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Jason’s staring at Tim.

Tim’s staring at Jason.

Jason’s staring at Jason.

Tim’s staring at Tim.

“What the...” Jason says. It comes out of Tim’s mouth.

Tim blinks. Jason’s eyes blink.

“What the fuck ,” one of them says, and it doesn’t really matter which, because it may as well be both.

~

Jason trips for the fourth time, the change in his center of gravity making him walk like a newborn fawn, all awkward limbs and shaky steps. He lost seven inches and a hundred pounds in the span of about two seconds, and he’s having trouble adjusting.

Apparently Tim is having similar problems.

“Dammit,” Tim hisses, rubbing his elbow after having smacked it against the table. “How do you control all of this momentum? Your body just–” he throws his arms out, looking like one of those floppy, inflatable wiggly dudes at car dealerships, “goes everywhere!”

Jason looks up (and up and up) at him from where he’s still slumped on the floor– defeated, for now. He should just stay on Tim’s plush rug for a minute. It’s thick under his (now tiny) fingers. Fuck, he hates this. He’s disoriented and vulnerable. It’s almost like crawling out of his coffin all over again. Not nearly as horrifying, but still, his brain and body are confused, refusing to work together like they should. Though he figures he has it better than Tim. At least Jason has been this size before, when he was about fourteen; it’s been six years, but he has some prior experience. Tim, however, has never been as tall and heavy and broad as he is now.

“Sit down before you hurt y- me. I want my body back in pristine condition.” Because he will be getting it back. Staying like this is not an option.

Tim drops onto the closest couch. Closing his eyes, he lets his head fall to rest on the back of the sofa. And then he doesn’t say anything. He seems to be having a moment, so Jason turns his attention to himself. To Tim’s body. He needs to get a handle on all of this, so he should start with familiarizing himself with the situation and the new variables. Which right now is Tim’s body.

Tim’s eyesight isn’t quite 20/20. Barely off, but enough to be noticeable. He wonders if Tim’s aware of that. Does he have glasses? Does he not know he might need them?

Tim’s ankle is sore. Jason checks, and finds it wrapped in a bandage. He’ll ice it later.

Tim’s teeth are perfectly straight. Jason runs his tongue over them, feeling the differences, and it makes him feel a little creepy but he’s sure Tim is doing exactly the same– wait. What? “Tim, why is there a metal bar behind your bottom teeth?”

“Permanent retainer,” comes the mumbled response.

“You had braces?”

A grunt.

“How ya doin’ over there?”

Another grunt.

“Cool.”

Jason decides to try standing again; it works better this time. He can walk, even, though it’s still awkward and jilted. He’s putting too much force behind each of his movements. Taking a lap around the apartment, Jason works out how to move Tim’s body properly. It is so odd to be looking at everything from a different height. Slowly he gains some control over himself physically, and it helps calm the part of his brain that’s freaking out.

Back at the workstation Tim’s finally on his feet again, warily adjusting to his new circumstances. “It’s kinda like wearing heels,” he says, taking tentative steps. “And a weighted jacket.”

“You’ve worn heels?”

Tim waves off the question with a flick of his fingers, and it’s weird to see Jason’s hand performing an action that’s so inherently Tim .

“Alright.” Tim heaves a deep breath. Exhales slowly. “Okay, so. We’ve switched bodies.”

Hearing it like that almost makes Jason want to laugh. Or scream.

Tim lifts one finger, “How did it happen,” another finger, “how do we reverse it,” a third, “what do we do in the meantime.”

“I’m gonna assume it had something to do with that ominous lookin’ crown you were playing with,” Jason says, pointing at the thing laying on the table. It’s gold and sleek, two pairs of wings intertwined into a graceful circle. “Where did you get that anyway? Looks like something you’d find in a cursed Incan tomb.”

“Egyptian, actually. But I had no reason to believe it was cursed.”

Jason stares.

“Until now,” Tim amends. “A man named Carter Hall tried to steal it from the Gotham History Museum, so I borrowed it to keep it safe. And to see what was so special about it, figure out why he would want it.”

“Well I think you cracked that case wide open.” Jason runs his fingers through his hair but they get caught; he’d forgotten Tim’s hair is tied up in a little stub of a ponytail. “You took it so this Carter Hall couldn’t get it? What are you, Nic Cage from National Treasure ?”

“One of his more watchable movies.”

Jason asks, “What exactly were you doing to the crown before it switched us? What triggered it?”

“It’s more like a circlet,” Tim notes.

“Tim.”

“I just feel like we should be on the same page about it.”

“Semantics is not our biggest issue right now!” His voice is too shrill. Maybe that’s why Tim rarely yells.

“Right, okay, well I didn’t do anything to the circlet before it switched us.”

“Nothing at all,” Jason says with some incredulity.  

“I’d just opened the case and was about to start studying it– hadn’t even touched it yet– when you walked in, and then bam– I’m inside you.”

Jason grimaces. “Please don’t say it like that.”

“We’re gonna have to study this thing some more to figure out how it works and, subsequently, how to reverse it.”

“We can’t just start poking at it, what if something even worse happens? What if we get stuck like this forever ?”

“Fine,” Tim concedes. “No touching of the circlet. Yet. I’ll do some research first. So, on to the last point: what do we do in the meantime?”

“What do you mean, what do we do?”

“It’ll take time, Jason. We might be stuck like this for a while. How do you wanna handle it? What do we tell everybody? We have lives to live. At least, I do. I have a job and cases to work. And why are you so cold ,” Tim asks, rubbing his hands together. “I’m wearing a leather jacket and I’m freezing.”

“I’m always cold,” Jason answers absently, realising that for once he isn’t cold. Tim’s body is nice and toasty. “Ever since I died.”

“Oh. That why you always wear the jacket? Cause I thought you were just trying to look cool.”

“Hey, it does look cool. And I don’t want to tell everyone.”

“Your icey secret is safe with me.”

“I meant about being switched.”

“They need to know though,” Tim reasons. “People need to know who they’re actually talking to. They’re gonna be confused as hell when ‘Jason’ actually shows up to family dinner tomorrow night.”

“‘Jason’ won’t be showing up. I don’t go to the dinners.”

“But I do.”

“I’m not going, Tim, and neither are you. There’s a reason I never go.”

“But there’s no reason for Tim to not go and, trust me, unless I’m unconscious, I’m expected to be there. If you try to skip there’ll be kidnappings, judgmental looks… disappointed Alfred.” Tim shudders.  

That stings. A little. Apparently they care enough about to Tim to drag him into spending time with them (Dick’s doing, if he had to guess) but they don’t put up much of a protest when Jason bails.

