Tim gasped as his back came into contact with the top of a building, gravel digging into his shoulders and pricking his neck where his hair didn’t quite reach to bridge the gap above the neck of his uniform. The flash of light that had surrounded him, evaporated out of existence and he was left trying to blink away the spots in his vision and force his eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness. He groaned, body aching and pushed himself into a sitting position.
He looked around and found comfort in the fact that he was still in Gotham. He’d recognize the skyline and the thick air pollution anywhere. He staggered to his feet, still feeling a bit off from being sent from wherever and closed his eyes as he tried to regain a sense of his body. He moved over to the edge of the building and looked at the street below.
This wasn’t the area he’d been in when he’d confronted the evil scientist, but that didn’t matter at the moment. What mattered was getting back to his previous location and stopping him before he could cause serious damage to the city.
“Who are you?”
Tim whirled at the familiar gravelly voice. “Batman? What are you talking about? It’s me, Red Robin.”
“I don’t know anyone by that name. What are you doing in my city?”
“Batman! What happened? What is it?”
A blur of red and yellow streaked across the building and stopped at Batman’s side. Tim knew that he was staring, but he couldn’t help it. Because the Robin in front of him was none other than Jason Todd. He looked between Jason and Bruce, trying to figure out what might’ve happened to send him here. If he even was here.
“What-“ he croaked and swallowed, trying to quell his rising panic. “What year is it?”
“What year?” Robin asked, obviously confused. “It’s 2012. What are you, stupid?”
“Hush, Robin,” Batman said and if the tender tone to Bruce’s voice hadn’t been there he just might have accepted that this was all a dream.
He staggered backwards, almost as though he’d been dealt a physical blow. “This is bad. This is very, very bad.”
“Look if you don’t tell us what you’re talking about this instant-“ Batman snarled.
“You don’t know me. Because I’m from the future.”
“How?” he growled.
“I-I don’t know! One minute I was fighting this scientist on the other side of Gotham and the next thing I knew, I was falling through a portal and landed here.”
They stared at each other in silence. Tim didn’t know what to say. Didn’t know how to convince him of what he was saying or how they were going to make this better.
“Look, I’m sure that you’re reluctant to believe what I have to say and I don’t know how I can prove to you that I am from the future. Other than the fact that I know your secret identities.” He winced as the words left his mouth. This was probably a one way ticket to the pain express.
“How?” Batman growled.
“Because you trust me enough to know them. And I kind of figured it out on my own…Bruce.”
“You’re coming with me to the Cave.”
Tim let out a breath. That was more progress than he was expecting to make after being here all of five minutes.
“Lead the way,” Tim said, pulling his own grapple gun from his belt and following Bruce and Jason off the side of the building.
The Cave was a little more bare than he was used to since it was five years before his most recent visits and memories. It wasn’t any less awe-inspiring, though.
Bruce sat Tim down in one of the many chairs that had been placed in front of the computer and stood in front of him, arms crosses. Jason peeked around his cape, curiously watching as the events unfolded.
“Now that we’re back here, tell me your name.”
“I don’t think that’s-“
Tim raised his hands. “Okay, okay. Look, I know you’re not the most patient guy, especially when you’re trying to decide whether or not to bash my head in, but if I tell you who I am and you learn who I become, who knows what that might do to the time stream.”
“And what if it changes nothing?”
“Can you honestly tell me that if you know who I am, you won’t do anything to try and stop me from setting out on the path that brought me here? You won’t interfere in any way? Because I sort of find that hard to believe.”
“Can you give me a first name? Something that I can call you.”
Tim mulled over the request.
“I suppose so. You can call me Tim.”
“Okay…Tim. You have no idea how you got here other than a scientist being trigger happy?”
“Right. I don’t know anything about what technology he was using or what other gadgets he could possibly have. The only thing that I do know is that I need to get back to the future as soon as possible.”
“At least you don’t have to worry about your parents never meeting.”
Tim didn’t jump. He swear he didn’t. Maybe tensed a little because he was not used to having miniature versions of Jason Todd pop up next to him and take him by surprise.
“I-what?” he asked, dumbly.
Jason crossed his arms and laid his head down on top of them where they were on the arm rest. “You don’t have to worry about your parents never meeting. You know, like in the Back to the Future films.”
“You have seen those, haven’t you?” he asked.
“Uh, no…I haven’t.”
“Jason calm down,” Bruce sighed, finally pulling back his cowl. “I don’t suppose I can convince you to take off your domino, can I?”
“I’ll consider it if you let me have a shower,” he said, grinning.
Bruce walked over to his computer and pressed a button.
“So you’ve really never seen those movies?” Jason, running around the chair so he was in Tim’s line of sight.
He shook his head.
“We’re going to watch them.”
“Jason,” Bruce said, giving him a warning.
“It’s all right, Bruce. Sorry, but I should get to work on trying to figure out how to get myself sent back home. I can’t exactly stay here in case it disrupts the time stream.”
Jason pouted. “Fine. I didn’t want to watch them with you anyway.”
Tim smiled at him a little sadly. He knew all too well that Jason didn’t like him much. Even though the reasons and circumstances were different for them to be meeting at this point in his life, Tim wasn’t surprised that Jason still wouldn’t like him.
“You called for me, Master Bruce?” Alfred’s voice rang out as he entered the Cave carrying a tray of food.
“Yes, Alfred. This is Tim. He’ll be staying with us for a little while. Please prepare a room for him and he’d also like a shower and a change of clothes.”
“Welcome, Master Timothy,” Alfred said, setting down the tray with what was Bruce’s dinner on the available table. Tim glanced over at Bruce to see if he might have recognized the name, but garnered no reaction. He hoped that it would stay that way. “If you’ll follow me, I can take you upstairs.”
“Thank you, Alfred,” he said, standing.
