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Sympathy for the Devil

Chapter Text

Bruce Wayne’s cellphone rang, deafening in the modest interior of the Mercedes coupe he chose for its unremarkable aesthetic. Unremarkable by his garage’s standards, at least, and hopefully unremarkable enough that Jason wouldn’t recognize it. Across the street, Jason and Roy Harper lounged in wire chairs outside of a café, picking at their food and catching up after a prolonged separation.

“This is Mr. Wayne’s office; how may I direct your call?” Bruce answered the call through his wireless headset so that he could adjust his petite pair binoculars to better read Jason’s lips.

“I see you’ve updated your greeting since I last called,” Clark mused on the other line. “’May I,’ is a nice touch, though. Almost charming, even.”

“I’m working, Clark. What do you need?” Bruce muttered, frowning when the boys stopped talking to crowd around Harper’s phone. From their conversation prior, Bruce could safely assume the two were going over advertisement mockups for their next business venture.

Bruce wished Jason would just ask him for the resources, Harper was all gall and no forethought.

“What you lack in warmth, you make up in reliability,” Clark sighed. “I need an interview or at least access. With Lois on the White House beat, Perry wants me to head the Daily Planet’s investigation into the recent consolidation of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Normally, this sort of assignment would involve at least a year’s worth of me integrating myself into the communities, but—”

“Absolutely not,” Bruce interrupted, scowling even though Clark couldn’t possibly see him. Clark’s voice was pulling Bruce out of the task at hand, which meant Bruce was missing snippet of the conversation across the street. “I’m working, we can discuss this later.”

“No,” Clark shot back sharply. “You’re tailing Jason again. I can see you.”

Bruce let out a frustrated gargle and unlocked the car. It only took approximately thirty seconds for Clark to slide into the passenger seat. Jason and Harper appeared none the wiser, as caught up as they were in bickering over who would eat the capers from Jason’s salad.

“I actually like capers,” Clark offered. “I think they get a bad rep.”

“What are you doing here?” Bruce shot back, ending their ongoing call on his phone without lowering the binoculars. “We’ve discussed announcing ourselves.”

Clark dug in the pockets of his khakis. “We agreed to announce our mantles,” Clark reminded him, pulling out a thin recording device with a satisfied grunt. “I’m not here as Superman, I’m here as Clark Kent. And Clark Kent is on an extended work trip in Gotham, so get over it unless Bruce Wayne wants to explain to Perry why I’m unwelcome. Or, I guess Batman could. That wouldn’t be suspicious at all. Certainly wouldn’t result in my having to stay even longer to unpack that mystery.”

Finally, Bruce jerked the binoculars away to glare at Clark with his full attention. “Are you finished?”

“Will you cooperate with my investigation?” Clark smirked. “You don’t have to do anything, although an interview with the Bat could make the piece. The most I ask for is a bit of peace as I do my business.”

Bruce scowled at him. Clark pushed his glasses up his nose.

“You can stay and work,” Bruce finally said, lifting the binoculars again, just in time to catch Harper striking out with the waitress. “But you’re not going to prod the hornet’s nest unsupervised. I’ll go with you.”

Clark reclined the seat and laid back. “I don’t know. You look pretty busy,” Clark snorted, gesturing vaguely past the car dash, in Jason’s general direction. “Stalking your son like he’s some criminal.”

“He is,” Bruce said. “That’s not why I’m watching him, though. I think he’s dating someone.”

Clark laughed, but then Bruce shot him a glare and Clark cut off with raised eyebrows.

“Oh. You’re serious.”

“Deadly,” Bruce rumbled, packing away the binoculars as Jason and Roy stood from their seats and began to meander away. “He and Tim are hiding something from me, and Jason won’t look me in the eyes. Hasn’t for weeks.”

Clark leaned forward, his eyebrows crawling up. “I thought you’d be worried about—”

“Deathstroke,” Bruce interrupted, starting up the car and pointedly fixing his rearview mirror. “Deathstroke has been active in Gotham, and by whatever means, he’s non-lethally subduing competitors on both sides, leading several of the families to create alliances in order to avoid becoming marks. I’ve checked in on the victims, they’re still alive. The situation is under surveillance.” 

