Wrote this in one go for a fear gas challenge on live journal, because the bunny wouldn't leave me alone. Besides, it's been years since I've gotten a really good scare-fic idea. Though people who know my stuff are going to notice a theme in common with a certain Digimon fic.
Disclaimer: Don't own Batman, Tim Drake, fear gas or anything else featured herein. It all belongs to DC comics. Except, you know, for the stuff I obviously made up.
He was falling.
He was falling, falling, and god, oh god, there was no line, no de-cel uncoiling at his side, in his hand, just the windows and buildings and Gotham rushing past him, the hard, cold, unforgiving ground coming up faster and faster until…
He closed his eyes at the last moment, but he couldn't hide from the impact. He expected it all to go black after that, but he felt every last moment: felt his head smash into the sidewalk and bounce back up, felt his neck snap and his shoulders shatter like glass, felt his ribs splinter up into his lungs and the hot blood as it rushed in, filling every cavity, flowing everywhere…
He felt every fatal blow as his body was crushed against the sidewalk (Street pizza! His mind laughed. Wasn't that what he'd called it once? Street pizza!) and then it all stopped.
Except that, it didn't.
Slowly, painfully, Tim opened his eyes. The lenses of Robin's mask were filled with blood, and it burned. Through the thick red, he could make out a shadow - a broken, misshapen shadow, that of his own hand, every bone shatter, just like the rest of him. He should have been dead.
And yet, somehow, he wasn't.
He took it a shuttered breath that he shouldn't have been able to take, letting it out again with a half-muffled sob. He pulled up an arm that he shouldn't have been able to move, pushing against the cold, hard stone to lift up the body he shouldn't have been able to lift, not the way he was. His head rolled forward on the broken neck that shouldn't have been able to support it, and the bloody mask slipped to the ground.
It took a moment for the watery tears to clear his vision enough to see, but one they had, only his locked elbow kept him from falling again.
There were headstones all around him. Graves, dark, blood stained graves. A cemetery. A cemetery he knew, but not one that he'd ever visited.
He'd landed in a god-damned cemetery.
The stone beneath his hands was marble, not concrete, completely covering an unfamiliar grave. No, wait, he could see it now…not unfamiliar. The angel, the hooded angel, he knew that angel.
Oh, god, Stephanie…
Tim choked down the sob, which gurgled disgustingly in the blood that had pooled in the back of his throat. He dragged himself to the edge of the stone cover, desperate to get away, and rolled off. More of his already fragile bird-bones splintered and cracked as he tumbled into the wet grass.
His head spun and he wondered why, why hadn't he passed out yet? But then his vision was clearing and he was looking up, up at two tarnished, dirty, ruined gold statues.
He forced himself to move, to get his bearings, and felt a hot bile rise up to mix with the blood. Behind Bart and Kon were more statues, a half-dozen more - Rose, Jamie, Megan, Cassie - all worn and neglected with years of rust. There, in the corner of his eye, were his parents' graves, all three of them - Dad, Mom and Dana, altogether in one place, their headstones splintered down the middle. And there, in the shadows of the other side, the symbol of the bat and a stone bird fleeing its perch…
"Bruce…Dick…" Tim could barely lift his body enough to crawl to the lonely stones, curling up beneath the fluttering bird. He ran his broken hand over the inscription and sobbed, partially in pain and partially with the sorrow of his reaffirmed fears. "Oh, god…Dick…Dick, no…"
He pulled his arm back and curled into the cool, protective shadow of the stone. He hurt, god, it all hurt so much, his heart, his body, everything. He wanted to pass out or go into shock or something, anything, just to make the pain end. It had to end, it had to…
"Why?" He gasped to no one. "Why the hell am I still alive?!"
"You shouldn't be so surprised."
The figured appeared from nowhere, from everywhere, stepping out of the shadows as calmly as though he'd been there all along. Tim's head rolled back and he pressed back against the stone despite himself. Enemy, villain, no, no, don't turn your back on them, don't let them see how scared you…
"You've always known it," the shadow said, pausing just a step in front of him, the voice cold, cruel and too familiar. "How else could you have lasted this long, while your friends - your super-powered, invulnerable, god-like friends - died around you? After all this time, do you really still believe that there is 'nothing special' about you?"
"N-No…" He was whimpering, actually whimpering, and Tim hated it, but he couldn't stop the sound. "It's not…possible…"
A gun. More pain. More blood in his mouth. Hot metal tore through the muscles of his heart, at yet it kept beating. He gagged, but kept breathing. He couldn't stop it.
