Oops, sorry, meant to post this up sooner.
Hydrophilia - 3
"Did you know," Tim begins, snapping the first-aid kit back and gathering the empty antibacterial cream containers and bandage wrappers in his hands, "that my first real, solid memory is of you?"
Dick's mouth clicks shut. The admission makes Dick ache, abruptly and fiercely, because what can Dick give Tim back? Tim has implied here and there the importance of that one meeting with Dick back at the circus, a day that changed the life of both of them. But to hear it put so bluntly, that it's indeed the first memory of Tim's existence…
"And my last memory would be of you too."
Dick sucks in a sharp breath and feels a jolt of electricity unfurl from his head down to his toes, a wave of goosebumps making him shiver. He's always known that he's special to Tim. It's part of what endeared Tim to him in the first place, the awe and wonderment he felt at realizing that he was so important and influential to someone that Dick was frankly already amazed and inspired by. And he knows that they have a bond that only rivals the ones Dick has with Bruce and Babs, but it's still… sobering when he realizes just how deep Tim's feelings for Dick run. Dick's love for Tim seems almost inadequate when faced with Tim's.
"Tim…" he watches as Tim drops the wrappers and trash in the wastebin and returns to his spot next to Dick. Their thighs are touching, a hot line of sensation, and Dick is irrationally gratified for the contact because it means that despite whatever Tim is getting at, things are still alright between them.
Tim draws in a breath, but it sounds calm, nearly sleepy. They sit side by side in the artificial light of Dick's room, staring at the wall, which Dick hasn't bothered hanging portraits on, and the portion of the bathroom visible through the doorway. The shaving cream bottle is still on the floor and the bathroom mirror still has traces of fog, fading quickly. A police siren wails out in the background, probably two blocks away judging from the volume, and they listen to the sound reverberate through the streets until it fades back into the white pattering of rain. Lazy waves of body heat mingle in the air between them, and they can hear other's breaths, see the motion out of the corner of their eyes. Dick doesn't want to break the silence, ever.
Eventually, Tim sighs and drops back to sprawl across the covers, one arm above his head and the other over his still-bare stomach. He closes his eyes and murmurs, "Tired."
Dick smiles, resisting the urge to tickle him at the sight of so much skin and reaches for one of his slippers on the floor, aiming carefully and throwing it at the light switch. Darkness invades the bedroom, morphing into shapes as their eyesight adjusts. Now the only light comes from the bathroom, a weak yellow rectangle of light that spills across the floor, climbs up the bed and drapes over them, allowing Dick to see as Tim reopens his eyes and drags his gaze over to Dick.
Dick lies down next to him, curling up on his side to face him, and Tim's glassy eyes follow the movement as he absently fingers the edges of the bandage on his hip.
"Nap time," Dick confirms.
"Seriously," Tim mumbles, "is anyone ever going to use the guest bedroom?"
Dick chuckles, settling in comfortably, his feet hanging off the side of the bed. "Pfft, there's no need. Even Wally and Roy sleep here with me."
Tim's lips quirk into a lazy grin, "Least not at once."
Dick smiles sheepishly. "Titans together?"
Tim lifts his head just enough for Dick to see the vague flicker of amusement behind the exasperation. The darkness settles around them, narrowing the world down to the patch of light between them and Dick's hand reaching out to settle on Tim's collarbone, warm and heavy. Tim rolls over onto his side to face Dick fully, the motion sliding Dick's hand up to Tim's jaw, where with a simple stretch of his fingers he can rub Tim's earlobe and dig through the fine hair just behind it. The roots are still damp, and Dick can smell the apple scent of his shampoo.
"You haven't told me yet what this is all about," Dick whispers.
Tim lowers his eyes for a moment, the lashes fluttering coyly against his cheek, and tucks his knees in a little closer, the skin on his back stretching out while his abs wrinkle slightly. The protective pose makes Dick have a momentary urge to draw his little brother into his arms.
"It's… not a big deal."
Dick resists refuting that statement and instead flicks his nose ever so gently, startling Tim into blinking a few times. He smiles and rubs the spot with his thumb. He has a thing for Tim's nose. "You think that matters? Tim, you're my brother. I want to know, whether it's a big or little deal." It's a little mean, but Dick pulls the guilt card, "You really worried me tonight, little wing."
Tim grimaces, just like Dick knew he would, and begins picking at a loose thread on Dick's comforter. "What do you want to know?"
Dick chuckles and resumes the slow glide of his fingers through Tim's hair. "How about everything? Why you came here instead of letting it wear off at home, what you meant by drowning, what's been on your mind the whole night, which I'm assuming is what kept making you space out, why you—" feel so strongly about me. Dick stops. "Yeah. All that."
