Brothers: Chapter 3

Even as he typed mindlessly at his laptop, making sure the security around the penthouse was up to date as he wouldn’t have as much free time once school started, Tim couldn’t help but glance out to through the window. He had an amazing view of the city, the New York skyline definitely outdid Gotham’s in almost every way, and he could only imagine what it would be like to swing from building to building. Every now and then he could just barely make out a figure he assumed to be Spider-Man and it only made him more anxious to leap out from his balcony.

It was a groan from Tommy a few feet away that drew Tim back into the real world and he watched as his brother tried to stumble between the furniture. His grasp of walking was getting better, he was more or less able to follow Tim around the apartment and lead on the walks through the park, but at just over a year old he still needed to support himself on furniture every now and then.

Tim returned the smile Tom shone his way, but immediately thought back to Tom’s daycare appointment a few hours before. Tom was getting along well with the other kids, starting to socialize as well as he could at his age, but Ms. Garrison did note he was somewhat quieter than the other kids. She’d stressed that it wasn’t anything to worry about, but her suggestion to talk as much as possible to introduce his little brother to new words was something he took to heart.

Closing the laptop and leaving it on the couch, Tim announced, “It’s time to take your bath little bro. We have a lot to get done tomorrow.”

Tom fought a little as Tim dragged him away from his blocks, mumbled a noise Tim assumed to be frustration, but lit up as Tim placed him in a tub with his waterproof ducks. It hadn’t taken Tim long to learn that they were the best way to keep him from crying in the bath, but it did also mean Tommy tried to stay in the bath as long as possible.

When the tub was had a few inches of water, Tim let Tom enjoy his duck as he worked some shampoo into his hair and explained, “You’re getting a haircut tomorrow, Tommy. We both are, but I guess it’s more special for you.” He didn’t know how Ra’s kept Tommy’s hair short, he might not have even needed a haircut being fresh out the pit, so Tim decided, “We’ll just call this your first hair cut. It doesn’t hurt at all, your hair is already dead any so you don’t have any pain receptors there, but I know some kids are scared. You should know there’s nothing at all to be scared of and you might even enjoy them later on..”

Tom didn’t say anything in response, probably because he didn’t know how and the duck was more interesting, so Tim settled for carefully washing the shampoo out of his hair and making sure none got in his eyes. Tim had only overlooked it once before he nkew not to make the mistake again or trust anything labeled ‘tear free.’

When Tommy was finally settled into his crib, Tim left him with his bottle and turned his attention to cleaning up. Tomorrow was going to be their last day of summer break and Tim wanted to keep everything in order so he wouldn’t have too much to focus on. The last thing he wanted to do was make more work for himself.

The appartment was already set up. Tim had a lot of free time without any work to do, even more once Tommy started daycare, and he was finished a few weeks after they’d moved in. Now his days mostly consisted of browsing the internet looking for anything interesting. In his more desperate moments he almost considered opening one of the textbooks just to have something to do while he was bored.

Deciding to sleep in on his last day of summer break, Tim was able to drown out the world until he heard his phone ring from under his pillow. His mind already hated just who would be ruining his last chance for a day in until he read Alfred’s name. He cautiously pulled it up to his ear as he asked, “Hello?”

“Master Tim, I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time,” Alfred said semi-honestly. It wasn’t that he wanted to inconvenience Tim, but after months of not seeing or hearing from him he didn’t care as much as he usually did.

“It’s no problem,” Tim said honestly. “I should have been up by now anyway. What’s up? Is everything okay?”

“Everything is fine, Master Tim. The reason I’m calling is that Gotham Academy sent your transcript to the Manor.”

Confused, Tim asked, “Was there something wrong? What does it say?”

Taking a moment to read off the paper, Alfred answered, “They intended to send it to a school in New York. Midtown Manhattan Magnet.” Although he had an answer in mind, Alfred asked sternly, “Do you know anything about this, Master Tim?”

Tim took a moment to come up with a passable lie, but he knew he couldn’t get it past Alfred if his tone meant anything. Instead he explained, “They must have sent it to the wrong address, Alfred. GA probably still has the Manor on my file and I never changed it.”

“Hmm,” Alfred said disappointed with the useless answer. “I planned on giving it to you in person, but your apartment was empty. Someone informed me you’d moved out months ago.”

“I-I’m sorry, Alfred,” Tim stuttered knowing he’d been caught red handed. “I know I said that I’d keep in contact…”

“I’m assuming you’ve moved to New York. If you don’t mind giving me the address I can bring the forms to you later today. I’ve been informed classes for your new school start tomorrow and we wouldn’t want you falling behind.” His tone spoke to how little room for argument he was willing to leave, but he knew Tim would try.

“You don’t have to do that, Alfred,” Tim said although he knew it would be useless. “I’m sure they sorted everything out considering they haven’t said anything to me and I wouldn’t want to put you through the trouble.”

“Better safe than sorry, Master Tim.”

“Then…I guess you could email me a scan,” Tim offered. “It would take a lot less time.”

Not wanting to let the opportunity go, Alfred bluntly stated, “I’m going to be coming over, Master Tim. It’s already been months since I’ve seen you last and I know better than to let this kind of behavior slip by.”

“Fine,” Tim said slowly. “Do you need the address?”

“No thank you, Master Tim. This call shows me right where you are although I would need the apartment number.”

Tim knew he should have expected as much from Alfred. “It’s the penthouse, Alfred. I’ll have the front desk buzz you up when you get here so you don’t have any trouble.”

“Thank you, Timothy. I’ll only be a few hours.”

“No problem, Alfie. It has been a while.”

“Hmm,” Alfred said in agreement. “I’ll see you then, Master Tim.”

“See you later, Alfie. Bye.”

Ending the call, Tim made sure he didn’t have anything urgent on his schedule. The hair stylist would be here soon and finished before Alfred showed up so there wasn’t much else to do. A trip to a nearby store wouldn’t hurt, Tommy needed new shoes as he was starting to outgrow his current ones, and it wouldn’t hurt to get him a jacket. Tim had been hoping to spend most of the day in the park, they probably wouldn’t see much of it once the school year started, but Alfred might be up for it as well. It was certainly a change of pace from the drug and crime infested parks in Gotham. The only other thing was to make sure M-cubed had his transcript, but that only took an email. Once that was sent, Tim went through his morning routine before going to check in on Tommy.

Hair still wet from the shower, Tim let his brother experiment with the wet strands as he reminded him, “We’re getting a haircut today, Tommy. Tomorrow is going to your first full day of daycare and we want to make sure you look your best.”

It was a struggle to get Tom to let go of his hair when it was time to eat, he even tried drinking the droplets, but soon enough Tim had him settled into his chair and focused on his food. Tim make extra food for Alfred in case he decided to stay long and focused on cleaning up while he had the time. It wasn’t that the apartment was dirty, but Alfred’s standards were very different from Tim’s. It would be even more important once Alfred learned about Tommy.

