It comes out at some charity event, Tim Wayne on display for all of Gotham to see and Vicki Vale pulling Tim aside for a few questions. She's bright and sparkling, teeth bared in what looks like a friendly smile but Tim knows from personal experience is anything but.
“I heard you had an avid interest in photography when you were younger.”
Tim blinks, and in the way sharks can smell a single drop of blood in the water, the rabid journalists – reputable and very much not – swarm.
“Melodramatic much, little brother?”
Tim's too...beyond tired to deal with Dick and his disgusting cheerfulness right now. He'd thought the way he was sprawled over the couch in the library, arm draped over his eyes might have conveyed that, but this is Dick he's talking about.
“Go away,” Tim mumbles, turning so he's facing away from Dick.
Dick huffs, moving to perch next to Tim on the edge of the couch, hand squeezing Tim's shoulder. “Hey, come on, Tim. It can't be that bad, can it?”
Tim opens his eyes, admires the upholstery in front of his eyes. Very nice, all fancy leather and button-tufting. Elegant, traditional. Anything to get his mind off -
“I mean, they kind of have a point, right? When was the last time you took any pictures for fun?”
Tim's eyes narrow.
“When you're not trying to get blackmail material on us, I mean,” Dick amends. Pauses, and says, like anything ever good happens when someone does, “What's the worst that could happen?”
Tim closes his eyes and takes a nice, deep breath. Lets it out after a moment and considers his options.
He could do the – he won't say it's the right thing, but perhaps the least morally objectionable thing - and accept his fate with something approaching grace. Or, and Tim's leaning hard in this direction, he could be a horrible human being and use the resources he has available to him to make Dick pay.
And since Dick was the one to bring up blackmail in the first place?
“I know what you did last summer,” Tim says, slow, little bit of threat in there. “And if you don't stop trying to cheer me up, so will Jason.”
And Jason, Tim knows for a fact, will not be amused.
Jason will be so not amused that Dick will be very, very sorry.
Dick yanks his hand back, laughs a nervous little laugh.
“Aww, hey, that's just mean,” Dick says, like he really doesn't think Tim will throw him under the bus. “You wouldn't.”
Tim rolls over to face Dick, eyebrow raised. “Try me.”
Bruce is no help at all.
“What is this?” Tim asks, eyeing the box Bruce is holding out warily.
“You're something of a detective,” Bruce says, and he's laughing at Tim, eyes alight with it. “I'm sure you can figure it out.”
Tim looks at Bruce.
“Vicki Vale left it with me after my interview this morning,” Bruce says, smiling one of Brucie's most infuriating smiles at him. “She was concerned you might not have a proper camera anymore.”
The worst part is, it's a fantastic camera.
“Look,” Jason says, and Tim can hear him rolling his eyes. “What's the big deal? You take a few pictures and that's it, right? I don't get why you're so worked up about this.”
Tim sighs because Jason's not wrong, exactly, just.
“It was a hobby,” Tim says, and it was, kind of, in the beginning.
The whole thing with Batman and Robin just took it into an entirely new direction, and then it wasn't like Tim had time for things like hobbies in between training and trying not to get horrifically, amazingly dead fighting criminals and super villains, so.
Tim shrugs, hunches down because it sounds stupid, ridiculous. (Selfish.)
Tim looks up to see Jason watching him, head cocked.
Tim shifts, fingers splaying across the lip of the roof they're crouched on. Any minute now a van's going to pull up and Jason and Tim are going to be busy taking down a little arms deal, but until then -
“I did it because it was fun,” Tim says, and good God, does he sound whiny. “This is kind of the opposite of that.”
Because when Tim took pictures before, it had been fun. Something he could do to pass the time on his own, catching little moments here and there. Little slices of life and color and motion, and it had been fun for tiny Tim Drake.
It's like Tim putting on a suit and smiling just so for the cameras, for interviewers.
Forced, unnatural, because Tim hates that. But he's good at it, and it's necessary -
“Christ,” Jason mutters, leaning over to shove Tim hard enough he wobbles. “Just. They don't care what you take pictures of, you know that right? All they care about is the fact your name is attached to it so they can lord that over their friends.”
He mutters something else, Tim flailing a little to regain his balance so he doesn't quite catch it, but he thinks it's something to do with stupid rich people.
Talking to Jason helps, but Tim still doesn't know what he's going to photograph for the charity art show.
