Chapter 1: devil in a good black suit
Bruce Wayne is dead.
Sure he looks alive to all of the people clamoring for his time and his dime at the college fundraiser that someone in the alumni association of Gotham University invited him to, but Tim knows better. Bruce is moving around the museum with a perfectly bland smile on his face and a glass of red wine in his hand, but he’s dead. Tim doesn’t know how people can stand so close to Bruce Wayne and mention the smell of his cologne without mentioning one fact--
Bruce Wayne isn’t breathing. He hasn’t been for a long time if the faint musty smell that Tim associates with graveyards and the really old vampires is any hint. The creature wandering around the banquet hall and chatting up women old enough to be Tim’s mother is himself old enough to be a parent to some of them.
Tim shudders and lifts his camera so that he can get a few shots of Bruce Wayne talking to the dean of the school and her partner for the school blog. He worries for a second that the photographs won’t come out well, but then he remembers: Bruce is always in some magazine or another these days. He’ll show up on Tim’s film.
For a vampire, Bruce looks human in his well-tailored suit and he acts like a human as he leans in close with a suitably intent look on his handsome face as the dean speaks to him. He looks as though he could be a college professor or a cop. Anything but a blood-sucking vampire that makes Tim’s fingers shake and his skin crawl just from being in the same room as he is. It’s not the way that Bruce somehow oozes malice or disdain for humanity the way that other vampires have that makes Tim uncomfortable with his presence. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Bruce’s genuine love of humans is what’s worrying to Tim.
While Tim is busy fussing with his camera and making sure that his camera still has enough film for the ceremony to come, he starts to feel as though he’s being watched. Most people would brush the sensation off as paranoia or the product of having watched too many horror movies. But Tim isn’t most people.
When he looks away from the display on the back of his very expensive camera, the first thing he sees is a pair of faintly glowing blue eyes. Bruce’s eyes seem even more compelling from a few feet away instead of a few yards and Tim finds himself wondering how much of that he can blame on the vampire’s powers instead of his own organic attraction.
“You must be the school photographer for the event,” Bruce says when he’s close enough to Tim that he can let his voice drop down to a low register. “Dean Kane had promised to make an introduction earlier, but I’m sure she just forgot.” He holds out one massive hand for Tim to shake and waits expectantly until Tim feels as though he can’t be rude much longer.
Bruce’s hand swallows Tim’s own up. He’s not as cold as Tim was expecting, but when he looks closely at the vampire’s face, he can see the faintest flushing in the cheeks that he’s come to associate with a freshly fed vampire. The thought of Bruce leaving a victim to come to a college function makes Tim feel sick to his stomach and he tries to extricate his fingers from Bruce’s firm grip.
“I have to go take more pictures,” Tim says, trying to get away from Bruce as the vampire smiles genially down at him. “It was very nice to meet you, Mister Wayne.” He keeps his eyes fixed on Bruce’s nose, not daring to look up and accidentally find himself captured by the vampire’s powers. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t stay and talk to you.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me your name?” Bruce asks, finally letting Tim’s hand go as a whisper of power seems to leap between their fingertips. He’s smiling at Tim and it’s a smile wide enough to show the fine white points of his fangs. “After all, you seem to know so much about me. I’d hate to find myself at a disadvantage with you.”
Tim freezes midway through wiping his sweaty hands down on the sides of his shirt under the pretense of fixing his clothes. “You know that I know what you are?”
He doesn’t mean to let it out as a question, but he’s on edge and his heart is racing. Every ounce of instinct is screaming for Tim to walk away. He’s never been this close to a vampire that wasn’t trying to eat him before and Bruce with his slicked back hair and fine suit doesn’t look like a threat to Tim. However, there’s something about the way the older man is standing that makes Tim feel tense and wary.
Bruce inclines his head in a nod. “I do,” he says, still smiling. The tone of his voice has changed though and Tim doesn’t doubt that the smile on the vampire’s handsome face stops at his mouth and doesn’t go any further.
