For years Timothy Drake had relied on his elder brother for advice about everything from night work to girls, often without offering more than a 'thanks' in return. That fact didn't usually bother him, but for no apparent reason the size of his emotional debt had become glaring as he lay in bed the previous evening. He'd tried to tuck it away, certain that Dick kept no such ledger, but it had egged him to do something meaningful in repayment.
Eighteen sleepless hours later, he'd failed to come up with anything that seemed heartfelt. Having decided that he might have better luck in the older man's presence, he entered Wayne Manor the afternoon after his epiphany and glanced down the halls that stretched in both directions. Might as well go to the kitchen first, he mused. Alfred will know where he is.
The kitchen, however, was deserted, as were the living and dining rooms. It was only in the den that he found life; unfortunately, that life was Damian. "Hey," he called from the doorway. "Where's Dick?"
There was no answer as the boy's video game avatar mowed down a wave of zombies, then disappeared behind the pause menu. "...You look like shit."
"Gee, thanks. Where's Dick?"
A disconcerted look flickered across Damian's face. "Grayson's downstairs moping."
"What did you do!?"
"I didn't do anything!"
"...Fine. Thanks, I guess." Slipping into the hall before he could be drawn into one of their usual arguments, he headed back the way he'd come. 'You look like shit.' Great. Normally he would have written the comment off, but it wasn't farfetched for the previous night's insomnia to be showing on his face. I came over hoping to do something for Dick, and instead he's probably going to go all mother hen over the bags under my eyes. Christ.
Still, it would rouse even more concern if he left now and the pre-teen blabbed that he'd been there. Knowing that, he descended beneath the house to continue his search, finally finding his quarry perched twelve feet off the ground on a set of uneven bars. "...Hey."
The man overhead looked down, then let himself fall backwards. He released halfway through his circuit and sailed off to a lower horizontal, around which he spun twice before dropping into a tumble that brought him to his feet at the edge of the mats. "Hey, little brother," a faint smile perked at the corners of his mouth. "What's up?"
"I think I should be asking you that." Tim knew that Dick only sat still in the air when he was soul-searching, and his less-than-exuberant greeting had verified that something was amiss.
"Huh? Oh...It's nothing, Timmy. It's stupid. Don't worry about it." With that he started towards the computers, stretching his arms over his head. "You staying the night?"
"No, which is all the more reason for you to tell me why you're upset. I'm pretty sure neither of us will have any fun if you're pissy the whole time I'm here." The other man sighed and dropped into a chair. "...Are you waiting to talk to Bruce about it,or...?"
"Hmm...subconsciously, maybe. I think I was more just hoping it would pass on it's own." He drummed his fingers against the keyboard. "Well, what the hell. If you want to know, then here, take a look."
Tim sat down as a monitor blinked on. "'French MP fined for saying Hitler 'didn't kill enough Gypsies,''" he read the title of the article that appeared. "What an asshole!"
"Yeah." A short, harsh laugh sounded. "What an asshole."
"So...that really bugged you, huh? I get why," he went on, "but...I guess you're just so good at letting stuff roll off your back that it's surprising when something gets under your skin."
"It...it wasn't what he said. It's just...the hatred behind a statement like that," Dick shook his head. "That's what hurts. That's what's bothering me. To write off an entire group of innocent people, to wish them dead or never born...this isn't some Arkham-grade psycho, this is an elected official of a modern country! Saying that!" He paused, his face lined with frustration. "Sometimes people like him make me wonder if what we do makes a damn bit of difference in the world."
"Dick...um...I mean..." Tim fumbled for some way to answer a doubt he'd never imagined his brother having.
"It's okay. I don't expect you to-"
"It's made a difference to me," he blurted, surprising them both. "I...yeah. Yeah," he warmed to his outburst. "It's made a difference to me. I...I can't imagine where I'd be, who I'd be, without what we do. Without...without what you do, Dick. You love everything, everyone, so much...it makes a difference. A huge difference." Finishing and realizing what he'd just said, he felt his cheeks flush. "Anyway...yeah."
"...Aw, Timmy," a broad, grateful smile bloomed. "C'mere."
He let himself be pulled into an embrace. "You know," he smirked as they broke apart, "this really smart guy I know once told me that the best way to deal with ignorant jackasses is to try and ignore them."
"Heh. Throwing my own advice back at me? You know, I love that you always take what I say to heart. Even when we disagree, you at least give my opinion real consideration. So...thanks for that, and for listening to me rant. Both of those things mean a lot to me."
"Eh...I owed you one." I owe you a lot more than one, but...it's a start.
"Nah. Anyway," Dick clapped his hands together, the shadow of hurt lifting from his gaze, "now it's my turn to find out what's up with you. So, what's up?"
"...You know," Tim laughed as he realized that his own internal turmoil had quieted during their talk, "nothing's up, actually. I, uh...I just came to hang out. Can we do that?"
The older man's grin widened. "You bet, little brother. We can do anything you want to. Sound good?"
"Good? No. It sounds great."
Author's Note: This story was inspired by an article that appeared last week on the website of news agency France 24. The headline that Tim reads out loud is a direct quote of the article's title. For anyone interested in reading the full article, I've linked to it on my blog, which is accessible via my fanfic profile page. Thanks for reading!