The collar that Jason had locked around Tim's neck was more like a half-face mask connected to a protective throat cover. It extended from the bridge of Tim's nose down to the notch of his collarbone, heavy black leather lined with the softest pigskin in pale tan. Jason had made sure that Tim could breathe through the provided nostril holes and turn his head but it was boned to ensure that he held his head up straight at all times. There were a series of locking buckles on the back that Tim could feel, when Jason let his hands free, but couldn't undo without tools that were decidedly not available. In front, there was a flap that Jason could unlock and open when he wanted Tim's mouth free.
He couldn't eat. He couldn't drink. Most of the time, Tim couldn't move around the apartment that he shared with Jason. The collar had an O-ring that Jason frequently attached to a chain set in the wall. The chain was heavy, just long enough to allow Tim to reach the toilet or curl up on the bed but nothing more. Given that it was bolted into a brick wall backed by a steel I-beam, there was little chance of Tim getting free.
Not that he thought he'd get away, anyway. Jason had methodically explained the security arrangements around the apartment, the building and the whole neighborhood. Everyone here knew that Tim was Jason's new pet. They'd turn him in instantly if Tim did manage to escape. Besides, Tim wasn't allowed clothing other than the collar and restraints that adorned his wrists and ankles. Running away naked was an even worse idea. Tim was sure that Jason's followers would be glad to take advantage of his vulnerability before returning him. He'd heard Jason saying that it was approved, even encouraged.
"That's what I like to see," Jason said as he sauntered into Tim's room. "Right where I left you."
Tim would have nodded but the collar prevented that. The chain was on so what else was Tim to do besides wait on the bed. Besides, his hands were bound together in front of him today. He jerked when he realized that Jason had a fast food bag in his hand, as well as a large soda. Jason leered at the expression that had to be in Tim's eyes.
"Hungry, baby bird?" Jason asked even though he knew the answer. "You going to be good for me?"
His answer was a desperate whimper. Tim's fingers shook in his lap. Three months into his captivity and Tim knew that he was deep into Stockholm Syndrome, as well as being as programmed as Pavlov's dogs. Jason ran his fingers over Tim's cheekbone just above the collar's mask. The expression in his eyes was strangely tender, though Tim could see the ownership in Jason's eyes as well.
"Good boy," Jason said. He put the bag of food on the bed next to Tim, the tender expression sliding into a leer. "Present."
Tim shuddered, moving around on the bed so that he was on his hands and knees with his ass in the air. The chain pooled under Tim's chin. His face was next to the food that he absolutely could not eat without Jason's permission. To Tim's internal dismay, his cock was already hard, dripping a little. Jason chuckled, using a little of the lube that was always around Tim's bed to make sure that he was properly ready, just the way Jason wanted.
"Yeah, that's my pet," Jason crooned approvingly. "You're all ready for me. Brace yourself, Baby bird. You take care of me and I'll take care of you."
He abruptly shoved into Tim, thrusting rough and hard with no regard to how much Tim enjoyed the encounter. It hardly mattered. Tim shuddered with pleasure. The smell of the food was already so powerfully associated with sexual pleasure that he knew that even if Dick ever managed to wrest control of Gotham away from Jason and save Tim he would still get hard and come from having food near his mouth.
Jason filled Tim up, laughing as Tim came all over his chest and bed. He let Tim collapse to the bed, panting through the mask, before gently unlocking the slit that allowed Tim to eat. Once Tim's mouth was exposed, Jason scooped up some of the semen and thrust his finger into Tim's open, willing mouth. Only once his finger was clean and Tim's cock was hard again did Jason open the bag and start feeding Tim the fries and chicken bites.
The last bite of food was followed by a long drink of soda that made Tim come again.
"What do you say?" Jason asked once Tim was done shuddering through his second orgasm.
"Thank you, Master Jason," Tim whispered.
His voice came out husky from disuse. Jason smiled, kissing Tim gently before locking his mask back on. Tim sighed, letting Jason arrange his head on his lap. Maybe someday Dick would save Gotham. With Bruce dead, Damian returned to Ra's' side and Steph and Cass away, there was no one else. Tim had to wonder if he could be saved anymore. This had become his whole world. He wasn't sure that he'd want to leave anymore, even if he did get the chance to escape.
Tim was going to go insane. He was. This, this was more than anyone should be expected to handle.
There was a vibrator in his ass, one that not only throbbed in an unpredictable pattern but also rotated, brushing against his prostate frequently enough that Tim was panting just from that. But there was also a long stretchy sheath over his cock with another ring that clenched tight around the base of his balls, keeping him from coming. Worse, it had a vibrating bullet buzzing away at the highest setting right base of his cock. It made Tim's hips tremble and hitch. Vibrating nipple clamps dragged at his chest. His back was aching from the flogging he'd got. Even the cuffs strapped around Tim's wrists and ankles turned him on.
The chain attached to his collar tugged his head upwards constantly, not letting him relax for a moment. Jason had taken the lock covering Tim's mouth off. He could breathe freely, speak, beg, do anything but escape the constant stimulation that threatened to make Tim's mind snap. He shuddered, hips hitching more as Jason turned the vibrator in his ass up to full.
"Yeah, feels good, doesn't it, Baby?" Jason crooned. His hand ghosted over Tim's hair, grown long enough now that it brushed his over shoulders and past the edge of his collar. "Do you like your new toys?"
"Y-y-eeeessssss," Tim hissed, voice as always coming out strange and wrong from disuse and arousal. "M-maaast-ter!"
"That's my good boy," Jason said, moving around in front of Tim so that he could stare into Tim's eyes.
The expression used to be scary, all ownership and dominance. Tim loved seeing it now. His Master, his, so proud of Tim, so happy with how he responded. It made Tim shudder and jerk, hands trying to pull away from the ring set in the floor so that he could stroke his cock and come but no, he wouldn't come just from that. He couldn't. Not anymore. He had to make Master Jason happy first. Tim's pleasure was to make Master Jason happy.
"Open your mouth," Jason growled.
Tim did it instantly, whimpering and salivating for what Jason was about to give him. Better than food, better than freedom, better than anything else in the world; Jason's cock pushed into Tim's very willing mouth, thrusting deep enough that it should have made him gag. But his head was at the perfect angle thanks to Tim's collar and he'd learned how to deep throat his master months ago. It was months? Tim was fairly certain that it had been about six months but time did strange things to him lately.
He dismissed concerns about how far he'd fallen into Stockholm Syndrome over the pleasure of Jason's cock dragging against his tongue and lips. It didn't take long before Jason was cursing, Tim's name and praise mixed into the profane words. Jason grunted and pushed so deep into Tim's throat, holding there so that Tim could swallow everything that Jason gave him. Tim did, holding back his own orgasm by sheer force of will.
Only once Jason pulled back enough that Tim could breathe and then gave his nod of approval did Tim allow himself to come. The toys working his body were good, incredible, wonderful beyond all thought, but Master Jason looking down at him with approval was better by far.
"Thank you, Master Jason," Tim whispered once Jason pulled out of his mouth. "Thank you so much!"
"Hmm, should probably cut your hair," Jason mused while brushing Tim's hair out.
Tim knelt in front of Jason, hands resting calm and lax on his thighs. The bristles of the brush were wonderfully relaxing as Jason smoothed it over his scalp and then dragged it slowly through Tim's hair. It truly had gotten quite long, far longer than he'd ever allowed before, but then pretty much everything about Tim had changed since Jason took possession of him.
The collar kept his head exactly as it should be, straight and still for Jason and his brushing. This was a new collar. Tim had put on some weight in the last couple of months, ever since Jason had decided that Tim was getting too skinny, so the new collar was a bit bigger to accommodate the increase in muscle and just general flesh. If he'd been allowed to think such things, Tim would have worried that he was getting fat but Jason was even more appreciative of Tim's appearance now that his ribs didn't show all the time.
"Nah," Jason said once Tim's hair was free of knots. "We'll keep it long for a while. I think you'd look good with waist-length hair. Getting close to it already."
Their apartment had equipment for Tim to work out on now, weights and a rowing machine that Tim spent an hour and a half on every day. Jason liked watching Tim move his body now that he no longer attempted to get free. There was no point. Dick had been driven entirely out of Gotham several months ago. When Steph and Cass returned to try and help him regain control, Jason and his forces had driven them out too.
Gotham belonged to Red Hood now, completely and utterly.
Tim belonged to Jason, just as utterly. It was quite comforting, knowing that he was wanted. He'd never been wanted this way before. His parents had ignored him. His friends had enjoyed his company but quickly forgotten him when he wasn't around. And so many people had died, changed or otherwise left Tim behind.
Not Jason though. Jason wouldn't ever abandon Tim. He was crafting Tim into exactly what he wanted Tim to be. It was rather nice having such clear directions for the process. No one other than Bruce had given Tim such clear instructions on how to live and what to be. It made the process of remaking himself considerably easier and there was so much less guesswork about the process now.
"Up," Jason said.
Tim stood smoothly, letting Jason move his arms so that he supported his long hair over his head. A black corset nipped Tim's waist in. It was narrow enough that Tim's nipples were obvious above the top edge of it. Black leather short-shorts covered Tim's groin, telling him that Jason was letting Tim out of their room today. It was rare but getting less rare as Tim's training progressed. Thigh-high black boots covered Tim's legs.
He smiled behind the mask as Jason strapped knives over Tim's thighs and calves, then draped belts with knives around his waist. It was to be a day of threatening people who had disobeyed Jason, then. That would be fun. Tim enjoyed playing the delicate little pet in public but being Jason's lethal attack pet was even more fun. Shiva's lessons were so useful now, though Jason never asked Tim to kill.
It was only one of the things that made Tim grateful that Jason owned him now.
"We're heading outside so cape," Jason said as he draped the heavy velvet mantle over Tim's shoulders and snapped it shut. "Your orders are to stab anything that I point you at, Baby bird. Nothing crippling or lethal, just seriously fucking painful. You do good enough and I'll let you drink and eat whatever you want, all you want."
Tim shuddered, his cock immediately pressing against the zipper of his shorts. Jason's laughter was rich and approving. He snapped on the black leather leash, hooked the other end on his belt and then led the way out of their apartment with Tim at his heels and one pace to the right. Eyes landed on Tim immediately, trying to assess what the mood was. All of Jason's people knew by now that if Tim was in sexy feminine clothes they were relatively safe but if the knives were out then they had to be careful. The cloak prevented them from seeing anything other than Tim's boots, his face and the collar.
It made Tim smirk behind the mask portion of his collar; such an elegant way to keep them off-balance.
Jason had a sleek black limo now, one that he'd stolen from Bruce's garage. Wayne Manor was closed up, draped with white sheets as it waited for its fled sons to return. Just three days ago Jason had taken Tim to see the apple trees blooming in the back yard. They'd walked through the silent house together, Jason with a handful of fresh strawberries that made Tim's cock lift the gauzy loin cloth he'd worn that day and his mouth water. He'd told stories of his time with Bruce, before Jason had died, and then taken Tim down to the cave to feed him strawberries and then fuck him over the computer console. It had been tender and perfect and all that Tim could have asked for.
Today's outing wasn't half as sweet. The meeting was with various of the old guard underworld leaders like Penguin and Two Face plus some of the new guys that had moved up after Jason took over. They looked at Tim as though he was something tasty to eat. As if Tim would ever allow any of them to touch him.
Tim knelt by Jason's side, still wrapped in his cloak. The inability to see his clothes and body obviously bothered quite a few of the others. Jason's hand rested on Tim's hair, occasionally playing with the long locks but mostly just sitting there. Half an hour into the meeting the Penguin finally licked his lips and looked at Tim squarely instead of just glancing. The lust was so obvious that no one could mistake it; even Dick would have seen it clearly. Jason gently pushed the back of Tim's head, directing him towards the Penguin.
The cloak fell to the ground as Tim erupted from his spot by Jason's side. The knives on his belt were perfect for throwing. Tim flung one each into the Penguin's left shoulder and meaty right thigh before the fat little man could do more than open his mouth. The third landed in the Penguin's right bicep and the fourth in his left calf as he tried to scrabble away.
"Play nice, pet," Jason drawled.
"No, no, no!" the Penguin squawked.
His horrified squawks became squeals of pain as Tim stalked over to withdraw each knife and then reinsert them in new locations precisely chosen to be as painful and debilitating as possible without crippling the fat little man. None of the wounds were terribly deep, as per Jason's orders. It was quite satisfying to inflict the damage on him.
Two Face was the next one to try something, when Tim began the third round of injuries on Penguin's right shoulder. He pulled a pair of guns, growling something about putting the freak down. Tim didn't flinch when Jason's gun went off, killing Two Face instantly, even though the blood sprayed far enough to dot the lower part of Tim's jaw and dust part of his arm. He hadn't been given permission to stop yet so he kept hurting the Penguin. Thirty seconds later Jason chuckled and patted his thigh as though calling a dog to his side. Tim stood, turned and walked away, leaving the Penguin bleeding on the floor. He settled back down next to Jason.
"You don't look at my pet," Jason told everyone in the room. "If he's by my side, you don't even fucking look at him, got it?"
They all nodded, mouthing things that sounded terrified. Their fear was… pleasant. Appropriate. Nearly as wonderful as the feel of Jason's fingers in Tim's hair. He thought about his response as Jason's men carried Two Face's body out and then the Penguin's people carried him away, still squawking. Tim was relatively certain that there would be retribution against Jason soon but given how powerful Jason had become it was likely to come to nothing. All the Penguin would do would be to destroy himself.
After that, the meeting went very smoothly indeed. To Tim's surprise, the various bosses had far fewer problems to report than they had the first time he'd attended one of these meetings. Every single time he was allowed to escort Jason there were fewer gang wars, fewer deaths, fewer people breaking Jason's laws. More surprising to Tim was the obvious approval in people's eyes as they looked at Jason.
'Hero,' Tim thought while following Jason back to the limo. 'Jason's a hero now. Not just a vigilante, but someone that Gotham looks up to.'
His surprise at how much Jason was accomplishing with his brutal methods mixed with the guilt and confusion he felt over how much he'd enjoyed hurting Cobblepot. The Penguin hadn't deserved that. Certainly, he'd deserved it for other things but looking at Tim that way was to be expected. He was a sex toy now, a very visible and appreciated one. But then, Tim didn't get to say who was harmed or why. It wasn't his role. Perhaps that was what the problem was. He was trying to think beyond his role at Jason's side.
Jason unlocked the mask, smiling at the way Tim licked his lips. They were still in the limo so it obviously wasn't time for food and sex but it was nice to have the ability to move his mouth more freely.
"What's got you thinking so hard?" Jason asked.
"I'm broken," Tim replied because he knew he had to answer instantly when Jason asked him a question. That those were the words he said surprised him far more than it did Jason.
"You were," Jason agreed. "I'm fixing it."
"How long?" Tim asked somewhat more daringly. Questions from Tim were not encouraged most of the time. "Have you known? About me?"
To his surprise Jason pulled Tim up into his lap, cradling Tim's head against his shoulder. It couldn't be comfortable with all the knives adorning Tim's body but Jason didn't seem to care. He petted Tim's hair, ran his fingers along the laces of Tim's corset and rubbed Tim's knee with the other hand. Only after Tim relaxed into the cuddling did Jason sigh.
"You've been broken since you were a toddler, Tim," Jason murmured against the crown of Tim's head. "Since before you watched Dick's parents die. Your fucking parents broke you first. Then B broke you. Then Dickie-bird. Hell, Steph played a part in it with her fucking faked death bullshit. Clone boy, Bart, the Titans, everyone around you. You've been broken your whole goddamned life."
It was so true that Tim shivered. He hadn't thought that it was so obvious. Tim had tried so hard to hide it, to be what everyone wanted so that they would never send him away or be disgusted by how little Tim had inside of himself.
"I knew about it after I came back," Jason continued as if Tim wasn't shaking in his lap. "One thing about being broken and fixing yourself, you can always see when someone else is the same way. B never fixed himself, just wallowed in his pain and loss his whole goddamn life. Most of the so-called heroes never do."
"Fixing me," Tim whispered. He could barely get the words out of his mouth because his throat sealed up.
"Mmmm, doing my best," Jason said. "Can't have a broken pet, you know. I know what you'll be someday. It'll be fucking awesome. We got time. I'll get you there."
"And let me go?" Tim asked, clutching Jason in exactly the ways he had never been allowed to cling to anyone before.
Jason laughed, loud and honestly amused. He shoved Tim down on the seat, opened his shorts and grasped Tim's cock. The possessive look was back in Jason's eyes, fierce, hot and as demanding as his grip around Tim's quickly stiffening cock.
"You're mine," Jason growled. "You're never going anywhere."
Tim relaxed, moaning in the ways he was only allowed when the mask was open. He jerked and shuddered as Jason marked Tim's pelvis with hickies and then moved up to mark his neck and shoulders with a handful more.
"Where do you belong?" Jason demanded as he gnawed on Tim's left nipple.
"Here!" Tim answered instantly.
"What am I?" Jason asked.
"Master, my Master!" Tim replied in a moan because his shorts had been pushed down and Jason's cock was pressing against his still lubed ass.
"What do you want?" Jason asked, somewhat more seriously than normal.
He looked at Tim with eyes that were strangely conflicted for a moment. Tim clutched Jason's wrists, tugging to try and pull him closer.
"You!" Tim shouted even though it would distract their driver. "I want you!"
The abrupt thrust made Tim wail and moan needily. Yes, he was Jason's. This was his place. The rest of the world had always expected too much of Tim while giving him too little. Jason was his Master, his lover, his owner, his home. He was never leaving his home, ever again.
"Goddamn assholes," Jason grumbled as he stripped off blood-soaked clothing while heading straight to their bathroom. "Seriously, the only reason any of the old guard are left is that they just haven't been stupid in front of me yet."
Tim followed, leaving the clothes where they lay. When he'd first started cooperating with Jason's ownership of him, he'd tried to pick up after Jason. That had annoyed Jason so much that Tim didn't even attempt to look at the bloody clothes anymore. He didn't want to irritate Jason, not when he was already annoyed. The fallen clothes made Tim twitch with the need to straighten up but taking care of his Master was far more important. He had to remember what really mattered.
Once in the bathroom, Tim knelt in front of Jason to unlace his boots and pull them off. The blood had soaked all the way through to Jason's socks, staining them red. Jason's skin was streaked with blood too. He wasn't injured, thank goodness, but the blood streaking Jason's body made Tim's stomach clench. Tim swallowed behind his collar's mask, utterly disturbed by seeing the blood on Jason's body.
"You can go to the bedroom," Jason said once he was naked.
The words weren't an order. If anything, Jason looked at Tim with a question in his eyes. Tim looked up at him hopefully. He wanted to take care of Jason. Seeing the blood washed away, Jason's body revealed in its perfection, would help get rid of this uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. Besides, Jason did such a good job taking care of him; returning the attention and care was right. Most of the time Tim couldn't do anything other than submit to Jason's care. There was no way to show how grateful he was for being Jason's.
"You want to shower with me?" Jason asked. "You do seem a lot more present than normal today."
Tim nodded as much as he could, which was only a couple of millimeters. He wasn't sure what the 'more present' comment meant; Tim was always here. Where could Tim go, after all? For a long while Jason stared down into Tim's eyes. There was worry and anger and concern mixed with pride that confused Tim because he hadn't done anything worthy of pride. Eventually Jason nodded and gestured for Tim to stand and pull his hair to the side.
Unlocking the buckles on Tim's collar felt so strange. He couldn't remember the last time it had been removed for any length of time. Tim knew that it had to have come off many times for bathing and shaving though Tim never did have to shave all that often, but he found that he literally had no idea the last time he'd spent more than five minutes with it off. His neck felt naked once Jason opened the last buckle and pulled the collar off Tim.
"You okay?" Jason asked, still holding the collar as if he was going to put it right back on Tim.
"Yes Master," Tim said, licking his lips and nodding. He blinked and shivered as he nodded more than the few millimeters that he normally could manage. "Strange."
Jason's eyes looked worried again but he only nodded and set the collar on the counter. The shower was a huge one that Jason had gotten installed shortly after he'd captured Tim. There was a separate tub that was mostly used for washing Tim's body. He hadn't had a shower since his arrival here.
