Holding Onto Love To Save My Life
Tim almost never let himself break down; when he did, he made sure he wasn't around anyone.
He'd been breaking down a lot lately, ever since Kon died. But he'd been holding back the majority of his emotions for so long now, that when they welled up over the walls he'd built around them, Tim found he couldn't hold them back anymore.
It was just his luck that Tim happened to be with the one person who wouldn't leave him alone, in a situation where said person couldn't fail to miss Tim's breakdown.
"Tim?" Dick cupped his cheek in his hand, turning Tim's face towards him and away from the rolling credits on the screen. The musical episode of Wendy: the Werewolf Stalker shouldn't have invited such an angst-filled reaction. Worried blue eyes stared into Tim's, and when he blinked, Tim was upset, but not surprised, to find tears welling in them. He didn't often cry, but then, he didn't often suffer from such deep emotional pain, either.
At least, he didn't used to. But then, his friends and family used to be alive.
It almost seemed to scare Dick, as in the time it took Tim to sniffle and try to eradicate any signs of his sadness, Dick had him bundled up in a blanket and on his bed, sitting in Dick's lap. Tim remembered other moments when Dick had held him like that; they usually involved far less clothing and far more sex.
That moment wasn't like any of those, and not just because they were wearing clothes. Dick was actually rubbing Tim's back and rocking him like a baby, trying his best to soothe Tim, even though he had no idea why his little brother was so upset. The comfort he was being offered just made Tim feel worse; he started to shake, and clung to Dick like some sort of needy baby animal. It was when Dick started clutching him back and crooning nonsense syllables to him that Tim finally let the tears fall.
There was no way he could explain this away…without telling the truth. And though Tim didn't know that Dick would shoot him down…there was too much evidence to support the theory. Dick was leaving him, leaving them all, again, and this time Tim didn't have anyone else to fall back on. Steph was dead, Kon was dead, Cass was dealing only slightly better than he was, Bart had lost his powers and was dealing with that, Bernard had no idea about even a tenth of his issues…
Dick was the only link to life he had left, and he was planning to leave for New York, not to rejoin the Outsiders, or find a new city to protect, but…just leaving. Without Dick, Tim had nothing left in his life except being Robin.
It taken far too long and far too many deaths, but Tim had realized that he both needed and wanted more in his life than that. He needed and wanted Dick in his life, as far more than a friend, sex partner, or even brother.
"Why are you crying?" Dick asked in a hushed voice, his hands smoothing down Tim's back through the thin cotton of his T-shirt. "Why are you so upset?"
Damnit. He'd kept it all inside for months now, ever since their trip around the world with Bruce. All it took was for Kon's favorite Wendy episode to play on a night when he was feeling particularly mellow and BAM! His nerves were shot and Tim didn't know how to answer Dick's question except with the truth. "You…" Tim choked on the rest of it, unable to finish with the lie, "…just caught me on a bad day, that's all." Dick would see through that like Kon had been able to see through the walls of the girls' locker room.
At the mental comparison, a sob tore its' way out of Tim's throat, leaving him feeling raw on he inside in more ways than one.
Dick reeled back as if he'd been struck. "Me? I'm why you're crying?"
Tim shook his head. Somewhere, he found his voice, and even as the tears still fell from his eyes, he said the words he'd been both yearning to and afraid to say for over a year, "Dick, I… Dick, I love you."
The worry in Dick's expression was now mixed with…pleasure? Some sort of happiness, surely, to make sense of the small smile that softened his lips. "I love you too, Tim," Dick said, pulling him into a loose hug.
Frowning, Tim choked down his tears and said, "No, I mean I'm in love with you, Dick."
Dick's nascent smile turned to a frown. Before Tim could wrench himself from Dick's comforting, yet now-stifling grip, the older man asked, "Is that why you're so upset?" Tim nodded fractionally. "Why would that make you unhappy?" Dick said, frown deepening.
"Because you don't feel the same way," Tim said tiredly, tears rolling slowly down his cheeks. He was too exhausted from the mental rollercoaster of turmoil he'd been riding for the past half-hour to stop them anymore.
"Of course I do, little brother." Dick said it as if it was an obvious fact. Incontrovertible. Something that anyone could have seen.
Anyone but Tim, apparently.
"I've always loved you, and it feels like I've always been in love with you," Dick continued, nuzzling behind Tim's right ear, and coaxing him back to life with him on the bed, face to face.
Tim was still dealing with the idea that Dick returned his feelings, and it hadn't quite sunk in, or else he never would have said – more like stuttered – "But you don't feel the same. Y-you just wanted…a friend with benefits. Someone to hold during the nights. Didn't you?" He'd already put his heart on the line; any added vulnerability was just not in the cards he planned to play.
He hadn't planned to have a breakdown that night, either. The best laid plans of robins and men, etcetera.
"Is that what you thought, Tim?"
Tim looked up at Dick's words, the tone of them odd, sounding halfway between worry and disbelief, with a dash of tempered anger and amusement thrown in just to confused him. "I…yes." Dick almost never touched Tim in any sexual way unless they were going to have sex, only rarely making out with him during a movie or stealing a kiss on patrol. Dick never said he loved Tim, or gave him cutesy pet names. Dick had never fixed him breakfast with lopsided heart-shaped pancakes like he had with Kory, or looked at him the way he used to look at Barbara.
Most tellingly of all, whenever anyone – usually Roy – questioned Dick about his love life, Dick never said anything about him.
If it had just been that last, Tim would have written it off to the fact that he was still underage, and no way did either of them need for Bruce to find out (at least in a way which didn't have a great deal of plausible deniability).
"I'm sure you have an entire list of reasons why you believe that, but believe me, little brother…I do love you," Dick told him, before pressing the softest, sweetest kiss to Tim's lips.
Tim's tears had stopped flowing minutes before, having dried up, but the feelings that welled up inside of Tim's heart were too much for his body to contain. A few salty drops trailed down his cheeks as he looked up at Dick's hopefully smiling face. He wasn't entirely sure he could believe Dick's words, not in the face of his evidence, but…Dick wouldn't lie to him. Not to him. Not about this.
The tears were still falling, having yet to dry up this round. But something tight and miserable inside of Tim loosened, making him feel like he could breathe easy for the first time in way too long. "Okay," Tim said, and leaning into Dick's warm embrace, tucked his head under Dick's chin to listen to the steady beating of his heart.
"Are you?" Dick asked him. "Okay, I mean?"
Tim thought about that for a few minutes. He'd lost so many people, but with Dick besides him he'd managed a semblance of something normal. Without Dick, however… "I will be," he said with more hope than assurance, and closed his eyes on the newest batch of tears.
Maybe he couldn't count on anyone being there for him, not even Dick, but…Dick was still there, for right then, and Tim planned to make the most of it.