If the world was ending, then kissing Kon seemed like the thing to do.
It had made sense at the time – the sky dark with thousands of enemy ships, the grey clouds between them like splintering cracks, and Tim hadn’t wanted this regret too, so he had fisted his hands in Kon’s shirt, crumpling the S shield between his fingers, and stretched up on his toes.
As first kisses went, it was pretty fantastic, even if Kon tasted like sweat and ash, alien jet fuel splattered across his face. The audience of killer robots wasn’t ideal, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and Tim had wanted to kiss Kon so badly.
The problem was the world didn’t end.
Which left Kon and Tim standing back-to-back together in the rubble, beaten and bloody but altogether alright.
It wasn’t the most awkward silence Tim had ever been part of it, but it was solidly in the top three. Then Kon threw up his arms and let out a wild whoop and Tim felt a smile tug at his lips; he quickly bit down on it.
“We won!” Kon exclaimed, grinning at the clearing sky like it was the best and most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“We did,” Tim said. He didn’t look at Kon. “Same old world.”
“Good ol’ world,” Kon corrected. He started to walk, ambling between bits of broken spaceship and fizzling, dismantled robots. Tim hesitated a moment before he fell in step. “So, hey. Back there. What was that?”
Tim swallowed hard. He kicked a broken bit of spaceship out of his way. This was his chance to say, that was nothing or, what are you talking about? Did you breathe in any of those spaceship fumes?, but his lips still tingled from where Kon had kissed back.
“Heat of the moment,” he replied after a beat. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, untrue.
“Yeah?” Kon said. He tipped his head back, drumming his fingers against his thighs. Tim shot him a sideways glance. “’Cause I was thinking… we could probably do it again. If you wanted.”
“I,” Tim said, heart in his throat, and apparently that was all the confirmation Kon needed. He turned on his heels and caught Tim’s face between his big, warm hands. The press of his lips was solid and real.
“Well?” he said when he pulled back, searching Tim’s face. His eyes were superhumanly blue.
“Well,” he returned, mouth a perfectly serious line. He grabbed Kon’s arms, keeping him in place. Kon’s face broke out in a grin.
“Yeah?” he said, and, laughing under his breath, Tim seconded, “yeah.”
Kon kissed him again. It was, Tim had to admit, a little breathtaking.
“Man,” he said against his lips. “I am so going to be the heat of your moment.”
Tim drew back, his grip on Kon’s wrists slackening.
“That was terrible,” he said. Kon waggled his eyebrows. “And stop doing that thing. Is this what you’re going to be like from now on?”
“Oh, a million times worse,” Kon replied sincerely. Tim suspected he really shouldn’t have felt so happy about that.
Nothing lasted forever. Certainly not for Tim.
It was over the moment he turned and saw his father in the Batcave – all of it, the crimefighting, the costume, the connections. Severed and gone. No more fighting at Bruce’s side or Dick ruffling his hair or running through alleys with Steph like there were wolves on their heels. No more Titans weekends, no Bart or Cassie or Kon.
Kon, gone. No more frustrating, wonderful, incorrigible Kon, trying to make out with him behind their teammates’ backs, tangling their hands together underneath the cover of Tim’s cape. No more stupid arguments, no Kon breaking down laughing in the middle of them, no more biting back smiles himself.
No more surprisingly bright blush when he caught Kon staring.
He spent the whole night curled in on himself, wondering what he was supposed to do now and coming up empty. He plotted, briefly, to slip out the window and go and tell Kon himself – he could be back before morning, he knew. Dick would fly him over if he asked.
It was a nice idea. Tim rolled over and pulled the covers up over his head.
Kon let it slide the first week, ignoring the worried twinge in his chest. It was only a weekend – weekends were busy in Gotham, what with the gangs and the supercriminals and some new guy forgetting to lock up half the cells in Arkham – and they all missed the Titans weekends sometimes.
Still. You’d think a guy could call his boyfriend to say, hey, you know that Wendy marathon you wanted to have if we didn’t have to go out and hit things in the name of justice? Yeah, can’t make it. Hell, Kon would’ve taken a quick so I’m okay and not held hostage by the Penguin or anything, no need to worry call, or even a text, if the Kents would let him have a cell phone.
But honestly it wasn’t totally unlike Tim, who took Bat-Secrecy to frankly uncomfortable levels, to take off without warning. He was probably on some big secret mission, with lots of dangerous villains, and probably some explosions. Kon was kind of jealous, on top of being lonely.
Then another week passed, and another.
Which brought him to Saturday, pacing around the room while Cassie and Bart sat and watched.
“I don’t know what to do!” he said at last, throwing his hands up. “What if he’s in a ditch? A Gotham ditch?”
Bart looked suitably horrified by the prospect.
“Gotham ditches have to be way worse than normal ditches,” he said. Kon gestured at him, and then at Cassie, as if to say, you see?
Cassie rolled her eyes.
“Look, if you’re worried, you should go to Gotham and see,” she said, in that tone of voice that implied he was being utterly ridiculous. Kon crossed his arms and huffed.
“Right,” he said. “I could just go to Gotham and –”
He hesitated. Cassie rolled her eyes again, tipping her head back and regarding the ceiling like it, at least, might understand what she had to deal with on a daily basis.
“I could just go to Gotham,” he repeated.