“You’re the only one in the room that hasn’t looked at my eyes for longer than a second,” Bruce says, stepping forward until the toes of his expensive shoes touch the toes of Tim’s work shoes. He looks down at Tim because he has to and his fingers curl as though he wants to reach out and touch Tim. “And you’ve smelled of fear since you saw me. Why?”
Tim shakes his head. “I have to go,” he says, turning to leave because he can’t keep talking to Bruce and ignore the way that the vampire’s power feels as it slides over his skin. He has a small amount of immunity to those powers normally, but Bruce isn’t even trying to control him and it feels as though Tim’s carefully erected mental shields are about to shatter. And if his shields shatter-- Tim shudders. “Goodbye, Mister Wayne.”
Bruce’s eyes narrow and the weight of his power increases until Tim almost feels as though his knees should be buckling underneath the pressure of it. He licks his teeth, drawing Tim’s attention to his fangs, and then opens his mouth to speak. But before he can say what he wants to Tim, they’re interrupted.
“Oh, Tim,” Stephanie Brown --Tim’s closest friend at the college and the blogger he works most closely with-- comes up to where Bruce has Tim almost pinned and scowls at the larger man. She muscles in between them and takes Tim’s arm in a light grip. “They’re almost finished with the photo-ops but we need you to take some pictures of the main focus of the exhibit. Are you sure you have enough film for this?”
Tim nods, realizing an out when he’s been given one, and prepares to follow Stephanie wherever she wants to lead him. He stops when he’s a few feet away from Bruce and the vampire’s power isn’t as intense and half-turns so that he can look at Bruce without looking at Bruce. “It was nice meeting you, Mister Wayne. I’m sorry that we couldn’t talk longer.”
It’s only when they’re on the way to the exhibit in the next room that Tim feels it, an itch in his brain that makes his blood run cold in his veins. Bruce’s powers shouldn’t have worked on him. Not without a… name. Tim can’t blame Stephanie for any of this though. Someone would have told Bruce his name before the night was out and at least Tim knows who.
Bruce’s power seems to caress Tim from the inside out and it almost hurts. But Tim doesn’t let the pain show on his face as he follows Stephanie through the crowded room and answers her question on auto-pilot. He can’t. Bruce is a vampire and all vampires are the same on some level: Evil.
I’m not finished with you yet, Tim.
And Bruce won’t be an exception to the rule.
Chapter 2: dream a little
Tim receives a rather unwelcome visitor in his dreams.
Tim realizes that he’s dreaming when he looks at a conveniently placed mirror and sees himself in clothes that he’s never even thought of wearing before.He’s in all black from head to toe, leather and steel buckles wherever he looks. Tim frowns, feeling as though he’s an extra in a bad vampire movie, and then tries to change his outfit in the dream.
Tim is a master of meditation and controlling his own dreams has always come naturally to him. He should be able to change whatever he wants in his dream, from his clothes to his hair to the mirror, but even when he concentrates hard enough that he should have woken himself up, nothing changes.
Not the clothes.
Or the mirror.
Tim scowls and then sits down on the ground in his dream. He leans back and closes his eyes, imagining a wall to sprout up behind him and hold his weight. Tim is expecting to fall backwards. After all, if he couldn’t change the clothes that he was wearing, how can he change the environment?
Instead of falling backwards in his dream or hitting a cool, solid wall, Tim’s head knocks into a pair of strong human legs and he doesn’t have to open his eyes to know who it is that has been messing with his dreams. Tim breathes in once and even in the confines of a dream, he can smell vampire. He can smell—
“What are you doing harassing me in my dreams, Mister Wayne?” Tim asks, keeping still even though all he wants to do is scramble away and get as much space between him and Bruce as he can. “Didn’t anyone tell you that stalking is illegal?” He opens his eyes slowly, breathing in through his nose as he steadies that part of his mind that is telling him to wake up immediately.
Bruce’s smile seems genuine as the tall vampire leans over Tim. The vampire is dressed in all black as well, but where Tim is modeled after what a vampire slayer should look like, Bruce looks as though he’s just left work. Only the open trench coat that brackets the sides of Tim’s body in the dream world seems out of place on him.