The water was hot, steam rising to rapidly fill the shower stall and fog up the glass enclosure. Jason held Tim's hand at first, watching him carefully, though Tim had no idea what for. Tim took the soap and helped Jason wash the blood away. It took a long while for Jason's shoulders to relax under Tim's hands. For the longest time he just stood in the spray from the shower head watching Tim like a hawk waiting for a mouse to make a mistake. Eventually he tilted his head back into the spray to rinse the blood out of his hair.
Tim glanced down to see if the water had washed the blood off Jason's legs.
Blood. Rain. The rain was red, red and warm and falling in drops and streams that dribbled and dripped and then spiraled down the storm drain. Someone was screaming, screaming so loud and so long that their voice cracked and broke. Arms wrapped around him, wrenching him away from the blood, the rain, the voice that screamed and screamed and screamed.
Jason grabbed Tim around the throat. He forced Tim's head up, glaring into his eyes as he slammed Tim up against the wall of the shower. Tim's throat hurt. It was hard to breathe, partially because of Jason's hand tightening so much that Tim could barely gasp but also because he felt as though he'd been screaming. But he hadn't screamed.
"Every singled goddamned time," Jason grumbled. "Knew I shouldn't have listened. Freaks the fuck out every single goddamned time I let him shower."
Tim blinked, trying to clear the blood, no, the spray, no, the tears, from his eyes. He reached up and caught Jason's wrist in one hand. His fingers shook but Tim still tried to make his grip firm enough to convey that he was aware of what was going on without being too firm. Jason stared at Tim, a little surprised smile blooming on his lips.
"Hey, that's an improvement," Jason said with enough pride that Tim blushed a little. "You're actually here. Flashback? Blood and rain?"
Tim winced, licking the blood-rain, no water, no tears, off his lips. He nodded as much as he could with Jason's hand clenched around his throat. Jason sighed and carefully loosened his grip. Bloody rain flashed in Tim's mind. He clutched Jason's wrist, shaking.
"Fuck, you're still on the edge, aren't you?" Jason sighed. "Right. Let's see if we can make this work."
He abruptly spun Tim around, shoving him up against the tiled wall. Tim's hands were firmly placed shoulder width apart. Jason pulled Tim's braid around his throat, cinching it tight enough that it almost felt like Tim had his collar on again.
"Heh, yeah, that calmed you right the fuck down," Jason chuckled. "Good. This tile," he pointed to one small black tile inset into the other white tiles as an accent, "you're gonna keep your eyes on that tile and not move them off it. Got that?"
"Yes Master," Tim said and wow, he must have screamed. His throat hurt.
He locked his eyes on the tile. Behind him, Jason finished showering. To Tim's surprise, the spray was turned on him. Jason's hands ran over Tim's body, possessive and soothing at the same time. Tim sighed, licking more moisture off his lips. It still tasted salty, blood dripping down his face, no, not blood, tears. Tim was crying. There wasn't a reason to cry but for some reason the tears kept falling. The bloody rain hovered in the back of Tim's mind but Jason's possessive touch kept it away for the most part.
"Like seeing you naked and wet," Jason murmured. "Need to wash your hair. Think you can stay still while I do it."
"Yes Master," Tim said, determined to do exactly that.
Jason chuckled and tapped Tim's right ankle with one foot. "Put your feet together. Hands in the same place."
Tim blinked and shifted his feet so that they were together. When Jason pressed up against Tim's ass his cock was hard. It slid between Tim's thighs, making Tim gasp. Every other thought disappeared in favor of the feeling of Jason pressed between his thighs. Jason laughed, low and dirty. His hands on Tim's hips made him shudder.
"Keep staring at that tile," Jason ordered.
"Yes Master," Tim said, his voice coming out much more strained this time.
Jason pulled Tim's braid from around his neck, beginning to unbraid it so that he could wash Tim's hair. Blood, rain, screams pushed up in Tim's mind, mixing with the sound of the shower's spray but Jason bucked between Tim's thighs. Tim bit his lip, eyes locked on the tile. It was small, about an inch square, surrounded by white subway tiles. The bloody rain battled against Jason's touch, slowly losing force as Jason began working shampoo into Tim's hair.
He could hear Jason humming happily as he slowly rocked between Tim's thighs. His fingers were firm and assertive on Tim's scalp. When he worked the shampoo down Tim's hair it let his fingers massage Tim's back. Tim moaned.
"Oh yeah, feels good, doesn't it?" Jason chuckled.
"Yes," Tim moaned. "Master. Please. More."
"Gotta get the soap out, pet," Jason said. "Don't freak out and I'll fuck you in the shower's spray."
Tim nodded desperately. When Jason pulled Tim into the shower's spray, his hand stayed firmly around Tim's throat. The bloody rain surged up at Tim again but Jason was right there, holding Tim's throat, his head, directing Tim's movements so that the water could wash the blood, no, the shampoo, away. Holding those nightmare images away was hard, so hard. Tim didn't know what they meant, where they'd come from. He couldn't remember ever seeing blood coming down like rain. It had to be a nightmare, a dream, something that he'd made up. It couldn't be real.
It wasn't real. There was just Tim and his master, Jason, Red Hood. Tim hadn't seen someone killed in the rain. This wasn't rain. It was a shower and his master was pressed against Tim, playing with his hair and murmuring words of praise, of joy, cursing about how good Tim's body looked.
"Yeah, you're looking so much better lately, Baby bird," Jason murmured into Tim's ear. "Nice and strong again. Got so skinny for a while there that you looked like a famine victim."
Tim complained in his throat about that. He hadn't been too thin. Granted, he had gotten somewhat sloppy about meals before Batman's death but he hadn't been that bad. He'd never let it affect the Mission. Jason squeezed Tim's throat tighter, reminding him that he wasn't allowed to disagree with his Master. He mouthed an apology, not struggling to get breath. When it was time to breathe, Jason would let him breathe.
"That's better," Jason said. "You did good, Baby bird. Gonna fuck those sweet thighs of yours now. Watch that tile and don't look down, got it?"
He spun Tim around and shoved him up against the wall directly under the shower's spay. The new tile was one of the white ones. Tim locked his eyes on it and pressed his legs together so that Jason would enjoy this. His cock was hard already, as it should be when his master wanted to use him. Jason smacked Tim's ass, laughing at the way Tim started.
When Jason pushed between Tim's thighs his cock brushed against Tim's balls. Tim gasped, fighting against the urge to shut his eyes, to drop his head, to look away from that tile. He didn't want to disappoint his master. That would be bad. He'd finally been allowed to shower with his Master. He couldn't disappoint Jason, not now.
"Yeah, that's my boy," Jason crooned. "Look at you. Wet and slippery, waiting and wanting me. Fuck, you're the sexiest thing on two legs, Tim. You got no clue what you do to me, naked and collared, waiting for me every goddamned day. Love coming home and seeing you here. Damn! Yeah, squeeze those thighs! You like this, like being my little slut sex toy, don't you?"
"Yes!" Tim gasped. "I do! Yours, I'm yours, Master!"
"Damn straight you are," Jason growled.
His thrusts got harder, forcing Tim to use his arms to keep from being pushed off his feet. Every thrust stimulated Tim's balls and briefly slid along Tim's aching cock. Jason's words got less coherent as he fucked Tim. The grip of his hands tightened until Tim knew that he'd have bruises on his hips. Tim realized after a few more thrusts that he was whimpering nonstop in perfect counterpoint to Jason's grunts.
"Don't come!" Jason ordered abruptly.
Tim whined, jerking when he realized that Jason was on the edge. Three thrusts later Jason shouted and came all over Tim's belly and thighs. Despite the stimulation, Tim managed not to come as well. Once Jason was done, he caught Tim's hair and pulled him away from the wall. He pushed Tim down to his knees, offering his still-hard cock to Tim.
"Clean it up," Jason said.
"Thank you, Master," Tim said gratefully.
He sucked Jason into his mouth, being gentle since Jason had just come. Jason's fingers combed through Tim's wet hair equally gently, just barely rubbing his scalp. The stimulation was soothing, comforting, though Tim wasn't sure why he needed comforting. Blood like rain was just his imagination running away with him. Only Jason was real, Jason and Tim's collar and belonging to Jason; that was real. The taste of his cock, the feel of his thighs under Tim's hands were all that mattered.
"That's good," Jason said, pulling away from Tim. "Come on. Time to dry off."
Jason let Tim dry him off first. Tim took his time, making sure that Jason was fully dry before giving the towel to Jason. By the time Jason was done drying Tim's hair, his body was already mostly dry. Despite that, Jason carefully towel dried Tim's body. His hand wrapped around Tim's cock, stroking Tim just firmly enough that it made Tim shudder.
"Yeah, not gonna leave you hanging," Jason purred into Tim's ear. "I'll take care of you, Tim. Promised I would and you've done so damn good today. First time you've managed to take a shower since I saved you. Yeah, that's it. Feels good, doesn't it? Come for me, come for me, Tim!"
The praise confused Tim but Jason's hard body pressed against his back made the words unimportant, just like Jason's hand on his cock made everything else unimportant. When Jason said that Tim could come he shuddered and bucked twice in Jason's hand. Tim came hard enough that his knees gave way. Jason caught him, holding Tim close through the shudders and little hiccups that followed.
"That's my boy," Jason whispered. "That's my good boy. Want your collar back?"
"Please," Tim whispered.
It felt wrong to be able to move his head so much. Tim liked being able to loll against Jason's body but he wanted to be owned. Needed. He needed the collar wrapped around his neck, supporting his head and keeping him from looking down at the blood on the ground, soaking into the concrete, sliding between the bricks on its way to the storm drain. No, it wasn't blood. It was just water. Nothing more than water that had dripped off their bodies while they dried off.
Tim held his hair up out of the way as Jason wrapped the collar around his neck again. The buckles locking into place made Tim relax the way nothing else could. Owned. He was owned and safe.
"Bedtime," Jason said once he was done.
His eyes were sad but also proud as he led Tim out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Tim wanted to think about Jason's comments about 'every time' and his apparent belief that Tim had tried to shower many times before today. He didn't remember that. He didn't. The only time Jason had allowed Tim to shower with him was today. Blood, rain, screams weren't real. It couldn't be real. Only Jason and Tim's collar was real.
Tim dismissed the strange images from his mind. Hopefully his Master would take him properly once they were in bed together. He'd enjoy that very much.
"That's enough of that," Jason drawled as he came into their apartment.
Tim looked up, panting a little behind his mask. He didn't think that he'd been working on the rowing machine for too long but he was wet with sweat and panting entirely too hard. Jason came over and brushed a strand of hair out of Tim's eyes. His gaze was concerned, something that he'd been more and more lately. No matter how hard Tim thought about it, he couldn't figure out what Jason was so worried about.
"Up," Jason ordered. "Time for a break."
Jason held one hand out to Tim, waiting expectantly for Tim to take it. Tim pursed his lips behind his mask before putting his hand in Jason's. He didn't think it was time to stop working out; it couldn't have been more than half an hour since Tim had started but when he stood his legs were wobbly and his back ached from the exertion. His collar hid most of Tim's blush as the surprising weakness but Jason saw it, nonetheless.
"Yeah, been working too long," Jason said, grinning at Tim. "Told you one hour and you've been at it two and a half now."
The difference made Tim start and stare at Jason in shock. He couldn't have lost track of time that badly. Jason's eyes went sad as he showed Tim the timer on his watch. Tim clearly remembered Jason setting it, saying that he'd be back to check on Tim. It showed 154 minutes. The discrepancy between Tim's memories of how long it had been and how long Jason's watch showed made him shiver.
"I know," Jason sighed as he pulled Tim into his arms. "I know. You didn't realize that it'd been that long. Not a big deal. You still need to take a break, Tim. Not gonna let you train yourself back into the ground again."
He pulled Tim away from the rowing machine, out into the middle of the room. Apparently he really had rowed for hours. His legs would barely hold him up. Jason looked amused by it, rather than annoyed so Tim didn't allow himself to be too upset at the lack of awareness on his part. He was supposed to take care of himself; he belonged to Jason and not taking care of himself was disrespectful of his Master.
There was food on the table by the kitchen, simple things that Jason knew how to cook. Tim found his cock getting hard automatically at the sight and smell of the food. Hopefully his Master would feed him and then take him nice and hard, though given how exhausted Tim was he wouldn't blame his Master for refusing to.
Jason sighed when Tim knelt by his side. It was normal for Tim to kneel but today Jason seemed saddened by it. Tim wasn't sure why. To his relief, Jason shrugged off whatever was bothering him. He removed the flap keeping Tim from talking or using his mouth. Immediately, Tim's cock got harder, so hard that it was completely impossible to hide.
"You so get off on getting fed," Jason laughed. He shook his head as if it didn't make any sense to him. "Whatever. I eat first, then you."
"Yes Master," Tim said.
He settled quietly by Jason's side, watching as Jason ate the simple casserole and salad. Every couple of bites Jason would glance over at Tim, laughter sparkling in his eyes. Once he offered Tim a tiny bite to eat from his plate, just a cherry tomato with a gloss of salad dressing on it. Tim obediently opened his mouth, taking the tomato and eating it slowly to appreciate the gift from his master. The laughter in Jason's eyes went hot with lust as Tim swallowed. When Tim licked his lips Jason groaned and shook a finger at Tim.
"You're too damn sexy for my good, you know that? Just fucking hell, you're too hot for words, Baby bird," Jason said. He was laughing but the lust was obvious too.
"Thank you Master," Tim said, trying not to laugh because that just wasn't appropriate, no matter how funny he found Jason's sudden arousal. It had just been a bite of food, delicious food that Tim had enjoyed utterly but still just a bite of food.
Dinner continued with Jason finishing his food and then slowly feeding Tim. The casserole was tomato based and just spicy enough to make Tim's lips tingle a little. The salad was delicious, a simple baby spinach salad with tomatoes, raw cauliflower and shredded carrots. Once that had been consumed Jason took the plates and carried them to the kitchen. He came back with a slice of New York cheesecake.
"After that workout and the night I expect, we can afford to share dessert, pet," Jason said. He sat back down and then pulled Tim close. "Get me out. Might as well enjoy it properly."
Tim shivered as he pulled Jason's cock from his pants. He was already half hard. By the time Tim had licked and sucked Jason into full arousal, Tim's hips were hitching in need. He wanted Jason, wanted him so badly. Pretty quickly Jason pulled Tim up, only to push him down on the table. Where he pulled the lube from, Tim didn't know, but it was welcome because that meant that he got to have his master's cock in him sooner rather than later.
After making quick work of lubing Tim up, Jason pulled Tim into his lap while making sure that his cock slid slowly into Tim's ass. It felt so good that Tim whined, squirming a little until Jason put a restraining hand on his hip.
"Nope, no squirming from you," Jason chuckled into Tim's ear. "We still got cheesecake to eat."
"Oh God," Tim groaned, so turned on that he was surprised that he didn't come right that instant.
"Oh yeah, sex and good food all at once," Jason laughed. "Gonna make it so damn good for you, Baby bird."
He took a bite of the cheesecake, eating it first, before taking a somewhat bigger on for Tim. It melted on Tim's tongue, the richness as overwhelming as Jason's cock filling him up and his mouth against Tim's ear. Tim shuddered, trying to resist the urge to come instantly. It tasted so good, so far beyond what he remembered cheesecake tasting like. There hadn't been any sweets since long before Batman died so maybe this was normal and he'd just forgotten how good it could be.
"Mmmm, yeah, love watching you eat," Jason purred into Tim's ear. "Even better when I'm fucking you at the same time. You clamp down so hard when you eat something that tastes good. Fuck, you make it hard to keep control, Baby bird."
They took turns eating bites of cheesecake. Jason always gave Tim the bigger bites, groaning in appreciation at how much Tim liked it. By the last bite Tim was rocking against Jason and panting in need. He needed to come so bad, so bad. It was too good, serving his master and getting to eat this way. Everything was too good. His tired body didn't matter anymore, only the taste of the cheesecake and the feel of Jason's cock rocking in his ass.
"Yeah, that's my boy," Jason moaned. "Okay, take it; take your reward, Baby bird!"
He released his grip on Tim's hip, encouraging Tim to fuck himself as hard as he wanted. Tim took the permission and let himself shove hard against Jason. The table was in the way so Tim shoved it until he had access to Jason's knees. They made the perfect thing to brace his hands on.
Fucking Jason was perfect. Tim moaned and arched his sore back, doing everything he could to take Jason hard and fast and deep, just the way he knew Jason liked it. It felt so good that Tim groaned. After a few thrusts Jason cursed and put his hands on Tim's hips, helping him slam down onto Jason's cock. Curse words drifted over Tim, mixed with praise that made his heart hurt. He wasn't beautiful, perfect, everything. He couldn't be everything that Jason wanted. Tim wasn't that good but the praise and lingering taste of the cheesecake on his tongue combined with the pounding he was getting to push Tim over the edge.
Tim shouted as he came, throat aching and voice cracking horrible. Jason immediately caught Tim, pulling him back against his chest and shoving in extra hard before freezing in place. He groaned; hand still tight around Tim's collared throat.
"God but you get loud," Jason laughed breathlessly. "Always nice to know it's enjoyed but I won't have you ruining your voice again."
Tim sighed as Jason eased him up off his cock and then back down to the floor. He was still panting but Tim didn't protest having the flap on his collar's facemask locked again. It was proper. The food had been eaten and Jason rarely let Tim go for long without it being locked.
Still, that 'again' bothered Tim. As Jason cleaned the dishes and then dressed for his night's work, Tim tried to remember when he'd ruined his voice. Flashes of blood, rain, screams shivered through his mind but they didn't have any context. It took Jason fisting his fingers in Tim's hair for him to realize that Jason had been talking to him.
"I'm going out," Jason said, clearly enunciating his words as if he wasn't sure that Tim would hear them. "You're to go to bed. No training. No weights. No rowing machine. Bed. Understand?"
Tim nodded the millimeters that the collar allowed, standing as soon as Jason released his hair. When Tim headed straight for the bedroom, Jason followed him. He strapped the cuffs onto Tim's wrists and then chained Tim's collar to the wall. Jason's eyes were sad again as he covered Tim with the blankets and turned the lights down low.
"Get some sleep," Jason ordered. "I'll be back to check on you in a couple of hours."
He left without waiting for an answer that couldn't come from Tim. The chain quickly warmed where it touched Tim's skin though the warmed metal didn't give Tim any more answers than the cool metal had.
What did those images mean? When had he ruined his voice? How did they tie together?
Tim sighed, trying to push blood like rain the questions out of his screams, so many screams, voice breaking, breaking, broken, like gargling shards of glass mind so that he could hands gripping him tightly, pulling Tim away from the blood, death, rain falling all around but it was blood red, blood warm sleep.
He was slow, too slow. He had to get there faster! He could hear screaming, such horrible, horrible screaming. Tim started screaming as the screams fell into wet gurgling noises that spoke of more pain than he could imagine.
Slow, he was too slow! The rain beat against his face, too warm by far. Tim slipped and fell, hands naked of their gauntlets. He started to scramble to his feet but the flickering light of the streetlight made the rain running past his hands seem red as blood. A big drop fell on Tim's hand. It was warm, far too warm, and so, so, so red. He slowly looked up, already knowing what he'd see.
Jason's body was draped over Tim, holding him down, holding him still. The chain attached to his collar kept him from escaping as the cuffs kept him from striking out at Jason. He sobbed, throat aching again. Tim's ears rang from what had to be screams just like the ones in his dream, nightmare, it was just a nightmare. Not real, it wasn't real. It couldn't have been real.
"Tim…" Jason sighed, holding Tim tightly as shudders wracked his body. "Fuck, I hate it when I come back to you having a nightmare."
He pet Tim's hair, pushing the sweat-damp strands out of Tim's eyes. Only once Tim's breathing had evened out and his shaking had stopped did Jason slowly release Tim. His expression was serious and just a little angry as he looked at Tim.
"Not angry at you, pet," Jason said. "It was a hard night all over. No more sleeping right now. Just wait. I'm getting naked and then coming to bed."
Tim allowed himself to catch Jason's wrist with his fingertips, squeezing gently. He hoped that his eyes conveyed that he'd be willing to do whatever it took to make Jason feel better. Apparently it worked because Jason smiled and bent down to press a kiss against Tim's lips despite the mask covering his face.
"Wait," Jason ordered. "I'll be back in a minute. If you're serious, I might just give you a whipping and then fuck you silly. Probably do us both some good."
