|When You Need It Most
Author: greysnyper PM
Some days aren't worth a smile.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Words: 4,175 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 1 - Published: 10-04-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3819239
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Like the worst kind of criminal, Tim's cold sticks around and seems relentless, making itself known in unpleasant ways--especially when the Boy Wonder starts to suspect it gone and done with.
As the Gotham Transit rolls away from the residential district and into the commercial beginnings that will release them into the city's downtown, Tim hugs his bag to himself. He is making room so that the seat next to him is available, though the morning is late enough that, for once, Tim is not sharing an overcrowded ride to school.
School, because that's what normal teenagers do. He says this once more to himself, having already calculated (to the hour) how much time he'll lose if he succumbs to the cold. It's a strange sense of rationalization that tells him that since he was well enough to participate in last night's patrol, he's more than capable to sit through classes.
In fact, it's probably what Jack would have expected of Tim. They hadn't settled long enough to establish a norm. Sometimes, Tim wonders about that vacuum of possibility; the habits that would have formed if Jack had lived long after allowing Tim to return to the cape.
And to Bruce.
Skilled in avoiding such directions of thought, Tim sniffs at his reflection in the dirty window and wonders if his present apathy is proof that his illness has ground down at his mind. He feels it drift down to these places without the strength to summon emotional reactions. It's almost safe to dally now, in certain memories.
Jack is not the only ghost to linger here. If Kon were still around, Tim is not sure how far they'd still share secrets and moments. Up until this point, Tim could have sworn that he would have called Kon daily, if only Kon would return. But reasonably...would they talk more than they had before? Without the sense of loss, they'd only have their capes to connect them again.
Would Tim have confided to his friend, either through email or phone? As Robin on a Saturday, probably. But on Monday as Tim would he have dragged himself out of bed and shared his speculation of the upcoming miserable morning, in hopes that someone, somewhere, would comprehend his meek attempts at pushing through the day?
And a miserable day it will be, Tim sighs.
He's on the half-empty bus because he's late, already missing his first class and cutting it close to missing the second as well. Tim longs to express his weariness to someone. And encouragement from imaginary Kon to skip classes would probably replace any anger over Tim's participation in patrol.
If only he could defend his position to someone other than himself. Tim could reaffirm his skill and set of talents, illness or no illness. Maybe have the meta admit that yes, in fact, Tim could hold his own in any number of circumstances. Most times, but should he?
Or would Kon--for the sake of not arguing--simply accept that Tim could outlast most of the Titans, if the need arose. And...
He snorts against the bitter thought, feeling numb to it.
The bus falls into the shadows of the tall, Gotham buildings. They get higher and higher as the blocks progress into the heart of the city and in direction of the bay. Several shops drift by, the reflection of the bus mirrored in the windows almost to the point where Tim can see himself; a small detail in the fast-moving picture.
He really doesn't want to be here.
Not on this bus. Not on this path to school. Not in existence, where his body moves in long-practiced habits as his mind fails to remember why. He's still a different person at night, and things had seemed clearer on the rooftops with Batman a voice away; with direction a random scream or police request. His life made more sense then.
He should just ring the bell, get off the bus and find the first coffee shop with a couch. He can drink some tea, pretend to read what was needed for class and then call Alfred when he thinks the man is done with his preferred chores.
There's nothing stopping him, save for Jack's unworded expectations and the fact that Kon would certainly do it. No restraint with Kon, almost as impulsive as--
And where did that get them?
Tim fights back a cough, wondering where he's gotten himself by doing the opposite. He's alive. He's sick today, though. And miserable.
Like his stumble over an unsightly truth, the bus jumps to a sudden halt which pushes Tim into the seat ahead of him. His bag takes most of his weight, and when Tim realizes that he is uncertain of his whereabouts or why the bus has even stopped so abruptly, he is looking across the street at the panorama of a Sundollar cafe. The bus is frozen in the middle of a road, and Tim wonders if the mysterious stop is meant to be a sign.
To give in. To forget the priorities and surrender to time off. No motives, no expectations of himself, nothing at stake but...
The Sundollar explodes.
Tim feels like he's waking up, throwing himself away from his seat as debris rains on the bus. His gasp is lost in the startled shouts of fellow passengers. Two cars, slowing to accommodate the bus collide, though their speed prevents serious damage.
It's Robin slipping into control, assessing the casualties. And why did the bus stop before the explosion...
The driver is shouting, almost screaming. Tim forces his eyes away from the black smoke rising outside of the dirty bus windows and sees the driver on his radio. "I knew it, I knew that was Joker on the corner and..."
