Tugging On The Heart Strings

Sometimes Tim had no idea how it had all started. At the beginning, he hadn't cared, but the beginning was…a long time past.

He'd been having a late night conversation with Kon, punchy on lack of sleep and high on the adrenaline from having finally solved a big case in Gotham that Thursday, and also from taking down the Fearsome Five that evening right after dinner.

Because they were teenage guys, the topic of conversation had quickly turned to girls and relationships; or, rather, sex. Tim had always known, in some vague, distant way, that Kon was bisexual. Or, as he put it, pansexual. But to have Kon proposition him right there and then had been completely unexpected.

Well…that hadn't been exactly how it went. They'd been discussing the pros and cons of dating someone in their civilian identity versus their costumed identity. In the end they'd agreed that either way, finding the time to both date and fight crime without skimping on either – or flunking out of school – was the hard part.

Kon had been the one to say, "It'd be great if we could just find someone willing to just…you know…do stuff with on the side."

Because he was Tim, he hadn't needed clarification on what Kon meant by 'stuff.' He wouldn't have said, "But would it really be worth it without any feelings involved?" if he hadn't been so exhausted, however – only because he didn't want to deal with Kon teasing him about being 'girly' again. Just because he had a hard time showing his emotions, that didn't mean he wanted to completely deny them.

Kon hadn't teased him. He'd just semi-shrugged as well as he could against the mattress – they'd both been lying down on Tim's bed, head-to-feet by then, waiting for sleep to finally settle in – and said, "Get involved with a friend, then. Someone who you care about, but not necessarily like that."

Tim was willing to blame it all on lack of sleep and mental coherency; otherwise he never would have replied, "Like you?"

He had no idea what made Kon turn to grin at him, slowly, and say, "Yeah…" with a weirdly hot glint in his eye.

Needless to say, sleep had been a while in coming that night.

San Francisco seemed to be where all the crazies ended up. Even the undead crazies.

"Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday!" the soulless zombie chanted, and smashed both fists down against the concrete, causing it to buckle and ripple, a localized four on the Rictor scale, according to Batman's records. The resulting waves of road sent dozens of bystanders tumbling out of control down towards the highway, but at least they were moving away from Grundy.

One punch from Grundy was almost on the level of Superboy's or Wonder Girl's. The 'almost' didn't count, since Grundy could feel pain but didn't seem to recognize it as anything bad.

Robin had already been side-swiped into a wall, twice. Never had he been more thankful for the armoring in his suit, as well as his ability to operate on four hour's sleep.

Solomon Grundy swung at Robin again. Distracted by trying to guard Cassie, who was transporting the civilians away from the scene, Tim didn't see the ham-handed punch coming.

Superboy did, however, and he barreled into the zombie, knocking him backwards into the bay. Gar dove down after him, Cyborg riding on the back of his pterodactyl form, the power-draining restraints needed for Grundy held in his hands.

"You okay, T– Robin?" Kon asked him. He was breathing hard, but barely breaking a sweat.

Robin nodded reflexively, sending a tight, pinched look of gratitude for the save at Superboy, and quietly wondering if Grundy's magical origins were impacting Kon's health. Superman had never had a problem fighting him, but then Kon wasn't Superman.

Kon grinned then, his breathing evening out, and Tim put off the thought in favor of joining Cassie in the civilian clean-up she was performing.

Later, after they'd dropped Grundy off at Alcatraz, Tim wasn't surprised to find Kon waiting for him outside of the locker room after his shower. He was a bit surprised to find Kon holding a bottle of what appeared to be massage oil, rolling it back and forth between his hands. And the almost shy look he was sending Robin's way…

Well, Tim concluded that apparently last night hadn't been a fluke. Or at least, that Kon didn't want it to be.

"Hey, man," Kon greeted him.

As a shiver chased its way down his spine, Tim wondered if Kon's voice had always been so low and husky. "Hey, SB." Tim tried to smile, and winced as the action pulled on the stitches near his hairline. The wince caused his shoulders to contract, putting pressure on the bruises on his back, causing him to flinch harder.

Kon took in Tim's actions with nothing more than a raised eyebrow. "I was gonna offer you a rubdown, 'cause I thought maybe you wouldn't be feeling too good after the fight," he said. He laughed ruefully. "Maybe I shoulda brought some bruise ointment insteada baby oil."

"I have some in my room," Tim offered, and clamped down on the urge to blush. Kon wasn't really suggesting that they…have sex. Not this soon, right?

"Cool," Kon said, a quicksilver grin flashing across his face.

And that had been that; all the signs of one friend innocently helping another out. Kon had given Tim a rubdown – and a good one, too; TTK had more than just offensive uses – and put some bandages on the worst of the scrapes, tucked him into bed and teasingly kissed him goodnight – with tongue.