“Under surveillance,” Clark repeated slowly.

“Yes,” Bruce confirmed. “Everything is under surveillance; I have everything managed. You may leave now.”

The car purred, but Bruce made no move to shift the gear into drive.

“Have you tried talking to them? To Tim and Jason?” Clark offered, voice pitched.

“I have no such desire,” Bruce muttered, finally pulling out of the parking space once it became apparent that Clark wasn’t going to leave. “And I have reason to believe Jason’s significant other may also be a criminal. I’ll know more tonight.”

“What’s happening tonight?” Clark asked, adjusting his seat so that his knees weren’t quite so crowded.  Bruce remained quiet, up until they merged on the interstate.

“Jason keeps returning to the same gargoyle every Tuesday and Thursday,” Bruce finally confided, his shoulders dropping a modicum. Clark settled back, satisfied with the breakthrough.

“Yeah? Doesn’t he have a favorite?” Clark offered, reclining his seat. Bruce shot him a scowl.

“Fix that when you leave,” he warned. Clark gave him a two-finger salute, so Bruce continued, “He does, but this isn’t his favorite. I haven’t found anything interesting about this location, and it’s just barely within his territory as Red Hood. I planted an audio transmitter, but I hadn’t picked up on anything other than the sound of his pacing and sighing.”

“Until recently?” Clark asked, sitting up on his elbows in interest. Bruce nodded, eyes still trained on the road as he switched lanes.

“Until recently. Tim joined him the other night and berated him for waiting on a ‘him.’ Who this him is, is unclear, but it is clear that Jason is… pining. He’s defensive and agitated, and he’s withdrawing from the Manor. Even more than usual.”

“And talking to him is totally out of the question?” Clark pushed as Bruce took the exit onto the road that would eventually guide them to the Manor’s extensive driveway. Give or take a few turns. Clark didn’t often drive the route, he looked forward to the countryside. He tried to roll his window down, but the passenger side was locked. He furrowed his brows at Bruce.

“No,” Bruce chided. “The window stays closed.”

“Yeah, well. No need to close off Jason at least. Just talk to him,” Clark retorted, settling back down and definitely not pouting. Bruce did not respond, except to tighten his grip on the steering wheel.

There was silence for a stretch before Clark cleared his throat and chanced, “So. I don’t suppose I can stay at the Manor while I’m in town?”

Bruce grunted, and Clark decided that was as good of an affirmation as any.


 

“You can’t possibly be serious,” Tim said, hanging upside down from his pull-up bar while also balancing his phone against his shoulder. The pull-up bar was a bit too close to the ceiling for his knees to fit comfortably, and he was just asking to over-extend his neck, but he couldn’t risk speakerphone and his wireless headphones were lost in an unfortunate electrical power line incident.

Besides, Bruce didn’t mind when Tim skipped out on his GED work as much if Tim could claim he was exercising.

“No, I’m serious,” Jason assured him from across the line. “Tim, he’s in town, he’s going to swing by as soon as he gets a minute away from Slade.”

“Jason,” Tim said slowly, and a bit breathily as he began pulling himself into crunches to redistribute some of the blood from his head, “he only came back to that spot when he was near starving to death. Besides, last we saw of him he didn’t seem like he wanted a minute away from Slade. As a matter of fact, I remember him wrapping his entire body around Slade like a touch-starved octopus right before Slade grappled from my destroyed apartment. I had to tell Bruce that Kon tripped. Kon is still not speaking to me over the indignity.”

“Liar,” Jason accused. “Kon was at the Manor yesterday. I swung by to get you in on weeding out B’s transmitters in my territory and I nearly ran into him. I’m surprised Daddy Dearest lets him sleepover.”

“He doesn’t. I’m surprised you didn’t just come in and drag me out anyway,” Tim mused. “You’re a man obsessed.”

“I’m not obsessed!” Jason hissed. “I’m also not a cock block, so. You’re welcome.”

