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Fic: A Displaced Red Robin Chapter 17
Dragon Princess
brokaw22 wrote in batfic
Title: A Displaced Red Robin
Author: Brokaw22
Disclaimer: The norms
Rating: T
Story Synopsis: Tim gets transported to the cartoon Young Justice world, and he's not sure he knows how to deal with it.
Thanks to Kathy for beta work.
Note: Since LJ is being weird, I had to split certain chapters into two parts.

Previous Chapters: Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Part 1 Chapter Twelve Part 2 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Part A Chapter 14 Part B Chapter 15
Chapter 16

Tim awakes with a low groan. He can’t see anything beyond the soft glow from the machines around him. He doesn’t know where he is at first, which would normally cause him a small amount of panic, but everything is a bit nebulous at the moment. Tim’s chest hurts, but it’s only a dull ache, so he can only assume that he’s on some fairly strong pain medication. He’d thank whoever has supplied said medication if his throat wasn’t so dry. Tim tries to sit up, but he immediately hisses in pain and practically flops back down on the surprisingly soft medical bed that he’s lying on.

There’s the hushed sound of footsteps moving towards him from somewhere in the darkness, and then dim lights appear over his head. Normally, the lights wouldn’t bother him, but right now they’re blinding. He tightly squeezes his eyes shut, and tries to shield his face with an arm, but the movement causes another spike of pain to explode across his chest.

A firm, but gentle, hand on his arm stops him from moving any further. “I suggest, young sir, you cease any unnecessary movements. You had a collapsed lung and require bed rest for at least a week. However, despite your wound, your oxygen levels have been steady and stable since the initial collapse was repaired. In a week or two, you should be able to return to light training.”

Tim’s in the cave, and Alfred…Alfred sounds just the same. His calm demeanor, as well as, Alfred’s stern insistence that Tim will follow his orders on this no matter what has Tim nearly in tears. He feels like he’s home, but he knows that it can’t be possible. If he was home, then there would be questions...so many questions. Such as, how Tim could have possibly been careless enough to get stabbed like this or where has Tim been, and the fact that there’s none of that makes Tim want to sob. Alfred seems to realize his distress and leans over him to check the bandage on his chest. Tim’s eyes finally adjust to the light, and he’s suddenly struck by how young this Alfred is.

Everything hits Tim all at once, and there are a thousand things that he wants to say, but all that comes out is a choked, “Robin…where’s Robin? Is Dick okay, Alfred?” If Alfred is surprised that Tim knows his name, he doesn’t show it…not that Tim would expect anything else.

However, Alfred does hold him down again, seemingly afraid that Tim will foolishly try to get to his feet if he doesn’t, and Tim can’t honestly say that he wouldn’t if Alfred let go. He takes as deep of a breath as he can as he tries to calm down. “Master Richard is quite alright. He’s at school at the moment, but the young master will return in a matter of hours. He regaled both Master Bruce and me of your harrowing ordeal and how you protected him. Master Dick also mentioned that your injury was ultimately his fault. Thank you for everything you have done, young sir. You are quite a splendid young man.”

Tim shakes his head. He didn’t do anything worthy of Alfred’s gratitude. “No, I should have known that Dick was going to jump into the middle of that fight, and I should have stopped him. I know how impulsive he is, and yet, I did nothing. I should have grabbed his cape and told him my plan before he ever got the chance to leap off of that rooftop. The whole incident is my fault.”

Alfred’s eyes narrow in obvious concern as his grip on Tim turns to a more soothing gesture than a restraining one. “I assure you, young sir, Master Richard’s actions are his own, and you are not responsible for his impetuosity. I appreciate that you feel such kinship and protectiveness towards the young master, but neither Master Bruce nor I blame you in the slightest for the incident.”

