Tim sighed, tapping the toe of his shoe against the tiles under his feet as he flipped through the magazine in front of him. He’d really appreciated getting the gig at the 24 hour coffee shop, mainly because it meant he got to drink more coffee than he knew what to do with, but also because he always volunteered for the graveyard shifts and late night coffee shop meant barely any people.
The only time he really had an influx of customers was around midterms and finals for the universities when people were needing late night caffeine fixes as they studied or worked furiously on their research papers. It was rare he got anyone else in the wee hours of the morning.
The door jingled and Tim’s eyes narrowed as he lifted his head to see who was coming in during the middle of the night. He’d been warned that in the past people had tried to rob the place since it was open all night and Tim usually tried to stay on his guard. Especially during the hours when it was too late for the people who were getting off late late and those who’d be waking up to head out at the earliest hour.
Tim blamed it on his sick sense of curiosity that had always been around when it came to Gotham’s vigilantes, but he was glad for it now because as soon as he caught sight of the brown leather jacket and the red helmet he relaxed, propping his chin in the palm of his hand.
“Can I get you something?” he asked.
Red Hood walked over to him slowly, footsteps quiet even with the heavy, laced-up boots he was wearing. He had guns strapped to both of his thighs and Tim could see the edges of the chest holsters as his jacket shifted with each step.
“A guy toting guns just walked into your coffee shop and you’re not the least bit concerned?” he asked, coming to a stop in front of the counter.
Tim shrugged. “I know who you are and am well aware of the kinds of people you go after. I have nothing on my conscience so I assume you’re here for a middle of the night pick-me-up. So, what’ll it be?”
“Give me a large coffee. Strongest you got.”
Tim raised an eyebrow and straightened. Even though there was a foot of space between them he could still tell he only came up to his shoulder. “You sure about that? Any milk or sugar?”
“Nope,” he said, popping the ‘p.’ “Just the coffee for me thanks.”
“Okaayyyy,” Tim said. “But a lot of people think they can handle our darkest stuff and wimp out.”
He grabbed the largest cup they had and pulled the pot free from it’s cradle. It was only half full and Tim wouldn’t so easily admit that he was the one who’d drunk most of it during his shift. He snapped on the plastic lid and turned around to face Red Hood.
“How much?” he asked.
Tim slid the cup across the counter towards him and hummed. “You know what?” he asked. “If you can drink that whole thing without adding anything to lighten it, it’s on the house.”
“You’re serious?” he asked.
Tim nodded. “Yeah, why not. Things aren’t usually very entertaining around here so why not allay my boredom. And if you do it, you don’t have to pay.”
“Okay, why not,” he said, reaching up to his helmet.
Tim saw his fingers work at something, but he didn’t know what he did exactly to loosen the helmet. He pulled it off a moment later, leaving him in a red domino, which Tim should not have been that disappointed about. He set his helmet on the counter and lifted the cup. Tim crossed his arms and leaned his hip against the counter, waiting to see what his reaction would be.
Red Hood took a long sip of the coffee and swallowed. He nodded. “Not bad. Is that a hint of hazelnut?”
“Almond, actually,” Tim answered.
He nodded and put the cup to his lips again, easily drinking at it without much issue. Tim was surprised. Most customers ducked out after the first sip.
“So how did you end up working graveyard shift?” he asked.
“Oh, ummm…” Tim trailed off and chuckled. “I requested it actually.”
His face scrunched up. “Really?” he asked. “Aren’t you afraid of people trying to rob you?”
Tim shrugged. “I actually haven’t had anyone try to turn over the store yet. And it means dealing with less people so I like the time to myself. Plus, free coffee.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled against the mouth of the lid, tilting his head back. “If I was in your position, I would be drinking coffee all the time.”
Tim watched as Red Hood tilted his head back and downed the rest of the cup.
He sighed as he pulled it away. “Well, that’s that.”
“Impressive,” Tim said, taking the empty coffee cup and tossing it in the trashcan behind the counter.
“Well I should get back to the streets,” Red Hood said, lifting up his helmet and sticking it back on his head.
“Stay safe out there,” Tim said as he walked towards the door.
“And you stay safe in here,” he called, raising two fingers in parting.
Tim watched as the door swung shut behind him and he disappeared into the night. He kind of hoped he’d be lucky enough that he’d come back again.
It was a couple of days before the door of the coffee shop was pushed open in the middle of the night and Red Hood returned.
“Back again?” Tim asked, small smile pulling at his lips.
“After trying your stuff, my usual places just don’t seem to stand up to it,” he said, walking over to the counter.
“We’ll it’s not really my stuff. I just serve it. I don’t go into picking the beans or anything.”
“You brew it. That’s one of the most important parts,” he scoffed.
Tim chuckled. “Fair enough,” he said. “What‘ll you have this time?” he asked, sticking his bookmark between the open pages of his book.
“Large coffee, strongest stuff you got,” he said, already reaching for the clasps on his helmet. He froze and sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I got it B,” he muttered. “You think you can hold that? I gotta go help with some cleanup.”
Tim shrugged. “Sure,” he said, hand dropping away from the stacks of cups. “It’s not like there’s anyone else barging in here for the stuff at three am.”
Red Hood gave him a two-finger salute. “I’ll be back before too long for that caffeine.”
“Don’t worry,” Tim chuckled, crossing his arms on the counter. “It’s not going anywhere.”
He watched as Red Hood backed through the shop door and disappeared up to the roof. He shook his head and turned back to his book, leaning his crossed arms on the counter.
He lost himself in the lines of the novel and unconsciously started humming along to the classical music playing over the shop’s speakers. He sifted his way through the pages and got caught up in the story not realizing how much time was slipping him by.
The door jingled and he startled, head snapping up to find Red Hood striding over to him.
“Sorry, did I scare you?” he asked and Tim could hear the smirk in his voice.
Tim narrowed his eyes. “No, I just wasn’t expecting you back yet.”
“It’s been like an hour and a half.”
“What?” Tim asked, turning towards the clock to check the time. “Oh.” He shrugged and turned back to where Red Hood was taking off his helmet. “You want that coffee?”
“You bet I do,” he said, setting his helmet on the counter. “It’s been the one thing keeping me going for the past hour and I made sure not to punch B so that I could get back here faster.”
Tim chuckled and grabbed the largest cup before turning to the pots. “You and Batman sure don’t get along, do you?”
“How’d you know I was talking about Batman?”
Tim snapped a plastic lid on the cup and turned with a raised eyebrow. “What other vigilante is there whose name starts with a ‘B?’“
“Fair point,” he said, holding out his hand.
Tim passed off the coffee and watched as he took a long drink, letting out a small gasp when he finally came up for air.
“How much do I owe you?” he asked in between sips.
“That’s three dollars and fifty cents.”
He fished in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled five dollar bill, tossing it onto the counter.
“Keep the change,” he said, picking up his helmet. “As much as I’d love to stay and hang out, I’ve got to get back to patrol, Tim.”
Tim waved as he walked back through the door, hand halting when he realized he’d never given his name. He looked down at his apron, checking to make sure he hadn’t put on his name tag. He usually didn’t unless he was expecting customers and as per usual, his apron was empty.
His fingers curled into his palm and he dropped his hand from where it was still hanging in the air.
The door dinged as the first early morning customer arrived and Tim got back to work.
Tim yawned and fought against the pull of his eyelids. He had a book in front of him, but his gaze was unfocused on the words. He was pretty sure he’d read the same sentence three times before he actually gave up on it.
He sighed and dragged himself up into a standing position, grabbing blindly for one of the cups stacked next to him. He managed to wrap his hand around one and pulled it towards him. His smile was interrupted by the sound of a hundred paper cups crashing to the floor and scattering a moment later.
He groaned, shoulders sagging as he forced his eyes open to meet the mess on the floor.
He set his cup down heavily on the counter and squatted down to start gathering up the cups. He only made it through a couple of them when he realized all of the sizes had gotten mixed together in the fall.
“Why me?” he groaned, pulling the cups apart to start two separate stacks.
The door dinged behind him.
“I’ll be with you in just a second,” he called over his shoulder as he frantically worked to pick up the mess, not caring which ones got mixed together.
There was a low whistle behind him.
“That’s quite the mess you’ve got there.”
Tim looked over his shoulder and found Red Hood leaning over the counter, arms crossed on the glass top. Tim cleared his throat and scratched his cheek.
“Yeah, I…wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing.”
“Oh really? I thought you just made cup messes for fun.”
Tim felt his cheeks heat up and turned back to the mess, quickly working to stack the rest of the cups.
“I’m practicing actually.”
“Practicing?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Tim said, grin pulling at his lips. “For the world cup stacking championships.”
Red Hood chuckled behind him. “I think you might need some more practice, then.”
Tim shrugged and straightened, several stacks of mismatched cups in his hands. He placed them on the counter, forcing Red Hood’s arms from it.
“What can I get you? The usual?”
“I have a usual now?” he asked.
“Well,” Tim said, “you’ve come in here a handful of times and have gotten the same thing each time so by coffee shop standards, that’s the usual.”
Red Hood chuckled, making Tim swallow harshly.
“Fine, the usual then,” he conceded, reaching for the clasps on his helmet.
“S-sure,” Tim said, grabbing the largest cup from one of the mixed up stacks and filled it to the brim before snapping on a lid. He handed the cup off to Red Hood and filled up his own cup as he’d intended to do before.
“Busy night?” Red Hood asked as Tim started to pick apart his stacks of cups and stack them properly.
“Not in the slightest. I was on the verge of falling asleep before I knocked the cups over. And it was all because I just wanted some coffee,” he sighed.
“You been too busy to sleep?”
Tim thought over the past week and how loud his neighbors had been.
“Not really,” Tim hedged. “My…neighbors have just been super loud lately. Since I have to sleep during the day they don’t really have an issue with making noise I suppose.”
“You filed a complaint?”
Tim sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I thought about it, but I don’t know if I can since it’s during the day-”
“That’s no excuse. They’re being loud and inconsiderate of their neighbors. Even if you didn’t have to sleep during the day, it could still be disruptive. You should complain.”
“If you don’t, I will,” he said.
“Uh…” Tim said, trying to curb a smile as he imagined Red Hood walking into the superintendent’s office. “Sure. Okay.”
Tim stared down at the bottom of his third cup of coffee. The faint buzz of caffeine was vibrating through his veins and he had far too much energy, and nerves, keeping him awake. He glanced at the door, waiting for the ding in the middle of the night that had become far too familiar for him.
It was the time of night that he’d begun to look forward to the most and everything in his shift seemed to drag until that time of night came around. then time seemed to move far too quickly and Red Hood had to leave for patrol, leaving Tim to suffer through the rest of his shift and the next day until he saw him again.
He’d been sleeping better and it was all because he’d prompted him to register a complaint about his neighbors. He was worried they would’ve done something worse, but nothing had happened because of it.
Tim bit his lip when he heard the bell sound behind him and tried to curb his smile as he turned around.
“How may I-” his voice died at the sight of a pair of masked figures inside the entryway. He swallowed, dropping the empty cup which made a soft noise when it hit the floor.
They each raised a handgun and stepped towards him. Tim raised his hands and they shook their bag open.
“Empty the register. Now,” the one on the right said.
“Now!” he said sharply.
Tim let out a shaky breath. “O-okay.”
He stepped towards the the register slowly.
“Keep your hands above the counter at all times,” the other one said.
Tim nodded and slowly lowered his hands to the register, reaching for the buttons. He didn’t have access to the key that would get him into it without using the command keys. He stared down at the keys and was surprised when he saw how his fingers were shaking.
He pressed the open purchase key and the register prompted an input. Tim pressed a random item.
“What are you doing?!” the first man snarled, lurching forward towards him and waving the gun in Tim’s face.
Tim shuddered backwards and took a deep breath. “I-I have to put in an order to open the register. I don’t have the key since I’m on night shift-”
“Fine, fine. Just get on with it!”
Tim swallowed and reached forward. As his gaze dropped down to the buttons the door jingled and he jumped, eyes snapping to the door where Red Hood stood. The two robbers whirled around and pointed their guns at him.
“You know,” Red Hood drawled, “if you wanted a coffee, you could’ve just asked.”
“Fuck o-” before who Tim assumed was the leader could say anything else, Red Hood pulled his guns from their holsters and shot them each in the leg. They both hit the floor with pained shouts.
“Call the cops, barista,” Red Hood said, keeping his guns trained on the two robbers as he moved forward to get their guns out of their hands.
Tim reached for the phone as Red Hood kicked their guns from their hands and across the floor. He dialed the number and listened to the tone, shakily recounting what happened and giving the address of the shop to the operator.
It didn’t take long for the sirens to sound in the distance. Red Hood swore under his breath and turned for the door, slipping back through it and disappearing into the night as the cop cars pulled up outside.
Tim blinked as the space Jason had vacated was filled with a swarm of cops who trained their guns on the two bleeding robbers. They both cuffed them and left them on their stomachs, the second cop read them their Miranda rights as the other walked over to Tim.
“Can you explain what happened here?” he asked.
Tim swallowed and nodded. “S-sue,” he said and started to recount the details of the night.
By the time Tim’s shift was over, the police had finally left after questioning him multiple times and bringing in his boss who also talked to him extensively after they were both done being questioned, making the whole night turn into a huge mess.
He was exhausted, more exhausted than he’d been in a long time and he wanted nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep for the rest of the day. He leaned heavily against the wall next to his apartment door and struggled to turn the key to unlock it.
Tim stumbled when he finally pushed the door open. He nearly tripped over his feet inside the doorway and sighed, letting it fall shut behind him before he locked it. He kicked off his shoes and shuffled further into the living room. He saw something move out of the corner of his eye and nearly continued to move to his bedroom before he froze.
Some of his exhaustion cleared as his heart picked up speed in his chest. After the night he had it would be just his luck to be murdered in his very home. He whirled around and stumbled again, limbs still not willing to cooperate after everything that had happened.
A hand wrapped around his arm and stopped him from crashing to the floor.
“Careful there,” a familiar voice said.
Tim blinked and straightened, some of his initial fear dissipating.
“Red Hood?” he asked, looking up at the red helmet above him. “What are you doing here?”
“Wanted to make sure you were okay. I kind of had to get out of there pretty quickly when the cops showed up,” he explained, fingers slowly uncurling from Tim’s arm now that he was back on his feet.
“Oh.” Tim blinked and something strange turned over in his chest. “I’m just really tired. Less shaken up now after having to sit through hours of answering questions. I’ve got tonight off so I don’t have to work even though I said I could, but if it means I get to sleep then I don’t care at this point.”
He nodded and Tim kind of wished he could see his face. “Well, sorry to have caught you off guard and scared you after you were nearly robbed and possibly shot.”
“It’s okay. Thanks for thinking to check up on me.”
“Of course, Tim,” he said and stepped back towards the windows.
“Hey, Red Hood?”
He looked over his shoulder.
“How did you know where I lived?”
“Let’s just say that’s my little secret.”
Tim frowned and watched him push through his living room window and climb up to the roof. He sighed and locked the latch on the window before he shuffled back to his room, stifling a yawn as he went.
He shoved off his clothes and crawled into bed in his boxers, melting into the mattress after a stressful night he never wanted to repeat.
Tim groaned and blinked his eyes open. He was met with darkness around him and he rolled onto his back, stretching his arms over his head. He blindly reached for his phone, but found the bedside table empty. He frowned and remembered that the only thing he’d done before bed was strip.
He sighed and pushed himself out of bed, reaching for the pile of clothes that was a foot from him. He dug around in his pockets until he found his phone.
The light of his screen was bright in the darkness and he squinted at it to read the time. He wasn’t surprised that it was already after ten at night considering how tired he’d been when he got back.
He shuffled into the bathroom and turned on the shower, leaving it to warm up so he could grab a granola bar to scarf down. He’d get something more substantial to eat after his shower since he’d gone so long without food.
Tim felt refreshed after his shower and pulled on a pair of jeans and a large hoodie. He grabbed a package of poptarts and a bottle of water. Feeling a little inspired by his visit from the Red Hood, he unlocked his living room window and climbed up to the roof.
