runespoor: 8-year old bruce looking creepily calm, with the quote "what makes you think I was alone". (the lesson is always canon)
[personal profile] runespoor
Title: zero is an even number
Characters: Bruce, Tim
Rating: PG
Summary: Tonight, Bruce is Robin.
Notes: zeen gave me the prompt of this softer dcu strip, itself inspired from the softer world strip, the ravages of puberty leave nobody unscathed. Takes place during the Sins of Youth event that switched the ages of the teens and the adults in the DCU, and which happened before Steph was Robin.

The Batman costume is his. He knows this in his bones, in the way that he startles when he catches the reflection of Batman and Robin in a shop window, and the cape flapping in his back is lined in bright yellow.

Bruce is pretty sure he shouldn’t be Robin.

At any other time (no-one would ask), he’d say he’s not Robin.

Batman’s existence resides in the refusal to admit a difference between should and is.

But he’s wearing Robin’s costume, and he finds himself somersaulting when he shoots the grapple, without willing it. It slows him down. He knows it does; he – Batman – has scolded Dick, and Jason, and Tim, for adding unnecessary acrobatics.

Batman – Tim – sends him a look when Bruce does it again, which Bruce pretends not to see. As long as he doesn’t say anything, it’s plausible deniability, right?

Besides, a considerable part of Bruce’s attention is diverted to re-familiarizing with this fifteen-year old body. (It was something of a shock, when he slipped out of his ill-fitting clothes and found most of his scars gone. Not all of them; at fifteen Bruce had already trained with David Cain, and before that he’d already been on the wrong end of a broken bottle. But most, and those that remain make him look like Robin.)

He’s trained. At that age he already was trained, both in martial and theatrical arts, thanks to Alfred’s guidance.

But he can’t—he doesn’t access things the way they should. It’s not smooth, not the way it became after training with Dick, but rocky and spiked with barely-channelized forces.

It’s frustrating; Bruce misses his former control on himself something fierce. All the more when he sees that Tim’s use of his own body isn’t—goddammit, he knows he can do better, they’re not made out of sugar, they can--

The first teeth he breaks, he doesn’t mean to.

He doesn’t not mean to either.

He just--okays it, and rolls with the punch. At least the guy crumples down faster than he presumably would have otherwise, and after Bruce kicks him in the chest, stays down.

Some moves pull more on his bones and muscles than he’s used to, tiring him out faster. Faster than he got when he was actually fifteen, he’d bet. But he’s not going to tell Batman, they still have a few hours of patrol left. Surreptitious, when Batman’s got his back turned, he flexes his shoulders and the muscles in his back, feeling through the smarting, savoring it.

At the end of the night, Tim watches him take the costume off, lips pinched.

Under the tights, the skin is broken from the knee to mid-thigh, from hitting the dumpster, maybe, or the guy with the iron bar that Bruce didn’t see in time, and the tight separates from it with a faint, tearing squelch as Bruce hides his wince. The surrounding area has been rubbed pinker than the rest with seeping blood, though the tights’ lining absorbed most of it. The pain is less fierce and less superficial than removing a band-aid, and when Bruce tries his leg, doesn’t reach deep enough into the muscle to be a hindrance.

He nods, and sketches a few kicks, before stretching in satisfaction.

“You should take it easier,” Tim says. He’s showered already, put the Batsuit where Alfred will take care of it and he doesn’t have to see it.

Fuck should, gashes through Bruce’s mind.

“I’m good.”

Bruce isn’t so eager to take off the Robin suit, even to wash off the grime of patrol. The cape weights familiarly on his shoulders, but – when he shoots a testing punch in the air – it could snap faster with his movements. If it were just a smidgen lighter, or if he balanced a weight line at the hem, down. Sometimes Batman uses his cape to blind his opponents; Bruce rather imagines using the weighted hem to strike. Maybe add tiny blades to the rim?... He toys with the idea like he would with ‘rangs, something sharp and pretty, before reluctantly discarding it. The risks of cutting himself with it are just too high.

Tim’s lips thin.

Bruce,” he intones.

It should be another name in that tone, and that it’s not is blatantly unfair.

Bruce grits his teeth.

What?

A sequence of rapid moves has taken him into the halo of light surrounding the Case, setting it apart from the rest of the Cave as surely as an abyss.

But Tim doesn’t say any of the things Batman would, that’s enough or we’ve got a long day ahead of us, go get some rest. He doesn’t call him Robin.

“Nothing,” he looks away and sighs, shoulders sagging like Batman’s are never permitted to. “It’s late, I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Sure.”

When Bruce is alone, Tim retired to the room Alfred prepared for him, he takes the rest of the costume off with sharp, neat moves, and drops it on one of the benches. He longer feels tired, fresh adrenaline replacing sleepiness. Still a few hours before sunrise. Seems stupid to waste them.

He doesn’t want to sleep anyway, not in the big, empty bed of the master bedroom.

The mask in the Case winks at him, and his hands fist in determination before he realizes it.

The old costume fits him better. The streaks of dried blood on his leg look like a bad rash; he’s going to have to be a lot more careful if he doesn’t want Alfred to ask questions, tomorrow. But that’s training too.

And besides, he wants to see Gotham.

He pushes a bunch of street-clothes into a bag pack, straps a knife to his back, and liberates a bike. The mask protects his eyes, and the wind whizzes past his ears just right.

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October 2014

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