BatSnapshots 38: Learning Curve V

Dick shifted in his seat as he kept himself focused on the room he had been left in: the lack of decor, the simple metal table and chairs, and the stains on the floor that looked far too similar to blood for his taste. Still, it was something and it distracted him from just how anxious he was to finally see Tim again.

He didn’t have to wait long before he heard footsteps coming his way and saw figures moving on the other side of the glass wall. He watched as a nurse pull out a keycard and scanned it on a panel beside the door while a guard lead his little brother into the room. The back of his mind managed to catch how the guard escorting them was being rougher than necessary, shoving Tim when simply motioning would be enough, but Dick was focused on the fact that Tim was in his sights once again. Dick was caught off guard when Tim held his handcuffed wrists on the table. It seemed unnecessary to him, he didn’t see why Tim needed to be pushed around in cuffs, but he could tell from Tim’s expression that it wasn’t something he wanted to address. They all watched silently as the guard uncuffed one wrist to instead latch it on one of the arms of the chair before leaving the room. Much to Dick’s disappointment the air in the room didn’t change once the brothers were left alone.

Dick found his mouth dry up and he couldn’t find his usual grace as he rose from his seat and walked over to embrace his little brother, almost tripping along the way. He was hoping for more of a reaction from Tim, some indication that he was happy to see Dick again, but he still enveloped him in a hug from behind as he whispered, “I’ve missed you so much, Timmy. It’s so good to see you again.”

“Hmm,” Tim said simply to acknowledge that he’d heard.

Taking a step back and looking him over, Dick could tell Tim wasn’t comfortable with him standing so close. To appease his little brother he retook his seat across from him on the table and asked, “I know it’s not the best situation, but how’ve you been doing little brother?”

“Fine,” Tim mumbled as he kept his gaze on the table. “It’s fine.”

“I know this is strange place, Timmy, that you didn’t want to be here, but I’m glad that you have someone to take care of you.” Dick wanted to say that Tim looked better than the last time he’d seen him, that Tim looked healthier and happier, but that obviously wasn’t true. It only made Dick more concerned with what Tim’s condition could have been if Dick had never gotten him in Arkham, if he’d never gotten the help he so obviously needed.

“Timmy, after Bruce died-” Dick paused at Tim’s flinch, it hurt to know Tim was still unwilling to come to terms with the truth, but he continued, “after he died you weren’t in the best place mentally. You kept going on and on about how you were sure he was still alive and we could find him. You didn’t understand that he was gone and I didn’t know how to help. I wanted you to get better, I still want you to get better, but I couldn’t give you the help you needed. Timmy, you needed a doctor and this was the best option. The people here now how to deal with situations like your’s.”

All Dick got in response was a rise in Tim’s nose as he sneered, but he still refused to say anything. Hoping to have an honest conversation, Dick asked, “How’ve you been feeling, Timmy?”

“I know you hate me, Dick,” Tim said far too calmly for Dick’s comfort. He added with a tone of finality, “I know you didn’t want me around, that Bruce being gone was an excuse to get rid of me.”

“What?” Dick as shocked for the turn in their conversation. He immediately tried to express, “Tim that’s not-”

“You never wanted me to be Robin. You thought I wasn’t good enough so you got rid of me the first chance you got.”

Mind thinking quickly as he tried to recover, Dick remembered, “We had a great time being Batman and Robin after Azrael remember? We were a great duo and I loved having you as Robin. Bruce was even a little jealous to see us get along so well.”

“You were only pretending,” Tim rationalized. “You were only pretending because Bruce wanted you to. He was the one who liked me.”

“I love you, Timmy,” Dick insisted. “I’ve always loved you. I loved having you around as a little brother and being Batman and Robin together. The only reason I sent you here was because you needed help, Timmy, you needed professional help. You weren’t,” Dick’s lips thinned as he tried to chose the right words and he finally explained, “You weren’t you anymore, Timmy. You weren’t acting like yourself anymore and I wanted you to get some help.”

“That’s not true,” Tim mumbled before something dawned on him. He softly added, “I hate you, Dick.”

Dick felt like he was talking to a brick wall, but he insisted, “Timmy, you don’t mean that. I love you, Babybird. You’re my little brother and I only want what’s best for you.”

Tim paid no attention to what Dick said and instead glared at Dick and repeated, “I hate you, Dick. I hate you more than anyone.”

“Please, Timmy, don’t say that.”

“Don’t call me ‘Timmy’ you asshole,” Tim said getting angrier as he pulled against the cuff keeping him in the chair. “You can’t call me that after everything you’ve done to me.”

“You’re my little brother, Babybird,” Dick tried hoping the familiar nickname would calm him down. “No matter what’s happened between us you’re still my little brother and I love you more than anything.”

“I never want to see you again, Dick,” Tim spat out. “I’d be happy if you just dropped dead and leave me alone.”

Standing up and walking over to hoping that he’d be able to sway Tim away from his rage, Dick maintained, “You don’t mean that, Tim. Even though we’re not in the best place I’m still your big brother and that’s not going to change.”

“You left me in here,” Tim sneered. “You decided I deserved to be here and then you went on pretending like I didn’t even exist. You hate me, Dick., Yyou don’t want me around and just so you know I feel the same way. I don’t want to see you ever again.”

“Tim, that’s not true,” Dick sighed hoping the point would eventually get across to Tim. He enveloped Tim’s free hand in his own as he explained, “You have to understand I didn’t have any-.”

Tim shook off Dick’s hand and immediately ran to the other side of the room to put as much distance between him and Dick as possible. He kept his glare focused on Dick as he wept, “I hate you, Dick. More than Joker or Boomerang or Bane or anyone that’s tried to kill me I hate you. I wish you were just dead.”

“You don’t mean that,” Dick pleaded as he ignored the fact that Tim had broken out of his cuffs without him noticing. He inched closer and tried, “I know this is a hard time for you, but you have to know that I was only trying to do what was best for you. I was trying my best.”

“I wish you were dead, Dick,” Tim screamed ignoring him, “This is all your fault.”

“I’m sorry, Tim,” Dick hoping to calm him down. “I guess I shouldn’t have sent you-”

“That’s not what I mean,” Tim screamed cutting him off. “If I’d never met you, never seen you at the circus, everything would be so much better. You’re the one who ruined everything. If you’d never hugged me I wouldn’t have risked my life every night and my parents would still be alive. They might still be here, alive and well, but I had to lose them because I met you and you wanted me to be Robin. This is all your fault, Dick. Everything. Without you everything would be so much better, Bruce wouldn’t be lost somewhere, but you wanted me to be Robin and everything went to shit.”

“What?” Dick asked caught off guard. Now more confused than ever he recalled, “You’re the one who was following us around and said that Batman needed a Robin.”

“I was talking about you, Dick,” Tim reminded him. “I wanted you to be Robin. You’re the one who shot that down and said I should be Robin. It was you and Alfred. After that…” Tim took a pause before mumbling, “after that you ruined my life.”

Unsure of what else he could possibly say to that, Dick tried, “That…that was years ago, Timmy. What does that have to do with us now?”

“You just keep ruining my life,” Tim repeated. “You just keep ruining everything in the life, Dick. Everything wrong in my life is because of you you.”

Hesitant to challenge Tim, Dick took a step back to lean against the table and give Tim some space before asking, “What brought this on, Timmy? There has to be a reason you’re only saying this now.”

Hands twitching from their place at his sides, Tim choked out, “When I saw you I realize how much I want you gone.”

Scared although unsure who for, Dick edged closer to the door and said, “I think I should get your nurse, Timmy. You don’t look so well.”

Tim’s face immediately returned to a sharp glare. Dick stepped back at the weight of his gaze while Tim stepped closer and said, “Every time there’s something wrong you want to push me off to someone else.”

Dick didn’t know if Tim was training in Arkham, but he was definitely faster than he remembered. Before he could even register what was happening Tim’s hands were on his throat and he couldn’t move. Tim used all of his power to force Dick down against the wall until he was collapsed on the ground. Not wanting to hurt his brother, Dick looked out into the hallway hoping to get someone’s attention and help, but he found the hallway pitch black with no sign that anything had ever been there. Lungs burning as he started to lose his breath, Dick turned back to Tim and found his brain go blank with no idea of what he should do.

“You ruin everything, Dick,” He said too calm as he tightened his grip and watched the color start to drain from Dick’s face. He chuckled, “I’m not even going to miss you, you know? I’m going to find B, get him back, and he’s not going to miss you either. We’re going to be a family without you, Dick.”

By now Dick didn’t have the energy to fight back. All he could do was lean against the wall and close his eyes as his vision became too blurry to make out much more than Tim’s easy smile. He used the little energy he had left gasping as he tried to force some air into his lungs but found that the effort made things worse.

When he didn’t think he could last much longer, Dick opened his eyes to find himself drenched in sweat and Tim’s smile replaced by the ceiling of his bedroom. He looked around quickly trying to take in everything that had happened before realizing it had all just been a nightmare. Instead of a room in Arkham with his murderous little brother, Dick was in his bed alone with the morning sun keeping him from getting any more sleep.

Digging out his phone from under his pillow, Dick knew he didn’t have a lot of time before he’d be expected to make an appearance at breakfast. He debated staying in bed for a few more minutes, probably hours, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to come up with a convincing lie that wouldn’t draw too much unwanted attention. This was definitely a situation he didn’t want to discuss with anyone, particularly Tim.

Instead, he rushed through a shower to hopefully wake him up and clean himself of the sweat he’d woken up in. By the time he finally willed himself downstairs, everyone else had already finished with breakfast and the kitchen was empty. Immediately calmed, Dick was happy to see that no one was around as he found jam for the toast that had already been prepared. A note on the fridge told him that the coffee machine was ready for him to start whenever he finally woke up. He moved slowly as he started the pot and sat down with his breakfast. He was able to get halfway through before he could hear someone barreling down the stairs.

“Hey, Dick,” Tim said happily as he poked into the kitchen and immediately turned his attention to his older brother glad to see he had found the breakfast. “We didn’t want to wake you, so we left everything out for you for when you got up. Bruce and Alfred left not too long ago and I’m about to head out too to meet Ives for some tennis,” he added motioning to the duffle bag he’d left to rest on the floor while he collected his water bottle.

Dick was still in shock, mind shooting back to the Timmy of half an hour ago as he made an awkward noise as he almost choked on his coffee thinking back to the hands on his throat.

Tim gave him a confused look and walked closer to look him over as he asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Tim didn’t believe and knew to take the initiative. He walked back to his bag as if he hadn’t noticed Dick’s tension and asked, “Do you want to drive me out? We’re meeting up at school to use their courts and you can join us or go into the city if you want.”

“Are you sure?” Dick asked cautiously. “You two probably haven’t had a lot of time to meet up recently all things considered.”

“Well it’s not just going to be the two of us,” Tim said hoping to ease Dick’s worries. “It’s going to be a bunch of people so it won’t be weird if you tag along. It’s pretty lowkey, but only if you want to come. I’m not gonna force you.”

“I think I’d rather stay home,” Dick admitted focussing on his plate. “There are some things I need to catch up on.”

“Alright,” Tim said easily but obviously disappointed. “I don’t know when B and Alfred are going to be back, but I’m going to be out for most of the day. I’ll catch you later.”

“I’ll see you later, Tim,” Dick called back to Tim as he found the keys to his car and gave him a final smile before disappearing behind the garage door.

Alone again in the mansion, Dick sat back long enough to see Tim pull out of the driveway and realized he’d lost his appetite. He finished up, leaving the scraps for Ace in his bowl as a snack before returning to his room and collapsing on his bed. Dick knew he’d be spending most of the day mulling things over.

“You know that I can do this by myself, right?” Tim asked cheekily before handing the plate over to Dick to dry. “I’ve been helping Alfred with chores since I was 13. I know just high his standards are.”

“I know, Timmy,” Dick said mind obviously elsewhere. “I just wanted to help.”

Dick looked up to find Tim studying him with a raised eyebrow. He would give anything to know just what his baby brother was thinking, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to get the information out of him. Instead, he only got a small smile before Tim turned back to the dishes and focused on the last of the grime.

“You know I love you, right?” Dick asked cautiously. His mind went back and forth between both possible answers and he needed Tim’s answer either way to quell his fears.

“I never doubted it,” Tim answered after being caught off guard for a moment. “You’re my brother, Dick, and I love you too.”

On the verge of tears, Dick went back and forth between keeping his head low and crushing Tim in an embrace and as soon as the last plate was put away Dick’s emotional side won out as he caught Tim off guard.

Tim melted into Dick’s embrace, and mumbled, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” Dick admitted. “Not really.”

“Okay,” Tim said easily. “We can talk about something else. Anything you want, Dick.”


Bat Snapshots 37: Hunted

Tim’s first time meeting Ace

Tim immediately froze from his position on his swing as he heard something move in the bushes behind him. At first he imagined it was a squirrel or bird looking for some food, they came to hang out in his yard a lot, but he soon heard something between a squeal and growl that forced him to imagine that he was being watched by something more dangerous. He nervously glanced over his shoulder ready to sprint back into his house in a moment’s notice.

Tightening his grip on the rope holding the swing up, Tim studied the bushes to see if he could make out what was watching him but stopped thinking when the noise moved in his direction. Tim realized he wouldn’t have enough time to run back inside and protect himself, the thing would probably catch up to him by then, and he was forced to come up with a new plan.

For a moment he wondered if it would be worth it to climb up the tree his swing was hung from, but Tim immediately recognized the problems with that plan. If that thing, maybe person, could climb the tree too Tim would be stuck without anything to do.

As the sound carried ever closer to him, he decided to act on instinct and hope for the best. Tim slowly lowered himself to the ground before using all of his energy to sprint to the fence between the Drake and Wayne properties. It didn’t take him long to climb over the fence, but he didn’t waste anytime looking back as he didn’t want to risk wasting precious time.

Tim cautiously lowered himself on top of the bushes planted along side the fence, he was small enough to sit on them without falling through, and finally landed on the well manicured grass of Bruce Wayne’s backyard. He took a moment to see that there was no one around, but he didn’t expect anything different as it was still a little early and Bruce just have only gotten back from patrol a few hours ago.

Although he didn’t want to bother Bruce, Batman definitely needed all the sleep he could get, Tim couldn’t think of anything to do other than run to the front door and start ringing the doorbell. At least it would be better than knocking the door on the back porch.

It didn’t take long for Alfred to open the door, Tim knew he must have known about Tim climbing over the fence considering how extreme the security was in the Manor, and the butler politely asked, “Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Tim?”

Nodding his head frantically, Tim motioned for him to lean down and carefully whispered, “I need Batman. I need Bruce.”

Alfred stiffened up, Tim knew it must have been shocking, but to his benefit he didn’t try to play dumb. Instead he motioned for Tim to follow him into the Manor and lead him to a sitting room explaining simply, “I’ll go collect Master Bruce. It shouldn’t take long so please wait here until then.”

Now safe from danger and alone, Tim wondered if he’d made the wrong decision. Maybe this wasn’t something Batman needed to be worried about, maybe it actually just was a squirrel and Tim was acting like a baby, and he’d get annoyed with Tim bothering him. After all Bruce dealt with people like Joker and Ivy all the time. He was too important to be worried about something scaring Tim.

Tim debated whether or not he should run back to his house and deal with whatever was in his backyard himself, but after taking a few minutes to think it over he decided to would be even ruder to bother them and then run away without explanation. He didn’t need Bruce telling his parents about how he’d been bothering his neighbors.

Before too long Bruce walked into the room visibly concerned. He took a seat beside Tim and asked, “What is it, Tim? Alfred said you needed me.”

Frantically nodding once again, Tim explained, “There’s something in my house, Mr. Wayne. I was outside on my swing and I heard something moving around. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it was a squirrel or a bird. It sounded scary. At first I thought I had imagined it, but then it started coming closer so I ran over to you.”

“Why me? Aren’t your parents home?” Bruce asked curious. He didn’t want to interrogate a boy obviously concerned, but he was still shocked about what Alfred had told him. He still didn’t believe that a small boy could know his secret.

“Your Batman and my parents are away right now,” Tim explained easily. “They’re in Russia looking at fossils of something so I’m alone right now.”

