Stay busy -- that was the plan.
Not only that, but he had every intention of staying under the radar. He didn’t know how many knew, or would notice, but he didn’t want to take the chance.
He’d skipped out on the idea and hadn’t bothered returning to his apartment, nor the manor. Both of those left him susceptible. Not only that, but he maintained radio silence for the full duration of the day. For the sake of the case he decided to immerse himself in for the day, he’d chosen to go completely undercover. He’d pulled a full disguise, alias, the whole package. Tailing the guys that day hadn’t been easy. He must have changed identities a dozen times, as well as his full get-up. This was high enough profile, for the drug rings that were becoming more problematic within Gotham, that he wasn’t planning on allowing any risks to the mission itself. He’d informed no one of his intentions to work the case, and that was something he was glad for. He could immerse himself completely, and he wouldn’t have to worry about anyone breathing down his neck. No one would be asking him questions. No one would be expecting a thing.
No one would mention it.
The first part of the morning was spent in one of upper scaled restaurants within downtown Gotham. He’d tried to enjoy it as downtime for the first period of waiting for his target’s meeting to begin. He’d ordered an espresso or two, but didn’t get anything more. He merely requested a paper and began to absently read through some of the articles. It was one of the few times, that almost never happened, where he read the newspaper simply to pass the time, or for leisure. He wasn’t looking for any certain story, no information, no patterns. It was oddly relaxing, because he’d honestly forgotten what it was like to do so.
He’d waited half an hour by the time two other men in suits arrived to the table where his target sat. They talked casually for a while, but it wasn’t long before there was a slight change in tone to bring the topic to a more serious focus. There was a careful exchange of keywords, and a discreet passing of a file. This was a moment for him to abuse some of the gadgetry he so adored. Lowering the sunglasses that had rested atop his head, he pressed a button hidden upon the edge of the frame, glasses flashing to light -- only seen to his eye -- beginning to focus and zoom in over his target’s shoulder, taking digitized scans for later review as the man flipped through. By the time he was to the end, Tim deactivated the rims once more and returned them to their previous placement.
Folding the newspaper back up, he settled it beside his empty cup and stood, walking from the dining room and to the bathroom, shouldering his backpack. It was time to change disguises.
It took him only ten minutes to don his next disguise, and once he did, he made the final detail change of changing his backpack with a messenger, and left the bathroom. Glancing back to the dining hall, he noted the meeting was ending and made a quick exit. He paused only once he was across the street, waiting for the man to exit as well so they could continue on.
There were several seemingly meaningless places that he tailed him to around Gotham, and the next time the man settled down was during the late afternoon, the place of choice being a little hole-in-the-wall cafe. Tim didn’t mind, he certainly needed to refresh the caffeine in his system.
Choosing a large armchair in the corner, he settled in, crossing his legs upon the chair, pulling his computer out to rest in his lap. Beneath the low rim of his hat, he settled his glasses further up on his nose, finding himself comfortable. He peered at the man that was just a yard or so away at his table, seemingly paying no attention to anything in the cafe. He was waiting, patient but irritable. Tim wasn’t surprised, it seemed like the guy had been sent on a wild goose chase all day, if not being sent to do someone else’s dirty work.
But that was the kind of stuff you had to expect in that business.
Previously having transferred the data from his sunglasses to his computer wirelessly, he began to skim the information, typing up notes beside the loaded information, in a blank document. His eyes flashed up every second or so to keep watch on the man and make sure he hadn’t missed anything.
He’d gotten this far, the last thing he needed was to mess up now.
It was almost two hours before his target made a move. He paused in his work as he noticed a woman leaving, a notebook being left beneath her chair. He raised an eyebrow, but was only mildly surprised as his target moved from his place at his table to settle into the chair where the woman had sat just moments before, taking up the notebook and beginning to look through. From where he sat, he could see nothing.
Thinking quickly, his eyes raked over every inch of the cafe before finding his answer.
Almost perfectly above him, though a ways back, the security camera would give a perfect vantage point.
He was just glad that the tiny place was smart enough to invest in security equipment.
And that they were careless enough to work off of one security encrypted network.
He was passed it within half a minute, already scanning through the last minute or two that had elapsed to copy the security footage onto his computer for it to clean up the images to pull the necessary information from it. All he had to do was wait while he went through the notebook, just the same as he had the file hours before.
With how easy things were, it was almost unsettling. But he tried to be optimistic and say that it was simply.. the universe’s gift to him. After all, he was covering his tracks. He was giving the punk no reason to be paranoid. And the fact that he was acting arrogant enough to think that he could be this careless was not Tim’s problem -- quite the opposite.
Finally, the notebook shut. Tim glanced up as he watched the man leave, allowing him to do so. He had no more use for him. Tailing him for over twelve hours had been enough with how.. helpful he’d been. It’d been the easiest case he’d had in a while.
Remaining where he was, he cut off the footage, removed himself from the security network, turning off all connections, even to the cave itself. Continuing on, he reviewed his collected data. He had shipment records, all that would arrive and had already, contacts, safe houses, the whole nine yards. It was enough to make him want to laugh. All that was left was interrupting that night’s shipment. He could prepare an anonymous, untraceable, e-mail to be sent to the precinct upon his signal later that night once he completed his final task.
