The suit was stiff. It crinkled loudly when he shifted. The clicking sound of heeled shoes approached the lobby and a nurse poked her head in, eyes widening in surprise.
"How wonderful!" She pushed a twist of fair hair from her eye. "Mr. Drake will be so pleased to see you!"
She held the door open and intended to lead, but Tim knew the way, could have walked it in his sleep. He made his way down the drab hospital halls. He felt as if he were making no progress as he moved through the identical passageways. There were white walls, white tiles, flickering overhead lights and sickly people in wheelchairs every time he turned a corner.
He straightened out the suit when he came to the door and plastered a smile onto his face. His father's sight was intact. He could still see him. Tim's face hurt from the false grin and he turned the knob.
Then the door swung open, the scene from his nightmares lay out bare before him. The wires, IVs, apparatus surrounding his father like a monster ready to devour him. Tim closed his eyes for a moment, long enough to take a good deep breath. He walked to the man's bedside and took the pale, fragile hand into his own, squeezing tenderly.
"Today is Easter, Dad," he murmured. Jack's eyes flashed with understanding. "I'm going to spend it with Batman and his family. They've been really good to me."
His father remained still, trapped in a web of inactive nerves. The first few months he'd been in a coma and then he'd woken up to this. All Jack could do now was stare at the ceiling, listen and feel. (Paralyzed…surrounded by…corpses)
Tim crouched down and laid his head on his dad's emaciated shoulder. A wire poked him, and he ignored it. His smile disappeared somewhere along the way. "I don't come as much as I should because I'm living in Blüdhaven, Dad. I live with Nightwing. That guy who…tried to save us. I help him, you know, save people and I'm going to start helping other heroes too. So, no one else has to go through what we did…do," he whispered, clutching a bit too hard at his father's inert hand. "Does that make you proud?"
Tim wondered, not for the first time, if his father would be happy. Jack had always played at being adventurous, going off into all those foreign countries. In truth he never left the city without a guide. And he was far from selfless and probably wouldn't understand the sacrifice that Tim made so other people could be happy.
"Do you think Mom would be proud?"
Tim wasn't sure Janet would have been particularly thrilled about his rounds as a vigilante either. At least she wouldn't have been able to stop him. His father on the other hand…
"I just wanted to be a good son for you."
Had he wanted that? All those nights he'd snuck out of the house to stalk the Bats. All the times he lied in order to go out of state so he could follow Dick, and then Jason, to the Titan's Tower. The friends he'd said he had who didn't actually exist. The money he used towards camera film that he said went into movies.
He…but he'd gone on that trips and others. He'd been to almost all of Europe at some point; he'd been to China, India, and Japan. Then the islands…Yes, he'd gone with his parents because it was the only way to be close to him. He'd always gone home before them though. He'd spend a week in Italy and then be flown home while they continued on and he continued lying and missing them and filling the hole in his life with a group of vigilantes who would never even know he existed.
"I lied to you a lot when I was younger. You deserve the truth now."
His father was crying, it was a slow steady stream of liquid. Jack usually cried when Tim came to visit. It was one of the few ways he could express the emotions he still felt.
The suit was pinching Tim's arms, but he ignored it. "You haven't met the others. Batman, Robin, Batgirl, or Nightwing, but I…I know you're there, you can come out and meet my dad."
Superboy stepped into the doorway, looking sheepish. He was dressed in his Sunday best, yet covered in strange white streaks. Tim figured he had flown straight from Kansas and run into something while in the air. Superboy being shit on by a flock of birds at superspeed. He wanted to smile at that but he couldn't make his mouth obey him fully.
"How did you know I was out there?" Kon wondered and sounded abashed.
Tim turned a little and managed a razor sharp smile. "Bats know when they're being watched. And I didn't hear footsteps, so you must have been floating."
"Color me impressed," Kon beamed. He visibly relaxed and took a few steps into the room. "Your brothers don't exaggerate about how smart you are."
"Come over here, so he can see you," Tim murmured as he turned back to his father. He listened to Kon's footsteps, and then felt his alien heat on his back. "Dad, this is Superboy. He's…we…"
What did someone say to that? This is Superboy: he's the clone of an alien and an evil super genius. We jerk each other off now and then, but we'll probably start having anal sex soon. We work together at the Titans. Oh, yeah, did I mention how Batman hates him more than he disapproves of me? That's really saying something, but I'm taking him to Easter dinner anyway.
