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Liminal Space

Chapter Text

Tim’s fingers stuttered across the keyboard, the only betrayal of his surprise. It was a small sign, though Tim had no doubt that it had been caught and Tim was being evaluated based on it, based on everything could be seen in here, and Tim would yet again be found wanting.

The safe house was lacking and in poor taste. An abandoned restaurant from when Falcone had been top dog, there was a basement that didn’t exist on any blueprint filled with concrete rooms that had drains in the floor and eye screws in the ceiling. Tim had claimed the one furthest from the trapdoor that lead up into the restaurant as his own by virtue of it having an old power generator inside, moving in just the very basics: a mattress, a mini-fridge, a computer and a workbench. It wasn’t comfortable like a hotel would be, but Tim had craved the security more than comfort and with only one entrance it theoretically should have been possible for Tim to set up a kickass warning system so he could secure the room before anyone even found the basement.

Given that Batman had found his way in, that theory was rapidly falling apart.

Tim bit back a sigh. He’d planned on getting a few hours of sleep after he’d finished responding to Lucius’s emails, proving to the man that despite his days of silence Tim was indeed alive. It looked like instead he’d be either upgrading his security or moving his things to a new temporary safe house. If Batman could get in, Damian or Jason could get in and that would lead to Tim waking up dead.

“Are you hurt?” Batman asked, concern painting his tone.

Tim's hands froze. He couldn't remember the last time Batman had asked him that. Before Bruce had fallen through time. Probably before Damian had appeared. And even then the question had always been loaded, more about Batman cataloguing Tim’s failures than inquiring about his health.

Batman didn't bother to record Tim's failures anymore. Him almost killing Captain Boomerang had cemented Tim as the black sheep of the family. Not that Tim had ever been family. Whatever. The point was that now Batman only watched Tim to see if he left behind a trail of corpses, which, considering Jason and Damian, was actually kind of hilarious in the most fucked up sense. If Kon and Bart had survived, it was something they would have laughed over together.

Tim pushed the dead aside and tried to focus on the problem at hand. Why was Batman here? The three most likely options were that: Batman was legitimately worried about Tim, Batman wanted to reprimand Red Robin, or Tim was hallucinating because even he could only go without sleep for so long. The first was a manifestation of Tim’s fantasies, not a reflection of any possible reality. He judged himself for even bringing it up as an option. The third would explain both the concerned tone and the lack of alarms, but until the second theory was dismissed Tim would assume it to be true. Better to be cautious with hallucination Batman than overshare with the real thing.

“I'm fine.”

“The Riddler held you for days.” The amount of concern once again hinted at hallucination. Unless the concern was that Tim was off his game. Maybe he was about to be benched?

Caffeine. Whatever “this” was, it called for caffeine. Tim kicked back from the table where he'd set up the computer, his chair rolling to the mini fridge. He pulled out a canned coffee, his last canned coffee, with a frown. He was sure that he was supposed to have more left than that. He added grabbing more to the list.

He cracked the can open and the sound echoed in the concrete room. He could feel Batman's judgement as he downed the can. It seemed to intensify as he tossed the can into the makeshift recycling he’d set up.

“I'm fine.” It had been three days in a cage with no food, no sleep, and a guard with a juiced-up stock prod for company. Tim was just supposed to be the climax in the Riddler's latest brain measuring contest against Batman. It had been an annoying experience, and a bit embarrassing, but Tim still had all his organs, he'd escaped on his own and he'd dropped the Riddler off with Gordon a few hours ago, so it counted as a win.

“Catwoman said you were bleeding.”

Fuck Selina and whatever the fuck her relationship with Bruce was. She wasn't Robin's mom and, even if she was by some fucked up logic, Tim was no longer Robin. They’d merely passed each other as Tim made his way back to his safe house. She hadn't even spoken to him, just done the patented vigilante nod of acknowledgement before swinging their separate ways into the night. Apparently her way was of to find Bruce so they could gossip about Tim's latest fuck up.

“I'm fine.”

Tim could feel the Batman's eyes trying to stare through his armor. Tim strategically drummed his hand on his thigh, effecting annoyance while hiding a fresh stab wound he'd hastily glued shut instead of stitching. “You're too-”

“Too what? Reckless?” Tim's smile was all teeth, daring Batman to have that conversation with the Robin who only signed up to prevent Batman from beating people to death.


Tim blinked. Then blinked again. “Oh. Damn.” He rubbed his eyes, regretting the coffee.

“Oh?” Batman asked cautiously.

Tim waved a hand dismissively. “You just confirmed that you are a sleep deprivation hallucination.”

“Oh?” And this time there was an edge, like hallucination Batman was pissed. This hallucination was far more emotive than real Batman.

“You are inquiring about my health and only my health.” Tim scrubbed a hand through his hair, thinking. “Why am I subconsciously concerned about my health?”

“When was the last time you ate?”

“Four days ago.” Before the whole Riddler thing. “I had a sandwich.” Which wasn't a lot but the human body could go a month without food before dying. “I'll need to grab something tomorrow on the way to the office.”

“You're planning on going to work tomorrow?” Hallucination Batman crossed his arms in disapproval.

Tim pointed at himself. “CEO of Wayne Enterprises.” He hummed. “If I'm hallucinating this vividly I'll need to limit it to a half day and get some sleep. The board wouldn't be pleased to see me talking to thin air.”

“You could go to the Manor. Alfred would feed you.”

“He would,” Tim sighed wistfully. “But everyone has made it pretty clear that I'm not welcome back.” He ran a hand through his hair again. “I've fulfilled my role as replacement Robin, now that Bruce's real son has taken up the mantle. Dick discarded me, Damian is still trying to kill me, and after I nearly killed Captain Boomerang I'm pretty sure that Bruce has me on a Justice League watch list of potential supervillains. He's going to distance himself so when I do go bad he can,” Tim held up finger quotes as he dropped his voice into an imitation of Batman's, ““do what needs to be done.”” He snorted derisively. “Maybe I should just throw myself off of Gotham Arms. At the very least I'd never have to listen to Ra's talk about having my babies again.”

Hallucination Batman had gone very still and very stiff. “Ra's Al Ghul wants to have your children.”


“And you are living outside the Manor.”


“And Batman has disowned you for attempting to kill the man who murdered your father.”

“None of this is repressed information.”

“And you are having suicidal thoughts.”

Tim chewed his lips. Was he really? He'd just joked about jumping off of the tallest building in Gotham, but did he have the urge to actually do it? He spun on the chair as he gave it some thought. His friends were either dead or resented his presence in their lives. Ditto with his family. He still had his villain hit list that he needed to finish up, but when that was done…. then what? A flash of him holding his dad's gun flickered through his brain.

“Okay,” he said to hallucination Batman. “That's a revelation, but I don't think it is urgent. I've got a few months to work through the list so until then I can hold steady.”

“Hold steady.” The man's tone was flat and unimpressed.

“If it gets worse I'll follow up,” he promised his subconscious. “And since I think that was the revelation my brain needed to have, I'm going to finish my emails to Lucius and get some sleep.” He kicked off of the mini fridge and rolled back to the desk, sliding back to the computer in one smooth motion. He read over what he'd already typed, trying to reclaim the thought process before his brain had rudely interrupted.

It was the needle sliding into his neck that made him realize that he had horribly miscalculated.