There is a long moment of silence, where Tim picks a little harder at the thread and Dick lets his hand insist for him in the way it rubs a thumb on the crown of Tim's head and drags his fingertips patiently along the short hairs on the back of his head. Tim sighs and turns into the touch slightly while thunder harks at them from the sky and rolls imperiously between the alleys.
"It's… sort of dumb, actually."
Dick raises an eyebrow when he realizes from the faint discomfort in Tim's voice that were it not for the sedatives, Tim would probably be blushing right now.
"Tell me anyway," Dick says, twining their fingers together. Tim looks at their hands, watching the way Dick has automatically begun rubbing the knuckle of Tim's thumb at the same rhythm as his other hand runs through Tim's hair. Alright, so maybe Dick has a thing for rubbing and touching in general.
Tim closes his eyes and burrows his face further into the comforter, and if he reminds Dick of a ferret when he does that, well, he'll keep that to himself.
"I… had a dream." Dick's jaw would drop open if he were vertical, but as it is his eyebrows jump a mile high. Tim frowns, probably aware of Dick's reaction even with his eyes closed. "I know, I know, it was just… really vivid. I told you it was dumb."
"What happened in it?" Dick asks, squeezing Tim's hand in encouragement.
Tim shifts a bit. "I… I dreamt I was you. And I'd been drugged and taken hostage. None of it made sense, but I knew they were going to kill me, and I knew it was the end. I was lying on a cold floor, and I could make out a roar. For some reason, I – you—deduced it was a plane nonetheless, even though we couldn't think properly with the drugs. I was immobilized. I couldn't move and I couldn't see. It was… horrible, and so… abstract. I thought I was going to be sick; it was like my mind was a bird trapped in a cage, fluttering everywhere with no grounding and I couldn't follow my own thoughts. I hated it. I— I couldn't think." He takes a breath and his hands twitch within Dick's, squeezing harder. "I was you, and you knew you were going to die. And you thought about… your parents, and Bruce and Jason. Babs and Kory and the Titans. You thought about your time as Robin, and then about Bludhaven and flying through it—"
Dick waits for more, but Tim's eyes open, his gaze pained and so defeated that Dick knows, with a sick twist of his stomach, that there is no more. He knows Tim probably isn't thinking so out of sheer logic, but Dick feels like he has failed Tim in some way. He knows it's ridiculous to feel guilty because his dream-self in Tim's head didn't think of him, but he still feels pained. Because it's Tim, and even in a dream… he doesn't have to imagine the sheer misery and worthlessness that invades you when someone close to you, someone you idolize, sees you as a commodity that can be thrown away, fired and replaced. How many times after he first became Nightwing did he wonder if Bruce ever even thought of him?
"I'm sorry, Timmy. I'm so sorry," he whispers, biting his lip, leaning forward to brush his lips against Tim's forehead and turn his head to keep his cheek pressed there. And he means it, he really does, and he lets Tim feel it and know it from the grip of his arms around him, pulling him close and squeezing him as tightly as he can.
Tim shakes his head and his eyes reflect the light just a tad too much when he pulls away enough to let a stuttering breath out and rest his head on Dick's arm. The air feels suddenly cold, and Dick reaches behind him to pull the comforter over them, never mind that they're sideways on the bed and it's too short to cover them both, so he has to reach over Tim to pull the end from the foot of the bed and tuck it around him. Tim's eyes slip closed again and he pulls his hand from Dick's to burrow it under his cheek and nestle into the covers. He looks so terrifyingly young when he does that.
Dick can feel the movement of Tim's jaw against his arm when Tim opens his mouth to continue, feel the warm puff of breath against his bicep, though it's nearly imperceptible with how quietly Tim is speaking. "Then the hatch opened, and it was time. They were going to throw us out of the plane into a river, and immobilized by the drugs as we were, bound and tied up, there was no way we'd escape or even be found later. But I didn't want you to die. So I made a deal, it doesn't make any sense, I know, but somehow we switched places. I was me again. I was me, and you were free, and I was being thrown off the plane, with this endless expanse of water below me. I… felt kind of comforted by the fact that I was diving through the air, because it's probably the last thing you would have liked to do before dying. It was… it was like a way to remember you before I died."
"And… is that when you drowned?" Dick asks, knowing the answer, his chest compressing until it's painful to breathe. Tim is speaking so calmly, even though his eyes are screaming about how distraught the ordeal made him. Dick is struck with awe that something as insubstantial as a dream can have such an impact on him. He'd never have thought Tim could be affected by something so easy to throw away by logic, but he supposes Tim really is that good at fooling them into thinking he's something more than human at times. Dick never forgets that Tim is young, but sometimes he forgets how young.
