He was going to die.
He was going to die and he knew it.
It was the end and no one was going to convince him otherwise.
So there he laid, trapped under a steel beam, left leg crushed, right shoulder pierced, blood slowly, oh so slowly leaving him, making him cold, sleepy.
He was going to die.
He closed his eyes, ready for the inevitable – would someone, anyone other than Kon and Bart cry for him? Would any of the bats cry for him? He really hoped they didn’t – and idly hoping his mother would not be so upset he went ahead to meet her and his dad before he had become an old man himself, when the shrieking laughter of a child forced him to open his eyes, wincing.
“You really are ready to die,” the kid said, tilting his head. “You always have.”
“Really, Klarion?” he whimpered, his mouth feeling dry and mothy with parched blood. “Not the best time.”
The boy wizard twirled in place, eyes full of delight.
“Actually, the one Robin who succeeded, I think this is the perfect moment!” he said, waving his fingers. “I have not forgotten how you saved me and yet spared me when your little friends wouldn’t have.”
“I was twelve, Kon was two and Bart five, kid,” Tim coughed, paling. “Times have changed.”
“You really have no idea the weight a debt has on a magic user, huh?”
“Not really in the mood, Klarion.”
The boy-witch scowled, a pout pulling at his lips.
“Nah, you can’t die on me, I will repay this debt,” he growled, his teeth bared in a snarl as his small fingers started conjuring. “And I’ll be free and I’ll stop watching over you! It’ll be awesome!”
Tim tried to ignore the way purple and red haloes seemed to surround them both as the witch continued to cast and chant, all the while muttering to himself whether he could take Tim with him, move him from the plane or simply de-place him for a moment.
“You are not gonna like this, but I don’t think you’ll mind, not in the way that matters, I’m gonna put you faaaar away, where no one will be able to touch you, where you will cause no ripples and yet will find your way,” he continued to chant. “And only within your heart will I place that which will take you home, how does that sound?”
“Sounds like a really bad riddle,” Tim mocked, he was tired, he was so tired and cold, and sleepy, he just needed a few second, just few more to have his eyes closed and….
“Oh no! Open up!” Klarion scowled. “No wonder the realms agree you are a particular pain in the ass.”
“Just shut up,” Tim sighed, feeling peace spread over his body, under his skin. “I can’t believe the last thing I’ll see is your ugly face.”
“And that’s all the thanks I get for saving your life, huh?” the Witch Boy sighed dramatically, fingers glowing. “Ground Rules, Robin who succeeded: You cannot create ripples for the moment you cross paths with one of them, you will cease to exist, you cannot call the name of your family in askance of assistance for you will displace those around you, and you will remain until your heart bursts from your chest and only then will you leave my protection. That should give you enough time for the Failed Robins to be reached by the inevitable ripples and act accordingly, huh?”
Tim tried to force one eye open, struggling with a heavy eyelid, but the light surrounding them was too strong, the wind swirling too fast, the cackle of energy was deafening and in the middle of it all, Klarion’s maddened laughter was the perfect echo before Tim finally lost consciousness.
When he was able to open his eyes again, Tim realized he was hot.
Scorching hot, actually.
Also, his shoulder was bandaged and his knee was in a cast.
…. Also… he wasn’t in Gotham anymore.
Unless Gotham had grown a desert in the middle of Kingston’s Park overnight and the merciless pseudo-Mediterranean sun had decided to beat over the usually reddish clouds that covered the city.
“How… did I get here,” he growled, maneuvering his healthy arm to cover his eyes.
“It is what I would have liked to know,” a smaller, higher voice asked to his right, immediately propelling his body into action, pushing the agony of his limbs to the back of his mind as he prepared for an attack.
His shoulder protested with pain, pulling a high-pitched squeak from his lips and forcing him to his knees once more.
Tim blinked, eyes wide.
He hadn’t had taken this little to reach the floor in years, gravity not-withstanding, and his voice hadn’t sounded like that since the last time he had burnt himself with the pan, during those late nights while he still stalked batman and robin on the….
Slowly, he brought his hands towards his face, noticing with mild panic that his fingers lacked the callouses he had gained from his years on the field, that his nose was no longer lightly crooked to the left due to a unfortunate run in with Clayface and that the faint scar that used to kiss the corner of his lip –courtesy of Dr. Isley – was completely gone.
“You are a strange one,” the smaller voice whispered again. “One with your injuries should not be moving around so soon.”
Tim raised his face from his knees – oh, god, his bony, boy-ish knees, he hadn’t seen them in years – and finally felt his world fade from consciousness and reason all together.
No wonder Klarion had warned him about ripples he might cause, and existences he could be threatening.
He was in a desert, injured, but alive.
Younger, smaller, weaker.
And a five year old boy was calmly sitting in front of him with an ornate sword barely resting on his small lap.
A five year old with eyes as cold as ice, a face as hard as steel.
“Da… mian…” he whispered, before the heat, the pain, the adrenaline and the exhaustion seemed to be too much for his skinnier body and he collapsed back onto the mattress.
The echo of Klarion’s maniacal laughter being the only sound to penetrate the darkness behind his eyelids.
What had he gotten himself into?