“Jesus, Jason,” Tim groaned, stilling while halfway into a crunch. “Don’t be gross.” He let himself drop again so that he was hanging upside down and gently swinging from the bar. “You’ve yet to give me an objectively good reason to see Dick again.”

“He’s fucking around with the local ecosystem,” Jason shot back. “You fuck with one crime family and you’ve reoriented the rest. My boys don’t want to sell, and my girls don’t feel safe. I just want to talk to him, assure my stability while he and Slade tear their way through the establishment.”

Tim wiggled his legs free and dismounted from the bar with a tight flip. “I’m sure,” he murmured. “And it has nothing with you wanting to touch your face to his face, right?”

“Another word, and I’ll tell B where you’ve been putting your face lately,” Jason warned. Tim winced but said nothing. “Besides,” Jason added, “it’s been weeks since… all of that. Whatever hold he had on me’s gone, you hear?”

Tim still didn’t say anything. Jason snorted.

“Smart kid. This’s why you’re my favorite,” Jason cooed

“Liar,” Tim blurted. “Kate’s your favorite.”

“Wise words to chance,” Jason laughed. “I’ll spare Bruce your sordid details. But I’m going to that gargoyle tonight whether you like it or not, so. Join, don’t join, I don’t care.”

Despite his insistence, Jason stayed on the line in a pregnant pause tinted by his palpable hope that Tim would change his mind. Tim set his jaw.

“Whatever, Jason. At least bring some of Constantine’s darts with you.” He paused and then hastily added, “And call me when you get home, okay? After patrol. I’ll bring takeout or something and we can watch a movie.”

“Sure, half-pint,” Jason said softly, affectionately. “I’ll let you know.”

The line cut and Tim sneered at his cellphone.


 

If Clark didn’t believe Bruce before, he did after what he overheard when he and Bruce entered the Manor. He didn’t mean to listen in, so he only caught a snippet, but that snippet was enough.

Bruce raised his eyebrows expectantly at Clark, and Clark grimaced. “Sorry, that was an accident. But I think you’re right, Tim was just on the phone and said something about, uh, face touching?”

“I’m usually right,” Bruce grunted, but otherwise left it at that.

And so that’s how Clark found himself wearing one of Bruce’s spare suits, as hastily tailored by Alfred, and hunkering behind an HVAC unit on a roof opposite of Jason’s gargoyle, beside which Jason paced.

“I hate this,” Clark hissed, tugging at the itchy cowl.

“No more than I do,” Bruce promised, peering across the way. “Stop moving.”

“How do you fucking wear this thing? I’m sweating. I can sling around Pa’s trailers and irrigation pivot without sweating, but I’m sweating right now. How are you not sweating? Tell me, do you sweat?” Clark accused.

Bruce didn’t glance back, but he did remind Clark, “No names in the field. And you couldn’t wear your own clothes, Superman is too conspicuous in Gotham, and so you’ll have to find some way to survive. However harrowing your current circumstance.”

Clark huffed. Bruce was laughing. Not actually, but in that dry, roundabout way of his, he was chortling. But Clark couldn’t retort, because then a sharp whistle and the punctuating beat of hundreds of feathers through the suddenly whipping wind deafened Clark. Even as Clark attempted to reorient himself, Bruce jerked back, driving his elbow into Clark’s chest and nearly stumbling except for the hands Clark braced on his hips.

“Birds,” Clark muttered, unable to clear his head for the howling breeze-turned-gale. “Plane engine?” He amended.

And then, as quickly as it came, the wind settled into a gentle breeze. Clark let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, and Bruce sagged into his hold.

“No,” Bruce muttered. “And it’s not Superman.”

Clark settled Bruce onto the concrete and peered up over the unit.

Jason wasn’t pacing, and he wasn’t alone either. He’d removed his helmet and tucked it under his arm, revealing a dopey grin as a man in an apparent catsuit dragged gloved fingers through Jason’s hair. The massive, inky wings folded neatly against the man’s back shielded any identifying features. Up until Clark looked through the wings and suit, only to see a blazing, blue ring around his neck, to match the runes etched along the man’s arms and legs. A headache bloomed behind Clark’s eyes and Clark blinked rapidly.