The sheer thought made Tim shudder and nod as hard as he could with the collar holding his head still. Jason chuckled, kissed Tim again and then slipped out of bed to go to the bathroom. Tim sighed, getting harder by the second. No matter what the dreams were trying to tell him, at least Tim had Jason taking care of him. That was worth any number of nightmares.
"Brace yourself," Jason ordered.
Tim took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His hands were clenched on the O-ring attached to the wall, still bound by the cuffs that Jason had put on him after dinner. To make sure that he was ready, Tim spread his legs a little more so that he had a very stable stance. Granted, he was kneeling on the bed so there wasn't much danger if he did fall but being more stable was always good. Either way, his hair was already securely pulled to the front, out of the way of Jason's whip. Once he was sure that he was ready, Tim nodded.
This was for his Master as much as it was for Tim. Jason had still looked upset when he came back from the bathroom. The anger and frustration didn't look as though it was aimed at Tim. If anything, it looked like Jason was angry with the rest of the world. There was so much love in his eyes as he looked at Tim.
The first blow came out of nowhere, with no warning at all. Tim vaguely remembered Jason grunting before he brought the whip down on Tim's back but the shock of the blow made Tim gasp with excitement.
Pain. It hurt, a line of fire down his back, but it also felt so good. He shuddered, nodding that he was ready now, more than ready. Anything Jason wanted was good as long as the pain-pleasure continued.
"That's my boy," Jason murmured. "Just what I need tonight."
He swung the whip again, the sound of it whistling through the air combining with the crack of the impact and the sear across his back. Tim jerked, back bowing a little under the pain this time. Another impact came too fast for Tim to get back into position. He shuddered and bit his lip under the mask. The third blow was lower, along Tim's right side. Instinct made him jerk away from the pain which drove him into the fourth blow on the other side.
Jason was muttering under his breath, curse words and praise mixed, as he rained whip blows down on Tim's back. Tim tried to force himself to stay still under the blows but it was so hard. They hurt, hurt so bad, but at the same time they were heaven on earth because they drove him out of his own mind, away from the tumbling thoughts and images of blood falling like rain from the nightmare that he couldn't forget. As Jason's curses got louder the blows fell harder.
Tim gasped as his skin split under on blow.
He felt the skin part and blood begin to flow down his back. Jason groaned, pausing for a few extra seconds to give Tim a chance to catch his breath before starting to whip Tim again. The blows fell so fast that Tim's head swam from the constant stimulation.
Another blow broke his skin, making Tim shout despite his sore throat.
Jason didn't stop, didn't slow. If anything he struck even faster. The blows expanded from Tim's back to his ass. He jerked and then thrust his butt out further, offering that to Jason so that he knew that it was okay to take everything that Tim had to offer. As Jason switched the blows to focus entirely on Tim's ass the curses became reverent, as though Tim was everything that Jason could have ever asked for.
None of the blows broke Tim's skin but he could feel his flesh bruising under the assault. He would have a horrible time sitting tomorrow, and for the next few days. Tim realized that tears were falling down his cheeks, seeping under his mask. Still he held position, offering his Master everything that he had no matter what the cost would be. It got harder to hold position, so hard as his head swam with pleasure-pain-pleasure-pain. The blows to his ass moved upwards again, layering more whip blows over the marks already there, crosshatching them for even more effect.
Tim screamed as a blow split his skin, intersecting with the other two blows that had broken his skin. The stink of blood filled his nose. Warm wet flowed down Tim's naked back. Blood like rain, dripping in streams and rivers mixed with the tears caught in Tim's collar. Copper stink and salt taste made Tim wail.
Abruptly Jason was there, wrapping his arms around Tim and holding him tight. The pressure of his body against Tim's aching back pushed the nightmare images away for a few moments until the stink of blood pushed them back into his mind. Tim tried to resist, struggling and shuddering as sobbing wails tried to force their way through his mask.
Tim looked up. Up and up and up and up. Miles above, so far up that he looked as though he was a doll suspended by wires was Batman. The wires weren't supporting him. They spiked through his body, letting blood drip down them. The cape hid Batman's face so that Tim couldn't tell whether or not he was alive.
"Batman!" Tim screamed. "Batman!"
Hands wrapped around Tim, covering his eyes and then his mouth as Tim sobbed and fought to climb the wires in the bloody rain. He had to free Batman, had to do something to save him, free him. He couldn't be dead. Tim couldn't have been too late. It was his job to be there to watch Batman's back. He couldn't be too late!
"No…" Tim moaned, the word muffled and distorted by his mask. "Too late. Too late."
"Not your fault, Tim," Jason murmured against his cheek. "It wasn't your fault, damn it. It never was. He was already gone when you got the call from Damian."
To his surprise, Jason unlocked the flap on his mask. Tim licked his lips and then struggled a little in Jason's arms until Jason let him roll over so that they were face to face. The blood scent was still in the air but it mattered less now that he'd remembered what he'd seen. There was more, he could feel it lurking in his mind, but right now he felt so much better than he had.
"I was crazy," Tim said. "I am crazy."
"You went catatonic, Baby bird," Jason said, gently pushing Tim's hair away from his face. "I got there and you were just gone, screaming and crying, trying to climb the walls to get to him despite all your injuries. It was obviously too late but you didn't seem to see it. The creep that killed B was laughing his ass off, said that you'd been broken and would never be whole again. I… killed him, shot the fucker in the head, but by then you'd collapsed and gone catatonic."
"My throat?" Tim asked, running his fingers over Jason's chest coaxingly.
"For a long while you'd come partially back to yourself and scream until your throat bled," Jason said with so much hurt in his voice that Tim hugged him. "You'd stop if I held you, bound you so tight you couldn't move. Figured out pretty quick that a wide collar calmed you down. This design was the best yet, helped you stop zoning out on me, stop screaming, and stop throwing up everything you ate."
Tim blinked because he didn't remember throwing up at all. It would explain Jason's comments about Tim getting too skinny. All the limitations that Jason had put on his life made so much more sense if he accepted that his mind had fractured when Batman died. He frowned, biting his lip nervously. After all of this, Tim wasn't sure that he wanted the answer to the next question but he had to ask. One way or the other he had to know.
"Have I been this coherent before and… slid back?" Tim asked nervously enough that Jason pressed kisses against his forehead and cheeks.
"No," Jason reassured him. "You haven't. I mean, yeah, you went back and forth a lot in the beginning but once I collared you, you stopped backsliding. Seemed like you really needed to know that you were wanted."
"Owned," Tim corrected. "I… no one ever really wanted to keep me before. Ever. I… need this. Need to belong to you. To someone. I… it helps so much that you're clear about what you want from me and what you expect."
The admission made Jason sigh and roll Tim over onto his stomach. He pulled a first aid kit from under the bed, cleaning up the marks on Tim's back. The antiseptic made Tim hiss and shudder. Despite the horrible flashback, Tim was still very aroused. The sting of it made him tremble for the want of more pain, more sex, more Jason taking care of him.
"Do you… like this?" Tim asked as Jason finished bandaging the wounds.
"The S&M?" Jason asked. He chuckled at Tim's tentative little nod. "Fuck yeah. You have no idea how hard it was to resist at first. I wouldn't touch you that way until you came back enough that I was sure you were actually enjoying this."
Tim jerked and rolled over so that he could stare at Jason. His earliest memories of being here were filled with Jason taking him and using him, whether Tim wanted it or not. Of course, as far as Tim could remember the collar had been there from the very beginning so obviously Tim's memories were more messed up than he'd thought.
There was blood on Jason's chest. It made Tim's tenuous grasp on his sanity wobble. Jason obviously saw it because he stood and headed straight for the bathroom. Tim started to stand up and follow him but the chain still secured him to the wall. His hands were still bound. For a wild moment Tim wanted to tear them off, to run screaming from this room. He realized after a couple shuddering breaths that the chain had to be because he had tried to run away screaming.
"Jason?" Tim called.
"Just a second," Jason called back. "Almost cleaned up."
"How long has it been?" Tim asked even though he was relatively certain that Jason wouldn't answer him until he had Tim safely in his arms.
As he'd predicted, Jason didn't answer right away. He finished getting clean and then came back into the bedroom with sheets and blankets. Tim compliantly moved off the bed to the limits of his chain so that Jason could change the blood-stained ones for clean ones. Only once the bloody bed linens were gone and they'd curled up together on the bed did Jason finally sigh and kiss Tim's forehead.
"It's been almost a year, Tim," Jason said. "You were fully catatonic for about three months. Then you were in and out for about another month and a half. Since then you've been getting better bit by bit. Still don't know what that fucker did to you. I got there after he'd hurt you."
"I… wasn't hurt," Tim said hesitantly because now that Jason said it he realized that some of the blood he'd seen in the flashbacks had to have come from him, not from Batman. "Was I?"
"Mmm, part of the reason I keep you in cuffs most of the time is that you kept trying to tear the scars on your wrists open," Jason said so sadly that Tim had to hug him tightly. "Hey, it's okay. I know what it's like coming back from having your mind broken. Hell, out of everyone in the family I'm probably the best choice for this. Plus, you know, I do enjoy the hell out of hurting you. Always did. Just trying not to be so nuts about it now."
This time Tim sighed. He hadn't realized how long it had been, how broken his mind was, or even that Jason had taken that much care of him. Maybe his earliest memories were only fantasies that he'd thought were real. It didn't really matter tonight. For tonight, Tim decided that he wasn't going to worry about it.
"You… don't want sex?" Tim asked when he realized that Jason wasn't hard at all.
"Nope," Jason chuckled. "Sorry, Baby bird. You screaming like that shuts me down instantly. Can take care of you if you want though."
"No," Tim said thoughtfully. "I… I think that I'd rather have it be mutual. But I…"
He paused, not sure if Jason would agree to it but Tim really would feel better with his mask back in place. Jason raised an eyebrow, smiling at the hesitation in Tim's eyes. When Jason chuckled and nuzzled Tim's forehead it reassured Tim.
"Can I have my mask locked again?" Tim asked.
Jason laughed, kissing Tim passionately enough that Tim rethought his refusal to come without Jason coming too. "Whatever makes you feel better, Baby bird. Whatever you need, I'll give it to you."
Having the mask settle back into place around Tim's mouth and nose helped immensely. It pushed back all of the nightmares, the memories filled with blood and pain. Tim sighed and snuggled close to Jason's chest. His back throbbed from the whipping, lines of fire now fading into aches that he knew would stay with him over the next couple of days. Jason's fingers trailed along his spine, sparking pain that made Tim squirm whenever Jason brushed one of the whip marks.
"Mmmm, love having you in my arms this way," Jason murmured.
Tim nodded agreement, as much as he could. This was wonderful. Even if Tim didn't remember things correctly, it felt good and right to be Jason's. He liked belonging to Jason. It was somewhat apparent that Jason was a bit uncomfortable with how much Tim liked it or perhaps with the fact that Tim wanted the orders as much as he did but that was something that, hopefully, they could work out as time went on.
There was time. More than enough time now that Tim understood what had happened to him. He would have to be careful and aware of the things that set him off. Tim knew that he'd have to work to recover the rest of his memories of what had happened to Batman, but for now it was enough to know that there were reasons for the nightmares of blood, reasons for the chain and cuffs and mask, reasons for Jason's strangely conflicted attitude towards Tim.
Everything had happened for a reason. Tim just had to work out what it was. At least he had Jason's full support to do it.
"Sleep," Jason ordered. "I'll be here if you have any more nightmares, Tim. You're safe. I've got you."
Tim set his head on Jason's shoulder and slept.
Tim struck at Jason harder, grateful for the new mask that Jason had gotten for his collar. It wasn't as restrictive but Tim didn't need that level of restriction anymore. The real reason for the alteration was that Jason had started sparring with Tim so he needed to be able to breathe better. His new mask was lighter, with a panel over his nose and mouth that allowed him to breathe freely, while still muffling any noises Tim made. Actually, it was somewhat more effective at silencing Tim than the old version. He wasn't certain whether that was deliberate or accidental but it was something that Tim pondered from time to time.
Was losing his voice a good thing for him, protective of what little voice he had left, or a bad thing in that it kept him from voicing the thoughts that continually ran through his head?
Jason brought Tim's mind back to the spar with that word and then graced Tim with a flurry of strikes that he had to block desperately to avoid getting serious damage. He was so out of practice. A year with no vigilante training had not done good things for Tim's skills, no matter how necessary it had been for his mental health. Also for his physical health.
His arms were weaker, considerably weaker. It wasn't solely due to the lack of training. The true problem was the damage that had been inflicted on Tim when Batman died. He still didn't remember it occurring. One minute he'd been running to try to save Bruce and Damian and then the next he'd been pinned to the street by the same wires that had killed Batman. Jason didn't know for sure how quickly it had happened. Only Damian and Tim knew that. Unfortunately, Damian was long gone, returned to Talia and Ra's, and Tim's memories were still incomplete and scattered.
Part of the problem was that Tim's memories of what happened immediately after Batman's death didn't match at all with his earliest memories of his captivity with Jason. What he remembered from the night Bruce died was a Jason who tended to him, freed him, cursed at the villain who had hurt both of them and then killed him. Immediately after that was a severe break in location and in Jason's behavior. One moment Jason was cursing and tending to Tim's wounds and the next he was knocking Tim down and forcibly strapping the collar around Tim's neck. The sudden break from that alley to being in Jason's rather abusive care was so sharp that Tim wasn't sure anymore which set of memories was accurate. Jason seemed to be telling the truth when he said that Tim had been out of his mind. Tim certainly had the scars to show for struggling, tearing at himself and fighting Jason. But the early days where he'd been so clear that he was a captive and that Jason was using Stockholm Syndrome to train him into being his compliant slave were equally clear and equally real.
All he had left to go by anymore was scars and grip strengths that had dropped by thirty percent. The wires that had stabbed through his thighs had left much smaller scars. Apparently, all of his struggles had been focused on getting his hands free, rather than on freeing his legs.
Tim tried not to think about the scar on his forehead. It was small enough that Tim could forget about it most of the time. A wire could not have gone through his brain. There was no way to survive something like that. It had killed Batman, after all. Tim must simply have been scratched, nothing more.
He pushed that thought away; focusing on Jason instead as dwelling on the thought was liable to trigger another flashback.
"Better," Jason said encouragingly. "Come on. Lay it on me, Tim."
The drop in hit strength meant that Tim had to change his focus from hand work to leg work. Despite Jason's care and the amount of work Tim had done on his arms, there were few signs of improvement. It appeared to be permanent. Knives were quite possible, especially throwing knives, but staff work wasn't going to happen anymore.
Instead, Jason had spent the last couple of months since Tim's sanity began to fully return working on his kicks. Despite being somewhat shorter than most vigilantes, Tim found that he could fight effectively that way. Shiva's training was, as always, a help. She'd taught him so many things that he had learned but not focused on after picking up the staff. Jason's training was just as instrumental. Tim rather thought that the things Jason had learned from Dick were blending quite well with the things that Tim had learned from directly from Dick. He tried not to think about spending time actually training with Dick now that he was finding his sanity again.
Tim truly didn't think he was ready to face the rest of the family.
Jason's knife flashed at Tim, knocking him out of the thoughts that were pulling him away from the fight and back into memories both good and bad. The thoughts fell away into the give and take that came from a really good spar. Rather than block Jason's knife, something that took a bit too much strength for his arms anymore, Tim dodged and then kicked at Jason's arm. He managed to connect, knocking the knife out of Jason's hand. That earned him a huge grin out of Jason and a laugh that Tim would have echoed if it weren't for Jason driving in and trying to trap Tim against a wall.
Tim spun and kicked, jumped over Jason's kicks, ducked the blows aimed at him. His heart beat faster, not just from the exertion but also from the joy of returning to who had had been before everything fell apart. The memories of blood, screams and pain were still there but they were so far away, so unimportant, compared to fighting against Jason and learning to use his body all over again.
He saw a gap in Jason's defenses and kicked, aiming for the solar plexus rather than Jason's ribs. The ribs would have splintered, would have killed Jason, and that was the last thing that Tim wanted. Jason caught his ankle as Tim pulled back. His grip wasn't as strong as it should have been though that was expected given that Jason looked like he couldn't breathe. The twist and shove came as no surprise. Tim went with it, twisting and using his shoulders and arms to bounce a little. Dick did it so much better than Tim did but the move still worked to send Tim back up to his feet.
"Good!" Jason panted, grin even wider. "Little more!"
They were both panting hard, covered with sweat. Tim nodded and came at Jason again. His knife swings went a little too wide, giving Jason the opportunity to hit Tim in the stomach. The blow wasn't very hard as Jason pulled his blow but it was a reminder that Tim needed to be better. He managed a half dozen more kicks, two more knife attacks and then Jason backed off, hands up in the air.
"Enough," Jason said, laughing. "That's a half hour, non-stop. God but you're getting better quick!"
Tim sheathed his knives and then laughed as Jason scooped him up for a sweaty hug. He held Tim in his arms, grinning down at Tim as if this was the best thing that could have ever happened. It felt very good to Tim too, almost as good as their times in bed. He ran his fingers over Jason's lips, quite aware that both of them were getting hard.
"Mmmm, should get ready to go out tonight," Jason murmured.
His hands drifted down Tim's back, cupping his ass and squeezing firmly. The bruises that Jason had left with his spanking two nights ago made Tim's eyes flutter. He groaned and shook his head no, clinging to Jason while rubbing against him. More, he wanted more. That made Jason grin.
"Hold on," Jason said.
He lifted Tim up, prompting Tim to wrap his legs around Jason's waist and his arms around Jason's neck. The air exploded out of Tim's lungs as Jason slammed him against the wall, kissing Tim's lips through the mask, his cheeks, his forehead. At the same time he rubbed against Tim, driving their groins together.
Tim panted, rocking against Jason as much as he could. Their movements were fast and jerky, a bit too hard given the lack of any form of lubrication but Tim loved the edge of pain that came with it. Jason groaned, obviously just as turned on as Tim was. It couldn't last, couldn't, not when both of them were shaky with adrenaline from the fight and touching each other as if to confirm that they were there, alive, relatively whole. Jason, it was Jason holding him, touching him, taking care of him. As the excitement rose, Tim could hear himself grunting in time with their movements, just as Jason was grunting too.
"Fuck!" Jason cursed as he shoved harder and then froze against Tim's body.
Tim felt the moisture bloom through Jason's pants as white lightning raced up his spine. He came as well, croaking something through the mask that kept him from screaming, from shouting, from doing anything more than clinging to Jason and shuddering until the waves of pleasure stopped.
"Damn, way too fast," Jason chuckled once Tim stopped shuddering.
"Mmm-hmm," Tim murmured much more sleepily than Jason.
"Come on, quick clean up and then I'm heading out," Jason said.
He carried Tim, legs still wrapped around Jason's waist, to the bathroom. There wasn't time for a shower so Jason let Tim use a washcloth to clean him up before returning the favor. Tim didn't bother with clothes once they were clean. He was just going to go to bed anyway. Still, Tim walked Jason to the door, claiming a hug before he allowed Jason to leave. Jason ran his fingers over Tim's cheekbone just above the mask, his eyes tender and still worried about Tim.
"I won't be out too long tonight," Jason promised. "The guys are doing a better job taking up the slack lately. Should be home in about four hours at most. You're going right to bed, right?"
Tim nodded, making shooing gestures at Jason. That made Jason laugh and kiss Tim's forehead right where the little scar was. He looked back at Tim again with so much worry that Tim had to roll his eyes. It was only once Jason was gone and the door was securely locked that Tim made his way to the bathroom.
He couldn't trust his memories of the night Batman died. There were simply too many discrepancies. There were the differences between how Jason described the events and what Tim remembered, plus the differences in Jason's behavior towards Tim before and after. He still couldn't clearly remember the villain who had killed Batman. Despite the fact that Tim knew that Damian had been there, he couldn't remember seeing Damian at the scene. Too many things didn't add up and Tim had insufficient data to figure out what was missing or incorrect.
But he did have the scars.
His wrists were mangled from where he'd struggled against the wires. Tim could see that Jason must have kept him in splints for months, perhaps as long as he'd been catatonic, to allow them to heal. On top of the long, ragged scars on his wrists were places where Tim's fingernails had scored into his flesh, as though he was trying to rip something off his arms. That was another thing that Tim couldn't remember but the evidence was clear for him to see and feel.
The scars on his thighs were simple puncture wounds with little sign that Tim had struggled. Judging from the entrance and exit wounds, the wires had caught him mid-stride with his left leg leading and his right leg fully extended. Intriguingly, the scars on his wrists were straight through, as though his arms had been splayed out to the sides.
