Author: Phoenix Angel Suyari
Summary: Death and destruction and the Batfamily.
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I pretend to own any recognizable characters within this work of fiction. They are the sole property of DC and I am just borrowing them for a bit of fun.
Warning: Character Death
He never would have made the shot. It would have hit, yes, because the kid’s good, but it never would have done enough damage to keep the ‘droid from ripping him a new lung.
Even for me, it seemed to happen in slow motion.
I saw Bart go at the same time I did, and…I went left instead of straight. Fear for Bart just completely took over. I saw the laser fire, and regardless of the kid’s speed, it just…So I grabbed Bart.
I guess to each their own.
Dick landed in front of Tim from God only knows where.
It hit him instead.
I understand what he was feeling. Rushing head long into potential danger, just to grab a kid brother. Because he means more to you than you’ll ever admit. Because admitting feelings in this business will get you killed.
And not admitting them…
I didn’t see it happen. I was busy trying to get out from between two steel hands about my neck, and a solid wall.
Diana and Conner were helping.
It was just like the last time. Insane androids attacking for no reason, and before we notice, superheroes are coming out of the wood works. I think everyone’s still getting over the last time. I know I am.
The dust cleared pretty quickly, and no one was without a scratch at the very least - and we had some heavy hitters with us, so that’s saying something.
I’ve never seen Tim…I’ve never seen him completely lose it.
He slipped once, and ended up crying on my shoulder. It was pretty bad – Batman and company don’t have emotional shares in their resumes - but not as bad as this.
He was hunched over Nightwing, sobbing, and clutching at his costume.
Tim’s not someone to go off for nothing, so no one had to second guess the reason.
It felt so familiar I got sick.
In the heat of a battle, no matter how large or how small, your adrenaline will keep you going. But, as Ollie’s always told me, adrenaline can only take you so far. Once you run out, it’s all emotional. Live or die. Fight or Flight. It’s inherent in every living thing, and many artificial ones too.
When we saw the blip on the radar, we’d already been headed for them. Indy had gone nuts, not five minutes prior, going on and on about some sort of invasion. It was hard to understand her; she kept switching languages on us.
We hadn’t known what we were looking for, just going on gut instinct. We happened to find it in time.
The Teen Titans were already there. And I could see it in Dick, the same feeling I had inside.
‘Mia’s down there. God, have to get to Mia. Have to see if she’s all right. Have to move, now!’
Although, for him, it was Tim.
We fanned out, practically dropping out of the sky.
The kids were doing well, and while bloody, didn’t seem in any immediate danger. Thank God.
Mia was almost out of arrows.
Of course, almost meant she was being extra selective about where she hit, which was doing more good than firing off at random. Kid’s got style.
Not long after we’d arrived, the Justice League showed up. This was obviously not your run of the mill android attack. Either that, or they were mostly still feeling guilty about the losses from the last one.
I lost track of everything after that. Kept an eye on Mia, stayed close to Ollie. Had Connor’s back.
It’s funny how your teammates sort of phase out, when your family’s so close, need you so much.
Funny in that ironic, damning way.
I’ve lost teammates before. Friends, loved ones. Donna’s death was hard. Not just because I loved her. Because she was one of us. The five of us, who’d started out as sidekicks, and struck out on our own together. And then she died, and then there were four.
And now there are three.
It’s hard to explain Bruce, because Bruce is hard to understand. But, after years of – well, I call them Friendship, he might think otherwise – partnership, you slowly grow accustomed to his moods. Bruce doesn’t show a wide range of emotion, but he does show emotion.
The solid stare, the set of his shoulders, the angle of his chin. The way he’s just standing there, froze, paralyzed…If there were a way to comfort him without being attacked, I would. But, right now…Right now, he just needs space. A solar system’s worth.
Regardless of all the crap he talks; simple fact is, Bruce loves his kids. In a deranged sort of detached, and emotionally vampiric sort of way, he really, really loves his kids.
