It's been three weeks since Tim's injury and he's finally able to walk around the manor mostly unassisted. Bruce insists on being with him in case something happens. However, Tim doesn't need to lean on him, and he isn't constantly in pain or exhausted anymore, so he'll take what he can get. Their walks inside the manor have been tranquil and intriguing. Tim is almost getting accustomed to Bruce's presence, which he thinks is a rather odd concept.
Tim has to admit he's fascinated by the differences between this manor and the one back home. He knows that the stark differences are due to more than just the lack of certain people's existence. After all, there are definitely certain portraits and various others artifacts that haven't been destroyed by disasters, attacks, or arguments.
However, there's more to it than that. There's décor that seems to only fit the people who call this manor home. It's captivating to see something so unique to this world that doesn't leave Tim feeling nauseous and homesick. If he's honest it's also a little relieving.
This manor has so many subtle contrasts from the one back home that it actually feels like an entirely new place. It's something that Tim didn't even notice he needed. After all, the team's HQ is a completely unfamiliar place, but it doesn't particularly feel unique. There's a bland standardization to it that reminds Tim of everything the JL has built, even the bunkers, back home.
However, the manor isn't like that. It's distinctively dissimilar from the one back home in various and charming ways. This manor has such a different atmosphere. It just seems more expansive, calmer, and yet, somehow, less lonely. It's lively in a way that speaks of family, specifically one that isn't constantly fighting or on the verge of fighting. However, Tim knows that he might only feel that way because he's been surrounded by genuinely peaceful companions while he's been staying here. It pains him that he can't say the same thing for his own home.
Still, Tim's rather intrigued to see how much the grounds diverge from the ones back home. He knows that the most glaringly obvious difference is going to be the absence of certain graves, but Tim's hoping that he can avoid that particular area entirely. He truly doesn't see any reason Bruce would drag him that way anyway.
As Tim sits on his bed waiting for Bruce, he tries to focus on how nice being outside in a t-shirt and jeans instead of his Red Robin attire is going to feel. For once, it's actually bright enough to justify his sunglasses. Tim reminds himself to once again thank Alfred for his extensive shopping trip for Tim's entire wardrobe. He wants to be surprised that Alfred was able to so easily pick out items that suit him, but well… it's Alfred.
His thoughts are interrupted by a gentle knock on the door. Tim takes a deep breath - which is surprisingly easier than he's grown accustomed to recently - and gets to his feet. He's not surprised to see Bruce standing outside his door, but the genuinely genial smile on his face is something that Tim doubts he'll ever truly become acclimated to.
"Ready to go?"
Tim nods and the two of them make their way slowly through the manor and outside. Tim can't keep the smile off of his face as he breathes in the fresh air without a full cowl for once. "I didn't realize how much I missed being outside during daylight hours."
Bruce chuckles as the two of them walk past Alfred's rosebushes, which Tim notices are marginally bigger than the ones back home. He's fairly certain that it might have something to do with the fact that, unlike the ones back home, these rosebushes haven't been uprooted a time or two thanks to certain attacks on the manor. "If I'm not mistaken, there were a few people who suggested it to you."
Tim ducks his head. It's true, but that doesn't mean Bruce needs to say it. "Okay, yes, fresh air and daylight are good for me, and when I get back to the team I will take going outside more often under advisement."
Bruce places a hand on his shoulder. "And working less."
Tim's head whips to the side so fast that he actually staggers a little. He can't believe that any Bruce would say something so blasphemous. "I'm barely working as it is."
Bruce raises an eyebrow at him, and Tim isn't certain how to feel about the fact that this is the expression that he's most familiar with on that particular face. "I know what you've been doing."
Tim stills instantly all over and his breath catches in his throat. He has no idea how he's going to talk himself out of this one. If it was his own Bruce, he could fall back on the years they've worked together, and Bruce's own knowledge of Tim, to assure him that everything he's been doing is only what he feels is right.
Tim could explain the whole situation with Jason and - while his Bruce might be angry and disappointed in him - he would also understand. This one… well, Tim doesn't know enough about this Bruce to know how he's going to react. Though, he's reasonably certain that Bruce didn't bring him out here to bury him under the giant oak tree. "Look, Bruce…"
Bruce shakes his head and Tim immediately falls silent. "I appreciate it, but you don't need to do anything."
