Real Life


The first to die had been Steph, soon followed by his father.

Kon had already left the Titans, but then the OMAC invasion heralded the arrival of Alex Luthor's tower and a million other worlds in the sky. Superboy Prime found Kon and the real Superboy had to fight his way free. Tim found out about Blue Beetle's death just days before he had to go into one of Luthor's secret compounds to find a cure for Kon.

Then Kon died anyway. Granted, he saved the world – all of them – but…he didn't deserve it.

None of them did.

Dana died when Bludhaven was bombed; the psychiatric hospital that was supposed to be her safe haven ended up being her tomb.

Tim didn't heal during that year away; he just let the scars scab over. Cassie hadn't healed, either, and the only way they could make themselves feel anything was to hurt each other, break open those scars and let them bleed. Bart wasn't even around anymore. First because he didn't have powers, then because he did, and he was the Flash.

Then he wasn't the Flash. Bart was dead, too. Jay Garrick was the only living Flash.

Tim was the only living Robin. Jason had died during the Amazonian invasion, ripped apart by Artemis herself as he tried, ultimate futilely, to save a fallen Cassie. She bled out before Tim even arrived at the scene. Then Dick died stopping Deathstroke's madness, skewered by the immortal's sword as he protected Rose.

Cass, still weak from the effects of Slade's serum, had been defeated at the hands of Shiva. Alfred, at least, had died peacefully in his sleep of perfectly natural causes. He was only sixty-seven, but he was an old sixty-seven, the passing years had taken their toll on him as well as Tim.

It was only him and Batman in the Cave now. Everyone around Tim was dying, one by one. Soon he'd be the only one living, he knew.

And that…that wasn't acceptable. That wasn't possible. That many people couldn't die in such a short span of time.

They couldn't die, they couldn't have…it wasn't possible that his greatest fear could come true, that he could love everyone he'd ever loved, his whole family, all his friends…

His greatest fear…

With a gasp of pure strangled panic Tim awoke, wide-eyed, to find himself laid out on a gritty rooftop in downtown Gotham. The sky was just starting to lighten; he'd been out on patrol much too long.

He didn't know quite what had happened; his thoughts were sluggish and fuzzy. He was more than tired, he was bone-deep exhausted.

Not daring to chance calling Oracle – Babs had died because of Brainiac; no, she hadn't, she couldn't have, she'd been there during the Crisis… – Tim switched on the communicator hanging from his belt and pressed in a sequence he hadn't needed for much too long. At least, he thought he hadn't… After a moment, a sleepy, "Rob?" answered him.

"Kon?" Tim said, and it was only because he was so tired that the pure relief and actual tearful joy didn't infuse his voice enough to be heard over the comm lines. He was too tired to stop the tears from falling, however, though even if he hadn't been, he wouldn't have. It felt too good to feel something besides sadness and anger and dread. Thanks to the weird compressed and extended time of dreams, he felt like he'd actually lived those three years of hell. "Are you al– awake?" Kon was alive, Kon was alive…Bart had to be, too, and Cass and Cassie and Dick and Babs and Ted and even Jason and Slobo

A loud, jaw-cracking yawn sounded. "Yeah, man. S'up? Even Dubbilex doesn't get up this early during the summer, man."

That's right; it was summer vacation. He was home from Brentwood, and his dad and Dana were away on a Caribbean cruise. He was staying at the Manor, and Alfred had already half-met his goal of making Tim gain ten pounds with the lavish breakfasts he served at the end of their nightly patrols.

Tim's stomach gurgled in response to the thought of the food, and Tim grimaced. He was hungry, but also extremely nauseous. It occurred to him that something must have happened to have given him that absolute horrific nightmare. An image of an evilly grinning, straw-covered face popped into his head and Tim groaned. The Scarecrow, of course. His new fear gas hadn't been deterred by Batman's anti-toxin at all; Tim had gotten the full effect of it.

"Rob, you there?" Kon didn't sound sleepy anymore; he sounded worried.

"Yeah, I'm here, SB," Tim replied. "I'm just…Scarecrow hit me with his new fear gas and I've…well, I've fallen and I can't seem to make myself get up." He tried to inject ruefulness into his tone so Kon wouldn't worry overmuch. He didn't know if he should tell anyone about his dream; it hadn't happened, so he should just move on and forget it, right?

Kon sounded amused now, though the worry was still there underneath. "Shouldn't you be calling one of the Bats to pick you up?"

And, well. He should. But…his memories were reorienting themselves, and the team did know his name now. That whole thing with Bedlam hadn't been part of the nightmare. And while Bruce would kill him – with dozens of extra training sessions with Batgirl – if he brought Superboy to the Manor, if Kon helped him back to the Cave…

Tim could play it all off as disorientation. And – he felt at his ear and found only the crushed remains of plastic – and at the Scarecrow having crushed his Oracle-comm.

"My comm-link to them is out," Tim replied truthfully. "I don't suppose you could give me a lift?"

The sigh of the long-suffering best friend was music to Tim's ears. "Yeah, I'll do it," Kon groused. "But you owe me, Wonder Boy."

"How about the best breakfast you've ever had?" Tim offered, knowing that Alfred would undoubtedly have made enough to feed an army since Dick was in town for the weekend, and Cass habitually stopped by to eat at Alfred's table as well.

"That's a start," Kon said with a laugh.

They had to stop talking for a while, so Kon could concentrate on flying as fast as possible. This left Tim to go over his nightmare in detail, and list every single thing with it that was wrong.

The niggling doubt at the bottom of his mind wouldn't go away, however. Tim resolved to remember the details of every bad thing that had happened in his dream. It was a near-impossibility, but Jonathan Crane could have conceivably invented a fear gas that imbued its victims with temporary precognizant abilities.

Either way, Tim wasn't going to let another day go by without letting his friends, his family, know that he cared about them. The nightmare future might or might not be real, but his feelings for the people he'd 'lost'…those were.

And he knew now, better than ever, that a life without those he loved in it…wasn't real at all.


THE END