As if losing Jason hadn’t caved enough of his already shrunken heart, the loss of Dick has got to be a blow to every last inch of him.
He hasn’t moved. Which is Bruce for, too painful. But, someone’s got to hold the kid.
It’s almost scary, how Tim’s hands are trembling. How his whole body is shaking. What’s worse, is how everyone’s staring. How we can’t help but stare. We should be doing something, anything. I don’t know about anyone else, but just looking at Tim is making it impossible to move.
He reaches down, and smoothes his fingers over Nightwing’s mask. Reaches up, and smoothes over his own.
There’s a twitch in Batman’s jaw – that’s all, a twitch! – as he peels off his mask slowly. Reaches back down, and removes Nightwing’s. It’s so quiet, as he switches them. Pressing his mask over Nightwing’s face so carefully. Putting on Nightwing’s with a determination that’s just…I never thought Tim could make me shiver like that.
There has been too much death. Far too much pain. He’s hiding it with every ounce of his will, and it is helping no one.
Robin will not relinquish Nightwing’s body. He moves to fight those who would only raise it up. I have no choice. I wish I had.
Tim crumples to the ground, and I don’t wait for Bruce to find the time to become the supporter he’s supposed to be. I gather him up, and hold him.
Unconscious, and tear stained, I hold him close.
The moving of Dick’s body stirs Bruce. His voice is gruff as he takes control. He takes the body. He takes Robin. Places both in a Batplane and leaves.
I don’t know if Bruce is still able to cry. I pray, for all their sakes, he is.
I don’t like funerals. You have to be still, and watch. Just watch, unmoving, as everyone is hurting around you.
They bury him as Nightwing. His identity was still a secret, but Batman apparently has plans for his civilian counterpart, Wally says. Wally hasn’t let me go since we got here.
I think he blames himself.
I don’t know what would have happened, if he’d have gone the other way, instead of for me. But, he’s holding tight, so I squeeze back, just so he won’t feel so guilty.
It’s not his fault. It’s mine.
There are a lot of people at the funeral. I don’t know half of them.
Like with Donna, they’re burying the hero first. They’ll bury him to the rest of the world later. Batman has a plan, but I don’t want to know. I don’t want to guess. It’s hard enough standing here.
We have to be respectful, and stay for the whole ceremony, Diana says. So, I have to watch them lay the casket down. The first toss of flower and handful of dirt is what finally breaks Tim. He bolts, runs all the way down the hill, as fast as he can.
He’s not running because he’s afraid. He’s running for the same reason I spent most of Donna’s funeral huddled in a corner in her bedroom. It hurts. It hurts so much he can’t breathe. He can’t see. He can’t…can’t deal with everything. And everyone saying how sorry they are, when they just…just…
Diana holds me close, and I cry for him.
Tim makes it as far as he can on his legs. And the first building he sees is used to catapult him into the sky. Bruce is keeping an eye on him, even as he’s staring down at the shining coffin. I think he’s only giving him space because he’s got every sensor at his disposal tracking him.
He’s not about to lose another one. Not again.
I didn’t know him well. We met a few times, but that tends to happen in the hero business. Just because I didn’t know him doesn’t mean I don’t show my respects. Roy looks horrible. I don’t know what’s going through his mind, but it’s a tight, tight hold, he has on Lian.
Lian…knew him. She’s cried herself to sleep. When Donna failed to come back, she finally realized what death is.
I don’t want to do this to everyone, but one day it will happen. It’s unavoidable, given the job, and well…At least I’ve come to terms with death.
We stay only as long as we have to. Bart and I are fast enough, that we catch up to Tim easily. He’s gone to what’s probably the tallest building in Gotham. Huddled on a rafter, sobbing into his arms.
I hold him. Bart holds him.
Cassie comes and she holds him. Until we’re all holding one another. Cassie and Tim know what it feels like to lose. What it feels like to lose the person between you and your mentor. An older sibling, a guide, a friend. Family.
We spend our time, each and every one, but it grows hard. Wally is anxious over where Bart has gone. Roy wants to make sure Tim’s all right. So we go.
