She really is beautiful. I wonder if Kon would be jealous. I mean, it's hard to compete with Wonder Girl, but as far as I'm concerned, Spoiler's got her beat.
She shakes her hair down out of the ponytail and tilts her head at me. I wonder if she knew I was staring. She usually seems to.
"Something on your mind, Boy Wonder?" she asks me. She's teasing, but from her I don't mind so much.
"Just you," I tell her. It's cheesy. But I don't really care.
She smiles. "That would be a first if it were true," she says. She knows me a little too well.
"Would I lie to you?" I ask.
She just raises an eyebrow at me. Of course I would. I lie to everyone. Including Batman. I wish she could be different. I wish I could tell her everything.
"What are you really thinking?" she asks. Her voice drops a notch. I know the tone. She wants...something I haven't even tried to give her.
I decide not to answer her.
"Ti-- Robin," she says. With the mask on, there's nothing else she can call me. I won't have it. She's grudgingly accepted that.
I still don't answer her. Not with words.
The distance between us is only three and a half steps. It takes under a second to close that distance, and another second to wrap my arms around her and kiss her. It's what she wants. It's what boyfriends do.
The first time I kissed her, it was because she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I'd nearly died, and she'd been there. Even under the costume, she was incomparably beautiful that day.
She still is, though I don't think I've ever told her that. I don't have to pretend that I like kissing her.
"That's a nice thought," she says when I pull away.
"Glad you approve," I say, deadpan. She laughs again, and I can feel myself smile just a little.
She pushes her lips back against mine again. I feel her tongue push against my lips, and I open my mouth. She wants to do the work, fine. I'll let her.
Her lip gloss tastes faintly of strawberry.
She kisses me until she realizes that I'm letting her do the work, then she pulls away again. Her eyebrows knit together.
"I told you there was something on your mind that isn't me!"
I shake my head, maybe a little too quickly. "No, there's not, I just..."
She moves enough so that she can slide her hands under my cape and up my back.
"You want me to take it off?" I ask her.
"You know it," she says.
I was talking about the cape. I have a feeling that she isn't.
I move away from her long enough to take the cape off and lay it on a nearby chair. Her hands find their way back where they were.
"Kiss me like you mean it," she tells me.
And I do.
The kiss breaks, inevitably. She sighs and leans her head against me. I close my eyes and just hold her. Her hair still smells like the shampoo she always uses, even after being under the hood all evening.
Moments like these are too few and far between. I can almost feel the world slipping away from us both.
"Hey!" she says when I let her go.
"I should go," I tell her. I don't know what prompted it. I just feel like I should go.
"Oh, no, you should not!" she says. This is going to get worse before it gets better unless I shut my mouth and stay here with her. At least for awhile.
"Steph..." I say.
She stands back and crosses her arms at me. It's her, "You'll listen to me if you know what's good for you!" pose.
I can cross my arms like that and play difficult, too. But I don't. Not this time.
Instead, I just sigh. "Okay. I can stay for a little while."
She sort of smiles and moves closer to me, and then we're kissing again. Her hands slide up and down my back, and I tighten my arms around her just a little.
She presses up against me and I can't help but think that it might feel better without the armored part of my costume on. But I'm not really looking to take my clothes off, so...
She moves her mouth away from me and starts kissing my neck, instead. Maybe that's why she really likes it when I take the cape off...
My normal shirts aren't going to cover it if she leaves a mark.
I pull my neck away from her.
She giggles, to my relief. "What's the matter?" she asks. Like she doesn't already know.
"How do you expect me to hide a mark there from my dad?" I ask, all Tim and no Robin.
She giggles again. "Then I guess you'll have to let me leave a mark where it won't show, hm?"
I can't help but smile. We both know I won't let her.
"Tim," she says, suddenly serious. I make a face, but she ignores it.
"What," I say. It's not really a question. The mask isn't the only thing that makes me Robin.
Her look of annoyance mimics my own. "Oh, Robin, then. Whatever!"
"What is it, Steph?" I ask, softening my tone this time.
"It's been months since we started going out."
"...Yeah? Did I miss an anniversary already?"
She tries to hide her amusement, but I see it anyway. "No, no, not that."
"Then...what?" I ask, tentatively.
Her arms are around me again. I can feel her fingers tracing patterns on my back. My heart beats just a little faster.
"Don't you want to....you know....consummate the relationship?"
My mouth goes dry.
"It's okay, really! I mean, I have birth control now. I won't make the same mistake again..." Her voice trails off and I try to ignore the pain I can hear under her words. She doesn't like to think about the baby she couldn't keep. And I don't like to hear that pain in her voice.
"I don't know, Steph, it's not really about that..."
Her eyes meet mine. Even from behind the mask, I feel them bore into me. It's unnerving, and I avert my eyes. Since I'm still wearing the mask, I'm sure she'll never notice.
She presses against me again. One of her hands moves, finding its way around to my belt. I'm not sure if she knows how to take it off or not. I can feel myself stiffen.
"I'm not going to bite you," she says, teasing again.
I laugh, a little uncomfortably. This is the second time I've been in a situation like this. It isn't any easier this time, except that I almost want to say yes.
I mean, don't I love Stephanie?
I move back and take off the belt, leaving it on top of the cape. I tell myself that taking my belt off doesn't necessarily mean I've consented to anything.
