Disclaimer: I do not own the batfamily.
Not just a Drake by larissa
Based on this headcanon from incogneat-oh: When Tim was young, he used to hide under beds and in cupboards. This made it okay that no one was there, because no one else could fit, so it was practically his choice to be alone. This was a habit he more or less stopped after he was 9, but he did it again for the first time in years when Dick picked Damian. (So it wouldn't matter that he was alone again.)
"On a hilltop, on a sky-rise
Like a firstborn, child
And at full tilt, and at full flight
Defeat darkness, daylight"
There is a grown man, dark hair, fair eyes, hidden inside the cupboard.
The idea in his head is absurd, comical, and the way it reverberates through his mind only makes Tim feel worse than he already does.
He is a grown man hidden inside a cupboard.
It takes everything in him not to burst into laughter or tears, possibly both, since he's been in this strange state of hysteria for who knows how long. The emotional wreck that is Tim Drake tries to maintain his silence, but each breath he takes seems harder and he hears more than feels himself gasping for air. At the same time, he feels too much and nothing at all, and, in the back of his mind, the boy wonders if he's having a panic attack or some other sort of known, treatable psychiatric breakdown.
But that would be too easy, so he just suffocates that thought and keeps trying to focus on getting air to his lungs.
He is alone, so it's okay to be like this. There is no one else to see his vulnerability, no one to accuse him of being weak, no one to look at him with pitiful eyes and that expression of disappointment – because, really, isn't this all he is, a disappointment to everyone that ever tried to help him?
He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind.
That had been months ago, long before Bruce came back, long before he took the mantle of Red Robin and a new path, a path that was only his to worry about. He is an intelligent man, he knows better than to let his insecurities take over his life. Yet, as he leans against the back of the cabinet, opening his eyes only to find darkness and solitude, it is hard to remember all of that.
He feels so much like when he was younger. Alone. It isn't the sort of feeling you get used to, you know? Because it is the kind of thing that eats you from inside out, feeding on fears and doubts. Doubts about if he is needed or not, if Dick has ever actually seen him as a little brother or if that is just one of his kind lies. The original Robin seems to tell an awful lot of those.
Tim groans, resisting the urge to knock his head onto the wooden panel behind him.
He feels eight again, underneath the kitchen's sink, pretending to be playing hide and seek with his father, because he knew that, if he got out of his hideout, there would be no one home and the idea of such complete solitude scared him out of his mind. He would stay there until he fell asleep, only to be found by the help on the following day and put into bed, so that, when he woke up, he could pretend one of his parents had actually been looking.
The memory makes his eyes burn but, in the darkness, Tim finds he doesn't care about tears anymore. He only cares to pretend that he is just taking a moment to himself and that the others must be looking for him by now. He knows they aren't, no one ever is.
Still, he rubs the wetness away from his face and takes a deep breath, trying to put himself back together. He doesn't know if it's possible, he was never whole in the first place, but the idea of it makes sense and Tim feels like he needs logic in his life, because emotions have never been a friend to him.
A noise outside makes him freeze and Tim tries to force his hearing in order to define who the hell is awake at three in the morning when every single one of them returned from their patrols quite early. It doesn't really make sense. He was always the only one to wake up in the middle of the night, if you didn't count Jason – and, as much as it pains him sometimes, they just don't anymore –, so why should any of them suddenly decide they had to get something from the pantry on one of the rare nights he actually hides there?
It's unimaginable. It's absurd. It's…
"Drake?" The boy calls, and the softness of his surprise is as unexpected as his presence. He wears these too-big-for-him flannel pjs, but his complexion is pale in the moonlight, and it makes Tim question what might have happened to make him look so young all of a sudden.
Then, he remembers he is all rolled up in himself, hidden inside a cupboard in the dark storage room of the manor, and the stupidity of his situation replaces any thought he might have had, because, really, this is the sort of moment the brat lives for, so that he can ridicularize Tim and save this secret for a posterior moment.
The insults and jabs he is waiting for don't come. Instead, Damian stands in front of him for another minute, shuffling his feet and wringing his hands. It's a strange sight, but Tim holds his tongue, because it's not like his current behavior isn't odd as well.
"Nightmares?" The boy finally asks, but Tim feels like it's more of an answer than a question and he suddenly understands the unthinkable vulnerability Damian seems to emanate. He doesn't have much time to analyze all of this, though, for the other is fixing him with a firm gaze and Tim knows he needs to reply or he'll soon be alone again.
This realization hits him harder than anything else.
He doesn't want to be alone, not anymore, not ever. It's why he hides in these places, it's the major difference between him and Bruce. The world is painful, dark, a bit twisted, and it's because of it all, not in spite of it, that Tim feels such need to have others. He needs his friends, his allies, his family.
He doesn't want to be alone. He doesn't want to pretend.
"In a way." He forces the words out of his pained chest. Damian nods once, before he frowns, eyes shifting through the space Tim is still nested in. Then, he puts a hand to the older boy's shoulder and forces him to slide a bit to the side, forcing his way into the cupboard.
Tim wonders if it's the hours of the night that always seem to mess with their minds in this way, because he can't imagine such actions in the light of day.
They remain silent, but Tim is fine with that. The cupboard is a bit too small for the two of them, so Damian is leaning against his side. The warmth is pleasurable and the boy realizes, with quiet astonishment, that it's not so difficult to breath anymore.
"I didn't mean to intrude in your time alone, but I somewhat appreciate your company and your lack of commentary." Damian exclaims after a few minutes. His voice is low, carrying that edge of aggressiveness it always does, but his words make up for it. As the boy's head tumbles into his shoulder and stays there, Tim realizes the brat is probably falling asleep.
"It's okay, baby bird." Tim observes the slur in his speech and almost laughs, because he is also slipping into slumber. He pauses, before continuing. "It's what brothers are for."
He half expects Damian to reject his words, suddenly irritated by the implication of what their relationship may be, but the boy is quiet. Tim falls asleep a moment after Damian did.
They are found there in the morning by a very cheerful Dick Grayson, who has been called upon by Alfred. The two of them share an entertained smile, before the first leans down to take Damian in his arms, shaking Tim awake with gentleness.
"C'ommon, baby brothers, you need to get to bed or your bruised backs will be a pain during patrol tonight."
Damian grumbles in his sleep but doesn't answer, before snuggling deeper into Dick's embrace. Tim groans, but smiles as he feels the man put his other arm around his shoulders, bringing Tim to his side and guiding him up to his room.
Despite his crisis, Tim Drake realizes he finds happiness not in being Robin, with a batman by his side, nor in being Red Robin, with a path of his own and solitude that doesn't equate to loneliness, but in being a Wayne and having brothers, a father, a grandfather, a whole lot of almost sisters and never being truly alone, as he had once been.
It's a good feeling, he thinks, letting Dick kiss his forehead as he tucks him in – Really, Dick? I'm nineteen. –, and Alfred closes his blinds shut. It's a good feeling to remember he's not just a Drake, anymore.
Hey there, again. Tim just gives me a lot of feelings, okay? So does Damian. Anyway... This was based on another headcanon from the amazing tumblr of incogneat-oh. The song up there is Daylight by Coldplay. Some feedback, please?