Nightclubs are suffocating.
Between the stench of sweat, alcohol, and cologne mingling heavily, the pulsing lights, the music thrumming through his chest, and the heat of dancing bodies around him, Tim feels the air weighing against his lungs—more solid than it should be. His clothes cling to him like a second skin, constricting his ribcage enough to make breathing even more difficult. He weaves through the crush of people, paying no mind to the hands grabbing at him, hoping to pull him into a dance.
Tim flashes the bartender a smile, leaning against the bar and resting his chin on his palm. He’s acutely aware of how he looks—his posture, his clothes, his body language, all carefully crafted to make himself as alluring as possible. He’s the very definition of pretty, with his slender figure and delicate features, and Tim fully uses his looks to his advantage. He glances to his right and spots a broad-shouldered blonde staring at him. Tim casts a coy look in his direction and turns his attention back to the man behind the bar.
Just as he reaches for his wallet in his back pocket, a body crowds behind him and slides a bill across the bar. Tim leans back, pressing close and tilting his head up to look at the blonde man who’d just been eyeing him. He recognizes him as Ryan Moore, a suspected domestic terrorist and the exact man Tim came here to see. The arm not resting against the bar loops around Tim’s waist, trapping him where he stands. Tim pivots until they’re chest to chest, smiling up at Moore.
He’s a caged bird, which is just what he needs to be right now.
Moore hands him a drink, and Tim doesn’t bother asking what he ordered. He lets himself be led away to a booth, tucked away in a shadowy corner of the club. They sit, and Tim gets dragged into Moore’s lap, large hands settling possessively on Tim’s hips.
“Pretty little thing,” Moore murmurs, breath hot against Tim’s ear. His mouth drifts to Tim’s throat. As uncomfortable as he is, Tim is proud of himself for not shying away. His head tips onto Moore’s shoulder, granting better access to his skin.
They drink; Tim flirts, and he’s viciously pleased when Moore pulls him in for a filthy kiss. He tastes like cigarette smoke and cheap booze. Tim turns into putty in the man’s rough hands, practically melting against him. Those hands start to wander, causing Tim to let out a soft, airy sound. Fingers dip into his waistband, and Tim shudders.
“Not here,” he says, voice low and dripping with intent.
He just needs to get Moore alone, distract him a little, and get the information he needs. There are rumors of an attack happening soon near the East End, and Tim can’t let that happen. Moore won’t give up the details to a stranger, but Tim knows what kind of man he is. He’ll tell a particularly pretty fuck where and when to go to avoid the danger, and he’ll want a hefty reward in turn.
Tim stands in a fluid motion and reaches for Moore’s hand. Moore leads him to the back of the club and into a dark storage room. There’s an old couch pushed against one wall—left over from the club’s days as a coffee shop. He lets Moore pull him back onto his lap, tug his shirt off, drag his tongue over his skin. Tim shuts his eyes and tries to let his mind drift to anything other than the hands greedily drinking him in.
Tim doesn’t want this, but he has to do this. It’s for the mission, after all. The math is simple—a nonissue, really. Tim lets Moore fuck him, and he saves hundreds of lives.
It’s not the worst deal he’s had to make.
Dick takes another sip of the crappy beer Jason insisted he order, wrinkling his nose at the taste. Jason snorts, setting his own bottle on the water-stained table. This is the most relaxed Dick has seen his brother in years—maybe in this lifetime, if he’s being honest. He doesn’t know what spurred Jason into suggesting drinks after patrol, but he’s grateful for it.
Jason launches into a story about a particularly persistent old lady who badgered the Red Hood into rescuing her hellion cat from a tree, and Dick smiles, wide and genuine. The story is amusing, sure, but he’s caught up in the feeling of seeing Jason so animated, so much more himself than the murderer he once was. He laughs at Jason’s monologuing, reminiscent of Alfred’s dramatic Shakespeare readings.
It’s a nice evening.
It’s nice, until Dick glances toward the bar and spots a familiar figure.
The smile slips off his face and melts into confusion. Jason raises a brow at him, and Dick nods toward the bar. Jason scowls at the sight of a hulking figure cornering the slim young man at the bar. Then Jason catches sight of his face, and his eyes darken in rage.
“Is that Tim?” He practically snarls.
“It’s Tim,” Dick replies, watching with his own fury mounting. He can read Tim like a book, and no matter what the look on his face says, Tim is uncomfortable.
“That’s Ryan Moore,” Jason says a moment later, and Dick’s blood runs cold. “What the fuck is Tim doing with Ryan fucking Moore?”
“Something reckless, no doubt.” Dick frowns, wondering just what their little brother is thinking. “We’ll keep an eye on him—step in, if we have to.”
Jason nods and takes another sip of his drink. The good mood has soured, but Dick can’t let himself focus on mourning the evening. He wonders how he let himself lose sight of his little brother for long enough to slip through the cracks, in the first place.
They watch as Tim and Moore drift to a booth, and Tim gets dragged onto Moore’s lap. He sees Tim lean away from Moore—just a hair’s breadth—when his mouth descends onto his throat, but it’s enough for Dick to notice. Jason must see it, too, because he growls, the protective fury rising in him mirroring the turbulent emotions churning in Dick’s stomach
“Careful, Jay,” Dick warns, picking up his bottle. “Clench your fists any tighter, and you’ll have glass in your knuckles.” He smiles, but it’s an ugly, cold expression on his face. “You’ll need to save bloodying your hands for later.”