Momentarily not as interested in Tim’s confession of his secret, Bruce asked, “Don’t you have someone looking after you? Is there anyone in your house to help you.”

Tim could tell Bruce was upset and he deflated as he realized it was probably something to do with him. Still, he honestly answered, “I’m too old for a babysitter Mr. Wayne. I can look after myself.”

Bruce wanted to ask more questions, particularly about him knowing he’s Batman and who thought it was okay to leave such a young boy alone, but he didn’t think it would be best for Tim. Instead he stood up and said, “It was in your backyard, right? We should go and see what it is.”

Nodding, Tim stood up and followed Bruce outside. This time they took the more normal route as they walked to Tim’s house and he dug out the house key from his pocket and offered it to Bruce because he still wasn’t great at opening the door. It was pretty heavy and it took a lot of Tim’s energy and time to push it open. This was time sensitive.

Bruce frowned as he took the key from Tim but forced himself to stop when he say the boy looking up at him concerned. The last thing he wanted was for Tim to think he was upset at him.

As soon as they were inside Tim lead him through the fastest route to the backyard. He stopped as soon as they were at the porch doors and scanned around looking to see if there was anything a miss. He pointed in the direction of his swing and explained, “It was in that direction, but I don’t know where it is right now. It might not be here anymore, but it really was a few minutes ago, Mr. Wayne.”

“I believe you, Tim,” Bruce assured him. He didn’t think it was really anything to be worried about, a person would have definitely left by now, so he offered, “Do you want to come out with me?”

Unsure, Tim took a moment to consider his options. At the very least he didn’t want Bruce, Batman, to think he was scared and he knew Bruce would protect him. Deciding it was a good a time as any to be brave, Tim nodded and said, “Sure, I don’t mind.”

“Stay behind me,” Bruce instructed as he opened the door. “You can tell me which way to go, but stay behind me.”

Tim gripped onto the back of Bruce’s pant leg and explained, “It shouldn’t take long to get there. It’s only a few minutes away.”

They walked silently, both trying to listen intently for any noise, but Bruce was distracted by the distance they were walking. He knew the Drakes had a back yard comparable to his own, many acres, but he couldn’t comprehend why anyone would think it was okay for a child to play by himself so far aware from even his own home. Bruce guessed it was a great thing that Tim was able to find his way to the Wayne Manor.

By the time they were at the swing Bruce wouldn’t even see the house, but Tim had other worries. He asked, “Should I go on the swing? It might be waiting for me to get on the swing.”

“Sure,” Bruce said not really aware what the right answer was. “I’ll look around to see if I can find it.”

They worked in silence, Tim scanning around the bushes and Bruce peeking inside them, but they couldn’t hear anything. Bruce could see that Tim was getting nervous, he probably thought it might have broken into his home or that Bruce didn’t believe him, but he couldn’t think of anything to say to assure him things were fine.

Bruce walked around a little, hoping to hear something get some clues, and luckily enough he heard a branch break not too far away. Looking back, he could see that Tim had heard it too and when they heard it a second time Tim sprinted behind Bruce for safety.

The boy was obviously incredibly worried and Bruce asked, “Do you want to run back home while I deal with this?”

Tim considered the distance he would have to run and decided, “It’s safer with Batman.”

Bruce wanted to say something about not mentioning that while they’re outside, but he was still more worried about Tim. “Stay close, okay? Everything will be fine.”

Tim nodded and held on tightly to Bruce’s pant as they made their way in the direction of the noise. It became louder as they got closer and pretty soon Bruce knew just where it was coming from. He could tell Tim wasn’t ready to let go so he decided it would be best to work slowly.

The noise stopped as soon as Bruce got closer and Tim dropped his hold on Bruce to cover his eyes and save himself from having to see just what it was. His imagination was going crazy by picturing the scariest most vile concoction that could exist.

Bruce slowly found whatever it was and carefully scavenged through the bushes until he pulled out a familiar looking ball of fur into the light. Practically on the verge of running away again, Tim only looked up when Bruce softly assured him, “It’s fine, Tim. There’s nothing to be worried about.”

Trusting Bruce, Tim peeked through his fingers and was embarrassed to find an annoyingly cute puppy trying to break out of Bruce’s hold. Unsure of what to do, Tim settled for blushing and trying to hide his face as he realized he’d gotten afraid of a little dog who didn’t look like he could fight a leaf. Tim didn’t want to know what Bruce thought of him.

Bruce let out an uncharacteristic smile as Tim tried to calm down his blush. He helped the boy to his feet as he explained, “This is a puppy I got for Dick not long ago, but apparently he broke into your backyard. I’ll make sure Dick keeps a better eye on him from now on so you don’t have to worry. I’m sorry he put you through this ordeal though. Dick will definitely be getting a lecture.”

“That’s okay,” Tim whispered not wanting Dick to get in trouble on his behalf. Instead he leaned in to get a better look of the pup and asked, “What’s his name?”

“He changes his mind every few days, but at this point I think he’s settled on Ace.” Bruce reiterated, “Don’t worry. I’ll have a word with him about not letting this happen again.”

Tim didn’t think he would have a problem if Ace broke into his backyard again, this was in fact Batman’s dog, but he had to ask, “Is he going to fight crime too?”


Thinking to himself as Bruce held open the door, Tim repeated, “When he’s older, he’s probably too small now, but when he’s older is he going to go on patrol with you and Dick?”

“No, Timothy,” Bruce answered hoping Tim would stop talking about his nightlife outside while lacking the resolve to ask the boy to stop. “He’s a dog and dogs don’t fight crime.”

Tim let them walk in silence for a few minutes, but he eventually noted, “Superman’s dog fights crime. He even has his own cape.”

“Yes he does but that’s because his dog is an alien like him. Superman would never take out a regular dog and put him in danger.”

Bruce’s tone told Tim to drop the subject but before he could apologize they were already at the door to Wayne Manor. Before Tim could thank Bruce for his help and turn back home, Alfred opened the door and motioned for them to come inside. “I take it everything went well, Master Bruce?”

“It was only Ace,” Bruce explained. “He’d managed to break into Tim’s backyard when no one was looking. I’ll talk to Dick about it.”

Standing in the foyer unsure of what his role in the conversation was, Tim decided to dismiss himself and turn back home. He smiled at Bruce and said, “Thank you for helping me, Mr. Wayne, but I should probably head back home now. It’s getting late.”

Surprising even himself, Bruce said, “I’d prefer it if you stayed for lunch, Timothy. It’s the least we could do after you found Ace.”

“Are you sure, Mr. Wayne? You don’t have to if it’s too much trouble.”

“Definitely, Timothy. It’s the least I can do to make it up to you for causing you so much trouble.”

Tim wanted to argue, but he couldn’t bring himself to disagree with Batman. Instead he compromised, “I can stay for a little while, but I’ll go home after.”

Tightening his hold on the rope in his hand, Tim tried his hardest to pull it away from Ace. They had been in the same position for a few minutes now, neither of them willing to give up any ground, but Tim could tell Ace was running out of energy. If he could hold out for a few more minutes he was sure he’d win.

He risked a glance back to the porch and saw Dick and Bruce watching him intently. They were talking to each other, probably about him, and Tim knew he wouldn’t let them see him lose to Ace. He loved the puppy, but this was about impressing Batman.

Just as he’d expected Ace gave up not long after and Tim dropped down beside him in exhausted victory. They’d spent their entire day chasing each other around Bruce’s backyard, everyone else was too busy, and Tim assumed this was a good a time as any to call it a day.

He collapsed on the grass and giggled as Ace padded around him looking for the best position to join before crawling on top of his lap. Tim tried to stay awake as long as he could, the ground wasn’t the best place to fall asleep, and it took all of his remaining energy to urge Ace up and towards the Manor.

Tim eventually found himself sitting beside Bruce with Ace on his other side taking a well deserved nap.

“We spent all day outside, Mr. Wayne,” Tim said proudly. “We were running and jumping and everything. He got to be Batdog and I was Batman.”

“You must be pretty tired,” Bruce noted still unable to ask Tim to stop talking about Batman. “It takes a lot of energy to keep up with a dog like Ace.”

“Yeah he almost never wants to stop,” Tim said thinking back to when he’d started chasing the squirrels that lived in Bruce’s trees. “I don’t know how he can always be moving.”

“Well I’m really glad you offered to look after him while I’m not able, Timothy.”

Tim was getting better at hiding his blush, but right now he was too tired to do anything other than assure him, “It wasn’t hard. I really like spending time with him.”

“You think you can stay for a while longer?” Bruce asked cautiously. He knew there was something to be said about a practical stranger asking a kid to stay at his house, but he found himself saying, “Ace really likes you and I think he’d be hurt to have to leave so soon.”

Looking down, Tim considered his options. Batman needed his help. He was sure this was what his whole life was leading up to. Still, he wasn’t sure there was anything he could do. Worse yet, what if he messed it up and ruined his relationship with Bruce forever? He took a moment to fully take in the fact he was sitting in the back porch of Wayne Manor with Batman to one side, Ace on the other, and Dick inside getting them a snack before he finally decided, “I’ll stay if you need me to, Mr. Wayne. I’d love to help!”

Bat Snapshots 36: New Year’s Eve

Tim watched from the top of the stairs as people began trickling into the Manor. It was almost four in the evening and the house was starting to feel chillier as people began moving things out to the back porch to enjoy the pool and fireworks, but Tim wasn’t all that interested. His special guest wasn’t here yet and he didn’t want to miss seeing him come in.

He felt felt Dick rushing around behind him as he looked for some sunscreen until he crouched down beside him to ask, “Whatcha looking at, Babybird?”

“People,” Tim mumbled. He wasn’t quite ready to admit everything just yet and he hoped his brother didn’t press the issue.

Dick turned to the fact Tim hadn’t changed out of his sleeping clothes and asked, “Why haven’t you changed yet? You’re going to be late and the pools going to be too cold soon.”

“I’m not swimming.”

“Why not?” Dick asked.

“I’m still not very good at it,” Tim admitted. His coach in school said it was because he was still small and he’d get better as he grew up and Tim was willing to wait until then to get in the pool.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, Timbo. We’re surrounded by superheroes and they would never let anything bad happen to you.”

Deciding to focus on the finishing on the railings instead of actually looking at his older brother, Tim mumbled, “I don’t want to miss them coming in.”

Raising an eyebrow, Dick asked, “Them or him?” Pressing closer to Tim, he added, “Are you waiting for a special someone, Tim?”

“No,” Tim said a little too loud to be appropriate. “I miss Uncle Clark too.”

“But you knew who I was talking about without me having to say,” Dick challenged. “That has to mean something.”

Tim finally admitted, “Maybe. I guess it’s possible.”

Standing up and encouraging Tim to do so too, Dick said,”So why don’t you come downstairs with me and we can hang around the pool? When they get here it won’t be as awkward between you and Connor when he gets here. If you stay up here then you’re just going to run into your room as soon as you see him.”

Tim contemplated his options before asking, “Are you sure?”

“Of course. It’s my job as your big brother to give you advice on these kinds of things.”

Still not entirely sure but wanting to believe Dick, Tim stood up and said, “Ok. I’ll change.”

Dick assured him, “I’ll be right here so we can walk downstairs together.”

After waiting for a few minutes, Dick began to grow worried and decided to check on his brother and make sure he hadn’t changed his mind. He knocked on Tim’s door and asked, “Everything alright, Timmy? We should get going soon.”

When he didn’t get a response, or maybe one low enough that Dick couldn’t hear, Dick took the initiative to open the door and asked again, “Everything alright? You were taking a while.”

Looking down at the assortment of floaties he had pulled out of his closet and placed on his bed, Tim said, “I can’t swim by myself like you can, Dick.”

“That’s okay, Babybird, most people your age can’t, Dick assured, “You can use your floaties if you want.”

“But he doesn’t have to use them. He can swim all by himself.”

“He can also fly all by himself, but you shouldn’t worry about that either.”

Tim mumbled, “Okay,” again and picked out something that wouldn’t make him look like too much of a little kid. In the end he decided to go with two clear arm floaties and hoped they weren’t too noticeable to any of Bruce’s friends.

Before they could step out, Dick asked, “Don’t you think you should get one that goes around your waist?”

“I’m not that much of a baby, Dick,” Tim said agitated. “I don’t need them to go in the pool.”

“I know you don’t, but just to be safe it would be a good idea.” Dick offered as a compromise, “If you don’t need it we can keep it to the side, but if you do need it it’ll be right there.”

Tim couldn’t think of a proper counter argument and decided Dick probably knew best. He sighed and said, “Fine, but you have to be the one to hold it.” Although it was too small to fit around Dick, Tim hoped if people say it they might think it belonged to him.

Wanting to show his appreciation Dick added, “I’ll even put your sunscreen on for you so you don’t miss a spot,”

Not sure what to do with his appreciation for his older brother, Tim said, “Thank you, Dick.”

“No problem, little brother. I know how important tonight is for you.”

As soon as they stepped off the stairs Tim anxiously pulled on Dick’s arm and begged, “You can’t say anything, Dick. You have to promise you won’t say anything to anyone.”

“I know, Tim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t mess with you about it.” As they entered the back porch and prepared to greet their guests, Dick leaned in to add, “It’s your first ever crush and I’m your big brother so there’s a certain way the universe needs these things to go.”

Annoyed, Tim huffed away from Dick to launch himself at Wally and ask, “Do you want to go swimming with me? I’ve been practicing a lot and they’ve been teaching us swimming at school.”

Carrying him over to the steps of the pool, Wally let him dangle his feet in the water and said, “Wow you must be really good then.”

“I’m okay,” Tim said for the sake of modesty, “but you can’t leave me in all by myself.”

“I would never even think about it.” Wally dipped in beside Tim and slowly lowered himself until his shorts began to inflate and the water stopped feeling as cold. “I could even teach you a few tricks if you wanted.”

Tim considered the offer as he made his way to the second step to test how comfortable he felt. In the end he decided, “I can’t go underwater though. The water hurts my eyes and ears.”

“Hmm. Maybe I can teach you how to jump into the pool. You’ve never done that before right?”

Concerned and barely able to imagine floating in the water by himself, Tim asked, “What if I jump too hard and my feet get broken when they hit the floor.”

“You’re floaties will keep you above water.”

“What if they pop while I’m jumping?” Tim asked. If there was anything Bruce had taught him it was that he needed to consider every possibility when it came to his safety.

“Then I’ll be the one to catch you.” Patting Tim’s hair because he knew how much it bothered him to get his hair wet, Wally assured him, “You’ll be ready by the end of the night. Just floating around the pool will calm your nerves, don’t worry.”

Tim responded to his wet hair by splashing water into Wally’s face while waiting for the water to not feel as chilly. It was was well past his waist by now and Tim was starting to feel anxious, but Wally was never more than a few inches away from his side.

By now Dick was warming up with laps around the pool, and he emerged from underwater to ask Tim, “Are you ready to go deeper?”

Enjoying the feeling of staying grounded to the steps, Tim decided, “No not yet. Maybe later, but not yet.”

“How about coming off the steps?” Dick tried. “You’ll like being able to move your legs more and get more comfortable.”

Knowing if he wanted to impress Conner he’d have to move past the steps at some point, Tim asked, “You’ll save me?”

“Of course that’s what we do.”

When Tim still couldn’t reach a decision Wally offered, “How about you crouch down a little so you can get everything wet and it won’t bother you as much to go deeper?”

Holding onto Wally’s hand as he made sure to keep his head above the water, Tim felt ready to go past the steps. He wanted to move before he got dry and cold again and as soon as he was properly wet he signaled for Wally and Dick to prepare to save him. Tim cautiously stepped off but as soon as his feet weren’t meeting anything he frantically splashed his arms in panic. He knew he wouldn’t drown with the floaties, but he only calmed down once Wally and Dick were holding him still and above water.

Concerned about his brother’s reaction, Dick asked, “Do you want the spaceship floatie? I can grab it for you.”

Tim wanted to argue, but as soon as Wally stopped holding onto him he began to panic again. He knew if he wanted to stay in the pool he’d probably need it.

Dick knew his brother had agreed even without him needing to say anything and he rushed out the pool to grab it from behind some of the lawn furniture. He threw it into the pool before leaping in beside it and pushing it in Tim’s direction.

