Alfred set out a large glass of chocolate milk on the counter,

Title: Tim's Evening

Author: Faith Harris

Ships: Dick/Bruce

Disclaimer: I own none of these characters.

Summary: Tim has a rough night, processing what happens right in front of his eyes.

A/N: I'm putting this under comics, but honestly, I can't remember which continuity I was reading at the time that I wrote this piece. I'm sorry, I wish I remembered.

Alfred set out a large glass of chocolate milk on the counter, right before turning around to clean out the fridge. Tim looked down at the glass for a beat, taking in the unassuming milky brown liquid as it slowly sloshed to a complete stop. He glanced up at the clock on the wall; three thirty-seven in the morning, he knew that Alfred wasn't merely having a moment of kindness.

Alfred knew, and that only served to twist the knife in Tim's gut a little deeper.

With a long, heavy sigh, Tim put his hands on either side of the tall glass and mused on how he had managed to find himself in this particular conundrum. Oh, Tim knew how it had happened. It happened the same way that everything happened. It came from the pathetically insular crowd that he 'hung out' with- if by hanging out with he really meant that he fought crime with them.

Everything that fell under the Bats' dark and gloomy umbrella was insular. It was all good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, and none of them ever got involved with anyone that didn't fit under those categories. Not, Tim grimaced, that 'involved' was any part of his situation. He was far from 'involved' with anyone, and that was part of the problem.

He could have tried. He had tried. He could even, when he was away from Wayne Manor, almost convince himself that he could date. It was the same act that Bruce seemed to fall into- Dick did it too, sometimes, but never as much as Bruce or even Tim. When away from the Bat, Tim could hear himself being the normal teenaged boy, but part of his mind was always miles away, somewhere near the batcave, and that part of him keep him from really believing what he said.

Sure, he argued with Bruce as if he believed it. Tim had to, because if he didn't, he would know that he didn't believe himself. And once that happened…well, if there was anyone that Tim loved, but didn't want to become, it was Bruce Wayne.

Even if part of him ached to be Bruce, if only for a little while. Tim closed his eyes for a second, willing himself not to cry. He would not cry in that kitchen, even if it felt as if he was going shatter into a million pieces. He would not have Alfred sweep up his remains tonight.

Tim didn't really think that any of them were going to be able to have anything with someone outside their inner circle. Really, who could deal with any of them? No one could understand them enough to stick around when things got bad, not unless they were fellow crimefighters. That went without saying.

And really, that sort of limited connection with the outside world…it made things messy. At best. Tim wasn't thinking about just sex; sex could be had if that was all that he was searching for. He didn't think that any one of them had difficulty finding sex if they needed it. That wasn't the problem. It was the connection that Tim craved, that he thought he'd felt, found…

Well, he thought grimly, that hadn't gone the way that he had hoped.

Tim would have liked to have been able to voice his feelings before having his heart ripped out from his ribcage. He would have liked to have at least gotten a chance to be rejected before seeing his hopes crumble.

It was the suit. It had to be the suit. Tim looked down at himself, and even though he wasn't wearing the Robin suit, he still felt as if he had it on. Sure, he'd always felt a little silly in his costume, when he compared it to the Batsuit, but it had never been quite as uncomfortable as he felt now. Robin's bright colors and childlike styling just didn't compare to the sleek, intimidating lines of the Batsuit. Especially, Tim considered, when Bruce Wayne was busy filling it out.

If Tim was being honest with himself, he knew it wasn't the suit. Batman, Bruce Wayne, was so much more than a perfectly sculpted rubber suit. He was the Bat, the big boss, the big and scary intimidating—and okay, sexy. There, Tim said it. He could see where someone could think Bruce was sexy.

