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 13: Learning Curve IV

Tim woke up to the feeling of Bruce’s chest rising and falling softly as he slept on. Blinking himself awake, Tim felt a puddle of his drool on on Bruce’s shirt and tried to pat it dry before he woke up. He ended up doing nothing to help the situation and all he ended up doing was waking Bruce up to the feeling of a light pat on his chest.

Not used to sleep soundly, Bruce basked in Tim’s warmth before nudging him to get his attention and greeting, “Good morning, Tim.”

Smiling up at the soft tone, Tim replied, “Morning, Bruce.” He didn’t know why but his toes curled up and it just might have to do with him feeling much safer than he had in weeks, in months.

Understanding that emotions were almost as hard for Tim as they were for him, Bruce urged Tim back into his original position and calmly asked, “How are you feeling?”

Holding his hand out while he waited for Bruce to offer him his, Tim played around with the massive size difference in their fingers while he tried to figure out what the best response would be. “I think I’m still asleep, but I’m not sure. I still think that this might all just be a dream.”

Bruce softly rubbed his knuckles while he asked, “Do you remember what we talked about yesterday?”

Tim sighed into Bruce’s chest and tried to shake off the rest of his sleepiness. Even though he couldn’t think straight yet, he still knew, “Yeah but…Bruce I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’d much rather get some breakfast and coffee first and then have a serious conversation.”

Bruce knew a diversion when he saw one, but he decided to indulge Tim. “That’s no problem, but I’m assuming that we’re going to be eating cereal again?”

Getting up from his place in Bruce’s side, Tim stretched out his arms and thought out loud, “I can probably make something light, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as good as what Alfred makes.”

Bruce gave him a soft laugh and promised him, “Don’t worry. I’ve learned not to hold it against people.”

Standing over the stove as he made some toast, Tim hummed a soft song while he waited for the coffee to finish roasting. It was a strange sight for Bruce to walk in on, Tim was still wearing his pajamas and he still wasn’t fully awake at the moment, but Bruce appreciated the lack of stress or worry in Tim’s stance. He didn’t know how long it had been since Tim felt that at ease and Bruce knew that if they could make this much progress in a single day, in a few weeks he would have his son back.

Bruce pulled out a seat at the breakfast nook and asked, “Where did you learn to cook?” Just from the smell he could note, “It’s already seems scores ahead of anything Dick and I could possibly make.” There was a particular lack of burning toast and spilled salt that always seemed to follow any time they came anywhere near the kitchen.

Obviously it was the wrong question to ask considering Tim straightened up, but he still answered, “I didn’t always have someone to look after me so I sort of had to learn. It was either that or take out and I got out of the mood for pizza after a while.” Placing down a plate in front of Bruce and another one for himself, Tim sat down in his own seat and shrugged off, “You saw the tapes so…you saw.”

Eating some of the assorted fruit while he planned out the best way to bring up the subject, Bruce waited until Tim was somewhat comfortable to begin the hard part of the conversation. “Tim, there were some things we didn’t talk about last night. Some things that didn’t come up.”

Tim’s eyes darkened at the reminder and he mumbled, “‘I’m guessing it’s what I think it is.”

“No more beating around the bush,” Bruce promised. “It’s about when your father found out about you being Robin.”

The sad smile that made his way onto Tim’s face was enough for Bruce to want to throw Jack in the pit to give him a piece of his mind, but it was Tim’s answer that brought him back to the present. “Yeah that’s what I thought. It was…it was rough.”

Moving his chair so that he could sit beside Tim, Bruce took his small hands into his own once again before he stressed, “It wasn’t rough, Tim. It was abuse. Plain and simple, it was abuse.”

Tim watched as his his leg began to shake under the table and said, “You want to talk about what he said.”

“What he insinuated, Tim-” Bruce started. “What he said about us-”

If they were going to be blunt and honest with each other it had to extend to everything and Tim felt a need to admit, “He thought you and I were sleeping together – having sex.”

Cringing back at the words, Bruce felt the need to apologize. “Tim, if I’ve ever done something to make you feel like that, if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable around me I’m truly sorry.”

Looking up at the sincere look on his face, Tim promised him, “Bruce, it wasn’t about you. It was about me. You don’t have to feel bad.”

Confused and aware that there was even more for him to learn, Bruce asked, “What does that mean, Tim? What don’t I know yet?”

Itching the side of his to try to distract himself from what he was about to admit, Tim took a deep breath and explained, “This happened before I was Robin so you didn’t see it, but my dad wasn’t really happy to find out that I am gay.”

Unsure of what the best reaction would be, Bruce offered a quiet, “I didn’t know.”

“Yeah. I don’t really bring it up because, well you saw my dad and it wasn’t really a pretty picture.”

Bruce leaned closer to him and let him rest his head on his shoulder and asked, “How did he find out?” He didn’t think he wanted to know, but Tim needed to say it.

Tim bit his lip for a moment before answering, “It was a concerned teacher. In the fifth grade there was a boy I was pretty hungover, he and I would always talk about how much we loved some show, I can’t remember the name now, but we were together a lot. We always sat together during lunch and we were beginning to learn about feelings and things like that and we talked about and decided it would be nice to kiss each other just before the bell rang to test out the waters and she caught us and told both of our parents.”

A little struck at the image of a much younger Timothy acting flustered about a crush, Bruce let himself imagine what it must have looked like before realizing, “I’m assuming your father didn’t react well.”

Gripping onto Bruce’s sleeve as he kept his gaze low, Tim added, “I wasn’t allowed to go to school for a week until the bruises and swelling went down.”

Bruce tightened his hold on Tim and declared, “You didn’t deserve that, Tim. You did not deserve to be treated like that.”

Not wanting to focus too much on the past, Tim broke out of Bruce’s hold and assured him, “I know, Bruce, but he was my dad and I can’t really change that.”

Although he wasn’t sure if he was stepping outside of his bounds, Bruce decided to do what felt the most natural. It was probably the fatherly instincts Alfred always talked about that lead him to say, “I know most of our relationship has been murky and strained to say the least, but I want you to know that I have always wanted you to be my son. Maybe it took a lot longer than it should have, but you’re my son and there’s nothing that’s going to change that.”

Tim took his eyes off of Bruce to admit, “I used to pretend that I was.” At Bruce’s worried look he stressed, “Before everything. When I used to live next door and didn’t really know you and when I lived in the Manor and used to pretend I wouldn’t have to go back to him.”

Smiling internally at the image of him raising Timothy from a young age, Bruce assured him, “I want you to know that I would’ve loved to have you as son from the beginning.”

Tim tried to be happy about what he had said, but there was still something that he couldn’t get over. “I remember, Bruce, I don’t know if you do, but I remember that you used to call me ‘Dick’ and…”

Even though Tim had already broken out of his hold, Bruce took his hands back into his own and uncharacteristically babbled. “Oh god Tim, I did see that in some of the tapes from the cave yesterday, but I didn’t mean it. It was not intentional on my part and I know that doesn’t mean much but I never meant to hurt you. After Dick left, I wasn’t in a good place and I took it out on you and everyone around me, but I realize now just how much it hurt you Tim. But believe me, please, believe me when I say that you are my son, Tim. You are my son just like Dick is my son and there is nothing I would ever do to change it.”

Neither of them said anything for a while, there was little left to say, but eventually Tim gave him an honest to god smile before getting up to remind Bruce, “You said something yesterday about me moving back to the Manor. I’m going to go get ready.”

It became Bruce’s job to load everything into his car but he didn’t mind too much because he got to watch Tim rest with his seat reclined back. He looked at peace, something of a rarity, and Bruce knew he should have expected as much from Tim when he got to sit in an expensive car.

As they entered the gates of the estate, Bruce parked the car and lifted up the trunk while Tim grabbed some of the lighter bags and made his way in to see Alfred cleaning the foyer. As soon as he saw the teenager confusion and then delight pass over his face as he realized what the bags meant.

Dropping the bags at the foot of the stairs, Tim ran out to Alfred and threw his arms around him. Alfred threw a surprised look over his shoulder to Bruce, but he didn’t need to understand everything to simply appreciated having his grandson back.