Wally helped Tim move back to the steps so he could get into the hole and moved back to Dick’s side as they encouraged him to move out to them on his own. It took Tim a few seconds but that was only because he decided to leap from the top step to a few feet in front of him before kicking his feet forward as fast as he could.

Slowly moving backwards to urge Tim further towards the center, Dick asked, “It’s not that bad is it?”

Enjoying the feeling of being able to kick his legs, Tim admitted, “No I guess not. It makes it better actually.”

Before Dick could say anything in terms of gloating in his success, the door to the back porch opened up as Barry stepped out to bring the food for the party. He called out, “Hello boys! It looks like you’re having a lot of fun.”

“We are,” Tim said easily.

Dick added, “You should come in too Uncle Barry.”

“Doesn’t Bruce have a rule about an adult having to be at the pool to watch you guys?” Barry asked looking for an explanation for why he might leave the group preparing the rest of the food. “He doesn’t seem like the kind of person to let kids swim by themselves.”

“We’re only allowed to swim when Bruce or Alfred can watch us, but they don’t come in a lot,” Tim said trying to be helpful. “Sometimes Ace comes too, but he freaks out every time we go in the pool and tries to get us out even when we don’t need his help.”

Smirking down at them as he made sure the food was properly sealed, Barry said, “I guess Bruce would want me to drop everything and make sure no one gets hurt.”

Dick added, “The others should be getting here soon too so Bruce will have more help setting up.”

It didn’t take him long to change into his swimsuit and sneak past Bruce, it didn’t take him long to do most things, and he returned to find the boys competing to see who could make the largest splash with his jump.

Tim stayed in the back as the judge, he was the only one who couldn’t jump in so it was the only thing he could do, and tried to guard his face as Wally and Dick repeatedly leaped in. As soon as he spotted Barry taking off his shoes he asked, “Can you jump in too, Uncle Barry? You could make a huge splash if you jump.” By the sheer fact he was larger, Barry should have made the biggest jump out of the group.

Stepping up to the edge he said, “I’m going to need some room so no one gets hurt.” He leaped up as high as he could, a childish part of himself wanting to impress the boys, before looking up to see Tim wading in the water from the ripples.

“Uncle Barry wins,” Tim exclaimed clapping. “The water went so high and splashed me in the face.”

Before the others could start complaining about the comparison not being fair, the door opened again as Clark and Conner stepped onto the back porch to greet them enthusiastically.

“You guys look like you’re having a lot of fun,” Clark noted. “Although Steve and Diana were wondering where you went, Barry.”

Wanting Conner to get into the pool as soon as possible, Tim decided, “We’re about to start a game of volleyball. You should join too.”

Wally looked back at him confused, they hadn’t talked about any games, but seeing the blush growing deeper he knew to go along with it. By now pretty much everyone knew about Tim’s crush on Conner even though he didn’t like to admit it. Catching a similar knowing look in Dick, Wally added, “We should break out into teams. One member from each family on the teams to keep things fair.”

“I call Uncle Clark and Wally on my team,” Dick said quickly. “You guys won’t be able to beat us at all.”

Laughing, Barry assured him, “I wouldn’t be so sure, kid.”

While Conner went to the pool house to change and Clark went to find a ball and net to pass through the center Tim pulled Dick to the side to say, “I think I don’t need my floaties anymore, Dick.”

“You don’t know how to swim yet, Timmy,” Dick said. “You should probably keep them on.”

Looking back at the pool house, Tim begged, “But…Conner.”

“He won’t care about something like that,” Dick assured him. “You know that.”

“But I’m the only one, Dick.”

“No one cares. They care that you don’t get hurt.”

“Okay,” Tim grunted before adding, “Thank you, Dick.”

Swimming over to his half of the pool, Dick said, “No problem, Babybird. It’ll make up for how bad we beat you in this game.”

Catching the ball after Clark blew air into it, Barry tested it a few times as he warned Dick, “I wouldn’t be too sure about that.”

Conner took his place beside Tim and Barry and added, “We’re going to beat you so bad, Dick. We’re a lot better than you.” With all the things Clark had been teaching Conner, trash talking wasn’t one of them.

Once everyone was in position, Barry bounced the ball in his hand before speeding up to spike it over the net with just enough energy to not destroy it as soon as it hit the water. “One point for us,” he said smugly. “That’s the closest this game is going to be so cherish the moment.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Barry,” Clark said as he got into position to serve the ball over the net. “It might just be the only time you’re in the lead.”

The game stayed tied for most of the night, neither team could get more than one point ahead of the other, but after crossing 10 the kids decided to sit on the edge and watch the game instead. After they had decided the team to get a two point lead would be the winner, Barry and Clark starting being even more competitive and the boys couldn’t get anything in.

Every now and then Conner tried to use his laser eyes to try and pop the ball and end the game, but every time he tried he almost hit someone.

After a few minutes the door opened behind them as Hal and Diana joined the group. Once they saw the two in intense competition they asked the boys about the score before immediately joining in the game, Hal with Clark and Diana with Barry. There was a controversy for a moment over whether or not Hal should be allowed to use his ring in the game, but they decided it was okay if Diana could use her wrist cuffs.

Pretty soon Conner decided he was bored of seeing the same few plays get acted out over and over again. Once Barry’s team had the lead and was getting ready to serve he asked Clark, “Who are you going to kiss at midnight Dad?” Just to keep his attention Conner added, “You too, Uncle Hal, who are you going to kiss? Aunt Diana has Uncle Steve, but you two don’t have anyone.”

Shocked out of his concentration Clark turned to Conner alarmed. “Why would you ask that? What? Conner, what?”

As soon as the ball hit the water behind him and Hal Conner sighed and said, “This was getting boring. I don’t care anymore and you guys keep on doing the same thing over and over again.”

Before anyone could refute the point Diana called out, “That point counts. We win.”

“You boys really play dirty don’t you?” Hal said from beside Clark. “That was a smart move, Conner.”

Quickly running around and removing the net and from the pool before they could start another match, Wally said, “We should go join everyone on ground as soon as Tim tries to jump in.” He didn’t really care, he was just as hungry as the rest of the swimmers, but he still wanted to see Tim jump.

Tim quickly said, “No. It’s okay. We can eat instead.”

Wally promised, “I’ll catch you if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

Seeing no way out of the situation and everyone looking at him expectantly, Tim decided, “No it’s okay. I’ll do it.” Tim didn’t want any of the heroes to think he was scared and he slowly made his way to the end of the board. He could see that Wally was edging closer just in case, but Tim didn’t want anyone to think he needed the help. He inwardly counted to three but couldn’t seem to move his feet until he saw Conner look up expectantly.

Bruce caught a glimpse of Tim standing over the pool from inside the Manor where he was cutting up fruit. He wasn’t immediately worried, but he did rush outside to make sure everything was alright. Bruce noted the adults in the pool and said, “You have all been horrible help today. The pool was supposed to be for the kids,” before turning to his son to ask, “What are you doing, Tim?”

“I’m about to jump in the pool, Dad,” Tim explained with a shaky voice. “Everyone else did.”

Wally assured him, “It’s okay Uncle B. We’ll catch him if you’re worried.”

“I’m not worried, I just want to know Tim’s not worried.” Bruce knew he didn’t have to be worried all things considered, but he knew Tim was skeptical considering his stressed stance.

“It’s okay I can do it.” There was no way he was going to be surrounded by half the Justice League and not do something everyone else had done. It was only after a few words of encouragement from the group behind him that he walked more than jumped into the water. His eyes were squinted closed, his hands were still tightly grasping the floatie around his waist, and everyone was ready to go see if he needed help until Tim mumbled, “Cold. Cold. Cold. The water is very very cold.”

Diana reasoned, “It’s getting late and you were out of the pool for a while so it probably feels colder for you.”

Barry got out of the pool and quickly shook off the water until he was completely dry with Wally and Clark soon to follow. “I can grab you guys towels to dry off.”

Everyone called out in unison, “Please,” before stepping out of the pool and starting to shake as the cold air hit them hard.

Bruce helped Tim take off the floaties as he was shaking too hard to wiggle them off himself and once a towel landed on his head he tried to keep Tim warm. He warned, “You don’t want to spend the rest of the break sick.”

Dick wasn’t paying attention to the cold, but looked down at the food at the table and asked, “Can we start eating? Food looks pretty good.”

Dried off from a shower and clean of all the chemicals from the pool, Tim sat in the den of the pool house watching the clock start to countdown on tv. They still had a few hours until midnight but once the heating in the pool couldn’t counter the cold night everyone began to trickle out. As the only two non metas in the pool Dick and Tim were told to leave first and being much smaller Tim was finished first. He would have gone to Bruce and offer him help with the remainder of the party, there was going to be a larger dinner closer to midnight, but he was too tired to be of much help.

Surprisingly Conner was the next one to be finished and he quickly flew up to the seat beside Tim to join him in watching tv. Tim didn’t know what to say and he didn’t need to once Conner asked, “Do you wanna watch a movie? This is pretty boring.” The only thing they were showing was the crowd over NYC and after a few scenes it was pretty uninteresting.

“What movie do you want?” Tim offered, “We could watch anything you want to.”

Not too aware of many good movies, Conner asked, “What do you usually watch?”

“Dick and I like a lot of old kung fu movies, but I don’t know if the others would like them.”

Raking his mind for anything his father might have mentioned, Conner thought, “What about Star Wars?”

Feeling all the more in love, Tim asked, “Have you seen any of them before?”

“Not really,” Conner said honestly before remembering Tim might not be impressed with that answer. “I know a lot of the stuff that happens in them though.”

“Which one do you want to see first?” Tim asked. This was more of a test to see what Conner’s taste was, but he knew there was a right answer Tim would appreciate more.

“Dad always says to ignore the first three movies so we should probably start from the fourth one,” Conner said easily. He could tell that Tim was excited and he hoped it had something to do with him.

“Okay but we should wait until the others get here. They won’t like it if we start without them.” Tim didn’t want them to come in and see them in the middle of a movie if the adults wanted to watch something else.

“What should we do while we wait?” Conner asked. “It’s going to take a while before everyone finishes up.”

Dick came into the room wrapped in a towel and his pjs and offered the boys, “We should play video games. We might even get a few games in before everyone else takes over.”

Tim didn’t really mind, he thought it was a good idea considering he got to sit next to Conner on the couch, but he did think everyone was getting too competitive once the adults came back in. Even Bruce looked like he wanted to complain about them acting like children, but there wasn’t much he could say after he became obsessed with beating Diana on Rainbow Road. Dick had a personal vendetta against Steve after he made a joke about him being short and even Wally wanted to beat his uncle.

With a nudge to Tim’s arm Conner leaned in and whispered, “Do you want to go upstairs? You have a tv there right?”

Looking at the clock, Tim agreed. “We don’t have a lot of time before midnight. We won’t be able to catch most of the movie.”

“We could go on the balcony and watch the fireworks though.”

No one noticed them getting off the couch to leave the room, Dick subconsciously knew they made more room on the couch but he couldn’t pull himself away from the game long enough to notice why.

They found themselves in the game room on the second floor and immediately rolled the tv out to the balcony so they could watch the countdown. They only had a few minutes left until the ball dropped, but perked up when they saw that they had more than enough time to get comfortable on the couch.

Suddenly Conner remembered, “There’s a rule. When it’s officially midnight you have to kiss someone.”

Although he already knew about the tradition, the reminder lead Tim to lean in and whispered with a chuckle, “Do you think everyone downstairs is going to kiss?” Diana was the only one with her boyfriend there.

“Maybe they could do something like a kiss on the cheek instead. I don’t think they are going to notice when midnight happens though.” After a small pause to appreciate the skyline scene on the screen outside Conner worked up the courage to ask, “Do you want to kiss at midnight?”

Tim knew he must have looked flushed, Conner’s vision was good enough that the darkness wouldn’t bother him, but he managed to squeak out, “Yeah that sounds like a good idea.”

Conner didn’t show it, but he was proud of himself for finally asking Tim the questions. He had been debating it the entire trip over, he confessed his plan to Clark and asking for his advice, but it was nowhere near as nerve racking as he had imagined. Being around Tim just made him feel calm.

They didn’t say much to each other for the remainder of the day, there was only a few minutes left, but when the final few seconds began to countdown they straightened up in excitement. It was the nerve of knowing this was going to be both of their first kisses and that if they did something wrong they could ruin their relationship that kept them on edge.

As soon as the ball began to drop they faced each other feeling nervous all over again. Tim took the initiative this time and leaned into Conner until their lips met and neither of them dared breath and ruin the moment. They held the position for a few moments until they had to pull away to catch a breath and silently enjoy the fireworks lighting up the sky in front of them.

Waving goodbye at the crowd as they took off in their own forms of transportation, Tim finally began to feel incredibly tired. It was well past his regular bedtime and he knew he wouldn’t be able to stay up much longer so instead he held onto Bruce so his father would hold him as they entered the house.

Closing the door behind them, Bruce asked, “Do you want me to put you to bed?”

“Yes please,” Tim mumbled with a yawn.

“No problem, sport.”

“We did a lot today,” Tim remarked as they walked up the stairs. “I might even be tired tomorrow.”

“I’ll make sure no one bothers you until you’re well rested,” Bruce promised.

Tim hummed his appreciation but not before asking, “Can Conner come over tomorrow?”

“He’s probably going to want to stay in too.”

“Conner’s not like us,” Tim said happily. “He doesn’t need a lot of sleep just like Uncle Clark doesn’t.”

Sighing, Bruce said, “Maybe Clark wants him to stay inside so they can spend the day together. His break ends soon then yours.”

Tim grunted his acknowledgment and remained seated when Bruce laid him down on his bed. It was while Bruce’s back was towards him that Tim decided to add, “I kissed Conner today. While everyone was playing the game we went upstairs and watched everything on tv and at midnight we kissed.” Getting through the statement was harder than he had imagined and he found his voice getting airier as he went along.

Although he ignored looking Tim in the eye, Bruce dropped his pjs on the bed and said, “That’s nice son.”

“Do you think it will happen again?” Tim asked. He really wanted to, but all the movies he’d watched ended right here and he didn’t know what was supposed to happen after.

“I can’t know for sure, short.” Bruce cautiously asked, “Do you want it to?”

“Yes,” Tim said enthusiastically. “It was a lot of fun and I really really like him.”

“Well then I hope things go in your favor,” Bruce said diplomatically.

After smiling his appreciation to Bruce, Tim looked over the clothes he had chosen for him and prepared to change. Bruce patted his hair as a goodnight, but before he could leave Tim asked, “Are you going to sleep too?” If he wasn’t, Tim just might decide to stay up and see if he could sneak his phone away to call Conner in Metropolis.

Bruce said honestly, “I have to talk to Dick about something important and maybe make a call or two, but I’ll be in bed soon.”

Tim deflated as his plan fell through, but he decided he already had the perfect beginning for the new year..

Bat Snapshots 35: Alone on Christmas

Winter in the Manor usually meant things were slowing down for a few weeks. There was a massive decrease in crime in the city, even criminals took time off to be with their families, and this left Bruce with more time than he knew what to do with. He spent a lot of his time looking over old cases and making improvements to the machinery, but there was only so much he could do. Alfred usually went over his head to make sure he was getting something reminiscent of a proper sleep for a few weeks out of the year.

Just as did most weeks leading up to Christmas, Alfred came into Bruce’s bedroom just early enough for him to tune into the morning news and catch up on anything important that might have happened while he was sleeping. There was usually a summary of international developments with a projection of what was expected later in the day, but today was different. The news was as slow as the crime rate and instead of running actual news, they were running a pre taped interview with a familiar figures in Gotham. It was fluff, but it was something Bruce could listen to as he ate his breakfast. This time he barely got past one sip of milk before he completely forgot about eating.

It had been a few weeks since Bruce had seen Tim and the television in his bedroom was the last place he expected to see him. The interview itself was simple enough, a few details about what was going on in Wayne Enterprises and their outreach over the holiday season, and Tim handled the questions masterfully. Compared to everything Bruce had seen him go through, this was nothing. Bruce was able to drown out most of it as background noise until the interviewer asked his own experience with Christmas in Wayne Manor. The question itself was nothing special, the fluff that was to be expected this close to the season, but it was the pause that through Bruce off. Tim didn’t say anything for a few moments, longer than what was to be expected with such an easy questions, and when he did speak he put on the fake smile Bruce had hated the first time he had seen it. Cautiously, and in a slightly defeated tone recognizable to those close to him, Tim answered, “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never spent Christmas with Mr. Wayne. He likes to keep Christmas to close friends and family.”

