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like fireworks on the fourth of july

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“Listen, I don’t care what Jason said. I’m not jealous. Why on earth would I be jealous?” Tim scowls, and the camera zooms in the window behind him. Outside, Conner and a girl around their age are talking excitedly. “Yeah, sure, she’s very pretty and very blonde, but so what? We’re just friends, if he wants to go out with her, I’m totally cool with that.”

 

Laughter erupts outside, Tim looks down, shuffling a little before giving the camera a shaky smile, “totally cool.”

 

*

 

“Right, guys,” Dick claps his hands, getting everyone’s attention, “as you all know, today’s the annual barbecue celebrating the day the rich snobs left Gotham for that terrible, terrible place they call Metropolis.”

 

“That’s such a dumb name.” Steph snorts, “it’s like calling your city City .”

 

“Hey, I lived in Metropolis for a while,” Conner shrugs, leaning back on his chair by Tim’s desk, “it’s not so bad.”

 

“God, nobody cares , Conner.” Tim rolls his eyes, edging further away from the boy, “Metropolis sucks.”

 

“Anyway.” Dick says loudly before an argument can start there. Usually Tim and Conner are inseparable, but since this morning, there’s been some tension. “Barbecue. Today at the park. We’re still on a tight budget, so this needs to be perfect. We can’t afford a disaster this time.”

 

“But we’re still on for fireworks, right?” Jason asks, finally putting his phone aside and deciding to be a part of this conversation, “because this is a deal breaker for me.”

 

“I second that,” Steph high fives him over her desk, “barbecues without fireworks are the true disaster.”

 

Last year Dick had allowed Jason and Stephanie to figure out things with the fireworks unsupervised. It went surprisingly smooth, and he had been ready to congratulate them and apologize for doubting they’d pull it off, when everything caught on fire. Thankfully, no firework was accidentally lit up, but the fire caused some severe damage on the park. Ivy and her park rangers had bitched about it for months afterwards.

 

“I really want to say yes, I do,” he tells them, “but I can’t let you without supervision, Ivy would kill me if I did, and there’s no one to spare. Sorry, guys.”

 

There’s angry shouting from everywhere, and Dick closes his eyes, praying for patience. He loves this job and he loves working with his siblings, but sometimes he wishes his family wouldn’t make it so difficult.

 

“I can go with them,” Tim suggests, trying to be heard over the noise, “I’ll make sure nothing ends up on fire.”

 

“What?” Conner turns around on his seat to look at him so fast the chair he had been tipping back sways dangerously, and if he falls again, Dick isn’t going to be the one explaining it to Clark this time, “I thought we were going to be decorating the park together?”

 

“Take Cass with you instead,” Tim crosses his arms, “or your new friend, whatever. Dick, please?”

 

On one hand, Tim isn’t exactly a model for self-control, especially if Steph or Jason are with him, so maybe putting him on babysitting duty for the two is not exactly the best solution. But, on the other hand, if he and Conner are fighting, there is no way they will be productive together. Tim is going to be passive-aggressive and Conner will go from confused to hurt to angry soon, and they will be too busy arguing to decorate the park.

 

Yeah, okay. He’s taking his chances with the fireworks. “Fine. Tim, I want you to stop them from doing anything bigger than a small light show. If it can set a forest fire, it’s off the table.”

 

“Got it!” He grins sharply, and Steph cheers. Jason has an amused smile on his face, as if he knows this is going to be entertaining, and Dick has a feeling he’s going to regret allowing this.

 

“Okay, now that that’s settled,” he continues, “Babs I need you to check with Ivy if everything’s in order for tonight. Cass, can you help Kon with the decorations? Great, the sound equipment will be arriving soon-ish, so I need you there to sign it off.”

 

Cass nods, smiling sympathetically at Conner from across the room. Good, that means she’s probably gonna help with whatever is going on there before it blows out of proportion.

 

“Aye, aye, captain,” Barbara salutes, getting to her feet, car keys in one hand and phone in the other. “I’m meeting Ivy now, it’s gonna take an hour, tops. Do you need help with the supplies after?”

 

“Nah, thanks, I’m good.” He grins, “Wally is meeting me at the Walmart later.”

 

She gives him a knowing smile before going out the door, red hair shining bright even in the artificial lights, and Dick stands there, lets himself be nostalgic for a second. He and Barbara had been so young, but so happy together. He used to be so sure he was going to marry her someday.

