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.”
“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.