The image that had been burned into his mind since earlier that evening flashed in front of his closed eyes. Nightwing- Dick- up against the wall of the cave, hands achingly wrapped around the waist of the Bat- of Bruce. Bruce, the bat mask tossed over to the side almost haphazardly by the computer desk. Dick's half-mask still on as he let Bruce kiss him, as his hands tried their damned hardest to explore Bruce's body through the suit.

Tim was fairly sure that they hadn't known that he was there. They couldn't know that he was there, because Bruce never would have allowed anyone to see him in that sort of …uncontrolled situation. He especially wouldn't have let Tim see. Bruce would have thought that it was…irresponsible. And it was, but not for the reasons that Bruce thought.

The curious, detective part of Tim wanted to know where Bruce and Dick started this. They probably started out fighting, he thought ruefully, and then whatever millions of things that they weren't saying to each other came back to slap them in the face. Bruce tried not to feel things, but when he did, he felt them deeply, almost too deeply sometimes. Dick always felt things deeply.

They all did, actually. That was why Tim was up in the middle of the night, a non-patrol night, sitting in front of a glass of chocolate milk. Tim's tendency to fall and fall hard had him feeling miserable and restless.

He couldn't explain how or why it had happened. It had started out innocently. Of course Tim had hero worship when it came to Dick Greyson- he was the original Robin, he was Nightwing for goodness' sake. It came with the territory. Half of Tim couldn't figure out whether he wanted to show Dick up or if he was dead scared he wasn't going to live up to him.

There wasn't a person in the world who could honestly say that they hadn't taken in a long look at Dick's body before, at the lines and angles of it. Dick was handsome, and when he laughed…if it hadn't been for Bruce's training in stressful situations, Tim would have been sure that he'd fall apart each time Dick laughed.

So it started out as hero worship, and then hormones and lust came into it, and from there…it wasn't just a crush. No, that would have been too simple for the Bat crew, and lord knew that they could never do anything that simple. Tim had fallen pathetically head over heels for Dick. He loved every time Dick came to Gotham from Bludhaven, and he relished every time he got to train with Nightwing. Yeah, maybe he came more alive when that happened, but he knew that Dick and Bruce just chalked it up to him enjoying a slightly less authoritarian teacher. It was more than that, much more.

Tim fiddled with the rim of the glass as he tried to banish the image of Dick and Bruce from his mind. How long had it been going on? Since Bludhaven? Since Dick had turned eighteen? Since before that? Tim couldn't begin to guess; when they wanted to, Dick and Bruce could push emotions underneath their shells. Tim could piece together puzzles, knew he was a natural detective, but there was only so much he could do without clues.

Was it a purely sexual relationship? Tim doubted it. With the history that Bruce and Dick had, Tim didn't think that they could have a sexual arrangement. Maybe Bruce could convince himself that his emotions were completely divorced from the physical, but Dick couldn't, wouldn't try. So there had to be more to their relationship. Enough to it where Tim knew that he would never have an in.

He hadn't expected to be so pained by this situation. He knew that Dick had dated, had even had a thing with Barbara. Still, that wasn't the same as seeing Dick with another man, and having that man be Bruce Wayne. How could Tim compare? Dick probably just saw Tim as the little kid. At best, Tim was the little brother.

More knives stuck into his gut.

"Master Tim, might I suggest that your chocolate milk would be put to better use if you drank it?" Alfred spoke up, closing the refrigerator.

Tim jumped at the sound of the older man's voice, and as soon as he looked up at Alfred, he could feel his cheeks flushing. He looked back down at his hands. "Yeah, of course. I know, Alfred, thanks."

Alfred's gaze was a searching one, and Tim really didn't want to be the focus of that particular look. He almost preferred when Alfred already knew everything that was going on in his head instead of having to sit there while Alfred pieced it together.

The little trouble alarm was going off in Tim's head, telling him that if he didn't get up and go to bed he'd end up talking to Alfred about the muddled mess inside of his own head. He was itching to get up and go, but for some reason he hadn't started moving yet. "Hey, Al…thanks."

