In the months after first adopting Dick, Bruce had been a little out of his depth when it came to parenting. It had taken him a while to figure out the right line between being loving and supportive and being a stern disciplinarian. Luckily, Dick hadn’t been the kind of child to deliberately flout authority, and once he was told off once, he usually didn’t break that rule again. That didn’t stop him from being the most rambunctious and hyperactive child Bruce had ever met (not that he’d met many children at the time), but at the very least he stayed out of trouble.
Of course, no matter how much energy Dick had, he always sat still long enough to watch a movie. They’d begun a tradition of movie nights a few months after Dick had come to the manor, after he’d started his training, but before he hit the streets for the first time as Robin. It had continued all through the years, only stopping when Dick finally left the house, taking his warm cheeriness with him and leaving Bruce feeling cold.
When Jason had come along, Bruce hadn’t thought twice about offering to have regular movie nights with the boy. Jason’s warmth wasn’t quite the same as Dick’s; he wasn’t cheerful in the same way, but fiery, throwing his whole being into whatever he was passionate about. Movie nights with Jason had been one of the few times when Jason let his guard down, let himself be vulnerable and a child. Many movies ended with Jason curled into Bruce’s side, not asleep, but comfortable.
Movie nights had disappeared in the last year, since Jason had been unceremoniously ripped away from him. Bruce had been so busy with so much that he hadn’t found the time to sit down and watch a movie, even as things between him and Dick mended. Sometime he’d sit in the media room for a few minutes, thinking he should put something on, unwind and let himself relax for a second, but he could never decide on anything to watch and gave up after a few minutes of staring at the TV screen.
It was one night like that when Tim found him. It was raining and storming too hard to go out to patrol unless something big was going down, so Bruce headed up to the media room and sat down on the couch, staring at the DVD’s on the shelf and trying to think of something to watch.
“Bruce?” a voice called behind him from the door. Bruce turned to see Tim standing there, shuffling awkwardly, “Is there anything I can do tonight?”
Tim, the third Robin, Bruce’s new partner. He’d only been Robin a few months following an extended period of training in Paris, but already he was proving himself to be unlike either of the Robin’s before him. He wasn’t the instinctual acrobat that Dick had been, or the tough fighter that Jason had been, but he was smart. He was probably smarter than Bruce, if he let himself take the credit, and beyond that he had an analytical mind that, while it needed honing, would make him a great detective one day. Despite being Robin for less than a year, Bruce could already see in Tim Drake the makings of a great hero.
“I don’t think there’s anything to do tonight,” Bruce answered Tim, “The rain is too heavy.”
“Anything in the lab you want me to look at?” Tim asked, shifting from foot to foot. Tim was always looking to keep busy, to be helpful. Bruce had just thought he was trying to impress at first, but now he sensed something else at play.
“No, that’s fine Tim,” Bruce said, “Take the night off.”
“Right,” Tim said, obviously on the edge of saying something else, “I guess I’ll head home then.”
Bruce glanced out the window at the howling wind and the rain coming down in sheets, “Are you sure you want to go home in that? You’ll get drenched.”
Tim shrugged, “I’ll be fine,” he said, “I . . . I wouldn't want to impose or anything.”
Bruce watched Tim with a critical eye, making the boy stiffen and straighten his posture, like he was being inspected for flaws, “Stay the night Tim. I’m not comfortable letting you out in this weather.”
Tim blinked, “It’s not a problem,” he said, “My house isn’t that far away.”
“Is your father expecting you?” Bruce asked, thinking of Jack Drake waiting up for his son to come home. That’s what Bruce would do, if his child was out who knew where in weather like this.
“No, he never notices when I’m out late,” Tim said, “He’s probably already in bed.”
Bruce pressed his lips together tightly and tried not to think anything nasty of Jack. He probably just trusted Tim to make smart decisions, “Then it should be fine if you spend the night.”
Tim looked like he was about to keep protesting, so Bruce pulled out the trump card, “If you really want to go home, have Alfred drive you. I don't want you walking in this weather and getting sick.”
“No, it’s fine,” Tim said, “It’s way too dangerous to drive in this storm. I’ll just head home early tomorrow,” he said, finally relenting.
