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Summer's Gone

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“Ah damn, this sucks.” Jason tugs at the inky cape, pulls as it tightens across his shoulders, Gotham’s shine stitching neon, minute details on its shapes, revealing every lost line, every graze of a muscle, shows every silhouette of bones. Adjusting the circle of his collar, Jason releases the clasp for the third time that night, but before the cape can fall, can skid down his back and rest and fold into a stain against the roof, it attaches itself back around his neck, slides underneath the top of the Red Robin symbol again; the soft, autumn wind curling it against his spine, against the sides of his arms.

Tim snickers, toying with the pockets of his own leather jacket, padding all the hidden compartments underneath, unzipping the front and slipping inside, the subtle weight of the pockets guiding his fingers, some of them full of gadgets he’s sure he can use; some of them heavier, shaped after cases with – bullets. Jason’s lighter is tucked in an external pocket, his cigarettes in the other but Jason: Jason is anywhere but here; anywhere but stuck in these clothes.

(He’s standing five feet from Tim; the faked, plastic red trail of fingerstripes as bright as a clue, as something that tells you what to do, where to go, how to stay. Tim wants – he wants and that’s all that there is to it. That’s the sum of his parts, the leitmotiv when it comes to Jason, to Jason and his shaped lips, to Jason and his fast, dizzying fights, to Jason and his rare, raw words, sentences of both kinds. It’s all Tim can focus on when Jason’s mouth is the center of him, when his teeth are the border of his skin, when his fingers settle and steady Tim’s directions.)

Jason reminds Tim of the first minute he found himself dressed like this – dressed like Jason – Jason’s helmet confining; a target, suffocating safety.

It felt hollow.

(Like there was nothing underneath.)

And within the first ten minutes, he’s guilty. Guilty because he took something. Guilty because he didn’t ask if he could. Guilty because he didn’t tell Jason what it was.

And it was – a moment.

He took a moment, took a second to breathe in; to breathe against the collar and against the hem of the shirt, so he could search, so he could find, find out – do they make a difference?

The bullets, the guns, the leather. The soft pack of cigarettes; the feel of them.

(Are they the sum of Jason’s parts?)

And the mixture of scents he’s wrapped in, the heaviness and the hints of metal and the dripping tobacco that stays on his gloves – it’s empty. Caved in.

(Jason is anywhere but here.)

The wind seeps into his shoulders, the trees under them undress and Tim wonders how he only wasted seconds, only tens of ticks, when the whole of him had changed, when the whole of him might have disappeared.

“As far as Halloweens go, I think I like this one so far,” he says, laughs when Jason scowls, with his mouth and maybe with his eyes too but the domino shields, holds things they wouldn’t be able to secure otherwise, like dilation or half-drops of tears or their reflections, holds things against them if it's what they need.

“Yeah, you would. You got the cool clothes. I’m stuck in this – what the hell is it even? I never saw this damn costume.”

Jason touches the tunic, frowning at the bright shapes thinning into a sharp, disappearing point, centered and suggestive, easily seen. Tim fiddles with his belt loops and steps onto the roof’s ledge, spotted dark with weather and age, dried with dust.

“That’s my Ünternet uniform,” he answers and his eyes find Jason’s, both just the whites of lenses, just another blank smear waiting for colour; just something to fill. “I’m not sure how the magician knew about it but I think it’s because the design is similar to Nightwing’s. Hey, rooftop change?” He asks and they both fire, jump and strain and swing, close but the distance stretches, the speed spreading them apart until they land, higher than they started, the building beneath them steel and glass.

“You’re obsessed,” Jason huffs, breathless against the wind as he fires his grapple again, Tim seconds, miles behind him. “And these pants are way too tight,” he complains, soundlessly settling on another roof, new and clean under his weight.

“At least you have some. You could’ve ended up with the scaly panties and pixie boots. Again.” Tim jabs and Jason punches his shoulder, so half-heartedly Tim doesn’t even dodge.

Shut up. And stop pretending you didn’t ogle our legs all those years you stalked us, you little freak.”