He ends up taking the camera with him everywhere in case he comes across something interesting. Something that makes him think, yes, that he can't explain in words to anyone who asks.
Alfred tuts when he sees the horde waiting for Tim just outside Wayne Tower, camera flashes and loud voices calling for his attention.
“Just another day at the office,” Tim says, tries to find a smile that fits.
Alfred finds Tim's eyes in the rear-view, concern clear. “Master Timothy - “
“It's fine, Alfred. Thanks for worrying,” Tim says, little curl of warmth in his chest because Alfred. “I might have to throw Bruce to the wolves later, but I don't really mind.”
Alfred makes a soft sound of amusement, and Tim slides out of the car, Vicki Vale's camera held carefully in one hand as he straightens his shoulders and smiles, smiles, smiles.
Tam pats his shoulder and hands him coffee, gently steering him to his office.
“You can hide in here for the day,” she says, smiling to take the sting out of it. “You know they're not allowed up here.”
Small mercies, really.
Tim avoids the paparazzi gauntlet at the end of the day by – it's not cheating, it's being resourceful, Kon, stop laughing at him.
“Oh, my God, Tim. You're such a grumpy little dork, I love you,” Kon says, and he doesn't stop laughing even as he drops Tim off close to the theater apartment.
“I hate you so much,” Tim fires back, but it just makes Kon laugh harder, wobbling through the air as he heads back to the Kent farm.
Tim walks through his front door and smells popcorn. The popcorn machine has to be the best/worst investment in this place because popcorn, but it also draws all kinds of pests.
Jason usually, when he's not at the manor, but this time -
Tim hold the camera up out of danger as he's set upon by Step and Cass who brush hair out of his eyes and try to squeeze the life out of him, respectively.
“Photograph us like one of your French girls,” Steph says, and strikes a pose, Cass following her lead.
Cass snatches the camera from him and snaps a picture of Steph, who smiles like a crazy person for it. Then she takes one of Tim who is still staring like an idiot.
Steph takes the camera from Cass and take a picture of her as she drapes herself over Tim.
“Nice,” Steph says, giving them a thumbs up. “That's going to bring in some money for the charity.”
Tim can't seem to find the words he needs.
“Oh, wow,” Steph says, looking at him. “You haven't heard the latest news, have you.”
Tim works his jaw for a moment before the words finally make it out of his mouth. “What news?”
Steph makes a face, the kind people make when they have terrible news to impart, but think it's hilarious because they, too, are terrible people.
“Okay, so you're going to want to sit down for this,” Steph says, threading her fingers through Tim's as she leads him to the living room.
Cass follows behind them, taking pictures of whatever happens to catch her eye on the way. (Play of light on the wall, framed print the decorator chose, who knows, really.)
Tim feels the corner of his mouth twitch up when she turns and takes a picture of Tim and Steph, sees the little grin on her face.
And then Steph's pushing him at the couch, grabbing the remote off the coffee table and throwing herself down next to him.
“Popcorn?” Cass asks, offering Tim a bowl of his own popcorn like he's the guest here.
“Don't mind if I do,” Tim says, taking a handful of popcorn even as he holds his other arm up to block Steph from stealing it from him. “Thank you ever so much.”
Steph huffs, and Tim can tell she's giving serious though to nerve striking him for the popcorn, which.
“Here,” Cass says, holding the bowl out to Steph.
Tim breathes a little easier when Steph retreats to the other side of the couch with the popcorn, Cass laughing quietly.
Steph turns the television on and flips through a few channels before settling on a local news broadcast.
Tim watches, feeling more and more incredulous longer he does.
“They're taking bets on what I'm going to photograph?”
Steph hums, and tosses another piece of popcorn to Tim who catches it in his mouth.
Steph looks at him, and pats him gently on the head.
“You're kind of famous, Tim,” she says, and there's understanding in her eyes. “And the little people really like to speculate about what your kind does for fun.”
Cass snorts, and the corners of Steph's mouth twitches at whatever expression must be on Tim's face at that.
“There's a call-in segment,” Tim says, confused, bewildered.
“We're pulling for the sexy ladies,” Steph says, smiling wide. “Which is why we're here, by the way.”
“Steph, no,” Tim says, and he can't help the laughter. “I don't even have an French girls, oh my God.”
Well, he's Damian.
While things are better between them, they're not the best.
Tim lowers the camera and tips his head. “Damian.”
Damian stares at him.
Tim looks back.
“What are you doing?” Damian asks, little furrow on his forehead as though he has no idea why he's asking.
