Author's Notes:As I said earlier, this little idea of mine struck while washing my dog and when I first thought about it, it was a hilarious idea. Then Miguel snook out and suddenly my happy little mix-up turned sour. I don't know how to feel about this story, I just hope I can turn it round before the Teen Titans spoil my fun.
When he opens his eyes he is completely covered in mud and infinitely grateful Damian is not there to laugh at him. Not that he would, if the other him told the truth. This new Damian doesn't sound like someone who laughs a lot. Not that the new Bruce and Jason and even Dick sound too happy either.
From what he could gather from the interdimensional blob thingy that had gathered him and his counterpart together, the other Tim's world was in danger of losing its balance and he needed to fix it or die trying. There were only three rules he had to follow by heart.
He can't tell anyone the truth.
He can't die or he will take the other one with him.
He can't try to contact his own dimension until he has managed to restore balance.
He knows he will miss his family and his friends, but it's the least he can do. The other Tim looks so sad and alone. He knows a few weeks in his own dimension will heal him, if only a little. Alfred's cooking can do that alone. He's sure it will be good for him. Plus, it will freak Damian out when he tries to taunt Tim and Tim doesn't respond with his usual candor. He wishes he can take pictures of it.
He clutches the black and red t-shirt to his chest and closes his eyes tight.
"Let's find you first, you stupid, stupid clone boy," he mumbles, getting up and walking towards the forest. He has much to plan.
He enters the small apartment the Teen Titans are hiding at and sighs in relief to find them all asleep. He walks around the room checking new faces and trying to match old ones to this weirdly adult incarnations of his friends. Cassie looks so broken, toughened by years of loneliness.
He imagines she never had Cissy to confide in, or Kon and Bart to fall into when she wanted to do something completely silly. He feels sorry for her.
Bart is sleeping in the couch and even his face looks harder, tenser. He's dressed in one of Tim's old pajama pants and a yellow sweater. With a start he realizes it's the same sweater his father once wore proudly despite his mother's protests, the same one he always carries with him when he travels around.
He doesn't think the other Tim would have parted with it so easily, specially not to a complete stranger.
He slowly cards his fingers over Bart's brown hair, missing his usual haircut and the way it used to frame his childish smile.
"Red…?" Bart asks sleepily, opening one eye. "What happened to your costume?"
"Go back to sleep, kid," he whispers, letting a small smile tug his lips. Bart nods and curls even more around the sweater. He must be cold then. Unconsciously he reaches for a blanket and drapes it around him.
Always the older brother to Bart, it seems.
He sits down by the terrace and starts a list. He knows Cissy is out of danger in this odd world. But he is not sure about Greta, Gar, Raven and even Jaime. Hell, even Cyborg could be threatened.
He needs to correct the mistakes of this world before it pummels into chaos.
With a satisfied huff and a smile, Tim finishes his small control room. Kiran was the first to wonder why they should hide in the heart of Gotham city. Tim explained that with Batman's constant watch and the fact that Robin is also a kid like them, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. will have a harder time getting close to them. Superboy included.
"Plus there is enough room here for you to fly around and for Bart to run when he feels too antsy."
She had nodded, a wide smile on her face.
Miguel, on the other hand, seemed to fanboy over everything he did with disturbing enthusiasm, which made him a little bit uncomfortable. He is not used to the praises, and it shows, which might be the reason the Mexican boy does it so much.
"That looks totally cool," Miguel grinned, draping an arm around his shoulders. "Art-deco?"
Tim blinks, turning to him.
"It's just a bunch of Ipads on a wall, Miguel," he explains, his cheeks flushing.
"Now I need Cassy's help to start labeling them," he offers, in an effort to shrug the arm off as he hands the stickers to Miguel. The other boy nods.
"From right to left, cierto?" he says. "Secret goes on the Yellow one, right? And Oracle?"
"The green one," Tim replies as he types into the red pad he has left at the center. The control one.
Cassy rolls her eyes and grabs half the stickers from Miguel's hand, flying to tag the highest Ipads.