Jason sits down on the edge of the rooftop, legs dangling above tens of windows, his cape tucked under him while Tim splutters, the red of his domino leaving the hem of the mask and spilling across his cheeks, up his ears. “I didn’t –”

“Yeah, yeah, like I’ll believe you didn’t.” Jason tilts his head back, so far Tim can see the golden emblem, can see the collar where it presses a straight, red tattoo into Jason’s throat, can see the red of the tip of his nose.

(There’s an awful lot of red about Jason today. Around him, across him, inside of his thoughts. There’s always, always something dipped in reds. And today, Tim can see it. Can see it clearer, can see it when Jason swallows; every red scratch. Everything that itches.)

Tim moves.

He crouches behind Jason and flicks his nose, but his gloves are there, on the sides of Jason’s face before he can flinch, before he can move away and Tim’s mouth is there too, there to keep him warm, there to ground him.

Jason feels homesick.

Tim kisses him again and stands up as Jason leans on his legs; all that’s between them just the cape and the pants and invisible inches of Gotham’s smoggy, thick air, slipping through every cavity, through any space they have.

Jason looks up.

“How are we even gonna fight like this? You don’t use guns,” he says, fingering the strap of the holster curling around Tim’s thigh, the gun’s handle peeking out of the cover, secured but loaded, cold against Tim’s gloves.

“You could always grab it if needed.” Tim shrugs, letting the idea spread underneath them, Jason’s hand sliding up from his thigh to the peak of his hip, to the tip of the bone.

That’s what I call a new maneuver.” He grins, abandoning Tim’s side to reach for the gun, to undo the safety strap; to steal it, pull it out of the holster and tuck it under his own belt.

“I said when needed.” Tim steps away and if Jason wasn’t so used to changes, if he wasn’t ready to fall anytime – he might have collapsed after his yelp; might have done nothing but hit the ground.

(But, well, Jason is.)

“Oh come on.” He grumbles from his spot on the ledge, sighing before he turns around and stands, fingers aiming for Tim’s hips.

“No.” Tim backs away; waits until Jason follows. Waits until there’s no space between his back and the exit door, until there are only inches between him and Jason himself.

(“It’s a date,” said Jason over the phone, voice rusty and quiet and small; like a broken machine.

Broken until Tim said: “Don’t be a cheap date and bring some treats, will you.” with a laugh under his mouth, with a smile stitched above its edge.

Then there was the hang up. And the call again.

“By treats I meant the intel you promised. Don’t get any ideas!”

But – ideas gotten.

“Too late baby b. Bought you coffee already. Don’t be late or I’ll drink your share,” Jason said; repaired.

So hang up. And smile against the buttons of the phone.)

“I still think you got the better end of the deal. I kind of miss my cape,” Tim says, picking up the corners of Jason’s, holding it steady, around them, like it does more than protect.

“And even if no one has to wear pixie boots tonight, there is definitely someone stuck in the Discowing suit.”

No fucking way. Who?” Jason braces his palms against the wall, right next to the sides of Tim’s head and Tim's hair could almost tickle him, if he wasn’t wearing the suit.

(Like this, Tim’s hair disappears above his forearms. It gets swallowed up, covered within optic illusions, within poor, spilled light. Sometimes Jason thinks that’s what he does to Tim too.

He hides him.

Or it’s Tim that hides. It’s like –

like Tim slips into the shapes of his shadow.)

Tim looks up and smirks, the curl of his mouth pleased, impish in an innocent, happy way. “That’s the hilarious part: the little demon.”

Jason laughs a startled sound against Tim’s mouth, as if it were Tim’s lips, Tim’s teeth that made it happen, as if they did more than shape the words. (That it’s them being responsible for this and who knows: for the kiss? They totally could be.) The low, short chuckle warms Tim’s neck, leaves it colder when it evaporates, vulnerable to Gotham’s autumn.

“I think I’m starting to like this Nightwing obsessed magic lady,” Jason confesses, murmurs across Tim’s cheek.

