It was a rare sign to see Bruce Wayne eating breakfast before noon. Situation like that only occurred when Batman stayed in and not for Brucie to go out to attend a banquet but simply just to catch a break. In other words, hardly ever. But thanks to both Alfred’s insistence and a very tiring Justice League meeting the other day, a true miracle took place and Bruce was awake this day to see the morning news.
He wasn’t exactly watching it, the possibility to have an uninterrupted conversation with his old friend being too precious to miss. So he was mid-sentence when he heard a surname “Drake” and immediately fell silent as both he and Alfred turned to look at the tv.
“- with their son Timothy attended a party hosted by Randall family yesterday. The video we just received an hour ago from an anonymous person shows some alarming behavior of Mr. Drake.”
The live broadcast from studio was cut to demonstrate said clip. The recording was clearly made from phone and for some unholy reason vertically. The scene took place at a parking place, going by the amount of cars in sight, it was overall dark but thanks to the lanterns two men were visible. Bruce immediately recognized Tim and his father. They were clearly arguing, or more like Jack was shouting and waving his hands frantically while Tim stood there with his head down.
It wasn’t really that much surprising, Jack has always been known for his temper, it had been something that worried Bruce a lot first year with this particular Robin. The neglect on Tim's parents part was evident. It was visible in their bank accounts, plane tickets always only being for two, the ones leading back to Gotham only few and far between. No daytime housekeeper since Tim was 6. But their absence didn't seem to affect the boy so Bruce decided not to take any action. He had parents, not often and not the best ones but Bruce would give everithing to have at least that. He asked Tim a few times if something bad was happening at home but he always denied it, so he only made sure that the boy knew he could come to Bruce with anything.
Suddenly in the recording Jack grabbed Tim by the front of his jacket, forcing him to look up. Then the man proceeded to shake the boy, still shouting at him. Bruce’s blood ran cold and he heard Alfred gasp. Not a minute later Tim was pushed away and both Wayne Manor residents watched as the boy fell on a car, unfortunately hitting his left side of neck on a side-view mirror. An impact like that would leave a decent sized bruise, Bruce noted.
The video ended with Tim clutching his neck in pain as the reporter’s commentary continued. “We were able to interview one of the party attendants, who said they had seen the pair leave early from the party after talking with a foreign businessman. There are still many unanswered questions like ‘Where was Janet Drake at the time?’,’Is she even aware of the way her husband treats their son?’, ‘How long has young Timothy been abused?’, ’Is police going to take interest in this case?’. We’ll keep you updated. And now with sports-” Alfred turned off the tv.
Good, because Bruce needed time to get his thoughts together. Tim had sent him an sms over 5 minutes ago saying that he’s coming over. Meaning that a) Jack and Janet must have gone on another of their trips, because only then Tim can visit them at daytime b) he has no idea that this recording exist and has been published. Also it takes him around 7 minutes to get to the Wayne Manor, so he’ll be here any time now.
“I can see you thinking Master Bruce. What do you plan on doing, if you don't mind me asking?” inquired the butler. Only thanks to spending so many years with him by his side was Bruce able to tell how distressed Alfred really was under the put-together appearance he always has.
“Not letting him get away with “It’s fine” this time, for sure.”
“Most certainly, sir” his sentence was followed by the noise of front doors being opened and footsteps. After shearing a meaningful look Bruce stood up and they both turned to the dining room’s entrance.
Tim Drake went in smiling “What’s up?” but after receiving no other response than a stare he added “with you guys... Something happened? Is Dick hurt? Why did no one call me?”
Bruce only walked closer to the boy, not answering, to inspect his neck without it really being obvious. He wanted for Tim to know that something’s not right but didn’t mean to reveal he knew what Jack had done to him. The detective part of him was intrigued, he wanted to investigate, make Tim admit to the truth. Especially now that he noticed the perfect job the boy did with covering up the bruise, he’d never see it if he didn’t especially look for it. That alone made him almost sure it couldn’t have been the first time he did it.
When Tim had any visible injuries, he would always come to the Manor so Alfred could cover it up for him. It made perfect sense for Bruce not to look closely for make-up on person unable to do it, smart move. “Come with me, Tim” he finally said and walked out of the room not checking if the boy was following him, he knew he did. He was the only Robin that always followed his orders after all, at least he thought so.
