This should go up on AO3 soon and I’ll add the link. I’m still on official hiatus from fic prompts and chapter updates, but I’m writing other things as I have time and inspiration strikes. This was spawned out of a brief conversation about a specific line of dialogue and it was fun to write. It got sappy and I do not apologize.
Tim Drake + Bruce Wayne
Rated T for Language
The Batmobile roared into the Cave and the engine cut-off, plunging the bay into silence. Only voices from the medical unit carried over when Batman leapt out of the car.
“How is he?” he called, pulling back his cowl as he hurried up the steps.
“Dazed and a little incoherent,” came Alfred’s reply. “I’m still assessing him now.”
Bruce had been on patrol with Damian when Oracle had informed him over the comm that Tim had been taken back to the cave with a head injury of unspecified severity. Cassandra had found him and then had fallen silent on the comms after letting Oracle know.
He climbed the steps to see Tim perched on the edge of the gurney, a bucket in his hands. It looked freshly rinsed. Cass was sitting on the countertop with her arms wrapped around her folded legs. Alfred was prepping a CT scanner they’d invested in after an earlier nasty head wound.
“Is Robin with you?” Alfred asked, glancing over as Bruce took in the scene.
“He’s with Batgirl,” Bruce said, not taking his eyes off Tim.
“Miss Cassandra might appreciate your help in engaging Master Timothy’s attention.”
“Listen,” Cass said, when Bruce took a step closer to them. Tim had still not noticed his arrival, or if he had, he had given no indication of it. “Tim. Tell me again. Becoming Robin.”
“So,” Tim said, his word slurred. He leaned forward over the bucket and nearly toppled off the gurney. Cass slid forward, a tangle of limbs unfurling and stretching toward him in the same instant Bruce put a hand on Tim’s shoulder and gently pushed him upright again.
“So,” Tim repeated, “you know, you know the first part.”
“Green. Girls. Fast cars,” Cass supplied, weight braced on her hands on the countertop. She held her body aloft, an inch above the surface, by her splayed palms.
Bruce’s heartbeat stuttered, knowing and hating this origin story. He loved Tim but he tried not to think often of why Tim was there.
“Exaaaactly,” Tim said. “Gone. So, B, you know B, he’s a fucking disaster. Like Cass you don’t even know how bad. He was erratic and violent and reclusive like a baby kangaroo. Cass, don’t laugh at me, I’m serious,” Tim’s voice took on a pleading tone and Cass was in fact, giggling behind her hands. She’d dropped back to the counter to cover her face. “Baby kangaroos are dangerous, Cass. They have really strong legs but they hide, too,” Tim sounded near tears.
“Okay,” she said, consoling. Bruce felt like he wasn’t doing much to help other than ensuring Tim wouldn’t topple over, but he was also reluctant to miss the rest of the story from Tim’s perspective.
“He was hiding and I knew where to find him,” Tim said. “I snuck in. Who gives a fuck about rules, not me. I never have. Anyway I found him, and he was all like, ‘What are you doing here, punk? Aren’t you Jack Drake’s kid?’”
Bruce had half-anticipated this part of the story, but he has not anticipated that Tim’s voice would rise to a falsetto while imitating Bruce’s lines instead of dropping to a lower octave. He had to stifle a sudden laugh.
Cass’ eyes were shining and Bruce realized belatedly she’d said “again” earlier. She had wanted him to hear this.
“Then what,” Cass prompted when Tim’s attention began to drift.
“Oh,” Tim said. “Oh yeah. So. So, I found him. And he was angry. But I just told him the truth. I said, ‘bitch, you need some kid to stabilize you, and I guess I have to be it.’”
Bruce, despite his twinges of guilt and amusement, could not actually argue with the truth of this summation.
“I seem to remember more pleading on your end, Master Timothy,” Alfred interjected a bit defensively.
“No, that’s pretty much it,” Bruce said with a wry grin. Cass beamed at him unabashedly.
Tim turned as if surprised and looked up at Bruce standing next to him.
“Hey, bitch,” he said in a sluggish tone. “I mean, Bruce,” he amended without apology.
“Hey, kid,” Bruce said. “They told me you hit your head.”
“That’s stupid,” Tim spit out bitterly. “Something else hit my head, not me. I’m not an idiot.”
“Brick wall,” Cass said.
“That,” Tim said forcefully, pointing a finger at her. “What Rainbow Daughter said.”
“True name,” Cass clarified for Bruce. “Secret.”
“The scanner is ready,” Alfred said. “Master Timothy, if you might lie back?”
“Try and make me,” Tim said. “I can go back out there. I’m fine!”
“Tim,” Bruce said, a little sternly, and Tim sighed and reclined on the bed, still clutching the bucket. “Has he been nauseous?” Bruce asked Alfred.