“I told you this Halloween isn’t a bad one so far. I mean, for example, none of the two of us have to wear the Discowing suit.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with it?” Cracks Dick’s voice, without any warning but without any offense either, undermined with the transfer to sound wired, to sound human when it shouldn’t, something to fill their heads when static’s not on the radio, when the city’s sirens stop being their favourite songs.

(They never really were.)

“Absolutely nothing.” Jason snickers, a bait for Tim, words to make his expression shift. (Taunts to lift his smile, his spirits and maybe his hands again, a way to get them close.) “I bet the little brat’s completely rocking it. Gotham’s baddies will tremble with fear of their fashion sense being corrupted.” His eyes flick to Tim’s. “Not that they have any to begin with,” he adds, frowning when Tim ducks under his arms and slips away from him, Jason’s freed cape slapping against the back of his knees, a push that nearly manages to make him stumble, crash against the door.

“Tssk. It’s a bold fashion statement that manifests things too daring for the two of you,” Dick explains, sniffing in mock arrogance, mock disdain.

(He’s probably smiling, probably in a good mood, probably happy despite – or because of – all of this. Probably with –)

“Shut up, Red Robin,” Damian snaps, displeased and rough. Like he’s grinding his teeth.

Suddenly, it clicks. “Wait, so you’re wearing baby b.’s costume?”

“Yep.” Dick answers, the word coming out too short, cut off from his mouth. (Is he in mid-swing? Is he lost to gravity between two buildings, reversing the laws and shaping around them, curling and shifting across their pull, balanced even within his falls? Jason had all the time to feel jealous when he was a kid, in days he could only think about beating all Dick’s records, all Dick’s moves

but now, there’s isn’t anything to be jealous of.

(Except maybe Tim’s attention.)

But Jason stopped being that person. Now he tries to be Jason, Jason and the pit and Jason without it and Jason doesn’t rhyme with Tim at all, but hey –

neither does Dick.

And life was never about poetry anyway.)

“How long were you listening to us?” Tim asks, perched on one corner of the roof now, curious. Searching in the traffic underneath.

“Just a few minutes. Oracle patched us through,” Dick admits and Damian murmurs something neither can decode, neither could hear properly. They let it slip, let the sound fall off his mouth without addressing its sense, without searching for the meaning. “To my defense,” Dick continues, “it was supposed to be a family night. We said no private lines!”

“It wasn’t private really. Just a different line from the usual. But we’ll keep in mind to tell you if we have to change channels again.” Tim promises, briefly glancing back at Jason. “Any leads on our trickster?”

Maybe. Zatanna said she will help us locate her. Once she stops laughing, I mean,” Dick says and Tim groans, hiding his face in his palms.

“Great. The whole Justice League will know about this, won’t they? Wait, scratch that. Everyone in the business will, right?” Tim sighs, wondering if he should just block his friends’ numbers for the rest of the week or if even that would become mock material.

(Yeah, probably.)

And anyway: it’s not like he’s stuck in a ridiculous costume.

“Most probably,” Dick agrees, pausing before he adds, reluctantly: “Since Zat managed to…take a few pictures and all.”

“Dibs on copies of the brat’s!” Jason chimes in, way too gleefully. Damian growls, something about harlots and breaking faces and Dick reprimands him immediately; Tim can imagine the silent, disapproving frown.

“I guess we’ll deal with that later,” he says, letting Jason embrace him, the hug slow and unexpected, Jason’s concealed warmth heating his back, the insides of his chest.Tim smiles against the wind. “Red and I can be at the meeting point in about three minutes, you?”

“Same. See you there, little bro. B might show up too, if he decides to stop sulking and come out tonight. I don’t know what is his problem. The Nightwing costume is one of my most popular costumes after all.”

Tim’s grin is all mischief. “I bet Catwoman would love to see him in that.”

“On second thought, that might be why he doesn’t want to go out.” Dick laughs, and for a second that fills Tim too. For a second, these intangible, shapeless things without a taste are all that makes him full. Dick and his chuckle and Jason’s pattern of breathing, spreading down his shoulder, dipping under his ribs.