"I guess you could say we're dating, Dad."
The look of surprise in Jack's eyes was so clear. Kon really, seriously, honest to God, gasped because it was a vivid, absolutely stunned, look.
"Not what you were expecting, I know. I still love you, Dad, but…it's different now. Superboy is…part of that."
Kon noticed that Tim was shaking and he laid his large hand on the little bird's trembling shoulder.
"I have school tomorrow, Dad. So, I have to get going. I…I'm going to try and visit you more often," Tim stood and backed up a step. Kon felt like he should say something, but he settled for a mumbled goodbye.
Once they were out in the hallway, Tim shut his eyes tightly and leaned against the broad expanse of the clone's chest.
"You okay?" Kon wondered, stroking his back.
"I have nightmares. How it must…no feeling anywhere. Just…but still—still alive. Listening to the machinery all day and that…that blank empty ceiling while the rest of the world goes on..." Tim looked up at him, clear and blue. "I don't think he'd be happy with who I am."
"Yeah?" Kon inclined his head. "Well you did just say life was different. You have a different family…who are totally waiting for you. Dick actually called the Kent's to make sure you weren't ditching them for me."
Tim blinked twice in rapid succession. "He did?"
"Yeah, scouts honor."
"You came to find me?"
"How did you?"
Kon blushed. "I had to sift through a bunch of voices…but I heard you. I swear I didn't mean to eavesdrop, man, I just wanted to be sure you were—"
Tim pushed up on his toes and kissed him soundly. It wasn't a good place for their display of affection, but the normal rules of etiquette shouldn't apply to two teenage superheroes.
"Do you know where the Manor is?" Tim asked.
"Yeah," Kon answered, intelligently.
"I need to get there, want to join us for dinner?"
"Batman won't shoot me?"
"Jason might punch you."
Superboy picked him up right there in the hallway and flew them out the nearest window. Tim said something berating, something about being more cautious and subtle. Kon hugged him closer and flew until he could spot the neighborhood the Manor was in. It was pretty damn hard to miss.
They landed on Bruce Wayne's front porch as the great oaken doors were flung open.
"Ah, Jesus-fucking-Christ, Tim!" Jason cried out as Kon set the littlest Bat on his feet.
"Jason! Language!" Someone, it could have been Bruce or Dick, and was definitely accompanied by Alfred, snapped.
"I invited Kon to eat with us," Tim smiled blandly. Kon was terrified to see everyone but Batgirl's face darken. Shit. He could see farther inside and even the redhead in the wheelchair was scowling up a storm.
"Tim," Cass called out her charge. "Eggs! Find them!"Monday
Tim had candy for breakfast.
"Tim," Dick murmured, watching him with a strange look on his face. "Just because Cass got the candy for you does not mean you have to eat all of it right now."
The boy bestowed his big brother with the incredulous ascension of one eyebrow and then held out a handful of his loot.
Dick accepted the offering and popped a piece of chocolate in his mouth. "Fine. I take that back."
Tim dropped a bit of dark chocolate into his coffee and began the process of waiting for it to melt. Dick, meanwhile, was giving him one of those calculating 'Nightwing' looks.
"You know, bringing Kon yesterday was not the best idea. Bruce really doesn't like him."
"That isn't why you did it. Is it?"
"Partially. Also, it was fun to watch Jason turn that interesting shade of purple."
"You're really messing up their friendship," Dick pointed out.
"They've already made up," Tim shrugged.
"I just said it. Jason is loyal and Kon isn't vindictive. He doesn't have any quarrels besides Luthor. He's only a couple of years old, remember?"
"Shut up, Dick."Tuesday
Bruce called during the wee hours before dawn while Tim was doing the 'not-sleeping' thing he did. He heard the phone's shrill cry and suspected it was Bruce. It was the only reason he'd picked it up.
"I'm ready to talk.
"Your father isn't likely to ever come out of this."
"I'm willing to continue paying for his care."
"Even though you disapprove of me, highly?"
"His case isn't completely lost yet."
"As long as you are uncertain, I will keep him alive."
"I have nightmares about you."
"You hold my father's life in your hands."
"And you're too unstable to operate as a hero."
"I'll prove you wrong."
"I look forward to it."
"Let's talk again soon."
He forced himself to sleep and the dreams descended upon him without delay. He was back in Haiti, tied to the pole beside his parents. The rope was cutting into his arms and his mother was screaming and shaking like a leaf while his father barked at her to stay calm. Tim wanted to take her hand and tell her…everything. Yes: everything summed it up nicely.
