Alia was alluring as always. As the man’s neck snapped, Tiger found himself suppressing a shudder. He wasn’t the type to get turned on by violence, but it was exciting to see someone so confident in their actions; so comfortable in themself as though they had never doubted anything in their whole life. She glanced over her shoulder and winked at him. He missed her.
That night, he remembered her again. In the pale moonlight, he held her close as their combined sweat dried on his skin. This felt good, but something nagged at him.
“You slept with 37.”
“I also slept with you.” She looked up at him. Her eyes were sharp. She was ready to tear him apart, verbally or physically he couldn’t tell. He kind of liked that.
“I mean nothing to slight you. I enjoy sleeping with you. We should do it more often.” He tried not to feel jealous. 37 had been here, what, a week? Two at most and yet he’d ensnared Alia already. The man must know everything there is to know about seduction. Tiger had never seen Alia swoon over anyone so quickly before. In fact, people usually swooned for her.
“He is lonely.” She said, her head resting on Tiger’s chest. His thoughts careened to a stop. What was Alia playing at? You didn’t just share these things to other agents. “He doesn’t belong here, Tiger. He’s not like us.”
“That is obvious. He is an ex-cape.”
“Not by choice. I’m not sure why he’s here , but the world thinks he’s dead, including his family. That’s… that’s different then us.” She pressed up, looking Tiger in the eyes. Alia wasn’t soft, not emotionally. She was wild and fierce and knew exactly who and what she was. This… sympathy was not usual for her.
“He’s made his choice. While I disapprove of his opinions towards guns, and honestly I question how long he’ll survive here, he is effective as an agent.”
“You underestimate him, Tiger.” Alia hard a strange glint in her eye. “He’ll adapt, but it will hurt him.” She paused, looking towards the window and out to the stars. Tiger followed her gaze, but kept his focus on her. She had used moments like these to start a fight before. “I almost want to get him out before….” She trailed off.
“He is no child. He has experience. Do not worry for him.” Tiger bristled as Alia’s thoughts were clearly on the other man and not him. She turned to look at him, a playful smile on her face.
“If only we didn’t have a mission so early tomorrow.” Her voice was deep and seductive. However, she pulled away and got out of bed. As she dressed herself, Tiger watched. “Don’t worry about it, Tiger. You’re correct. 37 will either adapt, or die.” She pulled her shirt on last. “Sleep well,” and she was gone.
Days later, Tiger watched as Alia bled out, the bullet hole through her throat almost comically large. He was frozen in a way he hadn’t been in decades. His voice cracked as he reached for her, her body too limp as it hit the ground. He heard shouting. He felt his body being tackled. Someone lifted him, a fireman’s carry, and Alia’s body disappeared as they turned a corner. He called for Agent 37, to turn around, to go back.
“We can’t, Tiger. We can’t.” Tiger focused on the face before him. His own Hypons allowing him to see sapphire eyes that were wet with heavy tears. Tiger’s throat was tight. His fist met 37’s jaw and he heard a crack. 37 was sprawled on the floor. Tiger stood.
“You absolute fool!” He doesn’t see 37 for weeks afterwards. He likes that.
Paragon’s laser eyes almost burn through him for a third time. He’s tired, angry, and is out of ideas. 37 leaps around, drawing Paragon’s attention, and being a nuisance. Tiger hasn’t seen the other man in weeks, and honestly it could have lasted longer.
“Dammit!” He snarls, diving away as part of a pew comes flying at him. He watches as 37 is tossed and gun and takes aim.
“Wait! The Agents said you’re a horrible shot!” Tiger is painfully aware he is behind Paragon as 37 takes aim.
“Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do,” The echo of the gunshot is muffled by the scream as the robot short circuits from the bullseye shot. “We lie.” 37’s eyes meet his across the room. Tiger is baffled. 37’s hands didn’t shake, his eyes were steal, and he had actually hit the target. Tiger crossed the room, standing next to 37.
“Did I impress you?” 37 sounds too happy. Tiger doesn’t want to say yes. He schools his face back to a frown. He remembers Alia then. She had died because of Agent 37’s hesitancy. Tiger looked back at 37, who had empty the gun of bullets and was talking to some other agents who had arrived. He met Helena’s eyes. She looked a little too smug as her eyes darted from 37 back to him.
“37, we need to talk.” He demanded. 37 looked back at him. He gave a dramatic sigh, but followed Tiger as they left the rest of the agents to clean up. “You know how to use a gun?” He felt strangely empty. He wondered when the anger would come.
“I was a cop. We get trained.”
“That was pinpoint shooting.”
