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No Pain, All Gain

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Bruce comes into the hospital room, balancing a styrofoam coffee cup in each hand. “How’s he doing?” he asks, nudging the door closed behind him with his foot. It’s been a long night and exhaustion weighs heavily on his eyelids.

Jason’s attention doesn't leave the magazine he’s been reading since Bruce left for the cafeteria half an hour ago. “I liked him better when he was sleeping.”

“Bruce!” Tim is sitting up in bed now, finally awake from surgery. “I missed you sooooo much. Jason has the worst bedside manner in the whole world—no respect for the sick wha’soever.” He makes grabby hands for the coffee, which Bruce holds just out of his reach. He gives one of them to Jason.

“How long have you been awake?”

“Ten hours.”

“Five minutes,” Jason says. “You know he’s really fucking annoying when he’s high? I was expecting some entertainment or for him to just burn it off in five seconds flat like a robot, but it’s like giving a toddler sugar. He doesn't shut up.” Tim blows a raspberry in his direction.

Bruce checks Tim’s IV. “Are you in any pain? Do you need more morphine?”

Tim’s pupils are so wide that only the faintest ring of blue can be seen. He watches Bruce the way a five-year-old watches cartoons. “I’m all good, B-dog. All Gucci, like we cool teens say." His words are slurred almost beyond recognition, but Tim doesn’t seem to notice or care. "I could fight Superman right now.”

“And lose,” Jason says.

“And win. I’m smarterer than he is. And you know, Bruce, I’ve been doin’ a lot of thinking lately.”

“Have you now?” Definitely good on the morphine, then.

“Yes. And I’ve come to the ‘clusion that you’re a furry.”

Bruce chokes on his coffee. Jason bursts into laughter, nearly spilling his own cup in his lap. “Excuse me?”

“Think about it,” Tim says. “You’ve got...like, you’ve got the fursuit. That’s a thing. And you’ve got a bat in your name, which is…yeah. And Selina meows, like, all the time. Like furries. You’re furries. Case closed.”

“Can’t argue with that logic,” Jason says. “Anything to say for yourself, Bruce?”

Bruce pinches the bridge of his nose. “I never should have walked in here.”

“Too late.” Jason leans forward, a grin on his face as he watches Tim. “All right, ya little stoner. Consider this equation: You also run around Gotham in a leather costume while using a name that belongs to a flying animal. Doesn’t that make you a furry too?”

Tim’s mouth drops open. “Oh my god,” he whispers. “Oh, no. This is terrible.” He drops his head into his hands. “I’m a disgrace to humankind like Bruce is. My family’s gonna disown me when they find out.” He looks up. “You can’t tell Bruce, ‘kay? Don’t tell ‘im I’m a furry.”

Bruce frowns. “I’m right here.”

“Then close your ears, Bruce.” Tim rolls his eyes. “Stupid. Listening in on our private conversations. Get a life, weirdo.”

Jason winces. “Ouch. Are you gonna take that, Bruce?”

“Stop being an instigator, Jay.”

“I think it’s really toxic of you to always ruin our fun. Have you ever considered that you lash out and crush your kids’ spirits because you yourself feel sad and unloved?”

“Please stop.”

“Hey, Tim, who do you like better—me or Bruce?”

“Hmm.” Tim taps his chin thoughtfully, though his hand-eye-coordination has abandoned him so he misses his chin entirely and ends up tapping his nose instead. “Alf’ed. Alfren. Alf...fred.” He smacks his lips. “Is my mouth gone?”

Bruce sits down in the chair next to Jason. “Your mouth is still there.”

“Are you super duper sure?”

“Super duper sure.”

Jason snaps his fingers in front of Tim’s face. “Dude. Focus. If you had to kill me or Bruce with a shotgun, who would you kill?”

Bruce smacks him in the arm. “Stop taking advantage of him.”

“It’s not taking advantage if he’s giving the information away freely.”

“He’s not in his right mind.”

“So? Neither are you half the time but you’re still in charge of everything.”