As soon as the interview finished Bruce turned off the television and contemplated what he had just heard. It was one of the last things he was expecting to hear a few days before Christmas. Although he hated to admit it, Bruce knew it was true.

In the months after he had formally adopted Tim, Bruce had actually been looking forward to having his family together for Christmas. He had considered it one of the final ways Tim would need to be induced into the family. Looking back on it he had died before that ever came to fruition. Instead, everything was left up to Dick who already had to balance so many other responsibilities. Bruce couldn’t imagine Christmas had been too festive. His sons hadn’t even been on speaking terms after Dick had asked Tim to take a break from Robin and urged him to seek psychological help. If Tim was anything like Bruce he hadn’t stopped working for a moment and was probably looking over hieroglyphics in a hotel room across the ocean while Alfred and Dick tried to tie together something reminiscent of their Christmases from years ago. Knowing Tim’s tack for self doubt, he had probably thought that he didn’t belong with the family for Christmas. The feelings was probably amplified by the fact that Tim was technically not a part of the family once he became an emancipated minor although Bruce had never considered him as anything other than his son.

Bruce knew the problem went beyond just Tim’s relationship with Bruce. For most of the early years of their relationship Bruce had been in the dark to just how neglectful the Drakes were to Tim. The lack of any meaningful contact, the distance they kept between them and their son even when they were in town, and the emotional abuse should have been clear. Bruce might have noticed sooner if he’d paid closer attention to just how Tim reacted around the adult figures in his life, but he didn’t. Instead, he’d tried to keep his distance with the boy so that he didn’t impede on his supposed relationship with his parents and Tim had spent Christmas alone and without anyone to keep him company. Tim didn’t have the traditions of other families, Bruce wasn’t even sure if he had trees and presents. Even at his darkest moments Bruce still had Alfred to look out for him, but it dawned on him that Tim didn’t have anyone.

If Bruce was being honest to himself, his return to Gotham hadn’t been as pleasant as it could have been. The first few days might have been enjoyable, Bruce wouldn’t be surprised if he had been too tired to be anything other than happy, but it definitely hadn’t lasted long. Pretty soon Bruce had gotten to see just how much his ‘death’ had affected Tim, how different he was from the boy he’d left months ago, and Bruce wasn’t ready for that. Some part of him must have known that any change in the boy was certainly caused by his obsessive need to find Bruce, a need he’d probably inherited in the years he’d been working with Bruce, but it hadn’t felt like a priority back then. There was just so much for Bruce to catch up on, so much work that had to be done to ensure a steady change in command from Dick back to Bruce, that Tim hadn’t been a priority. Bruce had become so much like Tim’s parents without even noticing and now he might have lost one of his sons.

As the program on the tv changed to the commercials Bruce was shocked out of his daze and quickly turned it off to think. He left the breakfast Alfred had brought him mostly untouched to go downstairs to the kitchen to see if he was the only one to catch the interview.

Alfred looked just as disappointed as Bruce felt while Dick looked too anxious to say anything. Bruce could tell he put most of the blame on himself for abandoning his little brother, but everyone knew they couldn’t sit around angry about things they couldn’t change right now. They couldn’t just wait for another year to pass with Tim so far removed from the rest of his family.

Titans Tower was mostly empty outside of the three of them finishing up on their Christmas preparations. With most of the titans out of town visiting family they had to make sure everything was in order in case someone tried to break in. The odds were in their favor as most villains had their own Christmas plans, but Tim was never one to leave their security up to odds. Kon and Bart were there mostly to keep Tim company as long as they could and hopefully convince him to spend Christmas with either one of them. They all knew he spent most of the break on his own and they couldn’t leave their friend to that kind of fate.

Kon decided to act first and turned his eyes away from the game he and Bart were playing on the tv to ask, “Hey, you wanna come to Smallville with me for a few days? I could ask Ma and Pa about you staying for Christmas dinner.” He was trying to sound as nonchalant as possible and hoped Tim wouldn’t notice the look he and Bart were giving each other in anticipation.

Tim didn’t look up from the laptop on his lap but gave a laugh that wasn’t meant to sound as sarcastic as it did. “Wouldn’t it be weird for them to have a stranger in their home for Christmas? Besides, Christmas dinner should be for family, it’s fine.”

The response didn’t sit well with Kon; Tim had been over to the farm enough times that neither Ma or Pa considered him anything other than a close family friend. Kon wanted to make a point about Tim certainly not spending Christmas with his family, even the scarps of the one he had left, but he didn’t want Tim to have to say something about how unfamilial his relationship with Bruce, Dick, and Alfred was.

“You could come to Central with me if you wanted,” Bart said before remembering to add, “Max loves having you around and there’s a big party anyway so one person isn’t a big deal.”

Smiling at his friends’ concern, Tim assured them, “I’ll be fine on my own you two. Someone should probably stay behind and watch over the tower just in case.” Before either of them could say something else to try and change his mind, Tim stood up and announced, “I’m going to go check on the sensors in the yard. Can’t leave anything up to chance.”

Tim left with the boys thinking of another plan of action. They had been friends long enough that they couldn’t just leave something like this slide and although the two had altruistic intentions in helping their friend, they also knew having Tim around would be to their benefits too.

Even after the years they had known about one another, Clark and Kon weren’t close to any degree. Christmas was always strained with Clark always coming to visit his parents. He’d gotten into the habit of quickly eating the Christmas dinner, always remembering to thank Ma for her great cooking, before rushing back to his room from the remainder of the night. Although none of the family would be willing to say it outloud, Kon knew he made things awkward for them. They had traditions they had built over the years since Clark crash landed in their backyard and there wasn’t any room for Kon in them. So he spent most of the night and the following day in his room distracting himself with old shows and video games while using all of his will to not listen in on the conversation happening on the other side of the wall. There were always a few moments he wanted to go join the family, but in the years since he’d started to spend the days by himself they had never complained that he wasn’t with them. He’d hoped that Tim coming by would mean things could change, that he might not have to stay hidden away in his room, but that didn’t seem likely.

Bart’s own experiences weren’t all that different. Max spent most of the days before Christmas cleaning out the living room and preparing all of the decorations. Bart hadn’t known a lot about Christmas the first year he spent in Central, in the future there weren’t many causes for celebration, so the entire experience had been new to him. Max had gotten bored with all of his questions pretty quickly and had asked him to do some menial tasks in his room while he handled the more important things on his own. Bart understood, he really did. He knew he shouldn’t be around to mess things up and make people angry because it seemed to happen a lot around him and the damage could be kept to a minimum if he kept to himself. When Christmas day did finally roll around Bart usually didn’t come out to greet the guests because he didn’t want to risk seeing Barry or Wally upset to have him there. They came by to see their friends and Bart definitely wasn’t one of them. He came out to eat dinner, there was only so far a speedster could go without eating anything, but even then mostly kept to himself. Bart found the conversations taking place around him more interesting than anything he had to say and was out of the picture once the group moved to opening presents. Without Kon’s super hearing Bart didn’t have to worry about overhearing something that wasn’t meant for him, but he did wonder if anyone noticed that he wasn’t there. Realistically he felt that someone had to notice that he wasn’t with the rest of the group, but the lack of presents meant for him said otherwise. Bart had seen enough Christmas movies to know that Christmas wasn’t about the presents, but he also knew their absence spoke volumes to his place in the family.

Knowing the two were thinking about the same thing, Kon said, “I guess we could stay here and keep him company if we wanted.”

“Yeah he would never agree to come with us,” Bart said in agreement. Looking around the room they were in, Bart added, “No reason not to stay, but the tower doesn’t really feel Christmassy.”

Kon didn’t have any money with him, but he knew just were Tim kept his and was easily able to fish it out from the bag he had left behind. “This can be our present to Tim and we can probably find everything we need if we leave right now.”

“We’re going to need a lot of lights considering how huge the place is,” Bart realized. “We can’t halfass our first Christmas together.”

“We’ll probably need a pretty big tree too,” Kon said taking in the dimensions of the room. “An average sized tree’s going to look small with these high ceilings.”

Bart recalled, “There were some I saw on my way here and we could find one big enough to look nice here.”

Although Tim tried, he couldn’t find any fault in the security on the ground. It was a testament to how much time and effort he had put into the security program, but he sort of wished he had a problem to distract himself with. If not it was certainly going to be a long night of trying to pass time.

He didn’t think there was anyone left in the tower, he’d seen Kon and Bart leave soon after he had, so it was surprising to hear hushed arguing coming from the common room. The first thing his mind went to was that his security system was not as strong as he had imagined, but he soon recognized the voices as those of his friends. Confused, Tim peeked into the room to see Kon lifting a tree arguing with Bart over where to place it. He stood still for a few moments taking in the scene of scattered ornaments, unwrapped lights, and tree being held in the air before stepping in to ask, “What’s going on?”

It looked like Kon almost lost his grasp on the tree, but he regained it in time to say, “Artistic differences, Tim, it always comes down to artistic differences.”

Bart rushed over to Tim to explain, “He doesn’t understand that we can’t put the tree in the middle. I’ll trip over all the wires, Tim. If I’m going fast I can’t see all of them.”

“Why do you have a tree in the first place?” Tim asked confused.

Kon easily answered, “We’ve decided we’re going to stay with you over Christmas.”

“You didn’t have to do that.” Tim repeated, “Really, you didn’t have to.”

“We know, but we didn’t want you to be alone on Christmas.”

Bat Snapshots 34: Titles

Batman and Robin scanned the scene from their perch on roof across the road from a gallery in the heart of Gotham. They were looking into a robbery happening at the opening at the art museum that was supposed to happen tonight. Most of Gotham’s elite were in the gallery discussing the pieces they would like to auction on and what the authors were trying to convey.

From his position Tim could see Dick moving across the crowd, smiling to everyone and pretended to be interested in everyone who pulled him aside. Robin knew his older brother well enough to see he would anything to trade places with either of them right now, but even Nightwing lucked out every now and then. Maybe someday Tim would be the one charming the crowd, but as of now no one would believe he was old enough to attend a formal function on his own.

The beeping off the signal in their gauntlets forced Tim to look away as he read exactly what Alfred was sending them from the Manor. He read it over a second time to make sure he didn’t miss anything before informing Bruce, “There’s been a breach on the other side of the building. Someone forced his or her way through the kitchen and the guards lost him or her on the third floor of the building. They’ve blocked off the every higher floors, so the robber won’t be able to get any higher but they don’t know the exact position.”

It was a possibility Bruce had already prepared for and he quickly instructed, “Stay on the first floor and watch for anything strange in the party. If you can give Nightwing enough time to get into uniform and help you deal with the enemy.”

Before they leapt into the air, Tim asked, “Do you think there’s only one person to be on the lookout for or a group?”

“What do you think?” Bruce wanted to use the opportunity to see just how Tim’s deductive skills were coming along.

Unsure, Tim sighed and said, “I think there might be a group. One person wouldn’t be able to fight off the guards and get a lot of money, but there could be a group of people on standby to help out if something goes wrong. It would help with a clean break as the cops would have a hard time only looking for one person and they can try to keep the guards and cops attention on themselves as the main robber breaks out the museum.”

Batman let himself feel proud as he said, “That’s what I was thinking too,” before ordering sternly, “If you see someone you think might be suspicious signal it down to Nightwing and see what he can find out.”

As the duo broke away from one another, Tim watched Bruce disappear to the other side of the building. Tim found an opening in a window along the second floor and swiftly made his way to the ceiling of the party on the first floor while trying to remember the guest-list Bruce had made him memorize. From his position in the rafters he decided it would be best to first spot his older brother and send him a signal that things were about to get rough soon. When Dick pulled up at his collar Tim knew he had seen the signal and was on red alert, Tim messaged him to be on the lookout for any strange people in the crowd.

The two were quickly able to dismiss those they had seen at previous galas and social events in Gotham up until now and were left with a few dozen people of interest. About half of them were far too old to be of much use in a grand heist and some were too rich to have to worry about stealing money tonight. Bruce had a lot to say about more than a few of the people in the room and how they stole from the poor of Gotham, but Tim was pretty sure this was not what he meant. Nevertheless the boys were eventually able to zero in on a few figures at opposite ends of the room who did not belong. Their jewelry and clothes were obviously fake to the well trained eye and they were staying away from alcohol probably in hopes of not impairing their judgement once the night came to an end. The most telling was the furtive glances they threw to each other anytime there was a loud noise somewhere nearby.

Tim sent the information to Bruce’s gauntlet and got a message to be on alert. Before Tim could make any progress in his plan to take the four down as soon as possible, a body came barreling down the stairs and fell flat on the floor in front of the crowd. There were a few quiet murmurs around the room as the attendants tried to determine who could have been drunk enough to fall down a flight of stairs, but they fell silent once a gun fell out from her pocket.

Tim flew down from his position on the rafters and blocked an exit as two of the accomplices tried to make a break for it. It only took him a few seconds to have them both tied up to the side and by the time he looked up Dick was already Nightwing and dealing with the other two. Tim knew Dick would be able to deal with the two on his own and instead he turned his attention to Bruce as he came down the stairs focused on the main suspect.

Once he was at Batman’s side Tim realized it would be best for him to get the crowd to leave the building as soon as possible. He didn’t want anyone to get to the suspects before the cops could get to them. Tim got their attention and instructed, “You should get out here as soon as possible. It’s best to be out before the cops get here and start asking you questions.”

Mention of the police might have been the secret word because the crowd quickly began to disperse, but only after sneaking a few pictures of Batman, Robin, and Nightwing. The lighting of the main foyer of the art gallery was very different from the darkness the trio was associated with. There were also a few who tried to flirt with the two oldest members of the group, but a quick glare from Batman was enough to have them rushing out of the building. By the time Dick was at their side there was only one other man left in the crowd, but it didn’t look like he was going to be moving anytime soon.

It didn’t take Tim long to realize someone was staring at him, especially when the others in the room had already left, but once he spun around he immediately recognized his father. He didn’t need to be a detective to know just what Jack was thinking, he thought the Robin in front of him looked a lot like his son, and Tim needed to get him of the trail as soon as possible.

Before he could think about it too much, Tim turned back to Bruce and said, “Dad, it’s probably time to turn back. The police can handel this from here and we already have all the information we need.” If Jack thought Robin was Batman’s son, there would be no way for him to also be his own son.

Dick gave him a raised eyebrow Tim dutifully ignored while Bruce didn’t seem to notice Tim’s choice of wording. He simply turned away from the criminal after checking to see if she had any information on her and said, “I don’t think there’s much we can do from here. We should probably head back and see if there’s anything we can piece together in the cave.”

Tim hoped his relief noticeable, but his father turning around to leave the hall convinced that Bruce was his father might just have been the greatest feeling he’d ever experienced.

It was only after he fired the grappling hook at Batman’s heel that he realized just what had happened. He’d called Bruce his dad and Bruce hadn’t told him off for it. Realistically Tim knew that Bruce might not have noticed his word choice, but he also knew Batman noticed everything. That lead to the possibility that maybe Bruce considered Tim to be his son and in his mind considered himself to be Tim’s father. Dick must have been thinking the same thing because f he kept smiling back at Tim every time he came into his view. Tim knew a part of Dick just liked making fun of him, but a much larger part liked Tim considering himself a part of their family. After all, this was the man who’d started calling Tim ‘little brother’ a month after they’d first met and was pushing for him to stay in the Manor as often as possible.

Once they were back in the Manor and sitting around the cave methodically typing out their reports Tim decided he had an important decision to make. He could either pretend like the exchange never happened and didn’t mean anything, if anyone ever asked he’d say that he was shocked by seeing his dad and accidentally thought of him as he was talking to Bruce, but he also knew he’d never be able to stop contemplating Bruce’s reaction if he did that. The much more appealing option was to test his relationship with Bruce to see just what Bruce was comfortable with and maybe, hopefully, have a father-son relationship with him. Tim didn’t know why Jack’s possibly feeling on the matter didn’t matter to him, but it didn’t. Tim would pick Bruce as his father any day and this seemed like the perfect opening.