“And Master Jason, I do believe that it’s time for you to get ready for bed.”
“But it’s Sunday and I don’t have school,” he whined.
“All the more reason that you should get some rest. You don’t want to sleep the day away and you should finish up your homework before it’s too late.”
“Alfred you know I already finished my homework,” he huffed but hurried to catch up to the butler. Tim had to hide his smile behind his gloved hand because he never knew that Jason could be so precious.
“Then you’ll have plenty of time to read that new book that you have instead.”
“Oh yeah! I’m going to go get ready for bed then. The sooner I get to sleep, the sooner I get to read!” Jason said, taking off down the hallway.
“This will be your room for the night, Master Timothy. It has an ensuite bathroom that is already stocked with soaps and shampoos, as well as towels. If you leave your suit on the bed, I can have that cleaned for you and I’ll do my best to track something down that might get close to fitting you.”
“Thank you, Alfred. I really appreciate this.”
“Of course, it’s my pleasure.” He bowed slightly before shutting the door behind him.
Tim sighed and ran a hand through his hair. This was going to get pretty complicated. Not only did he have to recreate the technology that had sent him back here in the first place, but there very well couldn’t be two Tim Drakes running around. Now or later down the road. He’d have to work quickly and probably stay locked in the Manor to keep anything terrible from happening.
And that also meant he couldn’t mess with the events that were going to come whether he liked it or not. As much as it would make things better, he couldn’t save Jason from the Joker. He couldn’t be here to prevent Bruce from going down a self-destructive path because his younger self would have to do that instead.
Tim made a mental note to jot down all of his theories about what he’d experienced during his short stint of time travel. Hopefully that would help him as he tried to re-engineer the thing. He’d also need to ask Bruce about any knowledge or technology that he might have on hand when it came to time travel. There had to be something. Even if it was only a weak theory.
Instead of continuing to worry about it, he stripped out of his suit and left it folded on the bed with his domino on top. He headed into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. Even for a guest room, the bathroom was spacious. The shower more than big enough for one person, not that he really cared about that at the moment. He just wanted a chance to step under the hot water and wipe the grime off his skin.
He turned on the water and looked over himself in the mirror. His face had been scratched up from his fall through the time portal, but other than that, he wasn’t suffering from any other injuries. He ran a hand through his hair and opened the shower door before stepping inside. The air had already been warmed by the flow of water and he stepped forward, letting it wash over him and run down from his shoulders.
He stuck his head through the bathroom door after his shower and was pleased to find a stack of clothes on the bed. Tim walked out, towel wrapped around his waist. Alfred had brought him several sweaters that looked like they were from the days of Bruce’s childhood and a few pairs of pants. Underneath it was a tee and a pair of sweatpants. He was even pleased to find an unopened package of boxers underneath it all. Alfred really did think of everything.
He ripped open the package of boxers and slipped them on underneath his towel before undoing that and slinging it over his shoulder. He pulled on the sweats which were a little baggy, but still fit well and walked back into the bathroom to hang up the towel. When he returned to the bed he moved the clothes so they were on top of the dresser and slipped the shirt over his head before shutting off the light and crawling under the covers.
Maybe if he was lucky, he’d wake up the next morning and find out that this was all just a very strange dream that never actually happened.
The soft sound of a door opening had Tim’s eyes flying open and tensing. He sat up quickly, ready to face the oncoming threat only to find a pair of blue-green eyes staring curiously at him from around the door. He relaxed and fell back against the mattress.
“Oh, it’s just you, Jay.”
“Jay? No one’s ever called me Jay before,” he protested, still shielding himself behind the door.
“Do you want me to stop?” he asked.
Jason shrugged, but didn’t answer.
“Did you need something? Did something happen?”
“Alfred wanted to know if you wanted to come down to breakfast.”
Tim pushed himself upright and swung his legs over the edge of the bed before standing. Jason pushed the door open and watched him as he walked over, having to tilt his head back so that he was looking up at his face. Being almost a foot taller than Jason was something that he wasn’t used to experiencing. He forgot how short Jason had actually been during his time as Robin.
Jason squinted up at him. “How old are you?”
“17,” he answered without thinking and then mentally chastised himself. He couldn’t let any more information about himself leak. The fewer people who knew who he actually was, the better.
Jason pouted and moved backwards. “Stupid tall people,” he grumbled under his breath and hurried down the hallway.
Tim shook his head, far too amused and followed after him. He walked into the dining room to find Jason already occupying a seat and piling things onto his plate. Tim pulled out the chair opposite of him and sat down, only earning a glance from Jason as he focused on his food.
“Good morning, Master Timothy. Would you like some tea or coffee?” Alfred asked as he walked back into the room with a bowl of scrambled eggs.
“Coffee would be wonderful, Alfred. Thank you.”
Tim carefully transferred two pancakes to his plate and added a nice serving of scrambled eggs and bacon. After dribbling syrup over his pancakes, Alfred returned with his coffee.
“Would you like any milk or sugar to go with that?”
Tim shook his head, already bringing the mug to his lips for a long drink of what would soon turn into a much needed caffeine fix.
“Is that all you’re eating?” Jason asked around a mouthful of food.
Tim shrugged. “Could be. I care more about the coffee than the food anyway.”
Jason scowled. “But food’ll help you get big and strong like Bruce.”
Tim tapped his chin. “That’s true, but I’ve already stopped growing. And I fight crime every night so I think that makes me pretty strong.”
Jason huffed and eyed him before going back to his food. “I still think you should eat more. You’re tiny.”
Tim snorted. “Then that makes two of us, shorty.”
“Hey!” he protested. “I just haven’t hit my growth spurt yet. I won’t be short forever.” Tim chuckled at the blush that spread across Jason’s cheeks. It was nice to actually have a conversation with Jason now that he wasn’t trying to keep himself from being killed by him.