Bruce didn’t quite grin, but he felt a thrill of satisfaction run through him. Bringing up Alfred, especially an inconvenience to Alfred (though the elderly butler wouldn't consider it an inconvenience in the slightest) was the surest way to get any of the Robin’s to change their minds. It was a dirty, underhanded trick, but it worked every time, so Bruce kept using it.
“You can use one of the guest rooms,” Bruce said, “Just pick any one of them and ask Alfred to set it up for you.”
“I will, thanks,” Tim said. He turned and started to walk down the hall and Bruce was seized by a moment of impulse.
“Tim?” he called, not knowing what exactly he was calling the boy back for.
Tim stopped and backtracked, “Yes? What do you need?” he asked, ready to do whatever Batman or Bruce required of him.
Bruce paused a moment, mind pulling up a blank, “Would you like to watch a movie?” his mouth said, seemingly independent of his vacant brain.
Tim looked stunned at the request, “A movie?” he questioned, “Which movie?”
“Any movie,” Bruce said, committing to the idea, “You pick.”
Tim hesitated in the doorway, “You sure? I don't mind if you pick,” he said.
Bruce scooted over on the couch, making it obvious that he wanted Tim to join him, “Pick a movie Tim.”
With one final moment of hesitance, Tim came into the room and started browsing through the DVD’s. He ran a finger over the cases, mouthing the titles to himself, taking the task of choosing a suitable movie much too seriously. Bruce couldn’t help lifting one corner of his mouth in a slight smile at Tim and made a mental note to try and get the boy to relax around him a little. Tim always seemed a little on edge, a little high strung; the only time Bruce had seen him relax, ironically enough, was on the job.
Tim loved being Robin, lived in it. Swinging from rooftop to rooftop, fighting thugs and street gangs, protecting people. Tim threw himself into each new mystery with gleeful abandon, and his eyes shone with a delight that could light even the dreariest of nights when he figured it out. At the very same time, Tim took his work seriously, never treating it like a game or a thrill. Being Robin was work, but it was work that he loved. Bruce wondered what might have become of this boy if he hadn’t become Robin.
“How about this?” Tim said, pulling out a DVD and showing it to Bruce.
“ Lawrence of Arabia ,” Bruce said, “Good choice, it’s a classic.”
“I’ve always wanted to watch it,” Tim said, turning the case over in his hands, “I know it’s really long though. I can pick something else.”
“It’s fine Tim,” Bruce said, “Put it on.”
Tim looked up at Bruce and smiled a little, pleased to be validated, even for something as small as a movie choice, “Have you ever read Seven Pillars of Wisdom ?” he asked as he set up the DVD player.
“Yes, a few times,” Bruce said, “The scene in Deraa is always hard to get through.”
“I read it once,” Tim said, “I think I was eleven, and I didn't get it at first, but I figured it out later.”
“Lawrence had to censor the scene heavily,” Bruce said, trying not to frown at the thought of an eleven year old Tim reading such an adult novel. It was impressive he could read at that level, but some of the scenes, like the one in Deraa, had some pretty explicit themes, “It wouldn't have gotten published otherwise.”
Tim finished setting up the DVD player and popped the movie in. He turned back to Bruce and hesitated again, glancing at the couch and then to the loveseat off to the side. Bruce patted the couch cushion beside him, suddenly unable to stand the thought of Tim sitting so far away from him
With one last moment of hesitation, Tim sat next to Bruce on the couch, holding himself a little stiffly. Bruce wondered if there was something about him that made the boy so uncomfortable, or if Tim was just still a little intimidated to be so casual with someone who was essentially his boss. Bruce tried to let himself relax, to show that Tim could let his guard down, that he didn't have to be so formal.
As the movie started, Tim started to settle down, relaxing as he was distracted by the unfolding story. As Peter O’Toole traipsed through the desert, Bruce could almost physically feel the tension bleeding out from Tim. Bruce wondered what had made Tim so guarded around other people; it seemed like Tim was almost never comfortable.
Lawrence of Arabia was around four hours long, divided into two parts. At some point, Alfred showed up with a bowl of popcorn for them, which Bruce handed to Tim, who in turn placed it between them on the couch. Bruce tried not to feel slighted, recalling how Dick and Jason would both hold the bowl and curl up close to Bruce’s side. With the bowl on the couch next to them, it almost felt like a barrier between him and the young boy next to him.