“Looking for something to photograph for the charity,” Tim says, little smile on his face. “What are you doing?”
Damian's eyes narrow, gaze sliding to Titus who's standing by patiently, stick in his mouth and tail wagging.
“Are you blind?”
Tim smiles, raising the camera and presses the button before Damian knows what's happening.
“No,” Tim says, and sprints away before Damian thinks to give chase.
“Tim, what the hell?”
Jason looks dead on his feet, hair an unruly tangle, lines on his face from being pressed against his pillow.
Tim, in contrast, is dressed for his day at WE, all shiny and pressed and put together.
He's been up for hours, wandering the manor taking pictures here, there, everywhere. (Annoying Damian, just a little, and oh, hadn't that been wonderful.)
Waiting for these dorks to wake up to take a few more before carpooling to work with Bruce.
Tim shrugs. Takes a picture of Jason in his ratty old t-shirt with little holes worn in the fabric and old oil stains from working on his bike or one of the cars.
“Looking for inspiration,” Tim says, little smirk playing on his mouth as Dick stumbles into the manor kitchen, and snaps another picture. “In all the wrong places.”
Jason snorts, reluctant smile tugging at his lips. “Such a little shit.”
Tim leans around the door to Bruce's office and takes a picture of the man “resting his eyes”, laughing to himself all the way back to his own office.
He puts his cell phone on silent and takes a picture of his office phone when a specific light starts blinking a few seconds later, still laughing.
“I don't need a bodyguard, you know,” Tim says, placid smile on his face for the paparazzo who's scaled a tree a few yards away.
Braver than any of the others, since Jason showed up wearing one of Roy's stupid hats and a pair of Aviators.
Tim ducked out of work early for a little stroll down Gotham's streets, taking pictures of the buildings. Visiting historical landmarks. Picking up more and more paparazzi along the way like some kind of fairy tale figure.
Jason shrugs, looks around at the little cluster of paparazzi trailing them.
“Who says I'm not here to get the goods on you, Mr. Wayne?”
Tim looks at Jason and his ridiculous disguise, the doofy smirk on his face, and snorts.
“You'd be a terrible paparazzo,” Tim says, and because he can't not, turns around to take his picture.
“Oh, come on, Tim, why would you do that?”
Tim grins, dancing back out of Dick's reach and closer to safety in the form of Alfred when Dick makes a grab for the camera.
“Your fault for teaching Damian how to prank people, Dick,” he says, and takes another picture of Dick covered in glue and feathers, little glitter of sequins in there too. “Everyone told you it wouldn't end well.”
Disastrous had the been the word used most, if Tim remembers correctly, and he does.
“Has Jason seen you yet?” Tim asks.
Probably not, Tim hasn't gotten any texts about Dick's new look, or heard Jason dying from laughter, so.
“No,” Dick says, eyes widening. “Timmy, little brother, don't do this - “
But Tim already has his phone out, little click and shutter sound and a soft chime and the picture is off to Jason, wherever he is at the moment.
“Sorry,” Tim says, not meaning it at all. “My hand slipped.”
Dick looks at him for a long moment.
Tim grins, edges away from Alfred who's been amazingly patient with them, all things considered.
“It was an accident,” Tim says, and oh, oh, the way Dick's eye twitches at that. “Really.”
He can see Dick biting back laughter, eyes bright.
Alfred sighs, holding his hand out and Tim places the camera in it for safekeeping.
“Thanks, Alfred,” Tim says, just as Dick lunges for him.
Tim laughs, dodging and makes a break for it while he can, Dick chasing after him.
Tim slides a look at Bruce, bites his lip at the look on his face.
“Bruce - “
Bruce's nostrils flare as he looks up at Tim, something.
“Ah, Mr. Wayne and Mr. Wayne.”
They turn as the official approaches, hard hat sitting crooked on his head, glasses catching the light as he moves closer.
“It means so much to the citizens of Gotham to have you both here for this. This neighborhood hasn't been the same since that catastrophic event.”
Tim's hand tightens around the camera strap, inching closer to Bruce when he stiffens at the words – no, the tone.
The paparazzi are still there, following them both, but they're held back by the caution tape and uniformed police officers stationed around the area to keep unauthorized personnel out.
“Wayne Enterprises is always willing to help the city of Gotham,” Tim says, hand coming to rest on Bruce's shoulder. “We just regret that it's under such unfortunate circumstances.”
