The first time Tim meets Jason, in Titans Tower shortly after Jason's returned, it's like a dream hopped up on Scarecrow fumes. Jason ripped his own shirt off, and underneath there was a costume just like the one Robin used to wear, with yellow tights like those he'd wear in winter.
Tim didn't want to laugh at the time, too busy choking on the absurdity of it, of Jason thinking they'd forgotten him. Then he woke up in a white room with his arm in a cast, and it was Jason who'd put him there.
Jason had been killing - “cleaning up” - and when Tim closed his eyes he could still see pictures, bright with colors against the screen of his eyelids, of the Robin Jason had been. At the time Tim had invested in a good lens, so even when he wasn't flashing a photo he could follow the action without risking to fumble with his binoculars. (He'd lost a pair that way.)
Practice had paid – even for something as seemingly fickle as vigilante-watching, and success was more than a fuzzy snapshot hastily stolen while Batman and Robin flew above his head on their way back.
Tim learned how Robin moved by watching him, when before he'd known how Robin moved by remembering Dick. He learned the way Jason would grab a skel by the collar and smash his knee in their face, the way he'd jump around and grin with his teeth clenched, the way he'd roll his shoulders at the end of the night, and how he'd push his hair away from his eyes with his wrist before asking Batman if they were going back to the car. He learned the casual violence coursing through Robin's moves even at rest, no matter how restrained. Thunderous frowns and fist smacking in his open palm.
Jason's always been brutal, even in the waking daydreams Tim had, where Jason encouraged him.
In Tim's fantasies Jason encouraged him, and when they met the real Jason beat him up for stealing his place.
He even wore the costume like he'd stepped right out of the Case, right out of one of Tim's fantasies.
It's so ridiculously painful Tim has to put his fist in his mouth to keep the laughter in, and even then, once he's done shaking with it his throat feels raw as though he'd been screaming.
Tim was-- cautious around the Case for a while after that. Not frightened. That would be silly. More than silly: superstitious. But then they've always made an exception for family. Family makes it tradition.
It was tradition for Tim once that he'd commune with the Case, and Dick was there, sometimes, but more often it was Jason.
He got accustomed to being there with the Case in time. Jason's return had changed many things, but Bruce didn't take the Case down. Tim had hypotheses, which he was careful not to share with Dick. Mostly, Bruce was bad about breaking family traditions.
In time, it almost slot back into the background again, another thing he was intent on not thinking about. Too many people dead, too many glass cases he'd built. Deep in the Cave's lower levels, Tim had stumbled across a locker containing a purple costume, which he'd locked and never opened again after the first. Too many mementos.
He should've known it was a lie. The Case had never been part of the background.
The illusion came to pieces when Jason visited the Cave to retrieve Bruce's message, when Jason knocked on the glass of his Case, a sharp, annoying sound that echoed through the Cave.
Tim, who'd been pretending Jason was well and truly on his way out, swiveled round on the chair in front of the computer to look straight at Jason, instead of the reflection he was using to keep an eye on him. Jason didn't he still had his back to Tim, facing the Case.
“So this is my legacy. The altar to Bruce's powerlessness. Guess it beats the Titans' statues after all.” He turned to face Tim, the white lenses of his mask obscuring his pupils. “Wanna help me desecrate it?”
Tim frowned. He weighted every word, searching Jason's posture like he expected the cane to reveal what Jason had in mind. But this was Jason's strength, wasn't it? For someone with such transparent issues, what he'd do and why he'd do it could be painfully abstruse.
Jason's lip curled, and if it'd been any other time Tim would've expected a snort, but it didn't come. Jason seemed distracted as he looked away, his gaze seemingly dragged again to the Cases.
“Never mind,” he said, his tone making it clear that he's stopped paying attention to Tim.
It was a harrowing experience for everyone, so Tim gladly did.
That, too, was a mistake. It didn't stay there; he should've known it wouldn't stay there.
The Case is an object of utmost fascination to Jason, it takes Tim about two visits to realize – Jason drops by, unexpected, abrasive and annoying like the latest hit on the radio.