“Magic,” Clark hissed.

“I need some specificity,” Bruce growled, shoving to peer alongside Clark. “What kind? Can you hear them?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Clark snapped back. “I can’t tell the difference.” He did try to tune his hearing again, even as the pounding in his skull worsened.

“—lot of nerve,” Jason’s voice drifted, dreamy like Clark hadn’t ever heard him sound before. “I’ve built a nest egg, and you’re trying to trash it.”

“Well,” a new voice, the man’s voice, cooed, “it’s not as if we had to chance to discuss what you did for a living. I’m only doing what’s asked of me, and I won’t apologize for it. Besides, what I do isn’t like what you or Slade do with your guns and knives. I’m… therapeutic.” The man’s voice felt like cotton in Clark’s auditory cortex. His mouth parted as he attempted to maintain focus.

Jason snorted. “Yeah, you think you’re real medicinal. You’re scaring people, Dick. And if you think Slade gives a damn about whatever therapy you think you provide, he doesn’t. He’s not capable.”

“Jason,” the man, Dick, chided, crooking his finger through Jason’s belt loop and tugging him closer. Although Jason was taller, the man’s wings shrunk the both of them. “Slade’s not the monster you think he is. You’re not the monster your… coworkers think you are. You’re all covered in a dirtied varnish, I’m just willing to… strip away the layers.”  

“Is that a threat or a promise?” Jason snarked, although his jaw was lax and his eyelashes fluttering. “’M mad at you,” Jason added, with a small pout. “You left with him.”

“Oh, I love him,” Dick sighed. Jason huffed, and Dick laughed before pressing a soft kiss to the corner of Jason’s mouth. “None of that now.”

“Does he know where you are?” Jason asked, unable to help the whine in his throat. Dick shushed him like he was a skittish animal.

“Of course he does,” Dick murmured.

“Superman!” Bruce snapped in Clark’s ear. Clark flinched, pulling away from the boys’ conversation.

“Dick, his name is Dick. He’s associated with Slade Wilson, I’m not sure to what degree but, uh, possibly a lot. I- whatever magic he has, I have a headache,” Clark recited, cradling his head in his hands. And because he was cradling his head, he heard more than he saw Bruce throw the batarang. And then the whistle of a grappling hook left Clark alone on the roof, giving him permission to finally shut out his surroundings.

Bruce, however, threw himself across the chasm of the street, swinging on his line to tackle the stranger. Jason was shouting, but Bruce dug his knees into the spread wings until he felt thin bones snap underneath his weight. Still, Dick’s mouth parted in shock, not pain. His eyes were shielded by a partial cowl, and so Bruce ripped that away to uncover unnatural blue eyes, without whites or pupils, which emitted a soft glow. Bruce faltered, enough so that Jason was able to jerk back his shoulder with a rough tug.

“Lay off him!” Jason snapped, throwing himself to the ground neck to Bruce. “God, you asshole, we agreed this ward was mine, you shouldn’t even be here! Get off, you over glorified rodent!”

“Oh,” Dick murmured softly, furrowing his brows as he watched Bruce. “Slade told me about you, but he didn’t mention… I’m sorry. You’re just a raw wound, aren’t you?”

With a guttural noise, Bruce lifted Dick up by the front of his costume before slamming him back down on the concrete.

“B!” Jason shouted. Dick reached out, patted Jason’s thigh with his fingertips.

“Let him,” Dick murmured. “I’m okay. It’ll pass.”

Bruce hesitated, anger and confusion roiling as memories and images tugged at his attention. He scowled at Dick, but when he met Dick’s eyes all he saw was… a boy. Dick was slight, not quite as slight as Tim, but slighter than Jason. He’d mentioned Slade, so he may be a victim too. Some logical hold out in Bruce’s mind demanded his scrutiny, but he couldn’t rationalize why. The boy beneath him was limp, pliant. Bruce couldn’t remember what even spurred his assault.