“Look, if the situation was reversed and you hadn’t shown up for a few weeks, what do you think Tim would do?” Bart asked, sounding entirely too logical. He had, somewhere in the middle of Kon’s realization, zipped from the room and come back with a hand-decorated sign declaring GO GO GOTHAM. He surreptitiously handed Cassie another one reading THE SUPERBOYFRIEND CHOICE in what looked like glitter glue.
“I don’t know,” Kon admitted, shrugging. “He’d probably have spied on me already with all his bat-stealth and his bat-gadgets and his bat-invasions of privacy.”
Cassie and Bart exchanged a look, a nod and their signs.
“You should go to Gotham,” Cassie said. She held up the GO GO GOTHAM sign, staring balefully at him over the top of it. “It’ll be like a big, romantic gesture – you know. If he’s not in a ditch. Which he’s not because, hello, Tim.”
“You really think I should go?” Kon asked, more to Cassie than to Bart, since Bart was already giving him the thumbs up, and besides, Cassie knew about big romantic gestures. She’d made him watch enough romantic comedies involving them, at least. (Well, she’d watched. Mostly, Kon had fallen asleep.)
“Definitely,” Cassie said with a hint of a smile.
“And tell Tim we miss him, too!” Bart said. Cassie laughed and laid her sign down.
“It’s not all about you, you big lug,” she said, punching him – lightly, because she was one of the few people out there who could probably really hurt him if she tried – in the shoulder. “Go, find Tim, drag him back here.”
“And bring souvenirs!” Bart added. Not that Kon was sure what a good souvenir from Gotham was. Spare Batarang, extra points if it was embedded in a bankrobber’s shoulder?
“Gotham,” he said, mostly to himself. He ran a hand through his hair. “Right.”
The one expectation Tim had about life without superheroics was that at the very least he’d be catching up on his sleep.
It turned out, he found, lying in bed staring at the red numbers on his alarm clock, he’d really been expecting too much. It was hard, getting to sleep at normal hours when he knew that somewhere out there Bruce was running down an alley, swinging from a building. Tim’s fingers itched for a grappling gun.
He wasn’t Dick. He didn’t crave the feeling of soaring through the air, weightless, the feeling of flying. If anything, he missed the landings – feet against concrete, soles of his shoes meeting the sides of building, or the backs of bad guys.
So night after night he curled in on himself, covers pulled over his head, and tried to think of anything else besides the roar of Gotham traffic from far underneath him, the rush of the wind through his hair and Nightwing’s laughter, or the squeaking of bats and steam from fresh cups of tea, and sooner or later he fell asleep and dreamed about it anyway.
(Sometimes, he dreamed about Kon, and that simultaneously better and worse.)
“Sleep well?” his dad would ask in the mornings, like he hadn’t paused outside Tim’s doorway a couple times every night, his hand poised over the doorknob.
Tim would shrug and say, “Yeah, I guess so,” and leave it at that.
“So, how’re you holding up?” Steph asked three weeks in, drumming her fingers against her knees. Tim made a face.
“I’m holding,” he said. “It’s not so bad.”
“Yeah, okay,” she said. “I don’t know about you, Boy Wonder, but I know I’d be going stir crazy. Been there, done that. It’s not something you can just quit.”
“Maybe I can,” Tim said. He was pretty sure hanging out with Steph broke his dad’s rule of no contact with vigilantes, but Steph was pretty hard to shake. It was either come to her, or she’d come to him, and she was a whole lot less likely to take it easy on him if he did that.
She fixed him with a disbelieving look.
“Yeah,” she said. “Sure.”
“It’s true,” he said and she rolled her eyes, knocking her shoulder into his.
“Give it up, Wonder Boy No Longer,” she said. “You act like I don’t know you at all.”
“I know,” he said, ducking his head. “I know.”
Kon didn’t do Gotham – or really, Gotham didn’t do Kon. Batman didn’t want him there and that was just fine. Gotham was dark even when the sun was out, and dank even when it wasn’t raining, and stifling – people and cars and violence flowing over his skin, prickling the hairs on the back of his neck.
He didn’t know how anyone could call it home – home was Hawaii, sunshine and beaches and the biggest, bluest sky. San Francisco was close enough, and Kansas’ great big sky made it bearable, but Gotham was a no-holds-barred wasteland of awful.
As far as Kon was concerned, the only good thing to ever come out of Gotham was Tim.
The closest way from Point Kon to Point Tim was by Point Tall, Dark and Becaped. Kon kind of missed his old costume – the thought of searching out Batman made him want to tug his goggles down over his eyes, shrug the collar of his jacket higher. He felt defenseless in his t-shirt and jeans, which was ridiculous, considering the whole practically invulnerable bit.
“You don’t find Batman,” Clark had said when Kon had subtly brought it up, and then he’d given Kon that look he got, that you’re up to something one that Kon totally hadn’t deserved, even if he was sort of up to something. “He finds you.”
So Kon wasn’t so surprised when he didn’t hear footsteps until the very last moment, the quiet tap of feet against the rooftop. Not surprised, at least, until he turned, and found Robin instead of Batman.
But not his Robin. A girl, blonde, perched on the edge of a stone gargoyle, looking like she was ready to strike, and it was instinct, probably, that he kicked out. Not strongly, and she dodged, springing nimbly to a new perch.
“You’re not Robin,” he accused, first words out of his mouth.
