Last night was nothing short of a nightmare, but Tim had come when Dick called, and everyone had made it out alive. After that, it was only logical that Tim spend the night at the Manor, so nobody bothered to question it. Even Damian kept his complaints to quiet grumbling.
Now though, the Manor’s kitchen is awash with the grey light of predawn, and Tim just wants a cup of coffee before he performs his own personal walk of shame, and hopes to whatever deity is out there that he won’t have reason to return for another good few months.
The universe has never been that kind to any of them though.
“Tim, I think we should talk.”
It was always a risk that someone would catch him before he could make it out, but that doesn’t stop the deep sense of fatigue that creeps in Tim’s bones as Dick positions himself in the doorway, blocking Tim’s exit.
For a long time, the droning of the coffee maker is the only sound, it’s muted dripping stirring the still and silent air between the two brothers.
Tim just stares at Dick. Stares for so long that the pot fills, and the coffee maker shuts off. His expression is utterly emotionless as he finally slides his gaze away from Dick and turns to fill his waiting mug. His spine prickles with the weight of Dick's gaze, his instincts almost lazily reminding him not to turn his back on someone so dangerous, but Tim ignores them. His sense of self preservation has never been strong, but lately it's been more or less nonexistent anyway.
Only when his mug is filled to the brim and the pot returned to its resting place does Tim finally speak, his back still turned. “No, I don’t think we should.”
He lifts the mug to his lips and takes a long drink, savoring the scalding heat that burns his tongue and lights his throat on fire.
“Tim, please,” Dick tries again. Once upon a time, the desperation in his voice would have inspired Tim to move mountains. Now it doesn’t even get him to turn around. “I know that I handled things badly with Damian and Robin, but I can’t stand the rift that’s between us right now. I want to make things right.”
That pulls a snort from Tim, sharp and humorless. “Okay, then,” he says, and he can sense the shock radiating from Dick.
He finally turns around. His mug is cradled between two hands and held close to his face where the aroma of coffee can ground him, but it doesn’t hide the smile stretching wide and insincere across his gaunt features.
“I’ve only gone through this conversation in my head… oh, a thousand times now? Ten thousand?” He chuckles, and that too is humorless. “Point being, I can save you the trouble of stating your defense so early in the morning. I already know how this ends.”
Dick swallows. He looks afraid, which should scare Tim, and yet… “How’s that?” he asks, voice guarded and hoarse.
Tim shrugs. “Well, first I yell at you for a bit. Air all my grievances, point out every mistake you made, every bridge you burnt, every little way that you broke me.” He shapes his expression into something thoughtful. “I have to admit, that’s my favorite part. If I could still dredge up any of that anger, it might have even been cathartic.”
All pretense of mirth drops away. “But then you cry. Or, come close to it anyway. You tell me how you did the best you could, and how you didn’t know how badly I’d react to having my sanity questioned and losing the only sense of stability I’ve had since my parents died. You apologize profusely, but deep down we both know you wouldn’t really have done anything differently because even though I’m right, I guess our relationship was never really strong enough for you to have that kind of faith in me.
“There’s also probably something in there about how good Robin has been for Damian that’s supposed to make me feel guilty for hating him I suppose—and it would work, in so far as I would attempt to hate him more silently until the next time he tried to kill me. At this point you hold the sympathetic high ground because aren’t I such a selfish monster for being mean to a child and expecting support from a grieving man?” Tim snorts, the sound just as jarringly ugly as it was the first time.
Dick looks like he would have preferred Tim hit him, but Tim isn’t done yet.
“So I’d forgive you. Of course I would. I would concede your excuses as valid, and my own reactions as melodramatic, because even after everything, I wouldn’t be able to stand your tears.” Tim knows this about himself, but seeing the gutted expression on Dick’s face now does nothing to him. Stirs nothing. He feels as blank as he has all morning. “And it’d be over. You’d hug me, say something incredibly mushy about how glad you are that everything’s all better now, and I would bite my tongue until my mouth filled with blood to stop myself from telling you that we aren’t fine. That I don’t even know how to find fine. That telling you my feelings are resolved because of one nice little chat isn’t even a believable lie to anyone but the deluded who care more about assuaging their own guilt than actually making things better.”
Tim takes a long sip of his coffee and lets himself pretend for a moment that the burn is a feeling other than exhaustion. Any feeling.
Dick is staring at him with wide, pained eyes.
“Sound about right?” Tim prompts, but Dick is utterly speechless. Tim nods, swift and decisive. “Thought so. Well, since we’re in agreement, why don’t we skip the whole thing, yeah? My yelling would wake up the whole Manor, and we’d both rather avoid me interacting with Damian again before I go, so it’s much simpler if we both act as if the conversation I just laid out was actually had. You can consider our relationship fixed, and my grudge against you dissolved, brother.” Dick flinches at the word, but Tim barely even notices.
He tosses back the rest of his coffee and places the mug in the sink. When he turns back, Dick is clinging to one side of the door frame as if it’s the only thing holding him up.
Tim’s lips curl upward, and he spreads his arms wide. “How ‘bout it? Reconciliatory hug before I go?”
All he gets is a horrified look.
He hums, letting his arms drop. “Can't say I'm surprised. See you next time the world ends then.”
Dick recoils away from him as he passes, and doesn’t say a single word until Tim’s a good few feet into the hallway, and neither of them is facing the other. Perhaps its because of that that Dick finally says, “What happened to you?”
Tim slows to a standstill. There are so many possible answers to that, that he doesn’t even know where to start, so he just says, “I lost Robin.”
The costume, the mantle, and the boy who wore it. Tim lost them all, and this is what’s left.
He leaves before Dick can think of a response.