Then he'd proceeded to curl up next to him on the bed, which had sent not-so-innocent thoughts rushing through Tim's head. It had been made clear that Kon didn't want that night to be a one-time thing, though.

Tim didn't want it to be, either. If he didn't know why…well, maybe he didn't need to worry about that.

So yes, that had technically been how it had started; occasional makeout sessions and eventually something more when they were both feeling frustrated and lonely. It wasn't really a matter of no-strings attached, since they were friends with all the 'strings' that entailed, but more like…friends with benefits. They loved each other, but they weren't in love.

They'd agreed to keep it to themselves, of course. How would they explain that no, they weren't together, they just hung out and had sex?

No one needed to know.

It still sometimes surprised Tim to realize that he was involved in a relationship of the sex-only type. He hadn't actually thought that he'd wait for marriage or anything, but love…that had been something he'd hoped for, at least the first time.

"Is this…okay?" Kon asked, as his hands skated down the front of Tim's pants, cupping the hardening bulge beneath. He looked hopeful, and hesitant, and more than a little horny, jeans tented, shirt rucked up far enough to reveal that he wasn't wearing underwear.

It was make or break time, Tim knew. He could either make love with Kon, or break things off. True, the third choice was to just wait, but he'd been doing that ever since they first started this…thing between them.

And he still hadn't made a decision about how far he was willing to go. How far he wanted to go. He was stalling, he knew, and he didn't like the fact. Especially since he wasn't entirely certain of the reasons why he was doing it, other than fear of the unknown.

He'd never had to be afraid with Kon before. He wasn't going to start now.

"I…yeah," Tim said as one hand curled up under Kon's shirt. He'd let his heart – or maybe just his libido; sometimes he thought they were irrevocably entwined – speak for him, and determinedly blocked out that strident little voice in his head, which was saying that there was a vast difference between making love and sex.

If he and Kon did this, they would be more than friends…but still less than lovers.

Kon grinned at him, rakishly, from under his tousled hair. "Yeah?"

Tim let slip a small smile of his own, shivering as Kon's TTK started undoing the buttons on his fly. "I want to," he said.

And then they did. Only after they woke up the next morning would Tim realize that he hadn't actually said I want to; he'd said I want you

Later, he'd blame the wondrous discovery of shared sexual activity for his taking so long to realize just how true that was.

Tim would yearn for love, but then he'd remember just how many times he and Kon had saved each other's lives, and the lack of romance in the love didn't seem so important. He did love Kon, in his own way, and he trusted him, and he felt…comfortable…with him. He was safe with Kon; he could let himself be vulnerable, even if only the barest bit, with him.

That had been part of the problem during his relationship with Steph; no matter how much he cared about her, there'd always been a part of him that wasn't truly comfortable with her, that wouldn't let him let his guard down. It had eventually been what caused Steph to break up with him.

He had a feeling that it was what had caused Cassie to break up with Kon, as well.

Cassie had been sending Tim looks filled with anger. She didn't know about his and Kon's 'arrangement' of the past five months; she just saw them spending all their free time together all of a sudden as macho male solidarity, and despite the fact that she'd been the one to break up with Kon half a year ago, Cassie obviously resented the fact that he wasn't pining for her.

Tim considered it in everyone's best interests to try and smooth things over, so he made a few sly comments to Cyborg and Gar about cookouts in the old days of the first Titans, and a Memorial Day barbeque was planned, all former Titans or associated teammates included.

That last was added so the Outsiders could come, but Tim made sure that Bart knew, and Bart was quick up the uptake those days, at least when it involved loopholes.

Cissie and Greta had both shown up with Cassie, who looked in much better spirits. Bart had to run and get Anita, who brought her parents with her, since she'd been told that both Lian Harper and Cerdian were there.

Tim watched as Bart flirted with Greta and possibly also Cissie. It hurt Tim's brain to think that Bart might possibly be flirting with both of them, but then, he'd been the one to listen as Bart gave a treatise on the sexual mores of the thirtieth century, and they were…lax. Actually, relaxed.

Tim's idea of relaxing, when contemplating such thoughts, was to talk with someone whose life was slightly more out there than his own. And he would never ever tell Anita that for fear she'd work some of her voodoo on him.

"It's never gonna stop bein' weird, mon, but…I'm cool," Anita told him when he asked how she was doing. She blushed. "I even…um, met this guy, at Gymboree classes. He was takin' his sister. The brat-parents are…well, I tell people they're my younger sibs." She frowned slightly and tugged on a loose thread on the edge of a hole in the knees on her jeans.