Tim sighs heavily, ignoring how much pain that causes him, as he tries to make this Alfred realize the simple truth that Tim is the only one who messed up. “You don’t understand. I’m in charge of training the team. I know that Dick has a bad habit of acting first and thinking later. I should have done something about it weeks ago, but I’ve been too busy focusing on other things. Dick could have been seriously injured and that would have been on me, because…”

“No, it’s my responsibility.” Tim’s head snaps to the side at the sound of Bruce’s voice. He stares in wonder at the open expression of pain and concern on Bruce’s face…well, open for Batman, at least. Sometimes Tim forgets how young everyone is here, especially this JLA, but the fact that this is a Batman who hasn’t lost a Robin is only more evident without the cowl and the sheer fact that, despite knowing that Tim knows who he is, Bruce isn’t wearing it right now. After all, his own Bruce’s eyes aren’t nearly that expressive…not anymore, and he would most likely still be wearing his mask, even if the person in question did know who he is underneath. “You may be in charge of training the team, but Robin’s recklessness is something I should have dealt with before ever allowing him to join the team.”

Tim shakes his head again. “No, the team is good for Robin and sometimes Dick’s natural instinct to move first is exactly what’s needed.”

“This shouldn’t have happened. He should have waited for your order.”

Tim would really like to sit up. It wouldn’t help with this conversation at all, but it would make him feel less exposed. However, Tim’s smart enough to know from his earlier attempts that it’s not an option. Still, it’s frustrating to be lying down while trying to convince Bruce that completely snubbing out Dick’s reckless impulsiveness is both impossible and a bad idea. “I’m not you, Bruce. Robin and I haven’t actually been working side by side long enough for him to instinctually follow my lead the way that he does with you. Quite frankly, this was inevitable. I miscalculated and didn’t step in sooner with his personal training like I did with the others.”

Bruce shakes his head and glances down at him with an expression full of self-deprecation and remorse. “The team’s training isn’t solely your responsibility. Black Canary and I are still available to assist at any time. Allowing you to lead their training seemed to be what was best for both you and the team. We didn’t intend to place such a heavy burden on you. Black Canary and I will take over.”

Tim’s breath catches in his chest the moment that the words leave Bruce’s mouth. It feels like having Robin taken away from him all over again, and it leaves him feeling lost and empty. He doesn’t want this. Bruce can’t do this to him. He can’t take away the only constructive thing that Tim can do here.

This Bruce doesn’t know him, and he certainly doesn’t know what Tim’s capable of. This one anencephalous mistake shouldn’t change everything that he’s been working so hard for. It shouldn’t get in the way of all of his plans. Tim knows that he can help the team more than two heroes with full-time lives. He also knows that none of them would understand everything else that Tim has been working on. He can help the people here. He can help all of them, but not if he loses this.

Tim can’t have anything else taken away from him -- not yet -- not when he’s still trying to prove himself, while simultaneously piecing himself back together. He can’t let this end the way that being Robin did. He can’t be replaced and shut out again by the very people that he’s trying to help…not this time. “No, I can still train them. I want to continue training them. I’m good at this. You know that I’m good at this. You wouldn’t have allowed me to start training them if you didn’t think that I was capable. I’m better than this!” Tim gestures to himself, indicating his currently wounded state. “I can do it. You don’t need to fuss over me. I’m not…I am not this worthless.”

Bruce’s eyes narrow as he lays a heavy hand on Tim’s shoulder and squeezes. He stares directly into Tim’s eyes, unwavering. It’s calming in a way that reminds Tim of his early days as Robin, which only hurts him more. He doesn’t deserve this Bruce’s unguarded expressions. He’s not Dick. He hasn’t earned them yet.

Bruce gives him a hard stare, and Tim can see how much Bruce just wants to lean down and hug him. Tim wonders if this Bruce is the type of person who would give into that impulse if Tim wasn’t injured. It’s a startling thought. “No one here believes you are worthless. We appreciate everything that you’ve done for the team, but you don’t need to do anything. Once you’ve healed, if you want to continue training the team, then you can return to it. As for right now, you need to calm yourself and rest. You don’t need to prove anything to me. You’ve earned your place here. I know we aren’t your family and you don’t see this as home, but you have more than proven yourself an ally and a friend. We’re happy to have you here, Red Robin, for as long as you’re stranded on our world, but none of that means that this world’s problems are yours to carry.”

