Chapter 1: you and only me and no one else
If the world was ending, then kissing Kon seemed like the thing to do.
It had made sense at the time – the sky dark with thousands of enemy ships, the grey clouds between them like splintering cracks, and Tim hadn’t wanted this regret too, so he had fisted his hands in Kon’s shirt, crumpling the S shield between his fingers, and stretched up on his toes.
As first kisses went, it was pretty fantastic, even if Kon tasted like sweat and ash, alien jet fuel splattered across his face. The audience of killer robots wasn’t ideal, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and Tim had wanted to kiss Kon so badly.
The problem was the world didn’t end.
Which left Kon and Tim standing back-to-back together in the rubble, beaten and bloody but altogether alright.
It wasn’t the most awkward silence Tim had ever been part of it, but it was solidly in the top three. Then Kon threw up his arms and let out a wild whoop and Tim felt a smile tug at his lips; he quickly bit down on it.
“We won!” Kon exclaimed, grinning at the clearing sky like it was the best and most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“We did,” Tim said. He didn’t look at Kon. “Same old world.”
“Good ol’ world,” Kon corrected. He started to walk, ambling between bits of broken spaceship and fizzling, dismantled robots. Tim hesitated a moment before he fell in step. “So, hey. Back there. What was that?”
Tim swallowed hard. He kicked a broken bit of spaceship out of his way. This was his chance to say, that was nothing or, what are you talking about? Did you breathe in any of those spaceship fumes?, but his lips still tingled from where Kon had kissed back.
“Heat of the moment,” he replied after a beat. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, untrue.
“Yeah?” Kon said. He tipped his head back, drumming his fingers against his thighs. Tim shot him a sideways glance. “’Cause I was thinking… we could probably do it again. If you wanted.”
“I,” Tim said, heart in his throat, and apparently that was all the confirmation Kon needed. He turned on his heels and caught Tim’s face between his big, warm hands. The press of his lips was solid and real.
“Well?” he said when he pulled back, searching Tim’s face. His eyes were superhumanly blue.
“Well,” he returned, mouth a perfectly serious line. He grabbed Kon’s arms, keeping him in place. Kon’s face broke out in a grin.
“Yeah?” he said, and, laughing under his breath, Tim seconded, “yeah.”
Kon kissed him again. It was, Tim had to admit, a little breathtaking.
“Man,” he said against his lips. “I am so going to be the heat of your moment.”
Tim drew back, his grip on Kon’s wrists slackening.
“That was terrible,” he said. Kon waggled his eyebrows. “And stop doing that thing. Is this what you’re going to be like from now on?”
“Oh, a million times worse,” Kon replied sincerely. Tim suspected he really shouldn’t have felt so happy about that.
Nothing lasted forever. Certainly not for Tim.
It was over the moment he turned and saw his father in the Batcave – all of it, the crimefighting, the costume, the connections. Severed and gone. No more fighting at Bruce’s side or Dick ruffling his hair or running through alleys with Steph like there were wolves on their heels. No more Titans weekends, no Bart or Cassie or Kon.
Kon, gone. No more frustrating, wonderful, incorrigible Kon, trying to make out with him behind their teammates’ backs, tangling their hands together underneath the cover of Tim’s cape. No more stupid arguments, no Kon breaking down laughing in the middle of them, no more biting back smiles himself.
No more surprisingly bright blush when he caught Kon staring.
He spent the whole night curled in on himself, wondering what he was supposed to do now and coming up empty. He plotted, briefly, to slip out the window and go and tell Kon himself – he could be back before morning, he knew. Dick would fly him over if he asked.
It was a nice idea. Tim rolled over and pulled the covers up over his head.
Kon let it slide the first week, ignoring the worried twinge in his chest. It was only a weekend – weekends were busy in Gotham, what with the gangs and the supercriminals and some new guy forgetting to lock up half the cells in Arkham – and they all missed the Titans weekends sometimes.
Still. You’d think a guy could call his boyfriend to say, hey, you know that Wendy marathon you wanted to have if we didn’t have to go out and hit things in the name of justice? Yeah, can’t make it. Hell, Kon would’ve taken a quick so I’m okay and not held hostage by the Penguin or anything, no need to worry call, or even a text, if the Kents would let him have a cell phone.
But honestly it wasn’t totally unlike Tim, who took Bat-Secrecy to frankly uncomfortable levels, to take off without warning. He was probably on some big secret mission, with lots of dangerous villains, and probably some explosions. Kon was kind of jealous, on top of being lonely.
Then another week passed, and another.
Which brought him to Saturday, pacing around the room while Cassie and Bart sat and watched.
“I don’t know what to do!” he said at last, throwing his hands up. “What if he’s in a ditch? A Gotham ditch?”
Bart looked suitably horrified by the prospect.
“Gotham ditches have to be way worse than normal ditches,” he said. Kon gestured at him, and then at Cassie, as if to say, you see?
Cassie rolled her eyes.
“Look, if you’re worried, you should go to Gotham and see,” she said, in that tone of voice that implied he was being utterly ridiculous. Kon crossed his arms and huffed.
“Right,” he said. “I could just go to Gotham and –”
He hesitated. Cassie rolled her eyes again, tipping her head back and regarding the ceiling like it, at least, might understand what she had to deal with on a daily basis.
“I could just go to Gotham,” he repeated.
“Look, if the situation was reversed and you hadn’t shown up for a few weeks, what do you think Tim would do?” Bart asked, sounding entirely too logical. He had, somewhere in the middle of Kon’s realization, zipped from the room and come back with a hand-decorated sign declaring GO GO GOTHAM. He surreptitiously handed Cassie another one reading THE SUPERBOYFRIEND CHOICE in what looked like glitter glue.
“I don’t know,” Kon admitted, shrugging. “He’d probably have spied on me already with all his bat-stealth and his bat-gadgets and his bat-invasions of privacy.”
Cassie and Bart exchanged a look, a nod and their signs.
“You should go to Gotham,” Cassie said. She held up the GO GO GOTHAM sign, staring balefully at him over the top of it. “It’ll be like a big, romantic gesture – you know. If he’s not in a ditch. Which he’s not because, hello, Tim.”
“You really think I should go?” Kon asked, more to Cassie than to Bart, since Bart was already giving him the thumbs up, and besides, Cassie knew about big romantic gestures. She’d made him watch enough romantic comedies involving them, at least. (Well, she’d watched. Mostly, Kon had fallen asleep.)
“Definitely,” Cassie said with a hint of a smile.
“And tell Tim we miss him, too!” Bart said. Cassie laughed and laid her sign down.
“It’s not all about you, you big lug,” she said, punching him – lightly, because she was one of the few people out there who could probably really hurt him if she tried – in the shoulder. “Go, find Tim, drag him back here.”
“And bring souvenirs!” Bart added. Not that Kon was sure what a good souvenir from Gotham was. Spare Batarang, extra points if it was embedded in a bankrobber’s shoulder?
“Gotham,” he said, mostly to himself. He ran a hand through his hair. “Right.”
The one expectation Tim had about life without superheroics was that at the very least he’d be catching up on his sleep.
It turned out, he found, lying in bed staring at the red numbers on his alarm clock, he’d really been expecting too much. It was hard, getting to sleep at normal hours when he knew that somewhere out there Bruce was running down an alley, swinging from a building. Tim’s fingers itched for a grappling gun.
He wasn’t Dick. He didn’t crave the feeling of soaring through the air, weightless, the feeling of flying. If anything, he missed the landings – feet against concrete, soles of his shoes meeting the sides of building, or the backs of bad guys.
So night after night he curled in on himself, covers pulled over his head, and tried to think of anything else besides the roar of Gotham traffic from far underneath him, the rush of the wind through his hair and Nightwing’s laughter, or the squeaking of bats and steam from fresh cups of tea, and sooner or later he fell asleep and dreamed about it anyway.
(Sometimes, he dreamed about Kon, and that simultaneously better and worse.)
“Sleep well?” his dad would ask in the mornings, like he hadn’t paused outside Tim’s doorway a couple times every night, his hand poised over the doorknob.
Tim would shrug and say, “Yeah, I guess so,” and leave it at that.
“So, how’re you holding up?” Steph asked three weeks in, drumming her fingers against her knees. Tim made a face.
“I’m holding,” he said. “It’s not so bad.”
“Yeah, okay,” she said. “I don’t know about you, Boy Wonder, but I know I’d be going stir crazy. Been there, done that. It’s not something you can just quit.”
“Maybe I can,” Tim said. He was pretty sure hanging out with Steph broke his dad’s rule of no contact with vigilantes, but Steph was pretty hard to shake. It was either come to her, or she’d come to him, and she was a whole lot less likely to take it easy on him if he did that.
She fixed him with a disbelieving look.
“Yeah,” she said. “Sure.”
“It’s true,” he said and she rolled her eyes, knocking her shoulder into his.
“Give it up, Wonder Boy No Longer,” she said. “You act like I don’t know you at all.”
“I know,” he said, ducking his head. “I know.”
Kon didn’t do Gotham – or really, Gotham didn’t do Kon. Batman didn’t want him there and that was just fine. Gotham was dark even when the sun was out, and dank even when it wasn’t raining, and stifling – people and cars and violence flowing over his skin, prickling the hairs on the back of his neck.
He didn’t know how anyone could call it home – home was Hawaii, sunshine and beaches and the biggest, bluest sky. San Francisco was close enough, and Kansas’ great big sky made it bearable, but Gotham was a no-holds-barred wasteland of awful.
As far as Kon was concerned, the only good thing to ever come out of Gotham was Tim.
The closest way from Point Kon to Point Tim was by Point Tall, Dark and Becaped. Kon kind of missed his old costume – the thought of searching out Batman made him want to tug his goggles down over his eyes, shrug the collar of his jacket higher. He felt defenseless in his t-shirt and jeans, which was ridiculous, considering the whole practically invulnerable bit.
“You don’t find Batman,” Clark had said when Kon had subtly brought it up, and then he’d given Kon that look he got, that you’re up to something one that Kon totally hadn’t deserved, even if he was sort of up to something. “He finds you.”
So Kon wasn’t so surprised when he didn’t hear footsteps until the very last moment, the quiet tap of feet against the rooftop. Not surprised, at least, until he turned, and found Robin instead of Batman.
But not his Robin. A girl, blonde, perched on the edge of a stone gargoyle, looking like she was ready to strike, and it was instinct, probably, that he kicked out. Not strongly, and she dodged, springing nimbly to a new perch.
“You’re not Robin,” he accused, first words out of his mouth.
“I’m pretty sure the costume says different,” she replied, and it was hard to tell with the mask but he thought she arched an eyebrow. Her grin was wide and sharp. “And, you know, the Batman.”
Kon snorted, hands clenching at his sides.
“Where’s the real Robin?” he asked.
“I am the real Robin,” she said, sticking her nose in the air, and then she paused. She snapped her fingers and pointed at him, mouth dropped open. “I know who you are!”
“Well, uh, yeah,” he said, tugging at the S shield on his shirt. “The Bat really did a number teaching you detective skills, huh?”
“Look, if you want to be a jerk, fine,” she said, holding her hands up. “I’ll just take my amazing Former Robin Finding Skills somewhere else and leave your sad ass all alone on this roof. Or, you could be nice and say please.”
Kon hated asking for help. He hated it just as much as he hated feeding the cows back at the farm (and he hated feeding the cows a lot). But it was for Tim, and Kon had pretty much come to the conclusion ages ago that he’d feed all the cows in Kansas for Tim, and then some.
So he grit his teeth, clenched his fists, stared at the busy Gotham traffic below, and said, “Please.”