Even for being the best detective in the world, Bruce couldn’t pinpoint exactly when his relationship with Tim changed. It must have soon after Jack was ill in the hospital, but as far as Bruce could remember he had been trying hard to not intrude in and harm Tim’s relationship with his father. It had been hard trying to keep his distance with the boy when Bruce started to consider him his son and it looked like he wasn’t doing too good of a job all things considered. Tim had been calling him ‘dad’ for about a month and Bruce couldn’t bring himself to mind.

For all intents and purposes Tim really was his son. He took care of the boy any time Jack wasn’t available, even after he was recovering from his injuries, and Bruce had a distinct feeling that Tim turned to him for support before he even thought of approaching Jack.

A part of Bruce wanted to ask Tim outright just why he he’d started calling him his father, it must have been an important moment for the teenager, but another part knew it would be unfitting of the relationship they had built over the years to talk about their feelings. There was a reason he had to listen to so many of Alfred’s lectures on proper communication.

Instead, he simply started calling Tim ‘son’ once on the field and gauge his response. Just as he expected Tim didn’t have any grand reaction at first, but he did seem to grow more comfortable. It might have had something to do with the fact that they had been on patrol while the interaction happened and the focus on crime dimmed Tim’s comprehension of Bruce’s word choice, but Bruce knew better than to underestimate his Robin. Tim wouldn’t have come this far if he was stupid.

The effects didn’t take long as Tim began taking liberties around the Manor, things he was simply too polite or afraid the first few months of their relationship, and soon he was reminiscent of Dick at a younger age. One thing that did particularly surprise Bruce was the fact he found the differences between the two most appealing. Tim reminded Bruce of himself at a younger age, although there was the massive difference in emotional development, and Bruce couldn’t imagine him as anything other than his son.

After a few weeks Bruce decided to be more forward and simply called out, “It’s time to head out, son,” as they waited to leave for a formal party. The small smile Tim gave him in response was more than worth it.

Bat Snapshots 33: Not So Secret

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.

Bat Snapshots 32: Model Behavior II

The notice for the mission had been a surprise, but a welcomed one nonetheless.

A few hours ago Dick and Tim had been in Providence for a photoshoot and interview for a magazine when Dick got a call to report in to Mount Justice as soon as possible. After all these years the two had been modeling, the photographers knew that Bruce Wayne’s children were almost as bad as him when it came to punctuality and to expect that something else might come up with their busy lives. It had become clear that modeling and being a celebrity were a hobby and not a priority in their lives.

As professional as ever, Dick politely told the crew that they had to attend to an emergency and would be calling to reschedule sometime next week. It wasn’t a complete lie, the kidnapping of a foreign president’s children by some high profile villains looking for more than a ransom was most definitely an emergency, but they probably thought it had to do with a change in mood. Nonetheless his charm eased their frustration and they assured him it was no problem while wishing him the best in dealing with the emergency.

When he got alerts about a mission in Gotham Dick usually left Tim at the Manor before going out on patrol with Bruce or Young Justice, but he didn’t have anyplace nearby to keep his little brother. Especially with many high profile kids going missing Dick didn’t want to leave Tim alone and without any security.

He quickly got clearance from the rest of the team to bring Tim in with him to Mount Justice and found him a pair of sunglasses to protect their identity from the rest of the team. Dick’s original plan was to get Tim into his room as fast as possible to keep him ignorant about the disturbing details of the mission, but seeing the slew of heroes, both young and older, it didn’t look like he’d have much time to get him settled.

As soon as Bruce looked up from the consul on his wrist and caught sight of his sons, Batman walked over and pulled them into a corner where he wasn’t likely to be overheard. He addressed Dick in his regular cold voice as he ordered, “Robin, go to your room and switch into costume. I want you back here for a debriefing as soon as possible.”

Dick feigned a formal salute before giving Tim a quick goodbye and turning to leave the room.

Seeing his older brother excited to get to work and the powerful heroes waiting for him to return Tim wishing he was old enough to follow. It had been a dream of his since he found out just who Batman and Robin were, but it felt amazing to see it all come together. Once he was unable to see Dick, Tim turned to Bruce looking for any clue as to what he should do. Bruce sighed and talked to him in a soft voice far lower than what he’d used before. “There’s a common area where you can sit and wait. Some of the other members are staying behind so you should be able to pass the time watching tv.” Feeling the rest of the team’s eyes on him, he straightened up and used his stern voice to order, “Don’t break anything.”

Tim nodded his understanding and lifted his arms for Bruce to carry him to the common room. He didn’t think he’d be able to find his way around the giant mountain himself and his legs might not work with all the heroes watching him so Bruce was his best option. Bruce was unsure for a second, but Batman knew Tim had a knack for getting distracted by new things and would probably end up sleeping in the ventilation system by the time they got back from the mission.

There were a few snickers from the teenagers behind him, but Bruce ignored them and carried his son in the direction of the tv room. Tim peeked over his shoulder and waved back at the crowd who immediately waved back and started whispering among themselves.

The common room was not as empty as Tim would have liked and it dawned on him that he would be spending his entire day with new superheroes he’d never met before. Nervous, he tried to hide has face in the crook of Bruce’s shoulder hoping that no one would see him.

Miss Martian and Zatanna immediately rose from their seats to greet the baby in Batman’s arms. Even though Bruce had a cold look on his face, it was easily negated by the kid nervously looking around to see where he was.

Before they could do anything, Zatanna and M’gann began whispering among themselves how cute Batman’s daughter looked.

Batman moved past the two and sat Tim down on the chair and whispered to him, “We’ll be late and there is a chance that you might have to spend the night here. If that happens, you will probably eat dinner with the team and go to sleep in Dick’s room.”

“Okay, but be back soon.” He gave Bruce a goodluck hug, he could never tell how bad a mission was, before giving his attention to Dick’s team members. Tim recognized who everyone was from the pictures Dick had shown him. The green girl was Miss Martian, M’gann, and she was really sweet even if she didn’t understand everything to do with Earth. The girl beside her was Zatanna, daughter of Zatara, and she was magic like him too. Sitting to the side and staring at them was a boy about Tim’s age who didn’t look pleased. From Dick’s explanations Tim assumed he was Superboy.

The girls seemed interested in him because as soon as Bruce was gone they rushed over to introduce themselves. They crouched down beside his chair and smiled to him hoping to calm him down.

“Hello. I’m Miss Martian but you can call me M’gann.”

“I’m Zatanna.” Turning to the only other boy in the room, she added, “That’s Superboy, but he’s a little grumpy right now.”

Leaning down to get on the same eyeline as him, M’gann asked, “What’s your name?”

Tim began to answer but he pulled back when he realized he didn’t know what Bruce would want him to say. He leaned back into his chair while he tried to think of something to say instead of prolonging the silence.

Reaching out for him, M’gann lifted him into her arms and offered, “How about we give you a nickname, something like ‘Little Robin?'” She couldn’t help but want to hold Tim up when she saw how pouty he looked while thinking hard.

Now knowing what to say, Tim simply nodded and held on tight while they made their way into the kitchen. He peaked behind him to wonder why Superboy wasn’t following them, but Tim assumed he had more important things to do. Right now Tim’s best plan was to go with the flow and he wasn’t going to argue or try to change anything they had already planned out.

M’gann dropped Tim down on the countertop before excitedly offering up her plans for the evening. “Dinners about to start soon and we’re going to order pizza and make some fresh cookies.”

The idea was exciting for Tim, but he had to quell his expectations when he remembered that not all cookies were like the ones Alfred made. In the end he simply said, “I like cookies.”

Before he could think too much about how stupid that sounded, Zatanna asked, “What kind are your favorites?”

Tim didn’t know what to think about the way Zatanna talked to him, she acted like he was a little boy, but it didn’t really bother him. It was different from the way Dick sometimes talked to him. He decided not to think about it too much and easily answered, “My favorite are the soft chocolate chip ones, especially when they are a little hot.”

After the girls looked up different recipes on their phone and Tim found one that was reminiscent of Alfred’s cookies, the trio got gathered the ingredients they would need in one big pile and began working. There wasn’t much for Tim to do, but he helped out any way he could.

After breaking the eggs into the bowl, M’gann stepped back and pressed her hand to her forehead as she said, “Hello, M’gann. The others are going to be dropping by for training. We should probably make some more for them too.”

“Who’s still coming? Most of the team left for the mission,” Zatanna asked from her place by the oven.

“Aquaboy, Robin, and Artemis left and I think Wally said he’s going to try to convince Roy to come with him. Something about him needing to stop working so hard.”

That made Tim turn away from the cookie dough and look up with excited eyes. “Roy and Wally are coming? Are you sure?”

Not wanting to make any promises she couldn’t keep, M’gann said, “Wally’s going to come and he’s going to try to bring Roy with them.”

“When are they coming?” This was the best thing that could have happened in Tim’s opinion and he wanted them here as soon as possible.

Zatanna looked between them and offered, “I can call-”

“Please!” It had been too long since he had seen the two of them. Ever since they had joined the team it seemed like they were all too busy to drop by the Manor so he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away. “Can you please check?”

Smiling at him, Zatanna dug out her phone and looked through her contacts. Finding Wally’s number she barely pressed down on the phone symbol before he picked up. She put the phone on speaker and placed it in the center of the three of them so everyone could listen in.

Before anyone could say anything, Tim leaned in and asked, “Wally?”

The redhead was confused to hear the boy calling from Zatanna’s phone, but he was excited nonetheless. “Yup, Babybird. It’s me.”

Still anxious of his answer, Tim asked, “Are you coming today? M’gann said you were and that Roy was coming too.”

Laughing, Wally assured him, “Now that I know you’re there I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Roy too?”

“Yeah, Roy too.”

Noticeably calmer, Tim was pleased before he began to chastise, “You haven’t come to Gotham a lot, Wally. I missed you.”

“I know it’s been hard on me too, but I do have a surprise to make it up to you,” Wally said hoping to make up for his absence. It really was a surprise just for Tim, it was going to happen nonetheless, but it was something he was sure Tim would appreciate.

“Really? I’m going to like it?” Tim knew by now to be cautious of surprises.

“I sure hope so. I had I’ll have to rope in a few favors, but I think I can make it work.” This wasn’t entirely true, but he wanted Tim to think it was hard to him to get the surprise together. Hopefully if Tim thought he’d put a lot of work into it he’d value it more.

Happy to see Tim so happy, M’gann asked, “Wally, when did you meet Robin’s little sister? I didn’t even know he had one.”

As soon as she finished, M’gann knew she must have said something wrong because Tim sat back in his chair and turned his attention to his lap. Through the phone, Wally sighed and told her, “Take me off speaker for a second. I need to talk to the two of you.”

The two girls looked between themselves concerned before picking up the phone and holding it up between themselves. Low enough that Tim couldn’t overhear, Wally explained, “He probably won’t be that upset, but Babybird doesn’t like it when people think he’s a girl. It’s a pretty long story, but the gist of it is that people make the mistake a lot and it bothers him. If you say sorry it won’t be that big of a deal but don’t make the mistake again.”

“Anything else we should know?” Looking at Tim refusing to meet their eye, Zatanna didn’t want to make another mistake and make him feel worse.

“Not that I can think of. Give me a few minutes to get Roy and we’ll be there.”

“We ordered pizza. Pick it up,” M’gann called just for the call ended. Sharing a knowing look with Zatanna, they both sat down on opposites sides of Tim and apologized.

“I’m sorry we called you a girl.”

“We didn’t mean to make you upset. It was a mistake and it won’t happen again.”

Tim had had long enough to think it over and he simply sighed, “It’s okay. It happens a lot.”

Unsure of how to make him feel better, M’gann decided it would be best to just ask. “What can we do to make it up to you? Is there anything you want?”

Tim considered his options and decided, “I can wait for my surprise Wally and Roy have.” There had been a history for it not working in the past, but he was willing to wait if it was as good as Wally promised

He knew his hope hadn’t been misplaced when he heard the zeta tube announce that Wally and Roy were here. Running out to where he knew the entrance to the mountain was, Tim shouted, “Wally! Roy!”

Heaving him into the air, Roy noted, “You’ve gotten bigger since the last time I saw you.”

“That’s because it was a long time.” A little more serious, Tim leaned into their ear and whispered, “You can’t say my name. No one here knows it.”

“What should we call you?”

“Everyone else calls me ‘Little Robin.'”

Frowning, Wally said, “That’s too long. How about we call you Babybird?”

Tim sternly said, “They can’t call me that, only you and Dick can.”

“How about ‘Red?’ It’s your favorite color right?”

“Okay,” Tim simply said before asking, “Where’s my surprise?”

“He’s not here yet, but he will be soon,” Wally promised.

“It’s a person?” Tim asked confused. The last time that happened his surprise had been Wally and Roy and while he might like Dick introducing them to him now, back then it had been a major let down.

“Yup. I know for a fact you’ll like it.”

Trusting Wally to know his tastes, Tim lead him back to the kitchen and showed him what he and the girls had been working on. By now Tim knew just how much Wally liked to eat and this could be a perfect thank you for whatever Tim’s surprise ended up being.

Showing him the batter ready to be put in the oven, Tim said, “We’re making chocolate chip cookies.”

Lifting Tim onto the counter, Roy looked at the batter and asked, “Are they the hot and soft ones that melt in your mouth?”

Tim nodded his head and added, “I know that they are your favorites.”

“You know me well, Red.”

Wally looked around the kitchen to see if there was any more and asked, “Do you think we can make more? I don’t think we have enough for everyone.”

“If it’s only going to be the five of us, I think we have enough.”

Tim did the math in his head and turned to her shocked as he asked, “Superboy isn’t going to get any? He should get some too.”

“Sorry, Red, I don’t think he’s is going to want any,” Roy said in response to Tim’s naivety.

“We should still ask. He looked grumpy before and he might want some to feel better.” If they really were heroes they would do this to help him feel better. It simple enough.

“You don’t understand, Red. He needs some time alone right now and we shouldn’t bother him.”

Tim looked at Roy as he thought of his argument before jumping off of the counter to the common room where he had last seen Superboy. He was still there but now watching static on tv. Tim wanted to ask why, but he didn’t want Superboy to think he was judging him and instead he stepped up beside him.

Bluntly, Tim said, “Do you want some cookies?”

Superboy was shocked by the question before he finally answered, “No thanks.”

“We tried very hard and they’re the soft ones that melt in your mouth. They’re going to be very good,” Tim asked confused. It seemed like an easy way to feel better.

“No thanks,” Superboy repeated annoyed. All he really wanted right now was for Tim to leave him alone.

Tim looked up to where Roy was watching them with a frown before telling Superboy, “They might make you feel better.”

“I feel fine.”

Deciding Tim had learned his lesson, Roy stepped up and said, “We should head back and give him some space, Red. If that’s what he wants we can’t push him.”

Before they could walk back to the kitchen, the zeta tube a few rooms away began shining. Thinking his father and brother had been back early, Tim rushed in to greet them and everyone else who had been on the mission. If they had enough time maybe Bruce would even introduce him to all of them. Instead, the computer called out, “Superman” and the Kryptonian walked out towards them.

Standing beside Roy as they waited for him to come in the living room, Tim began shaking frantically in exasperation. When the silhouette came into view, he was pretty sure he stopped breathing until he got a clear view of the hero.

Tim had just enough sense not to call out Superman’s real name, but he did run up to him and shout, “Uncle Cl-Supe! I didn’t know you were coming.”

Lifting him up to make the hug easier, Clark said, “I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s my job to look after training today and I only just learned you were going to be here.”

“Dad and Robin are away and I might have to sleep here tonight,” Tim explained. Just under an hour ago, Tim had been worried about how today would end but seeing just how many of his old friends he was able to catch up with he was over the moon. “I get to sleep in Robin’s room tonight.”

“Where’s a certain old butler?”

Leaning in as close as he could, Tim whispered, “He’s away right now.” He didn’t know just how much information Bruce wanted Tim giving out, so he decided to keep it to a minimum.

Smiling up at him, Clark said, “Well I’m glad I get to have your company tonight. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to drop by these past few weeks.”

