Title: Mockingbirds & Butterflies - Chapter 2
Word Count: ~2880 words
Summary: The Friday after being visited by his estranged father, Tim’s eldest brother Dick delivers the two people who are going to be sharing his home for the unforeseeable future. However, Tim was not the only one kept in the dark until the last minute regarding this development.
“Hey Donna. Wake up. We’re almost there.”
The dark haired woman in the passenger seat of the sedan slowly opened her blue eyes. It took a minute for them to focus as she struggled to clear the fog of sleep from her mind.
“What time is it?” she murmured.
“Quarter to midnight,” Dick Grayson said as he slowed to a stop at a four-way intersection in what looked like a quiet residential neighborhood. Despite the long drive, he was wide awake, bright eyed and bushy tailed. It didn’t surprise Donna. Her best friend was a Bat, after all. This hour of night might as well have been his lunch hour.
Donna hid her yawn behind the back of her hand, then rubbed the sand from her eyes. “Where are we?” She glanced over her shoulder into the back seat where a young girl slept peacefully. “Last I remember, we were driving across the New Jersey border. Are we in Gotham City now?”
The man in the driver’s seat shook his head. “Nope. We’re in the Big Apple.”
She turned to look at him in confusion. “New York City? I don’t understand. I thought you said that Bruce was going to take care of us. Send us somewhere safe?”
An odd look crossed Dick’s face. “You both ARE going somewhere safe,” he insisted. “There’s a civilian who lives here that our family trusts. He can protect you both.”
“He?” Donna couldn’t help the suspicion creeping up in her voice. “And a civilian?”
“I know how you feel towards most men nowadays, Donna,” Dick said. “And I know up to this point you two have been staying with women from the Titans and the Justice League. However, I swear you both can trust him. He’s a good stable person and lives a pretty nice low key life out here. His home is big enough for all of you to be comfortable, and if things happen to take a turn for the worse again, he’s got the experience and know-how to either face it head on, or slip away where no one can find you.”
“Sounds like you know him personally,” Donna said with a raised eyebrow.
“Is he a good friend?”
“One of the best,” Dick reassured her with a small smile, though mentally he tacked on “Although we’ll see how that holds up after tonight.”
Donna peered closely at Dick’s face. “What’s his name?” she asked with deliberate slowness.
“Ah… We’ll do introductions when we get there. We’re just a couple blocks down the road.”
Donna frowned. “Is he someone I already know?”
Dick felt a small bead of cold sweat trickle down his back as he glanced at her out of the corner of his eyes. “Well…”
“What are you hiding, Dick?” she demanded with a penetrating, steely eyed glare.
“Nothing,” he lied.
She crossed her arms across her chest. “Then why won’t you tell me who this man is?”
Dick inclined his head towards a house to his left, pointedly avoiding Donna’s gaze. “Oh look. We’re here.”
Tim had gotten the call from Dick earlier in the day, right before first period. His brother just wanted to give him an ETA. Dick thought he was doing the right thing in letting Tim know how long it would be till he arrived in New York with Donna. Normally, it would’ve been obviously the right, polite thing to do.
However, for Tim, Dick might as well have set a ticking time bomb.
The hours seemed to slow to a painful crawl. His focus was not what it usually was, and nearly all his students noticed. Though most of them certainly didn’t mind the fact that Mr. Drake forgot all about the end-of-week exam they were supposed to have had, the majority of those who liked him as a teacher were vocal about their worry out in the hallway in hushed whispers once they exited his class. Even Damian, still undercover, was tempted into staying behind during Tim’s conference period to make sure he was going to be alright.
The temptation was immediately vaporized when Tim lashed out at him verbally at the first inference of implied concern. The two of them flung bitter, harsh words at one another like stones, and after fifteen straight minutes of arguing, the teenager was positively seething. In the end, Damian stormed furiously out of the classroom, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the windows. Only later would Damian realize that Tim had purposefully (and effectively) baited him into abandoning his mission there at the school. That he’d taken the bait so easily left a sour taste in the young man’s mouth for the rest of the day.
By the time he realized his error and tried to go back and confront his elder brother about it during his lunch break, it was already too late. A substitute had been summoned for the rest of Mr. Drake’s classes, and he’d left campus for the rest of the day for “personal reasons”.
There was a man sitting in the dark on the steps of the brownstone that Dick and Donna were driving up to. At first, Donna couldn’t tell at all who the man was. He was sitting slightly hunched over with his elbows on his knees, head bowed and a small glass half filled with some dark amber liquid in one hand. He held the glass by the lip with just his fingertips and swirled the liquid slowly and smoothly, with all the practiced ease of an accomplished drinker.
When the car was finally parked, Dick sat there for a moment, looking at the man for a long time in silence. “Wait here a moment,” he finally told Donna as he unbuckled his seat belt and exited the vehicle.