He sat on the edge and let his legs dangle over the side. He swung them back and forth, the heels of his converse tapping gently against the brick side of the building. He pulled at the cellophane wrapping and broke off a small bit of pastry, chewing easily.
The skyline looked still, but Tim knew that didn’t mean there weren’t people hiding or lying in wait. The vigilantes always kept to the shadows and when could a shadow ever cast a shadow of its own?
“What are you doing around here?”
Tim turned and glanced over his shoulder at where Red Hood stood with hands stuffed in his pockets.
“I live here. What are you doing here?”
He walked over and sat down next to Tim.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better now that I’ve had some sleep,” he said, crinkling the empty wrapper in his hands.
“I’m gonna miss my middle of the night coffee run tonight,” he mourned.
Tim chuckled. “The place is still going to be open. I just won’t be the one serving coffee.”
“Nah, it won’t taste the same,” he sighed.
A scream pierced the air and Red Hood swung his legs over the ledge to stand on the roof.
“Guess that’s my cue,” he said, firing off his grapple before he jumped from the roof, swinging off over Gotham.
Tim stared after him, small smile pulling at his lips.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, I swear,” Tim insisted, pushing his boss towards the door. He gave him another concerned look and Tim sighed. “I’m fine.”
“Okay, but I’m only a phone call away if you need anything else,” he said, hand resting on the door handle.
“I promise that I’m going to be okay,” he said, offering a smile.
His boss still didn’t look convinced and stood there for several moments before he finally pushed through the door, making the bell jingle over Tim’s head. Tim watched until he’d disappeared past the edge of the windows.
He sighed and looked around himself, rubbing his hands over his arms as he felt a chill run over him at the idea of being alone again. He cleared his throat and hurried back behind the counter, searching for something to do even though everything was already in perfect condition.
Tim turned and leaned back against the counter, eyes gliding over the shining countertops and sparkling blenders. He rubbed his hands over his pants before he crossed his arms, squeezing them against his chest. He bit the end of his thumbnail and looked around at the empty coffee shop.
His fingers itched.
The bell jingled behind him and Tim jumped whirling around to face who came through the door. A young man stood inside the door wearing a large blue hoodie. Tim could see the bags and exhaustion framing his eyes. He shuffled up to the counter.
“Can I get a large coffee?” he asked.
Tim nodded. “That’ll be three dollars and fifty cents,” he said, putting the order into the register.
The customer slid four dollars across the counter. “Keep the change,” he mumbled.
Tim nodded and pushed the drawer shut before he grabbed the largest cup and poured from one of the full pots. He snapped a lid and sleeve on the cup and passed it over the counter.
“Thanks,” he said, immediately tipping the cup back and sucking down his drink as he shuffled back to the door and pushing outside to the sidewalk.
Tim watched him go, still trying to calm down his nerves at the surprise. He rubbed his hands over his face and groaned. He felt too jittery, like he’d had too many cups of coffee when he hadn’t even had one.
The bell sounded again and he looked up, relaxing when he saw the familiar red helmet.
“Hood,” he sighed.
He walked over and crossed his arms, leaning over the counter in front of Tim.
“You’re early,” Tim said, gripping the edge of the counter.
“Thought I’d stop by and see how you’re getting on before my patrol got too busy,” he said.
Tim shrugged and stared down at his fingers. “It’s hard,” he whispered. “I had a customer come in and flinched when I heard the bell.”
“You could’ve taken more time off.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think I would’ve gone insane and I need the money.”
Red Hood slid his hand across the counter and gave Tim’s fingers a squeeze.
Tim swallowed and glanced up at him, wishing he could see beneath the helmet.
“Do you want me to stay and make sure you’re…not robbed again?”
Tim shook his head. “You need to make sure the people of Gotham are safe.”
“Last time I checked, you’re a citizen of Gotham.”
“I’ll be okay,” Tim said, trying to convince himself as much as the Red Hood.
Red Hood straightened and looked around the coffee shop, peering through the windows onto the street. He strode over to the wall and flicked off the switches.
“Hood, what are you doing?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Tim blinked, trying to see through the darkness even with the light coming from the streetlamps. Red Hood set his helmet on the counter and Tim stared, trying to see his features in the low light. Gloved hands framed his face for a moment before they were pulled away.
The slide of fabric was loud in the darkness and when Hood’s hands returned to his face, Tim felt warm skin and rough callouses against his cheeks and he unconsciously leaned into the touch.
Hot breath fanned over his face before warm lips pressed to his. The kiss was brief, but soft and meaningful. Tim’s eyes slid shut and it almost felt like something was breaking in his chest.
Red Hood pulled away and Tim found himself missing the feeling. He cleared his throat and pulled his hands back, making Tim shiver at the loss of the warm touch.
“I’ll get going,” Red Hood said.
Tim caught his hand when he reached for his gloves and gave it a squeeze.
“If you need coffee later, I’ve got plenty of it,” Tim said. “So…feel free to stop by.”
Red Hood chuckled into the space between them. “I’ll remember that. And if you get lonely, all you have to do is step outside and shout my name.”
Tim huffed a laugh. “I don’t think I should attract that kind of attention.”
He bit his lip and glanced up at Red Hood whose hands were on the sides of his helmet he’d just put on. The thumb of his glove pressed against his chin and pulled Tim’s lip free from his teeth. His thumb fell away, dragging across his skin.
Tim’s eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. Red Hood turned on his heel and walked towards the door. He flicked on the lights making Tim wince at the brightness. The door jingled and Red Hood slipped back out onto the street before disappearing in the darkness.
Tim smiled and bit his lip, hoping that Red Hood would make another appearance later in the morning.
Tim stifled a yawn as the early hours of the morning approached. Things had been blessedly quiet for his first night back and he hadn’t seen anyone since Red Hood came in at the start of the night. The streets outside were even quiet in a way that wasn’t eerie, as late into the night as it was.
He drummed his fingers against the counter, debating whether it was too late to pour himself a cup of coffee to keep him going during the rest of his shift. He finally grabbed a small cup with a sigh and filled it almost to the brim with coffee.
The cup was warm in his hand and reminded him of the feel of Hood’s fingers on his face. It wasn’t the same kind of warmth and he found himself missing the touch even though it had only happened once.
Tim nursed his cup of coffee, sipping slowly as the seconds ticked by and morning continued to approach.
A thump sounded outside and Tim jolted, looking through the windows to find a familiar figure hunched over, hand bracing himself against the window. Tim fumbled with his cup, barely managing to set it on the counter without spilling it. He hurried through the door and stared at Hood. He could hear his ragged breathing through the helmet and his other hand was pressed against his side.
“Hood?” Tim asked, voice shaking a little.
“Fuck,” he cursed. “I didn’t even realize this was where I was headed.”
“What happened? You’re hurt,” he said, taking a step closer.
“Just a lucky hit. Nothing to worry about.”
“Here,” Tim said, trying to pull the hand that was braced against the window around his shoulders. “Let me help you.”
He shook his head. “No. I’ll be fine, I just need to get to my safehouse.”
“You can’t go anywhere in that kind of condition,” Tim shot back.
“Yeah, and I’m pretty sure that bringing a bleeding man into a coffee shop isn’t sanitary.”
“We have a bathroom,” Tim chastised, bracing the door open with his foot as he tugged him forward. He stumbled and allowed himself to be led inside. “We can get you cleaned up in there and then I can bleach everything.”
“You’re a persistent little shit, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Shut it,” he said, pulling Hood through the door to the single stall bathroom. He pushed him against the edge of the counter and Red Hood started shucking his jacket and the guns strapped to his chest.
Tim grabbed a handful of paper towels. Hood held up a hand before he could press them to his side and unlatched the body armor from his torso. He pulled up the edge of the shirt he had on underneath, letting Tim see the injury for the first time. He wet the paper towels to make it less abrasive and pressed it against the cut.
Hood hissed and gripped the edges of the sink. Now that the initial pooling of blood was coming away, Tim could see that it wasn’t that deep and had caused more pain than anything else because of where it was placed.
“Looks shallow,” Tim murmured.
“Good,” Hood said. “I wouldn’t want you to feel obligated to give stitches.”
“If you needed stitches, you would’ve gone to the hospital.”
Hood laughed, the helmet distorting the sound under the harsh fluorescent lights of the bathroom. The sound bounced off the tiled walls, nearly forcing a shiver up Tim’s spine.
“The hospital isn’t an option when you’re a vigilante.”
Tim pursed his lips and didn’t argue. He slowly focused on cleaning the blood away until it had staunched and left a harsh red cut across the skin.
“I don’t have anything to put on it so you’re going to have to take care of that,” Tim said, tossing the last of the paper towels into the trash. He puled the bag from the trash can and tied off the ends before washing his hands in the sink.
“I’ve got plenty of stuff back home,” Hood said, pulling his shirt back down. He carefully placed the body armor over his chest and latched the pieces again. “Thanks, Tim. I owe you one.”
Tim shrugged. “Consider it payback for what you did the other night.”
He blinked when the light shut off, the last remaining spots of light dancing in his vision.
“Hood?” he asked.
Hands framed his face and turned him to face something he couldn’t see. Soft lips pressed to his and Tim’s eyes slide shut.
“Thank you, Tim,” Hood said, voice soft in the space between them when they parted.
Tim let out a breath and reached up, hands searching in the darkness until he found his head and tangled his fingers in his hair. He pulled him back down and crashed their lips together. The first kiss was awkward, their lips missing each other in the darkness until they rearranged for a proper kiss.
Hood wrapped his arms around him and pulled him against his chest, belatedly hissing when it pulled at the wound on his side.
“Sorry,” Tim said.
“My fault,” he said, sucking a breath through his teeth. “I should get going and get this treated now that it’s been cleaned up, but I’ll see you later?”
Tim nodded before he realized he couldn’t be seen in the darkness. “Yeah. See you later…”
Hood pulled away and it was a couple of seconds before the lights turned back on. His helmet was back on and Tim winced at the brightness before he pushed out of the bathroom, leaving Tim behind.
Tim turned to the mirror to check he didn’t have any blood covering him and found his uniform and clothes clean. He grabbed the trash bag and slipped from the bathroom, shuffling into the back room to toss it into the larger trash bin that would be taken out back to the dumpster when the morning shift came in.
Tim pulled the sleeves of his hoodie down over his hands. He had a book under his arm and he was wanting to head up to the roof of his building now that he had some time off from work. Normally he wasn’t the type of person who just sat on the top of his apartment building to read a book, but he was hoping that Red Hood would decide to stop by since he had the uncanny ability of pretty much always knowing where he was going to be.
He sighed and pushed his window open, making sure the snack he was bringing with him was still tucked safely away in the pouch of his hoodie. He shut his window behind him and climbed up the metal stairs. They rang out softly beneath his feet as he hurried up them.
There was a breeze blowing over the rooftops and it ruffled his hair lightly. If this was going to become a thing he did often, he’d have to bring a chair up with him so he wouldn’t have to sit on the unforgiving concrete ledge of the rooftop.
Tim managed to sit cross-legged on the edge and opened his book, fiddling with the pages before he convinced himself to start reading. He kept getting distracted by the buildings and lights around him, curious as to what the other people of Gotham were up to this late at night. He sighed and looked down at the words, making it through one or two sentences before his mind started to wander again.
He huffed and let the cover of his book fall shut, setting it next to his hip.
“Need something more interesting to read?”
Tim smiled at the sound of Hood’s voice. “Let’s just say I’m not much of a book person. It takes a lot to capture my attention.”
He looked over his shoulder and found Red Hood standing behind him, hands shoved into the pockets of his leather jacket. And helmet obscuring the soft lips that Tim had been obsessed over for weeks.
“Oh?” he asked, stepping closer. “And what’s captured your attention lately?”
Tim hummed. “I dunno if I should tell you. You might use that information against me.”
He chuckled. “Aw Timmy you can trust me. I’m the hero, not the villain.”
Tim huffed a laugh and turned to face the city again. Red Hood stepped up behind him and Tim could feel his body heat. The contrast made him shiver even through he was already wearing his favorite hoodie. He wrapped his arms around Tim from behind and Tim leaned back against him, seeking more of his warmth.
“I’m surprised you found me,” Tim murmured. “Actually…no I’m not.”
Red Hood tightened his grip around him. “I’ll always find you.”
Tim ducked his head. “Really?” he asked.
“Really,” he said.
Tim squirmed in his hold until he could turn around and face Hood. His grip around him left him reluctantly and his hands hovered around his shoulders now that his back was to the drop to the sidewalk so many stories below.
Tim smiled up at him. “Sorry I couldn’t be around to give you your nightly coffee,” he said.
He shrugged. “I think it can be forgiven. This little meeting is a lot better than what we could get in the coffee shop. I can monopolize your time without feeling guilty.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “So now you’re going to monopolize my time? Do I get anything out of this?”
“I think I can offer something,” he said.
Tim watched as he reached up for his helmet. It sent Tim’s heart hammering through his chest and he couldn’t help but wonder if this was going to be the moment when he was going to see his face for the first time. Hood’s process of disabling the latches on the helmet was an eternity and Tim wasn’t even sure if he was breathing.
When the helmet came free, disappointment curled in Tim’s stomach. Even underneath the helmet, Hood had a mask covering his eyes.
“Don’t look so disappointed,” Hood said, rubbing his gloved thumb over Tim’s chin.
He honestly couldn’t be when he got a closer look at Hood’s features. He had a strong jawline and his hair was long except for the white streak that sprouted from the center of his forehead.
“Can’t help it, I thought I was finally going to see your eyes,” Tim mused with a sigh.
“Maybe one day,” Hood said.
He leaned down and Tim’s lips tingled before Hood’s even pressed against his. His lips were soft and Tim leaned into him, his arms wrapped around his back to pull him close. Tim’s fingers snaked into his hair and held tightly to the strands.
Hood was firm against him and he tasted a little like mint, almost as though he’d had an Altoid on his way over. Tim didn’t even notice the burning in his lungs until Hood pulled away and sucked in deep breaths.
“Fuck, you’re gonna end up killing me with those kisses, baby,” Hood said.
Tim froze at the name, swallowing harshly around a breath of air. He coughed, trying to clear the spit from his throat.
“Sorry,” Hood said, patting him on the back. “Too much? You okay?”
“Fine,” Tim said around a cough.
“I guess that’s kind of weird that I called you that. Sorry, I’ll stop,” Hood said, rubbing his end up and down his spine.
Tim waved his hands. “No, no, just caught me off guard is all. It’s fine, really,” he explained, feeling his cheeks warm at the admission.
Hood ducked his head and pressed another kiss to Tim’s lips that was anything but short.
“I should be getting back to patrol, sadly,” he sighed, pulling away again.
“I think your breaks are starting to get longer and longer,” Tim mused, pushing Hood’s hair back from his forehead.
Hood grinned. “Good thing I’m not getting paid or I’d be getting fired for slacking on the job.”
“Go on,” Tim said, pushing him away. “You need to get back to the streets and help the people who actually need it.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. He stepped back up to Tim and stole one more kiss before stepping back and sticking his helmet back on his head. He sighed again as he turned to leave, shoulders sagging. “I’m going to be thinking about those kisses for the rest of the night.”
“Well,” Tim said, clearing his throat. “You know where to find them.”
Hood chuckled. “That I do.”
Tim waved him off as he ran to the other side of the building and jumped from the rooftop, swinging to the next building. Tim bit his lip as he watched him go, a small giggle slipping out.
He was giddy. Happy. And just like Hood, he could stay on the roof with him all night. He turned back around and faced the other buildings of Gotham, giving himself a moment to soak it all in and enjoy the night before the next day would come.
The bell above the coffee shop door jingled and Tim couldn’t help the smile that pulled at his lips. He grinned and turned, greeting dying on his lips at the sight of a different vigilante standing inside the door.
“Can I help you?” Tim asked, trying not to let his smile dim too much.
The man returned his smile and strode over to the counter. The blue across his chest and the stripes down his arms were familiar and even though Tim had only seen the design a few times, he recognized him as Nightwing.
He crossed his arms and leaned against the counter in front of Tim and he couldn’t help but feel as though he was being scrutinized by the vigilante in front of him.
Tim gaped. “I-um-what?” he asked.
