Author: Aravis Tarkheena
Pairing: Tim Drake (Robin III)/Zachary Zatara
Warnings: Suggestive dialogue, mentions of violence, blood
Disclaimer: Not mine, everyone's legal
Word Count: 3,500ish
Author's Notes: Thanks to scottyquick for the beta. First story in the Sir Zachary Series.
A Gentleman Never Tells
Zachary Zatara’s annoyance grew tenfold when he stepped out of the transporter into the Batcave only to find it deserted. Wonder Girl had assured him that Robin spent several hours in the ‘Cave after his patrol. It was sometime after three in the morning and Robin was nowhere to be found.
“Hello!” he called out, not bothering to keep the aggravation out of his voice. The only response to his shout was the loud flutter of bat wings as a flock of them, disturbed by his cries, took flight and fled skyward. Zatara stifled a shudder and shot the bats a dirty look as he moved further into the Cave.
He had never been in the Cave before, but it was pretty clear that Robin was making a number of renovations. Several areas were cordoned off by large sections of shelving and tarps were hung liberally around several large embankments. Tools and workbenches littered small alcoves and the air smelled vaguely of saw dust and dry wall.
It was cool in the Batcave and damp. As Zatara made his way through the structure, he stared around in awe and no small amount of perplexity. The computers, medical bed and lab equipment he could understand, the giant dinosaur and massive penny made no sense at all.
As he made his way further into the ‘Cave he heard the sound of running water coming from one corner. Zatara followed his ears and found a small grotto carved into the cave wall. Dim light was pouring through and Zatara entered it to find a room that looked very much like the locker rooms he remembered from gym class in high school.
There was a row of closets, a large blue area rug and a bench that was littered with pieces of the dirty remains of Robin’s uniform. He followed the trail of discarded Kevlar and gloves to another opening in one wall. The dark carpet gave way to an off white tiled floor. Steam curled out through the entrance way and the air got warmer and thicker as Zatara approached.
“Robin! It’s Zatara, Wonder Girl sent me to grab some files from you,” he called into the shower room. Zatara felt unaccountably nervous as he peered into the room at Robin. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen another naked man before. Eddie seemed to spend as much time as he could reasonably pull off at least mostly naked. It was the idea of seeing a naked Bat was different. Eddie maintained that they did not count as humans and Zatara was starting to agree.
He couldn’t see inside very well. The wall of steam was very thick and everything looked a little blurry around the edges. Both of the side walls were tiled in the same off white color and there were three taps on each one. The shower head nearest the door, on Zatara’s right, was on full blast, streaming water and misty steam over Robin.
Robin’s body twisted and contorted oddly as Zatara squinted through the heavy fog.
“Uh, Robin?” Zatara called again, feeling completely wrong footed and wishing he wasn’t there. Wonder Girl had told Eddie, Jaime and him that she didn’t care which of them went to the Cave to talk to Robin, just that it had to be one of them. They had finally settled the matter over a game of Rock Paper Sissors.
Zatara had never been particularly good at Rock Paper Sissors.
“Yes, I hear you!” Robin snapped back at him. He flicked off the taps and turned around to shoot Zatara a glare.
“I’ll make you a deal, if you get this piece of glass out of my back, I’ll give you anything you want.” Robin’s voice was low and frustrated. He pursed his lips and gave Zatara an expectant glower.
“Uh, ok,” Zatara found himself answering meekly as he stepped further into the shower, careful of his footing. His dress shoes didn’t offer much in the way of traction and the tile was slippery from water and soap.
He swallowed hard as he followed the waning trail of water, dyed pink from the blood that was still running down Robin’s back and legs, from the drain to the showerhead under which Robin stood. Zatara blinked hard in the steam and tried to clear his vision. Robin wasn’t wearing a mask and his eyes were heavy with exhaustion. There were large half circles under them dark enough to be bruises. Robin’s mouth was drawn tight, whether from annoyance or pain, Zatara couldn’t tell.
As Zatara drew close his face softened into tired resignation and he turned around, lifting his arms over his head, he used them to brace himself against the shower wall. He rested his forehead against the damp tile and leaned heavily into the wall.
Zatara dragged his gaze from the back of Tim’s head to the area of his back that still streamed blood. He had been studiously trying to avoid looking at the source of the bloody water, but now he had to look. It wasn’t that he was afraid or blood, or even that it grossed him out; it was more that he didn’t like to be reminded of how delicate people really were.
Zatara swallowed hard and stepped in close, trying hard not to think about what he was doing.
He knew how dangerous what they did was. His kidnapping had been something of an eye opener to him. He learned the hard way that what they did wasn’t a game.
From the looks of his back, Robin learned that lesson, too. Considerably more often and more brutally than Zatara. When he was kidnapped it was more the fear that had jarred him. There hadn’t been any pain aside from hunger.