 

Maybe it takes him more than a second, because next thing he knows, a hand falls on his shoulder, startling out of his memories, “you and your redheads, hm?”

 

Jason is standing next to him, and the room is empty around them, the faint voices of Steph and Tim arguing in the hallway outside already fading. Dick shakes his head, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

“Sure you don’t.” His brother smirks, “Barbie and the hot nurse are just outliers and should not be counted, right?”

 

“Shut it.” Dick elbows him, “besides, if she hears you calling her that, she’s going to kick your ass.”

 

“Nah, I think it’s growing on her.” Jason grins, “now, if you excuse me, I have to go make sure our little brother turns his angst into something productive. I hear fire is very cathartic.”

 

“Please don’t set anything on fire tonight, I’m begging you.” Dick tiredly runs a hand through his hair, “but what’s the deal with them anyway?”

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” And with that, Jason slams the door behind him.

 

*

 

“There’s a girl hanging around the Kent kid all morning,” Jason tells the camera, “and it’s been driving our Timbo up the wall. He’s got the world’s biggest crush on the kid since forever, but he’s too chicken to do anything about it, and now that he’s got competition, he’s freaking out big time.” He giggles, “he’s trying to be cool about it and failing miserably. This is the best day of my life, it’s like a live soap opera right in my face, I have half a mind to run home to make popcorn. I’ve been updating Roy all day, it’s amazing. And the best part? Dickieface has no idea. We’re betting on how long it’ll take for him to figure it out and corner Timmy to talk about his feelings. I’ve put my money in 6:00pm.” He laughs again, “ best. Day. Ever.

 

*

 

“Ivy, it’s been too long,” Barbara smiles, hugging her friend, “how’s Harley?”

 

“You’ve been cooped up in that dreadful place for too long, dear,” she says, pulling away to properly look Barbara over, “a little sun would do you good, Babs, I’ll tell you that. Maybe then you’ll come see me sooner. Harley’s great, she loves her new job. It definitely beats Arkham.”

 

“We do need to celebrate it, then.” She links her arms with the park ranger, “now, let’s walk while we talk. I know you’ve been dying to show me your new pet project and you really were right, I spent way too much time in doors.”

 

“You’re trying to get in my good graces,” Ivy tuts, but begins guiding them along the trail, “I know you, honey, you can’t fool me. But it’s okay, I don’t mind a little buttering up. This is about that barbecue of yours, isn’t it?”

 

A bee buzzes past them and Barbara jerks back, startled. This is why she doesn’t come out here if she can help it. Ivy might like being in touch with nature, but nature doesn’t seem to want to be in touch with Barbara very much. “Yeah, Dick’s been on our case about it since April. He’s pretty much losing it today.”

 

“Budget problems?”

 

“You don’t know the half of it.” She sighs, “we’re doing what we can but the Harvest Festival is our last hope. The whole department depends on it.”

 

“Well, you can count on us to help with anything you need.” Ivy pats her arm, a sympathetic smile on her lips, “and for what it’s worth, I think the Festival is a great idea, I’m sure it’s gonna be a success.”

 

“I hope so, I really do.” Barbara gives her a small smile, “you know, when I started working there, back when Dick and I were just interns, I didn’t expect to love it so much, to fit in so well. It’s funny, I thought I’d be far from here by this time, but now? I can’t imagine leaving the department.”

 

Ivy considers her words in silence for a minute, idly playing with a leaf. Then says, “I think you belong wherever you’re happy. Are you happy here, Barbara Gordon?”

 

This time, her grin is brighter than the sun peaking through the clouds, “yeah, I really am.”

 

“Then it’s settled!” Ivy announces, “you are exactly where you need to be. And do tell your ex-bosstoy my rangers will help with security, he doesn’t need to worry about hiring a third party.”

 

“Thank you, Ivy. And as soon as we fix our budget, we’ll talk about your Municipal Garden project.” Barbara promises, “now, are you going to show me these rose bushes you were gushing about or what?”

 

*

 

The ride to the store is filled with too loud, too sugary pop music and Tim is almost regretting his choices by the time they pull over in the parking lot. Jason and Steph are out of the car and inside the place in less than a minute, but Tim takes his time. He kicks a few loose rocks, hands stuffed in the pockets of his hoodie and ignores the little voice in his head that tells him he’s being the perfect picture of a moody teenager.