Nightwing pushed himself up so he was standing. He placed on hand on his hip and grinned. “You’re cute. I can see why Mr. Stick Up His Ass likes you so much.”
“Mr…” Tim started. “Wait, do you mean, Red Hood?” he asked.
“The one and only,” he replied. “And I’m glad to know that you knew exactly who I was talking about. Big Red’s going to get a kick out of that.”
“Okay….then why are you here exactly?” Tim asked.
“Because…I wanted to see what had the little birdie so enamored. And see if the coffee here was just as good as he seems to believe.”
“Well, I can pour you a cup?” Tim said, uncertainly.
“You’re too cute.”
Tim flushed and grabbed their small cup and turned to one of the ready pots. He filled it to the brim and snapped a lid on it before passing it over to Nightwing. He gripped the cup in his spandex-clad hand and inhaled before pressing the cup to his lips and taking a long drink.
“Mmm,” he hummed. “That is good. I might have to come here more often.”
“Well, we wouldn’t mind the business,” Tim hedged. “Did you need anything else? Maybe another for the road or a drink carrier?”
Nightwing laughed and raised his cup. “No, I think this will be enough for me. Plus, I’m not sure how well the drink carrier is going to hold up when I swing from building to building.” He reached into one of the pouches on his utility belt and pulled out a five dollar bill. “Here,” he said, sliding it over the counter. “Go ahead and keep the change.”
“Thanks…” Tim said, staring down at it. He took the bill and put in the order on the register, slipping it inside when the tray popped open.
The bell rang again and Tim looked up, finding Hood frozen in the doorway.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he growled.
“Aw, if it isn’t the little lovebird himself,” Nightwing crooned.
“You didn’t answer my question,” he shot back, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Don’t have a fit,” he sighed, walking towards the door. “I just came to introduce myself to your little boyfriend over there and to get a drink.” He patted Hood on the shoulder before he slipped out the door and into the night.
Red Hood grumbled something under his breath as he walked over to the counter. “He didn’t say anything weird to you, did he?” he asked.
Tim shook his head. “No, but he seemed like a weird guy so I don’t know what weird for him would be.”
Hood chuckled and Tim could see some of the tension he’d been holding disappear. He wondered what their connection had to be if he had that much of an affect on him.
He sighed. “Look…now that he’s come around, don’t be surprised if…others do, too.”
“Others?” Tim asked, cocking his head to the side.
“Some of the other vigilantes. We’re a pretty close group so when there’s the chance that someone new or an outsider could come in, they can get kind of wary and will want to check it out. Happens all the time when new vigilantes come onto the scene.”
“Oh…” Tim said.
“Hey,” he murmured and reached out, tapping Tim’s chin with the tip of his finger. “It’s not a bad thing, I promise. More like an annoyance if you know what I mean.”
“I’m not sure how much an annoyance an increase in business might be. It’ll keep me from getting bored when you’re not stopping by in the middle of the night for your routine pick-me-up.” Tim smiled. “So, what’ll it be tonight?” he asked.
“You. Your lips. On mine.”
Tim bit his lip and flushed. “I think that can be arranged,” he breathed.
Hood reached up for his helmet and undid the latches. The mask he’d worn the other night was still covering his eyes and he was smiling, grin relaxed and crooked in a way that was quickly becoming familiar to Tim. He pulled off one of his gloves and cradled the side of Tim’s face, thumb rubbing against the soft skin before he brought their lips together.
Thoughts of Nightwing and the other vigilantes flew from his mind as he was consumed by soft lips and gentle warmth from the man in front of him.
Tim sighed, staring at the string of text messages on his phone. His friends were planning to go to the beach the next day and had invited him along, but his string of shifts in a row didn’t exactly allow for him to take the trip and still be competent. There were only so many days in a row he could go without sleep and he was pushing his limit. The last thing he needed was to pass out on the beach and get sunburned because he hadn’t woken up in time to apply more sunscreen.
He sighed again and buried his head in his hands, letting his phone fall back onto the counter with a clatter. The door jingled.
“How can I help you?” he asked as he sluggishly raised his head.
“What’s got you down?” Red Hood asked as he crossed the floor over to him.
Tim propped his hand on his cheek, not caring that he was openly sulking and picked up his phone. “My friends are planning to go to the beach tomorrow and I can’t go because of my shifts here.”
“You have a night off coming up soon, though right?” he asked.
Tim shrugged. “Yeah, but not for a couple more days and I’m already at my limit of how long I can go without sleeping more than a couple hours at a time. I’d rather not have some creep getting up close to me if I end up falling asleep at the beach.”
Red Hood shook his head. “That’s not exactly why I was asking.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Just…on your night off, be waiting on your roof. Wear something comfortable. Shorts, preferably.”
“Um…okay?” he said. “Sounds a little weird.”
“Don’t worry too much about it. It’ll be fine I promise.”
“That’s not much of a confidence booster,” Tim sighed, shoving his phone back into his pocket. “Anyway, the usual?”
“Sure, as long as you give me a little extra sugar, too.”
Tim laughed and grabbed one of the smaller cups. “Don’t I always?”
Tim felt awkward standing on his rooftop. He had a light tee on and a pair of cargo shorts. Red Hood had dropped by during his shift the night before and had reminded him of their plans, which Tim hadn’t forgotten at all. Now, he was just hoping Red Hood would actually show up and it wouldn’t turn into some weird thing since he didn’t exactly know where he was going to be taken.
“Good, you’re here.”
Tim whirled around, his heart jumping in his chest. “Geez, you could give me some warning, next time,” he said, chastising Hood.
“But that would ruin all of my fun,” he said, walking over to him.
“Anyway, what’s the plan for tonight?” Tim asked.
“You’ll see,” Red Hood says. “But we have to get there first.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Tim asked. “Do I need to call a cab?”
“Nope,” Red Hood said, wrapping an arm around Tim’s waist. He pulled him against his side and Tim felt his face heat up. “We’re going to grapple there,” he said, pulling something from one of his pockets.
“Grapple?” Tim asked, feeling his stomach sink.
“Yup, hold on tight. I don’t want to drop you.” He lifted Tim and he instinctively wrapped his legs around Hood’s waist. He clamped his arms around Hood’s shoulders and felt his body move underneath him as he ran towards the edge.
Tim swallowed as they moved into a free fall. He closed his eyes, sure this was going to be how he was going to die. Until the pull of gravity stopped and they were tugged up again. He let out a breath and opened his eyes, watching the buildings and streets move behind Hood.
A slightly hysterical giggle slipped out as they moved through the air. He was so mesmerized by the city and the view from above he didn’t even notice as they reached the outskirts of the city and landed at the edge of a parking lot.
“You okay there, baby?” Hood asked as he let him down.
Tim was sure his cheeks were flushed and he felt more than a little breathless. He nodded.
He froze when he turned, finally registering the sound of gently rolling waves. “The beach?” he asked. “You brought me to the beach?”
The ocean was black, only a few of the city lights managing to reflect off its surface since the moon and stars were hidden by the relentless clouds and smog of Gotham.
Hood placed a hand on his back. “You said you wanted to go and I thought you shouldn’t have to miss out. And this way you can avoid all of the annoying crowds that come with the beach.”
Tim’s chest tightened. “Thank you, I…thank you.” He stared out at the dark sand and waves and kicked off his shoes, hopping from one foot to the other to pull off his socks. “Come on,” he said, grabbing Hood’s hand.
He pulled him across the pavement and to the sand. It was cold under his feet, the warmth from the sun already dissipated. He didn’t stop until he reached the edge of the ocean and the cold water washed over his feet.
Tim breathed in the smell of salt and squeezed Hood’s hand.
Hood pulled his hand from Tim’s and reached up for his helmet. He quickly undid the latches and dropped his helmet onto the sand. He pulled off his gloves and wrapped an arm around Tim’s waist, pulling him against his chest. He cradled Tim’s cheek and pressed their lips together.
Tim wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders trying to press him as close as possible.
“Tim,” he mumbled when they finally broke apart. Tim sucked in a breath. “Fuck, Tim. I want to take you out.”
“I-what?” Tim asked, furrowing his brow.
“I want to take you out. On an actual date.”
Tim’s eyes flew open and his breath caught in his throat. He couldn’t see the color in the low light, but for the first time Tim was staring into Hood’s eyes.
“Tim,” he said, letting out a breath. “My name’s Jason. And I’d…like to go out with you.”
“Jason…” Tim breathed. He surged forward and kissed him again, hands tangling into his hair.
“So is that a yes?” Jason asked when they separated.
Tim laughed. “Yes.”
Red Hood-Jason-grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he lifted Tim from his feet and spun him around.
Tim paced his living room anxiously. He felt a little ridiculous since he’d already spent so much time with Jason and had swapped spit more than once. A date shouldn’t seem so nerve-wracking compared to all of that.
But it was. Because this wasn’t some fooling around with Red Hood where things might not progress any farther than a few kisses. This was a date with Jason. The person behind the vigilante who had so many other aspects to him.
“Fuck,” he said and ran a hand through his hair.
He jumped when a knock sounded on his apartment door.
He let out a breath and placed a hand over his racing heart, crossing the room to answer the door. He pulled it open and found Jason standing there, hands in his pockets and a small smile on his face.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” Tim said, unable to stop his own lips from pulling into a smile. “I’m surprised you didn’t come through the window.”
Jason shrugged. “I thought this would be better for today. Keep things as normal as possible.”
Tim laughed and stepped out into the hallway, locking his door behind him. “I’m not sure if there’s anything normal about our relationship.”
“You might be right about that.”
They hit the pavement and Tim felt a little awkward with his arms swinging at his sides. He thought about shoving them in his pockets like Jason had, but something caught his hand mid-swing. He looked down and found Jason’s fingers tangled with his own. Tim ducked his head to hide a pleased smile.
“So…where are we going?” Tim asked.
“The park,” Jason said. “There’s a food truck festival going on.”
Tim grinned up at him. “Great.”
Jason bit his lip, eyes cutting away from Tim as they turned the corner. They could see the park up ahead with rows of food trucks parked on the pavement and on the grass. There was music playing and groups of people milling around.
A group of small kids darted around them, carrying bundles of cotton candy or melting ice cream cones.
“What’s that?” Tim asked, pointing to a large square of white that was being set up in the middle of the park.
“I think they’re showing a movie tonight, too,” Jason said.
“We should stay and watch it,” Tim said. “Oh, wait…unless you have work tonight, I guess?”
Jason looked down at him and smiled. “One night off won’t hurt,” he said, squeezing Tim’s hand. “You hungry?”
“Duh,” he said. “The smell of all this food is making my mouth water.”
“Do you like fries?”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “I feel like this is a trick question.”
“It’s not, come on,” he said, pulling Tim through the crowds and between the trucks.
Jason’s head swiveled back and forth, looking for something. He grinned and hurried to close the space between him and a bright yellow truck, pulling Tim behind him.
“This,” he said, waving at the truck, “is arguably the best food truck in Gotham.”
Tim looked over the menu and pictures that showed bowls of fries covered in cheese and chili or even bacon bits and beans.
“I think I’ll be the judge of that,” Tim said, bumping his shoulder against Jason’s.
“Let me order for you?” Jason asked, stepping in front of him and walking backwards to the window.
“Do your worst,” Tim said with a grin.
Jason chuckled and spun around, facing the worker who smiled at them through the open window. “Can I get two orders of swiss chili fries?”
The woman nodded. “Sure thing. That will be $9. 25.”
He nodded, pulling his hand free from Tim’s to pull the bill out of his wallet. He passed over a single bill. “Keep the change.”
She smiled. “Thank you. Your order will be ready shortly.”
They stepped to the side and Jason took hold of Tim’s hand again, running his thumb over the back of Tim’s hand.
The window of the truck slid open again and the same woman stuck her head out, holding their servings of fries. Jason and Tim separated, taking hold of the loaded plate of fries, chili, and a heaping amount of cheese on top.
Tim grabbed the fork that was wedged underneath the fries and pulled it out, spearing a few. Jason watched him as he awkwardly shoved them into his mouth.
“Well?” Jason asked.
Tim hummed and nodded, smiling around a mouthful of food. “It’s good,” he mumbled. “It’s really good.”
Jason grinned and took a bite of his own food, eyes sliding shut at the taste.
They started walking aimlessly, eating food and looking at what the other food trucks sold. Tim found one or two that sold desserts he was interested in trying later. They found a tree and sat cross-legged in front of each other in the shade.
There was a plate of funnel cake balanced on Jason and Tim’s thighs where they were next to each other. The sun had long gone down and the screen that was being set up in the afternoon was lit up with the film they’d started playing.
Jason’s arm was around Tim’s shoulders and he was leaning into his side, feeling happy and content and like they’d been doing this thing for so much longer.
The air had a slight chill to it and a breeze blew over his head. Tim shivered a little and Jason pulled him closer. Tim bit his lip and ducked his head, pulling a small piece of funnel cake from the plate to pop in his mouth. He licked the powdered sugar from the tips of his fingers.
He tilted his head back and looked at Jason. It took a minute before he turned and met Tim’s eyes. Tim smiled and cradled his cheek in his hand, guiding him down to bring their lips together.
Jason smiled into the kiss and pulled him more firmly against his side. Somehow, it was so much better than the kisses they’d already shared.
Tim smiled, not even paying attention to what was playing on the t.v. in his apartment. Jason’s arms were wrapped around him and they were laying on his couch, his head pillowed on Jason’s chest.
After their first date, they’d spent more time with each other away from Tim’s work and Jason’s night job. Even if they didn’t go out often, Tim was more than happy to spend a night in on his couch with Jason at his side.
The shot of the movie they were watching changed, panning out from a palm tree and waves crashing on a beach. Tim sighed.
“I could use a vacation in a place like that,” he muttered.
“So let’s go,” Jason mumbled into his hair as he pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
Tim raised an eyebrow and sat up, bracing an arm against Jason’s chest so he could look him in the eye.
“What?” Jason asked.
“What do you mean, let’s go?” he asked.
“I mean, let’s go. You want to go on a vacation so let’s go on vacation. Let’s go to the beach. I could probably steal one of Batman’s planes and we could go to a private island,” he said with a smirk.
“We can’t just go on a vacation,” Tim said.
“Why not? You want to go.”
“Yeah, but I have work and you have work. We can’t just up and leave whenever we want. My boss would kill me.”
Jason sighed. “You obviously want to go, though.”
Tim shrugged and laid his head back down on Jason’s chest. “I know I want to go, but we can’t. Maybe some other time.”
Jason tightened his grip around him and looked back at the movie they were watching.
Tim was humming along to the music playing over the speakers and wiping down the counters when the door was pushed open behind him. He turned with a smile, his greeting dying on his lips when he looked over the three masked men holding guns.
He swallowed. “Can I…can I help you?” he asked.
The one in front leveled the barrel of his gun at Tim. “You’re coming with us.”
“What?” he asked, gripping the towel tighter in his hands.
“You deaf?” the one behind the leader asked. “He said, you’re coming with us.”
“Don’t think about struggling,” the leader continued. “Boss said we can mess you up as much as we like as long as it’s not fatal.”
Tim set the towel down, balling his hands into fists to hide the shaking. As scared as he was, he wasn’t going to let it show.
“Let’s go,” the second one who’d spoken snapped, stalking over to him. He grabbed Tim by the collar and pulled him out from behind the counter.
The one who hadn’t said anything, stepped forward. He grabbed Tim’s wrists and looped rope around them, tying it off sharply. A sack was thrown over his head and Tim sucked in a harsh breath.
Tim stumbled when he was pushed forward and he tried to keep his breathing under control. He didn’t need to start hyperventilating or have a panic attack when he was surrounded by men with guns and couldn’t see anything. The air was hot and stuffy under the sack. He fought to relax and breath, but his anxiety wasn’t abated when he was thrown into the back of a van.
He felt it move underneath him and sat up, drawing his knees to his chest. Wherever he was going, he hoped Jason would still be able to find him.
After what felt like forever, and many falls because of how sharply the driver was taking the turns, they finally came to a stop. Tim looked around even though he couldn’t see anything from underneath the sack.
Rough hands pulled him from the back of the van. They dragged him by his shirt collar and he fought to keep up with their quick strides. Metal squeaked and he was shoved through a door, the floor changing underneath his feet and nearly making him trip again.
