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Triage

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The I.V. and your hospital bed
This was no accident, this was a therapeutic chain of events

The first thing Tim noticed about the hospital room was the cold. It seemed to infect everything in the room. The floor was uncomfortable and the walls were unwelcoming. The entire room was painted in shades of white; the lights, the bed, the walls, everything. Antiseptic, he thought. For a minute Tim stood in the doorway, observing, half unbelieving that this was his new space, and half shocked that he was here in the first place. Dropping the bag Tim took a step farther into the white. This was his now. This was the price for failing. The doctors said a nurse would be buy in a couple minutes with a first dose of medication, and Tim knew that it was the end.

This was where he ended. (It was the end of something, maybe not of him, not yet, not yet, but of something).

This is the scent of dead skin on a linoleum floor
This is the scent of quarantine wings in a hospital
It's not so pleasant and it's not so conventional
It sure as hell ain't normal but we deal, we deal

That week was both the easiest and the hardest. No one visited, and even if they did, Tim isn’t sure he’d know what to say. (“I’m sorry for killing the Joker. I’m sorry for failing to get out. I’m sorry for going insane.”). He knows he’s crazy. He knows that that’s what happened in the month he was with the Joker. He was driven mad, and then he killed the man who did it. This is supposed to help. That’s what Brue said at least; it was for his own good. He needed help, and they could provide help. (It’s not Arkham. It’s not Arkham. It’s not Arkham. If he kept repeating it then maybe it would feel less like a prison).

The first week is easy enough to pretend it’s only temporary. And then he starts laughing, and the voices start, and Tim knows that he can’t get out of this. His own mind is the thing that’s ruined him. He never sees the other patients at the hospital. Group therapy sessions are a thing, but not for him. Instead he gets thrice weekly meetings with Doctor Emmaline Sharrow. (She’s nice even if she doesn't understand). He’s not allowed near the others yet. He’s a danger to himself and to others, maybe one day he’ll be allowed to.

The anesthetic never set in and I'm wondering where
The apathy and urgency is that I thought I phoned in

It seemed fitting. He had always idolized Jason Todd- the Robin who died. (He would become the prodigal son, but not yet, and Tim would never truly be). No, this wasn’t something he could return triumphant from. (“I’m in you now. We’re two parts of a whole.”). The nurses would be around in half an hour, and he would take the pills like he was supposed to and hope they worked. The idea that he would reach his own end from the Joker was only fitting.

Today was a maybe day. Not good, not bad, and Tim finds himself floating from thought to thought. A passive observer of his own subconscious, because that’s what J.J was. The part of himself that was only now more vocal. He looked at the clock on the wall, another twenty-seven minutes.

It's not so pleasant and it's not so conventional
And it sure as hell ain't normal but we deal, we deal

 

Tim was suffocating. His eyes were watering, and he couldn’t breath, every half gasp forced back out in the twisted version of laughter. The edges of the world had faded, gray to black, and the rest of his vision was obscured with the instability brought with the tears. (Where were the doctors? They should’ve been there by now.) Tim gasped, and he can hear the sound, a harsh, desperate thing.

It echoes in the small room, amplifying until it’s the only thing Tim can hear, drowning out even his thoughts. (Where were the doctors? They should’ve been there by now). Seconds later the door burst open, and the needle was injected, and Tim fades. The black overtaking his vision, as oblivion collides with him.

Just sit back, just sit back
Just sit back and relax
Just sit back, just sit back
Just sit back and relapse again

Tim is sitting on the chair, staring at his hands-- shaking with the force of holding himself together. In the seat across from him Doctor Sharrow watches him, and he can tell she wants to say something. He’s grateful she hasn’t, he couldn't hold himself together if he had to speak. The day was bad, and Tim feels like his skin is glass pulled taught over his bones, like any moment he could shatter.. In the corner of the room he can see the clock ticking by, and it seems to drag the seconds out, the methodic beating of it a constant, alternating between too quick, and elongated. (Like his heart, Tim thinks, the inconsistency a familiar pattern now).

The minutes stretch, and Tim, shifts to press his hands into his sides, the bony wrists pressed gently into the (too dry, too tight) skin. They’re still shaking but now he isn’t focused on it, and he can breath in, without feeling as much like he’s going to shatter at any breath. (“Do you honestly think you can keep me away? We are the same, you and I. Connected until you die.”).

It’s not an unfamiliar feeling at this point. It's been months, and the delicate fragility he seems to possess is now more a fact than a horror. It’s part sleep-deprivation, and the mixture of nausea from the pills and the lack of food. (“Weak. You’re weak. No wonder you’re here.”). He looks more like a specter- more shadow than man, and Tim has to think it’s because that’s what he is. He isn't Tim Drake. At least, not in anyway that matters. He’s the mad Wayne child. The shame that socialites discuss in hushed whispers at galas hosted by other socialites.