 

But it’s not his fault, really. It’s all Conner’s fault.

 

Conner and his stupid smile, stupid blue eyes, stupid-

 

stupid pretty, blonde, girlfriend.

 

Look, Tim gets it, okay? Conner had a life before Gotham, he was supposed to stay here for only 8 weeks and then move on to whatever town his dad is transferred to.

 

Tim gets it, he does. But that doesn’t mean he has to stand there watching them being gross.

 

Whatever, he has a job here, he needs to find Steph and Jason before they buy the whole store.

 

“This one is called M80, we should buy it,” he hears Steph saying. Jason takes it, examining it with a thoughtful expression before giving it back to her.

 

“Maybe, but I saw one in the aisle over there called M1000,” Jason vaguely points to a corridor at their left, “and it totally trumps your 80.”

 

Yep. They haven’t noticed him yet. Intervention time. “Yeah, no,” Tim says and they jump, startled. He takes the cart from Steph, looking through it, “you are definitely putting all of these back, the roman candles can stay, but they’re on thin fucking ice. Okay, new rule. If it sounds like a gun or a Terminator, it’s off the table.”

 

“What? No,” she whines, “come on , live a little!”

 

“That’s exactly the point, I’d like a lot not to die tonight from rogue fireworks, thank you very much.”

 

“That’s not a thing, Timbo.” Jason shrugs, “those are perfectly harmless.”

 

“Nothing that sounds like a military grade weapon is harmless.” Tim begins steering them away, “let’s check out the normal, within our budget, fireworks.”

 

“That’s boring ,” Steph grumbles, but follows, punching his shoulder, “you used to be fun, what happened?”

 

“Give him a break,” Jason, the traitor, says with a smirk, “he’s pining.”

 

Tim grips the cart tight, until his knuckles turn white. “I’m not pining. Get the sparklers.”

 

“Oh, right. Kon’s hooking up with that blonde chick?” Steph asks Jason, completely ignoring the sparklers right in front of her. “I’ve never seen her before.”

 

“Beats me.” Jason leans against the shelf, covering an entire section of fireworks and the only one thing Dick actually asked them to buy on this god forsaken trip , “but I heard he gave her the city tour this morning, that’s why he came in late.”

 

“Jason. The sparklers.” Tim takes a deep breath, “ please.”

 

“Hang on a sec,” his brother says, like the true asshole he is, “anyway. She’s helping decorate the park, I think. It’s all over Cass’s snaps.”

 

Steph gasps, immediately pulls up her phone, checking her snapchat, and Tim has had enough. He forcefully shoves Jason out of the way, reaching for the fireworks, “sparklers. All you had to get was some goddamn sparklers. But by all means, keep on gossiping, don’t let me stop you.”

 

“Hey, now, Tim,” Stephanie says, gently, as he dumps boxes on their cart, “we’re just messing with you.”

 

“Yeah, well,” Tim glares, “it’s not funny.”

 

“It is a little,” Jason nudges him with his shoulder, “but only because everyone and their mother knows that kid is crazy about you.”

 

“I don’t know what gave you the impression I wanted to talk about this, but trust me, I don’t”

 

“Of course you don’t,” Steph rolls her eyes, “it’s like everyone in your family is allergic to feelings.”

 

“Well, not Dick. He lives for that stuff.” Tim gives her a small smile, grateful for the chance to change the subject.

 

“Yeah, Goldie is an outlier and should not be counted.” Jason snorts, “now, are we getting out of here, or do we need to have another moment?”

 

“God, please. Here,” Tim gives him the shopping cart, relieved, and already walking towards the store’s administration offices. He’s pretty sure Dick cut a deal to get this stuff for free, “I’ll talk with the manager, wait here. And don’t put anything else in.”

 

Steph and Jason nod, in sync, and Tim sighs. There’s probably gonna be two carts by the time he gets back.

 

*

 

“Yeah, Tim is kind of dumb for these sort of things? Like,” Stephanie shrugs to the camera, in a what can you do gesture, “everyone knows Kon is super into him. And I mean everyone, literally. That guy ain’t subtle. There was a betting pool in the beginning, but nobody won. All the bets expired. The longest one had been like, six months ago. And they still haven’t gotten their shit together, like, not even close. But hey, maybe now? Tim usually needs a little push in the right direction. In my case? Oh, yeah, it was a brick to the face. Anyway , maybe this girl will get him to do something about it? For once? Step out of his comfort zone and shit. Yeah. If I had to bet again? I’d totally bet on tonight.”