“I’m not stalking you,” Bruce says, still smiling as he meets Tim’s gaze. “You were the one that sought me out in your dreams, practically begging me to follow you back here. And who am I to deny an opportunity to take a look inside your mind?”
Tim frowns before he can catch himself. “You’re rude and you’re a stalker,” he says softly, deliberately turning his face away from Bruce’s own so that he can look around the dream. “You don’t have my true name and I certainly wouldn’t have invited you to play around in my head.” Tim starts to inch away from Bruce, scooting back on his hands until he can feel the mirror’s smooth surface against the back of his body. It steadies him and pushes back the fear that Tim hadn’t known he was feeling. “Get out of my head,” he says as Bruce starts to walk towards him, the vampire’s long strides closing the distance between them faster than Tim had thought possible. “You have no right to be here.”
Bruce tilts his head slightly to the side and stops a few feet away from Tim, just barely out of arms’ reach. His fangs gleam in the light and he looks as though he is fighting the urge to laugh at Tim. “I do,” he says in a low voice before dropping to his knees in front of Tim. The amusement leaks away from the vampire’s glowing blue gaze until there is focus, intensity, and hunger. Bruce Wayne doesn’t look at people like this, but the vampire that Bruce really is—
Tim freezes, staring into the vampire’s eyes and wondering how anyone could take his public persona as the real thing. Not when an monster exists just underneath the surface. “I have your true name and I intend to use it.”
Tim shakes his head. “No you don’t,” he snaps, “I didn’t give it to you and my friend didn’t either. Whatever you have of mine doesn’t hold any power.”
“There are other ways to gain a usable name,” Bruce says, still kneeling in front of Tim as though he’s praying to Tim instead of biding his time for a bite. “Your parents for instance… They were quite eager to believe that their only child had gained an internship with my company.”
Tim keeps quiet as his mind races. He can affect his own dreams, no form of vampire mind control can stop him from doing something that he’s been practicing since he was eight years old. Tim gives Bruce his best blank face and turns his focus inward, pulling and trying to shape his dreams until—
The slight weight of his mother’s Star of David has barely formed around Tim’s throat before one of Bruce’s hands is there around his neck, squeezing him until his subconscious starts to panic about the loss of air. When Tim’s eyes flash open from the pain, he finds himself looking right into Bruce’s eyes. From close up, the vampire’s eyes are barely even human-looking and the power that Bruce pushes through whatever tenuous connection he’s forged with Tim burns all the way through until it feels as though Tim should be on fire.
“Timothy Jackson Drake,” Bruce says in a firm tone, “That’s enough of that. If you’re going to conjure holy items to use against me, you might as well wake up.”
Tim shakes his head. “No!”
Bruce frowns. “Wake up,” he says and this time the command sinks deep and the dream dissolves into blackness.
The look on Bruce’s face is the only thing that Tim remembers clearly from his dream.
Chapter 3: Late night luck of the draw
After waking up from a bad dream, Tim finds that he has an unwelcome visitor in his room.
Tim wakes up in his dorm room with his pajamas plastered to his sweaty skin and pressure pulsing behind his eyes from a nightmare that he barely remembers.
He bolts up from his prone position on the bed and closes his fingers over the swinging Star of David that hits his sternum once or twice before finally falling still. The sterling silver underneath his fingertips is warm, but it comes from body temperature, not the burning heat that comes from the presence of an attacking vampire and that calms Tim’s nerves and the frantic tattoo of his heart in his chest.
Tim sighs and turns so that he can look at the only clock in his bedroom. The digital display of the clock on his nightstand says that it’s only a quarter to midnight on a Friday night and Tim scowls.
Two hours of sleep. That’s all that Tim was able to get before Bruce Wayne invaded his dreams. It’s a good thing that Tim no longer has any Saturday classes, he thinks to himself as he starts moving around on the bed in an attempt to get comfortable… Otherwise, he’d be more of a mind to hunt Bruce down himself.
Tim yawns and glances once more around his sparsely decorated dorm room. There’s something off about his room, something that Tim can’t quite put his finger on as he wavers between sleep and full wakefulness. His room is neat and kept bare on purpose so that no one can hide out of his sigh, but when Tim sits up and presses his back against the corner wall behind his bed, he notices quite a few shadows that aren’t supposed to be there.