Tim propped his cheek against his fist as he took another sip of coffee. The doors at the end of the room were pulled open and Bruce walked in, already dressed. He’d probably been up for hours. If he’d even gone to sleep.
“Morning, Jason. And Tim,” he said, taking his seat at the head of the table.
Jason made a noise of affirmation, but didn’t stop his efforts of inhaling everything that was on his plate.
“Bruce,” Tim said, nodding towards him. He set down his mug and cleared his throat. “I’m hoping to get started on researching and get to work building a new machine that can return me to my own time. I don't suppose you have research on file that deals with time travel and the mechanics involved with building a machine that can support it?”
“I have some information catalogued of past experiments and attempts at putting together the process. I’m sure that I can easily get more files and research by scientists who have worked on it as well for your reference. Everything else is already on the computer in the Cave.”
“Thank you. That’s really fantastic, actually.”
“You mean you’re going to spend all day working?” Jason asked.
“I need to get back to my time,” Tim tried to explain.
“But it’s Sunday.”
“And I don’t know how long it’ll take me to build a working machine. It could still be months before I get home, even though I’m started research and work today.”
“You’re sure that you have no idea how you got sent here? No idea as to what type of technology was used?”
Tim could tell that Bruce was on edge. He wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t trust him or just because his presence could mean things could go haywire, but the thought of him being around for months was not a pleasant one.
“I have a few notes on what it felt like when I was sent here and the dynamics of the portal itself, but as far as the technology goes and how to replicate it, I have no idea. I’m going to work as fast as I can to get this figured out though. So if everything goes correctly, I won’t be intruding for long.”
“You realize that you have to stay in the Manor, right?”
“I’m well aware of that fact, yes.”
Bruce nodded and Tim thought that he could detect him relaxing just slightly. It was an improvement and he could only hope that it would continue to be so as they worked together to get this figured out.
“We can get started after breakfast.”
Tim nodded and drained the last of his coffee. “Alfred, could I bother you for another cup of coffee?” he asked, raising his mug.
“It’s not a bother at all, sir,” he said stepping forward and relieving Tim of the cool ceramic.
Tim had his legs folded up in the chair with him and was leaning against the desk in front of the computer, hands tangled in his hair and pulling gently at the strands. He sighed and leaned back, letting his hands fall into his lap as his eyes roamed over the screens again.
“This…is not a lot to go on.”
Bruce shrugged. “You’re asking for a technology that hasn’t been spread very publicly even though a large amount of research has been put into it. A lot of people have tried to make it work with varying results. I can keep scouring labs and science institutes and see what I find. You can get started on working through the mechanics and the physics that would be needed for a successful time jump.
“Right,” he said, looking over the research that he had. “You wouldn’t happen to have a pen and pad of paper handy, would you?”
“Doing things the old fashioned way?”
Tim shrugged. “I work better when I can see it all set out in front of me and look over the progress that I make.”
“Jason?” Bruce called.
Tim heard the distant grumbling coming from behind an array of machines.
“How did you know I was here?” he asked, poking his head out from behind the electronics.
“How do you think I knew?” Tim’s gaze snapped back to Bruce at his fond tone and found a small smile tugging at his lips. “That’s beside the point. Could you go get a pad of paper and a pen for Tim?”
“Fine,” he huffed and Tim watched him walk off, book tucked underneath his arm as he made his way to the stairs.
“Does he hide out down here a lot?”
“Yeah. I usually let him get away with thinking that I don’t know he’s here. He doesn’t do much other than bring a new book with him and read. Now that he’s been here for a few years and explored the rest of the Manor, he gravitates to either the library to lay on one of the couches or comes down here and hunkers down in some corner, trying to hide out from me.”
“So he hasn’t gotten the best of you yet?” Tim asked, chuckling.
Bruce’s smile tugged his lips wider even as his eyes roved over the screens. “Nope. Not yet.”
This was a fondness that Tim rarely got to see. And even when it did appear it was already diluted. The events that were still in the future for the Bruce of five years ago not making his view of the world more bitter and not making things difficult for him yet. Tim wished he could do something to make that stay. Wished that he could keep Bruce’s smiles coming and keep him happy, but that was impossible. Because if he did…what was bound to happen to the future?
Jason returned and stepped up next to Tim’s chair, the two of them finally put at an equal height now that he was sitting. He held out a yellow legal pad with a pen resting on top, his other hand still clutching his book to his chest.
Tim smiled at Jason and took it from his hands. “Thanks, Jay.”
Jason huffed at the nickname, but didn’t move away even as Tim got to work scratching out details and jotting down various scientific laws that would need to be taken into consideration when approaching time travel. He covered the recurring issues and things addressed in the reports that he’d read over fairly quickly and began to branch out into his own areas of thinking.
“You have messy handwriting,” Jason commented.
Tim’s hand froze and he glanced up at Jason who was still standing next to him, eyes watching intently.
“It’s worse since I’m trying to write fast.” He started writing slower, the change on the paper obvious. “When I scribble something down, people often ask me to translate it for them.”
“What’s that?” Jason asked, pointing at one of the scientific laws he’d jotted down.
“That has to do with physics. I need to be careful to make sure that whatever I build can get me back home in one piece.”
“What does the law say? What are the mathematics involved?”
Tim stopped writing and gaped at Jason who was still looking at the paper, hands now gripping the arm rest of his chair. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was distracted by what Tim was doing or if Jason had just gotten over his shyness that fast. He glanced up and saw Tim watching him.
“What?” he scowled.
“Uh…nothing.” Tim ducked his head and returned to his note-taking. He began to quietly explain the components of what he was writing to Jason in a soft voice. Jason didn’t seem put out by the new knowledge and often interrupted him to ask questions that Tim answered as best he could.