“I think we can end here for the day.” Doctor Sharrow says, and Tim nods, standing slowly and making his way back to his room.

Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid

The first month Tim had tried to keep up with the fighting. He’d practice the katas until he was shaking, and collapsed on the bed. But then it stopped working to hold J.J. back, and Tim found himself exhausted every time he tried. Three hours became one, and then nothing. (Weak, weak, so weak. No wonder they didn’t want me).

It’s been weeks, when Tim stands to start again. He stands, and lets out a long breath, before starting. The familiar feeling of the moves seem wrong. (“You know better than that. It’s always you that’s wrong.”). The movements aren’t smooth, or natural. He feels contorted, and stiff. He doesn’t try again.

Sit back, relax, sit back, relapse again
Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid
Just sit back, just sit back
You're a regular decorated emergency

Somedays Tim can pretend that J.J isn’t anything, that he’s nothing more than a vague outline of thoughts.

There are others though when Tim doubts who he is. When J.J seems more present than himself. (There are even fewer when Tim is half tempted to call a cease-fire. That maybe being one would be less painful. (But it would never be that easy. He would cease to exist, and J.J. would become him)).

The room is scattered with the remains of a thousand version so himself. Some are recognizable, the earliest books in English, and then the haphazardly placed dictionaries, some with their novel, some not(for now, another week and they would be another arrangement). (The places in the wall where he dented during a fit of anguish). The room was his. (the clocks, there’s several of them. And only one has the correct time; the one from his bed, straight above the door).

There’s an unspoken pact between J.J and Tim that the clocks are untouchable. They are the one thing that can remain untouched by the madness. They create a cacophony of ticks, and it’s stabilizing. The seconds pass by with every tick of the hands, and the inconsistency to reality is maddening to everyone else. (It makes it easier to pretend that Tim isn’t the maddest thing in the room).

You're a regular decorated emergency
This is the scent of dead skin on a linoleum floor
This is the scent of quarantine wings in a hospital
It's not so pleasant and it's not so conventional

It’s the first time in days that Tim’s looked at a mirror. He looks sick, cheeks sunken in, and bones stark against the picture of health. “You’re pathetic you know.” It’s the first time Tim opens his mouth to respond to the specter. And Tim knows that it’s become the line in the sand he was desperate not to cross.

“I know.” It’s the truth. It’s evident in everything. It’s a fact of truth, and it’s not even a question.

“Why do you still bother?”

“Because I’m not ready to die.” It’s not a noble reason for staying alive, or even one he can consider terribly compelling. But it’s the only thing he has. He wants to live. He wants to live. For the first time in months Tim sharpens his gaze. (He was Janet Drake’s son, and she always taught him to keep his head up.) “Because I’m not going to let you break me.”

“You’re already broken.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I’m still alive.”

It sure as hell ain't normal but we deal, we deal
The anesthetic never set in and I’m wondering where
The apathy and urgency is that I thought I phoned in
It’s not so pleasant and it's not so conventional
It sure as hell ain't normal but we deal, we deal

The sweater is like what home should be; soft and comforting, like the idealized Christmas catalogue of domesticity. It’s enough to hold the bad dreams off most nights. Not entirely, but it’s better than nothing, and for a moment that’s all Tim wants. (It’s armour. Between him and J.J.. Between him and the world).

It makes him feel alive, and for the first time in over half a year, he feels like he’s actually getting better. The dosage is lowered, and it’s like everything has finally gone right. J.J.’s complaints seem faded, and Tim can’t remember the last time he felt more like himself. He was always someone or something else.

The first time he goes outside is almost as good as the sweater. It’s muggy, and like every other Gotham spring, the world hovers like it’s holding in a breath, unsure if it wishes to tip into the warmth of spring or remain in the colder months. The insects are few and far between, but it’s green, and warmer than the hospital. He’s not alone, not yet. But it’s not a doctor, or a nurse chaperoning him. It’s Alfred, and it makes it all seem a little better.

Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid
Sit back, relax, sit back, relapse again
Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid
Just sit back, just sit back
Sit back, sit back, relax, relapse

It’s been eight months, and there are more clocks. The small room echoes with the march of the hands (and sometimes with laughter). “You can’t drown me out. No matter how many clocks you put, I’m here.”

“I know, I know, trust me, I understand it isn’t time for rest. You’d never let me.”

Tim spins once, arms outstretched to the walls of the room, and it’s almost comforting to be in the middle of the storm, where the clocks are all rushing ahead- uncaring. When he runs out of the time the clocks will not. They will not herald the end to Tim Drake, they will simply keep beating, and beating, and beating, on and on and on.

“This is going to be the end of us.” It’s the bravest admission he’s made in months. This place is going to destroy him, and all the clocks and red sweaters in the world couldn’t stop it. He can’t bring himself to fear it anymore.

“Of you perhaps.”

“No, of us. We’re one and the same, or so you keep reminding me.”

