(continuation of A Night Out – might wanna read that first, I dunno.)
I don't own them, etc etc. etc etc.
On with the show.
Robin sat on the building's cold stone roof, out of breath. He leaned his head on the roof's ledge, feeling like his heart was going to burst. Calm down, Tim. A panic attack isn't going to help, he told himself. But it did no good.
"Tonight's not a good night for this," he told God, praying there was a God who would listen. "I have a test tomorrow."
"I'm afraid these things seldom occur in opportune moments."
"THANKS," Robin said loudly, attempting to fix his mind upon anything else than the crumbling of his universe.
"I threw down some more smoke pellets, it ought to make them a little disoriented."
"Disorientation isn't going to save me. NOTHING is going to save me. His eyes met mine, and I could see it—it's all over." Tim rose, swallowing his heart, feeling it painfully throb within him. "I guess the only question is—now or later, you know? Face the music now, before I can get myself more worked up, I guess."
Batman placed his hand on his young partner's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Robin." He didn't have anything more to offer than that. He was a man of planning and preparation. Nothing could prepare one for… a chance meeting. His lips pressed together. Every major turning point in his life had been determined by chance. Losing another partner tonight seemed to be just another in a long list of life's cruel twists.
Robin sniffed and tried to stand up straight; though it was a great effort to make his body do this. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He'd always hoped—always prayed that he would go down in battle. That he would not dishonor the suit, or face life without it.
He gave a half-hearted wave, and started on what perhaps could be his last flight over the city.
* * *
There was two small lights on in the den, Victorian wall sconces that emitted dark amber hues that reflected Jack Drake's mood. As much as he desired the bright light of reason, he refused to flip that switch. If he did, things would only become more painfully vivid in his mind.
Jack Drake was sitting in his den, trying not to laugh. It was all suddenly so clear, now.
"Let Tim talk," Dana said. "Just… let him explain."
Jack shook his head. "There isn't much explaining to do."
The room had grown cold. "I… I would like it if you'd let me try, sir."
When Jack looked, Robin stood inside the opened window, in full regalia. "What explanation could you give? I only have one thing to ask—how… how long?"
"A-after mom died." Jack's heart sunk.
"You'd do that to me? So instead of losing ONE person I care about, I could run the risk of losing two?"
Tim bit his lips. He would not tell that his training, the secrets, had begun before then. He hadn't put on the costume until his mother's passing. "You were so sick… they didn't even hold out much hope for you. I did it… mostly to fight the pain."
"And what would I have done—what will I do, if I lose you?"
"Offering yourself to the Joker is careful?"
Robin took a step forward, closer to the lamp light, closer to his father. "My life for yours. I thought it was a fair trade."
"Well, I dont!" Jack rose and turned his back on his son. This was far beyond the worrying Timothy had put him through in the last four years. This was above and beyond—"So. How does one end up as the side-kick of an urban legend?"
"None of your business," Tim said smartly. He regretted his tone. But the rest of the secrets were not his to give.
"I gave you everything in life—and your answer is to go out and put yourself in mortal danger?"
"You gave me NOTHING, dad. I'd sit at home and wait for you and mom to come back. Waiting for SOME sign of affection. My friends call the Bat the coldest guy in the universe. No, dad. That title belongs to you. At least before the—accident. And now you suddenly want this 'relationship' and you're mad because I'm not biting. I HAVE a life. I've built a life for myself, and it doesn't involve YOU. That's probably what makes you angriest, isn't it?"
"You are a month under sixteen. You are not ENTITLED to a life. You are a CHILD."
"I stopped being a child a LONG time ago." Robin tried so hard to rein in his emotions, to keep them under control. They swelled up within him and died back, and he was barely able to keep the hurt and hostility from flying out of him like daggers.
"You are a minor, and my responsibility."
"What responsibility might that be? Dumping me on servants? Shipping me off to boarding school when I get to be too much?"
Dana had watched the proceedings, frozen. Now she moved between them. "Jack—Timothy… we… we can talk about this." She was scared, as scared as she had been when that gun was pointing at her husband. This was a side she'd never seen of them before, angry, hurt, bitter.
"Apparently there is no solution to be reached, Dana. My son doesn't want anything I have to give him. He'd rather run around with a Bat than spend time in this house."
Tim's features changed. His pure hate radiated from his furrowed brow. "At least the Bat is happy to have me around." Excluding the majority of that No Man's Land thing, of course, he thought to himself bitterly. Hell, it didn't even take Bruce a whole year to come to his senses. Bruce was a hard soul, and even HE had cracked eventually. So what was his father's problem?
"You seem to think I'm some kind of terrible kid. Well, I'm not." So why did he feel like the most horrible kid in the entire world? It wasn't his nature to get into arguments, or to say the type of cruel things he'd said—and these things continued issuing from his mouth.
"You're not a terrible kid, Timothy. I think you're a… a good kid. You must be a good person… and good at what you do…" Dana's words faltered.
"It's too late for that, Dana," Tim told her. "It's too late for a lot of things." He moved towards the window.
"Don't you dare go out that window, boy."
"What are you going to do? Stop me?"