Tim desperately wants to protest. It doesn’t matter if this world’s problems are his own or not. He’s here and he’s capable, so they might as well be his problem. However, Tim doesn’t know how to convey that to this Bruce. He doesn’t think that this Bruce would be so willing to allow Tim to do what he does best. After all, Tim has never been this Batman’s partner, so he doesn’t know anything about Tim -- not really -- not yet, at least. The thing is, though, Tim has started to do what he can here, but there’s still so much more that he could do…so much more that he needs to do, and he won’t let Bruce, or anyone else, stop him. Tim doesn’t know how to quit. It’s just not who he is.

He doesn’t exactly know how to handle a Bruce, who’s this candid, and he has no good way to make both Alfred and Bruce see the truth, but Tim is nothing if not persistent. After all, they don’t know him well enough to know that this isn’t standard practice for him, nor do they know what Tim’s usual responsibilities, both in and out of costume, entail. This Bruce and Alfred have no way of knowing that Tim has been living alone for the better part of a year and that he’s spent that time relying solely on himself, because…well, there are a lot of reasons. They don’t know that he’s taken on far more taxing tasks than training kids, lecturing grown adults, and trying to keep certain people from terrible fates. They have no idea that Tim can be more…that he will be more if that’s what’s needed.

It’s the way that Tim has always been. Abruptly switching Earths has certainly changed a lot, but it hasn’t changed who he is…not really. Tim swallows down all of his emotions as he tries to think past the pain in his chest. He’s exasperated his condition with all of the talking and stress, but it’s nothing that he can’t handle. “I know that this world’s problems aren’t necessarily my own, but I’m here, and I’m skilled. I want to help as much as I can. It’s what I do. You’re right, though. I can’t help much in my current state, but I’m not completely useless, either. I know that my current condition requires me to rest and limit the amount of stress I put on my body, but I’m still fully capable of talking the team through training and…”

“No.” The one word is clipped and short, and it leaves no room for argument. Tim closes his eyes and breathes through his nose. He’s not entirely certain if he’s more exasperated or despondent at the moment. His eyes flutter open again, however, when he feels Bruce’s hand return to his shoulder. Tim stares unblinkingly at Bruce’s unguarded troubled expression, but he doesn’t know how to feel about Bruce’s blatant, desperate need to comfort him. It leaves Tim feeling out of place, more-so than he ever has before. “I don’t know what the rules are on your world, but here, there will be no work until you’re healed. When you’re well enough to be moved, you can choose to either stay here or return to the HQ, but until then you will remain here, resting and relaxing.”

Tim huffs out a breath. He knows that Bruce is right, but he doesn’t actually appreciate being treated like a child. However, before he can argue further, Alfred steps closer to him while fiddling with his IV. “I believe, young sir, it’s time for more pain medication and rest. When Master Richard returns from school, I’ll send him down to speak with you. After three long days, I believe the young master has much he wishes to say.”

Tim nearly curses at the revelation that he’s been unconscious for three days. He suddenly can’t wait for Dick to return home. He needs to ask him if Jason has yet to contact them and if the team has been informed of his injury. Tim doesn’t look forward to trying to convince Black Canary that this incident isn’t verification of her earlier reservations about him patrolling Gotham by himself.

Not to mention, everything that he’s been working on has basically been put on hold for the next week or so. Tim has no idea what he intends to do if Jason does contact them in that time. After all, he really only has two options. He either has to leave Dick in charge of the entire thing or convince Jason to wait until Tim’s healed enough to meet with him, without actually telling Jason why he can’t meet with him. Honestly, Tim doesn’t think either option is appealing, but he supposes that it’ll have to wait until later.

Tim yawns as his eyelids begin to droop. He wonders if Alfred gave him more than just pain medication through his IV, but he’s certain that, even if he asked, Alfred wouldn’t admit to anything. He struggles to stay awake and focus on trying to find solutions to all of the problems his current condition is inevitably going to create, but his thoughts keep drifting off as his eyes flutter close. Tim sinks further into the pillow under his head and drifts off, knowing that his struggle is futile.