“We’re going to have some visitors today, Tommy. The first one is going to be a nice lady who’s going to cut your hair. Just so you know, I know it can be a little scary the first time, but it doesn’t hurt,” Tim repeated as he made his way through his cereal. “After that an old friend of mine is coming over. He’s going to drop off some papers and talk over some things. He doesn’t know about you, nobody really does, so you have to make sure just as cute as you always are.” He finished off with a quick kiss to Tom’s hair before leaving to put the dishes away.

Tom tried to respond, but he could only make a few short spurts of noise before giving up to play with his shirt. Nevertheless Tim made sure to listen intently and answered, “You’re right. I don’t have any need to worry. You’re going to be fine today with Alfred and you’re going to be fine tomorrow at daycare.”

When the dishes were done, Tim left Tommy in his room with his toys to make sure everything was settled for school. He still didn’t have a response to his email, he didn’t expect one so soon, but he focused on making sure he had all of books and supplies. Tim wasn’t usually so worried about school, it came easily to him, but now he had so much free time he couldn’t think of anything other than worrying. It was a special kind of intense.

By the time he was finished Tim still had half an hour to waste and decided Netflix was a good an option as any. He sat on the couch with Tommy mumbling to one of his toys until the a knock sounded off from the front door and Tim let the hair stylist in.

“This is Tommy’s first haircut in a while so I don’t know how he’s going to take it,” Tim warned after the introductions. “He’s usually calm though.”

Running her hand softly through Tommy’s hair, Cameron noted, “It is pretty long and thick. He’s going to have a full head of hair when he gets older.” Turning back to Tim, she asked, “Does he pull at it a lot? I know some kids like to try and pull their out, especially when it’s long and starts to bother them.”

“Every now and then,” Tim answered honestly, “but I can usually distract him into forgetting about it. I think after he pulled out a few strands he decided it wasn’t worth it.”

“Okay,” Cameron said happy with the answer. “If you can pull out the chairs you’d like to sit in, we can get started. What kind of style would you like?” Examining him closely, she stated, “You’d look good in almost anything.”

“Almost?” Tim asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t recommend a mohawk, but that’s because you don’t look like mohawk type and I hate mohawks.”

Tim immediately flashed back to him at 13 and the kind of haircut he’d expect him to get right now. A mohawk would have been too tame for him. He reminded himself that he was grown now and said, “I guess it should be about medium length, long enough for me to run my fingers through, and messy. I’d need to do a lot less grooming if it’s supposed to look disheveled.”

“What about your brother?”

“Probably just a few centimeters I guess. Enough that they won’t get into his eyes.”

Tommy was the first one up and visibly grew cautious as he was forced into his chair. He craned his neck as far as he could to see what was happening and visibly hated it. His gaze moved from Cameron to the scissors to Tim silently asking for help.

Interpreting the look as duress, Tim sat down beside Tommy and reminded him, “Everything’s going to be fine, Tommy. It doesn’t hurt at all. You pulling at my hair hurts more.” When it didn’t help at all Time pulled out one of his toys to try and distract him while asking, “You want to tell me more about this little guy. You have a lot to say yesterday.”

Tom took the figure into his hand before throwing it to the ground and trying to figure out what Cameron was doing behind him. He didn’t like the way she was touching his hair and his instincts told him to be afraid the scissors in her hands. As soon as she got too close for his comfort he shrieked and tried to break out of the chair.

“Come on little guy. You’ll be fine. I promise it doesn’t hurt.”

Cameron added, “You’ll look a lot nicer after, Tommy. Don’t you want to look nice for your daycare tomorrow?”

Tommy shrugged off their attempts at consoling him and grasped onto Tim’s arm begging him to do something.

Tim knew they wouldn’t be able to do much with Tommy frantically moving around in anguish and sighed, “I guess we should do me first. He might feel more comfortable if he sees it doesn’t hurt.”

“That could help,” Cameron said in agreement.

Aghast, Tommy watched from his seat as Cameron began planning what to do. He didn’t seem interested as she began spraying something into his hair and untangling it, but when pieces started to fall to the ground he was visibly concerned.

Tim and Cameron chuckled as he tried to say something to her. They couldn’t tell what he was trying to say, but it was obvious he was angry.

“I don’t think his mind has changed,” Cameron said noted his fists. “He looks like he wants to attack me.”

“I guess it’ll have to wait,” Tim said with a sigh. “He can keep his hair long for a few more days and we’ll see how he does then.”

Cameron was quick to calm his concerns. “It’s nothing to worry about. A lot of kids are afraid of their first haircuts; it’s pretty normal. Some still can’t handle them for years. Tom will be fine.”

They mostly stayed silent after that, the exception being casual conversation every now and then with occasional spurts of noises from Tommy, until Cameron was finished. Proud of her work, she placed a mirror in front of Tim and asked, “What do you think?”

“It looks great!” Tim said pleased. A quick look to his side showed him Tommy didn’t share that sentiment and Tim sighed, “If only he thought so too.”

“He’s acting like he’s never seen you before,” Cameron noted with a laugh. “Hopefully it grows on him soon.”

Tim knew Tommy must have also hated having to sit in the chair with nothing to do and he immediately lifted him out to his play pen. He didn’t look interested in his toys at first, still staring at Tim, but he quickly found the blocks more worthy of his attention.

After everything had been put away, Cameron paid, and the floor cleaned, Tim glanced at the clock and noted, “That took a lot longer than I expected it to even without you getting your haircut.”

Tim opened his phone to see when exactly Alfred had called and after doing the math in his head he leaned beside Tommy and asked, “We still have an hour and a half to waste so how about a walk through the park, Tommy?”

Now aware of just what Tim meant when he said ‘park,’ Tommy returned Tim’s gaze and instinctively raised his arm waiting for Tim to lift him up.

“I’ll take that as a yes, but how about no more crying today? I’d really appreciate it.”

By the time they were back in the apartment Tim estimated he had fifteen minutes until Alfred would show up. That gave him just enough time to rush Tommy to his room and get him out of his dirt caked clothes. Tom had found a puddle interesting and and his already frail grasp of walking failed him.

Tim wasn’t so much worried about the dirt, a lot of his childhood had been spent rolling through his backyard acting out superhero fights from tv, but he didn’t want the first time Alfred saw his brother to be with him doubting the work Tim had been doing.

Once they were both cleaned off, Tim settled Tommy back into his playpen, used the tv as background noise, and scrolled through his email looking for a response. Reading that the issue had already been handled, M-cubed contacting GA directly for a copy of the transcript when they didn’t get a response at first, Tim sighed and put his iPad aside to see what his little brother was trying to make with his blocks. He noted, “You need to build a stronger base if you want to make the tower that high, Tommy. If not it’s going to fall over.”

It only took a few moments before Tim followed up with, “I told you so,” but by then Tommy was more interested in what Tim was watching on the tv and leaned against the railing of his play pen asking to be let out.

Even as he lifted Tommy onto a place beside him on the couch, Tim mumbled, “I should probably keep you in there for being so mean to be about my haircut, but I guess I love you too much.”