“I’m pretty sure the costume says different,” she replied, and it was hard to tell with the mask but he thought she arched an eyebrow. Her grin was wide and sharp. “And, you know, the Batman.”
Kon snorted, hands clenching at his sides.
“Where’s the real Robin?” he asked.
“I am the real Robin,” she said, sticking her nose in the air, and then she paused. She snapped her fingers and pointed at him, mouth dropped open. “I know who you are!”
“Well, uh, yeah,” he said, tugging at the S shield on his shirt. “The Bat really did a number teaching you detective skills, huh?”
“Look, if you want to be a jerk, fine,” she said, holding her hands up. “I’ll just take my amazing Former Robin Finding Skills somewhere else and leave your sad ass all alone on this roof. Or, you could be nice and say please.”
Kon hated asking for help. He hated it just as much as he hated feeding the cows back at the farm (and he hated feeding the cows a lot). But it was for Tim, and Kon had pretty much come to the conclusion ages ago that he’d feed all the cows in Kansas for Tim, and then some.
So he grit his teeth, clenched his fists, stared at the busy Gotham traffic below, and said, “Please.”
“What’s that?” the girl Robin said, cupping her hand to her ear. “I can’t quite hear you.”
“I said, please!” he growled, and lifting his head he saw that she was grinning at him.
“Oh, c’mon, big guy, relax. I’m just playing with you,” she said. “I can’t actually give you his address because the big bad Bat would put me on permanent probation, but if you turn your super ears that way –” she pointed off into the distance “—you should be able to find him.”
“I,” he said, and broke off. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she said, springing nimbly to a new perch. “He’s my friend, too.”
Kon turned to go when a sharp whistle made him look over his shoulder. The girl Robin was holding onto a grappling gun, her foot braced against a wall.
“Hey, Superhunk!” she called, giving him a wave and bright grin. “Tell Tim the Big A misses him, okay!”
Kon stared after her.
“Who are you?” he asked, but she was already swinging away, her cape flapping in the night air. He thought, briefly, about following her, but quickly shook his head – he had come here for Tim, and now, at least, he had a place to start looking.
“Thank you!” he shouted in the direction she’d gone, hands cupped around his mouth. “For real this time!”
He thought he heard her laughing, but it might’ve just been the wind.
There were things Tim was not expecting to see when he opened the door to his room, and Kon perched haphazardly on his windowsill was one of them.
“Tim!” his father called from downstairs, and he shut the door and spun around so fast it made his head spin. “The game’s coming on. Want to watch?”
“Ah,” Tim said. He cracked his door open; from outside the window, Kon waved. Tim shut it again. “Maybe in a little while, Dad. I think I’m going to get an early start on this homework.”
His father made an approving noise and Tim quickly disappeared back into his room. He forced the window open with quick, jerky movements.
He wasn’t sure what he meant to say, but “what are you doing here?” probably wasn’t it. It came out of his mouth anyway.
Kon blinked, hovering in midair, and all Tim could think about was how the next door neighbors liked to take their dog on evening walks and it wasn’t unusual for the occupants of the house behind theirs to get home at about this time, and there was a flying guy right outside his window, because that was totally the picture of normal.
He caught Kon by his sleeve and reeled him in through the window.
“I,” Kon said, cupping a hand to Tim’s face, and Tim stopped, still clutching Kon’s sleeve. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Tim replied. The word felt clumsy on his lips. “How did you find me?”
Kon was perched awkwardly on the windowsill; he let his hand fall from Tim’s face.
“Uh, superhearing, dude,” he said, licking his lips. He looked unsure, eyebrows furrowed. “I know what your voice sounds like.”
“You can pick my voice out of all of Gotham?” Tim asked, raising one eyebrow. Kon shrugged one shoulder.
“I like your voice,” he said. After a second, he added, “Someone told me where to listen.”
“Someone?” Tim asked.
“You’re not Robin anymore, are you?” Kon asked abruptly. “You – quit. Or were fired or whatever.”
“I quit,” Tim said, and pressed his lips into a thin line. This was exactly the conversation he didn’t want to have – because Tim liked that about Kon, that this was Kon’s whole life, but it meant Kon couldn’t understand. Kon had never had anything else.
“And you weren’t going to tell me?” he said, eyes searching Tim’s face like he was trying to put together a puzzle.
“I,” Tim said. He swallowed hard. “No. Kon, I –”
His bedroom door cracked open; Tim whirled around.
“Hey, Tim,” his dad said, and Tim flung his arms out to the sides of the window like he could somehow block Kon from view. “I was just wondering if – are you okay?”
“Dad!” Tim said, hating the way his voice squeaked. “This is –” he glanced over his shoulder, but the only thing he found was his open window; Kon was gone. “… Nothing.”
His father gave him an odd look.
“Dana and I were thinking we might go out and get some dessert after the game,” he said. “Wanna come with?”
Tim glanced over his shoulder again. Cautiously, he shut his window.
“No, thanks,” he said. “I really should start on that homework.”
Kon flew back to Kansas – and if he tore through a billboard or two on the way, well. He had his reasons.
Tim wasn’t going to tell him. Ever, maybe.
He found himself back on the farm before he knew it. For a moment, he hesitated, hanging there in the air. He was just so angry, and he found himself wondering if he’d feel better if he just – wrecked something. The side of the barn, the fence, the old tractor out back.