“I miss my parents too,” Dick offered. Jason sat back, but Bruce nearly crumbled. He clumsily shuffled off Dick, who sat up and shook out his wings before folding them against his back again.

“We—you will come with me,” Bruce rasped, throat tight, from where he remained sprawled on the concrete. Jason hovered behind Bruce, still watching Dick foggily. Dick stood, brushing off his costume.  

“Interesting, pet,” Slade rumbled from where he leaned against the rooftop access door. Bruce scrambled to his feet, slinging a batarang before he even straightened to his full height. In a rush of lycra, Clark landed beside Bruce, arms crossed. Slade caught the batarang, tilting his head at the two Batmen.

Jason was content to lay on the floor.

“It’s over, Deathstroke,” Clark warned. “Come quietly, we need to talk.”

“Oh,” Slade said. “It’s Superman. Dick, your excursion turned into an irritant. What do you have to stay for yourself?”

Dick shrugged. “Sorry,” he offered. “I’ll make it up to you at home?”

Slade grunted and then flicked his wrist. Clark flinched back as a glowing green projectile burst midair into a much worse glowing green cloud. When most of the residue dissipated, Clark coughed and reviewed the scene. Both Dick and Slade were gone. Jason remained on the ground, and Bruce hovered, frozen, where Clark had left him.

“Bruce!” Clark snapped, before erupting into another coughing fit. There was still dust, scattered on his clothes, on Bruce, on Jason. It was a mess. And neither of the other men were budging or reacting. Clark took a page from Barry’s book and began creating small gusts of wind with his superspeed if only to try and clear up some of the mess.

Finally, Bruce shifted, reaching up to grip his head. “We have to…” Bruce muttered, almost as if to himself. Clark froze.

“Yes?” he said hopefully.

“We—we need to find that boy,” Bruce decided, looking up and across the rooftops. “We’ll bring him back to the Manor, he needs guidance.”

Clark’s mouth fell open, and he glanced to Jason for help. Jason finally sat up and met Clark’s plea with a shrug. “Yeah. What he said,” Jason said.

Chapter Text

Upon returning to the safe house, Slade plucked Dick from around his waist to toss him onto their bed. Dick bounced once before erupting into peals of laughter. 

Slade tugged off his mask and rolled his eye. He hurriedly undid his belt and unzipped his costume. “Unrepentant creature,” he chided, even as he stepped out of his work clothes to stalk onto the mattress.

”Well, I can’t start repenting now, it’d be terribly ironic,” Dick offered, a lazy grin plastered on his face as Slade trapped him between his arms and legs. “I know you loathe irony.”

”That’s never stopped you before,” Slade scowled. “You tangled with Red Hood again. Involved Batman. Superman is, for whatever reason, invested. You made a mess, kid, and I loathe messes far more than I do irony.” 

Dick tilted his chin up and Slade obligingly nipped his neck. 

“You’re jealous, it’s on my tongue,” Dick reminded him. “It tastes like licorice.” 

Slade paused. He would’ve been sure that Dick exaggerated a level of his talents except for the whisper of star anise in the back of his own throat. He kissed up towards just behind Dick’s ear and then murmured, “Anise is popular in pastries.” 

“It’s in my nature, Slade,” Dick murmured. “I can multitask.” 

“No,” Slade growled. “You can’t. You don’t even understand the level of attention you attracted today, all to toy with Wayne’s eldest. We won’t be able to stay in town with this kind of heat, kid.”

“No!” Dick protested, shoving at Slade’s shoulders. Slade pulled back immediately, quirking his eyebrows at Dick’s petulant pout.

“We can stay,” Dick hissed. “I’ll handle it. I can handle it.”

Slade cocked his head and ran his fingers through Dick’s hair. “You going to tell me if you get overwhelmed?”

