TITLE: Necessary to Remembrance
SUMMARY: Tim reveals a secret to someone special.
CONTINUITY: Set about five years from current continuity, but...slightly AU, apparently.
DISCLAIMER: The setting and characters belong to DC comics.
NOTES: This was originally written for Merfilly's Remembering the Departed Day Challenge, although it was finished too late to participate. Also for Psych30 #6, Inferiority Complex, and Fanfic100 #10, Years.
Zoanne's tiny apartment's living room was its usual cheerful self, with a rainbow of throw pillows tossed in a corner for her to lean on while she worked on her laptop, and sun shining through the picture window that had convinced her to rent the place.
Tim had always felt happy there, but now he wondered if he'd ever see it again.
"I don't know what to say," Zoanne said, shifting hesitantly on her feet, looking at the colorful outfit in Tim's hands.
Tim sat very still, perched on the edge of a chair. "I've been putting off the job of telling you, but it was time."
Zoanne sat down very suddenly on the couch. "You're not joking."
Tim didn't respond.
"You're really Robin? Vigilante superhero etc. and so on?"
"You've been doing this the whole time we've been dating."
Since it wasn't a question, he just looked at her.
"Oh god, that's why you didn't want to move in with me. I thought..."
She gaped at him for a moment. "It explains so much. I mean, LaShawna's been telling me for years to dump you because you're so unreliable. But why did you tell me now?"
"Because I got tired of lying." Tim stared down at the flame-resistant armored pile in his arms. "And I...I want...well, I didn't want you to find out accidentally." Closing his eyes, Tim conjured up the image of his dad. "Or for someone else to tell you." Now he could see Steph in her Spoiler suit.
When he opened his eyes, Zoanne stared at him for a long moment and then slid off the couch to kneel in front of his chair. "Are you okay?"
He conjured up half a smile. "Isn't that my line?"
"Well, I probably look stunned, but you look like someone kicked your puppy." She reached out for him, her hand hovering over the Robin suit before she rested her hand atop his. "Tell me, Tim."
"It's kind of complicated."
"More complicated than you secretly being a superhero? Give me a break!" She chuckled, a low sound that never failed to warm his heart.
"Well..." he paused. Why was this more difficult than revealing his secret identity? "I was thinking about my dad and Steph."
Zoanne's forehead wrinkled. "Uh...what about them?"
"They died..." Tim paused, his throat tight.
The hand that wasn't holding his hand shot to her mouth. "Oh lord. They died because of this." She pointed at the fabric pooled on his lap.
Tim swallowed. "Yes. My dad, well, someone was going after our families. But Steph...she died because...because she was Robin."
Zoanne stared at him unblinking for a moment. "You're--" She cut herself off. "Of course you're not joking." She let go of his hand and sat back abruptly on the floor. "Your ex was also a superhero."
Nodding once, Tim said, "She made herself into a hero named Spoiler first. Later, my dad found out accidentally that I was Robin and he freaked out, forced me to retire for a while, and she took over as Robin."
"But you went back. What about Steph?"
"I went back during the gang wars. Batman needed me. Gotham needed me. Steph was kidnapped by Black Mask. When she died...I wasn't there." It was an effort to get each sentence out.
Zoanne was silent and Tim waited as patiently as he could, knowing how much there was to take in.
An odd expression crept over her face.
"I...god, this is embarrassing."
"No, I'm sure it isn't."
"I'm jealous of Steph."
He raised an eyebrow. "Jealous? She's--"
"Dead, I know. But I, I hate that I think like this, but I'm sitting here wondering how I'm supposed to compete with a dead, martyred superhero ex-girlfriend. I'm just me. Straight-A student, but I could never...I'm not strong like that."
Sliding onto the floor, Tim took both her hands and looked her in the eye. "Don't sell yourself short. You'd be surprised what you can do if it's necessary. But that's beside the point. You're not in any kind of competition with Steph."
"She was a superhero. I'm an engineering major." She groaned. "God, I'm sorry, I shouldn't be making this all about me."
"It's okay." Tim stroked her hands. "She wasn't perfect, believe me. She had her flaws."
"Did you love her?" Zoanne asked.
Tim thought about it. He remembered her smile, her laugh, the relatively short time they had together. "I don't know," he said. "We were young. A lot of things happened. Maybe I did love her, or I would have. But she died and then my dad died and then my best friend."
"You mean Conner? You've only mentioned him a few times."
"Yeah. Everything happened at once and the universe nearly ended. I think to stay sane I had to repress a lot. That's why I haven't talked about them much over the years."
Zoanne tilted her head, giving him an odd look. "Did Conner have anything to do with the universe nearly ending?"
"Not exactly," Tim said. "It was kind of, uh, him from another universe. It was all really complicated."
"Right." She visibly put that aside for another day. "This is all so weird."
"I know." Tim took a breath. "But can you...will you..." He couldn't find the words.
Zoanne reached out and brushed his hair out of his eyes. "What is it, honey?"
"I probably shouldn't ask this right now, but..." he swallowed sharply, "will you marry me?"
Her jaw dropped.
"I mean, I'll understand if you need time to think, or if you're worried about being hurt or--"
Zoanne jumped forward and threw her arms around him, kissing him to shut him up. "You're an idiot," she said, catching her breath a minute later.
Tim caught her face in his hands, staring into her eyes. "You could die, Zoanne. Just for knowing me."
"I know, Tim. But I don't care. Hell, I'm proud of you."
His breath caught in his chest.
"And I'll bet Steph was too." Zoanne ducked her head and kissed his nose. "Proud enough to cover for you as Robin."
"Oh." Tim stared. "I never thought of it that way. Just that she took my place."
"Men." Zoanne rolled her eyes. "Now can we do that proposal thing again? I want to answer properly."
Tim grinned at her. "Marry me?"
"You know it!"
Their kiss was long and passionate.
From their invisible perch on the end of the couch, Steph and Kon slapped each other on the back and opened a bottle of champagne. Behind them, Janet Drake put her arms around her husband and wept, while Jack Drake couldn't stop smiling.