But he was Superboy. He didn’t – wreck things. Not on purpose, anyway, not anything more than a stupid billboard on an abandoned interstate, and not just because he was mad. He couldn’t be that guy.
He flew inside and huddled up on the couch with a pile of old comics and the quilt Ma had made for Clark when he’d been like, twelve or something, and tried not to think about Tim and the look on his face when he’d said he’d quit.
He slept poorly, tossing and turning, and when he woke up he was hovering a good three feet above his bed. He fell and hit the mattress with a thump; there went the box springs. No big loss, they had to be older than he was. Older than Clark, probably.
Ten minutes and one of Clark’s incredibly dweeby old plaid shirts later found him dragging himself into the kitchen. Ma Kent stared at him from the over the tops of her glasses, spatula in hand.
“What?” he said. She hummed noncommittally, putting together a plate for him (and if there was one good thing and only one good thing about living with the Kents, it was definitely the food) as he pulled up a chair.
“Just trying to figure out what’s wrong, dear,” she said. He scowled at the tabletop, propping his chin up on one palm.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he said. “Same old, same old.”
“Oh, honey, you think Clark never came down those stairs with the same look on his face?” she said, setting his plate down in front of him. “And elbows off the table.”
Kon obeyed; Ma Kent sort of had that power over everyone.
“Martha,” Pa said over the top of his newspaper. “Don’t interrogate the boy. He’ll talk if he wants to.”
Kon pushed his eggs around on his plate. That was Ma’s other talent – she could make anyone talk, even if they didn’t really want to. Even if they mostly still wanted to punch a hole through the nearest wall.
“I just,” he said. Stopped. Ate the bacon, for emotional strength. “What if you had this – friend.”
“Oh, it’s one of those problems,” Pa said, not unkindly. He shook out his newspaper and pulled it right back up.
“Right, um,” Kon said, staring at his eggs uneasily. “What if you had this friend, right, and you thought everything was kind of – normal. Good, I guess. Really good. And then one day your friend stops showing up for on the weekend for – stuff. And you go to see if they’re, you know, dead in a ditch or something, but they’re not, they’re fine, they just – quit. And they didn’t tell you or, or anybody, they were just going to quit.”
Kon sucked in a breath and glanced up. Ma was looking at him with an expression he couldn’t read, not that he could read a lot of them normally. The basics he got, smiling and crying and that look the bad guys always got when they were about to explain every tiny detail of their stupidly complicated plans – that stuff he was good at. Everything else he never bothered with, because Tim was there with his bat-powered superbrain and Kon trusted in that.
Not anymore, he guessed. That was going to suck, although not quite as much as no more freaky birdboy makeouts.
If it wasn’t for the Kents No Powers at Breakfast rule, Kon would have probably heat vision’d his eggs to a crisp, and taken most of the table with them. (Which, come to think of it, was probably why the Kents had that rule in the first place.)
“This is one of those problems that comes wrapped in a cape, huh, son?” Pa said from behind his newspaper. Kon felt his face heat up.
“Uh, sort of, yeah,” he said.
“This friend,” Ma said. “They’re important to you, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Kon said. Ma smiled at him.
“People always have reasons for the things they do,” she told him. “Odds are your friend didn’t want to quit anymore than you wanted them to. You don’t have to stop being friends, just because they quit.”
“It’s just,” Kon said, staring at the patterns the wood grain made. He furrowed his brow and admitted in a small voice, “We won’t have anything in common anymore.”
“So you’ll find something new,” Ma said. “If they’re really important to you, Conner, don’t let this stop you.”
“She’s right,” Pa said, flipping a page.
“So, what?” Kon said. “You think I should talk to him?”
“I think you should give it a chance,” Ma said with a smile. "Now don't let your breakfast get cold."
The problem with not being Robin anymore was that Tim couldn’t turn it off. It was like being asked to forget that the sky was blue, or how he felt the first time he’d seen Dick’s quadruple somersault in person. He could fake it, but he couldn’t unlearn it.
So the facts filled his head as soon as he found out which museum his class was taking their fieldtrip to, a jigsaw puzzle of crime. How many break-ins, civilian casualties, injured guards, stolen artifacts; they came to him unbidden.
There was a pattern, Batman had taught him. You could follow it, if you had the facts. The last robbery had been months ago, and it had been small. It was a sizable enough gap to make Tim nervous.
Nothing would happen, he told himself. Or at least, nothing would happen today. Gotham was a nocturnal city – it bloomed at night and came alive. Daytime had little to offer besides petty thugs, and after what Tim had been up against they didn’t hold any menace.
But Tim had been Robin, was still Robin inside, even without the costume and the crimefighting; it hung in the air around him, it was instilled in him. It was like pretending to be normal in school, except now he was doing it all the time, and it was driving him up the wall. He still thought like Robin, and he moved like Robin, stealthy and smooth, until he stopped to remind himself that normal teenage boys made noise when they walked.
Tim was still Robin where it mattered, and Robin was a magnet for trouble.
So, he supposed, he shouldn’t have been terribly surprised when the windows shattered, raining glass down on a third of the class.
Tim should have stayed with the group, but he was running on instinct, deeply ingrained, and the rules were thus: you did what you had to do to save people, and then you vanished. (Sometimes you got to make a witty remark, but that was more Dick’s territory.)
