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The attempt to rise

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Tim can't shake the memory of Dick saying, "You look amazing -- god, little brother," and the way Clark had laughed in agreement. There may be nothing particular about how he looks -- it's the sort of thing Dick says during sex -- but the fact remains that Tim cannot make his expression feel like Robin.

He slips out of bed -- Clark certainly wakes, but lets him go, while Dick sleeps like the extremely-well-laid. It is warm enough that he doesn't need to dress. There are subtle lights near the floor, thanks to the AI.

The urge to refer to the machine as "thoughtful" is somewhat problematic.

When he is far enough away not to wake Dick by speaking aloud -- the internal geography of the place is clearly mutable, but he can find an open chamber readily enough -- Tim says, "How would I access recordings from several hours ago?"

"Which areas do you wish to view at what times?" the AI asks.

"The areas I was in, from the time when I arrived yesterday."

"From how many angles?"

Tim considers. "One angle, upper northern corner of the room. Approximately two feet above eye level, where possible."

The display that manifests on the wall in front of a cushioned chair is crystal clear, and Tim feels a certain pang of lust for the technology. What it shows is Clark, arriving with both Tim and Dick in his arms. They fall immediately into kissing one another.

There is no sound with the video, which makes it more like watching a security camera than pornography.

He could doubtless request the audio feed, but -- looking at that expression on Dick's face when Clark nibbles his ear -- it would be redundant.

He knows precisely how that had sounded, and the emotional resonance of needing to be touched hits again.

It wouldn't be feasible to ask either of the others to watch this with him. He couldn't stop himself from wanting them long enough to pay attention.

To see that moment, captured, when he shifts from being Robin to being Tim.

It's hard to recognize himself, even though the recorded evening has barely begun, and he can already feel his muscles working to match the then-Tim's expression. He's smiling, and Dick is kissing him -- and he's still smiling, strangely.

Not that it is strange to smile at Dick, but -- like that, like his heart is on his sleeve and in his eyes, and there's no other way to be.

It's not a mirror of Dick's smile, either; that would at least be understandable. There's something in his expression -- open-mouthed, now, while Clark tugs his pants open -- that is still himself.

They're moving -- stumbling, he would say of anyone else, but even in the depths of desire none of the people on the screen stumble. The camera that isn't a camera at all follows them through the corridors to the sleeping chamber.

The kisses onscreen look painfully sweet and hungry, and Tim can't separate how they look from how he knows they were. His lips still ache -- but that was later. The Clark and Dick onscreen are talking, and --

There, behind them, Tim's face is Robin's. Listening.

His resilience lasted all of ten seconds.

"How do I make the recording move more quickly, then return to normal speed?" Tim asks, and there are buttons under the display, now, marked with the arrows for fast-forward and play, as well as rewind and pause.

It is strange to watch the conversation -- and the kisses -- go by at triple speed, for all he's used to skimming tapes. This is still too real in his memory.

Dick whispers in his ear onscreen and Tim shivers sympathetically and returns the playback to real time as the Tim there shudders, too. The angle is wrong for lip-reading, but he remembers the soft, "It's all right, little brother."

And the way it made him lose the Robin-face, again.

He's struggling to keep it, on-screen, though Clark is pulling his shirt off and Dick is undressing. As if the expressionlessness will protect him from a more literal form of nudity.

Recorded-Tim's apprehension is all too clear. He's neither Robin nor entirely comfortable being anyone else.

Clark -- naked, now, and it's hard to not watch him, just as it's an effort to not stare at Dick -- is petting Tim and saying something to him, getting him to kneel up.

Licking him.

The visceral twist doesn't surprise Tim, but that it comes from the sight of his own face rather than the memory of that touch is -- intriguing.

He is not unrecognizable in his openness; perhaps it would be better to say that he seems wholly recognizable, wholly knowable. That if anyone else were to see him, they would feel the same sympathy of emotion and desire that Tim does.

He does not miss the audio and the sound of his hungry whimpers. They are too loud in memory; in actuality, they would be unbearable.

It's a mercy when Dick kisses him, even if Dick hadn't meant to stifle him -- it means that the not-camera's view is blocked for a moment, and Tim can breathe. He realizes he's been spreading his legs a little, and that -- unsurprisingly -- he is hard again.