"GET OFF THE BUS!"
Himself screaming, saying some of his first words all day, Tim's aware of how odd his voice sounds. The rough state of his throat tries to find authority and seems to succeed all on it's own.
The mention of Joker is reason enough, though Tim has not yet seen the madman that the driver describes. Probably the corner ahead, out of the line of sight from his vacated seat. Tim should have been paying more attention to his surroundings. What the hell had he been thinking about to be so distracted and foolish?!
And now he's here, and Joker's out there. People are dying again and...and Tim's not Robin. Or well.
There are over a dozen eyes on him, but holding his shoulders up Tim points at the nearest exit. "If Joker's really out there, do you think a bus full of people makes an attractive target or not?!" he shouts, unsure if he's mad because they're all so clueless, or if it's something else.
Where emotions had been so dull moments before, Tim's suddenly overwhelmed. He has to do something!
Time holds, and then snaps. The driver throws the bus into park, whips open the door and nearly dives out first to escape the potential coffin Tim's made them all see. The unmasked Boy Wonder has to press himself against the row of seats to let people by. His eyes don't leave his bag, which has his school supplies but no suit.
Tim can't stand around if Joker's present. Yet it doesn't feel like providence that puts him here now, the closest person to the unexpected crime. Tim quickly calculates that at this time of the day Bruce will be in bed, already asleep for a few hours. Oracle may have picked up on this, though she could also be busy with something else. Tim can't remember who is on JLA monitor duty for Monday's.
His fingers are fishing out his bus pass from his pocket, along with his identification. He doesn't need to be caught dead with his photo and information in his pocket. He already knows he'll be throwing himself in.
No time to make a mask, though that alone will drive attention to his face. Maybe Joker won't even recognize the idiot-boy who plans to cartwheel into the fray...
"I'm so dead," Tim murmurs. And it's with this certainty that spurs Tim to yank out his cell phone and throw in a message. It functions as his Titan's Communicator when he's doing Tim-things, so...
If this is suicide, he knows they'd appreciate the beacon; this known through experience.
The bag stays on the bus as Tim himself evacuates. Most of the smart passengers have run back the way the bus had come. Tim hurries against the stream of pedestrians breaking for safety and then there's another rumbling explosion. This comes from ahead.
Joker's moving up the street. Probably has bombs pre-planted, striking the city when it's full of people going through their motions. The casualties already are probably staggering, and Tim almost regrets his inability to stop and help at first cafe, or even at the next target.
An attack this big will attract the League, so it just depends on how long Tim can distract the Joker. Maybe being identified as Robin is an asset.
Everything blurs together as Tim thinks. He wonders if he can trust his reactions. His body hasn't yet realized that he's running. The street ahead clears up very fast, with cars abandoned and clogging the intersection Tim's crossing. This will make it difficult for police and ambulances to cut through.
It also makes seeing ahead a lot easier. There's a few stunned gawkers, lingering. Tim pushes past them and only now starts to feel his lungs finding their limit. And then...yes, there.
One figure twirling in the middle of the street ahead. The road divides itself by a median, and thin trees are lined along the middle from one of Gotham's beatifying projects. The leaves are as golden as the fire licking out of a blown-in building. There are still screams from inside, and Joker is spinning about as if to make himself dizzy, having fun with all of it.
The smell of smoke, the sight of stumbling and bleeding people as well as the senselessness of the attack seems to settle in a translucent way for Tim. He knows he should be bothered by all of this, but he just tries to hate the Joker more than ever before. A fact that the evidence doesn't need to back up. He's trusting this to carry him forward into blind action, just as he trusts himself to walk away, fully knowing that he may not.
Right now, the only certainty is that he is Robin and Joker is present.
He's putting himself forward.
There's no Jack to find out about this on the news at noon. There's no Kon to tell him how fragile human bodies can be. There's no Bart quoting figures from books, or repeating things Tim has said in prior years; either for or against his current course of action.
Maybe it's because his cold takes away the sharp side of reason, but Tim can't honestly say whether or not he should be here.
It made sense on the bus, but not this morning. Last night, but not now. Just...
Joker's spinning, and laughing. People are running about, away, keeping clear the the mad figure. And Tim blends into them, coming from an angle that could take him towards the second burning wreck. Just a concerned citizen on his way to find a loved one, or...
Joker stops whirling, shifting his weight almost as if he'll allow his screwed up balance to fall. But Tim knows the man better, and Joker's still graceful enough to be dangerous. He's stopped with his back almost turned to Tim, not fearing people to stop him because his reputation's preceded him.
