a scenic lake and... not much else in the way of entertainment, it looks like. “Wow. I hate to break this to you, but I think you're hanging out with magical Puritans, Traci.”
“Thanks, Jaime. The realization hadn't occurred to me before this very moment.” Traci's somehow managing to make her own set of robes look like a casual fashion statement. “Your buddy do alright with the wards? They can make you feel a bit nauseous when you're not used to it.”
“He's currently trying not to flip out over the large quantity of tiny, dangerous magical humans.”
“Eh, they're far too tiny to be dangerous,” Traci says. “Just tiny and annoying.”
“Yeah, tell that to him. 'One hundred tiny missiles', he's insisting.”
[one hundred and sixty-three tiny missiles], Scarab clarifies.
“The bigger kids aren't that much better. All imbecilic and drooly.” She makes a face and it reminds Jaime, fleetingly, of Mia when she gets exasperated. “Shall I show you around? This is about as nice as it gets around here. I'll show you the buildings if you really want, but you're not missing much there unless you're a big fan of mildew and self-importance.”
“Then outside it is.” Jaime takes Traci's arm when she offers it. “Lead the way, milady.”
He wanted to see her, but he'd been putting off the visit for a while now because he was afraid of potential... awkwardness. Even though they had both agreed that their sporadic long-distance relationship wasn't the best situation for either of them, even though they'd enthusiastically agreed that they were still friends.
But Jaime was worrying for nothing – being with Traci, walking around the lake with linked arms while he fills her in on the last crazy six weeks or so of his life, it all feels perfectly natural. Jaime tells her about everything that's been happening for the past few months and Traci listens and asks questions every once in a while like, “he's the one that died, right? The other one, I mean”, and Jaime says “I think that applies to pretty much everyone by now”, and she squeezes his hand and then she talks about her work and the classism inherent in the system and about how they're using slightly different means here to achieve similar results and she's managing to learn a lot even if their uniforms are stuffy and awful.
“The price I'm paying for learning to be more awesome, I guess,” she says, and smiles.
“You were always awesome.”
“Yeah?” She tugs him away from the shoreline. “Oh, you'll want to stay away from that tree, love.”
“I can handle trees. Is it a magic tree? Because I have experience with magic trees.” He grins. "I'm a superhero, remember? Magic trees, grumpy sidekicks, giant cosplayers with delusions of grandeur..." He stops for a second. “I... just missed you.”
“Oh, doofus, I missed you too,” she says, and they hug again and hop up and down a little.
Traci's the one who breaks the hug. “Hold on,” she says, and her forehead is very slightly furrowed in that familiar way. “Did you just say 'giant cosplayers with delusions of grandeur' back there?”
“That was about the gist of it, yes.”
Traci's suddenly all business. “Explain.”
Jaime does to the best of his ability.
“And they were after Robin?” She shakes her head. “Jaime, if they have a beef with him, then that’s not good news.”
Jaime remembers Tim screaming at the giants, Tim's face pale and dead. “Is he in trouble?”
“I would say so, yes.” And Traci tells him why.
When he arrives back home and hears his sister screaming in the backyard, Jaime goes into immediate offensive mode. He thunders through the house, thinks briefly about following Scarab's suggestion of blasting through the back porch door, but it's open already and he sort of skids to a stop, looking frantically around him for Milagro.
Cassie and Mom are at the picnic table, glasses of lemonade in front of them. “-and today this tourist with the biggest sun hat, you would not believe-” Mom looks up. “Sweetie, is that any way to greet your friends? The neighbors are going to notice.”
Cassie at least has the decency to look slightly embarrassed when she waves. “Hi, Jaime.”
"I thought you were under attack!" He's standing there like a complete doofus, one armor-blade out in front of him, blinking at the domestic tableau.
"Does it look like we're under attack, sweetie?"
“Um.” Jaime's trying to figure out why the hell Cassie's here. “The lemonade could be poisoned?”
“You're home!” Bart’s holding Milagro on his shoulders and is running little circles in their backyard. It’s nothing even close to his full speed, but enough to make Milagro shriek in delight and tell Bart about how much cooler he is than her brother. “I gave your sister one of my old sets of goggles they're vintage official Impulse paraphernalia and they're probably a little on the loose side but they're for play only of course-”
“Did you bring a present?” Milagro asks pointedly.
“I would have, kiddo, but I wasn't really anywhere present-y.”
“Hmmph.” She knocks her feet against Bart's sides in a clear wish for him to giddy-up again. “Too late for you. Bart Mercury's my new brother now.”
“Oh, so we are going with the name change?” Cassie asks from the table.
"Guys," Jaime asks. "Why are you here?"
"Do we need a reason?" Cassie takes one look at Jaime's face and elaborates, "Okay, so we kinda wanted to see where you lived and... stuff."
"You totally wanted to meet my family."
Cassie bites her lip, but doesn't deny it.
"Guys." Jaime scrubs his hand over his face. "You could have just asked instead of dropping in like this. I could have, I don't know, bought cupcakes or something."
"Your friends are welcome here any time they want to, Jaime," Mom says pointedly.
"Mom, you really, really don't want to mean that," and right on cue, Reason Number One shows up.
“GUYS.” Kon's hovering above their backyard now, and if their neighbors aren't noticing this, then they're idiotic and deserve to be left in the dark. "You said you wouldn't go without me!"
"I said no such thing!" Cassie shoots back. "I said that we'd go without you if you weren't ready when we were ready, and you were still talking on the phone to your freaking cows when we left!"
Kon looks slightly wounded. "Lullabelle's sensitive and gets all sulky when I'm not around. The sound of my voice calms her."
“Whatever, Cow Whisperer.”
"You're all crazy," Jaime says. "Mom, do you see what I mean now? My teammates are crazy people."
“Alright, Jaime, brace for epic.” Paco bursts through the back door, Brenda tagging along after, because this isn't enough of a sitcom already. He's got his hair spiked up and is wearing a black shirt with a red S insignia on it. “I finally got my Halloween costume together. Pretty awesome, right?”
“Dude.” Kon, still floating a few inches above the ground, looks down at Paco with delight and intrigue.
Paco looks up. They gaze at each other with the recognition of two kindred souls. “Dude.”
“Oh Jesus Fuc-FUDGE. FUDGE,” Brenda says, remembering that there’s a mother present. “This is the worst day of my life.”
“You're telling me,” Cassie says.
Kon finally hits earth. “Hey man, I could totally hook you up with one of my uniform shirts. You need the authentic flavor.”
“Hey, you’d do that?” Paco looks like it's Christmas already.
“Of course I’d do it!” Kon slaps him on the back. “We’re, like, totally bros now.”
Bart twirls Milagro to the ground. “We are all totally doomed.”
Current guesses as to Tim's whereabouts are:
-Tim has gone home to hash it out with the new Batman.
-Tim has gone home to take his name back, by force if necessary. By DEATHMATCH if really necessary.
-Tim has snapped and has gone out into the world on a journey to find Batman. Yeah, right.
-Tim is in his super secret lab, cloning back Batman. Because that worked out so well before.
-Tim went to New Krypton. (Kon: “And he didn't tell me? Fuck my life.”)
Tim doesn't come back and he doesn't come back and he doesn't come back. One Sunday, Jaime finds Bart, Kon, and Kara huddled around the coffee table. They'd found a phoneline of Tim’s that was still open, Bart explained, and now they were all leaving messages.
Very... creative messages.
“I'm really not sure about this,” Kara says.
Bart waves the lyric sheet in one hand and the phone in the other. “It's perfect trust us he'll totally get it!”
“Okay. Whatevs. Hopefully he won't hold me entirely responsible for this.” She readies herself and squints at the paper as if she can't quite believe this is happening and sings.
It's even a little bit pretty.
“I'm not sure if making a song that calls him “Bitchface” is going to make him want to come back,” Jaime says. “It’s just a hunch.”
“No, no, it’s with love!” Bart insists.
When Bart hands the phone to him, someone named Alvin Draper tells him to leave a message, if they must. “This is my equivalent of holding up a boombox outside your window,” Jaime says. “Except I don't have a boombox. Or a song. And I'm not really sure what this is supposed to stand for, anyway. So.” He has no idea what he’s doing here, if Tim even wants to hear him. “Miss you.” He feels a little weird even saying that, but it’s true. “I hope you're not doing anything stupid. Or too stupid, anyway.”
Tim doesn't come back. Bart organizes a picnic in Golden Gate Park and happily it isn't interrupted by anything more dastardly than the occasional ant. Kon seems to finally realize and accept that Cassie is so not going to happen, on account of her already being taken by Mia. He starts rhapsodizing about a girl back home, “some crunchy granola dairy princess chick”. It isn't to antagonize Cassie or to make her jealous, except for the part where he's totally trying to make Cassie jealous. Jaime and Bart accidentally kinda trash the infirmary. Bart cleans it up within three minutes anyway, and then they listen to Albanian folk music and talk about the Korean New Wave (or more like Bart tells him about the Korean New Wave and Jaime tries to hang on for dear life). It's pretty good for a Sunday. Mia bobs her hair. Bart adds oversized goggles to the Kid Flash suit and fiddles with the colors a bit. Evil robots are neutralized, villains are conquered with a minimum of damage and fuss. Jaime gets to fight his first pack of ninjas and he can’t shut up about it to a very jealous Paco once he gets home.