Tim smiled, and if a part of him wished that he could take his mask off, the rest of him was just glad he didn't have to wear his uniform, especially in the San Francisco heat. Besides, his friends understood. "I'm glad, Anita. I mean…I know we haven't really kept in touch…"

Anita shrugged and shook her head. "I was always closer to the other girls than anyone else. Well, and Bart, of course." She let out that low, husky laugh of hers that had always sounded much more suggestive than she'd ever intended.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Tim replied. Bart made friends with everyone he met.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments, watching the kids and kid-parents play some game that was a weird conglomeration of freeze tag and dodgeball (with soft Nerf balls, of course). Then Anita turned to him with a wicked grin. "So, you seein' anyone, Urban Legend?"

Tim blushed, but covered it with a laugh. "No, not really." Even though Anita probably would understand about him and Kon, how the hell could he explain it to her?

Especially when he didn't quite understand it himself.

Tim did know how it had started, but somewhere along the way – definitely after the fourth month, when they'd started having sex – it had evolved into…more. It had long since become habit to seek each other out after missions, during their free time, or when they were just bored. It soon became routine for them to cuddle together while they watched movies, making out during the boring parts; for sparring sessions to turn into heated, passionate sex right there on the mats (once Robin remote-disabled the security cameras).

Tim had actually been surprised by how…at ease he was with the sexual side of their relationship. He'd only vaguely expected the passion, but the pure intimacy had blindsided him. He hadn't had much experience before Kon; Kon, on the other hand, had had quite a bit. Almost enough to make him feel outclassed.

But when Kon showed him things – taught him things, really – involved in sex, Tim didn't feel inadequate. He was willing to let Kon lead. He trusted Kon to be careful with him, if not always gentle, because he wasn't fragile, just…unsure. All the other times Tim had contemplated sex, with his previous girlfriends, the thoughts had always been tinged with a hint of fear. With Kon, he'd just been…nervous.

It was about the only thing that was normal about their relationship, but Tim was too happy to even care about such eccentricities.

"You're in a really good mood, little brother," Dick said with a grin as his removed his mask after their patrol.

Tim shrugged, disarming the alarms on his costume with his left hand; his right was still smarting from being smacked into a wall. "Just…things have been going good for me, lately." He stripped down to his tights, kicking off his boots.

After Tim pulled off the top half of his suit, Dick turned to him with some bandages and antiseptic, carefully poking and prodding at the scrape across his right arm. "I haven't seen you this happy since you and Stephanie were together," he offered tentatively.

"We're not dating anymore," Tim replied, barely feeling the sting of the Bactine on the open wound through the adrenaline high he was still riding.

"Hmmm…" Dick considered that for a moment, tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth as he wound a self-stick bandage around Tim's arm. "You seeing someone new?" he asked, feigning nonchalance. Dick pretended disinterest about as well as he hid any other emotion; it was obviously fake, and normally Tim would have called his 'older brother' on it, but some things were too easy.

"…I'm not dating anyone," Tim said, and even as the words left his mouth, he wondered why the truth tasted like a lie on his tongue.

Tim hadn't even recognized it at first, because he and Kon were, for all intents and purpose – except their own – dating, and had been for some time, so why should it have been surprising to find his feelings towards his 'boyfriend' becoming a little softer, a little more romantic? To find himself missing Kon when he wasn't there, and wondering how he'd like Tim's new costume, without the green? If maybe he'd think that the Rom-style henna tattoo Dick had convinced him to let him draw on his back was sexy?

It was those last two instances that had actually knocked Tim out of his fog. He'd just been coasting along, happy with the way his life was going, and not thinking too deeply about the reasons why. He'd been happy enough to let Dick give him a tattoo and talk him into redesigning his costume. Dick, who'd worn his circus costume as Robin and put a disco collar on the first Nightwing suit.

Since when did he make any changes in his life, however small or fleeting, without giving it a lot of judicious forethought? Embarking on a sex-only relationship with Kon could be excused by the late hour and lack of sleep he'd had, but everything following it…

Everything that followed had been what he'd wanted. Tim had just…never before allowed himself to be so…free with his wants. Never allowed himself to realize what he really wanted…and why.

That troubled Tim. Maybe it wouldn't have, if he'd been normal, but normal was the one thing he could never remember being. Except…except when he was with Kon. Then he didn't worry about normality or fitting in or anything at all, really. He was happy. Content. Safe.


That was when it really started, nine months after they'd first gotten together. That was when Tim realized he was in love with his best friend.

"Tim? You okay?" Bart asked, buzzing next to Robin's place sprawled on his stomach in the infirmary.

Tim craned his head so he could look back over his neck at Bart. When the speedster refused to follow his attention span and leave, he quirked a brow at Bart over his mask.

Bart smiled ruefully, but didn't blush; he wasn't Impulse anymore, he was Kid Flash. Still Bart, just…more mature. "I don't mean your back – Oh! Cyborg says he should have something figured out for the burns in a few minutes – but everything else. You've been kinda…" He waved a hand at half-speed in front of him, a red blur in the air, "…weird lately."

