It was Fate that led me to keep watch at Macky's, that day.
I knew my chances of seeing Dick would be high if I watched at police headquarters, or at one of the cemeteries. The police would have got my package—they would call Bruce, he would call Dick. But I knew also that, alerted to the idea of being watched, they might be more on their guard. I could not take the risk of being discovered, not yet. I had to avoid those places.
To keep myself busy, I looked elsewhere, early in the evening before the Batsignal was likely to turn on. A feeling sent me to Macky's Diner. It is a favorite of Dick and Barbara and Bruce. And Todd.
Fate sent me there.
I watched Bruce arrive. Todd was with him. Bruce chose a seat by the window, as he usually does. It permits him to watch the sky. It permits me to watch him.
Bruce and Jason Todd spoke about school, and I learned a very important thing: Jason Todd was in need of a tutor.
It is fortunate that I have worked so hard to excel in my own academic pursuits.
It was not difficult to ensure that Todd would choose me for tutoring. I broke into his school in the early hours of Monday morning, put up my tutoring notice, and took down all of the others.
All I had to do then was wait for his call.
~ ~ ~
“Hello,” I say, when Bruce opens the door. I have been a bit nervous about meeting Bruce; if anyone would be able to see through me, it would be him. I remind myself that he has no reason to suspect anything of me. I imitate my parents when meeting someone for the first time and project bland politeness. “My name is Timothy Drake,” I say. “I am Jason's tutor.”
Bruce blinks at me. After a moment, he beams brilliantly, a Brucie Wayne smile. “Timothy Drake? You're Jack and Janet's son, aren't you?”
“Yes, sir,” I tell him.
He beams wider. “How are they?”
“They're in Argentina,” I tell him.
“Good, good, that sounds swell. Well, come on in, Timothy, we're letting all the cold air in.” He holds the door open wider, stepping aside.
“I rode my bicycle here,” I say, gesturing to where it leans against its kickstand on the driveway behind me. “Should I leave it where it is?”
Alfred Pennyworth appears in the doorway. “I shall put it in the garage; I don't think it will snow but I'm not at all certain it won't rain. Please do come in, Master Drake.”
“Thank you,” I tell him. I wipe my shoes carefully on the doormat and step across the threshold of Wayne Manor. Alfred slips out behind me, and Bruce shuts the door.
“Right this way,” he says. “Jason will be in the front parlor.”
I follow Bruce to the parlor. The furniture looks expensive, but not uncomfortable. There are two small stacks of textbooks on a coffee table in front of one of the sofas. Jason Todd is there.
So is Dick.
They look up when I enter the room. Todd looks sullen and nervous. Dick smiles, and it is difficult after that to see anything else. I haven't been this close to him in—years. More than half of my life. He is so beautiful. I try not to stare.
“Whoops, guess I'd better get out of your hair,” he says, heading towards the door, towards me. He tousles Todd's hair in passing. “Study hard, punk.” Todd scowls and tries to punch him in the arm. Dick dodges neatly, coming up to me and extending his hand to shake. “Hi there. You must be Tim.” He smiles.
Tim, he calls me. Tim. I can barely hear past the buzzing in my ears. “Yes,” I say. “You're Richard Grayson.” I remember to take his hand. Dick's hand is warm when he squeezes mine; his handshake is firm but gentle. “You... know me?” I ask. I feel breathless, and try not to show it.
“Jason showed me your tutoring notice. Your credentials are very impressive. ...And please, call me Dick.”
Warmth fills me, and I can't help but smile, just a little bit. “Dick.” My heart beats so hard he must be able to hear it. I am filled with the certainty of Truth. He still loves me! Dick loves me.
Dick is smiling. “Well, I'll leave you to it. I'll see you around, Tim.” He steps around me, touching my arm in passing. “Bruce. Shall we?”
I had forgotten Bruce was there. The palm of my hand tingles where it met Dick's, and I am half hard. I shift my messenger bag to cover it. Later I will go to my darkroom and remember what it felt like when he touched me.
With a slow, deep breath, I gather my concentration, center myself in the moment. Todd is watching me with suspicion and trepidation. I cross over to him and sit at the other end of the sofa with my messenger bag on my lap (I am still agitated; I will need another minute to recover) and offer him my hand. “Timothy,” I say, simply; I must try not to be too formal with him.
He eyes my hand dubiously. (Perhaps I have already been too formal.) “Jason,” he says, and shakes it.
“Which subject would you like to start with?” I ask.
His face twists unhappily. “Math. Geometry. I can't wrap my head around the proofs.”
I nod. “Let's start by going over your notes from class together.”
We go through his notes, stopping to discuss the concepts he is struggling with. Todd is defensive about things he doesn't know; I assume his classmates have mocked him for it. I am careful to control the tone of my voice so he has no cause to hear impatience or disdain in it. It works; Todd seems to relax and asks questions without sounding conflicted about it.
