Takes place after the comic "Identity Crisis." Possible spoilers.
"Beep! Tim, it's Dick again. Hey, I just want to let you know that you don't have to do it alone buddy. We should go out for dinner and just talk. Or you can come over to my place. Whatever you need. Call me back."
"Beep! Hey, Tim, you didn't call me back. I know what you're going through... I mean, it's different for everyone, but I have an idea. Please pick up the phone."
"Beep! I've left several messages. Are you checking your answering machine? We're worried about you- all of us are. Please, talk to someone. If not me, then Barbara, or Bruce, or someone. You don't have to go through this alone. Also, I don't like the idea of you being in that house all by yourself. You should come back to the Manor. We'll give you space, if that's what you need. But space and alone doesn't mean the same thing. Think about it."
Dick was tired of talking to the answering machine, so he stood in front of the Drake house with a lockpick in his hands. Nothing said love to a Bat like breaking and entering their house. As his hands mechanically did their work, Dick thought about what he would say to Tim. He had gone over the conversation dozens of times. He had thought back to what people had told him after his parents had died, what worked and what didn't. Every time, the conversation went differently. He told himself that the most important thing was to show his little brother that he was loved and that he was not alone. Never alone.
The lock made a soft click as the tumblers moved aside. Dick replaced the lockpick in his pocket and stepped into the house. "Tim?" he called. It wasn't smart to try to sneak up on a superhero. If Tim didn't realize the intruder was friendly, they could both end up with some injuries before the teen figured it out. Not the best way to start a grief counseling session. And considering what had happened in this house just a few short weeks earlier regarding an intruder, Dick wouldn't be surprised if Tim instinctively went into attack mode.
There was no answer. Dick walked through the house, calling periodically. Maybe Tim went out? That would be a healthy sign. Dick wasn't sure if Tim had left the house since the funeral. The man went through a mental list of Tim's friends. He had contacted most of them to see if Tim had reached out. None of them had heard from the teen. Dick looked in the living room and almost continued on, but then a lump on the couch caught his attention. He turned on the light and moved forward. The lump turned out to be Tim, almost completely buried under a blanket. The boy's eyes were open, but staring off into space.
"Hey, kiddo," he said quietly. Tim didn't respond. "Can I sit with you?" No response, but it wasn't a refusal, so Dick sat on the coffee table next to the couch. "I called."
"I heard." Tim's voice was rough. Dick wondered how much the boy had been crying. He thought back to his own experience. Probably a lot, he concluded.
"We're worried about you. I'm worried about you. How are you doing?"
"I'm alive," Tim said in his same flat tone.
"That's good," Dick said. "Have you eaten today?"
"What day is it?"
"I don't remember. Maybe."
"You need to eat, Timmy."
"Why? To keep up my strength?" Tim responded.
"Yeah. So you can get out. See the sunshine."
Tim turned his head into the pillow. "Who cares about the sunshine?"
"I know this is hard for you. I know you're hurting. I can't tell you it goes away- ten years down the road, grief will sneak up and punch you in the gut- but it does get easier to handle. You become stronger."
"I don't feel stronger." Tim's voice was muffled.
"It's only been two weeks. I was a wreck for more than a month afterwards." Dick regretted his words as soon as he said them. He was supposed to making Tim feel better, not remind him of the hard road ahead. "I wasn't sure how to reach out though. Bruce and Alfred were nice enough, but they were strangers. You have family, Tim. We love you. We've faced similar pain to yours. Don't shut yourself up in this house alone."
"I'm a curse. Everyone around me dies."
"Don't say that."
"It's true, isn't it?"
"We all have low points. You've gone through a lot of trauma in the last year. If I could have spared you from any of it, trust me, I would have."
"But you can't. Bad stuff keeps on happening. You can't stop it. I can't stop it."
"That's not a healthy attitude. What about Robin? You've done a lot of good. Prevented a lot of bad stuff from happening to good people."
"I don't know if I want to be Robin anymore."
Dick paused. This was going to be a tricky conversation. "Because of your dad?" he asked gently.
"Yeah. I was so busy protecting everyone else, that I couldn't protect the one who mattered most... I should have been there."
"After my parents died, all I could think about was what I should have done differently. If I had only done this or that, they would still be alive. But thinking about 'what ifs' doesn't fix anything, Timmy. You can't change the past. And you did what you could with the knowledge you had. It's not your fault that your dad died."
Tim sat up slowly, the blanket still wrapped around his shoulders. "Then why does it feel like it is?" His voice cracked on the last few words. Dick moved next to Tim on the couch and held him as the boy sobbed in his arms. "Why does it feel like it's my fault?"
Dick rubbed Tim's back. "I don't know. One of the dumb things our mind does. But I can tell you honestly, you are not to blame."
"I wish Boomerang were still alive so I could-" Tim cut himself off. Then he worried what Dick would think of his slip. But Dick nodded in understanding.
"I wanted Zucco dead. Not in prison, dead. And I wanted to be the one to end his life, too. Trust me, I know how you feel."
"But you didn't. You didn't kill him."
"I had someone to pull me back before I crossed that line. And I had someone to help me deal with my grief. Let me be here for you."
Tim nodded and buried his face in Dick's shirt.
"Can we talk about you not wanting to be Robin anymore?"
"You're going to tell me it's a bad idea to quit."
"No, I'm not. I'm not Bruce. I'm not going to try to make decisions about your life for you. In fact, you could decide to stay Robin and it could be the wrong choice. But quitting could also be the wrong choice."
"That doesn't make sense. I'm not supposed to stay Robin, but I'm not supposed to quit?"
"It's not the choice you make, but the reasoning behind that choice. If you stay Robin because you feel you have to- you owe Bruce, or me, or Gotham- that's not good. You don't owe anyone anything. But if you quit because you think that's the reason for your dad's death... that's the wrong reason, too. You should stay because it makes you feel like you're helping people, or quit because you've done your job and it's time to pass the mantle on to someone else. It's not the decision that's right or wrong, but the reason." Tim was silent. "This is the part where you say what I'm talking about makes sense, and ask when did I get so smart."
Tim managed a weak grin, but Dick could tell it was for his benefit. That was Tim- making sure other people were okay while hiding his own pain. "You've always been smart. I'm just thinking about what you said."
"And remember, you don't have to make a decision tonight. Give yourself time. You don't just "get over" grief. You work through it, fight through it."
"Yeah." They sat in silence for a while, Dick's arm still around Tim.
"It's a tricky balance, giving yourself enough time by yourself while still making sure not to spend too much time alone. There's no magic formula. There's no official road map, but you have people who have been through this before. We'll help you any way we can."
"And thanks for, well, breaking into my house."
Dick chuckled. "What's a little B&E between brothers?"
Tim smiled again, and this time it almost looked real. "Stay with me a while?"
"Sure. As long as you need." The two young men sat there on the couch, thinking of the family they'd lost, and the family they still had. And Tim knew he wasn't alone.
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