Once the bags and boxes were empty, Bruce sat down on the bed beside him and held him in the silence. Letting him rest his head on his chest once again, Bruce rubbed his arm and acknowledged, “I really don’t know how I have spent so much time without you on by my side. I need you here just as much as anyone else, much more than anyone else, and I promise that things are going to be different from now on.”

Bat Snapshots 12: Learning Curve III

Bruce stared up at the screen as he considered all of his options. He knew from his meeting with Leslie less than an hour ago that he had missed something important to do with Tim and his father and he needed to fix things soon or he would risk losing his son forever. The awkward and strained meeting between the two of them at Wayne Tower had made that clear enough.

Soon after Tim had become his Robin, Bruce had installed cameras in his home. He knew it was a massive violation of privacy, something he wasn’t sure he would forgive himself for, but it seemed like the right choice. At the very least he wasn’t regretting his decision now.

The cameras were only ever placed in ‘public’ areas of the house. He avoided the bathrooms knowing that would have meant he had gone too far and the cameras in the bedroom had added encryption as they were meant to be used in the most dire of circumstances.

Bruce had never felt the need to look through the footage in the past, there wasn’t any incident that called for their use, but now they were his only choice.

He pulled up the file on the BatComputer where the footage from the cameras had been uploaded and entered the encryption key. He watched as numbers ran across the screen and soon he was given access and began looking through the footage chronologically.

There were in total ten cameras in the house and he began playing them all at the same time, each stream taking up a portion of the large screen. Bruce would need to go through years and years of footage and most of it would be empty rooms so his best option was to watch all ten streams at the same time and pay attention to the action.

Bruce began from six years ago and he saw himself pulling back from the camera as he made sure it was secure in its position and secluded enough that the family wouldn’t notice.

He fast forwarded through the empty footage and stopped to see an eleven year old Tim crawl in through the window outside of his room. It struck Bruce how small the boy had really been, far smaller than most of the kids his age although not much had changed in that regard.

Tim opened the door to his room, stretched out his arms, and called for his father. He investigated all of the rooms in the house before realizing he was alone and returned back to his room looking defeated.

Bruce wanted to crawl into the screen and comfort the boy but he knew he had missed his chance many times over. The only thing he could do now was try and repair the relationship he had slowly destroyed over the years.

The footage of the next few weeks was normal. Tim woke up in the morning, went about his daily routine, left for school, came back around midnight, realized he was still alone, and resigned himself to his room.

A part of Bruce knew it was his fault. He was the one pushing the boy back to the empty house when he didn’t have anyone there to welcome him, but the only thing he had thought at the time was that the boy wasn’t Dick, that he would never be Dick. That was all that had mattered to him.

Curious, Bruce paused the security feed and found the ones of the cave around the same time.

He used the cameras in the cave to look in when he was out of town, but he wanted to remember just what Tim’s training had been like. It all just seemed like a haze to him, something ancient that he couldn’t quite remember, so he welcomed opportunity to watch the boy as he became a brilliant Robin.

Going back a little too far into the past, Bruce watched the first time Tim had set foot in the BatCave.

Dick lead Tim down the staircase and exclaimed, “It’s called the BatCave!”

“It’s incredible! Look at all those computers. Look at at the trophies. Look how big it is.” Tim ran around the room, investigating anything that caught his eye before stopping in his tracks and whispering, “I can’t believe I’m actually here.”

Dick walked over to the case that preserved his costume and stood in shock at the sight of the remains of his childhood. “Robin-? Those were the days.” Pulling off his clothes, he turned to face Tim and explain, “But Thomas Wolfe was right…You can’t go home again, and you must go on.”

He proudly stood before Tim wearing his old Nightwing costume and the boy argued, “No, not Nightwing. Dick, don’t you understand? Batman needs Robin!” Turning back to Alfred, Tim asked, “Doesn’t anyone understand?”

Watching Dick leave to run after Bruce, Alfred said, “Perhaps, young man. Perhaps Master Dick understands profoundly – perhaps that is why he brought you here.”

Tim stood beside Alfred with shook clear on his face as he realized what Dick and Alfred meant.

Bruce couldn’t help but want to thank Alfred and Dick for having the foresight he never had. He had no idea where he would be if Tim had never become his Robin, but he was sure he would be a shell of the person he was now and for that he would be eternally thankful.

Remembering just why he had pulled up the stream of the cave, Bruce speed past some of the footage until he saw Tim begin his training.

Only a week after the previous events, Bruce had been leading Tim through acrobatic routines that tested the training the boy had already had. Watching as Tim repeated the program Dick had just shown him, Bruce noticed that the boy had learned things far faster than he had ever given him credit for.

He remembered that it had been because of the distance he had put between him and Tim, enough so that the eleven year old wouldn’t falsely interpret his actions as actually caring. Bruce wanted to go back in time to force himself to understand that he was hurting a boy that meant the world to him, a boy that needed him more than anyone.

He watched Dick leave as he needed to get some sleep before he turning in for work and Tim gave him a small wave goodbye. In a few short months the two would grow much closer, but Bruce knew their relationship had taken time to foster and he wouldn’t wish for anything to change any part of it. Even now, any choice that Dick made was because of what he interpreted to be the best choice for Tim, even if he was wrong at times.

With only the two of them in the cave, Bruce told Tim to go over the routine Dick has shown him while he turned his attention to the computer and pulled up the police reports for that night. Behind his back, Tim dutifully followed his orders perfectly, only faltering when Bruce looked at the time on the screen an hour later and called out softly, “You should get some sleep now, Dick.”

Tim looked at his back confused, but he quickly pulled back his composure and made his way out the cave. He didn’t say anything as he walked up the stairs, not wanting to ruin the mirage he had put up or force Bruce to face a reality he wasn’t ready for.

Bruce speed through the next couple of months and he watched as Tim stopped being surprised every time Bruce said the wrong name. The eleven year old decided it was just another way he could help his hero and he focused on not making any noise, not doing or saying anything that was too…Tim.

Only now did Bruce notice the look in Tim’s eyes, the one that he hadn’t yet taught the boy how to hide, as he began to expect the harsh treatment and took it gracefully because he decided it was just another part of his job.

Unable to bare the look on the boy’s face, Bruce closed the stream began playing the footage of Tim’s home.

It wasn’t too helpful in lifting Bruce’s spirits as he had to watch the boy continue to be disappointed with just how empty his home was, but Bruce reminded himself this wasn’t about him, it was about trying to find a way to fix his relationship with his son.

Tim came home right after school and set his backpack down on the floor. He walked up to the fridge and refilled his water bottle but he turned around to see his father sitting down on the couch.

Tim walked up to his father and gleefully asked, “Hey, Dad. Where had you been?”

He tried not to seem too upset or controlling, but it had been over three months since he had seen his father and he was curious.

Not bothering to look up, Jack simply responded, “Working.” He missed the way his son’s face deflated at the curt response, but Tim sat beside his father nonetheless.

“Did you do anthi-”

“Tim, go into the cupboard and get me a drink. I’m going to leave for a meeting soon and I’m going to need something to make it less painful.”

Jack thought he was being funny, that Tim wouldn’t care about how much time they spent together, but Tim was too afraid to tell him otherwise and he did as he was told.

It was the look on his face that did it for Bruce. Tim looked like he expected the treatment and between the way he and Jack had complete disregard for his feeling, Bruce couldn’t blame him.

He thought for a moment that this was what Leslie had been talking about, the reason she had practically collapsed at their last meeting, but he wasn’t willing to risk missing something even more telling of the pain was feeling.

Apparently the meeting that Jack had been talking about had lasted for over two months because that was how long it took him to come back home. He had come back almost as soon as Tim had left for school so he missed seeing him out.

Jack made his way through the hallway drunk and leaning onto the hallway looking for support. The forty year old stumbled his way over to Tim’s room and he slammed the door open.

Bruce decided that the situation warranted it, so he decrypted the feed from Tim’s bedroom and began to watch.