“I wasn’t just trained by cops.” 37 looked away. TIger wracked his memory for any scrap of information about Nightwing and Robin. Neither used guns.
“Where did you learn to shoot?” He asked. He bit his tongue immediately afterwards. An unspoken rule at Spyral was that you avoided topics about the past. 37’s eyebrows shot up. He looked...happy?
“I wish I could tell you! However, that’s protected information. You have to be level 3 friend first!” 37’s voice was cocky and overly happy. It grated Tiger’s ears. 37 was an ass. He hoped he didn’t have to deal with him anymore.
Helena was the devil, Tiger was convinced. First he was partnered with 37. Then this overnight mission after only two weeks? Next, his private room had been accidentally cancelled? Now, he was forced to either sleep on the floor, or share a bed. With 37. Who was singing .
“Do you ever shut up?” Tiger moaned. 37 glanced over at him, towel over his shoulder as he headed towards the bathroom.
“Part of my charm, Tony.” Tiger frowned. Tony? Had they decided to use code names? Tony was bad, if was vaguely similar to Tiger so he would be able to rapidly recognize he was being called for, but it was also really plain and forgettable. What should he call 37 then? Tiger was pulled from his musings at the sound of the shower. 37 hadn’t closed the door.
“What game are you playing?” Tiger snarled, reaching into the bathroom to grab the door. He was grateful for the drawn curtain.
“You really want me to close the door when we could be jumped any second? You never know who knows that we’re here.” Grayson said. Tiger noted steam had yet to rise from above the curtain.
“You would charge out, naked?” Tiger wasn’t sure if the thought was mortifying, or hilarious.
“It worked for the Scots; dicks are scary!” as 37 laughed at his own joke, Tiger groaned and stepped out. While he doubted they would get ambushed in their room, he didn’t close the door.
37 didn’t shower long but it was long enough for Tiger to start his evening prayers without distraction. When Tiger finished, 37 exited the bathroom, wiping toothpaste from his mouth.
“So, we cuddling tonight?” 37’s voice was the same, annoying, too peppy tone as usual, but Tiger felt something was off. He cursed at how familiar he must be getting with 37, because he could just see the tightening in the other’s temples at the question. Something was bothering 37, but Tiger didn’t know what.
“I refuse to go to a ball with a sore back. You are welcome to the floor, or feel free to join me in bed.” Tiger lifted the sheets, then glanced up. 37 had a faint flush on his ears but just nodded as he pulled up the covers on the other side of the bed.
Tiger suddenly felt a bolt of something drive through his core as they both climbed in and adjusted their covers and pillows. 37 was lying too still, but so was he. Oh, Allah, he wondered, what is this... awkwardness?
“We forgot the lights.” 37 said. He got out and flipped the switches, not that the room got much darker, it was a full moon that had risen early in the evening. 37 drew the curtains which helped considerably. Tiger ignored how he couldn’t hear 37’s footsteps, ignored the swish of sheets as 37 climbed into bed, and ignored the heavy sigh 37 released as he settled. Tiger listened to 37 listening to him. The world felt fake, the moment hazing. It was a moment of limbo. Tiger looked to his right. The tiny cut of moonlight caught every shade of blue in 37’s eyes.
He looked lonely.
Neither blinked. Tiger briefly wondered if 37 was sleeping with his eyes open, but then 37 smirked slightly and made to roll over. He was stopped as Tiger found his own hand on the other man’s shoulder. 37 looked back at him. This time, those blue eyes burned him. Tiger felt a different bolt of something strike through his core. Tiger withdrew his hand. He turned his back towards 37 and squeezed his eyes closed. The bed quickly grew warm with two bodies in it.
It was morning surprisingly quickly.
37 look fucking fantastic in a suit. The slicked back hair, the straight cut of the man’s body, the slight aire of superiority off of him? The man gave off the aire of danger, or power. Tiger liked it. This was Richard Grayson, the son of the playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne. No one would recognize him, but everyone would love him. Tiger straightened his bow tie.
“You know our mission?”
“Yes, Tony, I know.” Tiger followed him into the ballroom. While 37 seduced the heiress, Tiger kept watch as a waiter.
“Excuse me,” Tiger turned, schooling his face to avoid looking annoyed. A surprisingly young man stood before him. “Is that cider?” Tiger recognized this boy. He fought the urge to glance over at 37.
“Unfortunately, it is Champagne.” He said, making his English as accented as he dared. The boy looked sad.
“Damian.” Tiger’s blood froze. Yes, he recognized the boy. Bruce Wayne stood behind him.
“Father, I’m just looking for a drink. One that isn’t alcoholic.” The boy sounded prissy and snide.
