Tim untangled himself from Kon gently. The cool air of the room pressed against his warm skin like something wanting. It was refreshing. A stark contrast to the literal space heater pressed against his back.
He lifted the arms around his middle, kicked his feet free from the blankets, and stood up.
The room was still dark, even with the moonlight shining through the window. They’d forgotten to shut the curtains last night. Well - Tim stretched and yawned - they hadn’t really forgotten. But they had been preoccupied.
Tim tugged the covers back over the other boy’s shoulders and brushed a thumb across his cheekbone fondly. It had been a week since they’d last seen each other.
A long, exhausting week.
Tim had been busy and Kon had been off-world and while weeks without each other weren’t infrequent - a week wasn’t even long in comparison to the months they’d done before - it still sucked.
It didn’t help that whenever he complained about it to Kon he’d hear some teasing drivel about how absence makes the heart grow fonder. Tim rolled his stiff neck and rubbed at his bruising wrists.
Apparently, it also made the heart grow more aggressive.
Kon made a sound, low and sleepy, and his eyes cracked open. Tim gave him a small smile.
‘Go back to sleep. I’m just going to the bathroom,’ he whispered.
‘Hurry up,’ Kon murmured thickly, eyelids already drooping again, ‘I miss you.’
Tim rounded the bed and pulled a t-shirt over his head.
‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ he hummed in response.
He fumbled for his phone, grimacing when his hand brushed against last night’s takeout containers.
‘Smartass,’ Kon grumbled.
Tim bit his lip to keep from smiling. He waited for the other boy’s breathing to even out again before slipping out of the room and down the hallway.
The bathroom door was locked and light glowed from under it. Tim slumped against the wall with a sigh.
A not small part of him really hoped that it was Jon in there. The kid could hardly walk straight when he was tired let alone string a sentence together. Tim wasn’t awake enough to attempt awkward small talk.
He flipped his phone in his hand and turned it on, squinting at the too-bright screen.
He could probably catch a couple more hours of sleep before heading back to the Manor, sneaking in his bedroom window, and concealing all evidence that he’d ever left, in time for breakfast.
The toilet flushed and water splashed in the sink. Tim turned off his phone and tried not to shiver. His skin was starting to prickle and he was getting increasingly eager to return to Kon and his overwhelming warmth.
There was a grating sound as the lock twisted and Tim pushed away from the wall. He swallowed, putting on his best apologetic smile for whatever half-asleep Kent he was about to awkwardly pass by.
The door creaked open and the bathroom’s brightness filtered into the hallway and-
Tim’s jaw fell slack.
‘Drake?’ The voice wavered uncharacteristically, unsteady with shock.
Tim felt like he was choking. His throat was tight. He couldn’t swallow.
‘Damian?’ He managed.
Damian was… here. At Kent farm. Dressed in the too-big Batman pajamas that Dick had bought him last Christmas as a joke. And- And Tim was wearing Kon’s t-shirt and his hair was messy and his lips were swollen and-
‘What are you doing here?’ Damian’s hands clenched into nervous fists at his sides, ‘did Father send you?’
‘I- What- I- Me- Why would Bruce- What are you doing here?’ he settled on.
Something in his response seemed to soothe Damian because the younger boy untensed slightly.
‘I’m here for a sleepover with Jon.’
Of course. The brat had literally one friend and oh- that was probably where Bruce had disappeared to yesterday afternoon. Dropping Damian off for his sleepover at the farm. How had Tim been so stupid?
‘Me- Me too. I- had a case. It ran late. You know what I’m like,’ he forced a laugh but it was weak and breathy.
Damian just nodded, eyes wide, expression the picture of bewildered.
Still, Tim didn’t have a chance to feel surprised at his easy acquiescence because the younger boy sidestepped him and padded down the long corridor.
It took a moment for Tim’s brain to reconnect with his body and his movements were jerky as he walked into the bathroom and locked the door with a click. His feet hardly carried him and he collapsed on the toilet seat, blood pounding in his ears dizzyingly.
The shock was morphing into something more horrified, reaching his stomach and making it roll.
They hadn’t decided to keep their relationship a secret on purpose. Kon’s family knew. A couple of the Titans knew. Hell, a bunch of barely-even-acquaintances knew.
But it had become an unspoken agreement that the Bats weren’t going to find out. Not until Tim was ready to tell them.
When he was ready - when he could think about doing it without hearing Jack and Janet’s voices in his head - he was going to sit everyone down and-
The thought made him shudder.
