Tim was having a bad night.
Not physically, of course. Patrol was quiet and almost boring. But a quiet city meant more time for him to wander the dark, empty alleys and rooftops alone, more time for his brain to twist a knife in his emotions while disassociation crept up his vaguely tingling fingers.
He couldn't even nail down exactly what was bothering him, which meant it bothered him more. Every noise seemed amplified, he jumped every time something moved near him. It was like his nerves were all on fire while he walked the silent roof's edge, twirling his bo staff in one hand to give the numb and tingling fingers something to do.
It had been at least twenty minutes since anyone had spoken over the comms, and he was lost in his own mind again. What was the point of him being out on patrol tonight, when he was so messed up, and it was so quiet in the city anyway? He should have just stayed home. He was a mess. He was always a mess. Always just in the way. Forcing himself in where he didn't belong. He was hopeless.
His downward spiral dragged him in so deeply that the sound of a garbage can falling over in the alley below sounded like a bomb. He startled so severely he nearly fell from the roof, and took a few seconds to regain himself.
Stepping over to the edge of the roof he peered down into the alley, and caught sight of a familiar red helmet reflecting the light of the streetlamps.
His first thought was that his brother was injured. He hurried to put his staff away, then clambered down the outside of the building's fire escape, landing lightly on the paved ground. Moments before he reached Jason he realized that the older boy wasn't hurt, but was hunching over something on the ground.
“What are you doing?” He asked, stopping a few feet away and tilting his head.
Jason seemed startled, like he hadn't heard him approaching, and turned his head to acknowledge Tim. “Nothing.”
“Doesn't look like nothing,” Tim snorted, walking to the side a bit to try and see, “what is that?”
Jason sat up straight, his jacket zipped up entirely. “What is what?”
Tim stared at his brother. The jacket bulged out awkwardly in a few spots. He had his arms against the bottom like he was holding something in, or supporting something. While Tim watched, he realized the lumps were moving ever so slightly. “What do you have in your shirt?”
“None of your business.” Jason said defensively, though there was no real fire behind it. He moved to get up, slow and delicate.
“Are you hurt?”
“No. Go away.” He turned to start walking away, but then froze, crouching again.
Tim followed him and moved to stand in front of him, watching while his brother fidgeted with the jacket. Finally, Jason looked up at him, his expression hidden under his featureless helmet, and his voice slightly distorted.
“All right, fine. You want to know? Fine. But once you know, you have to help me with it.”
Now that was interesting.
“All right,” Tim answered, crouching also, “what's up?”
Jason adjusted his position so he was sitting on his heels on the ground, the bottom of his jacket supported by his thighs. With one hand he slowly unzipped the jacket, revealing a tiny kitten peeking back out.
It was clearly very young, with folded-over ears and eyes bleary, watery and barely open. Its pale gray fur was fluffy and poking out in every direction while it looked around shakily. Its tiny mouth parted in a pathetic little mew.
Tim's mouth dropped open. “What-”
“I saw a cat get hit near here earlier tonight. I think it was their mother. I'm bringing them somewhere warm, but I don't think I can carry all of them myself. And now that you know, you promised to help.”
In the stunned silence that followed, the kittens' mewls became vaguely audible while the little fluffballs crawled over each other inside Jason's jacket.
“Yeah, yeah okay,” Tim nodded, blinking quickly, “how many are there?”
“Six. Can you take three?”
Awkwardly, Jason fished two tiny kittens out of his jacket and handed them, one by one, to Tim, who suddenly realized he had nowhere to put them.
“What are you doing?” Jason asked, pausing in his fishing out a third kitten to raise an eyebrow at his younger brother.
Tim paused. He'd been settling the two kittens into two larger belt pouches. “What?”
“You're putting them in there?”
He frowned. “It's not like all of us wear coats, y'know. I'm going to support them, this'll just keep them from falling out of my hands or something.”
He settled them in each butt-first, so their heads just barely peeked out of the pouches, then held his hand out for the third.
Jason hesitated, staring at the kittens in Tim's pockets. They seemed content enough, nuzzling at the sturdy fabric and only squirming a little, so he handed over the third, and Tim tucked that one into a third pouch.
“Where are we taking them?” He kept one hand under the three pouches, his other hand in front of them to protect them from falling forward.
Jason adjusted the kittens in his jacket, zipping it up again. “Do you think the brat knows how to deal with little kittens like this?”
“Maybe. I don't know. As far as I know he's only had Alfred, and he wasn't a little kitten when he got him.”
“The alternative is taking them back to one of my places and googling it.”
“Let's bring them to the cave.”
- - -
Traversing a city with six kittens between the two of them took longer than either of them had expected, since jumping around on rooftops was suddenly no longer an option. They opted for walking the streets somewhat like normal people, hoping nothing would come up requiring their attention before they got the kittens somewhere safe.
Fortunately the night remained peaceful, and they arrived in the batcave to a vaguely surprised Alfred, who became much more surprised when they unloaded the cats onto one of the exam tables.
After the initial moment of surprise, Alfred remained as unflappable as ever and handed Jason a blanket to tuck around the kittens, and placed a heating pad on its lowest setting beneath it all. The kittens seemed as tired as if they'd been the ones to walk the entire city, and cuddled against each other to fall asleep in a tiny, purring pile.
Tim leaned on the table and watched them, idly stroking the head of a ginger kitten with a single finger.
“I'm going to call this one Harambe.”
Jason scoffed from where he stood beside Alfred at the computer with his helmet tucked under his arm. “No you're not. They're already named.”
Tim rested his hand on the table and turned to frown at his brother. “No way, you named them all already?”
Jason strolled over, smirking, and pointed to each kitten in turn. “Taco, Cupcake, Bitey, Stinky, and TinyCat.”
“You're calling...ugh.” He stopped, shaking his head, then pointed at the sixth kitten. It was the largest of the six, a dark brown tabby, with a white streak over a very pink nose. “What about that one?”
“Oh, I call that one Little Jason.”
Tim sighed. “Are you serious?”
“As the grave.”
Bruce and Damian arrived home at just that moment, while Jason was smiling back at his brother in a way that made the younger boy want to punch him just a little bit.
Damian seemed unmoved at first, looking over the kittens with no change in expression. But he didn't leave the kittens' side the entire time Tim remained down in the cave. Bruce made some comment about 'finding them good homes' and Damian grunted something noncommital.
Tim headed upstairs before the argument could start up, and realized halfway up the stairs that he actually felt...better. The dizzying weight in his body seemed a little lighter, he was a little less 'separate' from everything around him. Feeling more human, he stopped in the kitchen to grab a glass of milk and found Jason making a sandwich.
They went about their business until Jason finished making his past-midnight snack.
“Hey, thanks for your help.” He said without turning away from the counter.
Tim, sitting on the kitchen island browsing his social media on his phone while he sipped his drink, paused and looked up. “Oh, yeah, no problem.”
“It's a good thing you showed up. I would've had to make a bunch of trips to get them all back here. Or I would have dropped them”
Before Tim could respond Jason turned and shoved his shoulder hard enough to almost knock him over. “Go to bed, nerd.”
Then he marched off to the living room with his food.
Tim watched the doorway Jason had disappeared through, smiling a little bit to himself.
It wasn't such a bad night, after all.