By the time they got to the intermission, Tim was curled up in a little ball, leaning against the arm of the couch. Bruce watched him for a moment before noticing him shiver once.
“Are you cold?” he asked, already trying to remember where he’d stashed the throw blanket.
“I’ll be fine,” Tim said, “Don’t worry about me.”
Bruce frowned and stood, fetching the blanket from the back of the loveseat and tossing it at Tim, “Here,” he said.
Tim mumbled a thank you and tucked the blanket around himself. The intermission ended and Bruce had a moment of indecision of whether or not to sit back in his original spot or take the bowl of popcorn and move it to his lap, removing the barrier. He didn't want to make Tim uncomfortable, but he hated the invisible wall the boy had placed between them. Bruce finally sat down in his original spot, deciding it was better to leave things as they were and not stress Tim out.
As the movie came to a close, Tim was slumped over on the armrest, eyelids drooping further and further closed with each slow blink. Bruce, loath to disturb him, let him be while the credits rolled. As he hoped, Tim’s eyes finally closed and he dropped off to sleep just as the credits finished. Bruce quickly switched the off the DVD player, not wanting the obnoxious title screen to come up and wake the boy. He set about tidying up, being sure to keep quiet and let Tim fall more deeply asleep.
Once everything was put away, Bruce stood over Tim, curled up on the couch in a cramped looking ball. He snapped his fingers once to make sure Tim was fully asleep; Tim didn't even so much as twitch a the noise. As gently as he could, Bruce reached down and scooped Tim into his arms, careful to keep the blanket tucked around him.
Dick had been small for his age until he’d reached about fifteen, when he’d suddenly shot up several inches and then spent the year after that filling out his newly acquired tall frame. Jason had always been stocky, with a solid frame even when he was a skinny street kid, and by the time he’d been taken from Bruce at the age of sixteen, he’d been well on his way to being a tall and broad young man. Tim, at the age of fourteen, was about as big as Dick had been, but it didn't look like he was gearing up to get much bigger. Dick had been lanky and awkward at that age, his body trying to decide which direction to grow first, but Tim’s body was much more evenly proportioned. Bruce could be wrong, Tim had surprised him before, but he didn't think Tim was going to do much growing from here on out.
Making sure Tim was still asleep, Bruce carried him out through the halls towards the guest bedrooms. He tried to walk with a slight sway, which he’d come to learn was better for keeping kids asleep than trying to keep still. Alfred had already set one of them up and was waiting by the door to help tuck the teen into bed.
Bruce gently settled Tim on the bed, taking the throw blanket away and quickly tucking him under the bedspread. Tim stirred a little, but after a little bit of shifting around, went back to sleep.
“I suppose Jack is not expecting the boy,” Alfred said, once they’d finished tucking Tim in and closed the door behind them.
Bruce frowned, “No, Tim said he’s probably already asleep.”
Alfred raised an eyebrow, “Without knowing where his son is?” he questioned, somehow making it sound like an insult.
Bruce made an unhappy noise, “I don't like it either,” he said, “But there’s nothing that I can do.”
Alfred sighed, “I suppose there is nothing to be done,” he said, “Aside from provide an alternative for the boy.”
“That the best we can try,” Bruce said, running a hand through his hair, “I’ll see you in the morning Alfred, goodnight.”
“Goodnight sir,” Alfred said, dipping his head slightly and heading towards his room.
Bruce took one last look at the closed door of the room they’d put Tim in. Most of the guest bedrooms were a little further up the hallway, but Bruce had carried Tim to one of the rooms closer to the rest of the regular bedrooms. Dick’s bedroom was the next room over, and his own was beyond that. Bruce let out a long sigh went to his own room, ready to turn in for the night.
In the morning, Bruce would make sure to try a little harder to make Tim feel at home in the manor. The hardest part was actually holding himself back from Tim, knowing the kind of background he came from. But Tim still loved Jack, and Bruce couldn't just replace him without upsetting Tim (or Tim figuring it out, smart cookie that he was).
However, if Bruce could provide some kind of encouragement, a little bit of the loving environment and and support that Tim so desperately needed, he’d could be happy with that.