To Tim, that suggested that his legs were struck first, then moments later his skull, and only after that his wrists. But Jason had said that all he'd seen on Tim's head was a scratch with no sign of an exit wound anywhere. He'd said that he'd spent his time freeing Tim's wrists, then his thighs, after shooting the villain in the head.
Almost exactly where Tim had the scar.
'I wish I had access to cranial X-rays,' Tim thought as he very gingerly ran his fingers over the scar on his forehead. 'What if something's inside my brain?'
Brain damage, or perhaps mind control, would explain so many of the discrepancies that Tim had noted. Jason didn't know who the villain was. He hadn't cared and after Bruce's death the lines of communication between him and the rest of the family had shattered. Barbara was gone, off to New York. Steph and Cass apparently spent all their time in the Far East. Even Helena had left town after one too many confrontations with Jason over his methodology and rising popularity with Gotham's populace.
Dick had moved to Metropolis after Jason drove him out. Tim still wondered what that had been about but Jason just degenerated into infuriated cursing when Tim asked so he didn't know.
'I need to know more,' Tim thought, fingers very lightly pressing on the divot in his skull under the scar. The dent in his cranium was slightly larger than the scar on his thighs, as though something had truly punched a hole into his brain. 'I need more information.'
Unfortunately, the only people able to give him that information would likely try and steal Tim from Jason. Maybe once Tim's strength and speed were back up to appropriate levels he could convince Jason to let him do some research on his own. As it was, Tim was waiting for a computer to be delivered. To his amusement, Jason had insisted on having one made to Tim's precise specifications once Tim admitted that he wanted one.
Yes, more information, more training, and hopefully a return to patrolling with Jason; that was what he needed.
Tim turned away from the mirror and went to bed. All of that would have to wait until tomorrow. Now it was time to sleep.
"You haven't been on that thing the entire time I was gone, have you?" Jason asked.
Tim started and turned to stare at him, surprised. There was a stack of grocery bags by the door, so he must have just gotten home. He hadn't heard Jason coming in but that was no surprise. The information he'd been reviewing was quite revealing and had been fascinating to say the least. When Jason raised an eyebrow, Tim shrugged and pulled his hair aside so that Jason could open the latch on his mask.
"You can do this yourself," Jason commented.
"Gets caught in my hair," Tim said, grinning at Jason. "It's easier to have you do it. And yes, I have been. Once I cracked the security I was able to find out some very interesting information about my assailant."
"Fucking bastard," Jason grumbled. He waved a hand at Tim to explain as he put the groceries away.
"Completely agreed," Tim said. "He had a small cult, you know."
It was more than a cult, in Tim's opinion. The behavior of the Puppet Master's followers went beyond what you'd expect from cult members. Certainly, there was the expected fanaticism and obsessive belief in their leader, their Master, but it went considerably deeper than that. Despite having been shown conclusive proof that he was dead, every single one of them denied that he was gone. They claimed that he still spoke to them, visited them, and gave them tasks to complete.
"Had heard about 'em," Jason commented, head in the refrigerator, "but never did bother to track anything down about them. Aren't they all in asylums?"
"All of them but Damian and I," Tim said.
Jason jerked so violently that he smacked his head into the top of the fridge and cursed. He stared at Tim with horror while rubbing the back of his head. Tim stared back as calmly as he could given what he suspected had happened to him and Damian. What he was fairly sure that Bruce had died fighting. His expression must have shown how disturbed he was because Jason slammed the door of the refrigerator and came over to hug Tim.
"You're not one of his freaks," Jason told Tim.
"Only because you shot him when you did," Tim murmured into the flesh of Jason's shoulder. He turned his head so that Jason could actually hear and understand him. His voice had never recovered from all the screaming he'd done. "The only reason I'm sane is that you shot him when you did, Jason. I'm pretty sure that you saved me from becoming his slave by doing that."
"But… how?" Jason asked, stepped back so that he could look into Tim's eyes. "How could he have done that?"
"I think he was a puppet too," Tim replied.
That made Jason's jaw drop open in shock. He stared at Tim and then sat down next to him to listen as Tim explained what he'd found and what he suspected he would find when he finally got to do some proper examinations of his skull and arms.
"The Puppet Master's wires were alien technology, Jason," Tim explained. "It took a bit of work but I managed to hack the League's database on that. Apparently Barbara isn't working with them as closely anymore because their security is less effective than it should be."
"Or you're just that good," Jason said. "So it's alien. So what?"
"Every single follower of the Puppet Master has identical scars on their foreheads and scarring to their wrists," Tim continued. "Every single one that's been examined shows signs of having had something penetrate their skulls. A few show small metallic objects inside their craniums, bonded to their brain stems though not every single one has been checked for that."
"The fucker implanted something in your brain?" Jason squawked.
"Most likely," Tim sighed. "And I suspect that if my arms were examined there would be small metallic implants along the bones of my wrists."
He rubbed his wrists, partially from the ferocious desire to have whatever it was that had been implanted in him out, but also because his wrists simply couldn't deal with long periods of using the computer anymore. The damage that had lowered his strength had also affected his fine motor control rather profoundly.
"Why?" Jason asked.
"You've never asked about the period where I was catatonic and raving," Tim commented.
"No," Jason said, blinking in surprise. "You were out of it, Baby bird. Figured you were just gone, you know, nobody home."
"I actually wasn't," Tim sighed. "I was living in a fantasy world where I'd been captured, collared and was being trained as a sex slave. I was quite aware that I was succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome but unable to stop it. There was only me and my Master, the one who used me and owned me."
Jason's face went so white that his faint freckles stood out like bloody blotches on his cheeks. He gulped convulsively and stood. Tim let him walk away, well aware that Jason was not going to take the answer to the inevitable next set of questions well. If he'd been in Jason's shoes he would have been just as horrified, especially given the nature of their relationship.
They were silent for a long while. Jason put all the groceries away and then started dinner, making them a hearty casserole of macaroni and cheese with big chunks of ham liberally mixed in. Tim waited. Only once the casserole was in the oven to cook did Jason come back and sit down next to Tim. He met Tim's eyes, as grim and determined as if he was about to go into a battle that would inevitably mean his death.
"It was me?" Jason asked.
"It looked like you," Tim said, nodding, "but it didn't act like you at all."
As predicted, the revelation didn't go over well with Jason. He put one hand over his mouth as if he felt sick to his stomach. Tim waited, wondering as he often had in the last few days whether this was reality or part of the elaborate fantasy that had been created for him. Despite the doubts that lingered, Tim was fairly certain that this was real. His circumstances were so different from the other victims that Tim thought that what happened around him now had to be real.
"I… hurt you?" Jason asked.
"You forcibly collared me, chained me to the wall and withheld food to ensure that I was compliant with what you want," Tim said. He took Jason's hand, not surprised that his fingers had gone ice cold. "The sex was decidedly non-consensual at first, at least until I started to enjoy it. But… it changed."
"Changed how?" Jason asked. He tried to jerk his hand out of Tim's but Tim held on. "God, how can you even look at me? In your mind I raped the hell out of you, Tim! You should be disgusted to be anywhere near me!"
"The dream world began bleeding into the real world," Tim explained. "I think it was about the time you figured out that a collar calmed me down. The first three months where I was completely catatonic must be where the reprogramming of my brain began. Then, the device that was implanted in me began to lose power so it let me have glimpses of reality. Those glimpses allowed me to communicate what I needed to you and you gave me the collar, the mask, began taking care of me. You became my Dom, my Master. Eventually, the power in the device gave way completely and I was returned to reality, believing that the early part was real when in reality it had been an elaborate dream created inside my brain."
Jason stared at him, hand limp again. After a moment he shook his head and pointed at the computer. Tim smiled and pulled it around so that Tim could show him the data he'd collated on the other victims. It took until after they'd eaten dinner and gotten everything cleaned up for Jason to finally say something. By the time he did speak again Tim's throat was aching from having talked too much.
"They all had that early period of being broken," Jason said thoughtfully as they suited up for the night's patrol. "But none of them believes that the world around them is real. They think that the dream they had was real."
"Exactly," Tim said. It wasn't his first patrol with Jason but it was in the first dozen. He still got nervous about going out. "They didn't have what I had. I had you. The device created the virtual reality for me but the Puppet Master was dead so it used your face instead. And then you actually did do the things I needed so I was able to integrate the two sets of experience."
"You're not sure this is real, are you?" Jason asked. He sighed and shook his head at Tim. "No, don't bother answering that. It shows. Still want the mask and smaller collar when we go out?"
"Yes," Tim said, smiling shyly. "I… The mask muffles my voice and keeps me from hurting myself by trying to be heard. And the collar makes me feel more secure."
"And they scare the shit out of everyone we meet," Jason laughed.
"That too," Tim agreed with a wicked little grin.
His new costume was simple and black, rather like what Cass had worn before she became Batgirl. He didn't have the scarf but he did have armored greaves for his wrists and shins plus enough knives to take on a small army. Tim's long hair wasn't much of an issue, rather to his surprise. Anyone that got close enough to try for it usually ended up getting beaten to a pulp anyway. Between Tim's knives and kicks and Jason's protectiveness, Tim didn't get hurt all that much.
Of course, most of their patrol had very little to do with fighting crime the way he used to as Robin and Red Robin. Jason's control over the city had changed how patrolling worked. Most of the time Jason made his rounds to make sure that his lieutenants were doing what they were supposed to. He talked to the police openly, discussing problems that they'd been having and how to address them. A good half of his patrol was dedicated to making sure that the poor and homeless were getting the help they needed.
Arkham was mostly empty.
Tim suspected that it was that fact that made Gotham function better. The high level crazies were gone, killed by Red Hood, which meant that the lower level ones never quite dared to be that bad again. To Tim's amusement most everyone they met assumed that Tim was another crazy that Red Hood had decided to save instead of kill. The pure unpredictability of it helped Red Hood's reputation as well as allowing Tim rather more latitude than he normally had. It was rather fun being a reformed villain rather than a semi-crippled hero.
'This has to be reality,' Tim said as they drove back towards their apartment. 'Things are too unpredictable to be fake.'
The world was also too large. His entire time being 'trained' Tim hadn't been allowed to see a TV, touch a computer, or even see out the window. His Master had controlled every aspect of Tim's existence, limiting what Tim did in every respect. Jason did the exact opposite. He gave Tim the world, through the computer, TV, patrolling as well as answering every question Tim had, no matter how much it bothered Jason.
They flew down Main Street, Tim staying close to Jason's rear bumper. He could see doing this for the rest of their lives, though Tim was perfectly aware that they'd have to give up the active fisticuffs eventually. Either way, he wanted to stay with Jason for as long as Jason wanted him. This was the best life he'd lived so far.
Another rider on a big blue and black bike roared in from a side street, aggressively cutting Tim off. Jason saw it, reacted but the new rider pulled a dart gun and shot out Jason's rear tire. Immediately, Jason lost traction and began to skid. As Tim's mind screamed for Jason, the new rider in black and blue tried to force Tim off the road and into an alley.
Tim used the tricks he'd learned for his Ducati to dodge and then spin around, going back to where Jason had crashed and slid into a parked truck. Jason was already rolling back to his feet, though he moved more slowly than Tim liked. When Tim offered a hand Jason took it and swung on behind Tim as he burned rubber to get away. The blue and black rider roared after them.
He was joined by two smaller riders, one in pure black and the other in purple and black. Tim cursed under his mask and drove out of town, away from people who could be hurt. There was someone overhead, just a flash of red and blue, which meant that either Clark was involved or they'd talked Kon into helping with this little attack.
The road to Wayne Manor was quiet, deserted. Jason grunted and tightened his arms around Tim's waist approvingly as they roared up in front of the Manor. Their pursuers followed, settling into a rough semicircle around Jason and Tim.
Dick was, of course, the rider in blue and black. He glared once he took his helmet off. Steph's purple helmet was a dead giveaway. She looked like she wanted to beat the crap out of Jason. Cass was frowning once she took her helmet off. And hovering overhead was Clark, glowering down at Jason and Tim as if he was horribly disappointed in them all.
"Shoulda known you'd pull this shit," Jason said to Dick. "Coulda just called, Dickie-bird. I did give you my number."
"We're here for Tim," Dick huffed, "not you."
Tim took off his helmet, rolling his eyes when they all looked horrified by the mask. He took that off next, mentally grumbling at how the latches of it got caught in his hair. It took a moment to pull the mask free without pulling out hairs but once he did, Tim tucked it inside his helmet.
"It would have been nice if you did call," Tim said with a wince at how they reacted to his scratchy, broken voice. "That would have been better than trying to kill Jason for taking care of me."
Clark landed behind Dick, the frown much more concerned now than it had been. From the way he squinted, he was X-raying Tim to see what damage had been done to him. Tim cocked his head, waiting to see what Clark said. He'd been curious about what was happening in his body for a very long time.
"He's… okay?" Clark said.
"But O thought that he was being controlled!" Dick squawked. He looked completely shocked. "All the evidence…"
"Not controlled," Cass said. "Not at all. Tim."
"I am now," Tim agreed. "I wasn't for quite some time. Jason protected me until I came back to myself."
They all stared at Tim as if he'd said something that didn't make sense at all. If it had been anyone else he would have agreed with their surprise. The research he'd done had shown that the puppets couldn't be freed and Tim should be a puppet. Only Tim and Damian were unaccounted for in the official records. He wondered abruptly where Damian was, what had happened to his lethal youngest brother. Despite all his research, Tim hadn't been able to find out what happened to Damian and his memories still were blank when it came to Damian.
Dick sat back a little on his bike, so obviously perplexed that Tim's nervousness increased. Jason rubbed his hand across Tim's back comfortingly even though the others looked at him as though he'd done something horrid. Tim frowned and looked at Jason.
"Why did you and Dick fight?" Tim asked.
"Dickie-bird wanted to take you away," Jason admitted a little ashamed. "I wouldn't let him. You freaked the ever-loving fuck out every time someone tried to get you away from me even in the earliest days, Tim. He said you'd get over it. I said that there was no reason to scare you that way. I could take care of you just fine. And I did take care of him just fine, no help from any of you."
He glared at Dick who glared back. Tim held up a hand to stop them from fighting again.
"I think that's probably what saved my sanity," Tim mused. "Dick, where's Damian? Is he all right?"
Steph and Cass both winced, looking away. Clark looked a little sickened. Dick went pale as he stared into his helmet. Jason straightened up behind Tim. When Dick looked up Tim regretted having asked the question.
"He's… changed," Dick said. "I don't know what Talia and Ra's did to save him but he's not the boy you used to know. When we saw that you'd started patrolling, we had to take his warnings more seriously. He claims that you're a danger to yourself and everyone around you."
"I can see him saying that," Tim sighed.
Tim turned and looked at Jason. The two years had been spent fully in Jason's care. Everything in his life right now was tied up with Jason. Tim truly believed that they had built a good life together. He was certain that Jason had done good things for Gotham. His heart screamed at him for even thinking this but he needed to see Damian and he needed to get more data. None of it would be possible if he stayed in Gotham with Jason, not as things stood right now.
"I need to go with them," Tim said, his voice coming out even smaller and more broken than normal.
Jason shut his eyes for a long moment before he nodded. When he opened his eyes, his expression was determined but full of so much love that Tim's heart skipped a beat. Tim pulled his hair aside so that Jason could get at the collar's buckles. There was no reason to aggravate the others by wearing it, not when Tim wasn't by Jason's side anymore.
"Do what you gotta do, Baby bird," Jason said. "I'll be waiting when you're ready. Supes, give me a lift back to my bike, will you? I got work to do and people will be freaking the fuck out because of this attack."
He coiled the collar around his wrist as he swung off Tim's bike. Tim watched Jason go, stomach aching and heart hurting. Even if this was the right thing to do, he didn't want to leave Jason. He didn't want to be apart from him for even a moment. The feeling was so strong that Tim automatically doubted its reality. It could have been implanted in him, this need for Jason. Given how the other victims reacted, it very likely had been. Of course it could also be real love for Jason. Tim wondered how he could tell the difference.
"See you around, Tim," Jason said, smile wry as Clark picked him up and carried him away.
Tim waited until Jason was gone to put his mask back on and then put on his helmet. The last thing he wanted was to talk right now. He could barely hold back tears. Steph looked like she wanted to rip the mask off but Cass just nodded and started her bike. Tim followed her, letting Steph and Dick keep up as they willed. Hopefully by doing this he'd find enough information that he would be able to trust his impulses and desires again. He was really tired of doubting everything, especially his own heart.
Dick's place in Metropolis was larger than Tim expected but it was every bit as messy as he'd predicted. Clothes were strewn about. There wasn't much more than milk and cereal to eat, though there were a great many good take-out containers in the garbage. The windows looked like they needed a good cleaning and Tim was relatively certain that the only reason that the floor was as clean as it was could be blamed on Dick didn't like to have things stick to his hands when he paced upside down.
Which he was doing now and had been for almost half an hour now.
Tim sighed, refusing to budge from his place on the couch. The scissors that Dick had immediately pulled out were still resting on the table next to Steph who had stopped scolding shortly after Tim told her to shut up or he'd leave immediately. Cass had disappeared to go get Roy who'd agreed to help watch over Damian. Apparently Damian had changed so much that no one was willing to stop surveillance on him.
"It looks weird," Steph complained.
"It's my hair, Steph," Tim said. "You'd be more convincing about wanting me to feel better if you didn't flinch every time I talked."
"But we don't know what happened, Timmy," Dick complained. He flipped back to his feet to stare at Tim with the mid-level intensity soulful eyes, the sort that made grandmothers feed him cookies instead of melting walls like the full-intensity soulful look did.
"I already told you," Tim said. "I screamed so much that I ruined my vocal chords. And the hair is my choice. I'm not cutting it just because you want me to be exactly what I was before Batman died. I've changed and that's all there is to that."
The look that Steph and Dick shared made Tim intensely curious as to what had happened with Damian. Whatever it was, it had made them very wary of Tim's changes. Given the fantasy world that he'd lived in, where Tim had literally lived out his wildest sexual fantasies for a time, he had to wonder if Damian had experienced something similar and if so what his wildest dreams were. Every single one of the Puppet Master's puppet-slaves had experienced a fantasy. Those that spoke of it made it clear that there was always a sexual component and that extreme measures for ensuring total obedience were always involved.
Damian had been eleven when Batman died. Eleven. Tim didn't want to think about what a sexually oriented fantasy world filled with even more extreme than Ra's and Talia's training methods might have been for him. The sheer thought made Tim nauseous. Steph caught his reaction immediately, staring at him.
"What?" Steph asked warily enough that Tim had to smile at her.
"Just… Damian," Tim said. "I'm worried about him. After what I went through and what I was able to discover through my research I'm really… I need to know how he's changed, guys. I really do."
"What did you go through?" Dick asked.
He crossed his arms over his chest in the almost-Batman pose that he'd used when he wore the suit. Tim was grateful that Dick had decided not to take on Batman after Bruce died. It would have been a bit much to have Batman glaring at him instead of Nightwing.
"I remember running to try and help Damian and Bruce," Tim said. He looked out the window because he couldn't tell them this while meeting their eyes. "I saw Batman suspended on wires and then I was hit with them. I don't remember the actual moment of impact. One minute I was running and the next I was pinned to the ground by them. Jason was there cursing and trying to free me. He told me that he hadn't seen the moment of impact either."
"No, he got there after the fact," Dick agreed. He sounded a little more relaxed, which was good. Tim knew it wasn't going to last.
"Then the next moment I was in Jason's apartment," Tim continued, stomach roiling a little. "He wasn't acting at all like himself. It was more like when he first came back as Red Hood, when he was so violent and unbalanced. He forced a collar on me, chained me to a wall and began training me as his sex slave."
The sounds that Steph and Dick made could barely be classified as human. Tim sighed, still staring out the window. They were several stories up, in one of the bigger apartment buildings. Dick had gotten himself a suite that had a balcony that overlooked the street as well as a back entrance that allowed him to slip in and out without being seen. Once they stopped, Tim sighed and continued.
"That continued for about three months," Tim said. "I knew quite well that I was succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome. It was obvious. But after three months or so that Jason started to change. There were flashes of concern, love in his eyes. He would be violent and controlling one moment and then sweet and kind the next. It confused me rather badly, but it did ease my way back to reality. According to Jason, I screamed my throat raw during this period. He found that a collar calmed me down and given that I damaged my throat so severely, I couldn't eat very well. The mask helped me not make noises, giving my throat time to heal. It also ensured that I didn't vomit up what he fed me, which kept me from starving to death."