He’s about to say something else when he sees Moore put his hand on the back of Tim’s neck and pull Tim in for a rough kiss. Tim looks so small in the hulking man’s arms, completely swallowed up within Moore’s arms. Moore could break him, and the thought of it makes Dick’s heart drop to his toes.
Tim stands and reaches for Moore’s meaty hand. The look on his face is caught somewhere between flirtatious and vaguely ill. To anyone who doesn’t know Tim, he’d look like lust personified, but all Dick can see is his brother, uncomfortable but pushing forward with some idea he’s chasing.
Dick and Jason exchange a glance when Tim leaves the room, and a silent understanding passes between them. They stand almost simultaneously, crossing the room in a few strides. They emerge into a dimly lit hallway and begin to check the various doors. Jason finds a locked storage room and waves Dick over.
“You get Timmy the fuck out of there,” Jason says, expression murderous. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
A nod, and Jason breaks the door down.
Dick wants to cry at the sight of his baby brother, eyes squeezed shut, shirt tossed across the room, with one of Moore’s hands beneath the waistband of his jeans. Moore’s head shoots up at the noise of the splintering wood, and he scowls at the intruders.
“The fuck are you two assholes doing?” He snaps, fingers of his visible hand stroking along Tim’s bare spine.
“Get your filthy hands off our brother,” Dick replies, tone calm with his anger. Tim’s eyes open, wide and frightened, and he shifts on Moore’s lap, twisting to look over at them.
“Dick? Jason?” His jaw goes slack. “Why are you here?”
“We were out for drinks,” Dick replies. He doesn’t think Jason is capable of speech right now, with how furious he is, so he’s content with doing all the talking. “Imagine our surprise at seeing our seventeen-year-old little brother going off with a stranger.”
“Guys, I’m fine. Just leave,” Tim says between clenched teeth. Moore distracts him by patting him on the ass, a condescending smile on his face.
“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart,” he says, leaning in close. “I can take us back to my place.”
“Dick,” Jason says. He sounds one wrong move away from a Lazarus-fueled rampage. Dick doesn’t think he’d stop him.
“On it,” Dick replies. He steps closer and pulls Tim away from Moore, as gently as he can. He scoops up Tim’s discarded shirt and passes his own jacket over, for good measure. “Let’s go, okay?”
As soon as Dick shuts the door behind them, Tim whirls on him and lands a solid punch on his arm.
“What the hell?” Tim doesn’t hit him again, but his fists are clenched at his sides. “What is your problem?”
“You’re seventeen, Tim, and I doubt you’re here because you actually want to sleep with Ryan Moore!”
“What does it matter?” Tim hisses. “It’s just part of the job. I do this all the time!” His eyes widen as he realizes what he’s said, and he claps a hand over his mouth. “Shit,” he says, muffled.
“You really think business executives take a teenager seriously? Negotiations at WE need extra incentive all the time, Dick. This happens all the time, but it just so happens that at the moment, I’m working my night job. It’s just another business deal.”
Dick can’t be hearing this right. He’s dreaming, or hallucinating—anything but hearing his little brother admit to using sex to make transactions run more smoothly.
God, he’s still a kid.
Dick wants to either burst into tears or tear the world apart with his bare hands.
“No,” Dick says, voice strangled. “This has to stop. Tim, what made you think this was something you have to do?”
Tim frowns, and Dick sees him as just a confused kid, trying his best to do what he can to help out—with the family business, with the mission. He’s always working himself to the bone, driven by a need to be needed. Dick can’t stop himself from pulling Tim into a hug, tucking his head underneath his chin.
“I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into Tim’s hair. He feels wiry arms wrap around his torso, faint tremors following them. “You won’t have to do anything like that again, okay? You never had to, and I’m sorry we didn’t stop you from getting into those situations in the first place.”
He freezes as something occurs to him.
“Wait here, okay?” He asks, pulling away from his brother. He ignores Tim’s confused questions and returns to the storage room. He clears his throat, which catches Jason’s attention. He pauses, mid-swing, fist bloodied, and turns to look at Dick.
“Yes?” Jason asks, tone calmer than it had been a few minutes prior.
“Business partners of ours have apparently been pulling the same trick with Tim,” Dick explains smoothly. “They went into it knowing how old he is. Frequently.” Jason stiffens, and the thunderous anger returns to his face. “Go talk to him, get the names, and go hunting. I’ll finish things up here.”
Jason stalks out of the room, but with every step, he seems to force himself to calm down, so he won’t scare Tim. Dick is ridiculously grateful.
People always assume Jason has been the angrier brother from the start, but they tend to forget where Jason’s rage comes from. The Lazarus Pit took what was already there and amplified it to extremes. When they were younger, Dick was known as the hotheaded Robin.
After all, he’s the one who actually did kill the Joker with his bare hands.
He won’t break the code, not for someone as pathetic as Moore, but Jason has already done a number on him. The man can’t carry out a terrorist attack if he’s in the hospital, now can he? Dick trusts his brother to comfort Tim—wrap him up in warm blankets, make him hot cocoa, remind him none of this is his fault—and then get the rest of the names from him, and Dick will look the other way when those men start to disappear.
He’ll do anything to protect his little brothers, and Dick won’t be content until the threats to Tim have been dealt with completely. Once Tim is safe, once they guarantee this never happens again, and once Dick can hold Tim close, maybe he’ll finally be able to quiet the storm, but for now, he’ll let it rage.
Dick smiles at Moore, pleasant and dangerous.