Author: greysnyper PM
When Tim loses his name, everybody watches.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Family - Words: 4,398 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 3 - Published: 12-09-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3938679
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The stadium wasn't large by any great standards, but it possessed the power to awe a visitor when full. The last game of the season allowed the stands to regain their power and shifting through a pack of students with only the white artificial lighting to illuminate his path, Jack Drake found himself under its sway as he searched for a seat.
"Drake!" someone yelled, and startled, Jack pondered if he had misheard something else. The cry came again, and Jack was soon regarding a man in a suit, standing and waving at him.
Hell itself could begin freezing over.
There was the bitter urge to turn away and look elsewhere. Surely Jack could find a vacant spot for himself, but Bruce Wayne appeared to have several set aside and had not decreased his attention from filling them. Perhaps it was for the best, since Jack felt suddenly displeased with the knowledge of the other being present. That man had no right to be here.
Perhaps Jack Drake would say so, too. Carefully, he started to pick his way up through the levels of the stands.
"Glad you could make it," Wayne smiled with courtesy that Jack decided was insincere. How dare he imply that Jack would not be in attendance.
"Is your city safe on its own, tonight?" Jack greeted, "or is this recruitment?"
The smile vanished immediately, but Jack was not intimidated. "I hope you recall our agreement on what topics are good topics to be sharing. I'm keeping to my end of the bargain, Mr. Drake, so I trust you keep to yours."
"You're here, are you not?" Jack observed with harsh coldness.
Bruce's answer was also forged with steel. "As myself, Mr. Drake. The job has nothing to do with this."
"He didn't invite you."
Bruce shook his head, replying, "he knows he doesn't need to."
Before Jack could counter, someone was apologizing and trying to slip in front of him. Jack leaned back enough to allow the man, who was balancing several items, through. When Jack had thought of the precise words fit for reinforcing his desire that Bruce was to stay the hell out of Tim's life, he discovered Bruce preoccupied: speaking with the interrupting man.
"I grabbed three," the man was explaining, "but I didn't see Devin. Does he know where to find us?"
Bruce was accepting the bottles of soda that the man had been juggling, and absently he handed one over to Jack.
Jack hesitated to take it, wanting nothing to do with the millionaire. With his offer not taken, Bruce turned.
"How rude of me," said he. "This is Clark Kent."
Clark adjusted his glasses and put out a hand. Jack took the soda with one arm and shook Clark's with his other. "Pleased to meet you. Bruce suggested that we save you a seat."
Jack gave Clark a suspicious glance, and Bruce read it. "He's with the Daily Planet. He sometimes writes articles concerning my company, and called me up last week."
"I'm doing a story on pre-varsity teams," Clark added, settling himself on Bruce's other side. "Bruce mentioned he knew of a game coming up around the time when I would be in Gotham."
"He doesn't normally write for the sports," Bruce added as an aside, his tone reverting to the disarmingly casual kind to which he had first greeted Jack. Jack grudgingly twisted the cap off of his drink.
"No," Mr. Kent agreed. "But I'm covering for another writer. Bruce mentioned that your son was playing. Perhaps I could quote you?"
"It's just this one game," Jack replied. "Tim hasn't been on the team. He's filling for another player."
The tone Jack employed brought an end to any further requests from Clark. "Oh," he politely gave, giving a momentary frown before reverting to his space, to stay.
"A reporter," Jack breathed before taking a second swig. "How quaint."
Bruce's mouth was a thin tight line.
"So is this why you invited me?" Clark whispered to Bruce during half-time. When Bruce turned to regard the question, he found Clark's eyes mercilessly fixed on him.
Bruce didn't budge.
"It's a game, and you do have to write that article."
Clark sighed. "I'm not even going to ask how you knew about that."
"Work should stay at work," Bruce observed. "I overheard you mentioning the job on the Watchtower."
"How nice of you to consider my employment," Clark muttered. In the background the cheerleaders were evoking cries from the crowd and the Louis E. Grieve marching band started to perform the school song. "Though it would be nice to know if I'm being used for other things, as well."
"Jack is a problem," Bruce stated. "He knows."
"And he hasn't taken it well," said Clark. "I was listening."
