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Fic: The Mending of Bonds
Dragon Princess
brokaw22 wrote in batfic
Title: The Mending of Bonds
Disclaimer: The norms
Rating: T
Story Synopsis: Alfred realizes that it's well past time that someone help him mend this family.
Note: This is for the tumblr Tim Drake week.

Alfred happens to be in the hallway dusting, which is the only reason he hears the…well, he’s not entirely sure that argument is the right word for it. Master Tim was in Master Bruce’s study, working on something for Master Bruce when Master Damian emerged from the cave. Everyone knows that Master Damian has been in a particularly foul mood recently, though no one seems to know why. Alfred suspects that it has something to do with Master Bruce, as these things normally do. However, the boy’s current mood and need for an outlet are no excuse for the things that he proclaims to Master Timothy.

After all, insisting that the other young man is neither needed nor wanted in the manor by any member of the family is an outright lie, which is why Alfred isn’t surprised that Master Tim doesn’t respond to it. Certainly, the young man knows better than to believe such blatant falsehoods. However, Master Damian doesn’t stop there.

Master Timothy’s sharp intake of breath after Master Damian’s insistence that Master Tim has no place here and that the emancipation was supposed to be a quick, simple, and obvious hint that they no longer require his presence here was enough to make Alfred’s blood boil. He has spent so long trying to ensure that every member of this family knows that they will always have a place here, and that they will always be wanted. No matter how the boys came into Master Bruce’s life, they were all family.

Every single one of the boys has needed that reassurance at one time or another, but Master Timothy has always needed it the most. Alfred knows that Master Tim has always questioned whether he truly belongs here, due to the way that he forced himself into Master Bruce’s life. It seems to have escaped the young man’s notice that Alfred has always been extremely grateful that the boy intervened. He also knows that, whether Master Timothy knows it or not, Master Bruce feels the same way.

Alfred is starting to realize why Master Tim no longer refers to the manor as his home, and it’s equally evident why he does not visit often. Honestly, if this is what he has to endure every time that he returns -- and Alfred suspects that it is -- then he doesn’t blame the young man one bit. Master Timothy doesn’t respond to Master Damian’s harsh words. Instead, there’s the sound of shuffling papers, the soft click of a laptop closing, and the barely there scratching sound of the chair legs scraping against the floor. “I was just leaving, actually.”

It’s a lie, of course. Alfred had already convinced the young man to stay for dinner, though he hardly blames the boy for making an escape after Master Damian’s previous display. Master Tim moves with such haste that he doesn’t even notice Alfred standing by the door, still holding his dusting cloth. Alfred, however, sees every ounce of pain the young master is desperately trying to hide. He doesn’t stop Master Timothy from leaving. He’s sure that the young man could use some time to himself, and the elderly gentleman has another young boy to deal with first.

Alfred puts his dusting cloth away before entering the study to see Master Damian looking rather pleased with himself. It takes all of Alfred’s self control not to simply yell at the boy. He hates it when someone hurts his family; especially when it’s other members of the family, but Alfred knows yelling isn’t the proper way to deal with this. “I must say, Master Damian, I do not appreciate it when people undo my work.”

Master Damian barely glances in his direction as he scoffs. “Then you should tell Drake to stop making such messes, Pennyworth.”

Alfred isn’t the least bit surprised that the young master misinterprets his meaning. “I am not referring to the state of the study, Master Damian. Every member of this family deserves to feel safe and loved, as well as recognizing that they do, indeed, belong here. I have worked hard to ensure that every member of this family knows that this is their home, and that they will always be welcomed here. However, after today’s display -- and I’m certain many others quite similar to it -- Master Timothy doubts my word on this matter, Master Damian. You have not only upset Master Tim with your blatant lies, but you have also called into question my word and, dare I say it, my honor. This is something I will no longer tolerate, young master.”

Master Damian seems to think it over for a moment, and then his expression changes into one of a thoroughly chastised child. “I see, my apologies, Pennyworth. I did not intend to question your honor.”

Alfred’s eyes soften a minuscule amount before he shakes his head. “While I appreciate your apology, Master Damian, I’m afraid it is not enough. You have damaged my relationship with someone I consider family. You will need to go to your room and consider a way to repair the damage that you have done, as well as make amends to both myself and Master Timothy.”

The boy looks as though he wants to argue, but thinks better of it as he slips past Alfred and heads straight for his room. Alfred briefly tidies up the study, before leaving to approach another one of his charges. He knows that it is not merely Master Damian’s words that have caused the current situation with Master Tim and he full heartedly believes that it’s well past time one of the other culprits assist him with the mending of this family.