“Who’s there?” Tim asks, trying to keep his voice steady. He peers around his room slowly, staring into the shadows and wishing that he could reach his weapons without having to pull his gaze from a particularly menacing patch of shadow in the far corner of the room. “Is there someone in my room?”
Tim finds himself reaching out with his mind, stretching the part of his mind that can pick up on discrepancies in his surroundings like he would with his arm. It’s not the best idea that Tim has ever had and he’s sure that come morning, it will be one that he regrets, but it’s the only option that Tim has that doesn’t include getting off of the bed.
Tim should come up blank. He shouldn’t be able to feel anything except the echoes of his roommate’s mind on the other side of the room.
Instead, Tim feels a presence in his room that doesn’t belong and when he breathes in through his nose, there’s faintest smell of death. Tim feels a chill run through his veins as the clues start to come together. There are only two things that smell like that kind of death and since Tim woke up with all of his limbs intact, it isn’t a zombie. That can only mean—
Tim sits as still as he possibly can, trying to remember if the silver blade usually kept underneath his pillows is still there. Not that it would do much good against a vampire—
Bruce steps out of the shadows. Or rather, the shadows move forward out of the corner and seem to become Bruce. The vampire looks displeased as he looks around Tim’s dorm room and takes in the books that sit on every single flat surface and Tim half expects him to sniff with disgust or pull out a glove with which to do a dust test.
“What are you doing in my room?” Tim asks in a low whisper as the Star of David pressing against his sternum starts to warm, “How did you get in here in the first place?” He reaches behind his back and slides his fingers underneath the pillow crushed to his side, reaching for his knife with a slow motion that Bruce shouldn’t be able to notice. “A dorm is still a private residence.”
Bruce doesn’t miss the motion of Tim’s arm and he frowns. “Don’t touch your weapon,” he commands, blue eyes glowing brilliantly in the night as the weight of his power crashes down on Tim. “I’m not in the mood to get stabbed tonight.”
Tim scowls as he feels his arm move without him moving it. “Well you should have thought about that before breaking into my room,” he says, wincing as the metal against his chest starts to really burn from whatever vampire powers Bruce is trying to use on him. “Maybe you need to get stabbed a few times before you remember how to be polite.”
Normally, Tim isn’t so rude. But normally there aren’t any vampires in his room keeping him from going back to bed.
Bruce blinks at Tim, seemingly taken aback by the bite of anger in Tim’s voice.
It’s the kind of distraction that Tim needs. He pushes his hand underneath his pillow and closes his fingers around the hilt of it. Bruce is expecting Tim to get off of the bed and stab him or use the knife to try and ward him off. So instead of being predictable, Tim throws the knife at him.
It shouldn’t connect but luck is on Tim’s side and the knife manages to nick the side of Bruce’s arm. Blood comes out in a sluggish ooze and the vampire actually makes a pain noise as Tim tries to scramble past him to the door.
Tim may be faster than average, but he’s no match for an angry vampire.
Bruce pins Tim to the back of his bedroom door with one hand, holding him with one hand pressed to the center of his chest as though the burn of the silver holy item against his palm is of no consequence. Bruce’s fangs are fully extended and for a second, it looks more like he’s about to tear Tim’s throat out than talk to him. However, after a moment or several pass, Bruce’s control returns and he looks embarrassed.
“I don’t usually lose control like this,” Bruce says in an explanation that isn’t really one. “But I find myself at odds with you. You should be docile, open to my suggestions.”
Tim rolls his eyes. “If you’re into that sort of thing,” he says in a wheezing tone as Bruce’s hand places too much pressure on his chest, “Go find some other college student to harass. My mind doesn’t work like that.”
Bruce smiles and once again, Tim is reminded that there are several different sides to the vampire holding him so easily off of the floor. Bruce leans in until Tim can smell the blood on his breath and then licks his lips slowly. He looks hungry. More than that, he’s looking at Tim as though Tim is on the menu.