"Weird how?" Tim asked, and tried not to look like he was hiding by turning his head back around so Bart was no longer looking at him.

That didn't work so well when Bart zipped around to stand in front of him, perching on a chair so their faces were at about the same height. "I dunno, just… You've been spacing out like you're thinking about something, but you've also been really happy, except when you're sorta sad, but not really." Only someone who didn't know Bart well would think he was having trouble explaining himself.

Tim knew it was just that his own emotional state was obviously so mixed up that, not only could he not describe it, but neither could the one person he knew who could observe everything and had a library full of thesauri in his head to use to explain it. "Just have some things I need to sort out," Tim mumbled into the antiseptic-smelling cotton of his pillow.

Bart blinked curious golden eyes at him and yanked down his cowl, scratching behind his ear. "What kinda things?"

"Personal things." Because that sounded a bit abrupt, Tim added, trying to smile, "It's not…anything bad. Just…me being me." Battish, he meant, and too intense for his own good.

Bart eyed him for long enough to make Tim uncomfortable; coming from Bart, any attention that lasted longer than two to five seconds was unusual. "Uh-huh. Just 'cause it isn't bad doesn't mean it isn't messing you up. You were half a second off on your moves today; it's why you're in here now. And I can't keep lending you speed to offset it. You need to work through whatever fucked up trauma is putting you off your game before you get really hurt." He zoomed away before Tim even had time to process what Bart was saying.

Tim blinked at the oatmeal-colored walls of the infirmary, stunned. Apparently, along with a new costume, being Kid Flash had caused Bart to lose some of his obliviousness.

Maybe the lack of awareness had ended up with Tim, because he hadn't even noticed Bart lending him speed. Which Tim should have. Which he would have if he wasn't so torn up over Kon.

Bart was right, however much Tim didn't want to admit it. Tim did need to deal with his 'fucked up trauma.' He just…didn't know how to. He'd managed to figure out what he wanted – to be in a real relationship with Kon, instead of this fuck-buddies thing that had been going on for far too long to be so casual – but he had no clue how to go about getting it. He figured that Kon had been going along with it in order to have regular sex with someone he trusted and not have to deal with the weird emotions of girls.

That wasn't all too different from what Tim had gotten, but the differences were just subtle enough to make things weird. Tim had gotten a physically intimate, not always sexual, relationship with someone he trusted, someone with whom he could talk and not have to worry about how the other person would take things. Someone who understood his life as Robin and was willing to listen to his problems as Tim Drake. He'd gotten…he'd gotten the relationship he'd been looking for. He just didn't know what Kon had been looking for, or how to go about giving it to him.

And there was really no one he could talk to about it.

"Any particular reason I haven't seen Superboy flying the foggy skies recently?" Oracle asked him one evening. "I know B doesn't like metas in town, but I thought he was lightening up on the mini-Supes dropping by to visit you."

"Uh…" Tim should have expected someone to notice that; he just hadn't expected it to be Babs, or for her to comment on it in the middle of a gang fight. Actually, he hadn't expected anyone in Gotham to comment; everyone aside from Spoiler would definitely have noticed. If this went on for much longer, even Steph would notice, and unlike the Batclan, she'd say something. "Not now, O," he said, then gritted his teeth as he took a shot to the gut. As he rolled back and prepared a volley of birdarangs, he was once again thankful for the padding on his suit.

"Later, then," Oracle's mechanized voice said. "But soon, little bird."

Tim hoped that 'soon' didn't mean immediately after his patrol. Because he had no idea how to explain that he'd given Kon a spiel about how Batman was cracking down, and it wasn't forever, just until he got over his snit, but maybe you could not come to Gotham for a while, please?

It had been the 'please' that had done it. That, and the rueful smile that intimated that Tim didn't like it any better than Kon, but since he was Robin, he knew how to handle Batman.

Kon had fallen for it hook, line and proverbial sinker. That made Tim feel almost nauseous at how he'd played his best friend, but it couldn't be helped. He was no closer to figuring out how to become closer with Kon – emotionally, at least – and Kon's physical proximity to him all the damn time was not helping.

As those thoughts were spinning through his brain, Tim's body fought by rote – until a guy wearing a hockey mask reared up in front of him brandishing a tire iron. The incongruity of Jason versus Jason in his head almost made Tim miss a step, one which would have the masked thug to brain him.

Almost didn't count, however, and soon Jason #3 was down for the count.

Head in the game, Wonder Boy, Kon's voice remonstrated in his mind.

Tim sighed, and mentally tipped a nod to his subconscious. If only his heart was as easy to parse as his head.

His heart was aching, however, and his head was ever-so-slowly being subsumed by his emotional state. Soon, even Batman would notice that Robin was out of it, and how would be explain it? How would he explain having fallen in love out of the blue – especially with 'the clone'?

Clone or not, the feelings were real…however much they had surprised Tim by their intensity.