It's all well and good, but at the same time it's not right. The consensus seems to be to let Tim creep back in on his own, but there's a general air of disappointment every week when they've all congregated and Tim hasn't shown up, sweatpants and all.
Hell, they'll even take him with regular clothes. They'll take him any way they can get him.
whatever the mess you are
It's almost embarrassing how long it takes for it to occur to Jaime. He's headed back from Paco's with a few hours to kill before dinner and some absentminded thoughts regarding the softness of Tim's hair when he stops in the middle of the sidewalk and hits himself in the forehead. “Oh. OH! Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
He's thought about tracking him via the Scarab a time or two, back when Tim had first left, but the other Titans' exasperated acceptance convinced him that it wasn't necessarily the best idea. The belief that he would come back had been enough for a while, but now it's like there's a hole in their world and as 'normal' as it supposedly is for Tim to go off and sulk, Jaime really is getting a little worried.
Not to mention the fact that Tim wasn't just running away from his friends, he was running away from whatever was going on between them, and Jaime can't help but be a little bit peeved over that.
There's no use in not trying, right? Once he knows where Tim is, then he can think about next steps. “Um, locate Tim?”
The Scarab does.
“Uh-uh. You've got to be shitting me.”
Scarab assures Jaime that he is not, in fact, shitting him.
“Why didn't you tell me??? You've known all this time?” People are giving Jaime weird looks because ahaha, he's talking out loud like a crazy person. He waits until he's at a less crowded bit of sidewalk before he continues. “I am so grounding you. If I can figure out how to do that without grounding myself.” He’s tracking down Tim before any attempted groundings happen, though, because either Khaji’s pulling an elaborate and slightly mean practical joke on him (which is always possible), or.
Or Tim’s been hiding in El Paso for a month, right under Jaime’s nose. And if so, kid’s got some explaining to do.
He expects to be headed to one of the fancier hotels in the downtown core. That's where Timmies live when they're not wearing sweatpants and stealing the Tower's wifi, right? Instead, the Beetle-radar steers him right through Jaime's neighborhood, taking him right past his own house and down a few streets before stopping. “Um. Scarab?”
If this is where Tim's living, then he's currently living awfully close to Jaime's house. Like, 'four blocks away' sort of close. In a ranch-style house that looks an awful lot like Jaime's house used to (before it got blown up, anyway). “Are you sure about this?” He's still half-convinced that Scarab's practical jokes have suddenly grown more complicated while he wasn't paying attention.
[positive], Scarab replies, then [knock knock, Reyes]
“Again, you could have told me, like, eons ago.”
[more fun this way]
“I repeat: grounded!”
Jaime knocks on the front door in a constant barrage. When the door opens on knock twenty-seven, Jaime almost doesn't register it and his fist keeps going. Tim catches his hand in midair and they stay there for a few moments, mutually rooted to the spot, staring at each other.
Tim's the one who breaks the silence. “Hey there, Jaime.” He sounds too damned casual, like he invited Jaime over here in the first place. He lets go of Jaime's hand. “Lovely day, isn't it?”
“You!” Jaime starts. He hasn't had a lot of time to construct the rant that Tim deserves, so he's left spluttering and red-faced. Three weeks isn't that much of an absence in the long run, but that's a lot of frustrated masturbation time if you look at it that way (stupid sexy Tim).
Tim's hair is a little shaggier, and there's red on his cheeks, and Jaime has to remember that he's exasperated at him. For being a creeper and living in his town without telling him.
Stupid. Sexy. Tim.
“Care to come in?” Tim steps back as he opens the door wider. “My layout's a bit... sparse, but there's a chair in the kitchen.”
“I don't want your chair!” Okay, not the smoothest comeback line in the world, but he has no idea what else to say in the face of such blatant insanity. “You! Timothy Drake!”
“You know my last name.” Tim doesn't say it as an accusation, more like... he's pleased.
“I've always known your last name! I met Tim before I met Robin! And my Scarab's facial recognition and identification software is better than even the Batman's! I've always known your last name!”
And it would be so easy to get waylaid by Tim's smile, by how obviously pleased he is that Jaime's here. He has to remember his sense of outrage. “Timothy Middle-Name Drake!”
Tim is... still in sweatpants, actually. These are less baggy and more on the slinky side, made of thinner fabric. “It's Jackson, actually. In my defense, I wasn't the one who picked it.”
Yeah, Jaime doesn't like it, either. “I repeat, Timothy Middle-Name Drake!” He's pointing at Tim like the most outraged prosecutor on the most histrionic police drama to ever air on television. “You've been here all along! You've been stalking me!” And okay, Jaime doesn't actually have any solid, concrete proof of this, but Jaime's not stupid – it's a Batperson with a penchant for surveillance, living seven minutes walking distance from Jaime's house.
Tim seems unconcerned about this new allegation. “In my family, that's considered a loving act.”
“In my family, that's considered stalking!” Jaime looks around. Tim only seems to have furniture in the front room, arranged like a dormitory: a desk with a bunch of computer equipment and three monitors, a chair. A double bed with white sheets wedged in the corner. It's depressing in its simplicity. “All you need is a Wall of Crazy. Where are you hiding your Wall of Crazy?”
“I haven’t actually had a Wall of Crazy since I was ten or so.”
Jaime decides to let that one slide, because of course he had a Wall of Crazy. Of course. “And – oh, Scarab just told me that you've been looking in my windows!”
Tim looks down, demurs. “Only. Only a couple of times.”
Jaime throws up his hands and demands of the Scarab, “And you blithely let this happen? Thanks for keeping me in the loop on that one.”
“You are a sociopath, you hear me? A tiny sociopath!”
They bicker back and forth for a few more minutes, and it is established that:
a) Scarab did know that Tim was in El Paso (and looking in Jaime's window a couple of times what the fuck) the entire time,
b) he deliberately kept this information from Jaime,
c) points A and B are tolerable because- what? “What?”
“What is he saying?”
Jaime makes a face. “I'm not telling.”
“Oh, come on,” Tim coaxes.
Jaime grits out, “That he regards you as a 'most suitable mate' for me, and thought this was a nifty little surprise.”
Tim. is. Grinning. “Well, couldn't it be argued that he has your best interests in mind?”
[human love cannot be denied], Scarab explains as if that's all there is to it. Jaime's just glad that Tim can't hear it. He'd take it as vindication for his stalkery ways.
Jaime pulls a face. “You're paying too much attention when Mom's watching her stories, aren't you.” His face has been red since Scarab's stupid 'mate' thing.
“I could pretend that I didn't hear your half of the conversation,” Tim offers. “If that makes you feel any better.”
“You're worried about eavesdropping now? I mean, the thought's kind of sweet, but isn't it coming a little late in the game?” Jaime stops himself. He could keep on bitching Tim out about this, and they will have a conversation at some point in the near future about appropriate boundaries, but Jaime hasn't seen him for weeks. “No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get up in your face. I missed you, and I'm happy to see you, and here I am yelling at you. That isn't right.” He wants to touch Tim, but doesn't know how or where to start. For now, he settles with letting their hands brush together.”I missed you.”
Tim's face brightens. It makes him look a little younger, like he doesn't have the world on his shoulders anymore. “I really missed you, too. And it's okay. It's cute when you yell at me.”
“There is something deeply wrong with you,” Jaime replies, but he can't stop the smile.
“Oh, I know.” Tim takes Jaime's hand then, briefly, squeezing before letting go. “I was about to order in. Want halfsies?”
“Well, I've got family dinner tonight.”Tim tries to keep his upbeat facial expression, but Jaime feels so awful about the forced aspect of his smile that he adds, “Which doesn't mean that I can't eat now, though. What were you thinking?”
Jaime gets the one kitchen chair, the last clean glass, and first dibs on the fried rice. Tim sits on a flimsy plastic stool that creaks under his weight every time he takes a bite.
“Okay.” Jaime asks after he's gobbled enough down for the time being. “Why'd you leave?”
Jaime really wants to know what kind of training enabled Tim to be able to raise just one eyebrow like that. It's rather impressive. “What, not even a perfunctory 'how's your food'?”
Jaime rolls his eyes.“How's your food?”
“Tim, why'd you leave?”
Tim looks down at his picked-over plate. Avoiding Jaime's eyes usually means that he's going to give a non-answer. “I have a schedule that I need to adhere to.” And there's the aloofness again. “Staying at the Tower was always meant to be a temporary measure. I never said anything to the contrary.”
“I don't think any of us expected you to live there forever, Tim. But you totally ran out without even saying goodbye, and.” There are so many things Jaime could say right now, but the words pool up in Jaime's mouth and come out in horrible, awkward bursts - “I can't get a freaking handle on you, Tim! I swear!” And here's the yelling again. “One minute you're batting those ridiculously huge eyelashes at me, and the next minute you freak out and leave, and the next next minute you're watching me sleep unawares-”
Tim holds up a hand. “I'm really not excusing my actions on that front, but it really was a force of habit, and I only did it the once.”
“Okay, but I reserve the right to bring it up at least one more time before I get over it.” Jaime's voice sounds hollow to his ears.
Tim guides a grain of rice around on his plate like a sulky child. “That's perfectly acceptable.”
“I just want you to come out and say something outright for once, for once, Tim. I don't do head games. I'm not from Gotham.”