He didn’t care how well this had gone, it was always meant to be the easy part. He had enough ahead of him.
Ordering one more round of a large, steaming, black coffee, he settled in for a little longer and allowed himself to indulge in his last round of caffeine before the real work would begin.
Night had fallen, and he was settled upon the rooftop casually, cowl hiding his features as he continued with what he had been doing all day -- waiting. He’d caught the heat signatures of at least three dozen men, and there was at least one more group to be expected. He estimated their numbers would be anywhere from half, to a full dozen. He was vastly outnumbered, but they were poorly armed, or at least that was what intel suggested. He could make it work. He needed to, after all, he’d come this far and he wasn’t calling anyone in now.
There was a mix of relief and further anticipation that rose once he saw the ship arrive and come to dock without any noticeable sound. The men that exited, did so in a similar manner. There were two men who met to speak, the two in charge -- he had their names on file, but Zakarra was his target. He was the head of the whole group and operation, distribution included. This was the scumbag who had ordered hits on around fifty people in the last week. This was the guy he wanted to get behind bars before sunrise. If he wanted to challenge himself a bit, then he’d make it be before midnight.
As the cargo was unloaded, the group members became more scattered and less paranoid. They were working, and trying to do so quickly. They needed to get themselves organized and out of any possible sight. That was when it would be easiest for him to work, so he moved.
Gliding from the rooftop, he landed without a sound, taking down a guard simultaneously. He lowered him to the ground, hiding him in the shadows. He shifted to his heat vision, moving on to the next two that were nearest. He crept up behind the first and got him in a choke hold, cutting off the proper blood flow and taking him down in a matter of seconds. By the time his partner noticed him falling to the ground, Tim was already wrapping an arm around his neck to cover his mouth, while the other wrapped around to give the exact treatment that his partner had received.
This did well for him for quite a while, working from the shadows to take down a couple dozen of the men before they noticed their discontinued communication.
This was where it went downhill.
Upon returning to a higher vantage point, his focus had been upon the men below. They were starting to panic and scatter, yelling and rushing. They would make mistakes that way. Let their panic grow long enough and they’ll get more careless, making his fight tilt a bit more in his favor one more, despite the numbers that still far exceeded his own.
A heavy boot step snapped him out of his thoughts. He whirled around just in time to have a blade be jammed into his shoulder. He bit back a yell, and grunted between clenched teeth in stead, eyes narrowing behind the cowl. He whipped out his bo staff before the man who attacked him could blink and brought it down in a blunt attack between his neck and shoulder, just above where he, himself, had been struck. The man dropped to his knees before being slammed into the ground by a forceful roundhouse. As he hit the ground, his night vision goggles flew from him and clattered to the rooftop a few feet away.
Harsh, pained breaths escaped his lips as he controlled himself to separate his senses from the pain that burned from the source of his shoulders, angry crimson dripping from the wound and to the ground, around the blade that was still jammed into his shoulder. His arm hung at his side, unmoving to not further aggravate the wound. Though it would be in his own best interest to keep the knife in place until he could safely remove it and then tend to the wound immediately to prevent unnecessary blood loss, the situation didn’t exactly allow for that. Raising his hand to the handle of the knife, he steeled himself and pulled it out with straight, practiced precision. He made no noise at all, simply released a long, drawn out breath before dropping the knife to the ground and turning to the sight below.
Time to go to work.
Jumping from the edge, he slammed his knee into the back of a man in his line of descent, flipping himself over him, slamming his bo staff into the chest of the man that came running his way. The two being dropped in a matter of seconds, but with plenty of noise, attracted just as much attention. He allowed them to start their approaches, only to then drop his smoke bomb and continue his work. His fist meeting the jaw of one gang member before his staff slammed into the back of the neck of another.
Each movement brought the ground to be splattered with his blood, small puddles beginning to form.
As he moved, his breathing continued, though laboriously. By the time the smoke cleared, he had taken down most of those who remained. Off of a rough estimation, he had less than five remaining, including Zakarra himself.
Despite drawbacks, he was making good time.
But because of said drawbacks, his vision was starting to blur around the edges.
What was normally “good time” was no longer good enough. He was running low on that.
Shaking his head, he pressed himself on, attempting to further separate himself from the limitations his body attempted to set for him. He was almost done. Just a little bit more. Almost there.
Turning his mask back to search for and trace heat signatures, he drew himself back to full height, giving no thought to the blood that was still steadily trickling from the wound. His mind just made the proper preparations and precautions he’d need to take in order to keep from leaving a further trail. It took him less than a minute to pick up the heat signatures of the fleeing men and he took off after them without sparing a second. As he tailed the three, a moment’s distraction brought him to lose one. He dismissed it without much thought for that point in time. He could apprehend the two and find the third after. He’d just work fast.