Tim had thought that romantic love was a tumultuous storm of emotions, something that would swamp him with passion and desire and want. What he felt when he was with Kon – what he felt for Kon – was a sort of tranquil affection, comforting in its simplistic stability, and except for the undercurrent of 'I want him near me…always' this feeling had nothing in common with what he'd thought love was.

Now that he was in love, he knew different. In love with a man who touched him like a lover, but without any of the real feelings he himself felt behind it.

And Tim also knew true heartache.

Tim still hadn't figured out what to do by the time his self-imposed moratorium on Superboy visits hidden by the excuse of 'Batman being a bitch' had come to an end, and Kon started showing up in Gotham once more. He was, at least, thankful that almost no one could possibly figure out what was going on between them. Oracle could, of course, if she happened to have more surveillance than he was aware of, but otherwise, Cass had been the only person who could possibly have figured out what he and Kon were doing, and she already had. Most people tended to forget, now that she could use spoken language, that that didn't mean she'd forgotten how to read body language.

Tim never had. He'd just been under the impression that a person had to actually be thinking about something in order for her to read it in their body. He'd never expected her to mention anything about it, because he kept his mind on his work – or thought he did – when he was, well, working.

Robin typically worked with Batgirl every Wednesday, and sometimes Thursdays. Three months after what would become the beginning of the end, he'd prepared for their meeting by focusing in their objective for the evening. The first half of the patrol had gone smoothly, as usual.

It was while perching next to her on a roof during their mid-patrol break that things took a turn for the unusual. She'd tugged down her cowl to drain her bottle of water and eat her protein bar, and he'd been mid-chew on his own granola bar when she'd turned to him and smiled. "Happy now," she'd said, and Tim had been thunderstruck, because how could thinking about next weekend's training session translate into 'I'm sleeping with my best friend'? He just…hadn't realized how much of his life Kon had affected, infused with his very presence.

She'd been looking at him, as if expecting a reply, and he'd nodded dumbly, agreeing with her. "I…yeah, I am."

"Good." She'd flashed him that quicksilver grin and pulled her cowl back on.

"You seem happy, too, Cass," Tim observed the next evening. It was a different rooftop, but the same break.

She nodded, smiling that soft little smile of hers.

"Did you meet a guy?" he asked, because that particular glow was reminiscent of romance.

Her cheeks pinkened, but she shook her head.

Tim gave it the barest moment's thought before asking, "Did you meet a girl?" Cass already had trouble relating to people in general; maybe she found it easier to stick to her own gender.

At this, Cass actually blushed, and turned away, eyes downcast.

"Someone I know?" Tim asked, and his eyebrow had only just started to rise when it hit him.

Cass was watching him worriedly from underneath her eyelashes.

"Steph," Tim said, and after the moment of vertigo passed, he had to bite back a laugh; he wondered if they'd both been unrealized bisexuals, or if this was another case of a previous friendship leading to current romance. "I…I hope you two are happy together."

Cass' smile this time showed teeth. "We are," she assured him.

And that, Tim felt, was, in the end, all that mattered. For either of them.

Cass surveyed the city, then turned to him with a glint in her eyes before pulling her cowl back into place. "Quiet night," she said as she readied her jumpline. "I take care of things…you go have fun."

Then she'd left him to…other diversions. Tim had initially planned to go home and call Kon on his Titans' communicator, but he'd been waylaid by Kon himself halfway back to the Batcave.

Tim had never been so glad he knew how to turn off Oracle's rooftop monitoring systems. The sex was great. Fantastic, in fact. A veritable turbulent sea of passion that infused their physical activities with an intimacy heretofore unknown to Tim. Though Tim knew he really had no other experiences to compare sex with Kon to, beauty was in the eye of the beholder, and to Tim, making love with Kon was. Beautiful. Even up against a concrete wall on top of a building in the worser part of Gotham. He'd never felt more connected with another person; it was such an intimate thing to be that close to someone, both physically and mentally.

But Tim wanted the emotional component as well. He just wished he could figure out how to make Kon want that intimacy – want more than sex – with him.

His heart was about the only vulnerable part of himself, and he wasn't about to risk it by just telling Kon how he felt. All his previous partners had sort of fallen into his lap, Kon included. They'd come to him; he hadn't had to figure out how to approach someone else with his feelings, heart held in hand, as it were, which left him woefully unprepared for this instance.

Even if Tim could bring himself to approach Kon, he didn't know what he'd say.

And without even that minimal experience under his belt, approaching Kon seemed a daunting task, on scale with taking down the Joker and Two-Face simultaneously.

Compared to that, even some supervillains seemed…trite.

"The Mighty Endowed." Gar shook his head and turned into some sort of big-chested bird – probably a booby of some kind, Tim theorized, hiding a smirk – and hopped onto Vic's shoulder. "Y'know, I read the reports about your Young Justice days, but I really thought the Mighty Endowed was…well…" He flapped his wings more vigorously than his gums, and gave a laughed squawk.