“Any suggestions?” Bruce Wayne asked, eyeing a female waiter. Tiger fought a groan. Was this the person 37 based his overly peppy and happy persona on? Tiger couldn’t stand the salaciousness pouring off the man. How the hell had this man raised kids? Wasn’t he engaged?
Tiger paused. Richard Grayson had died nine months ago, and yet… Bruce seemed to be completely over his eldest son’s death.
“There is juice across the hall.” Tiger lied. He just wanted them away from him, away from 37. Here they were partying while Richard wasn’t even a year dead! Tiger watched the two head across the room to the fabled (and nonexistent) juice. Tiger glanced around for Rich- 37.
“Hey, watch it!” Tiger whipped his head towards Damian’s unmistakable proud tone.
“Pardon me, I was a little distracted.” Tiger’s jaws tightened as 37 gave a slight bow to Damian in apology and headed towards the exit. Tiger watched as Damian’s eyes followed him, a confused look on his face. Bruce called to him, and Damian turned back to his father. Tiger decided it was time to make his exit.
They met back at the hotel.
“So, we’re leaving before dawn, are you packed?” Tiger asked. 37 stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection.
“37. Grayson!” Tiger snapped. 37 jumped and looked at him. He gave a sheepish smile.
“Sorry, T. Yeah, I’m packed.” Tiger felt a painfully delayed realization. Richard Grayson was Damian Wayne’s older brother. How long had it been since he’d last seen any of his family.
“Why did you join Spyral?” Tiger asked. 37 looked him in mild surprise.
“I thought everyone here knew.”
“Your identity was exposed during an inter-dimensional war, you died, except you didn’t, and now you’re here.” Tiger was also curious as to how Ricahrd Grayson had survived being blown up, but that was for another time.
“Sorry, Tony. That’s a story for level 3 friends only!” Tiger rolled his eyes. Fine. He didn’t need to know.
37 looked good in a suit. Too bad Tiger had to kill him. Even as Tiger nursed his headache and argued his point, he couldn’t get 37 in a suit out of his head.
He’s lonely .
He’s lonely? What the hell. 37 dealt with loneliness is shitty ways. Shitty, murdering his colleagues ways. Shitty knocking him out with a single punch ways. (Tiger wasn’t impressed. Not in the slightest)
“You’re too soft for him.” Tiger accused. Matron, Helena, scowled at Tiger. She wants to accuse him of being the same. But that would mean admitting it.
“You’re too close to this case. I will handle it. I have a different job for you.”
Did Tiger mention 37 dealt with loneliness in shitty ways?
Apparently, 37’s method of dealing with loneliness was to hunt him down in the catacombs beneath Rome and try to kill him. Tiger had thought the two had actually started to start to understand each other, or something. Really, this was quite rude.
It’s minutes into their duel when Tiger notices something off about 37’s strikes. 37’s movements were just barely off, but Tiger couldn’t pinpoint how. As he lay, slumped and barely conscious and a second Agent 37 runs in, he feels he understands. As the 37s duel, Tiger feels an odd suspicion rise in his brain. As one of the 37s falls, a killed escrima stick to the head felling him, Tiger rips out the Hypnos implant in one eye. Two images overlap, one of a bloodied 37 stalking towards him: the other of a ghost.
“Alia?” He croaks. He wants the agony to hit, but it doesn’t. He wants to scream that he can’t believe it, but he can. He wants to feel like, somehow, he didn’t expect this when 37 claimed he was being framed.
“You gonna rat me out, Tiger?” 37’s peppy tone blends with Alia’s deep alto voice. Tiger looks at the unconscious 37 in her hands. She tosses the limp body towards him. He catches it, prevent 37’s head from hitting the ground.
“Why?” He asks.
“He doesn’t belong here. He’s not like us.”
“So you tried to get Spyral to kill him?”
“I’m making him leave.” Tiger frowns at her.
“He caused your…” He was going to say death.
“Yeah, the bastard almost killed me. They brought me back.” Alia’s smile was dark and seductive. Tiger felt no draw to it this time. Alia smiled like a cat before a mouse.
“He’s adapted.” Was Tiger defending Grayson? Fuck.
“It been months, he has yet to kill anyone, for real at least. I was wrong.” Alia looked down at them. She seemed suddenly contemplative. “It’s a shame, he’s cute as fuck.” She drew a gun from a holster at the small of her back. “Sorry, Tiger dear.”
“So am I.” Tiger can’t explain this. In the future, it’ll keep him up for nights on end, but he’ll never regret it. As soon as he knew it was Alia, his own gun had been in his hand, hidden by his own sloped posture. This time, he knew she was dead. The new hole in her forehead couldn’t be faked. With that, Tiger hoisted Grayson into his arms and carried him out of the catacombs.