XYZXYZ

He startles awake an unidentifiable amount of time later when he feels something small and warm wrap around his hand. It takes Tim a second to remember where he is, and then another moment to realize that the thing touching him is a much smaller hand. He glances down to see Dick clinging to him with downcast eyes. He squeezes Dick’s hand and tries for a reassuring smile. It feels a little off, but Tim’s sure that he can blame it on the drugs. “Are you alright?”

Dick stares at him with wide eyes, and Tim almost wants to laugh, but he knows how much pain that would cause him. “Are you kidding? You’re the one who got hurt. I’m…I’m sorry. I should have waited, and I shouldn’t be so impulsive, and…”

Tim tugs Dick’s hand until he moves closer. He can’t lean up to give Dick a hug, but he can tighten his hold on Dick’s hand. He just hopes that the comfort translates as well. After all, Tim’s not the best at this, even when he’s not wounded. “Dick, it’s okay. It’s an occupational hazard.”

Dick’s brow furrows as he shakes his head. “I don’t think stabbings should be written off as easily as broken windows.”

Tim shrugs as Dick pulls his chair closer to the bed. It’s hardly the first time that he’s ever been stabbed, but Tim has a feeling that telling Dick that wouldn’t actually work in his favor. “It happens, and I think we both know that this incident will stick with you, and remind you to think before you jump into the middle of two opposing gangs again, right?”

Dick nods enthusiastically, which makes Tim feel a small amount of relief. This might actually work in Tim’s favor when he finally starts working on Dick’s impulse control. “Definitely!”

Tim grins as he watches Dick shift around to get more comfortable. He’s thinking that he might start with just forcing Dick to sit still for a while. “Good, now back to business. Has our mutual friend contacted you?”

Dick shakes his head, and Tim’s relieved that he catches on so quickly. They can’t speak freely in the cave, but Tim can’t put off his questions, given that he’s going to be on bed rest for so long. “No, I’ve stopped by to check on him and reassure him that we meant what we said, but he still hasn’t decided. I think he’s afraid that the offer is too good to be true, you know?”

Tim nods his head in agreement. He knows all too well how Jason Todd thinks, and he knows that’s exactly what Jason is afraid of, but there’s nothing that the two of them can do about that. This is something that will just take time. “Yeah, but we can’t push him. We’ve made the offer. Now we need to give him time to consider it. You know better than anyone what he’s going through right now, so keep visiting him, but don’t mention the offer unless he brings it up first.”

Dick grins brightly as he nods his head. Tim’s not surprised that Dick’s extremely pleased that he practically just ordered him to visit Jason regularly. There’s a part of Tim that doesn’t want Dick to get too attached to Jason. After all, Jason deserves a life away from all of this. However, there’s another part of him that knows it’s good for both of them. Tim figures that once he gets everything finalized for Jason, having Dick as a friend will only ease the process further, so he doesn’t see any reason to discourage their friendship. “Sure, no problem, and don’t worry I’ve been using your program, so you know…” Dick trails off with a wave of his hand.

Tim can’t keep the small sigh of relief to himself. He knew that this Dick was a great hacker, and he couldn’t be happier that Dick happens to be using that particular skill to keep this entire thing secret. “Does the team know about this?” Tim gestures widely to himself.

Dick sighs heavily as he slumps further in his chair. “Yeah, they know. Black Canary was with Batman when I called for help. He told her that you were injured and left immediately. When he saw how bad it was, he brought you straight to the cave, given that it was closer than any Zeta-Beam entry point. Once you were stable, Batman had Black Canary inform the team of your injury and that you would be staying in Gotham until further notice. The team isn’t happy about it. They wanted you to be moved to the infirmary at the HQ, but that wasn’t really an option. The team is extremely worried about you and they want to see you. Batman told them that you would return when you were able. Needless to say, you can probably expect a lot of excitement and to be fussed over when you return.”