Her hands slide under the edge of the tunic. She pulls me closer and runs them up my back, which I wasn't expecting. I tense as she lingers over a scar - a deep one. I see her eyebrows knit together again, but there's no point in asking me about it. She has her own scars, I know. Hopefully not as many as I do.
Her hands move again, and I lean in to kiss her again. Almost all the strawberry flavor is gone now.
My own hands wander over her back, but I still have the gauntlets on. Between those and the fabric of her costume, I can't really feel much. But she can feel my hands moving, and that's all that really matters.
She "mmm"s into my mouth and it's almost thrilling.
She moves back too soon and I hear myself say her name.
She peels off the costume. Well, the top part of it. All she has underneath it is a bra. I can feel myself staring again. Somehow, I don't think she minds.
I can feel myself taking off the tunic. I swear I didn't think to do it - it just sort of happened in response to her.
This is going to go too far. I have to find a way to stop it before...
Her hands are on my chest and her mouth is back on mine. What was I just thinking about?
I pull off the gauntlets, too, and slide them down her back. They run over the clasp on her bra. I don't dare to try and unhook it. Even if I wanted to, I'm sure I'd botch it. Besides, this is too much too fast...
She moves her mouth away from mine and kisses down my neck, along my collarbone, down my chest....
She turns me and moves me back towards the couch. My legs hit the edge of it and I sit down without thinking about it. Her hands run down and dip below the part of the costume that's still on, sliding just under the fabric.
I grab her hands and stop her.
"Steph, I..." I have no idea how this sentence ends.
She studies me from where she's kneeling in front of me. I manage to collect almost all of my thoughts in the thirty seconds before she says anything.
"You've never done this before, have you?"
My thoughts run away again, all at once.
I can't tell her that I've never been with another girl, but that I'm not a virgin.
I can't tell her that after fantasizing about him forever, I finally found out what Nightwing's cock tasted like.
I can't tell her that Superboy is really hot if he begs me to let him in my bed.
I can't tell her about the orders that Batman gives that I'm always far too willing to obey.
"...No," I finally manage. My voice hitches a little on the word.
She smiles as if she knows everything in the universe. I won't tell her differently.
"Then I guess I better go easy on you," she says. I try to make an argument, a rebuttal, but something just isn't working here. And....and....
And I'm not hard yet.
Who the hell knows why not. I should be loving this. And maybe part of me is, but not that part of me.
I can't let her know that.
She stares up at me. Rarely have I been as grateful for the mask as I am right now.
"Stephanie, I can't do this," I finally say.
"Why not?" she says, almost whining at me.
"Because I'm just not ready for it." What a role reversal this is. Here I am, the boyfriend, telling the girlfriend that I'm not ready to have sex. Next thing you know I'll be wearing high heels and buying Motrin once a month at the drugstore.
She reaches for my hands and entwines her fingers with mine.
I stare down at her.
How I want to tell her yes. How I want to be able to think with something other than my brain, just for her. How I wish I wasn't so fucked up like this. I can get hard for [KonDickBatman] almost any guy I know in a heartbeat. And yet here I am, with no physical response for my own girlfriend.
She deserves better. Much better.
"But I love you," she tells me.
The mask can't hide me forever.
Don't I love her?
And then she gets angry.
"You've said it before!" she tells me. It's true. I have, indirectly.
I'm in love with a beautiful girl.
Doesn't that mean the same thing?
If it does, then maybe I'm a liar.
How I want to love her. How I want to take off the mask and look into her eyes and tell her that I love her and all is right with the world.
But I can't. And it's not.
I pull her close to me and force her to let me hold her. I pretend I don't see the tears starting in her eyes.
I can almost feel the world slipping away from both of us.
Finally, she slides away from me and I stand up. It takes approximately two minutes to get the costume back on. As I fasten the cape, I feel her eyes on me.
"Robin," she says, softly.
"Please don't hate me."
"I could never!" I tell her, shocked that she would say such a thing. It's the truest thing I've ever said to her. I could never hate her. I have a lapse of self-control where I want to ask her the same, but I don't have it in me. And I don't deserve to ask such a thing of her.
She flies into my arms again. She never put her costume back on. Just a reminder of how much I'm failing her.
I want to take back the last five minutes and let her fuck my brains out. But I know I can't.
I've failed her in the past, too, though not quite like this.
I can't wait for the day when the world stops slipping and I don't fail her anymore.
Neither of says anything else as I leave.
The roar of the bike's engine will never be enough to drown out my thoughts.
* * *
Bruce isn't wearing the cowl when I come into the Cave. But that doesn't make him any less Batman, and I know it.
He doesn't turn away from the computer screen.
"I expected you to be gone longer than that," he tells me. Of course he knows where I was. He always knows.
"I decided to come back early," I tell him. My voice cracks just a little, betraying me.
From the angle I'm at, I see one of his eyebrows go up. He turns to face me.
"Something wrong, Robin?" he asks me.
I just stare at him. There's nothing to say. There never is.
He studies my face for fifteen seconds of forever before he holds his arms open. For a minute, he's not entirely Batman.
I walk into his arms, into the most comforting place in the universe. And there's only Batman and Robin now, and for five seconds everything in my life makes sense.
The world isn't slipping away from Batman.
It's standing still.
And I relish it.