 

*

 

Dick isn’t stressed because of the barbecue tonight. He’s not.

 

If he had to say, under oath, he’d maybe admit he’s a little stressed, but the barbecue has nothing to do with it.

 

He’s a little stressed, sure, but it’s because the Harvest Festival is in a few weeks and there’s so much to do and the whole department is on depending on it and he can’t afford something to go wrong tonight but Jason never cooperates and-

 

“Hey,” Wally says, sliding in the car’s passenger seat with ease. “Red Vine?”

 

“The day I say no to that, is the day I get locked up in Arkham.” Dick answers, voice grave and serious. Then, smiles for what feels like the first time in the last couple of days, “thanks. Ready for shopping a shit ton of food?”

 

Wally grins, “hell yeah! Okay, what exactly do we need?”

 

“The usual barbecue meat, garlic bread, and,” he makes a face, turns on the engine, “I don’t know. What else people eat?”

 

“Okay, Rich Boy, good thing you called me.” Wally shakes his head, “I’m assuming you've got the basics at the park already?”

 

“Yeah, chairs, tables, cutlery, all that stuff,” Dick sighs, “Tim is usually the one doing the shopping. Or at least making me a list.”

 

“You got it, mostly,” he pats Dick’s shoulder sympathetically. “But why are you doing it if it’s not your job?”

 

“Because my little brother is a little shit who asked me three weeks ago to be put in decoration duty with Conner, but then changed his mind today.” Dick scowls, recalling how much of a pain Tim had been to get him to change assignments, “teenage drama.”

 

“The worst. ” Wally agrees.

 

Dick shakes his head, grinning and feeling lighter, better, happier. Wally opens his window all the way down, lets the wind sweep his red hair into a terrible mess, laughing and munching on another Red Vine. With his heart clawing its way up his throat, climbing up his ribs and constricting his lungs, Dick tears his gaze away, forces himself to focus on the traffic ahead.

 

“Wait, so, if Tim isn’t with Conner, who’s supervising decoration?”

 

“I told Cass to help him,” Dick shrugs, “she’s sensible.”

 

Wally stares at him in silence for a whole minute. “Your sister Cassandra? The one who gets along with Steph and Harper like a house on fire? That Cass?”

 

“She’s sensible.” He repeats, a little uncertain. Then, “oh crap. This is bad. This is really bad. Call her- no, facetime. I need to see it to believe it. She’s sneaky.”

 

Wally snorts, pulling up his phone and dialing. “Hey, kiddo! Whatssup?”

 

Dick can’t turn his head to look, but he hears the sound of Cass laughing, saying, “Wally! We’re decorating the park! Look!”

 

He’s itching to stop the car and hijack the call, it’s only years of dealing with his siblings that reign him in. Beside him, Wally is squinting at the screen, “is that Harper? Wasn’t her hair blue?”

 

It’s Stephanie’s voice that drifts through the speakers, “yeah, but we lost the battle and losers get spray paint. It was epic. Hey, by the way, quick question, hypothetically speaking, if one were to swallow a mouthful of this shit, it’s not that bad right? Say, I wouldn’t die or anything, right?”

 

The car swerves violently to the side as Dick parks it haphazardly in the sidewalk. “ What?

 

“Jesus Christ,” Wally is clutching his the armrest with white knuckles, cell phone lost somewhere in the floor. Dick tries to go for it, only to be snapped back by his seatbelt. “What the hell, dude?”

 

“Stephanie-” Dick splutters, patting himself down in search for his own phone, ready to call 911. God, what had possessed him to think it would be a good idea to leave them unsupervised? He should’ve accepted Barbara’s offer, sent her to check in on them at least, “we need to turn around-”

 

A hand falls over his, stilling him. He looks up to find Wally’s green eyes gazing at him with concern, “I need you to calm down, okay? Deep breaths, that’s it. You’re doing great, Dick. Just breathe. I’m going to talk with Steph now, okay?”

 

Feeling a little ashamed after his outburst, Dick nods weakly, smiling wobbly.

 

“Wally? What happened? Was that Dick?” Steph asks worriedly, “is everything okay?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, we’re fine,” He says, looking Dick over and nodding, satisfied, “you just gave him a heart attack real quick.”

