Standard Disclaimers apply.

Spethial fanx to Charlene for giving me a groovy world to get jiggy with, and for being my beta-bitch.

This is for the Malone-verse challenge! For those of you that don't know, Malone-verse is Charlene's creation. There's daddy Matches, older brother Robbie, and cute baby brother Jack. Of course, in "real" Malone-verse, Jack Drake knows where his son spends his nights, but this is a bit of an Elseworlds of and Elseworlds. Ok, so it's more like if the Elseworld were mainstream, this is what it'd be like if it all went not so mainstream. I'll shut up and let you read now. Enjoy, kids.

The Milkman's Son

**

"I wish you wouldn't have done that," Bruce impatiently said into the darkness of the cave. It wasn't like him to be talking to someone who refused to come out of hiding in the shadows. He was edgy himself because he'd never been into these uncharted emotional waters, and he didn't know what to say—so he chose to focus on the work.

"I didn't mean to!" Timothy called out, panic evident in his voice. "I… I didn't know what to do."

Bruce realized he was just contributing to the problem at this point. "I know you didn't. It's not… a situation one should… have to be in." He held a hand out to the blackness behind the cave's main staircase. "Tim. Come out of there. I know it's tempting to stay under there. But Dana has already called here for you. I know you're grieving. But she is too…" And damnit, if the boy wouldn't have burned the note, they might have something to go on. The boy might have some way to work on this and not let anxiety take control of him. "I know you don't want to hear this," Bruce said calmly. "But you ARE going to need to talk to the police. They're up stairs, and Alfred can't keep them at bay forever."

"I stepped in it," Tim said quietly. "I've never… it was all over my shoes. The blood was… old." It had smelled so bad, that is what stopped Tim in his tracks, just after crossing the threshold in the kitchen.

"Tim… I know," Bruce said with a weary sigh. "I'm sorry."

"I didn't want to go out today," a hollow voice called out from the blackness.

"I know."

* * *

Five hours previous…

Jackie Malone was a complete drain. He was a wanna-be, and a geekoid. He was only allowed to hang out with the Vicelords because his older brother, Robbie, was an effective member who actually did stuff. And who knew what kind of trouble that crazy jack-ass of a dad Matches would stir up if they didn't play nice with his little boys.

So they were stuck with Jack while Robbie sat rotting in a jail cell on drug charges. At least Robbie could think up a good way to make quick cash—that time they'd knocked over the convenience store—that had been CLASSIC. Capped the guy behind the counter like it wasn't anything.

Watching Jack push his sunglasses up on his nose as he continued to punch keys on a handheld device attached to some kind of fake ATM card, Kismet wondered if Jack was even Matches' kid. But what bitch would be screwing around on that crazy old man's ass?

"Hurry the hell up," Kismet whispered, leaning against the dark brick façade of the outside of the bank.

"You tryin' to rush perfection?" Jackie asked, listening to the ATM start grinding away as it processed the request.

"I'm trying to not get my ass caught."

"Anything worth doin' has it's risks. My pop says…"

Kismet's hand went to the gun in his pocket. He should just shoot the little fuck and be done with it. But not in bright daylight. On a busy street. "I don't care what your pop says. No one does. He's a crazy fuck , even if he does have his hand in every decent job going down in this town."

"Watch what you say about my pop," Jack said angrily, ripping a wad of twenties out of the ATM. "He's real smart, and maybe if you listened to him, your ass wouldn't be in the can every week."

Kismet held out his hand, waiting for the cash.

"No way, you called my old man a fuck. You're ma's a whore but you don't hear me saying nuthin' about it."

He swore he was going to shoot little Jackie at the nearest opportunity. He just had to make sure Robbie couldn't connect him to it. Look at that damned little punk. His green plaid shirt was unbuttoned and flapping in the wind. He wore black computer type shirt under it that said "No, I Won't Fix Your Computer." The kid couldn't even dress himself.

The kid was a necessary evil—Kismet and some of the younger bunch needed start-up capital for a plan that'd finally get them some well-deserved respect within the gang. But once this score was over, Jackie was gonna need his hard drive fixed, something fierce.

* * *

Jack had appeared out of nowhere and had twisted Kismet's arm behind his back, ripping the gun from his hand. "NO!" he hollered, in somewhat of a panic.