Dick tucked his knee close just to drag his leg against Slade’s clothed bulge before angling his knee and sliding his leg out from underneath Slade only to hook it around Slade’s waist instead. He dug his heel in, and Slade obligingly sunk to drape over Dick. Then, Dick pressed a kiss to Slade’s lips and murmured, “I don’t get overwhelmed.” 

“I’ll have to work on that,” Slade offered, nipping Dick’s plush lower lip. Then, he hesitated. “We’ll stay in town.” 

Dick’s contentedness flooded Slade, fuzzying his senses and packing his head with cotton.

”Jesus, kid, you’re better than morphine,” Slade slurred. 

Dick tossed his head back and laughed. 

Chapter Text

The quaint retro diner Tim found himself approaching was small, and sparsely populated. When the gentle jangle of the rusted bell, very shabby chic, announced Tim’s entry, only a single, bored waitress and Clark spared him a glance. A roughened looking fellow reading the newspaper in the far corner paid him no heed, and neither did the two young women sharing a booth, although one subtly pulled her coat around herself tighter as if she could successfully hiding her cheer uniform despite the small puff of metallic plastic adorning her high ponytail or the clinical, white tennis shoes on her feet. 

On the other side of the diner, Clark waved Tim over to the booth he occupied across from Jason and Bruce, Jason who slumped heavily in a visible pout and Bruce’s spine so straight, Tim briefly wondered if he’d agitated his old injury. Despite the lackluster welcome, Tim slunk over and settled onto the worn, cracked seat beside Clark. 

“This is... happening,” Tim greeted, glancing at Clark curiously. “Usually you just leave us a message with Alfred when you need to... go out of town for work.” The waitress was popping bubblegum and scrolling through her phone by the register, several yards away, but far be it from Tim to name drop the Justice League in public. 

“Actually, Tim,” Clark began with a gentle smile. As if he were about to introduce himself as Tim’s new stepdad. Oh my god. There was a brief hesitation, and Tim’s eyes widened because what if Clark was introducing himself as Tim’s new stepdad, how would Tim even begin to approach that with Kon, it was far too weird, Tim would rather die than— “I’ll be in town for work for a little while. I’m conducting an investigative report and Bruce graciously offered to host me.” Tim’s shoulders relaxed. He doubted Bruce was gracious, but it was believable enough that Clark could be sticking around for work, especially if it were only civilian work. 

“Oh, cool. Great,” Tim offered, leg bouncing from the terrible, Modern Family-style daymares dancing about his head. “So, uh, am I needed here? I was sort of in the middle of something when you called.” It was a case, as a matter of fact, and one that was a current favorite among the Teen Titans' flourishing betting rackets. It wasn't that Tim needed the money, he just enjoyed the dejection on Beast Boy's face whenever Cyborg updated their tote board.  

Tim glanced at Jason, expecting some sort of explanation or hint, but Jason just looked tired and pale in the flickering fluorescent lighting. Tim flicked his attention to Bruce. While Bruce didn’t look particularly rested either, the sharpness to his expression was as astute as ever. 

“We have a priority directive, whatever you’re working on will have to wait,” Bruce commanded gruffly, shifting in his seat. Anger licked up Tim’s spine. 

“It’s not some side project!” Tim protested. Jason barked out a laugh. 

“Everything we do is a side project,” Jason muttered bitterly. Bruce shot him a glare. 

“I thought we were in agreement,” Bruce hissed, shoulders tucking forward like a defensive animal, “regarding the importance of the task at hand?”

Tim swallowed, hard. Jason and Bruce were never in agreement. Jason scowled at Bruce and looked ready to argue, but then the fight drained from his expression and he flicked his wrist flippantly.

“Yeah. Yeah, we are. Carry on, old man.” Jason closed his eyes and tipped his head back. Bruce sighed but returned his attention to Tim. 

“What do you know about Dick?”

“For fuck's sake!” Tim burst, throwing his arms up. Clark flinched away, mouth parting, and Bruce glared up at the ceiling. The waitress glanced their way curiously. Jason snickered.

“Told you He was a killjoy,” Jason offered, looking nearly amused. 