 

Steph snorts, “good thing you’re there to give him CPR, hm doc.” She laughs and Wally is blushing fiercely, and Dick feels his face warming, knows he must be just as red. “But really, should I worry?”

 

“Throw it up, you’re not dying, relax, but throw it up.”

 

“Gross. Do I have to?”

 

“Yes, go do it.” Wally says, stern. Then, turning to Dick, “see? It’s fine. Nothing they can’t handle.”

 

*

 

“No, yeah, I predict there’s a 30% chance someone will have a major injury by the time the barbecue starts,” Wally says, “that’s why I have a first aid kit stashed in every one’s car, including Dick’s ridiculous minivan. Especially in Dick’s ridiculous minivan . But it’s fine. That’s what I’m here for, and the hospital’s only five minutes away. But it’s gonna be fine, Dick worries a lot, and things sometimes get a little out of control, but it always turns out fine in the end. Mostly. But yeah, total faith in them.”

 

*

 

“What do you mean the DJ bailed?” Dick says, in a tight, controlled voice, “we payed for that in advance. What happened?”

 

Jason, to be fair, sounds apologetic on the other end, “he called, said he’s down with the flu. And he did sound like shit and promised to return the check.”

 

There’s that at least. But still, “what are we going to do? I’m in the middle of Walmart and,” he looks around, peering over the aisles, “I lost Wally half an hour ago. He has the car keys.”

 

“Well, it could be worse. I mean, we don’t have to cancel the whole thing. People can eat without loud noise deafening them.”

 

Dick takes a deep, deep breath. “Duly noted. We still have to find a way to fix this, have you met this city? They’ll have our heads on spikes if we screw this up. It’s the annual Fuck You, Metropolis Barbecue. It’s bigger than the Fourth of July.”

 

The line stays silent as Jason mulls over his words. Then, a long suffering sigh. “I’ll figure it out, all right?”

 

“Are you sure? I can be there in like, an hour, maybe? Or, or- Babs! Call Babs, she lives closer to the park.” Dick says, sending the manager an apologetic look. The mustached man had been about to donate at least half of what they need, and man, that would be a lifeline. “Just, I can’t talk about this now, but I’ll call you as soon as we wrap things up here.”

 

“Listen, if I said I’ll figure it out, I’ll figure it out. So back off, okay?” Jason spits out angrily, and it sounds like he’s smoking again. Dick knows he can’t see it, but frowns at his phone just the same; it’s the principle of the thing that matters. “Go back to your shopping. I got this.”

 

Dick hesitates for a moment, biting his lip. Behind him the manager is glancing at the clock impatiently. “If you’re sure… fine, but call me again if you need anything.”

 

“Jeez, Goldie. No need to nag. Goddamnit, Blondie, give that back-”

 

The line goes dead.

 

*

 

The barbecue begins at sundown.

 

It’s kind of a vague way to say the time, but it’s tradition, and it works, and it makes the town feel cozier, so they stick to it every year. Tim can get behind that.

 

Surprisingly, Dick managed to round everything up, sweet talking business owners into sponsoring the event. He says surprisingly, but he’s not that surprised. His brother has always found a way to make things work at the end of the day. All the renovations across the city are proof of that.

 

He sips his soda, watching Bruce and Clark at the grill, a picture perfect of All American Dads. Bruce looks amused by the whole thing, and a little proud, glancing at all the fairy lights hanging around the trees and the rainbow of flags fluttering in the wind. Clark seems to be in the middle of a story, laughing through his words before he can even get to the punchline, his beer sloshing dangerously close to spilling.

 

“‘Sup, Bird Boy.” Steph knocks her shoulders with him, grinning. “Why the frowny face?”

 

She looks lovely, Tim thinks, unsurprised by the affection on his chest. He doesn’t know when she found the time to go home and clean up, but her hair is no longer bright green as it was on her last snapchat story, and it shines on the moonlight. “Hey, Steph.”

 

“I’m handing out Sparklers, wanna help?” She lets him evade her question, choosing to shove a bunch of the sticks on his hands. “You can tell all about your crush then.”

 

He sighs. So much for evading. “It’s not like that, you know.”

 

She pins him with a look. “Tim. I’ve known you since high school. Come on.”

 

“It’s just. I don’t think.” He pauses. “I don’t think it’s gonna go anywhere.”

