Chapter 1: My Card
X = done.
* = requested.
blank = free for all. I'm willing to write for most of the Batfamily & ships (no incest or DickBabs or TimSteph, please), and also the Teen Titans and related characters.
1. Hiding an Injury + Tim Drake.
Tags: Tim Drake & Bruce Wayne, POV Tim Drake, Hiding Medical Issues
2. Touch Starved + Dick Grayson.
Tags: Dick Grayson & Zitka, POV Dick Grayson, Touch Starved, Young Dick Grayson
3. Go Through Me + Jason Todd & Dick and Tim.
Tags: Tim Drake & Dick Grayson & Jason Todd, POV Jason Todd, Protectiveness, Protective Siblings
4. Childhood Trauma + Tim Drake & Kon, Cassie, and Bart.
Tags: Bart & Tim & Kon & Cassie, POV Kon-El | Conner Kent, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Child Neglect
5. Panic Attack + Duke Thomas & Jason.
Tags: Duke Thomas & Jason Todd, POV Duke Thomas, Panic Attack
6. Depression + Tim Drake.
Tags: POV Tim Drake, Depression
7. Not Used To Freedom + Dick Grayson & Bruce.
Tags: Dick Grayson & Bruce Wayne, POV Bruce Wayne, Not Used To Freedom, PTSD
8. Slammed Into A Wall + Tim Drake & Cass C.
Tags: Cassandra Cain & Tim Drake, POV Tim Drake, Head Injury, Banter
9. Survivor's Guilt + Dick Grayson & Damian
Tags: Dick Grayson & Damian Wayne, POV Damian Wayne, Survivor Guilt, Movie Reference, Cuddling & Snuggling, Platonic Cuddling
10. Forced Out of The Closet + Titans!Dick Grayson
Tags: Past Dick Grayson/Joey Wilson, POV Dick Grayson, Coming Out, Forced Out of The Closet, Unsupportive Friends, False Accusations, Grief/Mourning, Regret, Slight Character Bashing, Unhealthy Relationships, Bisexual Dick Grayson
11. Recorded/Broadcast Torture + Jason Todd & Tim
Tags: POV Jason Todd, Family Dynamics, Implied/Referenced Torture, Trauma, Emotionally Repressed
Chapter 2: Hiding an Injury + Tim Drake
This ended up having more batdad than expected but I hope you guys enjoy!!
Tim sighs heavily as he rides back into the Batcave, looking forward to sleep. It’s been a long ass day, and he’s more than ready for it be over already. Parking, he sits for a second, leaning his head against one of the handlebars.
Steph rides up next to him, the borrowed batcycle near silent. He still notices her, but doesn’t bother to lift his head, knowing it’ll be an invitation to talk. And as much as he loves her, he can’t handle talking right now, much less the sorts of conversations Steph likes to have.
She dismounts and pats him on the back as she walks off, and he has to grit his teeth against the pain it brings. His torso is a mess of bruises, which isn’t wholly unusual. But today, it’s different somehow—the goon who’d done it had had the foresight to strip off some of Tim’s armor. Not all of it, of course not—only the other Bats know how to do that—but enough to really make it hurt. He’d also been wearing steel toed boots. And he’d had great fun attempting to stomp Tim’s fingers to nothing. So, yeah. Ow.
“Timmy, you good?” Duke asks as he walks past, helmet in his hands.
“Leave me to die,” Tim replies, but this time he does sit back up. His eye is blackened, his lip split. Duke looks the same—he’s not used to how god awful the bad guys get once the sun is down, only joining them because Bruce needed him for something. Tim had a different route and wasn’t asked to help, so he’s honestly not sure what it was. The past few days have been full of back-to-back obligations, so he’s had no time to look through Bruce’s files.
Groaning, he moves off his bike. And then stands there for much too long. But the effort to get his feet moving is more than he has in that moment, so he just stares at them instead, willing them to work.
Duke doesn’t offer to help, just steps around to Tim’s side and nudges an arm over his shoulders. Tim’s fingers smart painfully as they smack against Duke’s suit, but he forces himself not to react. “C’mon, man.”
They walk to the main part of the Cave together. He lets Duke slip away to the locker room, where their other siblings are bickering loudly about some TV show. On his own, he stiffly moves to the computers, sinking down into his chair. Yeah, he’s tired, but he just wants a moment here. He’ll have to wait to shower, anyway. Too many people in there right now, too many people he’d be stuck in between.
A moment at the computer won’t hurt anyone. In fact, it’ll make it easier on everyone, himself included.
Just a moment.
With the voices washing over him, he looks up at the screen, wondering what he can do that won’t take too long. The file for Duke’s thing with Bruce tonight could be good—it’s likely taken care of completely by now. He can read it, take a shower, and then go to bed, easy peasy.
It hurts like hell to pull it up, tapping the keys so gingerly they barely respond. Contained in his gloves still, he isn’t sure how bad his fingers are, and has no desire to look yet. They’re broken, he thinks. But really, it’s no big deal. He’s broken plenty of bones before, plenty of fingers too. He can push past the pain, and it’ll be fine.
Finding the file is easy, and he settles in, carefully resting his hands in his lap.
It’s long, but maybe he’ll just read half of it before bed. Yeah, that sounds good.
Vaguely, he hears people talking behind him, a presence to his right, laughs and taunts and Alfred demanding everyone go upstairs and to bed. Tim isn’t the only one who doesn’t, Bruce sitting a few paces down from him. Bruce never can sleep until all the kids are in bed themselves.
It’ll be fine, Tim thinks. After all, he’s only going to read for another minute, then take a shower, and then go upstairs to sleep.
He loses track of time, eyes scanning over the details and compiled lists of the case. He loses track of himself, too, slumping down in his chair and letting a little grunt of pain escape him when he puts pressure on the bruises.
It’s when he taps the keyboard too hard sometime later, attempting to get to the next page, that he comes back to awareness. His fingers ache sharp and bright and hot, and he snatches his hand back to his chest. Curling them in an attempt to make it stop really only makes it worse. “Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he curses at himself.
“Tim?” Bruce’s voice comes, and Tim snaps his head up, staring over to his dad. He looks tired and suspiciously blank, eyeing Tim and his hands. Literally suspicious—that’s the face he always makes when Damian’s broken another training dummy and blames it on Jason.
“B,” Tim replies, trying for nonchalance. Anyone else, and he could say he achieves it—but Bruce won’t be fooled by him.
With a small sigh, Bruce stands, and Tim mimics him without having to be asked. They move over to the medical area, and Tim struggles up onto one of the beds. Bruce rummages through a first-aid kit, and asks, “Damage?”
“Steel toe to fleshy bits. Stomped fingers.” It feels weird to joke a bit, suited up as he is, but Bruce is just wearing sweats, so it’s not too bad. “No shower. Exhaustion.”
“Where are the bruises?” He comes over with splints and ointment, and gently peels Tim’s gloves off one by one. Tim bites his tongue trying not to cry out at the pain it causes.
“Back,” he says some moments later, voice thin. “One of fuc—freaking Penguin’s goons.”
“And why didn’t you inform one of us when you got here that you needed this.” He puts one of the splints around the worst of Tim’s fingers, his right index as he says it. To anyone else, he’d sound annoyed, but Tim can hear the concern.
“I was tired,” Tim answers. “I am tired. I was just gonna sit down and read for a minute until everyone left and I could shower in peace. Deal with all this in the morning, move on from it. Some broken fingers aren’t really a big deal.”
Bruce doesn’t reply, just keeps fixing up Tim’s fingers. They still ache, but it’s duller now, more from the pressure than because they’re being moved wrong. He has Tim strip off the top part of his suit, and applies the bruise cream on his back, making sure to be gentle. Tim appreciates the effort, aware that he’s actively trying. It’s nice.
Once that’s done, Tim doesn’t bother with a shower, just goes and changes the rest of the way out of his suit and into pajamas. According to the clock, it’s nearing breakfast time, but it’s not uncommon for him to miss it.
He lingers outside the locker room, watching Bruce across the Cave. He’s back at the computers, but he’s not engrossed. If Tim wants to say anything, now’s his chance.
“Good morning,” he corrects, turning. He meets Tim’s eyes head on. “And next time, tell one of us. Broken fingers are a bigger deal than you might imagine.”
“’Cause they’ll affect how I hold my bo staff?” He can’t help a little bitterness coloring his words—because of course Bruce cares more about that than anything else. Of course he does.
“Because they hurt like hell,” Bruce replies. “Now go on to sleep. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Tim nods and heads to the stairs, pausing at the bottom. “You should, too. Just for a few hours.”
Bruce holds steady for just a moment, but in the end, Tim wins. His dad stands and joins him, and they go up to the Manor together. In the hallway, Tim darts forward for a hug, and though it makes his back ache and his fingers feel clunky against the man’s back, it’s a great way to end the night.
Chapter 3: Touch Starved + Dick Grayson
Anonymous asked for "touch starved + dick grayson please"
I hope this makes sense dksjfhjads
Light summer air breezes through the trailer’s windows. The sun is shining, dipping down in the sky, which Dick can see is turning all sorts of pretty colors, There are hardly any clouds at all, but smoke is rising from the circus’ grill, where Mattie the contortionist is making everyone their end of the summer burgers. Practically able to taste it already, Dick wonders if Mattie’s telling the truth when they say they’re as world famous as the Graysons are. Probably, he decides, impatiently tumbling around the living room.
He wants to go out there, wants to joke around and be with his friends. Eating Mattie’s world famous burgers. Telling Pop Haly about how he managed what Mama called a double layout. He wants to tell Pop Haly how Tati was so impressed, he nearly cried like a big baby. But noooo, Mama is keeping him in here, making him wait until her and Tati are done talking. His protests of being old enough to be alone with everyone were ignored, and he was left here in the living room.
Annoyed, he rolls to a stop, laying on his back on the floor. He’s dressed in his best overalls, which Tati said make him look “cute as a button”, and he’s hungry and he’s bored and he’s so tired of waiting.
“Mama,” he calls out, “Are you guys ready yet?”
Instead of answering, Tati walks out of their bedroom, wearing his nice clothes. The end of the summer gathering isn’t anything fancy, but everyone likes to look nice anyway. It’s a celebration, and Dick is ready to get celebrating. He gives Tati a pouty look, reaching his hands up like he’s a baby. Laughing, Tati comes and heaves him off the ground, letting him fly a little before catching him.