Alfred comes by with mugs of hot cocoa and a tray of light snacks, fruit and cheese. We finish working through Todd's geometry homework assignment and take a short break.
Todd eyes me, taking a bite of a slice of apple. “You don't go to Clement Smythe, do you?” he asks, challenging.
“No,” I agree. “I'm at Lawrence Benedict, but I plan to attend Brentwood Academy next year.”
He considers this. “Boarding schools, right?”
“Expensive. Your family's rich? You dress like a rich kid,” he comments. With his tone of voice it doesn't sound complimentary.
“Yes, my parents are quite wealthy. ...You're a rich kid, too,” I point out.
Todd makes a face as if he has eaten something that has started to spoil.
I tilt my head, considering. “I bet they don't like you, at Clement Smythe,” I say, and watch Todd bristle defensively. “Am I right? They resent anyone different. If you're new money, if your parents aren't members of the Yacht Club. Me, because I'm clever.” I let my disdain bleed through. I try to sound like I'm bitter, like it hurts. “Trust me,” I tell him, “they're not worth your time.”
Todd is watching me differently, now. Cautious respect, a little guilt. “You must be pretty smart. You're like, half my age. Skipped grades?”
“Yes, I have.”
He considers this for a few moments. “I bet they hate that.”
Todd thinks this over. “You seem all right to me,” he decides. He juts his chin out challengingly. “Fuck 'em.”
I smile. “Yes. Fuck them,” I agree.
He grins wide. My own smile widens.
This is good. We are bonding. It is exactly as I hoped.
Todd eats a handful of grapes, watching me speculatively. “Why are you doing this?” he asks me eventually. It's not like you need the money. Do you really have nothing better to do?”
“Tutoring experience looks good on college applications,” I tell him.
He snorts. “Kid, you're like eleven. Isn't it a bit early to be worrying about college?”
“I'm twelve,” I tell him. “And I expect to be applying to colleges within two years. ...Anyway, I want to earn my own money. My parents let me buy whatever I want, but if it's something 'frivolous' they bring it up when they are cross as an example of how I am 'spoiled' or 'entitled' or something of the sort.” The air-quotes are clearly audible. “If I buy things with my own money they can't say anything.”
I made that up. My parents don't care what I buy.
Todd looks sympathetic. “Wow. Your parents sound really annoying.”
“Yes,” I agree. “Fortunately they are abroad most of the year.”
Todd barks out a laugh. "Small mercies, right?"
"Yes." I sip my cocoa, thinking quickly. I want to keep him talking. I want to find threads that will tie us together. "What is Mr. Wayne like, as a parent?" I ask. I know that Bruce is sometimes difficult. It is what separated Dick and Bruce. It is why it has been necessary for me to intervene.
Todd screws his face up thoughtfully. "Bruce is okay, mostly," he says. "I mean...." He looks down at his lap, fidgeting a little. "He's great. He's done a lot for me, and he didn't have to... took me into his home, buys me stuff. I'm super grateful for that, for everything. Always will be." He bites his lip.
I raise my eyebrows. "But?"
"...But, he can be a bit of a hard-ass," Todd admits, giving me a rueful smile. "I'm used to doing what I want, you know? But he has so many rules, and he's not super into compromising. School every day, regular exercise, no drinking, no smoking, gotta eat right... I have a bedtime. A bedtime. Pennyworth's even stricter, can't say bad words, or like. Talk with my mouth full."
I make a sympathetic face. "That sounds like boarding school."
Todd winces. "Ouch, man. Sucks, right?"
I nod. "This is why I want to go to college early."
Todd laughs again. Laughter is good. Laughter accelerates bonding. "Okay, yeah, that's starting to make sense." His mouth twists a little; wry, bitter. "Too bad it's not an option for me."
"I think you are underestimating my tutoring skills," I tell him, and yes, he is laughing again. Good.
"You're a hell of a lot better at explaining geometry than my math teacher is," he admits, smiling.
"I have had experience with a lot of math teachers, and so I suspect that would not be difficult," I tell him, and he grins. "What else are you having trouble with?"
He winces. "I've got a history test coming up, and there's all this stuff I have to memorize."
"All right," I say. "Show me."
~ ~ ~
When I leave, Todd schedules another meeting. "Maybe we can play video games afterwards," he says, grinning. Bruce shakes my hand at the door. Alfred Pennyworth gives me oatmeal raisin cookies in a paper bag.
Dick smiles. He touches my shoulder. "Take care," he says. "See you again," he says. A burning warmth fills me up and does not leave me as I peddle towards my house. I am headed towards my darkroom, to remember.
Everything has gone well.
Very, very well.