Continuity: Comics!verse AU, based on post-Crisis continuity.
Rating: Very M.
Characters/Pairings: Tim Drake, cameo from an original character; one-sided Tim/Dick, sorta.
Word Count: 1842
Summary: Tim thinks a lot (a lot) about things that upset him. Tim indulges in a couple of his favorite hobbies in an effort to relax. Upon further reflection, Tim has a Really Great Idea.
Warnings: General creepification, one mild swear word, roundabout sort of discussion of sexual behavior in a twelve-year-old. AU!Timmy is not your friend. No spoilers for anything more recent than the 1980s.
Disclaimer: Most of the characters and locations in this story are © DC Entertainment Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment. All content is fictional and for entertainment purposes only, not for profit.
Notes: Timmy calls everyone by their first names. Mrs. McIlvaine doesn't have a first name, as far as I've been able to find. So I gave her one. Also, can I please crawl out of my skin now?
Posted to robin_fans, we_love_dick, mrsarcastic_tim, batfic.
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I touch a button on my music player and a bow drags over cello strings. I close my eyes and visualize the intended outcome; I open them and pull the scalpel across preserved flesh, splitting the skin. I must be careful not to cut too deeply. This cat will be an example for my classmates, a display of the major muscle groups. I don't want to damage the muscular tissue.
It is Sunday. I am alone apart from John Macy, who is sitting at the big stone slab table at the front of the classroom, grading papers. He teaches my advanced biology course. I am his favorite student. My exposure of the dogfish shark brain and major nerves was better than the one sent by the laboratory supply company. He gave me a glass container and asked me to label and preserve it for his students to refer to in the future. He tells me I will go far in any biology-related career I choose.
I am his favorite student, so he lets me practice my dissections whenever I want, on weekends and at lunch breaks and after class, leaves before I do most afternoons and gives me the keys so I can lock up when I'm done. I am his favorite student, so he forgave me when I made my eyes round and apologized for putting away the preserving fluid sloppily on Friday, so that some of the containers tipped and fell and broke and spilled preservative down the drain. (I told him a lie.)
Cutting the lifeless bodies, opening them up to expose what is inside is a soothing exercise, like meditation. It grounds me. It reaffirms an underlying Truth of the world. Different cats can have different skin, different hair, different eyes. They can be big or little, fat or thin. They can be lazy or friendly or mean. But when they lie dead and open in front of me and I can see all the little pieces and how they fit together, they are all pretty much the same.
And so it is with other animals, and people. The Truth is, they are all the same on the inside.
I find that interesting.
(What is it, then, if they are all the same, what is it that makes some creatures better than others in life, stronger, more beautiful? It is Fate.)
I am grounded in the order, the logic, the sameness of it all, and so I am free to think. I have a lot to think about.
~ ~ ~
Dick left Gotham City this morning. He did not go to New York. He did not tell anyone where he was going. (He has gone to Haley's Circus, of course. This is obvious. Where else would he go?)
Dick left because Batman fired him. Batman fired Robin. Fired him. He fired him.
This made me very angry.
But I thought about it. I thought for a long time. (I didn't sleep.) And I understand. I understand Bruce. Isley hurt Dick. (That bitch. Never again.) I know Bruce cares for Dick. He was scared. He was trying to protect Dick. He was wrong, but he wasn't trying to hurt Dick. I am angry, but I understand.
Batman needs Robin. Bruce will realize his mistake. He will want Dick to come back.
I am worried that Dick will not want to come back.
That is what upsets me most of all. Dick will come back to Gotham, I know he will. Gotham is in his blood, in his brain, under his skin. But if Dick does not come back as Robin... that's just– it's just---
That can't be allowed to happen. Robin is Dick's destiny. He can't just be ordinary. It is his Fate to be great, special, brilliant, amazing. He needs to be Robin. If he doesn't want to be Robin anymore... no. That just can't happen.
I am very upset about this.
~ ~ ~
I feel an itching underneath my skin. I need... I need something to make me feel better. No point in going out tonight. Dick's not there, and I don't want to see Batman right now.
I will go to my darkroom instead. I have not yet developed my photographs from Wednesday. I have been much too busy.
It is well past midnight and my parents' house is dark. My parents are not home. Dorothy McIlvaine, the current housekeeper, is asleep. No one will know I have been here. There will be no interruptions.
I avoid the locked front gate. (The security system logs keypad access.) I scale the fence instead. When I reach the house, though, I let myself in the front door with my key, deactivate the burglar alarm, and head for the center of the house and the stairway behind the kitchen leading down to the basement. I don't turn on any lights. I don't need them, not for this.