We don’t step out of the shadows, simply watch.
Four children clinging to one another, in the loss of a loved one. Holding tight to safe guard against an unstable future.
Roy says something. “And then there were three.” And Wally is as quiet as I am.
No harm could come to them, with so many heroes in attendance, but Bruce goes for Tim anyway. He pries him from the comfort of his friends, and takes him home, where they can both brood in silence and cry in the dark. If Bruce is still able. He may be out of tears.
I look at Kon as they leave, and to my surprise, he comes over and hugs me. He’s never done it before, and I know how much a hug can mean. So I stay and hug him until he pulls away on his own. It takes a while.
Robin doesn’t come to the tower for a long time. It takes some time, but the kids adjust to not having him there. And just when you’re getting comfortable, is always when something happens. In this case, Robin’s return.
He’s not the same. Not that we expected him to be. But, he’s darker now, focussed in a way that…well…that’s purely Batman. I don’t know if Dick would have liked to see him going down this path, but no one but Batman’s had contact with Tim for all the while he was gone.
And spending too much time with Batman’s unhealthy.
Especially when, rumor has it, he’s gotten even worse than before.
It’s not an easy thing to say. But someone has to say it. So, I take it upon myself to tell Bruce he has to stop. He’s working himself to death. He’s suffocating Tim. He’s making the world too rough, too jaded for them both.
As usual, he doesn’t listen, so I offer to help instead.
Tim’s had his days. He’s shown us before, he has everything it takes to bring down the bad guy, no matter how big, even if he is only human. But, he’s become obsessed. We’ve all noticed.
It’s like…having a mini Batman in the tower.
Tim’s gone completely emotionless – even though Raven claims, he’s so emotional, he’s lost in it. It makes sense, I guess. Or it would, if we could just get Tim to crack, even just a bit.
I read about it in a book. He’s transferring reality into physicality. Funneling his pain into focus, by obsessing over the perpetrators. He’s out for revenge, pure and simple.
And really, with a mentor like Batman…you don’t think he’s not having help?
Tim is violent. Violent in a way, I never thought I’d see from him. A ruthless sort of violent. A relentless sort of non-stop - and I always thought I’d be the one to fall.
He’s my best friend and I can’t even talk to him anymore.
Every battle…It’s like he’s got a supreme case of Death Wish. Running headlong into an enemy, with dark intent. It’s not Tim. It’s not.
It has to stop.
Dick wouldn’t have wanted this. But, the kid’s not listening to anyone. He’s rude, and loud, and disrespectful. He fights with Batman all the time. It’s almost like having Dick back sometimes. And that’s why it has to stop. Before…Before Tim takes up Dick’s quest. Before we bury Robin too.
Bruce is frustrated. He’s smothering Robin, and at the same time, he’s not giving him what he needs. It’s not enough to tell him no, Bruce. You have to tell him why. No, because I’m afraid for you. No, because I care about you. No, not because, I’m in charge, and it’s my way or no way, but because I honestly care so much about you, I can’t bear to lose you as well.
Hurry it up Bruce. You’re losing him.
I’ll admit, it’s fun to watch Bruce lose to his boys. I like to see them stand up to him, and grow in their own right. Dick stepped out of his shadow, and it pissed Bruce off to no end. But, I’ll admit, deep down, I think he couldn’t have been prouder. He was just too emotionally stunted to say anything.
So, now that Dick is gone, he’s taking it all out on the kid. If it wasn’t bad enough, he had to follow Jason, now he has to follow Dick. Poor kid can only take too much.
Bruce has to stop.
I’ve never seen Bruce hit someone who wasn’t attacking him first, or at least someone whom had intent to. I suppose, one could argue that Tim was, but it is still far too shocking. And in League headquarters, none the less.
“This is exactly why Dick left you! Why the hell can’t I?!”
Bruce hadn’t answered, and instead, backhanded Tim right across the face.
I was perhaps only second to Clark, in standing. Bruce had gone too far.
