Tim’s last thought before losing consciousness is that he’s dying.
One moment he’s on the roof of one of Gotham’s skyscrapers, Oracle’s voice in his ear informing him that Nightwing is on his way to join in the pursuit. Tim – Red Robin – stays put, wary as always as he’s scanning his surroundings quickly, making sure he’s not followed, that the area’s clear. All results come out as negative and he’s sliding the cowl off of his head a minute or two later, letting out a breath of relief he’s been holding far too long, perhaps since the mission has started hours ago. Tim wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t sure. He’s expecting Dick to appear any second now.
What goes wrong then, he doesn’t know, not until it’s too late. What hits him is small, not much bigger than a medical needle, and Tim would have laughed at his incompetence and the underwhelming picture of it all was his body not going slack the next instant, sliding off the roof like a discarded rag doll.
He registers his cape all around him, dancing madly in the wind as Tim is falling and falling, arms and legs useless and mind foggy, begging to shut down completely. He fights, but the urge to close his eyes is overwhelming – and it’s a curiosity, he thinks distantly, how in that moment he’s not able to fear for his life, how he’s not really feeling much of anything at all. Bruce, Dick, his mother, the Wayne manor, Alfred…Jason; it’s all in front of his eyes, filling him with sadness that’s far too remote to be associated with what’s about to happen once his body hits the ground.
Tim has just a second or two in-between dream and reality to ponder whether he’s dead or not before cold water hits his face, startling him fully awake. His eyes can’t yet open not to mention focus, but his heart is already hammering in his chest madly at the heavy smells in the air all around him – dirty and menacing, odors that certainly do not resemble those of his family in the slightest. Nor do they resemble anything he really acquaintances with, not even the streets of Gotham. Tim’s mind is sluggish, but it’s trying its best -- he doesn’t seem to be in his house or on the street, obviously not in a hospital if the smell of general lack of hygiene surrounding him is any indication…where is he?
A laugh cuts through the silence, a sharp, strangely familiar sound that speeds his pulse even more.
Tim’s eyes snap open and don’t instantly land on anything substantial, hands and feet ready to push off the surface he’s been lying on and spring into action – just to realize that he can’tmove any of them, that his movements have been restrained to less than a bare minimum. His eyes flicker down his body, skipping through the torn and filthy Red Robin costume, fabric clinging to his skin uncomfortably, and slightly relieved to see the rest of him intact, Tim glances at his bound wrists and ankles. Sprawled on a…bed, he supposes, a simple mattress that’s been holding him captive for what must have been hours -- his body feels tired and sore from being unable to change position for too long.
"Did the good old Batsy allow his little bird to wander off so far all by himself?”
By the time his mind puts a face to the voice, Tim’s absolutely terrified. A man circles his form and appears in his field of vision, bright red paint smeared from one corner of his mouth to another, angry scars standing out even more than they’d normally do in the faint light of a bulb hanging above Red Robin’s body.
It cannot be…
"No greetings? I’m almost…’’ It’s the Joker, it’s him, oh my God, Tim’s mind screams and his body goes completely still upon the realization, white, pure panic overcoming his senses for a moment. The man must have sensed exactly what Tim’s been feeling by now, there was no way that his Omega body would give him enough courtesy to conceal the emotion. "…offended.”
All he can do it stare, stare with transparent horror as the Joker pulls out a knife and tosses it in his hand casually, humming to himself.
How…? There was no way, no way in hell that he’d been followed and captured as easily as this in the middle of Gotham, with Oracle in his ear and Nightwing on his way. Not to mention by the Joker himself. After what happened to Jason, the Bat never, ever sent anyone from his family near the Joker’s domain again. Tim shrugged off his paranoia back then, thinking that…that he was safe, somehow, having backup and keeping to the shadows, never in the open, never too close to the enemy. Red Robin was more than aware of the fact that when it came to the hand to hand combat, he somewhat lacked in comparison to Dick and Damian, that he should stick to being the brain of their operations more than anything else. He’d never go against Bat’s orders if there was even a shade of possibility that Joker was involved.