"An exaggeration?" Tim suggested with Robin's sarcastic humor.

Vic looked vaguely amused as he eyed Kory and Raven talking about something that required Kory to give a lot of looks – and touches – to her own ample cleavage. "At least of her fighting abilities, anyway," he said dryly.

"Yeah, and speaking of fighting – why was I the only one cracking jokes out there?" Gar jumped off Vic's shoulder, turning into himself in time to land crouched on the floor. "I mean," he continued as he rose to his full height, "normally Superboy's as much of a wiseass as any of us, but today he was almost as focused on the fight as…well, you, Robin." He put his hands on his hips, plainly wanting an answer to what was obviously not a rhetorical question.

Tim blinked. He remembered their first fight with Mighty Endowed, back in Young Justice, and how Kon had been rather…enamored of looking at her. Large tracts of land, etc. But today… He frowned as he realized Gar was right. Kon had spent a few moments near the beginning of the fight surveying the scene, but his gaze hadn't remained locked on the Mighty Endowed for more than a few seconds. What could be the cause of that?

Vic added, "I'm kinda of worried about him, actually."

Whipping around to stare at Cyborg, Tim asked, "Why?" Kon had gone back to his room after the fight – or so Tim thought. Had he been hurt, and Tim had been too caught up in his own problems to notice?

"He really went to town on that hench dude," Gar supplied. "You know, the one that almost took your head off with that scythe."

Tim fingered the razored ends of his hair with a frown. It had been a 'close shave' as it were, but he'd ducked and dodged just fine. "The guy's in one piece," he defended his absent friend. Granted the 'hench dude' had a broken arm, but that was nothing big, considering.

He'd need to do something about his hair before going home, however, lest his parents ask uncomfortable questions. He wasn't six, and couldn't blame his new haircut on little Susie attacking him during art with the safety scissors.

"Yeah, but still." Vic shrugged, his robotic eye glaring almost menacingly. Tim knew it was just a trick of the light, but it still made him withdraw a bit. "He normally doesn't get that bent out of shape when one of us is hurt."

"Sometimes he does," Tim said, before he headed towards his room, brooding on the fact that no, Kon normally didn't get that bent out of shape when one of his teammates was hurt. Just…the teammates he was dating. He'd been that way about Cissie for a bit, and Cassie for a long while, but…

…was Kon really getting that way about…him?

Tim didn't know, and he had no idea how to bring it up. His silence on the matter was his own sort of self-defense of his heart, though he knew it was futile. Sooner or later, Kon would find someone he wanted to date, and that would be the end of their arrangement.

Because Tim knew he'd never find the courage to tell Kon then, and risk losing his best friend as well as his…lover.

Lover. They were lovers, weren't they? At least, to Tim's mind. To Kon's…Tim had no idea what they were; they talked more, but not really about emotions. Fuckbuddies, probably. Friends with benefits, if not as many benefits as Tim would have liked.

But sometimes, just sometimes…Kon would touch him like it meant something more than just sex.

And that made Tim yearn for it to be true.

"Hey," Kon greeted him with a grin at the door to his room. Three months since Tim's realization, and if anything, their pseudo-relationship had started moving faster the nearer they came to their one-year anniversary.

Tim had never dated anyone for that long, though maybe the on-again parts of his tempestuous relationship with Steph totaled that much; he felt like he was free-falling, and he had no idea if his jumpline would catch him. If it were anything other than a metaphor for his internal turmoil, he knew Kon would, but…

Mustering a smile, Tim said, "Hey," back, and tried to shove away those distracting thoughts. He felt nothingness pull at him, and, recognizing it as Kon's TTK, allowed himself to be pulled inside his room, and held close to Kon's chest.

His head was heart high on Kon. Tim tried not to notice how a part of him turned to goo inside, and the rest…the rest just turned.

"You okay, man?" Kon's voice murmured in his ear. A hand passed over the side of his head that had gotten an impromptu haircut earlier.

Tim allowed his eyes to fall closed and leaned into the comforting hand. "Yeah, I…" He couldn't say I'm fine, because he wasn't, "…didn't get hurt." In the fight, anyway.

Kon nodded, but still looked a bit pensive. "You've been… Lately you've been actin' kinda weird. Did I do– I mean, is something going on?"

It was a yes, on both counts, but Tim only said, "Nothing more than usual." He quirked up his lips to make it sound more sardonic.

Not looking convinced, Kon still said, "Cool," and then kissed him.

Really kissed him – a long, unfolding kiss in which he'd released his TTK grip on Tim only to replace it with his hands. The kiss went on and on, short-circuiting Tim's brain, and making him feel as if nothing that felt that good could possibly have any problems.

