“Sorry it’s been a while,” Tim said as he laid flowers on a very particular grave, “Things have been super crazy lately.”
As usual, Jason’s headstone was as silent and solemn as anyone could want.
“I know, I know, it’s Gotham; when is it not crazy? But this time it’s different. You see, Bane broke Bruce’s back.”
Tim shuddered at the memory, seeing Bruce’s broken body and being so so sure that he was dead.
“You see, Bane had let a whole lot villains out of Arkham. Pretty much the entire villain gallery, honestly. It was like every crisis that we’ve ever had stacked on top of each other. We were spread thin trying to handle everything.”
He had seen Bruce getting more and more tired after every fight, every sleepless night, every new injury… but he hadn’t been able to do anything about it.
“A part of me wonders if any of this would have happened if I was by Batman’s side like I was supposed to be,” Tim laughed humorlessly, sitting cross legged in front of the grave, “but maybe I would have just been another dead Robin.”
He and Alfred had managed to get Bruce out of there before he was dead for real, but…
“Bruce had this guy called Azrael take over as Batman instead of Dick, even though I told him I thought he was bad news,” Tim shook his head.
Tim wasn’t sure their relationship with the police would ever recover from some of the things Azrael did as Batman.
“I bet you would have never let any of this happen,” Tim said smiling weakly at Jason’s grave, “You always were the only Robin who won arguments with Batman. Maybe you could have talked some sense into him.”
Tim sort of understood Bruce’s fear that Dick would be killed by Bane. Dick definitely wanted to go after him after hurting Bruce and he wasn’t strong enough to beat him on his own. To keep him out of the city, Bruce had trashed his already fraught relationship with Dick in one of the most backwards attempts to keep him safe that Tim had ever seen.
Bruce couldn’t lose another son. Especially after having to relive Jason’s death in full color with Scarecrow’s new strain of fear gas.
Tim understood, but it still hurt to know that Bruce didn’t trust him enough to keep Dick from getting himself killed.
Tim was no one’s son though.
Maybe not even his own father’s.
“Did you know my dad got kidnapped in the middle of all that?” Tim said, digging small holes in the ground with a stick, “I couldn’t do anything. Bruce and Alfred had to handle it… and I was all distracted and let Azrael make this big mess.”
Bruce supposedly didn’t blame him for it, but Tim wasn’t so sure how true that was. Or that it wasn’t deserved.
“What if all this really is my fault?” Tim said into his hands.
At least Dick had finally come in after Azrael had been kicked out. Bane was taken care of so it was all fine… except for the part where it wasn’t.
“Bruce left pretty much the moment Dick came home,” Tim said dryly, “He’s been making Alfred cart him all over to take care of various things all over the country… despite the fact that he’s bedridden and could probably do all of that from the Manor.”
Alfred was more tolerant than Tim had expected. Then again, he had come very close to losing Bruce recently. It was the sort of thing that rearranged one’s priorities.
Tim had sort of hoped that having Dick there as Batman would make things better. And it was better than having Azrael, but…
Dick hated being Batman. That resentment brought out a coldness that seemed to permeate everything, including their unsteady partnership.
“Dick regrets that he never let the two of you ever have a brotherly relationship,” Tim told Jason’s grave, “He tries to make it up sometimes with me… until he remembers that I’m not the little brother he wanted.”
He was sure Dick would deny it if Tim ever said anything. Dick might not even be aware of it. That was fine, Tim was too greedy to give up the scraps of warmth that he was getting. Even if he could sometimes feel Dick’s resentment like a blanket over everything.
“I was never anyone’s first choice for Robin, and maybe there’s a reason for that,” Tim mumbled.
Tim watched the clouds hang low in the dim sky, teasing at the possibility of light and miserable rain.
“Maybe… I’m just not right. For Robin. For anything ,” Tim said in the smallest of voices. He hated that. It was never a voice he’d let anyone here from him. It was utterly unworthy of everything he was supposed to stand for now.
“I want to be Robin more than anything. It’s the only thing I’ve ever- Sometimes I think it’s the only good thing about me,” Tim laughed humorlessly.
Dick didn’t know what that was like.
But he had a feeling Jason would.