After a while, the two of them had fallen into silence. It was comfortable and Jason was still watching him write. Until his stomach growled.
“Hey, Tim?” he asked, poking his side.
Tim squirmed away from his finger. “What?” he asked, still focused on the calculations running through his head.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
Tim looked up from his work and glanced over at Jason. “No, I’m fine. I need to keep working on this anyway. Food can wait.”
He missed the way that Jason pouted or the disgruntled sound that he made. “But Tim you need to eat!”
“I told you, Jay-“
“Don’t call me that!”
“I-what?” he asked, finally giving Jason his full attention. Jason was scowling at him, cheeks flushed and hands balled into fists.
He pointed his index finger at Tim’s face. “You’re not allowed to call me that until you come upstairs with me and eat lunch.”
Tim stared at him and blinked several times, feeling utterly bewildered. He looked over his shoulder, but found that Bruce was already gone. He wondered how long they’d been left alone. He turned back to face Jason who was still watching him and swallowed.
Jason scrutinized him once and nodded. He grabbed Tim’s pen and paper and set it on the desk before grabbing onto one of Tim’s hands and pulling him from his chair. Tim stumbled a bit, not quite getting his feet underneath him and stiff from sitting in the same position for so long.
Jason didn’t let go of his hand during the entire walk to the kitchen and Tim found it kind of adorable that he still tried to be tough, but was still really welcoming and caring under his original aloofness. He pushed through the doorway and pulled Tim inside, immediately catching Alfred’s attention.
“Is there something that I can do for you, Master Jason?” Alfred asked.
“Alfred could we get something for lunch?”
“Certainly. If you have a seat at the table and I can have something out to you in a minute.”
“Thanks, Alfred,” Jason said, pulling Tim with him through the kitchen. They entered the much smaller dining room and Tim’s hand was finally released as Jason moved over to take his seat. Tim sat down across from him, folding one of his legs underneath him as they waited.
“So do you pull Bruce away from his work like you did to me?” Tim asked, perching his chin in the palm of his hand.
“Alfred usually brings food for him to eat,” Jason said, shrugging.
“So what made me different?”
Jason shrugged. “I didn’t want to miss something important.”
Tim hummed. “I could’ve just explained it to you later.”
“But then I’d just be further behind and who’s going to help you build it?”
Tim snickered. “Do you quiz Bruce like this?”
Jason rolled his eyes. “Of course not. He usually does all of his tech work that I’m not allowed to touch when I’m asleep.”
“Maybe I should do the same,” he mused as Alfred walked through the door and placed sandwiches in front of them both.
“No!” Jason objected. “If you kick me out of the Cave then how am I ever going to learn about time travel?!”
“From movies and books like normal teenagers?” Tim asked, picking up his sandwich and taking a bite.
“Oh and I suppose that’s what you did during your teen years?” Jason shot back, eyebrow quirked.
Jason smirked. “And you haven’t even seen the Back to the Future trilogy. I’d say I’ve already got an advantage on this playing field.”
Jason’s remarks were strangely reminding Tim of Damian and his brand of snark.
“What’s so great about those movies anyway?”
“Uh, Michael J. Fox for one thing,” Jason scoffed, finally biting into his own sandwich.
“Ooh, I see,” Tim said, smirking.
“Someone’s got a little bit of a crush.”
Jason flushed. “No I don’t!” he protested, trying to scowl through his embarrassment.
“Well you would too if you’d seen the movies!” Jason said, pointing at him accusingly.
“I don’t know about that.”
“I’ll prove it to you. After lunch we’re going to go watch the trilogy,” Jason said, turning back to his sandwich.
“As much as I’d like to, Jay, I need to get back to work. The secrets of time travel aren’t going to figure themselves out on their own.”
“But Timmm,” Jason whined, doing his best to pout.
“Master Jason, whining isn’t very becoming of you,” Alfred spoke up from the kitchen.
“Yes, Alfred,” he sighed. “I just don’t see why you’re in such a rush. If it’s a time travel machine, you can easily travel back to the moment right after you disappeared.”
Tim’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “That’s…actually really insightful. But that doesn’t change how long I’m in this time. The less time I’m here, the smaller my impact is on the time stream.”
Tim’s heart squeezed in his chest at hearing the disappointment in his voice. “We can do it later, okay?” he conceded, softly.
Jason looked up at him, blinding smile lighting up his face. He nodded and hurried to finish his sandwich, impatient as Tim took his time to finish his own lunch, if only to make Jason more impatient with him.
“Okay, okay,” Tim said, pushing his chair back. “I’m done. Let’s go back to the Cave.”
Jason cheered and jumped out of his chair, racing ahead of Tim through the Manor. Tim chuckled as he followed him at a more leisurely pace. When he made it back down to the floor of the Cave, he saw that Jason had already pulled a second chair over to the one that he’d been working in and was sitting in it. He’d also picked up his notes and was reading over his calculations.
Tim took his seat and gently pried the notepad from Jason’s hands.
“That’s all pretty complicated, can you explain it to me?” Jason asked.
“Sort of? You might not understand everything without having experience with calculus. And I don’t think that’s something that I can teach you in a day.”
“But I’ll be able to learn it, right?”
“Of course! You can learn anything you want,” Tim said smiling down at him.
Jason grinned and shuffled as close as their chairs would allow, which wasn’t very much with the armrests in the way. He sat up on his knees and leaned over, propping his elbows on the armrest of Tim’s chair so that he could see what he was writing. Tim smiled down at him and started talking quietly.
“Jason?” Bruce’s voice broke through Tim’s explanation of mathematics.
Jason raised himself up onto his knees so that he was peeking over the back of the chair. “Yeah?”
“Time for patrol. You haven’t forgotten, have you?” Bruce’s voice was amused.