They shifted around a throng of people determined to push past them in the opposite route. Clark noticed Bruce nodding in a certain direction before he answered his follower. "If Jack wants to sell me to the media, he may go to you first."
"Possibly," Clark mused. "And then what do you suggest I do about that?"
Bruce didn't answer. Clark could not excuse the silence to them returning to their seats, and Jack, finally.
"You're sure you don't want anything?" Bruce asked, informal as ever.
"I'm fine," was all Jack would moodily say.
"Good thing too," came an answer from behind all of them, and suddenly a dark haired figure was dropping into one of the spaces Bruce had reserved. "The corn dogs here are day-olds."
"You're late," Bruce answered immediately, as Jack was giving a distasteful look up and down their newcomer. "Mr. Drake, you've met with Devin."
'Devin' gave Jack a short salute before he was leaning across both him and Bruce to shake hands with the reporter. "I had car trouble," he explained to Bruce. It had to be a lie, Jack assumed. "Did I miss much?"
"Tim's not in until after half-time," Bruce observed. "You missed on food."
"You're just cheap," Devin announced. And with that, conversation should have had nothing else to run on.
Fate had other plans, though, and Devin was soon asking Jack, with a sincere expression, as to which team was winning and if Tim had had any difficulty in procuring a place on the team, so late in the year.
"It's their last game," Jack responded stoically. "This is more of an exhibition than anything."
Devin grinned towards the assembling teams, in answer. "Doesn't mean I don't regret missing the first part of it. Sometimes it's good to just kick back and enjoy these things."
"Anyone else planning on dropping in, then?" Jack inquired, guarded.
Devin's grin lost most of its intensity and Jack caught the stolen glance to Bruce. The reporter, apparently missing the underlying battle amongst the three, muttered something that became unintelligible through a yawn.
Superboy scoffed. "We're not allowed to get any closer," he shared with his companion.
"But I think I've almost figured out which number Tim is," Superboy was answered. "Just a little closer?"
"Supes says no, and I told you Tim is seventy-three, already."
"Seventy-three doesn't have a name on the back."
"It's probably a spare jersey," Superboy guessed, tired of having to repeat it. "And if you drop the binoculars one more time, I'm not retrieving them."
"Have fun explaining that to the crowd," Kid Flash answered with nonchalance.
The second half started just as the first had. Grieve's Reapers, with their dark blue and black colours, took after the kick off. Seventy-three, despite his first appearance on the team, also didn't show any lack of experience. Under the unending roar of the fans (there were overheard whispers about how the P.E. students filled up their participation marks if they at least honoured the last game of the season), Seventy-three, like the rest of the Reapers around him, followed Coach Hawkins' tyranny nearly to the letter.
Then there was a fumble. The ball changed hands. Like ants, the players piled upon one another.
Watching from a corner, a stadium light rising before him like a totem, sat the one who was the most unwelcome to the festivities. And the festivities, as expected, were just as unwelcome to him.
The exchange of hands and the filing of yards did not excite him as much as the numbed down theatrics of those in the stands. He could see them, and they weren't looking for him. They didn't know to.
Bruce and--how irony had struck him suddenly, he had laughed—the reporter. Devin wasn't the only one disguised, so even with a mind clever and paranoid enough to expect the unexpected, and having with him the eyes to find it, they wouldn't meet tonight.
And the dejected one in their mighty circle was—oh my!—the father.
All here, the eyes in the stands and the pair in the sky, for Seventy-three.
The Reapers surrendered a touchdown and the score grew tighter, the numbers not wide between. The cheerleaders attempted to consolidate the home-team's fan-base and Seventy-three handled the ball for approximately fifteen seconds, in the following two downs.
Devin had startled Jack by grabbing the man's arm and screaming towards the field. His lips mouthed an enthusiastic "Run!" but Seventy-three was just as quick to pass the prize on. It was incompetence on another's part when the attempt failed. Hawkins' annoyance was at anybody but the new kid, and it was starting to get annoying.
This was not Robin. This was not Robin anymore.
So why was he still so successful?
"We're still winning," Hawkins bellowed at them, "And we just need to hold the clock. Don't screw around with the ball! Reed, I am looking at you! Hold it! Keep it! I want you to horde the ball!"