Tati’s arms are strong and warm, and they hold Dick close to his chest. He’s too old to be held, but not too big, and even if he was, he likes this way too much. Likes the way he feels protected and loved in his Tati’s embrace. Sighing happily, he sinks into it, his own arms wrapping loosely around Tati’s neck.
“Just another moment, baby,” he says into Dick’s hair. “Then we can go and you can have some fun, alright?”
They don’t say anything else, but Tati starts humming a song they both love and dancing around the living room, swaying them back and forth. Dick’s not tired, but it relaxes him more than anything else except maybe when Mama does it.
Mama comes out after a few spins, and she smiles at them, bright and happy and loving. She opens her arms, and Dick leaps from Tati to Mama, a practiced move, hugging her the same way he hugged Tati. “Can we go now?” He whines, pulling away a little.
Mama and Tati share an exasperated look, but then Tati goes and opens the door so Mama and him can finally, finally go outside.
All their friends are gathered around, and when they see the latecomers, they laugh and smile and greet them happily. The sun is still shining, the sky a pretty mix of pink and blue, and everything is lined golden. The grounds are packed, picnic tables spread out for everyone, and even the animals are eating, Zitka making happy noises as she munches down on the other side of the area.
Dick wiggles down out of his Mama’s arms and runs around, speaking to just about everybody. He hugs them, too, climbs on the shoulders of the strongman and pokes the clowns and lets the bearded woman wipe his chin when he gets jam all over it.
When he finally gets to Mattie, he tugs on their apron, already starting to say, “Can I please have mine medi—”
Mattie turns around, and instead of their signature smile, all Dick sees is the face of Tony Zucco.
He stumbles back, a shocked gasp falling from his mouth. Then Mattie—Zucco takes a step forward, and Dick jerks awake, nearly tumbling out of his bed. It’s not his bed in the trailer—it’s the one in Wayne Manor. And the Manor doesn’t feel like home, not the way the trailer did. He was getting used to juvie, as much as anyone possibly can, and then he’d been brought here, another unfamiliar place.
It’s nice, but his room is so big, so dark, and it’s cold. Moonlight streams in through the window, the curtains pulled back the way he likes, and there’s two whole night lights in here, but it’s not enough. Not enough to distract him from his dream, reassure him Mattie would never be anything like Tony Zucco, reassure him he’s okay.
Curling up under the sheets, he longs for the blankets he used to have. He got to keep his baby blanket, but that’s it—all the others would’ve been distributed around the circus or sold to pawn shops. That’s how it is with all of the belongings they had, actually, except for a few other things. But he hates thinking about it, hates it even more when the backdrop is the walls of this room.
He’s real grateful to Bruce, helping him with his parents’ killer, giving him a place to stay where no one will hurt him. But the room is creepy, and too big, and quiet, and he hates it. Bruce is all the way down the hall, Alfred in a different wing all together, and he’s never been so alone at night before. The only sounds are his own breathing, the sheets moving, the owls outside hooting.
Gingerly, he sits up, scanning the shadowy corners.
One of the things he got to keep was his stuffed elephant, and though she was originally named Ellinor, he calls her Zitka now. If he’s honest, she’s basically his only friend.
Alfred is nice, and he’s always around when Dick needs him, willing to help or care for him. But he’s not like Dick’s old friends—he doesn’t really touch Dick at all, unless he has to hold Dick’s chin and wipe his cheeks. His hands are firmer than the bearded lady’s, and he doesn’t coo while he does it like she did. And Bruce…Bruce is nice too. And he makes Dick hold his hand when they cross the street, but anywhere else, and he shies away from Dick like he’s got cooties or something. They sit across the dinner table from each other, and he always asks how Dick’s day was but never seems to be interested. Neither of them are anything like his old friends at all.
Zitka, though? She lets him hug her all he wants. And when he gets scared at night, he cuddles up with her and feels less alone. It’s what he wants right now, what he wants, and while she’s usually there when he falls asleep, she’s not tonight.
He has to tiptoe out of bed to get her from where she sits on his dresser, his poor toes freezing from how cold the floor is. But once she’s in his arms, he feels better, enough that he can ignore the feeling. Maybe he should start sleeping with socks on. Mama used to joke that people who wear socks to sleep are weird, but he thinks she’d understand.
Jumping back into bed, he ducks under the covers, curling up in a ball with Zitka close to his chest. Just like how Tati used to hold him.
Bruce carried him up to bed a few nights ago, and he didn’t hold Dick the way Tati did. But it was still nice, big arms keeping him steady. He tries to mimic the feeling of Tati’s and Bruce’s arms on Zitka, tries to become the protector instead of the protected. The holder instead of the held. It’s different, but so is everything else.
Closing his eyes, he sighs, the sound filling up his whole room and echoing against the walls. He feels small and hollow, but he tells himself he’s just gonna have to get used to it.
Chapter 4: Go Through Me + Jason Todd & Dick and Tim
Art3mis here on AO3 asked for this. Thanks for the prompt!!
Also I'm posting this on my phone so if there any typos just lmk and I'll fix them. Forgive my action writing skills please lmao
This is what Jason would call a horrible, awful shitstorm, and he’s absolutely going to blame it on Bruce.
He hadn’t wanted to go on patrol tonight. Even Bats take nights off, and he’d planned ahead for this to be his. But as usual, his best laid plans get screwed up at the last second. Bruce had asked him to come out since Cass is out with the flu, and so here he is, stuck in the sewers under Gotham, with two dumbass brothers in need of medical care, and also a crazed, man-eating Killer Croc.
At this point in his life, he really shouldn’t be surprised by things like this anymore. And if he’s honest, it’s not shocking—just annoying. And kind of, sort of worrying. Dick has a concussion so bad he’ll be benched for sure, and Tim’s wheezing and coughing up blood. Their communicators are lost or covered in the sludge from down here. Rescue, therefore, isn’t guaranteed.
Jason heaves Tim up on his shoulder again, knowing it’s not good to put pressure on his stomach like this but having no other options. He would hold the kid bridal style, but the possibility of Tim choking to death on his own blood is too much. Plus, Dick is stumbling along next to him, cursing as he presses on his ear piece, and if Jason has to grab him, he needs an arm free.
“Anything?” Jason whispers, harsh and breathy. Dick shakes his head slightly, not even trying to talk. As it is, the movement clearly makes him feel sick, his face paling markedly under his domino. If he throws up, it’ll be even easier for Croc to find them. “Just hold on,” he says, hardly any sound to it.
Though it’s been ages since he last went over the blueprints for the sewers, he knows his way around. There’s a drain hole about half a mile ahead of them, and if they can just get there, then Jason can get them all the hell out.
Hurrying, he tries to be gentle for Tim, tries to keep in Dick’s sight. Bruce will be pissed if he leaves one of them down here, and more than that, Jason will feel terrible. Killer Croc doesn’t play around, and hurt as they both are, neither would be able to put up a good fight.
So fucking go, Jason, he tells himself. Keep going.
They’re almost there when Tim suddenly starts punching at his back. They’re weak, and he knows instinctively they aren’t because Tim’s mad he’s being carried like this—no, they’re a warning.
Quickly, he shoves Tim at Dick and herds them to a corner, where they fall in an exhausted, pained heap. Pressing his finger against his mouth, he pays attention to the sounds around them. Running water, creaks, Tim’s wheezing, thunderously loud steps coming closer.
Dick’s escrima sticks are bumping against the wall. All Jason’s got are his two guns and a few knives. Bruce said they should be his last resort, and while Jason isn’t in the business of actually listening to him, in this instance they’re going to have to be. Bullets can ricochet, the knives won’t do shit. Reaching out, he grabs Tim’s bo staff, all folded up, and stuffs it in between his belt and his pants. Once he’s certain it’s secured, he grabs Dick’s escrima sticks, taking a second to get used to them. It’s been a while since he trained with them, but they’ll have to do for now.
With that done, he moves away from them, glad they’re hidden in the shadow. Killer Croc will still be able to tell they’re there, but it’s another layer of protection that Jason’s going to use to his advantage. He leans casually against the wall, hands fisted in his pockets.
The lizard man comes slinking up to them, pausing a few feet in front of Jason. He stands to his full height, intimidating on his best days.
“Hey, Waylon,” Jason greets. “Come here often?”
He growls, lip curling up. “Get outta the way, birdie. You’re blocking my dinner.”
Oh, if only some of the rogues could be better at this part of villainy. The monologues are important, don’t they realize that?
Slipping his hands out of his pockets, he puts them on his hips, ready to whip out the escrima sticks. “Sorry, but Robins aren’t on the menu tonight. Can I interest you in some ass kicking?” When Croc doesn’t reply, glaring at him, Jason adds, “Or you could go back to your place down here and leave us alone. No ass kicking necessary.”
“They’re mine,” Waylon replies, clearly giving no shits about what Jason is saying.
Whatever. Jason stands tall, heaving a sigh like he’s disappointed. Like he expected better. It won’t do much when the dude’s this far gone, but it’s worth a shot. “Then you’ll have to go through me.”
Waylon doesn’t hesitate to lunge forward, claws aiming right for Jason’s chest. They meet the hard material of Dick’s escrimas, and Jason pushes him away, holding his ground. Again, there’s no hesitation in the next attack, coming hard and fast for Jason’s legs this time.
Jason fights him off, ignoring the sounds of his brothers. He gets dragged into the sludge, and he ignores that, too, just gives Croc his all. Those claws slash and nick him a few times, but it doesn’t slow him down. One of the escrimas goes flying, the other broken in half, so Jason whips out the bo staff, spinning it in a way that always freaks out the bad guys. Having total control over a weapon like this one—it shows the wielder isn’t to be messed with.
Well, it’s not like Waylon didn’t already know that before he decided this was a good idea. He hardly reacts to the show, moving in again and reaching for the staff.
Jason slams the side of it against scaly skin, taking the opening when Croc pulls his wrist back to his big chest. The flat part isn’t pointed, but when Jason stabs it against his ribs, it sure as shit hurts. With a roar, he curls into himself. Jason wastes no time hitting him upside the head, the force enough to send him toppling.
Quickly, while he’s dazed, Jason pulls out a tablet of sleeping gas, breaking under his nose. It’s a new formula, and there’s no telling how long it’ll last, so after waiting a few seconds for Waylon to pass out, he heads right back for his brothers.