No loss of life here, but this used to be an apartment building, and across the street had been a school.
Both gone now, casualties in one of Gotham's crises, one burned to the ground, the other -
This isn't the only area in Gotham like this, but this is one of the latest. Bruce's ribs are still healing and the others are sporting new scars and fading bruises and they were so lucky, so very lucky, it wasn't worse.
“Oh, I see you have your camera, Mr. Wayne,” the official says, voice smooth, oily. “Have you settled on your subject matter?”
Tim smiles, and it feels brittle. “Not quite yet,” he answers, little flash of teeth. “I don't think this would be right.”
No loss of life, but people had lost their homes here, their earthly belongings. A place to learn, to grow, become something bigger, better.
They've been relocated, Wayne Enterprises seeing to their needs while reconstruction is taking place, but.
It's not enough.
Tim opens his eyes to see Damian glaring at him.
“What are you doing here?”
“Well,” Tim says. “I was sleeping.”
Sneaking in a nap before patrol.
Damian sighs, so very annoyed. “I can see that, what I meant was what are you doing sleeping here? You have your own home.”
Tim make a face as he sits up. “Charming.”
Another sigh, Damian pinching the bridge of his nose.
“What did you do to Father?”
Tim's lips twitch.
“...More than usual,” Damian says, looking annoyed.
“Is he in the Cave?”
Damian gives Tim a look that not only questions Tim's intelligence, but that of his ancestors.
“Good talk,” Tim says, pushing himself up from the couch. “We should do this again sometime.”
Bruce is being dark and ominous down in the Batcave, brooding like he means it, and Tim.
Tim is taking pictures.
He can feel Bruce looking at him from time to time as he fiddles with the camera's settings. Takes shots of the cars, Jason's bike, little ding from what was probably someone taking a potshot at him.
Wanders a little further away and photographs stalactites and stalagmites, sleeping bats.
Working his way in a wide circle, Bruce at the center of it.
Tim glances over at Bruce, sees the frown on his face.
“Why is Jason texting me?”
Tim opens his mouth. Closes it.
Climbs over a little pile of rocks and makes his way over to Bruce.
“Is it that picture of Dick I sent him earlier?” he asks, taking Bruce's phone from him when he holds it out. “I didn't think - “
It's not the picture Tim sent Jason, it's -
“I'm going to kill him,” Tim says, utter resolve in his voice. “I'm going to kill him so much.”
“We don't kill,” Bruce says, but there's definitely something like amusement trying to surface out of the gloom and doom mood he's been in for the last few hours.
“Says you,” Tim mutters, handing Bruce's phone back. “For him, I think I'll make an exception.”
Bruce snorts. “Just don't let Alfred catch you.”
“Oh, I won't. Trust me on that.”
“I don't know what he did to get you this mad, but I haven't seen or heard from him all day.”
Tim looks at Barbara, and she looks right back at him.
“I'm not really going to kill him,” Tim says, shrugs at the look Barbara gives him. “He got Bruce to stop brooding, so, you know. I'll probably only maim him. Just a little bit.”
“Reassuring,” Barbara says, turning back to her computers. “I still haven't seen him, though.”
Tim sighs, wonders just when Jason managed to get that picture of Tim – and who helped him.
He shoots Barbara a suspicious look, but she's steadfastly ignoring him, and.
Well, there's a long list of suspects really.
All the horrible people in his life who live to make him suffer.
Truly, a mystery worthy of his skills at long last.
“I did it.”
Tim gives Steph a betrayed look, as if that's ever worked on her.
Tim sighs, rubbing a hand over his face.
“Is it safe for me to come out, yet?” Jason asks, voice muffled by the closet door. “It smells like feet in here.”
“Deal with it!” Tim yells. “This is your room, you idiot!”
Tim's not really sure how that happened, but he has the space and it's not like he's the only one who lives here.
Steph has a room, and Cass is slowly taking over the one next to it.
There's the sound of a doorknob turning and Jason clomping his way out of the closet. Tim refuses to look because he's mad.
“I know,” Jason says, and he sounds confused. “Which is why I don't get it. I mean. I actually keep my spaces clean, not like you, you freak.”
“Shut up,” Tim says, lets Steph shove him so he falls on the bed. “Where did you even get that picture?”
Steph grins, elbow finding its way to Tim's kidney and just, ow.
“Did you know you're a little bit famous?”