He was turned and pulled backwards, landing harshly in a metal chair. The sack was pulled from his head and Tim looked around. A larger group of men with guns stood around him and a man wearing a cheap, gaudy suit and smoking a cigar stood in front of him.
“So this is the pretty boy Red Hood has his mitts all over,” he said in a smoke roughened voice as he knocked the ashes from the end of his cigar. “Those idiots better be right about him caring about you as much as he does. I’d hate to splatter your brains all over the place because he couldn’t be bothered to make an appearance.”
Tim stared at him, his heart beating quickly in his chest. This was different from the time he’d been robbed at gunpoint. Tim could tell that killing wasn’t a problem for this guy and it wouldn’t matter what he said if Jason didn’t show up.
“You’re quiet,” he continued. “I like that. You won’t get on my nerves.” He turned to face the front entrance. “Red Hood better not keep me waiting long.”
Tim kept his eyes forward as the minutes ticked by. He didn’t want to look at the men surrounding him. They shifted on their feet often and Tim was worried if he looked the wrong way, they were bored enough to start hurting him. He tracked the amount of time that passed by how much the boss smoked of the cigar. It was almost down to the bud and there wasn’t any sign that Jason was nearby.
“Well,” the boss said, flicking his cigar to the floor. “I guess he’s not gonna show. It’s a-”
The door clanged open and Tim swallowed, heart jumping into his throat. A broad figure stood there before he started forward. The men around Tim pointed their weapons at him and the boss started to chuckle, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
“Looks like you finally showed up. I thought you weren’t gonna make it. Was worried my boys were wrong about your little toy.”
“He’s not my toy,” Jason growled. Tim swallowed. He’d never heard so much anger in his voice before. “But that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to touch him.” He stopped a few feet from the boss, hands clenched at his sides. “Are you hurt, Tim?”
“N-no,” he said. He swallowed his voice sounding shaky and small to his own ears. “But this isn’t what I meant by wanting an exotic vacation.”
Jason chuckled. “If you can still make jokes like that then you’re going to be just fine. Maybe next time you’ll listen when I say I want to take you away. Don’t worry, I’ll have you out of here in five minutes.”
The boss growled. “Think again, you’re not getting out of here ali-oof!”
Tim blinked. Jason had moved without anyone noticing and punched the boss, sending him sprawling to the floor. Most of the gunmen stared before they realized they were holding weapons in their hands. By the time they started shooting, Jason had his own guns out and shot the first two in the legs.
He weaved and dodged as pained screams filled the air. Tim watched, enraptured as the men rushed past him, leaving him mostly unguarded. He looked around, hoping to escape their notice since he hadn’t been tied to the chair.
He stood, ready to run, when someone grabbed the back of his shirt. He choked when he was pulled backwards and felt cold metal press to the side of his head.
“Stop right there, Hood.”
The boss had recovered and slipped around the rest of the group without Jason noticing. Jason shot the man he was grappling with in the leg before shoving him to the floor by the throat.
“One more step and your pretty boy gets it,” he hissed.
“Don’t you dare,” Jason hissed, voice filled with wrath and anger. He raised his gun and pointed it at the boss. Tim squeezed his eyes shut, worried the next shot was going to go straight into his brain. “Open your eyes, Tim,” Jason said, gently.
He blinked reluctantly and looked at Jason’s helmet, wishing he could see his eyes. The eyes he’d gotten so familiar with.
“Duck,” Jason said. A shot rang through the air and Tim dropped his weight without thinking. Another shot exploded over his head and he twisted back to find the barrel that had been pressed against his head had discharged. The boss’s eyes were wide. He staggered back and looked down, pressing a hand to his chest. It came away bloody and he looked up at Jason before falling to the ground.
“Come on,” Jason murmured as he walked over to Tim. He pulled Tim to his feet and Tim threw his arms over Jason’s head since his wrists were still tied. He squeezed tightly as his whole body started to shake. “Let’s get you home,” Jason murmured.
Tim jolted when Jason grappled them to the roof of the warehouse he’d been taken to.
“Wait, the coffee shop!”
“You can’t be serious,” Jason said.
“I can’t just leave it. It’s been sitting there for who knows how long, the door open and the lights on. What if someone goes in and trashes the place? Or steals the register? My boss is going to kill me.”
The shop was more of a distraction then anything. It was taking his mind off what had just happened and how close he’d come to actually dying. He was worried if he didn’t have something to hold his attention, he was going to end up falling apart. And he really didn’t need that to happen. He didn’t want Jason to see him like that.
Jason groaned. “Fine. We can go check on the coffee shop, but I want you to go in and lock up and then I’m going to take you home.”
He ran across the building, carrying Tim’s weight easily.
“No Jason. I can’t just leave all the morning customers without their coffee before the next shift gets there.”
Jason grumbled something under his breath, but didn’t keep arguing. They made quick progress across the buildings, Tim focusing on the landscape around them to keep his mind blank. He didn’t want to think. He just wanted to get back to work and focus on making coffee and nothing else.
They landed on the sidewalk in front of the shop. The lights were still on, shining onto the sidewalk, but Tim frowned when he saw someone behind the counter. He hurried through the door, worried someone was trying to rob the place. Jason followed after him.
The man behind the counter looked up at the sound of the bell and Tim froze when he saw it was his boss.
“Tim!” he said, rushing over to him. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Tim said, “but what are you doing here?”
“I got a call form the police saying someone had reported your kidnapping. They were apparently going to try and find you, but I guess Red Hood got to you first,” he said with a nod towards Jason. “I came in to make sure the shop was okay. Nothing’s been taken if that’s what you’re worried about. Everything’s fine.”
“Oh, good,” Tim said, relaxing. “Do you need any help? Is there anything I can do?”
He shook his head. “No, no, I’ve got everything covered here. You should get home and take the rest of the night off. Get some rest, I’m sure this evening was very stressful for you.”
“No, Tim. Go home.”
“Come on,” Jason said, resting a hand on his shoulder. He turned Tim to the door and walked him out. “Let’s get you home,” he said wrapping an arm around Tim’s waist.
Tim nodded, not looking up at him as he wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders. His stomach soured and he swallowed. He tried to distract himself by watching the buildings pass by, but was failing incredibly.
His mind kept going to the seconds in the warehouse before Jason shot the mob or gang boss or whatever he was. How that bullet that had discharged over his head could’ve gone straight into his brain.
And then there was the fact the members of the gang had known about him and known how close he was to Jason. Someone else could come after him. Someone stronger. Someone who could end him.
“Tim? Hey Tim?”
Tim jolted, Jason’s voice breaking through his thoughts as Jason’s hand flattened against his back.
“You okay? We’re back at your place,” Jason continued.
“Oh,” he said, letting his legs fall from Jason’s waist so he could stand on his feet.
“Hey,” Jason said, catching his chin. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
Tim shrugged. “Yeah…”
“Come on,” Jason said, turning him towards the fire escape. “Let’s get you inside.”
Jason walked him down the steps to his floor. He stooped and unlatched the window, pushing it open. Jason climbed in first before helping Tim inside. He latched the window behind them and took Tim’s hand, walking him into his bedroom.
“You should get changed,” Jason said, pulling off his helmet. He set it on the dresser and pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a tee, placing them in his hands. “I’m going to get changed out of my uniform.” He grabbed the tee and boxers he’d left the last time he’d stayed over and shut himself in the bathroom.
Tim stared at the closed door before he set the clothes on his bed. His hands were sluggish as he pulled the knot of his apron free. He let it fall to the floor and tugged his black polo over the head. He replaced it with the much softer and worn in shirt Jason had given him. He kicked off his shoes and shoved his jeans down around his ankles, stepping into the sweats.
The bathroom door opened behind him as he tied off the strings of his pants.
“Come on, into bed you go,” Jason said, coming up behind him. He placed a hand on his lower back and dropped a kiss onto the top of his head. Jason took Tim’s hand and walked him over to the bed. He pulled the sheets back and climbed in first, tugging Tim down by his hand.
Tim practically collapsed onto the mattress, curling onto his side. Jason covered him with the blanket and kept his hand clasped tightly in his. He brushed Tim’s hair out of his eyes and rubbed his thumb over his cheek.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jason asked.
Tim squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his grip on Jason’s hand.
Jason wrapped an arm around his back and pulled him against his chest. Tim pressed a hand against his mouth as he choked on a sob, body shaking as the emotions he’d been fighting back flooded him.
“Shh, shh…It’s okay. You’re safe now,” Jason murmured into his hair. “I’ll always be there to save you, I promise. I won’t let anyone take you away from me.”
Tim grit his teeth as he cried. He gasped for air and sniffled, nose running.
Jason shushed him gently, cupping his cheek. He wiped away his tears with his thumb.
“I-I could’ve…” Tim gasped out between sobs. “I could’ve died if you….”
“I know, I know,” Jason said. “But I made it. And I’ll always come for you, I promise.”
Tim buried his head in Jason’s chest as sobs continued to wrack his body. Jason stayed there, offering reassurances and rubbing his back as he slowly calmed.
Once his sobs and tears had emptied until he was sniffling and hiccuping every now and then, Tim relaxed against Jason. He felt drained and empty and wanted nothing more than to forget what had happened and fall into a dreamless sleep where he could escape the night he’d just lived for several hours.
“Sleep, Tim,” Jason murmured. “You need it. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
Tim nodded sluggishly. Jason ducked his head and gave Tim a proper kiss.
Tim’s head fell onto Jason’s chest and his eyes slid shut, sleep taking him easily.
Tim’s eyes felt glued shut when he woke up. He rubbed at them, fighting the puffy skin. He took notice of the fingers rubbing into his back and felt a kiss press to his head.
He leaned back and found Jason there, smiling at him. “Looks like you’re finally awake.”
“What time is it?” Tim groaned.
“What?!” he asked, jolting up in bed.
“Hey, hey,” Jason said, sitting up and catching his wrists in his hands. “You were exhausted last night. You needed the sleep.”
Memories of the night before flooded back to Tim. He’d been able to forget while he slept, but now he was reminded of how close he’d come to dying. He sagged forward against Jason, head resting on his shoulder.
Jason’s arms wrapped around him, hands sliding up and down his back. “You’re okay, you’re safe,” he murmured into Tim’s hair. “I told you I wasn’t going to let anything happen to you and I mean it.”
Tim curled his hands into Jason’s shirt, clutching it like a lifeline. Jason pulled him back down in bed so they were laying together, Tim pressed against his chest.
“Go back to sleep, Tim. Rest.”
Tim hiccuped. “Will you…will you walk me to work tonight?”
Jason pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “Of course,” he murmured. “Now sleep.”
Tim nodded and let sleep pull him back under.
“Tim? Hey, Tim?”
Tim groaned as Jason’s voice cut through his dreams.
“Tim, wake up.”
“What is it?” he asked, cracking his eyes open.
“It’s late. You should get up and get ready for work. I’m sure you’ll need to eat before you go.”
Tim rubbed a hand against his eyes and sat up. “What time is it?”
Tim sighed and threw off the covers. Even after sleeping for so long he still felt exhausted.
“You go take a shower and I’ll make something to eat,” Jason said, climbing out of bed.
Tim nodded. “Okay,” he said and shuffled towards the bathroom.
He turned on the water before stripping out of his clothes, movements slow and lethargic. He stepped into the shower and sagged against the wall, letting the water run over him. He sighed and closed his eyes, taking a moment to collect himself and try to wake up before he grabbed the shampoo bottle and poured some into his palm.
Tim showered as quickly as he could, which was much slower than normal. When he stepped out and started to towel off, he could smell the coffee coming from the kitchen.
He wrapped the towel around his waist and slipped back into the bedroom to get dressed. He threw on his work clothes, grabbing the apron he’d accidentally brought home with him and headed towards the kitchen.
Jason smiled at him as he walked in. He set two plates on the table and poured a cup of coffee for Tim. Tim accepted it eagerly, downing half of it without blinking.
They sat down to eat and Tim found he was starting to feel better, more like himself now that he’d showered and was getting something to eat.
His breakfast, if it could be called that so late at night, finished quickly and Jason started to clean the dishes when Tim stopped him.
“Leave it. I can take care of it later.”
“You sure?” Jason asked.
Tim nodded. “Yeah. You cooked so I can do the cleanup. Besides, I need to get to work anyway.”
“Do you want me to walk on the street with you or watch from the rooftops?” Jason frowned and looked out the window. “Actually, it’s still pretty light outside so I might not need to patrol until after you finish up. If you don’t mind me looking like a bit of a slob, then I can walk you like this.”
Tim nodded. “Okay, let’s go.”
Jason followed him out the door and they hit the street. There were a few people on the sidewalk, either headed home or out for the night, Tim wasn’t sure. Jason caught hold of his hand and held it in his as they walked.
“You sure you’re not going to get in trouble for that?” Tim whispered.
Jason shrugged. “I don’t think anyone around here is smart enough to figure it out.”
Tim chuckled and pressed their arms together as they turned the corner for the street his work was on. When they reached the front of the store, Tim frowned. He could see his boss behind the counter standing with someone else.
He pushed through the door with Jason behind him. His boss looked up and smiled at him.
“Tim, you made it. How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I’m good. Feeling better after some sleep.”
“Good, good. I’d like you to met your newest co-worker, Kevin. He’s going to be joining you on the night shifts.”
Tim furrowed his brow. “Is there a reason why? I thought you didn’t like double-staffing the night shift.”
His boss’s smile tightened. “We thought it might be best to have someone around after last night’s incident. I thought it might deter any other people from trying to rob the store or kidnap you.”
Tim swallowed. “I understand,” he said.
His boss nodded. “Now that that’s taken care of, I’m going to head home for the night. I’m trusting you two to keep things under control for tonight,” he called over his shoulder as he slung his suit jacket over his shoulder and walked out the door.
“I’ll see you later, okay?” Jason said, placing a hand on his lower back.
Tim turned and looked up at him. He nodded. “Yeah, I think I’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Jason said and pressed a kiss to the side of his head.
Tim smiled and watched him walk out. He sucked in a breath before turning to face his new coworker.
“Kevin, right?” he asked.
He nodded, leaning his arms on the counter. “And you’re Tim. Heard a lot about what you’ve had to deal with.”
Tim flushed and nodded. “Yeah,” he sighed.
“If I were you though, I’d take more care in the kind of trouble you get in. Wouldn’t want your boyfriend’s heart to get broken if you went missing.”
Tim swallowed, ducking his head as he slipped behind the counter.
Awkward silence filled the air around Tim and Kevin as the hours stretched into the early morning. The lack of customers didn’t help their absence of conversation.
Tim was nursing a cup of coffee when the door was shoved open. He glanced up, thinking it might be Jason returning for his coffee run, but Nightwing stood in the doorway.
“Tim!” he said brightly, bounding over to the counter.
Tim saw Kevin shift out of the corner of his eye.
“Nightwing,” he said with a nod. “What brings you by?“
“I heard you got kidnapped last night.”
Tim shrugged. “Yeah…wasn’t the best night I’ve had, but it all worked out I guess. Red Hood got me out.”
He nodded. “I heard. You know he’s sulking…” he added with a smile.
“Sulking?” Tim frowned. “What does he have to sulk about?”
“He’s worried you’re mad at him for taking so long to find you.”
Tim shook his head. “I’m not mad at him. He made it in the end. If he’s out sulking and avoiding the coffee shop, you should tell him to stop by and I’ll give him a coffee on the house.”
“Hey-” Kevin started and Tim looked at him.
“Don’t worry,” Tim said with a smile. “I’ll pay for it.”
“Ooh, who’s this?” Nightwing asked, scooting down the counter to get a better look at him.
Kevin’s face flushed and he scooted backwards.
“He’s my new coworker. Boss thinks it’ll keep things safer if there’s two of us and he doesn’t want to fire me.”
Nightwing nodded and moved back to Tim. “Well, I’m glad you’re all right.”
“Me too,” Tim whispered. “So, is there anything I can get you? Middle of the night fix?”
He shook his head and moved back towards the door. “Nah,” he said. “I think I’ll go track down Hood and tell him to drop by before it gets too late.”