When he found the room unoccupied, Jack rummaged through his drawers, looked into his closet, and lifted up all of the sheets from his bed still not finding whatever he was looking for. Scowling, Jack walked out of the room, leaving it a mess, and went to pass out on the couch in the living room.

He stayed there until Tim came home into the early hours of the night. Tim dropped his bags and rushed over to Jack imagining the worst when he didn’t move at any of the sounds he made. Turning Jack over to his side, Tim pleaded, “Dad! Dad! Are you alright?”

Jack groaned at the interruption and promptly threw Tim to the ground when he realized who had woken him up from his sleep. Tim didn’t argue, but he quietly rose from his place on the ground and followed Jack to the kitchen still worried about his state.

Glancing at the clock, Jack turned to Tim and said, “It’s well past dinner time. What did you make?”

Unsure of where to look, Tim stared at the ground and forced out, “I just got home so I didn’t have time. I’m sorry.”

Jack just stared at him before asking, “Why aren’t you making anything right now?”

Straightening up, Tim quickly pulled out things from the cabinets and began making something simple, spaghetti, and laid it out for his father. Staring down at the food unimpressed, Jack picked up the plate and went to eat it in his own room.

Watching at his father’s back as he walked away, Tim sighed and cleaned up the kitchen before picking up his bag to go to his room and get some homework done.

Bruce slammed his fist into the controls of the computer and wanted so much to bring Jack back from the grave so he could give him a piece of his mind. Tim had been twelve in the video and far too alone for anyone his age or older.

Now Bruce was beginning to see the warning signs he had missed all those years ago, the lost look, the obsessive need to please, and the lack of self esteem, but he knew there was more. More evidence of his failings as a father as he could only imagine Tim’s relationship with his father had only gotten worse from his point.

Bruce watched as the mistreatment became a lot more constant and Bruce soon had no reservations labeling it criminal abuse. A few moments stuck out the most and it took everything in Bruce to not rise from his chair and make his way over to Tim and envelope him in an embrace.

It had been a long night as Robin and a thirteen year old Tim was ready to get to bed. He still had the baby fat on his cheeks, but the menacing Robin was also there ready to tear criminals apart beside Batman and replayed their patrol over and over again in his head with a smile on his face.

Before he could crawl into his covers, Tim heard a heard a crash from downstairs. Immediately making his way in the direction of the commotion, Tim found his father standing in the kitchen with a bottle in one hand and broken glass on the floor.

Increasingly aware of the fact that neither of them were wearing any protection on their feet, Tim kept some distance between him and the shards and asked, “Are you alright?”

Jack shot him a glare before mocking, “Yeah I’m perfectly fine…no I’m not alright. I spilled my drink on the ground. Why would I be alright?”

Tim flinched back at the tone and quickly made his way to the sink so he could get a washcloth and clean up the mess. Before he could even try, Jack tripped him and he landed on top of the broken glass and screamed out as it cut through his skin. The shards sparkled in the dim kitchen light and Tim was thankful to be wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt.

Hissing as he tried to stand up, Tim stared at the blood coming out of his palms and looked up to see Jack looking disappointed. At this point, that was the only expression he was capable of.

Tim could tell Jack had been hoping that Tim would fight him, that he was willing to stand up for himself when faced by a bully, but Tim knew better than to show any of his Robin training in front of anyone.

Not offering any help, Jack dug into a cabinet and found another glass and left Tim to deal with his injuries himself.

Bruce knew Tim could have fought him off easily, could have regained his balance before he landed on the shards and sent Jack to the hospital, but there was an emotional reason that he didn’t put Jack in his place. Despite everything, Tim loved Jack.

One of the last clips Bruce saw was just a few weeks before Jack eventually died. To be honest, Bruce didn’t feel too bad about that now.

Once again drunk, Jack made his way into Tim’s room and began searching his closet. He threw Tim’s cloths on the ground, completely destroyed some of the things Tim had kept for safekeeping in shoeboxes, until it was empty. He noticed a crack in the wall and clawed at it until he took out the paneling and could reach some fabric on the inside of the wall.

At first Jack thought it was just some black fabric, but he pulled it out nonetheless and could immediately recognize the Robin costume. Even in his inebriated state, it didn’t take long for Jack to put it all together.

He sat down on Tim’s bed and stared at the costume until he heard the front door open a few hours later. Tim walked into his room completely unaware and gasped at the sight of it completely destroyed.

Jack stood before him and hide his findings behind his back as he growled out, “Is there anything you want to tell me, Tim?”

Confused, Tim said, “I’m not really sure what you’re talking about Dad.”

Taking a hold of Tim’s arm and holding him against the wall, Jack showed him the suit and asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

Tim eyes grew at the sight and tried to find something to say, but nothing came out before Jack turned him around and pressed his face into the wall. He wrapped his hand around Tim’s arm and turned it until Tim had to scream out against the pain shooting through him.

Moving him off of the wall just so he could push him into it again, Jack screamed into Tim’s ear, “What the hell is this, Tim? What the fuck?”

Gasping for his breath as Jack refused to stop pressing on his lungs, Tim choked out, “I can explain, Dad. It’s not that bad.”

Turning his arm even more so, enough that they could hear something crack and the weak gasp that Tim let out, Jack pressed on, “Not that bad? You’ve been running around as Robin all this time. I’m not a fucking idiot, Tim. I can figure out that Bruce is Batman, that Dick is Nightwing.”

Adamant about keeping as much hidden as he could, Tim tried to say, “No. That’s not-”

Slamming him again, Tim could tell he was bleeding from his eyebrow and he flinched back as Jack yelled out, “Don’t you dare say that it isn’t true, you little piece of shit. Why do you want to protect them, Tim? Why would you do this?”

Trying to shake his head as he tried to keep the blood from getting into his eye, Tim tried to explain, “B-Gotham needs a Robin.”

Turning him around once again so Jack could look Tim in the eye, he glared at the fifteen year old and thought out loud, “You wanted to say Bruce, that Bruce needs a Robin.” Letting his hand get tangled in Tim’s hair, Jack pulled at it until he hissed and asked with a low voice, “Are you fucking him? Is that what this is about? You and your daddy issues?”

Tim had not been expecting that lewd of a question and before he could tell Jack off for how stupid he was, he kneed Tim in the stomach and kicked him until he was in the fetal position on the ground.

Growing bored after a few minutes, Jack threw the costume beside his body stared at him from the doorway before finishing, “I don’t see how you could be any good, you can’t even take a few light hits. Bruce really must be keeping you around to look at you. If he hasn’t fucked you yet, it’s only a matter of time you know.”

Once he was alone, Tim reached out for his suit and curled around it as he resigned himself to the floor. He rubbed his thumb over the Robin emblem on the chest and wept into the tunic just loud enough to be picked up the camera.

Everything turned red and Bruce didn’t even bother closing the feed before he stormed out the cave, grabbed the keys to the his car, and ignored the speed limit as he made his way to Tim’s apartment.

Taking in a deep sigh, Bruce knocked on the front door and watched closely as Tim’s eyes grew a little darker as soon as they laid on him. Bruce tried to give him a smile, something to calm both of them down as he tried to reconcile the fact that the very sight of him would cause his son to react so deeply, but it only served to make the teenager even more confused.

Trying not to care too much about why Bruce was here, Tim asked politely, “Is there anything I can help you with, Bruce?”

Bruce tried to assure him, “I don’t need anything, Tim. I just wanted to stop by.”

Creasing his eyebrows, Tim studied Bruce to see if there were any signs of mind control, poisoning, or manipulation. When he couldn’t find any of the regular tells, Tim stood aside and welcomed Bruce into his home.

The first thing Bruce realized was that there was nothing personal about the apartment. He didn’t have any posters, any clothes lying around, wrappers, bottles, pictures, anything to make it look like a home.

Tim lead him to the living room and offered him a seat on the couch while he left to find his laptop. Not wanting to question why Tim would need his laptop, Bruce sat quietly and promised himself to pay attention to whatever the boy would have to say. Sitting down across from Bruce, Tim logged in and pulled up some information from his patrols.