Tim blinks rapidly a few times and then just stares. He has no idea how to explain that he definitely does, or, at least, he doesn't know how to do nothing, especially in regard to Jason. "I disagree."
Bruce sighs. "You don't need to overwork yourself. I appreciate that you were able to do what I failed to do in relation to Clark and that you were able to guide Black Canary and assist Roy, but you don't need to spend all of your time mending the interpersonal conflicts of the team and the JLA."
Tim breathes a sigh of relief as he attempts to calm himself. This has to be the only time he's ever been thankful that he wasn't on the same page as Batman. "I was able to help, so I did. Plus, those little things improved the team as a whole. It's nothing, really."
Bruce squeezes Tim's shoulder. "Don't belittle your contributions. You've helped all of us immensely since you've been here. Be proud of that. I am."
Tim doesn't know how to respond to this Bruce's pride. Hell, he doesn't even know how to respond to his own Bruce's pride anymore, so Tim does what he always does in this situation and merely changes the subject. "We should keep walking. I don't want to waste my first time walking around the outside of the manor."
Bruce gives him a rather pointed stare before gesturing for them to continue. Tim knows that he most likely only got away with that because he's injured, but he'll take it. As they tread further away from the manor itself and farther into the surrounding area, it occurs to Tim that they should be rather close to a place that probably holds more meaning to him than anywhere else on the manor grounds. "Hey Bruce, are the old stables still on the grounds?"
Bruce seems surprised by the sudden query, but he doesn't question it. "Yes, it's over this way."
He leads Tim over to the stables with a hand on his arm, and - though Tim doesn't feel like he needs the help - he's grateful that Bruce is there when he stumbles into a gopher hole. "I'm surprised Alfred hasn't hunted down the poor creature that made this hole yet."
Bruce smiles as he steadies Tim and checks him over, but Tim's no worse for wear. "I would say it's because he doesn't know about it yet, but… it's Alfred."
Tim has to agree with Bruce on that one. Alfred seemingly always knows everything, no matter what earth he's from. They stop in front of the stables, and Tim just takes it all in. He honestly didn't know what he expected, but looking at the stables is like being back at home, only in the past. "Man, it looks so similar to before I moved in."
"You lived in the stables?"
Tim doesn't think that he's ever heard such outrage in his own Bruce's voice before, at least, not when it wasn't directed at criminals. Honestly, Tim has no idea why the man is so upset about this. "Yeah, I spent some time working in Bludhaven and when I got back I was so used to my own space that I was relieved when Bruce let me convert the stables into an apartment. It worked out really well, but then I got adopted, and Bruce gave me Dick's old room, and well… there just wasn't a need for my own apartment on the grounds anymore."
Bruce stares at him for a long time. "He gave you Dick's old room? Were there no other available rooms in the manor?"
Tim's eyebrows furrow in confusion. "What? No, Bruce just knew I would feel more comfortable there… like I belonged."
"You felt like you belonged more in a room that was not your own?"
Bruce sounds truly baffled and Tim just sighs heavily as he resists the urge to rub his temples. "I mean, it became my own eventually."
"And before that, you lived alone on the grounds in the stables?"
Tim nods and ignores Bruce's expression of utter confusion. "Yeah, it was my own space, which was something I desperately valued at the time. You know, now that I think about it, maybe once I get home I'll ask Bruce if I can stay out there again. I mean, that is if it doesn't need to be rebuilt again. Who knows what's happening while I'm here? Either way, it certainly beats spending time with… um, certain people."
Bruce inclines his head as he gestures for them to move on. "Yes, Dick did mention something about your struggles with your family back home. Perhaps time away will be good for all of you."
Tim doubts that immeasurably, but he doesn't say anything. After all, this Bruce doesn't need to concern himself with Tim's problems, especially when there's nothing that either one of them can do about it at this current juncture. Still, the thought of having his own space near the manor again is a tempting one. Truth be told, Tim's not entirely certain why; especially considering the fact that he has his own apartment back home.
It's been over a month since Tim's injury. He's finally getting back into training, which has Tim practically bouncing on the balls of his feet. He really thought he was going to end up doing something drastic toward the end of his mandatory rest.