Tim nodded and watched him go. The bell ringing again in the silence. He felt a little better after the visit from the vigilante. He turned to refill his coffee and jumped when he found Kevin standing next to him, eyes fixed on his face.
“Are you friends with all the vigilantes?” he asked.
“Umm….no?” he said. “Only two of them have stopped by. Red Hood’s more of a regular than Nightwing.”
He nodded and stepped back.
“There aren’t many places that are open all night so this is a great place for them to get a caffeine fix,” he continued, rambling in the silence.
“Oh,” Kevin said.
The bell jingled again and Tim looked up to find Jason inside the door in full Red Hood gear.
Kevin squeaked and moved backwards, no doubt because of the guns strapped to his thighs and waist.
Jason shoved his hands into his pockets. “Hey,” he said.
Tim smiled against the rim of his coffee cup as he took another sip. “Hey. Did you want some coffee?”
He shrugged, shoulders jerky as they moved up to his shoulders. “Nightwing said he stopped by.”
Tim nodded. “He did. Said you were sulking. I thought you were above the habit.”
“Nightwing’s full of shit,” he muttered.
Tim chuckled. He was aware of Kevin’s eyes on him during their conversation.
“Come on,” Tim said, grabbing a clean cup and filling it to the top. He snapped on a lid. “On the house. It’ll keep you warm during patrol.”
“It’s already pretty warm outside, Timmy,” Jason said, wrapping his hand around the cup. “I don’t think I need to stay warm in the middle of summer, but thanks. I’m glad you’re okay.”
Tim smiled up at him, almost wishing he could see Jason’s eyes. “It’s all thanks to you.”
Jason nodded and raised the cup before he turned on his heel and walked out, leaving them alone.
“Holy shit,” Kevin said in the silence. “How the hell did you become best friends with him?”
“A lot of coffee,” Tim muttered even as his eyes shined with mirth.
Tim flinched, nearly dropping his coffee when he turned and found a small figure wearing entirely black standing inside the door to the coffee shop.
“Shit,” he cursed.
“Hm?” Kevin asked, looking up from his book. “Holy hell,” he said, jumping back as the book fell to the floor.
The figure cocked their head, moving closer. Tim fought to stay still as they came up to the counter, peering across at him.
“Can I help you?” he asked, voice small. “Would you like some coffee?”
They shook their head and Tim swallowed. “Okay,” he said.
The door was pushed open, the bell ringing this time as Nightwing strode in. He’d started coming by more regularly for coffee after his first visit. He didn’t show up as often as Jason, but considering the usual number of vigilantes they had coming in, they were the most consistent.
“Orphan,” he said, surprised. “What are you doing here?” he asked and walked over.
They turned and looked up at him and Tim realized how small they really were.
“Were you coming to grab some coffee?” he asked.
They shook their head and started past him toward the door.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything?” Nightwing asked again.
They looked over their shoulder, hand on the door, and shook their head before moving out, the bell ringing this time at their departure.
“Orphan, huh?” Tim said weakly.
Nightwing laughed. “Don’t worry about her,” he said. “If she wanted to hurt you, you wouldn’t have even realized it was her.”
“For some reason, that doesn’t make me feel any better,” he muttered. “Can I get you anything?”
“A small coffee to go would be nice.”
“I’d assume you’d want it to go. None of you vigilantes ever stay and hang out with your drinks.”
Tim grabbed a cup and found that Kevin had calmed down as he had, retrieving his book even as he stayed off to the side and held it close to his chest.
“Can’t sit around too long when crime’s happening on the streets,” Nightwing continued.
Tim snapped the lid onto the paper cup and turned, passing it off to Nightwing who’d dropped a five dollar bill on the counter.
“I suppose not,” he said. “Don’t work too hard and stay safe.” Tim raised a hand as he turned with his coffee and left the shop behind. Tim picked up the bill and felt it between his fingers. He tapped in the order on the register and slid it inside when the drawer popped open.
He turned to face Kevin who was still watching the door. “You gonna be okay?” he asked.
Kevin looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to get used to this,” he muttered.
Tim grinned. “Well, you could always get put back on the day shifts.”
The door opened again and Tim glanced over his shoulder, smiling as Jason walked inside.
“I’ll get his coffee,” Kevin muttered, setting his book on the counter.
“Hey, sugar,” Jason said as he leaned his hip against the counter. Tim couldn’t see the smirk behind his helmet but he knew it was there.
“Morning, Hood. What can I get for you on this decidedly wet night,” he said with a pointed look at the puddles he’d dragged inside from the torrential downpour all the vigilantes were caught in.
“As much coffee as you can give me, sweetheart.”
Tim flushed at the pet name. “So, a large coffee to go then?” he asked, ringing up the total on the register. He saw Kevin grab the biggest cup they had and pick up the half-empty pot.
“Throw in a splash of milk for me, would ya?”
“Sure,” Kevin said. He was becoming more comfortable around all the vigilantes.
Jason slid a ten-dollar bill across the counter and Tim raised an eyebrow. “Keep the change, princess.”
Tim grumbled something under his breath as he slid the bill into the register. His cheeks were really warm now and he fought to keep from reaching up to touch his face.
“Here you go,” Kevin said, sliding the cup across the counter to avoid touching Jason’s hand. As used to the vigilantes as he’d gotten, he was still pretty nervous around them.
“Thanks,” Jason said, picking up the cup before heading back out the door.
“You know,” Kevin started once he was out of the shop. “You should really stop letting him flirt with you. I don’t think your boyfriend would be too happy about that.”
Tim’s lips quirked. “Don’t worry about it. It’s all part of the job and Jason knows that as much as you and I do. We’ve talked about it and as long as he gets me at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
Kevin sighed and shrugged. “All right, man. Whatever you say.”
The bell rung again and Tim looked up, frowning when he saw a kid standing inside the door. Well, not so much a kid, he was still a vigilante, but Robin was the youngest among Gotham’s fighters.
“Can I help you?” Tim asked.
He stalked over to the counter, peering up at Tim who watched him. Between one blink and the next he whipped out his katana and had it pointed in Tim’s face. He stayed still, watching as Kevin flailed back in his periphery.
Tim narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you know it’s rude to point your sword in stranger’s faces?” he asked.
“Tch,” he said and sheathed the sword. “You’re not much of a weakling for a…barista.”
“You tend to learn a thing or two when you live in Gotham and work the graveyard shift,” Tim said, leaning forward over the counter.
He huffed. “I suppose you’ll do,” he said.
Tim rolled his eyes and straightened. “I’m so glad,” he said sarcastically. “Now is there anything I can get you? Or did you just come to swing swords around?”
“Earl grey tea.”
Tim nodded and rung up the total. “That’s $2.50,” he said holding out his hand.
Robin slipped three dollars into his hand, holding out his hand for the change after Tim took them. He dropped two quarters into the palm of his hand and took the outstretched cup from Kevin, sliding it across the counter.
Robin picked it up and turned on his heel, stalking out of the small coffee shop.
“What the hell was that?” Kevin asked.
“Hell if I know,” Tim grumbled.
He was certainly going to have a talk with Jason later about that one.
Tim curled further against Jason’s side, sighing happily as his arms tightened around him and kept him close. Jason pressed a kiss to the top of his head and pulled the blanket more tightly around them.
Jason still had a lingering chill from spending the night in the rain and Tim couldn’t blame him for wanting to be as warm as possible.
“You know,” Tim mumbled as he relaxed in bed. “Kevin’s very concerned about Red Hood showing up to flirt with me at work. He’s worried that you’re not going to be too happy about another man trying to make a move on me.”
Jason chuckled, his breath ruffling Tim’s hair. “If only he knew.”
Tim smiled and nuzzled against his shoulder. “I know. I told him not to worry about it, but he’s a good guy.”
Jason rubbed his hand over Tim’s arm. “I’m glad you get to work with him. Makes me feel better about you working in the middle of the night after last time.”
Tim’s eyes fell shut and he turned into Jason’s shoulder, breathing him in. “Yeah,” he sighed, letting out a breath. “He’s getting better about the vigilantes stopping by now that he knows they’re not going to threaten him with bodily harm over coffee. Speaking of…”
“Hm?” Jason asked, fingers brushing over his bicep.
“I had a new visitor drop in tonight,” he said, tilting his head back to meet Jason’s eyes.
Jason narrowed his eyes. “Who?”
Jason stilled and blinked. “Really?” he scoffed.
Tim nodded. “Yeah.”
He shook his head. “I feel like you’re pulling my leg.”
Tim narrowed his eyes and sat up, the blanket pooling around his waist as he rested back against his heels. Jason’s hands went to his hips and pulled him forward onto his lap so he straddled his thighs.
“Yeah, he came in and pointing a sword at my face, scoffed, said ‘I would do,’ whatever that means, and then bought earl grey tea and demanded his change.”
“Okay, yeah that sounds like him,” Jason grumbled, rubbing his thumbs against Tim’s hips.
“Care to decipher what that was about so I know what the hell’s going on?”
Jason’s eyes glimmered and he smirked. “Baby Bat approves of you.”
“Approves of me?”
“Yeah, looks like he wanted to check to make sure that I wasn’t shacking up with anyone dangerous or threatening and was competent enough to make a worthy partner.”
Tim crossed his arms, pouting at Jason. “If anything, he should be worried that you’re not good enough for me.”
Jason chuckled and sat up, burying his face in Tim’s neck to nuzzle at the soft skin. “Aw, come on, Timmy. Don’t be mad.”
Tim huffed but wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders. Jason pulled himself out of his neck and grinned before pressing a kiss to his lips.
“Can I expect any more surprise visits?” Tim mumbled against his lips. “I’d rather have a heads up before I get more weapons in my personal space.”
Jason hummed. “I can’t think of anyone else who would stop by, except maybe…” he trailed off and shook his head. “Nah, he wouldn’t show up. I’m as surprised as you are that you’ve gotten so many visitors. Nightwing I get because he likes to stick his nose in everyone’s personal lives, but the rest…” He shrugged.
Tim groaned and slumped forward against Jason. He pressed a kiss to the side of his head.
“Come on, it’s late. We should sleep,” Jason murmured, fingers trailing lightly up his spine.
Tim nodded sluggishly and Jason wiggled until he was on his back, Tim pillowed on top of him. He pulled the blanket up over them and they snuggled in, falling asleep as the city started to come alive outside.
“Hey…” Tim said as he filled a cup with sluggish fingers. “You think that when we get all those exhausted college students stumbling in at the odd hours of the night during finals we could get them to drink really weird shit?”
Kevin hummed and flipped to the next page of his magazine from where he was perched on a stool at the other end of the counter. “I dunno. You might have to make those drinks free.”
Tim chuckled. “They down a mystery mix without throwing up and their drink is free.”
“See, now you’re thinking,” Kevin said and Tim spotted the smile at his lips.
Tim took a sip from his cup and idly turned. “Holy shit,” he cursed, jolting back as the cup dropped from his hand at the sight of Batman standing in the doorway. He was barely aware of the coffee splashing on the floor and his shoes.
“What is-fuck,” Kevin cursed to the sound of metal screeching before a heavy thump and crash sounded along with a muffled groan.
Batman stalked over to the counter and Tim shrunk back, coffee sloshing around his feet. He planted his hands on the counter and leaned over it, obviously scrutinizing him even though Tim couldn’t see underneath the lenses of his cowl.
“Are you here for coffee?” Tim asked.
“No,” he said, voice low and gravelly.
“O-okay,” he squeaked. He cleared his throat. “Normally when vigilantes stop by they’re here for coffee. Is there something else I can get you? A breakfast sandwich for the road?”
As Batman continued to watch him, Tim felt himself relax now that he knew he wasn’t in any immediate danger even if he was still unnerved to find Gotham’s most prominent vigilante in his workplace.
“Hey…” he started, curiosity seeping into his tone. “How did you get in without setting off the bell over the door?”
Tim thought he saw the barest twitch at the side of his mouth, but he didn’t answer. Instead he straightened, hands falling from the counter before he turned and walked out.
“What the fuck was that?” Kevin asked once the door swung shut.
Tim looked over and found him sprawled on the floor, the metal stool he’d been sitting on toppled over one of his legs as the magazine rested on top of his head.
“I have no idea,” he said, shaking his head. He pulled out his phone and typed out a message as quickly as he could.
Tim: Jay get your ass to the shop right now
He pocketed his phone and stooped to pick up his empty cup. He tossed it in the trash and stepped around Kevin to grab the mop to clean up the coffee. His shoes squished uncomfortably and he winced at the feeling.
“Okay, I’m about to be super unsanitary so don’t tell anyone,” he muttered, toeing off his shoes and laying his now brown socks next to them. He stepped back around the counter and started to mop up his mess when the door burst open.
Tim tightened his grip on the mop, ready to use it as a weapon if he needed to defend himself and was relieved when Jason was standing there in full Red Hood glory.
“Fucking about time,” Tim muttered, mopping up the coffee.
“What?” he asked, putting his guns away when he realized there was no longer any threat to be had. “And, hey, it only took me a couple of minutes to get here.”
“I’ve had enough of vigilantes for tonight so I think now’s the perfect time to take my break,” Kevin said, standing and straightening the stool even as the magazine was still balanced on his head. He slipped into the back room and gave them some space as Jason walked over to the counter.
“What happened to your shoes?” he asked, looking down at where Tim was mopping up the spilled coffee.
“Over there,” Tim said, waving vaguely. “They’re currently filled with coffee.”
“I didn’t think you were that clumsy.”
“I’m normally not, but it doesn’t exactly help when I turn around and find fucking Batman standing inside the door.”
“Yeah,” Tim said, carrying the mop back to its bucket to wash it out and finish cleaning. “He stared at me for a while before leaving.”
“He seriously came here?” Jason asked, sounding confused and…something else Tim wasn’t sure ot.
“Yeah. Can you tell me why?” Tim asked, slapping the mop on the floor and placing a hand on his hip.
“Ugh this doesn’t make any sense,” Jason groaned. “I gotta go.”
“I gotta go figure this out,” he said, turning towards the door.
“Fine,” Tim sighed, finishing his mopping.
“I’ll be back later,” Jason said, pausing at the door.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tim grumbled.
“I promise,” he said, voice softer.
Tim paused, letting out a sigh that had his shoulders sagging. He glanced over at where Jason was framed in the doorway. “Okay,” he said, finally offering a small smile.
Jason pushed through the door and disappeared into the night. Tim replaced the mop and dragged the stool over to the register. He climbed on and rested his feet on the cool metal rungs as he waited.
Nightwing hadn’t dropped by yet so his visit would probably be next.
“Hey Timmy!” Nightwing said, bursting through the door.
“Hi Nightwing,” he greeted, smiling good naturedly despite his still bare feet.
“Aw and Kevin’s here, too,” he cooed, spotting Tim’s coworker who was still flipping through his magazine.
Tim smirked and glanced at him, finding he’d frozen in place, light blush dusting his cheeks.
Kevin cleared his throat and flipped his magazine shut. “The usual?” he asked.
“You know it, pretty boy,” Nightwing said, propping his chin in the palm of his hand as he leaned over the counter. “So, anything exciting happen tonight?”
“If by exciting you mean we got the shit scared out of us, then yes,” Tim said.
“Why? What happened? Does Red Hood know?” he asked, immediately dropping into detective mode.
“Yeah, Red Hood was here earlier and already got the rundown,” Tim said, waving his hand. “Batman decided to pay us a visit and of course he didn’t set off the bell so it gave us a scare.”
“Holy shit…I can’t believe Batman stopped by,” he said, mouth twisting into a smile before he started cackling. “That’s priceless.”
“You say that, but you weren’t here when it happened,” Kevin grumbled, sliding a coffee cup across the counter even as his ears were still pink.
“Hey, I grew up with the guy. I had plenty of unnerving moments with him when I was younger. I’ve just grown out of it now,” he said, taking a long sip of the coffee. He pulled out a five dollar bill and slid it across the counter for Tim to put in the register from his perch on the stool.
“Yeah, well tell him to be a little nicer next time,” Tim said with a sigh. “I don’t need to ruin anymore pairs of socks with spilled coffee.”
“And I don’t need anymore bruises,” Kevin added.
“Bruises? What happened to you?” Nightwing asked, obviously scrutinizing him.
