The house bustled around him while Tim barricaded himself in his room trying to pretend this wasn’t happening. He didn’t want this to happen, none of them had done anything to deserve this, but Dick assured him there was nothing any of them could do about it. He tried to tell Tim that it wasn’t that bad, that it would all work out in the end, but Tim knew he was just as scared as he was.
That didn’t mean that Tim had to like it, and he didn’t. He hated it. More than anything he had ever felt in his life, he hated this. He hated that he wasn’t going to be seeing his brother for such a long time and he hated the idea of Dick seeing him cry when he was going away to do something so brave.
There was no reason for Dick to be the one to go. He had just finished medical school a few months ago and they should still be celebrating. He was supposed to be working at a hospital so that Tim wouldn’t have to see any of the other doctors and he was supposed to be trying to teach Tim words that he didn’t understand from his textbooks. This wasn’t supposed to be when they told him goodbye.
Tim slowly got up from his bed to peek out to his window and saw Dick loading his bag into the back of his car. Bruce was as distressed as he was and he didn’t know what to do other than hug his oldest son and hope that he came back home safe. It suddenly struck Tim that if he didn’t go down right now the last thing he might have seen of his older brother was the back of his head, the very last thing he might see, and when Dick quickly looked up to where he knew Tim would be, Tim dropped the curtains in his hand.
Watching the trunk close as Dick turned back to Bruce, Tim sprinted out of his room and threw himself at his older brother yelling, “You have to come back. You have to, Dick. You have to.”
He even let Dick see him cry because this might be the very last time he saw Dick and he needed to know just how much Tim loved him.
A little taken aback by the show, Dick let himself fall on the ground and properly lifted his little brother into a tight hug. Rubbing the nine year old’s back until he stopped shivering, Dick promised him, “It’ll be okay. Don’t worry, Timmy. It’ll be okay.”
Dick’s assurance wasn’t good enough and Tim tried to change his mind for the hundredth time. “I’ll do anything you want. I’ll make your bed, I’ll clean your car, I’ll do anything as long as you don’t go, Dick.”
Looking over to their dad who was trying to hide just how much he cared while he looked over the engine of the car to make sure it was working perfectly, Dick ruffled Tim’s hair before explaining, “This is what brothers are for, Tim. There are a lot of people who need my help, some of them are older than Dad and some are small than you, but they need my help and-”
“I don’t care, Dick. You’re my older brother and that means you have to stay with me, not them.” That wasn’t entirely true, Tim cared about them and he felt bad that they were getting hurt, but he cared about his older brother much, much more.
Sighing as he brought their foreheads together, Dick whispered, “Tim. There’s nothing good about what it going to happen, absolutely nothing, but it’s something I have to do. I don’t want you to know all of the details, but it something I can do to make the world a little better.”
Letting Tim down before he stepped up and ruffled his hair, Dick explained simply, “It’s just something older brothers do for their little ones.”
Tim accepted his explanation but he still wept into Bruce’s shoulder as he watched the most important person in his world drive away from him. He had absolutely no idea how he was going to make it through this, but he knew it would be nothing compared to what Dick was doing.
Deciding that he could take over Dick’s room while he was away, Tim went through his closet with something very particular in mind. It wasn’t with his other clothes, but he did find it thrown over one of his chairs. It was a jacket Dick had gotten years ago, surprising it still wearable, and he couldn’t remember from where but he liked it. Staring into his mirror, Tim saw just how ridiculous he looked in Dick’s jacket. It went all the down to his knees and the sleeves made his arms unworkable so he knew it would take too long for him to grow into it. Nonetheless, Tim decided it was his jacket now and he went back to his room to begin drafting his letter to Dick.
He told him about everything that had changed since he was gone, absolutely nothing, but Ace had stayed up late that night waiting for him to come back. Alfred was still getting used to making less food for dinner, but it mostly meant Tim got to eat even more. He debated for a moment whether or not he should mention how he had decided to sleep with Bruce, he hadn’t even told Bruce yet, but he didn’t want Dick thinking that he had replaced him so soon.
The nights ended up being the easy part, Tim had his dad there to comfort him and an endless supply of things that smelled like his older brother, but in the morning he was crushed by just how lonely he felt.
He begged Dick to let him find someone who would bring him home, their dad had a lot of friends and there was no reason Dick couldn’t come back as soon as he wanted, but Dick always told him, ‘This is what older brothers do for their little ones.’