“What’s that?” the girl Robin said, cupping her hand to her ear. “I can’t quite hear you.”
“I said, please!” he growled, and lifting his head he saw that she was grinning at him.
“Oh, c’mon, big guy, relax. I’m just playing with you,” she said. “I can’t actually give you his address because the big bad Bat would put me on permanent probation, but if you turn your super ears that way –” she pointed off into the distance “—you should be able to find him.”
“I,” he said, and broke off. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she said, springing nimbly to a new perch. “He’s my friend, too.”
Kon turned to go when a sharp whistle made him look over his shoulder. The girl Robin was holding onto a grappling gun, her foot braced against a wall.
“Hey, Superhunk!” she called, giving him a wave and bright grin. “Tell Tim the Big A misses him, okay!”
Kon stared after her.
“Who are you?” he asked, but she was already swinging away, her cape flapping in the night air. He thought, briefly, about following her, but quickly shook his head – he had come here for Tim, and now, at least, he had a place to start looking.
“Thank you!” he shouted in the direction she’d gone, hands cupped around his mouth. “For real this time!”
He thought he heard her laughing, but it might’ve just been the wind.
There were things Tim was not expecting to see when he opened the door to his room, and Kon perched haphazardly on his windowsill was one of them.
“Tim!” his father called from downstairs, and he shut the door and spun around so fast it made his head spin. “The game’s coming on. Want to watch?”
“Ah,” Tim said. He cracked his door open; from outside the window, Kon waved. Tim shut it again. “Maybe in a little while, Dad. I think I’m going to get an early start on this homework.”
His father made an approving noise and Tim quickly disappeared back into his room. He forced the window open with quick, jerky movements.
He wasn’t sure what he meant to say, but “what are you doing here?” probably wasn’t it. It came out of his mouth anyway.
Kon blinked, hovering in midair, and all Tim could think about was how the next door neighbors liked to take their dog on evening walks and it wasn’t unusual for the occupants of the house behind theirs to get home at about this time, and there was a flying guy right outside his window, because that was totally the picture of normal.
He caught Kon by his sleeve and reeled him in through the window.
“I,” Kon said, cupping a hand to Tim’s face, and Tim stopped, still clutching Kon’s sleeve. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Tim replied. The word felt clumsy on his lips. “How did you find me?”
Kon was perched awkwardly on the windowsill; he let his hand fall from Tim’s face.
“Uh, superhearing, dude,” he said, licking his lips. He looked unsure, eyebrows furrowed. “I know what your voice sounds like.”
“You can pick my voice out of all of Gotham?” Tim asked, raising one eyebrow. Kon shrugged one shoulder.
“I like your voice,” he said. After a second, he added, “Someone told me where to listen.”
“Someone?” Tim asked.
“You’re not Robin anymore, are you?” Kon asked abruptly. “You – quit. Or were fired or whatever.”
“I quit,” Tim said, and pressed his lips into a thin line. This was exactly the conversation he didn’t want to have – because Tim liked that about Kon, that this was Kon’s whole life, but it meant Kon couldn’t understand. Kon had never had anything else.
“And you weren’t going to tell me?” he said, eyes searching Tim’s face like he was trying to put together a puzzle.
“I,” Tim said. He swallowed hard. “No. Kon, I –”
His bedroom door cracked open; Tim whirled around.
“Hey, Tim,” his dad said, and Tim flung his arms out to the sides of the window like he could somehow block Kon from view. “I was just wondering if – are you okay?”
“Dad!” Tim said, hating the way his voice squeaked. “This is –” he glanced over his shoulder, but the only thing he found was his open window; Kon was gone. “… Nothing.”
His father gave him an odd look.
“Dana and I were thinking we might go out and get some dessert after the game,” he said. “Wanna come with?”
Tim glanced over his shoulder again. Cautiously, he shut his window.
“No, thanks,” he said. “I really should start on that homework.”
Kon flew back to Kansas – and if he tore through a billboard or two on the way, well. He had his reasons.
Tim wasn’t going to tell him. Ever, maybe.
He found himself back on the farm before he knew it. For a moment, he hesitated, hanging there in the air. He was just so angry, and he found himself wondering if he’d feel better if he just – wrecked something. The side of the barn, the fence, the old tractor out back.
But he was Superboy. He didn’t – wreck things. Not on purpose, anyway, not anything more than a stupid billboard on an abandoned interstate, and not just because he was mad. He couldn’t be that guy.
He flew inside and huddled up on the couch with a pile of old comics and the quilt Ma had made for Clark when he’d been like, twelve or something, and tried not to think about Tim and the look on his face when he’d said he’d quit.
He slept poorly, tossing and turning, and when he woke up he was hovering a good three feet above his bed. He fell and hit the mattress with a thump; there went the box springs. No big loss, they had to be older than he was. Older than Clark, probably.
Ten minutes and one of Clark’s incredibly dweeby old plaid shirts later found him dragging himself into the kitchen. Ma Kent stared at him from the over the tops of her glasses, spatula in hand.
“What?” he said. She hummed noncommittally, putting together a plate for him (and if there was one good thing and only one good thing about living with the Kents, it was definitely the food) as he pulled up a chair.
“Just trying to figure out what’s wrong, dear,” she said. He scowled at the tabletop, propping his chin up on one palm.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he said. “Same old, same old.”
“Oh, honey, you think Clark never came down those stairs with the same look on his face?” she said, setting his plate down in front of him. “And elbows off the table.”
Kon obeyed; Ma Kent sort of had that power over everyone.
“Martha,” Pa said over the top of his newspaper. “Don’t interrogate the boy. He’ll talk if he wants to.”
Kon pushed his eggs around on his plate. That was Ma’s other talent – she could make anyone talk, even if they didn’t really want to. Even if they mostly still wanted to punch a hole through the nearest wall.
“I just,” he said. Stopped. Ate the bacon, for emotional strength. “What if you had this – friend.”
“Oh, it’s one of those problems,” Pa said, not unkindly. He shook out his newspaper and pulled it right back up.
“Right, um,” Kon said, staring at his eggs uneasily. “What if you had this friend, right, and you thought everything was kind of – normal. Good, I guess. Really good. And then one day your friend stops showing up for on the weekend for – stuff. And you go to see if they’re, you know, dead in a ditch or something, but they’re not, they’re fine, they just – quit. And they didn’t tell you or, or anybody, they were just going to quit.”
Kon sucked in a breath and glanced up. Ma was looking at him with an expression he couldn’t read, not that he could read a lot of them normally. The basics he got, smiling and crying and that look the bad guys always got when they were about to explain every tiny detail of their stupidly complicated plans – that stuff he was good at. Everything else he never bothered with, because Tim was there with his bat-powered superbrain and Kon trusted in that.
Not anymore, he guessed. That was going to suck, although not quite as much as no more freaky birdboy makeouts.
If it wasn’t for the Kents No Powers at Breakfast rule, Kon would have probably heat vision’d his eggs to a crisp, and taken most of the table with them. (Which, come to think of it, was probably why the Kents had that rule in the first place.)
“This is one of those problems that comes wrapped in a cape, huh, son?” Pa said from behind his newspaper. Kon felt his face heat up.
“Uh, sort of, yeah,” he said.
“This friend,” Ma said. “They’re important to you, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Kon said. Ma smiled at him.
“People always have reasons for the things they do,” she told him. “Odds are your friend didn’t want to quit anymore than you wanted them to. You don’t have to stop being friends, just because they quit.”
“It’s just,” Kon said, staring at the patterns the wood grain made. He furrowed his brow and admitted in a small voice, “We won’t have anything in common anymore.”
“So you’ll find something new,” Ma said. “If they’re really important to you, Conner, don’t let this stop you.”
“She’s right,” Pa said, flipping a page.
“So, what?” Kon said. “You think I should talk to him?”
“I think you should give it a chance,” Ma said with a smile. "Now don't let your breakfast get cold."
The problem with not being Robin anymore was that Tim couldn’t turn it off. It was like being asked to forget that the sky was blue, or how he felt the first time he’d seen Dick’s quadruple somersault in person. He could fake it, but he couldn’t unlearn it.
So the facts filled his head as soon as he found out which museum his class was taking their fieldtrip to, a jigsaw puzzle of crime. How many break-ins, civilian casualties, injured guards, stolen artifacts; they came to him unbidden.
There was a pattern, Batman had taught him. You could follow it, if you had the facts. The last robbery had been months ago, and it had been small. It was a sizable enough gap to make Tim nervous.
Nothing would happen, he told himself. Or at least, nothing would happen today. Gotham was a nocturnal city – it bloomed at night and came alive. Daytime had little to offer besides petty thugs, and after what Tim had been up against they didn’t hold any menace.
But Tim had been Robin, was still Robin inside, even without the costume and the crimefighting; it hung in the air around him, it was instilled in him. It was like pretending to be normal in school, except now he was doing it all the time, and it was driving him up the wall. He still thought like Robin, and he moved like Robin, stealthy and smooth, until he stopped to remind himself that normal teenage boys made noise when they walked.
Tim was still Robin where it mattered, and Robin was a magnet for trouble.
So, he supposed, he shouldn’t have been terribly surprised when the windows shattered, raining glass down on a third of the class.
Tim should have stayed with the group, but he was running on instinct, deeply ingrained, and the rules were thus: you did what you had to do to save people, and then you vanished. (Sometimes you got to make a witty remark, but that was more Dick’s territory.)
He didn’t go home. If he went home, it would feel real, the museum. The fact that he went in, when he should have stood there and waited for the police. His dad would have wanted him to stay and wait.
Bruce would have approved, provided no one saw him.
Tim dropped down on a bench and ran a hand through his hair, resting his face against his palm. It was still chaos over there, and it would be for a while. He’d slip back into the group before long and let himself be ushered back to school. He’d pretend he had never slipped away, never snuck up on that one robber and struck while his back was turned.
It’d been good, in the museum. He’d felt right. Now he just felt wrong, and unsure.
He hated it.
Tim whirled around, muscles tensing and then relaxing in expectation of a fight. There was a boy behind him, and it took him an embarrassingly long moment to realize it was Kon.
It was the clothes, he decided. The clothes and the glasses – the same basic principle as Superman’s disguise, but Tim could look at Clark Kent and see Superman under the ruffled shirt and messy hair. Kon looked uncomfortable in his plaid shirt and grass-stained jeans, like he didn’t quite fit into them. His glasses slid down his nose.
“I’m not stalking you, I swear,” Kon said.
“Shouldn’t you be in Kansas?” Tim asked. Kon shrugged. He took the other side of the bench, like he didn’t want to get in Tim’s space too much. It was hard to reconcile this Kon with the one from a few months ago who’d ripped the arm off an attacking robot and tried to get Tim to mount it on his wall.
Then again, this Tim must have been hard for Kon to reconcile with Robin, too.
“I’m sorry,” Kon said after a moment. He was hunched over, elbows resting on his knees, staring at his shoes. “For running off the other night.”
“It’s okay,” Tim said.
“It’s not,” Kon said. “Ma gave me a lecture on it before I left this morning.”
“Why are you here?” Tim asked. Kon looked up at him from over the tops of his glasses. Tim’s fingers itched to reach over and snatch them off.
“I wanted to apologize,” Kon said. “And I wanted to, y’know. Talk.”
“Talk,” Tim repeated. “Okay. We can do that.”
Probably, he added to himself.
Kon turned towards him, head bent low. He reached forward, like he was going to take Tim’s hand, but stopped at the last minute, wiping his palms on his jeans.
“Okay,” Kon said. “Talking now.”
Tim nodded. Kon gave him one of those looks, the you are no help one, and inhaled sharply.