Although, if Tim's honest with himself, he has a feeling that Bruce and Alfred could tell that he was going stir-crazy. After all, he can't imagine any other reason that they would give him unrestrained access to the entire manor before he had even returned to training. Unless, of course, Dick had a talk with them, but honestly, lately he's been just as bad as the other two.
Still, Tim's relieved that he no longer needs to literally lean on someone just to get from room to room or have constant supervision. It's one thing to be stranded here - unable to perform his usual duties - but it's another thing entirely to be a burden upon everyone else while also being virtually useless.
Tim still isn't allowed to return to the HQ yet, but he honestly can't wait to resume all of his projects. He hasn't heard any news about the efforts to send him home, but Tim doesn't blame anyone for focusing on others things while he recovered. After all, it's not as though he's actually fit for mutliverse travel right now.
Tim makes his way down to the cave while mentally adjusting his training routine to accommodate his still weakened state. Honestly, he's just happy to have some time to himself for a change. Tim appreciates that Alfred, Bruce, Dick, and Roy have all bothered to keep him company and distracted him while he was still mostly on bed rest, but Tim simply isn't acclimated to the constant presence of people.
Even at the HQ, Tim still had plenty of time and space to himself. Especially when the team was out on missions, but ever since he was injured, Tim has had someone with him almost all of the time. It's gotten to the point that the room that he's been staying in and the manor as a whole has been feeling rather oppressive, even his trips outside around the manor have only been a small reprieve.
Still, Tim's more than ready to have more freedom and time to himself while he's actually conscious. He knows that the pain meds made him drowsy and actually healing drained a lot of his energy, but Tim feels as though he's spent the majority of his recovery mostly unconscious. It'll feel good to do more than just walk around and sleep.
Tim's also looking forward to some time to himself for an entirely different reason. He desperately needs a break from worrying about the strange glances that he keeps receiving from Alfred, Bruce, and Dick when they think that he's not paying attention. It should be obvious that he's always paying attention. Then again, perhaps there are still a few too many instances when he expects them to act like their counterparts back home.
Tim knows that it's been long enough that he should have adjusted by now, but he can't help it. There are so many moments when he expects them to react in a familiar way, and it's always exceedingly jarring when it doesn't happen. Tim wonders if perhaps the peculiar glances are due to his own reactions.
It would make sense, even though he's not entirely certain how they expect him to react. Besides, Tim has a feeling there's more to it than that. He just doesn't know what exactly it is yet.
Tim mentally shakes his head as he saunters over to the training mats. Now isn't the time to be thinking about all of that. After all, he wanted a break from everything and this training session is supposed to help with that.
He starts with some simple stretches, noting when the stretches cause more than a little discomfort and adjusting as necessary. The last thing that he needs right now is to overdo it and push back all of his healing. After all, Tim still has so much to do once he's cleared to go back to the team.
Again, Tim takes a deep breath and tries to clear his head. He's never struggled so much to compartmentalize and focus before he came here. However, Tim thinks that he can cut himself some slack. After all, things haven't been going his way for a long time now and he can't entirely blame that on impromptu multiverse travel.
Tim is just about to move into the first part of his workout when he hears footsteps approaching him. He spins around to see Roy making his way over to him with a large grin on his face and a bag slung over his shoulder. "I heard they finally let you do more than walk around."
"And yet, I still have a chaperon." Tim wants to sigh heavily, but he's starting to think that he should have expected this. He doesn't know why the heroes of this earth seem so reluctant to let him have time to himself, but Tim supposes that it's just one more thing that he will eventually have to adapt to.
Truth be told, Tim wonders if his willingness to just accept their presence so easily is because their watchful gaze doesn't seem to hold the same weight and disappointment as everyone's back home. However, it's not as if Tim hasn't noticed that their presence is actually less stress-inducing than he's grown acclimated to from most people. Tim wonders what it says about him that he can't actually decipher if that's strictly a distinction between this world and his own or not.
Before Tim can get any more lost in his own thoughts, Roy rolls his eyes as he tosses his bag to the floor. It's the thud of the bag hitting the stone floor of the cave that has Tim redirecting his attention. "Don't be like that. I'm not here to babysit. I just genuinely wanted to see how you were doing and join in on your training."