He didn’t go home. If he went home, it would feel real, the museum. The fact that he went in, when he should have stood there and waited for the police. His dad would have wanted him to stay and wait.
Bruce would have approved, provided no one saw him.
Tim dropped down on a bench and ran a hand through his hair, resting his face against his palm. It was still chaos over there, and it would be for a while. He’d slip back into the group before long and let himself be ushered back to school. He’d pretend he had never slipped away, never snuck up on that one robber and struck while his back was turned.
It’d been good, in the museum. He’d felt right. Now he just felt wrong, and unsure.
He hated it.
Tim whirled around, muscles tensing and then relaxing in expectation of a fight. There was a boy behind him, and it took him an embarrassingly long moment to realize it was Kon.
It was the clothes, he decided. The clothes and the glasses – the same basic principle as Superman’s disguise, but Tim could look at Clark Kent and see Superman under the ruffled shirt and messy hair. Kon looked uncomfortable in his plaid shirt and grass-stained jeans, like he didn’t quite fit into them. His glasses slid down his nose.
“I’m not stalking you, I swear,” Kon said.
“Shouldn’t you be in Kansas?” Tim asked. Kon shrugged. He took the other side of the bench, like he didn’t want to get in Tim’s space too much. It was hard to reconcile this Kon with the one from a few months ago who’d ripped the arm off an attacking robot and tried to get Tim to mount it on his wall.
Then again, this Tim must have been hard for Kon to reconcile with Robin, too.
“I’m sorry,” Kon said after a moment. He was hunched over, elbows resting on his knees, staring at his shoes. “For running off the other night.”
“It’s okay,” Tim said.
“It’s not,” Kon said. “Ma gave me a lecture on it before I left this morning.”
“Why are you here?” Tim asked. Kon looked up at him from over the tops of his glasses. Tim’s fingers itched to reach over and snatch them off.
“I wanted to apologize,” Kon said. “And I wanted to, y’know. Talk.”
“Talk,” Tim repeated. “Okay. We can do that.”
Probably, he added to himself.
Kon turned towards him, head bent low. He reached forward, like he was going to take Tim’s hand, but stopped at the last minute, wiping his palms on his jeans.
“Okay,” Kon said. “Talking now.”
Tim nodded. Kon gave him one of those looks, the you are no help one, and inhaled sharply.
“It’s just – I wanted to – you -- dammit,” Kon swore, tugging his glasses off. He flung them viciously to the side and Tim craned his head to make sure they didn’t fly into some poor bystander. They landed in a tree; Tim made a mental note of which one for when Kon inevitably needed them back. “Can’t think with them on, it’s so – you know how people always think people wearing glasses must be smart? It’s the opposite with me, I get so dumb, I swear.”
He took a deep breath in through his nose, running a hand through his hair. It stuck up at all angles; the corner of Tim’s mouth twitched. Now Kon was starting to seem like himself.
“That. Back there. The other night,” Kon said, waving one hand in the air. Tim followed it with his eyes. “I have to know – was that you breaking up with me?”
“Um,” Tim said. He licked his lips, mouth gone dry, and said, “Not exactly, no.”
“Okay,” Kon said, and the downside of the glasses being gone was that now Tim had a hard time looking him in the eyes. “What does that mean?”
It means I don’t want to, Tim thought. He said, “I’m not Robin anymore.”
“I don’t know how to break this to you, dude,” he said. “But the whole cape and mask thing? Not actually why I’m into you. I mean, it’s a bonus, but I like the whole Tim package. Shocking, I know.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Tim lied.
Kon leaned towards Tim, inclining his head, and it was like he entirely in Tim’s space all at once. Everything smelled like him and felt like him and Tim bit his lip.
“I don’t want to break up,” Kon said. “I really, really don’t want to. But if it’s what you want – I’ll go. And I won’t bother you or show up outside your house and throw rocks at your window with a boombox above my head or anything crazy like that. I promise. So if that’s what you want, man, you’ve just gotta give me the say so.”
Tim laughed in spite of himself, raising a hand to scrub at his face.
“I don’t want to,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s pretty much the last thing I want.”
Kon was quiet for a minute. Tim watched his hands, twisted up in each other like Kon was afraid to hold onto anything more breakable.
“We could always try, I don’t know,” he sounded unsure, “the normal thing?”
“The normal thing?” Tim said, quirking an eyebrow.
“With, like, dates,” Kon said, slanting a glance Tim’s way.
“I’ve been on dates,” Tim said, feeling a little defensive.
“Did they get crashed by supervillains?” Kon asked. Tim scowled.
“Only occasionally,” he said, and Kon snorted. “Not every time.”
“Look,” Kon said. “Let’s try it. What have we got to lose?”
“Dignity,” Tim muttered under his breath. Louder, he said, “Normal. Okay. That’s… that’s not going to work, Kon – we’re not normal.”
“You’re trying, though,” Kon said, ducking his head. “And I can try for you.”
Tim scrubbed at his face with his hands and made what was possibly an even dumber decision than the whole running back into the museum unarmed bit. He said, “Okay.”
“Yeah,” Tim said. “Come by tomorrow afternoon? My dad and Dana won’t be home for a few hours.”
Kon’s face lit up. It made something in Tim’s chest clench, but it wasn’t a bad feeling, not entirely. It reminded him a little of the sensation, simultaneously weightless and sinking, when you first swung out off a rooftop.