They ended up in one of the Manor’s most equipped bathrooms. It was clear that Tim was nervous, he stood by the sink next to Bruce but kept looking back at the door where Alfred chose to stay and observe while his son-figure searched the cabinet over the sink. When he pulled out a bottle of makeup remover Tim started to laugh, all the stiffness leaving his body. “What now? Are you going to take off the makeup and reveal your real face or something? Are you in fact an alien? ”the boy gasped ” Or even worse, ugly?”.
Normally Bruce would be fond of Tim’s shenanigans, but seeing how easily his current Robin was able to fool him made him equally terrified and impressed. Tim’s not stupid, he must have seen where this is going but still didn’t drop the act. At age fourteen he was a detective just as much as Bruce and, apparently, even a better liar. If the boy was trying to hide something Bruce didn’t already know about, he certainly would succeed. Which brings another terrifying question Bruce really doesn’t want to know the answer for, just how many things Tim managed to hide from him over last two years of their partnership?
“Tim, I know you have your own reasons to hide things from me and I don’t even expect you to be always one hundred percent honest with me outside of Robin, even if I’d love for it to be that way. But at least I believed that if something really bad happened, you would come to me. I made sure you’d know you can. So I’m asking you now, please Tim, don’t handle this alone, whatever you’re going through and think it’s fine, that you’ll manage, don’t. Ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness. No one will think less of you if you do.”
This way of approach seemed to work out, because Tim went silent, clearly trying to see if he was only being manipulated to admitting something the older man didn’t figure out yet. It was and old trick, saying ‘I know what you’ve done’ so the other person would start explaining themselves and unknowingly reveal a secret. After rather a long while Tim finally must have come to conclusion, because he accepted the bottle and used cotton balls to start cleaning his neck. ”What gave me up?” he asked disturbingly calmly.
Tim, now sporting a purple bruise covering left side of his neck looked up surprised “So you were bluffing after all, I’m so stupid.”
“No, you’re not, Tim. You’re very clever and even though I know I’m not supposed to, considering what you decided to hide from us, I’m impressed by your skills” he took a deep breath “and I’m sure you already know I have to stop that from happening ever again, so wanna tell me what happened exactly?.”
Tim’s expression was pinched “There is nothing to talk about really, it was my fault.”
This stirred Alfred into action, it was clear from his expression that he could not remain silent even if he tried. “I assure you Master Tim, there is no such thing in the world that could justify purposely hurting one’s own child.”
“No, I really made him do it. I knew he was going to blow up soon but I still kept going… It was my decision that started it.”
“Tim, you- there is so much to unpack here, I don’t even know where to start” the last time Bruce felt so tense was when he had to fight Joker who kidnapped a group of kids from a birthday party, but even then it wasn’t as personal as that. “First of all, how can you possibly, after so many cases of abuse we’ve dealt with, after so many children we rescued, how can you think abuse is victim’s fault?”
“Of course it’s not! Who do you think I-”
“Then why,” Bruce interrupted “why didn’t you save yourself, Tim? You’re Robin for God’s sake, we meet almost on daily basis and you thought it would be for the best to hide an abusive parent from Batman of all people? What is the purpose of Batman if he can’t even help his closest ones?” pain was evident on his face.
"Well, it's not like he ever actually like, punched me. I'd never win a case in court without it happening, pushing and grabbing a little too hard isn't enough, not- not when a Drake surname and tons of money are involved. It would only anger him more if I tried... and he's not really around that often so..." Tim's voice was still calm, but not as confident as it was at the beginning. It was a chance for Bruce, a little push and the boy's mask would break, just a little delicate push...
"I'm goddamn Batman, Tim. If I wanted I would make it happen, but the absolute minimum I need to take action is actually knowing there is a problem at all!" well, that wasn't what he wanted to say, but emotions took over and like a grown up man he was, he let that happen.
Tim lowered his head in shame, so Bruce couldn’t see his face, but when the tiniest “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it would affect you this much.” was heard, he knew he had made a big mistake.
“Tim, no, that's not the case, I didn’t mean to-, it’s not how I-" he took a deep breath, rearranging his thoughts. "What you did is bad not because it made me worried, but because you were being hurt and willingly took the effort to lie to us, so no one would notice, so no one would even have a chance to help you. It's not healthy and I'm not even sure if you realize that” Tim remained unmoving in his hunched position and after waiting a few long silent minutes, Bruce shared a pleading glance with Alfred over Tim’s head and Alfred, bless him, decided to take over.
“That’s enough for now, I believe we have spent enough time in this bathroom already” he put a hand on Tim’s arm. “Do follow me, dear child, I believe the time for hot cocoa is long overdue.”