“Stop it, Tim,” he growled. “He’s dead. Live with it.”
Robin shook, in silent rage, glared him down, and left.
It could have been handled better, we’re all in agreement – except Bruce, who refuses to comment. But, perhaps, it was exactly what the child needed.
The first time I see him in the suit, I have a sudden urge to grab him by the shoulders and shake him until sense finds its way back in. I don’t, thankfully.
He justifies it by saying, “It’s my job to inherit Dick’s legacy. First Robin. Now Nightwing.”
He doesn’t mention Batman at all.
Bruce will beat the crap out of him if he sees this.
It’s inevitable. All battles will eventually find some way to come to a relative close.
It’s personal, so we don’t hold back.
But, I’ve never seen Tim fight like that. I don’t think I like where he’s headed.
He’s always been stronger than this. More cautious, more knowledgeable. Sensible.
That was the old Tim.
The new Tim runs straight into the middle of every fight. He places himself in harms way, and somehow manages to come out all right each time. He’s made adjustments to the suit. He told me offhandedly once, in what should have been a conversation, but was me talking, and him ignoring.
Still, it had been some time spent together.
He’s fast. I don’t know what technological tricks he’s using, but they work. Tim’s a bright kid. I don’t doubt he’s capable of coming up with all of it himself either.
The gauntlets have some sort of nitrogen gas or liquid, or something, that’s freezing bits of metal before, or as he punches. It’s giving his strikes two times the intensity, but he ought to be careful it doesn’t backfire.
There’s electricity in his staff – an old trick, but still effective. And the same menagerie of Bat things in his utility belt that could be anything from small nuclear bombs, to tear gas.
It’s scary what Batman will give kids.
Dick always had nice toys too.
It’s a pretty strong incentive; I ought to know.
Kid’s good at it too. And for Dick’s sake, I’ll have his back. Everyone deserves their moment. Why should he be denied his?
It’s hard to believe it’s over.
Especially, since Tim is still beating into a long still android.
Arsenal is standing there. Just standing there, with his back to Tim, letting him do it.
He’s going to hurt himself. Someone should-
Watching Tim turn toward the voice…It’s like watching one of those movies where you thought the hero was dead, and then just as the heroine’s about to do something very, very stupid they pop up again. Yea…well…Not so far from the truth.
Nightwing’s between Indigo and Shift.
Shift has him supported by one arm thrown about his shoulders, and Indigo’s just standing on the other side, where he’s leaning heavily unto a crutch.
Naturally suspicious, I take a look. I know Clark’s doing it too. I know anyone capable is.
I also know Tim and Batman are more suspicious than anyone. Even if this is what Tim’s been crying for every night in his sleep, and into his pillow. So I check up on him…Sue me.
“You have to stop.”
It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. It’s just…it never stops being surprising. It’s a hazard on the heart, is what it is. At first I think it’s J’onn. And really, that’s a cruel trick to play on the kid, even if you’re just trying to help get a point across.
But J’onn’s to my right, doing his detector thing, same as everyone else capable.
Apparently, between them, they decide it’s Dick.
Roy is cursing, pointing at Indigo, and yelling all sorts of things.
“You did this! How could you! And you helped her! What’d you do? How’d you do it? How long!” and so on. But, he’s just pissed they didn’t tell him.
They should have told me!
Indy’s explanation’s some alien mumbo jumbo, but it’s pretty damn convincing. That’s the how. As for why? Dick was the “most probable candidate” to stop Tim’s “path of self-destruction” and what not. I just want to know if it’s really Dick in there. You never can tell with resurrections.
Tim either understands, or doesn’t give a damn, because he’s up and rushing Dick. Runs up and throws his arms around him, hugs tight. Dick winces – he’s probably still sore from whatever they’ve done – but hugs him back, curving slightly to lay his head over Tim’s supportively.
If it really is him…
Ha! Roy owes me twenty bucks!
