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March Madness

Chapter Text

The computer keys are oddly loud, in the silence. Tim taps at them anyways, almost too absorbed to notice it, series of code scrolling across the screen at a near inhuman pace and wet bangs flopped low across his brow.

(Almost too absorbed.)


The silence presses heavy and awkward upon him, makes the spacious living room small, makes him almost want to get up and put on some music, or even move into the kitchen so that he can hang out with Alfred and have the quiet clanking and whirring of dinner-making act as background music.

He shifts, considering for a millisecond, for a moment. It’s late. Too late, probably, the evening coming quick and fast, and by the time Tim’s transferred all his things to the dining table he’d only have minutes to spare before dinner, and monitoring patrol from the comms, and then bed.

No, best to just stay here. Best to not bother anyone. Best to just get the coding done and go from there.

Besides, he doubts Alfred would really like his company, not with the ratty pajama bottoms and ragged sleep shirt, the crisp white bandages tucked neatly beneath them. Not with the bags under his eyes and unstyled hair. Not with the mess of his existence.

Fingers stall on patient keyboard, and Tim stares at waiting code and blinks and blinks and blinks and breathes .

Steady on, steady on-

His fingers are trembling slightly, but he continues typing anyways.

They sneak up on him, the thoughts, the insecurities. They trickle down the back of neck like cold mountain rivers and whisper in his ear so quiet he almost doesn’t hear them, almost doesn’t even recognize they’re there at all until suddenly they’re screaming.

( “Been pushing yourself past your limits, ” Batman growls, pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, “and it makes you sloppy and that makes you a liability to the team and to yourself. Do you understand, Robin?”)

( “Severe sleep deprivation, underweight, underfed, over exertion, you’re lucky that that bullet didn’t nick your lung, we’re lucky that that sniper didn’t do anything worse than get in a lucky shot, ” states Batman, hard and cold and clipped, and Tim sits on a medical cot that feels too stark white, headache blinding and eyelids drooping and pulsating fiery pain lapping at the edges of his consciousness just beyond the pleasant hazy fog of painkillers.)

(“ God, Tim, ” says Bruce- and this is all Bruce, soft and gentle and so, so scared about being afraid, about reaching out, about holding onto other people who are so easily broken- and his big calloused hand cups Tim’s cheek, keeps him upright even as he sinks into desperately needed sleep, and rubs gently at a slowly fading scar “ what are you doing to yourself, kiddo?)

( I don’t know, he wants to say back, wants to talk about how getting out of bed in the morning is a feat he hardly manages, if he manages at all. About how the graves he has to visit keep growing, about how life is so far away even as he lives within it. About how food is tasteless and warmth and cold have just sunk into a single monotonous vague uncomfortable sting resting over his skin. About how smiles feel foreign on his face and he’s sort of forgotten the sound of his own laughter.)

(He wants to. But he’s too drained, and he’s too tired, and he’s already gone, gone, gone .)

Someone flips over the back of the couch, lands with barely a muffled thump besides him and ruffles his wet hair.

Tim rolls his eyes, bats at the hand.

“Cut it out, Dick.”

The older boy pouts, makes ridiculous grabby hands and rests an arm around Tim’s shoulders.

“Awww, but it’s so nice and clean.”

The younger lets out an exasperated- if not amused- sigh, and shifts so that he can continue typing, far too used to his brother’s antics to let it stop him from his work.


“Got something for you.”

Tim stares down at the small package suddenly resting on his lap, hesitates, and then shoves the laptop further down his knees so he can delicately pick it up.

It’s light, and wrapped in a sort of teal blue wrapping paper, and when he opens it he finds a small package of herbal tea from the fancy high end tea shop that’s opened up some blocks away from crime alley. They had taken Alfred to it for his birthday last week, and Tim had fallen asleep at some point before he had even managed to drink his own cup, crammed in some cushiony corner between Jason and the wall. wasn’t one of his greatest moments.

He fumbles with the box, smiles something small and fragile, places it gently on the coffee table.

“What’s this for?”

“Well,” Dick says, somehow managing to maneuver around so that he can run his hands through Tim’s hair again, “I heard the shower running, and I knew it was you, and I was very proud and so I decided to get you something and I figured that you never managed to drink yours earlier sooo-”

He gesticulates to the tea package.

Tim swallows, throat suddenly dry, because Dick had stroked his fingers through his hair back when it was sweaty and greasy and unwashed, had cajoled him into eating and sat with him for hours and hours and hours, even though he never did anything but sleep and sometimes just lay there.

Dick had been there through the worst of it.

Dick had been there through the worst of it, and he was still there.

“Thank you. I guess. But I’m, eh- I’m on antidepressants, now. You don’t have to- to bring me rewards or whatever for basic human hygiene.”

The words come out bitter tasting, come out sour. Tim’s grip on the tea tightens until the edges crumple in a little bit, and then he breathes and loosens his fingers and refuses to acknowledge the stinging in his eyes.

Dick must notice anyway, because next thing he knows he’s being pulled into a hug, held tight and secure and safe and warm, and Tim breathes into the fabric of his older brother’s t-shirt and lets the heavy tangled knot twisting his insides unravel.

“I know,” the elder murmurs, almost like a secret, almost like a benediction, “but you smile now, and that makes me so, so happy.”

“Oh,” Tim says, just that, and it means so many things he can’t even begin to decipher, so he just lets Dick hold him, lets himself live in this quiet moment, just for second, just for a breath of air.

Alfred calls them for dinner, and Tim stands up and wipes at his eyes, letting Dick sling a comfortable arm around his shoulder and lead the way to whatever comes next.

Steady on, Drake.

Steady on.