“Shit. Fine.” It’s just one night. And he won’t even be Jason. He’ll be Tim, and everyone likes Tim. Maybe it won’t suck.

“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Tim says dryly.  

“Fuck off.”

“Hey, look at it this way: you’ll get to see how good of an actor you really are. See how long it takes for them to figure out something’s off.”

“I do like pulling one over on B,” Jason admits.

Tim pats his shoulder in a way Jason guesses is supposed to be reassuring. “It’ll be fun.”

“Five bucks says Cassandra will figure it out first.”

“Pft. I’m not taking that bet.”

~

Given the circumstances, this shouldn’t really be their highest priority. Surely there are more important things to settle first. But Jason is anxious to get a feel for Tim’s body, see how it moves and reacts. He needs to get some control over this situation, over himself. So they head to Tim’s workout area.

They’re benching themselves from going out in the field, they decide after a frankly laughable sparring session that ends in frustration and bruises on both ends. They simply don’t know their bodies– each others’ bodies– well enough to rely on them in the ways they’re used to. Walking around is one thing; swinging across the skyline and engaging in hand-to-hand combat is another beast entirely.

“I’m so glad there was no one around to see that,” Jason says, wiping sweat from his face with a towel. His heart is pounding. It’s not very often that Jason fights against an opponent very much larger than himself. Not that it was an uneven spar– far from it. Tim’s body is remarkably strong. It’s just. Small. Jason’s body isn’t small. He rarely has to feel small.  

He hates it.

Tim settles on the bench next to him. “It pays to have your own private ‘cave’. Speaking of private, what are you doing here, anyway?” At Jason’s look he clarifies, “Before the whole switch thing, why’d you come by?”

Jason lies, “I don’t even remember now,” because that’s easier than admitting he was lonely and wanted to hang out. It’s not like he and Tim aren’t friendly, but they’re not quite friends , and they haven’t just spent time together for the hell of it. Today was going to be somewhat of a milestone in their relationship.

Well. It still is. Just in a different way than what he’d planned.

“Hm. Jason.”

“Yeah?”

“We have a problem.”

“What is it?”

“I have to pee.”

Jason sends a sideways look. “I’m pretty sure you can handle that on your own, buddy. Or did you forget how?”

“No, I– I’m gonna have to…” Tim does this spastic movement near his groin, and Jason rolls his eyes.

“It’s fine, Tim.”

“But. It’s your dick!”

Jason laughs. “Tim, I give you permission to touch yourself.”

Tim freezes, mouth hanging open.

“That. I meant–” Jason swallows. “You know what I mean. We’re gonna have to be okay with each other treating the other’s body like his own. We need to shower, use the restroom, whatever.”

“You’re right,” Tim says after a few long seconds of chewing on his lip. He runs a hand through sweat-slick hair. “And a shower does sound good right now.”

Jason hums in agreement.

“But I don’t have any clothes that fit your body. Can I borrow yours?”

“Yeah, I’ll run over to my apartment and grab some for you.”

“Awesome. And you can take whatever you need from my closet.” Tim stands, twists until his back cracks and he lets out a satisfied sound.

“I’ve got a pretty nice ass,” Jason muses, checking out Tim’s backside.

“Hey, who said you could ogle me like that?”

“It’s my own ass, Tim!”

~

Showering is weird. Jason tries to be mature about it but he can’t stop being overly aware of the fact that this is not his body he’s touching. It’s not his chest he’s rubbing down, not his legs he’s rinsing off. Not his dick and balls and ass he’s cleaning. It feels like a violation, somehow. But of course it’s necessary. And Tim understands. And he’ll be dealing with the same thing, and Jason understands too.

It’s just… weird.

Tim has a lot more scars than Jason realised.

~

Jason steps through the door of Tim’s apartment for the second time that day, this time carrying a duffle bag of clothes. Unlike this morning he got to use the key Tim had given him before he left instead of picking the locks. And, since he now has Tim’s fingerprints, he didn’t even have to hack into the ID scanner and bypass the alarm.

“Honey, I’m home,” he calls out, shutting the door behind him. Jason walks through the foyer and into the living room, where Tim is sitting on the couch. In a towel. Wet hair dripping onto his shoulders.

Also Stephanie is standing in the middle of the room with her arms crossed and eyes blazing with delight. “Hello, dear,” she returns, treating Jason to a wickedly sweet smile. “Looky who’s naked on your sofa.”

Tim grins, a weak, nervous thing that he tries to play off as much cockier than it is. He raises one hand from where it’s resting on the back of the couch in a small wave. “Hey, Tim.”

“So,” Stephanie says, “wanna explain why Jason is here? In your home? Naked?”

“He didn’t have any clean clothes that fit.” Jason hefts up the bag he’s still holding. “I brought him some.”

“And why did he need clothes in the first place?”

“He…” Jason catches Tim’s eyes; he’s giving him a slightly desperate look, trying to communicate something with his expression, but Jason just can’t read him well enough to know what it is. And that’s odd– to not be able to read his own face. He decides to go with the truth– at least some of it. “We sparred, and he got all gross so I demanded he shower.”

“Hey! I wasn’t that gross,” Tim protests, but he looks relieved. “Told you, blondie.”

Jason is surprised that Tim remembers what Jason calls Stephanie. How he talks and acts. Maybe he shouldn’t be, Tim is so smart and notices most things, but Jason isn’t used to people noticing him. Not the little things anyway.

Stephanie narrows her eyes at the both of them. “Sparring, sure. A likely story.”

“What were you expecting?” Jason asks. He grins. “Something more scandalous?”

“We can make up a more interesting story for you if you want,” Tim offers.

“I can make up my own scandalous stories, thanks.” Stephanie flicks a strand of blonde hair from her face pointedly. “I think I’ll go with ‘you sparred and then had sex’. Which I’m pretty sure is what actually happened because you both seem kinda squirrely about something. If you don’t wanna tell me what it is I’ll be operating under the assumption that you two dirty birds finally got it on.”

Jason cocks his head to the side. “Finally?”

“Well yeah, I mean how long have you– ”

“Clothes!” Tim suddenly shouts. Ignoring the startled looks from both Jason and Stephanie, he stands and rushes over to grab the duffel bag. “I’m gonna… go put some on. You two don’t talk about me- anything while I’m gone.” He walks off toward what Jason assumes is his bedroom.

“You got yourself a weirdo,” Stephanie comments, watching him go. Then she looks back to Jason and her smile turns softer. “Really though, I’m happy for you.”

“I didn’t get him.”

She ignores him. “So how was it?”

“What?’