Alfred knocks once on Master Richard’s bedroom door before letting himself in. Master Dick is walking around the room on his hands. Alfred doesn’t mention that he hasn’t actually had a chance to shampoo the carpet in here yet, knowing that it will hardly deter Master Richard. “Master Dick, I request your assistance with a matter of utmost importance.”

Master Richard immediately flips onto his feet with a bright smile on his face. “Sure, Alf, whatcha need?”

Alfred folds his hands, resisting the urge to straighten the bed covers, knowing that Master Richard prefers things slightly disheveled. “I’m afraid, Master Damian and Master Timothy had a bit of an altercation earlier. I was hoping you’d be willing to help me settle the lingering troubles with Master Tim.”

Master Dick sighs heavily as his shoulders slump. “Man, when is Tim gonna learn to just let it go and ignore Damian, especially since we all know Damian’s been in a mood lately. I’m sure that this just made whatever’s going on with Damian worse. I’ll go talk to him, Alf.”

Alfred can’t stop his eyes from widening in shock. He knew that Master Richard felt responsible for Master Damian, but he had no idea that the young man’s obligation toward the boy had left Master Dick so oblivious to certain other concerns. “Master Dick, you misunderstand me. I have already dealt with Master Damian. However, Master Timothy left shortly after the incident.”

Master Richard sighs heavily once again. “Don’t worry, Alfred. I’ll go drag him back, and then they can both apologize to each other.”

Alfred shakes his head. Clearly, he should have stepped in much sooner. “No, Master Dick, that will not be necessary. Master Timothy does not need reprimanded. He needs to be reminded that he is wanted here, and not just by myself.”

Master Richard shakes his head. “Come on, Alfie, Tim knows that he’s family, and…”

Alfred holds up a hand to stop him from continuing. “I’m afraid, Master Dick, that he does not, in fact, know this. It would appear that due to recent events -- including certain legal changes, as well as Master Damian’s assertions that Master Timothy’s presence is no longer desired by you or even myself -- the boy has been doubting such things.”

Master Richard’s sharp intake of breath is the only sign that Alfred needs to know that the true nature of young Master Damian’s barbs have gone unnoticed by the first of his grandchildren. It leaves Alfred feeling as though he failed in his duty to both Master Dick and Master Tim. After all, he certainly should have stepped in sooner…for all of their sakes. “How…how could Tim question something like that?”

Alfred places a comforting hand on Master Richard’s shoulder. “Master Dick, might I suggest that you remember the type of home Master Timothy came from and how he came to be a part of this family. Is it truly so difficult to see how certain changes have led to the current situation?”

Master Richard pinches the bridge of his nose and breathes out a heavy breath. “I suppose it’s not.”

Alfred hums in approval. He’s used to having these types of conversations with Master Bruce, but he’s pleased that they seem to go quite a bit smoother with Master Dick. “Now, might I make another suggestion, young master?” At Master Richard’s nod, Alfred continues. “Speak with Master Timothy. He should be on his way to his apartment by now.”

Master Dick nods and is on his way out of the door without any further delay. Alfred can only hope that their conversation goes well. He would truly like nothing more than for the two of them to get back what they once had, and he thinks this might just be the first step towards that goal.

XYZXYZ

Dick arrives at Tim’s apartment in record time, but he’s surprised to find the place completely dark. He doesn’t have the slightest clue as to where Tim could be. After all, there are far too many possibilities. However, he figures that Tim will return at some point, so Dick bypasses Tim’s security, noting the upgrades that have been installed since the last time that he visited. He does his best not to think about exactly how long ago that was and instead focuses on exactly what he’s going to say to Tim when he finally returns.

However, Dick’s thoughts completely derail when he enters the apartment to see an extremely familiar figure curled up on the sofa, sitting utterly still in the dark. Tim doesn’t seem to notice him, which is strange. Dick can’t remember the last time that he was able to sneak up on Tim without imploring a hell of a lot more effort than he’s currently exhibiting. It’s not until he gets closer that Dick realizes why he was able to sneak up on Tim.

The teenager has his face hidden in the crook of his arm and Dick can hear the slightest hitch in his breathing. Tim is crying and Dick feels like an absolute idiot for missing how distraught his younger brother has been lately. Dick knows Tim well enough to know that if he has finally broken down into tears, then the negative emotions have been building for some time. Dick wants to berate himself for being an oblivious idiot, but right now he needs to focus on his little brother. He doesn’t waste anymore time before hopping over the back of the couch and wrapping his arms around Tim. “It’s okay, little brother. I’m here.”