“Alright. You want outright? I'll give you outright.” Tim looks up, and his eyes flash, and Jaime can't understand why anyone would want to cover them up with a mask when they're this intense. “You're going to get fucked up, Jaime. If you keep in this line of work, you are going to get fucked up because that's the way things are. Is that straightforward enough for you? I've seen so many people get chewed up and spit out by this life and it's untenable, it's disgusting, but I don't know if there's another option, which is the sick part. We're all stuck in our ways, aren't we? We're all pretending. I mean, look at Bart. He was a man who died in the arms of his lover, and now everyone is back to pretending that he's been a child all along and he wasn't kicked to death and he, and he-”
“Tim,” Jaime breathes out. He starts to get up from his chair, but Tim, his head down, his face twisted away, waves him off.
“It's sick, the way we pretend. It's wrong and it's sick. And so he plays into that, because the last thing Bart would ever want to do is to let down the people he loves, or cause them pain, and so he lets us all pretend. And I couldn't help him, I didn't help him, and now I can't even treat him like the adult that he still is.” Tim lays his hands out palm-down on the table. He stares at them as if he can read the answers in the tiny lines of blue veins, the spindly bones. “And the very first time that I looked at you, all I could think about was all the different ways, large and small, that this life would break you, too. That's why I left. It hurt too much to stay.”
It's never been laid out for Jaime like this before, so blunt. He never knew Bart when he was older, but everyone else did, and he can see how much it would hurt having that and losing it all and nobody acting like it had actually happened, and oh. Tim. “And this is why you made a deal with the Architects.”
“Traci told you.” It isn't a question.
“She didn't know the specifics, but she said they only harass people when they either want them dead or want something out of them. And they already killed you and it wasn't enough, so I assumed that it's got to be the latter.” All of this is lying heavy in Jaime's body, this horrible, dawning realization of just how much is out of their control.
Tim sits on the stool with his back straight and his limbs rigid. “I can't change the past. What I can do is prevent the future from being any worse than what we've already been through. The Titans... none of us were supposed to be happy. The dancing, the excursions, the general easiness... so many people were supposed to die, Jaime. That was unacceptable.” He has never seemed more like a Bat since he stopped being Robin then he does right now. “I asked them for a change in direction. I asked for eight months. Eight months of getting to see my friends, together and happy and unharmed. Eight months without something catastrophic and unfair happening. What they were going to do to Mia's family alone-”
“But what about in return? You didn't promise them your soul or anything, did you?”
“I was desperate, not crazy,” Tim answers. “At the end of the eight months, I'm going to put on a stupid costume and put a plan into motion that will bring Batman back from where he's been trapped all this time. I'd be doing that now, except I couldn't, I couldn't with the knowledge that I'd be leaving you all alone to suffer and die and be miserable.”
“Wait.” Tim's going on a mile a minute and most of it is registering in Jaime's head to some extent but. But. “Batman's not dead?”
“He is but he isn't.” Tim looks a little wry. “It's a long and complicated story. What I've been doing, this has all been about borrowing time before I have to go back to it. And it's alright, I'm no good for anything else, but the first time I looked at you, it hurt a little because I knew that you'd end up just like the rest of us.” The light is starting to change outside; it recedes from Tim's face by infinitesimal degrees. “I wanted to spare you from all of that, any way that I could.”
“You...” Jaime has no wit for this sort of moment, no canned remark. “Since we're letting it all out there, anything else?”
Tim huffs out a breath, a tiny surrender. “I really, really like you.”
Jaime's annoyance over Tim being the most difficult thing to ever difficult runs smack dab against the relief that comes from him actually, finally admitting it. “I'd actually kinda picked that up already. What with the moving to my hometown and not telling me like a creepy stalker.” Talking about it so matter of factly makes Jaime's face feel a little hot.
“I did tell you I was looking into real estate,” Tim cracks, but it sounds false and uncomfortable.
Jaime counts off on his fingers. “So you flirt with me, you disappear on me, you take lessons from the Lifetime Original Movie school of stalking. But the integral step that you don't actually follow is, you know, telling me that you like me outright instead of leaving me all paranoid and guessing. Oh, and you made a deal with the crazy giant people and didn't tell anybody.”
“Yeah, I'm sorry about that.” Tim sighs. “'Sorry' doesn't seem sufficient, does it? Nothing does. It's just... You're so beautiful. And normal and beautiful.” Tim looks half like he's horrified by what's coming out of his mouth, half this strange mix of grateful and desperate. “And it scares me, because I'd been convinced for so long that I hurt or kill everything that I touch, and I don't want to be that person anymore.”
Jaime blinks. He... has no idea what to say to that. He doesn't know how to make it any better. “Hey.” He gets up and crouches next to Tim, lifting his hands from the table and holding them in his own. Tim looks really lost suddenly, bewildered as a child, and Jaime thinks of what Tim would be if he hadn't been a part of this life. What he'd be like. He'd be a smaller boy otherwise, and slightly willowy, and it shows in unexpected places: the thinness of his wrists and ankles. Tim's hands are smaller than his, but stronger.
Jaime speaks with the same tone of voice he uses to calm down Milagro after a tantrum. “This is what we're going to do, okay? One, you have to start answering your friends' calls. They care about you. Two, you have to start answering their calls. Three, I had absolutely nothing to do with the Bitchface song.”
“I thought that was oddly sweet, actually.” Tim attempts a smile. It comes out a little wobbly, but it's a start.
“Our friends are weird, Tim.” And Jaime's never put it that way before, it's never been 'our' before, but it feels nice. Everything feels nice - the way he's stroking Tim's hands, up to his wrists now, sweeping his fingers over the soft spots he's found on the undersides of Tim's arms.
“I know," Tim whispers. The stool groans when Tim stoops closer to Jaime, getting their faces lined up. "Isn't it great?”
Jaime's heart-rate is elevated, Scarab insistently reports – and his gut is twisting but it doesn't hurt, it's almost like excited expectation. “I have no idea what I'm doing.” He hates how his voice sounds, so childish, so stupid, but Tim's got his fingers stroking Jaime's jaw now, keeping him from bolting. He can feel the rhythm of Tim's breathing, enough that he unconsciously starts breathing in time with him. Their bodies rise and fall against each other.
“That's okay.” Tim leans in close enough to rub their noses together. “Neither do I.”
And Scarab breaks radio silence at this time to go [KISS HIM DUMBASS]
So Jaime does.
And okay, he doesn't know what it is about being a hero that lets him make out with gorgeous people, but Jaime really is all for it. He feels like he wants to kiss harder, under the skin, and Tim's wrist feels so thin from this angle, deceptively so. His eyelashes look so fine. And Tim hums into Jaime's mouth and goes with it like he's fighting for his very life, like he has to find some sort of answer that's deep inside him, hidden. And the making out is nice, beyond nice, nice is suddenly such a placid word in the face of it. Fabulous, maybe, because Tim kisses with intent, like Jaime's a puzzle or a case to be solved and it makes Jaime think fabulous, porny thoughts about the other boys Tim must have kissed and groped like this. It all makes his head feel a bit fuzzy, even without knowledge of the Scarab's intense observation. Which is way too weirdly complicated for Jaime to think about now, so he just silently thanks him for not interjecting with color commentary and just goes with it, keeps kissing and pushing and pulling.
“Scarab's quiet right now.” It isn't a question. Tim leans back ever so slightly and studies Jaime's face.
“Yeah, I think he's trying to-” Jaime swallows. “Give us some privacy. For once.”
“Up,” Tim murmurs, and he moves away, standing. Jaime blinks in the absence of being touched, momentarily, but then Tim’s tugging at him. Jaime lets himself be tugged, lets himself be folded because Tim’s lifting him up into his arms, carrying him out of the kitchen and into the living room-bedroom. Jaime closes his eyes until his back meets the mattress.
“You,” Jaime manages to get out. He pulls Tim down onto him, wanting him closer, tighter up against his body. “You are so hot,” and then they’re off to the races again, kissing and necking and petting each other, falling in deep, so deep.
He closes his eyes and tries to let himself feel... Sexy? Like he's the type of person who does this on a regular basis? “You want to touch him again, don't you? The Scarab?”
Tim's fingers move up and sift through his hair. “I want to touch you.”
Jaime kinda forgets how to talk for a while after that. When Tim starts undressing him, it doesn't sink in until Jaime feels their chests slide together, skin on skin.
“It's okay, Jaime.” Tim's palming his ass, murmuring next to Jaime's mouth when he isn't kissing him like a fiend. “I know that you're a virgin.”
“Who told you?” Jaime blurts out, then tries to think of a way to sound less like a thirteen year-old with braces.
Tim leans away a little. It's awfully hard to keep the bird comparisons at bay when he's tilting his head so owlishly. “Maybe I was bluffing just then and you just confirmed my suspicions.”
Jaime grabs Tim's hands. They're strong, Jaime can feel it, but Tim stills in his grip. “Okay, you have to promise me: no Bat-people mind games. It is cruel and unusual punishment because my brain hurts enough already right now.”
“Does it?” Tim strokes Jaime’s hair as if apologizing, giving him breathing room. “We could stop.”
No, Jaime wants to say, please don’t, but Tim seems to get the message when Jaime plants his hands on either side of Tim's waist and licks his way back into his mouth.
He's momentarily bowled over at the honestly of it all. He can see it in the new softer set of Tim's mouth, the eyes that are looking away not out of decorum but out of uncertainty, fragility. His mouth is softer than Jaime expects. Tim's grip around Jaime's shoulders is anything but soft.
-and Tim isn't wearing any underwear under those sweatpants. “Oh, whoa,” Jaime thinks and says at the same time.