"I don't understand why we need to keep tabs on Superman and Batman themselves," she growls. "They didn't help us when they could, they are not going to help us now."
"That Red Hood dude looks scary," Bart comments as he points to one screen. Tim tries to contain his laughter.
"That he does."
Miguel watches as Tim comes 'home' with a large bundle under his arm and a smaller paper bag on his hand. He helps him climb to the room to set the large telescope on the ledge and stares in awe as Red Robin does his best to camouflage it to the point no one would be able to know it was there in the first place. Hell, if he hadn't see it himself he would have dismissed it as an optical illusion.
Then it's cable work and connections to make the thing work from the base and all the while, Tim is muttering that having Babs around would have made it so much easier, but he can't take her away from what she loves best, and therefore he can't force Babs into O's chair once more.
"I'll have to make do with this," he hears Tim whisper to himself. "I kicked the Demon's Head's ass once… well, sort of… I can do this…"
He feels a little sorry that Tim is so used to cheering himself up and wonders where are the boy's parents. He's not a Meta like them, he could easily blend into a crowd and disappear forever.
Yet he is there, with them, guiding them, protecting them.
"Ooooh!" Bart squeals, running around Tim and poking at his work. "A telescope! That's so cool! Can I play with it, pleeeeeaaaaase?"
Without looking at Bart, Tim pulls a small replica of the telescope upstairs from the paper bag and hands it to him.
"Go check out the moon on the terrace, won't you bart?"
"I'm on it!" Bart laughs and runs. Miguel watches him leave, trying not to stare at Tim's mournful smile.
He tells Kiran and Cassy that night that their comrade is broken, that Tim is someone that tries to love them all but doesn't know how to be loved himself. Cassy frowns but there is understanding in her eyes. Kiran's own eyes pool with tears that evaporate as soon as they touch her skin. Miguel wraps his arms around her.
Red Robin is not a meta, yet he is trying to save them all.
He guesses it's their duty to save him as well.
Tim watches from the roof as Dick Grayson is dragged away in a stretcher by the paramedics. An accident, they call it, as if a run-in with Killer Croc can be considered accidental. Stupid Dick, still trying to do his best even when out of the suit.
He wants to reach for him, to hold his hand and bury his head on the other man's chest until he is sure nothing is going to happen to him, but he can't.
Bruce Wayne is climbing into the ambulance, his son right behind him.
He wants to reach to them, he wants to fall asleep while leaning onto Bruce's side and tell him all of his worries. He wants to go into the kitchen and steal Damian's bacon just because he knows it upsets him. He wants to call Dick just to hear one of his ridiculous jokes. Hell, he even feels like calling Jason and make sure his crazy sort-of-brother is eating well, or to contact Cass and tell her something so incredibly impossible to hear her breathy laughter.
But he knows he can't.
These are not his Bruce, his Dick, his Jason or Damian or Cass. Even Stephanie and Babs are different.
He hasn't felt more alone since the time he had to go around half to globe on his own just to prove Bruce wasn't dead.
And even then, he had Kon watching out for him.
He bites his lips.
Kon who should be silly and fun and still obsessed with boobs and sweet and brave and…
And… just himself.
Kon should be with them, fighting the big fight and joking and…
… not behind him, with his arms crossed and that infuriatingly familiar superior smirk in his face.
"Changed your costume?" he asks. "What happened to the wings? Too Swan Queen for you? Was there a sale at the black leather store?"
Tim clenches his fists.
"Shut up," he hisses. Of course Kon had to show up right then and there. Kon had this stupid ingrained radar in him that warned him everytime Tim was feeling lonely and depressed. It used to be a relief to him, to sink into those strong arms and let the clone's warmth melt his troubles away.
"What, too scared to face off against me without your precious friends?" Superboy taunts, taking a step towards him. Tim tenses, his hands instantly reaching for his belt.
"Don't get any closer," Tim warns, trying to ignore the way his fingers tremble with the hatch. "I'm warning you. I don't want to hurt you."
"You? Hurt me? Should I give you a reminder of what happened last time?"
Tim ignores the tear that slides past cowl and down his cheek.