“No,” Tim answered. “I just like this bucket.”
“Ask him questions,” Alfred said. “Keep him awake, if you might.”
“Favorite dinosaur?” Cass asked before Bruce could think of anything.
“Velociraptor,” Tim answered with a scoffing noise. “What kind of question is that.”
“Movie?” Bruce asked and Cass gave him an alarmed expression. From inside the portable scanner Tim sniffled hard and bit back a sob.
“Dumbo,” he whispered a second later.
“Favorite happy film,” Alfred amended, giving Bruce a severe look. “One must specify.”
Cass added a reproving frown to this, and a nod, as if it was common sense.
Inside the machine, Tim sniffed again and answered in a steadier tone, “No such thing. Is Bruce still there?”
“Yes,” Bruce answered.
“Tell them. There are no happy films,” Tim insisted.
“I’m sure there are some happy films,” Bruce countered slowly, looking to see Alfred’s still disapproving reaction to this concession.
“But you haven’t seen any,” Tim said sourly. “You can’t think of any. Art is misery.”
Bruce, who had been feeling slightly bewildered by his apparently massive misjudgment moments before, knew immediately that this was something he could salvage.
“That isn’t true,” he argued, ignoring the absurdity of disagreeing with a stubborn teenager who had a probably massive concussion. “What about the photo essay on abandoned research labs in Gotham?”
“The one I did for Wired?” Tim asked hesitantly. “Yeah, that was fun.”
In the corner of Bruce’s line of sight, Cass bit her lip to hold back a pleased smile.
“Nikon or Canon?” Bruce asked next, dragging a wheeled stool over to the gurney and sitting down.
“Digital or traditional?” Tim asked, his whole body now otherwise still.
“Both,” Cass said. “I guessed.”
“Canon for digital, Nikon for traditional,” Tim said. “Were you right?”
“Yes,” Cass said quietly, despite having no proof of this. Bruce didn’t doubt her. He himself had been fairly certain.
“Hell yes,” Tim said triumphantly. “Sibs know shit.”
“Sibs know shit,” Cass repeated solemnly, like it was a vow of some kind. For all the weight they gave it, Bruce supposed it might have been.
“I’m gonna sleep,” Tim announced with a yawn. “It’s so cold in here.”
“Tim,” Bruce said, instead of trying to persuade him otherwise. “Which USSR camera model did you prefer?”
“You don’t remember that,” Tim said as if it were obvious fact. “No way.”
“Of course I do,” Bruce said, because he did.
“Zorki-6,” Tim said with a fond sigh.
“Why?” Bruce asked, because he wanted to keep him talking and because he’d always been curious about the antique camera Tim had spent a long spring season taking everywhere. He’d come to Bruce’s office after school most afternoons to sit on the couch and do homework and fiddle with the settings. He’d take pictures from the window, or traipse around the building with the camera, and develop them in the darkroom at the manor afterward instead of going home. But Bruce has never asked– Tim had been skittish about his art then, likely to tuck it away if anyone paid attention.
“Because no one else that I knew had one,” Tim said. “And it smelled like your old briefcase.”
Bruce was so acutely aware of Cass sitting nearby and Alfred beside him overseeing the machine as it powered down that it didn’t take much effort to retain his face’s composure, but there was a moment where it nearly broke in surprise and sentimental warmth.
“Good smell,” Cass said.
“Hell yes,” Tim said again. “One of the best. Like vanilla extract.”
Bruce was frozen on the stool while they discussed this and he exchanged a look with Alfred that told him, without words, that his semblance of facial control was likely a myth.
“Ew,” Cass said. “Bitter.”
“I told you, you can’t taste it,” Tim said. “Extract is gross to taste.”
The machine rolled back and Tim was prone on the bed, still, the small bin wrapped in his arms.
“This is just a cursory glance,” Alfred said, “but I don’t see anything concerning. His heart rate is still a tad elevated.”
A suspicion bloomed in Bruce’s mind and his frozen limbs moved again. He slid the stool down toward Tim’s head and leaned over the bed, looking into the boy’s face.
“Tim. How many shots of espresso did you get in your red eye tonight?”
“Oh,” Tim said, thinking. “Before I fought with the wall.”
“Yes,” Bruce said, a smile quirking one side of his mouth.
“Uh,” Tim said, meeting Bruce’s gaze and then looking down at the bin. “You’re going to be pissed.”
“I won’t be,” Bruce said, promising to himself as much as Tim. “If you tell me, you might get to sleep soon.”
“I’m so tired,” Tim allowed. “Really. Like, it’s been days. Fudge. I’m so tired.”
“C’mon,” Bruce said, and he felt Cass move behind him before he saw her at his elbow.
Cass bent forward and kissed Tim’s forehead.