Sometimes Tim wished Dick didn’t love him this much, that he didn’t feel the need to go somewhere else doing who knows what to prove it to him. It always came up on birthdays, holidays, and milestones, but Tim knew he wouldn’t be the same person if Dick wasn’t there for him. He also knew Dick wouldn’t have become the kind of person he was know if he didn’t have a little brother to bounce his love off of. He had seen it when Dick was teaching him how to throw a baseball pitch and get the perfect spin on a football and he had seen it when Dick snuck him candy even when Alfred warned them against it. He had seen it when Dick fought off some of the people making fun of Tim in school and he had seen it when Bruce decided Tim needed to practice sleeping by himself because Dick was too old to share a bed with a kid but instead Dick always left his door open as an invitation for Tim to sneak in whenever he needed to. Everyone pretended that they didn’t know about the practice, but it was hard to miss Tim’s footsteps making their way down the hall as he tried to warn Dick he was coming in. So sometimes Tim wished Dick didn’t love him as much, but he was never ungrateful for having the best older brother in the world.
At one point, Tim wasn’t too sure when, but at one point they had stopped counting how many days Dick had been away and starting counting the days until he was coming back. It ended up being two years. Two full years since Tim had seen his older brother and he didn’t know how much longer he would have been able to last.
There was only one day left. Tomorrow he would be making his way to the airport to meet Dick and he now realized this was going to be the hardest day as he couldn’t bring himself to sit still. Tim didn’t even know if he would fall asleep tonight.
Tim decided there was some more stuff he wanted to get done and the first was to make sure Dick wouldn’t know he had taken up sleeping in his bed when he felt lonely. He rearranged some of the papers on his desk and threw around some of his clothes around so it would just as messy as Tim had found it. He had also urged Alfred to clean the jacket because he wanted Dick to see how much he had grown in the last few years.
Making his way downstairs to eat a meal before he began helping Alfred bake a cake, Tim was struck by just how silent it was. He didn’t find anyone in the kitchen or the living, but their breakfast was already set out. Tim peeked around to see if they were anywhere else, but he found the front door open.
Cautiously walking out to see what was going on, Tim found his family standing and looking at nothing. He took his place beside Alfred and asked, “Why aren’t we eating breakfast?”
Giving him a genuine smile, Alfred picked Tim up and let him wrap his arms around his neck for support. Tim still didn’t know what they were waiting for, maybe it was practice for when Dick came tomorrow, but he grew tired very quickly. Nuzzling his head into the crook of Alfred’s neck, Tim decided to wait until something important happened.
That something ended up being a car that was coming up their driveway and hearing the driver honk the horn Tim turned around. He couldn’t see the driver or the passenger but soon the car came to a stop before them and the front door opened.
Ace was the first one to react and he leapt out from his place to circle the car, but Bruce told him to stay by the side as he went into the back to tackle get out a wheelchair. He brought it up to the passenger seat before unfolding it and opening the door and as soon as Tim saw Dick sitting there, he fought off Alfred’s hold and went out to throw himself onto his older brother. He grasped onto his neck and repeated, “You’re back, Dick you’re back,” until it made more sense to him.
Laughing as the eleven year old began crying with just how many emotions were running through him, Dick rocked Tim until he was finished crying and brought his face up to his. “Wow, you’ve grown so much while I was gone.”
Bruce gave the two of them a moment before he asked Tim to step out of the seat. Completely taken aback as Bruce tried to separate the two of them, Tim sat up on Dick’s lap defiantly. Turning back to Dick as he waited for him to carry him back into the Manor, Tim saw Dick deflate. Urging him to give him an explanation, Tim asked, “Is something wrong, Dick?”
Running a hand through Tim’s hair, Dick told him, “I need you to get off my lap for a second, just for a quick moment, okay?”
Not feeling up to arguing with his older brother when he had just gotten back, Tim stepped out beside Ace and watched confused as Bruce helped Dick get into the wheelchair. Once Dick was settled, he motioned for Tim to come by him and pulled him back onto his lap. Seeing the questioning look on his face and knowing he wanted to ask him questions, Dick explained, “I hurt my knee, Timmy, so I’m going to have to use this for a while.”
Looking down to Dick’s knee, Tim asked him, “What happened?”
Turning up to Bruce to see if he could tell him, Dick got a silent nod and explained, “Someone shot me in the knee, Tim. That’s why I had to come back early and it means I will have to stay off of my legs for a little while.”
Tim dropped his gaze and looked at his hands while he considered what he had just heard. Knowing that he wanted him to be perfectly honest, Tim mumbled, “I feel weird because I’m happy you’re back but that means I’m happy that you got hurt.” Afraid of his answer, Tim looked up to Dick and asked, “Are you going to be able to walk again?”
Kissing the top of his head, Dick assured him, “This is only temporary. Bruce and I already talked to some doctors and they said I’ll be perfectly fine in a few months. Don’t worry about me little brother.”
Leaning up so only Dick could hear, Tim cupped his hands and whispered, “That’s what little brothers do for their big brothers.”