Tim thought he saw Reed scowl behind the bars of his helmet, but Reed's closest friend gave the guy's headgear an encouraging slap and when Reed's eyes scanned over Tim, he offered his own apologetic smile. Tim could understand Tyrone Reed's desire to take risks. It was their last game, the Reapers having lost all hope of making it to State, and Reed probably wanted to impress upon his family or friends some worth.
It was this same reason that had Tim appealing to Hawkins for a chance to take part in the team. Something else, he figured, had caused Hawkins to agree. It didn't have anything to do with Tim cleaning out the storage shed for the next month, either.
Your dad will be there? the teacher had asked. Tim had nodded.Don't disappoint me, then.
Tim hadn't, and when the game concluded, taking the season with it, Tim trusted that Tyrone Reed wouldn't be seen as a disappointment by Hawkins either.
Tyrone passed Tim by, and tugged at Tim's sleeve. "Let's go No Name!"
"Keep yourself open," Tim pushed, hardly making the larger player move as they hustled to position.
They lost the ball and the Reapers suddenly needed the precious seconds to die before the other team could use them. Tim was very used to the feeling of time running out.
This was how the world was supposed to be, Bernard professed to himself. A high school football game, a glamourous girl by his side, and the centre-stage friends who were the icing on the cake.
"He's never going to get the ball," the glamourous girl in question sighed, dropping her chin into her hands.
Bernard shrugged dismissively. "You haven't seen Tim in gym. Nobody's passing to him because they don't want him showboating."
Darla scoffed, punching Bernard's shoulder. "Yeah right! They're just not sharing because he's new."
"Or because he's too small," Bernard suggested. "You sure you don't want to?"
"Go out with you?" Darla asked, and upon looking hard at her classmate, they both repressed an awkward outbreak of laughter.
"What can I say?" shrugged Bernard, again. "I'm persistent."
"He's never going to get the ball," Darla repeated. "The other team has it."
"We'll still win," Bernard said, glancing after a girl who had crossed in front of them. He had found Darla saving him a seat fronting the grass. Ideal placements, which could only mean that she had been one of the first to arrive; long waiting.
"Who cares?" she muttered. Tim, in the stupid hand-me-down jersey, hadn't even played much.
"Hawkins cares," pointed out Bernard. The coach was yelling at the boys with renewed fervor; the opposing team had been managing their time incredibly well.
Years of training taught Tim how to anticipate opportunity. It was intriguing, how well he could watch the opposing players and their coach. He had an idea on what they were to do next, and gave a meaningful look to Tyrone who probably misread it.
His eyes scanned over to his classmates and Bernard hooted as Darla gave a shy wave. And then everyone was running. Tim scanned the red and gold figures to see who now had the ball. It was airborne.
"Oh," he caught himself saying, and it was only skill that someone of his age and lifestyle apparently shouldn't have that found him moving. The invisible pull of gravity, the blur of artificial white lights and the indescribable instincts that always determined if the bullet made its contact or not.
Tim tumbled and yet remained upright, keeper of the ball.
Someone in the crowd was especially loud in screaming "Run!" and this, Tim decided, was a good idea. Red and gold was swarming him.
There used to be a game that was played in the cave. He remembered it well. It had no official name, though like most cave games, preserved some use in training. It had been a one-against-everyone sport. The goal was to make it from one point in the cave to the other. Don't allow anyone to stop you.
You're alone and against the world.
He knew that Seventy-three was familiar with this game. It's painfully obvious in how he slipped around two bodies, easily regaining his balance and not tiring for the effort. The ball was cradled carefully under one arm. Finding a break between the colours, Seventy-three ran, taking down the yards. Seventy-three is aware of how many and where the enemy players would be. He did not count the one in the stands.
The interception had come so unexpectedly that it took the crowd over a heartbeat to understand it. Then there followed a roaring that belayed any real Reaper's intention. From the chosen spot on the north end of the stadium, there was excitement. Devin is railing on the father, who, for once, did not show annoyance at this. Bruce looked happy, and it's excruciatingly genuine. The reporter grinned and allowed Bruce to make him spill his drink.
It was a one-against-everyone sport. Make it from one point to another. Safely. Don't let anyone stop you. Don't allow it. How simple it could be to revert Seventy-three's speed to dying inertia. He itched to stop them: the boy, the crowd and life itself.