“I know,” Bruce finally says as Tim starts struggling in earnest. “I’ve never met anyone with a mind like yours before.” He moves his hand and lets Tim slide down the door until he’s standing on his own two feet. “That’s why I need your help.”
Tim knows he doesn’t look very respectful as he stares up at Bruce and wonders what kind of blood the vampire must have been drinking. “You don’t just stalk people and harass them in their sleep when you want them to help you,” he spits out, fingers clenching into fists as he wishes that he had thought to grab his knife before running to the door. “Get out of my room!”
When Tim raises his voice, Bruce steps backwards, raising his palms in a gesture that should mean surrender. “I meant no harm, Timothy—”
“Get out,” Tim says softly. “Get in contact with me like a normal person and I’ll think about doing whatever you want. But it’s late and I’m tired of dealing with you.” When Bruce doesn’t make a move to go, Tim hits the door behind him with his fist. “Don’t make me throw something at you again.”
For a second, it looks as though Bruce is going to stay in Tim’s bedroom. Tim opens his mouth to speak again and then Bruce’s big body dissolves into a mass of black shadow that soon vanishes completely, leaving Tim to press his back against his bedroom door and curl his fingers around the still warm weight of his Star of David.
Maybe Stephanie won’t mind him spending a night (or two) camped out in her well-warded room…
Chapter 4: a reasonable time for intrigue
Tim gets a call from Bruce right before dawn.
Tim’s phone starts ringing before dawn breaks when the only students awake are the ones that run on the school track team —and Stephanie of course, who swears by doing yoga in the early morning before her classes start.
At first, Tim tries to ignore the sound of it. It’s not the shared ringtone that he uses for both of his parents (some dark piece of classical music that he remembers his mother humming to often in his childhood) nor is it any one of the ringtones that Tim has assigned to the friends he’s managed to keep so far. The sound of music filters in to Tim’s mind as he slowly starts to reenter the world of the wide awake and a few seconds later, he rolls over and tries to reach for his phone without opening his eyes.
Unfortunately, his smartphone seems to have migrated away from the side of the bed and no matter how hard Tim tries to reach it, he can’t seem to find it.
“Who are you supposed to be?” Tim hears Stephanie say a second later in a snappish tone of voice. “Don’t you know that it’s rude to call someone before the sun is up? Call back again at a decent time!” She moves the phone from her ear and scowls down at the display as though she wants to throw the phone but can’t bring herself to do so. A rumbling voice comes through the speakers and Stephanie’s frown deepens. “I don’t care! I’m not waking Tim up so you can boss him around.”
Tim curls his fingers in the bright purple blanket around his chest and considers going back to sleep. There’s only one person that would try to call him so early in the morning and even though Tim doesn’t know how the vampire has been able to find first his dorm room and now his phone number, he needs to suck it up and handle Bruce on his own. Tim pushes the blanket aside and sits up in Stephanie’s comfortable bed, already holding one hand out for his phone.
Stephanie narrows her eyes. “Are you sure you want to talk to this jerk?” She asks, with one blonde eyebrow arched as high as it can go. “If he’s harassing you, I can take care of him for you.”
“It’s okay, Steph,” Tim says in as calm a voice as he can manage while running on a few hours of sleep, trying to keep his best friend from flinging his phone out of the nearest window. “I need to take this call.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Steph,” Tim says with a jerky nod of his head. “I’m sure.”
Stephanie doesn’t look convinced, but she smacks Tim’s phone into the palm of his hand and goes to get her bath supplies. “Hurry up with your call,” she says over one shoulder as she stands in front of the door. “You’re coming with me for a run and then we’ll get breakfast somewhere before my class.”
Tim waves her off without looking. “I’ll have to borrow some of your clothes,” he says as he covers the mouthpiece with his phone with one hand in the hopes that Bruce won’t be able to hear him. “Unless you’re willing to come back with me to my room.”
Stephanie gives Tim a thumbs up before slipping out of her dorm room and shutting the door behind her.