Upon closer inspection of the area, Zatara realized that Robin had more than one piece of glass stuck into his back. The abraded area was about three inches long and an inch wide and in that exact spot on the back that you could never reach to scratch when it itched. Apparently it couldn’t be reached when it was pierced with glass, either.
Robin’s skin was glistening with glass and blood and still oozing tissue fluid.
“I think—“he started and then cleared his throat in an effort to steady his voice. “I think I might need a tweezers and some bandages. There’s more than one piece.”
Zatara watched Robin’s back rise and fall with a deep sigh. He stayed, for another split second, with his head drooping between his shoulders and posture slumped before pushing off the wall and heading towards the locker room.
Zatara followed him out, careful not to slip.
“What the hell happened to you, anyway?” he asked, trying to keep his voice light. It was difficult to feign levity while concentrating on not falling on your ass. At least that’s what he told himself. It was clear by the scars that littered his back and shoulders that Robin was injured all the time.
He was not concerned about Robin, Zatara told himself firmly. He just wasn’t. The guy could take care of himself.
“I got thrown through a window,” came the short reply, muffled as it was. Tim’s head was in one of the cabinets. He pulled out a dark burgundy towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he leaned over to grab a pair of dark blue flip flops from the bottom of the cabinet. He slipped his feet into the sandals and tossed Zatara a ‘are you coming’ look over his shoulder as he made his way out of the locker room and into the ‘Cave.
Zatara trailed behind the mostly naked Robin trying to come up with something clever to say. He had lost track of the times people had called him a smart ass. It wasn’t always fondly, but at this point he would have been glad for some scathing reply from Robin, if for nothing other than to break the silence.
Robin lead him over to an alcove with a medical table and some cabinets. He flicked on several large, very bright, over head lights and Zatara blinked hard as his eyes adjusted. Robin’s back bled slowly as he rifled around through the cupboards. He finally pulled out several items, dropped them into a bowl and handed it to Zatara. Then he grabbed an ancient looking rail back kitchen chair and sat on it backwards. Robin rested his arms along the back of the chair as he bent over, displaying his mangled back to best advantage under the bright lights.
Zatara felt himself go a little dizzy around the eyes and looked away from Robin’s back to peer into the bowl. It had a pair of tweezers, a roll of gauze, and some super huge band aids that he had seen several times in the drug store. Each time he wondered who the hell ever got cuts so big that they would need them.
Now he knew.
The crazy children of dead vigilantes.
Zatara reached into the bowl and grabbed the tweezers and a roll of gauze. He took a deep breath and rallied his resolve.
“Alright Wonder Boy, this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me,” he informed him, deliberately mangling his aphorisms.
Robin snorted softly in response and stiffened his shoulders in a way that suggested he wanted Zatara to get on with it.
“You know,” Zatara began chattering, in an effort to distract himself from what he was doing. “I never did get to play doctor when I was younger. I could never find anyone who would play with me.”
Zatara could almost hear Robin rolling his eyes.
“All the other five year olds were too smart for you, huh?” Robin teased back, but his voice was tight from pain and exhaustion.
Zatara pretended not to notice as he plucked a large piece of glass from Robin’s back and deposited it in the bowl before moving on to the next shard.
“Does this mean that you are, in fact, not smarter than my five year old play mates?” he asked Robin in dulcet tones.
He could see the small smile lift the corner of Robin’s face at his light jab.
“It’s been said that I lack some level of common sense,” Robin conceded with a tilt of his head.
“Yes, it has,” Zatara agreed, picking another piece of glass out of Robin’s back. “Loudly and at a very high pitch.”
“Wonder Girl likes to make her point clear,” Robin said sardonically.
“No kidding. Incidentally, do you think she might be interested in playing doctor with me?” he inquired but stopped abruptly as Robin hissed as he dug the tweezers in to grab a piece of glass.
“Shit, I’m sorry!” Zatara bit out through clenched teeth. “It’s just that the little bastard is so small and in so deep. I need to dig it out.”
“It’s fine,” Robin responded tightly and his shoulder muscles went hard as rocks as Zatara watched. “You just caught me off guard. Do you need me to find a needle so you can dig it out?”
Zarata felt his mouth go dry at the thought of digging around in Robin’s back with a needle.
“Uh, no, I should be fine. I think I almost have it. Just let me try again.”
Robin nodded and dropped his head to rest on his arms again.
As Zatara gazed at the back of Robin’s head, taking in the dutiful posture and the shoulders tensed in anticipation of pain, some of the feelings he had been holding at bay since seeing the exhausted expression on Robin’s face in the shower came flooding over him. Zatara was brash and he was arrogant, even he realized that, but he wasn’t a thoughtless person. Despite what some people might say he did feel things other than hubris.
Zatara was a magician. So he, like other young children, had grown up reading books about his culture and people. He read the tales of King Arthur and his Knights; he read Tolkin’s books and Lewis’. He read about the loyal Merlin, the noble Gandulf and the canny Professor Cornelius and somewhere along the way, Zachary Zatara had developed a sense of chivalry.
