Filled the "Childhood Trauma" square on my Bad Things Happen Bingo. Originally posted on AO3. This can be considered pre-Timkon, or just Tim & Kon.
I've written about this before, and in that fic and this one, I gave Tim RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) which is what kids who are neglected can get. It basically means that when a kid doesn't make any emotional bonds as a baby or young child, they get this disorder, and some of the symptoms are listed in the fic. This isn't meant to be a be all, end all source of information on the disorder, just a fictional depiction of it.
1. Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
Kon kicks the ball out to Bart, laughing as Cassie and Tim both try to intercept it before Bart can get to it. The game they're playing doesn't really have rules—it's more like monkey in the middle, according to Tim—but it's fun, more fun than he's had in ages. It pits Kon's strength against Bart's speed against Cassie's mishmash of them both against Tim's amazing brain. On top of that, it makes them competitive, gets their pulses up. Tim was the one who suggested they play, and now, watching Bart and Cassie roll in the grass as he tries to take the ball back, Kon thinks this has been one of his best ideas yet.
Cassie ends up victorious, and Kon changes places with her, joining Tim in between their friends. He bumps their shoulders together, asking, "You ready?"
Tim is grinning when he bumps back. "Always!"
When Bart kicks the ball out, Tim sweeps for Kon's legs, sending him tumbling to the ground. It's only for a second, but Tim takes advantage, rushing ahead and leaping right for it like a cat. Kon is there moments later, but it's a waste—Tim's got it, and once he's grabbed on, there's no taking it away from him.
Still clutching it tightly to his chest, Tim stands from where he'd fallen to the ground. He's panting and laughing, and he looks happier than Kon has seen him in way too long. Since it's just the four of them, he doesn't have a domino on, and Kon notes how the corners of his eyes crinkle when he's smiling this wide.
Cassie and Bart come over, Bart practically vibrating with energy. "Another round?" He asks, glancing between the three of them a few times. "Please? I know we said we'd go in at noon, and it's like 12:10 already, but this is way too much fun to stop now!"
Kon meets Cassie's eyes, and it's pretty obvious by the spark of excitement there that they're in agreement—one more round. And probably one more after that, too. "I'm in," she says, and Kon replies, "Me too."
They all turn to Tim, and Kon is expecting the same enthusiasm he saw only a few moments before. Instead, he finds his friend staring hard at the ground, jaw working. After a moment, he says, "No, I'm going in."
"C'mon man! Don't go all Robot Leader on us," Bart whines. "One more round won't put us totally off schedule."
"You guys can keep playing," Tim replies, stepping back. He throws the ball to Cassie, who actually fumbles the catch. That's never happened before. "But I'm done."
He doesn't wait for one of them to respond before he turns on his heel and heads back in, and even without his cape, it's a dramatic move.
"What's up with him?" Cassie asks lowly, but Kon doesn't have an answer for her—he's wondering the same thing.
2. Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
Batman stalks off, his loud and angry words still echoing in Kon's mind.
How could you be so irresponsible? If you do something like this again, I will bench you. Permanently.
Kon hates when Batman comes around. It's almost always to yell at them, to yell at Tim. He points out all the ways they've messed up, and ignores the ways they did well—and compliments? Kon is positive the man doesn't know the meaning of the word. Nor does he know compassion, or comfort, or anything even remotely like that. All he knows is how to put the pressure on.
Tim is still standing there, rooted to the same spot. His hands are clenched into fists at his side, and his heartbeat is going crazy. Kon can tell he's got tears welling up, even if today the mask is very firmly on, covering his friend's eyes.
Bart tip toes over, reaching out but not actually touching Tim. "You okay?"
"Fine," Tim grits out. He doesn't look at Bart.
"Batman was pretty harsh just now, don't you think?" And now Bart does touch, just a simple hand on Tim's shoulder, meant to reassure. Meant to comfort.
Tim finally moves, shaking the hand off. He doesn't speak, just leaves, in the opposite direction of Batman.
3. Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
Barbecuing with the Waynes is interesting. Kon isn't sure if he means that in a good way or not.
Clark and Lois are standing around with Bruce, and Jon is over with Damian, playing with the dogs. The rest of the Waynes are spread out by the pool, some in it and some not. Kon is sitting on a deck chair at the edge of the patio with Tim, and it's nice, really, to just bask in the relative quiet and soak in the sun. Voices are washing over him, laughs and screams, the water splashing and the dogs barking. But over here, it's peaceful, all the noises filling up the background.
When he opens his eyes, he looks over to Tim, wanting to ask about maybe joining the others. It's peaceful, but it's hot, too, and it'd be nice to cool off in the water. But Tim isn't relaxing, or sleeping or anything. He's just staring off at his siblings.
"I told her—I told her—," Dick is saying through laughs. He's doubling over as much as he can in the 4ft section, overcome with amusement.
"No one cares, dude!" Harper calls out from the edge, her legs submerged. "We all know what happens next, you've only told this story a thousand times—"
"Hey! I'm trying to listen," Steph replies, grinning. She's tanning in one of the chairs. "I want to make sure I have everything right before I go and tell—"
Jason faux-gasps from the deep end, "You wouldn't!", and it sends everyone into a fit of giggles.
Tim sighs, a tiny little sound that gets swallowed immediately by Cass making a comeback and Duke's snort-laugh. But Kon—Kon can hear it. And it sounds…wistful, almost. A little sad, maybe. He hopes he can read Tim well enough to know the difference.
Kon asks, "Don't you wanna go over there?" 'Cause it seems to him that Tim does. And that the others would like if he and Tim went to join them.
Blinking, Tim turns to him, and he smiles. It's one of his fake smiles. His calm is fake, too—his heart is pounding like it does during battles. "Nah, I'm good here. If you wanna go, though, I won't stop you. It's probably more fun over there than here with me."
Yeah, probably. Kon shrugs, saying Tim's own words back to him. "Nah, I'm good here."
Tim keeps smiling at him, and it doesn't turn real.
4. Failing to ask for support or assistance
Cassie's yelp is loud, traveling through the cave, all the way to his room. Kon is on his feet in seconds, racing to the sound.
She's on the floor of the living room, and Tim is in her lap, and not only is his suit ripped to shreds, he's absolutely covered in blood. Bart appears behind Kon a second later, and rushes forward to Tim's side, mouth opening and closing like a fish.
Kon doesn't waste anymore time, running for their extensive first aid kit. Tim probably needs more help than they can give him, but it's important to do what they can first. Or at least, that's what he tells himself.
When he gets back, Tim is mumbling, "M'fine," over and over. Cassie and Bart aren't listening—they're just pressing against his chest where long gashes are visible.
"What the hell happened?" Kon demands, setting the kit down and throwing it open.
"He went on that mission," Cassie says, voice strained. "You know, the one we were very clearly told not to go on, because it was about a hundred times more dangerous than anything we've ever had to deal with before."
They'd discussed going anyway—because, no matter what the Justice League thinks, Young Justice is more than capable—but ultimately decided to let the adults handle it. And Tim, he'd been the last one of them to say they should go, and screw the consequences. He said they could handle it just fine, that the adults were being stupid. When Cassie asked him why he was so deadset on this, Tim had said something about it being important. Then he'd given in, stomping back to his room, defeated.
Except, clearly he hadn't given in. Kon sighs, and helps Bart pull off the remains of the top half of Tim's suit. The sleeves survived better than the rest, so he has to pull it all the way down Tim's arm and over his fist. When he gets there, he realizes Tim's holding something.
Kon opens up his fingers, not surprised his friend doesn't put up a fight. There's a flashdrive in his palm, and Kon takes it, puts it in his pocket. Tim can get it back later, when he's not possibly bleeding to death.
Tim blinks up at him. "M'fine," he insists. His mouth spreads out into a shaky smile. Kon doesn't pay it any attention—it's obviously forced.
