Author's Notes: So this ended up being simultaneously more and less shippy than I had intended, which is impressive all by itself. I'm in this weird shippers-limbo where I kind of love Kon/Tim and I kind of hate it because I just love their platonic boy friendship. Anyway, I felt like after Kon came back everyone was sort of like, "okay, everything's back to normal now!"

But Tim went kind of crazy while Kon was gone, and he's a very different person than he was. Kon is, too. And I just think think that never fully got dealt with.

Er, so. Enjoy?

it's not the leaving, but the coming home that's hard.

"Pleeeeease," Kon begs, knotting his fingers together and dropping to his knees so hard that the kitchen linoleum cracks. Kon glances down, surprised, and then smiles sheepishly. "Er. Sorry. I'll fix it. I can fix it. …Well, Clark can probably fix it."

Tim raises his eyebrows and kicks his feet up onto Alfred's gleaming white countertops. He's still wearing his shoes. This has always been a secret joy of Tim's, muddying the countertops, though he's just short of OCD everywhere else. Really he just likes the way Alfred surveys the area and shakes his head and says, "Master Timothy, will you learn to take your shoes off first?"

It makes Tim feel like family. That's been important, recently.

"I'm not stalking your ex-girlfriend," Tim says.

"But she's going out with Marvel Junior," Kon replies, as if this should be of life-and-death importance to Tim. "He's been trying to get his claws into her for ages."

Tim smirks a little. "I don't think it's his claws that he's trying to get into her," he tries to say, but Kon is already stomping around the kitchen, tugging at his hair and going on and on about how it's not that he thinks Cassie needs his protection, okay, because he knows she could whoop all their asses from here to Sunday, but sometimes she's really stupid when it comes to matters of the heart, and if Kon's saying this then it must mean something because he's like the most clueless idiot in existence, Tim, come on.

"And anyway, you guys had a thing, didn't you, I'd think you'd want to—"

Tim's smile shuts down and he slams his mental doors closed, siren going off in his head. He goes to that place in his mind that is like the Batcave but emptier, where no one is alive but no one is dead, either.

He spent a lot of time here last year.

Kon catches sight of his face and backpedals. "Shit. Tim. Shit. I didn't—"

"It wasn't the same thing," Tim says stonily.

"No, I know, of course not, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking—"

"You were dead."

"I know," Kon murmurs, quiet.

"No, you don't," Tim says. "You have no idea what it was like to live without you."

The admission hangs there, honest and horrible. He hadn't really expected to say it out loud, but there it is. Tim looks everywhere but Kon's face.

Tim breathes a slow sigh out of his nose. "Look," he begins, while Kon says, "Tim, I—"

They both break off. Kon laughs awkwardly. "I guess I don't," he agrees quietly. "I'm sorry. I'm an idiot. You know that."

Tim takes the out. "They forgot to grow you some sensitivity genes in Cadmus, is that it?" he asks in the lightest, jolliest, not-fucked-upiest voice he can manage. He thinks he sounds a little like Bruce at a party, and the thought makes him feel ill.

"Oh, hardy har har," Kon shoots back. The relief on his face is visible. "Make fun of the clone, birdboy."

"Birdboy? That's what you're bringing to the table? Weak, Kon."

"Your face is weak, asshat."

Tim laughs, a real laugh, and the nauseous feeling resides. They are not broken. They are mendable. They have to be mendable. He rides the good feeling out as far as it will take him: "All right. We'll spy on Cassie—"

"'Spy' is such a negative word, can't we use something like 'watch over'?—"

"But when it inevitably backfires," Tim continues loudly, "I reserve the right to a hundred I-told-you-so's."

Kon grins. "Fair enough, birdbutt," he decides, and sticks out his hand.

Tim rolls his eyes and slaps it away. "I'm not shaking on birdbutt," he says with a scowl.

.x.

Tim ends up just knocking out the security guard so that he can rewire the video feeds to include the tiny camera he's hidden in a case of fresh flowers that the waiter brings to Cassie's table. She looks suspicious when the server announces that it's on the house, but Marvel Jr. beams.

"Friends in high places?" Marvel asks cheerfully.

Cassie glances shrewdly around her, waiting to recognize someone. "Apparently," she says, suspicious.

"I told you the flowers were too obvious," Tim says, pulling at a loose string in Kal's shirt. "We should have come in and done the wiring before they got here. Bruce knows the owner—I totally could have been in and out without anyone thinking anything of it."

