Chapter One: Only One Match
Most nights in Gotham were loud. There was always someone doing something. A robber trying to score big or mugger taking out their aggression on some poor innocent bystander.
Being a Vigilante was really quite troublesome, Damian Wayne decided. It was a far cry from the life of a highly skilled assassin that he had been trained for. Now, with his father and “brothers” dictating how threats should be taken out, he found that he often longed for the days when all he had to make sure his target was non-breathing as opposed to simply subdued. That night was no exception. After routing a breakout from Arkham- yet again, and corralling the escaped convicts for transport back to their cells, all the ten year old wanted was a cup of milk and his bed. Thankfully the long night ended before too much longer and soon they were all reconvened on an apartment rooftop.
They were all looking a little worse for wear, most of them bearing scratches and bruise from their run-in with various rogues. Batman sported a particular nasty one gained in scrap with Killer Croc, though he continuously waved off Oracle’s attempts to ascertain his health. His eyes shifted from his father to the other two vigilantes that stood with them. He frowned when he noticed how quiet Red Robin was. Not that Drake wasn’t always quieter than his other brothers. Tonight though, his predecessor was much more reserved than normal. Nightwing, standing next to him, was as boisterous as ever. The trying night seeming not to have fazed his oldest brother. He joked and jabbed at the others intermittently and didn’t seem to mind Red Robin’s near silence beside him.
The longer that Damian watched Drake, the more concerned he became. Drake’s eyes were slightly glazed over and though he “hmm’ed” every so often in response to Grayson’s ramblings, it was clear him when Oracle sounded in his ear, inquiring about his own health.
It was later that night, when everyone had returned to the manor and was settling into their own rooms that Damian remembered the strange behavior that Drake had displayed. He lay wide awake in his bed. He was exhausted, but he found that the more he tried to close his eyes, the more that the look in Drake’s eyes haunted him. No one else had commented on it, but he was certain that he hadn’t been the only to notice that the usually snarky teen was not participating in conversations as he normally did. If Grayson did not, then surely Father had.
It wasn’t that he really cared about the older teen. But if there was something wrong with Drake, it would inhibit his ability to patrol and could lead to one of them, even father, to get injured, and that was unacceptable. He sighed irritably. Drake was always causing problems. If he wasn’t making reckless and thoughtless decisions, then he was taking all of Father’s and Grayson’s attention for himself by worrying them needlessly.
In fact, Damian could clearly recall several incidents where Drake would withdraw himself and refuse to speak to anyone for long periods of time. When this happened, it would usually take the combined efforts of Father, Pennyworth and in really desperate times, even Grayson to get him to respond to coax him out.
When he had asked, Grayson had told him that Drake had severe anxiety and depression and sometimes the world was just too overwhelming and retreating to some place quiet often helped. Damian had scoffed then and said that if he couldn’t handle every day life then Drake really wasn’t fit to be considered Father’s son. Grayson had sighed and said that it wasn’t the point. Drake needed all the love and support they could give him. Damian didn’t understand it. If Drake had displayed these behaviors in the League, he would not have lasted a week.
After laying in bed for what seemed like hours with no success at sleep, the child growled and sat up. He rubbed roughly at his eyes and pouted. He was tired, but visions of the lifeless look in Drake’s eyes up on that roof just wouldn’t leave him be. He sighed and got out bed. He trudged across the floor and opened the door. He peeked into the darkened hallway just to be sure that there was no one about to see him. He would just check on Drake. He wasn’t concerned for him. He was ensuring that Father wouldn’t have to worry about the Impostor. That was it.
He made his way slowly down the hall to where Drake’s room was and was shocked to see the light glowing gently from underneath the door. He was about to knock when he heard a sound coming from the other side. He paused and listened closely. He could just barely make out the sounds of shuffling inside.
Not shuffling. Sniffling. Someone was crying inside the room! Damian cringed. He was wholly unprepared for an emotional Drake. Perhaps he should go and get Pennyworth. Or his Father. The child nodded. Father was much better suited to deal with this than he was. With that decided, he took off toward the opposite direction to find his father.
~ ~ ~
It was like watching a play. Only he was fairly certain that the main actor was himself.
Everything around him felt hazy and bleary.
He wasn’t even sure what exactly was going on. One second he could have sworn that he had been running next to his brother and the next, he was sitting by himself clutching a hideously bruised and swollen ankle. He wanted to call out for his mother, or his father, but he knew that they were probably busy.
They were always busy. So really, it was better than he was alone. No one needed to worry about him if he was alone and he wouldn’t get underneath anyone’s feet either.
