Skirting the Edge
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel or DC Comics featured within this work of fiction. This is one of the longer stories in the series I’ve decided to name Breeches and Blades. It is a direct sequel to “So, a Superhero, huh?” Warnings: language, a little violence, slash – mostly in later chapters. Timeline: AtS: post S5, DC continuity – post Teen Titans #12, post Robin #120 Team Player Skirting the Edge
After dealing with the force of nature known only as 'Impulse' for two years, one would think Timothy Drake was used to the strange and rash decisions the young superhero would make on a whim. However, he had allowed a part of himself to relax slightly once the young speedster had donned his new 'Kid Flash' persona. The rest of him was cursing that part of himself for forgetting that both Impulse and Kid Flash were still Bart Allen. And Bart Allen would always have a little Impulse in him no matter what costume he wore.
"You did what?"
Bart seemed to realise that Tim was just a bit ticked off at him and shrunk back. The rest of the Titans looked on in fascination, though Cassie and Kon were backing away slowly. Raven looked vaguely uncomfortable under her hood while Gar glanced nervously between the two teens. Kory stood ready to interfere should things get out of hand and Vic frowned, perhaps hoping the two of them would realise the foolishness of fighting. He was supposed to be the leader here, but Tim sometimes forgot that. Of course, now probably wasn't the best time to remind the ruffled Robin of that small fact.
"You can't just go around giving out visitor security passes to random people, no matter how impressed you are. You know nothing about him besides his name; that he supposedly has super strength; grew up in LA and was on semester break from Stanford."
"He did help me out with the kidnappers though," Bart protested in a small voice.
Tim didn't even bother pointing out the flaw in logic there. As intelligent as Bart was, and Tim wasn't denying Bart was smart, he still lacked certain preservation instincts. He wasn't being paranoid; it was just basic superhero common sense to not reveal your powers to a complete stranger in the middle of a kidnapping. He didn't say this aloud of course, he had some tact and telling Bart his flaws would be counter-productive at the moment.
Tim just rubbed at his temple and started to explain. "Bart ... you can't trust just anyone."
"I know that!" Bart glared at him. "I'm not stupid."
"I wasn't saying that."
"I know why I wear a mask, Max managed to get that through to me before he ..." Bart looked away and Tim felt a little guilty at the way things were progressing. "It's just, he was sincere and he helped out. I really thought Connor would make a good part of the team."
Tim didn't reply to this, turning his gaze away from his teammate's bright yellow eyes. Maybe he was being overly paranoid, but he'd been burned too many times because of trusting too much. He didn't want Bart, or anyone, to have to learn that lesson the hard way.
Seeing that things were starting to calm between the two, Cyborg stepped in. "Robin, I understand your concerns, but why don't we let things play out for now. We've done a check and the kid's background was fine. I'm not saying that Bart's actions were right, but his instincts seem to be. I doubt this kid's a threat."
"I'd like to judge that myself." Tim swept out of the room, intimidating his friends with that action far more than his mentor ever could.
"Don't you think you were a little harsh, man?"
Tim glanced at his best friend from under his mask then returned his gaze to the white glare of the computer screen before him. Kon-el was standing in his doorway, arms folded imperiously over his wide chest, ineffectively hiding the red 'S' that defined his very being. Kon's life was his superhero identity – Conner Kent was the mask/disguise – he should know what Tim was talking about back in the meeting. Instead, he was here, frowning and disapproving.
It was a sight Tim was slowly becoming resigned to.
"I don't think so," he replied, cursing himself as he did so. Kon wouldn't shut up now. And though usually that wouldn't inspire negative feelings in Tim, lately their conversations had consisted of mostly sniping and bitterness.
Sure enough, Kon slipped into his room and shut the door firmly behind him. Tim's heartbeat jolted involuntarily and he snuck a look at Kon to see if it had been noticed. By the downcast expression on the half-Kryptonian's face, it had been.
"You don't have to be afraid of me Tim."
Tim let his hands fall from the keyboard and he tried not to wince. "I'm not," he promised. "I'm just a little on edge. Things have been strained lately."
Kon managed a bitter laugh. "You think?" Tim's jaw clenched, but Kon refused to back down this time. "Things have been strained with you for a while, Tim. You're completely cold to me – to all of us – and I'm sick of it. You've assured me it's not the Luthor thing, which I've only just started to believe and I know that despite that tongue-lashing you gave Bart out there, it's nothing to do with him or his sudden fashion shift. If I didn't know better, I'd say you didn't want to be here at all. You don't socialise, you barely talk to me civilly any more, you don't laugh." Kon swallowed hard before asking, "Do you even consider us friends any more?"
Silence permeated the air while Tim struggled to answer.
"That pause isn't very reassuring." Hearing the dry croak in Kon's voice had Tim's head shooting up to meet his best friend's pain-filled blue eyes.
"Of course we're friends." Tim still didn't get up from his seat before the computer desk and Kon was still looking at him with suspicion. "I'm not ... I'd never give up my friendship with you – with all of you. I do want to be here."
"Then what the hell's with the 'tude?"
As much as Kon was struggling to understand, Tim was struggling to explain. "I ... there are things going on ..."
"I can help!" Kon shot forward in a blink, grabbing Tim's hand as he knelt before him: eyes level. "Anything you need, I can do, just tell me."
Tim bit his lip, the most telling display of emotion Kon had seen from him in weeks. "I ..." he stared at their hands – both ungloved and joined. Eyes widening behind his mask he tugged his hand back. "I can't." Straightening up in his chair, he turned back to face his monitor. "I don't need your help with this problem. I'm sorry if I'm acting strange, I'll try to sort things out so they don't affect you as much."
With the sudden drop in temperature in the room, Tim absently wondered if Kon had somehow mastered a new freeze-breath power. Kon stood back up, his eyes as glacial at the tension surrounding them.
"That's not the fucking issue here," Kon spat. "You'd think that, as friends, we could open up to each other – trust each other. But that's never the case with you, is it? I pour my heart out to you, but you think you're above needing others and asking for help?" Kon shook his head. "You never fucking change. I can be Robin's
best friend, but Tim's not allowed to play." Tim refused to look at him and Kon made a disgusted noise and opened the door.
Kon couldn't resist one last parting line. "That may be how things work in Gotham, but us Titans are family. And I'm not the one you need to apologise to."
Tim flinched imperceptibly as the door slammed.
Kon did have a point. Actually, he had many points, most of them valid. But he didn't know – couldn't
know – or understand. Sometimes you had to keep secrets. Not all problems could be shared.
It was only as he was turning back to the keyboard to resume his work that Tim realised he had been unconsciously stroking the hand Kon had grabbed earlier. Glancing around frantically, he spotted his gloves and tugged them on, not caring that it would make his typing difficult and sluggish. He took a deep breath and straightened in his seat completely, running a hand over his face and clearing his mind before returning to the problem at hand.
There was a distinct lack of evidence needed to investigate the teenager thoroughly. It was quite a challenge. Robin smiled slightly as he took it up; pushing all thoughts and concerns over the secrets he kept from his families to the back of his mind where they belonged.