 

“You don’t know that,” Steph says, gently. She guides him through the maze of tables and chairs, handing out Sparklers as they go, “if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know.”

 

“It’s not that easy. If I- If I’m right, and everything gets weird? Or, what if we break up later on? You remember how long it took Babs and Dick to go back to normal.” Tim shakes his head, “how long it took us to be friends again.”

 

The townsfolk chatter fills the silence while Steph tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, a nervous habit she never quite shook off, even after graduation. “Sure. But they did go back to normal. We are friends again. And what if he likes you back? What if you don’t break up? Are you sure you want to live without answers to that?”

 

Now it’s him that lapses into silence, carefully thinking over her words. He wants to agree with her, but the risk seems so impossibly big and the stakes seem all so impossibly high. But she has a point, Tim can’t go on like this. He moves on for real, or he takes a chance; either way, he needs to do something. “I don’t think I can. But I also don’t think I’m drunk enough for that conversation.”

 

She laughs, punching him in the arm, and Tim feels his own lips pulling up in a small smile. “Now we’re talking my language. Let’s get you a beer and then find your man, Romeo.”

 

And the thing is-

 

The thing is. Tim would probably do just that. He would follow Steph to the drinks table, down a beer even if it tastes disgustingly bitter and go find Kon to tell him the truth.

 

He would. He was so ready to do it. Now that he decided, that he made the choice, it feels so right. It feels like the best decision he ever made.

 

The thing is. He really would go do just that. If the moment they turned around, he hadn’t spotted Kon handing his blonde friend a drink that looked a lot like lemonade and she’s wearing Kon’s stupid leather jacket.

 

Jealousy rears its ugly head again and Tim feels so, incredibly, monumentally, stupid. He watches them talk, and he sees Steph turning around, her voice distant, muted, asking if he’s okay. He wants to say, no , not really, but ends up blurting out, “kiss me.”

 

She stops abruptly, as if all the systems have shut down and her brain needs time to reboot. “Excuse me? What the fuck changed in the last literal five seconds?”

 

Tim runs a hand through his hair, a nervous habit he never quite shook off, “he’s looking this way, quick, kiss me. Please?”

 

“What, who? Oh, for fuck’s sake.” She looks behind her shoulder, rolls her eyes, “jesus christ, I swear to god, the two of you. You know what, fuck it. Fine. Comere.”

 

She grabs his shirt, pulling him down and crashes their lips together. It’s messy and uncoordinated and awkward, and Tim hesitantly puts his hands on her waist, because it’s better than let them hang uselessly by his side.

 

There’s a crashing sound nearby, and then someone yelps in pain, and they pull away quickly to look at the cause of the commotion.

 

It’s Conner. He’s swearing up a storm and clutching his right hand, while the blonde puts out a Sparkler on the ground, an amused expression on her face.

 

Steph trades a look with him, fixing her lipstick, and nudges him in their direction, giving him her best encouraging smile and a thumbs up. He blinks, mouthing thank you at her, before moving.

 

“Are you okay?” He asks, watching Conner scowl fiercely at the offending firework, “what happened?”

 

The blonde girl steps forward, a smile on her face, oblivious to the way Tim stiffens as she moves, “it’s fine, he burned his finger because he’s a dumbass.” She says, “hi! I’m Kara Danvers, this dummy’s cousin. You must be Tim? I’ve heard so much about you, it’s so nice to finally meet you!”

 

Tim is sure his brain short circuits for a second there. He hears Steph laughing in the background, and maybe Harper too, but he can’t focus enough to be sure. He tries to come up with something smart to say, but all that comes out is, “uh, hi?”

 

Kara laughs, and it sounds a lot nicer now that he knows she’s Kon’s cousin. It makes so much sense, Tim kind of wants to laugh too, relieved and guilty and a little hysterical. She looks at him, then back at Conner, who’s still scowling, then at what must be Steph behind him, says, “oh, is that Stephanie? She promised to take me backstage to meet the band playing tonight. Can you take him to check that burn, Tim?”

 

And then she adjusts her glasses, glancing up at him with puppy eyes to rival Dick’s. So, really, what can he do but nod dumbly.

 

“Great, thank you so much!” She grins, calling back as she walks away, “see you guys later!”

 

Tim snorts to himself, shaking his head and feeling once again like a proper fool. “So, how about we find Wally now and get his first aid kit?”