Tim goes over everything that happened during their last mission in a flash, and there’s just nothing off, nothing out of the ordinary in what he remembers. Where did the dart that hit him come from? Why?
What did they want?
Except that with Joker, the question was more of what he will do rather than what he wanted. Because no matter how concussed Tim knew he still was, there was no doubt in his mind that what the criminal eventually desired was causing harm to everyone and anyone associated with Batman.
"Cat got your tongue? Or did you hit your head a little too hard? My apologies for that," the Joker chuckles, voice even darker in the dim light. The knife finds its way to Tim’s neck, but he notices the light, almost casual grip – wrist certainly not positioned to stab him, not right away. "I’d hate to spoil the fun by causing you more discomfort than necessary before we actually start getting to know each other better."
The knife slides down his neck in a painful but shallow stab; cutting through his uniform and stopping at the ribs.
"You are probably wondering what you’re doing here, dear Robin bird.’’ The Joker says conversationally, the knife digging into Tim’s rib suddenly and drawing a yelp from the boy’s throat. ‘’The answer is…"
In an instant, his lips are near Red Robin’s ear, and Tim cannot suppress a shiver running down his spine at his own vulnerability. "The answer is, because I know you are curious – that you were never my target. I’ve spent months – months, really – thinking about that one perfect way of getting to the Batsy like never before, setting his mind on the right track. I thought to myself: something incomparable with the grief he’s familiar with would do just fine, wouldn't it? His involvement with that...hero-friendy of his, Nightwing - as they call him, gave us…and everyone really, a perfect opportunity to do just that."
Tim opens his mouth and stares. The Joker pushes himself up and smiles so wide it’s profoundly uncomfortable. "Nightwing…?’’ Tim struggles to find his voice, frowning at how small and pathetic it sounds. He is scared, so scared.
“Do not take it personally, but in the end he proved much more difficult to capture than you, birdie boy. The opportunity might be lost temporarily, but...patience does it. With your aid, surely.”
And with that, Tim is left alone.
He doesn’t know how much time passes until the Joker is back again. Tim’s famished, thirsty and cannot feel his muscles anymore. His mind is so frantic he’s afraid he’ll snap, but Batman taught him better. Bruce taught him to believe in himself and to not be afraid.
But he is.
The Joker…there’s not even a minute without Tim going back and forth in his head about what happened to Jason after he’d been captured. A year spent in captivity, enduring every sort of torture – a full year in which Bruce failed to find him. The Joker said that Nightwing was his primary target, that getting to him would break Batman like nothing else – was he aware of their relationship then? That Nightwing was Batman’s mate? As far as Tim was informed, no one but the family knew.
What will happen to Tim?
There is tingling just beneath Tim’s skin, slight warmth that could be felt no matter how much he tries to ignore it.
This was just…so, so bad. Shit.
Heavy steps startle him. Tim curses at himself for getting so lost in his own head that he dropped his guard down to that degree. Not that being on guard would save him, but still.
"Pretty bird is awake."
This time Joker is accompanied by a few men, hired goons no doubt, and his smile is even wider than the last time Tim saw him, which is very alarming.
The suddenly overpowering smell of Alphas in the room is suffocating and terrifying.
One of the goons unceremoniously grasps and guides Tim’s head to look at the corner of the room, and the boy gawks, bewildered, as another man pushes a dirty mattress to the ground and positions a stand with a camera in front of it. There’s a solid looking metal pole in the ground, just beside the mattress, and a chain attached to it doesn’t leave nearly as much to the imagination as Tim would have liked in that moment.