Tim didn’t know just how long he’d been curled up on his bed. How long he’d been staring at nothing and wondering why he felt like his body was floating. He briefly thought he heard a door opening and a sigh. He blinked and miraculously felt his body ground itself.
He winced at the pinching in his ankle, wondering just when he had hurt the thing. The entire night was a blur. He remembered the break out from Arkham and trying to round up the villains but after...nothing. He didn’t even remember coming home. He checked out his surroundings and realized that he was sitting in his bedroom at the manor. He blinked. When had that happened?
He really hoped he hadn’t just had another episode. He bit his lip as tears of frustration welled up in his eyes. His episodes were occurring more and more frequently. He’d thought he’d had them under control but he didn’t know how much longer he could keep it up. If Bruce thought he wasn’t up to it, he’d take away Red Robin for sure. After all, what use was a partner who couldn’t keep focused. He sniffed and shook his head, the floaty feeling was coming back.
“Dammit, not again,” he moaned.
“Hey now, watch the language, Mister.” said a voice from beside him. The teen startled and whipped his head to find his adopted father and younger brother standing in the doorway.
Bruce looked at his second youngest son in concern. He’d noticed the boy’s increasing lack of response as the night wore on and knew that he was quickly getting overwhelmed. He’d already planned on checking on the kid when Damian had come barreling into his study. He watched the teen with concerned eyes, hoping that he would be able to stop a full blown episode.
“Tim, can I come closer?” he asked calmly. The boy gave him a glazed and blurry stare. It was like the kid didn’t recognize or register that he was even being spoken to at all. Bruce winced, it looked he was headed toward a full blown disassociative episode.
“Father,” asked Damian quietly from beside him. “What’s wrong with him?” Bruce put a hand on his youngest’s shoulder.
“Shh, we’ll talk late. Why don’t you go and get Alfred? I have a feeling we’ll be needing some of his famous hot chocolate.” The young child huffed in annoyance at not having his question answered right away. Nevertheless, he did as he was asked and left the two alone. Bruce sighed in relief. He didn’t think he could handle a tantrum as well.
Once Damian had closed the door behind him, Bruce focused on Tim. The poor boy looked positively miserable with tear tracks trailing down his thin cheeks and red rimmed eyes that still pooled with unshed tears. He was curled in the blankets of his bed, trying to make himself smaller than he already was. It always broke his heart to see his child like this and not for the first time, he felt cold hard fury at the way his parents had treated him. He took a deep breath. Now really wasn’t the time. Hating them now, wouldn’t help his son. He was here, they weren’t.
“Tim, Baby, it’s just me,” he whispered gently. “I’m going to sit on the bed now, is that alright?” He moved toward the bed slowly, careful to keep an eye on Tim’s body language. He would do even more harm if he spooked him now.
Once he was close enough, he reached out a single hand. “Tim, honey, do you know where you are right now?”
The familiar voice of his adopted father drifted through the haze of Tim’s mind. He could feel the tears drip down his face in a wave of relief. He blinked at the figure inching his way toward him.
“Dad?” he croaked. He hated that Bruce had to see him like this. He felt so weak compared to the others. He knew that Damian or Jason wouldn’t be caught dead in a state like this. “I didn’t mean to wake you up. I’ll be okay”
Bruce raised an eyebrow at his son. This was the same song and dance they’d done a thousand times. All of his children were stubborn to a fault. Getting any of them to admit to any sort ailment was half the battle, the other half was letting either Alfred or himself tend to them.
“Oh, so you’re fine are you?”he said finally sitting on the bed next to his son. “And what exactly is okay about my boy sitting all alone in his room crying and holding his ankle like he’s hurt it?” Tim paled.
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said, averting his eyes. Bruce inwardly sighed. It looked like he’d successfully distracted his son from a full blown attack.
He raised an eyebrow and scooted closer to the bed. “You wouldn’t be trying to fool the World’s Greatest Detective now would you?” he asked. Tim shook his head.
“N-no,” he stammered. Bruce decided that it was safe enough to sit fully beside his son.
“Can I see it please?” he asked gently. Tim bit his lip and thought for a moment. It broke the elder vigilante’s heart to see that his second youngest was still unsure of weather or not he would be given care. Eventually though, he leaned in closer to his adopted father and offered up his injured limb.
Just at that moment, Tim’s door was flung open again and Damian rushed in, followed closely by a concerned Alfred. Bruce sighed, at least part of the calvary had arrived.