“See you there,” Tim says, dropping his hand to Jason’s, the fingerstripes pressed to his stomach; a crossroad, a loop of a street. (He traces the lines anyway.)

With a kiss that disappears into the collar of Tim’s jacket, Jason lets go, taking out his grapple again and they pick a roof, get there, pick another, skip the one that looks too gritty and pick the next one, silent but comfortable, quick and neat.

And somewhere between that, it begins to bug Jason. Bug him so much it bites and itches and he decides to stop, to halt on the latest steel and glass rooftop and get Tim’s attention, his head leaning into his question, uncertain. “Hey, how come that you ended up with my costume and Nightwing with Red Robin, if the magic girl is obsessed with Nightwing? Was she short on costumes or something?”

Tim thinks, bites his mouth. (And suddenly, Jason really wants a smoke. Wants to want something more than exactly that mouth, those teeth, Tim’s tongue. Wants to want something that could never not be his.

He ignores the emotion and bites his mouth too.)

“Maybe it’s because you wore those two suits?” Tim begins, startling Jason from out of his thoughts. “You were operating as Nightwing for a while, right? So she could have gotten you two mixed up. Maybe the spell didn’t work right. If she’s still a magic beginner, maybe the spell was too vague. It would explain why you’re wearing my suit as well. Either way, it’s lucky for us, isn’t it?” Tim says, searching behind his lips.

“Yeah, real lucky.” Tim can’t see, but Jason rolls his eyes anyways, hopes his tone implies it enough. “But I guess that that makes sense. In all this fucking mess, I mean,” he answers, holding his cape still with both of his hands, the drift lifting it under his palms.

Before Tim can tease him, before he can decide where to start, the comlink stirs again.

“Hey lovebirds,” Babs greets them, a tease of her own.

Saved by the Babs. Tim mouths at Jason and he scowls, mouthing Just you wait, Timbo. right back at him, accompanied by a car’s engine from beneath, a screech that makes them look down.

“Hey O,” Tim answers, pretty sure that Babs had witnessed them being huge, stupid dorks just seconds before; pretty sure that she's seen them all the way from the first roof they met up at, thirty minutes earlier into the night. “What’s up?” He asks and she responds right away.

“Some trouble over at the East Side. Someone wasn’t happy with the treats they got.”

Tim nods. “We’re on it. You hear that RR?”

“Loud and clear, Hood,” Dick says, the smile a presence in his voice. “Call if you will need help.”

“Will do. Hood out.” Tim nods again, shutting the line. He turns to Jason, a sheepish look to his face. “Wow, that’s kind of weird.”

“Tell me about it.”

Tim laughs again, and Jason isn’t sure if it’s the magic or if it’s just tonight’s ease, if it’s the too strong coffee Tim drank way too fast, if it’s the cold, first snow-scented nights.

(It could be him, but Jason finds that hard to grasp. Hard to accept. Hard to believe.

Until –)

Tim leans up to kiss him, quickly, leans up to touch his lips, so briefly Jason doesn’t have the time to close his eyes, doesn’t have time to respond or to add or do more than press back, do more than slide against Tim’s mouth too.

They don’t have any time, really. No time to kiss or wait or delay. There’s a robbery nearby and they’re needed and there can be people on the street but Tim –

they only lost a second with this.

Because Tim is across the street already and Jason isn’t that far behind, isn’t because jumping rooftops and moving and never stopping to breathe is something natural, something drained from his habits to become instinct, something so minute no one could find it in his body if they tried, if they searched to determine where it stirs.

Jason isn’t that far behind and he’s almost happy when the arc breaks and he has to pull and push and tug to land without a sound, to land as smooth at Tim has

until the wind sweeps and takes and pushes the cape, lifts it over his head.

He hears Tim’s laughter again, before and around him, but he’s too pissed, too annoyed to appreciate that this time, it was undeniably him.

He’s going to kill this stupid magic chick.

(Right after he can see again, of course.)

Jason yells, frustrated, and the sound follows Tim all the way up to another roof.

“Goddamnit I hate this fucking cape!”