Dana realized they were at a dangerous junction, but she did not know what to do.
"I can make your life miserable enough."
"Like you have for the last fifteen years? I've beat the Joker. Several times now, on my own. Certainly I can handle Jack Drake and any problems he wishes to create—legal or otherwise. ."
Jack swallowed, and looked Robin over from head to toe. "You're not my son. You are some red devil."
Timothy knew he was pushing things, saying things that were intended to make his father angry, but this was too much. A red devil… not his son…
"If I am not your son, then you have no claim to me. I can walk out this window and return to hell."
"Timothy, you don't have to go--" Dana reached a hand to him,
"I don't see how I can stay." He made a gesture towards his father. "Maybe its best that I don't. Listen, I'll be fine."
The boy was calming down. His voice had grown gentle when he'd spoken to her just now. She came just a little closer. "Tim, Robin… He's just startled, is all." She held out a hand to him. He looked at it. "Now that we know… Well, things make sense. We can make adjustments."
Why did Tim feel like he was being talked off a ledge? "Impossible," he said in that stone cold Bat-voice he hated so much.
The boy seemed to age at least three years before her eyes. The polite, respectful boy who'd made her feel so welcome had become a man. "Why, Tim? Why can't this… this thing make things better? It's been a horrible night. First the… thing. Then… the other thing… We're all just upset."
"Practicality. What you know places you in danger. That is why you were not told." Tim could feel it happening. The emotions that had been welling up within him had sunk deep down, and were slipping beneath the quicksand of his soul. He wasn't angry with his father, but he knew he was in a trap now, more hideous than anything else he'd faced. "Can you continue on, knowing I go out night after night?"
"You wont be going out, night after night," Jack quipped.
Dana scowled at her husband. Didn't he realize, if Robin went out that window, he'd never come back? Was Jack that blind?
"You can't stop me," he said, staring at his father, betraying no emotion. "It is my job. My place in the world. I've done enough questioning of it and myself. As much as I love you. As much as it's always been my dream to have a real relationship with you—I am needed elsewhere."
There was an incredible silence. Dana dared look from Jack to Tim. She could not contest what he was saying—no matter what she was feeling inside. If she did, it was all over. "We can't stop you, Timothy. You're right. You're clever and strong. Don't listen to your father. Stay here because I want you to?" One more step closer, her hand still out-stretched. "He's had a terrible night. Let him sleep it off. We can discuss this in the morning. As adults."
It was so tempting to reach out and take her hand. She was so close now. All he would have to do is take his hand off the window sill and place it in hers. Could he do that? "I can't sleep here tonight," he said gently. It was her feelings he cared about, not his fathers. "If-if you will have me—we can meet in the morning. I can call you and tell you where."
Dana nodded. "If you feel that is best. I will meet you."
Robin slowly slid over the sill. "Tim—Robin—Timothy." He stopped when he heard the catch in his father's voice. "Tomorrow. Come here. We… we will talk then." It wasn't an ultimatum, as Timothy was used to getting from his father. More of a pleading request, a desperate search for understanding.
"I will, dad. Tomorrow morning. I'll come here." He slipped the rest of the way out the window, like a piece of silk traveling on the wind. The boy disappeared into the darkness as soon as he crossed the window frame.
Dana went to the window and looked out, feeling the cool breeze upon her burning cheeks. There was no sign of him. She closed the window slowly, leaving it unlatched, letting him know he was still welcome there. They'd almost lost him forever. She didn't know whether to scold her husband or hold him. They'd been given tomorrow. They'd been given a second chance. Could they pull their strength and good sense together to make sure it did not turn out to be such a disaster? Staring at her reflection in the dark glass, she prayed that they wouldn't ruin their second chance.
From the grass below, Robin remained still. The window closed, but the dark spot in the window remained. She was still standing there. Looking for him? He did not know. It was always the people in his life who were not bound to him that held on to him the tightest. The Bat clan had no claim to him. He'd been an interloper and nothing more, and now they were more to him than his other ties. His step mother had held out her hand to him, when she had no duty or cause. And yet his father—the one he'd been waiting to hear those words from for so long—the words Batman may feel but was incapable of saying—the words only his father could say and mean—did not feel these things.
His chin rested on his chest, and his eyes clenched shut, holding back the salty water of his misery. His father had asked to see him, had left the door opened, but what would be the price he asked of Robin?
When at last the figure moved from the window and the curtains swung back into place, Robin moved off into the darkness feeling as though his execution had been set for dawn. The demands would no doubt be too great, the cost too dear, and Robin would have to part ways. He loved his family, but the end of Robin would be the end of his life—the end of what he existed for. The other things were peripheral, especially since the dawn of the age of Brentwood. The only time he existed with purpose and assurance was in costume, and the rest of his life was marked with the unhappiness of wanting what wouldn't be.
His world had exploded tonight. Tomorrow it would wither and die, either way. The loss of his father, or the loss of the suit. Tim could see no other solution, and for that he felt trapped. All he had was tonight. The eye of the storm. He'd passed through the beginning of the end, and unless there was divine intervention, dawn would be the end of the end.