“Nope!” Jason said, jumping from the chair and rushing to get changed.
Tim chuckled and went back to his work.
“How are things coming?” Bruce asked him, voice harder than it had been with Jason.
“They’re coming. It’s still going to take a lot of work before I get everything sorted and ready to even start building a time machine. It would be helpful if I knew about the tech that sent me back here in the first place, but without that…” Tim trailed of and shrugged.
“I understand. Let me know if you need anything else,” he said before moving off.
Jason and Bruce took the Batmobile when they left, leaving Tim alone. It was only a moment, before Alfred came down and joined him, taking up his vigil at the screens to track their progress across Gotham and provide backup on the computer. The trusted second set of eyes that Batman always had.
Tim put his notes aside for the moment in favor of watching the screens. It had been years seen he’d seen Jason and Bruce work together. And most of his memories were from behind a camera lens. And even those and the pictures he took were largely focused on Jason since he loved watching Robin fly.
They worked together well. There was no denying that. Even when Jason punched a little bit harder than necessary. But that was so inherently Jason that it brought a smile to his face. He pulled his knees up to his chest and let himself be content with watching.
Tim frowned when Jason finally made it back to the cave. He had a long, albeit shallow cut, running down his arm. Bruce was still out on patrol, but Jason had been sent back since he needed to be patched up and had to go to school later that day anyway.
“Master Timothy, will you go and clean up Master Jason while I continue to monitor Master Bruce?” Alfred asked from where he was still in his chair.
“Of course, Alfred,” Tim said standing.
Jason had already pulled off his domino and was sitting on the medical table, frowning even as he swung his legs back and forth over the side. Tim pulled the first aid supplies from the cabinet and set them next to Jason as he took his arm. He poured some antiseptic on a cotton pad and gently took Jason’s arm in his hand, dabbing gently to clean up the blood.
Jason hissed and tensed in his grip, but didn’t pull away.
“You should be more careful, you know,” Tim murmured.
“Whatever,” Jason said pouting and looked away.
“I mean it. You could afford to be a little less reckless.”
Jason looked at him sharply. “Why do you care?” he snapped.
Tim just looked at him, knew that his expression was probably sad. “Because I do, okay? Because I don’t like it when you get hurt. It makes me sad.” He turned back to Jason’s arm, tossing the now bloody cotton pad into the trash before he got to work wrapping Jason’s arm in gauze.
“Sorry,” Jason mumbled softly.
Tim tied off the gauze and smiled at Jason, running his fingers through his hair quickly. “Come on, I’m sure that you’re hungry and want to grab something to eat before you have to go to bed.”
Jason grinned and jumped off the bed, running off ahead of him towards the steps leading back up to the Manor. Both of them missing the small smile that pulled at Alfred’s lips as they ran off.
By the time Tim walked into the kitchen, Jason had already put together a bowl of cereal for himself and was sitting at the table. He’d brought the box with him as well as another empty bowl.
“Do you really need two bowls?” Tim asked as he sat down.
“Don’t be ridiculous, the second one’s for you,” Jason explained, pointing his spoon at him.
Tim’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but a smile pulled at his lips. “Thanks,” he said and poured his own bowl. They ate in silence, Jason finishing up far faster than him. He hopped up to go take his bowl into the kitchen, but Tim stopped him, taking it from his hands.
“I can do it,” he protested.
Tim shook his head. “Go and get ready for bed. You have school tomorrow so I can take care of this.”
Jason opened his mouth before closing it and biting his lip. Tim knew that he probably wanted to argue, but he finally just shook his head before running off into the Manor. Tim finished up the last of his cereal and took the bowls into the kitchen. He washed them quickly, leaving them in the drying rack to air dry before he slipped out the door and up the stairs to the room he was staying in.
Tim blinked his eyes open slowly. He rolled onto his back and stretched his arms over his head, arching his back slightly before letting himself fall onto the mattress. He pushed away the covers and yawned as he walked into the bathroom for a quick shower.
When he finally made it down to the kitchen to grab some coffee before getting back to work, he found Alfred there cleaning up the remainders of breakfast.
“Ah, Master Timothy. It’s nice of you to finally join us.”
“Morning, Alfred. Could I bother you for a cup of coffee?”
He shook his head, turning of the water and drying his hands on a dish towel. “As I told you before it’s not a bother at all, Master Timothy. Would you like some breakfast as well?” he asked as he pulled a mug down from the cabinet.
“I’ll just start with the coffee for now, thank you,” he answered, taking the mug from Alfred’s hands and taking a seat at the kitchen table. “Jason made it off to school, I hope?” he asked, sighing as he took a sip of the warm drink.
“A little reluctantly, but he made it to school all right. Master Bruce also had to make a trip to Wayne Enterprises this morning, but he should be back before long if you required his assistance.”
Tim shook his head. “I should be fine. I just need to get working on the rest of my calculations and then start trying to figure out how to build a time machine.”
“Not an easy task.”
“Not by any means, Alfred. I do appreciate the hospitality as I work to get back to my own time, though.”
“Of course, Master Timothy. Know that you are always welcome to come back here should you need to.”
Tim took a sip of his coffee to hide his smile. “Thank you, Alfred. I’ll be sure to remember that.”
“Are you in school, Master Timothy?”
“I am. I’m in my last year of high school.”
“Any plans for college?”
Tim sighed and looked down into the last of his coffee. That was the question that he’d been asking himself for a while. “I’m not sure. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. I’d be interested in getting a degree in computer science or something else dealing with technology. But I also enjoy being Red Robin. And then there’s the question of whether I want to start right away or take a year off.”
“I’m sure that you’ll figure it out, Master Timothy. Follow your heart and I can guarantee that it won’t lead you astray.”
“Of course, Master Timothy.”
Tim downed the last of his coffee and pushed his chair back. “No need to worry about that now. I have to get back to my own time first.”