“But Robin is supposed to make things better and- I’ve never been very good at that.”
Didn’t stop him from clinging to the mantle with everything he had.
“I wish you were here… even if it meant I had to go away, I wish you were here,” Tim murmured into the night.
Silence answered him.
He wasn’t sure if he felt better or worse about the mess that had been swirling around in him these last few weeks, but at least he’d managed to put words to it he supposed. Sometimes he tried to imagine Jason’s reaction to some of the things he said, but the fantasies all feel apart really quickly.
He never really knew the boy on the other side of the camera, and now he never would.
Fog was rolling in fast with the evening, and with it came a chill that sank right down to his bones. Tim shivered and held his jacket together a little tighter as he rolled to his feet and brushed off the dirt and grass on his pants.
“Gotta love that Gotham weather,” Tim grumbled, “Patrol is going to suck tonight.”
It was time to go home.
Just as he was about to walk back down the path though he heard a weird rustling sound from near the grave. Probably just an animal or something, but when Tim peered around he didn’t see anything. The fog really had come in unusually fast and already Tim could only see a few feet in front of him.
There was a weird… tension in the air. Almost an energy. It had his skin breaking out in goose bumps and a deep unease settle in his stomach.
Trust your instincts, he could almost hear Bruce tell him.
Tim slowly dropped down into a crouch between the graves and fingered his Robin belt tucked just under his clothes.
Observe, the Bruce in his head instructed.
The rustling sound came again, and this time Tim zeroed in on it better. There was something disturbing the dirt nearby and Tim carefully crept closer. He hoped this wasn’t the start of some weird supervillain attack, but you never knew these days, especially with Ivy on the loes.
The dirt shifted again and the top of a trembling hand broke the surface.
Tim launched into action.
He probably should have paused and tried to figure out if it was some sort of zombie or enemy, but all he could think was that someone had been buried alive. Tim clawed at the dirt around the hand and slowly unearthed first an arm, then another, then the top of a mud caked head. The person- a boy about his age- began hacking up mud and coughing and gasping for breath as soon as he crested the surface and Tim dug even more quickly, grabbing for the boy’s upper body and hauling him upwards with all his might.
“Come on, come on, you’re almost there!” Tim said under his breath, digging and pulling until at last the boy was kicking free and colapsing in the grass next to Tim.
“Bruce… help…” the boy croaked.
It felt like the bottom dropped out of Tim’s stomach when he got a good look at the boy who- who’d just dug his way out of his own grave.
It couldn’t be. It was impossible. Jason’s body shouldn’t even be intact after so long, much less trembling in the grass beside him.
But something in his gut told him it really was him. Some things were just too unlikely to not be real, and even harder to fake. Jason was even still sporting several of the injuries the Joker had inflicted upon him. Tim was surprised he was able to move at all, let alone dig himself up.
“Bruce…” this time it was more of half a sob as Jason struggled to crawl from his place.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Tim said, his voice cracking a bit in the middle as he hesitantly brushed some of the mud out of Jason’s curls, “Bruce can’t come just now, but I’m going to get Dick, okay?”
“‘S dark… so dark,” Jason mumbled, leaning into Tim’s hand.
“I need you stay awake for me, Jason,” Tim said urgently as he quickly pinged the cave first with an emergency signal, then with another more request for medical backup.
“Hurts…” Jason choked out, face scrunching up as he curled into himself slightly.
“Where does it hurt?” Tim asked, grimacing as he assessed Jason’s broken body and quickly amended, “Where does it hurt most?”
“Chest. Can’t breathe,” Jason struggled slightly.
“Don’t move to much! Um- I think I remember Bruce writing that you had some cracked ribs and a collapsed lung… digging your way up probably didn’t help any-” Tim rambled, grasping him as gently as possible and holding him steady.
Jason stopped struggling and stared up at him, eyes slightly more focused then they had been all night.
They looked haunted .
“Don’ leave…” Jason whispered, “Don’t leave me in the dark again.”
“I won’t leave,” Tim promised, swallowing around a great big feeling in his chest, “I’m going to keep you safe now.”
Jason didn’t answer, but he squeezed his hand unconsciously and that was enough.