“The sex, numbnuts. Did it rock your world? Did he live up to all of your wildest dreams?”

He gives her a flat look. “There was no sex. But if there was,” he can’t help but say, “I’m sure he’d be great at it. Hypothetically.”  

She snorts. “I’d hope so, you waited long enough.”

“I w-” He’s interrupted by Tim practically running back out, now wearing jeans a sweatshirt.

“Steph, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t go around telling everyone what you think happened,” he says, slightly out of breath and still tugging his shirt into place.

“Ooh, a secret , huh?”

“There’s nothing to keep secret.”

With a shrug she says, “Fine, I can play your little game. But it’s not like it’d be very surprising to anyone, just so you know.”

Tim’s eyes go wide, and he very obviously doesn’t look at Jason. “Well. Alright. Thanks. Um, we had… plans. So...”

“Plans, plans, I gotcha.” Stephanie grins and heads for the door. As she passes Jason she ruffles his hair and plants a kiss on his cheek. She can do that easily now, since they’re the same height. “See you lover boys at dinner tomorrow! Hey, maybe it’ll be less fraught with sexual tension, now that you’ve finally fucked it out.”

~

That night Jason takes apart one of his motorcycles and rebuilds it. It’s something he does when the world feels like free-form jazz– like a soup of discordant stimuli that he can’t make sense of. There’s this itch creeping up his legs, down his spine. Tickling the back of his throat and not letting his thoughts settle. It’s not the swap that’s bothering him, at least not the physical aspect of it. It’s the sense of helplessness, of vulnerability. Something is wrong and Jason can’t do anything about it. He can’t shoot the problem or blow it up or yell at it or punch it, so he strips his bike down to the frame and looks at all the parts strewn across his garage floor; he feels like those parts. It helps, somewhat, to put them all back together. But he itches to put himself back together.

He doesn’t sleep much.

~

“I can’t find shit,” Tim greets him the next morning.

Jason glances around Tim’s apartment. “Might help if you cleaned up occasionally.”

“I meant about the circlet.”

“Throw the trash away at least. Maybe run a vacuum though here, it’s not hard.”

“It’s harder than it should be sometimes.” Tim sets his laptop on the coffee table and stretches, arms above his head. Something pops. “The only thing I’ve come up with is that it was part of a collection found by an archaeologist named Carter Hall about eighteen months ago– the same guy that tried to steal it. He uncovered the tomb of Chay-Ara and Katar Hol in Egypt and this was just one of the many things he cataloged. It’s not even one of the more valuable pieces… if you don’t know about the whole body-swapping thing.”

“Alfred would be ashamed if he saw this.” Jason picks up a half-dozen dirty plates and carries the stack to the kitchen sink. He’d noticed the mess yesterday– it’s impossible not to– but he’d been a bit preoccupied. Now the empty chip bags and haphazardly piled mounds of dirty clothes are all he can see.

“So obviously Hall somehow figured out what it could do and decided he wanted it for himself.”

“Seriously, don’t ever let him see your apartment.”

“Alfred knows what I’m about. Jason, stop cleaning.”

“No can do, Timmy boo. Gross,” he mumbles, pulling a moldy Chinese food container from under the side table. He doesn’t usually clean other people’s mess like this but he’s full of nervous energy, hands itching to fix something. Preferably this whole swapping situation, but can’t do that right now and so rather than freaking the fuck out (more than he already is) all he can do is toss old fast food containers into the trash can. “So how did Hall learn about it?”

“I have no idea. I haven't found a single reference to any sort of phenomenon like we’ve experienced. Of course it’s highly plausible there were things Hall dug up that he didn’t report to anyone. Maybe he kept something, a scroll or some other documentation, that explains this whole shebang.”

“Seems like our next step is to have a chat with him. Let’s go do that.” The sooner the better.  

“We decided no field work.”

“Yeah, but it isn’t, like, taking down Killer Croc– although sifting through the sewers looking for a giant man-eating crocodile sounds better than cleaning these old coffee mugs. What’s in this one, soggy Cheetos? For fuck’s sake, Tim, how do you live like this.”

Tim shrugs.

“Anyway, the thing with Hall would just be talkin’ to a guy sittin’ pretty in a cell,” Jason says, voiced raised to be heard from the kitchen where he’s filling one side of the sink with hot, soapy water to let the dishes soak. Maybe he’ll need to break out the bleach, too.

“Stop doing my dishes,” Tim yells.

“Someone has to!”

“We can go talk to Hall after dinner tonight.” Tim joins him in the kitchen, heading straight for the coffee pot. Refilling his mug he offers, “Want some?”

“Maybe. I’m weirdly exhausted,” Jason admits. “Could be something to do with the swapping thing. Seems like that’d take a lot out of a person.”

Tim retrieves a mug with kitties playing with yarn painted on the side and he starts to hand it over but then he pauses... and smiles. It stretches slow, curling up on one side, and Jason can see the satisfaction and glee in the corner of his lips. In his eyes. Tim holds up the mug.

Just out of Jason’s reach.

He hasn’t even tried to take it yet but he knows what Tim is doing.

“You know what, I’m gonna let you have your fun,” Jason decides. Then, deadpan, “Oh no, I am at your mercy, oh Tall One.”

Tim pouts. Drops the mug and Jason snatches it from the air. “You say that and then you take all the fun out of it. But anyway, I don’t know, I’m not tired at all. And I usually am. In fact this coffee is hitting me more than usual, it’s great.”

Jason pours a cup and turns to hunt down the sugar and milk. “I don’t usually even drink coffee.”

Tim looks shocked, and then laughs. “Well that’s it then. My body is used to ridiculous levels of caffeine, and you haven’t given it any. Your body isn’t used to caffeine, and I’ve had four cups.”

“Tim, I swear, if you get my body hooked on coffee I’ll… I don’t know.” Jason sighs. Takes a sip of coffee. “Smoke something.”

“Don’t you dare! My lungs are clean, buddy.”

“Unlike your apartment.”

~

“I’m Tim Drake,” Jason tells himself as he makes his way up to the huge, wooden double doors. “Tim. Timothy. Timmy. Timothy Jackson Snark Supreme Drake.”

He’s got this. He can totally play Tim. Easy-peasy lemon whatever.

Alfred has the door open before he can touch the handle. “Good evening, Master Timothy.”

God, he’s looking up at Alfred. It’s like he’s thirteen again. “Yo, Alf. Fred. Alfred.”

Jason coughs.

Off to a great start.

That earns him a raised eyebrow, but no comment. “You’ll find the others in the sitting room.”

“Cool, I’ll just… go there. Then.”