“It’s just – I wanted to – you -- dammit,” Kon swore, tugging his glasses off. He flung them viciously to the side and Tim craned his head to make sure they didn’t fly into some poor bystander. They landed in a tree; Tim made a mental note of which one for when Kon inevitably needed them back. “Can’t think with them on, it’s so – you know how people always think people wearing glasses must be smart? It’s the opposite with me, I get so dumb, I swear.”
He took a deep breath in through his nose, running a hand through his hair. It stuck up at all angles; the corner of Tim’s mouth twitched. Now Kon was starting to seem like himself.
“That. Back there. The other night,” Kon said, waving one hand in the air. Tim followed it with his eyes. “I have to know – was that you breaking up with me?”
“Um,” Tim said. He licked his lips, mouth gone dry, and said, “Not exactly, no.”
“Okay,” Kon said, and the downside of the glasses being gone was that now Tim had a hard time looking him in the eyes. “What does that mean?”
It means I don’t want to, Tim thought. He said, “I’m not Robin anymore.”
“I don’t know how to break this to you, dude,” he said. “But the whole cape and mask thing? Not actually why I’m into you. I mean, it’s a bonus, but I like the whole Tim package. Shocking, I know.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Tim lied.
Kon leaned towards Tim, inclining his head, and it was like he entirely in Tim’s space all at once. Everything smelled like him and felt like him and Tim bit his lip.
“I don’t want to break up,” Kon said. “I really, really don’t want to. But if it’s what you want – I’ll go. And I won’t bother you or show up outside your house and throw rocks at your window with a boombox above my head or anything crazy like that. I promise. So if that’s what you want, man, you’ve just gotta give me the say so.”
Tim laughed in spite of himself, raising a hand to scrub at his face.
“I don’t want to,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s pretty much the last thing I want.”
Kon was quiet for a minute. Tim watched his hands, twisted up in each other like Kon was afraid to hold onto anything more breakable.
“We could always try, I don’t know,” he sounded unsure, “the normal thing?”
“The normal thing?” Tim said, quirking an eyebrow.
“With, like, dates,” Kon said, slanting a glance Tim’s way.
“I’ve been on dates,” Tim said, feeling a little defensive.
“Did they get crashed by supervillains?” Kon asked. Tim scowled.
“Only occasionally,” he said, and Kon snorted. “Not every time.”
“Look,” Kon said. “Let’s try it. What have we got to lose?”
“Dignity,” Tim muttered under his breath. Louder, he said, “Normal. Okay. That’s… that’s not going to work, Kon – we’re not normal.”
“You’re trying, though,” Kon said, ducking his head. “And I can try for you.”
Tim scrubbed at his face with his hands and made what was possibly an even dumber decision than the whole running back into the museum unarmed bit. He said, “Okay.”
“Yeah,” Tim said. “Come by tomorrow afternoon? My dad and Dana won’t be home for a few hours.”
Kon’s face lit up. It made something in Tim’s chest clench, but it wasn’t a bad feeling, not entirely. It reminded him a little of the sensation, simultaneously weightless and sinking, when you first swung out off a rooftop.
He’d missed it.
“Yeah,” Kon said. He ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck, smiling at his knees. Relief was clear across his face. “Yeah, I can definitely – that sounds cool.” He coughed halfway through, voice wavering, and Tim let himself smile back. It was slow and tentative, but real enough that it felt strange on his face.
He placed a hand on Kon’s shoulder and leaned in, pressing their lips together briefly. It made his chest flutter all over again. Kon made a noise deep in his throat; he reached up and touched Tim’s face, gently, and Tim had to pull away then because the fluttering had ceased and the clenching ache had started all over again.
Just a few hours before he’d been sure he’d never have this again. How could he have ever thought he could give up Kon?
“And if that goes well,” he said, because he couldn’t quite pass up the opportunity, “maybe you can stay for dinner and meet my dad.”
Kon kind of looked like he’d rather fight the armies of Apokolips with one hand tied behind his back.
“Dude, I already met Batman,” he said, making a face. “Isn’t that good enough for you?”
Tim got up and dusted off his jeans.
“We’re doing normal, aren’t we,” he said, half-under his breath. Kon leaned forward and grabbed his hand, thumb brushing the inside of Tim’s wrist, and Tim’s breath stuttered a little.
“Hey,” Kon said, tugging gently. Tim turned back towards him. “Don’t leave me hanging. It’s a long flight back to Kansas.”
“Not for you,” Tim said, but he bent down anyway. Kon leaned up and they met halfway, just a light brush of lips at first. But then Kon smiled against his mouth and Tim sighed, and the angle was all wrong but he opened his mouth anyway, and Kon mirrored him. They stayed like that for a few moments, warm and wet and slow, before Tim pulled away, his hand falling from Kon’s grip.
“Tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “Don’t be late, don’t wear the S-shield, and don’t bring any morally questionable robots.”
Kon had been through his own closet, then Clark’s, three shirts Pa had offered to lend him, one Ma had apparently sewn on the spot, his own again and still nothing looked right.
“Maybe it’s not the clothes,” he said to the mirror, appalled. He turned his face to the side and eyed his hair warily. “Maybe it’s me.”
Krypto gave a bark that was anything but reassuring.
Pa, watching from the doorway with a deeply amused look on his face, said, “Is Clark going to need to have another talk with you?”
“Oh, please, no,” Kon said, pulling a face. Clark’s last talk-with-a-capital-T had mostly involved awkward pauses and a couple of stilted questions about “safety” and “self-control” and a very quietly muttered word that might’ve been “condoms.”
It had left Kon with a deep desire to throw himself into a pit of barracudas with kryptonite teeth.
“Don’t know what that boy said to you,” Ma tutted, bustling past her husband and into the room. She tugged on his collar and he tilted his head up obediently, expecting to have it buttoned up to his throat. She surprised him, undoing the top three buttons so his undershirt peaked out from underneath.
“Do you know what the most important part of a first date is?” she asked.
“Uh,” Kon said, thinking back on his previous first dates. It still hurt, thinking about Tana, and the whole thing with Cassie had been mostly unfortunate, considering his powers hated him and enjoyed kicking in at really awkward times. But those had dates had all been with Superboy, not Conner Kent, high school student from Kansas, currently failing Animal Husbandry 101. “Try not to have it crashed by Gorilla Grod?”
Ma clucked her tongue. She tugged at his collar until it was in disarray – a cool, polished sort of disarray, not like when Kon just tossed on a shirt without bothering to see whether it was wrinkled or covered in hay. He checked his reflection and raised an eyebrow; he looked good.
“The two most important things to do on a first date,” Ma told him, “are to be yourself, and bring a dessert.”
“I was myself,” Pa said from the doorway. “She brought the dessert.”
In the daylight, Tim’s neighborhood wasn’t anything like Kon had expected, back when he used to wonder where Tim lived; he could actually see the sky. Not that the Gotham skyline was anything to be happy about.
It looked peaceful, though, and that was a good thing. Or it should be, at least – Kon had a hard time reconciling his image of Tim with peaceful. Tim was too sharp for peaceful. When Kon closed his eyes and thought about Tim, he always saw him split-second, in the middle of a fight.
Nobody fought like Tim.
The house had looked different at night, from the back, through the haze of Kon’s confusion (Robin isn’t Tim, Tim isn’t Robin, what’s going on) – standing in front of it in broad daylight Kon had to check the number a couple of times to make sure he’d gotten the right place.
It just didn’t look like the kind of house Tim would live in.
For one thing, it was above ground.
Tim opened the door before Kon was even up the steps, leaving him standing there, staring up at him.
“Uh,” he said, feeling lost. He’d seen Tim without the mask before, sure, but this was – Tim, without the masks, in normal clothes, in a normal house. Barefoot, with one arched eyebrow. “I brought a pie?”
The other eyebrow quirked up to the join its twin.
“Really?” Tim said, staring at the foil wrapped package in Kon’s hands.
“Hey,” Kon said. “It’s good pie!”
“I just know how you fly,” Tim said, lips twitching as he moved aside. Kon took the rest of the front steps in one bound. “I don’t think the pie could stand up to it.”
Kon scowled down at Tim, on even footing with him now, and said, “Dude. C’mon. Like Superman’s mom doesn’t know how to bake a g-force proofed pie.”
Tim made an appreciative noise. “Mrs. Kent made the pie?”
His fingers brushed against Kon’s and the tinfoil crinkled between them. Kon swallowed hard, and Tim took the opportunity to snatch the pie out of his hands.
Then he was gone, heading down the hallway, and Kon was left standing in the doorway, feeling like an idiot. Which, alright, was pretty normal when he was around Tim, so it was mostly a good kind of feeling like an idiot.
“Of course she made it. Who else would’ve? Me?” Kon said, following. Tim snorted, and Kon added, “Don’t give me that; I remember the waffle incident.”
“I remember not being the only one at the stove,” Tim replied, stopping in a doorway. Kon could see the kitchen behind him, big and airy and full of light and much, much cleaner than the Kent’s. It looked like the kind of kitchen where people were rarely at the stove.
“Hey,” Tim said, balancing the pie on one palm. He reached out to touch Kon’s wrist, featherlight, like Kon was going to disappear if he did the wrong thing. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Kon said, mouth gone a little funny and dry. “I forgot to say that before.”
“Me, too,” Tim said, fingertips trailing over the bones of Kon’s wrist. Kon twisted out of Tim’s grip and took his hand instead, holding it loosely. Tim looked down at their joined hands, and he didn’t smile. He had that look, though, the one he got when he was thinking about something so hard he had to devote his full attention to it, and that was almost better.
Kon was kind of a little stupid in love with that look.
“So. You. House. Do I get the tour?” Kon asked.
The tour started and ended at the kitchen. There was pie, after all, and how often in your life did you get to eat pie baked by Superman’s mother? Even Batman didn’t rate that kind of privilege.
“We just need to stick it in the oven until it’s warm,” Kon said. “Don’t worry, Ma says that – and I quote – a monkey could handle it, let alone teenagers.”
Ten minutes later found them sitting at the tiny kitchen table with the pie between them. The plates Tim had set out lay abandoned; they ate it straight from the tin.
It was different than Alfred’s pie, which would never have been eaten from a tin, ever, because the universe might have exploded from the sheer shock of it all, but also because Alfred’s pie was always perfect, down to the perfectly crunchy crust. Ma Kent’s pie was a little crumbly, and kind of mushy at the center, and that almost made it better.
Not that Tim would ever admit that out loud. It’d be betraying Alfred.
And really, the pie was all they had going for the afternoon seeing as they couldn’t keep a conversation going for three minutes. The usual “how’s life” questions were out the window, because Tim’s life was school and home and back again, and Kon had started saying something about the tower before he’d shut his mouth with a click of teeth.
Tim didn’t really want to hear about the tower, anyway.
At least, he thought as the awkward minutes ticked by, he’d gotten pie out of the crash and burn ending of his relationship.
Kon had crumbs in the corner of his mouth. Unthinkingly, Tim reached over and brushed his thumb across Kon’s lips.
The next thing he knew he was sitting on the table and Kon was standing between his knees. His back was tense under Tim’s palms, all knotted muscle, and Tim dug his fingers into his shoulders even though he knew it wouldn’t do any good; invulnerability didn’t lend itself well to massages.
“Can we not do this,” Kon said, lips brushing Tim’s. Tim shuddered and brought a hand up to twist in Kon’s hair. “Not the kissing thing. The kissing thing we should definitely keep doing. The awkward thing.”
“It’s not like I planned it,” Tim said, feeling a little defensive.