Jaime always thought that the decision to have sex would be more monumental, somehow. Someone would announce, someone would agree. Ten minutes ago, when they first started necking, they were aimless, but now they're there, they're aimed. [in the direction of your groin] Scarab singsongs, clearly pleased. Jaime would tell him to shut up but that would involve a) stopping, which he isn’t planning on doing anytime soon and b) making sure that Tim knows that he isn’t telling him to shut up, because that could be hard to explain with Jaime’s brain malfunctioning the way it is at the moment.
Jaime's pushing Tim's sweatpants down off his hips before he can really register what he's doing. Tim's hands are fumbling at Jaime's waist. He can't come back from this. He swallows and tries to grab a calm thought.
Tim pauses, one hand pressing on Jaime's hip. The other is stroking right above his pubic bone, maddeningly light. Jaime shudders. “Is it alright if I blow you?”
Something in Jaime's gut leaps at this. “Were you really expecting a no?” His laugh has barely any sound in it.
“It was intended as more of a warning.” Tim's hands slide down to squeeze his thighs.
Jaime's body is moving of its own accord, trying to move away and press closer at the same time as Tim kisses every square inch of skin he can find.
After the sex - after the sight of Tim, eyes closed, his face serene as he works his mouth, after Jaime sweats and shakes and grabs at the mattress, after "I love you" almost escapes from his mouth (and Jaime doesn't know if he means it, he doesn't know, but the feel of it on his tongue is inevitable as the orgasm), after Scarab chooses to make his presence known with a deep, low hum that's too much and makes Jaime come, much to his mortification, all over Tim's chin, his cheek -
After Tim rises up onto his knees, straddling Jaime, and starts jerking himself, sucking on his lower lip in concentration, closing his eyes, after he braces himself with a pale hand on the pale wall, after Jaime, stupefied by orgasm, does his best to touch, his fingertips brushing against Tim's thigh, failing to find purchase, after he watches Tim's face grow so open, so soft, after he comes with a noise no louder than a hiccup -
Then, there's peace.
“Shh, it’s alright.” All Jaime can focus on are Tim's eyes, shiny and huge and triumphant as Tim slides across his body to kiss his mouth, his face. “It's fine,” he says between kisses. “It's fine, you're perfect.” Jaime tries to hold on.
They lie on Tim's mattress and hold each other. Okay, so they're cuddling. Jaime's a cuddler; so sue him. Fortunately, Tim clings right back, like a limpet or a sloth or something else small and in need of reassurance.
Tim nudges at Jaime's arm with his nose. “So, the Scarab. Does he... like anything in particular?”
Jaime chuckles. “Besides violence and cinnamon buns?”
“Because I was thinking of making an offering of sorts. A tete-a-tete.”
“Wait a minute. You're wooing my Scarab now, too?” Jaime pulls Tim even closer; he likes the feel of Tim's weight on him. It makes him feel solid, feel like this is really happening.
“Well," Tim clucks. "I don't want him to not like me.”
Jaime pokes Tim on his dear little nose. “Of course he likes you. You're both big on surveillance and intellectual superiority. And now I'm afraid that we're in a bizarre love triangle,” and Scarab chirps, probably laughing at him, the fucker. Or agreeing, which would be even more distressing if he thinks about it for too much.
“I used to think I was cursed,” Tim says.
Jaime nuzzles him and responds, “Sounds like you used to be a drama queen," but it isn't unkind.
"Oh, I am a drama queen." Tim wriggles until he's lying half on top of Jaime. “I bought a houseplant, and it withered under my touch. And then my brother suggested that maybe I should have tried watering it.”
“Pobrecito.” His fingers run loops over Tim's cheeks, down to the unexpected softness of his throat. He momentarily traces the scar there. “You should've tried a cactus. Mainly for the thematic flair.”
“Are you calling me short and prickly?”
“Let's pretend I said something funny about your prick just now.” Jaime reaches for it and pets at it a little and gets that surreal “I am holding another boy's cock in my hand” feeling again. "My little cactus."
“The cactus where my heart should be,” Tim says dreamily, then, “Lie still, I'm going to name your chin hairs.”
“You are quite weird,” Jaime says, but he lets Tim breathe all over him anyway.
He sooooo doesn't make it to family dinner.
our arms fill with miracles
It isn't a fluke that Tim moved practically on top of Jaime. He's here because of Jaime. Tim chose him, and that's something that Jaime is still reeling from. He thinks about Tim sitting in the dark with barely any furniture. He's a solitary person to begin with, but it starts to seem like punishment when it's taken to that extent.
The solution, if there is one, is to simply stick with Tim as much as possible. Jaime wants to give him as much as he needs and then some.
It's the opposite of the Traci situation in a lot of ways – he can see Tim any time he wants, he comes over after school on Wednesday and they eat pizza and watch movies and make out on Tim's bed and it's all so deceptively normal. Everyone talks about how nothing about Tim is normal, but it's obvious that Tim needs this, and Jaime wants to give it to him.
“I've pretty much never been this relaxed in my life,” Tim confesses.
“Mmm. I think I like you relaxed.” Jaime's temporarily overcome with the sheer, manic surreality of having a sex life, of being able to say things like that even though they're half-ridiculous.
“You should come over Thursday. To my house, I mean,” as if Jaime could be talking about anywhere else. “It's lasagna night.”
“What, you thought every night was taco night down here?”
Tim sighs wistfully in the remembrance of last night's takeout dinner. “I was sort of hoping.”
Jaime rolls his eyes, then tries to soothe Tim with, “It's really good lasagna, dorkface. I promise. And I want you to meet my parents.” Which means that Jaime has to actually tell his parents, but he'll worry about that one later.
“Is your father going to beat me with his cane?”
Well, that's a pleasant introductory question. “Um, not to my knowledge? Besides, rock beats scissors, Scarab beats cane. I wouldn't let things get that out of hand.”
Tim mulls this over. “That's a risk that I'm willing to take. Also, and I don't know if you're aware of this, but I can kinda take care of myself.”
“You.” Jaime presses him down and kisses him until they both can't bear it anymore. “Oh, and you're not allowed to wear your mask at the table. House rules. And you probably can't get away with sunglasses, either.”
“Of course,” Tim agrees with a straight face. “That's only for formal occasions.”
They're coming back from helping a beached whale back into the ocean (helped mostly by Bart chattering to it in what surely couldn't have been whalesong, but it seemed to calm the animal down anyway) and Cassie suggests that the two of them take the long way back, “to talk”. Jaime immediately assumes that that's it, he's getting kicked out for some infraction real or imagined or because Mia's best friend from elementary school is going to take his place. Which is a stupid thing to assume after all this time, but he's still a little twitchy about the subject.
Or, it occurs to Jaime, Cassie somehow knows about Tim, and so that's what he's about to get fired for. Inappropriate fraternization, or something, though in Jaime's defense Cassie really has no place to talk whatsoever.
“So, I guess we sort of owe you an apology,” Cassie says instead. “Or, to be more exact, I do."
“You do?” Jaime's so glad that it isn't firing time that it takes him a moment to process this. “Oh, you do!"
"It was really uncool of me to switch everything up on you with absolutely no warning, and so of course that's exactly what I did."
"I mean, I'd kinda gotten over it by now because in the long run, I'm actually a lot happier with you guys, but the apology is appreciated." The assurance that he's not being kicked out gives him courage; he says what he's been wanting to say for a few weeks now, ever since the dance. “And look, maybe this is all out of line for me to say because I'm not one of the cool kids at the lunch table and I don't have the history that the rest of you have with each other. But Bart's pulling stunts like his life depended on it and you – okay, I'm going to assume that you didn't ask Mia to join for the sole purpose of tapping that-”
“Watch it,” Cassie says, but she's smiling a little.
“It's all of you, though, Tim included.” He takes a breath and looks down at the city. “You're all on some nostalgia trip mixed with I don't even know what, and it makes someone like me feeling like I'm on shaky ground. Because if you're all partying like it's 1999? I was the Mario Kart champion of the block back then, and yet have I ever to reclaim that illustrious prize, but that was it. Nothing special, nothing important.”
“First of all, most of us weren't doing this ten years ago, either.” Cassie's floating on her back like she's on a beach raft, her arms up behind her head. “And for the record, I asked Mia back because we were already starting to fall apart when she first joined way back when, and I didn't think that it was fair for her. And, yes, also because I liked her, but also because we all liked her back then and just didn't show it to her back then because we were so neck deep in our petty dramas. It's not like we're not aware of the fact." She just floats for a while, and Jaime starts to think that the conversation is over when she says, “I mean, let's face it: we're being nostalgic for a time that may not have actually happened.”
And that's their problem in a nutshell, isn't it?
“So. When were you first tempted to quit?” Cassie asks. Before Jaime can squawk out an answer, she adds, “I'm not questioning your commitment. It's just that you're not really a Titan until you've quit or come pretty close at least once, so.”
“The very first week. In my defense that was not happy funtimes!”
Cassie groans a little at the memory. “Yeah, tell me about it. I mean, Donna once said that meeting your future evil potential self was just a rite of passage that we all had to go through, but she's one to talk.”
“And, um,” Jaime confesses. “The week that Tim showed up. I had a quitting speech ready and everything.”
"We're lucky that Tim showed up, then." Cassie "You're one of us, now. Don't ever doubt that."
It's not enough to make Jaime stop doubting it automatically. But it helps.