At the silence that followed, he pitched his voice higher and responded to himself. “I love you too, Tim. You’re the best big brother ever. I want to be just like you when I grow up.”

Tommy promptly ignored the impersonation, Tim didn’t think he looked all that impressed, and only turned away from the tv when the panel beside the front door buzzed through the apartment. A voice called out, “Mr. Drake, there’s an Alfred Pennyworth here to see you.”

Tim quickly rose from his seat and answered, “Thanks. You can let him up.”

Walking back to Tommy, it took a while to get to the top floor, Tim leaned over the couch and reiterated, “You’re really going to like Alfred, Tommy, and hopefully he likes you too.”

Now that there was no more strange noises in the apartment, the last time he’d heard that noise a lady came it to mutilate his brother’s hair, Tommy returned his attention to the tv. For now at the very least everything was in order and he was satisfied with that.

They sat in silence, Tim pretending to be interested in the tv to hide his anxiousness, until there was a knock on the front door. At the second intrusion of the day, Tommy gave Tim a frustrated look and silently begged him to do something about it.

“No need to get prissy, Tommy. He’s only going to be here for a couple of hours at most,” Tim said as he rushed to the door. He opened it with a sincere smile and said, “Hello, Alfred. It’s nice to see you. Please come in.”

Embracing him in a tight hug, Alfred said, “It’s been far too long, Master Tim. I hope you don’t make a pattern out of not visiting family for months.”

Tim chose to ignore the implication to lead Alfred to the living room. Reaching down from behind the couch to raise Tommy in the air, Tim decided it would be best to rip the bandage and explained, “This is my little brother, Tommy. I’ve had him since the last time we saw each other, so about three months.”

Alfred was shocked, but after giving himself a minute to grasp the situation he reached out to pat Tommy on the cheek before and took him into his arms. Bouncing him a little and mentally connected the dots, Alfred said, “I’m assuming he is the reason for your leaving Gotham.” Still, he had to asked, “What exactly happened? He looks far older than three months.”

“He’s just over a year old; his birthday was August 7th. Dana was pregnant when she was in the hospital, but it wasn’t something a lot of people knew. I thought they’d both died, but Ra’s brought him to life in the pit. I’m still a little blurry on the details, but apparently it won’t have an effect on him because he never really died. He was just born in the pit if that makes sense. A few months later Ra’s contacted me, he said he waited so long because wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any side effects, and I got him the night after we moved all of my stuff out of the Manor.”

Alfred considered the explanation while seating Tommy and his lap and decided it made about as much sense as anything else in his life. Instead of questioning it, he asked, “His full name?”

“It’s Thomas Jonathan Drake.” At the curious glance, Tim explained, “Dana picked it out before she died. She told me about it and I decided not to change it.”

“Who else knows about Master Thomas? I’m assuming you didn’t inform Master Bruce or Master Dick about him before your departure?”

“No it’s basically you, me, Ra’s, a bunch of people in the League of Assassins I guess, and some people in New York. He goes to daycare, but they aren’t all that interested in telling people about him.”

Alfred nodded at the information, still slightly in shock to see that Tim had a brother, someone he’d consider a grandson if he knew Tim shared the sentiment, and enjoyed Tommy’s interest in his glasses. “I’m also assuming you’re planning on raising him in New York, away from Gotham and us.”

Tim knew Alfred would be disappointed in the answer, he seemed to really enjoy spending time with Tommy, but he knew it would be best to be honest. “Yeah. It’s not really something I want to spend a lot of time thinking about.”

Even though he didn’t like the response, Alfred acknowledged, “I can’t say I would be much different if I were in your shoes.”

“He’s been pretty good. He doesn’t cry as much as I thought kids do and he doesn’t throw a lot of tantrums,” Tim said hoping to change the subject. “He mostly goes with everything I say although today was an exception.” At Alfred’s raised eyebrow he explained, “We were getting our hair cut today, but Tommy was afraid. He was upset just at seeing me get my hair cut, but he came around on that pretty quickly.”

“I can try cutting his hair,” Alfred offered. “He might be more welcoming to someone he’s gotten the chance to know.”

“You don’t have to do that, Alfie. We’re going to try again in a couple of days just to see how he does so it’s no big trouble.”

“I must insist, Master Tim. I’m aware that my time With Master Tom is going to be limited, but I do intend on making the most out of it as possible.” Glancing away from Tommy as he tried to reach for his glasses, Alfred explained, “I consider him to be a member of my family just as you are, Master Tim.”

Tim knew he wouldn’t be able to change Alfred’s mind, he didn’t look like he would be willing to let Tommy go if Tim forced the issue, so he found the tools from a bathroom and pulled out his highchair.

As soon as he was back in his chair Tommy expected lunch and his disappointment when Tim placed the scissors on the counter was evident. Alfred gave him a stern look before he could think of voicing his concern and instructed him to sit straight. “We wouldn’t want for this to end in disaster, Master Thomas. People aren’t going to be impressed with a boy with messy hair.”

Tim knew the final point was directed at him, Alfred’s distaste for his hair was well known to everyone in the Manor, but he chose to ignore as he found one of Tommy’s favorite toys hoping it would distract. When he did look up to see Alfred examining his own hair cut, he offered, “It’s better than what it was before. At least now I don’t need to tie it up.”

“If this were your only fashion misjudgements I would be proud, Master Timothy, but something tells me it’s not.”

An imagine of Dick with his rat tail and disco inspired Nightwing suit flashed through Tim’s mind and he allowed himself a chance to laugh before asking, “Do you want something to eat? It’s almost time for lunch, I can tell Tommy’s ready, and I’m sure you didn’t get a chance to eat before coming over.”

“I would appreciate it, Maste Tim.” Alfred wasn’t used to someone else offering to cook him a meal and he wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass. At the very least he wanted to see just what Tim was feeding his grandson and if it would require any intervention on his part.

Looking through his fridge, Tim asked, “Does avocado on toast sound good? We went out yesterday and got some fresh avocados along with some other stuff.”

“That sounds excellent, Master Tim.” Combing out Tommy’s hair and urging him to keep his attention on the song the dog in his hand was singing, Alfred added, “This shouldn’t take too long. Master Thomas does has impressive hair for his age, but it’s to be expected if we take you into consideration.”

Slicing four pieces of bread, Tim placed them on the stove before asking, “Did you just compliment my hair, Alfie? This really is a day like no other.”

“Compliment would be a strong word for it, but wouldn’t be a tragedy for Master Thomas to inherit some of your genes. Your style is a different issue.”

Tim looked up to see Tom sitting relatively still as Alfred began trimming the hairs on the back of his head and shot back, “I know a compliment when I see one, Alfred, and that was definitely a compliment. I’ll cherish it for as long as I live.”

Alfred smiled at the response, but decided to focus on Tommy’s hair. He and Tim worked in silence, Alfred with years of experience from cutting Bruce and Dick’s hair and Tim with years of experience in cooking from Alfred.