“But you plan everything,” Kon countered, knocking their forehead together. “Down to the nanosecond, man, I know you.”
Kon’s face up close was so open and his eyes were so blue. Tim just wanted to wrap his arms around him and stay like that.
“I just don’t know how to do this when it’s just us,” he confessed.
Kon frowned, eyebrows furrowed. He tapped his fingers against Tim’s hip.
“Sorry,” he said, “but was this some kind of weird threesome and I wasn’t aware of it? Were you doing the hot alien horizontal tango with Starfire behind my back? Getting technofreaky with Cyborg? Just spare me and tell me it wasn’t justice makeouts with my ex-girlfriend. Tim, man, I could be missing something here, but it was always just us.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Tim said, lips curling into a frown. His fingers caught at Kon’s shirt, plucking at the bit where the S-shield would’ve been. His voice dropped. “I don’t how to do this here. Without explosions and fights and the world being in peril.”
“World’s still in peril, probably,” Kon said contemplatively. He planted his palms on the tabletop and leaned forward, face contemplative. “Well, probably not today, because Thursdays are boring, but. Saturday. For sure.”
“And I can’t do that stuff with you anymore,” Tim said, frustration welling up in his chest. “I told you, I’m not Robin anymore, Conner.”
Kon drew back and Tim exhaled, shutting his eyes.
There were big, warm hands on his knees and Tim’s eyes blinked open. Kon was in his face again, and it was hard to think with him this close, all blue eyes and dark hair. Tim knew, given a few more weeks, it would be curling at the ends again, just like Superman’s, and that was why Kon was keeping it cropped so short lately.
“Because you know me? And you like me?” Tim said, raising an eyebrow. Kon grinned, hooking his fingers into the beltloops of Tim’s jeans.
“Yeah,” he said, “and because you know me, and you like me too. We got awkward out of the way years ago. You can’t be awkward with someone you kryptonite-punched, let alone someone you’ve made out with while upside down. It’s relationship math, dude, they teach this stuff in like, every sitcom.”
“I think we just proved them wrong,” Tim said, knocking his forehead gently against Kon’s. “Screw it. Less talking, more kissing, or else I’m getting that ring out again.”
“Yeah, okay,” Kon said, breath ghosting hot against Tim’s lips. “I knew we could not do the awkward thing.”
Kon came back the next afternoon, and the one after that.
“You know, people do stuff on dates,” Tim said, ignoring the fact that his hands were up the back of Kon’s shirt. His skin was warm and flawless underneath, all hard muscle and broad back.
“This doesn’t count?” Kon asked. His brow was furrowed in a way that Tim was hardpressed not to find adorable.
“Outside stuff,” Tim said. “They go places.”
“I’m in Gotham,” Kon said. He planted a wet kiss against Tim’s ear, probably just to watch him squirm. “What more do you want from me.”
“I’m thinking about pursuing a relationship with sunlight, though,” Tim said, extracting himself and pillowing his arms on Kon’s chest, staring down at him pointedly. “We never really had time for each other, before, but it’s this fascinating thing where – it’s light, in the daytime, and people do things outside.”
“Like robbing museums and coming up with really stupid costumes?” Kon said, pulling a shocked face. “Man, Gotham really is the cultural hub to end all cultural hubs.”
Tim whacked him with a pillow, and then somehow they ended up kissing again. They never did make it outside.
Then, one week later, Tim’s dad walked in on them.
It was less mortifying than it could have been – everyone had their shirts on, and all belts in the vicinity were securely buckled. They weren’t even liplocked, but they were sitting close, thighs pressed together, laptop precariously balanced on their knees, his arm around Kon’s back.
Tim was a master at reading body language (or nearly; he wasn’t Cass, after all), but most people knew the basics, instinctively. His dad wasn’t stupid; everything about their posture screamed ‘more than friends’ in blinking neon lights, right down to the way Kon’s head was inclined so his cheek was almost but not quite resting on Tim’s head.
In the future, Kon would describe the moment as being “the most awkward thing that has ever happened in the history of ever, to anyone, seriously, dude, so much worse than the time Superman’s dad caught me checking out the old Penthouse issues I found in the barn, I mean, just, damn.”
But in the present, Tim couldn’t even be coherent enough to shove the laptop off their knees or move Kon and his stupid feet which were totally tangled with Tim’s. He just sat there, staring at his dad with that expression Alfred said made him look “just like a fish, Master Timothy, please do close your mouth and sit up straight at once.”
His dad pulled a face suspiciously close to Tim’s own fish expression. He opened his mouth once, closed it, held up a finger, and then shut the door with a click.
“Oh, geez,” Kon said, startling backwards, the spell that had kept them both in place broken. Tim lunged and caught the laptop before it could fall. Kon dove to the floor, looking for the shoes he’d kicked off earlier.
“One’s under the bed, the other’s by my closet,” Tim told him automatically, shutting his laptop with a click. “What are you doing?”
“Throwing myself in the bay,” Kon said, hopping up and down with his left shoe halfway on, “before your dad calls up Batman and gets himself a kryptonite rifle.”
“My dad and Batman aren’t on speaking terms, and Batman doesn’t have a kryptonite rifle,” Tim said, catching Kon by the back of his shirt. “I’m not even sure how one of those would work -- and stop squirming, it’ll be worse if you leave.”
“How could it possibly be worse?” Kon moaned, but he slumped back down, shoulders hunched.
“For one, neither of us is dressed up like Alice in Wonderland,” Tim muttered under his breath. Kon shot him a look, eyebrows raised, and opened his mouth to ask the obvious question; Tim elbowed him in the ribs. The door swung open again and they sprang apart, to opposite ends of the bed.
His dad was standing there with Dana not too far behind.
Tim desperately searched for a good explanation -- no need to worry, this is just Superboy, my boyfriend, cloned from Superman and also Lex Luthor I guess but don’t worry he’s hardly scheming at all, besides I’m a firm believer in nurture versus nature, and I guess he missed me so we’ve been making out in my room a lot while you’ve been out, and honestly I didn’t think you’d find out, which may admittedly have been shortsighted on my part --, found none, and spat out the first thing he thought of: “You’re home early.”
His dad looked like he honestly didn’t know what to say to that, and Tim couldn’t really blame him. He raised a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger.
“We are having a talk, young man,” he said. “And – you. Other young man. Do you have a name?”
“Uh,” Kon said, scrambling to his feet, all arms and legs and the kind of awkwardness that must have come from never having to meet anyone’s parents before. Or, maybe, from being caught alone up in his boyfriend’s room, snuggling. “I’m – Kon. Conner. Kent, I mean, Conner Kent.”
“You, Conner Kent, are going home,” he said, and Dana smiled from behind him, looking a little tightlipped but overall amused. She beckoned to Kon, who threw one last look at Tim.
“Bye,” he said, eyes wide in the evening’s half-gloom. Tim thought he might start panicking, which was ridiculous when he really thought about it, because he’d seen Kon face down robots and entire invasions and, that one time, a giant sentient billboard. “I’ll, uh. Call?”
“Yeah,” Tim said.
“When I get home,” Kon promised. He ducked out the door without making eye contact, and Tim watched as Dana led him away. She shot him a sympathetic glance over her shoulder.
“So,” Tim said to his dad after an awkward beat. “About that talk.”
Chapter 2: brand new heights
The one where the actual parents-meeting goes down, Dana has way more fun than anyone else and there's the usual amount of cuddling, robot fights, and Batman being put up to things by Alfred off-screen.
So this turned out way longer than I'd anticipated. Like. Way longer. Thank you so much for the comments/kudos/bookmarks on the first chapter! You guys are awesome, and I hope you like the rest of it, too. Again, for hunterwithcause -- I'm so glad you enjoyed the first part! I hope you like this one just as much. ♥
I know someone on delicious summed up the first part as "irredeemable fluff" -- that pretty much holds true for this one, too.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They had the talk in the study, which was just fine with Tim; he felt just as uncomfortable talking about things in that room as his dad had looked. He’d just had his hands up Kon’s shirt in there a lot recently. It didn’t seem appropriate.
His father kept rubbing at the bridge of his nose, mouth half-open like the words had gotten stuck. Tim stood stock still and stared at his feet and wondered if he should speak first.
“Were you planning to tell me?”
Tim looked up.
“I,” he said. He shook his head. “I thought the other thing was kind of a big enough surprise.”
“That’s just it, though,” his dad said, sighing long and low. “I thought we weren’t going to have secrets anymore.”
Tim fought the urge to shift uncomfortably.
“I’m trying,” he said. “This honesty policy. I am trying. But it’s hard.”
“I appreciate that, really,” his dad said, pulling a wry grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I just – would have liked to have been told first, Tim.”
Tim sucked in a deep breath.
His father glanced at him – not sharp, but appraising – and was quiet for one very long moment. Then he raised his hand and rubbed at his forehead and uttered something that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a sigh.
“You know, this would have been much more dramatic a couple of months ago,” he said, shaking his head. “Before the whole…” he flapped his hands together in a manner that might’ve been reminiscent of a bat, if Tim tilted his head and squinted.
“Before you found out I was running around at night in a cape and tights, kicking criminals in the face,” Tim supplied helpfully.
“Yes,” his father said, making a face. “Exactly. That.”
Tim bit the inside of his cheek; he’d pictured a couple different scenarios going down, when his dad found out (and it was always a when, not an if), but this – awkward, stilted silence – hadn’t been one of them. Which, really, was an oversight, of course this should have been the first one he’d pictured, but somehow he’d just skipped right past it.
His father settled a hand on his shoulder, jostling him lightly, and squeezed.
“I love you,” he said. Tim looked up at him, and the look on his face must have been something, because his father tried to smile and look serious at the same time and just came out looking awkward. “I want you to know that. I love you no matter what – if you’re dating boys or – anything else. You’re my son and I love you.”
Tim swallowed hard. “Okay,” he said.
“I mean it,” he said, squeezing again, tugging so Tim was tucked against his side. Tim could see his reflection in the hall mirror, through the open door, watch how he was staring down at the top of his head. “I’d love you even if you were still running around in a cape and tights, kicking criminals in the face.”
“You’d just be angry,” Tim said. His father snorted a laugh.
“Yeah,” he said. “And disappointed. And…”
He trailed off, but Tim knew what the next word would have been: scared.
“Anyway,” his father said, releasing him. “He -- Conner? He’s coming over to dinner. Properly.”
“Alright,” Tim said, a little taken aback, though not entirely in a bad way.
“How does tomorrow night sound?” his father asked.
“Terrifying,” Tim replied.
“Alright," his dad said. "Tomorrow night it is.”
Tim called before Kon got the chance to; he’d only just touched down on the lawn, a couple steps from the porch, when Ma leaned out of the doorway with the phone in her hand. Tim was just that unnaturally efficient – Kon had only stopped once on his flight home, to grab a slushie to drown the overwhelming embarrassment he’d felt when Tim’s step-mother had smiled at him knowingly as he’d ducked out their door and tried hard not to run down the street, calling after him to “come back and see Tim soon.”
Was all normal dating this humiliating?
“It’s your young man,” Ma said, winking, and Kon’s face burned as he snatched the phone. It was official; normal dating was totally humiliating. He never had to deal with this back when he was living in Hawaii. Granted, in Hawaii, if he’d had Tim – well, all Rex would’ve been worried about was the publicity scandal, really, followed by the merchandising rights and, okay, the word Superboyfriend would’ve ended up emblazoned on something.
Which actually wasn’t a completely horrible idea. If only for the look on Tim’s face.