Predictably, Tim startles at the touch, but Dick just holds on tighter. When Tim realizes it’s him, his younger brother’s expression shifts to one of confusion. “What are you doing here?”

Dick merely shrugs, while still hugging Tim. “My little brother needed me. Now, tell me what’s wrong.”

Tim’s brow furrows further, clearly perplexed by Dick’s demand. “Why?”

The question breaks Dick’s heart. For as long as he can remember, when Dick asked Tim to tell him what was wrong, there has always been insistence that he’s fine, questions about whether Dick truly wanted to know, or outright lies and distractions. Tim has never asked him why he would ask in the first place, though. “Tim…Timmy…Timmers, you’re obviously upset, and I want to know why. I care about you, little brother. I know that I’ve been distracted lately, and I haven’t exactly been around much, but you’re still my little brother and I still love you.”

Tim shakes his head as he wipes away his tears and extracts himself from the embrace, sliding just out of Dick’s range. “It’s okay. I’m fine. I just haven’t been sleeping much lately.”

Or at all, Dick thinks to himself, but he doesn’t say anything. After all, that’s not why he’s here. However, Dick refuses to just let the same old, predictable lie that Tim likes to feed him go -- and not just because of Alfred’s helpful hints about how bad things have gotten for the teenager. “Tim, I know things haven’t been great between us since…” Dick trails off; unable to voice the words, because remembering the whole time period that Bruce was ‘dead’ just hurts. “But I never stopped caring about you, little brother. You have to know that.”

Tim gives him a watery and extremely fake smile as he nods. “Yeah, I do.”

Dick doesn’t call him on the obvious lie right away, since he’s not entirely sure that he still has the right to do so. After all, how long has he just allowed all of Tim’s normal lies be, because he got distracted by something else and promised he’d touch base with Tim later? How many times has Dick promised himself that he would wheedle Tim about what was really going on with him, only to let something else get in the way? How long has it been since the two of them have had an actual conversation about something other than the night job?

Dick doesn’t actually have the answer to any of those questions, which is somehow worse than if he did. Still, Dick doesn’t have to outright attack the lie to let Tim know that he sees it for what it is. “So, why’d you leave the manor? I thought you said you were staying for dinner.”

Tim freezes all over for a second, but forces himself to relax. If Dick didn’t know his little brother so well, he wouldn’t have even been able to perceive the stiffening and releasing of taunt muscles. Tim’s gotten better at lying, and Dick isn’t sure if that’s a good thing or not. “I was just having a stressful day and I didn’t want to ruin Alfred’s dinner. You know how it is. I’ll call him later and apologize, and then I’ll stop by later this week, but I’d really rather be alone tonight.”

The really startling thing to Dick is that he honestly can’t see the lie. If it wasn’t for Alfred informing him of Damian’s and Tim’s altercation, Dick really would believe that Tim was just having a bit of a stress cry and needed some time to himself. The realization makes Dick feel sick to his stomach, because now he’s left wondering how long this has been going on. How long has Tim been able to lie to him this effectively? At what point did Tim become so distant and so good at deceiving him that Dick isn’t even able to see the cracks anymore?

It didn’t used to be like this. No matter what was going on in both of their lives, Dick used to be able to at least perceive the lies and half truths Tim fed him. Now…now Dick isn’t even entirely sure that he recognizes the boy sitting in front of him. Something has changed in Tim, or perhaps something has changed in both of them, but, either way, Dick can’t honestly pinpoint when it happened. A part of him wants to claim that this is a recent development, but Dick knows better. He’s just terrified to discover exactly how long Tim has been able to completely hide from him.

Dick sighs heavily, knowing that there’s only one way to get Tim to tell him the truth now that his lies have been fooling everyone for so long. “So, I think we should just lay everything out on the table here. I know that that’s not true, because Alfred told me that you and Damian got into it earlier.”

Tim scoffs as he moves away from Dick, curling further into the corner of the couch, not that Dick thought that that was possible. “Well, at least your presence here makes sense now.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Dick doesn’t mean to get defensive, but he’s starting to realize exactly how large the chasm between them is and it’s staggering.

“Come on, Dick. You just showed up, out of the blue, for no apparent reason, with no real purpose, when you didn’t even notice that I had left the manor in the first place, and I’m just supposed to believe that you did so of your own accord?” Tim rolls his eyes as he gets to his feet. “A lot has changed, Dick, but my intelligence hasn’t. No matter how much you may doubt it, I know better.”