Reapers aren't supposed to win.
The cool metal knocked against his finger.
There were two to stop him, players scattered like thugs upon his sudden interest in playing seriously. Tim knew he could take them, but isn't sure if he should. In all fairness, this wasn't Tim's skill. How Jack will say "Good hustle, you saved the game," will only come out as "He taught you how to do that, didn't he!"
Jack didn't want to see Tim get hurt, so Tim cannot be Robin.
Tim was just Tim. The jersey didn't even have a name.
There were two to stop him, so Tim paused and let the ball go. It's high enough to clear the opponents who could intercept the interceptor, had they not been so close and hell-bent on doing their job. The ball had barely left Tim's hand before he becomes rattled by gravity.
He really was too small for this sport, he thought. And any other occupation, too. His head bounced twice upon landing, and by then he has been caught by all the other players.
The helmet was his dad's.
The completed touchdown was Tyrone's.
"Dude!" Bart exclaimed, squirming under Superboy's grip. "He can throw more than batarangs!"
"Ma's going to hate him for that," Superboy muttered in bemusement, able to see the stains on Clark's white shirt.
Bart glued, once more, his eyes to the binoculars and asked reasonably, "Tim's okay, right?"
"I can hear him explaining to one of the guys that he's fine. Just winded," shares Superboy.
"I can see a red guy helping him up. Oooh, they have fireworks here!"
Superboy frowned as Bart continued, "we never get fireworks at my school!"
There was a glowing red light arising from the stadium, steadily burning brighter. Kon-El, capable of hearing the sudden woo of the crowd at the spectacle, pulled his telekinesis in tighter around them. "I don't think that's a firework."
Superboy could trust that bet, still disturbed that it was pointedly rising in their direction. "Bart, we're going to move," Superboy explained.
From somewhere below, Clark's instruction to him was drowned out by an unmistakable sound.
The first round of shots were made in confusion. Jack immediately froze and Bruce, immediately, grabbed at Clark Kent's sleeve.
"No," he warned. They were too near to Jack, and any sudden disappearance would be noted by the man who was already suspicious of all of Bruce's and Tim's acquaintances.
Devin had been cut off in his endeavor of explaining to Jack that Tim had friends who didn't have to bring their association to vigilantism into the relationship when the flare had gone up.
"Shooter's on that side of the--," Bruce continued, his words becoming lower as if he were speaking to the invisible.
"Jack, I'm sure he's fine, he's--," Devin attempted, but it became an attempt in vain as a second round of shots were fired.
"Get down here," Clark stated to no one in particular. More authority was brought to his voice, regardless to the hiss made by Bruce.
"Do something!" Jack bellowed, jerking away from Devin and grabbing Bruce's arm roughly. "This has to do with you, I know it. Do something!"
Devin flinched and the reporter didn't look like himself, prepared to intervene at any given moment.
In the silence that reigned in the following few seconds Clark could hear no screams beyond the general panic, and he assumed that there were no casualties as of yet. Blank rounds, perhaps? Bruce was reading something in Clark's obedience to his orders, for if bodies were hitting the ground no orders from Bruce would be adhered to by the Man of Steel. Devin looked at the crowd and saw, also, what Bruce saw.
"Your son," Bruce gravely shared, "Is already doing something."
Five sets of eyes watched Seventy-three directing confused players and spectators to the nearest exit, away from where the flare and bullets had begun.
Tim had shrugged off his helmet, dark hair dancing or clinging to his brow. It was as another Reaper gave him a shove that was harder than expected, and as an opposing Wildcat slipped Tim a compliment that the flare had suddenly arose.
"Dude, tell Tyrone to stop dancing alrea—whoa," someone behind Tim said.
Hawkins had been jogging out to greet them when he stopped running and adopted a look of wary confusion.
The red glow had been badly aimed if its owner had meant for it to shine over the centre of the field like a star.
Tim hugged the helmet at his side, much like he had with the ball. The next moments, wrought from the chaos, he was forced to forgo the helmet.
His father's, he laid it cautiously and slowly onto the grass.
"This isn't about you."
It was him, and with that thought in mind, Tim hoped that his dad was okay. He had a feeling that there would be shadows though, looking out for Jack Drake. It would have to count as good enough, and Tim hurried across the field, grabbing those nearest to him and urging them to the widest and safest exits.