When the kiss ended, so did his moment of denial, leaving him slightly flushed and out of breath – and still worried. But the worry could wait for the morning. Tim couldn't take it any longer, and he was going to tell Kon how he felt. But first, he was going to enjoy one more night in Kon's arms, just in case.

He wanted the memories, if they were all he'd have left. The memories of Kon's heated touch searing his skin, ribbons of flame twining through his veins, his soft mouth leaving lava trails of sublime, slick sensation over his body, the perfect, just-hard-enough thrusts inside of him that sent him soaring and plunging over a waterfall of sensation.

Yes, Tim wanted as much of that as he could…before the end. So he kissed Kon back, hard, tongue delving deep inside the other boy's mouth, searching for a sparring partner. Kon moaned and kissed him back, somehow, like always, managing to get deeper inside of him when he did so than Tim could ever manage in return.

Tim could only take a few minutes of those deep, wet kisses before he had to feel Kon's skin or else go crazy. He fumbled, his fingers actually shaking, for Kon's zipper as Kon used his own hands interspersed with his TTK to release the secret catches on his uniform. When they were finally naked, sprawled on the bed, Tim was almost embarrassingly eager as Kon pressed him back against the pillows.

Then he flipped them over, and the soft flush that suffused Kon's face let Tim know what he wanted even as Kon handed over the tube of lubricant.

Taking a deep breath, Tim steeled himself with Robin's resolve, and with steady, sure hands, prepared his lover, barely able to keep from moaning at the low, keening gasps of pleasure Kon-El let out. His lover was mesmerizing; he could never get enough of just watching him enjoy himself. They hadn't done it this way as much as the other, though this had been the way they'd done it the first time, since Kon couldn't be as easily hurt, and neither of them knew what they were doing. But while Kon liked being taken, Tim loved it, and it was only rarely these days that they switched.

As he slid slowly inside Kon, eyes locked with his lover's, Tim was reminded of exactly why he did love the differences; knowing that Kon trusted him this much, letting him in, and holding him safe there. Everything he loved about Kon wrapped up in one physical act.

The warmth of Kon's lips, the wetness of the kisses, Tim's hands, as always, never quite knowing where to go, not with the certainty he usually employed, so going wherever he wanted, which was where Kon wanted… And finally, in the dimly-lit room, Kon's gasp of exultation, "God, Tim…" sent Tim spiraling out of control, his entire body contracting around his orgasm inside the warm embrace of Kon's telekinetically extended grip, and he came with a moan captured by Kon's mouth.

In the end, the physical expression of love only left Tim feeling emptier inside, knowing that it wasn't entirely real. Tim tried to focus on the good feelings, and leave his own existential angst for later, but having spent the past three months dealing with it had worn his mental reserves down.

And he'd never had to be so closed off around Kon. Especially not lately.

But, desperate to hold onto those last moments, just in case, in the middle of their post-coital cuddling Tim snuggled closer to Kon and faked a yawn.

Kon pressed a kiss to his forehead, and as tears stung Tim's eyes, he willed himself to sleep.

For at least one more night, he'd be held safe in the arms of his love.

Tim awoke early the next morning, as per usual. Even once the sun was in the sky, it typically took Kon an hour or more to attain wakeful coherency, needing the time to soak up the sun's rays. Also, he was lazy.

Which meant that, while Tim didn't have all the time in world to soak up the sight of Kon and make memories for later, he could look his fill. And man, did he look. Kon was tucked up next to Tim, and he could feel the heat radiating off Kon's body, internal temperature by all accounts not quite as warm as Clark's, but just right to keep Tim from feeling the chill of the early Spring morning. Tim had to make himself move the scant few inches away he needed to in order to be able to observe Kon fully.

Kon-El was…he wasn't perfect, but 'super' was the perfect adjective to describe him. His skin was just shy of tanned, natural pigmentation from the way his skin processed sunlight. His eyes, though Tim couldn't see them, were a shade of blue that almost matched that of the original Superboy suit. His eyelashes, longer than Tim had ever seen on a male, lay like sooty shadows against his cheeks.

Kon's entire body was remarkable, in its own way. His muscles weren't nearly as large as Superman's despite the fact that his strength was almost comparable, when one took into account physical size. Kon's hair wasn't black like Clark's; it was actually a very dark shade of brown, and it was almost impossible to tell the difference without good lighting, as was currently the case. He'd grown the buzz out, and it was starting to develop a tousled, curly look that simultaneously reminded him of Clark, but also of the latter days in Young Justice. It was currently splayed across the pillow, along with Kon's arm.

Kon didn't have any scars, except the hole left from his earring, which he was starting to wear occasionally again. Tim was still trying to figure out how Kon had a bellybutton. Presumably, either the scientists had created some sort of artificial placenta for him while he was still a fetus, or they'd added the bellybutton after the fact, with plastic surgery. Without any exposure to sunlight up till then, they would have been able to operate on Kon.