Kevin’s flush returned and he shifted on his feet. “I…sort of fell off a stool.”
“Aw, need someone to kiss it and make it better?” Nightwing asked with a smirk.
Kevin spluttered, his face going even redder. “I think I’m just going to go take inventory in the back,” he mumbled before making a hasty escape.
Tim sighed as Nightwing chuckled. “You really shouldn’t torment him like that.”
He shrugged. “He’s fun to tease. And he’s pretty cute.”
“You’re turning him into a tomato,” Tim pointed out.
“A cute tomato,” Nightwing amended.
Tim rolled his eyes and smiled. “You’re a menace.”
He shrugged. “It’s all in good fun.”
The bell rang as the door was pushed open and Tim glanced over to find Jason standing in the doorway, chest heaving.
“Red Hood,” he said with a nod. “Welcome back.”
“I’ll take that as my cue to leave,” Nightwing said, straightening. “Thanks for the coffee.”
Nightwing smiled and instead of heading out the door, slipped through the door to the back. Tim huffed a laugh and shook his head. He turned his attention back to Jason who’d approached the counter.
“So?” Tim asked. “How did it go?”
“Well, we didn’t argue,” Jason conceded.
“Good? I guess?” Tim asked.
Jason shrugged. “His reasons for visiting were similar to Robin’s,” he said, reaching up to presumably scratch his cheek, but rubbed his finger against the side of his helmet that was still in place.
Tim heard a muffled squeak from the backroom and grinned before Nightwing reappeared.
“Well, that’s it for me tonight,” he said, sounding far too happy. “I’ll see you later, Timmy. And you too, Little Wing.”
“Bye, Nightwing.” Once the door had fallen shut, Tim raised an eyebrow. “Little Wing?” he asked, voice filled with glee.
“Please just…let that die,” Jason groaned.
“I’ll let it go. For now. As long as you tell me about what the hell Batman was doing.”
“Like, I said…his motives were similar to Robin’s. Wanted to make sure you were safe and trustworthy. He was impressed that you managed to get comfortable around him so quick and actually asked him a question.”
“He was impressed with me?”
“Yup. Not everyone can be that okay with Batman just storming into their workplace. He also said I should buy you a new pair of shoes for the ones he kind of ruined.”
Tim grinned. “I like him already.”
Jason chuckled and placed his hand over Tim’s, giving it a squeeze. “I should get back to patrol. Only got a few hours left, but I’ll see you later okay? I’ll come pick you up and bring you some clean shoes.”
Tim smiled. “Thanks, I owe you.”
Jason shook his head before he left for the streets.
When Kevin finally made it back out front, he was still as red as a tomato.
Tim’s lack of shoes was starting to give him a chill. He almost debated putting his coffee stained socks back on. Almost. But he killed that thought before he could even seriously consider the possibility. He made a cup of tea and cradled that in his hands to try and keep warm, his toes curling and uncurling against the rung of the stool.
The end of their shift was approaching and Tim knew Jason would be coming back to bring him clean shoes and that’s mainly what kept him going. His other choice was to fill a bucket with hot water and soak his feet, but he wasn’t willing to let himself be that unsanitary.
Tim could see the sky starting to lighten outside and was getting antsy as the end of his shift approached. Kevin was the same way, and since there wasn’t much clean up for them to take care of, he finished those tasks within minutes and was left to stand around and wait for their replacement to show up.
The door jingled and they both looked up, a little disappointed to see an older looking gentleman standing in the doorway. Tim plastered on a smile as he walked over to the counter, hoping to divert attention away from the stool he was sitting on and his bare feet.
“Morning, what can I get for you?” Tim asked.
“A cup of camomile tea, please,” he said. Tim tried not to show his surprise at his English accent and busied himself with putting in the total on the register.
“That’ll be $2.55,” he said, accepting the three singles that were handed to him.
Kevin passed the cup of tea to the man who took it with a nod.
“You are Timothy, I presume,” he asked, peering at Tim over the rim of his cup.
Tim blinked, feeling unease curl in his stomach. “How do you know that?”
He smiled. “I am a close friend of Jason’s,” he said, immediately making Tim relax.
“Oh,” Tim said. “It’s nice to meet you, then,” he said, holding out his hand.
He shook it with a smile. “My name is Alfred Pennyworth, I helped take care of Jason when he was younger.”
Tim grinned. “I’m sure he must’ve been a handful.”
Alfred chuckled. “You have no idea. He was quite the troublemaker, but his heart is always in the right place. And he cares about you greatly.”
Tim flushed and ducked his head, trying to hide the pleased smile that pulled at his lips.
“I am hoping that he will bring you to meet the family soon. He’s been a little sparse on the details and they’ve become rather…curious with regards to your person.”
Tim blinked as he slowly put the pieces together and gaped.
Alfred chuckled. “I see that you’re a smart one. I will have to remember that when I share details. But sadly, I can’t linger much longer. I need to return to the home and prepare things for the morning and I’ll take the chance to evade Master Jason this morning.”
Tim nodded. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Pennyworth.”
“Alfred, please,” he said.
“Alright. It was nice to meet you, Alfred,’ he amended.
“And you as well,” he said before leaving the store behind.
“These nights just keep getting weirder and weirder,” Kevin grumbled.
“That’s Gotham for you,” Tim sighed.
The door was pushed open again as one of the morning workers stepped inside, stifling a yawn.
“Do me a favor and pour me a cup,” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes.
Tim filled a cup as the door was pushed open for the third time. He looked over his shoulder and found Jason standing inside the doorway.
“Brought those shoes you asked for,” he said, holding up a pair of flip flops.
“You’re a lifesaver,” Tim said with a grin, handing off the cup of coffee before he quickly clocked out and grabbed his dirty shoes and socks. Jason dropped the shoes at his feet and he slipped them on, linking his fingers with Jason’s as he pulled him from the coffee shop.
Kevin stifled a yawn and Tim smiled. “Need something to drink?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Kevin agreed. “Pour me a cup if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Been sleeping well?” he asked, grabbing one of the larger cups.
“Not really, I-”
Tires screeched outside the coffee shop and they both froze, turning to look at where a black van had come to a stop outside the large windows. Tim felt unease curl in his gut. It grew when the rear doors of the van were shoved open and a number of men swathed in black jumped out, making a beeline for the door.
“I don’t suppose you know what this is about?” Tim asked when they shoved open the door and raised guns at Tim and Kevin, flanking in a wide arc to cover the length of the counter.
Kevin and Tim immediately raised their hands, Tim still holding the empty paper cup.
“You’re coming with us, pretty boy,” they said, walking towards Tim.
Kevin scoffed. “You can’t just-”
“Kevin,” Tim said, catching his eye. He pursed his lips. “Don’t.”
“No,” he said, wincing when a hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled him out from behind the counter. “Let me go. I’ll be fine okay?”
“Tim I can’t just-”
“The pretty boy said to let him go,” one of the other men said, leveling a gun between his eyes.
Kevin froze, feeling his breathing stutter in his chest.
“Understand?” he asked.
“Y-yes!” Kevin squeaked, trying to press himself back against the rear counter to get as far from the gun as possible.
Kevin watched, helpless as he was pinned under the barrel of a gun as Tim was herded out of the door and thrown into the back of a van. The rest of the men followed after them, the one pointing a gun towards Kevin’s head going last and not turning his back until he was out the door.
He fought to regain his breath, heart still going a million miles an hour in his chest as the doors of the van shut with a thump and the van sped off.
Kevin scrambled to get his phone out of his pocket and dialed 911. Each ring was too slow and too long. He ran a hand through the curly strands on top of his head, tugging at them in frustration as he waited for the precinct to pick up.
“911, what’s your emergency?” a man asked over the line.
“My coworker was just abducted by a large group of armed men in a black van,” he said in a rush, trying not to get hysterical.
The man sighed. “Kid, this is no time for pranks.”
“This isn’t a prank,” he pleaded. “We work at a 24-hour coffee shop. He was abducted. By men with guns. He needs help!”
The man sighed. “Fine, what’s your location.”
Kevin rattled off the address and waited.
“We’ll have someone out as soon as we can to check it out,” he said before disconnecting the call.
Kevin lowered his phone, staring at the black screen and not feeling any better about this whole situation. He had a feeling they weren’t going to take this seriously and he didn’t know what to do.
Tim needed help. He was in a van with a bunch of dangerous men going who knew where. He could be killed at any time and it would be his fault for letting them take him. But what was he supposed to do? He was a barista for Christ’s sake! He wouldn’t even know where to look for Tim if he tried to go and track him down.
Kevin placed a hand over his heart and braced his other hand against the counter. His heart was beating too fast. He was getting dizzy and he couldn’t breathe.
The door jingled and fear chilled his core at the thought the gunmen had come back to finish the job. He looked up and his fears immediately fell away at the sight of Nightwing.
“Nightwing,” he gasped, stumbling around the counter towards him.
He caught him, keeping him upright and Kevin belatedly realized he was shaking too.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his typical flirty demeanor falling away at seeing how distressed Kevin was.
“A bunch of armed men showed up. They took Tim. I wanted to stop them, but he told me not to and they took him and oh god what if he dies?! It’s going to be all my fault and-”
“Shh,” Nightwing said, taking his face between his hands. “Calm down and breathe. You did the right thing by letting them take Tim. And-”
“How is that a good thing?!” he shrieked.
“It’s a good thing,” Nightwing said pointedly, “because me and the other vigilantes can get him back but we don’t need you bleeding out in the middle of a coffee shop because of it.”
Kevin nodded, trying to get his breathing back under control despite his need to panic.
“Good, that’s better. Now I want you to listen to me very carefully, can you do that sweetcheeks?”
Kevin wrinkled his nose. “What kind of name is that?”
“The kind that got you to calm down,” Nightwing said with a grin.
“Oh…” he mumbled, blinking up at him as he realized some of his panic had ebbed.
“I want you to stay here. Man the coffee shop and keep things as normal as possible. I’m going to get Red Hood and we’re going to find Tim and bring him back, okay?”
Kevin looked up at him and nodded. Nightwing’s hands dropped to his shoulders and squeezed. He turned to go but Kevin caught his hand.
“I-” he started. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Nightwing squeezed his hand before disappearing into the night.
Tim tried to keep his breaths calm when he was thrown into the back of the van and a black sack was pushed over his head. He wasn’t sure what good it would do since there weren’t any windows in the back of the van that he’d seen, but he guessed these guys were really into the aesthetic of things.
The ride was rough. He could feel the barrel of a gun pressed into his back the whole time and he didn’t have anything to hold onto when they went careening around corners and made sharp turns.
At one point he thought he was going to throw up from the jarring drive and the fact he couldn’t see anything.
When they finally screeched to a stop, he nearly tumbled over himself towards the back of the van. Several hands grabbed hold of him and forced him out the rear doors. He stumbled when his feet his the pavement after the extreme car ride and his own anxiety that was quickly rising.
Something squeaked and the floor under his feet changed again when he tripped over the threshold of a door, the toe of his shoe catching on the doorjamb. The air was colder inside and their footsteps sounded heavy on the concrete.
The people dragging him along shoved him backwards into a chair. The black sack was ripped from his head and he winced at the powerful spotlights that were set up around the warehouse to give them light. He squinted at the few men in suits standing around him who didn’t look much different than the first guy who’d kidnapped him.
The man grinned and stalked forward. “So, this is the pretty boy Red Hood has under his thumb…”
Tim couldn’t help it and he knew he needed to avoid testing any sort of boundaries with the men who could have him killed, but he still heaved an exasperated sigh.
“Is that really why you kidnapped me?” he grumbled. “To get at Red Hood?”
“He killed one of my close friends,” he said with a shrug. “It’s only right that I have my own chance to get revenge.” He grinned, smile pulling slowly at his lips as he pulled out a gun concealed inside his jacket. He stalked forward, walking a slow and close circle around Tim until he was standing in front of him again, and Tim hae to crane his neck back to see him properly.
“So I’m going to make him watch as I put a bullet into the head of his fucktoy before putting a bullet into his own chest,” he said, placing the barrel against Tim’s forehead.
Tim swallowed, desperately trying to fight down the panic that wanted to creep in around him on every side. He really hoped that Jason would find him soon because he was seriously starting to consider making a career change if this was going to keep happening. Or develop a walk-up window for the coffee shop so armed men couldn’t storm inside and kidnap him anymore.
“Red Hood,” Dick said as he flipped over an alley to land on the next building. “I need your location immediately.”
“Why?” he said, answering right away. “Need help with something?”
“Yeah and you’re going to want to help. Tim got kidnapped by some armed men and we need to go get him.”
“Who?” Jason growled.
“Don’t know. I’m guessing a lowlife gang. Kevin said that they were just a bunch of men in a black van with guns. Probably took him to a warehouse like usual.”
“Oracle?” Jason asked.
“On it,” she said, smooth voice breaking into the conversation. “I’m already tracking the van through security cams towards the warehouse district. Not many cars out this late so they’re not hard to follow.”
Dick’s feet pounded against the rooftop as he worked up to a sprint. He dived over the edge and fired his grapple, using the hold to swing up to the other row of buildings across the street.
“I’m only a couple minutes out, Hood.”
“I’ll meet you there,” he said easily. “But don’t even think about going in without me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll leave some bones for you to break,” he said with a chuckle.
“You’re going to want to get on Erikson Avenue. The warehouse is in the middle of the block and is surrounded by a chain link fence. They left the van on the side of the road and it’s the only car around so you won’t have any trouble finding the place,” Oracle said.
“You’re a lifesaver, O,” Dick said, changing direction as he hit the edge of the warehouses.
“Aren’t I always?” she shot back. “All of you would be lost without me.”
“Damn straight,” Jason added and Dick looked up when he caught movement coming from the direction opposite him.
He swung over to the top of the warehouse Tim was being held in and waited. It was only a few seconds before Jason landed on the other side of the roof and walked towards him, cracking his knuckles under his gauntlets.
“Ready to go?” Dick asked, striding over to the skylight that gave them a fuzzy look into the room below and the lights shining off to the side.
“More than ready,” Jason growled before lifting his boot and smashing the glass.
Tim flinched when the skylight shattered. The man in front of him pulled back and looked up as smoke descended into the warehouse. Tim relaxed, looking around at the men moving around him. They held up their guns and pointed it at the largest concentration of smoke that was wafting towards them.
Someone edged close to it before a kevlar covered hand shot out and pulled him into the dense cloud. Tim heard him groan and scream as something cracked.
“Show yourself Red Hood!” the leader of the gang said.
He growled when there was no response and the limp, unconscious body of the first man was shoved out of the ray of smoke, splaying out over the floor.
Two more smoke bombs rolled out form the cloud and sent a new cloud around the other guards and towards Tim. He closed his eyes as the smoke enveloped him, trying not to cough or let it get in his eyes to hurt his vision.
“Hood!” the man screamed.
More grunts and groans sounded and a gun discharged before a man shrieked.
“Fuck, he’s going to try and take the package!”
Tim swallowed and pulled at his bonds, hoping to break out of them and make an escape before the armed men could find him in the cloud.
A hand pressed over his mouth and Tim flinched, breathing picking up.
“Tim, it’s just me,” Jason whispered in his ear.
He relaxed, sagging against the chair as Jason pulled his hand free.
“I’m getting you out of here.”
He nodded, knowing Jason could probably see the movement through the haze. He felt the bare kiss of a blade against his skin as Jason cut the ropes holding him to the chair.
Jason pulled him up and wrapped a hand around his waist. “Hold tight,” he murmured and Tim had just enough time to wrap his arms around his shoulders before they were being pulled out of the smoke and up to the rafters by a powerful line.
Tim swallowed as he looked down at the cloud of smoke, tightening his hold around Jason even though he knew he wouldn’t be dropped.
A second grapple shot to the rafters seconds before Nightwing pulled himself up. He pulled out something from his belt and pressed it before tucking it away.
“GCPD should get here soon. They’re going to be down for the count for a few hours,” Dick said. “We need to get Tim back to the coffee shop before Kevin has a heart attack.”
“How is he?” Tim asked.
Nightwing smiled. “He’s okay. He was really worried about you and frustrated when the police didn’t take him seriously, but seeing you in one piece is going to put him at ease.”