“Hey,” he said into the phone, and Ma bustled back into the kitchen, doing him the service of pretending she wasn’t listening. Superhearing so wasn’t just a Kryptonian thing, though, because Kon was sure Ma had it too. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Tim replied. “Everything’s fine. They want you to come over to dinner tomorrow.”
“Dinner,” he said. He leaned backwards towards the kitchen, cupping a hand over the receiver. “Ma? I think I’m going to need another one of those pies.”
Ma didn’t look up from the stove; she wiped her hands on her apron, and said, “We’ll make two. Just in case.”
The thing about Batman was, you knew he hated you. That was just Batman, he hated everybody, practically, with the exceptions of his sidekick gang and maybe, maybe Superman and Wonder Woman. (And Kon had his doubts on that one, but Superman seemed to think that keeping a secret store of kryptonite and growling all the time was Batman’s way of showing affection.)
You knew where you stood with Batman.
What Kon didn’t know was where he stood with Tim’s parents. His stepmother hadn’t seemed to hate him, and his father – well, his father probably didn’t have a secret supply of kryptonite.
Probably. He really couldn’t count on that.
Kon landed in the trees on the edge of Tim’s block, when it was just dark enough to hide his descent. He rested on a strong branch, pies balanced on his knees. He’d flown a little too fast, startling some geese, and now he had ten minutes to blow before he was expected at the Drake’s doorstep.
Kon nearly fell out of the tree. His superspeed only barely saved the pies.
He clambered backward and came face-to-upside-down face with Nightwing, hanging from a higher branch. Behind him, half-hidden in the bushes, Kon could see a sleek motorcycle. He almost whistled.
“Don’t sneak up on a guy like that,” he said. Nightwing grinned, eyes twinkling behind his mask. He’d left the whiteout lenses up.
“I thought you had super-hearing,” he said, voice teasing. Kon scowled.
“Funny how you Bats constantly seem to defy it,” he said, and Nightwing shrugged. “How’d you even find me, anyway? What, do you have Tim’s house bugged?”
Nightwing didn’t even blink.
“Do you have my house bugged?” Kon asked, voice rising a little higher. Nightwing looked like he might seriously start snickering. He grabbed onto Kon’s branch and flipped himself right side up, all long-limbed grace. His smile stayed the same but his eyes turned critical, sizing him up.
Whatever he was looking at, it seemed to satisfy him. He held out a neat little white box, all tied up in red and white string, the way they did at bakeries.
“You’ll have to ask Tim about the farm,” he said. “But I didn’t come here to discuss the finer points of invasion of privacy – I have a favor to ask. Can you give this to Tim for me?”
“Uh, sure,” Kon said. He held out his hand and Nightwing deposited the box. It was a little warm, like whatever was inside had come fresh from the oven, and it smelled unbelievable. “Don’t you want to – you know. Do it yourself? I mean, he’s your…”
He trailed off, unsure what exactly Tim was to Nightwing now.
“Yeah, he’s my little bro,” Nightwing said, staring down at his feet with a strange, soft sort of expression. “But I don’t want to push him or anything. He knows how to get in touch with me, if he wants. I’ll wait for him to decide.”
Kon kind of felt like he should put a hand on Nightwing’s shoulder, but this was Nightwing. Instead, he just cleared his throat and said, “Yeah, sure, man. No problem.”
Nightwing flashed him a quick grin. He leaned backwards and then he was gone again, lost amongst the foliage. Kon caught sight of him just as he landed on the ground.
“Tell him it’s from A,” Nightwing called up to him, heading back to his bike. “He’ll understand.”
The doorbell rang at five minutes past seven. Dana somehow managed to beat Tim to the door, years of stealth and combat training shoved aside in the face of curiosity and a pair of heels that shouldn’t have allowed for that kind of speed. She opened the door and smiled widely at Kon.
“Conner!” she said warmly, like they’d known him forever and he wasn’t Tim’s secret boyfriend, come for an extremely awkward family dinner. Tim felt the deep need to slink into some shadows. “Come on in, you’re right on time. And you bought dessert!”
Tim’s father sidled up beside him.
“Don’t make that face; this cannot be nearly as awkward for you as it is for me,” he said. Tim snorted.
“Want to bet?” he replied.
“When you walk in on me and Dana, then you can talk,” his father said. Tim shot him a nasty look.
“That was completely uncalled for.” His dad shrugged, something like a smile flickering along his face as he tucked his hands into his pockets.
“Sir,” Kon said, catching sight of him. He coughed. “Nice to, uh, meet you. Properly. This time. Unlike last time.”
Tim resisted the urge to slap a hand to his face. This had to be, hands down, the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to him, which was impressive, considering a) his numerous encounters with Poison Ivy, and b) that time with Dick and the sequins.
(And he had been really, really humiliated, that time with Dick and the sequins; looking Commissioner Gordon in the eyes had been impossible for a week. Knowing Oracle probably had it on film somewhere only made it that much worse.)
“Let’s just scratch everything – this is our first real meeting, after all,” Tim’s dad said. He stuck his hand out. “Nice to meet you, Conner.” Kon shifted his packages to one hand and reached out with the other; Tim’s dad let out a low whistle. “That’s some grip you got there, son. Sports?”
“Not really,” Kon admitted with a sidelong glance at Tim. “I, uh, my – grandparents. They own a farm.”
The doorbell rang again and Dana made shooing motions, talking a mile a minute.
“That’s the Chinese food – I hope you like Chinese, Conner, we’re a pretty no-cook household these days,” she said. “Boys, why don’t you go finish up with the table? Jack, come help with the bags, please?”
Kon pushed the top parcel into Tim’s hands as they made their way down the hall.
“Nightwing ambushed me and told me to give this to you,” he said, keeping his voice low. “He said to tell it’s from A?”
“Oh,” Tim breathed, taking the package with careful fingers. He blinked, feeling that aching feeling again, the one that had lessened over the past weeks but not gotten any easier, not really. “I – thanks.”
“No big deal,” Kon said, shrugging. “Like I said, he ambushed me. In a tree. Do you have my house bugged?”
Tim glanced at him, quick and calculating, and then looked down at the pies.
“How many did you bring?”
“Ma told me to bring extra, just in case,” Kon said, scratching the back of his neck with his free hand. “Also, dude, not an answer.”
“I don’t know about everything B pulls,” Tim answered smoothly. He took the pies from Kon and placed them on the countertop, by the oven, then pulled Kon by the wrist into the dining room. “You’d have to ask him.”
“You are not seriously telling me to ask Batman if he’s got Superman’s parents’ house bugged,” Kon said, and Tim silenced him with a look.
“You might not want to mention either of them in this house,” he said. “Superheroes are sort of an untouchable subject right now. Especially Batman.”
“Right,” Kon said. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Tim said brusquely, and he hesitated a moment before he wrapped his hand around Kon’s wrists. Kon’s wrist was thick, but his fingers were long, and they fit together better than he would’ve thought. “Just –”
He broke off, unsure what he was about to say.
“It could be worse,” Kon said, like that was any comfort. “It could be dinner with my parents.”
Tim couldn’t help it; he started snickering. Kon shot him a dirty look covering up a smile.
“So Conner,” Jack Drake said halfway through dinner, coincidentally when Kon’s mouth was full of kung pao chicken. He felt awkward and too big for the Drakes immaculate dining room – who put out good plates for Chinese takeout? It made him feel like he was going to break something. “Tim tells us you’re not from Gotham.”
“Uh, no, sir,” he said, after swallowing. He snuck a look at Tim, briefly, unsure what he’d shared with his parents.
“Conner’s from Hawaii, originally,” Tim filled in for him, reaching for his glass. Kon huffed a sigh of relief; no need to explain that he actually lived in Kansas, then. That one would’ve been tough. It was more or less the truth, too, which helped – Hawaii had been home, more than the lab. More than Kansas, too.
“Hawaii!” Dana exclaimed, eyes shining. “It’s so beautiful there, isn’t it? Jack and I almost went for our honeymoon.”
“Yeah,” Kon found himself saying. “It’s just – it’s really beautiful.”
“Do you miss it?” Dana asked, leaning forward eagerly. “If I lived there – I can’t imagine ever leaving. It’s just so exotic.”
“Why did you move?” Jack asked, and Tim shot him a look.
“Dad,” he said. Jack shrugged.
“I’m just making conversation,” he said.
Kon wasn’t sure how to answer that – not the truth, definitely, for a couple of reasons – and thinking about Hawaii always made him think about Tana (and Roxy and Rex and Dubbilex, definitely, but the beach and Tana were always first to come to mind), which was not what he’d intended to do, his first dinner with his boyfriend’s parents.
He pushed his food around his plate and was relieved when Tim and his father launched into a debate about the Gotham Knights.
Dessert was a little better; Ma’s pie went over as well as it usually did.
“Where did you get it?” Dana asked after her first forkful, waving a hand a little in front of her face. “It’s delicious! You can’t get pie like this in Gotham.”
“I, uh, my grandma made it,” Kon admitted, wishing Ma was here to handle the praise herself. “I live with my grandparents, so. I think she’s got like, ribbons and stuff for it.”
“He’s a keeper,” Dana said to Tim, lightly elbowing him. Tim flushed and grinned, briefly, at Kon, and that was better than the pie, for sure.
“Dana,” Jack said. He had yet to touch his pie.
“Jack,” Dana returned. “No attitude. Only pie.”
Dana insisted on clearing the dishes. Kon offered to help, but she waved him off.
“You bought the pie,” she said. “You’ve done enough.”
“Let Tim help,” Jack said, and Kon shot Tim a horrified look. Tim echoed it, eyes wide. “It’ll give Conner and I a chance to talk.”
Dana pursed her lips.
“Alright,” she said, as Tim reluctantly pulled out his chair. “But be gentle, Jack! Remember, Tim and I are right on the other side of that door. We can hear everything. You be nice to him!”
“I’m always nice!” Jack defended.
“I’ll be right back,” Tim promised Kon, pitching his voice low. Kon doubted anyone else heard him. Then they were both gone, the kitchen door swinging in their wake, and Kon was left alone with his boyfriend’s father.
Jack Drake said nothing, silently sizing him up.
“Uh,” Kon said, getting the feeling he was supposed to be saying something. “Dinner was, uh, really good. Great. It was great. Thanks for having me over – I really appreciate it.”
“It’s no trouble,” Jack said. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Kon. “How long did you say you’ve known my son for, again?”
Kon hadn’t said. He doubted Tim had either, but there was the chance he had and that this was some kind of parental test, the Honesty-O-Meter. He sent a pleading look towards the door, but Tim apparently was a little slow on the freaky not-quite-psychic uptake that day because the door stayed where it was, unmoving and unrevealing of any batboy saviors.
“A few years,” he said, a safe enough answer, and Jack’s eyebrow shot up. Kon found himself flushing against his will. “Not that we’ve been dating for that long! The dating thing, that’s new. But yeah, he’s – he’s one of my best friends.”
Jack Drake’s lips thinned, pressed tight together, and there was a look in his eyes like he was going to ask a question Kon was pretty sure Tim wouldn’t want him to answer, but then there was a shout from the kitchen.
Kon was on his feet before he knew it.
Tim was on his knees on the kitchen floor, crouched down so he was eyelevel with the gap between the fridge and the floor; Dana stood behind him, holding one hand in the other. She looked up when Kon and Jack came barreling through the door.
“It’s my ring,” she said, distraught. “I put it down on the counter to wash the dishes. I guess I forgot about it – I must have hit it with my elbow.”
“I can’t see it,” Tim said, pulling himself up. He glanced over his shoulder at Dana. “You should really put a bandage on that.”
Dana shook her head, but there was blood seeping out from behind her fingers.