Though why anyone would mess with perfection, Tim couldn't figure out. Tim also couldn't figure out how it had taken him so long to see how much of his life was focused on Kon, even when they were 'just friends.'

Just friends… If he was lucky, they still would be after this was over.

Kon-El didn't have the greatest detective skills in the world. But generally, he could always tell when something was up with one of his friends, as Tim had discovered the night before. So it should have come as no surprise that when Kon awoke to find Tim hovering over him with a melancholy smile on his face, he sensed a disturbance in the Bat Force.

"Hey," Kon said, voice groggy. He cleared his throat and offered his friend a smile. "Morning, Tim."

Tim forced his smile to look less sickly and more welcoming. "Morning, Kon."

Kon looked at him inquisitively. "Somethin' wrong?"

"I… Yeah." Tim swallowed and tried once more to come up with the right way to broach the subject. Unable, again, to think of a good starting place, Tim relied on tradition. "Kon, we need to talk."

Looking more bemused than worried, Kon asked, "What about?"

Tim had known what he needed to say for over three months. In all that time, he still hadn't figured out how to say it. "Um, well…I think we need to– at least I do– I need to talk about our…arrangement." Tim bit down on his lower lip to keep himself from saying anything else and making himself sound like even more of a complete dork.

Kon got a funny look on his face, sort of half-anxious and half-understanding with a bit of amused resignation thrown in on top of things for flavoring. "What about it?"

"I just… I want…" Tim felt his throat clog up with emotion, and even after swallowing several times, he couldn't force the words out. He felt as though he couldn't breathe, except for the fact that he didn't have any problem taking in air. The feeling of asphyxiation was all emotional.

Kon shifted closer to him on the bed, the sheets sliding down to tangle around their hips. "What do you want?" he asked, placing a hand on Tim's shoulder and turning him so he was facing Kon.

Tim tried to look Kon in the eye, and failed. His gaze ended up wavering between the middle of Kon's forehead and his nose. "I want…you," Tim said, and then before confusion could set in, he added, "For real. I want…I want us to have a real relationship. Not just…friends with stuff on the side." It wasn't until that moment that Tim realized he even remembered Kon's original wording.

The worry in Kon's expression was now mixed with…pleasure? Some sort of happiness, surely. "I want that too, Tim." His nascent smile turned to a frown as he asked, "Is that why you're so upset?" proving once again that he could always tell when something was wrong with his friends.

Tim was still dealing with the idea that Kon returned his feelings, and it hadn't quite sunk in, or else he never would have said – more like stuttered – "But you don't feel the same. Y-you just wanted…a friend with benefits. Didn't you?" He'd already put his heart on the line; any added vulnerability was just not in the cards he planned to play.

One couldn't plan love, it seemed. And Tim would never have guessed how Kon responded.

Kon was…laughing? Almost bent in half from holding back the loud guffaws to something restrained enough that he wouldn't wake the whole Tower, his head was near enough to Tim's arm that Tim could feel Kon's moist breath on his skin. It sent a shiver up his spine, knocking loose some of his anxiety and leaving him just plain nervous and confused.

Kon managed to rein in his amusement and, straightening up, turned to Tim. "I'm sorry, it's just…I never could figure out how to tell you…that for me, it never was just…" Kon paused for breath and let out one last chuckle before continuing, looking Tim straight in the eye. "For a while now, I've liked you, and that night I was gonna tell you how much, but…I chickened out. And later I didn't know how to tell you; I thought maybe you'd feel…I dunno, betrayed or something. Like I'd lied to you." Kon's gazed flicked down and away and he seemed to curl in on himself a bit. "And the longer we were together, the harder it got to tell you that I…" He raised himself up, took Tim's shaking, clammy hands in his own steady, warm ones, locked eyes with Tim once more and said, very softly and even tenderly, "I love you."

The self-imposed chains holding his heart hostage finally snapped as Tim's mouth responded, completely of its own accord with, "I love you, too, Kon." Even as his face broke out into the widest grin of his life – at least, since he was four – Tim felt tears form in his eyes, and knew he wouldn't be able to keep them from falling this time.

He couldn't. But they were tears of happiness, and they didn't stop Kon from returning his grin, or from leaning in to press the sweetest, gentleness kiss of his life to Tim's lips. Their arms wrapped around each other, neither able to keep from touching one moment longer.

Everything – anxiety, nervousness, worry, sadness – every kind of emotional pain Tim had been feeling just swirled away, like water down the drain. And he felt the empty, hollow place where those feelings had been fill up with every good thing that Kon made him feel: happy, safe, warm, content…loved.

The beginning had been confusing, the middle unexpected, but the ending, the real beginning of their relationship, was so perfect, Tim never could have imagined it.