The next step in assembling the most awkward dinner party ever: alerting the stalwart friends.
“GET IN LOSER, WE'RE GOING SHOPPING.” he can hear Paco holler over the horn.
“OR MILKSHAKES,” Brenda adds. “Whatever gets you out of the house more quickly.”
Jaime contemplates hopping into the back seat without opening the door; it’s what Kon would do. “A Mean Girls joke? We are really dating ourselves here.”
Paco starts to hold both hands to his heart before he remembers that he needs at least one of them for steering and corrects himself accordingly. “I refuse to let anyone shame me for the fact that I celebrate her entire catalog.”
“Don't even,” Brenda says when Jaime looks at her. “It's better than last week's fascination with the Slap-Chop and no worse than the Mr. T thing.”
Paco turns back when they're at the light and leers. “You're gonna love my nuts.”
Jaime looks at Brenda and asks, "How do you put up with-"
"I ask myself the same thing every night before I fall into an uneasy sleep."
“So,” Jaime says once they've settled with their milkshakes. “So I sort of have a secret stalker boyfriend.”
Paco opens his mouth and points his spoon dramatically at Jaime. Jaime and Brenda wait for several seconds, but no sound comes out.
“Look at that, you broke him.” Brenda's waving her hand in front of Paco's face, to no avail. To Jaime, she says, “I knew you had a secret something. You are the worst liar ever. You even screw up lying by omission.” She shushes him when Jaime opens his mouth to debate this. “And before you even open your mouth to say that you’re sorry, it’s cool. Brenda forgives all.”
“I can be sneaky sometimes,” Jaime protests. Brenda just looks at him, and Jaime decides to change the subject. “He's still pointing at me! Make it stop!”
Brenda reaches over and sticks her thumb under Paco's chin, pressing up until Paco's jaw clacks shut. He still points silently with wide eyes. “Don't worry, he's just sad it isn't him.” When that doesn't get a response, she and Jaime share a momentary look and decide to move on. “Now. You must tell us everything. Exactly who has been stalking you with loooove?”
“Um.” Jaime suddenly feels like one of Paco's sisters with a crush; his face is flushing and he wants to bury his head in his hands. “Robin. Ex-Robin now, I guess. The grumpy one.”
“Wait a minute, the same Robin you described as 'sort of a creeper'?” Brenda looks totally dubious. “That's your secret boyfriend? We have got to talk about your sense of self-esteem if you’re going to have secret stalker creeper boyfriends, Jaime. That’s what friends do.”
“I only said that he was 'sort of' a creeper, not a total creeper. And I know him better now.”
Brenda starts to whap the back of Paco's hand with her spoon to see if he reacts. “I'll say.”
“Man, I can't believe Kon didn't tell me this!” Paco finally says. He shakes his finger at Jaime in dudely outrage. “We were, like, just talking! Dude!”
“Well, it's not like he knows eithe- wait.” Jaime narrows his eyes at Paco; he feels like his look just might be a little Timmish at the moment. “You two are friends now?”
“Don't get him started,” Brenda groans.
“Mister El and I”, Paco proclaims, “are bros.” He leans in towards Jaime, confidingly. “Now you have to tell us whether he keeps the mask on or not when you're doing it.”
Jaime squawks. “I HAVE TO DO NO SUCH THING.”
Paco takes a swig from his milkshake cup. “Not a denial!”
Jaime covers his eyes. “How did I ever think this was going to be a good idea?”
“JAIME!” Milagro hollers. “YOUR STALKER IS HERE.”
“Someone’s been eavesdropping on grown-up conversations again.” Jaime ruffles her hair as he passes, opens the door wider and – well. Damn. He’s gotten so used to Sweatpants Tim (or naked Tim, let’s be perfectly honest) that when Jaime sees him standing there with a blazer and very expensive looking black trousers, Jaime’s stomach does a couple of backflips.
“Oh no, that's just my creepy stalker boyfriend. Say hello, creepy stalker boyfriend.” The word's out of his mouth before he was really think about his usage of it – they've yet to have gone on a date, have swapped a couple of blowjobs and suddenly the boyfriend word sounds way too easy.
Tim raises a hand. “Hello.”
“Hi.” Jaime doesn’t know what he can actually say in front of his sister that isn’t extremely inappropriate, so he settles for, "You look really nice."
Tim just smiles, almost shyly. Jaime wonders if he's nervous about this at all.
Milagro looks him over. She is so not impressed. “I thought you would be wearing a costume.”
Tim puts on his best mild civilian face. “Oh, but I am.”
She continues to stare him down. "Huh."
“Oh, there you are.” Mom’s wiping her hands on her apron as she greets him. "Hello, Tim. I would say that we've heard so much about you, but Jaime's a little aloof when it comes to the people he dates."
"Mom." He's never going to live the fact that his parents didn't find out about Traci until she saved them from getting blown up by genocidal aliens, is he?
"Ah, yes. I've heard about Traci and the cookies." For one terrifying moment Jaime's convinced that Tim's going to kiss his mom's hand, but he settles for a firm, short shake. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Reyes." And suddenly the rich boy manners are out. It's not something that Jaime gets to see a lot - or at all, to be perfectly honest - so he watches the proceedings with a mixture of fascination and slight, slight horror. “I wasn't sure on whether I should bring white or red, so I brought both. I figured it could be the chef's choice.” He lifts two wine bottles from a woven shopping bag and lifts them up for her edification.
When Mom raises an eyebrow at Jaime, he says, “I told him that he didn't have to bring anything, but he's a stickler for manners.”
“Oh, you shouldn't have.” Mom peers at one of the labels and raises her eyebrows. “You really shouldn't have.”
“It was really nothing,” Tim assures her. “Liberated from the wine cellar when I left Gotham,” he adds to Jaime as they enter the living room to meet Brenda and Paco. “I was feeling rightfully petty.”
Jaime feels a wonderful surge of affection for this crazy, crazy boy. “That’s my Tim.”
“So,” Dad says halfway through dessert. “What sort of intentions do you have toward our son?” He is half joking and therefore completely serious.
Jaime swallows. Milagro's already gulped down two portions and is currently in the hallway, mashing her action figures together.
Tim very precisely cuts off a perfect, microscopic square of his cake, doubtlessly intended to be chewed fifty times before swallowing. “I promise not to impregnate and abandon your only son, Mr. Reyes.”
Everyone goes quiet. Jaime can see that Brenda has her hand on Paco’s arm in an attempt to keep him quiet. “You better not do that, Tim,” Jaime is finally able to splutter. Oh man. Jaime's dad is going to beat Tim with his cane.
Tim blinks. “I apologize; I wasn't being sarcastic. We operate in a strange world, and stranger things have happened, and I just-” He shakes his head. He's gone all pink. “Nobody will be doing any impregnating under my watch, sir.”
Mom finally can't take it any more and starts guffawing. When everyone else follows suit, Jaime can start breathing normally again.
After dinner, Paco enthusiastically challenges Tim to Rock Band, and Jaime can relax a little once they're all engrossed in playing and past any weird conversations about impregnation. Tim has a way of making tiny, wry jokes that he and Brenda can snigger over, so she obviously approves of him. He interacts with Paco much like he does Kon: by feeding him enough encouraging comments and mild observations to keep Paco in a perpetual state of raucous enthusiasm. Jaime's just so happy that things are going relatively well that he can't stop smiling, even when he totally screws up playing because he can't stop watching Tim and his friends, smiling and laughing together.
Tim passes the drumsticks to Milagro and excuses himself for a moment. When he isn't back four songs later, Jaime ignores Paco's protests and gets up himself. He finds Tim in the kitchen with his parents, huddled around the counter, looking through photo albums. Tim looks entirely engrossed. “And that's Jaime's favorite box again. He used to crawl around with it on his back and pretend he was a snail.”
“Oh no, not the snail photos.” Jaime tries blocking the album with his arms, but the damage has clearly already been done. “You didn't show Traci my baby photos!”
Mom’s smirk eerily mirrors Tim’s. “What makes you think that I didn't?”
Tim's obvious pleasure in seeing Jaime squirm can probably be seen from space. “I quite enjoy seeing you in your formative years.”
Dad laughs at Jaime's look of horror.
At the end of the evening, Tim politely gives his regards to everyone and exchanges the solemnest of high fives with Paco.
"Can I walk him home?" Jaime preemptively takes his hand.
“You can walk him to his door.” Mom gives him a Look. “And no further.”
So of course this means that Jaime walks Tim home very slowly, and then they follow the letter of the law by turning off Tim's porch light and jerking each other off up against the front door.
“I'm not gonna last that long,” Jaime groans against Tim's mouth. Complete sentences during sex: progress!
“I know, I know,” Tim croons, his hand working double-time now, “so sweet, you are so sweet,” and Jaime comes so quickly it would be embarrassing if Tim wasn’t following right after him, gasping against his neck, broken and absolutely gorgeous.
“So?” Jaime asks when he gets back, waiting for his parents’ verdict. He hopes that his flushed cheeks can be attributed to the chill outside and not to the surprisingly thrilling outdoor sex he just had.
“I don't believe him,” Milagro says. “He isn't a superhero, he just wanted dinner.”
Jaime waves her off to bed. She sticks her tongue out at him. "Okay, any input from the adults?"
Mom and Dad look at each other. “I think we’ll need to spend a little more time with him before we come to any conclusions,” Dad finally says, which is apparently the official parental stance.
