Work Header

Here and now

Work Text:

He can't remember the last time Cass called him Tim. It's at least two months.

At least since that night when they stood together and watched the little boy who was being led away by the social worker, small sneakers dark with blood. He'd been thinking of what he knew of Bruce's childhood and Leslie's role in it, and then the memory of a small blonde girl

and a backpack and wanting to hit the Penguin until his stupid ugly face bled all over

had bubbled up. It had made him sigh, because how many thousands of images did he have just like that, too many to remember the contexts beyond a few left-over flashes. Another night, another ending, another small and wounded figure.

But it hadn't been just another moment for Batgirl. She'd turned to him, still even by the standards of her own supreme control.


"Hmm?" he'd replied, failing to catch that the word was not the precursor to a question or remark. Cass didn't answer. "What is it?"

She shook her head. "It doesn't matter."

It had been a hard night. They weren't used to Bludhaven yet. He didn't push hard for a deeper comment.

It's only now, when he thinks back, that he realizes that she hasn't called him Tim since then.


Dana gives him a wan smile and offers to do a tarot reading for him. He nods and lets her deal out a pattern onto the small table underneath the wide window. Her fingernails are bitten to the quick and the cuticles are red and gnawed-looking.

"Do you want me to get you some more paperbacks?" he asks. She shakes her head just a few seconds longer than she should.

"No. I haven't had a chance to look at the last ones you left. I don't know where the time goes..." she says, and her eyes wander back to the cards. "These aren't right."

"I can buy another deck if you like. There's a shop in the city with tons of different sets."

"No," Dana says again, her tone thoughtful. "I don't mean that. There's something strange about... Tim, if you needed me, you would tell me, wouldn't you? Even though I'm in here? I mean... we have to look after each other now. It's just you and me."

Her chin trembles and he takes one of her hands in his. "Of course. Of course I would."

The smile she gives him is wobbly. "Good."

He thinks suddenly what a weird word stepmother is and how it makes him think of black forests and gingerbread houses and magic mirrors and glass shoes and crap like that. How when people hear it they never know what it can be like, when everyone else is dead or has forgotten about you and there's only the two of you and the emergency room staff don't care about the lymphoma and they don't care about how there's never enough money for food and clothes and rent and how those guys came and took the television away because there wasn't money for the bills. They don't care, all they see is just another overdose and they slapped her face and snapped 'open your eyes' like she was trash, and for a bright hot moment he'd been glad she was pretty much dead already, glad, because they had no fucking right, they didn't know how much pain she'd been in, they didn't know how he'd ripped off those tires and given her the money he got selling them even though he knew she'd blow it on junk because at least when she had that she seemed to find a little bit of peace.

And then he blinks and says "I gotta go, Dana. I'll come back on Monday afternoon, 'kay? We'll go see a movie or something."

"I'd like that," she says, and looks back down at the cards again with a line of puzzlement between eyebrows that're growing out of their perfect arches for the first time since he met her.


Raven's been quiet ever since they came back from that other time-world-place. They've all been, because none of them quite trust themselves anymore. They've seen who they might become.

He knocks on her door and waits. When she opens it, he's struck by how small and frail she looks.

"Have you been eating?" he asks.

"Not very much." There's no apology in her voice. "I haven't felt hungry."

He's been craving mashed potatoes a lot lately. He never liked them all that much before, and now they make him think of

being five and a half and Daddy taking her to the carnival and buying her a baked potato and then squishing it down with the plastic fork so it'd cool off faster

think of Steph that day in the diner, and how the bruises made her skin look like smooth pale china, and how he'd wanted to wrap her in cotton wool like the shepherdess figurine his mother had.

"I need your help."

Raven nods. "I was wondering when you'd come."

"There have been some incidents. I have theories. I want you to tell me if I'm wrong."

She looks at him for a long moment, eyes narrowed, and then nods again. This time, the movement seems like a gesture of confirmation, as if she has found something she expected to discover. He wonders if it's the same thing he suspects.

"You're frightened of me," she says with a curl of her lip which is almost a smile.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. You do not choose to feel as such. And you have reason, all things considered. After what happened with Brother Blood -"

He is about to protest, to say something about second chances and the past being the past.

"- and Arella."

hiding up out of sight and he knows first aid sure but what's he going to do if she goes into cardiac arrest or something oh shit oh shit Arella don't die oh shit what hope does he have if Dick Grayson couldn't stand up to Raven and Brother Blood and oh hell if only he was a praying kinda guy he'd pray his damn heart out oh shit

He takes a step back. "I'd prefer if you didn't do that again."

He thinks this was a bad idea.

He thinks I wonder if it feels as wrong to her as it does to me that Donna's gone.

He thinks Jeez, she's even creepier than that misty girl who was in Young Justice.

He thinks this was a very bad idea.

Her expression goes from almost-smiling to concerned. "Robin? Do you want to sit down?"

"That might be an idea." He eases down onto the edge of her bed, afraid that moving too fast might make him dizzier than he already feels. "What did you do? I - it's worse now."

"I made you remember something you'd no doubt rather forget."

"I'd say something about how you're taking this situation awfully calmly, but I suppose you have a different scale for measuring things like this by than most people," he says, and the words come out a little hoarse and rough.

"You're not exactly exhibiting severe distress yourself," she answers, and sits beside him.

"It's happened before," he answers simply. "Not like this, but... when I was first training. There would be moments. It was like hearing someone say my name, or tap my shoulder, but inside my head. Little nudges. Nobody ever had to teach me how to spot a concealed gun."

She nods. "I could tell. It was still there when I... returned. I did not speak of it, because I was not sure you knew yourself."

"There's a number of ways I could interpret that phrase," he answers with a wry twist of his mouth. "No, I didn't know. I'd long ago chalked those old flashes up to nerves at being new to Robin. But now." He shakes his head, and lets out a ragged breath. "I don't know how to handle this."

She reaches out and touches his hand. It makes him think of how he held Dana's, but more than that it makes him think of how this is the first time Raven has touched any of them since their return.

"It's weird. I still miss her, even though she's right there," he admits.

"Not weird," Raven says, and the almost-smile is back. "But, as you say, my measure of such things is not that of most people."


He and Dana go see a Bugs Bunny retrospective at the downtown dime cinema. The popcorn has too much artificial butter on it and the soda's mostly ice.

"You seem better today," she says. She's been hacking at her hair again, and it sticks out in strange angles. "Are you?"

He considers. "Yeah. I talked to a friend of mine. Sometimes that's enough to make things a little better, you know."

"Good." She smiles. "Maybe we can try another tarot reading sometime."

"I don't really think about the future much," he says, and only part of him is lying.



Now that he's watching for it, he can see the fractional pause before she turns. Steeling herself against whatever painful, inexplicable, wrongly familiar strangeness might be in his movements.


"Yes," he answers, and stands like he

remembers standing the first time she came to show Cass how she looked in the suit. Palms splayed at her sides, head tipped back a little so her hair shone in the low light. Glittering and new and, for the moment, perfect

like he knows she'll understand.

Cass makes a tiny noise which would, for anyone else, be a sob.

"Robin," she says quietly. "I... missed you."

"I never went away," he tells her. "I never do."