Dick’s eyes widen as he gets to his feet too. “Alfred isn’t the only reason I came here, Tim.”

Tim laughs but there’s no humor in it. “Oh really, tell me, Dick, when was the last time you were here?”

Dick doesn’t answer…mostly because he can’t. He doesn’t remember the last time that he was here, and he hates himself for it. When did things get to be this way between them? Dick wants to go back. He wants to go back to the days when Tim might tense at physical contact from him, but he didn’t outright snub it. He wants to go back to the days when Tim looked up to him. He wants to return to the days when Tim trusted him.

He knows that there is no one to blame for these changes but himself. Okay, well, maybe Damian too. After all, his littlest brother’s taunts and other attacks certainly didn’t do Dick’s relationship with Tim any favors, but Dick knows that it’s not fair to put the blame on Damian. After all, it’s Dick who’s failed to be there for both of them the way he should have been.

“Tim…Timmy…Timmers.” He gathers Tim into a hug and ignores the baby bird’s struggles to get away. “I love you. You are wanted and I’m sorry that I ever made you doubt that. I know I screwed up a lot and we never really talked about everything that happened, but I thought you knew that you are always wanted and loved by this whole family, but especially by me. I know that assuming you knew something I never truly expressed out loud is a very Bruce move, and I’m so sorry. I should have realized how bad things had gotten, and not just between you and Damian, but between you and me as well.”

Tim suddenly stops struggling but Dick’s shirt is suddenly wet with tears. Tim sniffles and buries his head further into Dick’s chest. “I miss you, Dick. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that’s the thing I miss most about Robin.”

Dick’s heart clenches at Tim’s confession and he has to swallow repeatedly to get rid of the lump in his throat. “I’m right here, Timmy. I’ve got you, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Tim shakes his head. “It’s not the same, and you know that. We’re not the same. We can’t be, and it’s not just because of Damian. You replaced me, Dick. The first chance that you got you replaced me with someone who, not only hates me, but has tried to kill me. I get it, Dick. I know that Damian needed Robin -- and you’ve done great things with him -- but I needed Robin, too. However, more importantly, I needed you, Dick, and you turned your back on me. It isn’t the fact that you doubted me, Dick. You and Bruce have always doubted me…no matter how many times I’ve tried to prove myself.”

“Tim, I…”

Abruptly, Tim pushes away from him and slashes a hand through the air, effectively silencing Dick. “You called me crazy. You left me with no resources, no support, no help, and then, on top of all of that, you didn’t even bother to apologize when I proved I was right. I brought Bruce back, Dick, and I did it for you…for all of you, and not a single fucking one of you had a single fucking thing to say to me about it. I was right, Dick, but, moreover, I wasn’t crazy, and you still haven’t acknowledged that at all.”

Dick’s gaze falls to the floor as his shoulders slump. What can he possibly say to repair the rift that he created between them? After all, it’s not as though Tim doesn’t have a point. There were so many things that he should have said that he never did. “You’re right. You’re completely right. I never did apologize for that, or acknowledge it in any way, and I’m sorry. Truly, I am, Tim, but you’ve gotta know that I was just trying to do my best, and not just for Damian, but for you, too. I wasn’t trying to replace you, Tim. I was trying to let you find your own way. The way that I did, but I know I screwed up there as well. I should have talked to you about it before Damian wandered into the cave in a Robin suit, but things were crazy then.”

Tim takes a deep breath, clearly trying to calm himself as he once again wipes away his tears. “I’m sorry, Dick. I really am, but it’s just not good enough this time. I’m tired of doing this. I’m tired of trying to put myself back together every time I get torn apart. I gave up the Titans so I wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore, and I think it’s time that we both just accept that the best thing for me is to give up Gotham as well.”

Dick’s heart breaks at the mere thought of Tim leaving Gotham for good, because he knows his little brother well enough to know that if they let Tim go, then they’ll never get him back. He’ll hide away somewhere far out of their reach and Tim will just be another ghost haunting them. Dick doesn’t think he can take that. Hell, he doesn’t think any of them can handle that.

In fact, the mere thought of it has Dick moving before he’s even consciously aware of it. “No, no, Timmy. That’s not a solution. You know that it’s not a solution. Don’t do this. We may not be able to get back to where we were before Bruce’s little jaunt through time, but we can figure this out. We don’t have to let this break us. Don’t let this break us, little brother. You’re still family. You’re still wanted. You’re still loved, and I know that I hurt you, but we can get through this…just like we’ve gotten through everything else.”