He’d missed it.
“Yeah,” Kon said. He ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck, smiling at his knees. Relief was clear across his face. “Yeah, I can definitely – that sounds cool.” He coughed halfway through, voice wavering, and Tim let himself smile back. It was slow and tentative, but real enough that it felt strange on his face.
He placed a hand on Kon’s shoulder and leaned in, pressing their lips together briefly. It made his chest flutter all over again. Kon made a noise deep in his throat; he reached up and touched Tim’s face, gently, and Tim had to pull away then because the fluttering had ceased and the clenching ache had started all over again.
Just a few hours before he’d been sure he’d never have this again. How could he have ever thought he could give up Kon?
“And if that goes well,” he said, because he couldn’t quite pass up the opportunity, “maybe you can stay for dinner and meet my dad.”
Kon kind of looked like he’d rather fight the armies of Apokolips with one hand tied behind his back.
“Dude, I already met Batman,” he said, making a face. “Isn’t that good enough for you?”
Tim got up and dusted off his jeans.
“We’re doing normal, aren’t we,” he said, half-under his breath. Kon leaned forward and grabbed his hand, thumb brushing the inside of Tim’s wrist, and Tim’s breath stuttered a little.
“Hey,” Kon said, tugging gently. Tim turned back towards him. “Don’t leave me hanging. It’s a long flight back to Kansas.”
“Not for you,” Tim said, but he bent down anyway. Kon leaned up and they met halfway, just a light brush of lips at first. But then Kon smiled against his mouth and Tim sighed, and the angle was all wrong but he opened his mouth anyway, and Kon mirrored him. They stayed like that for a few moments, warm and wet and slow, before Tim pulled away, his hand falling from Kon’s grip.
“Tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “Don’t be late, don’t wear the S-shield, and don’t bring any morally questionable robots.”
Kon had been through his own closet, then Clark’s, three shirts Pa had offered to lend him, one Ma had apparently sewn on the spot, his own again and still nothing looked right.
“Maybe it’s not the clothes,” he said to the mirror, appalled. He turned his face to the side and eyed his hair warily. “Maybe it’s me.”
Krypto gave a bark that was anything but reassuring.
Pa, watching from the doorway with a deeply amused look on his face, said, “Is Clark going to need to have another talk with you?”
“Oh, please, no,” Kon said, pulling a face. Clark’s last talk-with-a-capital-T had mostly involved awkward pauses and a couple of stilted questions about “safety” and “self-control” and a very quietly muttered word that might’ve been “condoms.”
It had left Kon with a deep desire to throw himself into a pit of barracudas with kryptonite teeth.
“Don’t know what that boy said to you,” Ma tutted, bustling past her husband and into the room. She tugged on his collar and he tilted his head up obediently, expecting to have it buttoned up to his throat. She surprised him, undoing the top three buttons so his undershirt peaked out from underneath.
“Do you know what the most important part of a first date is?” she asked.
“Uh,” Kon said, thinking back on his previous first dates. It still hurt, thinking about Tana, and the whole thing with Cassie had been mostly unfortunate, considering his powers hated him and enjoyed kicking in at really awkward times. But those had dates had all been with Superboy, not Conner Kent, high school student from Kansas, currently failing Animal Husbandry 101. “Try not to have it crashed by Gorilla Grod?”
Ma clucked her tongue. She tugged at his collar until it was in disarray – a cool, polished sort of disarray, not like when Kon just tossed on a shirt without bothering to see whether it was wrinkled or covered in hay. He checked his reflection and raised an eyebrow; he looked good.
“The two most important things to do on a first date,” Ma told him, “are to be yourself, and bring a dessert.”
“I was myself,” Pa said from the doorway. “She brought the dessert.”
In the daylight, Tim’s neighborhood wasn’t anything like Kon had expected, back when he used to wonder where Tim lived; he could actually see the sky. Not that the Gotham skyline was anything to be happy about.
It looked peaceful, though, and that was a good thing. Or it should be, at least – Kon had a hard time reconciling his image of Tim with peaceful. Tim was too sharp for peaceful. When Kon closed his eyes and thought about Tim, he always saw him split-second, in the middle of a fight.
Nobody fought like Tim.
The house had looked different at night, from the back, through the haze of Kon’s confusion (Robin isn’t Tim, Tim isn’t Robin, what’s going on) – standing in front of it in broad daylight Kon had to check the number a couple of times to make sure he’d gotten the right place.
It just didn’t look like the kind of house Tim would live in.
For one thing, it was above ground.
Tim opened the door before Kon was even up the steps, leaving him standing there, staring up at him.
“Uh,” he said, feeling lost. He’d seen Tim without the mask before, sure, but this was – Tim, without the masks, in normal clothes, in a normal house. Barefoot, with one arched eyebrow. “I brought a pie?”
The other eyebrow quirked up to the join its twin.
“Really?” Tim said, staring at the foil wrapped package in Kon’s hands.
“Hey,” Kon said. “It’s good pie!”
“I just know how you fly,” Tim said, lips twitching as he moved aside. Kon took the rest of the front steps in one bound. “I don’t think the pie could stand up to it.”
Kon scowled down at Tim, on even footing with him now, and said, “Dude. C’mon. Like Superman’s mom doesn’t know how to bake a g-force proofed pie.”
Tim made an appreciative noise. “Mrs. Kent made the pie?”