“That’s okay. Dad got me a brand new video games and that’s all I’ve been doing since school ended.” Tim knew they were all busy with their important lives and saving people so it didn’t bother him when they had more urgent things to get to. “You can still come by though. I think our dog really misses you.”

“Well now that your school is over I can probably convince Bats to bring you down for a visit too.”

Tim pretended like it was a hard decision to make before agreeing, “Okay, but you have to make sure Krypto is there. He’s my favorite part.”

“Really? I thought the pies were your favorite.”

Clark had Tim perched on his arm as if it was a bench as he lead the two of them to the kitchen. Tim had his full faith in the hero and didn’t even need to hold onto him as they made their way around the mountain.

Pointing in the direction of the kitchen, Tim said, “We’re making cookies. I don’t think they’ll be as good as the apple pie, but I like making them.”

“Well then I can’t wait to try them.”

They all stood around the oven waiting for M’gann to find her oven mitts before they remembered Clark was invulnerable. He moved Tim to his shoulders before reaching in and setting the cookies down on the counter to cool off.

“They really smell nice, Ti-.”

“You have to call me ‘Red’ Superman, Tim said as he landed a few soft blows to Clark’s shoulder.” Trying to be as serious as Bruce was, Tim added, “No one can know my name.”

“I’m sorry, Red. Won’t happen again.”

Turning his attention back to the cookies, Tim tested the pan to see if they were edible just yet and flinched back when they scorched his hands. “How long do we have to wait?”

“They should be ready by the time we have the milk and plates set out.” Picking up the second tray of cookies they had made, M’gann added, “We’ll put the second batch in so they’ll be ready by the time we finish the first.”

Tim watched from the atop the island as the others moved around the kitchen, M’gann working on the oven, Clark grabbing plates for everyone, Wally putting all of the dirty bowls and utensils in the sink, Zatanna pouring milk into a pitch and Roy getting glasses, and asked, “Should we ask Superboy if he wants any again? He might have changed his mind.”

Everyone’s eyes turned to Superman who stiffened at the question and their stares. “I really don’t think he’ll want to, Red. He just needs some space.”

Before Tim could ask anything else, a chime rang from Zatanna’s phone and she announced, “The pizza’s ready if anyone wants to go pick it up.”

Wally ran out the room and came back as soon as they sat around the table. “I made sure no one noticed me going fast. Did you guys start without me?”

“No we waited for you.”

The group quickly began discussing their day as they stuffed themselves, but in the midst of everything Tim snuck away and came back with the excuse that he had to go to the restroom. If anyone had been playing close attention they would have noticed that he had left with food and returned with none, but they had other things to focus on. As soon as he began yawning they decided to call it a night and all set out to their separate rooms.

As they were the only ones left in the area, Clark asked, “Do you need any help getting into bed?” He didn’t fully know how to put a kid to bed, but he wanted to offer Tim his help just in case.

Tim admitted, “I don’t know where Robin’s room is and I’m supposed to sleep there.”

“I can show you the way,” Clark said leading Tim in what he assumed was the right direction. “Is there anything else?”

Thinking about what he would need to go to sleep, Tim realized, “I don’t have any pajamas to sleep in. They are all left in Gotham.” All he had was the clothes on his back.

“There are some spares kept around, but they might be a little too large for you. I’ll find something.” They stood in front of what Tim assumed to be Dick’s room and Clark had to ask, “Do you know what his code could be?” If he didn’t they’d need a new plan.

Thinking deeply, Tim asked to be raised in the air before testing his ideas out. It only took him two tries before the door unlocked and they could walk in. The room was a mess with clothes and paper thrown all over but Tim was able to clear up the bed while Clark went to look for some clothes. All alone, the room felt like a messy bunker and began to make Tim feel anxious. He didn’t think he wanted to be left alone his first night in the mountain. As Clark returned to leave the clothes on the desk, Tim asked, “Where are you going to sleep?”

He hadn’t thought about it, but decided, “There’s usually a spare room that I can spend the night in.”

Not wanting to come off as desperate, Tim decided to offer his support as he said, “You can sleep with me if you want. If you’re scared or something, I can help.”

“Are you sure?” Clark asked not seeing what Tim meant. “Your brother might not like me staying here.”

“Then….I can sleep with you in your room.”

Unable to think of a reason otherwise, Clark said, “As soon as you change you can find me down the hall. I’ll leave the door open so you know which room.” Not for the first time Tim was grateful to have such an amazing uncle.

As soon as Clark closed the door Tim rushed through his nighttime routine before crawling into bed beside Clark. He wanted to be beside someone as soon as possible.

At first it felt a little awkward, Tim didn’t know if he should be sleeping right away or talking with Clark, so he decided to ask the simplest question ever. “How was your day?”

By now Clark could tell just want was happening and he decided to play along however long Tim needed him to. “It was pretty normal. I had work in Metropolis and there wasn’t any trouble that needed my help so I had a lot of free time. I visited my parents on their farm for a few hours before B contacted me saying it was my turn to look after the team and I flew out here. Then I got to meet one of my favorite nephews after a long time and finish off with some of his amazing cookies.”

Tim hid his face in Clark’s shoulder before asking, “What are you supposed to do? Is it just to have fun?”

“Nothing really tonight, it was pretty late after all and they had school today, but tomorrow morning we’ll be spending the most of the day training. It’s not really supposed to be fun, but I’m glad you’re enjoying this.”

Remembering that this was supposed to be worried about his family and the mission they were on, Tim asked, “Do you know how long it’s going to be till everyone gets back?”

“I’m sorry, Tim, but no. Most likely they’ll be done by late tomorrow or it could go on for a few more days.” He didn’t like it, but it was the truth. At the defeated slouch Clark could feel on his side, Clark asked, “How was your day? Did you have school?” If he was looking after Tim it was his job to make sure he was feeling well and right it meant coming up with a distraction for him.

“No we had the day off because a lot of the school got destroyed the other night,” Tim said apathetically.

“What happened?” Clark asked exasperated. There was something disturbing about the way Tim was able to say that with so little emotion involved, but it might just be something about Gotham.

“Poison Ivy. She had her plants invade a whole side of the campus and now the city has to make sure they take everything out and nothing could hurt us.” Now it wasn’t the lack of emotion that bothered Clark, but the excitement.

“So did you spend the day at home?”

It almost felt like it had been hours ago, but TIm remembered, “Mostly we did nothing, but Dick and I had a photoshoot. We had to leave early because he got the message that he needed to come to Happy Harbor and here we are.”

Just to keep the conversation going, Clark asked, “Is this your first time in the mountain?”

“Yup. It’s amazing!”

“You think you might be interested in staying in the family business?”

Unsure, Tim asked, “Do you think I could? Dick says he doesn’t want to be Robin forever, that he thinks he’ll move onto another mantel, and I think I could take over. I just don’t know if Dad wants me to.”

“He’ll be worried, Tim. He’s still incredibly worried about Dick, but I think he’ll appreciate having you beside him. It’ll take a lot of training though.”

Tim believed what Clark was telling him, but he also had to ask, “He won’t be mad?”

“Bruce is your dad, Tim. I’ve never seen him be upset with you.”

Cautiously, Tim asked, “Are you upset with Superboy?” He wasn’t entirely sure if he was supposed to be talking about this sort of stuff, but he had Clark’s attention and it was important to him.

“That’s different, Tim,” Clark said hoping Tim would drop the subject.


“Because he wasn’t born like you or Dick. He was made in a lab to replace me.”

Thinking back to the sad boy sitting alone on the couch, Tim remembered, “He looks lonely.”

“There’s not a lot I can do about that, Tim. I’m not his father, i didn’t choose to have him.” He knew it wasn’t a proper argument, but he hoped Tim was too tired to continue the conversation. Best case scenario he’d just forget about everything.

“Dad didn’t chose to have us,” Tim said sounding slightly offended. “Grandma and Grandpa Kent didn’t chose to have you either. We just sort of came by.”

“That’s different, Tim.”

“But why?” Tim asked frustrated. “He needs a dad and you’re his dad.”

Groaning as he tried to get into a sleeping position, Clark asked, “Can we talk about this later, Tim? It’s getting late.”


“Why? We could talk about it in the morning.”

Tim pleaded, “Then he could hear you saying you don’t want him and he’ll feel worse.”

Clark sighed and tried to explain his perspective again. He hoped Tim would be smart enough to understand just why this was so hard for him. “I’m not ready to have a kid, Tim. I didn’t even know he existed until recently and I don’t think I’m what he needs right now.”

“You don’t have to be a dad right away. You could be a friend right now and then be his dad.”

“I don’t know if I could do that, Tim. I don’t know if I could be a good parent.”

“Can’t you ask your parents for help? You’re an alien, Uncle Clark, and they found you in a field and decided they could raise you. They could help you with Superboy.”

Sighing as Tim finally wore him down, Clark decided, “Okay, Tim. I’ll see if I can help.”

Satisfied with his work, Tim curled closer before asking, “Do you want some advice?”

“Do you have any?”

“Yup,” Tim said with the last of his energy. “You should give him a name first. It’s weird calling him ‘Superboy’ all the time.”

Shifting to his side so Tim could see he was trying to sleep, Clark promised, “I’ll talk to my parents about it”

Dick wondered if Bruce could see what he was seeing. Bruce had a habit of not noticing things he didn’t want to acknowledge and this seemed like a perfect opportunity for him to live in his own ignorant reality.

To Dick it was perfectly clear. His little brother had his first crush and it was Superman’s son.

Standing on the teleportation doc, Tim anxiously played with his glove. This was going to be the first time he would meet the whole team as Robin and he very much wanted to impress them.

Dick would be coming down to go with him in a few minutes, but Tim still felt anxious about meeting the rest of the team. He already knew some of Dick’s original teammates, he brought them around the Manor enough, but he was going to be meeting some new members as well. If he was being honest with himself, the person he was most nervous about meeting was Connor. He’d seen some pictures of him through Dick and seen him once or twice when he’d come over to the Manor, but that had been it. They had very little contact with one another despite what Tim might have wanted.

In his worry he hadn’t noticed Dick sneaking up on him until his hand feel on his shoulder. “It’s going to be fine, Timbo. You’re going to have a great time.”

“I just want them to like me, Dick. I know how great of a team they are and I don’t want to mess that up.”

“Between you and me, you’re better than anyone there and you’ll do fine. You get along great with them and…” Realization finally dawning on him, Dick gave his little brother a sly smile and asked, “You still have a little crush, don’t you? After all these years…”

Tim’s lack of answer was answer enough and Dick was torn between embarrassing him or helping him. As his older brother he had a responsibility to do both. The kinder part of him decided Tim would have enough to worry about on his own without anything Dick could possibly say now.

Leaning down to comfort Tim in a hug, Dick assured him, “It’s perfectly normal, Tim, and you’ve picked a great person to have your first crush on.”

Dropping to the ground and hiding his face in his knees, Tim tried to make himself invisible. When that didn’t work all he could say was, “I’m a horrible person.”

Now more confused than anything, Dick asked, “How have you done anything wrong? You haven’t even told him.”

“He’s like eight, Dick,” Tim groaned.

“He’s almost nineteen, Tim, and if anything you’re a few years too young for him. Plus he’s dated a lot of people on his own. You and I both know that’s an excuse for you not to act on anything.”

“How do I make the crush go away, Dick?” Tim begged. “There has to be a way.”

“In any other situation I’d agree with you, Babybird, but you meet him nine years ago and you still aren’t over him. It’s not going to go away anytime soon.” He wanted to help Tim, but there was nothing he could do right now. This was all on Tim.

Trying to be the optimistic one, Tim hoped, “Maybe he’s changed and different now and after seeing it I’ll come to my senses.” Even if Tim hasn’t really changed since there was no reason Connor couldn’t have changed.

If Dick was being honest, not much had changed with Connor. “He really is a lot like how he was ten years ago. He’s grumpy more times than not and still tries to keep his distance with everyone he meets.”

Tim wanted to ask him for help, some trick he might have to get over this crush he hadn’t been able to drop for years, but before he could say anything they heard Bruce coming towards them and dropped the subject. Even now he was blissfully unaware of Tim’s infatuation with Superboy and Dick sort of wanted him to retain his bliss as long as he could. They knew there would be hell if it ever came out and it was Dick’s duty to protect Tim from the fallout. Relationships were hard, especially when Bruce was involved.

In any case, Bruce was able to see the distress in Tim’s expression and thought he knew the cause. In a comfortable embrace he assured his son, “Everything’s going to be fine, Timothy, and hopefully a lot of good will come out of it. You’re worried over nothing.”

Not trusting Tim to act normally, Dick cut in and said, “It’s time to get going. We don’t to be late.”

Tim followed the two of them past the zeta tube to Mount Justice while nervously scratching his face in anticipation. This was literally going to be one of the biggest moments in Tim’s life and he had to do everything he could to not make a mistake.

They walked down to the main foyer where most of the briefings happened and found some other heroes sitting around. It wasn’t common that someone joined the team and all of Dick’s friends were here to support Tim as officially became a member. Dick had heard them talking beforehand about how great of an opportunity Tim would be for them, mostly as leverage they would be able to use over Dick and Bruce, but he was sure everyone knew just how much baggage Tim came with. If Bruce wasn’t enough to scare them they didn’t want to see what Dick looked like when his little brother was the one in trouble or injured.

Tim looked around at everyone who had showed up to his induction into the team and said, “You didn’t have to be here. It’s not really that big of a deal.”

Wally assured him, “You’re joining Young Justice, Rob. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Tim blushed and averted his eyes, it seemed like all he could do today, as they waited for the room to fill with all of the members. There was some casual conversation, but it was hard to think of much to say with Bruce brooding above them. To Tim’s pleasure and dismay Connor was there too, but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything to him. Instead he simply stole a few furtive glances while Connor looked like he couldn’t be less interested in what they were doing.

Once the room was full and he had everyone’s attention Dick stepped out to the front of the room and decided it was time for a speech. “It’s been a few years since we’ve made this team, but after all these years my little brother will be joining. He has many years of experience with crime fighting and even more with acrobatics and he’s going to be a great addition to the team. Because he’s my little brother it’s my responsibility to remind you that he’s the newest person on the team and everyone here is his senior and can boss him around.”

There were a few snickers from everyone but Bruce or Tim, but all Tim was able to pay attention to was Connor still standing in the back looking annoyed to be wasting his time here.

After a few congratulations from the others on the team, Dick pulled Tim out to the side and assured him, “It will all be fine, Tim. Don’t worry about it.”

Tim sat down for breakfast and waited for the pain in his head to go down. He wasn’t entirely sure he didn’t have a concussion from a hit he’d taken on a mission the night before, but a side effect must have been an inability to care. All he cared about right now was getting something to eat.

To his surprise Connor was in the kitchen already making something over the sto. Tim would have turned back to his room, but he didn’t think it would be a good idea after Connor had already seen him. Instead, he pulled out some cereal and began quietly and quickly eating and hoping to be alone as soon as possible.

Looking back at him over his shoulder, Connor said, “You don’t have to rush because of me. I won’t mind if you eat in your room or something.”

“No no…that’s not,” Tim sputtered, “It’s not you.”

“Then what is it?” Connor asked placing everything on his omelet on his plate. He grabbed some salt and pepper from the counter before pulling out a seat beside Tim and noticing how he stiffened at their closeness.

Tim explained, “It’s a lot of things and you are just one of them.”

Connor said, “We have time. The others aren’t going to be up for a while and I’m still the only only one who’s not close to you..”


“I’ll start then,” Connor said nonchalantly. “I didn’t liked you when we meet a few years ago.”

“What? Why?” Tim knew he and Connor weren’t close, but he couldn’t see why Connor wouldn’t like him. “I gave you cookies the first time I met you.”

“You got along so well with Clark. He was my dad and he liked you more,” Connor said with little to no emotion in his voice. He’d had years to think this over, particularly how he would confront Tim on the subject, and now it seemed like something that just needed to be said. “It wasn’t easy to get over.”

“Hasn’t that changed by now?” Tim asked concerned. “I thought you guys were getting along.” That was the promise Clark had made to him.

“It took a few years, but it still really bothered me that he liked some strange kid more than he liked his own son. I was his own blood and he liked you more. He even let you sleep with him at night.” It used to feel like Tim was a younger brother he could never compete with.