“It’s just a scratch,” she said, making a face when she caught Jack looking. “A knife slipped while I was washing it.”
“Let me see,” Jack said, crossing the room. He took Dana’s hand in his own and his frown deepened. He glanced at Tim and Kon.
“I’m going to get a flashlight,” he said. “See if you two can maybe move it a little bit. Come on, let’s get this patched up.”
“Don’t strain yourselves!” Dana called as Jack led her out of the room.
Tim and Kon exchanged a glance. Kon dropped to the floor as Tim straightened up.
“This’ll just take a sec,” he said, hooking his fingers underneath the fridge.
“Careful,” Tim warned. “Don’t rip it out of the wall or anything.”
“No worries, dude, I’ve done this a million times,” Kon said, rolling his eyes. Roxy used to have this uncanny talent – five minutes in the kitchen and something important had rolled under a piece of heavy machinery. “It’s just superstrength, okay, it’s pretty easy, I’m not going to use your fridge for precision TTK practice or anything.”
“I just don’t want to have to explain any weird dents,” Tim said, crouching down. “Okay, lift it up and I’ll grab the ring. We can say we just spotted it under the cupboards or something.”
“Done,” Kon said. Superstrength wasn’t all that different from regular strength, except for the fact where he had about a million times more of it: he still lifted with his knees, one hand slipped underneath the bottom of the fridge. Tim dove for the ring, sharp eyes picking it out of the gloom.
He had it in his hand when the door swung open again and Jack Drake walked in, already talking.
“Tim, did you reorganize the medicine chest again,” he began – and abruptly stopped. He stood in the doorway and staring at the scene in front of him: his son’s newly discovered paramour supporting a hefty-sized refrigerator three feet off the ground with one hand and his son crouched underneath, panic-stricken and clutching a diamond ring. Dana, two steps behind him, raised her uninjured hand to her mouth.
To his credit, Kon did not drop the fridge on his boyfriend. Not that he doubted Tim would have been able to roll out of the way. Still.
“I probably should have mentioned,” Tim said. Kon recognized that tone of voice – tight and controlled and absolutely ready to face down the villainous hordes with a half-empty utility belt and no plan whatsoever. “Conner is Superboy.”
“Uh,” Kon said, still holding the fridge in place. He gave a little wave with his free hand. “Hi.”
“I see,” Jack said, faintly, clutching the door with a steadying hand. “Superboy—please put my fridge down.”
“Not a problem, sir,” Kon said quietly. He put the fridge down as gently as he could, way more gently than he’d handled the alien tech from last week even when Cassie had yelled at him about it. The tech hadn’t been staring at him like he was getting superhero germs all over its kid.
The silence was thick for a long moment, and then Dana fluttered a little and said, “Just wait until my sister hears about this!”
“I think we need to have another one of those talks,” Jack said, leveling Tim with a glance.
“I figured we might,” Tim said with an air of resignation. He stood, dusting himself off, and held the ring up to the light. “But we found Dana’s ring.”
“Your dad seemed mad,” Kon said when Tim pulled up his bedroom window an hour later. He made no move to enter, just crossed his arms on the sill and hovered there. Tim sighed and leaned in, bumping their foreheads together.
“That’s one way of putting it,” he said. “I see you got out intact.”
“Sort of,” Kon said, pulling a face. He rubbed at his right wrist. “Your step-mom made me sign your whole house, practically.”
Tim pulled a face.
“Dana’s a big fan of Big Blue,” he said.
“Yeah,” Kon replied. “I sort of guessed.”
“Sorry,” Tim said, closing the distance between them. Kon hummed against his lips. “I pressed the importance of secret identities. I promise not to let the dishtowels end up on eBay.”
“Hell, go for it, but I get fifty percent,” Kon said when Tim pulled back. “So am I banished forever or what?”
“We’re in talks,” Tim said, leveling Kon with his most serious stare. “I’ll make a whole power point in your defense, if I have to.”
“You don’t have one already?” Kon said and Tim kissed him again, partly, he suspected, to shut him up. He cupped a hand to the back of Tim’s head, tangling his fingers in his hair. “I have to head back.”
“I know,” Tim said. He knocked their noses together, pressing a kiss to the side of Kon’s mouth.
“But I can come back, right?” Kon said, letting his hand drift down to the collar of Tim’s shirt. He played with the tag idly for a moment. Tim bit down on his lip, like he was trying to hide a grin.
“Could I stop you?” he asked, and Kon grinned. He let go of Tim and flew up, waited a moment, and then swooped back down. He caught Tim just as he was reaching to close the window and, taking his face between his hands, kissed him soundly.
“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” he said. Tim laughed, sharp and surprised, against Kon’s mouth.
“Have a good flight back,” he said. “Don’t give the geese any problems.”
“One time!” Kon called. Tim rolled his eyes and settled back against the windowsill, arms folded. He was still there when Kon looked back a minute later, hovering over the tops of the trees. He grinned to himself, feeling like he’d just fought a hundred supervillains and come out on top, and headed towards Gotham’s border.
He thought, once or twice, that there was a shadow following him, but when he stopped to look there was nothing out of the ordinary, and whatever it was stopped trailing him as soon as he made it out of Gotham’s borders.
It was a smooth trip back to Kansas after that and it wasn’t terribly late by the time he touched down at the Kent farm. The lights in the kitchen were still on; Kon didn’t know whether to stifle a groan or a grin. He smoothed down his hair and jogged towards the porch steps.
Pa was standing in the doorway, his arms crossed. The hallway light spilled out from behind him, and Kon could smell leftovers on the stove, hear the faint sounds of Ma humming in the kitchen. It felt more like coming home than he’d ever expected.
“How’d it go?” Pa asked, arching his eyebrows over the top of his glasses. Before Kon could answer, Pa made a knowing sound, shaking his head. “No, wait, don’t tell me – I know that look. I seem to remember another young man coming home with it on his face.”
Kon grinned and ducked his head. He took the stairs two at a time.
Tim woke up at 2:35 AM to – something.
He had been sure of what it was for a moment, but then it had slipped through his fingers and now he was struggling to remember. It had been – a voice.
He lay in bed and listened, instantly alert, and after a moment he picked up on his father’s voice coming from somewhere in the house, too low to hear what he was saying. He was talking to someone. Tim couldn’t hear the other voice, but from the rises and falls of his father’s, the pace of his words – he was sure.
He was definitely talking to someone, and it wasn’t Dana.
Tim climbed out of bed and crept from his room, sneaking down the stairs towards the source of his father’s voice: the study. His father’s words grew clearer the closer he got, but he couldn’t quite make out the other half of the conversation until he was halfway down the hall.
That alone should have told him who it was.
The door was open a crack and Tim slunk towards it, positioning himself so that he could see the speakers. His dad stood towards one side, posture defensive with his arms crossed.
Two feet away stood a figure cloaked in black. Tim sucked in a breath through his teeth.
It hurt more than he thought it would, seeing Batman again. Before he’d been distracted by the other things, the absence of Dick’s easygoing jokes, Alfred’s cooking and Cass’ strange silent camaraderie. Titans weekends and leaping off of rooftops and fighting crime.
Now it all came crashing down, how much he’d missed Bruce and his strong, solid presence. Bruce had always made Tim feel like things were going to be okay.
“I’m not comfortable with you in my house,” his father said. Bruce didn’t flinch.
“I’m just checking in,” he said after a pause, considering, and Tim almost expected him to turn towards the door. “I wanted to make sure everything was alright. I won’t bother you again after tonight.”
His father ran a hand through his hair, shifting his eyes.
“He was my son first,” he said after a long moment. “I had him years before you came along. Of course he’s alright.”
Bruce made a sound, something like acquiescence. Tim curled his fingers into fists, nails biting into his palms.
“Why are you asking now?” his father asked, looking back at Batman. Bruce shrugged, an easy rise and fall of the cape and the strong line of his shoulders underneath. “It’s been weeks.”
“I understand you’ve had a visitor,” Bruce said. Tim’s father narrowed his eyes.
“Have you been spying on us?” he snapped. Bruce didn’t flinch.
“No,” he said. “But it’s a small community. News can travel fast, and Superman’s never been very good at keeping his mouth shut.”
“You know – of course you know Superman, what am I saying,” he said, running a hand through his hair. He leveled a look at Batman, eyebrows knit, something a little like defeat written all over his face. “Did you know – about Tim and --?”
He stopped, like he was having trouble with the name. Bruce did shift then, very slightly, the cape dragging along the carpet. Bruce looked strange in his father’s study, out of place – his huge form, the stark lines of him didn’t match up with the beige carpet, the framed art and the wooden desk in the corner. He looked as out of place as Jack Drake had standing in the middle of the Batcave.
Tim still wasn’t sure which one he really belonged in.
“Like I said,” Bruce replied. “It’s a small community.”
They were both silent for a long moment, and then Tim’s father exhaled and said, “I don’t know how to deal with this. I thought – that it’d be over, once he was out. That I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.”
“That’s not something that stops. You always worry about them,” Batman said, and Tim caught on that word, too, and thought briefly about all the people Bruce must worry about him: him and Dick and Alfred and Steph and Cass and Barbara and others, too.
“What do you know?” his father asked, averting his eyes. “I’ve seen the tabloids. I thought at first that he was sneaking back out but – you’ve replaced him already.”
Tim bit his lip.
“There were Robins before Tim,” Bruce said after a long moment. “Of course there would be a Robin after him. Batman needs a partner, to function in this city.”
“Why did it have to be my son, though?” his father exploded, and Tim couldn’t look at him but he knew his expression anyway, the same one he’d worn back in the cave, all clenched jaw and angry eyes. “Why Tim?”
For a moment, Tim thought Bruce wasn’t going to answer. Then Bruce shifted again, and Tim had worked with him, knew him better than anyone, save for Alfred and Dick, and he knew Bruce was looking straight at him underneath the cowl, focused on the exact spot behind the door.
“Because he’s brilliant,” he said. “Brilliant, and dedicated, and he volunteered. Because he understood how valuable Robin is to Gotham. Because he’s one of the hardest, smartest workers I’ve ever known, and if he’s like this now, imagine what he could become.”
Tim couldn’t have made a sound if he wanted to. His hands uncurled and his chest hurt and he wanted to reach out to Bruce. But he couldn’t, so he stayed where he was.
“He had a life in that community,” Bruce said. “He has – friends. People who care about him.”
Tim’s father exhaled, long and slow, head tipped back.
“I know,” he said. “I know that. And I’m – I’m trying. But it’s hard. I just want to forget it ever happened, I want him to be able to move on. I thought he really was starting to. And now everywhere I look there’s just these reminders. Reminders for him. And it’s hard. I don’t know if I can deal with that.”
“You’ll figure out a way,” Batman said, and Tim thought there might have been a little bit of a smirk in his voice. “You’ll figure it out for Tim.”
“You’re a real bastard,” his dad said, but without heat. Tim felt like he might laugh. “You know that, right?”
“I’ve been told,” Batman said, turning with a swish of cape. “I won’t bother you again.”
He left the way he’d probably come – through the window – and Tim’s dad stayed where he was, arms folded. Tim watched him for a moment, and then he crept back up the stairs and into his room.
If he thought he saw Bruce’s shadow in the yard hanging around a moment longer than necessary, then it was probably just a trick of the light.
The phone rang the next morning and Kon in no way broke the No Superspeed Indoors rule rushing into the kitchen. Ma held the phone out to him, smiling, while Pa just shook his head.
“And I thought I was done fixing the floorboards,” he muttered.
“I promise I’ll help,” Kon said, taking the phone and cradling it between his ear and shoulder.