Tim groans at the very idea of it all. He’s already endured the entire team hovering over him with concern, and that was just when he was physically and emotionally exhausted. He doesn’t even want to consider what it’s going to be like now that he’s actually wounded. Tim’s honestly considering waiting until he’s fully recovered before returning to the HQ, but he knows that he can’t put his plans on hold for that long. “Has Black Canary and Batman fought over my ability to patrol alone yet?”

Dick nods his head again as he sits forward in his chair, forearms resting on his knees. “When Bruce told her about the extent of your injury, Black Canary argued that you shouldn’t have been out alone. I told her that you weren’t alone, but she wasn’t happy that it was just the two of us. I argued that this wasn’t your fault and that this didn’t reflect back on you. I mean, I’m the one who screwed up. Black Canary didn’t really seem to care, but Bruce told her that you had more than proven yourself. He sent her the feed from my mask cam. Bruce pointed out that I had barely even landed before you were already covering me, which means that you calculated my trajectory as soon as I leapt off of the roof and followed, ready to protect me. He was obviously impressed. Black Canary was too, just so you know.”

Tim sighs. He’s not exactly surprised by anything Dick has told him, but he knows that after this nearly everyone is going to keep a closer eye on him, which is something that he doesn’t exactly need or want. After all, most of his plans hinge on the fact that, more often than not, he’s left to his own devices. Tim’s actually grateful that Dick is in on most of what he’s planning. After all, working around literally everyone with no ally would be downright impossible. As it stands, it’s only slightly impossible, but that’s hardly anything new for Tim. After all, this is what he does.

“I’ll deal with Black Canary’s concerns when I return. As of right now, we have other things to focus on. How has Superboy been lately? Has he had any other meetings with Superman?”

Dick shrugs as he breathes out a breath. “I don’t know. The team hasn’t noticed any differences in training, but we’re blaming that more on your absence than anything else. Superman’s taking his calls now, but I don’t think Superboy has bothered to contact him. Superboy did mention wanting to speak with you about his training once you return, but he wouldn’t go into details.”

Tim scoffs. They both know that this particular Superboy hardly opens up to anyone about anything. “He never does. Hopefully, you can convince Superboy to spend more time with Superman before I return. I really do think that it’ll help him improve and his training will go smoother after Superboy confronts one of the main sources of his ire. I don’t think Superboy even realizes how much his rage is prohibiting him from progressing, but it’s something that needs to be addressed before I can advance his training any further.”

Dick rubs the back of his head self-consciously. “I’ll…uh…try, but it’s a bit of a touchy subject, and, other than when he’s ranting about Supes, Superboy doesn’t really like talking about it with anyone besides you and possibly M’gann.”

Tim hums in understanding. He’s not exactly certain how much progress can be made in a week or two, but something is better than nothing. “Has anyone spoken to Red Arrow? I was planning on having him help me with the next stage of Superboy’s training, and I would hate for him to think that I revoked my offer just because I’m unable to contact him.”

Dick nods, suddenly looking a lot more comfortable than before. “Yeah, I spoke to him the day after you were stabbed. He wanted to come see you immediately, but…well, you know, you were unconscious, secret identities, and…”

Tim reaches out for Dick’s hand again, and he smiles when Dick doesn’t even hesitate before taking it. He squeezes Dick’s hand and resists the urge to sit up once more. “It’s okay. As long as he wasn’t left out of the loop, Roy will understand. Besides, we can probably…”

Tim doesn’t get a chance to finish before he’s hissing in pain from Dick tugging on his arm sharply. “Wait, you know who Red Arrow is?”

Tim blinks owlishly for a long moment. He thought that by now it was fairly obvious that Tim knows pretty much everyone’s secret identities, but then it occurs to him that Dick hasn’t exactly been privy to Tim’s and Roy’s late night chats, nor the fact that Tim is the reason Black Canary has started paying so much attention to Red Arrow. At least, Tim is hoping that Dick’s reaction is in relation to the fact that Tim knows so much and not Dick’s own lack of knowledge. He can’t imagine that Dick doesn’t know who Red Arrow is. After all, Robin almost always knows more than his peers, especially when it comes to who’s wearing which mask. Not to mention, the implications of exactly how alone Roy is if Dick isn’t one of his best friends here, has Tim’s stomach churning.