Realizing that Tim thought this was a performance evaluation, Bruce called out softly, “Tim.”

Ignoring him, Tim started, “Ever since you’d left, there had been a gradual increase in crime, but those numbers turned back to normal pretty soon after you came and-”

“Tim, I didn’t-”

“And they’ve really only been going lower since then.”

“Tim, this isn’t-”

Tim shook his head disappointed in himself as he realized, “But you probably already knew that because you should have access for this information so you want to know about what’s been going on with me.”

Tim tried to open up another report, but before he could reach the keys Bruce took hold of his hands. Looking up at him confused and tired, Tim asked, “What’s the matter, Bruce?”

Bruce made him stand up and lead him to what he expected to be one of the bedrooms. Just like the rest of the apartment, it looked like something out of a catalog. There was very little to show that someone actually lived in it, but nonetheless Bruce moved Tim closer to his bedroom and said, “I can tell you need some sleep.”

Raising an eyebrow, Tim asked confused, “What? Is that why you came here? I know how to take care of myself.”

Not wanting to get into any arguments, Bruce explained, “I know you can, but you haven’t so far and if I need to watch your every move to make sure you’re getting the sleep you need I will do it.”

Crossing his arms and glaring up at his former mentor, Tim asserted, “I’m not your responsibility, Bruce.”

“Yes you are. You’re my son.” Bruce put his hands on Tim’s shoulder and unknowingly cornered him against the wall. Immediately Bruce could tell Tim was imagining that Bruce was Jack and that killed something inside of him. Bruce was still firm, but he made sure to soften his hold as he tried to communicate with his son.

Shaking his head, Tim looked to the ground and breathed out, “Stop. You can’t-”

“Yes I can. You are my son and-”

Deciding that if he was ever going to speak up for himself it was going to have to be now, Tim countered, “You can’t just make me your son when you feel like it, Bruce. You can’t just act like I’m a part of your family for a while and then change your mind. It’s…It’s not something you can just toss around.”

Pressing his forehead to Tim’s, Bruce said, “I’m sorry, Tim. I know I messed up, I didn’t see things I should have and I left you with someone who didn’t know how to take care of you.”

Finally letting something inside of him break, Tim asked, “Why didn’t you do anything? You…you just…you didn’t care, Bruce. You didn’t care.”

Pulling him into his arms, Bruce promised, “I didn’t know, Tim. I swear I didn’t know. I don’t know how I missed it, how I didn’t notice what he was doing to you, but I’m sorry.”

Bruce could feel Tim’s mouth agape on his chest and he held the boy while he wept into his chest. Tim hadn’t imagined that the world’s greatest detective would’ve missed what Jack had done and he had to take a moment to comprehend what Bruce had said.

A few moments later, Tim murmured into his chest, “You didn’t know?”

Ashamed, Bruce admitted, “I didn’t. I’m not going to give you an excuse but I didn’t know. If I had, I promise if I had thought he even directed a curse at you, I would have taken you out of his reach as soon as I could. When I saw what he did-”

Putting a little distance between them so he could look up at Bruce, Tim asked, “Saw? How did you see? How did you find out?”

“I…After you became Robin I put some cameras in your home.” Seeing Tim’s eyes flare up at the invasion of privacy, Bruce explained, “Today was the first time I used them, but Tim, I don’t care what you say I won’t apologize. I put them there so I could make sure you were okay and the only thing I will apologize for is not using them as much as I should have. If I could go back in the past I would watch the feed every night and the first time you had to go to sleep alone I would have taken you in.”

Tim looked up at him in wonder with too many emotions for Bruce to read, but he broke out of Bruce’s hold and for a quick moment Bruce thought he had messed things up to the point where their relationship was irreparable, but he watched Tim sit on the edge of his bed and hide his face in his knees.

With a weak broken voice, Tim asked, “Bruce?”

Kneeling before him, Bruce answered with a calm voice, “Yes, Tim?”

“Do you think…maybe…Do you love me?”

Bruce shot up and embraced Tim while he promised, “More than anything, Tim, more than I knew it was possible to love someone, Tim. I love you and you’re my son. That is never going to change.”

Clawing his nails into Bruce’s chest, Tim held onto him while Bruce maneuvered the both of them onto his bed. They stayed like that for well into an hour, Tim crying into Bruce as long as he could make the tears, but soon Bruce slowly began detaching himself. He pulled Tim’s arm off of his side and slowly rose up from the bed.

Tim shot up afraid, afraid that he would have to spend another night alone, but he felt Bruce lift him up and carry him into the kitchen. Confusion took over, but Tim didn’t try to fight it and he relented when Bruce sat him down on the chair.

Rummaging through his pantry and fridge, Bruce apologized, “The bad thing about living with Alfred is that you never have to learn how to cook, so the best I can do for you is cereal and orange juice.”

It was the first time in who knows how long Tim let out a laugh and it made Bruce feel something deep inside his chest. Smiling down at him, Bruce set down the cereal milk and bowls before pulling out his own seat and digging in.

Scratching his eyes once they began to feel raw from all that crying, Tim smiled into his bowl and said, “I really don’t know what would have happened if you never let me be Robin.”

Taking his hand into his own, Bruce kissed his knuckles and promised, “You will always be my Robin, Tim.”

They finished their meal in silence, both thinking that Dick hate to know he wasn’t here to eat cereal with them, before Bruce took the plates into the sink and carried Tim back to his room and laid him across the bed.

Finding some of Tim’s pjs and placing them in his hand, Bruce said, “You’re going to want to get a good night’s rest, Tim. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.”

Tim tilted his head to the side and asked, “Why? Did I forget something?”

Finding something that would fit his much larger form, Bruce opened the door to the bathroom and began changing before he called out, “You’re moving back home tomorrow, Tim.”

Frozen with his arms above his head and his sleeping shirt halfway on, Tim stared at the wall he knew Bruce was behind. His mind was stuck trying to comprehend the information and he wasn’t able to do more than one thing at the same time. Walking in on seeing him in the awkward position, Bruce helped him pull on the shirt and turned off the light before crawling in beside him.

Tim put his head on his chest and laid there thankful that he didn’t have anymore tears to let out. He closed closed his eyes, breathing in the smell of Bruce’s cologne, and calmed himself until he was able to formulate words.

Taking a hold of one of his hands, Tim played with Bruce’s large fingers before looking up to him and asking, “Bruce?”

“Yes, Tim?”

Turning his gaze away to hide his blush, Tim confessed, “I love you.”

Kissing him on the top of his head, Bruce promised, “I love you too, Tim.”

Bat Snapshots 4: Learning Curve II

Bruce groaned as he tried to force his eyes to open against the bright light urging him out of unconsciousness. He had very little idea of where he was, very little idea of what he was doing, and Bruce pushed himself to his side in an effort to confront whatever was waiting for him.

As soon as he made an effort to move his body screamed it’s opposition and he was forced to fall back into the position that had felt so much better a few moments ago. He tried to collect his mind and remember anything that could explain where he was, but it all just came up to a blank. All he could remember was struggling against something, someone, and a bright light and he contemplated whether or not he was dead.

It didn’t take long for his eyes to adjust to the light and he was able to open them just in time to see a figure walk into the cave he found himself occupying. It was different from the one under the Manor, the wall looked untouched and the lack of squeaks coming from bats overhead left him with a deafening silence, but he tried to focus on the person he watched dig through some bags.

Soon he heard Tim’s soft voice cut through the silence and explain, “Superman’s on his way. He’ll get you to a hospital soon so they can look you over,” Turning to look him in the eye, he asked, “Do you remember everything?”

Not wanting to look any more weak than he actually was, Bruce forced himself to sit up. With a rough voice he probably wouldn’t recognize as his, Bruce said, “I think so. How long was I away?”

Rummaging through his pack for some more medical tape, Tim curtly replied, “You were in another time for a little over six months and you’ve been sleeping in here for about an hour.”