Tom managed to sit still throughout the entire ordeal, there was only a slight moment where he wanted to protest to the scissors cutting the hair above his eyes, and Alfred set him back on the ground to stretch out his legs before lunch. It was a reward for his good behavior and he immediately stumbled his way to his older brother.

Tim was busy setting up the table, but as soon as he was finished he lifted Tommy up and asked, “Now who are you? You can’t be my little brother because he’s not as cute as you.” Lowering him from his line of vision, Tim pretended to look around wondering out loud, “Where could he have gone? He was just here a few minutes ago.”

He raised and lowered Tommy a few times, pretending to be deep in thought, until Tommy started laughing and Tim gasped, “I’d know that laugh anywhere. You must be my Tommy.” Holding him closer, Tim asked, “Is that you, Tommy? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

The noise Tommy gave him in response was more like a cackle, but Tim pretended it was and answer and returned him to his seat with the explanation, “It’s time to eat, Tommy. I know how energy consuming a haircut can be. I’ve had 17 years of experience.”

At that response Alfred’s head shot up from where he was sweeping the floor. It took him a moment to realize Tim had had a birthday in the months he’d been away from Gotham and he hated himself all the more for not realizing. The day had gone by without anyone realizing Tim was missing and he wanted to steal Tim back to the Manor and make it up to him, but he knew it wasn’t possible. Seeing Tim eliciting more laughs from his little brother as he started placing his food in front of him was all Alfred needed to know Tim was much better off for not being in their presence.

Even though it hurt to admit it, there wasn’t much he could do to change it either. He settled for enjoying his company as much as he would be allowed and knew Bruce and Dick would envy, probably even hate, him when everything came to light because it would. No matter how much Tim might want to avoid it, one stray paparazzi posting a picture of him with Tommy would be enough to reveal his secret and it probably wouldn’t be too far in the future.

Looking up when he felt the weight of Alfred’s stare, Tim rose from his seat and offered, “I can clean it up, Alfred. You’re probably hungry.”

“It’s no problem, Master Tim. I’m almost done.”

Trusting Alfred, Tim turned back to Tommy and asked, “You ready for the next bite, little bro?”

Alfred quickly swept the hair away into the trash can before cleaning his hands and pulling out a seat beside Tim. He ate silently, more focused on Tom and Tim laughing with one another than his food, before putting his plate away and looking for something to do. Tim seemed to see his confusion and asked, “Can you warm up some milk? He’s going to need his nap soon. Tommy’s always tired after his lunch.”

The trio found themselves on the couch watching television until Alfred started to notice Tom yawning. Watching him struggle to get through the bottle in his hand, keeping it in his mouth but unable to drink and keep himself upright at the same time, Alfred asked, “Should I put him down for his nap? Master Tom looks like he might collapse at any moment.”

Glancing down, Tim asked, “You ready for a nap, Tommy?”

Tom looked like he took a moment to consider going back to his room before urging Tim to lay on his back. From what Tim could make out from his mumbling he assumed Tommy wanted to sleep with him on the couch.

As soon as Tom was satisfied with Tim’s position, flat on his back with only his head resting on the arm, Tom crawled up on top of his chest and settled in. He needed Tim’s help to not drop the bottle, but as soon as he had a grip Tom tried to edge himself towards the tv and continue watching. Tim knew it wouldn’t last long and as he’d expected Tom was passed out in a few minutes as he was struggling to maintain his grip on the bottle now close to running out.

While Alfred was fixated on watching Tommy, for Tim it was a regular experience, he simply let his brother doze off on his chest while he scrolled through something on his phone. Alfred wanted to say something, ask to let Tommy sleep beside him, but he couldn’t work up the courage. Instead, it was the weight of his stare that pulled Tim’s attention away from his phone to study the look on his face and it only took him a moment to understand. Dutifully, Tim straightened up slightly before feigning, “I have to go to the restroom, you want to take over for a while?”

“If that’s what you want, Master Tim,” Alfred quickly answered

Holding onto Tom, careful of not moving him too much and wake him up, Tim moved over on the couch and said, “You should come over here. He’ll be fine just sleeping on your lap, but he’s going to need some room cause he moves around a lot.”

Alfred settled into Tim’s old position and uncharacteristically stiffened up as Tim set his brother down. Tom struggled against the change at first, not liking the difference between Tim’s chest and Alfred’s lap, but calmed down once Alfred began running his hand through his hair for comfort.

Tim watched them closely before noting, “His bottle is about to run out. I’ll go warm up another one before he gets fussy.”

Alone with the one year old for the first time, even if Tim was still only a few feet away, Alfred felt an urge to pull out his own phone and take a picture to commemorate the experience. It had been years since he’d been in the prolonged company of a toddler, especially one he considered to be a part of his family, but it was his respect for Tim’s privacy that kept him from acting. If Tim wanted to raise Tommy without the knowledge or constant criticism from Bruce, far be it for Alfred to complain. He couldn’t promise that the picture wouldn’t be seen by unwelcomed eyes so instead he focused on memorizing as much of the moment as he could.

Back with the new bottle, Tim had to force the old one from an annoyed Tommy before urging the replacement into his hand. He immediately settled into a new position to make up for the new weight in his hand while Alfred continued to brush his hair.

Watching the two interact and entertained by Alfred’s uncharacteristic nervousness, Tim offered, “I have to go grab something from the shop. I was planning on getting it sometime later, but if you want some alone time with Tommy I can be back in an hour.”

Usually Alfred would go through the expected routine of assuring Tim he would be fine with either choice, but this time he didn’t want to let the opportunity slip. “It would be no problem, Master Tim. Take all the time you need.”

Tim quickly left the room to find a jacket and some money before adding, “Tommy will probably be up by the time I get back so you might need to change his diaper. Everything is in his room, you’ll be able to tell which one it is, and then you can decide what you want to do. Like I said, he’ll usually just go with the flow if you want to watch a movie or a game he can play on the iPad.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Master Tim. I can’t imagine I’ll have a lot of issues with Master Thomas.”

Tim watched the two from his position by the door before offering, “I won’t be upset if you want to take a picture or two. I already have a lot of my own.”

“I can’t promise that Master Bruce or Master Dick won’t find them, Master Tim. It might blow your secret,” Alfred said in warning. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t risk Tim’s privacy.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Tim said sincerely. “You could just say it’s a picture of me from when I was a kid.”

Alfred appreciated the consideration and waved goodbye at Tim as he disappeared behind the door. Once again alone with Tommy, Alfred thought back to Tim’s own collection of pictures and tried to imagine where he could have stored them. Knowing the teenager, Alfred expected him to have the pictures stored anywhere he could and from what he’d learned about today’s technology that could mean anything short of the microwave. Conscious of not disturbing Thomas as he continued to nap, Alfred leaned forward to the remote from where it rested on the coffee table and tried to navigate to where the photos app. He eventually asked Siri low enough not to bother Tommy and allowed her to lead him there instead. He found a few different albums, most having something to do with what Alfred supposed were jokes from the internet, and ignored them for the one aptly titled, “Tommy.”