Everyone in Gotham knows not to go near the clown. There have been several lessons learned in the past.
So when Joker stops, he's facing the large sky-scrapers looming above the buildings in the west. His finger extends, a boney splinter surrounding a weird device.
Tim realizes it's significance in the heartbeat before he slams into Joker from behind. It's a remote and Joker's just randomly picking things to destroy now.
They both tumble over the curb, Tim being the one ready for it. He rolls and has his feet under him in an instant. His throat feels tight against the drawn out cough that is fast approaching. His shoulder aches from the disservice to it in Tim's tumble. He's not in body armour and his muscles are sensitive because of his cold.
But it's Joker who twists on the ground, the remote discarded and closer to Tim.
He has it before Joker can drag himself across to claw at it. There isn't a third resounding thunder of flame and exploding force from the blocks surrounding them. Tim has at least one of the devices that triggers any set detonations.
To achieve it, he's cost himself any possible opportunity to immediately subdue the madman. His element of surprise is gone. His lungs want to burst and his nerves seem to understand how tense they should be. Anything can happen now.
"You spoil-sport, how dare you cut in on my..." the Joker's words trail off and Tim knows exactly why.
"You want to play," he answers, not feeling the arrogance he's dipped into his voice. He hates how it's still grating on the edges, but he doesn't have to hide his identity. As the phrase goes, cat's out of the bag. "You get me as a playmate."
There's no news crews around. Perhaps he's so sick and disheveled that he doesn't look like a celebrity son. Lately, nobody's stopped to gawk at him. Gotham's a big place, and people are full of panic at the moment. Nobody to recognize him, and Joker won't know his name just by his face.
All hopeful optimism.
Joker's jaw is down, grin wide. It's as if an even better joke has grown from the original. "Did I catch you on your way to school?" he gushes. "I have to say, you look so much better in the tights."
And then Tim has to move, because Joker's hands are fast and like a clever sleight of hand, there's a gun. Tim's dodged bullets in jeans before, and for a moment he remembers Darla screaming at him and how naked he had felt then.
There's no armour and he's a target now, instead of a distraction. He's only protecting himself.
Already this changes everything, and the second bullet grazes his shoulder as he's aerial. It almost causes him to lose focus. His balance feels unnatural and the pain from the bullet's burn doesn't let him compensate.
When Tim lands, it's instinct that has his hand trailing for where his belt would be. He'd normally throw some of his shuriken or a smoke bomb. Instead, he finds the cell phone in his pocket and almost fails to implement it.
His information is in phone, and it's also the one thing tracking him to this place. But it's throw something or be blown apart by bullets, and Tim doesn't want to risk giving back the detonator he possesses.
Taking a brief run from his landing, Tim lets the cell phone fly as a bullet whistles past his ear. A testament to his training, he doesn't stall like his heart does. His throw is also true to it's marksmanship, glancing off of Joker's brow.
Two seconds of time, which is all Tim needs to charge. He thinks the other has two bullets left, if (and only if) the gun is a conventional one. He'll last longer by closing the fight, or by escaping.
Up the street there are sirens. The roar of flames from the second terrorized building continues. Tim's tired.
Doubt is creeping up on him, living on the edge of his thoughts. He can last longer, certainly. But he's starting to believe he won't outlast this encounter. Tim thinks he should start feeling afraid or concerned, but once more, this is just him following the motions.
He's committed, having started a task. Would Jack expect him to follow it through? And though Kon did worry--and Tim knows he used to--Kon had also trusted Tim to be so smart as to be scary.
Is this smart?
He shouldn't be questioning any choices he made minutes ago, and he knows it. Despite that, Tim gets two strikes in, using his momentum to move Joker between himself and the gun. Joker will have to move accordingly to shoot him and Tim can buy time to think of how to knock away the gun and prepare for whatever tricks that follow.
Joker does turn, Tim kicks out the clown's supporting leg, but takes a backhand because of it. There's a moment of blindness, where Tim's head snaps back to absorb most of the strike's energy. He doesn't see the gun, estimates where it could be and finds himself holding the madman's wrist which wields the weapon.
Up the street, Tim can make out a police car that has finally meandered around the traffic congestion, but he can't wait for them.
They dance, and it's clumsy for a second. The gun falls, Tim takes a kick to the stomach and for a second feels dizzy. He tries to back up, inadvertently causing the gun to scatter farther from them both. This is good, but Joker's reaching for something else in his vest. Tim can't wait for it and rushes forward again.