“Right you are, sir,” Alfred said, refilling Tim’s cup.
Tim raised his cup to Alfred before walking out of the kitchen. He hurried back down to the Cave and took his seat from the night before. The chair that Jason had been sitting in to watch him work was still there and it brought a smile to his face. As annoyed as Jason would be with any work he got done, he couldn’t delay. This wasn’t his time and he couldn’t stay.
Time passed in a blur as he calculated and brainstormed and just wracked the edges of his knowledge and imagination for any idea on how to make a working time machine. His cups of coffee blurred together and he was pretty sure that there was a sandwich in there, too. He’d felt like he’d been working for both no time at all and for days. It was one of the reasons why he was so surprised when a blur crashed into his side, spinning his chair around.
Tim blinked and looked down in shock to find Jason staring up at him. “Uh…hi? Aren’t you supposed to be at school?”
Jason furrowed his brow. “It’s 3pm.”
“What?!” Tim asked, looking toward the clock on the computer to find out that what Jason was saying was true.
“Alfred said that you’d been down here all day, but are you really that bad at keeping track of time?”
Tim rubbed at his forehead. “Time gets away from me when I’m working. It’s one of the reasons why I forget to eat.” He winced. His mouth also didn’t know when to shut up.
Jason grabbed his hand and pulled him from his chair. “You work too much. Keep this up and you won’t be able to do anything.”
“I’m fine, Jason, really. I need to keep working-“
“No, you need a break. So you’re going to spar with me.”
Tim looked down at what he was wearing. The nice sweater and the khakis that he had on. “I’m not exactly dressed for sparring.”
“I do believe that I can help with that, Master Timothy.”
Tim turned to regard Alfred who was holding something in his hands.
“I cleaned your uniform for you so if you’d like to wear the pants, you are more than welcome.”
“Yes!” Jason cheered. “Hurry up and get changed,” he said, running to the changing room.
“Thank you, Alfred,” he said taking his uniform back.
“Of course, Master Timothy.”
Tim hurried after Jason towards the changing rooms and slipped into one of the open stalls. He stripped out of his clothes quickly, leaving them in a pile with most of the parts of his uniform. He slipped into his tights, quickly adjusting them so they fit comfortably. He ran a hand through his hair, nodding once at himself before heading back out into the Cave.
Jason was already in the middle of the mats, bouncing on the balls of his feet and shaking out his shoulders. He was wearing loose shorts and a tank, the cut on his arm still wrapped in gauze. Tim was glad that Alfred had left the two of them in peace. He was already shirtless and would rather have as few people get a load of his scars as possible. Jason froze when he stepped onto the mat opposite of him, eyes going wide.
Tim ignored it and the urge to cover himself, instead pulling one of his arms across his torso to stretch out his muscles.
“So how do you want to do this? Just hand-to-hand? Or shall we make things a little more interesting?” Tim asked as he continued his stretches.
“Hand-to-hand. This time,” Jason said, seemingly shaking himself out of the temporary daze he’d been in.
Tim rolled his neck one last time before falling back into a fighting stance. Jason mimicked him. They sized each other up for a moment. Tim moved first, rushing Jason. Jason blocked his first punches easily, parrying him move for move, but Tim kept him on the defensive, getting an idea of how far along in his training he was and what strengths and weaknesses he held as a fighter.
As Tim forced Jason closer to the edge of the mat, Jason switched from strictly defense to offensive defense. Tim grinned as he was forced on the defensive. Fighting with Jason like this was so much different to the few encounters that he’d had with Jason as Red Hood. And one of the reasons was that this Jason wasn’t trying to kill him.
Jason caught Tim’s punch against his chest and pushed back, putting a few steps of space between them. Tim regained his footing in seconds, not giving Jason time to rest and throwing a roundhouse at his side. Jason threw up his arms to block and was pushed a few steps to the side from the momentum. Tim followed it by dropped to the floor and kicking out his leg to sweep Jason’s out from underneath him. He didn’t expect to make contact and Jason dodged easily.
Jason rushed at him before he could come out of his crouch. Tim used Jason’s momentum to pull him as he rolled backwards, kicking him off so that he landed heavily on his back. Tim lifted himself onto one arm and spun so that he could bring his feet back to the mat and face Jason.
“That reminds me of Nightwing,” Jason said, wiping sweat from his cheek.
“I picked up a few things from him when we sparred,” Tim said, rushing at Jason again and continuing the give and take that they’d kept up since the beginning of their session.
“So he’s still around in the future?” Jason asked, between breaths.
“If you mean still around by terrorizing people with his smiles and sugary-sweet personality, then yes.” Tim aimed another roundhouse at Jason, but he caught his leg this time and pulled him forward, aiming a punch at his stomach. Tim blocked and pushed them apart, chests heaving.
Jason ran at him, aiming several kicks towards his torso and feet, keeping him on his toes and nearly knocking him off balance more than once. “I wonder what my next identity is going to be,” Jason said, thoughtfully. “You’re Red Robin, we’ve got Nightwing already…”
Jason reached out with another punch and Tim grabbed onto his fist, using it to pull him in and twist him so that his arm was pinned behind his back. Jason squirmed in his hold.
“Maybe I’ll be Bluebird,” Jason continued on his train of thought. He looked up at Tim and smiled even as he worked to get out of Tim’s hold. “I think that it’ll be a nice change in a few years.”
Tim’s eyes widened as thoughts of Jason’s death at the hands of the Joker came to mind. This boy that would be a dead and bloody mess. Bruce left to find his limp and lifeless body. Tim let go of Jason’s arm with a gasp and stumbled back. He tripped over his feet and landed heavily on his back on the mat, arms splayed and gasping for air.