“Help with what?” Tim asked. Pa laughed, shaking his head, and Kon pulled the phone as far away as he could, what with it still having a cord.
“Nothing, never mind, don’t listen to their lies,” Kon said. “I’m the perfect adopted clone grandson, Scout’s honor.”
“Somehow I don’t think Superman’s Scout credit is something you inherited,” Tim said, amusement coloring his voice.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Kon agreed. “So – give it to me straight. Am I banished forever?”
“Yes,” Tim said, sighing long and low and Kon could hear his smile over the phone. “My dad and Batman have set up watch over Gotham. You’ll never make it past them and their kryptonite rifles.”
“Oh, haha,” Kon said, rolling his eyes, and Tim laughed. It was a real laugh, too, short and a little surprised at itself, and it was so much better than Tim’s practiced, polished fake laughter. “Seriously. Am I going to have to sneak around your yard, throwing rocks at your window?”
Ma started humming something Kon suspected might have been Taylor Swift. He blamed Clark, personally, because Clark would so be into Taylor Swift. The Metallica CDs had been a complete lie.
To his complete horror, Pa started singing along.
“I’ve been left alone with supervillains,” Kon said aloud.
“What?” Tim said. Then, apparently deciding he didn’t really want to know, continued, “Listen. My dad – he’s trying. He’s making an effort. He just needs a little time.”
“How much time?” Kon asked.
“Give it a week,” Tim said. Kon knew he shouldn’t be disappointed – a week wasn’t very long, and he’d certainly waited longer before – but he couldn’t help it.
“A week?” he whined, and across the line Tim snorted.
“Only a week,” he said. “It’s not that bad, I promise. He just needs some time to let things sink in.”
“To stockpile the kryptonite rifles, you mean,” Kon corrected darkly.
“If it helps any, Dana’s on our side,” Tim said. “But I think that’s just because she really wants to meet Superman.”
“Tell her he’s shorter than he looks on TV,” Kon muttered, and Tim laughed.
“I don’t think she’ll believe it,” he said. “She’s seen you.”
Stupid-happy hit Kon again like a tidal wave and he bit his lip, unable to grin.
“You better not be lying to me,” he said. “If I get Cassie to fly by and she finds out there really is a watch tower loaded with kryptonite rifles…”
“I’m going to break it to you gently here, Kon,” Tim said, “but if Batman did have a secret watchtower? You guys would never spot it.”
Either Mr. Freeze took out Batman’s secret watchtower over the weekend, or he was lying in wait for the best opportunity, because Kon wasn’t shot down by kryptonite bullets when he crossed into Gotham’s airspace the next week.
He utterly refused to believe there wasn’t a watchtower, because c’mon, Batman. He had contingency plans for his contingency plans. Kon had to hand it to him -- something made Clark go a little heroically off every couple of years anyway.
He didn’t stop to contemplate it because he was late as it was. It wasn’t his fault, really – he’d been over Vermont, minding his own business, and then out of nowhere, bam, alien ship rocketing straight through the atmosphere.
Kon kind of had to stop it.
Then, shoulder braced against the hull of the ship, he’d tried to navigate the language barrier between himself and the pilot. They’d taken a wrong turn a galaxy or two back, probably. He’d waited with them until one of the Green Lanterns had shown up to play handy dandy universal guide.
He’d winked at Kon as he left, towing the spaceship behind him, because the superhero community couldn’t go five minutes without gossiping.
So Kon was late, the pie was cold and a little squashed from his hasty dive to catch up with the spaceship, and he really didn’t want to think about how ridiculous his story sounded.
Tim met him at the door with a faintly amused look in his eyes.
“Trouble on the interstate?” he asked.
“Who told you?” Kon said, and the corners of Tim’s lips twitched slightly.
“Google,” he said. “You were hovering in midair with a spaceship on your back for twenty minutes; you don’t think anyone snapped a picture?”
Kon groaned, tipping his head back.
“I couldn’t leave them,” he said, keeping his voice down as Tim pulled him inside. He was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to bring up Superhero Stuff under the Drake roof. “What if somebody else had stopped by and thought they were invading? They didn’t even speak the language.”
“How did you know?” Tim asked, crossing his arms. He looked every bit Robin in that moment, with his head tilted to the side and his eyes squinted just so, scrutinizing. “That they weren’t invading?”
“Dude,” Kon said. “They had a map, and it was pretty much the spaceship equivalent of a minivan, and, okay, I know what tourist t-shirts look like in any language, they were going to space Disneyland or something. I mean. There were kids in the backseat.”
Tim didn’t smile exactly, when he took Kon’s hands and raised himself up on his toes to press their lips together.
“You did good,” he said. Kon shrugged, scratching the back of his neck.
“Not really,” he said. “Green Lantern did the hard stuff. All I did was wait.”
Tim gave him that look again, the one Kon wasn’t quite sure how to interpret, and let go of him.
“Alright,” he said, inclining his head towards the hallway. “Ready for round two?”
Kon really, really wasn’t.
"Yeah, man, let's do it," he said instead, because he was an idiot. Tim half-grinned at him like he knew.
Ma was waiting for him on the porch when he landed that evening, shucking the button down shirt as his feet hit the ground. Krypto had met him over the cornfields and Kon had flown in circles with him for twenty minutes, watching the sun start to dip down below the horizon.
“Did you have a nice time?” Ma asked as he took the steps two at a time, Krypto hot on his heels. He flashed her a brief grin, then ducked his head, feeling, like always, too big for the Kents’ porch, like the floorboards might give way under his feet if he moved wrong.
For once, he didn’t really mind.
“It was,” he said, and stopped. Awkward. Mortifying. Probably the most terrifying experience of my life, seriously, he kept looking at me and gesturing with his knife were all valid options. He bit the inside of his cheek against the grin that hadn’t budged from his face since Tim had kissed him goodbye in the doorway, moving Robin-fast in the split-second his dad’s back was turned. “Good. I think. Nobody tried to kill me, so.”
“That’s always nice,” Ma said, smiling at him. “There’re some leftovers keeping warm in the oven for you. I figured you might be hungry again after the flight back.”
Kon’s grin threatened to take over his entire face.
The invasion force landed on the day before they were next supposed to see each other. It was a Thursday and Tim knew something was going to happen; he could feel it in the air, that tense electric pulse, like the world knew something was happening but didn’t know how to tell them.
Everyone else felt it too, even if they didn’t know what they were feeling. It was obvious in the way his dad was terse at breakfast, the way Dana burnt the toast and looked like she was about to murder the toaster. His classmates forgot homework and turned up late to class, his teacher never showed up because her car was towed. Two girls in a different grade got in a fight in the halls, and at lunch Darla bit her nails down to the quick while Bernard put his head down on the table and bemoaned the way nothing had gone right for him that day, from locking the keys in the car to the surprise history test he was sure he’d failed.
It was the kind of day where nothing went right, so when Tim got home and flipped on the TV and saw the news coverage, he wasn’t terribly surprised.
Gotham wasn’t out of the way from the landing sight. Okay, so it wasn’t the most direct route, Kon knew that, but if he took a quick detour it wouldn’t make him any later. He was flying in that direction anyway, and, well. It was bad.
He knew it was bad.
It was starting to get dark when he reached the border, so he didn’t bother being too stealthy – everyone’s attention was stuck on what was happening on their televisions, anyway, so he flew fast and ducked down behind the trees in Tim’s backyard, rapping against his window with his knuckles.
Tim shoved the window open a moment later.
“Hey,” Kon said.
Tim wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and crushed their lips together. His lips were bruised when he pulled back and Kon wanted to grab him by the front of his shirt and reel him back in. He curled his fingers around the windowsill instead.
“I have to go,” he said. Tim looked at him like he was stupid, hand still curled at Kon’s nape. His thumb brushed behind Kon’s ear.
“Aim for their left sides,” Tim said. His eyes were sharp and brutal in a way Kon had never seen on his face. He realized, distantly, that it was because Tim had always been wearing a mask over that look, before. “The news footage is grainy, so I can’t get a good enough look, but they’re guarding heavier on that side. I think the armor’s weaker there.”
“Okay,” Kon said dimly. Tim’s eyes narrowed.
“Their left side,” he repeated. Kon nodded, and swallowed, and said, “yeah, okay, left, I got it,” and the corner of Tim’s mouth quirked upwards, impossibly sharp.
“Go,” he said. “Our side could use some more heavyhitters.”
“Right,” Kon said, loosening his grip. He almost said I wish you were coming with me, the words in his mouth, but he swallowed them at the last moment. Tim didn’t need that.
He knew Tim wished he could come too, obvious in the way he kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other, the way he’d been scanning the news footage and how his fingers twitched like he was itching for a batarang.
“Do you think you’re ever going to come back? To, you know,” he blurted out, and Tim glanced up at him so sharply, something flickering across his face before the wall came down. He opened his mouth but didn’t say anything.
“I’ll see you later,” Kon said quickly, face burning and feeling a little sick. He leveraged a foot against the wall and taking off towards the sky before Tim could say anything.
The bigger battles were fast and they were hard and sometimes they moved to another dimension, so half the time they were over before you got there.
This wasn’t one of those times. Kon arrived just in time to get Cassie thrown square at him. He caught her around the waist, tucking her head under his chin, and braced himself for impact. They hit the nearest building like a sack of bricks, and Kon felt the concrete give way beneath him. He grunted.
“I see you finally made it,” Cassie said, righting herself in midair. She braced a hand against his shoulder and used the momentum to push herself back up into the air, lasso glinting. She extended a hand and he grabbed it, peeling himself away from the wall.
“I stopped by Gotham,” he admitted, brushing concrete dust from his shoulders. They dived towards the ground together.
“You went to see Tim?” Cassie asked as soon as they touched down.
“You saw Tim?” Bart echoed, speeding up behind them.
“Fight first, guys?” Kon said. Cassie rolled her eyes.
“Details later or I’ll find you,” she threatened, launching herself back up into the air. Kon watched her fly off, heading straight towards the glimmer of gold in the distance he could just barely make out as Wonder Woman, holding the line above the bay.
He tore his eyes away just in time to see Green Lantern get thrown through the lobby of a building.
“Right,” he said to himself. Bart nodded at him and they took off together, rushing towards the center of the brawl.
Tim said aim for their left, so Kon did. The attackers, whatever they were, were thin and gangly and covered head to toe in thick, shining armor. They were incredibly strong, ten times stronger than they looked. Kon didn’t hesitate when he slammed into one, grabbing another by the arm and crashing them together.
Palm flat against one of them, he reached out with his TTK, searching for a chink or a seam, and when he found one he tore the armor off, disassembling it in midair. Wires came with it, and the enemy fizzled and sparked, spluttering noises Kon couldn’t make out. He juggled the piece of armor he’d ripped off, squinting at the – surprisingly not alien-looking – contents inside.
“They’re robots?” Bart asked, skidding to a stop next to him. “How did you know?”
“No clue,” Kon said, crumpling the metal into a ball. He tossed it at Bart, unable to help a grin. “Tim said aim for their lefts. I was just following his commands.”
Bart grinned back, bright and knowing, and said, “I can’t believe he’s winning points for our team long distance.”
“He’s brilliant,” Kon said, sending another maybe-not-alien-after-all robot spinning to the ground. Bart laughed, nodding, and bumped his fist against Kon’s.
“I’ll go tell everybody else,” he said. “Maybe we can actually wrap this up sometime tonight.”
Kon hoped so.
An hour into the news footage, his dad came into the room. He stood in the doorway for a few minutes, tightlipped with his arms crossed, eyes fixed on the screen.