He feels Joker anticipate this, and then Tim's being flung. He can't help but go with it, trusting the air and the ground more than being tangled in close combat with Joker. But it's towards the advancing police cruiser that Tim's thrown towards. He hears the brakes sound, sees concrete and it's habit that makes him tumble out of serious injury.
Right into the car, where his shoulder makes a very troubling noise against the grill. The rusted license-plate scrapes through his shirt sleeve and into his arm. Tim is frozen, uncertain if he should move to test his body and unaware of how hard he's hit the car. Is this shock or is he just insanely fortunate?
A metallic ting takes away his hesitation, as a small ball bounces along not three feet from him. It's like watching a movie going slow, and then the ball pops in a cloud of green gas.
Seriously injured or not, Tim throws himself behind the stopped vehicle, grabbing at his mouth as if that will keep him from breathing in the fumes. He narrowly misses clipping the passenger-side door of the police car as one of the officers leaps out.
Tim wants to put as much distance between himself and the gas as he can, and has no time to shout out at the men in uniform. Bracing onto his knees, Tim checks the space between the gas and himself and wants to believe it's enough. A shot rings out and the officer closest to him falls.
Joker's reclaimed his gun.
The officer lays in front of Tim, an arm's reach away. He shudders and coughs a spray of blood and Tim wants to reach out to him. Part of his mind screams to help the man, while another tells him to acquire the officer's weapons.
And for some reason, Tim can't make himself decide on an action. His shoulder feels wet and his lungs burn hot in his chest. The world is tilting oddly and Tim wonders if his inability to retain his momentum and motivation is just in his head, or if it's meant to be.
Especially when he sees Joker stroll so casually across the street, taking away the shelter that the police car had offered.
The gun; a single bullet left by Tim's count. The way his body just wants to settle down and his ears to ring with some new sound to break the monotony of this place. Maybe...it's worth accepting.
And Tim wishes he could ask someone about it. A second opinion. A contrasting view, because he doesn't trust himself right now.
Is this like him?
The level barrel of the gun and the parting words, whatever the hell Joker is saying. Tim's not listening, because he's trying to see if this is where he comes to terms with his choices. He did accomplish his goal of temporarily preventing an even larger mass of casualties. And maybe he understands now that his secret anger at everyone for dying could have been unfounded. After all, he's soon to be just as guilty since he's soon to join their ranks.
Just like a good soldier.
And only a miracle will break that. He can't move out of the way, not how he's sitting. It'd be like abandoning the officer he still hasn't helped yet. It's trusting that if there were another way, it would find him.
The bang is not nearly as loud as Tim imagines it should be. It doesn't classify his whole existence. The gun goes off an then there's someone there. The dark hair, familiar shape and promised miracle. Tim's seeing angels, and he almost laughs.
"Ko..." he word dies, because it's not Kon. The shadow blocking Tim from his doom is only a different kind of miracle. The shock to Tim is through with catching up, and Joker doesn't really have a chance against a superman.
If the Man of Steel hears Tim's case of mistaken identity, it's not spoken. The remaining officer, who had been frozen behind the wheel while his partner fell, is now rushing to Tim's side and to his friend.
"Here, help me hold down the...oh man, you're in rough shape yourself kid."
"I'll help," Tim says, the words automatic without the thought behind them. He's already remembering how to handle wounds such as the one afflicting the officer. He can't feel his own injuries and his head swims, but it's with something to distract it.
Just like that. With Joker unmoving on the ground and Superman giving the two figures attending the fallen policeman a sad look before moving to answer every scream and ragged heartbeat in the blown out buildings.
And there will be more work, with the remaining bombs to be found. Tim's already in an ambulance by the time Superman is done, the three Titans and Nightwing who answer the initial request arrive moments later and take up the task of retrieving the Boy Wonder's school supplies and managing structural safeguards to the damaged buildings. With so few witnesses, Tim's likely to pass himself off as just a foolish citizen, which works for him. He makes up a name and by the end of the day Oracle has supplied the relevant documents to fill out the lie.
"You did good," Tim's told more times than he can count. The wrong place at the wrong time, and Tim had held his own. Superman is the last to speak up, saying the same words as everyone else. But it's clear that something else is needed.
"You cut it close," he murmurs. The same sort of concern that Tim would imagine from his father. Bruce had complimented Tim for his actions, though Tim had yet to detail the event yet. He'd need time. "Are you okay?"
Kon. He had asked for Kon. And is it too much to still want that miracle, rather than the other; rather than life?
Tim nods, because that is what he's always done. He doesn't know why anymore, but it's habit. "I'll be fine," he promises; words muffled by his cold.
Like the worst kind of criminal, some things just stick around.