When he turned back to them, both Steph and Dick had horrified expressions. Tim shrugged. They had asked.
"After about nine months to a year, the flashes of the dark Jason were completely gone but I couldn't tell which was real," Tim said. "It took a couple more months before I admitted that I wasn't sure what had happened and frankly, I didn't tell Jason about the fantasy world until today."
"It wasn't real," Steph whispered.
"No, it wasn't," Tim replied. "I've done a lot of research on the other victims and they all experienced similar fantasy worlds. We were all reprogrammed to obey and to worship our 'Master'. My theory is that Jason killed the Puppet Master just as my implant was booting up. It couldn't use the Puppet Master's appearance so it grabbed the closest person to fill the slot."
"How can you bear to have him touch you?" Dick asked with enough horror that Tim wanted to smack him.
"I've been in love with Jason since he was Robin, Dick," Tim said while rolling his eyes. "You know that. I told you that after he came back. Besides, once the Stockholm Syndrome hit I wanted it. And after the fantasy world faded I was living a dream. Jason was… everything I'd ever wanted, frankly. He still is."
They did know. Tim had told Dick after a particularly intense training session that had left him convinced that he'd never live up to Jason's legacy. He and Steph had giggled over their respective crushes on the second Robin many times while they dated. The ability to be open about his bisexuality had always been one of his favorite things about Steph. Very few people in his life had been as accepting of him as the two of them.
Dick looked like he wanted to say something but the front door opened and Roy stalked in. The last two years hadn't been especially kind to Roy. His face looked much harsher and his hair was cut so short that Tim could see his scalp. His street clothes were denim and black leather with no sign of the red that he loved so much. Roy looked at Tim with a glower that quickly faded into a confused frown.
"This is not what we were told to expect," Roy said.
"Nice to see you too, Roy," Tim said. "How's Lian?"
"Uh, fine," Roy said, blinking at Tim before waving one hand at him. "What happened to your voice?"
"Screamed until my throat bled a few too many times," Tim said with a wry shrug. "How's Damian?"
"Fucked up," Roy growled. He looked at Steph and Dick, both of whom shook their heads 'no'. "They didn't tell you."
"No, they haven't," Tim said, "and I have asked. Several times. I'm rather worried about him. If my theories are correct he's been controlled by the Puppet Master ever since Batman died."
That got all three of them staring at Tim. Steph grabbed the scissors and stomped into the kitchen to put them away in a drawer. Dick's proto-protest died when Roy raised an eyebrow curiously and Steph glared at Dick. It was nice to see that there were more important things than how long Tim's hair had gotten. He got up and rejoined Steph at the table. Dick and Roy came and sat as well, though Dick's version of sitting included enough fidgeting for four versions of Lian.
"Tell us," Steph said.
Tim did. Everything that he'd told Jason, all his speculations, the data he'd gathered on the other victims got explained over the next hour. Dick brought in a laptop so that Tim could connect to Barbara who was able to independently verify most of what Tim had found. She also found more extensive interviews with the other victims that corroborated Tim's description of his fantasy world. The only difference between Tim and them was that Tim had been safe with Jason who had responded to his need for a collar and mask by giving them to him instead of by denying them and trying to force him to accept that it had been a fantasy world.
"I truly believe that Jason's support is what allowed me to integrate the two sets of experience," Tim said once he was done. "Without his support I think I would have been just like them."
"Oh God," Dick moaned while rubbing his face and then running his fingers through his hair despite the way his gauntlets caught and scratched. "Jason was right to keep you."
"So what happened to Damian?" Roy asked as if he really didn't want to know.
They all looked at Tim with similar expressions. Dick looked especially horrified so he must have made the same inferences that Tim had. Barbara had her grimmest expression on so she clearly had an idea. Tim sighed and made a steeple out of his hands, holding them in front of his lips for a moment. There truly was no good way to say it.
"I think that Damian is either trapped inside of his body, which means that you've been interacting with the Puppet Master," Tim said, "or he experienced some sort of fantasy world where presumably Batman trained him to be the perfect replacement while using sex for both reward and punishment. It seems to be a standard part of the… experience."
Roy got up to pace while cursing under his breath and kicking Dick's discarded clothing out of his path. From the sheer fury and horror on his face he felt much the way Tim did. Dick seemed to collapse in on himself as he buried his face in his hands. Steph, on the other hand, got her 'must fix it' expression, which Tim honestly thought was a much more productive response. Of course, he'd had a while to come to terms with what had happened to him and what might have happened to Damian.
"What do we do?" Steph asked.
"I need to have Clark or Kara or Kon scan me," Tim said. "I believe that I have implants on my brain stem and possibly in my arms. If so, Damian should have very similar implants, possibly more extensive ones."
"Bruce… The autopsy showed that Bruce had large metallic objects in his brain and wrists," Dick whispered. "We couldn't figure out what they were."
"The Puppet Master must have decided to take him over," Tim sighed. "That's what he died fighting. Either way, if Clark or whoever can scan Damian then we can target the implants that I believe must be there. I think that the wrists are control units of a sort. It's possible that shorting them out will allow Damian's personality to emerge. Hopefully, Kryptonian technology can remove the implants or at least shut them down which should allow Damian to emerge again."
"You've really thought about this," Roy commented.
"I've had two years to integrate the whole experience and figure out what was real and what wasn't," Tim said. "You need to talk to Clark and have him do the scans first. I'd prefer that you don't tell me what he finds until after you've decided which of us is telling the truth and what to do about it. I highly recommend not letting Damian know that he's being scanned."
Tim stood, laughing quietly when Steph stood and hugged him so tightly that it made his back ache. She stared into his eyes once she let him go, an intense frown on her face. After a moment she put her hands on either side of Tim's face, gently squishing until he made fish lips at her. He tried not to laugh but it was hard to resist the urge. He'd forgotten that Steph did this when she was worried about him.
"This is real, Tim," Steph said. "We're real. You're real."
"I know," Tim said, putting his hands over hers. "I truly do know it, Steph. I just feel that it's important not to influence Clark when he does the scans."
He got another hug from Steph, Roy's hand on his shoulder and Dick hugging Tim so tightly that he had to protest and squirm for fear of broken ribs. Once they let him go, Tim retreated to the bedroom that Dick had given him. It was clean, mostly because it was obviously not used all that much. The closet was full of Dick's equipment but Tim didn't mind. He didn't expect that he'd be here for very long.
Looking out the window was surreal. Tim wasn't used to seeing Metropolis' gleaming streets and modern buildings. After so long in Jason's apartment in Gotham, it was strange. It was also comforting. None of this had been in the fantasy world. Tim wondered briefly how long he'd search for details of reality that conflicted with the fantasy world. The doubts that he'd been left with went entirely too deep.
Tim didn't have a cell phone but there was a desk phone in the room. Jason's number was already programmed into it, which briefly annoyed Tim. He truly could have called Jason first rather than attacking at random. Whatever tales Damian had told must have been truly horrific and quite convincing. Pushing the autodial happened almost automatically.
"Yeah?" Jason growled after half of one ring. "What do you want, Dickie-bird? Is Tim okay?"
"I'm fine," Tim laughed. "They're discussing what I told you, all the things I found out."
"Tim!" Jason said with so much delight that Tim blushed and played with the end of his braid. "God, I'm glad you're okay. Clark was a complete jerk about taking me back to the bike but hey, it's Big Blue. What're you gonna do, right?"
"True," Tim said. He sat on the bed, staring out the window. "I hope that he'll be able to help. Damian's apparently changed quite a lot. I haven't gotten anything out of them about him but their reactions say more than words."
"He's under constant surveillance," Tim said as neutrally as possible.
"Fuck, maybe he is controlled," Jason murmured. "Big Blue going to help out?"
"I hope so," Tim said. "Dick, Steph and Roy are going to talk to him about it."
They both sighed. Tim had always hated leaving things in other people's hands. The only way he'd ever been comfortable with it was by taking every precaution possible and gathering every bit of data available. Jason was equally bad in his own way.
"How long you think you'll be there?" Jason asked after a moment of mutual silence.
"I don't know yet," Tim said while running his fingers over his throat where the collar should be. "It depends on how long it takes to deal with Damian."
"Heh, you're touching your throat, aren't you?" Jason chuckled.
"How…?" Tim's voice cracked, causing him to cough and wince.
"No more talking for a while, Tim," Jason said. It was one of the gentle orders, the sort that made Tim blush and squirm because of how much love showed in Jason's eyes. "Let the others talk. You need to let your throat rest."
"I miss you," Tim whispered. "It's only been a few hours and I already miss you."
"Miss you every time you're out of my sight," Jason murmured. "That's just the way it is. You're precious to me, Tim. No matter how all of this happened and no matter where you decide to go in life, I'm grateful that I had this time with you."
Tim's breath caught as he realized that Jason didn't expect Tim to return. He thought that Tim would leave, never come back. The thought of it made tears well up in Tim's eyes. Whether it had started out as reprogramming his brain or not, Tim was happy with Jason, happy to belong to him, happy with what they did together. The sex was wonderful and Jason's love for Tim made him feel better than anything ever had, including becoming Robin.
"Me too, Master," Tim whispered. "I'll come home soon."
"Do what you have to," Jason ordered. "I'll be waiting for you, no matter how long it takes."
He hung up before Tim could say that it wouldn't be long. It wouldn't. Tim still wasn't sure what the true basis of their relationship was but he didn't care. Being with Jason made him feel whole, made him feel loved. Come what may, Tim wasn't going to give it up without a fight. Still, it would have been much easier to deal with everyone if he had Jason's collar around his neck. Even though it was purely symbolic now, without the locks that had kept Tim from opening it originally, it made Tim feel so much more secure.
A few tears crept down Tim's cheeks as he hung up the phone. His mask was inside of his helmet, on the desk in his room. Tim pulled it out and carefully strapped it back on, doing his best to keep his hair out of the latch. It wasn't his collar but it helped enough that Tim was able to push the tears away.
Now all he had to do was wait for Clark to do his scans. Then everything would come to a head.
Tim watched from the bedroom door as Damian stalked into Dick's apartment as though he owned it. Clark had already confirmed that there were large metal implants in Damian's arms. More worryingly there was another implant that nestled around his brain stem. It was significantly larger than the one in Tim's brain, extending into many areas of Damian's brain. To Tim's relief, Clark was relatively certain that it could be removed by the Fortress, but not while it was active. Currently it was so active that attempting to remove it would electrocute Damian's brain. They had to find a way to stop the implant inside of Damian before they would be able to save him. It wouldn't be easy.
Damian had grown substantially over the last two years.
He'd been relatively tiny the last time Tim saw him, barely coming up to Tim's chin. Since then he'd grown so much that he looked as though he was sixteen, not thirteen. Damian was easily as tall as Dick and clearly would be growing inches more. His hair was still cut in the short spiky style that he'd worn two years ago but there was a nasty scar on his forehead where Tim had his tiny scar. His wrists were covered by leather gauntlets that Tim suspected had armor plating. That Damian felt it necessary to protect his arms that way made Tim's eyes narrow. Maybe his thought of shorting out the implants by impaling Damian's wrists would work.
"I had thought that you would have some progress to report by now," Damian said, his normal sharp tones made even sharper by the apparent worry and anger filling him.
"Actually we do," Dick said so cheerfully that Damian frowned at him. "We did a raid and got Tim away from Jason."
"Really?" Damian said, perking up so much that Tim eased a little further back into the bedroom.
"Yeah," Dick said. "He's in the spare bedroom right now. But um, he's changed. In ways that, well. Damian, I don't think that he's the sort of threat that you thought he was."
The world abruptly wobbled as Damian frowned at Dick. Tim staggered, one hand going to his head and the other to the wall as something inside of him shifted. He felt the world flipping, sliding away. This time he wasn't panicked, running, desperately worried. When the real world went away and the fantasy world clicked into place he was acutely aware of it.
"You've done well," Red Hood told Tim from his place sitting on the end of the bed. He smirked at Tim with enough malice and amusement in his eyes that Tim shuddered. "You're a very good pupil, pet."
"Master?" Tim asked.
His legs gave way, dropping him to the floor. Red Hood stood up, coming over to fist his fingers in Tim's hair. He wrenched Tim's head back while sliding his zipper down. Tim automatically opened his mouth for Red Hood's already hard cock. There was no flirting with Tim's lips as Red Hood shoved his cock into Tim's mouth. It was a brutal thrust that went all the way back into Tim's throat at once. He swallowed around the intruding flesh, not trying to breathe because it was impossible already.
'Not real,' Tim thought desperately, 'this isn't real. This isn't Jason. It's not. It's just the Puppet Master reactivating my implant.'
It felt utterly real. Tim's knees ached from having thumped down to the floor so abruptly. He could smell the leather of Red Hood's jacket. The room was Dick's spare bedroom, not Jason's apartment. Everything blended together perfectly with the world that Tim had been in just a moment before but Tim realized that his arms didn't ache. His throat wasn't sore. The mask was in his lap, clenched in his fingers because he hadn't been given permission to touch. The heavy, locked posture collar was back around his neck.
Red Hood fucked Tim's face, chuckling with delight at how Tim took his cock. His throat already ached from the constant intrusion. Tim snatched what little gasps of breath that he could, submitting utterly to what Red Hood wanted. It couldn't last very long. Red Hood could last forever but the others were waiting and this had to be done soon. Please let it be done soon!
Nine entirely too forceful thrusts later, Red Hood shoved deep into Tim's throat and came. He held Tim there, forcing him to swallow everything that Red Hood gave him. Tim swallowed, vision graying to the point that he gasped desperately when Red Hood finally pulled out. As Tim's vision cleared he stared at the floor. The feel of Red Hood petting his head was simultaneously incredibly comforting and skin-crawlingly horrifying.
"That's my good boy. I have a new task for you now. I need you to work with someone, pet," Red Hood, the Puppet Master, told Tim. "He's in the next room. I want you to go out and treat him right. For as long as you're with him, you're with me. Understand?"
Tim nodded, unable to do anything else at the moment. Part of him responded instantly to what Red Hood wanted but the rest of him was very aware that he would be released in a moment and that his acting would have to be perfect. The others were going to have some serious issues with this but Tim thought he knew how to stop the Puppet Master jerking both him and Damian around.
"Good boy," Red Hood crooned. "I'm proud of you. Now go show him what I taught you."
Tim snapped back to reality, heart beating harder as he realized that Damian was questioning Dick about how Tim had changed and whether they had been watching him. His arms hurt. His throat was so sore that he couldn't swallow without wincing. It felt like his mind was running a million miles a minute as he stood, knees aching because he actually had collapsed when the fantasy world hit.
Act, he needed to act properly. Tim pulled his hair out of the braid and slipped the elastic band into his pocket. He shook his hair loose so that it would emphasize his changes, how submissive and feminine he'd become. The mask was on the desk so Tim put it on, not quite closing the latch so that he could rip it off if he needed to. His knives were at the ready, tucked into his sleeves as well as several heavier ones at his belt. As Damian's voice got a little impatient and a hair too sharp outside, Tim took a deep breath and pushed open the bedroom door.
He deliberately used the body language that the fantasy version of Red Hood had expected, keeping his eyes down and his movements gentle. Dick gasped, his eyes going so wide that Tim wanted to curse at him. Behaving like that would give Tim away. Steph's eyes were just as wide but she was behind Damian with Cass who looked at Tim with narrowed eyes and a tiny smile that told him that she'd already figured out exactly what Tim was up to. Roy was leaning against the wall by the bedroom door with Clark hovering by his side. As far as Tim could see Roy seemed to think Tim's behavior was sort of disturbing but exactly what he expected. Clark had his fretting face on so hopefully it would be okay.
Damian straightened up, his eyes fierce at first and then triumphant as Tim walked closer with a deliberately seductive gait. Tim could feel the fantasy world hovering around the back of his mind, as if Jason, Red Hood, was watching him from the bedroom. He needed to make sure that Damian believed the show so he knelt just in front of Damian with his head bowed.
"It broke him, didn't it?" Damian in a not-quite sad enough voice. "I thought it would forge him into a weapon but it broke him entirely."
"Master," Tim murmured hopefully through the mask.
"We… we're not sure what happened," Dick said. "Tim, Jason, we think he broke Tim. We don't know how."
"Grandfather made sure that I had training in such things," Damian said with a perfectly pissy tone of voice. He sounded as though he was disgusted by the training but the hand that he put on Tim's head was every bit as possessive as the fantasy world Red Hood had ever been.
Tim leaned his head into Damian's hand like a cat head-butting for ear scratches. To his amusement, Damian complied, gently running his fingers through Tim's hair. He could feel how Damian wanted to fist his hands in the long loose hair but he resisted for the moment, probably because of their audience. Once he was sure that Damian believed it, Tim slowly tipped his head back so that he was looked up at Damian's wrist, not his eyes as that would be utterly inappropriate. The gauntlet laced up the inside of his wrist, leaving a tiny gap that Tim knew he could utilize.
"Do you really think you can help him?" Roy asked.
"Yes," Damian said. "I'm sure I can. I'll need some… private time with him, but I'm sure that I can get through to him."
"Master?" Tim asked, one hand cupping the hand that Damian now allowed to rest on Tim's cheek. His other hand was ready for the flick that would remove his wrist knife from its sheathe.
"Yes, pet?" Damian asked.
Tim flicked out the knife as he latched onto Damian's hand with his other arm. He slammed the knife into Damian's wrist, aiming for the spot where the scars and their underlying implants should be.
Damian screamed and jerked, toppling to the side while Tim wrenched at him so that he'd land on his back. It took a serious effort for Tim's weakened arms to slam the knife through Damian's wrist so that it embedded itself into his gauntlet but Tim managed it. He dove for Damian's other wrist, slamming a second knife through the other scar with his full body weight behind the blow.
Dick and Cass dove in to help, Dick holding Damian's shoulders down and Cass tackling his legs. They really didn't need to bother. All Damian did was whimper and shake. Tim gently touched Damian's cheek, pulling the mask off so that he could talk freely. To his surprise, Damian's eyes tracked him, showing that he may be more aware than Tim had thought.
"Dami?" Tim asked. "Can you hear me?"
"Don't… remove… knives…" Damian whispered. "Don't. Kill… me. Controlling…"
"I know," Tim said. "The knives are short-circuiting the Puppet Master. Don't worry. Clark's already got a plan for removing it from you. It will be okay."
"How… free?" Damian asked, still in that barely there whisper. His eyes held a tortured look, as though he couldn't cope with everything that had happened to him and couldn't understand how Tim had survived and remained sane.
"I'll tell you when you get back," Tim said. "Be strong a little longer. You'll be free soon."
Damian's breath caught in a sob that made Tim's heart break. Tim nodded to Clark, gesturing for Dick and Cass let go. A moment later Damian and Clark were both gone, leaving Tim to sigh and relax at last. He started shaking immediately as he finally allowed himself to react to everything that had happened.
"You okay?" Roy asked.
"No, not so much," Tim admitted. "He reactivated the implant. I… had a little flash of being enslaved again."
The sound Dick made as he pulled Tim into his lap was strangled and pained. Tim let himself be held, cuddling against Dick's broad chest much the way he had after his parents had died. Steph rubbed Tim's back while Cass gently gripped Tim's ankle. When Dick finally let Tim go a few minutes later Roy was there to hug Tim and murmur comforting things.
"Did Clark say how long it would take?" Tim asked as they all settled into the couch and chairs in the living room.
"Several hours," Dick sighed. "I wish we could have been there. Damian's going to need our support."
He pulled out his phone and called someone. Tim raised an eyebrow. When Dick mouthed 'pizza' Tim gulped. Before Tim could say that he wasn't hungry, didn't want anything, would just go and take a nap while they waited, Dick ordered four extra-large pizzas with all the fixings to go with their personal preferences, including a Hawaiian one just for Tim.
"Ten minutes and we can eat," Dick said. "I don't know about anyone else but I'm starved."
"I'm fine," Tim immediately said. "My throat's sore and I have trouble with acidic foods anymore. I'll just go take a nap, okay?"
The last thing Tim wanted to explain was the association of sex and food in his mind. He'd been teased often enough before Batman died for treating eating as though it was a sexual experience. Tim really didn't want to admit that it actually was now. Frankly, he didn't want to admit it to Jason though he knew that he should.