Bruce isn’t as forgiving. He doesn’t move, watches carefully, unwilling to believe, and ready to take him down at any moment. Never mind the fact, Dick can hardly stand – and yes, I know it’s him. I’ve looked.
He won’t be happy until he does his own tests.
Dick looks to Bruce and gives a smile. Bruce may be hurting, but he should be grateful to have his son back. I would give near anything for a miracle such as this, to have my sister returned to me.
“Fine then,” says Dick, staring right at him. “Ask me anything.”
“Could be implanted.”
“Anything only I would know.”
Bruce asks a typical Bruce question. Something impossible for anyone to understand, let alone answer. Have to feel bad for his kids. But, Dick just gives a strange, and tad unnerving smile, and replies, “You hate fish.”
Don’t ask me, I have no fucking idea how the hell that relationship works.
Bruce would never hug him. Too open, and weak looking. But, he goes over, and Indigo and Shift move away. He takes the crutch in one hand, and turns his shoulder in, draping Dick’s arm about his shoulders. Tim moves under his other side, and we watch them move off.
It’s then that it’s obvious, to even those who don’t know Bruce well. Or at least, it should be.
Bruce, regardless of what he doesn’t say or do…regardless of how he appears to treat them…regardless of the way he handles everything else…He loves his boys. Loves them so much, the idea of losing them sends him to the cave in a fit of planning, in hopes of discovering every factor and variable…every possible scenario where they could be taken away, and coming up with a multitude of plans to ensure it doesn’t happen.
Bruce loves in his own way. And no one seems capable of understanding that.
When he returns, it is without the anger. Without most of the regret, the guilt has mostly fled. It is a return to himself, as much as it is a rebirth. He’s changed, but he is still very much the same. More now than during his grieving.
He can see again. Can breathe and hear and speak.
A great weight has been lifted and he is free to feel alive once more.
Love has been returned to him.
It’s quiet for a good long while. Batman and the birds are in the cave most of the time. After he’d decided for himself – never could trust anyone else, could he – that Dick is really Dick, he’d spent most of his time back in Gotham.
The bats playing house.
It was good. They were together, and Batman had moved them both back to wherever they live…And Tim was, for a while, pretty…well…giddy. Don’t tell him I said that.
After though, things got back to normal.
You know, sometimes, I do think it’s unfair. Tim got Dick back, and I’m still missing Donna. But, I wouldn’t wish his happiness away for the world.
Months pass. Slowly but surely, Dick gets well.
Things return to normal.
One day, while some of the League is in the cave – long story, but why we’re here is irrelevant – Bruce has a fight with Dick. Dick’s been patrolling for a while, and wants to go back to the Outsiders, and Bruce doesn’t believe him ready.
In reality, Bruce is just afraid to let him go again – not that he’d admit it. And Dick needs the reassurance, if on a smaller note to his actually needing the space.
Diana sighs, wondering how he could be arguing so fiercely with someone he’d just gotten back.
“Please, Diana, those two wouldn’t be happy if they had nothing to fight over,” says Ollie.
It’s an offhanded remark, but like his arrows, directly on target.
Bruce doesn’t know how else to show he cares. As Dick storms off in a huff – limping slightly still – Bruce joins us. I can’t help but smile.
It may be dysfunctional, and practically impossible to understand, but theirs is a strong family. Their bonds steadfast.
Tim returns from patrol and strips most of his costume at a jog, to catch up with Dick – who’s taking the stairs pretty carefully for someone adamant about leaving. He catches up – Alfred already picking up after him – and tosses both arms about Dick’s middle in an unmistakable hug. Dick hugs back with his strong arm, and uses Tim as leverage to take the steps faster.
He listens as Tim excitedly speaks of his encounters, and they disappear upstairs.
Bruce watches them go - covertly.
And I know for sure then. Dick is the glue that cements them together. Dick is the one who hugs Tim, and who’ll tell Bruce to his face when he’s being an arrogant jerk. Even if he never wins, Dick will always try.
And as long as he lives, the Batfamily will continue to fly.