Disclaimer: I do not own Tim Drake, Batman and the Batfamily, Commissioner Gordon, or the Justice League. I do, however, own the flying demon-dragon aliens (which I do not want to keep, thank you very much), Doctor Schmocter (I wouldn't keep him, either, except that he's an inside joke), and the Redjet (unless someone has thought of that name before me, in which case I apologize for accidental theft). The gold-covered book in the hospital drawer belongs to the Gideons International, and is in this story in honor of my mom and dad, who are both Gideons.
This story, possibly AU (though with comics this designation does not seem as important as with other genres), is set in the indeterminate future of the (preboot) DC comic universe. For this reason it refers to Timothy Drake (Red Robin), rather than Bruce Wayne (Batman) as the World's Greatest Detective: Bruce himself said that Tim had the genius and wherewithal to one day surpass even his detective abilities. For the purposes of this story, that day has come.
For further explanations, see Author's Note at the end. No slash, smut, or profanity. Rated T (which is perhaps too high) for violence/injury.
Though He Fall
by Sophia the Scribe
They say, in the moment of death, your life flashes before your eyes.
Well, Tim Drake thought wryly, it didn't seem to be the case for him. Perhaps that was the result of Batman training, perhaps simply the nature of his overly-analytical mind that was even now calculating vertical speed, altitude, and distance until terminal velocity.
And then, of course, time until impact.
The sensation of falling itself did not bother Tim: Red Robin flew, after all, and not every flight can be a success. This one, however, was shaping up to be the worst failure so far. Tumbling in free-fall, blind-folded, suit shredded, both hamstrings sliced and both hands bound, Tim's calculated chances were very low: zero, should no one catch him before his internal count-down ran out and he ended up Atlantic fish food.
Tim laughed, grimly.
Having been called in by the Justice League to fight the flying demon-dragon aliens, he had taken his Redjet to the skies with every risk calculated, every caution in place.
Until he'd been caught in a titanium net, shocked to oblivion, forced from the Redjet, and summarily dismantled as Red Robin.
Doctor Schmocter—for that seemed to have been his captor's name—despite his obsessive need to kill the vigilante was not, apparently, a prideful villain, but rather had taken advantage of the invading aliens to seize Red Robin, incapacitate him, and drop him to his foreclosing death.
Tim's stopwatch slowly ran down.
Truly, though, could even the World's Greatest Detective not plan for everything? Ever had he striven for the highest peak humanity had to offer: logic the mainstay of thought, emotions felt, expressed, and used with proper influence, correct balance between reason and intuition, active pursuit and prudent consideration. For years he had not made a mistake, always performing to the greatest of his intellectual ability.
And yet now, a moment of inattention, a beat of distraction by an incoming call, and all was gone.
Was his work, his years devoted to self-improvement in vain? Was nothing he strove for truly achievable? Oh, he'd fallen before, as much mentally as physically, using each crash to grow stronger, climb higher. But was it now all ended, by the planning of an inconsequential villain with a chip on his shoulder? How long had he deceived himself? There was nothing Tim hated more than self-deception. But how long had he wrongly been convinced of his own worth?
Perhaps, in a backwards way, his life actually was flashing before him.
A genius, he was called. A model, the epitome of mankind.
And now? Now he could not even save himself.
A piece of Red Robin's cape tore from his shoulder and was blown away forever. And still he fell earthward, as the clock ran down.
Tim laughed again, hollowly. He was finally, both literally and figuratively, crashing from his pursuit of the heights. Should he not have seen this coming? What goes up must come down, indeed. Down below the clichéd "depths of despair."
Perhaps it was just as well that a black jet had not heard of his fall and raced to save him. Everything he'd striven for was void, everything he'd grasped was empty.
Vanity, all is vanity. And he had only read Ecclesiastes once, for the same analytical purposes that had prompted his reading the rest of the Bible. Strange that it should come to his mind now.
Then he heard the roar of a powerful engine, felt the lash of a rescue rope, and with a violent jerk on said rope Tim finally blacked out.
Tim woke slowly, to the beep of a heart monitor and sterilized smell of a hospital. On his forehead he felt a hand—large, armored, Bruce—and to his right a whisper—tearful, worried, Dick. A gentle whirring to his left—wheelchair, Barbara—a slow tread—Damian—a lazy shifting—Jason. The whole family was here, then.