“And that people who knew you way back when are jumping at the chance to prove it by putting pictures of you online where the masses can see them?”
Tim groans, tries to wriggle away from her, but elbow in kidney.
“Who would even put my kindergarten class picture up?” Tim asks. “I don't even remember who was in my class.”
“You were a cute little munchkin,” Jason says, and oh, God, he's enjoying Tim's suffering so, so much. “All round baby-face and big blue eyes like a Disney princess. So fucking precious.”
“I hate you all so much right now,” Tim mutters.
Bruce takes Damian on a business trip out of the country for a week, and the deadline for the charity art show is growing closer.
Tim has countless photos of Gotham and her people. His family and friends and their insanity, and still no idea at all about what he's going to do -
And then Titus trots by with a tablecloth draped over him and an exasperated Alfred hot on his trail.
Tim feels a slow smile stealing its way across his face because it is October, after all.
Jason eyes Tim, the satisfied little smile on his face.
“Who'd you kill?”
Jason shrugs, gestures at Tim's face, his everything.
“That's the face of someone who's finally managed to kill a major annoyance in their life, or - ” Jason pauses, takes a step back. “Or is about to, and knows they won't get caught.”
Tim feels that satisfied little smile gain an edge, razor sharp.
“Really, you don't say.”
“Oh, for – Don't look at me like that you little shit, I'm not scared of you.”
Tim tilts his head, raises an eyebrow.
Jason huffs and goes back to working on his bike, runs a finger over that little ding and glares at Tim when he sees him looking.
Bruce is watching Tim transferring the more incriminating photos from the camera's memory card to his laptop, which just happens to be most of them.
It really has been a long time since Tim's done something like this, taken pictures because he wanted to. Coming across the right moment, something telling him yes, this and press of his finger on a button.
He's missed this, to be honest.
It's fun, exciting in a way.
More than that, there's a different meaning to this now.
Before it was architecture and circuitry, things in his life that caught his eye.
Those things are still there, but there's more too.
Steph and Cass being beautiful and dangerous and utterly ridiculous. Barbara looking at him over the top of her glasses, smile curving her lips just so. Damian being a grumpy little troll, Titus big and sweet and friendly right beside him. Tam giving him one of her looks, trying not to smile and failing miserably. Kon, a giant goofball with an even bigger heart. Jason and Dick being complete messes in the morning. Bruce falling asleep at his desk. Alfred's long-suffering expression with so much affection and fondness and love in his eyes it's hard to breathe.
All these people in his life that take up all the empty spaces he never noticed before.
“Do you think I could get away with this one?” Tim asks, and turns his laptop so Bruce can see his grumpy face staring down at Titus, who looks so pleased with himself as he presents Bruce with the cowl from his suit.
“Probably not,” Bruce says, voice dry as anything. “The lighting is terrible.”
Everyone's there for the charity art show.
“I still don't need a bodyguard,” Tim says, but Jason ignores him, and Roy's pestering Dick. Kory is talking to Babs.
“Deal with it,” Jason says, baring his teeth as a paparazzo gets too close.
Tim laughs, lets Jason nudge him towards the front of the room as the lights go down.
The presenter, some pompous little man with a tiny mustache, rambles on and on about WE's work to support Gotham and her people, various programs and groups. Bruce and Tim's efforts over the years, and Tim can see the annoyance ratcheting up on Jason's face.
Finally, finally, the man pulls the little curtains hiding Tim's work aside and -
A murmur goes through the room in an ever-widening ripple, shocked gasps and disapproving tutting.
“Oh my God, what?” Jason chokes, looking between the photographs on display and Tim. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Tim slides a look at Jason, smiles.
“'All they care about is the fact that my name's attached', right, Jason?”
“Oh my God, this is beautiful,” Jason says, wheezes as he laughs.
There's a shift in the murmuring as the presenter gathers himself, tries to put a spin on the ridiculous photos Tim's put together.
Pretentious meanings that Tim never even thought about as he draped a sheet with cutout for Titus' eyes and muzzle over him, arranged the lighting and background just so. Devised costumes and settings for the rest of Damian's menagerie to be photographed as spooky Halloween creatures and monsters.
He can feel Damian trying to kill him with the power of his mind, Bruce's bewildered stare. Dick and Roy sound like they're dying from laughing so hard, and Steph and Cass aren't much better.
“Okay, I lied,” Tim says, taking a step back when he sees Damian moving towards him, murder in every step. “I do need a bodyguard, like. So much.”