He looked up at the full moon with frightened tears blurring his vision, God, it was huge, and a dark blot suddenly appeared. Nightwing landed in front of them. He was still in the old uniform. The one Tim had affectionately dubbed, in his mind, the 'flaming faggot' costume. He'd never told that to Dick and in his dream, he made a mental note to mention it over breakfast.
Dick untied them, and then turned, attacking the zealots with an amazing amount of grace, even if his suit was ridiculous. His mother reached over and drank the water the Obeah Man had been taunting them with, not even five minutes earlier. Tim wondered if he should be grateful that his parents had been so selfish. Gulping at the water like fish while their son watched Nightwing brutalizing a group of cultists.
One villain fell and burst into flames. One parent dropped to the ground, never to breath again. Tim heard his father's cry of pain and jerked around. He saw the stiffness of their bodies, the wideness of their eyes.
He woke up with a cry.
Dick was already sitting on the end of his bed.
"Hey, kiddo," he soothed and drew his little brother into his arms.
"What time is it?"
"Quarter after two, bad dream?"
"Mmm," Tim thought the noncommittal sound was appropriate.
"Want to tell me about it?"
A grin tried to split Tim's entire face open, but he contained it. "I was having a nightmare about your old Nightwing suit."
"What?" Dick sat back, startled. "Are you…"
"The one with the collar and bright colors," Tim elaborated.
"Jesus Christ, Tim! I was actually worried about you and—"
During breakfast they received a call from Wally. He blathered out a hopeful, modest invitation for Dick and Tim to come have dinner with him and his family. The Batboys had no choice. The last time they'd tried to worm their way out of a dinner with Wally, the Scarlet Speedster had hunted them both down with great vigor.
So, Dick said, "Yes, of course."
And all Tim could do was take it. He pondered whether Wally would even be able to wait the entire day before showing up in a zwip of warm colors.
Dick seemed to be thinking the same thing as he went out the door to get in the car with a few other employees of the Blüdhaven PD.
Tim headed out to the bus stop minutes later.
The spring air was fragrant and wet. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, warning him of an approaching storm.
When he got to the bench, he found Kyle fussing with his dark, glossy hair and complaining about the humidity. Johnny leered and then began to serenade them, clutching at the Aquaman symbol fluttering over his heart.
"We'll take the whole shebang! All or nothing, anything! Ecstasy's the birthright of our gang! We'll take the whole shebang! Free your heart of guilt and shame! Come and claim what's yours the whole shebang!"
Kyle paused to smile fondly as he offered one of his frail hands. Johnny took it, kissed it, and then continued to dance and sing.
"You two give me diabetes," Tim commented. He hoped to God he and Kon never looked like that. Kyle smirked in reply and patted Timmy's shoulder with a disturbing amount of sympathy.
Tim got through another nondescript day of school without seeing either hide or hair of Wally. He wasn't sure whether he was grateful for that or not. He even made it all the way home and got a shower before he heard the telltale ring of the doorbell. He really didn't answer the door slowly on purpose.
"Took your sweet time!" Wally grinned. His eyes darted around anxiously. "You ready?"
"Yes, just let me…grab my…coat…" Tim sighed as he realized he was standing in the West's living room. "Hello, Linda." He waved listlessly.
She rolled her eyes at Wally, and then rubbed her swollen stomach. "Hello, Tim. You haven't graced us with your presence in quite some time."
"It's been a busy year," Tim commented.
"Yes, I'm so pregnant as to be incapacitated. Nothing to do but catch up on Hero gossip."
Wally at least had the decency to blush.
"Twins?" Tim wondered, sitting down beside her.
"Oh, yes," she smiled. "I don't know how I'll manage. Twins on top of the two children I already watch out for!"
"Linda, are you talking about me?" Bart wondered, pouting as he came into the room from the adjoining kitchen.
"You and Wally both." Linda turned her attention back to Tim and noticed the way he shifted uncomfortably. He'd come to dinner with Dick before, but Bart had never been there too. She grinned. Birdboys. "You work with Bart now, you know what I deal with."
"Yes," Tim agreed, nearly retuning the smile.
"Wally," Linda said, her tone was dangerous and warning. He jerked to a quaking halt mid-pace. "Dick is not off work yet, you will have to wait. Bart, please check on the oven for me?"