“You tell,” she said. “Or else.”
“Seven,” Tim whined with a hand over his eyes. “Seven, okay? And maaaaybe a Red Bull. I’m a robin. It gives me wings.”
“Well, that solves that mystery,” Bruce said, sitting up. “Al, mark this one down as a minor concussion and an excess of caffeine consumption.”
“Master Timothy,” Alfred said, aghast. “You ought to know better.”
“I said don’t be mad!” Tim protested.
“Master Bruce made such a promise,” Alfred replied sharply, with worry in his voice. “You will be staying here for a few days, is that understood?”
Tim nodded sullenly and stuck both arms in the air, suddenly, the bin clattering on the floor when it fell.
“Carry me,” he ordered. “I can’t feel my legs.”
Cass reached over and prodded his knee; Tim’s leg jerked away.
“Liar,” she said simply.
“I’m compromised.” Tim jiggled his arms, held out in a zombie-like fashion. “Somebody. I don’t want to sleep in the cave.”
Bruce stood up and slid an arm under Tim’s shoulders and another under his knees. Tim slumped against him, unresisting, as he straightened.
“Night, Timmy,” Cass called from her reclaimed perch on the counter while Alfred muttered under his breath. When Bruce glanced back, she’d scooted down to hug the older man around the neck and Alfred patted her hands.
“How bad is your headache?” Bruce asked as he climbed the steps in the cave.
“Middling,” Tim mumbled against the batsuit Bruce was still wearing.
“And anxiety?” Bruce prompted next, knowing from experience the side effects of that much caffeine. He’d gotten a few stern lectures from Alfred when he hadn’t been much older than Tim.
“Um,” Tim said, “pretty shitty. How’d you know?”
“When was the last time you asked me to carry you?” Bruce questioned in reply. “I think the answer is probably never.”
“I was serious about my legs. They fell asleep,” Tim said, his head still turned against Bruce’s chest as Bruce side-stepped through the narrow door. The boy sounded almost asleep already, but more lucid than earlier. “I didn’t want to fall in front of you guys.”
“Hm,” Bruce said. He rounded the corner and began climbing the second set of stairs. Tim had never, even with muscle, been very heavy.
“I miss you,” Tim mumbled when they reached the top. “I try really hard not to be bitter about Damian, but I miss how things were before. When it was us.”
“Me, too,” Bruce said, knowing he meant it and that no one else was around to hear. He knew Damian would take it the wrong way and was glad he was still out, but he felt the same way about each of them as Robin. He did miss the days when he was out on the rooftops with Tim.
“I know it wouldn’t be the same,” Tim said, as if consoling himself.
“Handle,” Bruce prompted, stopping at the door.
Tim flopped his hand over and swung it wildly around, reaching without looking. When his fingers landed on the knob, he turned and his grip slipped off.
“It’s locked,” he complained. “I don’t know where I left the key.”
“I can kick it open,” Bruce said, considering. “But Alfred might be upset. I could pick the lock. Or we can go down the hall and you can steal my bed for the night.”
“Where would you sleep?” Tim demanded groggily, and Bruce took that as his cue and headed further down the hall.
“The couch in my office,” Bruce said. “Or a guest room.”
“Your bed has good pillows,” Tim mumbled when Bruce worked the knob with his knee and pushed the door open. He carried Tim across the room to the bed and stood there for a moment, then dropped him abruptly onto the comforter.
“Bruce,” Tim complained, laughing. He crawled under the covers until all but the top of his head had disappeared and from under the thick blankets, he sighed.
Bruce sat on the edge of the side table and reached over and ruffled Tim’s hair.
“You did stabilize me, you know,” he said quietly.
“I know,” Tim said in a drifting tone.
“You can’t keep doing this, Tim,” Bruce said when Tim rolled over and pressed his hand against Bruce’s outstretched hand. “Come by my office. Or we can patrol. But you need sleep. And less caffeine.”
Tim nodded and yawned.
“Okay,” he said. “Sorry.”
“You’re a good kid, Tim,” Bruce added. He wished he said it more often.
“You too, bitch,” Tim said, and then he giggled. It sounded young and childish coming from him. “Sorry. Sorry. I mean, thanks. My heart is still going crazy.”
It was Bruce’s turn to yawn.
“You okay?” he asked. “I need to get out of this suit.”
“Mhm,” Tim said. “M’good. Night, Bruce.”
“Goodnight, Tim,” Bruce answered, standing. “Shout if you need something.”
The answer was a soft snore. Bruce closed the door behind him and stopped to pick the lock to Tim’s door on the way down the hall.
Criminals, by nature, are a cowardly and superstitious lot. To instill fear into their hearts, I became a bat. A monster in the night. And in doing so, have I become the very thing that all monsters become…alone?