Donna watched curiously as her best friend went up to the stranger. She couldn’t hear exactly what Dick was saying to him, but she could read the concern in his face. The man didn’t say anything to Dick in response, but he did, reluctantly, turn his face to the car, and Donna gasped when she recognized who she was looking at.
“Tim?” she whispered mostly to herself, eyes wide with shock as her fingers flew to her lips.
At her visible reaction, Tim sighed as he cast his eyes downward again, a humorless half-smile on his face. He murmured something to Dick that, if she read his lips correctly, looked a lot like “How’d I let you people talk me into this?” Then he rose unsteadily to his feet and moved into the house, draining the last bit of liquid from his glass as he traveled, leaving his brother calling his name after him with a weary expression, though he made no physical move to stop Tim’s retreat.
When the younger man vanished from view, Donna immediately got out of the car and made sure to close the door as quietly as possible, so she wouldn’t wake her daughter. Then, with a grim expression, she stormed up to Dick and punched him in the upper arm just hard enough to hurt without leaving a bruise.
To his credit, Dick managed to stifle whatever yelp of pain wanted to escape his lips, though Donna could hear the sound of his molars grinding together as he kept his mouth tightly closed. It was late in the evening and they definitely didn’t want the neighborhood watch bringing NYPD’s finest to Tim’s doorstep. “What the hell?!” he hissed in a low tone as he massaged his sore bicep.
“Tim?!” Donna glared daggers at him.
Dick ran his palm over his face. “Please don’t shoot the messenger,” he pleaded. “This wasn’t my idea.”
“Oh, so this was Bruce’s doing?”
When Dick nodded, Donna’s eyes narrowed. Before the acrobatic vigilante even realized what was going on, the woman moved to his other side and gave him a harder punch on the previously untouched arm, one that would certainly leave a bruise.
“That’s for Bruce,” she muttered angrily.
“Then what was the first one for?!”
“For not telling me about this until we got here! Great Hera, Dick! This is Tim’s home!”
Dick gave Donna a crestfallen look. “I know. Believe me, Bruce and I nearly came to blows over this. Alfred and I both tried our damnedest to convince him to find another way.”
“But in the end, logically, there really is no better place for the two of you.” Dick sighed as he raked his hair with his fingers. “Taking all the emotional elements out of the situation, and the specific history concerning you two and your daughter, Tim really is the ideal person to watch over you both until Ares has been dealt with. He’s a civilian who’s been living a low profile life for years now. He’s not even on the radar when it comes to Wayne gossip on the society blogs. However, he still has all the training from his years as Robin, his home is extremely secure, and if anything does happen, he can handle it or call on one of us for help.”
“Are you sure about that? Handling it, I mean?”
“He’s not being thrown into this without any support. Damian’s undercover and enrolled at his school, in one of his classes he teaches, and Alfred will be coming down next week and staying here as well to help.”
Donna shook her head. “You know what I mean, Dick.”
Dick moved back to the car as he spoke, opening the trunk to extract suitcases out of it. “I do, and I meant what I said. Damian’s tasked with keeping an eye on Tim when he’s at work, and Alfred is going to be here for emotional support at home.” Despite his statement meant to reassure Donna, there was a sense of concerned uncertainty lining Dick’s expression and tone of voice.
Following Dick’s lead, Donna went to the rear passenger door, quietly opened it up, and began gently undoing her daughter’s seat belt. When the child stirred, she couldn’t help but smile as she smoothed her dark hair reassuringly. “Go back to sleep, love,” she cooed even as she gathered the seven-year old girl into her arms. “It’s way your bedtime.”
With a suitcase in each hand, Dick watched as the doting mother cradled her child close to her. While a seven-year old would’ve been an armful for a normal woman Donna’s size to handle, for the Amazon princess and sister of Wonder Woman, the girl might as well have weighed as light as a feather. Seeing his best friend so happy warmed his heart, but made him feel a little sad too.
“C’mon. I’ll show you in,” he said as he motioned to the stairs. Once the three of them were inside, Dick noticed that Tim was nowhere to be seen. However, he heard a familiar sound coming from the dining room that made him frown. “This is the second floor,” he told Donna, who was looking around the foyer curiously, her sleeping daughter resting in her arms. “The guest rooms are on the third floor. Yours are on the right side of the hallway. Tim’s is on the fourth floor.” He set the suitcases down on the floor by the stairs.
“You’re not going to show us the way?”
Dick shook his head. “I would, but I really do need to check on Tim.” He sighed. “I’m pretty sure that wasn’t soda he was drinking just now.”
A knowing look crossed Donna’s face, and she nodded before ascending the stairs.
The familiar sound that Dick had heard from the foyer was that of liquid being poured from a bottle into a glass. When he got to the dining room, he paused in the entryway and sighed. He’d been hoping he’d heard wrong.
No such luck.
“Please tell me that wasn’t a brand new bottle when you started.”