“I’m not letting you turn your brother into your own personal lie detector.”

“Bruce,” Tim says finally. They both turn to look at him, Jason gleeful and Bruce horrified. Tim ignores them both, too focused on trying to tear the lid off of a jello cup with his teeth.

“You would kill me?” Bruce says. Tim nods. “I’m your father! I raised you for a substantial amount of time!”

Tim just shrugs. “It’s logi...logical. Jay died once and you've died zero times so far. Like tic-tac-toe. It’s only fair.” He gives up on the jello cup and passes it wordlessly to Jason, who pulls the aluminum cover off and hands it back. “Jason also gives me jello so he’s the best.”

“Hear that, Bruce? I’m the best.”

Tim rips the cup back and pours jello straight into his mouth. “If it makes you feel any better, Brucie, I was the one who killed Jason’s PlayStation last month.”

Jason’s eyes widen. “That was you?”

“Yeah. I spilled soup on it so I panicked and pushed it out a window.”

“You fucking—” Jason lunges out of his chair with his arms out, ready to strangle, but Bruce grabs him and pulls him back down.

“Let it go, Jay. You already have a new one, anyway."

“I’m gonna fucking murder him when he’s out of this place.”

Tim doesn’t seem to care much, licking jello from his sticky fingers. “Can I go now, actually? I’m getting bored.”

Bruce blinks. “No, you can’t leave,” he says. “You’re in the hospital. You don’t just leave when you get bored.”

“Weird.” Tim drops the half-empty container on his lap, uncaring of the red jello that stains the thin white blanket. Bruce sighs and puts it on the side table for him. “Where’s Alfred?”

“He’s at home.”

Tim pouts. “Why didn’t he wanna visit me? I’m dying.”

“You’re not dying.”

“I could be. Jason could kill me right now with the gun he’s hiding in his stupid jacket and Alfred will be sad for the rest of his life.”

“Jason isn’t hiding a gun in his jacket,” Bruce says. Then he looks over at Jason, who is suddenly sheepish. “Oh my god, you have a gun in your jacket.”

“Only one of the little ones.”

“We are in a hospital.”

“And if someone decides to come in with an ax and murder everyone, you’ll be thanking me for thinking ahead and protecting my poor, sickly little brother from harm.”

“I want my phone,” Tim says suddenly.

“For what?” Jason asks.

“Games. Emails. Might get a Tinder.” He sits up further, his limbs floppy like they’ve been numb for days. He tries to get out of bed before Bruce can warn him and jolts as the sudden motion aggravates his recently-operated-on abdomen. He groans, falling back onto the pillows. “Jesus—fuck. What the hell was that?” He clutches the sore spot on his side.

Bruce's eyebrows furrow. “You got your appendix out, remember?” Just how high is he?

Tim’s eyes go even wider. “You stole my organs?”

“Technically,” Jason chimes in, “the doctors stole your organs. We just gave them permission.”

“Why would you let them kill my appendix? That was my stuff.”

“I think you’re the one who killed it, actually," Jason says. "It blew up while it was still inside you.”

Tim gasps. “I’m a murderer?”

Bruce needs a fucking nap. “How do you not remember? You were in pain for two days but wouldn’t let us take you to the hospital, so your appendix burst and interrupted movie night. Which, for the record, could have been prevented if only you’d done the right thing and gotten it checked out before it got worse.”

Tim blinks slowly as if Bruce just spoke to him in Portuguese. “So...I’m going to jail?”

“Yes,” Jason says immediately. "You've got a twenty-year sentence waiting for you in the slammer."

Tim nods, thoughtful. “That sucks. But the punishment fits the crime. Just tell my cat I love her.”

“You don’t have a cat,” Bruce says.

“You let the doctors kill my cat, too?”

“Okay, I’m sorry,” Jason says, digging around in his pocket and pulling out his cell phone. “But I need to get this shit on video.”

“How could you let the doctors do this to me?”

Bruce just closes his eyes and drinks his coffee.