"I'm serious," he says. "I can kill you if I want to."
"Do you want to?" Kon growls, not amused, his intense blue eyes are tracing the way his tear rolls down his skin.
Superboy huffs, looking away.
"Look, I just need the Metas, you are obviously not one, so I can let you go," he offers, eyes set on the top of the building next to them. Blüdhaven has not much to offer in means of distraction. "Just walk away now."
"You know I can't," Tim says, shaking hands finally managing to take hold of the clasp in his best. "Please, go away."
"You know I can't," Kon mocks back, his eyes slowly turning bright red.
"So be it," Tim says and opens the compartment in his belt. The one Bruce forced on him after the Luthor fiasco. He had joked with Kon about it, and both tried to ignore the significance of such gift. Kon had felt relieved, Tim had felt frightened. They laughed nonetheless.
In seconds, Superboy is on the ground, his eyes wide and his skin losing color.
The ring slips smoothly on Tim's fingers, just as he had thought, Bruce crafted it for his hand only.
"Wha-" Superboy gasps, trying to breath. Tim leans down over him, eyes full of sadness.
"I'm sorry, Kon, I'm so sorry," he whispers, placing a kiss on his forehead.
Superboy's eyes widen, not recognizing the name, he wants to cry out, he wants to ask what Red Robin means, but the other teen is disappearing among the shadows and he is lost to him once more.
Miguel watches as Tim rummages inside closets and pulls clothes on top of clothes. Cassy says she found him in the middle of a panic attack in an abandoned alley in Blüdhaven and the teen has yet to speak a word to them. Despite Kiran's whimpering that he had worried them all to death, despite Bart's whining and Cassy's own reproach.
Miguel hadn't said a word, and just observed as Tim hid more and more behind his cowl, behind his sadness.
"Get dressed in this, Miguel," Tim ordered softly, pulling an outfit for him. A comfortable one, of course, and stylish to match. "But shave the beard."
"Hey!" Miguel protests jokingly but stops when Tim sits before a mirror and starts lining make up and wigs in front of it. "Are you okay, Tim?"
The other teen shakes his head, taking a sponge and mixing bases and whites and colors.
"Want to talk about it?" he asks again, sitting beside Tim but not close enough to make him uncomfortable. He has learnt already that Tim wasn't hugged enough as a child, and it breaks his heart to think about it.
Another shake of Tim's head as he compares contact lenses and wigs.
"Is this about… you know… the black and red Pad on the basement?" Miguel tries once more. "The one you won't touch?"
Tim's hands still.
"I saw him in Blüdhaven," Tim whispers finally. "We fought."
"You don't seem injured," the other teen said. "If something happened you know we could…"
"He didn't get to touch me," Tim interrupts, his hands clenching. "I didn't let him."
"Wha-, amigo you are going to be more specific than that," Miguel says. "That boy is a mountain, there is no way you…"
"There is," Tim whispers, and Miguel finally notices the tears rolling down Tim's pale face. "I had a way to hurt him, a way to kill him… I used it."
"No," Tim whimpers. "I couldn't kill him, and every time I think about what could have happened.. I just can't."
"You are not a killer, then," Miguel sooths, instantly wrapping his arms around Tim and letting the other teen rest his head on his chest.
"I promised him that I would warn him three times before ever using that thing," Tim finally sobbed, his hands tight on Miguel's pants. "That I would say please and he would know I was going to use it, so he could protect himself. We promised we would never be facing eachother again."
Miguel listened in silence, running his fingers over Tim's black hair and trying to sooth this broken china doll that had taken one step to far and had broken once more. He didn't know who 'he' was and he wasn't sure he wanted to know, really. But whoever 'he' was, he had left Tim alone, he had broken Tim's heart and left him now that he needed him the most.
Miguel silently hated him.
They spent the night hiding from the others as Tim cried for his 'Kon'. Begged his 'Kon' to come back to him, to stop the insanity and to forgive him.
Bart found them asleep on the floor, Tim still in Miguel's arms.
He silently closed the door on them and lets them rest.