He didn’t know how long he’d spent looking through the pictures, Tim certainly had quite a collection for only having his brother for a few months, but soon enough Tom was starting to wake up. The nap was too short for Alfred’s comfort, only an hour long, but well within the limits Tim had set so he didn’t think too much of it. Tom’s bottle was already finished, he dropped it when he couldn’t get anything more from it, but he’d started drooling on Alfred’s pant leg and yawning as his nap neared it’s end. Alfred watched as he slowly sat up, now fully rested, and looked around for something Alfred didn’t understand. Tommy grew slightly more anxious as he couldn’t find it and much to Alfred’s horror he started shrieking.

Alfred tried to calm him down by bouncing him in his arms and assuring him, “Everything’s okay, Tommy. There’s no reason to be upset.”

When nothing worked he worked through the options, changing his diaper and giving him something to eat before realizing he was probably afraid that his older brother wasn’t around. Knowing it would be his best option, Alfred opened a picture of Tim on the television and asked, “Do you see Master Tim? He’s right there.”

Finally catching sight of his older brother, Tommy tried to break away from Alfred hold and reach for Tim. It caught Alfred off guard, but he was able to stop Tom from lurching forward, but that only made the one year old hate him more.

Thinking quickly, Alfred lead them both away to the iPad resting on the couch where Tim had last used it. After a few minutes of urging Tommy to put in the passcode, Alfred navigated to the photos app and pulled up the same picture of Tim. He lifted it up to Tommy’s eye level and said, “Here’s Master Tim, again. Do you want to hold him?”

Confused, Tommy looked back between the Tim on the tv and the Tim in front of him before deciding he didn’t care. He took the iPad away from Alfred, rougher than he needed to be, and ran away from the living room still angry. Satisfied not to have him crying, Alfred followed him to the theater room as Tommy whispered to the iPad and lifted himself onto a seat. He looked back at Tim expectantly and Alfred quickly worked out that he wanted to watch a movie. He took a seat beside Tommy, aware of how the one year old gripped the iPad closer to his chest, and started a movie chuckling at how easily Tommy’s spirits were lifted. The one year old looked as happy as he ever had been watching the pictures on the screen and talking to the picture of his older brother.

Neither of the two heard Tim come in halfway through the movie, the sound not carrying to the room, but Tim could hear the movie playing loud and clear. He set the bags down in his room before following the noise to see where the pair was seated.

Both of their attentions were focused on the screen so it wasn’t a lot trouble for Tim to sneak up from Tommy’s side and jump up as soon as he was close enough to grab a hold of him. At first Tommy was ready to start screaming again, but as soon as Tim was clear he reached forward wanting to hold him. He much prefered this version of Tim to the one on the iPad who wouldn’t even say anything back to him.

“How’d it go, kiddo?” Tim asked happy to see his brother had done well with Alfred. “Did you have fun?”

“Um hum,” Tommy said excited. “Movie.”

Looking over his brother to see Alfred, Tim asked, “How was he?”

“He had some trouble with your absence, Master Tim, but he calmed down after I showed him your picture,” Alfred said with a laugh. “He’s quite fond of you.”

Tim wasn’t happy to know that his brother had been hard on Alfred and he wanted to correct things as swiftly as possible. He sat down beside Alfred and sat Tommy down on his lap. Keep him at eye level, Tim sternly asked, “Where you being difficult, Tommy? You know you’re better than that.”

Not used to Tim being angry with him, Tom thought it would be best to ignore it. Instead he leaned into his chest and dug out the iPad to play a game. Now that his brother was here he wasn’t interested in the movie anymore.

Upset, Tim snatched the iPad out from his hands and forced Tom to face Alfred. Tom started to struggle, but he settled down when Tim shot him a glare. “Say you’re sorry, Tommy. After you apologize you can get it back. You have to apologize to Alfred first.”

At the confused and scared look Tom gave both of them, Alfred sympathized with the toddler. He urged Tim, “You don’t have to do that, Master Tim. He was just upset not to have his older brother around.”

“That doesn’t mean he can be rude, especially not to family. Say you’re sorry, Tommy. Say you’re sorry.” He repeated the instruction slowly to make it easier for him to understand.

Willing to do anything to stop Tim from being upset, Tommy looked at Alfred and mimicked, “Sowwy.”

Alfred felt sorry for the toddler seeing as how he looked like he was on the verge of tears again. He held out his arms to see if the Tommy wanted to come to his seat and when he made it past the arm divider mimicked the position Tim had been holding him in a few minutes ago.

Tommy immediately leaned it, appreciating the comfort after having his brother angry with him, and repeated his apology for good measure. “Sowwy.”

Rubbing his back supportively, Alfred assured him, “That’s okay, Master Tommy. I know you you couldn’t help yourself.” This was the first time Tommy reached out to him, even if it did take some prodding at first, and he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip past him.

Tom decided to he could forgive Alfred for the struggle an hour ago and he much prefered him to Tim right now. After a moment if enjoying Alfred’s support, Tom straightened up and started pulling on his jacket. “Room. Room.”

At Alfred’s confused look Tim translated, “Tommy wants to show you his room. He’s starting to like you, Alfie.”

Ignoring his brother as his own form of punishment, Tommy slid off Alfred’s lap and repeated, “Room. Room.”

Alfred waited for a cue from Tim and when he had a nod he stood up to follow Tommy’s lead. Tommy gripped tightly to his pant leg and started to pull. Once again, for good measure, he said, “Room,” in case Alfred had forgotten already.

Tim watched from his seat and chuckled just low enough for them not to hear before pausing the movie to see if there was anything he needed to do.

When they were finally in his room, Tommy instructed Alfred to sit in the chair while he brought out some of his larger toys that didn’t need to be brought to his pen. His favorite was a xylophone in bright colors that Tim had adjusted to have an even wider range. Laughing as Tommy refused any help even though it took all of his strength to position it in front of him, Alfred remarked, “You remind me so much of your older brother. He makes his own rules too.”

Tommy hummed in agreement, at least Alfred thought it was an agreement. It could have also been his version of singing, but Alfred liked to think it was an agreement.

“He’s been doing an excellent job of raising you, you know, although I do wish he was raising you in Gotham.” Thinking to himself Alfred realized, “I guess you don’t know a lot about Gotham. Tim probably doesn’t like to think about Gotham or Master Dick, definitely not Master Bruce.” He stopped for a moment to enjoy the song Tommy was working on before adding, “You’re far too young to understand, but if you ever need them, us, you have a family who would love to meet you, Master Tom.”

“Tom,” Tom repeated thinking it was his turn to say something.

“Yes you are, and you’re a wonderful musician too.”

Tom decided he’d had enough of the xylophone and immediately stuck a flute in his mouth. Alfred had to fix his direction, but it didn’t change much as Tom tried to suck in instead of blowing out. It wouldn’t have made a difference to correct him, so Alfred left Tommy to work on his masterpiece to see what Tim was up to.