The voice he used was not his own and he hoped fervently that he did not come across its rightful owner.
As much as it had confounded him, Tim didn't want to see her just then.
"Tim!" Jack was there immediately upon sighting his son and as soon as finding Tim Jack had seized Tim's arm with a grip that death itself couldn't undo. "We're going to the car."
"But the police, when they get here we have statements and--,"
"Car, Tim." There was no room for argument.
They pushed through the sea of people for a while, before Tim, crushed, added, "This isn't about me."
Jack was stoic. "If that's the case, there should be no problem with going home."
"Dad!" But it was a failed attempt before it had even started. "You still think this is about me, and them."
Jack didn't answer.
The parking lot was also a mess but one less contained.
"If it really is, though, we'd be better off with them," Tim tried to reason.
Jack held the door for Tim, glaring at first his son first, and then the stadium. "That's what they want you to think. Get in."
"I have to give back the jersey," Tim muttered, pulling the seatbelt over it.
"Monday," Jack decided, slamming his door.
"It's not about me, dad," Tim tried again. He knew otherwise.
Jack angrily directed their vehicle to what appeared to be the shortest line of cars leading out. Tim stared beyond his window, wondering if he would sight the others. Any of them.
"Shooting, at a high school football game," Jack was shaking his head. "We might as well move the hell out of the city."
"Dana loves the city," Tim said, aware that Jack's attack was going to affect him more later when the blood still raging in him stilled. He had nothing to use it on. He felt angry.
"She can get a transfer," Jack muttered, not seeing the small shape beyond his window, suddenly trailing their progress. Or Tim had imagined it. "I want to keep this family safe."
"You can't protect--," Tim's shout died in the instant he caught himself saying it. But finally making steady time on a long stretch of road, Jack turned and regarded Tim with very haunted eyes.
Tim was able to hear the pulse in his ears. "I mean to say I lost your helmet."
The worst thing was that Jack still didn't know when he was being lied to. Tim made himself meet the stare, willing his second-to-last comment rendered non-existent. He couldn't remember Jack ever looking so struck.
Thankfully, Jack didn't return to his question. Instead, his eyes returned to the road and the two points of their sweeping headlights. Tim could imagine a motorbike in stealth-mode following them.
It wasn't until they had reached the familiar parks and signs of their neighborhood that the oppressing silence was lifted.
It was done through Tim. "I'm sorry dad."
"You played good," Jack answered. "Everyone agreed to that."
"You had friends there."
Tim didn't press for further information for he felt that it was something his father was uncomfortable with.
"If you see them," Jack added, finally, "I want to be present."
Jack made an affirmative sound, and Tim wished his dad wouldn't clutch the wheel so hard.
"I'm sorry about your helmet." He really was.
"I'm sorry you gave up making that touchdown for my sake."
He had just pulled the cowl over his face when she entered.
She gave him news he had already decided for himself. "There was no trace."
"How hard did you look?"
She frowned, indignant. "Hard. Really hard! I even had some help from the others. Nightwing and Superman and even the two Titans. There wasn't anyone to find."
"Something was missed," he mused.
"Maybe it was just a jerk looking for attention," she suggested, dropping down and poking at the computer. It sprang to life.
"Don't 'hmmmm' at me!" she added unhappily.
The face on the computer smirked and said by means of greeting, "It couldn't be 'some jerk' due to how effectively he or she eluded all of your combined efforts."
Robin heaved another sigh. "Look, I am not a detective. Nobody got hurt and I did my job."
The figure leaned into the monitor, saving Bruce the trouble. "You're not a detective yet. We just need to up the ante on your training."
"The helmet?" Bruce asked.
"I stored that away in your evidence locker."
Bruce nodded. "Go review last weeks files and when the others arrive, we are going to play a game."
As Robin departed, she cynically murmured, "one I bet I'll lose."
Oracle chuckled. "I miss that one."
"And what did you find?" Oracle prompted him, once they were alone.
"Of all the shots fired, we only recovered one bullet."
"The helmet?" she was surprised.
"It was about Tim."
"The culprit wasn't just some jerk looking for attention, then," she deduced.
Looking for attention…
Bruce said nothing as he shut down the computer.