"Look, Jackie, the guy's DEAD. IF you're going to start in on some 'Matches sez' lecture, I'm gonna do you right now, I don't care WHO your dad or your brother are!" Jack pushed Kismet away and picked up the gun.

Of all the fucking nerve. Mrs. Malone HAD to have been fucking around on her old man, because there was NO way this… GEEK was a Malone. Robbie would have done the guy. MATCHES would have done the guy. With his bare hands.

"C'mon, Jack," one of the older guys said anxiously. "The guy's probably a cop."

"The guy ain't a cop," Jack said, staring at the graying man in a graying business suit, lying on the asphalt. "Yous guys royally don't know shit about shit. Look at them shoes." He kicked gently at the business man's feet. "Cops aint got shoes that rich."

"Why, cause your old man say so?" Kismet sneered.

"Yeah, cause my old man sez." Jack seemed to be trying to keep his back to the man. Kismet might not have been doing this for long, but he knew that was a big ol' mistake.

"Just because your dad and your brother're fucking legends, doesn't make you shit. Your ma was probably fuckin the milk man, cause there's NO way you're related."

Jack lifted the gun to Kismet's head. He closed one eye and stared down the barrel, taking aim. "Look, you fuck-tard, you kill this guy, you're gonna bring a hail of shit down on us that the world aint ever seen. AND you wanna use that cash for the smack. You take the time to kack him, then stash him, you're gonna miss your time slot. And lastly, you idjits have NO fucking business sense. I might be the milk man's kid, but Matches brought me up right. You don't waste a guy wearing Italian shoes." He looked around the alley, searching for their contact. "I'll deal with him. If 'the guy' shows up, DON'T do anything without me." He bent and rolled the stunned man onto his stomach, tying his hands together with a black bandanna.

"Oh Jackie thinks he's running us now. I invited you, I can un-invite you." Soon as that shit turned his back. It was going to be the fucking St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in July.

"Maybe I SHOULD be running it. I got the money. I'm keeping you from screwing up this job. Even if I'm NOT a Malone, I'm more Malone than your suburban asses." He hauled the guy to his feet. It figured, they carjack the ONE person in the whole fucking universe that Jack never wanted to see—the milkman. "Start walking." Moving towards the car with his intended victim, Jack looked back at the three guys. "Make sure Kismet doesn't fucking anything else while I'm gone. And maybe I'll give yous guys some of the score off 'a Mr. Italian Shoes." He glared at Kismet once. "You even THINK of taking me out, and Matches'll come down on your ass like the Bat. Matches takes care of the milkman's kid."

Getting to the end of the alley, he opened the door to the black Jaguar, and pushed the guy inside. "IF you got the balls to report it, tell Bullock in Major Crimes Baby Malone says hi." He flippantly attempted to slam the door closed, but the milkman put his hand against the door so it didn't slam closed. "You got a problem, old man?"

He reached up to grab the boy's sunglasses, but his wrist was grabbed and shoved back into the car. "Tim?"

"Name's JACK, Mr. Italian Shoes. Jack Malone."

"Tim, is this what you're into? Gangs, and guns and drugs?"

Jack looked behind him, trying to find some kind of out. "Look, I'm letting you live. I don't know who Tim is." He tried to close the car door again, and was again met with resistance.

"Tim, just get in the car and come home," Jack Drake begged desperately. His face was wrenched in pain. He'd always suspected his son was into something serious, but had never let himself ponder it too deeply. Tim had this whole other life that Jack didn't know about.

"I aint nobody named Tim," Jackie Malone said vehemently. "But if you don't get goin', I'm gonna let Kismet and his loozahs finish what they started on you, AND the car." He ran his fingers along the gaping scratch that marred the driver's side door. "Now get the fuck outta here."

"Son… I don't know why you're doing this…" Jack was trying to be patient. He was trying to be rational, in the face of so much irritation. He'd given the kid everything, and boy was on the streets, living this violent life. It was as if his son was someone else entirely. And wasn't he? He'd chosen another name entire—some new family he claimed to be a part of.

He pushed the man's arm back in the car and tried to slam the door again. "I ain't your fucking kid, old man." Sensing someone behind him, he pushed the guy's arm into the car and slammed the door successfully this time.