“You look like shit,” he says to them both. And they really do—Tim is flagging dangerously, and Dick isn’t any better.
Still, he helps Jason get Tim situated. “Good job, Little Wing.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He plays it off like his big brother’s praise means nothing to him, even though that’s far from the truth. Reaching out a hand, he helps Dick to his feet. “Come on, we’re getting the hell out of here.”
Tim groans when they start moving, but Jason takes it as a good sign—he’s not dead yet.
It’ll have to be enough.
Chapter 5: Childhood Trauma + Tim Drake & Kon, Cassie, and Bart
NawmiS here on AO3 asked for this one.
Hopefully it's okay I went the way I did -- I decided to focus on one of the possible effects of Tim's neglect. I've written about this before, and in that fic and this one, I gave Tim RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) which is what kids who are neglected can get. It basically means that when a kid doesn't make any emotional bonds as a baby or young child, they get this disorder, and some of the symptoms are listed in the fic. This isn't meant to be a be all, end all source of information on the disorder, just a fictional depiction of it.
This can be seen as Tim & Kon, or pre-slash. Mention of lots of blood in section 4.
1. Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
Kon kicks the ball out to Bart, laughing as Cassie and Tim both try to intercept it before Bart can get to it. The game they’re playing doesn’t really have rules—it’s more like monkey in the middle, according to Tim—but it’s fun, more fun than he’s had in ages. It pits Kon’s strength against Bart’s speed against Cassie’s mishmash of them both against Tim’s amazing brain. On top of that, it makes them competitive, gets their pulses up. Tim was the one who suggested they play, and now, watching Bart and Cassie roll in the grass as he tries to take the ball back, Kon thinks this has been one of his best ideas yet.
Cassie ends up victorious, and Kon changes places with her, joining Tim in between their friends. He bumps their shoulders together, asking, “You ready?”
Tim is grinning when he bumps back. “Always!”
When Bart kicks the ball out, Tim sweeps for Kon’s legs, sending him tumbling to the ground. It’s only for a second, but Tim takes advantage, rushing ahead and leaping right for it like a cat. Kon is there moments later, but it’s a waste—Tim’s got it, and once he’s grabbed on, there’s no taking it away from him.
Still clutching it tightly to his chest, Tim stands from where he’d fallen to the ground. He’s panting and laughing, and he looks happier than Kon has seen him in way too long. Since it’s just the four of them, he doesn’t have a domino on, and Kon notes how the corners of his eyes crinkle when he’s smiling this wide.
Cassie and Bart come over, Bart practically vibrating with energy. “Another round?” He asks, glancing between the three of them a few times. “Please? I know we said we’d go in at noon, and it’s like 12:10 already, but this is way too much fun to stop now!”
Kon meets Cassie’s eyes, and it’s pretty obvious by the spark of excitement there that they’re in agreement—one more round. And probably one more after that, too. “I’m in,” she says, and Kon replies, “Me too.”
They all turn to Tim, and Kon is expecting the same enthusiasm he saw only a few moments before. Instead, he finds his friend staring hard at the ground, jaw working. After a moment, he says, “No, I’m going in.”
“C’mon man! Don’t go all Robot Leader on us,” Bart whines. “One more round won’t put us totally off schedule.”
“You guys can keep playing,” Tim replies, stepping back. He throws the ball to Cassie, who actually fumbles the catch. That’s never happened before. “But I’m done.”
He doesn’t wait for one of them to respond before he turns on his heel and heads back in, and even without his cape, it’s a dramatic move.
“What’s up with him?” Cassie asks lowly, but Kon doesn’t have an answer for her—he’s wondering the same thing.
2. Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
Batman stalks off, his loud and angry words still echoing in Kon’s mind.
How could you be so irresponsible? If you do something like this again, I will bench you. Permanently.
Kon hates when Batman comes around. It’s almost always to yell at them, to yell at Tim. He points out all the ways they’ve messed up, and ignores the ways they did well—and compliments? Kon is positive the man doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Nor does he know compassion, or comfort, or anything even remotely like that. All he knows is how to put the pressure on.
Tim is still standing there, rooted to the same spot. His hands are clenched into fists at his side, and his heartbeat is going crazy. Kon can tell he’s got tears welling up, even if today the mask is very firmly on, covering his friend’s eyes.
Bart tip toes over, reaching out but not actually touching Tim. “You okay?”
“Fine,” Tim grits out. He doesn’t look at Bart.
“Batman was pretty harsh just now, don’t you think?” And now Bart does touch, just a simple hand on Tim’s shoulder, meant to reassure. Meant to comfort.
Tim finally moves, shaking the hand off. He doesn’t speak, just leaves, in the opposite direction of Batman.
3. Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
Barbecuing with the Waynes is interesting. Kon isn’t sure if he means that in a good way or not.
Clark and Lois are standing around with Bruce, and Jon is over with Damian, playing with the dogs. The rest of the Waynes are spread out by the pool, some in it and some not. Kon is sitting on a deck chair at the edge of the patio with Tim, and it’s nice, really, to just bask in the relative quiet and soak in the sun. Voices are washing over him, laughs and screams, the water splashing and the dogs barking. But over here, it’s peaceful, all the noises filling up the background.
When he opens his eyes, he looks over to Tim, wanting to ask about maybe joining the others. It’s peaceful, but it’s hot, too, and it’d be nice to cool off in the water. But Tim isn’t relaxing, or sleeping or anything. He’s just staring off at his siblings.
“I told her—I told her—,” Dick is saying through laughs. He’s doubling over as much as he can in the 4ft section, overcome with amusement.
“No one cares, dude!” Harper calls out from the edge, her legs submerged. “We all know what happens next, you’ve only told this story a thousand times—”
“Hey! I’m trying to listen,” Steph replies, grinning. She’s tanning in one of the chairs. “I want to make sure I have everything right before I go and tell—”
Jason faux-gasps from the deep end, “You wouldn’t!”, and it sends everyone into a fit of giggles.
Tim sighs, a tiny little sound that gets swallowed immediately by Cass making a comeback and Duke’s snort-laugh. But Kon—Kon can hear it. And it sounds…wistful, almost. A little sad, maybe. He hopes he can read Tim well enough to know the difference.
Kon asks, “Don’t you wanna go over there?” ‘Cause it seems to him that Tim does. And that the others would like if he and Tim went to join them.
Blinking, Tim turns to him, and he smiles. It’s one of his fake smiles. His calm is fake, too—his heart is pounding like it does during battles. “Nah, I’m good here. If you wanna go, though, I won’t stop you. It’s probably more fun over there than here with me.”
Yeah, probably. Kon shrugs, saying Tim’s own words back to him. “Nah, I’m good here.”
Tim keeps smiling at him, and it doesn’t turn real.
4. Failing to ask for support or assistance
Cassie’s yelp is loud, traveling through the cave, all the way to his room. Kon is on his feet in seconds, racing to the sound.
She’s on the floor of the living room, and Tim is in her lap, and not only is his suit ripped to shreds, he’s absolutely covered in blood. Bart appears behind Kon a second later, and rushes forward to Tim’s side, mouth opening and closing like a fish.
Kon doesn’t waste anymore time, running for their extensive first aid kit. Tim probably needs more help than they can give him, but it’s important to do what they can first. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself.
When he gets back, Tim is mumbling, “M’fine,” over and over. Cassie and Bart aren’t listening—they’re just pressing against his chest where long gashes are visible.
“What the hell happened?” Kon demands, setting the kit down and throwing it open.
“He went on that mission,” Cassie says, voice strained. “You know, the one we were very clearly told not to go on, because it was about a hundred times more dangerous than anything we’ve ever had to deal with before.”
They’d discussed going anyway—because, no matter what the Justice League thinks, Young Justice is more than capable—but ultimately decided to let the adults handle it. And Tim, he’d been the last one of them to say they should go, and screw the consequences. He said they could handle it just fine, that the adults were being stupid. When Cassie asked him why he was so deadset on this, Tim had said something about it being important. Then he’d given in, stomping back to his room, defeated.
Except, clearly he hadn’t given in. Kon sighs, and helps Bart pull off the remains of the top half of Tim’s suit. The sleeves survived better than the rest, so he has to pull it all the way down Tim’s arm and over his fist. When he gets there, he realizes Tim’s holding something.
Kon opens up his fingers, not surprised his friend doesn’t put up a fight. There’s a flashdrive in his palm, and Kon takes it, puts it in his pocket. Tim can get it back later, when he’s not possibly bleeding to death.
Tim blinks up at him. “M’fine,” he insists. His mouth spreads out into a shaky smile. Kon doesn’t pay it any attention—it’s obviously forced.
“Shut up, dude,” Bart snaps, clearly freaking out, and Tim does.
A few hours pass, their teammate holed up in surgery at the behest of Batman, and Kon finds himself in Tim’s room. It’s nearly empty, the only personal touches being the color of the sheets, and the laptop sitting open on his desk. Hesitantly, Kon goes over to it, and sits down.
He wants to know what the hell was so important that Tim went all the way to Khadym to get it. Thankfully, the laptop is still on and alive, and Kon doesn’t have to attempt to log in. Plugging in the flashdrive, he forces himself not to feel about snooping. Tim got hurt—Kon is just finding out why. Tim would want to do the same.
What he finds is way more personal than he’d expected—a whole file on Tim, apparently from Ra’s al Ghul himself.
Kon doesn’t read much once he realizes what it is. One line does catch his attention, though, and he can’t look away.
Severe childhood neglect—many longterm effects.
5. Failure to smile
Kon brings the flashdrive with him when he goes to visit Tim two days later. His friend is finally awake, and only on whatever small drugs the Bats will take. He’s probably in pain and cranky, and he won’t be happy to hear that Kon looked. But Kon is prepared for that, prepared to defend his actions.
When he gets there, Batman is in the room, speaking lowly. “Tim,” he says, and he sounds like a normal human, his voice gentle. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
Tim shifts in bed, but doesn’t say anything.
“I know you’re mad at me… and yes, I know you and your team could’ve done the mission fine. But I also knew that you would be compromised going there, especially to retrieve what you did.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tim replies. “I didn’t retrieve anything. I just got my ass beat and thrown back in my jet to go home. And before you ask, no, Talia wasn’t there.”
