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running with blood on our knees

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05.

Tim is trussed up, hanging upside down in Mr. Freeze's lair, and getting the tail-end of a long-winded speech about Mr. Freeze's wife and her favorite perfume when he decides he's absolutely done with this bullshit.

He thought his Boy Hostage days were long gone. This stuff isn't supposed to happen anymore now that he's moved onwards and upwards, and onto his own mantle.

But it happens still just like it always did -- he thinks he's accounted for every possible scenario, half a dozen plans flitting through his brain, and then there's someone who needs saving and he drops everything and the plan goes out the window.

Amount of times that he's been abducted in the past six months: seven. Amount of times that Damian has been abducted in the past six months: three. Tim maintains that since Damian works with a partner, his odds against Tim's are deeply unfair and besides, Tim has a higher case clearance record than Batman and Robin right now.

The fact that he always gets the deeply weird ones -- well, that he can't explain.

Like that time Ivy lured him in at 4 in the morning just to have a chat about American climate policy.

Yeah, Damian is so going to laugh at him.

Mr. Freeze is muttering poetry to himself. Tim blows out a breath, hating the way the cowl is making it more difficult to breathe. Next chance he gets, he's getting rid of the damn thing.

A shadowy figure emerges from a corner, unseen by Mr. Freeze and unheard by both of them, and swiftly takes Mr. Freeze out before walking over to stand beneath Tim and grin up at him crookedly.

"Need help?"

Tim shakes his head, huffing out a laugh. "Please don't tell Damian about this."

Cass says nothing as she cuts him loose and helps him up, but she's smirking to herself.

"Damnit, Damian already knows, doesn't he."

"He's prepared jokes," Cass says, swinging Tim's arm over her shoulder as they walk-limp to the window. "You okay to hold on?"

"Eh. I'll live. Jokes, huh?"

Cass nods. "Puns."

Tim winces, the gash in his thigh jostled as they slip through the window. "Puns? Since when does Damian know about puns?"

"Since Superman visited and let slip that puns are a Robin thing."

"I have Kryptonite, you know," Tim mutters.

Cass gives him a look that's half pitying and half entirely too amused. It's her look that he's come to realize actually says "you're like a feisty but tiny, sad kitten who needs my protection."

Tim opens his mouth to say something sharp because he's an adult and a well-trained vigilante more than worth his salt, but well, to be fair, they're all like tiny, sad kittens who need protecting compared to Cass.

So whatever, fuck it.

Tim leans heavily against her as she casts a line, faint from blood loss and the hour he spent tied up. "I might pass out for a bit, please don't drop me."

"Do I ever?"

No, never, Tim thinks, before he loses consciousness.

04.

"Mister Wayne, Mister Wayne, can I ask you something?"

Tim fingers his tie-pin, turning around to face a reporter from the Gotham Gazette with a pasted on smile that he's really starting to tire of. "Always."

"Last week, one of our top reporters saw you out and about with a strapping young man. Is there something you'd like to tell us?" The reporter asks, shoving a microphone in his face, and affecting a conspiratorial "you can tell me anything" face that's less than sincere.

Tim racks his brain, trying to figure what the hell they were talking about. He's pretty sure that he'd remember it if he went on a date with a strapping young man and -- oh, shit. Conner.

Conner had dragged him to see Pacific Rim, talking his ear off the whole time about how cool the robots were and how he wanted to make out with Mako Mori until finally Tim had to shove a handful of popcorn into his mouth to get him to shut up.

In hindsight, he can kind of see how that would look like a date. You know, from afar. Without the benefit of Conner's running commentary.

Tim fights the urge to pinch his nose. "Um."

A hand snakes into the crook of his elbow. "Excuse me, miss, I need to borrow my brother for a dance."

Cass doesn't wait for the reporter's reply, already pulling him away towards the center of the ballroom.

"Thanks," Tim says, breathing a sigh of relief. Cass just shakes her head.

"Your own fault. You smile at them too much."