He quickly got to work rewrapping Bruce’s wounds and making sure there was nothing that had gone untreated or reopened in the few minutes he was outside. Bruce didn’t know if it was because of the darkness of the cave or something that had happened in the months he had been away, but he couldn’t help but notice the differences between the Tim he had left and the one before him. While he tried to imagine what could have caused such a drastic change, Bruce began to feel the weight of the awkward silence and had to ask, “What’s taking Clark so long? He should have been here by now.”

Tim look uncomfortable and he refused to look Bruce in the eye as he muttered, “He’s going to take some time.”


Moving to Bruce’s back so that the older man couldn’t’ see the hurt on his face, Tim said, “He doesn’t really believe me. He thinks I’m imagining everything.”

Bruce worked out, “He thinks you’re imagining me?”

Making sure his voice didn’t betray him, Tim explained with a forced lightness to his voice, “Yeah I’m the only one who thinks you’re alive. Everyone else thinks you died six months ago and that I’m crazy for looking for you.”

“They think I died?”

Finally done checking for injuries, Tim moved to pack up the medical equipment and added, “Yeah there was a funeral and everything.”

Just looking at the boy before him, Bruce knew the world he was going back into was much different from the one he left and he had to ask, “What happened while I was gone?”

Tim took a deep breath and forced out, “Dick is Batman right now. Well, he’s Nightwing wearing the suit and cowl. Dick’s been trying to get me to go to Arkham for a while, but I’ve fought him off.”

Shocked, Bruce repeated, “Dick wants to send you to Arkham?”

Finding it a lot harder to meet Bruce’s scrutiny than he had imagined, Tim tried not to sound hurt when he said, “Dick sort of thought I was crazy after I tried to convince him you were alive. He wanted to put me in Arkham so I could see a doctor, but I just left before he could do anything. I…He and I aren’t that close anymore.”

Bruce didn’t know how to respond, Tim looked tired enough that he might not be all that aware of what he was saying, so he tried to find a way out of the awkward conversation and offered, “Let me call Clark. He’ll hurry over when he hears my voice.”

Happy to be done with the conversation, Tim took out his com link before redialing for Clark and putting it to Bruce’s hands.

Immediately they heard Superman’s voice say, “Tim I’ll be th-”

Bruce cut him off asking, “Clark? Where are you?”

Before he could even finish the sentence, a streak of red and blue made it’s way to the foot of the cave and Bruce had to protect his eyes from the dust flying around.

Uncharacteristically scared, Clark asked, “Bruce?”

Smiling up at his old friend, Bruce let himself laugh as he said, “Yeah, I know. Six months has been a long time hasn’t it?”

Clark turned to face Tim and looked for some indication that he was seeing the real Bruce and as soon as he was given a curt nod, he encased him in a hug.

Keeping in mind to avoid his injuries, Clark squeezed Bruce and babbled on, “I can’t believe it. I honestly can’t believe it. I thought…Oh god, I honestly didn’t think I would ever get the chance to see you again. I thought you were gone forever.”

There was a brotherly moment between the two and Tim stood to the side so that he wouldn’t’ interrupt, but after a while he had to say, “Superman, it would still be great if you could take Bruce to the hospital. I was able to treat most of it but it would be better if he saw a doctor.”

Before he knew it he was the only one left in the small cave. Superman had carried Bruce out of the cave and to what Tim assumed would be Watchtower Medical Ward. As soon as he was alone, Tim started packing up a few of the stray equipment scattered around the cave while he thought about whether or not he should start calling the others. He had been telling the truth when he told Bruce that he didn’t’ talk to Dick anymore, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t inform them that he was back. At the very least it wouldn’t’ hurt to call Alfred as the two of them were still on speaking terms and he could disseminate the information to the others.

Before he could decide on a plan, the blue streak returned and his work was undone as stray equipment flew everywhere.

Looking just as messy as the rest of the cave, Clark asked, “Tim, do you want me to take you to Bruce? I can fly you up.”

Not wanting to ruin what would probably be a touching moment between Bruce and his old friends, the teenager assured him, “It’s ok. There’s some stuff I have to finish up anyway so you don’t have to worry. I’ll find my own way back.”

Clark didn’t really believe him, South America was a long way from Gotham, so he quickly packed up everything he could find and organized it in Tim’s bag before hooking the boy in his arm and flying him out to the Watchtower. Tim sighed at the feeling but he knew to expect as much from the boy scout.

Sitting in the waiting room, no one really knew what to do. Of course they were all excited, Bruce was back, but the group of superheroes were lost as to what they were supposed to say to someone they had called crazy for the last six months.

Tim had been able to inform everyone of Bruce’s return but there wasn’t much he could, or wanted to, say to anyone in the room. Sitting against the wall closest to Bruce’s room, he kept his distance from Dick in particular. He only ever talked to inform the doctors about Bruce’s state when he pulled him into their time stream for a few moments before he opened his laptop to begin writing up a report.

At first Tim didn’t bother taking a seat, he was prepared to leave as soon as he got the green light from the doctor, but he had been asked to stay behind for any questions that the staff might have in dealing with this strange situation and he promptly took a seat on the floor and turned his attention elsewhere.

Across the room, Dick stole glances at Tim. He was trying to find his little brother inside the new suit, but Tim acted as if he was the alone in the room and ignored any contact outside what was absolutely necessary.

Unable to bare the silence any longer, Dick tried to sound jovial and asked something he had been thinking about ever since Clark had called the Manor to inform them that Bruce was in fact alive. “Timmy, how exactly did you find Bruce? What happened?”

Tim glanced in his direction for a moment before he returned his gaze to his computer and explained, “I’ve been looking into it the moment he was declared dead and it really wasn’t that hard with a little help.”

Creasing his eyebrows under the mask, Dick asked, “Help? From who?” As far as he knew there weren’t any members of the league who had believed Tim so it was important for him to know who he should thank for helping his little brother find Bruce.

Tim sighed, preparing himself for the strong reaction that was sure to come, and answered, “Ra’s.”

That got the attention of everyone in the room. They were all well aware of the Demon’s past and how dangerous he could be and the fact that one of Bruce’s children would work with him was unthinkable.

Dick mirrored everyone else’s reaction but tried not to be too harsh when he asked, “Ra’s al Ghul? Why him?”

“He was the only one who believed me,” Tim said dismissively. This was probably the least important part of the whole situation and it didn’t really matter if it meant Bruce was back.

“That doesn’t mean you should have gone to him for help.”

Tim didn’t like that he had to defend himself a few moments after he had just brought Dick’s father back, but he said, “I didn’t really go to him, Dick, he found me and offered some help I couldn’t really refuse.”

Shaking his head unbelieving, Dick questioned, “Why was he looking for you?”

Tim sighed, “He wanted me to be his heir and he thought that helping me find Bruce would somehow help me join him.”


Closing his laptop and giving him a tired look, Tim said, “I know, Dick, I know. After I was fully recovered and had the information I needed I left.”

“Recovered? Recovered from what?” Tim really needed to learn to keep his mouth shut. In only a short few minutes he had gone from bringing Bruce back to having to face Dick’s scrutiny once again. Considering how things had ended the last time, Tim wanted to get through this as soon as possible.

Stuffing his laptop in his bag to avoid looking at Dick, Tim muttered, “I…I lost my spleen.”

Dick leapt out of his chair and exclaimed, “What the hell, Tim. You should’ve come to us.”

Tim rose up from his seat to look him in the eye and say, “I didn’t really have the option now did I?”

Taking a step back and trying to defend himself, Dick promised him, “It’s not like I wouldn’t’ve helped you, Tim.”

Tim scoffed off the declaration and asked, “You mean your friend in Metropolis, the therapist? Or are you talking about how you wanted to put me in Arkham because you were sure I was crazy to think Bruce could still be alive.”

Dick put himself in front of Tim so his focus could be entirely on him and tried to think of something convincing but all that came was a choked out, “Tim…”

Ignoring his older brother, Tim through his bag over his shoulder and said, “Look, I need to be somewhere.”

Dick tried to argue, “Somewhere more important than your family?”

“Fam-?” The confusion on his face broke Dick’s heart but he couldn’t find anyway to defend himself.

Tim softened his scowl when he saw the distress on his face, but he still took a step out with, “Look, I need to go Dick. I just…I need to go. If you have any question you can text me.”