“Wait, you don’t like him? He's a nice boy! He's like the stereotypical nice boy who most parents would love to have for dinner!”
“And we're not saying that he isn't nice, Jaime,” Mom says. “We just don't know enough about him yet, that's all.”
“We all just spent the entire evening together! He was very chatty. For Tim, anyway.” Jaime knows that he sounds defensive, but this was already stressful enough of an event that it'd be nice to hear some slightly more positive news.
“He didn't exactly talk much about himself, did he?” Dad points out. "We just don't know that much about him yet."
“He seems older,” Mom adds. “And, er, more experienced. In life.”
Jaime might have just brought his kinda-boyfriend home, but he is so not ready for the “so, you're having Gay Sex” talk yet. “Yeah, he's um.” Wait. Jaime isn't sure how old Tim is. “A year or so older than me?”
Dad definitely caught that question mark. “Is he a college boy?”
“Not yet? Don't get me wrong, he's a genius, he's scary smart, but Gotham schools implode on a regular basis and Tim said he was getting tired of having to re-register all the time when it wasn't a big priority for him.” His parents look really dubious, so he adds, “I'm pretty sure that he has his GED! And he could graduate college in, like, four seconds, he just has to care.”
This is so not going well. Tim is... sort of an acquired taste sometimes, so he's not entirely surprised, but at the same time it would be really nice to be given the benefit of the doubt on this. Jaime decides to go for the parental jugular.
“Look, I'm not asking you to be one hundred percent on board with him right away. He's not the easiest person to get to know, initially. What I am asking is for you to trust me. Trust that you've raised me to be a person who can make good value judgments, and make my own decisions, and. Yeah."
“Oh, sweetheart.” Excellent. Jaime feels slightly guilty for appealing so blatantly to their sense of parental pride, but it's also the truth.
“We always trust you, Jaime," Mom says with feeling, and then she adds, "Even when you're obviously trying to guilt-trip us."
"Oh." He's perfectly willing to take that as the partial victory that it is. "It's hug times now, isn't it?"
His parents nod in unison. "It's always hug times at our house."
“I'm eighteen,” Tim tells him when he hears this the next day. “Newly eighteen. Are they concerned about our age difference? Because I’d hate to tell your parents this, but that ship has sort of sailed already.”
Jaime squeezes his hand. “I think they just have to get used to you. They must feel a little better now that you've pledged not to impregnate me – honestly, Tim, you really thought that was the most appropriate thing to say at the time?”
“It's happened before!” Tim protests. “Not to me, but!”
Jaime looks at him. “Okaaaay. I’m going to let that one slide, because I so do not wanna know.”
“You have to prepare for all eventualities,” like he's quoting from the Batmanual. He's pouting a little, but Jaime thinks that's mainly for show. “Is it about the children thing? You’d think that they’d be relieved not to have to worry about accidental pregnancy.”
“Dude, were you trafficking in stereotypes just then?” Jaime's answered with a cackle, and so Tim must be punished. By tickling.
“I just always assumed that I'd have kids," Jaime says later, after a little tickling and a lot of macking.
Tim reaches up to smooth the hair out of Jaime's eyes. “You can still have that. You can have whatever you want.”
“Okay, A: I am still way too young to think about this yet, and B: um. We are boys.”
“If you're hung up on biological offspring, I could work something out. I don't know if you're aware of this, but I have a bona fide background in weird science.” When Jaime, boggled, doesn’t say anything, Tim continues, “They would be extraordinarily intelligent and, if they take after your side of the family, very very cute.”
It’s still a little difficult to know exactly when Tim is joking, or when his jokes are mostly true. “Um, we're a little young.”
Tim continues to smirk, but there’s something almost wistful behind his eyes now. “I know. Sorry. I guess I just never let myself think about having a family at all before, except to tell myself that it would never be tenable.” He cuddles up closer to Jaime, seeking his warmth. “To tell the truth, I'm still getting used to the idea that I'm going to see my twenty-first birthday. The world seems wide open now.”
“Oh, Tim.” Jaime doesn't know what to say to that, so he kisses him instead.
After, Tim continues in an even smaller voice, “I just want them to like me.”
Something inside Jaime aches to hear that. He'd always just thought of Tim as a tiny, lethal adult, fully formed. But of course he used to have a family. Of course he lost them.
“They like you! They're just being overprotective, but they're not -” And now Jaime's wanting to wrap Tim up and keep him here, safe. Screw going outside. Screw the Architects. “You're easy to like!”
Tim rests his head on Jaime's collarbone. “That is such a lie.”
Jaime's stroking his back now, his fingers reading the ley lines of his scars. “It was pretty easy for me to like you. Once you let me.”
Bart’s engrossed in some movie with subtitles when Jaime arrives. “Jaime! You have to come see this!”
“Yeah?” Jaime joins him on the sofa. “What's the story?”
Bart takes a deep breath. “It follows the travails of the son of a priest who has a fetish for the Virgin Mary partly based on his own lack of a mother figure. His search for identity leads him to attempt to sin as blatantly as possible, which leads him to becoming an expert in the sordid art of underwear photography. While out and about dressed as the cult movie icon Miss Scorpion, our hero meets the love of his life when they fall into a brawl with an entire barrel-full of street punks. Alas, the girl is only in love with Miss Scorpion, and to make matters worse she soon falls in with a creepy Scientology-inspired cult. Oh, and they’re step-siblings. At the moment, our protagonist is about to violently infiltrate the cult headquarters, dressed as Miss Scorpion, in the hopes of winning back his love once and for all.”
"Huh." Jaime… doesn’t know what to say to that. “Is it awesome?”
“Could a movie with a plot like that be anything else?”
“Heh. I guess not.” Jaime hops on the sofa and watches a guy in a wide-brimmed hat and brandishing a samurai sword storm the top floors of an office building. He’s totally confused, but gets just as much enjoyment watching Bart react to the movie as actually watching it himself.
When it’s over, Bart turns those huge golden eyes on him. “Wanna go get something to eat?”
“Bart, I never turn down food. Well, maybe if supervillains are offering it to me, but that hasn’t yet happened to me so who knows. Where to?”
Bart can hardly contain himself. “Korea?”
Jaime was thinking about the pizza place down the block, but this is Bart Allen they’re talking about here. The world is his buffet table. “Absolutely.”
“Yes!” Two seconds later and Bart’s in his uniform. “I could run alongside right underneath you when you fly, except that I might have to go slightly faster because once we hit the Pacific I have to maintain a certain stability so I can stay on top of the water and-”
Jaime suddenly realizes that Bart just wants to run, so he offers, “You could just carry me?”
“If you're sure! Oh, great, this makes things a lot easier.”
Jaime hops into Bart’s waiting arms and situates his arms around Bart’s neck. “Ready when you a-“ The world explodes around them, then reforms. Scarab’s excitedly cataloging the exact rate of speed as they travel; Jaime just closes his eyes and hangs on tight.
They're in the central square of a mid-sized town, flanked by a city park and, in the middle distance, a waterfront. So this is Korea. Huh.
“We’re just in time for lunch!” Bart’s swaying a little from side to side like Milagro showing off her artwork. “I mean, lunch here. Second dinner?”
Bart greets the beaming waitress in rapid-fire Korean. Scarab starts translating it for Jaime's benefit midstream - “-and this is my friend Jaime and he's never had bulgogi or anything before so I was thinking that we'd order the bulgogi for definite and have a bit of everything and-” The presence of the lighting bolt decal on the window makes perfect sense now.
Bart has a favorite table in the corner. “They even let me eat during the buffet special! They say it's good publicity! The owner asked me if I could do an endorsement commercial but Grandpa said that we shouldn't let ourselves or anyone else take advantage of our status for financial gain, and I told him that I would do it without pay because I just wanted to do the restaurant a favor, geez, but what does he know about anything anyway?”
“For real,” Jaime ends up responding, and Bart chatters his way through introducing Jaime to the banchan.
“And we can pick up some bubble tea on the way back! Okay, loop-de-looping Taiwan isn't the most direct route home, but there's this stall in Keelung that has the best red bean flavor in the world.” Bart adds, “There are times when I'm not hungry, I swear” at the same time that Jaime says, “No, I find your appetite delightful. Plus, I love it when you feed us.”
“Did you just use the royal we or were you including Khaji-Da?” Bart likes using the Scarab's proper name; for his part, Khaji hrums happily whenever he says it.
“He likes it when I eat. He doesn't enjoy it in the same way, of course, but he's thoroughly fascinated by gastrointestinal processes. And has a sort of fixation with Cinnabon recently.”
“Well, who doesn't?” Bart grins, then actually quiets down in order to scarf down some food. His chopsticks quiver like leaves over his bowl of rice. “It's usually just me here. I brought Tim here a few times back when I – when I was older. I'd have to pick him up and just take him someplace, just so he'd finally say something. If you think he's recalcitrant now...”
You should have seen him before. Jaime's been hearing that a lot lately.
“Would you like to be in charge of the tongs? New experiences and all.” Jaime does, and Bart pops things into Jaime's mouth from time to time - “You've got to try this! I'm moderately sure that it's dried squid!”
“Oh boy,” Jaime says doubtfully, but it doesn't taste that squiddy. The first bite of beef burns Jaime's tongue a little, but it's good. Really good,
“I actually don't agree with the family model; too reliant on nuclear heterosexual wife and husband and two kids norms. We're much more like nakama, though it’s not a perfect model since we all claim that we’re a family, and if we’re a family we’re definitely more of the extended kissing cousins type. So!” Bart leans in, all business. “Now we’re going to talk about Tim.”