"Sure thing," Dick said kindly enough that Tim felt like a jerk for not admitting the truth. "I'll wake you up in an hour or so. We'll keep some food for you."
"Thanks," Tim said entirely too faintly.
He disappeared into the bedroom and hid under the covers. It wasn't the best response to the soon to be horribly embarrassing situation but Tim thought he could be forgiven for not wanting to address it head-on. Maybe he could eat in the bedroom, away from the others. Even as he thought it, Tim knew that it wasn't going to work. Dick and Steph would insist on joining Tim to keep him company and Cass probably already knew what was going on.
"Clark, hurry up," Tim moaned into the pillow. "Please!"
Despite the complete and utter mortification that Tim knew was coming, he did actually fall asleep. Tim came back to reality with Cass shaking his shoulder cautiously. He blinked and looked at her. She smiled and patted Tim's shoulder.
"Sleepy," Cass commented. She grinned when Tim smelled the food and then blushed brightly. "Lots of food."
"Oh God," Tim whined.
He hid under the covers again, complaining wordlessly about the universe never, ever giving him breaks. Cass sat next to him. After a moment she gently rubbed Tim's hip. He sighed. She poked him, not hard enough to hurt but very much firmly enough to make it clear he had to get out and face this. When Tim pulled the covers back down, exposing his blazingly red face, Cass stared and then blushed too.
"I can never hide anything around you," Tim sighed.
"No," Cass agreed. "Food? Really?"
"Yes, it was part of the training," Tim said, picking at the covers. "I… I didn't want the others to know. Jason thinks that it's being fed, which yes, is good. I like that. A lot. But um, eat itself sets me off now."
Cass nodded thoughtfully about that, still blushing. After a moment she stood and glared at the door as if she was about to go into battle for Tim. When he started to get out of bed Cass glared at him too.
"Stay," Cass ordered.
"Um, okay?" Tim said entirely too hesitantly but Cass with that expression was not someone he wanted to tangle with. His arms simply couldn't handle it anymore.
She nodded once and then strode out into the other room. He heard Dick and Roy asking when Tim was getting up and then Steph asking something about plates and why but the door had shut automatically, leaving Tim without a clue what exactly Cass was up to. He had a fairly good idea but when the door opened again Cass was glaring at Dick who looked like he wanted to climb into bed with Tim and feed him personally.
"No," Cass said so ferociously that Dick backed off a step. "Tim eats alone. No company."
"Thank you," Tim called and then coughed because his throat truly was sore.
"Stay!" Cass snapped at Dick before shutting the door firmly in his bewildered face. She put a plate with three slices of Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza on Tim's lap, setting the Zesti she's brought on the bedside table. "Eat. You explain after eating."
"Do I have to?" Tim groaned.
Cass laughed at his expression and patted Tim's shoulder fondly. "Yes. I won't. Will Damian…?"
Her voice died off as if she couldn't, wouldn't, voice the fear that Damian would have similar issues. Tim sighed and stared at the pizza that was making his cock ache for sheer arousal. He made a face and shrugged.
"He'll have some sort of issues but I don't know what they are, Cass," Tim sighed. "Um, can I eat now? Privately?"
Her nod and then rush out of the bedroom was almost enough to make Tim laugh, if it weren't for Dick, Steph and Roy demanding to know what was going on outside. Tim sighed. At least it was his favorite pizza; he would have been happier to have Jason there feeding it to him but he'd survive. As long as he didn't come in his pants, of course.
Tim picked up a slice and took a tiny bite off the tip of it. The taste was incredible, making him shudder. Okay, maybe he'd just slip into the bathroom after he ate and take care of the arousal that way. The second bite was even better. Despite his sore throat, the sauce was perfectly spicy and the sweetness of the pineapple was the perfect complement to the saltiness of the Canadian bacon. Combined with the cheese, it was heaven on earth.
He could feel the wet spot growing on his underwear. His only pair of underwear at the moment. It wouldn't take long before his pants had the same wet spot.
"I am so fucked," Tim groaned around the bite of food. "Thank goodness for Cass. Steph and Dick probably would have jumped me. Maybe Roy too."
As he ate, Tim found that he probably wouldn't mind that all that much but it was probably just the arousal talking. Still, it was really good pizza and more than worthy of embarrassing himself with orgasms from food.
"Food?" Dick asked with enough shock and horror that Tim briefly contemplated throwing a knife at him. It likely wouldn't hit given how good Dick was at dodging but doing it would make Tim feel better. "I mean, that's fine, that's okay, but… food? Eating? Really?"
Tim sighed and huddled deeper into the armchair he'd claimed after eating, jacking off and then getting cleaned up again. Emerging to deal with the others had been excruciatingly embarrassing. Between Dick's shock, Roy's collapse into belly laughs and Steph's immediate decision that she had to clean Dick's apartment to within an inch of its life, he thought that his face would never stop blushing. Despite her help earlier, Cass wasn't helping much either.
"Ice cream?" Cass asked, offering yet another food to see if Tim didn't react to it. She seemed to be determined to find some food that Tim could eat without responding sexually to it.
"Yes, ice cream sets me off," Tim sighed. "It's the process of eating, Cass, not the actual food."
"Breath mints!" Cass said after a moment's thought that completely ignored Tim's frustrated sigh, Dick's quiet splutters and Roy's continuing snickers.
He automatically opened his mouth to confirm it, paused and then thought about it for a while. Cass looked immensely cheered up that he did have to think about it. Steph stopped cleaning the kitchen long enough to stare at Tim.
"I… don't know," Tim said thoughtfully. "I don't consider those to be food. They're in the category of toothpaste to me, not candy."
"Must be something," Cass grumbled. She waved one hand at Tim when he looked at her questioningly. "Find a way to reprogram you. Alfred will be mad."
The thought of telling Alfred that he couldn't eat his cooking in public because it would make Tim have an orgasm made him groan and hide his face behind one of the pillows. It also made Dick whine and Roy laugh more loudly. He thought about screaming into the pillow but that wouldn't help anything. Besides, it would hurt his throat.
"Just kill me now," Tim whined through the pillow.
"Nothing doing," Dick said as he bounced up from the couch and came over to sit on the arm of Tim's chair. "You're our little brother and we love you even if you're getting a little weird about eating now."
"Thanks, Dick," Tim said in the driest tone he could use anymore.
Dick hugged Tim rather more cautiously than he used to. It was a relief honestly. Most of the time Dick's hugs were either too hard or like wrestling an octopus. Cass waved a finger at Tim as if she had yet another food that she wanted to ask about. She stopped at Tim's hiss and flapped hand, turning to see what Tim was staring at.
Clark floated down to the balcony with Damian in his arms. Tim bolted up out of his armchair and ran to the balcony door, getting there before Dick or anyone else could. Dick was right on his heels, already saying something that Tim ignored as he focused on Damian. To his surprise, Damian immediately latched onto Tim's arm while avoiding all eye contact with Dick.
"Private conversation?" Tim asked even though it was obvious that Damian wanted to speak to him alone. Now.
"Please," Damian said in the same command tones he'd used when he was a child and when he was controlled by the Puppet Master. They sounded very different now though that might have more to do with his rapidly growing blush.
"We'll be out in a few minutes, guys," Tim said, allowing Damian to pull him into the spare bedroom.
No surprise, Dick protested that but Cass got in his way and Steph smacked him upside the head while Clark and Roy blocked him from slipping around Cass. Tim locked the door and then sat on the end of the bed. Damian stared at him for a long moment before sitting next to him in a huddle that brought to mind children trying not to cry because they thought they were too old and mature for it.
"How?" Damian whispered. "How did you stay free? Find your freedom? How?"
"I had Jason," Tim answered. "You want the whole story?"
When Damian nodded without meeting Tim's eyes he sighed and wrapped one arm around Damian's back. No matter what they had thought of each other before Batman died, Tim understood better than anyone else what Damian had gone through, even though he didn't know exactly what experiences Damian had had in his fantasy world. Given Damian's complete inability to meet Dick's eyes, Dick must have filled Jason's role.
Tim took his time and told Damian all about his experiences, from receiving the call through to the attack and then on through his training in the fantasy world. It wasn't as embarrassing telling Damian about the sexual aspects, perhaps because Damian grunted and nodded at several points as though there were clear similarities between their experiences. The food connection surprised him but the mask and collar didn't. Neither did the sadism the fantasy version of Red Hood had enjoyed, which made Tim regret the pizza he'd eaten.
Describing his return to reality and the slow realization that it had to have been a fantasy world made Damian finally straighten up and stare at Tim. The little pulse of the fantasy world when he'd shown up earlier made Damian nod thoughtfully as if he'd expected that and had been waiting to hear it come from Tim's mouth.
"There was no return for me," Damian admitted once Tim stopped talking.
"Dick was your Master?" Tim asked.
"Yes," Damian said with a shudder. "The switch to the fantasy world was not as clear for me. I lost consciousness due to blood loss and when I woke I was in the Cave. Alfred was treating my wounds but he was different, disapproving. He said that I had failed, that my training was inadequate. I tried to protest that but Father's body was on a neighboring gurney, covered by a sheet."
"Ow." Tim winced.
Damian nodded while staring into space. Tim thought he must be seeing that fantasy world, the once that the Puppet Master had created for him. When Tim put his hand on Damian's arm he started and then smiled ruefully.
"That… touching… was not allowed," Damian said. "Alfred left and Dick arrived. He was angry, so very angry with me. Despite my injuries, he insisted that I had to get up and train, saying that with you and Father both gone there could be no more latitude. He drove me to become the perfect weapon, worse that Grandfather or Mother ever had. If I did well, there was praise and… touches. I came to crave those touches more than life itself, no matter what form they took."
"The craving seems to be a part of what the Puppet Master wanted, what he did," Tim sighed. "Every single one of his victims experienced similar things."
"I know," Damian said in a tone of the deepest self-loathing. "After what appeared to be months of this without ever seeing the sun or Alfred, I exploded at Dick. I said that he could not actually be Dick Grayson. The Dick that I knew would never do such things to a child. He… laughed. He laughed at me and said that he'd thought that I would never figure it out. And then he changed, the world changed, everything changed."
He curled in on himself again, staring down at his hands which were clenched between his knees. Damian held his body so stiffly that Tim was worried that he'd hurt himself. After a moment of silence Tim scooted closer and wrapped himself entirely around Damian. It was very close to hugging a brick wall at first but soon Damian began to relax. Two minutes after he started hugging Damian, he finally sighed and relaxed against Tim.
"What happened?" Tim whispered as gently as his broken voice could manage.
"He'd been controlling my body all along," Damian whispered. He shuddered, turning in Tim's arms so that he could cuddle the way Damian used to sometimes with Dick, if no one was watching. "I didn't know it but he'd taken me over entirely. He returned to Grandfather and Mother and most of the training I endured in my dream world was what my body was experiencing in the real world. Not the touching. That was… entirely in my head. He, he…"
Tim pet Damian's hair and gently rocked him as he started to cry. They were silent sobs with tears leaking down Damian's cheeks but no sound whatsoever. It almost hurt more that Damian wouldn't allow himself to make a noise as he grieved for his shattered innocence. There wasn't much that he could say so Tim stayed quiet, offering physical comfort until Damian's tears slowly stopped.
He sighed, every bit an abused thirteen-year-old despite being as big as Dick. When he pulled away and scrubbed the remnants of his tears off his face with the back of his hand, Tim smiled. Damian's expression was so pissy that he couldn't help but chuckle.
"That's the Dami I know," Tim said with a wry smile at Damian's look of surprise.
"I, I suppose it is," Damian said. He sniffed and pulled away from Tim entirely.
"So did he let you see what he was doing?" Tim asked.
"From time to time," Damian said, staring at his hands again. The gauntlets were gone so maybe he was actually staring at the tiny scars on his wrists. "Most of the time he simply told me what was happening and then laughed when I tried to fight him. He believed that you were dead because you had not interfaced with his network in so long. He was quite disappointed about that."
"Network?" Tim asked, connections clicking into place in his brain. It would explain why the other victims never stopped believing in the Puppet Master, despite the evidence their caretakers presented to them.
"The implants communicate with each other," Damian explained in a slightly sickened but also slightly fascinated tone of voice. His expression remained perfectly calm and controlled. "If they are within range of each other they reinforce the controls over the subject."
Tim nodded thoughtfully. He'd been kept away from everyone for so long that his implant truly had gone dormant. The other victims were kept in two asylums, generally within feet of each other, if you allowed for wireless communication through the walls. Barbara had reported that they had group therapy sessions together. Obviously, Clark was going to have to tell the asylums not to do that anymore. Perhaps if they were separated for long enough they would find their way back to reality too.
"Why did he want me?" Tim asked.
"He wanted the entire family, all of the heroes," Damian said with a convulsive shudder that made the bed shake. "He intended to wait until I was large enough to overpower the others and then implant them as well. It had been his intention to use Father as his new focal, his body, but when Father died it fell to me or to you. However, Jason killed his prime body before he could begin the process of taking over your body, thus he was left with me. I believe that he had me return to Grandfather because he could not pretend to be me effectively enough. Cass would have seen it. Dick would have felt it."
Tim nodded. "The scar on your forehead?"
"Was his way of explaining the differences in 'my' behavior," Damian grumbled. "A traumatic brain injury does tend to cause changes to personality and losing my father explained everything else. It was… convincing enough that no one in the League questioned it."
"But then I was seen patrolling with Jason," Tim said thoughtfully, "so he decided to return to implement his plan."
"He was… delighted by the path that your implant had taken," Damian admitted. He went white and then beet red as his pants filled out.
"Yeah, I got that," Tim sighed. "I get that a lot anymore, honestly."
His wry amusement at it made Damian look at him again. Tim shrugged. He was used to it by now and frankly he rather enjoyed the reactions he got out of people. It was odd seeing those reactions in his family but Tim could deal with it. Whether Damian could deal with what had happened to him remained to be seen.
"So when I stabbed those implants, that was the first time you'd been free since Bruce died," Tim mused.
"Yes," Damian said. "I… do not think… I can return to what I was, Timothy. I don't. The training… It changed me."
"Just as mine changed me," Tim said. "Damian, you don't have to let it control you. It's gone. You're free now, though you'll have a lot to recover from. Did he keep using Dick's face?"
"No," Damian said with enough relief that Tim smiled at him. "Once I confronted him, his face changed to a strange sort of computer-like visage. The… touching still occurred but it was different. More a matter of hurting me than the confusing responses I had with Dick."
That was a relief. Tim didn't think that Dick was going to take the news very well. He had no idea how Damian would cope with his return to the world, though he suspected that Damian's nascent tendencies towards being a control freak were going to run riot for a while. Having had absolutely every bit of his control away from him for two years would make him crave as total of control of his life, body and circumstances as he could get. That would very likely extend into the sexual realm when Damian finally decided to act on his sexuality, whatever that might be.
Of course, given Dick's tendency to be rather submissive it might actually work out well for them both. He would freely allow Damian to take the lead when he needed it, though Tim preferred not to think about the two of them in a sexual relationship someday. He did think that Damian would need a great deal of therapy to deal with his not-quite-real but still terribly real sexual abuse. Tim nodded.
"I need to tell the others what happened to you," Tim said. "And then I know Dick is going to need to hug you until your bones ache. He's done it multiple times to me already."
"You need to get those implants removed," Damian huffed as if trying to distract Tim from the way he blushed and squirmed uncomfortably.
"Agreed," Tim said. "Do you want to interact with Dick, Damian? You don't have to if you don't want to. Cass and Steph can take you in. Jason would as well. For that matter, if you can deal with Lian I'm sure that Roy would. You can have as much room as you need."
Damian's mouth dropped open to say something but nothing came out other than a hurt little noise that sounded more like his eleven year old self than this new version of him. He snapped his mouth shut and stared at his hands again. Tim pushed his sleeves back and let Damian look at his arms. The scars on Tim's wrists were much uglier than Damian's.
"You fought," Damian breathed. "I could not move once it impaled me. Not at all."
"I don't remember fighting," Tim said, shivering at the feeling of Damian's fingers gently brushing up and down over the scars. He seemed to be exploring every ridge and valley. "I don't remember being impaled either. I think it was completely instinctive, perhaps after Jason shot the Puppet Master. Besides, he wouldn't allow you to move. It would have interfered with his process of interfacing with your body."
"True." Damian nodded, holding one of Tim's wrists while staring at his forehead and then his throat as if he could see the collar that Tim missed. "Tell them. And… Tell Dick that I would appreciate his not touching at first. I… I believe I would confuse it with the dream world the Puppet Master created for me and I am not ready to deal with that yet."
Tim offered a hug that Damian accepted with no hesitation. Only once Damian let him go again did Tim go out into the other room to relay what he'd learned. He left out the details, but he didn't gloss over the fact that Damian almost certain was sexually and physically abused in his dream world. The fact that Damian had been totally controlled the entire time made all of the others stare in horror. By the time Tim was done, Dick was crying harder than Damian had.
"Don't touch at first," Tim told Dick. "You're the focus of his fantasy world in the same way Jason was the focus of mine. I think that means that you can gentle him back to reality but it's going to take time and patience. Let him give you the cues of what he wants and for heaven's sake, don't let him turn it into a sexual thing right away, Dick. Damian might have grown a lot but he's still thirteen."
"Oh God," Dick said, visibly nauseated. "No. Just… no. He's my little brother, Tim! He was practically my son. I wouldn't do that with him, ever."
"Good," Tim said. "Now go talk to him while I get my implants removed. I don't ever want to go back to that fantasy world again."
Dick immediately hurried into the spare bedroom so he missed Cass hugging Tim tightly. Steph and Roy both followed suit. Clark looked both sad and hopeful when Tim went over to him. He was floating ever so slightly which probably meant that he'd listened to the entire conversation and was trying not to show how upset he was by it all. Tim smiled at him, well aware that the smile was crooked and little broken.
"Let's go," Tim said. "I want this over with."
Clark's Fortress was bleak. White despite the darkness outside. There were hints of pale blue, faint blushes of pink, tints of lavender, sea foam green, the palest of yellow. Tim suspected that if the sunlight had been deeper red, like a bloody sunset, the faint hints of color would blossom into beautiful shades and swathes of bright color that would match well with the brightness of Superman's uniform. Of course, in that sort of light, the bright red, blue and gold would be tempered into something more stately and dignified instead of the crayon-bright brilliance that Tim was used to.
Tim blinked, only then realizing that he was awake. He didn't feel any different but the implants must be gone because Clark was smiling down at Tim with so much relief that he looked as though he was about to burst. When Tim smiled hesitantly at him, Clark's smile widened into a huge grin.
"I take it that the implants are gone?" Tim said.
"Yes," Clark said. He offered a hand to Tim, helping him sit up. "They came out flawlessly. Yours seemed to have shut down entirely. The removal process for you was actually somewhat easier than it was for Damian. I'm relieved. I was worried that I might not be able to remove them from everyone but this makes me much more hopeful."
"Well, they were mostly shut down anyway," Tim said. "That last pulse was rather uncomfortable."
He shook his head gingerly, pleased that he wasn't dizzy. Tim almost wished that he was dizzy. There should be signs of what had happened, of their removal, but there wasn't a headache or even signs of how Clark had removed the implants. His scars were exactly the same as they had been before, though Tim could detect slight tenderness in his wrists when he rubbed. Clark frowned at the way Tim rubbed at his wrists, putting one large hand over Tim's.
"I'm sorry I couldn't remove the scars," Clark said sadly. "It would be much more invasive if I tried and you didn't say that you wanted that. The implants are over here if you want to see them. Damian needed to see them, needed to be sure that they were gone. I've got them in a stasis field."
"Why?" Tim asked. "Stasis, I mean. Why not destroy them?"
"The Puppet Master may be a criminal but he's still a sentient being," Clark said with that expression that all but screamed 'I would have thought that you understood this'. "I can't kill him out of hand."
Tim swallowed hard at the thought of the Puppet Master continuing to live. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the crystalline pedestal that the Puppet Master and his implants rested on. The implants were tiny, or at least Tim's were tiny. Two little pieces of metal for his wrists and a small ring of metal that had to have been wound around his brain stem; Damian's implants were much larger, with metal tentacles that must have extended to all parts of his brain. His wrist implants looked like baby octopuses with a nest of fine metal tentacles that must have extended down into his hands and up into his arms. The only reason that Tim didn't back away in terror was the shimmering stasis field surrounding them.