Mr. West looked abashed, Bart amused, and Tim felt the strange familial normalcy of the whole thing smack him in the face. Bart went into the kitchen in a blur, and Wally plunked down into a chair.
Tim knew all of Dick's friends. During his first few weeks living with Nightwing, most of them had come to meet him. Tim had a theory that his presence, plus those long, long months of constant visitors was what had broken Dick and Kory up, that time.
Point to case, he was acquainted with all of Dick's friends. However, despite that, Tim chose not to communicate with any of them. Some of them called on holidays, others wrote letters. A few particularly crafty ones discovered when his birthday was. Tim really didn't know how to tell Blackhawk that, firstly, the presents were unnecessary, and, secondly, he was no longer ten year sold.
The Flash and Arrow families had been a notable exception to the rule, since they were closest to Dick. They often had dinner here or there and Tim would try to behave himself and be civil and not an antisocial little freak who was devoted to Dick in all the ways the Bruce disapproved of. It was a tentative friendship by extension.
Or, was, until the Titans began to take up Tim's time. And Bruce began trying—without really trying—to speak with him. Until he had to accept the fact that he was two years through high school and he would have to make some big choices soon. (His father's money. How much longer? Paralyzed…) Or was, until he realized how much he just wanted to be able to go to Wayne Manor for Christmas and pretend that he was normal again. Until he realized how delusional that was. And he began to lose Tim Drake in Brambling's shadow, completely.
He looked at Linda. He'd known she was pregnant, but he hadn't been to see her until now. She was due in the next few weeks, yet this was the first time he'd come to visit her. He was aware of several times Dick had been, but he'd never given her the same courtesy. His face softened, and he made a point of just talking to her until it was time for Wally to snatch Dick up from work.
Once his big brother was there, Tim felt a little more relaxed about Bart's presence. He pondered the complexities of the Robin/Kid Flash relationship for several minutes before he realized it didn't matter. Tim Drake and Bart Allen were simply having dinner with their families, who just happened to be in the superhero biz.
"Vic says Green Arrow is sending Speedy this weekend," Bart said in between bites and gulps.
"I've met Speedy," Tim nodded. Roy had brought Mia to the apartment once, and only once, due to the fact Tim freaked her out.
"What's he like?"
"Speedy is a girl?"
Tim really didn't point out that Mia was not, in fact, a dude.Friday
"Big storm on the West Coast," Dick murmured. He was lazing with happy content upon the couch. He'd gotten the day off of policing by switching shifts with a friend. Meanwhile, Tim was moving around the apartment in his morning routine, getting ready for school.
"How big?" he inquired, pulling on a jacket.
"Like cataclysmic big. It's been building all week."
"Of course, I'll still being going to the Tower this evening."
"Do you have to?"
"Yes. Dick." Tim stopped getting ready in order to meet Dick's eyes. There was an issue to address. Air yet cleared. "You wanted me to go there and friends with them. I'm sorry if this wasn't what you intended. Scratch that, I know it isn't. I know it hurts…but I already have a father and Kon is…Kon and whatever that is, I need it." He sucked in a deep breath, taking note of what he'd just said. Then he built up his walls and made a hasty retreat to the door.
"Tim!" Dick followed him. How could he not? The boy was halfway out into the hallway before he was caught. "I don't understand your feelings. I've never had a shortage of people I've felt close to. Just. We. Jason and…all of us. We've worked so hard to try…To make you understand that we give a fuck. We don't want you to just. Replace us. With Kon."
There was an awkward, quiet moment that accompanied his confession. Then Dick hugged him tightly and there was no escape.
"Dick…stop exaggerating. I wouldn't—I couldn't—do that."
"Go to school, kid."
"Kon is coming to pick me up tonight."
"I'll say 'Hi' to him."
They parted on that note. The day drifted by and Tim had to consider the fact that Dick could acquire a fair amount of Kryptonite from Bruce during the day. He could have the entire apartment building filled by mid-afternoon. Tim also had to calculate the option that Nightwing would do exactly as he'd said: smile and say hello. Tim wasn't sure which outcome made him queasier.
By the time he got on the bus to head home, he'd pushed all his worries away. He was the logical type. It was unseemly for Brambling, of all people, to worry about bringing his boyfriend home.
He took that back after further though. Brambling only had one mission: to be the perfect partner for Nightwing. Tim on the other hand…He turned the key in the lock and the door opened to him. Kon was sitting on the couch with Dick.
"Oh God," Tim muttered.