“We are? Okay, we are.”
“Well it’s only fair. Cassie’s already had the big scary talk with you and Kon, well. Kon’s still in the midst of working out his own uncomfortable feelings over Tim, plus he’s really bad at speechifying, which is a bit interesting considering his heritage.” He notices Jaime’s shocked expression. “Oh yeah, Kon’s totally a little gay for Tim, though most of the sexual tension seems to have quieted down lately.”
Jaime’s a little dumbstruck at this newest revelation. “You are all hella incestuous, you know that?”
Bart cackles. “You’re part of it now! There’s no escape!”
“Heh. I guess not.”
Jaime gets the feeling that Bart's taken him here for more than food. He's dancing around the subject, grazing up against the surface of it but never breaking through. It takes him the rest of the meal and then a post-lunch walk around a nearby park, watching children at play, for Bart to say what he needs to.
“So when I was older, I had a girlfriend,” Bart starts. “And she was wonderful. Her name was Valerie and she was a scientist and she's so smart – she was trying to help me back when the speed force was acting up and potentially eating me alive – don't worry, it got better. And her dad was a D-list villain but I never held it against her because you can't choose who you're born by and I don't believe that biology is destiny anyway – though I think that if your parents are awesome, you're most likely to turn out awesome-”
“Thank you,” Jaime says.
“-but she was probably my first serious relationship that was actually a relationship because before romance had either been not a priority or, okay, confession time, Tim and I used to fool around back when I was sixteen for the first time and we both understood that it wasn’t a thing because we were both in weird places in our lives. I hadn’t yet embraced the fact that I’m always going to be at a weird place in my life, but I digress! I feel like ice cream should I go get some ice cream?”
“I-” Jaime can't tell whether the question is out of genuine Bart-ness or out of some need to deflect. “If I eat another bite anytime soon, Bart, I will explode.”
They watch the kids playing for a few minutes, quiet. Bart keeps jerking his head up like he's going to say something, but he keeps on stopping himself.
“I just.” Bart at a loss for words is the saddest thing that Jaime has ever seen. “I just miss her, you know? And it's never going to be the same, even though everyone acts like it is because it's easier for them so I make it easier for them, and all I want to do is talk about how I miss my girlfriend.”
“Oh, Bart.” Jaime initiates the hug, but it's Bart who holds on the tightest and the longest.
Before they head back to San Francisco, they play kickball with the kids in the park.
“So Cassie woke us all up by blasting Jonas Brothers over the PA system – she loves that thing, have you noticed that?”
“Mmm.” Tim's listening, but he's also preoccupied with stroking his fingers up and down from Jaime's palm to the crook of his elbow.
“-at four forty-five in the morning, saying that whoever could find where the music was coming from and shut it off could go back to bed while everyone else had to train. And she kept on laughing like a campy supervillain and telling us that it was nearly noon in Reykjavik and evil never sleeps.”
“Well, it doesn't.” Tim's mouthing the inside of Jaime's wrist now; between kisses, he asks, “Did Bart just-”
“Actually, no, he didn't find it first. Mia did. It was at the bottom of the pool.” Jaime lets his head fall back onto the bed. “I'm surprised you hadn't come up with this first, actually.”
“It does sound like me, doesn't it?” Tim muses.
“Tim, if you keep on doing that, my parents are going to notice the mammoth hickey on my, um, on my everywhere.”
“Oh, like they don't know that we're having sex.”
“They don’t!” Jaime protests, though it’s more like they’re in that mutual state of denial where nobody will talk about it. Jaime’s just glad that Mom’s not throwing condoms at him every time he goes over to Tim’s place. “Or I don’t want to think about it, anyway.”
“Fair enough.” Tim hits play on the remote and settles back into Jaime’s arms.
Two-thirds of the way through Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Jaime turns his head, slides his hand back down to Tim's thigh so he can concentrate better, and says, “I'm sorry, this was a bad choice in a way. Not because I'm not enjoying it, but because-”
“It's a Bart film,” Tim answers.
“Yeah.” Jaime's distracted momentarily by a freckle on Tim's neck. He has to suck on both the freckle and Tim's throat in general for a while, getting a happy sigh, a looseness of limbs out of Tim, before he can elaborate. “He’d be wanting us to form a Carrie Nations tribute band. Maybe we should watch it again with everyone next week.”
Jaime takes a breath. “Okay, and I don't know how to bring this up because we're close enough to fool around, but you act as if we're not close enough to actually talk about things. But I’m really not very good at this double life business, and now it’s practically a triple life, and it feels like all you ever do is tell me not to tell people things so you’ll excuse me if I think that you should just-”
“I’m sorry.” Tim twists in Jaime’s arms until they’re face to face. “We’re that close, I swear, it’s just.” He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. “It's something sick and dried up in me, but I look at them and I can't believe that they're actually there, breathing next to me.” He's looking at the floor, at the bed, anywhere but Jaime's face. “I don't know how to handle it.”
Jaime doesn’t even know where to start, or how to. Tim is... Tim is so beyond the scope of his experience, and it’s never more evident than at times like these. But as nice as it is to have a secret boyfriend hidden away nearby, he knows that this can’t, shouldn’t last forever. “You handle it by spending time with them, Tim, I'm pretty sure.”
Tim meets his eyes again. “I don't know how to handle happiness these days.” What's unspoken hangs between the two of them; he can't go on like this forever. “I still need some time. I know it sounds stupid, and that I’m vacillating between two extremes, but right now I really need to get my head in order. But you help. You really do.”
“You know,” Jaime says casually, “if you came back to the Tower with me on weekends, I wouldn't have a curfew *and* we could sleep in the same bed. All night. If that's what you want.”
“Mmm. That is a nice incentive, isn’t it?” Tim's hands are suddenly all over, but it's not a committal.
“You're distracting me with sex,” Jaime says. He lifts his arms to Tim can strip off his shirt. “I mean, don't stop or anything, but I'm onto your fiendish games.”
“I'm awful, aren't I?” The wicked quirk of Tim's mouth makes Jaime forget all reason.
it will all come back
“What's cooking, ladies?” Jaime gets a potholder thrown at his face for that.
“What, Kon wasn't around to say that for you?” Mia's rocking a green polka-dotted ruffled apron, doubtlessly liberated from Bart's closet. "It's stir fry, by the way."
Kara looks up from her block of tofu. “I thought we were making chili.”
“I'm not sure whether you're casting aspersions upon my cooking skills or making fun of Green Arrow.”
“Can't it be both?” Jaime offers.
Mia snorts. “Just for that, you get chopping duties. Do we really not have any paprika? I mean really?” She stacks up no less than five bottles of black pepper and stares into the now-empty spice cabinet. “What kind of a gin joint are we running here?”
Kara looks up from the wok. “We have gin?”
“Bart!” He comes when she calls. “Get us some motherfucking paprika, my darling?”
"Because some gin would be awesome," Kara persists.
Bart puts his hands on his hips. “Well, since you asked so nicely and professionally...”
“Oh, don’t you give me sass,” Mia starts, but he’s gone already.
“Not that I'm advocating us getting drunk or anything, but a superhero speakeasy? That'd be so brilliant.”
“I think we just found the theme for our next little shindig.” Jaime's cutting zucchini according to the precise mathematical grid that the scarab's guiding his knife in. The resulting cubes are so tiny that they could be anything. "Kara, I promise that the next time the situation calls for it, we will find you gin. Super-gin.”
Kara squeezes his shoulder as she turns to stir the tofu. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”
“Hey, gorgeous.” Sunlight follows Cassie around these days, clinging to the edges of her when she moves. Guess that's what love (or at least intense infatuation coupled with what must be really intense sex) does to a person.
“Hey yourself,” Kara says, laughing, but it’s Mia who slides down from the counter and into Cassie's arms.
"Huh," Kara whispers to Jaime. "Someone found a way to tame the wild Speedy."
Cassie nuzzles Mia, then flips on the radio. The song that's playing makes her laugh in complete disbelief. “Okay, who rigged this?”
Kara squeaks. “Ohmigod, I swear this is a coincidence- no, don't turn it off!” They all look at each other with big eyes, and it's Bart who starts the laughing. When it dies down, Kara, with a self-deprecating giggle, opens her mouth and starts to sing along.
The words she knows; the tune she hums.
Jaime chimes in at the same time as Bart. It's utterly ridiculous and unreal, and somehow that's what's making the moment work. Kara puts an arm around Jaime, and manages to reel in Kon on the other side, and Jaime and Bart cling to each other and they're all the supposed cool kids, holding each other closer and singing along to “Tiny Dancer”.
"This is so stupid," Jaime says out loud, in some kind of wonder.
Kon, in an uncharacteristically insightful moment, says, "I know. And that's what makes it kinda awesome."
Cassie leads Mia around in tiny circles to the music. They're doing their best to make it a parody, to mimic every cheesy teenage prom cliche from every cheesy movie, but genuine sentiment creeps around the edges. There's nothing fake about the way that Mia tucks her head into the crook of Cassie's shoulder, or the way that Cassie looks down at Mia with the softest expression Jaime has ever seen on her face.
“Guys,” Bart says, “Guys, dinner's going to burn!”
Without looking behind her, Cassie turns the oven off. Entire epics could be written about the way their hair looks, blonde on blonde, sifting together as they kiss.