Kon shrugs. "Yeah," he agrees. "But what if someone had mentioned you? Then she'd know."

"She already knows. And anyway, since when are you Mr. Tactical? I thought that was my job. You can't be the brawn and the brains."

Kon grins over at him, and Tim's heart clenches. That's the something that the clone would have been, he thinks, almost idly. The clone wouldn't have been Kon, but it could have grinned, just like that. There was a long time where Tim thought that was all he needed.

"I'll have you know that I can be whatever I want," Kon intones seriously, "because I am a deeply complex person."

Tim tries not to laugh. "Oh yeah? Is that what your test-tube label said? 'We're not sure what this is; could be anything.'"

For a moment, he freezes, not sure if this is something Kon is ready to joke about, but his friend just laughs, long and loud. "They kept trying to give me a name, but eventually they just thought, 'fuck it,' and just drew a big question mark," he announces.

"Imagine their disappointment when you popped out," Tim teases, hesitantly.

"Please. I was a bundle of joy."

"A bundle of something, anyway."

Kon laughs again, and throws a bit of paper. "Fuck off," he says good-naturedly.

The door behind them opens. "Took the words right out of my mouth," Cassie's chilly voice says, and Tim and Kon look at one another in panic.

"He made me do it," they say at the same time, and then, "Hey! Traitor!"

Cassie rolls her eyes. "What are you even doing?" she hisses. "I get up to go to the bathroom and hear you two idiots, and—is that my table? Are you . . . spying on me?" A look of realization steals across her face. "The flowers. Of course. I knew that was weird."

"Um," Kon stutters, "well, okay, but let me explain, though—"

They both land soundly on their asses in the back of the restaurant.

"I told you," Tim says.

"Win some, lose some," Kon singsongs with a shrug. "At any rate she'll be too pissed off to get up to anything shady with Mar -vile later."

Tim leans against the restaurant and lets himself relax, for a minute, looking up at the sky. You can't see any stars—Gotham is too bright and too smoggy for that—but he can see the clouds roiling just above the cityscape. He hears himself ask, "What was it like, being dead?"

For a long, horrible moment he's sure that Kon is going to say something he doesn't want to hear, like it was better than being here, or like it was the worst thing imaginable and he spent the whole time wondering how his best friend could have failed him so spectacularly as to let him die.

Then Kon shrugs. He doesn't exactly answer when he says, "waking up was like when you've startled yourself awake but you're not sure if you're still dreaming."

Tim looks at him out of the corner of his eye. Kon is leaning the back of his head against the wall and studying the rooftops above, eyes darting from one corner to the next as if plotting possible escape routes. He's running his thumb idly along the seam of his jeans, and Tim thinks that in this light he looks almost . . . perfect.

The thought startles him, and he drags his gaze down to the cement. "You're more like him now," he says quietly after a moment's hesitation. He determinedly doesn't look over to see Kon's reaction. "You're more . . . I mean, you're still you and everything, you just—you remind me of him now."

Kon hums thoughtfully. He shifts half an inch closer and nudges Tim with his shoulder. "You too," he admits quietly. "You're more Red Robin than Robin these days."

"What, more homicidal?"

"I was going to say 'emo', but sure, let's go with homicidal if it makes you feel less like a girl." Tim laughs and relaxes against Kon's shoulder. They aren't broken, he thinks again. They've changed molds but they're still grouted together, just a different design. "You know," Kon says after a moment, "Superman and Batman are best friends, too." When Tim looks at him, he notices a faint splash of pink on Kon's cheeks.

Tim slings his small arm over Kon's huge shoulders. They aren't broken. These things take time. "Well, far be it from me to deny fate," he says, and then, standing, "C'mon, clone-boy. I've got an extra camera stashed the napkin holder that's routed to the batcave. We can watch from there."

Kon grins broadly, allowing Tim to pretend that he's in any way helping Kon to his feet even though they both know that the clone is too heavy for any normal to lift. Kon opens his arms and Tim steps into them, burying his head in Kon's chest. They stand that way for a moment before Kon takes off, long enough for each to get his fill but short enough for plausible deniability.

The air cards its fingers through Tim's hair and Kon's hands tighten on his back, and when he looks up, they've gone high enough above the clouds that Tim can see the stars.