“I wasn’t going to—Tim,” Bruce says, and he sounds exhausted. Kon knows he’s been here ever since Cassie called to tell him about Tim. “I don’t think you should look at it. Whatever it says, it doesn’t matter. Ra’s is… well, you know how he is. His opinion of you doesn’t matter.”
“B, can we talk about this tomorrow? Or never? I’m tired, I just want to sleep some more. You can lecture me some other time.”
They’re both silent for a moment. Then Bruce sighs, and Kon hears him pull up the cowl. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” Batman says. He sounds gruff now. “Sleep well.”
Batman stares him down as they pass each other in the hall, but Kon forces himself not to react. “Don’t keep him up,” is all the older man says before he’s gone.
Kon keeps moving, stepping into the room. Tim quirks his lips when they see each other, and reaches one hand out. There’s a different laptop than the one in his room on the medical bed. “You have it, right?”
“Yeah,” Kon says, but he doesn’t hand it over.
Tim’s face goes blank. His voice is deceptively light when he asks, “You gonna give it to me?”
Instead of answering, Kon closes the door behind him, and leans up against the wall. “I looked at it.”
“Wh—why would you do that.” It’s not a question.
“I wanted to know what was so important,” Kon says, shrugging a little. “I didn’t see much. Just….”
“Just what? Kon, whatever’s on there, it’s none of your business, so you should just forget—”
Kon blurts, “Did your parents really neglect you?”
He knows it’s rude. He knows it’s tactless, and that if Ma Kent finds out about this, he’ll be grounded for the rest of his “ever-loving” life. But he can’t take it back, and once it’s out there, he finds he really wants to know. Wants to know so he can go and figure out how to help make the supposed longterm effects better.
Tim says, “Nah,” and it’s his billionaire’s voice, the one Kon hears on TV. It’s always accompanied by one of those fake smiles that everybody seems to fall for, hook line and sinker. But it’s not this time. Tim isn’t smiling. He’s just blank. “Is that all Ra’s wrote? I guess he doesn’t know me as well as I thought.”
“I’m fine, Kon. Now give it to me.”
Feeling like he’s going to regret this, but not wanting to press anymore, Kon gives in. He hands it over to Tim, and not even then does Tim smile, just turns his attention to the laptop. It’s a dismissal, Kon thinks.
“I’m fine,” Tim says one last time, as Kon is stepping out of the doorway. His lies have never been so obvious.
Chapter 6: Panic Attack + Duke Thomas & Jason
Anon over on tumblr asked for this one. There is a panic attack shown below, but it's not terribly graphic I don't think?
EDIT: thought I'd add a little background on Duke if you don't know much about him. He's Batman's newest child, still being fostered last I checked but that is subject to change. When he was a child, his parents were infected with Joker's laughing gas stuff, and the last he saw of them was them going down to the sewers, where they presumably died.
He's about 16, and he's a meta with light-based powers, so he patrols during the day. He and Jason get along really well in the comics, though he's also friendly with Damian. Bruce has had some really cute moments with him.
There's nothing in canon to support him liking tutti frutti ice cream, but nothing that denies it either lol
Duke takes a bite of his ice cream, settling back into his seat. Ever since he first got officially fostered by Bruce, it’s been difficult to go out without the paparazzi hounding after him. He hasn’t been able to come back here, his favorite ice cream place, in months and he’s missed it more than he thought he would. Smiling happily, he scoops another bite off the top. He can’t help but hum at the taste of the fudge topping. He never could afford it before, and though he doesn’t love using Bruce’s money, why not take advantage here? It’s just fudge.
Jason sits across from him, licking absently at his ice cream cone. He’d offered to bring Duke out, saying, “If we’re brothers now, I should probably get to know you, don’t you think?”
And, well. Yeah. The good thing about Jason? He’s still legally dead, meaning that, other than a few paparazzi who are always trying to get pictures of him, there’s a lot less attention on them. Also, when Duke said, “Wanna get ice cream?”, Jason said, “Hell yeah.”
Usually when Duke asks that, it’s to Damian, who has lots of feelings about dairy products.
Anyway, it’s nice to just sit and chill. Jason doesn’t force conversation, but he listens when Duke speaks, and it’s really all he can ask for. (Something they don’t tell you about being brought into a big family? The daily fights for attention. Duke is still learning how to win.)
“How’s yours?” Duke asks, eyeing the Rocky Road Jason had ordered. He’s never had it before, but according to Cass, it’s a family favorite, so he’s curious.
Jason tunes back in, shrugging. “Pretty good. This place is way better than the kind we usually get. How’d you find it?”
“Grew up three streets over. We’d come here every weekend we could afford it.”
“Nice,” Jason says, and he sounds sincere. “You always get that monstrosity, or is it new?”
Grinning, he exclaims, “Hey, tutti frutti isn’t a monstrosity!”
“It’s healthy ice cream. Such a thing shouldn’t exist,” Jason replies seriously. “It’s a freak of nature.”
“Is not,” Duke says. After a quick bite, he continues, “And to answer your question, yes, I always got this here. No one else does it as good as they do.”
“I bet Alfie could.”
“Oh, don’t bring him into this!” Duke laughs.
Smirking, Jason asks, “Scared to talk shit about his food?”
“Hell no! I just. I don’t want to compare that and this.” He doesn’t want to say why—that while Alfred’s food is delicious, this ice cream is more special than any the butler could ever make. This ice cream has good memories of his parents attached to it, and he’s holding onto as many of those as he can. “They’re just—different.”
Jason doesn’t respond for a second, just looks at him. Then he licks at where it’s dripping down his fingers. “I get it. I love his noodles, but nothing can beat box mac and cheese. Me and my mom used to eat that all the time.”
Unsure if he’s allowed to ask—or if he even wants to, knowing from the others that Jason’s mom isn’t someone they’re supposed to talk about—Duke says, “Man, I’m glad you’re around. The others just don’t get it. Gourmet shit is good, but like, yeah, nothing beats Kraft.”
“You should talk to Steph,” Jason says, reaching his free hand out for a fist bump. “She argues with Tim and Dick about stuff like this all the time.”
Duke returns the fist bump, feeling like he’s the coolest kid on the block. Okay, that’s cheesy as hell, but whatever. It’s nice to be around Jason, who’s his cool older brother. Foster brother. Whatever.
Before he can reply, the worker behind the counter turns up the TV in the corner loud enough everyone in the shop can hear it. Where they’re sitting, they have to half-turn to see it properly.
On the screen, one of the local news people is giving a report on the latest Joker toxin incident. It was a few days ago now, and Duke thankfully hadn’t had to help with containing it.
“The last of the antidotes have been administered,” the news person says. “Other than the three deaths which occurred soon after the victims were brought to the hospital, no other deaths are being reported. GCPD is still recommending wearing face masks in the area….”
And okay, maybe there’s a reason Duke didn’t help out with it. It took place right around dusk, when Duke was heading home and the others were coming out. He’d been around when it happened, much closer than the rest. The crazed laughter that had filled the street has been plaguing his dreams the past few nights.
Bruce says Duke shouldn’t force himself to face the Joker. He says it could just make everything worse, and Duke knows now that he was right.
Seeing the accompanying videos to go along with the report, Duke is thrown right back to being a child. To watching his parents get infected, worse than those people were, and hearing as they laughed. His mom’s laugh was loud and she snorted all the time. His dad’s was wheezy and low pitched. Except, that day they were totally different, like something out of his worst nightmares. Maniacal and dangerous and empty.
“Duke?” Jason asks, but Duke hardly hears him. He’s tuned out, the background noise from the shop being replaced by the sound of his heart beating in his ears.
The day before he lost his parents, they came here. Mom got cookies and creme, Dad got strawberry, and Duke got tutti frutti. They sat in a booth, and Duke kicked his heels against the seat, too short to reach the ground. Dad got ice cream on his nose, and Mom laughed and she took a picture.
The next day, they were gone. Not dead, he doesn’t think, doesn’t know, but gone. Never to be seen again. Because of that goddamn clown.
Someone takes the cup of ice cream out of his hand, and he hears Jason say, “You’re gonna make a huge mess, so let’s just put that down, okay?”
His chest hurts. He wonders what was going through his parents’ heads when they descended to the sewers, high and insane. Were they scared? Did they think they were going to die? Did they think about him?
“He’s fine, just back off,” Jason says, somewhere, and Duke ducks his head, trying to breathe. Why is it so hard to breathe? It was easy a few moments ago. Minutes? He doesn’t know.
There’s a hand on his back and on his chest, and they force him to sit up straight. His arm gets tucked against a chest, and he can feel it moving up and down. Then Jason says, “Come on, breathe with me, okay? You got this, man. Just do it with me.”
It takes ages, he thinks, to come down. To come back to earth, to his favorite ice cream place, where people are looking at him. Jason is next to him, stooped really low in a position that must kill his ankles, but he doesn’t complain.
Searching Duke’s eyes, he asks, “You good?”
That’s another unofficial rule around the family—no one ever asks that unless it’s serious. Unless they expect an honest answer and won’t take any bullshit. But he doesn’t want to say anything here, not when he can see the camera phones pointed their way. Being spotted is already inconvenient at the best of times, which this definitely isn’t.
Jason seems to understand. He stands up straight, sighing in relief. His ice cream is gone, and Duke doesn’t ask. Just stands with him and grabs his own cup, wanting to get the hell out.
He shouldn’t have come. He should’ve known better. It’s too close to the anniversary, too hot off the heels of the last incident. It’s been so long, he could’ve waited. He should’ve waited.
Jason pulls him outside, leading them right for the car he borrowed from Bruce. They don’t speak as they get in, Jason in the driver’s seat.
“You’re not gonna ask?” Duke says after a few minutes, feeling like he’s going to throw up, either from the attack or the anticipation.
“None of my business,” Jason replies, shooting him a kind look. “If you wanna talk, you can. But it doesn’t seem like you do.”
“I don’t.” And he doesn’t. He wants to go back to his room in the Manor and he wants to pretend this never happened. Wants to ignore the headlines and the concerned looks from everyone. But—”Uh. Thanks. For being cool, I mean.”
Duke winces at how he sounds, wondering if Jason will think he’s some stupid kid now. He doesn’t think he’ll be surprised if that’s the case.
Jason shrugs, reaching out a second later to give a friendly punch to Duke’s shoulder. “That’s what Robins for, you know? Being cool.”