He wasn’t ready.
He took a deep, stuttering breath in an attempt to calm himself. Perhaps Damian would believe the lie. It was late. They were both tired.
He stood up and stepped towards the mirror, twisting his hands together to keep from shaking. Perhaps the worst he was going to get was a reprimand for working too late and sneaking out when he was supposed to be sleeping.
He traced the lovebites on his neck with a trembling finger.
Somehow, he didn’t think that was likely.
He ran the water cold in the sink and splashed it over his face. He needed to calm down or his surging heartbeat was going to wake Kon and-
You can’t control your heart, Tim.
He inhaled deeply and pushed the thoughts to the side. No, he couldn’t control his heart but he could think about other things.
Like how he had to return that blue sweater to Dick. And how he really needed to clean his room because he couldn’t find his favorite camera lens anywhere. And how he might as well have just come out to his little brother.
He swallowed and unlocked the door with shaking fingers.
Perhaps not thinking about it was a futile effort.
His legs were stiff as he returned to the bedroom and he held his breath to keep from gasping. He could lie. He shut the bedroom door carefully. He was good at lying. He sat on the bed and hugged his knees into his chest. He could put on a face and act-
‘Tim?’ Kon’s voice was thick with sleep.
He swallowed the lump in his throat and steeled himself.
‘I’m fine. Go back to sleep.’
As if to prove his point he reached out to drift a trembling hand through the other boy’s hair. Kon melted beneath the touch.
He couldn’t say that he hadn’t expected one of them to find out at some point. But it had been months and there hadn’t been any questions, or suspicious glances, or anything. It had all lured him into a false sense of security and now he’d relaxed so much that he’d let-
A hand clasped his wrist, stilling his movements, and Kon sat up. Eyes narrowed, calculating and wide awake.
‘I’m fine,’ he managed, breathless, ‘I’m-
‘Babe. Don’t lie to me. I can literally hear your heart racing. And I can figuratively hear you thinking too hard. What hap-’
‘Damian,’ Tim replied hoarsely, ‘Damian is here.’
‘Yeah,’ Kon said slowly, ‘so?’
Annoyance flickered in Tim’s chest. Super hearing.
‘You couldn’t have warned me?’
‘Well, he’s here half the time so,’ Kon rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, ‘you want me to preface all of our meetings with that? I feel like it would sort of ruin the mood.’
Tim knew he was joking, trying to lighten the mood. Something about it made Tim feel worse. A whine escaped him. It was high-pitched and broken, somewhere between frustrated and scared.
‘He saw me, Kon,’ the words came out pleading, ‘I- Damian saw me. Looking like this .’
He pulled his collar down for emphasis and Kon swallowed. The small action felt like the final nail in the coffin.
His eyes grew warm and he yanked the collar back up, clutching it tightly against his jaw. As if hiding would change what Damian had seen.
He opened his mouth to speak but the words wouldn’t come. His eyes were watery and his throat hurt -
‘No. None of that.’ Kon’s voice was soft but firm and his hands came up to untangle Tim’s grip on the t-shirt.
‘Do you remember the other day?’ he rubbed soothingly across Tim’s knuckles, ‘when you told me that you almost came out to Jason? Maybe. Maybe. This isn’t all bad.’
‘But I didn’t. I didn’t. Because I wasn’t ready. I’m not ready. And the brat won’t go to Jason. He’ll go to Bruce or Dick or both.’
‘Babe, I know this isn’t the point. And all of this is still horrible for you. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re not gonna care-’
‘I know,’ Tim whispered, ‘I know it’ll be okay. I know they’re not like my parents. I still- I can’t help but- You know.’
Kon’s hand came up to cup Tim’s cheek, brushing away tears that he didn’t even realize had fallen.
‘I know. I’m sorry. I should’ve said something. I didn’t-’
Tim shook his head miserably.
‘Doesn’t matter. It’s done now. We’ll have to deal with it,’ he slumped against the other boy’s shoulder with a resigned huff, ‘I’m surprised we managed to hide it this long if I’m being honest.’
A hand wrapped tightly around Tim’s shoulders and a chin pressed into his hair. There was an amused hum.
‘I think they already know. They probably just ignore us out of respect.’
Tim scrubbed at his cheeks and snorted wetly.
‘Respect? Have you met my family?’ he felt Kon chuckle and his own lips quirked upwards at the sound.
There was a moment of stillness and the lump in his throat pulsed. His smile morphed into something sour.