Jason gives himself an internal slap. He needs to get it together if he’s going to fool a room full of detectives. He can do this. He knows Tim. Knows how he acts and speaks and stands. How he bites the skin off his lips when he’s thinking, sucks them in over his teeth when he’s annoyed. How his eyes light up at the promise of food. How he taps his fingers one two three four times, cracks his big toes, plays with his hair constantly. Jason hadn’t quite realised just how well he knows Tim until it became important, but he’s been watching the kid for years, apparently far more closely than he was even aware of.

He feels ready by the time he’s standing outside the sitting room. That is, until he hears a voice he wasn’t expecting: his own.

He doesn’t catch what’s being said exactly, just rushes inside and sees himself– sees Tim– talking with Dick. They’re standing behind the couch where Cassandra is teaching Damian how to braid Stephanie’s hair, who’s sitting on the floor between her legs.

They look so… normal. Comfortable.

Well, not completely. Dick looks a little confused, a little wary, with his arms crossed over his chest. Damian is obviously aware of Tim behind him.

Everybody glances over at Jason.

Cassandra smiles.

Stephanie greets, “Sup, dork.”

Damian pointedly ignores him.

“Hey, Tim,” Dick says, “Jason was just telling me all about the case you’re working together,” and there’s a hint of a question in his voice.

Jason licks his lip. “Was he?”

“Not all about it I’m sure,” Stephanie says suggestively.

Dick notices, but before he can mention it Alfred steps into the room and announces that it’s time to relocate to the dining room. Everyone files out and Jason hangs back, takes Tim by the upper arm and stops in the doorway while the rest continue on.

Voice hushed, he says, “What the hell, Tim? I thought we decided you weren’t gonna come.”

“I never actually agreed to that. I don’t see why I should miss out on Alfred’s food just because you don’t like to try and get along with everyone.”

Jason takes a half step back. Lets go of his arm. “Oh, you think it’s all my fault then? That everyone would treat me like they treat you if only I acted a little nicer?”

“Honestly? Yeah. It’s not that hard to not be a dick.”

Jason scoffs. “Well don’t try too hard, we still want them to think you’re me,” he snaps, walking away.

God, Tim is such an idiot. They had a plan, and he went and. Just. Didn’t follow the plan.

Jason digs his nails into this palms.

Bruce is sat at the head of the table when they arrive, Dick and Damian and Stephanie on his right and Cassandra on the left next to two empty chairs.

Pointing across from her Stephanie announces, “I saved those for you two to sit together.”

“Why?” asks Jason, even though he has an idea.

“Just thought you’d like to sit next to each other, since you’ve become so close lately,” she answers with a loaded, faux-casual shrug. She may as well hold up a sign with huge block letters: something’s going on between Tim and Jason .

“Close?” Bruce’s eyes are narrowed in on Jason. Or rather, Tim. Who he thinks is Jason.

Tim gives Stephanie a tired look as he sits, leaving the seat by Cassandra open. “We’re working a case together.”

“Why didn’t I know about this?”

Jason takes the open chair. “Do I report every little thing to you?” he shoots back at Bruce. He expects some sort of glare for that but Bruce is still watching Tim. Or rather, Jason.

Tim just loads more mashed potatoes onto his plate, as if completely unaware of the distrust radiating toward him. But then he takes a bite, looks up and catches Bruce’s gaze. “What?”

After a moment Bruce finally looks away. “So what’s this case you’re working, Tim?”

There’s a split second where Jason thinks Tim is going to answer, instinctively reacting to being addressed, but he catches it in time, snapping his mouth shut. Jason says, “It’s not that interesting, just an attempted theft of an artifact from the museum. But we don’t know why the man wanted it so badly, seeing as it’s not particularly valuable.”

Well, they do know. But Jason is enjoying having a secret. Something no one else in the family knows and he gets to control when they find out. It’s the same kind of feeling as after he first came back as the Red Hood and watched Bruce squirm, trying to figure out who this new player was. This time is a little different, though. This time he’s not trying to seek bloody revenge, and this time someone else is in on the secret. Tim. It’s him and Tim against the world.

“What’s the artifact?” Dick asks.

“A crown,” Jason answers just as Tim says, “a circlet.”

Tim raises his eyebrows, gives Jason a pointed look.

Jason rolls his eyes. “Semantics,” he mumbles into his chicken.

“Here.” Tim leans closer as he fishes around in his back pocket and pulls out his phone.  “Let’s get an outside opinion.”

An outside opinion . Jason bites back a smile. Everyone else are outsiders. He and Tim are… inside. And just like that, Jason isn’t mad at Tim anymore. That’s probably a little pathetic. But they’re inside , and they even have an inside joke, and it’s been a while since Jason’s felt this sort of camaraderie.

Tim clicks around for a second and then stretches across the table to hand the phone to Stephanie. “Crown or circlet?”

She studies the picture on the screen for a second and then decides, “Circlet.”

“Aha!” Tim pumps his fist in triumph. Jason thinks he wouldn’t have done that and it’s a very Tim thing, but no one seems to take note besides him.

Stephanie passes it over and Dick calls it a crown, and Damian shockingly agrees. When Bruce is handed the phone he glances down and then does a double take, a wrinkle forming in the middle of his forehead. “This is… Thanagarian.”

“What?” Jason asks.

“Where did this come from?”

Tim answers, “The Gotham History Museum. It was with a collection from ancient Egypt.”

Shaking his head slowly, Bruce says, “This is definitely not Egyptian. I’ll consult Shayera to make sure, but I’m almost positive it’s Thanagarian.”

Thanagarian! That almost makes this whole shit show worth it. He’s gonna get to talk to Hawkgirl . Jason squeals internally.

Tim slaps the table. “That’s why I couldn’t find anything about it!”

Dick flinches.

Tim blinks at him, frowning.

The table is quiet, but for Damian’s silverware clinking against his plate as he eats.

“Jason,” Cassandra says, taking the device from Bruce and turning it over in her hand. “Why do you have Tim’s cell phone?”

“Why do you think that’s mine?” Jason asks.

She holds it up for everyone to see the sticker on the back, a faded Optimus Prime.

Jason hears Tim suck in a breath, but doesn’t turn to look.

“You got this from the dentist’s office two months ago. I came to pick you up because they gave you the gas, and on your way out you took some stickers from the bowl on the reception desk. You gave me Daffy Duck,” she says, taking out her phone and showing the sticker on the back.

“Oh, right.” Jason smiles. He takes it from her. “Of course, yeah, this is mine. I guess we switched by accident.” He pulls his own cell from his pocket and tosses it to Tim.