"You know, I can hear the irrefutably implied 'and ensure I don't overdo it' that you're clearly not saying out loud." Tim glares but gestures for Roy to join him. After all, sparring with a partner is almost always better.
"Well, I'm not denying anything, but, come on, it'll be fun." Roy grins as he steps onto the mat.
Tim gives Roy some time to warm up and then the two of them work through a slow-paced light spar. By the end of it, Tim is only mildly annoyed to find himself still tiring faster than he normally would, but he can't deny that Roy was right. It was actually fun. It's to be expected that he's still weaker than normal, but it leaves Tim internally cringing at all of his self-imposed deadlines that have been piling up and will continue to do so.
Tim takes a seat on the ground as Roy retrieves a bottle of water for both of them. "So, where is everyone else today?"
Tim takes the offered bottle with a nod. "Science fair."
"Oh yeah, Dick did mention that. He told me that you helped him with his project. I'm sure you regret that you're missing it."
Tim rolls his eyes. "All I did was sit there while he recited his presentation. Dick gives me far too much credit."
Roy shakes his head. "Nice try, but he already told me that you pointed out all of the flaws and he went to you multiple times to help him tweak both the presentation as well as the project. You just can't handle admitting it."
Tim sighs but doesn't bother to argue with Roy. After all, if there's one thing that Tim has learned during his time here, it's that there's no point. "So, any updates on that other project of ours that I should know about?"
"I was wondering how long it would take you to ask." Roy grins mischievously as he gets up and runs over to his bag. He starts digging through it and then pulls out a small envelope. "He made this for you and told me to tell you to visit when you're done being lame."
Tim opens the envelope to find a folded piece of paper inside. He opens it to see a drawing of a green toy army soldier broken in half with a little word bubble over its head that just says 'Ow!'. He can't help but laugh. Jason's way of communicating has gotten interesting over the weeks that Tim has been unable to see him. "His art is improving."
"Yeah, I was a little surprised when you told me to go get all those supplies, but it only took a week before he had broken down and started using every last one of them." Roy nudges him to take another drink.
Tim does so, but not before muttering, "Mother hen," under his breath.
Roy, for his part, just ignores him. "However, that was only after he finished the books, so I'm not sure if he put off opening them on principle or just because he was too engrossed in the books."
Tim merely shrugs. "Knowing him, it could be both."
The two of them make their way upstairs. Tim doesn't even bother trying to head anywhere besides the kitchen, knowing that Roy will force the issue whether he likes it or not. "So, what is dear, mother hen forcing me to eat this time?"
Roy grins excitedly as he rubs his hands together. "Well, baby bird, I brought something that's definitely not Alfred-approved."
Tim stumbles at the nickname. He hasn't been called that by anyone in so long, and he doesn't know how to react to it now. He can't even remember the last time that Dick used any nickname for him, but that one specifically hasn't made an appearance since… well, since Damian arrived. Roy stares at him with a concerned frown, but Tim merely shakes his head to clear his mind. "As long as I'm not the one who has to endure Alfred's wrath, that's fine by me."
Roy hasn't taken his eyes off of Tim, and he looks as though he intends to wrap an arm around Tim's shoulders, but Tim slides away from him before he can. "You sure? I don't mind eating Alfred-approved meals, especially if that's necessary due to your lack of spleen and all."
It takes every ounce of restraint that Tim has not to roll his eyes and groan at Roy's response. After all, it's not as though Tim doesn't appreciate the gesture, even if it's entirely misplaced. "No, I'm fine, really. I'm just not used to nicknames anymore, apparently."
Roy smiles mischievously. "Oh well, if that's all. I'm sure we can come up with some good ones since you still won't tell us your name."
Tim forces a smirk onto his face and tries his best to redirect Roy's attention. "I'm sure you can, arrowhead, but right now I'd rather see what you've brought."
Roy rolls his eyes at the insult. "I hope you like chili."
This time Tim does groan, but he doesn't protest beyond that. After all, he knows a losing battle when he sees one. Still, Roy deserves to deal with some of his griping for this one.
It's been a long recovery – one that has tested Tim's patience, but he's finally fully recovered and ready to face the team. If everything Roy and Dick have said over the last month and a half is anything to go by, then the team has been progressing just fine without him. Tim's pleased to hear it, even if a part of him wonders if perhaps it's time to let them handle their problems on their own while he focuses on other matters.