He found Tim sitting on the island on the kitchen typing away at his laptop. Taking the liberty to grab a glass of water, Alfred sat across from him and asked, “What are you working on, Master Tim?”

“It’s not work, Alfie. I’m just winning an argument.” More to himself than Alfred, he whispered, “Cause that’s what I do. I win.”

“Do you have any more prep to do for your school? I know they have an affinity for assigning work over the summer vacation.”

“Not really. I only had to take a placement exam to make sure I was ready for junior year. It was pretty easy considering how little I spent in class sophomore year.”

“I’m sure highschool will be a breeze for you, Master Tim,” Alfred said in encouragement. “It always was.”

“I can always count on you for moral support, Alfie. How’s Tommy doing right now?”

“He’s busy working on his master flute piece.”

“Hmm.” Not hearing any noise, he asked, “Does he still not know to blow not suck?”

“He’ll come around eventually, Master Tim.”

“And then I’ll get the chance to listen to those masterpieces he’s working on nonstop.”

Alfred smiled at their easy conversation, it reminded him a lot of a much younger Timothy sitting in the kitchen of the Manor keeping him busy while he worked on dinner, and hoped Tim felt the same as he asked, “Do you have any plans for where Master Tom is going to stay while you’re at school?”

“He’s been going to daycare for a while to get adjusted so the transition isn’t bad tomorrow.”

“What about if you need to spend the night someplace or spend the weekend away?”

“You think I should get a live in nanny?” Tim asked curious. “I was just planning on not going either of those.”

“If you need the help I’m willing.”

“You don’t have to worry about us, Alfred. I know better than that. Plus, when was the last time I’ve done anything over the weekend.” There was a lull in the conversation as Tim finished up on whatever he was writing. When he finally looked at Alfred, looked at the way he was focusing on not looking at Tim, he realized, “You want to babysit Tommy don’t you?”

“I’d love to have the chance, yes.”

Crossing his arms and leaning back, Tim asked, “Would you want to do this in Gotham or here?”

“I have no objections either way, Master Tim. I understand why you’d like to keep him in New York and I won’t fight you on it. I don’t have the right.”

“You’re practically his grandpa, Alfred,” Tim said softly. “You have the right to an opinion, although mine does count for astronomically more.”

“I appreciate the consideration, Master Tim. I imagined it would be best for everyone involved that Master Tom stay in New York.”

“I’m guessing if I ever need your help I can call you and you’ll be here instantly?” Tim asked already knowing the answer.

“Of course, Master Tim. I hope you’ve never doubted that for a second.”

“So we can come up with a plan. You can come by once a month for the weekend, make any kind of excuse to Bruce, and in return I’ll call you when I need help. You get a weekend a month and I get a babysitter.”

Alfred knew Tim didn’t have to do this for him, he could hire any babysitter he wanted, and he sincerely said, “Thank you very much, Master Tim. I’d love to have the opportunity to get to know Thomas better.”

Satisfied with the progress they’d made, talking about feelings were never this family’s specialties, Tim stepped off the chair and asked, “Do you want to stay for dinner? I know we weren’t planning on it, but I don’t think I’ll be able to rip Tommy away from you.”

“I’d love to, Master Tim, but I can’t. I have to get back to Gotham and start on dinner for Master Bruce and Dick. I didn’t leave with a lot of warning.”

Tim looked at the clock and realized he’d been over for much longer than he’d expected. With the long drive home he’d have to leave soon. Drawing his attention to the time, Tim asked, “How soon do you have to go?”

Check the time, Alfred sighed, “I’d say any moment now if I were being honest. I’m already pushing the limits.”

“I’ll go get Tommy,” Tim announced. “He’ll be upset if he doesn’t get the chance to say goodbye,” Tim disappearing behind the hallway. Alfred made sure there was nothing he was missing and came back the kitchen just in time to have Tim set Tommy down on the counter.

Alfred leaned down beside Tommy and explained, “I’m sorry to pull you away from your music, but I have to leave. This is goodbye for now, Master Tommy.”

“Tom,” Tom repeated.

“He does that a lot,” Tim explained. Looking down at Tommy so his focus was on Alfred, Tim instructed, “Say bye-bye, Alfie. He has to leave to go home.”

Tom needed Tim to repeat his instructions a few times, but in the end he was waving, “Bye-bye, Alfie. Bye-bye, Alfie.”

“Good bye, Master Tommy. I can’t wait to see you again.”

“Bye-bye, Alfie,” Tommy said one last time for good measure. When they couldn’t see him anymore, Tommy turned to Tim and waited to see what they would be doing for the rest of the day.

Tim leaned down eye level to Tommy and reminded him, “You’re going to be at daycare full time tomorrow, Tommy, so you better not pull the same thing you did with Alfie. Can I get a promise you’ll be good like always?”

Not really caring for Tim’s explanation, it was too long to be interesting, Tom settled for smiling and hoping they would be having dinner soon.

Tim had set his alarm clock to go of an hour before he needed to wake up. It was his fail-safe in case something went wrong in the last minute and meant he could spend extra time in bed.

He spent as long as he could not moving, trying to shake off the anxiety, until he could see Tom waking up through the baby monitor. He rolled around the crib, momentarily entertained with the mobile hanging above it, until Tim decided it was now or never.

They were out of the apartment quick enough, waving goodbye to the receptionist and walking to the daycare. By now Tom knew to be excited. He was ready to jump out of Tim’s arms by the time they reached the front desk and Tim started sighing in.

Just to antagonize his brother a little, Tim held him so he couldn’t move and prolonged their goodbye as long as he could. As soon as his feet were on the ground Tom was ready and excited as his teacher came around to help him to the classroom.

The only thing Tim got was a rushed wave goodbye before he had to go to his own school.

Tim had tested the walk a few times before, seeing how long it would take and what the best route would be in terms of time, safety, and aesthetics, and followed through on the quickest one. Even though he had all the time he could need, Tim wanted to make sure he’d memorized his schedule in case of an emergency.

Tim walked past the front gate, he already knew the layout of the whole campus, and into the main building. The school wasn’t anywhere near as uppity as Gotham Academy, something Tim considered to be a good thing, a very good thing, and most of the other students seemed fine enough. He dropped off some of his books in his locker, he wouldn’t need them until after lunch anyway, and walked to his first class.

His class wasn’t hard to find, although he did think he had the wrong room when it was empty, and he took up a seat in the back. Like it or not he was raised a bat and this seat gave him the best view of the whole classroom and the courtyard down below. With nothing else to do, Tim pulled out his phone again and scrolled through social media. His close friends knew he was in New York, he’d made sure Ives knew any possible way to contact him, but he didn’t have some messages asking about his schedule and where he’d be spending lunch and he thought it would take too much effort to respond back. Ignoring them was easier.