A few seconds later, Tim hears the shower turn on and he relaxes against the wall behind Stephanie’s messy bed. He has at least a half hour before Stephanie will come back to her room ready for a run, but something tells him that Bruce isn’t the type for long conversations.
“What do you want?” Tim hears the sound of soft laughter and he frowns. “What’s so funny?”
“You told me to contact you as though I was a normal person,” Bruce says and in the background, Tim hears the faint sound of wings flapping. “It’s morning is it not? And you did have your phone on.”
Tim leans his head back against the wall, hitting the back of his head with a dull thudding noise. “What do you want from me, Bruce?” He can’t keep the edge out of his voice as he talks to Bruce and he starts to rub his fingers over the blanket spread across his lap. “I thought I’d get another night or two without you harassing me.”
“I told you,” Bruce says in a surprisingly earnest tone of voice, “I need your help. I can’t wait any longer.”
“What do you need my help for? You’re a vampire and I’m just a human,” Tim points out, picking at a loose thread at the side of the blanket. “Anything I can do, you can probably better. So why are you wasting your time with me?”
There’s a sound as though Bruce is trying to pick his words very carefully. Seconds pass slowly but then Bruce finally speaks. “I can’t read your mind,” the vampire confesses and he sounds almost embarrassed. “I can walk in your dreams and use your true name to compel you, but I can’t read your mind.”
Tim scoffs. “Good,” he says, making it as nasty as he possibly can, “I don’t want you in my head.” He shifts the phone to his other ear. “I didn’t answer the phone to have you try and frighten me. I’m only going to ask you one more time: what do you want me to help you with?”
“My son,” Bruce says in a soft tone. “I need your help to find my son. He was taken from me and the one that has him is even more skilled with mind reading than I am.” Bruce pauses and when he speaks, there’s anger in his voice. “If I can’t read your mind, I’m sure he won’t be able to as well.”
Tim sighs. “Have you tried going to the police? Or a private eye?” He gets ready to hang up the phone, but Bruce speaks and Tim just can’t bring himself to be cruel to the vampire.
“He’s only a child,” Bruce says, “My son is only a child and I need your help to find him. Please, Tim. If you tell me to leave you alone, I will, but I would never ask for help if I didn’t need it.” Bruce doesn’t use Tim’s true name at any point, a sign of sincerity amongst vampires. “I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
“No,” Tim says, “I don’t want your money.” He sighs and taps his fingers against the inside of one knee. “I’ll help you, but I’m going to need some information.”
Bruce doesn’t say thank you. He’s too old a vampire for that.
“Have breakfast at the bookstore on your campus,” Bruce says with all of the ease of a man used to giving orders and receiving perfect obedience in return. “Sit on the second floor and when your friend leaves, my man will come to you with what you need.”
Tim hears the shower cut off. He has to hurry up and speak fast before Stephanie gets out of the bath. “How will I recognize him?”
Bruce hums. “He’ll be wearing blue,” he says to Tim after a moment has passed. “And I’ll ask him to mention something about vampires when he comes to your table.”
“And his name is?”
“Richard Grayson,” Bruce says with amusement in his voice, “But for some strange reason, he prefers to be called ‘Dick’.”
Tim swings his legs off of the side of the bed and stands up. “Dick Grayson,” he says once so that he doesn’t forget it. “I’ll keep an eye out for him.”
Bruce hangs up at the same time that Stephanie bounces in with a towel wrapped around her long blonde hair, leaving Tim to stare at his phone in silence.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, Steph,” Tim says as he puts his phone back where he had placed it the night before and turns to face his best friend. “Everything is fine.”
Chapter 5: head over heels
Dick’s priorities get a little twisted after he runs into a good looking guy on his way to meet with Tim.
As he walks through the main bookstore at Gotham University, he can’t stop himself from reaching up to scratch the bandaged bite-mark on his neck. He shouldn’t scratch. He knows better.
Both Bruce and Alfred have warned him repeatedly of the problems that could come from scratching a vampire bite when it’s not finished healing, but Dick itches. And the closer he gets to the second floor where he’s supposed to meet his father figure’s contact in a half hour, the itchier the bite-mark on his neck feels.