Tim shakes his head again, but Dick merely holds him tighter, shushing him and petting his hair. He doesn’t know how long he has before Tim does something drastic to get away from him, but he does know that if he’s going to convince Tim they can regain some of what they’ve lost, then he’s gotta stop pulling his punches. “Come on, Tim; remember when you first gave up Robin? We made a promise. Do you remember what that promise was?”

Tim is frozen in place, completely unmoving. In fact, Dick is only certain that he’s breathing because he can feel his little brother’s hot breath on his shoulder. He’s not sure if that’s a good sign or not, but Dick merely holds him tighter. This is necessary…probably moreso than Dick ever realized before, but he thinks that he’s starting to.

He takes a deep breath before continuing. “We promised each other that no matter, whether you were Robin or not, whether I was Nightwing or not, we were still family. We were still brothers. Family screws up, Tim. Family hurts each other sometimes. You know that better than anyone. I screwed up, Timmy, but that doesn’t change anything. Things aren’t great between us, but I’m willing to try and fix it, and you’ve gotta be willing as well, because that’s what family does, but more importantly, that’s what Robins do.”

It takes a second before Tim responds, and when he does, Dick is almost certain that he’s going to struggle out of his grip, but instead he simply tilts his head up, looking Dick straight in the eye. “You try that little speech on Jason and Damian yet, because they might argue that last bit?”

Dick’s blinks owlishly a few times, because that’s Tim’s dry sarcastic tone. The one that he hasn’t heard without the slightly mean edge to it in…he can’t remember when. Dick smiles as he tightens the embrace, because he thinks he might actually have gotten through to Tim. “Well, they’re next. I promise.”

Tim nods his head as he finally hugs back, and Dick isn’t exactly sure what he said that managed to change Tim’s mind, but he knows that they can get through this now. It’ll take time, and he’s sure that there will be other issues that arise as they go, but they’re trying, and that’s definitely something. Tim gives him one final squeeze before detangling himself from Dick. “So, since you’re here, and I’m in absolutely no mood to return to the manor right now, even if Alfred is going to be disappointed, how about a movie?”

It takes everything that Dick has in him not to whoop with delight as he drags Tim over to his own couch and settles down onto it. He can’t remember the last time that Tim was willing to have a movie night with him. Dick nearly sighs in relief, because it seems like they are finally starting to get back some of what they’ve lost. “Sure, your pick.”

Tim smiles as he scans through his movie selection. “Fine, but no whining about it.

XYZXYZ

It’s a week later when Tim finally decides that he really can’t avoid the manor any longer. After all, he does owe Alfred an apology. However, Tim has only just entered the door to the kitchen, hoping to catch Alfred in the midst of one of his many duties and avoid certain other occupants, when he’s ambushed by Damian. “Finally, Grayson said you would return soon, although, he was unable to accurately assess when.”

Tim raises an eye brow at the abnormal greeting. “Uh huh, look is Alfred around? I don’t intend to stay long.”

Damian merely shakes his head. “He should return shortly from his errands.” After a moment of awkward silence Damian gestures to a nearby chair. “I request that you sit.”

Tim’s eyebrows fly up into his hairline at the fact that Damian requested something over demanding it. Tim steps away from Damian, clearly something weird is going on here. Damian huffs out a breath as he folds his arms over his chest, and oddly enough that does put Tim at ease, at least a little. “Drake, I am attempting to have an honest discussion with you. Sit.”

Tim rolls his eyes. He didn’t expect the lack of demanding things to continue for very long anyway. He makes his way to a chair on the farthest side away from Damian. “What do you want, Damian?”

Damian squares his shoulders and takes a deep breath. “It has recently come to my attention that what I believed was merely our repartee was actually something else entirely. I apologize for not realizing that my words called into question Pennyworth’s honor. I would appreciate it, if in the future, you would realize that Pennyworth is an authority of sorts, and listen to him more closely.”

Tim doesn’t get a chance to say a word before Damian nods once and leaves. He’s not entirely certain as to what that was all about, but he’s sure Alfred will gladly fill him in when he returns. Tim glances down at his phone. He doesn’t have any pressing messages and there’s nothing that needs his attention at the moment. He shifts to get more comfortable in his seat. He can certainly wait for Alfred to return. After all, the manor probably has enough room for everyone.

The End