“How did… how did we get out?” Grayson asked. He was leaning against the window of the airplane, doing his best to only appear mildly airsick instead of heavily beaten. (How he had avoided any black eyes, Tiger would never know.)
“After you were knocked out I killed your doppleganger.” Tiger huffed out softly. The flight attendant was approaching.
“No.” Grayson groaned. Tiger closed his eyes.
Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do. We Lie .
Yeah, he couldn’t tell him. “It wasn’t a real person, you idiot.” Tiger huffed. Grayson gave him a suspicious glance.
“Water?” The flight attendant asked.
“Yes please. Two.” Tiger ordered. After she left, he sipped the iced water slowly. Grayson did the same.
“I’m not sure I believe you, and I don’t approve,” Grayson started, Tiger pointedly avoided looking at him, “but thank you.” Tiger’s eyes whipped over. Grayson was looking out of the plane.
It was a quiet plane ride. Long and quiet.
Tiger hated to admit it, but Grayson, as annoying as he was…. Was growing on him. Like mold of course.
As Tiger treated Grayson’s laser burn, he tried to figure out why he kept hanging around this fool. Yes they worked together, but they spent a lot of casual time together as well.
“You know, I think you’re starting to like me, Tony!”
“Don’t call me that.” Tiger grunted. Grayson’s yelp had nothing to do with his sudden increase of pressure with the cloth. Not at all.
Tiger was getting suspicious of Helena. This was the fourth mission since the doppleganger situation where they were sharing a room with one bed. The good news was they were adults and could share. The bad news was they were adults and…. Tiger was beginning to notice Grayson. At least, he was noticing Grayson’s flirting.
Grayson was a known flirt, right? Nightwing slept with half of the other heroes Tiger knew about, right? Midnighter and Grayson flirted back and forth all the time , and Midnighter was married !
Tiger glanced towards the open bathroom where Grayson was showering. It was oddly reminiscent of the first night they’d spent together.
He’s lonely .
I’m fucking lonely. Tiger looked to the full moon, barely risen. Grayson had been with Spyral for over a year now. He and Tiger had been partners for almost ten months.
“Earth to Tony!” Grayson appeared before him, hair dripping as he rubbed it with a towel. He was shirtless, and his sweatpants hung low on his hips. Tiger let his eyes linger, noting when the slight red hue tinged Grayson’s tanned body.
“Enjoying the view?” Grayson jokes. Tiger gave Grayson a long, slow, full body appraisal. Grayson’s eyes were tight. He’d have crows’ feet soon at this rate. The smile was forced.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Tiger asked. Grayson huffed a laugh.
“I mean, am I reading this right? Are you those your bedroom eyes? They look very similar to your, ‘I’m going to kill you’ eyes.”
Tiger was silent. Spies were never direct.
“You’re lonely.” Tiger said. Grayson stiffened. Tiger raised an eyebrow, tilting his head towards the bed. Grasyon comically looked between the bed and Tiger. Then the bed again, and back to Tiger. He recovered from his shock quickly. A superior smile grew on his face.
“You ever fuck a man before?” Oh, so Tiger wouldn’t be his first. Good. Grayson wasn’t Tiger’s first either.
Tiger stepped into Grayson’s space. He pressed one single, long finger into Grayson’s chin, lifting it to meet Grayson’s eyes.
“Want to find out?” He purred. Grayson’s pupil’s dilated into flat disks. Tiger smiled a feral smile and pulled his prey in.
“You will say nothing.” He forced his voice to stay stoic.
“Depends what I’m not saying.” Grayson replied cheekily. He had a beautiful dark hickey on his shoulder. Even the deepest and loosest of V-neck shirts wouldn’t show it. Though the one on the side of his neck was glaringly obvious.
“If you say anything, it is that the air conditioner was broken and froze the room.” Tiger snarled, pushing Grayson to roll over. Tiger pulled himself forward and felt Grayson's back against his chest.
“Tiger?” Grayson didn’t sound scared, or concerned. In fact, he almost sounded bemused.
“You always look pathetically lonely.” Tiger supplied. “It’s even worse after fucking.” Tiger didn’t hold him tightly. In fact he was barely touching Grayson.
“Oh. Thanks.” This was a new tone for 37. It was soft and slightly surprised. Tiger felt oddly proud about causing it. Tiger felt Grayson’s body relax. His own did as well. Grayson was nothing, nothing like Alia. While both were stripped of body fat and had hard angles from finely toned muscles, Alia still had the soft curve of a waist and breasts. Grayson…. Didn’t. Tiger just let his hand hang off of Grayson’s waist and counted the other man’s breaths. Morning came too quickly.
