fic: Kids' Game (DC, PG13, AU)
TITLE: Kids' Game
FANDOM: DC Comics, AU.
NOTE: Inspired by a chat between Te and Mary.
Mary: I wonder if eventually the timeline will be so mashed that they were all thirteen at the same time.
Mary: Including Bruce.
Thanks, kittens, and chocolates go to Betty, who betaed this improvised mess into relative order. She rules.
Money is not the issue. While Bruce Wayne has more financial resources than him, and a freer hand to access them, his allowance is big enough, invested judiciously, to allow him to travel just as often as he dares to, rotating between airlines and crews.
It wouldn't do, after all, for a stewardess to get too curious about a small kid traveling alone so often. He really covets, some days, the convenience and privacy of Bruce's own jet.
The difficult part, and what will surely become *increasingly* difficult over time, is tracking Bruce through small villages in Central Asia and seedy neighborhoods in Old Europe. Because of the inherent danger, and because of Bruce's increasing focus on learning detecting skills. He's still *just* a nearly world-class fighter, and Tim has gotten nothing *but* practice at investigation and stealth, even during the months that Bruce spends in one temple or another, but...
Tim has no doubts about the boy's intellectual capabilities. Given enough training, Bruce is probably going to be almost as good as he is, if not better. Sometime before that, he'll probably discover that a kid almost his age has been following him for years as he traveled over the world.
He hopes that he'll know how to answer him when he asks him why. "Your mother was kind to me, once," doesn't strike him as something that Bruce will be ready or able to understand.
"I'm alone, too," given the lengths to which Tim goes to assure that his travels don't cross his parents', would be cruel, and technically inaccurate.
Both are true, but neither is the answer. When the time comes, Tim hopes Bruce will be ready to *tell* him what the answer is.
* * *
Jason wasn't mugging the kid. Honest. Nobody got any rep worth a shit by stealing from weaklings and kids. He was merely (*shove*) making a point (*cuff*) about not trying to stab him in the back (*slap*), like, with a knife.
It was not his fault that he got distracted by the fucking *Bentley* turning the corner. Jason kept the kid against the wall with one hand, trying to decide what, if anything, he could do with that car. Fuck stealing it, he mostly wanted to *touch* it.
Then one of the passanger doors opened, and a boy wearing the sissiest little dark suit *ever* jumped out and started running at him. "Master Bruce!," an old guy yelled from inside the car.
Jason only had time to snicker before the guy jumped without slowing down and hit him in the chest with a kick. "*Fucker*," said Jason as he sent ex-knife-guy over crazy-rich-boy, following with a nasty left cross that sent the guy a couple of steps back.
The guy had a bit of a gym body, and some fancy moves, but Jason had figured out long ago that karate lessons didn't really give a guy the balls for a fight. "Want some more, or wanna call your daddy to help you?," he jeered at the guy.
The boy yelled at him and jumped, all fucking kung-fu and *rage*, and, while Jason *knew* the fucker was still way below his weight, that meant shit when hitting him didn't seem to *do* anything.
Fuck the Bentley. He was having *fun*.
* * *
He is on the ground. He doesn't feel like he'll ever fly again.
He is on the ground, on his knees, feeling himself numb and fragile and *falling* and if he moves again, the entire world will break. More.
Somebody is telling him something. He tries to focus on the man, the cop, but he. He won't fly again. His parents will never fly again. They'll all be forever on the ground, *below* the ground, and the thought shocks him into tears for the first time.
It doesn't feel like they'll ever stop, and after a while the cop just stops talking and puts an awkward hand on his shoulder while he cries.
Then somebody comes and hugs him; Dick tries to shake the man - the kid - but he's strong and his hold... Dick can't break away, and after a while stops trying and just keeps crying. The kid doesn't cry or say anything until Dick finally stops sobbing.
Dick recognizes him the moment he sees his face. The serious kid in the first row, the one that came without his parents. Looking in his eyes, Dick doesn't need to be told why.
He wonders if he'll look like that tomorrow, and hopes he won't, but kind of hopes he will, too.