Thinking back, Tim remembered, “I had a serious problem with that. Not with how he treated me, but I spent a lot of the night arguing with him on that. I didn’t let him go to sleep until he promised to get closer to you. You just looked so sad sitting there all alone and angry.”

“Yeah Clark told me about that. Thanks for doing that for me.”

“It’s no problem, Connor. Sometimes it’s our job to knock some sense into our fathers.”

There was an awkward silence until Connor realized that he’d also been wrong about something else. “I also used to think you were a girl. When we first met I didn’t know you were a boy and always references you as a girl around Clark. It took a while for him to learn who I was talking about.” Trying to remember how he might have come to the conclusion Connor said, “I think it might have been your squeaky voice.”

Unfazed by the confession, Tim assured him, “You’re like the thousandths person to get it wrong. Wally and Roy were the first and from there it’s been everyone who has meet me as a child.”

“Does it ever get annoying?” Connor asked less embarrassed by his confession.

“Literally every single time it’s happened,” Tim groaned. “But at least it hasn’t happened in a while.”

At the smile Connor gave him Tim realized it was a perfect opportunity to make a confession of his own. He’d imagined giving him this confession millions of times in the years since he’d met Connor and had memorized the best way to get through it. “I used to have a crush on you when we met. You looked really cute just sitting on the couch and watching the static on the tv and from there I had my first crush.”

Connor hadn’t been expecting that, but a lot more of Tim personality made sense. He had to ask, “Is that the reason you’ve been trying so hard to get to know me? It’s like you’re always trying to impress me but at the same time avoid spending alone with me.”

“Yeah I’m not a very confrontational person.” Tim preferred things falling into place with his slow and constant prodding, not any face to face interaction. He considered it a balance to Dick’s personality.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Connor assured him. “You’re still the least weird person here, myself included.”

Tim appreciated that this was the first time the two of them had had a serious conversation between themselves and decided to leave before he somehow messed it all up. He wasn’t entirely lying when he said, “Batman is going to want me home soon so I should get going.”

Connor watched him set his dishes in the dishwasher before turning to leave the room and realized he needed to ask something pretty important. “Do you still have a crush on me?”

The sputtering and haste with which Tim left the room was answer enough, but Connor knew it was still too soon to start a relationship with the youngest member of the BatFamily. At the very least he didn’t want to bring on the disdain of Nightwing and Batman as he tried to find a way to spend some more time alone with Robin.

Tim groaned against the bright lighting in the room and slowly forced his eyes open against their frustration. Looking around he realized he was in the medbay in Mount Justice and considering the bandages around his midriff and the casts around his leg he wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. To his left he could see Dick sleeping in an awkward position on a chair that someone must have set out to keep him close and Connor staring off into the wall before he realized Tim was awake.

Once he was sure he could make out some proper words he asked, “What happened?” His voice still sounded raspy and scratchy, but he was curious enough to fight through the pain in his throat.

“Do you remember anything?” Connor asked concerned. There was a possibility that Tim might be experiencing memory loss, but that would mean his injuries were more serious than the doctors had originally thought.

“I remember everything, I think, but not how I got here.” He wasn’t even sure what day it was or how long he’d been out of commision, but it was a feeling he’d gotten used to once he’d taken over the mantel.

“We were on a mission in Latvia looking for a supply of LexCorp weapons when we ran into Queen Bee and her minions,” Connor explained. “It sort of went downhill from there.”

Tim tried to think back, but it all just came up as a blank. Instead, he asked, “How bad was I hurt?”

If Tim had been paying more attention he would have noticed that Connor’s grip on the sheets tightened to the point they were irreparably stretched out, but he was more focused on the sharpness in Connor’s eyes. If Tim didn’t know better he’d think he was about to use his laser vision.

“You have a couple of broken bones and a concussion. You won’t be able to walk for a few weeks, but after that you’ll be fine. I hope.”

“Nothing that hasn’t happened before,” Tim said trying to ease his concerns. He’d been getting used to Connor paying more attention to his health, but it still caught him off guard every now and then and he felt that he should quell some of Connor’s anxiety.

“You were on my team, Tim. I should have been taking better care of you,” Connor said defiantly. There were very few people he actually cared about and now that Tim was one of them he couldn’t allow for him to get hurt.

“Connor I’ve gotten seriously hurt with Batman a few feet away. There wasn’t anything you could do.” Tim wanted to ease him from his concern, especially as Dick started to adjust himself in his seat. He knew he’d have a hard time explaining to Dick just why he and Connor were sitting so close or why Tim was only moving closer.

Connor admitted to Tim, “I thought you’d died. I couldn’t see you through the mess of rubble and people fight and I’d thought you’d died. I can’t get the idea of you dying out of my head. It’s all I can think about.”

Tim didn’t really know what to say to that, he’d only just woken up, so he asked, “Do you want to sleep next to me? I don’t think the chair is all that comfortable and the room is a little too cold for me. I’d appreciate it.”

Connor looked unsure and assured Tim, “You don’t have to. You’re the one who’s hurt and you shouldn’t have to be trying to take care of me.”

“I care about you Connor, I have since I was a kid, and I don’t mind the company.”

Finally Connor submitted to the request and walked around the bed as Tim lifted the blanket for him to crawl in with him. He was sure he could hear Dick snickering as he tried to get comfortable, but he couldn’t bring himself to care once Tim got rid of the space between them and started to doze off.

Bat Snapshots 31: Freak

Dick stared into the mirror and tried to think of anything he could do to make himself look more presentable. He wanted to look like he could be Bruce Wayne’s son, but right now all he looked like was a circus boy trying to make himself look fancy enough to attend a gala with Gotham’s elite.

The suit was uncomfortable, too restricting and heavier than the clothes he liked to wear, and his shoes were far more irritable than the sneakers he usually wore, but he hoped he was passable enough that people wouldn’t say anything.

Alfred didn’t seem to have anything to say about how he looked, Dick knew Alfred would never let him walk out the Manor if he thought he wasn’t presentable, so he decided to stand by the front door and wait for Bruce to get ready.

After checking to make sure Dick’s tie was tight enough to not come undone as the night went on, Alfred explained, “Master Bruce should only be a few more minutes Master Dick. He just wanted to get some work done before he had to leave for the night.”

“I understand Alfie. I’m used to this by now.”

Walking out to the kitchen he groaned, “Aren’t we all, Master Dick?” Dick knew he was probably going to finish up on the dinner he and Tim would be having pretty soon and Dick hoped he’d be able to sneak up some leftovers to his room once they came back.

He ended up having to wait for fifteen minutes before he heard Bruce’s footsteps coming down the stairs and rushed out so they could leave as soon as possible. Right now he was in a strange middle ground where he couldn’t do anything interesting because he had no idea how much time he would have and he couldn’t do anything too boring because he ended up just worrying more about how the night would go. Dick just mindlessly watched different things on the tv to keep him from stepping back in front of the mirror and making sure he was presentable.

Following Bruce as he went to the kitchen to say goodbye to Alfred, Dick asked, “Are you ready, B? Anything else we have to do?”

“I’m all set to go. Sorry for the wait, but I wanted to make some progress before we left.”

Smirking, Dick said, “You wanted to get far enough in the case so you had something to distract you when things get boring.” Dick was planning on doing the same with the show he’d been watching.

Grabbing the keys from the countertop Bruce laughed and said, “You know me so well.”

“Isn’t Alfred going to drive?” Dick didn’t really care, but Alfred was usually able to get the night to end earlier than either of them could. None of the other guests were willing to fight with him when he said it was time to go, but when Bruce said anything it was endless begging for him to stay a few minutes longer or go down to an apartment in the city instead of making the trip all the way back to Bristol.

“I don’t want Tim to be here alone. We’re going to get back pretty late and it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave him here by himself.”

Dick hummed his understanding before following Bruce down to his car and asking, “How long do you really think this could last?” Sometimes Bruce would be back from these events after two hours and sometimes it would be five or six hours.

“I wouldn’t expect to be back till at least one in the morning, Dick. Is that going to be a problem?” It was the middle of the summer so there wasn’t much Bruce expected Dick to have to do, definitely nothing to do with his schoolwork.

Secretly wishing for some criminal to come in and crash the event, Dick assured Bruce, “Nah, I’m fine.”

During the ride over he couldn’t do anything but catch glimpses of himself in the side mirror of the car and adjust his hair accordingly. He always joked about how much hair gel some of the kids at school wore, but now he understood. After fifteen years with amazing hair, today had to be the day where it decided to act out and all Dick could do was will it back to its place.

Not at all oblivious to the change in behavior, Bruce asked, “Are you sure you’re fine? You look a little nervous.”

Hoping his deception skills were getting better, Dick said, “It’s the first time I’m going to be at something this important.”

“You’ve been to important events before. It was practically your whole winter break last year.” Bruce could remember him complaining enough.

“I know but it just feels more important.”

Bruce knew he wouldn’t be able to get much more information out of him so he decided to leave him with the assurance that, “You’ve always been amazing at every fundraiser, gala, dinner, party, and event I’ve brought you to, Dick. Everyone has nothing but praise for you.”

Dick hadn’t expected anything else from Bruce, he always said anything he thought could make Dick feel better, so he decided to be a little more discreet with his checks in the mirror. Even then he could see Bruce’s lip thinning every time he adjusted his hair or jacket.

They didn’t say anything about it for the rest of the trip but Bruce made sure to whisper some more assurances into Dick’s ear as they walked up to the ballroom of the governor’s house and through the flashes of the press cordoned off to the front of the building. Dick could see that Bruce wanted to stick close to him and make sure he was feeling well, but soon enough people started to gather around him like vultures hoping to get some private time and there was nothing either of them could do.

Dick looked out into the crowd and spotted a few of his classmates, not really friends but people he had class with, and decided to make his way over. It would be better than having to spend the rest of the night by himself.

One of the boys, Joyce, went with the usual greetings before saying, “We didn’t know you were going to be here, Grayson.”

Dick couldn’t say the same about them, they were the reason he’d been so nervous about the night, but he laughed and said, “I don’t think there was anything I could do to convince Bruce not to bring me along.”

Chris nodded sympathetically and said, “I bet these things are hard for you.”

Dick creased his eyebrows and asked louder than necessary, “Excuse me?” the other boys seemed just as shocked that Chris had said anything and a few heads from nearby also turned to see what this conversation was leading to.

“I’m sorry, Grayson, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“But you did.”

Chris looked around to his friends hoping someone would save him from the awkwardness of the conversation and eventually Joyce broke and said, “It’s just…there were just some jokes going around that Chris took too seriously.”

Crossing him arms, Dick asked, “What jokes?” He’d heard some things but he wanted them to say it outloud and prove his ideas right or wrong.

Joyce took a deep sigh and admitted, “Some people were just saying you wouldn’t like being stuck in a suit for so long and might break out into some tricks or something. It was nothing serious, but you’re always leaping around in school and people thought you might do something here too.”

“I do acrobatics in gym, Joyce, not in the middle of class,” Dick said exasperated.

“I know, but some of the others got jealous and you’ve always said you love being in the air so the idea kind of stuck. Chris was just being an idiot.”

He didn’t say anything for a few moments as the others around him waited to see how he would react and he only said, “I changed my last name. It’s Wayne now, not Grayson,” before stepping away from the group.

Dick knew none of them wanted to insult Bruce Wayne’s son and were trying to cover their own asses in case this ended up hurting their parents’ relationship with Bruce and his friends and he couldn’t see them saving that conversation anytime soon. Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to make the situation any better he simply decided to spend the rest of his time listening to the ramblings of some of the more senile guests to the party. A few of them were the reason Dick and Tim stopped trying to sneak down to the parties Bruce threw in the manor because they learned way too much about what happened to some people’s feet during World War II.

He was able to spend most of the night sitting down with a few of the elderly as they told him about their business and political endeavours and was able to avoid any hard topics for the most part. By the end of the night he had somehow ended up talking to Mary Crowley, a woman incredibly interested in acrobatics and hoping to get some advice from someone skilled from the day he was born.

As soon as she got him to sit down next to him she said, “I’ve heard that you can do some amazing things in the air.”

Wanting to save some face from the rumor’s he’d heard a few hours ago, Dick tried to convince her, “It’s mostly just rumors, Mrs. Crowley. A lot of exaggeration.” It wasn’t true, but hopefully she would move onto something else.

“Are you sure, Francis?” She didn’t look like she’d believed him and was ready to fight on it. “My daughter had a lot to say about you.”

Laughing and hoping she would drop the subject, he’d long forgotten trying to get her to learn his real name, Dick said, “I’m pretty sure, Mrs. Crowley. A lot people exaggerate the whole thing.”

Mrs. Crowley didn’t believe him and she had no problem looking around the hall and calling out, “Bruce. Bruce. Bruce.,” and motioning for him to come over once she had his attention.

He looked confused about what they could possibly have an issue with, but he dutifully dismissed himself from his conversation and pulled out a seat.

Looking between them, Bruce asked, “Is something the matter?”

Pointing to Dick accusingly and with little regard for the people looking at them, Mary said, “This young man, your son, was just telling me he’s not interested in gymnastics.”

Confused, Bruce turned to him and asked, “What are you talking about, Dick?”

“I wouldn’t call him that, Bruce, but it did shock me and I had to make sure this wasn’t one of those pranks.”

More focused on Dick than anything she was saying, Bruce asked, “Do you not like gymnastics or acrobatics anymore?” He didn’t want to be too overbearing so he was quick to add, “It’s not a problem with me if you have a new hobby, but you didn’t tell me you’d changed your mind.”

There was a smack on his shoulder as Mary chastised, “You should be more involved with his life, Bruce. How can you call yourself his father and not know what he’s interested in?”

It was one of the few times Dick had seen Bruce so confused out in public and the quiet murmuring around them didn’t help. More embarrassed than he’d been in his entire life, Dick asked, “Can we go home?” Most people had either already left or were waiting for the valet to bring their car out front so it wouldn’t be too scandalous for them to leave now.

Bruce nodded and said a quick goodbye to the others at the table before following Dick out and hoping his son was ignoring the whispers that were following him as they exited the building. He gave the valet some money to give them the keys instead of pulling out the car for them and got away from the crowd and press as fast as possible.

As they were on the road and away from anyone who could possibly eavesdrop, Bruce asked, “What happened, Dick? What was all of that about? I know you love acrobatics you were practicing and showing off yesterday.”

Dick knew there was no reason to lie to Bruce and he easily admitted, “I know, B. It wasn’t really true.”

“So why did you say that?”

Although he was frustrated at himself for letting other people’s opinion of him cloud his judgment, Dick tried to explain, “People just think I’m a circus freak. They expect me to go around flying from the chandelier like it’s all I’m able to do.”

Bruce knew he wasn’t very elegant in his speeches but he tried to convince Dick, “This isn’t a reason to change anything about yourself, Dick. If you enjoy it I’d hope you’d stick to it despite what anyone else might say.” It was something he thought Dick needed to hear and he hoped he would take those words to heart.

“I know that, Bruce, but I don’t want anyone to think you’ve raised a weird freak who can’t sit still for five seconds.” The last thing Dick wanted was to ruin Bruce’s reputation.

“You don’t have to change for me, Dick. I don’t want you to ever do that. You’re my son and the only thing that matters is that you’re happy.”

“I’m your son, B, but I’m also Bruce Wayne’s son, the richest man in the world, and a lot of people expect me to be like everyone else at the party.”

“Look at me, Dick.” Once he was sure Dick was paying attention to the determination on the seriousness in his expression, Bruce said, “I don’t want you to ever think like that. What matters is that you’re happy and if that’s acrobatics you have to stick with it. You’re young now, Dick, and I know there’s a lot of pressure on you from outside the family but you’re going to regret making choices based on what anyone else expects from you.”

Bat Snapshots 30: Make Me

Squatting behind a gargoyle facing the police station, Dick scanned the horizon for any suspicious movement. Bruce was on the far part of the city trying to get more intel on Penguin’s newest hideout so he was all alone in the mid city. Well, he was supposed to be patrolling alone but he’d been trained well enough to know when someone was following him. It hadn’t taken him long to sense the irregular movement and the telltale sound of someone following him.