"Not invulnerable. Unkillable. Alive even after your heart rots from your chest."
God, it burned, every shot burned white-hot, like his heart was being ripped out of his body. He could almost feel it dipping away, along with everything it had held. His feelings, his trust, his joy, his love…
"I told you, didn't I?" The cowl dropped away and that Batman looked down at him with cold, blue eyes that he knew too well, gazing over the top of the gun. "No matter what you try, you'll live. You'll grow - into me. No matter what you do - I am inevitable."
And then there was nothing he could do but scream and bang his head on the hard marble, trying to block it all out, trying to cover up the sounds, the lies, the truth…
"Robin! Robin, snap out of it! Robin! Tim!"
He was screaming, but it was muffled now, by plastic - a face mask, holding his head back, and the soft hiss of oxygen echoed in his ear. The graves were gone, but the darkness was there, shrieking at him - bats, the cave, his own echoing sobs. Batman - oh, god, Batman was there, but it wasn't the him, it couldn't be, not here - and so was Nightwing, who had both arms wrapped around him, pinning him to the hospital bed despite Robin's struggles to free himself.
"Tim, listen to me," Dick hissed in his ear, tightening his grip and pinning the smaller boy's arms to his sides. "You got a bad dose of Scarecrow's gas. We're working it out of your system, but you have to calm down or it's not going to work."
Tim clenched his eyes closed and bit back a whimpered. Gas? Scare…crow? That would be…
The arms around him shifted, moving from 'restraining' to 'cradling.' Large hands pet his hair oh-so-gently, and Dick's voice whispered softly in his ear. "It's okay, little brother. We're here, you're here. Whatever you're seeing…it's not real, Timmy. Just calm down…calm down…and let it go away…"
Tim sucked in the breath his lungs hadn't wanted to take, and there was a suddenly clarity as pure oxygen wrapped around his mind. He bit his lip, felt tears dripping off the edge of his chin, and leaned his head against Dick's with a light sob.
"Just a dream, just a nightmare," Dick whispered on the edge of his exhaustion. "Just let it all go away…"
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
Two nights later, Robin was on the streets again, technically alone but with Nightwing close enough to call for, should anything turn up. It was comforting, in a way, to know that Dick was nearby, but it didn't red Tim of the sickly iciness that still rested in the pit of his stomach.
He stood alone at his favorite spot - the top of Wayne Tower, the highest point in Gotham since the Quake - and looked down at the dizzying drop. The same drop that would await him if he just decided to…
The memory of shattered bones and not-death flitted through his mind, and Robin had to suppress a shudder. He sat down, dangling his legs off the edge, and just took a moment to regain his balance. His nerve. His peace of mind.
"I am inevitable."
Tim licked his lips and turned off his com link, just for a moment. He need to be alone, to think. To clear his mind. It was a dream, he reminded himself. A nightmare. An unnatural hallucination induced by a madman with nothing better to do with his time than toy with other peoples' psyche…
…But it had felt so real.
Tim pulled his left gauntlet off, rolling up the sleeve of the Robin costume to expose his lower arm. He flexed his hand a few times, watching the muscles stretch and contract. Watching the blue veins pulse beneath the skin. Watching the bones shift.
"How else could you have lasted this long…?"
"Do you really think that you're 'nothing special'?"
A Batarang flipped open in his other hand, its fingers protected by the black glove. The sharp edge was shaped perfectly to rest against the inside of his arm. A bat resting its wing. Just a rest. Just for a moment.
Tim watched the lights of the city reflect off the smooth black surface. Tasted the sweat as he licked his lips again. Felt the blood trickle, warm and thick, over his hand, dripping off the edge of the building and falling down, down into the street below.
Two cuts now, three, four. Long, but not deep, dripping blood like a lazy summer shower. He could press deeper, if wanted. Push harder, let it flow more and more. He could prove himself wrong. Or right. Or both. He could find out. Couldn't he? Could he? Would he…?
No. Couldn't. Don't want to know. Too…Too scared.
Robin sighed and put the Batarang away, turning his com back on in time to catch and sooth Nightwing's concerns as he applied a quick field dressing. No, nothing was wrong. Just resting. No worries.
The bleeding had stopped. Sleeves would hide the rest. Time Drake could wear long sleeves. It would fine. Fine, fine.
Meet in an hour? Sure. Nothing to worry about. No worries.
Robin stood, double-checking things. First his bandages, then the jump-line. He triple-checked the jump line. Just to be sure.
And then he stepped off of the edge and dropped down into the shadow of the night.