A few other students came in not long after, awkward smiles all around, and soon enough there was noise coming from the courtyard. Tim was able to drown out most of it as students meeting classmates they hadn’t seen since before summer until he heard shouting and an obvious commotion. From what he could tell a couple of football players were ganging up on a nerdy looking kid, but another kid, someone Tim was sure he’d seen before, came in to stop them. The nerdy kid was being antagonized by a couple of the other students, he probably wasn’t all that popular, but he seemed to handle it like a trooper and walk past them.

It must have been a common occurrence as most of the other students seemed interested. They all either watched as bystanders or focused on something else. Before Tim could come up with the costume design for his high school bully fighting super hero, said nerdy kid walked into the classroom and took the seat closest to Tim. He didn’t seem to notice Tim so he assumed the kid just wanted to be out of the other’s eyeline.

Tim wanted to say something, but he didn’t seem all that bothered, further proving this was a common occurrence, and started to wait for class to start.

It didn’t take long for the class to fill up and Tim could make some of the other students from the crowd from the courtyard. A particular blond in a letterman stook out from his seat not to far ahead from him. Every now and then he’d look back to the back of the classroom, but neither of the two said anything.

The teacher came in a few minutes later and and once the bell rang he immediately started hanging out syllabi while explaining, “Everyone should be in here for biology. If you’re not supposed to be with me, Mr. Robertson, I’m sorry but you’re in the wrong room.” After no one moved he added, “We’ll start with the roll now so everyone has time to see if there’s been a mistake and we can fix during class. If you’d like to go by something other than the name on my roll feel free to tell me.”

He seemed to know a lot of the students in the class, the school wasn’t that large anyway so Tim wouldn’t be surprised if most people knew each other, but it did surprise Tim when he stopped at his name. He looked around the classroom and already had his eyes on Tim when he asked, “Timothy Drake?”

Eyes trained on the teacher looking for any sign that he should be worried, Tim simply said, “Here.”

While Mr. Robertson’s attention turned to the rest of the roll, the kid beside Tim looked him over before asking, “You’re Tim Drake?”

“Umm, yeah,” Tim answered confused. He wasn’t sure he knew anyone in the class, but so far two people seemed to know him.

“I think you met my aunt in the park a few weeks ago,” he explained. “She told me about you.”

“You must be Peter then,” Tim realized. He couldn’t believe he’d remembered the name, but he seemed to be right.

“Guilty,” he said with a smile. “Aunt May wanted me to keep you company, but I didn’t think it would be this easy to find you. She said you’re from Gotham and new here.”

“Yeah I just moved in a couple of weeks ago,” Tim whispered to not draw attention to themselves. “I met your aunt like the first full day I was here.”

“Well she wants you to come over for dinner some time with your kid brother.”

They were interrupted with Mr. Robertson calling out for Peter Parker, but immediately after Tim said, “That sounds like a great idea.”

The rest of the class followed easily enough, Tim and Peter made light conversation and once they finished going over the syllabus the end of class was spent by students sitting around in groups talking.

“I’ve never been to Gotham but I have seen Batman on the news. He looks kickass,” Peter said when the conversation eventually turned to superheroes.

“Yeah I guess,” Tim said with a laugh. He’d had to talk about Batman enough in school it stopped being weird a long time ago. “He’s no Iron Man though. Tony Stark really is something else.” This was his own special dig against Bruce and Tim only wished he’d been able to hear it.

“Well I guess New York is lucky enough to have a bunch of heroes. The Avengers are based down here and there’s Daredevil too, but he usually sticks to his own little section of the city.” Shaking his head, Peter forced himself to focus. “I’m supposed to be telling you about the school, not heroes. Do you have your schedule with you? We can see if we have any classes together.”

“Yeah it’s on my phone,” Tim said as he dug it out from his pocket. “The administration gave me the schedule after taking the entrance exam so I didn’t get to pick any of my classes out myself.”

Reading off of Tim’s phone and comparing it to his own, Peter assured him, “You have pretty good teachers here and all of your classes are with me. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.”

“Well then I guess it’s good to have a familiar face around.”

It didn’t take long for the bell to cut them off, but before they could walk to their next class Mr. Robertson asked, “Can I see you for a second, Peter? It won’t take long.”

Peter grabbed his bag and instructed Tim, “Wait for me outside. Our next class is right across the hall anyway so it won’t be a problem.”

Tim didn’t think too much of it and watched the other students from the hallway while he waited. M-cubed seemed like a regular high school, jocks and nerds always at odds with most people focused on socializing, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. For a school practically next door to a major wing of the superhero community everything looked normal, but this also could just be because it was the first day of the school year. There was still a lot of time for a mess to brew up and Tim had a feeling that was exactly what was going to be happening..

“So lets get going, Tim.” Peter said sneaking up behind him a few minutes later.

Tim could tell he was a little shaken up, he did hide it well but Tim was trained by Batman, and he instinctively asked, “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah it was just – it’s nothing,” he said leading Tim away from the doorway.

Tim didn’t want to say anything to make Peter feel any worse and he changed the topic while following him to the next class. “So a field trip to Stark Industries should be interesting.”

“It really is. They’re partnering with our science programs this year and that means a lot trips to see their research. It used to be Oscorp, but they’ve been having some trouble recently.” His voice tapered off at the end of sentence and Tim made a mental note not to talk about Oscorp around Peter. He could save that for when he’s back at home.

“I wonder if Tony would let us work on anything for the Iron Man suit,” Tim said hopefully. “It’s probably the most important part of the entire company.”

“The suit is probably something he works on privately,” Peter with a laugh. “There’s nothing a few high school students could do that he couldn’t. We’ll probably see more about energy conservation considering it’s what he’s been focusing on the last couple of months.”

“I guess it’s better than nothing,” Tim said as they walked into their next class.

There weren’t any seats available in the back, but the pair found a seat next to one of Peter’s friends from before. He was the one Tim had seen defend Peter in the courtyard and looking at him closer Tim was still sure he’d seen him before.

“Harry, this is Tim Dick. He just moved here from Gotham. Tim, this is Harry Osborn, a good friend of mine since middle school,” Peter said introducing them to one another.

Harry held his hand out and explained, “We’ve met before a couple of times. It was mostly formal parties so we didn’t get a chance to talk all that much.”

“I always hated those things,” Tim groaned. “There was never anything interesting going on.”

“It was mostly aging socialites trying to pretend like they liked each other,” Harry said with a laugh. “Now I just pretend like I have some important homework to do so my dad doesn’t make me go.”

“Usually that means me coming by and sneaking out before Mr. Osborne gets back,” Peter added. “Really came in handy over summer break.”

The teacher followed the same routine as the previous one, handing out the syllabus and taking a roll of the students in attendance, but Tim could tell some of the students were talking about him. When he was sitting in the back he wasn’t in the eyeline of most people, but by being in the center of the room he had half the class looking at him. The good thing was that after years of peers knowing some of the most private parts of his life Tim was used to it.

Peter seemed to hear them too, judging from the tightening grip on his pen he wanted to do something about them, but a look from Tim calmed him down enough to focus on the teacher instead.