Once he found himself in range, he didn’t bother taking the time to render either of them unconscious. Reaching to his belt, his arm shot out a moment later, a few small contraptions left his hand and flew towards the men before they “exploded” to reveal the spinning cord-like restraints that wrapped around the two men upon contact using their own velocity to do so. One wrapped around their upper halves, the other pair going to wrap around their ankles. As he slowed himself to a stop, it was almost like hitting a wall as soon as he did so. A burning pain ripped through his side and his lower leg as soon as two shots reached his ears. He staggered forward, hand going to his side, weight shifting to his good leg, while his free hand gripped all the tighter on his staff. Grunting in pain, he turned to see Zakarra just a couple feet away.
The man was shaking in his boots, holding his gun unsteadily. The fact that he’d been able to hit Tim had been pure luck -- on Zakarra’s side, not his own.
So much for the universe being on his side.
One more smoke bomb.
Tim pushed on once more, through the pain, his speed being greatly impacted, and listening closely, he did his best to dodge the six shots that rang out, ignoring the grazing bullet that snagged his previously “good” arm, and the other that grazed his neck. He was right up on the man in no time, staff slamming into his hand to knock the gun away, hand slamming into his stomach, foot roughly kicking his knees out, all before he moved in behind him and left him fighting for only a moment before he was out under the recycled chokehold. Kicking the gun away, he restrained Zakarra. Once finished, he sent a transmission to the GCPD, sent the signal to release the e-mail from his laptop with the information regarding the full operation and its gang members.
Too bad celebrating was still a ways off. He still had to figure out just how he was getting home, and he hoped to do that before he passed out from blood loss.
Retrieving his grappling hook from his belt, he shot it off and pulled himself to the rooftop nearby to begin his trek home.
It took what had to be triple the time for him to reach his apartment. He entered through one of the few secret entrances to his “Nest” and dragged himself further in, trudging through and up, wanting nothing more than to get to his bedroom, strip in his bathroom, and clean up. He couldn’t tell if a shower or a bath would be a better idea. Passing out in the show and hitting his head wasn’t exactly something he preferred, but drowning in the tub didn’t sound much better.
He was operating on instinct as he moved. He was exhausted, he could hardly move, and he didn’t see a thing that he passed.
This would explain how he nearly missed his slack-jawed brother standing down the hallway from his room, currently standing at the edge of his living room.
..Oh hell, that’s right, he had to be bleeding on the hardwood floors, and the carpet too..
The colorfully wrapped box dropped to the floor, much like the smile that dropped from his face as soon as he saw Tim. But upon seeing Dick, all of Tim’s energy was gone. Maybe it was the subconscious thought process of once he knew someone was there, he knew he was safe -- he didn’t need to do it all by himself. He’d done enough. Either way, no matter what it was, he currently cursed it and himself as he felt his knees buckle and his body start to fall forward.
Dick rushed forward and wrapped his arms around Tim, and he shivered against the warmth.
Had he really been so cold?
Glancing up, he could see that Dick was talking, and maybe that sound was supposed to be his voice, but it honestly sounded like a nervous, frantic, worried hum.
“‘m... o-- kay..”
That wasn’t deterring the worried expression at all. He desperately tried to make himself move, but he had no energy to move. At the base of his neck, a prickling heat spread, fanning out further up and through his head. It made him feel nauseous. Closing his eyes to try and dismiss the feeling, trying to will it away, he only felt his fight fade all the more.
And he was out.
Moving was a bad idea.
Breathing didn’t feel much better.
Cracking his eyes open, he could have sworn that made his body ache too. As he did so, he could see the cave -- which told him that he’d been so bad that the supplies he’d had at the “Nest” hadn’t been adequate, and that was really saying something. There was a small line of oxygen passing under and into his nose, the cool, fresh flow breezing in with his normal pace of breathing, though it was more shallow than normal. He could feel the IV poking into his arm, and he could see the empty bags of blood just a few feet away on another table, waiting to be properly disposed of.
So he’d had a transfusion..
Likely a few other treatments too.
He could feel the tight bandages wrapped around his body. And despite the pain, he could feel the faint fuzz of painkillers encroaching on his mind.
The sound of deep, rough breathing caught his attention.
Dick was fighting to keep himself carefully controlled.
“What were you thinking?”
But even then his voice cracked.
A bitter, brief, weak chuckle bubbled passed his lips.
“I.. was... just trying.. trying to keep busy.”
Tim closed his eyes, trying to take in a deeper breath, wishing it would help him feel stronger. He wanted to think clearer.
“I don’t have anything to celebrate.”
Honestly, the man looked as if he had just been stricken, and somehow frightened.
“I just.. I really didn’t want any part of it.”
Sitting down next to the bed, Dick placed a hand on Tim’s head, fingers gently raking through his hair, smoothing it down with his palm. He did this several times before he simply leaned down, resting his forehead against Tim’s. He couldn’t hug him, not while he was like this. He was too hurt. He’d gotten himself far too hurt.
But he’d already been hurting.
He hadn’t known it had been like this.. He hadn’t known it was this bad.
“Happy Birthday, Timmy.” He whispered.
“Even if you’re not happy that it’s your birthday, I’m happy I have my little brother.”