"I want to go back," Tim announced because he could not stand there and look at the creature that had killed Bruce, tortured him and controlled Damian for years.
Could not. He couldn't control the shaking, the cold sweat that crept over his body. Tim really wanted to scream and smash the implants into a million pieces but the stasis field that kept the Puppet Master quiescent most likely protected him from outside retribution. Besides, there were other victims who needed to be saved Tim told himself. Destroying the Puppet Master early might trigger one of their implants into becoming a duplicate of this one.
"Tim?" Clark looked wary and concerned but he clearly didn't understand just how upset Tim was.
"Now," Tim said. He backed away from Clark, walking in the opposite direction even though he had no idea which way it was to get to the exit. "I want to go home, Clark. Now."
"…I'm sorry," Clark said so softly that Tim slowed down and looked up at him. He looked utterly contrite. "Damian demanded to see it. I thought you would want to as well."
That made Tim snort. "Damian is Damian. I'm me. I'm sorry, Clark, but I don't agree with you. I can fully support keeping it in stasis until all the other victims have been freed but it needs to be destroyed. That is not a person. It's a monster, a sadistic, horrible monster that abuses people in the vilest ways possible. It fed on my pain. It fed on Damian's pain. It's a parasite and it needs to be destroyed!"
By the time Tim managed to stop talking his voice had risen to a shout that made him break into a cough that threatened to send Tim to his knees. He held his breath, allowing Clark to hold his elbow to support him, until the urge to cough subsided. Tim swallowed carefully, rubbing his throat. It needed to be destroyed for so many reasons, beyond the crimes that were known to the general public.
"I want to go home," Tim whispered. "Now."
"All right," Clark said sadly. "I am sorry."
"I know," Tim said. "Just… home."
Clark wrapped Tim up in his cape and took flight. The flight was fast enough that Tim had no time to think about everything, as much as he would have appreciated it. One moment they were in the pastel Fortress and then they were landing on the balcony of Dick's apartment. Tim glared at Clark. This wasn't home, not that Clark seemed to realize it. To his dismay, Clark didn't seem to realize that the glare was anything other than Tim's upset at seeing the Puppet Master.
Tim had obviously been unconscious for several hours. It was night in Metropolis; not terribly late but full dark had fallen as much as it ever did in this city full of street lights. Clark set Tim down and then his head swiveled around as if he heard something. Rather than keep Clark there and scold him further, which wouldn't do anything for anyone, Tim patted Clark's elbow and nodded that he could go.
"Sorry," Clark apologized again.
"Go on, save them, whoever they are," Tim said with a wry smile.
Clark went, leaving Tim to make his own way inside. The door was unlocked, no surprise. Roy was waiting on the couch. Lian was asleep in his lap; clinging to Roy's shirt as if she hadn't seen him lately and was determined that she wouldn't miss him anymore. She'd grown over the last two years though not as much as Damian had. Lian at eleven was almost too big to cuddle in Roy's lap anymore, not that Roy seemed to mind at all. Tim smiled at Roy. He smiled back and raised one eyebrow while looking at Tim's head.
"It's gone," Tim whispered. "Steph and Cass?"
"Patrolling," Roy whispered back. "Dick's still talking to Damian. Before the girls left they said that things seemed to have calmed down. There was some pretty serious shouting for a while there."
"It's Damian," Tim said wryly.
Roy grinned and nodded. When Tim went to the spare bedroom door he could hear quiet conversation on the other side. He knocked twice, jumping a little when Damian flung the door open to glare. The glare disappeared immediately, replaced by a relieved look on Damian's face. He opened his mouth to say something but Tim shook his head and slipped inside.
"Lian's asleep," Tim said once he shut the door.
"She's been kind of annoyed by how much Roy's been gone," Dick chuckled. "I think she'll be glad to have her daddy back."
"It's gone?" Damian asked. He stared intently at Tim's forehead and wrists as if looking for signs of its removal, not that there were any to see.
"Yes," Tim said, shuddering. "Clark showed it to me. Dick, you need to convince him to destroy the Puppet Master. He's talking about keeping it alive."
Damian's jaw dropped open in horror as rage welled up in his eyes. He spluttered loudly enough that both Tim and Dick shushed him. The snap of Damian's teeth as he shut his mouth made Tim's teeth hurt in sympathy. At least Damian understood Tim's horror at the thought of leaving the thing alive. Dick didn't seem to. If anything, he looked as though he agreed with Clark. Tim gave Dick a look that hopefully conveyed that Tim would never, ever, ever forgive him if he didn't talk to Clark about destroying the Puppet Master. Heaven knew that Damian would never let it go until it was gone.
"It must be destroyed," Damian hissed.
"I quite agree," Tim sighed. "But no one is going to listen to me or you about it. We're 'compromised' by our experiences. Dick might have a chance of it. Either way, I'm going home."
"Okay, we can clear out of your bedroom," Dick said, standing up. "I'm sure that you must be tired."
"Dick, this isn't home," Tim said with more annoyance than was really justified because how many people had this mistaken belief that Tim was going to leave Jason? "Gotham is home. I'm going home, not staying here. You're welcome to visit anytime you want. I'd appreciate it if you called instead of attacking us at random if you disagree with something that we're doing."
Tim wasn't at all surprised that Dick immediately tackle-hugged him. He'd sort of expected it. Dick's normal response was to tackle-hug people when he was upset and talking to Damian for hours about what had happened to him must have gotten Dick very upset indeed. From the amused look on Damian's face, he'd gotten more than his fair share of Dick-hugs since Tim left.
"Let go," Tim sighed.
"No, you'll leave," Dick mumbled into Tim's shoulder.
"Yes, and your point is what?" Tim huffed. "Dick, you can visit. Just don't attack us randomly and everything will be fine."
The hug got tighter; Dick squeezing to the point that Tim could barely breathe. He glared at the top of Dick's head while wishing that his arms were strong enough for some of the nerve strikes he used to know. Tim counted to ten and then tried to knee Dick in the groin. That got him to let go immediately, though Dick did give Tim the kicked puppy 'I can't believe you did that' look.
"My arms aren't strong enough for nerve strikes anymore, Dick," Tim grumbled and then rubbed his throat because he really needed to stop talking.
"Clark couldn't heal your throat?" Dick asked, waving one hand towards Tim in a gesture that was probably intended to look aimless but which looked more like grabby hands to Tim.
"Scar tissue is scar tissue, Dick," Tim said. "Seriously, just come visit, will you? Damian, you're free to come and stay if you want. Anytime."
Damian smiled. It was weak and broken and more than a little bit sarcastic but it was still a smile. "Your boyfriend may not agree with that."
"He will if he knows what's good for him," Tim replied.
He wanted to say more, to reassure Damian that it really would be okay for him to visit but the aching tickle in his throat set off a another coughing fit. Tim fought it, gladly took the water that Dick brought and eventually managed to stop coughing. Despite the water, Tim had to breathe carefully to avoid setting himself off again. Jason was quite right that Tim needed to rest his throat.
When Tim left the bedroom with Dick and Damian following him, Lian was staring over the back of the sofa. She squealed at seeing him so he got Lian hugs and then Roy hugs followed by more Dick octopus hugs. The last hug was with Damian who clung as if he was afraid of being left alone. Neither of them said anything about it. It should have felt strange to be so open with Damian but it didn't. They'd been through too much for their relationship not to have changed. The last thing Tim did was strap on his mask so that people would stop trying to make him talk. It was a huge relief to have it back on his face, despite the way Lian's eyes went wide.
Tim's bike was where he'd left it. He braided his hair, put on his helmet, zipped up his jacket and then drove away.
Metropolis truly was a city of lights. Despite the late hour, the streets were bright and busy, full of cars and people. Tim felt like a shadow slipping between them. This wasn't his place. It never would be. Gotham's dark streets and looming architecture was so much more comfortable to Tim. No matter where he went, Tim suspected that he would always look for the heavy brick buildings and dramatic gargoyles that decorated Gotham.
He smiled behind the mask as he roared up onto the freeway that headed home. At this time of night the road was relatively clear. Tim didn't speed too much as he certainly didn't want to draw the attention of the police. The miles between him and home slipped away quickly. In less than an hour he saw the first of the darker, ramshackle buildings that marked the edge of Gotham's reach. The manor, dark and distant, appeared in the distance though it was quickly hidden by trees and then other buildings.
Tim drove down the main street more slowly, nodding that things were a bit unsettled. He saw a couple of minor crimes along the way but police stopped one and Jason's men stopped the second. Both the police and Jason's men stopped to stare as Tim rode by. He raised one hand at them and then grinned behind his mask at the wince and hesitantly raised hands he got in return.
Jason's 'office' was an old warehouse that he'd had fixed up. It looked to Tim as though there was a meeting going on when he arrived. Dozens of cars and bikes clustered around the warehouse, filling what used to be the shipping yard but what was currently used as a parking lot. Tim took the spot right next to Jason's battered bike. It was conspicuously open, as if Jason had threatened everyone if they parked in it. He probably had. He'd done it before.
The guards on the door jerked when Tim pulled his helmet off and patted his hair. They clearly hadn't expected him to come back. Apparently absolutely no one had, which Tim found more irritating than he probably should given all his doubts. Tim smiled, grateful for the mask hiding it. He still wasn't sure if their relationship had started properly but Tim was happy with Jason. He'd take what happiness he could get out of life for as long as he could get it.
When Tim strode straight at the guards, they opened the doors for him as if afraid of what would happen if anything got in his way. Tim nodded once as he passed, striding onwards towards the sounds of raised voices. Jason sounded exhausted and annoyed, the sort of annoyed that had led to him allowing Tim to stab the Penguin a while back.
The meeting area was open, with a crowd of lower-level thugs and minions clustered at the edges. Tim headed straight at them, amused that one of the minions jumped and then hissed at the others to get the fuck out of the way. They turned and then scrambled backwards, opening an aisle for Tim to walk through. Their scramble made the argument die down.
Tim's appearance stopped it entirely.
He strode over to Jason, allowing his hips to do the liquid shimmy motion that made him appear more feminine than he really was. Jason's face started out grim, went delighted and then covertly amused by everyone else's reactions.
"Got it all taken care of?" Jason asked as Tim knelt by his side on the cushion that Jason kept for him.
Tim nodded, relaxing now that he was finally back where he belonged.
"Good," Jason said. "And the kid? He's going to be okay?"
Tim nodded again, setting his head against Jason's thigh. He allowed his eyes to slide mostly shut while watching the reactions of the others. The ones who'd looked as though they thought they had an opportunity to attack Jason were pale and shaken. Others who'd looked furious at the threat to Jason's authority looked relieved to see Tim back. He smiled, glad that his return had reinforced Jason's position. Gotham couldn't afford to have order broken again. They'd only just gotten the city on the right path.
"Finally," Jason sighed. "You did tell them that the next time they need help with something they oughta just pick up a fucking phone, didn't you?"
That made Tim laugh behind his mask. He nodded once more. Jason's hand descended onto Tim's hair, stroking in the exact opposite of the way the Puppet Master had. Jason's touch was comforting, gentle and loving despite the possessiveness of the gesture. Tim sighed, settling himself comfortably against Jason's leg.
Now he was home at last.
"Fuck, am I glad that you're back," Jason sighed as they finally made it home to their apartment after hours of dealing with Jason's people panicking over Dick's raid and Tim's overnight disappearance.
"Wasn't gone that long," Tim murmured as he finally got to take off his jacket, boots and slipped the mask off.
"You sound horrid," Jason said, eyeing Tim's throat. "What'd you do? Talk for hours?"
"More or less," Tim sighed. "They wouldn't stop asking questions."
Jason put his index finger on Tim's Adam's apple, fixing Tim with a stern look. The look made Tim shiver and lick his lips. When that was combined with the fact that Tim's working collar was still wrapped around Jason's wrist it made Tim's pants get too tight almost immediately. After a moment, Jason chuckled, petting Tim's cheek.
"We should talk," Jason said. "Kinda hard when you've already talked so much you sound like a frog, though."
Tim covered his mouth with his hand so that he wouldn't laugh out loud. He nodded instead, breathing carefully so that he wouldn't set off another round of coughs. Jason shook his head as he went to get the throat lozenges that he'd gotten for Tim once Tim's throat had more or less healed up. The little bit of medicated hard candy was yet another piece of home. He sucked on it, following Jason around the house as Jason stress-cleaned. It wasn't like Tim's version of the activity that involved disinfecting everything in sight and moving every single piece of furniture so that every single speck of dust was gone. All Jason did was pick things up and put them away, plus sweeping the floor. Eventually he sighed and sat down on the couch. Once he settled, Tim knelt in front of Jason's feet.
"You really want to continue this?" Jason asked as if he hadn't been sure about that. Given the revelation Tim had hit him with about the dream world Tim could understand Jason's worries.
Tim nodded. He truly did. Being with Jason this way made him feel better than anything in his life before, including being Robin and Red Robin. There was a sense of relief in that Tim didn't have to be responsible for everything anymore. Jason took care of so many of the details that used to stress Tim out horribly, while giving Tim a clear, coherent set of rules that he could follow. He was still free to patrol, to help save people. Better still, Jason liked Tim strong and healthy, free to do as he wished outside of the rules they'd established together.
"This, being my sub, actually makes you happy," Jason said as if he was surprised by that.
He laughed when Tim rolled his eyes and glared at Jason as if he was being an idiot.
"Come on, you never showed any signs of liking this sort of thing before," Jason said. "Cut me a little slack for being surprised here. I really do not want to think that it was all because of that goddamn asshole reprogramming your brain while you were catatonic."
Tim nodded thoughtfully at that. He never had shown signs of liking this sort of thing but it had been a part of his fantasy life for a very long time, nearly as long as Tim had had sexual fantasies of any sort. The internet had explained what Tim was feeling, as well as giving Tim images of what he could do if he ever found someone to play with. It hadn't given Tim the confidence to act on his desires, nor had he found anyone that he was comfortable enough with to broach the subject.
Rather than try and explain when his throat still felt like it was on fire, Tim looked pointedly at the collar wrapped around Jason's wrist.
"Want it back, do you?" Jason chuckled.
The chuckle turned into a belly laugh when Tim glared and nodded so hard that his braid swung around to the front. Tim flipped it back, still glaring at Jason. Impatience and need faded as Jason leaned forward to caress Tim's cheek.
"Baby bird, I love you," Jason said so tenderly that Tim's cheek's flushed with heat. "Don't know what I did to earn someone like you but I'm damn glad that I have. You keep me stable, you know? Yeah, yeah, I keep you stable too but we're two halves of the same damn coin. I thought I was gonna go out of my mind while you were gone. Having you home and back at my feet is fucking heaven."
"Me too," Tim whispered. "Please? Collar me? Make me yours for good?"
Jason grabbed Tim's shoulders and jerked him up into his lap. He didn't have to pull very hard because as soon as Jason's hands closed on Tim's shoulders, Tim was already rising and trying to do exactly what Jason wanted. The last of the cough drop was still in Tim's mouth but Jason didn't appear to mind it at all from the way he kissed Tim.
His tongue thrust into Tim's mouth, chasing the cough drop or just exploring Tim's mouth. Tim kissed back, clinging to Jason desperately. This was where he wanted to be, what he wanted to be doing and who he wanted to be with for the rest of his life. The kiss lasted long enough that Tim was light-headed. Jason's face was nearly as red as Tim's when they finally let each other's lips go.
"You want my collar for real?" Jason asked as he unwound the collar from his wrist.
"Yes," Tim whispered. "The collar, the mask, to be by your side forever."
"Fuck but you're sexy," Jason groaned. "No more talking out of you, got it? You're giving that voice a rest. If you need something you signal me."
Tim nodded that he understood. They needed to work out a set of signals beyond the ones that Bruce had come up with for patrols where they needed to sneak in but Tim was sure that they could find something effective. Later. Much later. If nothing else, there was always ASL.
All that mattered to him at the moment was that Jason had Tim's collar in his hands, smoothing it before carefully wrapping it around Tim's neck. The leather was warm from Jason's body heat. Tim's breath caught as Jason carefully clasped the collar around Tim's neck. It had a locking hasp but Jason hadn't used a lock on it since Tim had returned to sanity. To Tim's surprise, Jason pulled the little lock out of his pocket, staring at Tim with an unreadable question in his eyes.
"Much as I like the posture collar on you," Jason murmured while fingering the lock, "I like this one better. You can do things with this collar on. Like you active and out there more than as a sex slave, Tim. So. You want this as your permanent collar? Don't mind play time with the other one if you want it but…"
He stopped when Tim started laughing quietly. Tim put his fingertips on Jason's lips, smiling fondly at the way Jason jumped.
"It wasn't you," Tim whispered. "The Jason in my fantasy world wasn't you. It was the Puppet Master wearing your face. I can tell the difference, Jay. I don't want to be a slave either but I do want to belong to you. You make me feel so much better. I like following you and belonging to you."
Jason's cheeks went crimson but he grinned that same cocky, determined grin that Tim had always loved. Back before he knew what he'd been feeling, Tim had loved Jason's grin. After a moment Jason nodded.
"Point taken," Jason said. "Doesn't answer the question though. Which collar do you want?"
"I want your collar, Jason, whichever one you like best on me," Tim said and winced as the more forceful words made his throat protest.
"Good enough," Jason said. "And no more talking, damn it. I don't want you to end up in the goddamn hospital because your throat's bleeding again."
Tim mouthed the word 'agreed' and made a face at the sheer thought of it. He'd avoided it so far and Tim really wanted to continue to avoid it. Jason ran his thumb over Tim's lips. The little touch made Tim's heart start pounding harder. As Jason pulled Tim just a hair closer so that he could put on the lock, Tim went still, head held high so that Jason had free access. One little snick of metal locking on metal made Tim Jason's for good.
"Not the same sort of lock that I used when you were nuts," Jason murmured. He gently tugged at the lock, grinning when Tim shuddered. "This one's not as heavy, not so hard to break. Had to use some pretty damn serious locks before."
'Not anymore,' Tim mouthed. 'Want this.'
"Yeah," Jason said with so much wonder that Tim couldn't help but lean in to kiss him again.
They kissed for what felt like forever. Jason slowly stripped Tim's clothes off, barely relinquishing his mouth long enough to pull Tim's shirt over his head. Tim returned the favor, pushing Jason's jacket off and then unbuttoning his shirt so that they could touch each other freely. By that point the couch was entirely too cramped as far as Tim was concerned. Jason seemed to feel the same way because he grabbed Tim's hips and stood, only letting go of Tim's lips so that he could bite a line down Tim's jaw.
Jason stumbled towards the bedroom. He groaned at the way Tim's cock rubbed against his abs when Tim wrapped his legs around Jason's back. They impacted with one of the walls at one point but Tim didn't care. It felt good, so good, especially when Jason bit his neck so hard just below the collar that Tim was convinced that there'd be a huge mark. Once in the bedroom they tumbled onto the bed, Jason on top, kissing and touching again. Tim did his best to distract Jason as he tried to toe off his boots and then get rid of his pants and underwear. It worked well enough that Jason cursed and shoved Tim back onto the bed with one large hand.
"Hands over your head," Jason ordered. "Goddamn it, Baby bird. No touching until I say so!"
Tim whined but he did what Jason wanted. The bed still had the handcuffs that they'd used a few nights ago attached to the headboard. Jason's eyes lit up when Tim caught them in his fingers and bit his lip hopefully. Three violent kicks finally got rid of Jason's pants though he still had one sock on his foot. Laughter welled up but Tim fought it. The last thing that he wanted was to laugh right now. It would set off another coughing fit that would absolutely kill the mood.
"So putting your mask on you," Jason murmured as he locked Tim's wrists into the handcuffs.
Tim nodded yes. It would help. After all this time wearing the mask automatically made Tim be quieter. Of course, that meant that Jason had to leave the bedroom, hopping on one foot as he pulled off the wayward sock but he was back quickly with Tim's mask and an erection that Tim almost wished he could swallow whole. It would hurt his throat but it would be so good at the same time. Once the mask was in place Tim relaxed and then grinned at Jason's hungry expression.
"Fuck that's hot," Jason complained while squeezing himself brutally. "You got no damn clue how fucking sexy you are, Baby bird. Tied up and wanting me, cock leaking all over your belly; Goddamn miracle, that's what you are."