"Shut up, dude," Bart snaps, clearly freaking out, and Tim does.
A few hours pass, their teammate holed up in surgery at the behest of Batman, and Kon finds himself in Tim's room. It's nearly empty, the only personal touches being the color of the sheets, and the laptop sitting open on his desk. Hesitantly, Kon goes over to it, and sits down.
He wants to know what the hell was so important that Tim went all the way to Khadym to get it. Thankfully, the laptop is still on and alive, and Kon doesn't have to attempt to log in. Plugging in the flashdrive, he forces himself not to feel about snooping. Tim got hurt—Kon is just finding out why. Tim would want to do the same.
What he finds is way more personal than he'd expected—a whole file on Tim, apparently from Ra's al Ghul himself.
Kon doesn't read much once he realizes what it is. One line does catch his attention, though, and he can't look away.
Severe childhood neglect—many longterm effects.
5. Failure to smile
Kon brings the flashdrive with him when he goes to visit Tim two days later. His friend is finally awake, and only on whatever small drugs the Bats will take. He's probably in pain and cranky, and he won't be happy to hear that Kon looked. But Kon is prepared for that, prepared to defend his actions.
When he gets there, Batman is in the room, speaking lowly. "Tim," he says, and he sounds like a normal human, his voice gentle. "I'm glad you're okay."
Tim shifts in bed, but doesn't say anything.
"I know you're mad at me… and yes, I know you and your team could've done the mission fine. But I also knew that you would be compromised going there, especially to retrieve what you did."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Tim replies. "I didn't retrieve anything. I just got my ass beat and thrown back in my jet to go home. And before you ask, no, Talia wasn't there."
"I wasn't going to—Tim," Bruce says, and he sounds exhausted. Kon knows he's been here ever since Cassie called to tell him about Tim. "I don't think you should look at it. Whatever it says, it doesn't matter. Ra's is… well, you know how he is. His opinion of you doesn't matter."
"B, can we talk about this tomorrow? Or never? I'm tired, I just want to sleep some more. You can lecture me some other time."
They're both silent for a moment. Then Bruce sighs, and Kon hears him pull up the cowl. "I'll be back in a few hours," Batman says. He sounds gruff now. "Sleep well."
Batman stares him down as they pass each other in the hall, but Kon forces himself not to react. "Don't keep him up," is all the older man says before he's gone.
Kon keeps moving, stepping into the room. Tim quirks his lips when they see each other, and reaches one hand out. There's a different laptop than the one in his room on the medical bed. "You have it, right?"
"Yeah," Kon says, but he doesn't hand it over.
Tim's face goes blank. His voice is deceptively light when he asks, "You gonna give it to me?"
Instead of answering, Kon closes the door behind him, and leans up against the wall. "I looked at it."
"Wh—why would you do that." It's not a question.
"I wanted to know what was so important," Kon says, shrugging a little. "I didn't see much. Just…."
"Just what? Kon, whatever's on there, it's none of your business, so you should just forget—"
Kon blurts, "Did your parents really neglect you?"
He knows it's rude. He knows it's tactless, and that if Ma Kent finds out about this, he'll be grounded for the rest of his "ever-loving" life. But he can't take it back, and once it's out there, he finds he really wants to know. Wants to know so he can go and figure out how to help make the supposed longterm effects better.
Tim says, "Nah," and it's his billionaire's voice, the one Kon hears on TV. It's always accompanied by one of those fake smiles that everybody seems to fall for, hook line and sinker. But it's not this time. Tim isn't smiling. He's just blank. "Is that all Ra's wrote? I guess he doesn't know me as well as I thought."
"I'm fine, Kon. Now give it to me."
Feeling like he's going to regret this, but not wanting to press anymore, Kon gives in. He hands it over to Tim, and not even then does Tim smile, just turns his attention to the laptop. It's a dismissal, Kon thinks.
"I'm fine," Tim says one last time, as Kon is stepping out of the doorway. His lies have never been so obvious.
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