He turned around and gave everyone in the room a half hearted wave. All Dick could do was watch him walk away a second time and hope Bruce would have some idea of how to win him back. The other heroes in the room were silent, not knowing what to think about the argument that had just taken place before them but knowing better than to get involved in something that had very little, if anything, to do with them.

Dick refused to look anyone in the eye as he took his seat and only perked up when the doctor announced that Bruce was ready to take in visitors. Walking into the room and seeing the small smile that crept up on Bruce’s face when he saw him, Dick felt happy that Tim had ignored everything he’d said, but he couldn’t help but think he should have been there with them.

Tim felt like a little child waiting in Bruce’s office in Wayne Tower for what he expected to be a harsh scolding. Apparently, his conversation with Dick a few weeks ago had left much to be desired in terms of what he had been up to in the months that Bruce was away.

Too soon for him, Bruce walked into his office and immediately took his seat. He looked much better than the last time Tim had seen him, definitely covered in far less bandages, but Tim wasn’t exactly sure what was expected from him.

Glancing down to the papers on the desk for a brief moment before looking up, Bruce smiled. “Tim, thanks for coming.”

Quick to get to the point of the meeting, Tim assured, “It’s no problem, Bruce.”

“Was the trip over okay?”


Bruce nonchalantly asked, “Did you take an airplane?”

“Airplane? No,” Tim answered a little confused. There was no reason for Tim to take an airplane when he only lived a few minutes away.

“How about a helicopter?”

“I drove over, Bruce,” Tim said a little too loudly. He wanted to get to the point of the session quickly so he could go home. He could tell this was going to be one of Bruce’s lectures where he went through everything Tim had done wrong so the quicker they could get through it the better.

“That’s because you live downtown right?” Bruce feigned a thinking look while knowing Tim had already caught on.

Not wanting to get into a large fight, Tim tried, “Bruce, is thi-”

Cutting him off and stepping out from his desk and using his height to intimidate the boy, Bruce explained, “I’m asking because downtown Gotham is only a few minutes away from here and we never see you anymore. I thought you’d either moved to a different apartment or they’d moved downtown Gotham farther away. Are either of those things true?”

Looking down at his feet, Tim muttered, “No, sir.”

Crossing his arms and glaring down at him, Bruce continued, “And what Dick told me was true right, that you’d gotten help from Ra’s?”

Once again, Tim gave him a quick, “Yes.”

Leaning down, Bruce chided, “Timothy, when you put your head down your hair falls on your face and I can’t see you and I can’t hear you anymore.”

Dramatically lifting his head to look him in the eye, Tim repeated, “Yes, Bruce. Dick told you the truth.”

Bruce dropped his confused act and immediately yelled out, “What were you thinking? Well I’m sure you thought very hard about you choice before anything, that you got some advice from your brother and friends before turning to someone who tried to kill you.”

Unable to look him in the eye, Tim turned his gaze back to the floor and choked out a weak, “Bruce-”


“I was-”


“I was-”

“Pick your head up, boy!”

Tim yelled out, “I was doing the best I could, Bruce. No one believed me but he did and it got you back didn’t it?”

“There is much more to it than that. You knew it would make me and Dick feel guilty and that’s cheap,” Bruce stressed with a finger in his face. He wanted Tim to feel just as guilty as he should have been, Ra’s was not the kind of person he should be associated with, if that meant having to scold him, so be it.

Tim promised him, “I didn’t do it to make either of you feel guilty, Bruce,” but he was scoffed off.

Bruce turned away from Tim, leaving him to stare at his back, while he said, “Well you didn’t do it to make us happy either.”

Now it was Tim’s turn to rise out of his chair. “I don’t know how to make you feel happy, Bruce. For that you’d have to talk to Dick.” He didn’t like having his objectives questioned, especially when everything he’d done in the past few months had been for the same person who was admonishing him as if he didn’t care.

Not wanting to go anywhere near that topic, Bruce decided to end their discussion. All Tim could think was that he wasn’t interested. “Okay. Let’s drop it.”

Moving behind his desk, he sat down and began reading over his papers. As Tim turned around to leave, Bruce remembered, “Dick’s running a movie tonight and he would want you to stay over.”

Tim tried one last time with, “I can stay over if you want me to.”

Still not looking up, Bruce dismissed him immediately. “Yeah, okay.”

No longer giving a damn, Tim left his office and didn’t bother saying goodbye.

As soon as he was gone, Bruce’s secretary came in and announced, “Mr. Wayne, your next appointment is waiting.”

Letting go of a breath he didn’t know he was keeping in, Bruce replied, “Okay send her in.”

Just as she turned around to inform his appointment, he cut in, “Shelby?”

“Yes, Mr. Wayne?”

“Give me a moment, please.” Shelby understood immediately and gave him a small smile. It wasn’t often that she got to see her boss lose a little face or hear his voice crack, but it almost always had something to do with his family.

She said, “Of course, Mr. Wayne,” before closing the door behind her and giving him some privacy.

As soon as he was alone, Bruce turned around and tried to take in everything Tim had said in their short meeting. Of course he couldn’t bring himself to be upset with the boy. His ‘death’ had been a hard time for all of his boys and he knew that there was very little he would do bring them back to him. If was being honest with himself, he was almost pleased at the fact that Tim would go through such lengths, put himself through so much trouble, for him but then again he could never say Tim was a bad soldier.

Finding herself once again at the Manor, Leslie knocked on the door of Bruce’s office before she heard him welcome her him.

Stepping out of his chair to shake her hand, Bruce greeted, “Good evening, Leslie.”

Giving him a small smile, Leslie said, “Good evening, Bruce.”

Stalling to build up the courage he needed, Bruce said, “I’m sorry to have called you in with such little notice.”

“It’s no problem,” she replied curtly. Leslie didn’t want to be rude, but it would be best if they could begin getting to work as soon as possible.

Pulling out a seat for her while he walked around the room, Bruce asked, “Is there anything I should be worried about, Leslie? Any reason I should still be in recovery?”

Just as she would any patient, Leslie said, “Nothing as far as I could tell. Although you did lose a lot of blood it doesn’t look like there was any damage. Your broken bones are healing properly, there is no reason for any more sur-”

Giving her a fake smile, Bruce asked, “You’ve been looking after Tim?”


Bruce repeated, “You’ve been looking after him while I was gone?”

Quick to defend herself from something she didn’t know, Leslie said, “I’ve been making appointments with him regularly if that’s what you’re asking.”

Finding himself acting like Luthor the few times he had been in a room with him, Bruce crossed his arms and said, “I’m asking if you told him that running around with people like Ra’s would help him get me back. I’m asking if you’re the reason he hasn’t been talking to his family. I’m asking if you told him, ‘Timmy, it’s your doctor, the person who’s supposed to look after you, and I think your brother is bad for your health and you should find someone else to run to.'”

Leslie didn’t like being scolded like a child, but she put her anger aside as she promised, “No, Bruce. I never did that.”

Sarcastically Bruce said, “Yeah.”

Feeling his refusal to take the conversation seriously very characteristic of how he treated Tim, Leslie tried, “By the way, Bruce, it’s not the doctor’s job to keep kids healthy, it’s the parent’s.”

Bruce didn’t like what he was accused of and diverted the discussion with, “Why haven’t I been able to get him to like me? I’m asking you.”

“I don’t really think that app-”

“I’m asking you.”

Dropping all formality as she had with Tim, Leslie said, “I think you’re wrong.”

Bruce was adamant. “I’m not.”

Shaking her head, Leslie assured him, “He worships you.”

“He’s mad at me,” Bruce said feeling he knew better.

“Well you’re mad at him.”

Remembering just why he had brought her out here, Bruce said, “Yes I am. I come back after six months and where the hell is he?”

Coming to his defense, Leslie said, “He’s been here, Bruce.”

Now it was Bruce’s turn to shake his head and say, “Not like Dick. Not like the league.”

“You frighten him.” It was the only way Leslie could think of explaining things to Bruce, the only he might understand how hard Tim tries to win over his approval.