Afterwards, when Peter and Harry were leading him to a courtyard where most of the students ate lunch, Tim assured them, “You don’t have to bother with what people say. It’s no big deal.”

“Well, I think it’s pretty messed up,” Peter said defiantly. “I mean you’ve only been here for a few hours and people are already acting like complete shits.”

Cutting into their conversation, the student who had been bothering Peter in the courtyard decided it would be the best time to introduce himself. “If he wanted to avoid getting picked on he wouldn’t be hanging around you, Parker.”

“Fuck off Flash,” Harry said annoyed. “No one asked for your opinion.”

“So the rumor going around is that you’re Bruce Wayne’s son, Tim Drake,” Flash said ignoring Harry. “Any chance you moving out here means the Wayne family is moving to New York too? My father would love to get a chance to talk to yours and I couldn’t let the chance to get to know you slip.”

Tim decided to ignore the question and ask one of his own. “Did you rip off the nickname from the real Flash because you’re fast or do you just have an affinity for taking off your clothes?”

The only one at the table not to chuckle, Flash warned, “You don’t want to get on my wrong side Drake. Puny Parker knows all about that.”

“Well, Pete? Anything to say?” Tim asked curious. He knew Peter wouldn’t agree with Flash, but he was curious about how he would respond.

“I thought you and I were best friends, Flash,” Peter said feigning being aghast. “You even edge out Harry on my list.”

Frustrated, Flash moved away from the table to sit with his own friends on the other side of the courtyard. Tim watched him animatedly complain about the group to his friends but he couldn’t bring himself to care about what they thought.

Attention back on Peter and Harry, Tim asked, “Is everyone here a walking cliche? He feels like something out of a movie.”

“I wish this was a movie,” Peter groaned. “His punches definitely feel pretty real.”

“You know you don’t have to walk me home, right?” Tim asked as Peter followed him off campus. Harry lived in the same direction, but he was stopping by at his father’s company before going home.

“In theory, but I have a feeling Aunt May is going to want me to make sure you don’t get lost.”

“Well, I have to pick up my little brother from daycare first,” Tim explained. “It’s on the way so it shouldn’t take too long.”

“It’s really no problem,” Peter assured him. “Aunt May told me where you live and it’s not too far from our own place. Only a few blocks.”

“If you’re sure.”

“So anything your looking forward to?” Peter asked hoping to make casual conversation. “New York is pretty awesome if you haven’t figured out yet.”

“Nothing too touristy. I’ve seen most of the landmarks before and there’s no point in doing them again.”

“A lot’s changed in the past few years,” Peter said thinking back to the city’s man attacks.

“I think the Avengers make that obvious. Gotham has it’s share of evil villains, but you guys out do us in terms of alien invasions.”

“The most interesting thing is how quickly the city was rebuilt,” Peter said bewildered. “There’s potholes that haven’t been fixed in decades, but we somehow managed to rebuild entire city blocks in a few months.”

“That’s nothing compared to an entire floating in the air,” Tim said thinking back to some more recent events. “The world really has gone to hell.”

“If it’s any consolation this also means more superheroes,” Peter said cautiously. He didn’t want the conversation to go closer to Spider-Man, but he couldn’t help it. “A new one seems to pop up every few weeks.”

“That doesn’t mean all of them are any good. It only takes a freak in a suit to declare himself a hero or villain.”

“Anyone come to mind?” Peter said mentally daring him to name Spider-Man.

“Yes,” Tim said with a laugh. “Many, many people come to mind. They seem to be everywhere in Gotham.”

“New York has better standards.”

“Anyone come to mind?”

“Iron Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man,” Peter said with pride. “If New York has one thing it’s great heroes.”

“I’ll give you Tony and Daredevil, but Spider-Man’s only been around for a few months. We have to hold out on deciding if he’s as good.”

“Maybe you have to, but I thought he looked pretty cool last night. He took out five robbers with one clean swipe,” Peter said mimicking the movement. “That has to count for something.”

Tim had seen the video on his way to school, but he didn’t think that much of it. Spidey relied too much on his powers and couldn’t win a fight without them. It was a good thing he mostly dealt with petty crime. “It’s pretty obvious no one’s taught him how to fight before,” Tim said hoping it didn’t give too much away about his past.

Not able to think of anything that would defend his alter-ego without giving his identity away, Peter settled for, “Maybe he just needs some more experience. We’ll see how he’s doing in a few months.”

His defense of Spider-Man definitely raised an eyebrow, but Tim was used to people being uber defensive of their heroes. It only made sense that people would be more defensive with more internal competition to go against. Looking around he noted, “The daycare is just up there. It won’t take too long to check him out.”

Never having been in a daycare before, Peter asked, “Should I go in with you? I could wait outside.”

“It’s no problem,” Tim said holding the door open. “We’re just going to be a second anyway.”

Peter found a seat while Tim talked to the receptionist and signed a book. He thought he might have some time to think over what Tim had said, but before he knew it Tim was sitting beside him and asking, “So what’s Flash’s problem?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is he a giant asshole in general or does he just have a problem with you?” Tim asked not payign attention to anyone who raised his or her eyebrow at his word choice.

“I don’t really know why Flash has a problem with me, but there’s been a rivalry since elementary school. I think there was something about a birthday, but I’m not sure. We’ve been at odds ever since.”

“I would kill to know what happened to make him hate you for almost ten years.”

“And I’m sure Spider-Man would stop you,” Peter shot back.

Before Tim could think of anything to say, Tommy came round the corner with Ms. Garrison as his guide. He immediately made a beeline for Tim, stumbling slightly but making it over as soon as he could.

Tim reached down to collect his baby brother while asking, “How was your day, Tommy? Did you have a lot of fun?”

Tommy grumbled a mess of noises into Tim’s shoulder, but was more interested in Peter as he followed them out the office. He held out a finger that Tommy immediately grasped as he introduced himself. “Hi, little guy. I’m Peter, a friend of your big brother.”

“Remember Miss May, the nice lady we met in the park?” Tim asked. “He’s her nephew.”

“So what’s the little guy’s name?” Peter asked as Tommy kept his eyes trained on him.

“This full name is Thomas, but I usually go between Tommy and Tom. He answers to both.”

“How old is he? I’ve never really been around kids a lot so I can’t tell.”

“He’s just over a year old. His birthday was last month.”

“Good news little guy. You still have many years before high school starts, enjoy them,” Peter said more serious than he needed to be.

“It’s not that bad, Peter,” Tim said trying to be optimistic. “The only real issue is Flash.”

“He’s a pretty big issue.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right.”

It didn’t take them long to reach Tim’s apartment and he politely asked, “Do you want to come upstairs? You could get a bite to eat.”

“Nah I should be getting home,” Peter said checking the time on his phone. “Aunt May always wants to celebrate the first day of the school year so I can’t miss it.”

“In that case I’ll see you tomorrow, Pete,” Tim said as he opened the door to the front lobby. “It was nice meeting you.”

Peter waved back, “See you later,” before walking back towards his own apartment. All things considered, the day had gone as good as his days usually went.


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