Duke blinks. And then he laughs, and it feels good, cleansing. “Hell yeah.”
Chapter 7: Depression + Tim Drake
Anon here on AO3 asked for this one!! Hope you like it <3
Tim doesn’t notice at first.
Oh, he knows the signs, and he often finds himself looking for them in the people around him. His friends, his family, they all live dangerous lives. Mental health isn’t easy to deal with for any of them, and not the least because finding a psychologist who won’t turn rogue but will keep a secret is harder than it seems. So yes, Tim knows the signs.
He knows to look for apathy, overt guilt, loss of interest in things previously loved. And he knows to look for behaviors like irritability and sadness and mood swings, changes in sleep or appetite. It’s probably useless for him to know so much, to care to the extent he does. But that doesn’t stop him, and he goes through his days finding them everywhere.
It’s probably ridiculous, really, for him not to notice them in himself.
But it’s easy to wave away. Yes, he’s tired, but not because he’s depressed. He’s got a full time job, one that keeps him up all night, and a life during the day too. It’s a lot to handle, he tells himself as he downs an energy drink. It’d be a lot for anyone. His siblings are all tired, and they’re fine, aren’t they? He decides to keep an eye on that, just in case it’s not fatigue but something deeper.
And yes, he’s been feeling pretty guilty lately. About anything and everything, really. He was skateboarding and knocked a woman down, and though she was fine and he apologized a hundred times, he’s still thinking about it over a week later. On top of that, every time he talks to Damian, he ends up snapping. He has to remind himself the kid is just that—a kid. And Tim, he’s almost an adult, which means he’s supposed to be more mature.
Cass catches him, once, standing outside Damian’s door. He wrings his hands nervously, wondering what he’s going to say, when she comes up to his side. Her arms wrap around him, forcing him to freeze, and she says, “It’s okay. Apologize. He’s downstairs.”
“In his art room?” Tim asks. When she nods, he intends to move away. Instead, he wraps his arms around her, and they stand there for who knows how long, just holding each other. And Tim doesn’t get irritated at all when Dick comes and tells them it’s time for dinner, and ends up bombarding their hug. That would be a stupid thing to get upset about. He loves his brother and he loves his brother’s hugs, so there’s no flash of anger at all. Nope.
At dinner, which is a gourmet lasagna dish, he finds himself ravenous.
“Last time we had this, you said it made you sick and you didn’t want it ever again. When did you start liking it?” Duke asks, elbowing him teasingly.
Tim shrugs. “I don’t know,” he says once he’s swallowed the bite. “But it’s really good.”
He eats the leftovers at lunch the next day even though Jason’s clearly called dibs on it, and can’t find it within himself to really care when it turns up Jason’s actually mad at him for it.
A few nights later, an Arkham breakout leaves him only falling into bed at nine am. He sleeps all day, not even waking up when Bruce comes to get him for dinner. And then he sleeps all night, too, despite the fact that it’s not his night off. Getting up out of bed just seems like a lot of effort, and he’s tired, okay? Too tired to get up, even to use the bathroom.
“Master Tim?” Alfred calls, knocking on the door. “May I come in?”
Tim doesn’t respond, having no energy to call out a simple “yeah.”
Alfred stands there for a few moments—minutes?—before eventually sighing and walking off. It stings, but Tim knows the rules. No one goes in a bedroom that isn’t their own without permission first, even Alfred. Not unless it’s an emergency, and this really isn’t one.
Sighing himself, he turns over in bed, pulls the sheets over his head, and falls back asleep.
It’s a little easier, in the morning, and he manages to get to the en suite before he pees his pants. But once he’s done, standing there washing his hands, he feels so exhausted he just trudges back to his mattress.
Jason pounds at the door some time later. “Come on, kid. Breakfast. Non-negotiable.”
“I’m taking that as permission to enter,” Jason calls, swinging the door open. He eyes Tim for a long moment. “You alright?”
“Yeah.” It’s a little easier to talk, too, but not much. “Just tired.”
“You’ve been sleeping for days.”
“And that’s not concerning to you?”
Jason rolls his eyes so hard they might just fall out of his head. “Whatever. Breakfast time, now. Let’s go.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“I’ll get B.”
Tim pulls his pillow over his head, unable to care if Bruce comes or not. It’s not like he’ll able to convince Tim to get out of bed, anyway.
“Fine!” Jason leaves, slamming the door behind him. No one comes for a long time, and Tim dozes off, clutching his pillow.
Later, voices start to filter in. “…worried, sir,” Alfred says. He sounds far away and hushed, like he’s at the doorway but doesn’t want anyone to hear him.
“Me too,” Bruce says, his voice matching Alfred’s. “He has a file on this, and when I looked at it, I noticed he’s showing a lot of the signs. I…I’m not sure what to do about this, honestly.”
“We’ll just have to coax him out, or try, at the very least. Have a conversation with him about this, whether it must be in here or not. Feed him something. It’s been much too long since he last ate, Master Bruce.”
“Leslie said depression can do that,” Bruce replies. “His appetite is definitely being affected. I’ll have Dick bring something up later, maybe have him or Cass spend some time with Tim in here. Something low-key.”
“A movie? Master Jason said he wasn’t talking much.”
“Cass would be best for that. They can turn it down low and she can sit with him. Hopefully that’ll help some.”
Alfred exhales, and Tim notes immediately it’s a sad little sound. He hates to hear it, stomach knotting with guilt. “I hope so as well, sir.”
They leave, then, closing the door gently behind them. Tim bites his lip and squeezes his eyes shut, forcing the hot tears to stay put. He’s fine, isn’t he? Yeah, okay, he’s showing some signs of depression. But he’s okay.
(He knows he's not, but it's so much easier to pretend. He tells himself it expends less energy. Tells himself he's okay. Pretends not to notice the signs.)
Chapter 8: Not Used To Freedom + Dick Grayson & Bruce
Anon over on tumblr asked for this one. I really hope it's not terrible kdjfhkjdsahf I wrote most of it at like 3 am
One warning: there's a line that implies something,, not good. Basically just that Dick is wearing extra layers of underwear for an unexplained reason. I meant it more as him trying to protect himself/feel safer, but I know it can be taken differently. It's just one sentence, so hopefully that's okay
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bruce is in over his head, and he knows that. He does, no matter what Alfred might have to say, or rather, imply. Dealing with people who’ve been abused, who’ve been tortured the way Dick has…it’s not something he knows how to do, not really. He can only handle it for so long before he passes them off to people who are trustworthy and more qualified. Batman doesn’t stick around that long, after all. He helps as much as needed, and then he lets others take care of it. That’s been his modus operandi for as long as he’s been Batman.
But this is different.
This is his son.
This is his son, who’s been missing for weeks. His oldest child, his baby who used to run around the Manor doing cartwheels and flips, because he never could reach the end of his energy storage. Who used to beg for fast food, and who put straws on his incisors and pretended to be Count Dick-ula. Who would come to him with his nightmares, and cuddle up with him.
Bruce pushes the thoughts away, not wanting to upset himself even more than he already is.
Standing by Dick’s bedside watching the monitors and tubes instead of his chest has become a common occurrence, and he hates it, hates the anticipation and worry and fear. But he’d take the horror of that over the situation they’re in now every time.
Bruce creeps into the bedroom, leaving the door open and getting out of Dick’s path to it. Crouching, he stays several feet away, and speaks as gently as he can manage. “It’s breakfast time, Dick. Do you want to join us today?”
He has to be careful not to say Dick has to join. The first—and last—time he did that, Dick did go downstairs to eat with them, practically shaking with nerves the whole time. After eating too much, either because he’d been starved or because he was scared of what would happen if he didn’t finish his plate, Dick had thrown up. Several times. A lot of it got on Bruce, which had scared Dick even more, though Bruce had never been upset with him for it.
So Bruce is being gentle, and he’s staying away, and he’s not forcing anything. Easier said than done, but he’s determined to get it right.
Dick’s hair is growing back from where his captors cut it, and he’s taken to running his fingers through it, tugging at the strands. His clothes are ones Cass stole from his apartment, several layers of shirts and—Bruce forces himself not to react to the thought—underwear. He’s wearing baggy pajama pants that came from Jason, and he’s been sleeping on the floor since they brought him back home. He’s sat on his bed a few times, but sleeping on it seems beyond him for now. Instead, the pillows and sheets are spread out in the corner, because Bruce did insist on that. Maybe Dick’s captors didn’t care about where he slept and how uncomfortable it was, but Bruce does.
Dick hasn’t fought him on it yet, but then, he hasn’t fought Bruce on anything. It’s so unlike his son, who’s always argued with him, ever since he first felt fully settled into the Manor. But Bruce has been trying not to compare Dick to who he was before he was taken, so he pushes the thought away.
Playing with his outermost shirt, Dick doesn’t look up when he asks, “Who’s here?”
“It can be just you and me, if you want, or we can ask the younger boys to join us. If not, they can eat in the kitchen.”
Bruce waits for a moment, but when nothing else seems to be coming, he asks, “Which one do you want to do?”
“I’ll eat with you,” Dick says, and really, it’s better than hearing ‘I want to eat alone’ again. He’ll take it.
“Do you want me to go first?” Bruce asks, aware that Dick has been having trouble with being alone. He’s fine in his room, where he’s been keeping himself busy for the most part, but once the spell is broken by another person, he doesn’t like not having them in his sights. His captors, before Bruce beat them so bloody they passed out, informed Bruce that they enjoyed blindfolding him and forcing him to guess where they were coming from, just before attacking him.
Bruce is being very, very careful to let Dick chose how they interact, except for when it comes to inviting him to eat, and when it comes time to bring him down to the Cave to check his vitals and wounds. There’s no compromising when it comes to that.
“No, I’ll go with you.” He stands, some of his wounds obviously still aching by the way he grimaces. Bruce stands as well, letting Dick take the lead. “What’d Alfred make today?”
“Chocolate chip pancakes,” Bruce answers, keeping space between them. He wants nothing more than to reach out, or at least bump shoulders as they walk, but he doesn’t dare. “He thought you might like to have some.”
“He thought right,” Dick says. He smiles a tiny little smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. And despite all the years of being the one to initiate physical affection between them, he doesn’t try and breach the space either.
Bruce isn’t one to use this slang, but it sucks.