Dick is so busy mentally complaining about the itch underneath his skin, that he doesn’t notice his surroundings until he walks into someone and they both crash to the floor in a tangle of legs as papers fly everywhere —Dick’s notes from Bruce and those that belong to the man that Dick had knocked over.
Dick is mortified to realize that he’s managed to knock down a college student while his head was off in the clouds. And not just any old college student, Dick thinks to himself as his blue eyes meet green and he sees a wry smile taking hold on a handsome face.
The red-haired man sitting on the floor in front of Dick is about the same age as Dick is, but he’s dressed far better. Where Dick is living up his second chance to hang out at a college campus by wearing clothes that would be better suited for a party or a football game, the other man is dressed in a black suit. And it’s a good suit if living with Bruce for the past ten years has taught Dick anything about the clothing.
“I’m sorry,” Dick says with a smile on his face. He starts to pick up the papers as the other man does the same thing, gaze sweeping over the different logos on the papers that aren’t his in the vain hope that they’ll hold some clue to his new friend’s name. “I’m usually not so clumsy. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
He finishes gathering as many of the papers as possible and then tucks them close to his chest so that they won’t go flying for a second time when he’s finally able to get back on his feet.
The man across from Dick smiles. “Nah,” he says with a hint of an accent coming out in his voice. “I’m fine and it wasn’t your fault either. I should have been looking where I was going instead of trying to catch up with my work.” He rises to his feet and then holds out one hand to help Dick up.
When they’re both standing eye to eye (or close enough to it with Dick being several inches shorter than the other man), it takes some time for them to actually *stop* holding hands in the middle of the nearly empty bookstore.
Dick jerks back first, cheeks burning. “I’m sorry,” he says again.
“Don’t be sorry,” the other man says almost before Dick finishes speaking, eyes glittering with pleasure. “I’m not.” His smile widens and he reaches for Dick’s hand again, this time clasping it in a firm handshake that gives Dick full contact with callused skin. “I’m Roy and I don’t regret running into you at all.”
Dick preens a bit and then turns to point at where the school’s main coffee shop is doing good business for it being a Saturday morning. “Call me Dick,” he says with a teasing smile. “Do you want to get coffee with me? I have a little time to kill.”
Roy smiles and he looks pleased with himself. “Lead the way.”
Chapter 6: dossier duty
Tim learns a little more about what Bruce wants about him, but winds up with even more questions about the vampire.
“You must be Tim Drake.”
When Tim looks up from his laptop, there’s a handsome man sitting in the seat that Stephanie had vacated only a few minutes before. He looks normal enough, with dark hair and bright blue eyes that sparkle in the sunlight coming from the windows that surround the top floor of the campus bookstore. He looks like one of the students at Gotham University, but there’s something about him that makes Tim feel nervous.
Then Tim notices the large amount of blue that the man is wearing and the heavy reference book with the image of a snarling vampire on the front of it. “You’re Dick Grayson,” he says as his eyes widen. “Bruce’s man.”
Dick smiles and then sets his book down with a thump. “Got it in one, kiddo,” he says, “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting, but I got a little distracted. I’m sorry about that.” He doesn’t elaborate, but the apology seems sincere. “Now where’s that list…” Dick starts flipping through his book, looking for something amongst the pages.
“What list?” Tim asks, shutting the lid of his laptop so that he can look directly at Bruce’s smiling associate instead of at his computer screen. “What does Bruce want you to talk to me about that needs a list?” Tim crosses his mouth and stares at Dick’s still smiling face. “And what’s with the notes?”
“Did you expect me to be unprepared?” Dick pulls out two pieces of paper, keeping one for himself but sliding the other one over to Tim. “Bruce would kill me if I didn’t have all of this prepared. Especially after how long he’s been looking for someone like you to get into Ra’s’ inner sanctum.” Before Tim can open his mouth to ask exactly what Dick means by that sort of statement, the other man is reaching out and tapping at the name on the top sheet of paper. Next to the name is a portrait of an older man and Tim doesn’t have to ask if that’s the kidnapper.