Stephanie narrows her eyes at them, and then grins. “Wow, you two must’ve been pretty distracted to not notice something like that. This case you’re working must be hard .”

Tim grins back. “Hard and long.”

“Let’s not be vulgar,” Bruce says, sending a significant look Tim’s way.

Again, Tim frowns.

Jason almost feels bad for him. But not quite.

Stephanie snorts. “ Vulgar is what I heard you saying to Catwoman over what you thought was a closed channel last night, Mr. Bi -”

“Please,” Damian interrupts, nose scrunched in distaste. “I rather not hear anything of that conversation.”

Stephanie just laughs, elbowing Dick in the ribs. “I’ll tell you later.”

He pulls a face. “I don’t wanna hear it either.”

“Right, sure.” She goes back to eating, clearly enjoying everyone’s discomfort.

“It’d help if we could talk to Shayera ourselves,” Tim says.

Bruce chews his green beans for a full twenty seconds before speaking. “She’s very busy. I don’t see why you need to contact her.”

“We have a mysterious Thanagarian artifact,” Tim explains slowly. “She’s Thanagarian.”

“Give it to me, and I’ll make sure she gets it.”

Jason can feel Tim’s irritation. He’s sucking his lips in over his teeth. Tapping his middle finger against the polished wood table top one two three four times before saying, “I don’t need to give it to her, I need to ask her some questions about it.”

“I don’t see why.”

“It doesn’t matter if you see why,” Tim says, voice raised. “It’s not your case. We don’t work for you and neither does Hawkgirl. I was being polite by asking for her contact info, but I can hack into your system any time I want and get it myself. Or Tim can,” he adds after a beat.  

“There is no need to become hysterical, Todd,” Damian sneers.

“Oh fuck you,” Tim snaps.

Bruce sets down his silverware with a clang. “That’s enough. Jason, you can leave.”

The feet of Tim’s chair screech across the floor as he stands, muttering, “This is so fucked up.” He turns and heads for the door.

Jason rises too.

“Where are you going?” Dick asks.

“With him,” Jason says like it’s obvious, and Stephanie and Cassandra are the only ones who don’t look surprised.

He catches up to Tim in the hall outside and they walk in silence until they reach the front door. “I get why you don’t like to come,” Tim says as he pushes through.

Jason’s not too big of a person to resist the, “I told you so.”

~

The plan to interrogate Carter Hall is put on hold. If they can get the information they need from Hawkgirl, there’ll be no need to talk to him.

Tim cracks into Bruce’s system easily, pulling the Shayera’s contact info with a smile. He looks over at Jason from his spot on the couch, grabbing some potato chips from the bag in his lap and shoving them into his mouth with satisfaction. “Got it.”

Jason’s smiling too. “Awesome. So… now what?”

“What do you mean, now what. We send her a message.”

“Yeah, but like… just like that? What do we say?”

“Jason, we’re asking for help on a case, not asking her to prom.”

“But it’s Hawkgirl .”

“We’re not asking her to Thanagarian prom either.”

“Oh shut up, you think it’s cool too.”

“Well yeah, but I’ve talked to her before.”

“Really? I never got to meet her.”

Tim types out a message, presses enter with a flourish. “There. Now we wait for her to get back to us.”

Standing there in Tim’s living room Jason suddenly feels very out of place. Very useless. He needs to do something. Tim’s doing everything, Jason hasn’t even gotten to help. He’s just watching everything happen around him, happen to him.

“Do you wanna hang out until she answers?” Tim asks. Jason blinks at him. “You can even clean my apartment more, if you need to.”

He laughs. He’s not even sure if Tim’s joking or not, and it’s stupid, but, “Yeah, actually that sounds good. You got a duster?”

“There’s probably one in the closet. Alfred stocked me up with a bunch of stuff I’ve never even used.”

Tying his hair up with one of Tim’s hair bands, Jason says, “Alright let’s get to work.”

“Woah, hey, I didn’t say I’d be cleaning. I’m enjoying my couch very much, thank you.”

“Whatever.” Jason rolls his eyes.

“I can order something,” Tim offers, pulling out his phone. “Chinese? Pizza? Mongolian barbeque?”

“Or I could cook. I’m betting it’s been awhile since you had something other than take-out or frozen chicken nuggets.”

“We just ate dinner at the manor.”

“That got cut short.”

“Well. Anyway, that’s a sweet thought, but I don’t have any ingredients.”

Jason smiles. “That sounds like a challenge. Okay, first cooking then cleaning.”

“All while I sit around on my ass? Deal.”

~

Tim doesn’t sit around on his ass, at least not the whole time. Jason has him do small jobs. Like wash two bowls and forks because there aren’t any clean ones.

(“How do you eat without bowls?”

“Out of the pan.”

“And what, with your hands? Are you an animal?”)

He ends up making what Tim dubs ‘fancy ramen’. The fridge and pantry really are almost bare, but he finds some ramen packs and eggs and fresh spinach (which had shocked Tim) and chilli powder and that’s all he needs to impress Tim, apparently.

~

“‘S so good,” Tim mumbles, slurping up noodles. They’re sitting on the floor, hunched over their bowls on the coffee table. A movie is playing on the massive tv screen, a romantic comedy that doesn’t remind either of them of anything terrible. It’s dark outside and the lighting around them is dim, and it’s very cozy. It’s close to what Jason imagines a date might be like.

Tim scoops up a particularly large spinach leaf with his fork and drops it into Jason’s bowl. Jason will return it when he’s not looking.

“I never really noticed before,” Tim says.

“Noticed what?”

“The way everyone reacts to you. I mean, I kind of did, sometimes, but I guess I just wrote it off like…”

“Like it was my fault,” Jason supplies.

“To be fair, sometimes it is.” Tim’s tone is playful, and he’s smiling a little, so Jason doesn’t get angry.

He shrugs. “Occasionally. It’s awfully fun to get under B’s skin. When I’m trying to. Otherwise it sucks.”

“Yeah.” Lifting the bowl to his lips, Tim slurps up the soup.

On the screen the main character finally realises the man she loves is a bum and kicks him out of her house over a soundtrack of triumphant background music.  

“You go, girl,” Jason calls. “Tell him off!”

“He’s such an asshole.”

Jason doesn’t know if Tim means Bruce or the ex-boyfriend, but it doesn’t matter because they’re both assholes.

It’s really nice to have someone agree with him.

~

“This must be hard for you.”

Jason makes a questoning noise, lifting his head from the arm rest. Tim doesn’t answer right away so he nudges him with his foot. Tim grabs it and sets it in his lap.