His fingers brushed against Kon’s and the tinfoil crinkled between them. Kon swallowed hard, and Tim took the opportunity to snatch the pie out of his hands.
Then he was gone, heading down the hallway, and Kon was left standing in the doorway, feeling like an idiot. Which, alright, was pretty normal when he was around Tim, so it was mostly a good kind of feeling like an idiot.
“Of course she made it. Who else would’ve? Me?” Kon said, following. Tim snorted, and Kon added, “Don’t give me that; I remember the waffle incident.”
“I remember not being the only one at the stove,” Tim replied, stopping in a doorway. Kon could see the kitchen behind him, big and airy and full of light and much, much cleaner than the Kent’s. It looked like the kind of kitchen where people were rarely at the stove.
“Hey,” Tim said, balancing the pie on one palm. He reached out to touch Kon’s wrist, featherlight, like Kon was going to disappear if he did the wrong thing. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Kon said, mouth gone a little funny and dry. “I forgot to say that before.”
“Me, too,” Tim said, fingertips trailing over the bones of Kon’s wrist. Kon twisted out of Tim’s grip and took his hand instead, holding it loosely. Tim looked down at their joined hands, and he didn’t smile. He had that look, though, the one he got when he was thinking about something so hard he had to devote his full attention to it, and that was almost better.
Kon was kind of a little stupid in love with that look.
“So. You. House. Do I get the tour?” Kon asked.
The tour started and ended at the kitchen. There was pie, after all, and how often in your life did you get to eat pie baked by Superman’s mother? Even Batman didn’t rate that kind of privilege.
“We just need to stick it in the oven until it’s warm,” Kon said. “Don’t worry, Ma says that – and I quote – a monkey could handle it, let alone teenagers.”
Ten minutes later found them sitting at the tiny kitchen table with the pie between them. The plates Tim had set out lay abandoned; they ate it straight from the tin.
It was different than Alfred’s pie, which would never have been eaten from a tin, ever, because the universe might have exploded from the sheer shock of it all, but also because Alfred’s pie was always perfect, down to the perfectly crunchy crust. Ma Kent’s pie was a little crumbly, and kind of mushy at the center, and that almost made it better.
Not that Tim would ever admit that out loud. It’d be betraying Alfred.
And really, the pie was all they had going for the afternoon seeing as they couldn’t keep a conversation going for three minutes. The usual “how’s life” questions were out the window, because Tim’s life was school and home and back again, and Kon had started saying something about the tower before he’d shut his mouth with a click of teeth.
Tim didn’t really want to hear about the tower, anyway.
At least, he thought as the awkward minutes ticked by, he’d gotten pie out of the crash and burn ending of his relationship.
Kon had crumbs in the corner of his mouth. Unthinkingly, Tim reached over and brushed his thumb across Kon’s lips.
The next thing he knew he was sitting on the table and Kon was standing between his knees. His back was tense under Tim’s palms, all knotted muscle, and Tim dug his fingers into his shoulders even though he knew it wouldn’t do any good; invulnerability didn’t lend itself well to massages.
“Can we not do this,” Kon said, lips brushing Tim’s. Tim shuddered and brought a hand up to twist in Kon’s hair. “Not the kissing thing. The kissing thing we should definitely keep doing. The awkward thing.”
“It’s not like I planned it,” Tim said, feeling a little defensive.
“But you plan everything,” Kon countered, knocking their forehead together. “Down to the nanosecond, man, I know you.”
Kon’s face up close was so open and his eyes were so blue. Tim just wanted to wrap his arms around him and stay like that.
“I just don’t know how to do this when it’s just us,” he confessed.
Kon frowned, eyebrows furrowed. He tapped his fingers against Tim’s hip.
“Sorry,” he said, “but was this some kind of weird threesome and I wasn’t aware of it? Were you doing the hot alien horizontal tango with Starfire behind my back? Getting technofreaky with Cyborg? Just spare me and tell me it wasn’t justice makeouts with my ex-girlfriend. Tim, man, I could be missing something here, but it was always just us.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Tim said, lips curling into a frown. His fingers caught at Kon’s shirt, plucking at the bit where the S-shield would’ve been. His voice dropped. “I don’t how to do this here. Without explosions and fights and the world being in peril.”
“World’s still in peril, probably,” Kon said contemplatively. He planted his palms on the tabletop and leaned forward, face contemplative. “Well, probably not today, because Thursdays are boring, but. Saturday. For sure.”
“And I can’t do that stuff with you anymore,” Tim said, frustration welling up in his chest. “I told you, I’m not Robin anymore, Conner.”
Kon drew back and Tim exhaled, shutting his eyes.
There were big, warm hands on his knees and Tim’s eyes blinked open. Kon was in his face again, and it was hard to think with him this close, all blue eyes and dark hair. Tim knew, given a few more weeks, it would be curling at the ends again, just like Superman’s, and that was why Kon was keeping it cropped so short lately.
“Because you know me? And you like me?” Tim said, raising an eyebrow. Kon grinned, hooking his fingers into the beltloops of Tim’s jeans.
“Yeah,” he said, “and because you know me, and you like me too. We got awkward out of the way years ago. You can’t be awkward with someone you kryptonite-punched, let alone someone you’ve made out with while upside down. It’s relationship math, dude, they teach this stuff in like, every sitcom.”