The man in the reprint of the painting is old, older than Bruce appears to be, with salt-and-pepper hair and a look of disdain on his face. He’s handsome in a stern way, there’s something about the way he looks at that bothers Tim.
“How old was Mister al Ghul when this painting was done,” Tim asks, eyes zeroing in on certain little things about the painting such as what he can see of the high collar of the outfit the subject is wearing and the style of his sideburns. “The style looks like something from a history book. It’s from the twelfth century isn’t it?”
Dick nods his head as though he’s proud of Tim for noticing “Up until a few decades ago, it was used in some books as an example of Gothic art.” Dick leans in and taps the picture again. “Bet you a twenty that you can’t tell me where he’s from.”
Here Tim finds himself laughing softly. “That’s easy,” he says, glancing down at the painting, eyes seeking out the tiniest details. “The pin he’s wearing on his collar is similar to one used to be worn by the royal family in Timna, but he’d have to be ancient in order to have a…” Tim trails off and finds himself gaping at Dick. “You want me to go after a vampire that’s over two thousand years old? What’s wrong with you people?”
“He’s not that old,” Dick says quickly, reaching out and pointing at one of the numbers on the paper. “He was born in the third century.” Dick settles back in his chair and then tries to offer Tim a reassuring smile. “And you’re not going up against him alone; Bruce is trying his best to arrange for you to have a partner.”
Tim scowls, suddenly wishing for Stephanie and her no-nonsense nature when it comes to people like Bruce —and apparently, like Dick. “I’m only human, what do you expect me to do?”
The smile slides off of Dick’s face and he looks older, so much older than Tim originally believed. “You’re not only human,” he says in a firm tone. “You’re not anything of the sort.” He pulls another piece of paper out of his book and hands it to Tim. “I need you to find Damian.”
Damian —Bruce’s son— is small and spare with dark eyes and a scowl on his round face as he stares at the camera. He looks like Bruce, but he also looks like Ra’s al Ghul and Tim finds himself scowling down at the picture. “Damian is Bruce’s son,” Tim says as he ignores the fact that a vampire as old as Bruce is can’t possibly have viable sperm left, “But what is he to Ra’s al Ghul?”
Dick bites at his bottom lip and then starts to scratch at his throat, pushing aside the collar of his jacket to reveal a bandage low on his throat. “It’s complicated,” he says, looking away from Tim as though that’ll derail the conversation. “I can’t really explain it without Bruce’s permission.”
Recklessly, Tim gestures at the bandaged area on his throat. “Well I hope you’re allowed to explain the bite on your throat,” he says softly, “I don’t want to work with someone that’s underneath a vampire’s thrall if I can help it, even if you do seem nice. What is Bruce promising you: immortality or eternal love?”
Dick’s dark eyebrows go up and he stares at Tim as though he’s not sure what he’s seeing. “Are you kidding me?”
Tim shrugs, feeling his cheeks burn. “You’re barely older than me, but you’re doing the grunt work for a vampire like Bruce,” he points out, “What else can I think?”
“That I actually like the old bat?” Dick frowns and avoids looking at Tim for very long as they sit in an awkward silence. “You’re not here to deal with my issues with Bruce; you’re here to help find Damian.”
Stung by the note of anger in Dick’s voice, Tim sits back. “I’m sorry,” he says in a soft voice, “I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m just… overwhelmed and taking it out on you instead of the person that’s really getting on my nerves.” He shifts back to the dossier on Ra’s al Ghul and looks at the vampire’s strong features as though he’s memorizing them instead of using it as an out to get away from meeting Dick’s eyes for longer than a few moments at a time. “Now how am I supposed to find this vampire if Bruce can’t even do it?”
The smile returns to Dick’s handsome face. “It’s not that Bruce can’t find Ra’s,” he says in an almost cheery tone, “It’s that Bruce can’t get within a few miles of the place without him knowing and that’s not good for Damian.”
“So I’m going to be going into a vampire’s lair by myself?”
“Not by yourself,” Dick insists, “When Bruce wakes up for the night, he’ll talk to you about his plans.”
Tim scowls, remembering his interrupted night of sleep. “Tell him to call first before dropping in.”