“With your control issues, this must be tough to deal with,” Tim finally says, not looking away from the tv. He keeps his hand wrapped around Jason’s ankle, but really it’s Jason’s hand on Tim’s ankle and it’s huge, wraps all the way around.

He wants to pull away. He doesn’t move.

He wants to say he doesn’t have control issues. He stays quiet.

“How are you dealing with it?” Tim asks. It’s a simple question, said casually, but Jason feels it like a weight, like the weight of Tim’s hand on his foot. Holding him down.

“Not very well,” he admits with a weak laugh. Tim finally looks at him. “I keep…” Jason swallows, tries to hold back the words threatening to spill out, but he’s exhausted and lonely and Tim is right there, looking at him like it’s okay, whatever he says will be okay , and his hand tightens just a fraction and Jason’s mouth opens.

“I’m all messed up. I hate this. I just want to not... be ... for a while. I wish I could go to sleep and wake up later when everything is right again. I wish I could make it right again. I feel stuck and aimless like I’m floating in space and I’m trying to move but have no propulsion and I just end up flailing around. I’ve felt like that for a long time,” he realises as he says it, “even before all of this happened. I can’t even pinpoint what was making me feel that way… But I think I’ve been struggling for a long time and then this just. Made it so much worse and I think I’m gonna snap. My body doesn’t fit my brain, and that’s so unsettling, and the fact that I can’t do anything about it is…”

Jason trails off, breathing heavily. He hasn’t opened up to another person like that in… maybe never. He feels like he’s just jumped off a roof without a line and he’s falling, waiting to be caught.

“I understand,” Tim says softly.

Jason’s body relaxes slightly, tension draining out of muscles, the tightness in his chest loosening if only a little.

A chime sounds from Tim’s tablet. His eyes stay on Jason for a moment before he leans over to pick it up.

“It’s Shayera. She’ll be here soon.”

~

Jason carries their dirty bowls to the kitchen sink and Tim siddles up next to him.

“You’re helping? Voluntarily?”

“I was raised to make sure the house is presentable when guests are visiting.”

“You didn’t give a shit about the mess when I came over, am I not a guest?”

“Of course not,” Tim snorts, and Jason is insulted for a split-second until he adds, “I don’t care about cleaning up for, like, family and friends.”

So apparently they’re friends now. Jason smiles as he washes the bowls. When he’s done Tim dries them with a towel. He sets his hand lightly on Jason’s back as he moves behind him, putting away the dishes.

~

Hawkgirl is standing in Tim’s apartment.

Hawkgirl!

She’s powerful and stunning and her wings are spectacular and Jason’s totally in love.

“Alright,” she says, her voice strong and commanding, “let’s see what we’ve got.”

“It’s over here.” Tim leads her to the work station, where the crown sits almost exactly as it has been since the incident. Tim had closed the case and neither have touched it again. He pulls out his phone. “I don’t want to open it and risk something happening again, but I took pictures.”

She takes it, looks at the picture and then… she smiles. “You two must have been having an interesting few days, huh.”

Jason clears his throat. “What makes you say that?” She glances at him, eyebrow raised. “I mean, you’re not wrong, but. What do you know about it?”

Shayera’s grin is sharp and amused. It reminds him of Stephanie. They would probably get along. “Oh I know plenty. I know that you’re actually Jason, and you,” she addresses Tim, “are Tim, despite your current physical state.”

Tim sighs, long and relieved. “Yes! So you know exactly what we’re dealing with, this is great. How do we switch back?”

“Just open the box.”

“What?”

“The case, it’s made of Nth metal that shields and contains the magical energy. Once it’s opened, the artifact will act on anyone within a ten foot radius.”

“It’s that simple?”

“Wait until after I’ve left, please,” she says wryly. “Then yes. Just open up.”

~

Shayera leaves after promising to come back soon and take the box away to be stored somewhere safe. She’s also going to take over looking into Carter Hall and how he found out about the crown’s abilities, and what he was planning on using it for. “I know Carter,” she’d said grimly. “Leave him to me.”

And then it’s just Jason and Tim and the box.

“Any last words?” Tim asks. “Sorry, that sounded ominous. You ready?”

Jason gives a tight nod and Tim lifts the lid.

~

It’s slightly less disorienting the second time around. There’s a moment where he still doesn’t feel right, his own body a foreign thing, and Jason starts to panic. But he closes his eyes and breathes, makes himself feel, slowly process his weight and height and the way his fingers are too cold and his right elbow is sore. He settles. He comes home to himself.

Jason opens his eyes. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Tim answers, looking down at his hands and the way they move. “Yeah. You?”

“I’m okay.”

“Good.”

They’re quiet. The dark sky outside is fading, the morning coming over the skyline.

“Well.” Tim laughs. “That was interesting.”

Interesting , yeah. Let’s never do it again.”

“Deal.” Tim smiles, and Jason smiles back, and it’s a little awkward but not too bad. “Do you, um. You can stick around. If you want.”

“Thanks, but I need to... not be around any people right now.”

“Right, yeah, that’s cool. But I’ll see you around soon.” It’s said sort of like a question so Jason nods.

“Sure thing.”

~

He should feel better than he does. Everything’s fine now, so he should be fine. But he isn’t.

He’s relieved, of course, having his body back. He doesn’t know how much longer he could have handled that. But that’s just one thing– one puzzle piece put back into place, one scoop of water taken from the pool that’s up to his chin.

Jason remembers what he told Tim, about floating in space. About wanting to sleep until everything is better. He still feels that way, except now he doesn’t know what it is that’s supposed to get better. They swapped back, he’s in his own body, but he’s still not right. It’s the same not right he was before he walked into Tim’s apartment for the first time a few days ago. It’s the not right that sent him to Tim’s in the first place. The lonely, empty kind of not right that he’s been feeling for a long time. The one he used to fill with anger but that anger burned up and now he’s nothing.

He makes some tea and sits down to read a book. He can’t stay focused on the words on the page and he forgets about the tea until half an hour later when it’s gone cold.

He goes to bed and lays there staring at nothing.

~

He’s sipping his morning cup of decaf Earl Grey when Cassandra waltzes into his apartment. He considers making a fuss about having his home broken into but seeing as he did the same thing to Tim a few days ago it would be a little hypocritical of him. Also he doesn’t think Cassandra would give much of a fuck about his protests, so instead he just nods like all of this is normal and offers, “Tea?”

She takes the seat on the other side of his tiny kitchen table. “Please.”

Jason sets more water to boil and then sits back down. “So what’s up?”

“Tim yelled at Bruce.”

“Can’t say he doesn’t deserve it.”

“About you.”