Alfred gave Tim a short nod before turning around again to start preparing some tea for himself. Not having to look Alfred in the eye was a relief for Tim, and it meant that he didn't have to keep turning away. That didn't stop his fidgeting, however. "It's my pleasure."

How to word what Tim wanted to say next? He wasn't sure how to voice that he was….that it hurt. He wasn't even sure what hurt more: that Dick was with Bruce, or that they had kept it a secret. His words came out in a rush, without stopping to take heed of what his brain wanted. "How long have Dick and Bruce been together?"

If Alfred was surprised at Tim's question, he didn't show it. He was better than Bruce at keeping his emotions tightly wrapped up, but he did it more naturally, more comfortably than Bruce could. It wasn't a forced act. "Seven months, give or take."

Alfred knew exactly how long Dick and Bruce had been together, but Tim was grateful for his lie. Not that it was a lie exactly, Alfred really didn't do much direct lying to Tim, but Tim was grateful just the same.

"And they're…I mean," Tim stopped himself, and thought very carefully about his next few words. "Bruce still brings women with him to public events."

"I think that you can understand Master Bruce's need for discretion in the less public aspects of his life," Alfred answered. After putting his teapot on the stove, he sat down across from Tim, folding his hands in his lap.

Tim swallowed the lump that was in his throat. "But-but…no one would…there are rumors anyway, you know, about the two of them."

"You would be amazed at how proof of those very rumors would affect stock in Wayne Enterprises. There are some parts of the business world that have nothing to do with business." Tim didn't really want to talk about that part of the relationship, and he knew that Alfred knew that.

"Why didn't they tell me?"

"Neither of them are very good at broaching important conversations with those that they care about," Alfred replied. "I imagine that Master Dick would have wanted to share this with you, but Master Bruce…"

"Bruce wouldn't want to share info about his sex life with the kid," Tim grimaced. Hearing that Dick wanted to talk about his relationship didn't actually make Tim very happy. If anything, it pained him even more.

Alfred sighed. "Master Bruce feels responsible for you. Sees you as his child. Certain conversations are…inappropriate in that sort of a relationship."

Tim knew that Alfred was right in his assessment, but that didn't mean that Tim had to like it. He slowly pulled his hands away from his milk and into his lap. "I know that, Al, but still…they should have told me."

"I don't disagree," Alfred said after a beat. "If they had spoken to you, perhaps certain things could have been…avoided." Like Tim being served his own heart on a plate. Maybe his emotions could have spared a little. Although he wasn't sure how well he would have been able to hide his reaction had Dick been looking him in the face.

As if Tim attracted uncomfortable situations, Dick came into the kitchen, dressed in flannel pants and a black sleeveless shirt. He headed straight for the refrigerator, rummaging through the fridge's supplies to find the turkey from earlier that night and some mustard. When he finally poked his head out from behind the refrigerator door, he looked as if he hadn't realized he wasn't alone in the kitchen. He smiled at both Tim and Alfred. "Hey, didn't see you there. Shouldn't you be getting some sleep?"

Tim found himself chugging down his chocolate milk, not pausing to take a breath. By the time he finished the supposed 'comfort drink' he was gasping. "Y-yeah," Tim panted. He forced himself to take a moment to catch his breath while Dick looked on, confused and a little concerned. "W-w-was just g-g-getting to bed. Thanks, Al, goodnight."

He nearly jumped out of the seat as he made his way out. He stopped right outside of the kitchen, leaning on the wall as he tried to collect himself. Tim leaned his head against the wall, his eyes shut tight and his fists curled up at his sides. Dick had no idea.

Tim could hear Dick in the kitchen with Alfred. "Whoa, Al, what's up with Tim?" Alfred's voice was quite, careful as he made an excuse for Tim. Dick's response was hesitant. "Think I should go talk to him?"

Tim clenched his jaw and made his way to his bedroom. He didn't want to hear Alfred's response.