Here Tim looks up, just a dash of hesitant eyes going up to Dick's face and lowering again, and Dick loves Tim's eyes, loves that the range of expressions Tim refuses to let his face show somehow slips through there.
"Here's the odd part… I did drown. I sank and sank to the bottom, where there was no light and the temperature dropped until I couldn't even feel my body anymore, and I couldn't keep anything in my head straight enough to really understand what was going on. I thought I was in a kaleidoscope." Dick grimaces, brushes his thumb along the shell of Tim's ear and watches as Tim pauses, frowning slightly and thinking. "But something did filter through. At some point… you were the water."
Tim's teeth peek out to chew his lip as he gathers his thoughts before continuing his half-aware mumbles. "And… dying wasn't so bad when you were the water, and you were all around me. It felt warm again, like you were holding me. At some point I stopped choking and struggling, and it was warm and you were there…" Tim's voice trails off.
"Like this?" Dick whispers, carefully wrapping his arms around Tim, bringing him close enough that the air between them turns warm and his breath is tickling Dick's neck and his still-damp hair is leaving moist trails on Dick's arm.
Tim nods sleepily, nuzzling closer still and lets out a breathy little sigh that puffs in the dip of Dick's collarbone. Tim's knees are digging into Dick's thighs, pressed a bit too close to his stitches, but Dick doesn't care. He feels exhilarated to have been granted such an uninhibited view into Tim's mind. He can see tonight laid out behind him now and see the reasons for Tim's behavior—the late-night call, Tim's initial entrance searching for him, the spacing-out, the questions, the freak-out in the shower. Even if it's only in hindsight, he feels gratified at being able to understand Tim, and what it means to have Tim trust him with his vulnerabilities. His biggest fear at this point is that nagging thought that it's probably just the sedatives that have allowed Tim to be so honest, but Dick… Dick will take what he can get.
Tim is fully relaxed now, whether from exhaustion or relief, or both. Dick would normally murmur words of comfort now, things like reassurances that it was just a dream, that it doesn't mean anything, but he can see from the smoothness of Tim's brow that they're unneeded. Still, that doesn't mean he's going to keep quiet.
"So that's why you wanted to come here?"
Tim nods again, eyes still closed. "Couldn't get it out of my head all day…and Ivy's toxin made it worse." His voice is rough with sleep, and Dick can feel the vibrations of it against his skin. "Kept thinkin' you were dead… Wanted t'see you and convince myself otherwise…"
Dick closes his eyes and bites his lips, not sure how to say what he wants to say. Not sure how to express the guilt and awe he feels at the importance he holds to Tim. He braces himself before opening his mouth.
"Sometimes… sometimes I think you love me too much."
But Tim only smiles wistfully, voice so heavy with sleep Dick can envision it sinking into the mattress. "I know. I do. But I don't regret it. And I don't want you... t'worry about it…"
Dick strokes the back of Tim's neck so lightly it makes Tim shiver in his arms and a hint of blue to peek out from under his lashes to reprimand him for rousing him from his almost-slumber. Dick smoothes out the hairs on his forehead in apology, but there's still something he needs to say. "I… I would do anything for you, Tim, you know that. But even that… feels like nothing next to your feelings. Sometimes I… I wish I loved you as much as you love me."
The admission is shameful for Dick: Dick who professes to love everyone, Dick who knows he'd give his life for Tim, but sometimes it still doesn't seem like enough in the face of Tim's evergreen devotion. But he feels like owes Tim the truth, at least.
Tim smiles, and there's a little bit of sadness mixed in with the happiness. "S'okay, Dick. I know. And that's enough for me." It shouldn't be, and Dick knows that, but maybe he's being selfish because he doesn't know what else to do and Tim is giving him acceptance and an out with his words.
Tim yawns, and Dick smiles and squeezes his waist. "Sleepy?"
Tim hums something so far from a real word that it's all the response he needs. He presses a kiss to Tim's forehead, ghosting his lips over Tim's brow, down the bridge of his nose and pressing another one against the tip before pulling back. Tim doesn't bother responding with more than another low pleased hum and Dick closes his eyes, breathing in Tim's clean apple-shampoo scent and etching into his mind the rhythm of his breaths against Dick's skin and the cocoon of warmth they're encased in.
"Hey, Tim," he says, nudging him with his nose. "If it makes you feel any better, this moment will be one of the ones I remember before dying."
So Tim finally spilled and Dick was able to make it marginally better. Maybe. Thanks for reading, guys!