“No I don’t!” It was something Bruce never wanted to think about. He only ever scared people, mostly criminals, who wanted to hurt others, especially when it came to his kids.

Imagining herself as a proxy for whatever defense Tim needed, Leslie begged Bruce, “Look at yourself. You begin shouting as soon as you find yourself having to face a difficult truth.”

“We’ve known each other for six years. He’s seventeen. He can deal with a loud voice.” There was no reason for Tim to be afraid of anything Bruce could do, it’s not like he would ever hurt him.

“You have been the king of whatever room you walked into ever since you two met. All he has ever tried, all he has ever wanted, was to make you proud and that thought that you might not be satisfied with what he does scares the hell out of him.”

Bruce dismissed her explanation. “It never seemed to frighten Dick.”

It didn’t take a doctor to break apart that argument but Leslie did it anyway. “Well kids are different, they’re not the same. You’d be amazed, you’d be stunned at how quickly kids realize they are never going to be anywhere near their father’s favorite.”

Staring down at her in a way that was reminiscent of the Bat, Bruce said, “That’s not true.”


“That’s not true!”

“Bruce Wayne-”

He was practically frantic as he argued, “No, no, no. I will bare with Darkseid and Ra’s and Joker and whoever the hell else comes in my way, but I will not let anyone come in and say I love Tim less than Dick.” Bruce turned his back to her, repulsed by the idea that she was putting in her head.

Finding his declaration to completely empty considering Tim’s past, Leslie glared at his back and asked, “How can you say that?”

“What do you mean?”

“How can you say that knowing what we do about his past?”

Turning back to look at her, Bruce questioned, “Leslie, what are you talking about?”

She looked back at him, at the perplexed look on his face and complete worry in his pose, and she had to ask, “Bruce did you know?”

Confused, Bruce thought out loud, “About what? Ra’s? I didn’t now he wanted Tim to be his heir if that’s what you’re asking.”

Leslie shook her head and pressed on, “No, about Jack. Did you know?”

Still confused, Bruce couldn’t think of anything special about Jack. He had fathered Tim and died, but that’s all he could think of. He found himself asking again, “Know what, Leslie?”

Leslie dropped her arms to her side. All these years she had thought Tim and Bruce had worked out an understanding, something to help with Jack, but knowing that the boy didn’t turn to anyone was too much. She knew it meant that she was responsible for not ending it, for not begging Tim to find help, and falling into her chair all she could say was, “Oh my god. You…Bruce…Tim… Oh my god.”

Understandably concerned, Bruce rushed over and asked, “What? Did something happen?”

Leslie shook him off with, “It’s not my place to say.”

Unlike all those years ago there was nothing she could do to help, nothing she could do to help that little bird. Whatever resolution he made with Bruce had to be on his terms and no one else’s, that was the only support she could give him.

Helping her up, Bruce said, “Thanks for your help, Leslie. Thank you very much,” before he walked her out to her car.

Watching her drive away, he couldn’t help but think of how much he had failed his son and how much work there was still left to do.

Bat Snapshots 2: Learning Curve I

Alfred rushed to the door as soon as he heard the bell echoing through the foyer. He had been mindlessly pacing behind the door for the last half hour, not wanting to risk missing the doorbell ring.

The house was mostly empty, he had pushed most of the occupants out on an errand run so they could have some privacy, but now the silence only made him feel more anxious. For the past few months the silence had almost became deafening for him and reminiscent of the years following the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Last time he had been unable to stop Bruce from himself, the way his life became about nothing other than the mission, but this was his chance to do more for Tim.

Standing behind the front door, Alfred forced himself to calm down before greeting his guest. As polite as ever, he welcomed Leslie to the Manor. “It’s nice to see you Dr. Thompkins. Please come in.”

“Hello, Alfred. It’s nice to see you too.” Unlike most of the people that passed through Wayne Manor, she didn’t take any time to admire the architecture or establish any small talk before getting to business. “How are you feeling? Any changes you’ve been noticing in the past few days?”

“I’m fine ma’am. How are you?” Alfred asked politely while still ignoring her question.

“I’m good.”

Alfred mechanically nodded to show that he heard her response before ushering her deeper into the house. Leading the way to the more residential parts of the Manor, he couldn’t help but ask, “Did you see anyone you know on your way here?”

Leslie never imagined Alfred being as paranoid as the rest of his family, but she knew better than to be too surprised by anything in their company. In the time she had been in with the family she had seen many times over that they loved to ask questions. She quickly went through her short journey from her clinic in Crime Alley to the driveway of the Manor before she answered, “Um, no. None.”

Leslie thought Alfred looked far too pleased by a simple answer, but she didn’t want to focus too much about it. This was a stressful time in Gotham and it would sense for them to be more on edge than usual.

When he saw Leslie give him a questioning look as they passed the library where she took most of the family’s meetings, Alfred explained, “I’ll lead you to Master Tim. His bedroom isn’t too far away.”

She tried to clear up, “Timothy? I thought I was here to talk to you? That’s what you said over the phone.” Lack of information was common when working for bats, but lies from Alfred were a whole new level of paranoia.

Alfred didn’t have the modesty to look ashamed for the deception. “Master Timothy doesn’t know I called you and I couldn’t have you mentioning to anyone that you were coming for him. Considering the responsibilities that he has accumulated over the past few weeks, I wanted to save him from the media frenzy that would surely come with with the knowledge he was taking private meetings with a doctor.”

It didn’t surprise her that Alfred would try to protect Tim, but she had to ask, “Is he still acting compulsively? Is he still going out at night?” At his hesitance to respond Leslie had her answer and she tried not to sound too astounded when she said, “He has always recovered faster than I would think healthy, but this is just as concerning.” Sighing, she realized, “He’s going to need a lot of help, Alfred.”

Alfred sighed, looking far closer to his age than he usually did, before he made the final turn and paused in front of what Leslie assumed to be Tim’s room. “In his own special way, I do think he is grieving and I’m hoping you can be the help he needs, Dr. Thompkins.” Hand gripping the handle on the door, Alfred said, “Master Tim should be.”

Stopping Alfred before he could open the door, Leslie asked, “Before I go talk to him, why exactly did you call me? What changed?”

Tim ignored her for an hour. He sat by the desk looking through books on ancient syntactics and semiotics without even acknowledging that he was in the middle of a therapy appointment. His room was a mess of papers and maps that covered most of the floor, but it seemed to work for him.

Leslie took the time to study Tim and quickly saw that his face had become more defined. She could tell that he wasn’t eating much anymore and understood why Alfred was so worried about him. Even outside of the weight loss, Tim’s skin looked paler and his nails looked as if he had been chewing on them constantly. There were a few bruises that were a stark contrast to his pale skin, she knew there were more that were hidden, and she could only assume that they came from mistakes from patrolling at night. He didn’t look anything like the Robin that dropped by her clinics looking to help if nights were too slow.

Leslie wasn’t shocked by the lack of communication either, he had studied under Batman for years after all, but she couldn’t wait on him to feel comfortable forever. She would have to get back to her office in a few hours to prepare for the regular junkies that came out looking for help in the morning and she would like to make some progress with the teenager before she would have to help. She was starting to regret not forcing Tim to stay in touch when things had started falling apart but there was no reason to wait any longer.

Thinking back to their many past conversations and what she regretted never mentioning before, Leslie asked about Jack. She cleared her throat as a small warning for Tim before bluntly asking, “Your father used to hit you, right?”

That was enough to get his focus. He nearly dropped out of his seat before he could rebuild his composure and looked at her stunned. With gritted teeth and furrowed eyebrows he demanded to know, “What are you talking about?”

She repeated the question, making sure to stand her ground and break through his shell. “Your father use to hit you when you were younger?”

Tim turned back to his book so he wouldn’t have to look at her as he muttered, “Yeah,” just loud enough for her to hear. She could pick up on his silent plea to end the conversation there.

Leslie wanted to, she really wanted to stop antagonizing him right there and find a better way to help him, but she had enough experience to know that going easy on him would get him nowhere. Over the past few years she had watched as Tim learned to compartmentalize his feelings and her beating around the bush, especially from someone with her responsibilities, would not help in getting him to open up.