There was the click of a hammer being pulled back. "You shoulda just pulled the trigger, Kismet. Figures a lazy fuck like you would give himself away." Slowly he raised his hands, showing they were free, then turned.

"So where's the money this guy's gonna bring us? What the hell's taking so long?"

Jack turned slowly, looking over the top of his sunglasses with a look of murder in his eye. "What the hell business is it of yours? And point that thing some place else." Jack had gotten one off the loser, but hadn't checked for anything else. It might have been a good idea, considering who he was dealing with.

"It's my business when you try to take over."

"You want the Vicelords to know you exist, or what? I can put you on the map, shit for brains. You plug me, you're gonna have more shit than just a dead businessman to deal with. Matches and Robbie'll be on you like Bat." He held his opened palms out. "So go ahead… SHOOT."

Jack saw that Kismet was dedicated to his task, and made the first move. Diving for his midsection, he knocked the gun from the punk's hands as he brought them both crashing to the ground. "NOBODY fucks with a Malone and gets away with it!" Pulling back, he punched Kismet into the next century.

Disarming the thug-in-training, he looked up, the other two guys were standing there, looking slightly shocked that Jackie was that crazy.

"Who wants to challenge my authority next?" His sunglasses slipped from his face, and he tossed them aside. "You want in the Vicelords, I will GET you into the Vicelords. But not with this asswhipe's idiotic plans. Got me?" He needed this deal to go down tonight. He needed to know where the drugs were coming from. "Get the drugs, get in, get out. Nobody gets hurt on our side or theirs—cause the second blood starts squirting, we're gonna have more trouble than we want." He turned back to the guy in the car, trying to stay in the brightest of the light from the setting sun, hoping it would obscure his view. "And you. Go tell that fat pig Bullock what I said. NOW." Raising the gun at his father's head, he waited until the man drove off, before allowing himself to wince and dwell on the sick feeling in his stomach.

* * *

One Hour Previous…

Tim had found it difficult to concentrate the rest of the evening. He'd just waved a gun in his own father's face. He wasn't fond of guns himself, but when one was playing Malone, it was part of the costume.

The deal went down, and Batgirl broke it up at the appointed time, and Jack Malone ducked out at the nearest opportunity, so as to avoid capture by the police.

Barbara had constructed an indestructible alibi on the drive home. Jack wiped off his tattoos and combed some of the stiffness from the gel out of his hair. Tearing off his 'cute younger brother' clothes, he found an acceptable polo shirt and a pair of cargo shorts that were marginally clean behind his chair. He was shaking already, just thinking about the talking he was going to have to do to get out of this one. He figured Timmy could go off on a tangent about how his dad was traumatized and he thought that Tim was such an evil kid; his tortured mind had projected all of these things that weren't true.

Wiping his face of all grime that usually accompanied these outings, Tim stopped the car and began his mad dash for the house. He needed to do this now—while he still had the nerve. He needed to say 'dad you don't trust me…'

Wrenching opened the kitchen door, he took two steps inside, and didn't go further. It smelled, and his feet were stuck to the floor. In the dim light afforded by the small bulb over the oven, Tim could see a piece of paper on the counter. Not daring to move his feet, he slowly lifted it.

'Tim, I tried to give you the best in life. I tried to teach you right from wrong. The truth was, I didn't start out as the best example. I tried to fix that after your mother died. Maybe the damage was already done. I don't know. But that's what I tried to do. I never wanted a son that ran with gangs and was involved with drugs and guns or murder. The only person I'm ashamed of more than you is myself.'

It wasn't signed.

Slowly, with all the courage he could muster, Tim leaned forward and peeked around the counter. His dad must have put the knife between his knees and ripped upwards with his wrists. The cuts were deep. He'd meant to do it, and he hadn't hesitated.

He'd meant to do it, and it was all Tim's fault.

Clutching the paper to his chest, Tim turned 180 degrees and fled the house.

* * *

Forty-five minutes prior

He didn't know where to go. He didn't know what he could do... after that.

Tim went to the place not where he was necessarily wanted… but where he belonged.