"Hey, we can't all be the aloof, quiet one. Someone's gotta be personable to the vultures."

"Hmmm," Cass says, twirling out into a spin before drawing back in. "I like this."

"What, the gala?"

"No, not at all," Cass says, giving the large crowd a side-eyed glance. "But the dancing, yes."

"Yeah, well, you're a natural," Tim says, "which makes sense, I guess."

"How did you learn?"

"It's in the spoiled rich boy handbook, didn't you know?"

Cass rolls her eyes, smacking the back of his head with her left hand. "Tell the truth."

"One of my nanny's taught me. Uh, Mary. Her mother was a dancer, I guess, she knew all the basics. But that was a long time ago."

Cass nods, thoughtfully, and her nose crinkles up like it does when she has an idea she's not quite sure she should talk about and then: "I want to take dance lessons."

"Yeah?"

"Yes. You're coming with me."

"Hey, I already know how to dance," Tim protests. Cass just levels him with a look that brooks no argument.

"It'll be fun. Good for us."

He can read between the lines on that one -- they've both been a bit too wrapped up in the job lately.

"All right," Tim says, with a put-upon heave of his shoulders. "Dance lessons it is. But only if we get to play a game of who's sleeping with who tonight."

It's a game he used to play when his parents used to drag him to these things. Well -- not quite like this but he used to sit around, bored, trying to work people out, figure out what was behind their carefully constructed fancy-dinner facades.

It's possibly a very shallow pursuit of his time couched in pseudo-detective terms but sometimes you have to make your own fun.

If Steph were here, she'd call him an intrusive weirdo but it's not like any of that's news to him.

"That's an abuse of my training, Timothy. You watch too many soap operas."

"Hey, they free up my creative processes! I solve a lot of cases while watching late night soaps."

"Whatever, little brother."

They dance for a few more seconds, coming to the edge of the ballroom closest to one of the banquet tables. "So, are we not gonna -- ?"

"Those two," Cass says, pointing to two very, very married members of the Wayne Enterprises board of executives.

"Holy shit, are you kidding?"

Cass just raises an eyebrow at him, popping an olive into her mouth from the display.

"How would I get through these nights without you?"

"You wouldn't," Cass says, before shoving a canapé in his face.

03.

Another day, another Ra's al Ghul trap.

Tim curses, twisting in his restraints. "Fucking unbelievable, jumped up, demon, I am going to find a way to kill him, I swear -- "

He's in Hong Kong on Batman Inc business with Dick and Cass. He should have known better to expect a move from Ra's outside of Gotham territory but it'd been months, and he relaxed, became complacent.

And now he's chained up in a dark factory surrounded by ominous looking torture instruments. Way to go, Timbo.

A crash comes through the ceiling, Black Bat and Nightwing falling to the ground in that graceful way that only they can manage.

"Hiya, Boy Hostage," Dick says, "how's it hangin'?"

Tim rolls his eyes. "On second thought, leave me here."

Cass cuts him loose, intent as she steadies him. "Are you okay? Are you -- it was Ra's, right?"

Tim shifts uncomfortably, darting a glance at Dick, who's casing the perimeter. He hasn't exactly told anyone else about that. "I'm fine. I've got the best protection, remember?"

"I'm going to lock you up in a tower," Cass says, sharp and fierce and every inch an angry Bat.

When she looks like this, Tim knows she'll be Batman one day. She's too good at it not to be.

"Oh for -- Nightwing, stop telling her Disney fairytales, it's giving her ideas."

"Black Bat, Red Robin's an adult, it's not his fault the Demon's Head is creepily fascinated with his big, beautiful brain," Dick calls out in a dutiful voice but he sounds like he's laughing, a little, that traitor.

"Besides, he'd be the world's best trained, grumpiest, meanest princess in a tower that you ever did see."

"Seriously, you can just leave me here, it's fine," Tim says.

Cass punches him in the arm. Tim leans over, kisses her on the forehead. "Thanks, BB."