Blinking his eyes open he saw a very worried Nightwing and spoke his first question:
"You caught me?"
A nodded response.
"How bad is it?"
"Several weeks in bed, and months of physical therapy before you can return to the field," Bruce replied, "but the doctors expect a full recovery."
Tim nodded. How could he express that his life's work was dry as ashes, tell his family that he almost wished they'd arrived ten seconds later? Instead he closed his eyes, accepted Barbara's hand squeeze, and whispered,
For there was nothing else to say.
Unfortunately, seeming unwilling to get the message of "defeated," the alien demon-dragons kept attacking, pulling Batman and the rest of the family away from Tim's side. Former Commissioner Jim Gordon visited frequently in their absence, each time asking,
"How are you, son?"
After several days of a non-committal answer involving grunts and the word fine, Tim finally replied dully,
"It's strange, Commissioner: I'm fallen. I hardly know how to explain it. I've been at the end of my rope before, but now it's as though my rope has broken. I know that being at your lowest point means there is no way but up: I've lived it, in fact. But this time there is simply no way at all. It's as if I'm caught in a black hole—I cannot escape, and any who reaches a hand to help me will simply be pulled down as well."
"What of the one who made the black hole?"
"I know where you stand, Tim. I know your position on my religious beliefs. And I would never ask one of your intelligence to believe in something that opposes reason and proof. So," he took a gold-covered book from the hospital drawer, "read it."
"I have. It didn't change anything for me, any more than the Koran or Book of Mormon did."
"I know. That is why I challenge you now: read it again, and again, and again. Then research and uncover and reason with every skill you possess. Then come knock on my door, and prove me wrong. I'm asking you to show me the body of Jesus Christ."
Months passed, and the Greatest Detective dedicated all his spare time to this research. He learned Hebrew and Greek and studied in the original languages. He read every dissenter, every argument for and against every salient theological point. He flew the world to access manuscripts and archaeological digs and knowledgeable professors. He researched and reasoned and deduced. And there was no great conversion, no day of relieved weeping or overwhelming joy. But when years had passed, the time came when Red Robin stood on the pinnacle of Wayne Tower in the rising sunlight, and knew it was time to call on the Commissioner.
"I took the challenge, sir."
"I was sure you would."
"I cannot present you with the body of Christ."
"Perhaps, therefore, my striving has indeed always been in vain, and only His sufficient."
And though Red Robin fell many more times, he was never again utterly cast down.
*Final line, and title, taken from Psalm 37:4, KJV.
A/N: This is going to be a fairly lengthy Author's Note: I apologize for that. But first things first: thanks for reading! This is the longest story I've posted yet, and I'd love to have your opinion on everything from writing style and dialogue to characterization and subject matter. The review box is calling...though it also recommends you finish the Author's Note first :).
Secondly, I'd like to give a very big shout-out to ScribeOfHeroes, who not only advised me on the content but also gave me a lovely and very thorough pre-review of the finished product. Thanks so much, my dear: I would not have posted this story without your encouragement!
Now, on to the "elephant in the corner". As you can see on my profile, and will have deduced from this story, I am a Christian. This story was therefore born from no more than a sincere desire to see my favorite character saved. It is aided by the fact that the superhero genre, indeed heroes in general, are reflections of THE Hero, THE Story, and that many of Batman's strictest guidelines and the whole Batfamily's adherence to justice have at their core Western Civilization's Christian values. I do know that the larger DC universe contains many elements which would be at best difficult and at worst impossible to reconcile to the truth revealed in Scripture, but this story does not attempt to deal with those elements. Rather, it is applicable to the Real World, referencing the conviction of many Thinking People that the Bible speaks the Truth, and Jesus Christ is the Savior of Mankind.
I hope this story was enjoyable for you (after all, that's what fanfiction's for!), and I also hope you found the characters and situations plausible. If it made you think about something in a new way, I'll count that as a bonus! If you have a question or comment you would prefer not to shout to the whole world in a review, I'm always happy to receive and reply to PMs. In any case, God be with all of you, my lovely readers!