Jason’s mug pauses halfway to his mouth. “Me?” he asks over the ceramic rim.

“He was very angry for you.”

He stares, silent, until the kettle starts to shriek, pulling him from his chair.

Tim yelled at Bruce.

For Jason.

He was angry.

For Jason .

He pours the boiling water, steam rising and he breathes it in, warmth spreading in his chest. He has someone in his corner. Inside. Seeing, understanding. Defending. Feeling. Not feeling because of him, but feeling for him.

When he hands Cassandra her tea he asks, “Are you here to warn me away from him or something?”

She snorts at that. “The opposite. I’m here to… facilitate,” she says carefully, holding up her hands and bringing them together, fingers intertwining.

“You want to help bring me and Tim closer,” he says with some disbelief.

“It’s best.” Her tone is very sure now. “Best for both of you.”

“How… how do you know?”

Slowly, Cassandra reaches over and presses two fingers to Jason’s forehead, then over his heart. “You’re hurting.”

Jason swallows, feeling open and raw like he did after talking with Tim. Part of him wants to drop to the floor and crawl underneath the table. Hates that he’s apparently so easy to read, that someone can just look at him and see all of his loneliness and greyness and fear. But it does make it easier, that he didn’t have to say it out loud; he’s not sure he could do that again so soon.

Cassandra taps once then pulls away. She sips her tea. “Tim hurts too,” she says. “We all do.”

“Tim hurts like I do?”

“Tim hurts like Tim. I hurt like me. Bruce hurts like Bruce. But it’s all here,” she taps her own temple, “and here,” she taps her chest.

~

Jason makes pancakes. Cassandra drowns them in syrup with a smile.

They talk about Tim for a long while. It’s nice.

At some point they talk about things other than Tim. It’s still nice.

~

This time Jason does Tim the courtesy of knocking. After a minute the door opens on Tim’s surprised face. “I don't think anyone’s ever knocked before.”

“I brought lasagna,” Jason says, holding up a foil-wrapped dish.

Tim whistles. “Come on in, beautiful.”

“You’re taking to the food, aren’t you.”

“Of course not.” Tim takes the lasagna and cradles it to his chest as he heads for the couch, not even looking at Jason. “That would be rude.”

“You forgot plates.”

“Just grab a couple forks.” Tim sits and peels away the foil. “Oh yeah,” he groans happily, “that’s the stuff.”

Jason joins him, passing over a fork. They scoop out bites straight from the pan.

“Thank you,” Jason says.

“You’re the one that brought it, why are you thanking me?”

“Not for the lasagna.”

Tim looks up finally. There’s a string of melted cheese hanging from his lower lip. “Then what?”

“Cassandra came by my place.”

“Oh?”

“She told me you talked to Bruce.”

“Oh.”

“I want to say I don’t need anyone to stick up for me; I should be able to do that myself. But I think I haven’t been doing a very good job of that. I just get so pissed off and… and afraid, and Bruce doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, so it’s hard for us to talk about our problems. It’s easier for me to just avoid everyone.

“But that doesn’t solve anything, does it.” Jason wipes away the cheese from Tim’s mouth and leaves his hand there, cupping his chin, thumb resting lightly on his lip. Tim’s staring back at him with wide eyes, unnaturally still. “Not talking about your problems makes them worse. So, thank you for letting me talk to you. Thank you for talking to Bruce when I couldn’t. He might listen to you, a little.”

“You can talk to him,” Tim insists. “Someday. This won’t last forever.”

Jason picks up the lasagna from Tim’s lap and sets it on the coffee table. He plucks the fork from Tim’s limp hand and tosses it on top.

Then he leans in until he can feel Tim’s breath ghosting across his cheek.

“Wait.” Tim clears his throat. “Wait, is this– is this still a thank you? Because I don’t… want that.”

“It’s not,” Jason says.

“So you… just. Like me?”

“Is that okay?”

“Yes,” Tim breathes.

“Did I do this wrong? I should have waited–”

“Nope! No waiting please.” Tim shoots forward but stops at the last second. “Unless you need to?”

Jason smiles. “Not at all.”

“Good.”

And then they’re kissing, and Jason’s not sure who moved in that last inch but it really doesn’t matter.

~

Jason’s got Tim spread out on his bed, naked and panting and happy. He’s got Tim’s legs on either side of him, his hands wrapped around his tiny waist and he squeezes a little. Tim makes an encouraging noise and arches up into Jason’s grip; when Jason slides his hands down to hold Tim’s thighs he sees the pale imprint of his fingers on the skin of Tim’s belly, slowly fading. Tim’s legs are thick with muscle, but still so slim compared to Jason’s everything.

“God, I could just… toss you around.”

“Yep,” Tim agrees breathlessly. “That sure is a thing you could do. If I let you.”

“Of course, yeah.” Jason blinks, tears his eyes away from Tim’s stomach and hips and hard cock to catch his eyes. “You know I know that, right? I wouldn’t do anything you didn’t want me to.”

“I’ve heard you rant about consent a dozen times, Jason, I know where you stand on the issue.” Tim smiles, small and honest. “I trust you.”

“Good. That’s– that’s good. Thank you.” Jason’s fingers tighten. “So is this… okay?”

Tim nods. “I’ll tell you if it isn’t.”

Jason lifts, maneuvering Tim so that his legs are thrown over Jason’s shoulders and his hips are off the bed, held in the air by Jason’s hands cradling his ass. The only part of Tim that’s still on the bed is his shoulders and head.

“Fuck,” Tim sighs heavily, hooking his ankles behind Jason’s back. “That is so okay.”

He tugs Tim up closer, brings his cock level with Jason’s mouth. He holds Tim’s body steady as he licks at soft, pale thighs and balls and part of him wants to spread Tim even further and find his hole but they aren’t prepared for that. Maybe another time.

Yes yes yes yes ,” Tim is chanting softly, fingers twisting into the sheets. When Jason finally takes his cock into his mouth he groans, long and loud. “ Yes!

After a minute he pulls away and lowers Tim back to the bed. Runs his hands over his calves and chest, anywhere he can touch. “What do you want, Tim?”

“Hm?” Tim’s eyes are unfocused, and Jason waits until he comes back to himself. “What do I… want. I want. Lots. I’m open to a lot of things right now.”

“Do you want me to fuck you? I mean, you know, penetratively.” He emphasises the word by squeezing Tim’s ass.

Ah , um. No, actually, not that, today. But anything else would be just great. And–” Tim breaks off, chewing his lip.

“And what?”

“You like holding me down, right? Or up.” He huffs a small laugh. “You like... being in control.”

“I guess,” he says slowly, because he does, but something about that doesn’t sit right with him.

