Still in the process of owning nothing

Rating: PG-13/T for some language, (mostly somewhat implied) violence, and character death

It's funny, the way that a single gunshot can shatter so many lives. I am incapable of forgetting that gunshot.

Tim wouldn't have said it, if he'd had the chance to before, but he was scared. I think he knew, deep down, that this was probably his day. I'd had my day before, the day that I didn't go home, the day that I left behind everyone I loved for the next life. Tim had brushed death so many times, had stared it right in the face so many times, that it wasn't hard to imagine that it had almost stopped affecting him so much. But, still, I don't think I've ever seen one person look as afraid as he did that day, when I looked at him. I think, deep down, he knew. He knew this was going to be the mission that he wasn't coming back from.

I denied it, sure, as did everyone. Tim had been there for all of us for so long that it was difficult to imagine life without him. I remember what I said to him, as we were unloading from the League shuttle. I touched his arm to get his attention, and then I murmured: "Tim, you're going to be okay. You're going to survive this one. I promise."

He shook his head at me, and once again, I realized how weird it was to see him in a cowl, without his telltale messy hair flying everywhere whenever he moved. His reply, emotionless and serious, chilled me to the bone: "You shouldn't make promises you can't deliver on, Conner."

Then, abruptly, the next moment seemed to be consumed with fighting. I'd never faced so many villains in my life, battled them for so long at once. We were beating them back, though, containing them in the inner city. We were almost victorious, when…when…

BANG!

I refuse to forget it, the shot that ended it all. I wasn't hit by it, but still, dozens of memories flashed before my eyes. Kissing Cassie for the first time, hanging out with Tim and Bart at the skate park, the Teen Titans…and then, I remembered the haze of being under Luthor's mind control, what it was like for me to be asleep and awake all at once and watching myself hurt my friends. I remembered what it was like to die, to just fade from existence and into the afterlife, or wherever I went. I didn't remember that, oddly enough. Then, there was an agonizing scream, and I knew it was Cassie. Bart started hollering at the top of his lungs for me to come quick, and so I came.

And then, I swear that my heart stopped beating for a full minute.

Tim lay motionless on the ground, sprawled where I suppose he'd fallen. I touched down next to my best friend, infinitely worried. What had happened to him?

Then, I saw the hilt of the knife jutting from his chest, the cracks in the Red Robin insignia spiraling out like spider's webs. I saw the tiny, round hole in the black cloth at the forehead of his cowl. And the blood, bright red and still warm from being inside him, it was pooling underneath him like a gruesome horror film. Carefully, cautiously, I peeled back the cowl from his face. I had to suppress the urge to turn away in disgust. His blue eyes were rolled up in his head, as if staring at the bullet wound in his forehead, the wound that was still leaking blood onto his pale, pale skin and sticking his too-long black hair to his face. Even though it was useless, I pressed my fingers gently to his throat, searching for a pulse, and finding nothing.

No heartbeat.

No pulse.

No life.

Tim was dead.

With the utmost care, I closed his eyes for the final time before tearing his own cape from his back and covering him with it. Cassie fell, sobbing, into my arms, and I must confess that I felt a lot like crying, too. Tim had been my best friend from day one. He'd accepted me without question, and he'd always forgiven me so easily, even after I broke his arm or hurt his feelings. He had always been there to guide us all in his quiet way of leadership, so that we never knew how much he looked to him until we actually devoted a certain amount of thought to it. I couldn't imagine life without my best friend, without Red Robin, without…Tim. Now, I'd have to experience it.

Was this how he'd felt, after that Crisis almost three years ago? Now I understood.

I refuse to forget it, the shot that ended it all. Because it took from me the only person I had ever thought of like something of a brother.

~ The End ~