The words made Tim want to disagree but there was no way to do it with the mask in place. Jason was the sexy one, the perfect one. Disagreement disappeared from Tim's mind as Jason started biting his way up the inside of Tim's right leg. He left a string of marks as he went, sometimes little ones but most of the time big bright ones that Tim would feel for days. Instead of working on Tim's ass or throbbing erection, Jason added more bites down the inside of Tim's left leg. He laughed at the way Tim shuddered and kicked.
"Marking you as mine," Jason murmured once he was done. He pushed Tim's legs back towards his chest, gnawing a mark into the back of his calf. "Everyone that sees you will know it. You'll know it every time you look in the mirror. Not just the collar, you know. Everything about you is mine now."
That made Tim buck and bite his lip against the sudden urge to cry. He nodded urgently, holding in the moans and whimpers that would set off a coughing fit. Jason put a series of marks along Tim's belly, creating something that looked like a crescent moon just below Tim's bellybutton. His left nipple was gnawed until the point that Tim didn't think he'd be able to wear a shirt for days. When Jason started biting Tim's shoulder it matched their cocks up, letting Jason thrust against Tim's slick belly until Tim lost control and came.
"Thought you liked being bitten," Jason mumbled against Tim's neck. "Good thing I like marking your hot little body up."
He kept slowly thrusting against Tim for a while, not fast enough to get himself off but more than hard enough to make Tim stay half-hard during his recovery period. By the time Tim's neck was aching from the bite marks that Jason had put there, Tim was so ready for more. As far as he was concerned Jason took way too long on the lube but then Jason always had. Red Hood, the fake version of Jason in Tim's fantasy, had barely bothered with lube but then he hadn't been real and Tim couldn't be physically damaged by being taken too soon in his fantasy world.
"You're always so damn impatient," Jason chuckled as he massaged Tim's prostate while holding his legs so that Tim couldn't kick or struggle at all. "Too damn bad for you, Baby bird. I like making you fall apart this way. Turns me on watching you lose your mind."
Tim whined so loud that he coughed twice. Jason growled, easing up on what he was doing until Tim looked at him desperately. Only after a full thirty seconds of Tim not coughing did Jason go on. By the time he did, Tim was sweating and shaking with the need for Jason to finally just take him.
"That's my boy," Jason purred. "Goddamn, you don't know what you do to me."
He wiped his hand off on the hand towel they kept by the bed before shoving Tim's legs towards his chest. When he thrust in it was every bit as abrupt as Tim could have wanted, deep and hard and fast enough to make the bed bounce underneath them. Tim held his breath for the first few thrusts. That was enough for his body to adjust to the sudden penetration without setting off gasps that would cause coughing fits that would make Jason stop utterly.
It was so good. Tim panted through his nose, holding onto the headboard as Jason rode him hard and deep. Every thrust bent Tim in half, driving everything out of his mind other than the sheer pleasure of being used this way. He couldn't last. There was no way that Jason could last long with this sort of stimulation but the pounding pushed Tim closer to the edge and then shoved him right over long before Jason lost control.
Jason laughed, easing up for a few seconds while Tim grunted and came all over himself, but then he was back to pounding Tim through the mattress. Tim could barely think, could barely breathe. His mind felt like it was floating out of his body but the sharp thrusts kept anchoring him back down into himself. Forever and nowhere near long enough later Jason shuddered and froze deep inside of Tim. He groaned, bright blue eyes locked onto Tim's face as he came.
"Goddamn," Jason moaned as he let Tim's legs go and then settled down on top of Tim, cock still buried inside of Tim's ass. "Gonna have to have a second round later, Baby bird. That wasn't long enough at all."
Tim laughed and nodded. He sighed contentedly. Second, third, fourth round; Tim would enjoy them all. If there wasn't another round that would be fine too. As long as he had Jason as his Master everything would be fine.
His mind drifted for a little while, just long enough for the strain on his arms and legs to make itself known. Jason slowly pulled out and then began licking Tim's stomach. He pushed his fingers into Tim's ass, smiling wickedly at the way Tim jerked when he started gently massaging Tim's prostate again.
"Told you we'd need another round, Baby bird," Jason murmured while tonguing Tim off. "By the time I'm done with you, you'll be too tired and sore to get up in the morning."
That made Tim shudder and shut his eyes. When he opened them Jason had a faint look of concern in his eyes though his fingers were still moving inside of Tim's ass. Tim smiled behind the mask, carefully signing 'yes' with one hand. He added Bruce's old symbol for 'please help' that they used when requesting each other to help with something big in the field.
"You got it, Baby bird," Jason laughed. "Anything you want, you got it. We got all the time in the world, after all. I'm all yours."
"Knew the good times couldn't last," Jason snarled as he dodged a massive tentacle easily as thick as Tim was tall. "Goddamn villains."
"The new ones seem crazier than the old," Tim agreed. "Power vacuum at the bottom?
His latest mask included an amplifier and distorter that changed a subvocal whisper into a snarling growl that always made Jason's minions cringe in fear. He'd taken to wearing it nearly all the time. It was so much easier to communicate now that he didn't have to fight with his throat scarring anymore. Jason laughed at the quip even though he had to dodge desperately to avoid three clawed tentacle tips slamming down at him.
Between Jason's guns, Tim's flung grenades and Jason's minions' efforts, they had managed to keep the invading giant armored squid from destroying too much of the wharf district. Unfortunately they hadn't managed to deal with the idiot who'd created the squid. He'd gotten away in the chaos of unleashing his 'creations' but they did seem to be making some progress keeping the squid from destroying Gotham entirely. Tim just hoped that they'd manage to catch the idiot and keep anyone else from getting bright ideas from his actions.
"Would you like some assistance?"
Damian's voice rang out from the warehouse behind them. He threw something that looked like a grenade that emitted a sub-sonic blast that made the squid shudder and retreat back towards the water. Tim could just barely hear a thrum. He felt it more than heard it. Several more of the sonic grenades had the squid fleeing back out into the bay, though Tim was certain that they'd be back soon enough. Their creator was sure to call them in again.
"Thanks kid!" Jason called. "Glad to see you visiting."
"I was told that I'd be welcome," Damian commented as he swung down and landed next to Tim with their would-be villain virtually mummified in restraints over his shoulder. "I find that I'm pleased that I actually am welcome."
"Very welcome," Tim said as he went over and hugged Damian.
The boy had put on another couple of inches over the last six months, making him almost as tall as Jason and equal to Bruce's height when he died. It felt rather like getting a hug from beyond the grave as Damian apparently had decided to use the same deodorant that Bruce did. Damian's basic scent mixed somewhat differently with the smell of Kevlar and explosives but it was close enough to give Tim a moment of deja vu.
"They know each other?" Jason's second in command asked in a not quite low enough voice for Tim and Damian not to hear it.
"I should hope that I know my brother," Damian said with an arched brow and superior look that translated into something nasty with his new costume.
He'd taken Dick's Nightwing outfit and replaced the blue with red. The edges of his stripes looked like the serrations on a steak knife. Even his mask had a sharper feel to it, as the spikes on the sides of it were more pronounced. Instead of escrima sticks, Damian wore twin swords on his back. His belt was quite clearly full of highly dangerous things like the sonic grenades he'd used earlier. All in all, Tim had to admit that the costume worked very well for Bloodwing, Damian's new code name.
"They're family," Jason confirmed with a low laugh at the way his minions shuddered and backed off.
The looks they gave Damian were so utterly terrified and respectful that Tim wanted to laugh at them all. Damian looked at them like they were worms, which was about normal for Damian and fit very well with the image that Tim had in people's minds. Most people, both among Jason's people and in the general public, had the idea that Tim was an assassin that Jason had mostly reformed. Absolutely no one connected Pet with Timothy Drake or Red Robin. Tim still wasn't sure that he liked Pet as his code name but Jason had called him that one too many times in the heat of battle and it had stuck. A bad nickname was worse than glue in Tim's experience; there was no getting rid of it.
Since Damian had caught the Cephalopod Commander (which actually exceeded Pet as a bad name in Tim's opinion), Jason let Damian handle his disposition. Damian turned him over to the police with some very firm words about not falling back on their old habits of allowing an insane asylum to do their work for them. He didn't make any friends with that but Jason was right behind him with Tim by his side so the police didn't do anything other than give Bloodwing a few nasty looks.
They spent several hours making sure that no one had been trapped in the destruction. Jason's procedures for evacuating the city districts when there were major threats had worked flawlessly so no one had been hurt or killed. The property damage would be fairly costly but that was to be expected when three giant squid attacked. Once Jason was sure that everything was being handled well by the police, fire department and already arriving insurance inspectors, they left with Damian at their heels.
"I did not expect this," Damian commented once they entered the apartment by the back door that everyone knew about but no one messed with. "You are not hiding at all."
"No reason to," Jason said, shrugging his coat off and letting Tim put it away. "Everybody knows exactly who I am. Don't know about Tim but that's okay. Tim doesn't really care."
"I really don't," Tim said. He turned the distortion down to nothing so that his voice came out somewhat more normal. It would never sound like his original voice had but it wasn't quite so jarring. "Timothy Drake disappeared after Batman and Red Robin died. I have no desire to bring him back."
"Does he take that off anymore?" Damian asked after a moment of staring at Tim with a frown that was equal parts perplexed and annoyed.
"Not much, just to eat and brush his teeth," Jason replied. "Occasionally for blow jobs but I avoid letting him give me those. Sets off his throat."
He laughed at Damian's realization that Tim wore the mask during sex. Obviously, Damian hadn't quite gotten over what the Puppet Master had done to him because he looked terribly disturbed by that. Tim wanted to ask if there had been a mask and collar involved for Damian as well but he didn't. If Damian chose to share it at a later date, so be it. Tim wasn't going to force him to talk about it, not when Dick had been calling nearly every day to complain about how little Damian was willing to say about his time in the Puppet Master's grip. Of course, Steph and Cass had confirmed that they'd heard more than Dick had. Damian apparently was unwilling to upset Dick too much with his experiences with Dick's double.
When Tim reached out one hand to tentatively pat Damian's elbow, he smiled a broken little smile and shook his head that he'd be all right. Tim nodded that he accepted that though he wasn't sure that he believed Damian on that front. Either way, Jason finished taking off his boots and then nodded at Damian's uniform.
"You might as well get changed," Jason said. "I've got some spare clothes you can borrow. How long you sticking around?"
"Hopefully for quite some time," Damian said with a gracious nod of thanks. "Alfred has made it clear that he would like to reopen the Manor and I… I would like to return to Gotham if that is all right."
"Dickie-bird's driving you insane?" Jason asked with his biggest, most knowing grin.
Damian started cursing in a mixture of Arabic, French and English. From what Tim understood of it, Dick truly was driving Damian up a wall with his insistence that hugs fixed everything. Tim patted Damian's arm again before going to get him some clothes. By the time they'd all changed into civilian clothes, dinner was ready. Tim settled into his normal place at Jason's feet without thinking about it.
"He eats at your feet," Damian said so flatly that Tim winced.
"I prefer it," Tim said. He took off the mask so that Damian could see the wry smile. "It actually helps with the arousal for me to eat this way."
"You'll never explain that one to me," Jason commented. Despite Damian's obvious disapproval Jason offered Tim a bite of food and then smiled at Tim's contented smile. "Seriously, I don't get it, Baby bird."
Tim chewed while trying to think of a way to explain it. After a moment he swallowed and shrugged. They'd either understand it or not. Damian was still frowning when Tim turned to look at him but he was eating relatively willingly. It was clear that the food wasn't up to his usual high standards but then he'd been living with Dick for a while so his standards should have lowered enough to accept a simple casserole as edible food.
"The Puppet Master wouldn't let me eat until he'd used me sexually," Tim explained. "I came to so profoundly associate food with sexual release that I get hard just being around food. This dynamic changes that. Food is associated with affection, love, attention, not sex. Certainly, we frequently have sex after we eat but it's not so strongly linked that it maintains what he programmed into me. It's helping to reduce that association. Plus I honestly enjoy food more if I slow down to Jason's speed instead of the speed I used to eat at."
Damian blinked, one bite of casserole halfway to his mouth. "So the simple presence of food equates to sex in your mind but kneeling to receive it has a different association. Logical. Disturbing, but logical."
"You know, Baby bird here refuses to ask what happened to you," Jason said so grimly that Tim swatted his calf. Jason ignored the swat. "What the fuck did that bastard do to you?"
Rather than answering, Damian stared at his plate and ate methodically. Tim was relatively certain that Damian didn't taste a single thing that he ate from that point on. His glare up at Jason was met by a little shrug and more food for Tim to eat. Nothing else was said as they finished eating and then cleaned up after themselves. While Tim and Jason washed the dishes, Damian paced in the living room. Eventually he sat on the couch, head in his hands.
Jason came over and sat next to Damian, leaving enough room for Tim to cuddle. Instead of cuddling with Jason, Tim sat next to Damian and gently rubbed his back. It seemed to help because Damian's shoulders relaxed a little bit and then he sighed. His expression was still entirely bleak once he lifted his face but it wasn't furious or so blank that Tim was worried about him.
"Do you want details?" Damian asked without looking at Jason.
"General gist would work, but if you want to lay details on me that's fine," Jason replied. "Still working on getting nitty-gritty details outta Tim."
"I don't get many details about your experiences," Tim countered. Jason shrugged at that.
"You…?" Damian asked, finally looking at them both.
"Generally I just leave it at 'I hooked before B found me' but flat truth is I got raped as a kid and then hooking was an easier way to make a living than stealing things," Jason said. "Fucked me up pretty bad. Plus dying and coming back and the goddamn Lazarus pit and your bitch of a mother fucking with my brains and yeah. Messed up for a long damn time. More or less got my head on straight anymore though."
Damian nodded thoughtfully. "The Lazarus Pit does that. And yes, Mother is exceptionally good at mind games. I suspect that she would not have survived into adulthood if she were not."
He lapsed into silence again but his shoulders weren't as tight. His hands were still clasped but now the knuckles weren't white from the intensity of his grip. Eventually Damian relaxed back into the couch, allowing Tim to wrap an arm around him. To Tim's surprise he even set his head on Tim's shoulder. It was a little awkward given how large Damian had gotten but Tim couldn't bring himself to care.
"The Puppet Master presented himself as Grayson," Damian murmured a little later. "I… was convinced that both Timothy and Father were dead, that Stephanie and Cassandra had abandoned the city, which of course they had. I seemed to be in the Cave and only Grayson came to see me. I was not allowed to leave or do anything that he didn't specify. When I failed…"
Jason growled when Damian's voice trailed off. "He beat you and fucked you?"
"Yes," Damian whispered. He shuddered, curling into Tim's side. "It was horrifying. I had never thought of Grayson, Richard, in that way but… At first it hurt but I quickly began to crave whatever touches I could get, no matter what they entailed. I saw no one else. I heard only him. I touched only him. When he left I was utterly alone, generally locked in on the holding cells with nothing to eat or wear. He frequently left me in the dark with nothing to hear but the bats overhead."
"I wish that fucking bastard had a real body because I want to rip him to shreds," Jason sighed. "Dick hasn't quite gotten that you're conditioned to want him to touch you, has he?"
"Oh no," Damian said and laughed a broken little laugh that made Tim hug him tightly. "He understands it quite well. Ever since my liberation he has attempted to give me everything I wanted, short of sex, for which I am quite grateful, honestly. Despite the Puppet Master speeding my body's maturation process I have no interest in engaging in sexual activities."
That made Tim stare down at the top of Damian's head. Damian shrugged against Tim, sighing.
"I asked Clark to confirm it," Damian explained. "I am physically the equivalent to seventeen or eighteen years old instead of fourteen. And I would say that I appear to be asexual, though Cassandra believes that eventually I will be dominant in much the same way that you are, Jason. It hardly matters currently. I simply wish to deal with what the Puppet Master did to me and engaging in sexual activities would only confuse that."
"Monster," Tim murmured. "You can stay as long as you want, Damian."
"Agreed," Jason said. "If Dickie-bird gets too forceful about the hugs, tell me. I'll beat the crap out of him."
This time Damian's laugh was much more real. He pulled away from Tim, gently nudging Tim to settle at Jason's side. Jason immediately pulled Tim up into his lap, holding him securely with one arm while playing with the end of Tim's braid with the other. Once Tim was safely wrapped in Jason's arms, Damian shook his head 'no'.
"I would prefer not to intrude on your personal time," Damian explained with a grimace of distaste. "Alfred should have the Manor's personal quarters opened soon, if not already. I had planned to eat there but… your cooking is actually somewhat palatable so I stayed. However, I should return now."
"We're going with you," Tim murmured.
"Anything you want, Baby bird," Jason said.
Their insistence on accompanying Damian appeared to fluster him but he didn't object too much. Wayne Manor was still dark when they got there but the private kitchen that Alfred always used was brightly lit and filled with cleaning supplies. Alfred appeared immediately after they walked in, using that mysterious sixth sense that he'd always had to know that they were home.
"Welcome home, Master Damian, Master Jason, Master Timothy," Alfred said. "If you will be so kind as to assist me we can have the cleaning of the living quarters completed in less than half an hour."
It was so much like coming home that Tim laughed. Over the next few days they spent quite a lot of time at the Manor, all things considered. The Cephalopod Commander broke out and then was quite decisively dispatched by a combination of Jason's bullets, Tim's knives and a very nasty little grenade thrown by Damian. The news media picked up on Bloodwing's moving to Gotham and first made a huge deal out of it, only to drop the story when the rumor finally got to them that Bloodwing and Pet were brothers. Of course they assumed that Bloodwing was the older brother and Pet was the younger, but that was fine. People were less likely to make dangerous connections to Damian and Timothy Wayne that way.
Damian Wayne's return to his father's home was news across the country once he officially returned a week and a half later. His dramatic growth was much commented on but most people attributed it to good (or bad, depending on the point of view) genetics and left it at that. The few that questioned Damian's age and parentage found little support. Gotham was glad to have their 'ruling' family back in Wayne Manor.
A couple of months after that, Nightwing returned to the night's patrol. He teamed up with Bloodwing but kept enough distance that Tim didn't have to worry about Damian stabbing Dick for hugging too much. Dick Grayson's return waited another month after that. When he officially returned it was with Cass and Steph by his side and it was for the anniversary of Bruce Wayne's death.
"Three years," Dick murmured as Cass carefully laid a bouquet of three red roses on Bruce's grave. "Doesn't seem that long."
"Seems much longer," Tim murmured.
He'd left his mask off and was wearing a scarf draped around his face and head as a hood so that the reporters in the distance wouldn't connect Pet with Timothy Drake. The reporters seemed to be assuming that Pet was there simply because Jason was.
"Home now?" Cass asked. "All of us?"
"You've always been welcome," Jason said after the others turned to stare at him and Tim. "Just wouldn't let you take Baby bird away or block my methods. They both needed to be saved, Tim and Gotham."
Dick nodded thoughtfully while staring at Bruce's gravestone. He ran a finger over the top edge of it, smiling sadly. When Steph rubbed his back Dick smiled and hugged her before wrapping one arm around Cass who smiled and then squirmed free.
"I think we all needed to be saved," Dick said as if admitting something that he'd been trying to avoid for a long time. "Wasn't until Tim came back that we could though."
Tim opened his mouth to protest that but something about Dick's expression made him think that Tim was only the start of the chain, not the causal agent. He closed it again and leaned into Jason's side. Jason's arm wrapped around him, squeezing just tight enough for Tim to feel the bruises that Jason had put there the previous night.
Damian was the first to walk away from Bruce's grave, head held high though his right hand was clenched into a white-knuckled fist. Cass pulled out of Dick's embrace and ran over to slip her fingers around Damian's fist. He started and then let her hold his hand as they walked. Steph grinned and offered one elbow to Dick who smiled his widest, beaming smile at her as he took it. They followed Cass and Damian, Dick murmuring something about Alfred's anniversary feast that Steph snorted over.
"Ready to go home?" Jason asked.
He looked down at Tim with a tender expression that threatened to make Tim's knees go out from under him. His free hand came up and ran over the leather collar hidden under Tim's scarf, tugging at the O-ring set in the front. It made his breath catch with arousal but it was the sheer love in Jason's eyes that made Tim blink back tears.
Tim wasn't a slave anymore. He belonged here, by Jason's side. Better than that, his entire family accepted who he was now and Tim no longer had to try to hide what he was as he tried to change himself to what everyone else wanted him to be.
He was free.
Tim smiled. "Yes, I am."