“Oh, you told him?” Tim hissed. “Did you tell him everything, you compromised asshole?” The waitress was still watching them. Tim could see her from the corner of his eye, but he was too irate to lower his volume. "Because really, I could talk. I have no issue talking right now, if that's what you want, Jason." 

“Tim,” Bruce chided wearily. “Language."

"Get off my dick, Timothy," Jason retorted. Bruce said nothing, and Tim squawked indignantly. 

"Really, Bruce? 'Language?'" Tim demanded, gesturing dramatically towards Jason. The waitress lost interest at that. Tim's shoulders relaxed when she disappeared into the kitchen, after having plucked a joint out from behind her ear. 

"You’re sixteen," Bruce muttered. "You can’t curse until you’re at least seventeen.”

"Yeah, Timbo," Jason jeered. 

Tim scowled and sat back, crossing his arms. “Let me guess, you chased after him and then immediately caved. Bet he didn't even bat an eye, you just rolled over and played fetch. Did Clark have to pry him off you too? Is that what kicked off this impromptu family meeting? You're fucking embarrassing, Jason.”

Jason lurched forward, but Bruce's arm shot out across Jason's chest like it did whenever he slammed the brakes in the Batmobile. 

“Uh,” Clark cleared his throat. “No, not quite. Jason had to drag Bruce from... Dick. And now Bruce is having... intense paternal inclination. Towards Dick. Jason said you may have some insight.” 

Jason snorted, dropping his shoulders and sitting back in his seat. "That's an understatement. B already told Alfred to prep a spare room, I wouldn't be surprised if the family attorney hasn't already drawn up a fake birth certificate." 

"Jason," Bruce chided, lowering his arm. "Don't be dramatic. He won't need a birth certificate." 

Tim's jaw dropped.

"Now, I know this may seem improbable--" Clark began, but Tim was already pulling out his cellphone and opening up a new document in the Cave's Dropbox account. 

“Huh! So it’s not just, uh, sexual intimacy then? Dick can... parentally seduce, I guess? Holy shit, Darwin called, he wants his Terranean evolutionary theories back. Dick must incite whatever reaction's going to protect him best, huh?” Tim asked, thumbs flying across the screen as he jotted down the new information. "Tell me, did he need skin-to-skin contact? Eye contact? Was there any sort of exchange of bodily fluids?" 

“Please don’t phrase it like that,” Clark begged. Bruce frowned.

“You're deflecting. This isn't a fact-finding mission, it's a search and rescue," Bruce demanded.

Tim snorted without glancing up from his screen. "Yeah, okay. Fact-finding comes before search and rescue, World's Greatest Detective. I'm noting complete inebriation of the frontal lobe among the list of Dick's abilities." 

Bruce huffed and Jason barked out a laugh. Tim shook his head. 

"You too, Jason. You've both lost your minds if you think anything about this is normal. Clark, tell them they're both succubus-drunk," Tim nudged Clark with his elbow, too consumed in his note drafting for manners. 

"I will do no such thing," Clark huffed, scandalized. 

"This isn't productive," Bruce announced, standing and tossing a wad of bills on the table. It was a good call: judging by the encroaching, skunky scent seeping from the kitchen, Tim doubted the waitress would be out to bring them their check anytime soon. Tim amended his commentary regarding Bruce's frontal lobe to restrict it to Dick-related decisions. "We need to go back home, regroup and debrief. I've called Zatanna, she's agreed to act as a consultant but she's unavailable until after her show."

Tim froze. 

"Um. Did you tell Zatanna what she's consulting on?" he squeaked, looking up from his phone. Jason looked like he'd bit into a lemon. 

"No, we don't discuss sensitive matters over traceable or recordable lines," Bruce scoffed. Tim glanced at Jason, who grimaced and shrugged. 

"Eyes on the prize," Jason murmured. "He was going to find out, one way or another." 

Tim looked from Jason to Bruce to Clark.  

"Clark?" Tim asked. Clark hummed. "I want it on the record that I hate this." 

Clark laughed. "You got it, kiddo." 