 

Conner frowns even more, not meeting his eyes. “It’s okay, it’s not really burned. Just need some ice.” He says in a stilted, strained voice. “Sorry  that. Hm, Kara stole your gir- Stephanie.”

 

“My… Stephanie?” Tim repeats slowly, “I don’t- oh. You saw. That.”

 

“Yeah, so. I can drag her back. If you want.” He shrugs, eyes fixed on the grass.

 

“No, no. And she’s not. We’re not back. That was just. Nothing, that was nothing, honest.” Tim says, cringing at his own words, “it was actually really weird.”

 

“Oh.” Kon looks up, eyes wide and brimming with something Tim can’t name, doesn’t dare.

 

“Yeah.” He stuffs his hands in the pockets of his jeans, awkwardly looking around, “so, what happened?”

 

“This? Right. I.” Conner opens his mouth, pauses. Then seems to think better of it, takes a deep breath. “I just saw you and Steph. You know. And you’ve been acting weird all day. And I was holding that stupid Sparkler for Kara. And I guess I wasn’t really paying attention. So. Yeah, that happened.”

 

Tim feels his heart beating madly in his chest, hammering too fast for his ribcage to contain, and hope growing in the wings of the butterflies fluttering in his stomach. Maybe. He takes a step forward, then another. Stops only when he’s close enough to see Kon’s eyelashes and his blue eyes dark with shadows, hear the hitch in his breath, feel the warmth radiating from his body. “Can I?” He asks, because he has to be sure, needs to know he’s not imagining things here.

 

Kon nods, and Tim feels his heart soaring with delight as he finally kisses him.

 

There’s cheering and the opening chords for Welcome to the Jungle flows through the loudspeakers, but when he pulls away, Kon makes a noise of protest, and well, Tim wholeheartedly agrees.

 

*

 

“Hey,” Wally says, appearing suddenly at his side, “who would think Jason actually came through, uh?”

 

Dick grins, enjoying the music and still warm from the beers he had had earlier. “Never thought I’d see the day. Jason offering to help with government events.” Then, he remembers whose band in playing and narrows his eyes, “but I bet you knew that, didn’t you?”

 

“Well,” the redhead singsongs, smiling easily, “I plead the fifth. But no, really. Before you get ahead of yourself and start assigning shit to Jason, from what I hear, he and Roy are like, best friends now or something.”

 

“That sounds more like Jason, all's right with the world again alright.” Dick snorts. Turning to look fully at his friend, he shouts to be heard over the loud music, “having fun?”

 

Wally grins, and man, it’s a very nice grin. “Hell yeah, man! This is awesome, honest.”

 

Up in the stage Roy’s band, ridiculously named Great Frog is still playing some old school rock, and the crowd jostle them as they cheer and sing along. Dick stumbles a little, and suddenly Wally’s hand is there to steady him, warm and calloused, burning his skin in the best of ways.

 

“Hey, I like Roy’s band and all, but this is kinda loud for me, you feel me?”

 

Oh, Dick felt him alright. “Same, man. D’you think we’re getting old?”

 

It’s not particularly funny, but Wally laughs and it’s the best sound Dick has ever heard in his life ever. “I don’t know, dude. But I have an idea.”

 

“I’m in.” Dick says, decided.

 

“You haven’t even heard it yet!” Wally laughs harder, and Dick can’t help joining in, “listen, listen. Wanna go egg Metropolis’ side of the City limit sign?”

 

The city limit sign is a giant ass sign up at the edge of town where it meets Metropolis. On Gotham’s side it’s the standard Hey, Welcome to Gotham!, but on Metropolis side, it has barbed wire and bold letters saying are you sure you want to leave? Good luck in Hell Town . And then a smaller sign taped under it with there’s still time to turn around.

 

Dick stares at Wally’s green eyes in wonder. Wally always smells a little like hospital and a little like cinnamon and a little like his shampoo, and he always looks impossibly good. But right here, right now, under all those fairy lights and with a band called Great Frog playing, Dick knows he’s in love. Stupidly. Impossibly. Madly.

 

“Oh my god, these are the most beautiful words anyone ever said to me. Yes, a thousand times yes.” Dick says, still awe struck.

 

Wally lights up in excitement, tugging Dick by the arm away from the crowd and towards the street. As they laugh giddily and wait for a cab, Dick can’t think of a more perfect way to end this night.

 

Behind them, the fireworks go off, lighting up the sky.