‘There’s no way to get out of this, is there?’ he asked quietly.
After a couple of long seconds, he felt Kon shrug.
‘Memory wipe? Drugs? A hard hit to the head?’
The burst of laughter that escaped his lips took him by surprise and he felt some of the tension in his shoulders ease.
‘You could always just lie,’ Kon continued, ‘straight-up deny it. Say that you have no idea what he’s talking about.’
Tim smiled fondly and rolled his eyes.
‘I’m not gonna gaslight my little brother, Kon.’
‘Gaslight is a strong word-’ Tim cut him off with a playful shove to the torso.
‘I’m not gonna gaslight my little brother.’
Despite the conviction he’d said it with, Tim found himself reconsidering that decision as he headed down the Manor stairs a couple of hours later. He’d donned a red hoodie - large enough to cover his neck - and sweatpants, and he looked about the same as he always did in the morning.
Maybe the bags beneath his eyes were a little darker and maybe his skin was a little pale but he could blame it on a bad night’s sleep. There was no reason for anyone to presume that he’d spent the night anywhere but in his bedroom.
Not that any of that would matter once Damian returned home.
Tim hesitated in the kitchen doorway.
Bruce was sat at the end of the table, glasses perched on the end of his nose, phone clutched in his hand as if he was reading something on it; it didn’t do anything to convince Tim that the man wasn’t still half asleep. His eyes were barely slits and the apples of his cheeks were uncharacteristically rosy.
The famed world’s greatest detective was a zombie in the morning. The only person that Tim had to fool was Alfred. That wasn’t too hard, Tim was good at not drawing attention to himself.
Although, he had a sneaking suspicion that Alfred knew and just hadn’t said anything.
His eyes drifted to the place set for him at the table and the place set for Damian opposite-
His heart stuttered.
For Damian? Damian was already back-
‘Good Morning, Master Tim. Coffee is on the table. Pancakes?’
It took a moment for him to remember how to put one foot in front of the other but he managed to move stiffly to the table and take a seat. He nodded jerkily.
As if on autopilot he reached out to pour himself some coffee, thanking Alfred for the pancakes with a smile as his eyes bored into Damian’s place setting like it was an insult.
‘Is Damian here then?’ his voice came out steadier than he felt and he sipped at his too-hot, burning, tongue-on-fire-fuck coffee. He put the cup down with a splutter.
‘Careful,’ Alfred reprimanded, ‘it’s hot.’
‘I know that now.’
‘I apologize, Master Tim. I assumed that the steam might’ve clued you in.’
Bruce looked up.
‘Why wouldn’t he be?’ he replied.
Tim looked at him bewildered.
‘He is up a little late, I suppose,’ Bruce conceded with a shrug.
Tim schooled his expression into something carefully blank. He stirred his coffee absently.
‘Where were you yesterday?’
‘I had a meeting. It ran over,’ Bruce’s voice dropped to a grumble, ‘because no one cares about my time or my plans.’
Alfred set a plate of toast in front of the man.
‘It’s such a hard life isn’t it, Master Bruce?’
Bruce looked down like a chastised toddler.
‘Sorry, Alfred. I-’
Tim didn’t hear the rest of what he said over the pounding in his ears. Bruce hadn’t dropped Damian off at the farm. Bruce thought that Damian was still upstairs-
‘Good morning, Master Damian.’
Tim swallowed the painful lump in his throat.
His eyes followed the younger boy as he sat down at the table. He was dressed casually. In a t-shirt and jeans. No evidence that Tim had ever seen him wearing those hideous pajamas. No evidence that he’d spent the night anywhere but sleeping in his bed.
Alfred set a plate of pancakes in front of him and Tim watched as Damian drizzled a sickening amount of syrup on top of them. He couldn’t help but wonder if the kid’s time with Dick had been a death sentence for his teeth.
Damian opened his mouth to speak and Tim’s throat tightened, his stomach rolled and his eyes squeezed shut of their own accord.
‘Thank you, Pennyworth. Father, you look especially old today. Drake, would you like the syrup?’
Tim’s eyes snapped open. He heard Bruce mutter something about his delightful son but it didn’t register. He just stared at Damian, dumbstruck and-
Damian met his gaze unblinkingly, expression impassive.
They looked at each other for a moment, frozen.
And then Tim gave a rough nod and Damian handed over the syrup.
Tim looked down at his pancakes, shoveling them into his mouth and swallowing his confusion and doubt and hope.
He didn’t look up again for the rest of breakfast.