“Yeah, I…um…know a lot of secret IDs. Figuring out who’s under the mask is kind of a hobby of mine.” Dick doesn’t need to know that it’s a hobby that Tim has had since he was a very small child. “Please, tell me that’s the reason for your shock and not the fact that I’ve just accidentally revealed who Red Arrow is.”

Dick’s eyes narrow in confusion for a moment before he holds his hands up in a mollifying gesture. “What? Oh, no, no, I know who Red Arrow is. I’m just astounded that you do, too. He can be a bit standoffish, but then I guess that he’s probably different in your world, right?”

Tim rolls his eyes at the blatant probing for more information, but he did actually tell Dick that he would answer whatever questions the kid has about Tim’s home-world, and honestly, there are far more sensitive subjects that they could be discussing right now. “Well, for starters, the Roy on my world is older. He’s best friends with Dick, but he’s got a bit of a soft spot for kids, who have an ability to stand up to their mentors. He’s a really great guy, though.”

Dick scoffs as he folds his arms over his chest, unexpectedly sullen and displeased. “Great like the Dick Grayson of your world?”

Tim huffs out a breath. He didn’t mean to turn this version of Dick against his brother back home, but…well, in the midst of trying to keep things vague, Tim may have left out more than he should have. He’s not entirely certain what he could possibly say that would change things, but Tim knows enough to know that misunderstandings like this never end well for anyone. “There’s nothing wrong with the Dick Grayson of my world. He’s a good guy and a great brother. I told you that mistakes were made on both sides, and I meant that. He has a lot of responsibilities and sometimes things get disregarded in favor of more pressing matters. It’s why I’m relieved that he has so many friends to help him through it all.”

Dick’s brow furrows as he seizes Tim’s hand again. “People are not things and no one should be ignored in favor of another…no matter the situation. You deserve better.”

This time Tim does laugh, despite the fact that his laughter cuts off into a fit of choking, gasping coughs, and he ends up clutching at his own chest as immense pain courses through him. Dick gets to his feet, ready to dash upstairs, and find help, but Tim merely waves him off. He doesn’t need help. He just needs for this Dick to understand the simple truth that, while Tim wishes that his brother had gone about it all in a different way, the only one to blame for Tim’s inability to deal is himself.

After a few short moments, Tim catches his breath and settles back down, gesturing for Dick to do the same. “I appreciate that you feel that way, but, the fact of the matter is, you don’t know me well enough to know what I deserve.”

He intends to just end the conversation there, but for some reason, Tim can’t hold back all of his thoughts anymore. He’s sure that when this is all over, he’ll blame whatever Alfred gave him earlier. “I was always just a placeholder. I knew that from the beginning. I’ve always known that my place in the family was tenuous and that it only existed because I had nowhere else to go. I was just one more kid with nothing left. I knew that eventually I would no longer be needed, just as I knew that it would all inevitably end the way that everything always does. It’s not Dick’s fault that I outgrew my place and someone better came along. Dick was great. He cared about me for far longer than anyone else ever has bothered to try. He convinced me that I was worthwhile, because, for a time, he believed that I was, but I knew it couldn’t last. It’s not Dick’s fault that I’m…me. It had to end eventually. It’s my fault for not preparing for it better…for not being ready. It’s my fault for becoming so complacent, for wanting what Dick gave so freely, that I missed the obvious signs that it was all going to be taken away, like every time before.”

Dick glares at him, heartbroken and aching, and looks as if he wants nothing more than to gather Tim into a hug. It’s a familiar expression that Tim’s accustomed to seeing on a much older face. “You’re not going back! I won’t let you! I don’t care if Bruce finds a way to return you to your world. You’re not going. How could they let you think like that? Worse, how could they make you think like that? They don’t deserve you, so they can’t have you!”