"Don't be such a drama queen!" Dick called playfully.
"Better than some other 'queens' I know," Tim replied.
Kon turned to stare at him. He looked startled and bemused. Mostly bemused. "I came early."
Tim raised an eyebrow. "I can see that. Skippingboy made his usual rounds today?"
"I won't get you out of detention."
"Who else is going to give you a ride cross-country?"
"No problem, little brother."Saturday
"Sorry we had to put you off a week, Speedy. We all have families to spend Easter with," Vic smiled ruefully.
Mia nodded, glancing around with vast uncertainty. The only team members she really knew were Robin and Brambling. And Brambling weirded her the fuck out.
"It's not a problem, Mr. Stone. I, uh, I'm just glad to be here, hmm, at all."
"Call me Vic," Cyborg instructed. "So, Titans, someone show her around. I'll call you all back together for training later."
The teenagers descended on her like a screaming horde.
"We could really use a few more girls."
"Just what are you saying, Cassie?"
"Shut up, Jason."
Unexpectedly, she had a green rabbit on her shoulder. "Hey, pretty bird."
"You realize Green Arrow calls Canary that?"
"You realize there are two other birds in the room?"
"Aww, Kon, c'mon, I am not hitting on your bird!"
"Gar, watch it."
Mia felt a strong hand pulling her from the center of attention. Another hand pushed Gar from her shoulder.
"I will show her around," Raven offered. Mia thanked the stars.
"Uh," she offered. "I'll come back, I promise, just let me get settled in."
Then she was off with the other girl.
"You're in doubt," the empathic said. Mia flushed under her mask.
"Well, yeah, I'm kind of a rookie. I haven't worked with a team, really. I'm waiting for the--moment where I make myself look like a total jerk."
Raven smiled. Mia couldn't decide whether it was disturbing or beautiful.
"Timothy was much the same. Doubtful, about the team setting, I mean."
"Tim…Brambling?" Mia tried to imagine Tim uncertain about anything. He'd barely seemed human when she met him. "I…no. Tim has it pulled together."
They stopped before a door. It opened and Mia gaped at the wonderful view of the bay.
Raven let her enjoy it in private for a few moments, but she reappeared when Vic sent out the call for training.
Mia was numb with dread and anticipation as she began her first exercise with the team—a team, any team! She ended up with Brambling, Wondergirl, and Kid Flash on her side. She couldn't mess up. Bart seemed forgiving, but Cassie felt like competition and Tim felt like all the bad things Ollie had ever said about Batman.
"Relax," Tim whispered from her side. She jumped in shock and stared at him, he'd snuck up on her. Sneaky little fucker! "Kon won't realize you're here." His lips pulled into a quick smile. "Just snipe him, no trouble." Mia intended to reply, but he was gone from the tree before she had the chance. She turned her attention back to watching for the members of the opposing team.
She sought Brambling out afterwards. She wanted to say something. His words had calmed her down and she thought maybe it was time they started over. She made her way slowly through the unfamiliar territory of the Tower, checking the pool, and rec. room. When she peaked into the kitchen, the eyeful she received almost made her head implode. No one had deemed it necessary to warn her that Superboy and Brambling would be breaking the PDA rule?
Whoa, back up, since when did Brambling touch anybody at all? Let alone kiss them—him—in a very not-so-private kitchen. She began to backpedal, but ran into Robin.
"Hey! We eat in here!" Jason growled. He stormed into the room and punched Superboy's arm. Kon just smiled.
"Sorry, Jay," he murmured, crossing his fingers. He put his arms around Tim's waist and pulled him backwards, out of the room.
"Uhm, well," Mia began, musing to the open air. This was the strangest day in history. "They…are…not very secretive about that."
"Nope, that drama's over though," Jason rejoined as he went to the fridge. He took out a soda and tossed a second can into Mia's waiting hands.
"Yeuup. Now we all have to put up with their crap. I'm seriously just waiting for them to have a fight. It's going to be brutal. I think I'll sell tickets."
"Right. Well, I actually had something to say to Tim so…" she started after them, but Robin had the decency to stop her.
"You might wanna give them a minute."
Disclaimers: The lyrics from the songs:
Urgent by Foreigner (1st chapter)
Get a Haircut by George Thorogood (3rd chapter)
The Whole Shebang by Grant Lee Buffalo (4th chapter)
Do not belong to me. They are the property of their respective writers/artists.
Birds and Boys may break my bones but DC always owns them.