“Tim?” Jason asked, worried. He came over and knelt next to him, getting in his line of sight. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Sorry,” Tim apologized, voice thick. “You just caught me off guard there. Reminded me of something. Don’t worry. It’s nothing.” He closed his eyes and swallowed, willing away the emotions. He tensed when he felt something brush against his side and looked over to find Jason laying down next to him, head pillowed on his arm.
“Are you going to be okay?” Jason asked, voice small.
Tim smiled. It was small and a little sad, but it was still a smile. “Yeah.” He turned and curled his body around Jason’s, pulling him close against his chest.
Jason squirmed. “Tim? What’re you doing?” he asked, embarrassed.
“Just give me a minute. Please.”
Jason stopped moving, body still tense. As Tim stayed still, Jason slowly relaxed against him. Tim closed his eyes. Even when he was younger and following Robin around on the rooftops, he’d been lucky enough to see some of Jason’s cheer. When he met him again it was blood and pain and fists. This was a side of Jason that he wasn’t expecting. Someone who was so hopeful for the future even though they were angry at the world. Someone who was kind and caring, loyal to the people that he felt the need to protect.
Once the feeling of sweat drying became too unbearable to stay on the mat any longer, Tim pulled away, letting Jason’s body go. He sat up and ran a hand through his hair, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Are you feeling better?” Jason asked.
Tim smiled. It was a bigger smile this time and he was coming back to himself. “Yeah. We should get showered, though.”
Jason nodded and pushed himself to his feet, running ahead of Tim. He followed slowly behind him. He picked up his clothes and the last pieces of his uniform that he’d left in the changing stall before heading over to one of the shower stalls that Bruce tended to use after patrol since he rarely went up to his room most nights. Tim showered quickly and put the clothes that he’d been wearing back on, gathering up the pieces of his uniform.
When he returned to the main room of the Cave, Jason was holding his notes, looking over everything that he’d gotten done that day.
“If you want to bring those with you, I can explain what I figured out today.”
“Okay,” Jason said, not looking up. He turned on his heel while he continued to read and headed for the stairs, Tim following closely behind.
“Ah, Master Jason,” Alfred spoke up as they reached the top of the stairs. “There you are. Have you completed your homework assignments for the evening?”
“Not yet, but we were going to-“
“Whatever it is can wait until after you complete your homework,” Alfred interrupted, tone broking no argument.
“Yes, Alfred,” Jason sighed. He handed the notepad back to Tim before walking off with slumped shoulders, presumably to get his things.
“He usually does his studying in the library,” Alfred commented before walking off.
“Thanks?” Tim murmured, confused. Shaking his head, he made his way up the steps and towards his room. He unfolded his uniform and inspected the different areas of it. Everything was in order and he was glad that it was clean, even though he wasn’t going to be able to patrol while he was there. He refolded it and placed it neatly on his dresser before sitting on the edge of his bed and pulling his notes towards him.
He tried to backtrack to what his train of thought had been when he was working before Jason interrupted him with his request to spar. He was certain that it had been about the design of the machine and ensuring that it would hold up to the capabilities and stress that time travel would place on it. He sighed and tilted his head back. This would be so much better if he could reverse-engineer whatever gun had sent him here in the first place.
His eyes darted from the ceiling to his door which he’d left open after walking inside. With a small smile and a huff, he pushed off his bed and headed out of the room, turning down the hall to head towards the library. Alfred always did know what people needed.
He pushed open the heavy oak doors and found that Jason was already sitting with his legs crossed at one of the low tables. Books and notes were spread around him as he continued to scribble down what he was working on. Tim walked over and sat down on the couch opposite, swinging his feet up so that he was sitting sideways and could lean his notebook against his thighs.
Neither of them said a word, only continued on with their own work. Tim found that his thoughts came a little easier. He was able to work through what he’d been trying to remember only a few moments ago and thought he had an idea of what types of materials he would need to make a stable machine. He’d need a second opinion though. Maybe he could show it to Bruce for his thoughts or have him pass in on to Lucius for inspection. Either of them might be able to see something that he missed or find a flaw that he’d overlooked in the early stages of his planning.
After he looked through his notes again he looked over and found that Jason was sprawled out on his back holding a book above his head. His school work had been put away and stacked neatly to the side. Tim was left wondering once again just how long it had been and how lost he’d gotten in his own thoughts.
“Finally back with us?” Jason asked as he flipped a page.
Tim snorted. “I guess so. How long have you been finished?”
Tim hummed before setting his notepad on the table in front of him so that he could stand from the couch. He reached his arms over his head and stretched, feeling a few places in his back pop and relax back into place. He moved over to the various books that covered the walls and started to run his hands over the spines.
“Do you like to read?”
Tim paused, glancing over his shoulder at where Jason was watching him, book still poised above his head.
“Some. I don’t usually give myself time to do much reading. I never got the chance to spend a lot of time with fiction either.”
“So you haven’t read any classics?”
“Nope. Well, not aside from the ones that I was forced to read in school. But those are always the popular ones that everyone knows. Although that’s the point of a classic, isn’t it? It’s infamous so everyone at least knows the title even if they haven’t read it.”
“Yeah. I find some are worth the read. Others, not so much.”
“Oh? So you’re not a book snob then? Insisting that everyone should read and abide by the pinnacles of literature. That these have to be the greatest books because they’ve lasted so long?”
Jason shook his head and sat up. He flipped his book over and left it face down to mark his page. “No. Worthwhile books aren’t always going to be immortalized in history. Some will be forgotten about and lost to time. Others not so much. Another hundred or two hundred years from now, there’s going to be another group of classic books. But they’re going to be the ones that we read. And they could be anything. They could be books that flopped and everyone hated. Books where their worth wasn’t seen until years later while the popular ones of the moment are forgotten. Lost to time even though they were lucky enough to be surrounded by so much hype.”