He slinks in and out like he's entitled to, and Tim grits his teeth and curses that changing the passwords wasn't good enough.
He gibbers like a spar, even when Tim applies himself not to retort, trying to tune Jason out to the point where he just doesn't have anything to say anymore, without someone else playing his game. (That was Bruce's mistake. He gave in to Jason's provocations, every time. Tim's not going to give Jason the satisfaction.)
He spits out words, attacks and parries and verbal pins, like he doesn't need someone else to hand him cues – like watching Dick shadow-boxing, such knowledge and control that it tumbles out into dramatic whimsy, heart-stopping feints, somersaults where Tim would've predicted cartwheels, interspersed with those kicks Dick is so fond of.
The Case serves as Jason's kick in his rambling discourse. So to speak. It's his tell; his favorite angle of attack. It should make it easier to counter; but knowing Dick is going to resort to a spread-kick sooner or later doesn't help avoiding it. It's probably because it's so effective – one strike to the jaw or the chest is enough to drop a seven-foot tall man out cold – that it's become Dick's favorite in the first place.
It's the same with Jason and the Case. Tim only pays the shallowest degree of attention to him, merely enough to ensure Jason's not rigging the bikes to explode or the rings to snap.
Aggravation aside, he wonders why Jason is here. Being compelled to by his non-negligible emotional issues, no doubt. But he probably has a concrete excuse to give himself, and Tim doesn't think “to annoy the replacement” cuts it.
Yet carefully, Tim doesn't ask. He's not keen on giving Jason yet another excuse to keep vomiting words. That senseless verbal diarrhea with no discernible beginning or end, just thorns.
Once he'd made sure no part of Jason's speech was code for blowing up the entire Cave, Tim had labeled it none of his problem, and neatly folded it away with the things he didn't concern himself with because they didn't concern him.
That was his third, and last, mistake.
If he tries, he'll probably be able to find the line that stranded him here. Fucking Jason against the Case. Out of the blue is a myth: there are always signs. If he wants to go back and analyze, he can find out. How Jason's rambling circled around the Case, shark-like stubbornness.
And Tim, well--
There's something in him, call it honesty, that rebels at calling himself “collateral damage”. If Jason set this up, he didn't do it with Tim in the position of a victim. (Tim's been the victim of Jason's attacks. He knows how they feel; this, whatever else it is, isn't it.)
And it he didn't-- the thought skids away from Tim like Jason's sweat-slick hand against the glass. Jason catches himself on his forearms with a gasp, barely keeping from crashing into the Case while Tim rides him.
“Yeah,” Jason moans brokenly.
He's got his eyes screwed shut, groaning when Tim shifts his grip on Jason's hips, angling them. Tim can still see the brown-greenish spots left by last time. Like this, like now, he gets rough without even realizing, and when he thrusts again, his grip tightening on Jason's hips, Jason just moans, “Fuck...”
He slides again, the sound of sweaty bodies slapping and squelching against glass, echoing as though torn in the silence of the Cave. The planes of Jason's muscled back work, clenching around Tim, making him slam into Jason again, giving it to him harder he'd have planned if he bothered ever planning this out.
“You're such a--” he rages, half-voice against Jason's shoulder, and Jason laughs, breathless. It sends tremors all the way down around Tim's cock.
“C'mon, don't hold out on me, now,” Jason urges. Like they're in this together.
Jason made him into an accomplice. Or Tim made himself into that; he's not too eager on untangling it.
Tim takes a breath, short and tight. He feels Jason around him, tight and blazing, and it's a struggle not to step back, to refuse the sight of the both of them, getting undone through nothing more than this.
“C'mon, Timmy, do it, fill me up,” Jason babbles. His breath comes in damp puffs against the glass, his cheek pressed to the surface of the Case. “Make me feel it.”
When Jason lets his head drop as Tim starts fucking him with a steady rhythm, Tim catches his reflection in the Case, superimposed over the costume. His eyes snap right, round open when he comes.