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Drought of the Heart

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Tim hears Bruce’s account of his parents’ ordeal with the Obeah man echoing through his head. How they had nearly made it through unscathed, only to be thwarted by a seeming kindness, the water offered to ease their dehydration.


The water was laced with poison. That poison killed Janet Drake and incapacitated Jack Drake. The story flashes through Tim’s head every time he goes to take a drink, every time he tries to alleviate his own thirst.


So, he drinks nothing, for the most part.


Coffee, sometimes, to keep himself awake, or a soda out with his friends. Sports drinks when Alfred offers them, but never water. Every time he raises a glass to his lips, he hears the phantom screams of his mother. So he stops.


The symptoms appear gradually, shakiness in his limbs, and occasional dizziness. He shakes it off, tells himself it’s from training or vertigo. He’s fine.


Bruce doesn’t notice until it’s very nearly too late.


Tim seems a bit shaky during their spar, slower and weaker than he has been. Bruce gets in a hit to the chest. Tim goes down, hard.


Bruce stoops down to assess the situation. “What happened? Did I hit you too hard?” He asks gently, trying to push down the voice telling him that hitting Tim at all is too hard.


The boy blinks at him. Bruce frowns.


“Have we been working too hard? Are you feeling ill?”


“I think I passed out for a second,” he mumbles.


Alarms go off in Bruce’s head. “Have you had a head injury recently?”


Tim shakes his head, “Not that I recall.”


Bruce tries to asses his pupils for concussion. “What are you feeling right now?” He asks.


“...gross,” Tim croaks. “My heart...’s kinda fluttery. And dizzy.”


Bruce scoops him up and carries him to the med bay and starts applying monitors. Heart problems can become dangerous very quickly. He calls for Alfred on the intercom, then Leslie on the emergency phone, and tries to keep Tim talking while he waits for her to answer.


“When was the last time you ate something?” He asks.


“Uhm,” Tim smacks his lips, “Lunch? I think?”


That shouldn’t be long enough to cause low blood sugar for the most part, and he’s still fairly certain he didn’t hit the boy overly hard. Leslie picks up.


“Batman? I usually don’t hear from you this early.”


“Robin is ill.” He checks the pulse oximeter while Alfred makes himself known to the boy on the gurney. “Tachycardia, dizziness, shaking, and he may have lost consciousness for a moment. Are you free?”


“...I can be. I will need you to do a few things before I can get there, just to get started. First, draw some blood for the regular blood tests, then start an IV with plasmalyte for fluids. It sounds like dehydration might at least be a factor here.”


Bruce could kick himself. “Of course, dehydration. I’ll get that started right away. Thank you.”


Alfred nods sagely at Tim’s confused ramblings.


“You’re welcome. Does he have a fever or any other obvious symptoms?”


Bruce takes the thermometer from its place and clicks a fresh protector on the probe before tugging back Tim’s ear a bit and starting a read. It takes a few seconds, but the results are fine when he reads them to Leslie.


“Tim, do you have any symptoms you haven’t mentioned yet?”


Tim smacks his lips again. “Kinda thirsty. Mouth is...dry?”


Bruce picks up his hand to check for skin elasticity and color. “He says his mouth is dry, and he isn’t sweaty despite the fact that we were training not very long ago. I think you’re right about the dehydration, but I’d appreciate it if you could give him a once-over when you get a chance.”


“Of course. Let me know if anything changes.”


“Right. Goodbye.”


Bruce hangs up the phone.


Tim blinks over at Bruce while Alfred draws some rather thick, dark blood samples. “‘Snot good?”


Bruce huffs, his relief and amusement all looking for an outlet. “No, it’s not good that you’re dehydrated. If you’ve been drinking pretty well, that’s another problem, but for now we’re going to try to get some fluids in you.”


“Drinking...not so much.”


“I hope you are referring to alcohol, Master Timothy, and not water as I fear you are.”


“Uhhhhh, both?” He grins sheepishly.


“Master Timothy,” Alfred scolds, “how many times must we tell you that water is a necessity for an active young man such as yourself?”


Tim frowns. “I can’t, though.”


“Can’t what, Tim?” Bruce’s frown matches Tim’s own.


“Drink...water.” Tim blinks owlishly at him.


Bruce’s fatherly instincts rear their heads. This is moving into dangerously emotional territory, but he can’t redirect. Alfred has already started asking Tim why.


“Because...she did. And BAM!” Tim bangs on the rolling table next to the gurney. “Dead!”


Bruce thinks back to any recent cases that may have caused this kind of paranoia, but can’t put his finger on one. “Who did?”


“Mother. Janet, I guess to you. Or maybe not. Maybe Mrs. Drake.”


Tim is definitely rambling at this point. Bruce signals to Alfred to start a plasmalyte drip for Tim.


“So you can’t drink water because your mother was poisoned that way?” Bruce asks carefully.


Tim shrugs. “Yeah. And you said no soda in training, and Alfie doesn’t al—like soda’ upstairs.”


Alfred sniffs as if to illustrate the point.


“So you weren’t drinking much at all, then?” Bruce asks gruffly. How did he miss this, he’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective.


Tim shrugs, which Bruce is starting to understand means the answer is something Tim thinks he won’t like.


“What about bottled water, does that pose the same problem?” He asks Tim instead of pressing.


Tim shrugs again, so yes.


“Or powdered drink mixes?”


“They’re still water,” Tim insists grouchily.


“Master Bruce, if I may?” Alfred interrupts before he can start finding the exact limits of this hang up. “Master Timothy, it is important that you drink something, anything before you get this dehydrated. That means that if you are training, sports drinks are more than appropriate. If you are not, juice, milk, tea, and even...sodas are acceptable if you cannot drink water.”


“But you said—“


“I know I did. But you would benefit from any extra liquid in your diet at this point.”


“But isn’t soda bad for you?” Tim protests.


“It’s far better for you than dehydration,” Bruce rumbles, “and if you would like, we can try to address your issue with water with Black Canary. However, I doubt that progress will be made before you have another episode like this one if you aren’t ingesting other drinks.”


Tim nods. “I feel stupid,” he admits. “It shouldn’t make me feel like that, but—“


“Your traumas aren’t stupid, Tim. They don’t make logical sense, no, but that is the nature of trauma.”