Bruce was restless as he watched Dick and Tim enamored in a show they were watching from Tim’s bed. It was well past Tim’s regular bedtime, but without Alfred in the house they all knew it was an opportunity for Tim to test the rules. He had done so this morning when he refused to fix his hair as Bruce instructed and again a few hours ago when he tried to barter out his daily bath. Bruce was thankful that Tim was comfortable in his charge, but sometimes he missed the little boy who always listened to what he said.
Trying again to get Tim to sleep, Bruce said, “I’m serious boys, I have work to do and I can’t have you awake the whole time.”
Dick immediately recognized the voice as something between Bruce and Batman and took it as his cue to go to the cave. Bruce still insisted on him doing all of his stretches before they went out and if he stayed in Tim’s room any longer he’d have to spend even more time in the cave making it up to Bruce. Last time he’d done something like this it had ended with him trying to keep his balance on the tail of the dinosaur for half an hour. His feet began to feel sore just at the memory of that day. Dick was prepared for Tim’s disappointment when he said, “He’s right, Tim. It’s time for bed and we should turn in.”
Tim looked between Dick and Bruce and laughed to himself. He didn’t know how the best detective in the world still didn’t know that an eight year old knew his secret. A long time ago he’d decided that he’d keep Bruce’s secret as long as he could, he’d learned a long time ago just how much bruce valued his pride, but it was getting harder and harder not to blurt it out.
As Dick climbed out of his bed and rushed out to change into his uniform, Bruce ducked down to Tim’s level and helped him get into position for sleep. Bruce knew he had a few more minutes and he spent it making sure Tim was tucked tightly enough that he wouldn’t be able to break out anytime soon. It had happened once or twice that he’d be walking around the Manor for a domestic patrol to make sure everything was fine and find Tim sneaking around behind some decor. Once he could see Tim’s eyes drooping down, Bruce stroked his hair hoping to lull him farther. “Good night, Tim. I hope you have a good night’s rest.”
Going back between sleep and awake, Tim knew he had to say something back and murmured, “Bye bye, Batman.”
Shocked, Bruce stiffened at his position by Tim’s side and felt his hand in the boy’s hair tightening. It was only when Tim shifting too look at him annoyed that Bruce stood up and began pacing. There were so many questions he needed the answer to and some he didn’t, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to make a lot of progress with Tim so close to dozing off and a patrol to get to. Even when he tried to say something he only managed to make a choking sound until he could force himself to calm down. It took him far too long to say, “We’ll talk about this in the morning,” and close the door behind him.
Alone in his room, Tim groaned as he realized how much of his secret he’d given away. He’d been hoping to keep the knowledge to himself until he was in trouble and then use it to his leverage.
For Bruce the knowledge that Tim knew the most well kept secret in Gotham lead to many dangerous possibilities. There was a chance Tim was a spy sent from an enemy, the US government or even Ra’s, to keep tabs on his movement and any developments. If he was being honest, he could see a few of the more desperate figures in the many mobs in Gotham doing something like this hoping to find a way to get some money out of him. Tim could also be a metahuman with superior hearing or an ability to read minds, but Bruce doubted he would have missed the signs up until now. The most troubling theory that came to Bruce’s mind was that Tim was a villain by himself, either someone pretending to be a young boy or a person with the mind of an adult and the body of a child, and this was simply a ploy to defeat Batman from the inside. There was always the possibility that Tim was a regular young boy, probably smarter than most, and had accidentally come across the knowledge himself. It was the most appealing theory to Bruce as it was the only one that let him keep the boy around.
Nonetheless, Bruce had an interrogation to prepare for in the morning.