Tim stopped pouring and raised his eyes to Dick. Then he closed his eyes and shrugged. “Sure. Let’s go with that,” he said with an sardonic uplift to one corner of his lips. He set the tall bottle down. From his vantage point, Dick could see that a good third of the bottle had been emptied.
“Rum?” Dick took a seat opposite Tim at the table, casually taking the bottle and sliding it out of his brother’s reach. “You hate rum.”
Lifting his glass, Tim studied the dark liquid with what appeared to be an appreciative eye. “To-mor-row,” he said very slowly, making sure to accentuate each syllable of the word. “I hate rum on tomorrows. Never todays. Definitely not tonight,” he clarified with the barest pause in his words as his alcohol-addled mind was slow to find the right words. Then he brought the glass to his lips.
“Tim, was this really necessary?”
Dick’s younger brother gave him a hard, deadpan stare over the top of the glass
“OK,” Dick murmured, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Stupid question. Exactly how many days warning did Bruce give you?”
Tim rolled his eyes skyward as he searched for the answer. “I dunno… What’s th’day… Today? Thursday? Friday?”
“Ah.” Tim nodded. He set his half-empty glass down on the table and used two fingertips to slide it this way and that on the polished mahogany surface. He kept his gaze locked on the rum as it sloshed around in its small confines. “Wednesday,” he finally said after thinking things over for far longer than normal. “Damian showed up… on Wednesday. Such a Monday thing… Should’ve been Monday… But t’was Wednesday… Bad Wednesday… Bad, bad Wednesday…”
As Tim rambled in semi-aimless circles in the way he always did when he’d had way too much to drink, Dick cursed Bruce. “I can’t believe he only gave you three days. Less than that really. Son of a bitch!”
“It was probably for the best,” Tim mumbled, stumbling briefly over the ‘b’s in the word ‘probably’. “If I had more warning… I’d probably be in London right now.” With one hand still on his glass, he pillowed his head on on his arms on the table. “Or Hong Kong… I don’t wanna be here, Dick.”
Dick’s heart ached. This was a scene he thought they’d left behind years ago. This… This was why he and Alfred protested against Bruce’s plan so strongly. He hated watching his younger brother unravel right before his eyes. There was only so much he could do to help when Tim was like this. Dick reached over to place a comforting hand on Tim’s arm. “Do you need me to stay the night?” he asked.
Tim wanted to say no. Dick could tell that the negative word was right there on the tip of his tongue, ready to come out. However, one of the only benefits of Tim being completely smashed was the fact that he was a very honest drunk who had a hard, nearly impossible, time lying when he was this deep into his cups. “It’s not… too much trouble?” he finally asked, grimacing at the words even as they left his mouth.
His older brother smiled reassuringly. “Not at all. Not for you.” Dick got to his feet and moved around the table so that he could help Tim to his. “C’mon, let’s get you bed.” Subtly, he slipped the remaining glass of rum out of his brother’s hand and set it out of reach, making a mental note to dump the rest of the hard liquor when he was sure Tim was fast asleep.
Rum never did Tim any favors.
As Dick led Tim out of the dining room and towards the stairs, they both ran into Donna, who was descending down the stairs herself. Tim, leaning heavily against his brother, gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry, Donna,” he said slowly. “Sorry I’m all sorts of useless right now.”
Donna shook her head with an understanding expression. “It’s alright, Tim. There’s nothing you need to apologize for.” She reached out to stroke his face to reassure him.
Dick’s words reached her too late. As her hand came within inches of touching Tim’s cheek, the younger man’s blue eyes went wide with alarm. “Don’t touch me!” Abruptly, he jerked himself both away from Donna and his brother, stumbling backwards down several steps. If Dick hadn’t grabbed him hard by the arm just then, he would’ve tumbled down the entire length of stairs.
“Goddess, are you alright?!” Donna said with alarm, her hands drawn sharply back and held close to her chest. “Tim, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“Just give us some space,” Dick said patiently as he tried to wave her towards the lower end of the stairs, away from his brother who looked to be on the verge of hyperventilating. He glanced at her briefly, his face weary. “I’ll explain later. Just, wait for me downstairs.”
Silently, Donna nodded and slowly descended the rest of the stairs, even as she watched Dick help Tim back up to his feet. When the two of them disappeared around the bend in the stairwell that led to the fourth floor, she sighed and ran her fingers through her hair in frustration.
What the hell had Bruce gotten them all into?
With Chapter 2 enters the characters of Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, and the seven-year old girl who shall become a huge part of the continuing story. We also learn with this chapter that Tim has more issues than just the secret night job he’s hiding from his family. He may give off the illusion of a stable, put together professor when he’s teaching at school, and a similar image when he’s dictating orders to the Six, but that’s all they are.
In this story, Tim is around twenty-five years old. This places Dick and Donna both in their early thirties, probably around thirty-two and thirty-three. In my head canon, Dick has always been around seven or eight years older than Tim, and Dick and Donna are around the same age.
In the next chapter, we shall finally get a true introduction to the little girl at center of all the plot lines in this story.