I pass rows of my parents' bottles of wine and the walk-in freezer Dorothy keeps well stocked. The southeast corner is mine. My special place, where my mom and my dad and Dorothy don't go, wouldn't go. They know better.
I keep a lock on the door, just in case. My fingers find the numbers in the dark, clicking the dials into the right combination. My heart is starting to beat faster.
I pull the door open, close it behind me, make my way through the serpentine light trap and into my darkroom. The smell of the developing chemicals permeates the air. It hits me like it always does, straight to the back of my spine. I feel hot; my breath comes short; it becomes difficult for me to walk.
On the east side of the room is another door; I move quickly toward it in the utter blackness– there is nothing to trip over. Everything is in its place.
The door closes behind me, and I pull the blackout curtains across it out of habit. Then, with some difficulty (my hands are shaking) I switch on the light. I don't see the film developing equipment, or the small animals in jars of preserving fluid. All I see is Dick.
This room is where I keep the photographs of Dick, the ones I have taken and the newspaper clippings. There are dozens of images of Dick on the walls: Dick standing on the edge of a roof, Dick swinging, Dick and Bruce in civilian clothes at Dick's favorite café.
This is necessary. I do this every time I come into my darkroom, and sometimes again before I leave. I trail my hand along the wall as I walk around the room, brushing my fingertips across the edges of the photographs until I find the one I want and carefully remove it from where it's pinned to the wall by brass tacks. (Held at the edges by the heads of the tacks, not the stems; I would never put holes in my prints.)
The one I want tonight I took from a boathouse on the river near the New Trigate Bridge. Dick is standing where a suspension cable is anchored, one hand resting against the steel tower. His face is impassive as he looks down at the people below him on the bridge. I am reminded of my memory of Dick standing on the platform at the top of the circus tent, looking down on the dead bodies of his parents, looking down on the audience in the bleachers.
I take the photograph to my chair and sit. This is why the camera was such a revelation. I can choose from dozens of images, preserved memories, Dick captured perfectly in each one. Perfect, beautiful, eternal. I can see him for as long as I want. I can touch him. I sit in my chair and hold the photograph of Dick in my left hand and I look.
I look and look, taking in every detail. I can almost see Dick's cape whipping in the breeze, and the chemicals heavy in the air make me dizzy, make my head spin, the teeth in my lip my only anchor, and Dick's image is burned onto my retinas so when I can't help it and my eyes fall closed I can still see him clear and beautiful as with eyes open until I'm full, too full and I spill over and everything goes white and for two seconds I don't see anything at all.
I keep my eyes closed and just breathe for a little until the rush sinks down to a low hum, a slight tingling in my arteries and veins, and then I clean myself up and put the photograph away and get to work.
My body moves automatically, comfortable in a routine repeated more times than I can remember, filling the sink and bringing the temperature to 20º C, setting the jugs of chemicals to float in the water bath, switching the lights off and cracking open a film canister. As I work my mind goes back to those two images of Dick. The memory that is a photograph on my wall, of Robin on the bridge. The memory in my head of Dick in the circus tent. Looking down.
Dick is so far above everyone, special. How could he want to give that up? Dick was great; Fate forged him into something exquisite. Through sacrifice, through death, Dick became something better. How can he turn his back on that?
Is Dick's destiny really so tenuous? Is a fight with Bruce all it takes to shake him from his path? I do not want to believe it, but... why not? All it took to start him on that path was two dead bodies, two crumpled, broken bodies– spotlight, chalk dust, blood. That was all it took. Such a little thing. Such a little thing....
I stop, suddenly; the lights are on and my film is in the developing tank and I'm checking the temperature of my chemicals and I stop what I am doing and think. Just think.
...That is the key, isn't it? Death. The death of Dick's parents was the catalyst that changed him, that raised him up. All he needed then was Batman's guidance and teachings. Dick doesn't need that anymore. All he needs is the catalyst. All he needs is the reminder of who he is.
Suddenly everything makes sense. Dick, me, the circus, Robin, the fight with Bruce, the wheels of Fate turning and turning until everything falls into place here and now with this realization: I can do it.
I can be the catalyst.
This is what it's all been for. The thrill of it rushes through me and I return to work with shaky hands. I sweat and tremble and ache. (I will have to sit with one of my photographs again when I am done here.) I think and think about what I can do for Dick. The truth of it is just too beautiful.
Dick needs me. And only I can help.
* * *