Tim nodded. “Yeah, do you…do you mind if we get out of here? I’d like to get back.”
Jason’s hand tightened around his waist and he helped Tim climb up through the broken skylight before following after him. Nightwing came through last and they walked over to the edge of the building.
“You remember what to do right?” Jason asked as he readied his grapple.
Tim rolled his eyes and wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders, pulling up his legs to hook around his waist. “Let’s just go.”
Jason chuckled and Tim tightened his hold as he started to run forward before he jumped from the edge of the building. Tim’s breath left him as he took in the sky above them, Jason’s body moving under him as he changed the line and grappled through the streets.
Every now and then he caught sight of Nightwing following after them. He was grinning, obviously enjoying flying through the air as he flipped and twisted on his swings.
They landed on top of the coffee shop’s building and slipped down into the alley next to it. Jason placed a hand on his shoulder and walked him around the corner, Nightwing hurrying after them.
The door jingled as they pushed inside and Kevin jolted where he was behind the counter, head snapping up.
His shock and fear melted away into relief and he staggered around the counter. “Tim!” he said, grabbing his shoulders. “You’re okay.”
Tim smiled, feeling exhausted and worn out and ready to sleep for a day or two. “Yeah,” he agreed. “Thanks for sending Nightwing and Red Hood after me.”
Kevin hesitated a moment before he pulled Tim into a hug. Tim blinked and patted him on the back, a fond smile pulling at his lips.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he whispered.
Tim chuckled. “It’ll take a lot more than that to get rid of me.”
Kevin pulled back, his eyes sliding past Tim to the people behind him. He stepped around Tim who watched him approach Nightwing. He paused, hesitating before he threw his arms around his waist in a tight hug.
“Thank you,” he said.
Nightwing grinned and wrapped his arm around Kevin’s waist, slipping his finger under his chin so he could tilt his head back and bring their gazes together even if Kevin couldn’t see his eyes behind the mask.
“You’re welcome, but are you sure I can’t have a thank you kiss instead?” he drawled.
Kevin’s face turned a bright pink. He opened and closed his mouth, trying to find something to say which only made Nightwing’s grin bigger.
“So,” Jason said, dipping a tortilla in the bowl of guacamole sitting between him and Tim on the kitchen island of Tim’s apartment. “I was thinking…”
“A dangerous thing for you to do,” Tim said, knocking his hand out of the way to scoop up a bit of guac on his own chip. He shoved it in his mouth, chomping loudly between them.
“Shut up,” he muttered. “I was thinking, if you’re okay with it, that we could install a panic button on your phone.”
Tim stilled. “A panic button?” he asked.
Jason nodded and sighed, abandoning his chip to the guac as he crossed his arms on the table in front of him. Tim snatched up the chip and shoved it into his mouth.
“Yeah…I was thinking we could put something on your phone so that if anyone ever comes by the coffee shop you’d just have to press it and any of us vigilantes would come running. We could probably intercept whoever was shaking down the coffee shop and get to you before you were taken. It would probably ease Kevin’s mind a little bit too.”
Tim stared at Jason who shifted uncomfortably.
“I get if you don’t want to do it because of privacy reasons, but I know I’d feel a lot better knowing you had a way to contact us and we could use your phone’s GPS to track you so there’s no chance of losing you. It’s just a suggestion, so don’t feel like you have to-”
Jason cut off his rambling when Tim slipped around the counter and wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders, practically choking him.
“Tim?” he asked.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Tim said, voice soft as he pulled back to meet Jason’s eyes. “Considering I don’t have another job and I can’t stop going to work…I think Kevin and I would both feel a lot safer having that on our sides.”
Jason smiled, obviously relieved as he relaxed in his seat. “I’m glad you’re okay with the idea.”
“How soon can you get it installed?”
Jason hummed. “By tonight probably. It shouldn’t take too long. All the vigilantes have panic buttons on our own phones in case things go haywire so I know how the process works.”
“Great,” Tim sighed. He leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Jason’s lips. “Now I have a question for you,” he said, glancing to the side to avoid Jason’s gaze.
Jason turned in his seat to fully face Tim and pulled him between his legs, keeping his hands firmly on Tim’s hips. “What is it?” he asked.
Tim bit his lip and Jason rubbed soothing circles into Tim’s sides to ease some of the tension there.
“Do you think you might be able to teach me to fight? Or some self-defense moves? So that if anyone does try to come in and take me I can hold them off until you get there?”
Jason nodded. “Definitely. But there are also some guys you should never fight ever.”
Tim raised an eyebrow. “Like who?” he asked, curiosity seeping into his town.
“Basically any of the big name villains who’ve been locked up in Arkham. The local gangs should be fine as long as you’re careful around the guns and anyone else who tries to rob the place. But with the more dangerous of Gotham’s villains, it’s best to keep your head down and do what they tell you.”
Tim smiled. “Noted. But I highly doubt that any of those guys are going to come looking for me.”
Jason chuckled and wrapped his arms around Tim’s back, pulling him closer. “They don’t have any reason to. And a small time coffee shop like where you work wouldn’t draw a lot of attention.”
“So…panic button?” Tim asked.
Jason nodded. “Grab the chips and dip. I’ll get my stuff.”
Tim stepped away and Jason slid off his stool, walking over to the duffel bag he used to carry his uniform and gear whenever he was around Tim’s before patrol, which was becoming more and more often as of late.
“You brought the tools with you?” Tim asked.
Jason shifted, holding the tools close to his chest. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot, okay?”
Tim chuckled and moved their snack to the coffee table. “Come on, then,” he said, taking a seat on the couch.
Jason shuffled over to him, setting his tools on the table. “Phone,” he said, holding out his hand.
Tim passed over his phone and watched as Jason immediately got to work. Tim wrapped his arm around Jason’s waist and leaned against his shoulder, watching his skilled hands move and open the case of the phone to work on the circuitry.
Jason pressed a kiss to the top of Tim’s head as he worked, attaching the wiring of the new piece. He snaked it over to the side of the phone and cut a new indent into the casing, inserting the button through it before he put everything back together.
“Good as new,” he said, handing the phone over.
Tim turned it over in his hands. It looked almost exactly the same except for the addition on the side. He brushed his thumb over it, but didn’t press it.
“Does it work?” he asked.
Jason pulled out one of his gauntlets, the thicker one he wore on his left hand. “Let’s try it.”
Tim pressed the button and almost immediately Jason’s wrist computer lit up, a red screen popping up with an emergency alert. Tim’s name and location scrolled across the screen.
“Now press it again,” Jason said.
Tim did and the alert shut off.
“See?” Jason asked. “Works perfectly.”
Tim smiled and leaned his head against Jason’s shoulder. “Thanks, Jay.”
“Anything for you babe,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to the top of Tim’s head. “Anything for you,” he breathed against the top of his head.
Tim swiped the back of his hand across his forehead, trying to catch the sweat that was pouring down his face. He sucked in desperate breaths, trying to keep his breathing under control.
Jason grinned from where he was standing on the opposite side of Tim’s living room. They’d moved the couch and coffee table out of the way to give them more space to move, but it still wasn’t ideal. Tim briefly wondered if they should’ve gone to a gym to use actual mats and keep from possibly worrying his neighbors downstairs.
He wasn’t sure if he preferred the idea that they might think he was upstairs having sex. That was a better alternative than having them call the cops and initiating a very awkward conversation.
“Just one more time, Tim,” Jason said, waving him forward to make the first move.
Tim sighed. He was going to end up flat on his ass again and there wouldn’t be anything he could do about it.
He rushed forward, trying to distract Jason with a punch. Jason caught his fist easily and when he tried to swing his leg around in a roundhouse to hit Jason on the side, Jason forced him around, drawing his arm up his back.
Tim squirmed in the hold, trying to break the unrelenting grip. He didn’t even get Jason to budge since he was so exhausted.
He sagged back against him, arm pressed awkwardly between his back and Jason’s chest.
“Giving up already?” Jason asked, chuckling. He let Tim’s arm go, fingers kneading into the muscle as he wrapped his other arm around Tim’s waist to keep them pressed together.
“I’m exhausted and will probably ache for the next three days,” Tim grumbled. “You’ve been fighting for who knows how long so cut me some slack.”
“You’re doing great though,” he murmured, tightening his hold on Tim. “You’ve improved a lot already.”
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
Jason chuckled and pressed a kiss to his damp hair. “Go take a shower and get ready for work. We can’t let you be late.”
Tim heaved a sigh but straightened. He didn’t make it a step before Jason’s fingers caught his wrist and pulled him back in, pressing a kiss to his lips that had Tim smiling.
Tim rubbed at his sore muscles, groaning as he rolled his neck.
“What’s up with you?” Kevin asked, pouring himself another cup of coffee.
At this point Tim wasn’t sure if he was drinking from nerves or if he was really that tired tonight that he needed that much coffee.
“I’ve been taking some self-defense lessons,” Tim said. “After what happened last time and all I thought it might help.”
Kevin blinked. “Wow, that’s…that’s actually really smart. I hadn’t even thought of that.”
Tim nodded and turned to lean his hip against the counter. He crossed his arms and fought down a yawn. “Yeah. I’m sore everywhere, but I think I might be able to hold my own if I need too.”
Kevin nodded, gaze dropping to the cup of coffee in his hand. “I’m glad you’re doing alright. I really…I really don’t want anything like the other night to happen again.”
Tim smiled. “Me neither. And I really think we’ll be okay.”
“What makes you say that?” he asked with a frown.
Tim cleared his throat, trying to fight down the smile that pulled at his lips. “Red Hood gave me a panic button.”
Tim nodded. “If anything bad happens, it’ll alert Gotham’s vigilantes that we need help.”
Kevin’s eyebrows shot up his forehead, disappearing under his fringe of curls. “Wow, that’s…”
The door jingled behind them and Tim tensed. His hand already going to his phone when he turned around. He froze, letting out a shaky breath as Jason stepped through the door in his uniform, Nightwing bounding in behind to rush over to the counter.
“How are my two favorite baristas doing tonight?” Nightwing asked, leaning over the counter towards Kevin.
“I-uh-well…” Kevin stammered, face flushing as he hastily took a sip of coffee. Nightwing grinned at him, teeth glinting in the lights of the coffee shop.
Tim slowly retracted his hand from his pocket, leaving his phone alone. “The usual?” he asked as Jason approached the counter.
Tim was glad for the relative quiet that had descended on the coffee shop. His sparring with Jason was going well even if it left him with more than a few sore muscles and most of their customers were Gotham’s vigilantes and the occasional college student. Mid-terms would be approaching soon so he expected their customers to go up with the added stress of school.
“Do you think I should take self-defense classes?” Kevin mused from where his head was pillowed on top of his crossed arms over the bakery case that was empty at the late hour.
Tim shrugged. “Do you think it would help? We haven’t exactly had any issues for a while.”
“Yeah,” he huffed. “But you’re doing the whole self-defense thing and I dunno getting stronger and being able to hold my own would make me feel better,” he mumbled.
Tim glanced over at him and saw his cheeks red with embarrassment. “Then you should do it. If you’re actually interested. I’m sure Nightwing wouldn’t have an issue with training you,” he said, voice filled with glee.
Kevin made a noise in the back of his throat and his flush deepened. “I really don’t need to think about something like that.”
Tim chuckled. “Come on, he obviously has more than a passing interest in flirting with you and you’ve taken to the attention.”
Kevin huffed. “Nothing will come out of it anyway,” he mumbled, sounding more than a little sad.
“You don’t know that,” Tim argued gently.
“One thing I do know,” Kevin said, “is that you can’t have a very long-term relationship if you don’t know who you’re dating. He’s a mask and I doubt he’s going to tell me his identity so easily. That kind of stuff only happens in movies.”
Tim hesitated. He wanted to argue Kevin’s point as reasonable as it was, but that would only put his and Jason’s relationship under scrutiny and he wasn’t going to go down that road until he’d talked to Jason.
Thankfully, he was saved from answering when the shop door opened. Tim smiled and looked up, his greeting dying on his lips as he took in the white makeup caked on an infamous face, red Glasgow smile pulled wide to show yellow teeth.
Tim immediately slipped his hand into his pocket as he swallowed, pressing the button on the side of his phone.
“Oh, don’t mind my entrance,” the Joker said, sidling over to the counter. Kevin reeled back at his approach and Tim stepped in front of him, hoping to keep him out of this.
“Aren’t you going to greet me? Where are your polite customer service skills?” he asked, looking at them both with piercing eyes.
“Welcome,” Tim said, fighting to keep his voice from shaking. “Is there anything I can get you?”
The Joker looked thoughtful for a moment and Tim really hoped that he was crazy enough to have come all this way just to order coffee and leave.
“I think you and your little friend here will do nicely,” he said with a cackle.
Tim swallowed. “Sir, I don’t-”
He cut himself off when a gun appeared before his face. Tim reached behind him and found Kevin’s hand, squeezing tightly.
“You don’t what?” he asked, voice still holding that airy, manic quality. “You don’t think you can comply with my order? What happened to the idea that the customer’s always right? Now…be a couple of good boys and come around the counter.”
He gestured with the gun and Tim reluctantly did as he was told, pulling Kevin along with him. Kevin’s hand shook in his grip and Tim tightened his hold, hoping to keep him as calm as they could be when faced with the craziest person in Gotham, if not the whole world.
Tim winced and bit back a grunt when the Joker’s fingers wrapped around the back of his neck and pulled him forward, forcing him towards the door. He tugged Kevin along behind him through the double doors to the shop.
A van idled next to the sidewalk and the Joker didn’t hesitate to throw them in the back, shutting and locking the doors behind them to leave them in darkness. There wasn’t even a window that showed the front seat so they could get an idea of where they were being taken.
Tim pulled Kevin against his side and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Kevin’s breathing was shallow and he was shaking furiously. From what Tim could see, his eyes were wide and he wasn’t registering anything in front of him.
“It’s going to be okay,” Tim whispered. “We’re going to be okay, Kevin.”
“How can you be so sure?” he fought to get out between gasps for air.
Tim really hoped he wasn’t on the verge of a panic attack. He didn’t know how to bring Kevin back from that and he worried it would set the Joker off even worse.
“Because Red Hood and Nightwing are going to save us. I used the panic button. They’re going to come. We’re going to survive this.”
“I really hope you’re right,” Kevin whispered, curling into him as he fought to settle down even as the van began to move under them.
When the Joker pulled Kevin away from Tim he was ready to have a panic attack. They’d made it through the car ride by sticking close to each other, but Tim couldn’t let him get pulled away. Not being able to protect himself was one thing, but he couldn’t let Kevin get hurt because of him and his association with Jason.
“Not so fast, squirt,” the Joker said, popping up in his field of vision. The cold kiss of a blade drew down the side of his cheek and Tim fought to keep his breathing steady so the blade wouldn’t accidentally slice into his skin. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you,” he said with a high peal of laughter.
A cold hand wrapped around the back of Tim’s neck as the knife disappeared from his skin. He was forced to take a step forward. Kevin was chained tightly, his hands secured above his head so he was hanging from a hook, his toes barely scraping the ground to allow him to take a minuscule amount of pressure off his wrists.
The Joker spun him around with a cackle. “Now you stay put right there,” he said with a wink before skipping off to a crate set to the side.
“Kevin?” Tim asked, looking over at him.
He winced. “I’m okay. He hasn’t hurt me other than a few sore muscles from this position,” he whispered.
“Here we are. Just what I like. Wrapping you up like a present for that big, bad vigilante whose heart you’ve stolen,” the Joker said, prancing back over to Tim.
He grabbed Tim’s wrists, squeezing them tightly in his grip and Tim bit the inside of his cheek, fighting to keep from letting out a small grunt of pain. Heavy chains fell over his wrist. They were twisted and Tim breathed through his nose to try and work through it. The time it took for Jason to get to them wasn’t going to be easy to get through, but he could still do everything to keep from showing how much pain he was ion or giving any other sign of weakness.
“Now let’s get you strung up for Red Hood to come save,” the Joker continued, voice filled with glee.
Tim’s hands were pulled towards his right shoulder as the Joker stepped behind him. Another chain rattled in the silence between them and Tim tried to brace himself for what was coming.