He could just stay at the manor and work in Gotham while making up for lost time with Jason. He's fairly certain that Bruce would approve of the plan - at least the part that Tim's willing to tell him - since Bruce seems strangely attached to Tim and wants him around. He even offered Tim a room at the manor – one that Bruce specified was his any time that he wanted to stay. He doesn't think that Bruce's willingness to let him stay is motivated by guilt, but Tim can't fathom any other reason.
Still, Bruce's earnest declaration that they would all be happy to have him was a little overwhelming. Tim has become familiar with some of the variations between this Bruce and his own, but there are still things that catch him off guard. Not to mention, Tim really doesn't understand the need for Bruce to offer him anything more than what he already has given him. However, the more Tim thinks about it the more he wonders if perhaps that was this Bruce's way of telling him that the team no longer needs him.
Tim doesn't have time to dwell on that possibility any longer, however, because the moment that he steps foot into the HQ numerous bodies slam into him. Roy and Dick are beside him, but neither seems willing to help him, and Tim hits the ground with a thud and a grunt. He can't even make out everyone's faces before there's a cacophony of sound all around him.
Everyone is speaking all at once and he can barely make out anything more than various proclamations of missing him before there's a loud whistle -definitely from Black Canary - echoing around the room. There's a clamber and a scramble of limbs as everyone tries to get off of him simultaneously. Someone's rather sharp and pointed elbow - most likely M'gann's, if he had to guess - digs into his stomach.
Tim's rather grateful at this moment for both the body armor and the fact that Alfred insisted that he rest until any residual pain was gone, even if it meant a longer recovery period. Still, he really wasn't anticipating this exuberant of a reception. Although, perhaps he should have, given all of the well-wishes that Dick and Roy have passed along over the last two months.
Before Tim can even attempt to get to his feet, however, two strong hands are on his shoulders and hauling him to his feet. Tim turns to see Superboy actually smiling at him. "It's good to have you back."
Tim grins in return and nods. "It's good to be back."
"Everyone is excited to see you, but I was wondering if I could talk to you in private later." Superboy seems genuinely nervous, and Tim honestly can't tell if it's because of the subject matter or if he's just worried that Tim will decline his request. He's fairly certain that at this point Superboy should know better.
Tim gives a sharp nod and pats Superboy on the shoulder. "Of course."
Superboy visibly relaxes, but there's still some undeniable tension in his shoulders, so perhaps he's been worrying about both. Tim's about to suggest that they meet in Superboy's room after training, but before he can even open his mouth Black Canary clears her throat to get his attention.
"Red Robin, I know that you're probably eager to return to training, but, in light of recent events, I think it might be best if you and the rest of the team spent the day doing something fun."
Tim can't help but raise an eyebrow at her. He can tell by her tone that she undeniably has something in mind and he's not entirely certain that he's going to like it. Tim sighs heavily. Nothing ever seems to go his way. "I'm assuming you have something in mind."
Black Canary smiles encouragingly at him, so Tim figures that whatever it is it can't be that bad. "Actually, I think the team has a plan." She gestures toward Kaldur as he steps forward.
"Your presence has been sorely missed, my friend." Tim gets the impression that Kaldur intends to say more, but Wally all but shoves him sideways as he pushes toward the front of the group.
"Yeah, yeah, let's get this party started!" Tim's not entirely sure who's responsible for the confetti and balloons, but the noisemakers are certainly M'gann's and Wally's doing.
All in all, he supposes he should have anticipated this. Tim inclines his head and releases a long-suffering sigh. "I suppose training will have to wait."
The cheers that erupt around him are deafening. Tim is almost worried that he is going to have to add a sound-dampening device to his costume for instances like this. However, he supposes that he can worry about that later… along with everything else.
Although, Tim knows himself well enough to know that the distraction won't last nearly long enough, especially with the persistent worry of whatever conversation Superboy wants to have with him later looming in the back of his mind. Still, Tim recognizes the amount of effort that everyone has put into this party, so he does what he does best, and shoves down all of the disquiet that he's feeling while he forces a smile onto his face. After all, it's clear this is what they want from him, and Tim knows that, if nothing else, he can at least give them this.
The End (for now)