He hated to admit it and would vehemently deny it was true in the cold light of day, but deep down inside he knew he became a Titan because he really did want to help people.
It was this sense of chivalry, this sense of duty, which made him lie for Eddie. It was the same sense that made him want to help Robin when he asked, even when the other Titans made him miserable.
When all was said and done, Zatara liked Eddie and Robin and he was pretty sure they liked him too. So when Eddie asked him to lie, Zatara would lie and when Robin asked him to dig dirty shards of glass out of his bloody back, Zatara would gird his loins and do that too.
Both of them appealed to Zatara’s protective instincts, but in very different ways. Eddie just got a bad deal. Like one of those knights who runs into a fairy princess and gets elf touched. Only Eddie wasn’t crazy, Eddie was just royally screwed. It was Eddie’s own stupid fault most of the time, but Zatara felt bad anyway.
Robin was a different story. Robin was less Lanval and more Galahad. He wasn’t a date rape baby or anything, but he did seem to get seriously screwed over quite a bit despite his best efforts to help others and try to make the world a better place. So many of the people he loved had died and while Zatara was pretty sure he didn’t live in a proper nunnery, he was very certain the guy spent a lot of time in lonely isolation.
Also, Playing Doctor jokes aside, Zatara was pretty sure Robin was a virgin.
It took him another five minutes or so of mindless chatter and painful digging before Zatara was satisfied that all the glass shards were in the small, bloody bowl on the table edge beside them. He tried to apply the antiseptic as quickly as he could, a flash of guilt and worry shot through him at every hiss of pain and gasped breath Robin took.
He took his time with the band aids though, being sure to apply the adhesive edges to spots without bruising or abrasion. When he finally finished he leaned back and surveyed his work.
“All done. Boo-boo feel better?” he asked teasingly, as he wiped his fingers on a towel.
“No,” Robin answered harshly. “You just spent twenty minutes digging glass out of a cut on my back. Boo-boo does not feel better,” Robin mimicked caustically.
He came up behind Robin and leaned in close. “Want me to kiss it better?” he asked, sotto voce.
“You know, I know fifty seven different ways to maim you from this position?” Robin inquired conversationally.
“And I know fifty seven different ways to make you moan from this position. Wanna compare notes?” he shot back, a little surprised with himself. He had been flirting, mildly, with Robin all night, but that was kicking things up a notch.
Robin must have thought so, too.
He twisted his head around to give Zatara a shocked look. His eyes were wide and very blue. The bright lighting made his skin look paler and the dark circles under his eyes seem even darker. There was a new bruise forming across one of his cheek bones and a few small cuts marred the area just under his jaw line.
He looked exhausted and lonely and very delicate and Zatara mentally reminded himself that Robin was a Knight, not a damsel in distress.
Robin’s surprise quickly melted into amusement.
“On second thought, maybe you were right, after all. I shouldn’t have asked you to play doctor,” he teased as he levered himself tiredly to his feet.
Zatara feigned outrage.
“I was an excellent doctor! My bedside manner is without reproach.” he exclaimed and felt his stomach go warm when Robin smiled slightly.
“Yeah well, this appointment is over, Dr Zhivago. I’m going to grab some pants. Meet me by the main computer,” Robin instructed and wandered off somewhere into the darkness of the Cave.
Zatara followed a dull light to a large bank of computers, trying hard not to think of Robin being naked again somewhere in the Cave.
The flirting with Robin hadn’t been what surprised Zatara a few moments ago. What had surprised him most was that he meant it more than he had expected. He did want to make Robin moan. Almost as much as he wanted to make him smile again.
He seemed to appreciate Zatara’s particular brand of irreverent wit and Zatara was starting to wonder what it would take to get Robin to laugh. Suddenly, he very much wanted to hear Robin laugh. He wondered briefly when Robin had laughed last. Zatara got the impression it had been awhile.
Robin joined him again after a few moments wearing a pair of sweat pants and a shirt that looked like it had to be a few decades old. It was so thread bare Zatara could see the band aids through the back and it was more than a little tight around the shoulders.
It took Robin almost no time to find the files that Wonder Girl was looking for and print them out. He slipped them into a folder and handed it off to Zatara.
They walked back over to the transporter and, along the way, Robin explained about the dinosaur and the giant penny, among a few other things. Despite the fact that it was going on four in the morning and he was bone tired, Zatara felt reluctant to leave. He got the impression Robin wouldn’t have minded if he stayed a few extra minutes either. The place was huge and probably very lonely when you were the only one around.
“Zatara,” Robin called just before he stepped into the transporter. Zatara turned around to look back at Robin. His face was soft and he shot Zatara a grateful expression.
“Thanks for the assist. Before you showed up, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he admitted and Zatara swallowed hard. “Just don’t tell Wonder Girl I let you play doctor.”
He briefly considered making a lewd comment about being up for playing doctor with Robin any time, but thought better of it.
“A gentleman never tells,” he replied simply and stepped into the transporter.
In His Eyes