It’s okay, he tells himself. He’s just got to stay strong for his son, and eventually, things will be okay again. He’ll make sure of it.
Thought I'd add -- I got a comment (that I haven't responded to yet ;_; sorry) about possible sequels to these one shots. I'm def down to write some, either based on other squares or just straight up follow ups. They'll be put on the back burner to my other projects but it won't hurt to ask if you're interested in seeing one!!
Chapter 9: Slammed Into A Wall + Tim Drake & Cass
JVL here on AO3 asked for this one -- hope it's okay I added Cass! Also sorry about the length, but I'm thinking some of the other prompts (specifically Time Loop, Forced Out Of The Closet, and Careful What You Wish For) will be over 2k so that should make up for it :)
Tim taps his foot against the Gotham road, less out of impatience and more out of pent-up energy. Sure, maybe there’s a little impatience. Maybe more than a little. But it’s a cold night, and Cass has left him standing by himself there while she checks in with one of the women she rescued recently. This lady doesn’t exactly live in a good part of town—not that there actually is a “good part”—and while Tim can take care of himself, he doesn’t want to be out here any longer than necessary. The bright colors really do attract attention, and he’s positive he’s already seen shadowy figures moving around, sizing him up. Sure he's just imagining things, he ignores it.
Forcing himself still, Tim goes over the cases of the night, reviewing which ones were tied up and which ones still need his attention. He’ll have to write up reports on all of them anyway, so it’s a good use of time, making sure he has all the details correct.
Cass’ voice, which is quiet and still not used to saying much, floats down to Tim soon after he exhausts that tactic and finds himself with nothing to do again. She’s learning more and more each day, though she still prefers to read body language over speaking. Her words are made all the more special for it, and any other night, Tim might listen harder, try and see what they’re talking about. As it is, he can guess the topic—the woman’s old boyfriend and if he’s stayed away since the last time Cass came and spoke to her. He hopes the asshole has.
When he breathes, the air in front of him clouds up, and the mere sight of it sends a shiver through Tim’s body. Usually, he’s fine in cold weather. But he hadn’t bothered to check before coming out, and his regular suit is no match for the biting Gotham winter.
He could go home, but he promised Cass he’d wait up for her. So he’s stuck standing there, all of his extremities freezing and going numb.
With a sigh, he rubs at his temples. A headache is coming on, exacerbated by the chatter of the others in his ear. The night is wrapping up for all of them, but somehow, they’ve managed to stay alert and hyper. He hopes Cass gets done soon—the quicker they get home, the quicker they can get to bed.
Thankfully, it’s only a few minutes later that she creeps onto the window sill, her Batgirl costume standing out even in the darkness. He steps away from the wall and turns his back to the one on the other side of the alley, trying to see her better. A grin spreads on his face. Damn but she looks cool. His fingers itch for a camera—it’s a great action pose, and it would look amazing hung up somewhere down in the Cave.
A sound interrupts his thoughts, just the trash cans creaking down the alley, but he still looks down that way.
It happens in seconds—a large, beefy man practically flies out of the shadows, aimed right for Tim. His hands land on Tim’s chest, and Tim goes backwards, slamming hard into the wall behind him. His head conks loudly and painfully on the bricks, while the air is forced right out of his lungs.
Cass lands between them just before Tim sinks down, and he hears the sound of her kicking the guy’s ass, hears the thumps as she punches him and pained noises he lets out freely. Cass makes a weird growling noise that Dick probably taught her, and demands, “Stay away!”
The guy whimpers and runs off, but Tim doesn’t really care. His gloved fingers reach gingerly to the back of his head, and sure enough, they come back sticky with blood. It’s a head wound, and head wounds bleed a lot, and it’s far from the first one Tim’s ever received but. He swallows convulsively, reminding himself it’s not a big deal. They’re about to go home, and it’ll be dealt with, and he’ll be fine.
Cass crouches in front of him, her own fingers touching Tim’s head. When her fingers probe under his hair, he hisses in pain, but neither of them move away. No sorries are said, either, but Tim doesn’t really need one. She moves up, past where Tim thinks the cut starts, and to the point where his head is pulsating. “Bump,” she says. “Concussion?”
He looks up and meets her eyes, intending her to check his pupils, before remembering his domino has the eyes covered. Then he tries shaking his head, but it makes it hurt so much worse, and he has to grit his teeth to keep from groaning out loud. Dizzying throbs have him tucking his chin down, squeezing his eyes shut.
How stupid can he be? That guy clearly wasn’t trained, and yet, he got the drop on Tim. On Robin. Mistakes happen in the field, Alfred preaches that all the time, but when Robin makes a mistake, when someone gets the better of him? That means life or death. There are two stark reminders of that readily available to Tim. It’s impossible to forget.
And yet, he was so distracted by Cass, by the freaking artistry of the pose, the angle, that some crook had gotten close enough to do this. Freaking wonderful.
“We should go back now,” he says.
“Scans,” she agrees, standing and helping him up right after.
Even knowing she’s right, he doesn’t want to admit it, doesn’t want this to be a serious thing. “Batgirl, I don’t need—”
“Scans,” Cass repeats, brooking absolutely no arguments.
Tim gives in, following her up to the roof and wincing at how tender his back feels. Once they’re flying back to the nest, he says, “Scans. And bruise cream.”
Cass teasingly clicks her tongue. “And sleep.”
No one says no to Cass, Tim thinks. But even if they did, she’s totally right. Bed sounds heavenly right now. “And sleep. Lots and lots of sleep.”
Her giggle hurts, but he can’t find it within himself to really be upset about it.
Chapter 10: Survivor's Guilt + Dick Grayson & Damian
Anon over on tumblr asked for this one, hope it's okay I added Damian!! This is set after Bruce "dies", when Dick is Batman and Damian is his Robin.
This is it, folks. The first one that's made me actually cry. Good luck lmao
ALSO this chapter discusses the movie Brother Bear (2003) quite a bit, so I'm going to give a brief (and spoilery) summary. I've never actually seen the movie, so this is based off the wiki page.
A human named Kenai, who hates bears, is out in the woods with his two brothers, and at some point, they come across a bear. This bear kills Kenai's oldest brother, so Kenai enacts revenge and kills the bear after following it up a mountain. The Great Spirits, headed by Kenai's brother, turn him into a bear to see how they really live, and Kenai's other brother assumes that Kenai has also been killed and swears revenge on Kenai, thinking he's the one who killed him. Kenai then meets a young cub named Koda, who's lost and alone because his mom seemingly abandoned him. He and Kenai team up and become very close. Eventually, Koda tells Kenai about the last time he saw his mom, which was a situation that Kenai recognizes, because he was the human Koda talks about. Kenai tells Koda that he's the one who killed Koda's mom, and Koda is understandably upset. There's a happy ending, of course.
If you want to watch the scene to get a feeling for what Dick and Damian are seeing, here's the video
“Hey, why don’t we watch a movie?” Grayson asks, leaning against the back of the couch Damian is occupying. He’s not lounging, as he’s above such a thing, but he is in a comfortable position, going through as many of Father’s files as he can. “You need a break.”
“I do not,” Damian replies, hardly looking up. “I need to keep going.”
“You’ve been at this for hours, lil D.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Alright, Dami,” Grayson says, dragging the infernal nickname out until Damian glares up at him. Of course, he’s smiling. He’s always smiling. It’s annoying. “I just really think you should take a break now and come watch a movie with me.”
“What if it was an order from Batman? ‘Cause I can make it an order from Batman to his little Robin, you know. And you said you’d follow my orders.”
Trying not to grit his teeth, Damian realizes he’s not going to win this one. The files are settled on the furthest cushion, and he makes sure to recognize how he leaves them before he grudgingly stands. Of course, Grayson is beaming, and Damian doesn’t miss how smug it is.
“C’mon,” Grayson says, heading towards the living room. Damian follows sedately, resisting the urge to disappear back into the sitting room and lock all the doors. It won’t do any good, and by the smell of popcorn coming from where they’re headed, it seems Grayson is determined. A determined Grayson is not one that can be won against.
Sure enough, the much larger couch is covered in pillows, blankets, and a large bowl of popcorn. Defeated, Damian sits down in one corner, pulling the nearest blanket over his legs. Grayson joins him, sitting in the other corner and stretching his legs out so they land in Damian’s lap. Scowling, he asks, “What drivel are you going to force me to endure this time?”
“Hey! Lilo and Stitch is not drivel. You’re out of your mind, kid.”
“I am not—!”
“I’m kidding, Dami,” Grayson laughs, sitting up just to reach over and attempt to ruffle Damian’s hair. He gets his hand slapped away for the trouble. “Anyway, I was thinking we could watch Brother Bear.”
The TV comes on then, and Grayson, taking Damian’s silence as acceptance, goes to the list of movies they own. Brother Bear, it turns out, is an animated movie for children.
“I’m not a child, Grayson!” He hisses, unspeakably annoyed. “We don’t have to watch these silly movies every single time.”
“Who says it’s for you?” Grayson counters, and though he’s still grinning, he sounds exhausted. “Maybe I just don’t wanna watch this alone.”
“Ask Pennyworth, then.”
Grayson shakes his head. “No, he’s busy, and anyway, this is a movie one watches with their brothers. It’s in the title and everything. Now hush, I’m turning it on.”
Damian crosses his arms belligerently, refusing to enjoy this in any way, shape, or form. But he can’t leave with Grayson’s legs pinning him down, and this couch is quite comfortable as well…. With a sigh, he reaches out for a handful of popcorn, and turns his attention to the movie.
Sometime over the next hour, they finish the popcorn and the bowl gets set on the floor. Damian finds himself unconsciously sidling up closer to Grayson, until he’s practically laying on the man. His chest is a comfortable pillow, and with the back of the couch pressed so close, Damian feels cocooned and relaxed, even.
He watches the movie, but not because he’s enjoying it—he’s not. And he doesn’t do it for Grayson, either, because that would be ridiculous. He does it because he’s stuck, and there’s nothing more interesting to do except pay attention.
On the screen, the main characters sit on top of a mountain, and Kenai, the older of the two, tells Koda, the small bear cub, about his betrayal. About how he killed the cub’s mother, and got turned into a bear by the Great Spirits for it. The scene is an emotional one, to be sure, and the actors play it well. Damian bites the inside of his cheek, and pretends not to notice himself curling tighter into Grayson’s side. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, demanding that they stop stinging. He’s not a child, he shouldn’t be crying over some stupid film! It’s ridiculous!