"I hope the accommodation will be to your liking," the Joker chuckles, and the next second the goons are all over Tim, undoing his restrains and hauling his frail body up and towards the mattress. He thinks he should at least pretend to put up a fight, but there’s not even one spark of energy in his limp, strained body. He feels like a doll again, just like back then, falling and expecting the impact…
Just as his body hits the mattress, the Joker gesticulates and Tim’s bloodstained uniform is being torn away from his form. It’s then that he actually decides to will his muscles into any sort of movement, struggling weakly against heavy hands that manhandle him in a very humiliating manner. The fabric drags unpleasantly against his cuts as it’s being discarded, leaving Tim naked and panting on the dirty cot. One of the men grabs his neck then and snaps something around it before Tim can react, something that connects by the chain to the metal pole he saw earlier. A collar, he realizes as his hands shoot up to touch the object.
"Much better now. Get the poor birdie something to wash with." The words are unusual to his ears, somehow. Tim isn't entirely sure why. The Joker closes the distance between them with unhurried steps, eyes locked with him. "I guess we can talk about your identity later, hm? Timothy Drake…Wayne."
Tim draws his legs up his chin and winds an arm around them to remain at least a shred of modesty, pointedly ignoring the grin Joker makes at the gesture.
“Things are looking so much better than I first anticipated, I must say. Famous names get publicity like nothing else, you see.’’ Tim’s puzzled for a second, but then Joker points to the camera stand beside the mattress and he pales. “I think you’d agree.”
Tim’s breath hitches and he knows, he knows that he’s oozing dread and hysteria and distress that his Omega pheromones so unhelpfully supply at the moment, that he’s unable to stop himself from being just as fragile as his anatomy tells him he should be. In that moment, Tim wishes that he died from the fall.
“Poor thing,” the villain says in a cheerful voice, just in time for one of the goons to bring a bucket of water and set it on the ground near Tim. “If that makes you feel any better, I am not planning to kill you, no, no. You are probably thinking about your older…resurrected brother right this second, going through all the horrible scenarios that might just happen to you, since you’ve been brought here to me – but rest assured. If you won’t struggle, I’ll keep hurting…maiming you to the minimum.”
“Why am I here? To flush out Batman?” Tim asks quietly, irrationally proud of his voice not breaking in the middle of the sentence. The Joker is a beta, but Tim’s quite sure the villain can read his pheromone shifts and body language just fine anyway. It’s cold and goosebumps rise on top of his bare skin. “You mentioned Nightwing.”
The man clicks his tongue as if displeased, but the smile’s still in place. “For one of the greatest detectives, you sure are a disappointing little boy. You should be fully aware what is expected of my guests by now, Timothy Drake.” He’s getting closer and closer, pointy shoes nearly touching Tim’s foot. “Entertainment.”
The room fills with chuckles then, Joker’s men laughing in the dark, where Tim’s eyes cannot reach them. His stomach turns.
In the Wayne manor
Jason takes off his helmet and tosses it to the side before slamming his fists down on the table, making Dick’s elbows jump at the motion. “The fuck happened out there?!” he shouts, voice hot and frantic, Alpha pheromones raging and oppressing Dick’s Omega instincts. Jason’s body is screaming at him to submit, and boy does he put his full Alpha force into it without thought, but the eldest just shakes his head. Dick meets Jason’s eyes -- but not without some difficulty. He looks exhausted, Jason notes, a shadow of his usual self. “What did you do?”
Dick doesn’t have an answer to that. He was supposed to meet up with Tim to continue their pursuit of some minor criminals they’ve been after a few nights before, but arrived to no sign or trace left of the other Omega. Oracle informed him that Tim’s transmission had been cut abruptly in a rather worried tone, but it wasn’t until a few hours later than Dick and the rest of the family started to truly panic at Tim’s disappearance.
“I didn’t – Jason, look –“ Dick doesn’t know what to say. Jason’s enraged, eager to put a blame on someone’s shoulders and Dick truly doesn’t want to be a scapegoat this time, not when it comes to this, to Tim. “I’ve been…everywhere, I searched for him, Oracle did, too. It’s been minutes between his com being cut and me arriving to the site, it’s just…it shouldn’t have been possible.”
“You just…fuck, you --!”
“Master Jason!” Alfred raises his voice just as the other male slams the table again. “Master Dick is not at fault here. All we need to concentrate on is finding Master Timothy.”