“Oh. Well.” Kon allows himself one last, approving look. “I'll order in some pizza, dudes.”
And Jaime's known all along what he needs to do, but the knowledge coalesces in him at that moment, forming a bright, shining certainty.
He's in the air and headed back west, back home. He doesn't stop until he's banging on the back door of Tim's house until Tim steps outside.
Fueled by adrenaline, Jaime disperses with hellos and explanations. “I am here to take you with me!” Jaime can’t let himself become discouraged by the dubious expression on Tim’s face; he has to spur himself onwards. “We're going to make a fashionably late entrance, and then there's going to be no more drama! Because this is ridiculous and you really need to talk to your friends!”
Tim just stands there and raises an eyebrow at him. “Are we now?”
Jaime really doesn't need the witty, deflecting Tim right now. “Look, I understand that you needed some time to yourself. You're a Bat. That's normal for you guys. But this has officially stopped being acceptable and started becoming your stubborn way of keeping your friends at arm's length because you're scared of letting them down.” When Tim doesn't say anything to this, Jaime takes this as a sign that he's hit it right on the nose and urges himself onwards. It all comes spilling out, everything that's been bottled up for who knows how long: "You don't have to have all your problems one hundred percent solved! When you have to go do your lone ranger thing, we can back you up! We'll be there! So I guess that'll make you a not so lone ranger, but even he had Tonto! Shit, I need to think of an example without problematic racial dynamics!" And Jaime's babbling now in his nervousness that Tim's going to withdraw again, going to say no.
Tim stands on the back porch and doesn't say anything for a long time. Finally, he asks, “Do I get to put on clothing first?”
“As much as I don't want you to, I guess that you can.” Does this mean that he's coming?
Tim reemerges, now wearing a shirt. "Alright. Do your worst."
"So you're coming with me?"
"I." Tim studies the ground. "You're right. I don't know what else to say but you're right." He looks up and all the artifice is gone from his face. "I miss them so much."
Scarab chirrups in delight. Jaime can only squeeze Tim's hand. "Oh," he says. "Oh, I'm glad."
The armor starts generating a force field to carry Tim in, but Tim raises a hand. “No bubble,” he says. “Carry me.”
“Yeah?” When Tim nods again, Jaime puts his hands on Tim’s waist, trying to think of the best way to carry him if he's going to insist.
“Let me see your face first.”
Tim frames Jaime's face with his hands, which Jaime thought only happened in movies, and kisses him like they're in a war movie and Jaime's about to ship off with Our Troops.
Jaime's not going anywhere that dire. Maybe someday he'll have a life filled with bigger calms and bigger storms, but right now he's got Tim in his arms and they're going to see Tim's friends.
Tim's mouth moves after the kiss, and Jaime thinks that his head is swimming too much to process speech but then he realizes that Tim didn't make a sound. Scarab offers to read his lips.
“It's okay,” Jaime says. Tim goes all docile in his arms, and Jaime rubs their noses together before he covers his face again. “I know.”
The flight is uneventful. Tim fits snug against him, like a kitten, and Scarab keeps a shield up [to prevent windchill and tousling of hair].
"Heh," Jaime says. "We're all going to get along just fine, aren't we?"
The Scarab responds with what can only be described as a rendered MIDI version of "Bizarre Love Triangle".
When they’re within sight of San Francisco Jaime takes the scenic route, taking him out over the Bay to stretch the moment out for a little bit longer. Knowing that Tim is there, being able to monitor his heartbeat and his breathing rate, that’s all well and good, but knowing the way that Tim will smile at him when they land? It’s the best thing of all.
Everyone's up on the roof – Jaime may or may not have sent Bart a text message telling him what was going down while somewhere over Nevada. He can see the girls jumping and waving their arms, and Kon and Bart giving each other a flurry of high-fives, and they’re all shouting Tim’s name.
“Hey guys, look who I found wandering around outside!” Jaime beams, reflecting everyone's grins back at them.
“TIM!” Bart yells, cupping his hands around his mouth. “YOU MADE IT BACK JUST IN TIME FOR KARAOKE NIGHT!”
“Oh my god you shouldn’t have said that,” Mia responds, “you’re going to make them turn back around”, but now Tim’s openly laughing as Jaime prepares to land on the roof.
Tim's smiling the new-old smile when his friends rise to meet him and he's smiling the new-old smile when they're swarming him with hugs and noogies, but when he lifts his head up to look at Jaime, he looks like he's been happy all of his life.
And of course the alarms go off right at that moment, but that’s okay, that’s the way things are. Things get broken and they go fix them.
Cassie grins and pumps her arms. “Go go go! Monsters to beat up! Things to blow up! It’s the best job in America!” She takes to the sky; their friends follow.
Jaime doesn’t follow right away, hovering next to Tim, studying his face. “You’ll be here?”
Tim, standing by himself on the room, looks tiny and strong all at once, someone who could stand against anything the world could throw at him. “I promise.”
Epilogue one: Kon discovers the art of the dramatic macro:
"Um," Jaime says. "Dare I even ask-"
"Why the pictures are of me in drag?" Tim pats Jaime's arm. "Sometimes it's best not to speculate, chum."
“...I was wearing pants some of the time,” is all Jaime is able to say to this.
Tim closes the laptop and carefully sets it out of harm's way. “I prefer it when you're wearing less pants.”
“O-ho, you're losing your grammar now,” Jaime starts to crow, but then his mouth is busy.
EPILOGUE 2: CAPEBOOK VERSION
WONDER GIRL II: is still stunned forty-eight hours later by Superboy's karaoke stylings. Talk about a performance for the ages.
8 people liked this.
SPEEDY II: I'll never be the same, that's for sure.
DONNA TROY: I heard it was Sexyback. Was it really Sexyback?
SUPERBOY: IT WAS INDEED SEXYBACK. For my back, it is sexy. As is everything else on me.
SUPERGIRL: And I will be selling special DVD video copies of the blessed event at the next team meeting. Three dollars or equivalent in baked goods.
BART ALLEN: I am pleased to see the advent of the barter system! I will bring a carrot cake.
ADMINISTRATOR: That was Kon? I thought someone had dragged a dying sea lion into the building.
SPEEDY II: You’re just pissy because I wrangled you into tambourine duty.
BATMAN II: is having a wonderful day and is so happy for his little brother :)
JASON TODD: What did I do now? Or not do?
BATMAN II: I meant our other little brother, but I'm happy for you, too. No matter what you did or didn't do :)
JASON TODD: Oh.
JASON TODD: So we’re cool if I feed the rabid Robin to Ivy’s Venus fly trap?
BATMAN II: I wouldn’t push it, Jay. :)
SUPERBOY: Okay dude, no offense, but it's really bizarre to see “Batman” and a smiley face in the same *universe*.
SUPERBOY: WHO MADE A PAGE FOR KRYPTO? HONESTLY.
SUPERBOY: I MEAN HE IS A DOG. HE CANNOT TYPE HE HAS NO OPPOSABLE THUMBS EVEN IF HE IS SUPER. NO. THUMBS.
KRYPTO THE DOG OF STEEL: ahahahahahaha
SUPERBOY: TIM IS THAT YOU. IT'S TOTALLY YOU YOU FUCKER, I'M COMING TO TEXAS AND GETTING YOU AND YOUR BOYFRIEND WILL NOT SAVE YOU FROM MY FURY.
ADMINISTRATOR: You know that all you have to do is ask if you wanted to get your hands on me.
ANGER GIRL has joined Capebook.
TIGHTS GUY has joined Capebook.
SUPERBOY: DUDE YOU WERE ABLE TO TALK HIM INTO LETTING YOU JOIN? MY LIFE IS NOW COMPLETE.
TIGHTS GUY: FOR FUCKING REAL BRO RIGHT
ADMINISTRATOR: Don’t say I never did anything for you.
WONDER GIRL II: JFC, Tim, what hath you wrought?
SUPERBOY: AWESOME, that’s what’s been wroughted.
BLUE BEETLE III: will probably be afk for a few days. See you guys this weekend.
ADMINISTRATOR likes this.
SPEEDY II: have fun with the hot monkey sex!
BLUE BEETLE III: i am shocked and appalled that you would so casually accuse me of bestiality.
BLUE BEETLE III: but thanks.
BATGIRL III has changed her relationship status to “still in that disgusting touchy-feely stage”.
BATGIRL II has changed her relationship status to “still in that disgusting touchy-feely stage”.
JASON TODD is intrigued by the news that our very own Duckling has found himself a new paramour. You better watch your heart, Little Boy Blue.
BART ALLEN: I'm trying to break your code but it seems to be some strange new hybrid that I have yet to encounter! The fox is in the henhouse?
BART ALLEN: The fat man walks alone?
BART ALLEN: OH WAIT, I know what you're referring to now. It’s sort of old news, but I won’t blame you as I think they’ve been keeping it a little hush-hush for a while now?
BART ALLEN: But seriously, do you come up with these nicknames ahead of time, or do they come naturally and spontaneously from your head fully formed?
BART ALLEN: Also, I've never heard you call me a nickname.
BART ALLEN: DO I HAVE ONE?
JASON TODD: ...
JASON TODD: a little quick on the draw there, aren't we Zippy?
BART ALLEN: :D!!!!!!!!!
JASON TODD: I get the feeling that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, Zip.
JASON TODD: How experienced are you with heavy artillery?