Grayson sniffles, and Damian freezes.
“Sorry,” Grayson whispers, a breathy laugh following the word. “This part always gets me.”
“It’s just a movie, Grayson.”
There’s silence for a few moments, and Damian looks up to his face, finding that the older man’s eyes are trained on the television. A tear is sliding down his cheek. The sight of it makes Damian’s stomach twist uncomfortably. Then Grayson says, “It was Jason’s favorite.”
Jason Todd, he means. Damian scoffs, opening his mouth to reply.
Grayson beats him to it. “I know—I know it seems weird. For me to miss him. But he was my brother, too, and we watched this together once. I did it with Tim and Cass, too, and now it’s your turn.”
“Yes, they are.”
“Damian.” He sounds firm, upset. His eyes shut, still turned away, and more tears fall.
Damian wants this to end. He doesn’t want to see an adult cry, be so weak. It makes his throat feel hot and tight, like he might join in, and that’s something that needs to be avoided at all costs. Changing the subject, he asks, “Why is Kenai so upset? Koda’s mother killed his brother. He was right to kill her in retaliation. If someone killed you, I—I would get my revenge.”
Grayson turns to him then, the hand not curled around Damian’s back coming up and wiping his face. “That’s sweet, Dami, but it’s not what I want. Okay? When I die, I don’t want you to get revenge, I want you to grieve and move on. Be happy. Miss me, but not too much.”
“I don’t understand,” Damian says, confused. ‘Not too much’? What could that possibly mean?
“I hope you never do.” Grayson sighs, keeping his hand over his eyes. “Sorry. I’m sorry, I’m just.” He exhales again, this time much louder. “You asked why he’s upset. Kenai, when he killed Koda’s mom, he thought he was doing the right thing. But then the Spirits showed him it wasn’t necessarily the right thing, there are consequences, you know. And he’s regretting his actions, because the consequences aren’t worth it. If he’d done something differently, maybe the mama bear wouldn’t be dead, and then Koda wouldn’t be alone.”
Incredibly unsure, Damian says, “But Koda’s not alone. He has Kenai.”
“Not forever. One day, Kenai won’t be there when it really counts, and Koda will be on his own when he really needs a brother around, you know? And Kenai…he’ll regret it for the rest of his life. Because if he’d just been there, then maybe Koda wouldn’t be dead, and maybe Koda wouldn’t end up alone and hurting and killing people.”
“Grayson, I—I feel you’re talking about something else.”
Wiping his cheeks again, Grayson turns back to the TV, jaw clenched. “Sorry. We can talk when it’s over, okay? I’ll explain whatever doesn’t make sense.”
Damian scans his face, easily noting the tension. But it’s clear he doesn’t want to talk about it. And Damian, he doesn’t really care that much about Grayson’s weaknesses.
Clearing his throat, he presses his own cheek into Grayson’s chest and turns his attention back to the screen.
Chapter 11: Forced Out Of The Closet + Titans!Dick Grayson
Anon over on tumblr asked for this one. Hopefully it's okay I added past Dick/Joey (& kinda bash Donna, Hank, and Dawn a lil bit....). No outright biphobia here but they definitely do not react the way you should when someone close to you gets outed
Will I ever post at a reasonable time of the day? No. It's 1 am. this is actually impressive of me kjdhfkjdsah
many many many thanks to my friend whateverrrwhatever for betaing this for me even tho she's not even in this fandom!!! it's a 10000 times better now <3
“How fucking long have you been lying to us, exactly?” Hank demands, fury emanating off him in waves.
I wasn’t! He wants to shout back, I wasn’t lying! But in order to do that, Dick would have to lift his head out of his hands, stand up from where he’s sitting on the second level, and meet Hank’s eyes. Or anyone’s eyes, really. They’re all here, the old Titans and the new ones and Rose fucking Wilson. The only way this could possibly be any worse is if Bruce were here, too, but thank god, Dick isn’t that unlucky.
“It can’t be true,” Donna says, but she sounds unsure. She’s doubting him and not even trying to hide it. That’s never happened before. “Dick, tell us what he said wasn’t true.”
“So what if it was?” And that’s Rachel, defensive on his behalf. “I don’t understand why you’re all so upset if Dick’s bi—”
He doesn’t hear the rest of what she says, his heart pounding in his ears. They all know now, and he wasn’t the one to tell them, didn’t get to decide who or when or how. Slade just broadcast it out for all of them to hear and make with what they will, and of course, it’s nothing good. There’s a reason, he thinks, that he’s never told any of them. Not Kory, who he thinks he could trust with anything, or the kids, who so desperately want to know and connect with the real him. Not even Donna, who’s always been his best friend.
“He’s been lying to us, Rach,” Dawn says, and her voice is so soft and so steely, the way it always gets when she’s angry. And she has reason to be, he knows that, but it still hurts. “He lied to us about what happened with Jericho, and that’s—that’s not just something we can walk away from.”
“No,” Hank agrees, worked up. “No, it’s not.”
“He was just lying about a relationship! What’s so wrong with that?” Gar asks. His arms are probably crossed, but Dick doesn’t want to look up to see.
“Nothing,” Kory says, but her voice gets overpowered by Dawn’s.
“How about the fact that he was in relationship with me already?” Dawn shoots back. Dick thinks about how they broke up days before Garth’s death, and were just playing at being together until after his birthday, to avoid ruining it for him. Afterward, they never spoke about it, drifting away from each other, grief and revenge more important than anything else. It wasn’t until after Joey died that they finally, officially ended. “If he could lie about that, then he could be lying about anything. About everything .”
“Dick…,” Donna says, and she’s closer now, but not close enough not close enough to touch him, which is the last thing he wants. “ Tell us it’s not true .”
Everyone is staring at him, he can tell. He can feel it: the weight of their gazes and confusion and anger. Dick lifts his head finally, and his eyes feel heavy and hot. No tears fall. He has to be strong here, can’t let it show any more than he already is how much this situation fucking sucks.
“It is,” he rasps, clearing his throat once the words are out.
Donna jerks back like she’s been slapped.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, he thinks. Coming out is supposed to be private. Personal. Safe. It’s supposed to be him sitting these people down and saying he loves people no matter what gender they are, and these people loving and supporting him no matter what. Instead, Slade hacked their speaker system and gladly outed him.
There’s no love and support in the room right now.
He has to pull himself together, needs them to understand. Stronger, he says, “It is true. Joey and I were together.”
Jason’s gaze is bouncing between everyone in the room, and Dick wonders how much the kid is going to hate him now. And Rose, she’s tense and ready to fight him, and he can see that it won’t take much to set her off. The others are still staring at him, the older Titans coiling with hurt, the newer ones just confused.
“Was it worth it?” Hank asks, breathing the silence. “Was he that good of a lay that you had to betray us?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Dick stands, trying to ignore how tight his chest feels. He’s finding it more difficult than usual to pretend he’s perfectly fine. Convincing himself means he can convince the others. Right now, no one is fooled. “I didn’t betray you.”
“Really? ‘Cause it sounds like you were cheating on Dawn, fucking the enemy, and lying about it for five years !” Donna explodes. “Sounds like fucking betrayal to me!”
“Joey wasn’t our enemy—!”
“How do we know you weren’t feeding him information the whole time?” Dawn interrupts, and Dick freezes, shocked by the accusation. “Were you telling him our secrets so he could go and tell Slade everything, and help him get under our skin, in our heads?”
“No! How could you even think that?”
Ignoring his words, Donna asks, “How long were you and Joey even together?”
“Not that long,” he admits, fists clenching by his sides. “It only started once he came to live here.”
“Live-in double agent,” Hank says wryly. “How convenient.”
“It wasn’t like that,” Dick protests.
“Then how was it?” Rose demands, stomping forward. “How exactly was it? You were using and manipulating my brother for information and for sex? What a stand up guy you are.” For all her tone is bone-dry, he can see tears threatening to spill from her eye.
Dick thinks about Joey’s smile. His eyelashes. How he pulled away from every kiss grinning, like it was a dream come true. The meals they ate together, and how Joey spent whole afternoons trying to teach him a few phrases in ASL, and only laughed a little, kindly, when Dick messed up. How he’d told Dick he was fine keeping their relationship on the down low, that he understood Dick wasn’t out yet and wouldn’t push. What he looked like, lying dead on the ground, killed trying to protect Dick, who’d fucked up every step of the way.
It was real , he wants to say. I had nightmares for months afterward, and even now it hurts to think about him. There’s a reason I never told any of you, and it’s not just because I wasn’t sure how you’d react.
But it wasn’t real. Not fully, anyway. For every sincere moment, there were two more where Dick was doing what the others wanted him to do—becoming Batman, using Joey to their advantage. For every time he thought it was wrong to treat Joey that way, he never put a stop to it. It was easy to get lost in Joey, in exploring feelings Dick had never—and has never, ever since—let himself know. Their relationship had felt safe, in a way. Even with all the subterfuge, Joey knew about Robin, and he’d never worried about it. Dick had felt free for the short time they had been together.
It was real, but it wasn’t.
“It’s complicated,” he says finally. Rose won’t like it, but how can he explain it all? How can he explain that he hadn’t wanted things with Joey to get serious, hadn’t wanted him to die, hadn’t been able to even think about telling anyone about his sexuality without an avalanche of grief and guilt burying him? “I—I wasn’t trying to hurt him.”
Joey’s smile, his eyelashes, his kindness. He was like the sun peeking over the horizon. He deserved better than Dick.
Dawn and Donna both scoff. Hank says, “You’re fucking pathetic. Not trying to hurt him got him killed . Great fucking job, asshole.”
Kory steps up beside Dick, a hand coming up to rest on his shoulder. It’s like an anchor, stabilizing, and something he desperately needs right now. Her thumb makes a slow, calming circle as she turns on the others. “Yelling at him isn’t going to help shit. Why don’t you all do your jobs go and figure out if this Slade guy hacked us remotely, or if he’s here and we need to suit up?”
“Oh, he’s probably here,” Rose says through gritted teeth. “And I’m going to fucking kill him.”
She heads towards the elevators, and Donna follows, fists clenched. At Kory’s raised eyebrow, Hank and Dawn leave too. The kids move toward them, like they’re closing ranks. Gar’s biting his lip nervously. Rachel has her arms crossed over her stomach and Jason looks lost in thought.