"Also, he'd probably just build artificial intelligence out of toothpicks and break himself out within a week and we'd have to come up with a whole big thing and O would really have to break out the top equipment..."

"Yeah, you can stop any time now, N."

"Hey, I'm just getting started, RR," Dick says, looping an arm around Tim's shoulders and knocking their heads together, jostling all three of them at once. Tim punches Dick in the thigh, eliciting a groan.

Cass just laughs.

02.

"You know, when you said dancing, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Tim says, pushing sweaty hair out of his eyes.

"Neither did I. But I walked by this place the other day, saw a crowd, and -- "

"And now we're hooked on Dance Dance Revolution."

"The kids call it DDR."

"I like how you say that as if we're not still teenagers, oh shit, look out," Tim says, seeing a place where Cass might miss her step but she lands it perfectly and tosses him a smug look.

"You were saying?"

They're in the arcade downtown where Tim used to come hang out with Ives, and walking through the front doors brought forth a burst of nostalgia, and something twisted in his chest, an ache for a simpler time so sharp that he didn't even question Cass's suggestion.

They've been on the maniac setting for about twenty minutes and they've already gained a following, as their high scores keep climbing and climbing.

Tim has the beginnings of a cramp in his left calf and it makes him miss a step, and he swears, thinking that it's all over for them until he looks down and sees that Cass stepped over and landed it for him, before returning to her own side.

"We should stop soon," Cass says, gesturing with her head at the crowd surrounding them. She's right, pretty soon it's going to get a little weird and the last thing they need is a bunch of school children wondering why the Wayne kids are so freakishly athletic and in shape.

"Lunch after?"

"Noodles in Chinatown?"

Tim's stomach grumbles at the thought of it. "Yeah, definitely."

They finish their round up, saving their high scores proudly, before making their way through the crowd of kids and out onto the street. They both blink at the bright sun in their eyes after so long spent with their eyes fixed on the fluorescent lights of the arcade.

"We should take Steph here," Cass says, tugging her hair back and pulling out her sunglasses.

"Imagine letting Dick and Steph loose on that game," Tim says, amused at the mental image. "We'd never drag them out of there. They might even beat our high scores."

"Hmmm," Cass says, a competitive gleam in her eye as they amble arm in arm down the street towards the noodle shop.

"You're planning a family-wide DDR tournament, aren't you?"

"I might abandon you for Damian."

"Ouch, Cass," Tim says, knocking into her shoulder.

"Hey, you almost slipped today. I had to save you, didn't I," Cass says.

Tim snorts.

"Story of my life, really."

(01).

Underground. Tunnels. Drug trafficking ring led her here -- but why here of all places? It's dark, the smell of sewage and ocean water filling her nostrils, and Cass winces.

Easy place to dump a body.

They're chatting ahead of her. She lets them -- they think she's unconscious, but she's been awake for minutes. She can take all of them easily, it's just a matter of getting her brain back in order after the drugs wear off.

It's always drugs in Gotham. Cass shakes her head. She thinks, hopes, her mind is clear enough.

One of the men hangs back a little to check on her, the others falling into a lax formation. Perfect opening.

Cass undoes her restraints with ease and sets about knocking the men out, quickly and methodically. Her damp hair clings to the back of her neck as she fights, sweat beading just underneath the kevlar collar.

It takes one minute.

Another minute passes and she has them in zip-ties, the information that they'd so carelessly held onto firmly in her grasp, tucked into her utility belt to be decoded by Tim.

A thump comes from around the corner in the tunnel and Cass readies for combat before relaxing. She knows those boot-steps.

"Red Robin?"

Tim comes around the corner, bo staff in one hand and a flashlight in the other. He catches sight of her and shakes his head, leaning on his bo staff. "So I guess I should call off the search party."

Cass gives the men who held her hostage an annoyed look. "Minor inconvenience."

"Anything I can do for you?"

"Tea?"

"Yeah," Tim says wryly, "that I can do. What are we thinking, a darjeeling sort of day?"

"I have sewage in my hair."

"So, chai it is."