“I think we just proved them wrong,” Tim said, knocking his forehead gently against Kon’s. “Screw it. Less talking, more kissing, or else I’m getting that ring out again.”
“Yeah, okay,” Kon said, breath ghosting hot against Tim’s lips. “I knew we could not do the awkward thing.”
Kon came back the next afternoon, and the one after that.
“You know, people do stuff on dates,” Tim said, ignoring the fact that his hands were up the back of Kon’s shirt. His skin was warm and flawless underneath, all hard muscle and broad back.
“This doesn’t count?” Kon asked. His brow was furrowed in a way that Tim was hardpressed not to find adorable.
“Outside stuff,” Tim said. “They go places.”
“I’m in Gotham,” Kon said. He planted a wet kiss against Tim’s ear, probably just to watch him squirm. “What more do you want from me.”
“I’m thinking about pursuing a relationship with sunlight, though,” Tim said, extracting himself and pillowing his arms on Kon’s chest, staring down at him pointedly. “We never really had time for each other, before, but it’s this fascinating thing where – it’s light, in the daytime, and people do things outside.”
“Like robbing museums and coming up with really stupid costumes?” Kon said, pulling a shocked face. “Man, Gotham really is the cultural hub to end all cultural hubs.”
Tim whacked him with a pillow, and then somehow they ended up kissing again. They never did make it outside.
Then, one week later, Tim’s dad walked in on them.
It was less mortifying than it could have been – everyone had their shirts on, and all belts in the vicinity were securely buckled. They weren’t even liplocked, but they were sitting close, thighs pressed together, laptop precariously balanced on their knees, his arm around Kon’s back.
Tim was a master at reading body language (or nearly; he wasn’t Cass, after all), but most people knew the basics, instinctively. His dad wasn’t stupid; everything about their posture screamed ‘more than friends’ in blinking neon lights, right down to the way Kon’s head was inclined so his cheek was almost but not quite resting on Tim’s head.
In the future, Kon would describe the moment as being “the most awkward thing that has ever happened in the history of ever, to anyone, seriously, dude, so much worse than the time Superman’s dad caught me checking out the old Penthouse issues I found in the barn, I mean, just, damn.”
But in the present, Tim couldn’t even be coherent enough to shove the laptop off their knees or move Kon and his stupid feet which were totally tangled with Tim’s. He just sat there, staring at his dad with that expression Alfred said made him look “just like a fish, Master Timothy, please do close your mouth and sit up straight at once.”
His dad pulled a face suspiciously close to Tim’s own fish expression. He opened his mouth once, closed it, held up a finger, and then shut the door with a click.
“Oh, geez,” Kon said, startling backwards, the spell that had kept them both in place broken. Tim lunged and caught the laptop before it could fall. Kon dove to the floor, looking for the shoes he’d kicked off earlier.
“One’s under the bed, the other’s by my closet,” Tim told him automatically, shutting his laptop with a click. “What are you doing?”
“Throwing myself in the bay,” Kon said, hopping up and down with his left shoe halfway on, “before your dad calls up Batman and gets himself a kryptonite rifle.”
“My dad and Batman aren’t on speaking terms, and Batman doesn’t have a kryptonite rifle,” Tim said, catching Kon by the back of his shirt. “I’m not even sure how one of those would work -- and stop squirming, it’ll be worse if you leave.”
“How could it possibly be worse?” Kon moaned, but he slumped back down, shoulders hunched.
“For one, neither of us is dressed up like Alice in Wonderland,” Tim muttered under his breath. Kon shot him a look, eyebrows raised, and opened his mouth to ask the obvious question; Tim elbowed him in the ribs. The door swung open again and they sprang apart, to opposite ends of the bed.
His dad was standing there with Dana not too far behind.
Tim desperately searched for a good explanation -- no need to worry, this is just Superboy, my boyfriend, cloned from Superman and also Lex Luthor I guess but don’t worry he’s hardly scheming at all, besides I’m a firm believer in nurture versus nature, and I guess he missed me so we’ve been making out in my room a lot while you’ve been out, and honestly I didn’t think you’d find out, which may admittedly have been shortsighted on my part --, found none, and spat out the first thing he thought of: “You’re home early.”
His dad looked like he honestly didn’t know what to say to that, and Tim couldn’t really blame him. He raised a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger.
“We are having a talk, young man,” he said. “And – you. Other young man. Do you have a name?”
“Uh,” Kon said, scrambling to his feet, all arms and legs and the kind of awkwardness that must have come from never having to meet anyone’s parents before. Or, maybe, from being caught alone up in his boyfriend’s room, snuggling. “I’m – Kon. Conner. Kent, I mean, Conner Kent.”
“You, Conner Kent, are going home,” he said, and Dana smiled from behind him, looking a little tightlipped but overall amused. She beckoned to Kon, who threw one last look at Tim.
“Bye,” he said, eyes wide in the evening’s half-gloom. Tim thought he might start panicking, which was ridiculous when he really thought about it, because he’d seen Kon face down robots and entire invasions and, that one time, a giant sentient billboard. “I’ll, uh. Call?”
“Yeah,” Tim said.
“When I get home,” Kon promised. He ducked out the door without making eye contact, and Tim watched as Dana led him away. She shot him a sympathetic glance over her shoulder.
“So,” Tim said to his dad after an awkward beat. “About that talk.”