“That’s okay. It’s okay for you to enjoy that.”

Jason swallows. “So what is it you want? Me to hold you down more?” He puts some pressure on Tim’s sternum with his palm. It’s not much but Tim’s mouth drops open and his eyelids flutter shut for a moment.

“I was thinking you could… tie me down. If you want.”

Tie you… How much? Just, like, your hands?”

“My wrists together, above my head,” Tim answers, already sliding his arms up into position. “Attached to the headboard.”

“Are you sure?”

An eager nod. “Definitely.” He must see some hesitation in Jason’s face because he adds, “But it’s fine if you’re not comfortable with it.”

Jason leans over, hovering above Tim on all fours. Tim looks up at him with wide eyes, open and waiting. He’s so small underneath Jason, completely covered by his shadow.

Jason traces a collarbone with one finger. Up Tim’s neck. Tim tilts his head back.

Jason wraps his hand around the back of Tim’s neck, nudges Tim’s head to one side and then the other, and Tim lets him.

“I like…” Jason sorts through the jumble of words waiting in his throat, tries to pick the right ones. “I do like it. But I don’t know if I like that I like it.”

Jason sits back, off to the side. He doesn’t want to have this conversation while he’s looming over Tim. “It scares me that I want that. I don’t know what it says about me that I want to have control over you like that.”

“It doesn’t need to say anything, Jason.” Tim rises, pulling in his legs criss-cross. “I’m consenting. You wouldn’t want it if I wasn’t consenting, right?”

Jason shakes his head hard, disgusted at the thought.

“Right. It doesn’t have to mean something, or be a big deal. I think this is just something you could use right now,” Tim says.

“I don’t like feeling like I’m using you.”

“You aren't, not any more than you would be if I wasn’t tied up. Just because I’d be bound doesn't mean this would only be going one way. You’re not just taking what you want, I’m giving it to you. This isn’t about you having control over me– this is about you having control over yourself ; to have me in this vulnerable position but you still take care of me and treat me well and satisfy me and yourself.”

“But what am I controlling? I mean, it’s not like wanna be violent or anything. I’m not holding back any impulses like that.”

“I can’t tell you that, Jay. I don’t know exactly what it is that’s messing you up inside. I just get the feeling this could help, a little. Like when you cleaned my apartment or cooked me dinner. You like doing things, and taking care of me, and being in charge. And I’m not worried about you hurting me. If you did something I didn’t like I would tell you and you’d stop. If you didn’t stop, I’d kick your ass. We both know I can undo the knot any time I want.”

Jason chuckles. “You’d have me in a choke-hold in a heartbeat.” Tim smiles. “What do you get out of this? Why do you wanna be tied up and… dominated?”

“I just do.” Tim shrugs. “I enjoy it. It’s not that deep.”

“So if all of this is… for me, for my issues, shouldn’t I be giving control over to you? Trying to let go?”

“We can try that. Is that something you feel ready for?”

“No.”

“Then maybe another day. Jason.”

He looks up, meets Tim’s eyes.

Tim says, “We don’t have to do this. It was just a suggestion. It’s something I like and I thought you might want to do it, but it’s not necessary. For either of us. We can do something else. We can do nothing. We can go watch a movie and eat more lasagna. It’s fine.”

Jason considers that. The decision is his and any answer he gives is okay, and Tim won’t hate him. He won’t be wrong. He won’t be hurting anyone. He won’t be disappointing anyone. It’s fine for him to not know what he wants, and it’s fine for him to know exactly what he wants. Tying Tim to the headboard and rubbing their cocks together sounds really appealing. So does finishing that lasagna while watching a romcom. They can do both. They can do neither.

And that’s okay.

Jason leans in for a kiss and Tim meets him halfway.

~

EPILOGUE

~

“I’m ready,” Jason urges. “I’m good, baby. Promise.”

“What’s the rush?” Tim presses a smile between Jason’s shoulder blades, drawing out his fingers slowly… and then pushing back in.

Jason groans, partly in satisfaction, partly in frustration. “We’re gonna be late for dinner, and I really rather not have Dickie walking in on us. Again.”

“Don’t worry, I left a Do not disturb sign on the door and the windows. Besides, we have plenty of time.” Tim twists his wrist, finds just the right spot to have Jason letting out a low whine.

“Fuck,” Jason pants. His legs try to spread even further but are held tight by the thin white rope strapping them to the headboard. He’s on his knees, facing the wall. Forearms overlapping each other and bound to the top of the headboard, at just the right height for him to rest his forehead against them.

When Tim pulls his fingers out Jason tries not to make a pathetic noise. He fails. “You okay?”

“Yeah but I kinda feel like I might die if you don’t keep fucking me.”

“The ropes, are they still okay?”

Jason nods dazedly. He swallows, mouth dry. “Still okay.”

“Just say the word and they’ll be gone.” Tim’s clean hand swoops up and down Jason’s back.

Jason believes him, and that feels amazing. To be able to trust someone again. “I know. Now please ...”

“I’m proud of you,” Tim says softly.

“W-what?”

“I’m proud of you for letting me do this. I know it can be scary. I know how long it took you to feel like this is something you could do.”

Jason frowns. “It’s not– it’s just–”

“I’m proud of how much you’ve learned and grown,” Tim interrupts, filling the spaces between his words with little kisses along Jason’s shoulder. “Of how much you’ve healed. You’ve put in a lot of effort to make yourself better, and some days are bad but you still stick with it until the good days, and that’s something to be proud of.”

“Tim, I’m…” Jason takes a deep breath… and lets himself have this. He pushes away all of those thoughts saying Tim is making a big deal out of nothing, that Jason hasn’t even done much of anything, that it’s stupid for Tim to be proud of so little. Those are wrong, Jason reminds himself. It’s okay for Tim to be proud of him. It’s okay for Jason to be proud of himself. “Thank you.”

“You ready?”

“Yes,” Jason groans. “I’ve been ready.”

“Okay, here we go.”

He feels Tim press the head of his cock inside. He feels Tim’s hands gripping his sides. Feels the ropes holding him in place. He feels everything , but not in the terrifying way he usually feels everything . This is good. This is safe.

He feels small and cared for. He feels vulnerable, but it doesn’t scare him. It’s okay.

In this moment, everything is good.

~

ALTERNATE ENDING

~

“Okay, here we go.” He feels Tim press the head of his cock inside.

A muffled thump sounds from beyond the bedroom door.

Jason’s eyes shoot open. Behind him, Tim freezes. “I thought you said we have plenty of time .”

“I… may have miscalculated.”

“I think we’re about to be abducted.”