The expression of tenderness and desire recorded on Tim's face when Dick lies down beside him and takes him in his mouth -- Tim can feel that, now, as transparent as glass and immediate as a gasp. He can see himself saying, "Dick," and throwing his head back in a shout, then pleading.

It has at least as much to do with Clark, though it's not tension he sees recorded on his face so much as joy. So much joy it hurts to see, to remember, and not to feel.

Such is the danger of Ecstasy, and, apparently, ecstasy.

It would take half a word and Clark would be here, touching him, loving -- spreading him open anew.

Watching himself shake and writhe, he knows each thrust, each shudder, and the point where he lost control. His throat aches with wanting to scream along with the recording, and his pulse pounds in sympathy with his orgasming self.

It hurts even more to see Dick embrace him and Clark kiss them both, so gently, because he can see his own gratitude, his own painful lack of any barriers. And how proud they are that they can bring him to this. He is terrifyingly vulnerable and perfectly safe, all at once.

They can't protect him from himself now. Tim pauses the playback and tries to detach himself, tries not to have that expression of pleasure, for all he can imagine the warmth of Clark behind him and Dick's mouth pressed against his.

For all he can hear the soft, "It's all right, little brother," again. It makes him shiver.

He has to close his eyes for a moment to find control, and that, in itself, is weakness.

He rewinds the playback to the point where Dick began sucking him and makes himself hold a neutral expression -- fights for it, and pauses the playback to stare and school his features to calm whenever he loses it.

If he can watch this and not react visibly -- and he can, though it is difficult -- then he can -- perhaps -- let himself feel pleasure. When it is appropriate.

As long as it does not overwhelm him.

The recorded Tim is wholly overwhelmed, but the second time through, it is possible -- though not easy -- to remain detached.

He lets himself relax as the playback goes past what he has already watched, not least because the focus shifts. Tim is boneless onscreen, smiling as though those are the only muscles in his body he can still command and propping himself on a pillow. Clark and Dick are kissing each other, and it is simple not to match their expressions.

Though there is something a little -- off -- about Dick's, at first, he relaxes much as Tim had under the onslaught of kisses, first Clark's, then, when Tim recovers enough to move a bit, Tim's, too. The play of pleasure in Dick's features is both heartstopping and safe.

Now Tim allows himself to stroke his erection -- not in the recording, where he is kissing Dick while Clark fingers him -- but in real time. Letting himself watch Dick is its own form of indulgence, but it's one he knows he can put aside if he needs to.

He avoids looking at his own recorded face, which is too happy, still, too fascinated and intoxicated with what's happening.

Not that it is not fascinating to watch the way Dick's thighs tremble as Clark pushes into him, nor to hear -- if only in memory -- their sighs of pleasure.

It has nothing to do with Tim's vulnerability, and he jerks himself faster -- in rhythm with their movements, onscreen.

He catches himself sighing when Dick sighs and forces his hand to stop so that he can listen. He hasn't been silent, but --

Clark touches his shoulder. "Tim."

He looks up, grateful that he has been able to control his startle reactions for a very long time now. "I couldn't sleep."

"You didn't say anything." Clark touches his hair, then looks from him to the screen where Dick is writhing and clearly saying, 'Fuck me, oh, fuck me.' "Oh."

"Stop playback," Tim says, and he gets up, feeling slightly weak in the knees. "It -- I wanted to know how to stop --"

Clark strokes his cheek. "Robin."

It takes an effort not to smile ruefully. "Am I, right now?"

"Yes." Clark pulls him into an embrace and kisses him. "You don't have to be."

"I have to go to Gotham tonight," Tim says. It makes Clark tug him a little closer. "I needed to be sure."

Clark says in his ear, "You'll be all right."

"He knows."

"Of course." Clark nibbles his ear and it makes Tim's knees give out, but Clark is holding him. "He knows you're healing."

Tim can manage not to laugh, but not to prevent the choking sob that comes instead. "We'll see."

"It will be all right." Clark nuzzles his ear; it makes Tim's thighs shake with wanting and that part of his brain that watches -- Robin -- despair of him.

He can't silence the whimper in time. "Clark --"

"Should we let Dick sleep?"

The first image of Dick in Tim's mind is only a few hours old, his legs over Clark's shoulders and his back arched off the mattress. His face had been so --

So like Tim's.

"No," Tim says. "Let's wake him."