The Joker appeared in front of Tim holding a large hook. He slipped the end through the loops of the chains. He tugged downwards and as he released the pressure it moved back to its starting position and then continued upwards. The Joker didn’t let it stop until Tim’s arms had been pulled taut over his head, his toes barely grazing the ground to give him the same traction as Kevin.
Tim fought to steady his breathing as the metal bit into his skin. The slightest movement would rub his tender skin against the links of metal. Thoughts of dripping blood and infection flooded his mind.
“What? Don’t you like where I’ve brought you?”
Tim swallowed, eyes focusing on the Joker. He couldn’t afford to space out. Not when an oversight could leave him or Kevin, or both of them, left for dead.
“I thought this warehouse would be to your liking. And I even went to all of the trouble to give you a nice friendship bracelet, you two are such good friends after all. I hope you don’t mind hanging around for a while until my other guest gets here,” he said, pushing his hand against Tim’s chest.
The toes of Tim’s shoes dragged pathetically on the floor as he tried to stop his momentum. The metal dug further into his wrists and he let out a small whine of air at the first cut into his skin. A warm drop slid down the side of his wrist as he fought to keep his body from turning and spinning in a circle.
“Isn’t that so much better?” the Joker asked, stopping his movements by gripping his chin in his hand. Hot breath fanned over Tim’s face and he tried to turn away from the hold, but couldn’t move away.
Tim tried to force a placating smile, but he had no way to tell if he was succeeding or not.
The Joker grinned and his head cocked to the side before he turned to look at Kevin.
“Now you,” he said, sauntering over to him. “We haven’t gotten the chance to talk yet.”
“Leave him alone,” Tim snarled without thinking.
The Joker cackled. “Don’t you know it’s rude to tell your host what to do?” he asked, pulling the knife from his pocket. He dragged it along Kevin’s cheek, licking his lips all the while.
Kevin’s eyes were wide and Tim could see the beads of sweat dotting his forehead from his stress and fear.
“What about a smile? Don’t you like to smile?” he asked. “A smile would suit you.”
“I can smile,” Kevin stammered, voice shaking with fear. “If you want me to smile I can smile,” he said, forcing the biggest smile on his face even with his wide, terrified eyes.
“You have to mean it. Genuine smiles are important,” the Joker said. He pressed the tip of his dagger into the flesh of Kevin’s cheek and Tim watched, his throat tightening as a drop of blood slip out from underneath the tip and slid down his cheek.
“No! Stop!” Tim cried, rattling the chains over his head even as it caused the metal to dig into his wrists.
The Joker ignored him, his cackling growing louder as he drew the dagger down Kevin’s cheek, slicing through the soft flesh as more blood slid down his cheek towards his chin.
Tim pulled at his bonds, fighting to push closer to Kevin. “You fucking crazed maniacal clown,” he snarled, surprising anger welling up in his chest. “You’re so desperate to get Red Hood here, but you’re not worth the time it takes to scrape gum off the bottom of his boot.”
The Joker stilled, his grin turning more crazed as his head slowly swung around to look at Tim, holding him in place with a manic look. Tim knew he was in trouble, but it was hard for his fear to cut through his need to keep Kevin safe.
The Joker stepped towards him, moving slower than he would’ve thought possible. A hand went around his throat, constricting his air flow. He struggled to move backwards out of the grip and received a rough shake. Pain radiated around his wrists, something wet that was no doubt more blood sliding down his forearms.
The Joker’s hand squeezed tighter and Tim’s chest moved uselessly, unable to draw in or expel air. His panic grew, clouding his head as black spots dotted his vision.
The pressure on his throat disappeared and Tim sucked in a deep breath, coughing as he fought to calm down.
“I’m going to enjoy draining your body of blood for Red Hood when he gets here,” The Joker said with a smile.
Jason felt the first simmering of anger coil low in his gut when he reached the warehouse district. He was starting to get tired of the small gangs that kept kidnapping Tim and was ready to sweep through Gotham’s underbelly if it meant taking out every single one of them.
The alert was still buzzing over the comms and Jason knew the other capes were centering in on Tim’s trail too. The more of them who showed up to strike fear into these idiots’ souls, the better.
“Fucking finally,” he muttered when he landed on the roof of the warehouse where Tim was blipping on the GPS. He walked over to the skylight to get a look at who he was dealing with. He hoped that Tim had at least punched one of the guys in the face before being taken. That would give him his own sense of satisfaction at having trained Tim.
They should now that Tim’s not someone to be messed with.
Jason froze when he reached the skylight, his mind threatening to cloud every one of his senses with a wash of panic and traumatic memories. He took several deep breaths and blinked, digging his fingers into the palms of his hands to try and ground himself.
His anger rose and crashed over itself once the initial panic began to ebb. His own trauma and history with the Joker was one thing, but Tim had no business being involved with that. He didn’t deserve to be. And neither did Kevin.
Jason growled and lifted his boot, smashing the skylight with his heel and leaving the glass to rain down on the concrete below. He shot his grapple into the roof and jumped through the opening, barely slowing his descent to land without breaking any of his own bones.
The Joker whirled around and Jason saw the blade of his knife already coated with streams of blood.
“Oh goody,” he cried. “The big, bad Red Hood has finally come to play. Do you like what I’ve done with your playthings? It’s such an improvement ri-heuck.”
Jason wrapped his fingers around the Joker’s throat and pulled him away from Tim. He saw Tim trembling, blood running from several cuts on his body. Kevin looked a little better, but hadn’t come out completely unscathed.
“Don’t you ever think about laying a hand on them again or I’ll bring you back just to put you in the ground again,” Jason snarled.
“You have to kill me first before you can bring me back,” he said with a peal of laughter.
“Thanks for pointing that out,” Jason ground out.
He smacked the knife from his hand and drew back a fist, forcing it into his stomach. The Joker grunted and fought to catch his breath around Jason’s fingers pressing on his throat, but Jason was only getting started. He aimed for the face next, feeling Joker’s nose break under his fingers. Blood gushed down over his mouth and clothes.
“Is that all you’ve got?” he asked.
Jason growled and threw him to the side, watching as he rolled several times before coming to a stop. He didn’t give him time to get to his feet. Once the Joker had his hands planted on the floor to push himself up, Jason kicked him in the stomach with the toe of his boot.
“You’re going to regret everything you’ve ever done in life,” Jason continued, kicking him across the floor. “I’ll make sure of it.”
He gasped around laughter, eyes shining in the dim light.
“Do it,” he cried. “Kill me.” He struggled to his knees and grasped Jason’s jacket.
“Gladly,” Jason said, kneeing him in the face.
The Joker fell onto his back, staring up at him. Jason pulled one of his guns from his thigh holster and clicked off the safety.
“Red Hood, stop!”
“No,” he snapped, readying the barrel between the Joker’s eyes.
Hands wrapped around his arm and pulled his gun away, the bullet he managed to discharge flying off into the distance.
“Don’t interfere,” he snarled, rounding on Dick who still held tightly to his arm.
“This is over.”
Jason’s anger burned hotter. He whirled around to face Bruce.
“What the fuck do you know?”
“I know that you need to take the hostages back to the Cave and get them medical attention. They need help,” Bruce said, voice even. “I’ll take care of the Joker.”
“You can’t seriously think that after all of this I’m going to let you cart him off to Arkham only to be broken out again?!” Jason roared.
He froze and looked past Bruce to where Tim was still chained up.
“Please,” he whispered. “Let’s go.”
Jason swallowed and fought to push down his anger.
A hand landed on his shoulder and Jason looked at Nightwing.
“Let’s get them back,” he said, voice soft and understanding.
Jason relented and nodded, holstering his gun to focus on freeing Tim from the chains holding him in place. He pulled the hook down and got the chains undone, leaving them to fall to the floor.
He wrapped an arm around Tim’s shoulders. His legs and hands shook and blood continued to slide out of the cuts covering his skin, dripping with sickening clarity onto the concrete floor.
Dick took hold of Kevin and together they moved as fast as they could for the double doors leading out of the warehouse. Grappling would’ve been quicker but would’ve only served to aggravate their injuries.
Jason pursed his lips together as a dangerous swirl of emotions took over his chest. The strongest was the crushing guilt pressing down on him. He knew he’d never be able to make up for getting Tim into any of this.
There's going to be one more chapter after this and I hope y'all are excited. It's been great getting to write this series and I can't believe how long it's gotten. Enjoy the update y'all!
“Don’t look at me like that.”
Jason startled, his helmet-clad head snapping up. “You can’t even see how I’m looking at you.”
Tim sighed. “I know how you’re looking at me. You’re blaming yourself for getting me into this.”
Jason crossed his arms. “Well this wouldn’t have happened to you if you hadn’t gotten close to me.”
Tim looked down at the bandages that now covered the cuts on his arms. He glanced over at Kevin who was being treated by Alfred. He already had a large bandage over the cut on his cheek.
“I think you should give Tim more credit, Jason,” Kevin said softly.
Jason jerked and looked over at him.
Kevin smiled. “Everything’s starting to make sense now. The clingy visits while you were in uniform and the few times you came into the coffee shop out of uniform with Tim. I might not have caught on earlier but I get it now. Even if it wasn’t until Tim said your name. And you really don’t need to blame yourself for this. We’ve all tried adapting as things changed these past couple months and it just happened that everything we did wasn’t enough. The only thing we can do now is to move on and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Jason sighed and undid the latches from his helmet. He pulled it off and set it on the table next to the medical table Tim was perched on.
“Now that the two of you have been cared for,” Alfred said. “How would you like some cookies?”
“Thank you, Alfred,” Tim said. “That would be great.”
He nodded and walked to the other side of the Cave where the stairs were located, disappearing up them and into the shadows.
“You sure you’re okay?” Jason whispered, standing in front of Tim.
“Yes,” he insisted, cupping Jason’s cheek. “I’m here and I’m alive and I know that you’re always going to find me if I need you.”
Jason ducked his head and pressed their lips together.
“I’ll always come for you,” he whispered when they broke apart.
Tim snickered. “You’re such a dork.”
“Hey! You’re the one who suggested it.”
Tim’s gaze softened. “I know. But you’re still a dork for saying the words. Thank you though.”
A screech of tires sounded and caught their attention. Nightwing burst through the tunnel on a bike and came to a halt. He shoved the kickstand down and climbed off his bike, rushing over to the medical setup.
“Are you okay?” Nightwing asked, grasping Kevin’s shoulders.
Kevin blinked up at him, eyes wide from his sudden appearance and desperation.
“I-uh-um-yes?” he stammered.
Nightwing huffed before he wrapped his fingers around the back of Kevin’s neck, tugging him forward to smash their lips together.
Kevin made a sound in the back of his throat, hands scrabbling at Nightwing’s arms to get a grip and ground himself.
Tim’s eyes went wide as he watched.
“God, don’t scare me like that,” Nightwing insisted when he pulled back.
Kevin’s face was an impressive shade of red and he pursed his lips together. He nodded. “I still don’t know who you are though,” he mumbled.
Nightwing sighed. He released his hold on Kevin and stepped back, his fingers going to the edges of his mask. He worked it away from his skin, careful of the adhesive that kept it stuck to his face.
“My name’s Dick Grayson.” he said, lowering the mask to reveal piercing blue eyes.
Tim gasped and smacked Jason against the chest, barely managing to drag his eyes away from the two of them to meet Jason’s eyes.
“Does this mean what I think it means?” he asked.
Jason cringed and nodded.
“Holy shit,” Tim and Kevin whispered at the same time.
Kevin scrambled backwards on the table, putting space between himself and Dick.
“But what would…why would you…how could someone like you have an interest in me?” Kevin asked, panic seeping into his voice.
Dick blinked at him and smiled, walking slowly around the side of the table to close the distance between them again.
“Because,” he said easily, cupping the uninjured side of Kevin’s face and brushing his thumb over the dirt streaked skin, “you’re kind and loyal and have a great sense of humor. You’re cute and a hard worker and you’re always reading something interesting when I come into the shop. I think the real question is how could I not have an interest in you.”
Kevin stared at him, opening and closing his mouth several times, making Dick chuckle as he tried to form words. He ducked his head and pressed their lips together in another kiss that had Kevin relaxing into.
Here it is! The last chap!
“Jason, I really don’t want Bruce to do me a favor by offering me this job,” Tim huffed when Jason sat down next to him in one of the lawn chairs arranged haphazardly in the Manor’s backyard.
“He’s not,” Jason said, easily. “I gave him your resume and he went through your qualifications and the openings in the company. You went and had an interview with the hiring director and everything.”
“Yeah, but I still feel like that was just for show so no one got mad that the boyfriend of one of Bruce Wayne’s adopted sons was being given special treatment.”
“Trust me,” Jason said, linking their fingers together as he took a sip from the chilled can of Coke in his hand. “He wouldn’t have offered you a job if he didn’t think you were capable enough to fill the roll. People can bitch and moan all they want but you got that job because of who you are, not because of your relation to me. And I wouldn’t have let that happen anyway.”
Some of the uncertainty and anxiety that had been plaguing Tim since he was brought in unexpectedly for the interview fell away. He knew there was always going to be that doubt in the back of his head that Jason had some influence over what happened, but he could easily change jobs after a few months if it still bothered him.
After he and Kevin had gotten kidnapped, the owner had finally decided to stop staffing the coffee shop after hours. Kevin had gone back to the day shift and Tim had tried it, but found he didn’t have the skills to handle the customers after working nights for so long.
The vigilantes had mourned the loss of their midnight coffee runs, but everyone felt better now that Kevin and Tim had safer working conditions.
“I am going to miss working with Kevin though,” Tim mused, nodding towards where he was being held tightly by Dick, their combined weight somehow not having broken the fabric lining of the lawn chair they were sharing.
“You’re friends now though. You’ll see each other plenty of times and Dick’s been bringing Kevin here practically every time he’s in the house so you’re still going to see him.”
Tim chuckled. “Then things are going well between them?”
“That’s the understatement of the year,” Jason groaned. “Dickie never lets Kevin too far out of reach. He’s always touching him, or holding him, or kissing him. And even though it still embarrasses Kevin like you wouldn’t believe, he gets this sappy smile on his face that gives away how pleased he is.”
“You mean like how you are with me?” Tim teased, leaning across the arm of his chair.
Jason rolled his eyes and closed the distance, pressing his lips to Tim’s in a kiss. “You wish,” he whispered, pulling back.
“I’m honestly surprised that Dick hasn’t proposed yet,” Tim whispered.
Jason snorted. “I’m like, 95% sure he already has a ring but I don’t think he wants to seem too eager. He’s a little worried about scaring Kevin off but considering I’ve caught him kissing Kevin goodbye before patrol on the fire escape outside his apartment, I don’t think he needs to worry about scaring him off.”
“They’ll get there,” Tim agreed. “It might just take a little bit.”
Jason was silent for a moment, the birds chirping in the distance on an unusually sunny day for Gotham.
“What about you?” Jason finally asked.
“What about me?”
“Do you think you’re ever going to get married?”
Tim swallowed. “I don’t know. That depends.”
“Oh?” Jason asked, turning to look at him.
Tim met his gaze, his breath catching in his throat at the love shining in his eyes.
“What does it depend on?” he added when Tim didn’t answer.
“You,” Tim said, voice low and heavy.
Jason blinked at him before his lips pulled into a slow and mesmerizing grin. “Well then,” Jason said. “Why don’t we get married, Tim?”
“You’re joking,” he shot back immediately.
Jason shook his head. “I’ve already taken on more of Gotham’s criminals for you than I have for anyone else in the world. I don’t think there’s a bigger show of love or dedication I can offer.”
Tim chuckled, laughter on the edge of hysterical with the unexpected turn their conversation had taken.
“Is that a yes?”
Tim nodded and pushed forward, gripping the back of Jason’s neck to pull him into a kiss. Jason steadied him with a hand on his shoulder to keep him from falling out of his chair.
“Get a room, Todd!” Damian yelled from across the yard.
“Shut it,” Jason shot back, breaking the kiss.
Tim chuckled low and breathy, eyes sparkling with happiness. Jason’s irritation at Damian immediately fell away, his eyes sliding back to Tim.
Jason pulled him in for another kiss.