Tiger was going to go on record and say being chased down by Syndicate was a pain. It was worse that the person they were trying to help had sicked Syndicate on them, and now they had to protect her… but admittedly it wasn’t the worst thing to have happened to him.
Also admittedly, Grayson made it bearable.
Travelling the world really grew people’s bonds. After that hour in Superman’s lair, where some very important things had been discussed, Tiger found himself galavanting globally with Grayson, and enjoying it.
After saving Helena, and securing her position as Director, and his own as Patron, he didn’t know what to do with his relationship with… with Ricahrd.
“Tiger?” Dick was warmest in the morning. He loved to just languish in bed and absorb the time he had with his lover. Tiger enjoyed it as well. But it was distracting. Dick’s relaxed face made it too hard to discuss important things. Things like their futures. Dedalus had accidentally allowed Dick to take up the Nightwing title again, should he want it. Spyral and Syndicate were no longer after them. Dick had even revealed his alive status to his family. (The dark bruises on his jawline faded pretty quickly. Some had been very upset.)
No one really knew about them, and Tiger kind of liked it like that, but he also knew soon Dick would want to introduce his family. That scared Tiger. Batman was terrifying, and each iteration of his proteges got progressively more terrifying in their unique ways. But if Dick wanted to…
“I’m going to tell my family I’m seeing someone Friday.” Dick told him.
“Should I be there?” Tiger asked, burying his nose into the crook of Dick’s neck.
“No. I’ll need to explain things to them first. I’m thinking of doing isolated introductions. My family tends to team up against people.”
“Yeah. I’ll call you let you know how it goes.”
Tiger never got a call that Friday.
Or the next Friday.
It took two weeks for the news to reach Spyral. Helena stood next to him, her face stony as she replayed the news footage.
“In a horriyfing event, caught on camera! We have witnessed the masked vigilante, Nightwing, get shot in the head! There is no news on his recovery as of now.”
“Last week we reported Nightwing’s public headshot that was caught on video! Our sources say he survived, but barely. It seems this might be the end to the world’s sexiest hero.”
“Nightwing is still off the streets, but our sources say he lives! However, those same sources assure us that yes, the career of the world’s sexiest hero is done.
Maybe he’ll go into modelling!”
Tiger turned off the TV.
‘Modelling?” He scoffed. “Disgusting news anchors. What kind of bullshit are they,”
“Tiger.” Tiger stopped.
“I’ve been in contact with Oracle.” Tiger said nothing, fixing Helena with a hard stare. She kept her eyes fixed to the dark screen. “He’s gone.”
“The news said he lived.”
“No, not like that Tiger.” Helena looked at him, stifling her tears. “He’s gone . He’s forgotten everything, everyone .” Tiger knew in that moment that Helena knew about them. That was why she had called him here, to her office. It was why she was explaining to him that what should just be another contact was down personally.
“Everyone?” Tiger asked softly. Helena looked back to the screen.
“It’s only been a couple weeks. He’s probably barely even awake….” Tiger tired to think of everything he knew about headshots. Before his eyes flashed Alia’s face. The third hole between her eyes.
He’s lonely .
Did she mean me?
Tiger sat at the bar, observing the man on the opposite end. The bartender gave him a pitying look. He wanted to remind her of her job, but that would honestly make her job harder.
“You like the view?” Tiger turned his head towards the familiar voice. “Ric Gray” stood before him, leaning on the counter. Mae set a glass of water next to him. Tiger nursed his apple cider (it looked like whiskey as long as no one got too close).
“It’s appreciable.” Tiger admitted. Ric sat down on the stool. He smiled until he frowned, giving Tiger a hard look.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“Pretty shitty pick up line.” Tiger almost called him a fool. He couldn’t give any hints. He was letting Dick move on with his life. He was letting Dick start again. It was going to be ok.
“I must not, you’ve got a face that’s hard to forget.” Ric leaned in slightly. TIger wanted to laugh. He had Hypnos in currently. His face was the definition of forgettable.
“You busy the rest of the night?” Rick asked. Tiger felt Mae looking at him.
Ric’s hair had grown over the year. It was almost the same length it had been when Tiger had met the man. His eyes were the same, crystalline sapphire blue.
“Unfortunately, I am. Maybe next time.” Tiger made to stand.
“Hey, at least give me a name?” Ric asked. Tiger thought for a moment.
“Well, Tony. I look forward to seeing you again!” And Tiger left.
Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do. We Lie .
We fucking lie when we’re lonely. Tiger thought, and stepped out of the bar.