Before something bad happens is left unsaid.
It’s then that Bruce emerges from the Batcave, expression grim. All eyes turn to look at him, but all he does is wave his hand and sigh. “Nothing yet.”
Dick cannot suppress a whimper that escapes his mouth at the despair painted all over Bruce’s face, the guilt of not being able to protect his son. He reaches out and brushes Bruce’s cheek lightly, putting all the Omega calmness he’s able to muster into the touch. “We’ll find him.” He says, not allowing himself to believe otherwise.
Bruce nods shortly.
Tim is grateful that the water they brought seems relatively clean and scrubs at himself after he’s left alone. There’s some bread for him, too, and he’s picking it up and bringing to his lips tentatively. They wouldn’t poison him, he thinks, and if he doesn’t eat he’ll die anyway, so there’s little choice in that. He chews the pastry and frantically tries to plan.
The metal snapped around his neck seems solid, just as the chain that connects it to the pole. He cannot move much, maybe twice an arm’s reach, but it’s enough to allow him to lie down and stand up, which is good. He tugs at the restraint, but as expected, nothing budges.
He’s alone for at least few days, although it’s difficult to tell the time without being able to glance through a window. Joker’s goons bring him food and water, and that’s about all the interaction he gets. No questions asked and none answered, left all by himself, he wonders.
And thinks about his family, even though every memory of them hurts. Will he ever see Bruce again? Dick? Barbara? Even Damian, God, Tim didn’t think he could possibly miss the brat as much as he does now.
Jason. His…something. Brother. Friend. Tim’s mind wanders to maybe a week before his capture, a peaceful moment in the manor when Jason put an arm around his shoulders and sniffed at Tim’s neck in a strange, intimate manner. They’ve…started something months ago, definitely, with small touches and words that didn’t quite fit in Tim’s mouth just yet; with brushes of lips against skin. Nothing more. Jason was complicated as it was, an Alpha but not seeking out partners, not sleeping around, not really seeing anyone as far as Tim knew. He was locked in his own head, still suffering from what had been done to him, still too raw to express affection…except towards Tim. Those little moments with Jason, they meant everything.
Tim is what one might call an Omega in the world ruled by Alphas. His fatherly figure Bruce is an Alpha, Bruce’s blood son Damian is an Alpha, Jason is an Alpha. With Alfred being a Beta, the only Omega beside himself in the manor is Dick, his eldest brother. A person Tim always looked up to and considered his idol, an Omega mated with Bruce.
Dick was impressive for so many more reasons other than being Bruce’s beloved. His polished, acrobatic moves were an act of beauty in themselves; every time he swirled in the air, striking his foes down, audiences gasped, Tim included. He seemed to be followed by paparazzi the most out of Bruce’s wards and never failed to impress, always smiling, charming and disarming. Everyone loved him, everyone wanted to be him or with him, and even Bruce’s bite blooming on Dick’s neck couldn’t stop them from trying. And beside all of that, Dick has never, not even once, failed to be a brother to him.
Which brings him to the fact that Joker hoped to capture Nightwing instead of Red Robin, but for some reason still settled with Tim. Until when, exactly? With your aid, the Joker said, and that thought unsettles him more than anything.
He knows, Tim thinks, he obviously knows about Nightwing's relationship with Batman. What could Tim being here contribute to Nightwing's capture? Were those empty words? Does the Joker think that Bruce cares about him more than he did about Jason, hence the kidnapping? Perhaps he simply wants to shatter another Robin in front of Batman’s eyes, to demonstrate yet again how powerless he is? If that is the case, why is Tim left alone for days? What are they waiting for?
In the back of his mind, Tim is reminded what exactly he and Dick have in common – they are both Omegas. The tingling in his abdomen is back at the thought, spreading warmth through Tim’s whole body and it’s then that he stills.
Is that what they are waiting for…?
Tim’s eyes flicker to the camera positioned in front of the mattress and out of his reach. Dread rises in his throat and then sinks to his stomach as he watches the object, mortified.