Tim hushes him as he gestures for Dick to come closer. He wraps his arms around the kid and stifles the groan of pain that wants to escape as he gathers him into a hug. “You know that that’s not how it works. I have responsibilities back home. You’d return, too, if our roles were reversed. It’s not their fault, you know. I’ve always been this way. They didn’t do anything.”

Dick clings to him as he sobs, and it nearly breaks Tim’s heart. He never meant to cause this Dick Grayson pain. “That’s the point! They didn’t do anything. They didn’t stop you from feeling this way, and worse, they encouraged it.”

Tim shushes him as he holds on tighter; despite how much agony it causes him. His chest is burning, and Tim knows for a fact that his one-week timescale just got pushed back, but it’s worth it. “They can’t stop what they don’t know. I do what’s necessary. I become whatever is necessary. I always have. That isn’t on anyone else, but me, okay? You shouldn’t blame them for the way that I am, you know? None of them are actually responsible for that…not even Dick.”

Dick shakes his head as he buries his face further into Tim’s chest. He nearly coughs as the motion causes another spike of pain, but instead, Tim just breathes through it. “You’ll never convince me that they’re that oblivious. They’ve hurt you, worse than a stab wound ever could, and I don’t want you to go back there.”

Tim shakes his head and refrains from reminding Dick that it’s not exactly up to him. “I’ve never abandoned anything before, Dick, and I’m not about to start now.”

Dick tightens the embrace, making Tim wince. “Then don’t abandon us. We need you and we want you here, Red. You’ve helped all of us so much, but, even if you weren’t helping us, we’d still want you.”

Tim doesn’t know how to respond to that. There was a time when he believed the very same thing of his own Dick Grayson, but it’s been a long time since Tim has been that naïve. “I know, but I still have friends back home, you know. I have my own team, who is probably missing me.” Tim conveniently doesn’t mention that he hasn’t actually been an active member of any team for a while, nor does he mention that, even before he landed here, he hadn’t actually spoken to any of his friends in some time.

“Then let them work to get you back.” Dick insists defiantly. “Stop looking for a way to return and just…just be here with us. If they want you back, then they can come and get you.”

Tim shakes his head and stares at Dick with a minuscule, sad smile. Dick’s tenacity, admiration, and sweetness warms and breaks Tim’s heart all at the same time. “Honestly, Dick, I have no way of knowing if they even know that I’m gone or what happened to me. It wouldn’t be fair to them if I just disappeared like that, and you know it. We…or, at least I have to keep working on trying to return home. It’s the right thing to do.”

Dick abruptly releases him from the hug and shoves away from him. Tim knows that the sudden release of pressure on his chest should allow him to breathe easier, but it doesn’t. He feels like all of the air has rushed out of him now that Dick is no longer within arm’s reach and he can’t get it back. “Yeah, it’s the right thing for whom? ‘Cause, it certainly isn’t the right thing for you, and it’s definitely no better for us.” There are tears in Dick’s eyes, but Tim doesn’t get a chance to even try to fix this before Dick abruptly spins around and dashes out of the cave.

Tim tries to call out to Dick, but he can’t catch his breath enough to even attempt words. He does his best not to cough, knowing that beyond causing an immense amount of pain, it can and will cause more damage. Tim tries to work through the sharp chest pains and focus on something beyond all of the ways that he just continues to fail everyone around him. Tim knows that he’s put his body through too much stress with the conversation with Dick, and now he’s paying for it. He just hopes that if this does result in further damage, then Dick won’t blame himself for all of this. After all, Tim knows that this is entirely his own fault and that there’s only one person to blame for all of his current failings.

The End (for now)

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Holy shit!!! I've been reading this since it came out and I'd almost given up hope on getting new chapters. I don't even think I have an account on here anymore but I still check in like once a year. This is one of my all-time favourite fics, thank you so much for updating. I really hope there's more to come 😊

Well, I do post this over at fanfiction.net if that's easier for you. I have every intention of finishing this. Unfortunately, my life got really hectic the last couple of years. Still, I am slowly but surely working on everything. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I'm glad that you like it so much!

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