"Come with me," says the kid. Everybody around them looks either touched or pissed off, but some old guy starts talking with the cop, and Dick knows that it will happen.
The kid takes his hand and pulls him up.
* * *
It wasn't a surprise that Jason was so good in bed. She had known he would be since that first kiss, *right* in front of her ex boyfriend. Jason had kissed her and then smirked all through the ensuing, predictable fight, and even if Steph hadn't loved that kiss, what got her was the fact that Jason had probably enjoyed the fight more than the kiss.
So had she. The look of surprise on a guy's face as she kicked it still kind of rattled her, but it was nice, too. Jason hadn't looked surprised that she could fight, and that was maybe the best part of it all.
Anyway, the surprising thing about Jason is that he was nice to talk with *after* the sweat-and-fun part.
"So," she said as she hogged the spot right below the ceiling fan. "How's that Wayne scam of yours doing? Have you got the Bentley's keys yet?"
Jason frowned. It wasn't something he usually did, and it made him look older. "It's not a scam. I mean..."
Steph snorted and turned over to face him. "You're *telling* me that you're not just *pretending* to be friends with Bruce-has-more-cars-than-God-Wayne? That it's just a coincidence you just happen to have enough money to buy a fucking ceiling fan since you've started hanging out with him? Or fucking him, or whatever."
"It's not like that. We're not fucking, we... fuck, I don't know what we're doing, OK? He dresses funny, and he'd probably die of hunger if his butler didn't cook for him, and he's kind of not right in the head, but." Jason sighed. "I don't know, Steph. He teaches me kung fu and shit, I teach him about stuff. Alfred gives us cookies."
Steph didn't laugh about the cookies. "You think he could teach me that martial arts stuff, too?"
"Sure," said Jason. Steph smilid enticingly and added "And then I'll marry him and get all the Wayne money." They both laughed at that. There wasn't enough money in the world to make Steph marry anybody she didn't like.
"I've got to warn you, Bruce's the most repressed kid I *know*. I'd bet his money against mine that he'll be *16* and still a virgin."
Steph raised an eyebrow, said "Wanna bet?" and kissed him.
Jason laughed through the kiss.
* * *
They belong to each other, in ways that Tim knows *he* will never belong. That's just another fact to acknowledge and not think about some other time.
A time when the four of them aren't fighting a swarm of teenage gang members, that is.
Tim's vantage point over the alley is just a couple of stories high, but he has seen -studied- them enough that he could recognize their fighting styles from much farther away. They are all a bit Bruce's, and also completely theirs.
That's true of why they fight as much as of how. Tim still hasn't quite managed to penetrate the Manor's security system, but he knows that this "training trip" to Crime Alley is Bruce's idea, in a way that has nothing to do with how often they all dine at the Manor (Dick lives there, but so could Jason or Steph, if they wanted to), and everything to do with Bruce's... Tim assumes that if he could, actually, define exactly what it is, he would have had a better track record managing his own compulsion to follow the boy.
Just as the last gang member falls down, Tim's thoughts are interrupted by a man -the gang's local handler, most likely- coming out from a door right below Tim's spot, aiming a gun at Bruce. It takes Tim a second to estimate, based on what he knows of Bruce and the others' speed and positions, that Bruce is in mortal danger.
By then, he's already dropping right over the man, who breaks his fall with a surprisingly satisfying groan and drops unconscious. When another man comes from behind him with another gun, Tim is still too surprised not to kick the man in his adam's apple, a precise move he must have spied Bruce practicing a thousand times in Guandong's temple.
Everything stills for a second. Bruce's blue eyes focused on his own feel just as he had always knew they would, and it's too much to hope that he didn't recognize the kick, that his ruthless, troubled mind hasn't already made a dozen inferences.
"I'm Tim Drake," he says. He's not sure why. He is sure he hasn't felt so terrified and exhilarated in his entire life.
Bruce nods and tells everyone to go back to the Manor. The four start walking through the alley in a pattern too smooth to be practiced. Tim stays, not moving at all, until Jason looks back and yells at him with a friendly grin. "What are you waiting for, freakboy? There'll be cookies."
Tim follows them back home.