Title: Eyes of Strangers
Timeline: Takes place after Jack Drake learns that his son is Robin and Tim quits being a superhero.
A/N: This was my first attempt at fanfiction – posted in 2006 (wow, time has flown by) and updated to correct for typos later. Thank you for reading.
Even without the pointed ears Tim would have recognized that silhouette anywhere. Multiple possible reasons for that man to show up on the Drake's doorstep flashed through his mind - most of them very bad. He swung off the couch and padded after his father as Jack moved to open the door.
Jack's spine stiffened and his face flushed as he saw who was there, "You-"
"Not in front of the neighbors." The growled warning cut him off.
Tim had moved behind his dad, silent in his bare feet, and could now see Bruce standing in the porch light. He was in the "tipsy socialite" costume, complete with unbuttoned collar and half empty champagne glass. Tim had seen him use that look before when he wanted to check on someone as Bruce rather than Batman. He usually used the excuse that he couldn't remember where he lived which re-enforced the idiot image. However, Bruce was not bothering to fold himself completely into the role. From the clothes and props, a nosey neighbor would think he was drunk, but from close up, he looked completely sober.
Tim wondered if his dad had caught what Bruce was doing and would be willing to play along. After all, Bruce was probably doing it more for their protection than his.
With every inch of him screaming reluctance, Jack opened the door wide enough to let Bruce in.
Bruce staggered in, straightened, and made a bee-line for the study at the end of the hall, ignoring both Jack's huff of indignation and Tim's curious eyes.
He stopped at the door and waited for the Drakes to catch up with him.
Jack stepped around Bruce and opened the door, but hesitated as he finally caught sight of Tim.
"This concerns him." Bruce declared. Somewhat reluctantly, Jack nodded and held the door so that Tim could proceed ahead of them into the study. Tim was grateful that that his dad had agreed to let him sit in on whatever they'd be talking about since it saved him the trouble of having to eavesdrop at the door.
Tim took up position just inside the door, an unconscious action that let him see every door, window and seat in the room. Bruce, recognizing the act for what it was, flickered his eyes in brief amusement at the boy.
Catching the look, Tim relaxed somewhat. If Bruce was willing to let some humor show, then it was unlikely that the world was coming to an end or that someone had died. Always a reassuring thought.
Jack walked past them and took a seat behind his desk leaving Bruce to sit opposite him. Tim identified the tactic as a cheep attempt by Jack to assert some authority. Tim almost snorted. If his dad thought that sitting behind a large desk would intimidate the Batman, he was in for a rude surprise.
"I'll get straight to the point," Bruce began. He face was still playboy, but his eyes were all Bat.
"Please do." Jack ground out.
"There have been several requests by numerous people of our acquaintance to see-" Here there was an almost imperceptible pause, "Tim."
The hesitation before Tim's name was slight, but he picked up it nonetheless. What Bruce was really saying was that one or more superheroes had overcome their fear of Batman enough to ask after Robin. The most likely candidates were Nightwing, who already knew; Superman, who tended to be concerned for the younger heroes and noticed things like that; and the Teen Titians.
Tim felt a wonderful warmth creep over him soothing an ache he hadn't even been aware had been there before it vanished. His friends missed him.
Jack was frowning, "What are you saying? I won't have him out-"
Bruce interrupted, a hard edge to his smooth voice, "And you have the right to request that Tim stay off the rooftops. However, these are his friends and they're good kids." Tim thought Conner and Bart would never believe Bruce had just said that. "I will not tell them where Tim lives, but he has the right to know what's going on and the ultimate decision on what to tell them is his, not yours."
Jack's face had been getting redder and redder as Bruce spoke and as he finished Jack exploded, "You lying bastard! You just want my son to put on that blasted costume again so he can go back to working on your idiotic crusade! Well, I won't have it, you hear!"
As his voice rose, he lifted his hand from behind the desk and revealed a colt revolver and pointed it at Bruce.
Tim was moving and in the air before conscious thought caught up with him. By the time he realized what he'd done, the gun was lying several feet away on the carpet and Tim was crouched on the other side of the desk.
Bruce hadn't so much as twitched though the whole thing and Jack was staring at his empty hand as if it had just morphed into a toad and croaked at him.
"Tim." The snapped rebuke from Bruce communicated half a dozen things, not the least of which was the often repeated command to 'predict, not react'. If he'd have calculated through the possible outcomes of this meeting, he'd have foreseen that Jack would likely try the same trick of pulling out and waving a gun in Bruce's face as he'd done several weeks ago at the manor. Tim already knew a gun was in the desk drawer, so it shouldn't have been that hard of a stretch to predict this event. A logical extension of that thought was also a realization that the gun was most likely unloaded and Bruce hadn't been in any real danger.
"Yes sir," He sighed. If he was still Robin, Batman would have assigned him an extra three hours of studying old case files for that error.
Jack's gaze had switched from his hand to his son then to Bruce and finally back to Tim. If he hadn't just witnessed it, Jack wouldn't have believed it. From five feet away, leaning against the wall, his son had leapt, kicked the gun out of his hand, and twisted into a crouch clear across the room, and he hadn't had enough time to do more than flinch.
He hadn't missed the rapid exchange between them either. Three words and they'd had a whole conversation.
The hot anger fled as a cold sensation clenched his gut. Did he even know his son anymore?
"Get out." The words were quiet, controlled; a sharp contrast to the fire of just a few moments ago.
Bruce gave him a measuring look and Jack had to wonder how anyone could mistake this man for a bumbling idiot.
He had met Batman in full costume once before as he'd forced his way into Wayne Manor to confront him and demand Tim stop being Robin. But that had somehow not seemed real. Boys dressing up in costumes. He'd been rescuing Tim from streets filled with dangerous people – somehow it hadn't occurred to him that Batman and Robin were themselves dangerous people. As he looked at Bruce's cold eyes, he felt a shiver pricked down his spine. This was in fact a very dangerous man.
"Get out." He repeated, even softer this time. Not quite a plea, but perhaps an acknowledgement that he didn't have the power to enforce his order.
This time the billionaire responded by rising. He inclined his head toward his former partner as he left the room and Jack had to wonder if it communicated more than a simple farewell.
Silence engulfed the room.
Slowly, Jack turned to look at the boy before him. And he really looked. Probably for the first time ever, Jack took the time to study what Tim had become rather than see what he thought he should be there.
Tim was standing with his back to the windows, no longer crouched, but upright, with hands held loose at his side and knees just slightly bent. He wore casual jeans over bare feet and a T-shirt that hung loosely about his lean frame. He did not look like he should have been capable of flipping across the room, much less do so without even becoming winded. Black hair that needed a trim was gelled up in short spikes. When had he taken to wearing his hair like that?
Tim was gazing at the door with a thoughtful, introspective look. As if feeling Jack's eyes on him, Tim turned his head and in a heartbeat his expression went from honest thoughtfulness to a blank, unreadable gaze.
For an instant he saw a young man with a will of iron and an intelligence beyond his years. A young man who led heroes and who could fade into shadows. A hero whom criminals feared. He saw Robin.
It unnerved him like nothing else had ever done before, including the fantastic acrobatics from minutes earlier.
Abruptly Jack stood. "I'm going to bed."
Tim cocked his head to one side at this announcement, but otherwise his fathomless expression didn't change. Jack felt those blue eyes follow him as he left the room.
Tim continued to stand there, eyes on the doorway, but looking inward. At last, after the moon had traveled most of the length of the sky, Tim gave one short nod as if he'd come to a decision. Then he stretched muscles that had stiffened from remaining motionless and headed off to bed.
He wasn't surprised when Jack didn't check on him that night.