“So like Fifty Shades of Grey?” Tim asked with a smirk.
Jason scowled at him. “If you can even call that literature. From what I understand of it, it’s not exactly healthy.”
“So you haven’t read it?”
Tim chuckled and continued his perusal as silence fell between them. He’d made his way several feet down the wall when Jason spoke up again.
“It’s sad when you think about it,” Jason said, softly.
“That some authors may have died thinking their work was a complete and utter failure. That they might have thought they never amounted to anything when it’s actually being read years later. That they aren’t being rewarded for their hard work.”
“But they are being rewarded. They’re being rewarded in having their writing remembered and shared and loved.”
“Yeah…but they don’t know that that’s happening. I wonder how many of them never even got to hear kind words from others after getting their work published. Did any of them even get to hear a ‘good job’ or ‘I loved this’ from someone that read what they wrote? It’s sad.”
Tim felt the words pull at his heart. He had another view of who Jason was. Jason was kind and considerate and thought in the deepest of ways. He cared about people. People he had never even met. Jason loved more than just the books that he read. He loved the authors behind the words, too.
“Maybe once I get this time machine built we can go back in time and you can visit all of your favorite authors. Tell them how much you like reading their work and what it means to you,” Tim joked.
“Don’t be stupid. Who knows what that will do to the time stream?”
Tim smiled and pulled a book from the shelf. Maybe he could do a little reading of his own and get a sense of just what Jason was talking about. He settled back onto his spot on the couch and flipped to the first page, seeing Jason flop onto his back out of the corner of his eye to do the same.
“Master Jason, please come down to the Cave to get prepared for patrol,” Alfred announced over the Manor’s speakers.
“See you later, Tim!” Jason said, hopping to his feet and leaving his book on the table in favor of racing through the hallways to get suited up.
Tim chuckled and continued to read. The book he’d picked up was surprisingly good and he wasn’t ready to put it down yet. It wasn’t like they needed his help down in the Cave anyway. Alfred would take care of monitoring the situation and he didn’t have anything else to work on until he could get a second opinion on the plans that he’d made.
The only passage of time that Tim had was each sentence. Each paragraph that morphed into a new page which he would inevitably flip for the next one. He wasn’t expecting to be disturbed until Jason got back from patrol.
“Master Timothy, I require your assistance in the Cave if you are available.”
Tim furrowed his brow and looked up at the ceiling as the speakers fell quiet. He set his book to the side and walked from the room, not quite in a hurry, but not taking his time either. Alfred had asked him to patch up Jason the night before so maybe he needed help with that. It would be easier for him to keep an eye on the computers after all.
The first thing that he heard when he got to the Cave was the sound of someone sucking in their breath through their teeth. It was a low hiss, but discernable either way. The next thing was that Alfred was bowed over Jason who was fidgeting on top of a medical table.
“Alfred?” he asked hesitantly.
“Master Timothy” Alfred said, voice filled with obvious relief. “I would appreciate it if you could monitor Master Bruce as he returns to the city while I patch up Master Jason.”
“Uh…sure,” he said, taking the chair that Alfred had obviously been occupying. “What happened?”
“Master Jason got into a bit of an accident and got his arm broken.”
Tim winced, knowing the toll a broken bone usually took on a vigilante. He wouldn’t be able to go patrolling for weeks.
“How bad is it?” he asked, even as his eyes took in the sight of the Batmobile racing through the streets.
“It’s a fortunate break. Clean through and it seems to be the ulna so it will affect that side of his arm that controls the pinkie. It’s also on his non-dominant hand so that will make his time off slightly easier.”
“Too true,” he murmured under his breath.
As Alfred continued to work, Jason became more subdued and quiet, not needing to shift as much from the initial pain that such injuries always brought. Even without Robin, Bruce was still efficient on the streets, taking care of the villains that stuck to the shadows before they could do anything too horrible.
“There you are Master Jason,” Alfred spoke up from where he was still at the medical table. “Go and get changed and get to bed. You’ll be plenty of rested for school tomorrow.”
“Yes, Alfred,” Jason responded.
Tim looked over and saw him jump down from the medical table, arm now encased in a plaster cast. He looked miserable and Tim couldn’t blame him. Getting benched was the absolute worst. He trudged out of the Cave as Alfred cleaned up the medical supplies and returned to his room.
“You should go get some rest too, Master Timothy. I can take things from here,” Alfred said, rolling his sleeves back down to button them around his wrists.
“Are you sure?” Tim asked even though he was already standing from his chair.
“Positive. I already interrupted your night enough,” he said with a kind smile.
Tim nodded and climbed back out of the Cave. He made his way back to the library, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to sleep even if he tried. He was too used to being up at this late hour. Jason’s things were still where he’d left them and Tim assumed that he’d be back to collect them in the morning before school. He was probably off sulking. Or fuming. Tim put his money on the latter.
Instead of going to look for him since he’d probably want to be left alone, Tim settled down on the couch again and resumed his reading.
Tim blinked his eyes open and groaned. He sat up and looked around, bleary-eyed, picking at the blanket that had been placed over him. He’d apparently fallen asleep in the library in the middle of his reading. His book had fallen to the floor and Jason’s things were gone, which meant that it was already into the later hours of the morning. He sat up and stretched his back, feeling all of the painful kinks and the tightness in his muscles that came from sleeping on an unforgiving couch. Anyone would think that with Bruce’s money, they could at least afford a slightly better couch. Although to be fair, this couch was probably as old as the Manor itself.
He scooped his notepad into his arms with the book and started for the door. The least that he could do was head down to the kitchen and get something to eat. And some coffee. He’d need it before he went to go seek out Bruce and get his thoughts on his notes. The sooner he had that conversation, the better. And maybe if he was lucky, they’d get passed on to Lucius and he’d get some feedback by the next day.