Without the older Titans, the mood of the room feels lighter, but Dick finds that isn’t a good thing. Like he’s a puppet with his strings cut, he falls back onto the step, his skin crawling.
Kory sits next to him, her hand going down to rest on his back. Softly, she asks, “Are you okay?”
He wonders if Jason’s going to tell Bruce. Wonders if Donna, Hank, and Dawn will ever forgive him. Hopes Rachel and Gar don’t hate him now. Hates how much her kindness right now only reminds him of Joey.
With a deep sigh, he says, “I’ll be fine.”
Chapter 12: Recorded/Broadcast Torture + Jason & Tim
A here on AO3 asked for this one!! It somehow ended up being more about Jason's ~Feelings~ than I intended but hopefully that's okay? No big warnings here other than the Joker, but it's not too graphic
I really didn't mean to go on a sort of hiatus but writer's block just killed me for a while there. This is like 2k tho so I'm making a strong comeback lol
Thanks again to my wonderful friend whateverrrwhatever who made this like 10000 times better than it could've been otherwise <333
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The entrance to the Cave Jason takes is old and rarely used anymore. He isn’t sure if the kids even know about it, and really, he hopes they don’t. It feels like a little secret just between him and the Cave (and a few other assholes, plus Alfred). Anyway, he’s only going to the Cave tonight because no one else is here. B is out with the Justice League somewhere, Dick off with Kory and Roy, and all the rest of them, Duke included, are holding down the fort here in Gotham.
None of them will come back any time soon unless they’re grievously injured. Knowing, like, all of them, that’s a distinct possibility. He seriously hopes they can keep their shit together tonight, though, because if not? He’s going to have to interact with them. And he can only handle so much interaction with people, period, much less his intense family members. He worked with Damian the other night, and that’s enough time with another Bat to last him for at least a few more weeks.
Thankfully, what he’s here for shouldn’t take too long—he just needs some files on the drug trade down at the docks. The more he can get the better, especially ones from at least a few years ago, since he has suspicions that remnants of the Lucky Hand Triad have regrouped.
Technically, Jason can go without them. But they’ll help, and as long as he gets done before 3 am, it’ll be fine. Three is, of course, the witching hour of Bat injuries. (Trust him, he knows all about those.)
Really, the only person who might see him poking around—getting his files, he means, because poking around insinuates he’s here for anything else, and he is not —is Alfred. And Alfred won’t tell on Jason, so if he does happen to come down to the Cave and see Jason, well, it’ll be no big deal. It’s always been easier to interact with Alfred than any of the rest, anyway.
When he steps into the main part of the Cave, he can’t help but notice how weirdly small it seems. Wasn’t it bigger? It’s as empty as it’s ever been, though, the only sounds the humming of machines and the bats flying and screeching.
Maybe Jason should be scared by how dark and confined it is. Anybody in their right mind would be, but he’s never been frightened of this place and he’s not going to start now. Determined, he starts over to the big computer, trying not to think about how familiar everything feels, no matter how long he’s been gone. How every corner brings up a new memory, but all the new keepsakes mean nothing to him. How he still knows his way around. Or how he feels… weird here, almost like an apparition or something.
He casts his eyes on the place where his old suit used to be on display, and can’t help the feeling that maybe he’s just a ghost, the shadow of a boy in a picture who’s climbed out of its frame to haunt the city.
Shaking the thought away, he hurries over to the computer bay, flinging himself into Bruce’s chair with false ease. Sitting here doesn’t help him feel any better—it holds so many memories from his childhood that feel more like dreams, muted and far away. In soft focus like that, he can’t be sure what’s real and what’s imagined, what’s a lie. But ugh . God, he’s got to stop, now. He came here for a reason, and the sooner he can get his shit and go, the better.
Just as he’s about click into the huge storage drive of reports and files that Bruce has amassed over the years, he realizes something.
Babs has to know he’s in the Cave right now. There’s no way she’s not going to tell B or Dick, or both. Probably both. And probably Alfred, too, because why not, right? But what can she tell them besides the truth, which isn’t even that bad?
On the other hand, if he’s going to get told on, why not mess with the others a little bit?
Detouring from his original intentions, Jason cracks his knuckles and sets off to open up all of the weirdest porn Google can give him.
It gets old after a few minutes, and it’s best if he gets out of here sooner rather than later, so he moves on. (He leaves the pages up, of course. Let Dick or Tim find them when they get back. Hah.)
He goes to click into the database, but the cursor on the screen doesn’t move. He tries again and it still doesn’t work.
“What the fuck,” he says, because, seriously, what ? The Batcomputer doesn’t get slow. And it can’t be Babs, because although she’s not shy about putting up her logo and locking people out of their hardware... no logo. Not Babs, then.
But if not her… by all rights, it shouldn’t be possible.
Discomfited, Jason wonders if he should try to fix it, or tell Babs. He leans down to make sure the mouse is plugged in, but a noise on the screen has him looking back up.
A video has popped up on the screen.
At first, it’s just black. Jason is confused and annoyed. Maybe Oracle is messing with him.
“Babs,” he says, because whether this is her or not, there’s no way she’s not tapped into whatever bugs she has down here. “Stop playing. I’m just here for some files and then I’m gone.” When that gets no reaction, he adds, “Won’t even take the originals, just need some copies.”
Nothing happens. Jason looks around, struck once again by how empty and dark the Cave is.
Okay, his gut was right. It’s not Babs. But what, or who, the hell is it?
Before he can even begin to figure it out, the video changes, revealing a laboratory splattered with what looks like paint. Other than that, it’s practically devoid of color. The tall, peeling walls remind Jason of the warehouses at the docks. Medical equipment fills out the edges, somehow even more rudimentary and broken down than he’d expect.
As far as he’s aware, there’s nobody out there with a hospital gimmick. He looks closer, taking in as many details as he can. The paint catches his attention again, and he curses as he recognizes the colors. White, green, and red. Fuck .
A huge metal table sits in the middle of the room, angled upwards, and there, strapped down on the table, unconscious, is the fucking Replacement.
Jason honestly doesn’t really like the kid. They’re civil enough. Jason has apologized for everything that happened when he came back and Tim has forgiven him, if not forgotten. Not that Jason can blame him. But other than a few conversations outside of the capes and a few missions they’ve teamed up on, they don’t interact much.
There are still days where Jason thinks about being replaced—he knows that’s not how it happened, exactly, but whatever. In those moments, he sees sickly green and has to forcibly calm himself down, punch a wall, something to get the feeling out . He has to tell himself it’s not Tim’s fault, not really.
Replacement or no, it’s hard to see him on the table like this. He really is just a kid.
The Joker moves into view on the screen, his hands clasped behind his back, casual as can be. And Jesus Christ, his smile is still as big and inhuman as it ever was, sickeningly amused by a 17 year old under threat of torture.
"Oh, Batsy,“ he sings, and the sound of his voice sends furious, painful shivers down Jason’s spine. Oh fuck no , he thinks, and wants to get up, but he finds himself rooted to the spot.
It’s the same spot where Jason’s dad sat for years, protecting the city, making it better , or so Jason had thought. But sitting here now, it feels like he’s Bruce. It feels like he’s that little kid who was murdered. It feels like a lot of gut-churning, ominous tangle of emotions he doesn't have a name for and doesn't care to learn.
"I’ve got another of your little birds,” the Joker says, leaning close to the camera.
Part of Jason wants to walk away. He can’t stand this. He doesn’t want to hear another word out of that fucking thing’s mouth ever again, and it’s better to just let the voice pass by over him than to actually listen.
But the other part of Jason, the part that’s been fighting this war since he was born, won’t let him ignore what’s on the screen. He has to know everything, all the details, can’t have only half the picture.
So Jason pays attention and catalogs everything. Forces himself to listen as the clown talks about kidnapping Tim off the street. How he distracted him and snuck up on him and beat him over the head until he was unconscious. How easy it was to capture the oh-so- weak Robin.
Eventually, the Joker stops talking. Must be bored, since he’s not getting an immediate reaction. The dramatic piece of shit only loves attention.
He walks over to Tim. The way he moves is disgustingly familiar to Jason. There’s a kind of switch near the table, far enough that there’s no way Tim could reach it, and then. Then. The Joker flips it.
Tim’s body convulses and shakes as electricity burns through him. He screams, straining against the table.
Jason clutches the armrests of Bruce’s chair, the leather creaking under his hands. Leaning forward, he finds he can’t look away, jaw jumping. He shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Joker does by now, but all he can think is an unending loop of what the fuck?
The Joker flips the switch again and goes over to Tim, crooning something the camera doesn’t quite pick up. A little louder, he says, “I think you need some air, little birdie.” He pulls an oxygen mask from somewhere out of view and puts it on Tim’s face.
Alarm bells ringing in Jason’s head, he watches as Tim struggles, twisting his head and attempting to bite the Joker’s fingers. There’s nothing he can do but watch as Tim loses the fight. The mask is secured, and within a few moments, it fills with horrible green gas.
All he’s got to breathe is Joker toxin.
Jason watches for another minute as the Joker takes the mask off, deceivingly gentle. After a few moments, Tim starts hysterically giggling, the sound a wheezing and crackling and painful thing.
A message shows up on the screen, listing an address and quickest route to the location. Signed: ‘O’.
“Fuck this,” Jason says, because he doesn’t even want to think about what comes next, what’s going to happen to the kid’s body, how badly the kid is going to be hurt. He stands and hurries over to where all the keys are hung up, grabbing the first set he can reach. He runs to the motorcycles and high tails it the fuck out of the Cave.
Jason thinks he might throw up. The thought of seeing the Joker in person again is too much to bear even on his best nights, but. Whatever. He has to get through it. He’s managed it before, with other traumatic things, and he can manage it now. He can do it for Tim.
He doesn’t like the kid. They aren’t friends and they certainly aren’t brothers, but he’s not about to just let the Joker kill another Robin. Abso-fucking-lutely not.
I was planning on going more in order of when the squares were requested but I think it might just be easier for me to go where the muse takes me. I do plan on getting all of them written eventually tho so don't worry about me forgetting one. I'm not sure when the next one will be coming, as I've got a few secret santa fics (most of them batfam related) that need writing.
Thanks for reading everyone <3