Blindly walking through the front door, he made no acknowledgement when Alfred mentioned the distressful state of his shoes. There was a fire in library. Frantically, Tim threw the note in, as if destroying the evidence of the event could destroy the event itself. Taking the poker, he vigorously stabbed at the paper, obliterating it. The black ash shot around the fireplace, when there was nothing left, Tim dropped the poker, the first signs of grief appearing on his face. Strain cracked his features, and he let out one solid sob as he pulled back the grandfather clock and fled down the steps to the cave.

And there he'd hid against Alfred's gentle, and later commandful protestations that he come out. He'd stayed there when Bruce came down, and Alfred went up after the ringing of the bell. And here he now sat.

Alfred had explained what he'd done with the note, and Bruce wasn't happy. Like that would change anything. He knew what the note meant. He knew that it was his father's handwriting, and didn't appear to be forced. What had happened… rested solely on him.

Bruce was trying to talk to him again—trying to get him to look at it as possibly something other than a suicide. Then Bruce tried to console him… Finally Bruce just did what he did best—admitted in his cool, calculating logic that the police were waiting to talk to him. Alfred could only hold them off so long…

After much consideration, Tim finally stepped from the shadows. He stared down at his messy shoes. "I didn't want to go out…"

Bruce nodded as the boy reiterated his mantra of defense. "I'll stick around," he promised. "I wont let them run over you with questions." Clasping the boy's shoulder, he gently directed him up the steps.

* * *

Fifteen minutes hence…

"And then I came over here," a trembling Timothy said. "I… I had the note. I'm sorry. I burned it. I wanted to make it all go away. Then I… I hid. And Mr. Wayne made me come out."

Montoya asked what the note had said.

Timothy took another tissue from the box. His nose had been running profusely for the last hour or so, and now it was painful, red and swollen. "He… he thought he raised me better, and the only person he was disappointed in more than me was him." Saying that out loud was the most painful thing in the world. Looking for reassurance, he turned to Bruce, who thankfully kept eye contact with him. "It's my fault," the boy admitted, covering up his eyes. "I shouldn't have been out tonight. I wasn't supposed to be out…"

Did it matter how many lives had been saved, getting the bad drugs off the street, if the cost was so personal? Why did being Robin require being Jack?

Tim continued answering all that they asked…but the more reality set in, the colder everything became.

* * *

Forty-five minutes hence…

Dana stood in the doorway to the library, waiting for everyone to finish up. She needed Tim with her, right then, but the boy had been so shaken. Just looking at his hollow eyes and his trembling hands, she knew it was best not to try to push him.

The female officer who'd done most of the talking squeezed his shoulder. It wasn't encouragement or thanks, just a touch of sympathy for a boy who had taken so much blame upon himself, and had lost so much.

There was the exchange of cards and contact information, and the promise to wrap everything up as painlessly as possible. There was no suspicion behind what had happened, and so that only left requirements and technicalities to be filled, then what was left of a family could begin to rebuild.

Bruce Wayne stood against the far wall, behind the desk. His hands were shoved deeply into his pockets, his face turned downward. The light above the desk cast a dark shadow across his brow, hiding his features. He was usually a pleasant man, but right now seemed rather reserved and grim.

It did Dana some good to know that a normally unaffected man was displaying some mode of sympathy for their situation. There was some sort of bleak comfort when he went to Timothy as the officer left, placing both hands upon the boy's shoulders, looking him firmly in his eyes. "Tim… I'm sorry." In his voice lay something sincere, as though he had taken the blame upon himself. "You may not belong to me, but you are welcome here. If you find yourself… needing anything."

Timothy bit his lips for a moment, considering the levity of the offer. "Thanks but I… need to belong somewhere right now," the boy said quietly, hopelessly lost. He hadn't belonged to his father, not in a long time. And with his dying act, his father had made it official—disowning and disavowing him.

"Timothy," Bruce said reassuringly. "You will ALWAYS belong here."

Perhaps misery and sorrow were the only credentials one needed to obtain entry into this club. "Thanks," Tim said dejectedly. He didn't wish to belong to this club, though. He wanted so desperately to sacrifice all portions of his life that were not strictly his own. And yet… he'd been initiated by blood and fire.

Tim stared up into Bruce's sad yet encouraging eyes, wondering what he was, or where he belonged.

Bruce leaned closer to the young man, dropping his voice. "And even if I don't belong to you—you will always belong to me."

Matches always took care of his kids, Tim thought sullenly. Even the milkman's son.

THE END.