Tim settles back on the bed, and starts laughing.

Sit back, sit back, ba-ba, ba-da-do
You can't take the kid out of the fight...
You're a regular decorated emergency
The bruises and contusions
Will remind me what you did when you wake

The days elongate and stretch during the warmer months. The piece of the world that Tim can see through the windows taunts him. It reminds him of everything that isn’t his. The nights are worse. The dark, an haunting sounds of the distant city (and of the vigilantes that protected it). J.J whispers in his head during the hours between dawn and dusk.

Time passes oddly inside the hospital. There’s an inconsistency to it, and some days, Tim wakes up unsure of the time; questioning night or day. Some days it’s enough to check the clocks, and others he’ll gaze outside at the small slice of the outside world he gets. (The wounds have healed, but the scars haven’t. They won’t.).

It’s not a comfort that the wounds have scarred over, and that he’s alive. It’s a consistent reminder of all he’s lost. The days stretch into weeks, and then months, and now, he’s here. (Madmadmad, the mad Wayne child). “Just break, fall into me, and lose yourself. It will hurt less.”

“You’ve said that before.”

The days elongate, and suddenly the months have stopped mattering. He still knows how long it’s been, when Barbara visits, he asks, she tells. Through the window the days pass by.

You've earned your place atop the ICU's hall of fame
The camera caught you causing a commotion on the gurney again
You're a regular decorated emergency
The bruises and contusions
Will remind me what you did when you wake

There’s a small table, beside his bed piled high with books. A handful of novels in English and the rest in foreign languages. On the other half, stacked in a neat pile are the dictionaries. They have a spot, and every fortnight the piles grow, a new novel added to each. (The most recent was Fahrenheit 451 in Korean). Occasionally the piles are reordered according to what arbitrary system Tim decides was best that day, and sometimes in the fits of madness and desperation he will be knocked askew or off the table.

The piles started at one book a pile, and now they number over fifteen. Each book has a place, and every book in its place. The room is orderly (but not quite, a shade or two off white, a degree or two off straight). The clocks beat in tandem with nothing, and the books are all just slightly tilted from the one before it. (A near circle, they form a near circle, one more book and it will be completed).

He remembers the first time someone moved them. It had been accidental but he had been inconsolable (it had been perhaps three weeks in, Tim can’t be sure), and then he had started laughing and before it had mattered he had faded into naught but oblivion.

Worse than anything though, is the knowledge that he had been, he-they-everyone thought he was getting better. But now he was here, and everyone knew not to touch the books or the clocks, or really anything at all. Everything had a place, and everything in its place

You've earned your place atop the ICU's hall of fame
The camera caught you causing a commotion on the gurney again
Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid
Sit back, relax, sit back, relapse again

Bruce never visits, Tim knows this. He knows that Dick tries, and Barbara does, and Alfred does. But Bruce doesn’t, hasn’t in all the months he’s been here. He knows it’s Bruce’s money that pays for the treatment, and the room, but Bruce never comes. He’s not dead, but it doesn't matter. He might as well be. (He’s not useful anymore, he's not interesting. He doesn't have the veneer of betterperfectgood that Jason did).

It’s childish, and after this long it should be long dead, bit he still wants Bruce to come and hold him, saying it would all be fine,and he'd recover and go back the manor- go back home. It doesn't even hurt most days, Tim pretends, (pretends like it doesn't break his heart to wake up expecting dark wood and instead getting the antiseptic, fluorescent brightness, like he doesn't desperately miss the comfort of a family, and of Alfred’s home cooked meals).

Tim misses it. He misses his life from before. It wasn't even that it was bad, it could always be better, but it wasn't Arkham. He was safe, he was safe, he was safe. (“You’ll be trapped here until the clocks stop beating.”

“I’ll be here until the last syllable of recorded time.”)

Can't take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid
Just sit back, just sit back
Sit back, sit back, relax, relapse
Sit back, sit back, ba-ba, ba-da-do
You can't take the kid out of the fight…

“This is, perhaps the closest thing to desperation.”, Tim says, as he flips the page in the book. (He can't remember what he was looking for now, a verb perhaps, an adjective, or a noun).

“What is? Your foolish mechanisms to keep me at bay? The clocks, the books? They don’t work. They’ll never work.”

It’s everything, if Tim is honest with himself (he almost never is anymore, but then he almost never was before either). Perhaps if he created enough controlled chaos/sense he could find himself, put the jagged shards of J.J. into a box in the back of his mind and let it rot. (It would make everyone happier, it would be for the best, he would get out.) It might poison his mind, but it would make him feel alive. (It might, Tim pointedly doesn’t think. There's no assurances he wouldn't still feel like the audience to his own life.)

“All of it. Even you. You’re desperate, you’re attached to me. If I die, so do you. So do you…”

The I.V. and your hospital bed
This was no accident, this was a therapeutic chain of events