Leslie tried to probe a little farther, wanting to be absolutely sure before she prodded further with more emotional questions. “Like a spanking? A tap whenever you did something wrong?”

Tim wanted to dismiss the issue, not seeing the reason to bring up the ancient past, and made sure to show his frustration when he questioned, “He hit me. Why does it matter to you?”

Ignoring his question, Leslie clarified her understanding of the situation. “He used to punch and beat you.”

“It was a complicated relationship,” Tim said just low enough for her to hear.

Leslie could easily recognize that Tim still loved his father despite their past. She couldn’t find it in herself to be surprised. Tim had never been able to turn his back on people, even when it would be in his best interest. She’d seen it when he was a fresh Robin carrying in the criminals who had tried a few minutes ago to kill him, she’d seen it when he refused to answer her question about bruises that formed where she knew his armor was too strong to penetrate, and she could see it now when he still couldn’t bring himself to feel ill will towards someone who had spent the better part of his life hating and abusing him.

She had only met Jack a handful of times, but it was obvious that he tried to keep distance between the two of them. The saddest thing for her was that Tim had always looked as though he was used to it, like he didn’t expect anything else from his father.

Looking at the boy’s back she offered her opinion ever since she had first met Jack. “It was because you were smarter than he was and he couldn’t get over it.”

Tim spun around in his chair and glared at her with his eyes glazed over with not yet fully formed tears. “This is crossing the line, Leslie. I’m not a kid anymore and you can’t…you just can’t treat me like one.”

At the very least he wasn’t trying to keep on a face anymore, he wasn’t trying to act like he was ok. Leslie wasn’t interested in talking to Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne, the smart young business man inheriting an empire or Robin as he tried to keep Batman from seeing any of his business. This was Tim, growing more like the bat every single day and in need of an emotional outlet that she hoped she could give him.

Leslie let him have some time to process just how he felt on the matter and knowing he was only staring at the page in front of him, not actually reading any of the words. After letting him settle for a few minutes, she began again.

This time not giving him the courtesy of a warning, she stated, “It can’t be easy being you. Growing up like you did, without the support or emotional stability a child needs, it can’t be easy.”

Tim was past trying to hide the fact he was annoyed and tried to force her to drop the conversation. “I told you-”

“I don’t mean that. I meant, you know, being inside your head.”

Tim was in disbelief. “What’s wrong with my head?” A part of him wondered if this was all just a test, a sick joke to make him feel like an idiot, but he knew Leslie wouldn’t do that to him. A few other people wouldn’t hesitate to, but he hoped Leslie wasn’t one of those people.

“I don’t know.” She had some ideas and professional opinions, but even then she didn’t know for sure.

“Of course not.” Tim appreciated the honesty, but he couldn’t help but want the discussion to end.

She gave him a moment, not long enough for him to get back to his work again but long enough for him to stop thinking about what they had just discussed. She assumed that he hadn’t told anyone about the abuse, it wasn’t in his nature to put his own problems before others, but it was something he needed to learn.

When she began again, she made sure to hit the right pressure points, the ones she had been building up to.

“They keep moving the goal post on you, don’t they?”

Tim sarcastically asked, “Who’s they?”

Leslie nonchalantly started listing, “Your father and Bruce. Maybe Alfred and Dick without meaning to. They keep moving the goal post. First you had to get all As, go to a good school, and graduate as valedictorian. Then it moved even farther with completing Bruce’s training, becoming Robin, helping Batman and trying to be a worthy sidekick much less a good one. Forming and leading Young Justice, reforming the Titans, getting accepted to good schools. Now you have to find Bruce, run Wayne Enterprise, and keep the city clean as a Robin without Batman. Everyone just keeps moving the goalpost on you.”

“It’s not good for a person to keep setting goal?” Tim asked.

“Probably is,” she agreed, but not without adding, “But it’s tricky for someone still trying to find a father to love him more than he hates him.”

He didn’t want to satisfy her with his reaction, she’d gone far too out of bounds for him to drop things that easily. Ignoring her response, he said, “Well, I think it’s better to keep pushing myself. At least I’m not like most people, always wishing for something but never actually trying for it.”

“Yeah, but that’s most people. That’s not you, that’s the other people, the ones who feel stress.”

“I feel stress.”

Leslie shook her head and explained, “Not like others. You’re different. You think you’re destined for something great, maybe like proving that Bruce is still alive, and you have an opportunity to show everyone.”

“Yeah. I think I can bring him back.”

She knew she’d gone far enough and instead pivoted the conversation to something else, something just as important. “That room I passed down the hall on the left, whose was it? It was right across the hall from the master room.”

Appreciating the much lighter topic, Tim easily answered, “I think you’re talking about Dick’s old room. He sleeps there at night. Well, nights where he can get sleep.”

“Right.” She let him be confused with the situation before commenting, “This is a hell of a curve you’re getting graded on now. Dick was Bruce’s first son, the one that started his family. No matter how much you might like to think otherwise, he was someone you had to compete with for Bruce’s love.” She could see that he was waiting for her to say something new, something he didn’t already know, and she loudly sighed before saying, “Now what have you done, Tim? A productive career as Robin, a decrease in the crime rate to one of the lowest it has ever been, and taking over Wayne Enterprises?”

She could only imagine what Tim must have thought about her now. His face went from unexpressive to tortured in the span of a few seconds and she knew he was close to crying.

“That’s wasn’t easy,” Tim said defensively. He felt backed into a corner, still not wanting to look the least bit emotional, but it hurt her too see him like this. She moved off the bed, to his side, and took his hand, just now noticing the bags under his eyes.


“It’s wasn’t easy,” Tim repeated desperately. His voice was failing and his pleas weren’t working. He couldn’t get her to believe him and he wasn’t too sure that he believed himself.

Cementing her place by his side, Leslie looked him straight in the eye, not wanting him to forget anything she said. This was her final push and she had to make sure she didn’t miscalculate anything she said.

“I think you’ve spent the past few years trying to win Bruce over and see you like a son. I think Dick, he does what he wants even if it makes Bruce angry. He knows that Bruce loved him and couldn’t find it in his heart to hate him no matter what he does. I think you always wanted that. You wanted Bruce to be the father you never had, a father that loved you more than he hurt you, but then you had to face the fact that you settled for him simply acknowledged you. You settled and now you don’t have anyone.”

He gritted his teeth and talked with in a low grumble before he argued, “You don’t know anything. I’m not trying to get Bruce to love me like he does Dick.”

“Good, because that’s never, never, happen. He’s dead and you can’t change how things ended. You can’t change how he felt.”

Finding that he didn’t have enough energy to fight her anymore, Tim rested his head on her shoulder and tried to make himself appreciate the silence while he had it.

She had gotten what she wanted. For the first time in who know how long Tim wasn’t forcing himself to find clues that weren’t there and if she was going to get incredibly lucky he might even get some sleep.

In any case, there was nothing more for her to do and as she rose from her place at his side, Leslie informed Tim, “We’re done for the night.”

“What?” Just as he was beginning to feel comfortable around her she was leaving.

She grabbed her bag and coat before placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’ve been here for 2 hours, Tim. We’re done for the night, but we can make this a regular thing.”


Speaking primarily as a friend concerned about his health, Leslie put a hand to his cheek feeling just how tired he was when he leaned in. She let herself smile before saying, “I want to help you, Tim, I really do. You need to learn to take care of yourself and more than anything you need to let Bruce go. It’s too much baggage for someone to take on by themselves. He’s dead and nothing is going to change that.”

Tim closed his book and followed her out of the room, right on her tail. “Leslie. I know he’s still alive. I just know it.”

“Look, Tim, you have my number. I want you to drop by the clinic once a week.” Leslie stressed, “You aren’t taking care of yourself and it’s my job to make sure you’re healthy.”

Tim shook his head, finally letting his tears fall while he tried to explain to her, “He’s still alive, Leslie. I know it.”

“I want you to start taking care of yourself before you even start thinking about Bruce.”