Tim didn’t say anything. He waited, silently, with his back hunched and his elbows resting on his knees, fingers bracketed in front of his mouth. His eyes didn’t leave the screen; once, he thought he might have seen Bruce, but it was probably just a shadow. Bruce almost never let himself be caught on camera.
Eventually, his father moved, coming to sit down next to him. He was tense, but so was Tim, and there were a good few inches between them.
“Are we winning?” he said after a few moments. Tim exhaled slowly, forcing himself to loosen up.
“So far,” he said. “But it’s early to tell for sure.”
On screen, the Flash ripped through a line of enemy soldiers, leaving nothing but fizzling wires and broken metal in his path.
“They’re robots?” his father asked. “I thought the news said they were aliens.”
“They might be extraterrestrial robots,” Tim said, plucking at a loose thread on his shirt. His father frowned. “Or they might be very terrestrial robots, and someone wants us to think they’re extraterrestrial, in which case this is probably a cover for something else.” When his father stared at him, eyebrows raised, Tim quickly added, “It’s not as weird as it sounds.”
“I find that hard to believe,” he said.
Tim snuck a look at him; his eyes were fixed on the screen again, bottom lip caught between his teeth.
“You know them,” he said, like it was just occurring to him, eyebrows furrowing, when the screen focused in on Wonder Woman lassoing her opponent, sun glinting on her bracelets.
“Most of them,” Tim said. His father was oddly quiet after that, mouth half-open like he wanted to say something but couldn’t decide if he should.
“Is it always like this?” he asked at last, eyes still fixed on the screen. Tim hesitated a moment on how to reply -- it’s always different or sometimes it’s worse or I’ve gone toe-to-toe with a giant crocodile who lives in the sewers and wears pants, so really it could be a lot more ridiculous, and a hundred other not-answers.
His father didn’t say I’m glad you’re not there, even though Tim knew he was thinking it. He didn’t say, How could you put yourself in danger like that?, either. He only put his arm around Tim and squeezed his shoulder tightly.
“We can change the channel,” his dad offered when Tim leaned into him, pressing a hand to his face. He parted his fingers just in time to watch Wonder Woman dive into the fray. “If it’s bothering you.”
“No,” Tim said. “I want to watch.”
“Alright,” his dad agreed, keeping his hand on Tim's shoulder, reassuring. “Let’s watch them win.”
Cleanup duty was the worst. Kon joined Cassie and Bart and helped them heap the debris into nice, neat piles, out of the way of the camera crews, because the last thing they needed was someone getting hurt after the battle was already won.
He was scuffed up and scraped, his shirt torn and jeans ripped, but it wasn’t anything Ma’s sewing machine couldn’t fix.
All in all, they’d been pretty lucky – Bart said he’d seen Nightwing get tossed around pretty bad, but Cassie flapped a hand and assured him that she’d flown by him after the fight was over and he was alright, so Kon was relieved. It probably would’ve killed the mood, to have to drop by Tim’s house on the way and tell him that his “big brother” had been beaten up by a bunch of robots on top of all the apologizing he was going to have to do.
He heard Superman before he saw him. When he turned around Clark smiled at him, rubbing at the back of his neck.
“I thought you left with the others,” Kon said, stepping away from Bart and Cassie. He’d seen Batman and the new Robin take off a little while ago, along with Wonder Woman and the Flash, Black Canary and the other heavy hitters, in search of whoever’d been behind the robots. The two of them had slipped easily into the shadows on the way back to the Batplane Kon couldn’t believe they’d managed to discreetly park. He’d kind of wanted to stop the new Robin and tell her thanks for everything – he wanted to like her. She was Tim’s friend (probably; he hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask him about her just yet) and she’d helped him, but it was hard, seeing her in Tim’s colors.
“I’ll be following after them soon. You should probably start heading on home,” he said. “Ma’ll have my head if I keep you out much later, especially on a school night.”
Kon barely repressed the urge to groan. It wasn’t like they had just saved half the country or anything, but no, his history grade, that was what was important.
“Don’t make that face – school’s important,” Clark said, which, okay, Kon knew he had that line rehearsed. He glowered at him and Clark’s lips twitched. Then he sobered up, looking every inch Superman, and said, “Wonder Woman told me she heard you were the one who told everyone to hit them on their left sides.”
“Oh,” Kon said, surprised. He tucked his hands into his pockets and shrugged, glancing away. “Yeah.”
“That was good work,” Clark said. “How did you figure it out?”
“A friend told me,” Kon said. The smile flickered back onto Clark’s face, suspiciously knowing.
“Well,” he said. “Tell your friend “thanks” for all of us.”
“Don’t look so smug,” Kon told him, crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes at the naked amusement on Clark’s face. “His stepmother wants to meet you, you know. Family dinner style.”
He tried not to take too much satisfaction in the way Clark blanched.
It was late when Kon crossed into Gotham, later than he’d realized – he hadn’t taken the most direct route back, wanting a little time to clear his head, and he’d flown in lazy circles above Houston. Some birds joined him for a little while before they went their own way, and Kon stayed there until they disappeared out of sight.
He considered himself lucky he never ran into the Batplane.
The lights were on in Tim’s house, and through the windows he could see Tim’s father and Dana in the living room, their backs to the window. Upstairs there was only one light on, in Tim’s room, and Kon could make out his form through the curtains, sitting on his bed.
Kon dove down and knocked on his window.
Tim unlocked it, pulling Kon inside by a fistful of his t-shirt. His fingers brushed against Kon’s chest through one of the tears in his shirt. The line of his mouth was tense, but his eyes were relieved, and Kon floated more than landed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, ducking his head and covering Tim’s hand with one of his own. “I didn’t mean it like, I just – my mouth and my brain had a disconnect. A really stupid disconnect. My mouth is dumb, okay.”
“I never doubted that,” Tim said dryly. When Kon looked up his face had relaxed, tinged with amusement. He tugged sharply on Kon’s shirt. “Don’t. It wasn’t anything I haven’t been thinking about.”
“Still,” Kon said, feeling like a jerk.
“I saw the news,” Tim said, expertly changing the subject. Normally it bothered Kon when he did that, but he found himself relieved this time. “You listened to my advice.”
“Superman says thanks, by the way,” Kon said. Tim made a surprised noise, breaking away from Kon. He grabbed his laptop and pressed it into Kon’s hands.
“That reminds me,” he said. “Open it.”
Kon raised an eyebrow.
“I promise, it’s not going to explode,” Tim added, with a smirk that was just plain unnecessary.
“I fought robots today,” Kon reminded him. “For peace and justice. So this had better not be some kind of weird revenge bat-prank.”
Tim held up his hands.
“I solemnly swear,” he said. “Open it.”
Kon sat down on the edge of Tim’s bed and balanced the laptop on his knees, opening it.
There was a video chat window open when the laptop rebooted, and when it loaded it showed a dark, starry sky and a warmly lit wooden porch, a familiar swing off to the side.
There was an older man just barely in frame, with his back towards the camera.
“Pa?” Kon said. Pa turned and grinned, adjusting his glasses as he squinted at the screen.
“Martha!” he called. “Conner’s on the line!”
“What’s going on?” Kon asked, frowning at the screen. He glanced up at Tim, who only smiled, leaning back in his desk chair like there was nothing strange about their lives at all. “Why does the farm suddenly have wi-fi?”
“Your nice young man set it up for us,” Ma said, bustling into the frame. She shoved affectionately at Pa’s shoulder, crowding in, and beamed at the camera. “Isn’t it exciting?”
“You did this?” Kon asked Tim, glancing up. Tim shrugged.
“I may have called in a favor with O,” he said. Kon bit his lip, turning his gaze back to the screen. Ma was squinting at him.
“We’ll have to fix your shirt,” she said to him, because of course that was the first thing she noticed.
“It’s not that bad,” Kon grinned in spite of himself, plucking at one of the larger tears.
Ma clucked her tongue and said, “Are you sure you don’t want a cape?”
“With jeans?” Pa said, rolling his eyes. “Martha, leave the boy alone – he said he doesn’t want a cape, so he doesn’t want a cape.”
“I think I’m good,” Kon said, ignoring the way Tim was snickering at him from across the room. “I -- I’ll be home soon.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Ma said. “We saw the footage on television. You deserve a little time to yourself, so – no curfew.”
“Really?” Kon said. “’Cause a certain guy in a cape and underwear said you never let him break curfew back in high school.”
“Just for tonight!” Pa added. “Clark did things a bit smaller scale in those days, so Ma and I, we figured maybe it wasn’t fair to compare.”
“And it’s always different with the grandchildren, isn’t it?” Ma added, smiling at Pa. He grinned back, tipping his cap in Kon’s direction.
“You just fly back safely sometime tonight, alright, son?” he said. “You watch out for those lowflying aircrafts, too. They always gave Clark trouble when he was your age.”
Kon bit the inside of his cheek.
“Will do,” he said, ducking his head. He smiled at the screen, wide and genuine. “And – thanks. Really.”
“We won’t wait up,” Ma said kindly, “but there’s dinner for you in the oven when you get back. All you’ll need to do is heat it up.”
They both wished Kon goodnight and he echoed it, unable to stop grinning, especially when Pa ushered Krypto over to say goodnight as well. It was pointless, because Krypto had gotten into the habit of meeting him at the edge of the farm whenever he flew back, and he doubted something as simple as a late night would stop him.
Kon shut the computer with a click and looked up to find Tim watching him.
“Thank you,” he said, softly. Tim got up and sat down next to him, close enough that their thighs touched. He took the laptop and laid it to the side.
“I thought you’d probably come back here,” he said. “And I thought you’d probably want to tell them you’d be late.”
“I’m going to be late, huh?” Kon said. Tim wrapped one hand around Kon’s wrist, and the other around the back of his neck, pulling him down. His lips were warm and chapped and Kon felt the last of the fight’s tension slip away. He turned his hand over, twining his fingers with Tim’s, tracing a callous at the base of his thumb.
“Only a little late,” Tim said against the corner of Kon’s mouth, breaking the kiss. Kon dropped his forehead to Tim’s shoulder, nose pressed against his collarbone.
“I don’t think I’m up to another thousand mile flight right now anyway,” he said. Tim made a soft noise. His fingers slid up Kon’s back.
“And there’s a guy in my class who complains that his girlfriend lives the next county over,” Tim said.
“Our long distance relationship is the coolest,” Kon said into Tim’s shoulder. “I’d fly to every other county for you.”
“Me too,” Tim said quietly. His hands bracketed Kon’s shoulders and before Kon knew what was going on Tim had tipped the both of them over, so they were nose-to-nose on the bed with their feet tangled together.
Kon was still wearing his boots. Apparently it didn’t matter.
“We’re really bad at this normal thing,” Tim told him, voiced hushed and smiling like it was a secret. He tangled his fingers in Kon’s shirt again, thumb slipping through a tear in the S-shield.
(Later, they would hear footsteps coming up the stairs, Dana and Tim’s father, and Kon would probably have to leg it out the window and fly those thousand miles and he probably would have trouble with lowflying aircraft after all, now that Pa had mentioned it. And later Tim would collect the newspaper from the kitchen table and scan it with careful eyes, skipping the stories that mention Batman and picking out the ones that don’t, but that Batman was involved in anyway, and a thousand miles away Kon would wake up late and superspeed himself to school under the cover of the fields with half a piece of toast in his mouth.
But that was all later, and it didn’t seem to matter terribly much when Tim was smirking, quietly, like he knew everything about Kon and probably everyone else, too, and Kon smelled like clean air and a little like a fight underneath it.)
Kon curved a hand over Tim’s hip, slipped his finger through a beltloop, and said, “So what.”
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