Just out of his eyeline Dick say something move and tried to focus in on who or what it could be. In the months when he had first become Robin he was used to having his senses overreact to cats and mice that had somehow found their way on the roofs of buildings, but he felt like this time he was right to be on guard. He didn’t want to take any chances.

He stayed low enough to not be spotted and tried to edge himself closer to where he had seen the movement before he heard a crash from down below. There wasn’t anything he could spot from his position on the roof, definitely no large figure, and by the time Dick looked back up he heard someone land behind him.

Grabbing a hold of his escrima sticks and spinning around to face his opponent, Dick found a cheeky Robin pointing a heavily modified gun towards him. “Comms off Wing. I already turned mine off and we don’t want B to hear this.”

Dick let his sticks drop by his feet as he turned off the comm link in his ear and held his hands up in surrender. Even though he knew it was useless he warned Tim, “You don’t want to do this, Babybird. You’re going to regret it.” Dick knew he would do anything he could to make Tim regret doing this.

Tim scoffed and said, “You just don’t want to admit I was able to sneak up on you.”

Trying to think of a compromise as he edged himself backwards towards the end of the roof, Dick asked, “Is there anything I could do to make you change your mind?”

“Nope. This is how we get even.” Tim brought the gun up to his face and aligned it to the symbol on Dick’s chest before pulling the trigger and hoping something had landed on him. He hadn’t had any practice with guns yet, Batman didn’t like using them, and he was mostly going off of the experience he had gained in the past week.

Dick took Tim getting into position as his sign to try and make a break for it and tried to jump off towards the alley beneath him. Even as he leaped into the air he felt something come into contact with his hip. It disoriented him enough to ruin his landing, but as he looked up from his position in the dumpster he could see Tim looking down at him trying to see if he had hit his mark.

They both zeroed in on a streak of blue and green paint on Dick’s hip and Dick groaned while Tim cheered. He called down, “I’m going to win this, Nightwing. This puts me in the lead.”

Checking to make sure nothing was hurt in his less than stellar landing, Dick warned, “I wouldn’t be too sure, Rob. A lot can happen in the next week and I have more than enough time to make up some ground.”

Before he could stand up and get back to patrol, maybe regain some of his pride, Dick felt another paintball come into contact with his chestplate and threw up a glare to the teenager above him.

“Get on my level, Wing.”

“Stop it, Rob. You’re only going to make my revenge worse for you.” Even now Dick was imagining all the possible ways he could get back at Tim without inciting any of Bruce’s rage. There was a thin line with what he was allowed to do to torment his little brother, but he was willing to milk it for all it was worth.

Not at all wary of the threat, Tim shot again but missed by a few inches and instead shot the lid of the dumpster.

Hearing the muttered curse from above, Dick mocked and said, “You have great aim, Robin. I’m pretty impressed with how much you’re improving.”

“Hey, I’ve already landed three hits just in the past minute. That’s three more than you have done,” Tim said in his defense. “If I’m a bad marksman it’s because I have a bad teacher.”

Finally feeling well enough to stand up, Dick asked, “How about you drop down that gun and we’ll see just how much I can land on you?”

Raising an eyebrow Tim asked, “How about you come here and make me?”

Reaching for the grappling hook on his belt, Dick shot back, “I just might.”

Tim took that as his cue to turn back and disappeared from Dick’s eyeline for all of five seconds before he was on the roof trying to scout out Robin’s bright colors. Not for the first time he hated the fact that Tim had changed the cape from yellow to black, but he was able to make out enough of his breathing to slowly and quietly circle around his way onto the same roof as him. Tim was laying on the ground against the concrete lining along the roof trying to make himself as invisible as possible and he still hadn’t noticed that Dick was watching him from behind the air conditioning vent. Following his eyeline he could see that Tim expected him to sneak up on him from the left as it would have given him the most height. He might have come from that direction if he didn’t know Tim was expecting him to. The gun was sitting beside him on the ground, Tim probably didn’t want to have it hold him down if he needed a quick escape, and it gave Dick the perfect opportunity to make up some more ground in their competition.

Dick reached into the compartment on his hip and threw a smoke grenade as fast as he could before running into the smoke and grabbing a hold of the gun and looking to see where Tim was planning going.

To his surprise Tim didn’t immediately try for cover and instead ran as fast as he could away from Dick. He could tell he was running in the direction of Bruce and probably hoping that he would stop their little game and prevent Dick from catching up to Tim’s score. Not wanting to let that happen, Dick aimed the gun and landed his first shot on Tim’s foot and was able to disorient him enough to gain some more ground and tackle him down.

Once they were finished wrestling and Dick was secure in holding Tim down, he asked, “Well, what do you have to say now little brother? Anything smug to tell me?”

Trying to wiggle out of the hold, Tim gasped, “You need to lose weight, Wing. It feels like I have Cinderblock sitting on my chest.”

Dick hummed in consideration before grazing Tim’s shoulder with a paint ball and saying, “We’re tied now, Robin. You wanna see how much ground I can make up before we have to get home.”

“No,” Tim said honestly. “I’d rather you get off me.”

Considering where to land his next shot, Dick said, “Well too bad, Babybird. You asked me to do this.”

“I’ll get you back. You won’t be expecting it, but I will,” Tim said after another failed struggle.

“Only after I paint you with everything in this gun.”

“There’s probably like two pellets left.”

Patting a space on his hip, Dick asmirked and said, “It’s a good thing I forgot to take the spare out of my belt from our last run in.”

Bat Snapshots 29: Trust

While Bruce typed away at his laptop urgently working to get an assignment done one time, Tim sat behind him staring out of the window. To Gotham thunderstorms were a common occurrence, it always felt like the city was recovering from a flood, and Tim enjoyed looking down at the small people going about their regular business as if they weren’t drenched to their toes. People were getting something to eat from the food carts on the side of the road and others were fighting over who would get the taxi and Tim was enjoying every minute of it.

He wasn’t supposed to be in the building, he was technically sick and that was the reason he couldn’t go to school right now, but he’d been able to convince Bruce that making him stay in the Manor all day would have only made him more sick. Alfred seemed to agree because he packed Tim a healthy lunch and left Bruce some of his medicine.

Bruce had expected Tim to fall asleep on the couch in his office, but instead he was walking around the office and trying to get Bruce’s attention thinking they would be spending the whole day playing together. He was not impressed to find out Bruce didn’t keep any toys in his office, not even building blocks or cars, so Tim was trying to get him to take him around the rest of the building. There had to be something that he could play with.

Once simply looking at the scene outside the window started to bore Tim, he pulled on Bruce’s suit and asked, “Can we go outside?”

“Outside this room or outside outside?” Bruce asked even though he didn’t turn away from his laptop. Either way he knew his answer would be no.

Tim tried to think about what he wanted and decided, “Outside outside.” He wanted to play in the rain as he was used to doing in the Manor and see just how high he could splash the water in the puddles.

“Sorry sport, but if you go outside you’re going to get even more sick. Rain isn’t good for you right now.”

Accepting that Bruce probably knew more about the subject than him, Tim changed his mind and asked, “Then can we walk outside this room? Like around the building and stuff?”

“I’m sorry, Tim, but I have a lot of work to do.”

Remembering the puppy dog eyes Dick had taught him, Tim assured Bruce, “You don’t need to work. We have enough money, Dad. You can take a break and we can go for a walk.”

Smiling at the sight of Tim trying to use the same technique he was growing an immunity to, Bruce tried to reason with him. “The reason we have the money is because I’m always working, Tim. If I don’t keep on working then we might not have the money.” He hated how anytime he was able to bring his kids to his workplace there was always something that needed his attention. Why couldn’t they be here on most days when there wasn’t anything for him to do but pretend that he was working.

Frustrated, Tim decided to do the next best thing and asked, “Can I help you with your work? It’ll make it go by a lot faster.” He was used to helping Dick with his chores if it meant they would be to play together earlier. Sometime’s he’d do it just for Dick to get him some of the snacks he couldn’t reach or because his brother asked him to.

“Do you know anything about vectors and calculus, Tim?” Although he looked forward to the day when he would be able to delegate his work to his son, Bruce knew he was nowhere near ready right now.

Tim mumbled a quiet, “No,” before saying, “You can teach me though. You always say I’m very smart.”

“All of my employees have been studying for years to work on this project, Tim. I’m sorry but there isn’t really anything for you to do right now.”

Dramatically collapsing on the ground, Tim contemplated his options and asked, “I can’t play on your laptop? I could watch a video while you’re working.”

“There’s information on that laptop I need to bring down to the lab, Tim. You can’t keep it up here.”

“I can’t come with you either?” This day was just getting worse and worse. Tim might have been better off at school where he would be able to see his friends.

“No, Tim. It’s very dangerous down there.” The group would be working on building a new vaccine and Bruce didn’t want Tim to accidentally bring in his germs or even worse come into contact with something inside the lab.

“Fine,” Tim said deflated. He hoped Bruce could hear the sadness in his voice as he turned back around and said, “I’ll watch out the window until we go home.”

Bruce wanted to focus on his work and take Tim home as soon as possible, but he found himself saying, “Actually, Tim, there’s something I need you to do.”

“What is it?” He didn’t sound like he trusted Bruce, he’d just been let down by him, but was curious enough to ignore the feeling.

Turning away from his laptop to give Tim his full attention, Bruce whispered, “You have to promise to keep it a secret, Tim. No one can know about this.”

Tim gasped at what he thought was sincerity and whispered back, “I promise, Bruce. I won’t tell anyone.” Whatever Bruce needed him to do had to be important if it warrantied them talking in low voices.

“Are you sure, Tim? I know how you like to talk.” Feigning contemplation, Bruce said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have you do this.” By now Bruce knew how to bait his children and telling them they might not be old enough to do something only made them want to do it more.

Grabbing a hold of Bruce’s hand so he could see his sincerity, Tim assured him, “You can trust me, Dad. I won’t tell. I really won’t.”

Bruce sighed and didn’t do anything for a moment to keep Tim anxious before asking, “You remember where the break room is? The one we passed on our way here?”

Tim thought back to the tour Bruce had given him and remembered, “It’s the one were everyone was talking and laughing and it smelled very nice.”

Nodding, Bruce explained, “Because today is Friday there are donuts on the counter. How about you go grab a donut and bring it down to the lab for me? You could see a few things very quickly and then come back up here to watch your videos.”

Tim decided it would be better than simply sitting around and quickly made his way from behind Bruce’s desk to show Bruce just how determined he was. “I think I can do it, Dad. I’ll bring you a donut and coffee.”

Bruce knew it would be enough of a distraction to keep Tim at bay long enough for him to prepare the lab for a visitor, but he still added, “You’re the only one I trust, Tim. No one else can do this for me.” He knew there was nothing that energized Tim like hearing about a mission only he could do.

Tim felt a rush of pride before he promised, “I won’t let you down, Dad,” and walking outside of the office. Knowing that he couldn’t run in the building, he didn’t want all of his father’s employees to think he was immature, Tim quickly walked to the elevator and pressed the button for the floor just below them.

Once Bruce saw Tim disappear behind the elevator doors, he looked down to his secretary and asked, “Are you doing anything urgent right now, Carly?”

“I’m just making sure you didn’t miss any meetings today.”

“Did I?” Although he was used to not going to meetings when things came up, he was actually hoping to get on top of everything today. Even for him there were somethings he simply couldn’t miss.

Carly smiled and said, “You’ve actually been a good boy today, Mr. Wayne. You haven’t missed anything so far.” She was used to taking over for her boss every time he fell short on his appointments, but it definitely made her life easier when he stayed on track.

Bruce hummed in acknowledgement before saying, “I need you to clear my schedule for tomorrow. If there’s nothing important then I’d rather stay home and make sure Tim’s feeling better.”

“No problem, Mr. Wayne.”

“I also need you to go down to the break room and try to keep Tim distracted for as long as possible.”

“Any particular reason?” It was a part of her job to look after Bruce’s sons when he was too busy with work, but it was usually something as simple as watching over them as they messed with their toys.

“I didn’t bring any of his toys and he’s been getting pretty anxious for something to do so I sent him down. I just need to keep him out of the lab long enough to transfer all the important files to the lab computers. Tim will be able to sit in my office and watch shows on it instead.”

“Can’t he just watch something on the thousands of other laptops in this building. I know it’s pretty retro, but we do have a tv.”

Bruce explained, “My laptop has the controls to keep him from watching anything that isn’t age appropriate. He’s watched Walking Dead after Dick left it open about five times now and each time I have to deal with his nightmares.”

Although her lips curled despite her best efforts, she managed to keep from laughing as she stood up and said, “I’ll make sure he stays safe, Mr. Wayne.”

Following him down to the break room, she found Tim standing in the hallway staring at the doorway anxiously.

Unaware that this was simply a distraction, Tim cautiously looked into the room to see if he could find the donuts. He regretted promising to get Bruce some coffee too, he realized he didn’t know how to make it, but this was something Bruce had trusted him with and he couldn’t let him down. It would be best if he could go in and out without anyone seeing him, but all eyes were on him as soon as he walked into the room.

He hoped his cheeks weren’t as red as they felt, but he didn’t know what to do as the room got silent and people looked at him all at once.

Once he finally reached the box of what he could only assume was full of donuts, Tim realized he wasn’t tall enough to reach it and it would be rude to start climbing around. He had heard Bruce chastise Dick for it enough.

Before he could think of anything to say, a familiar woman walked into the room and whispered something to the rest of the group before turning to him and asking, “Do you need any help, Timothy?”

Tim knew Carly was nice, she would have to be if Bruce hired here, but Tim also knew to keep his mission as secretive as he could. He simply answered, “I need a donut.”

Smiling at Tim hoping to ease some of his concerns she introduced herself as she found a napkin to carry the donut in. “Do you need something else, Tim?”

Deciding it would be best to have someone else do the things he couldn’t, Tim explained, “I don’t know how to make coffee.”

“That’s okay kiddo. I can get it for you.”

She signaled for him to take a seat at the table, but Tim was anxious, shaking his leg as he tried to relieve himself of the stress that came with knowing he might have given too much away to strangers. If this was his mission no one should have had to be helping him.

They were able to convince Tim to eat a donut and tried to get him to laugh with a few of their jokes while waiting for the coffee to finish, but as soon as it was done Tim was ready to barrel out of the room and down to the lab. Before they could let him go out on his own, they made sure to tape down the lid to the cup so none of the hot drink would splash onto his hand and to remind him to be careful. None of them wanted to see what would happen if Tim somehow got hurt due to their negligence.

As soon as he had the directions to the lab figured out, Tim rushed down hopeful that he hadn’t been too long. It would be embarrassing if Bruce had found someone else to get him his donut and coffee.

Tim was able to spot his father immediately, he was the largest one in the room, but unsure of how to enter the room. Bruce wasn’t in the main lab and instead he was with a few scientists looking down at the others who were working. Unlike the scientists working on chemicals and solution and with important looking equipment and material, Bruce wasn’t wearing any safety gear and Tim didn’t think it would be a problem if he walked in but he didn’t want to be wrong.

Instead he knocked on the glass window until he had Bruce’s attention. Bruce stepped away from the group and grabbed a bag from an otherwise empty table before walking out to greet Tim. “How’d everything go, sport? It took you awhile to get here.”

“I don’t know how to make coffee, Dad. Someone else had to do it.” Leaning in to prevent anyone from overhearing, Tim added, “I didn’t tell anyone about my mission. I kept it a secret even though a lot of people asked.” People hadn’t asked, they already knew everything from Bruce’s secretary, but Tim felt like Bruce needed to think he had the resolve to keep secrets if need be.

Bruce took the coffee and donut before handing Tim his bag and saying, “I have a reward for you too. You can go up to my room and watch your videos, but make sure not to bother anyone who’s working, okay?” Taking a sip of the coffee, Bruce added, “You did a very good job and deserve the reward.”

Deciding this could just be another mission in a day filled with hard work, Tim assured Bruce he’d follow his orders and keep himself entertained. “I can do that, Dad. If you need me to, I can do it.”

Patting his head, Bruce assured Tim, “I know, sport, and I’m very proud of you.” Before he turned away to head back to the office, Bruce caught sight of the flush of Tim’s cheeks and added, “You did very well on your first project, Tim. I might just have to keep you around the office more,” just to see it get deeper as he walked away.