 

Slade ran calloused fingers through Dick's soft, nearly feathery locks of hair while Dick chewed on bubblegum and tapped patterns onto Slade's cellphone screen to the tune of a perky melody and obnoxious sound effects. Dick was too long and the loveseat too short for Dick to lay across Slade's lap comfortably, but Dick was stubborn about his preferred level of physical contact, and his legs looked pretty while draped over the sofa's floral patterned arm so Slade chose to tolerate the ridiculous position. 

Across the coffee table, Black Mask sat with a spine so straight Slade would have thought he had a ramrod jammed up his ass if he didn't know better. Tense was a good look on Roman, Slade decided. 

"Wilson--" Roman began, only to be cut off by a chirp from Dick. 

"Slade, I leveled up," Dick announced, lifting and waving the trilling cellphone in front of Slade's face. Slade plucked the phone from Dick's grasp to review the bright, multicolored announcement. Black Mask shifted in his seat. 

"You did," Slade confirmed, passing the phone back to Dick, who returned to his game with a pop of his bubblegum. 

"Jesus, Wilson, did you pluck this tart out of hell or a cradle?" Roman sneered. 

Without glancing up, Dick extended his arm and curled his fingers into a mock gun pointed at Roman. He supplied a quiet "Bang," flicking his hand as if experiencing kickback. On cue, Roman's jaw grew slack, and he slumped forward. The rod yanked clean out of him. Slade snorted. 

"So it's that easy," he cooed, tugging lightly on Dick's hair. 

"Nah," Dick murmured around the gum in his mouth. "Not usually. It's his mask. Rudimentary telepathy isn't a one-way mirror, it's a window. That being said, his psychosexual development is so stunted I could have him calling me 'daddy' with a wink."

"But you won't," Slade supplied, rehashing a conversation they'd already had. Dick hummed his affirmative. 

"It's overkill, and I can't fix it if it goes too far. Your psyches are...." Dick lifted a hand and waved it about.

"Malleable?" Slade supplied. Dick shook his head.

"Sensitive. People are malleable, psyches are testy." The cellphone cheered as Dick cleared another level. Dick looked up at the underside of Slade's jaw. He blew another bubble and popped it. "I can chew this gum until it dissolves," he offered, "but it loses taste well before then. And once I've sucked out the flavor, there's nothing but a sticky residue to wrap my tongue around. It'll still pop, but it's not satisfying. Speaking of which," he swallowed and then opened his mouth. "More." 

Slade snorted, but obligingly pulled a stick of gum out of his pocket, out from under Dick, and unwrapped it. He dangled it above Dick's open mouth until Dick grunted his irritation. Then, he dropped it, and Dick immediately worked his jaw around the treat. 

"I can be a parasite," Dick mumbled around the fresh glob of gum, "but I'd rather be a symbiont."

"Tastes better?" Slade asked, eyeing Roman's pliant form as Roman shifted with a groan. 

"Feels better," Dick retorted. "I'm a demon, not a monster."

Slade dragged a thumb across Dick's cheek, and Dick purred and unearthly, ungodly purr. 

"I think you're too attached to your prey," Slade cooed. "I don't like sharing." 

Dick's purr deepened into a rolling growl, even as his lips quirked into a smile. "But you do like a challenge." 

Slade hummed and patted Dick's thigh. Dick sat up, and Slade slid out from underneath him. Once standing, he stretched and jerked his head towards Roman.

"Finish here, pet, and then let's go home."

Dick cocked his head and smirked at Black Mask, who managed to finally lift himself up, even as he quivered underneath the force of the effort. 

"Yeah, doll?" he whimpered as if Dick had spoken. Dick abandoned the cellphone to the loveseat and slunk to the floor, crawling towards Roman until he could run a hand up Roman's shin, dragging across his slacks, to rest a hand on Roman's knee.

"I think you wanted to tell me more about your bookkeeping," Dick cooed, drawing close enough to bump his forehead against Roman's. "Your routes, your runners, your suppliers. I want to hear it all." 

"'Course, baby," Roman slurred. "Anything for you."