This story is rated T. There are some heavy topics in this story. It is called Darkest Hour because Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian each get to a point where they consider doing something serious that they normally wouldn't do. Each chapter can be read as a stand alone. I will list the triggers here and again at the beginning of each "chapter." Even though I call each section a chapter, I am posting this in one segment.

Chapter 1- drug use (attempt)

Chapter 2- alcoholism, mentions of past child abuse and spousal abuse

Chapter 3- suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt

Chapter 4- talk of killing (in the past), temptation to kill again


Darkest Hour

Author's note- Takes place while Bruce is "dead" and Dick is Batman. Trigger warning for mentions of drug use.

Chapter 1

Dick

Dick stormed into the Cave, pulling the cowl down immediately. He was glad that Damian was off duty tonight, because Dick wasn't being a good role model at the moment. The hero was upset at how poorly patrol had gone. Some nights- most nights- he felt that he was stretched too thin. It didn't matter how hard he worked, there were always five new tasks for each one he completed. And tonight, his focus was off. He had been so busy thinking about everything else that needed to be done, he had let the bad guys get the upper hand in a fight. It was sloppy and embarrassing. Bruce would have had his head for it- that is, if Bruce were still around. The pain gripped Dick's heart before he could force it away. He didn't have time to break down and mourn the man who had been his father for over a decade. If he stopped to grieve, Dick didn't know if he would ever be able to go on again. Between being Batman and taking care of things at Wayne Enterprises, it was just too much.

Dick sat heavily in the large chair in front of the computer. He felt like he was drowning. Nothing was enough. He wasn't enough. He couldn't be the man or the hero that Bruce wanted him to be. He was a disgrace to the suit.

He had encountered these feelings of inadequacy many times since donning the Batsuit, but something was different about tonight. Maybe it was because there was no Damian to be strong for. Maybe because he knew that Alfred was out running errands. Dick was alone in the Cave. There was no one to force away the dark thoughts that whispered loudly to him.

Dick went to the safe and turned the combination. He looked at the vial inside. He didn't know why he kept it. Dick was never planning on using it. But maybe it would be enough to help him get past this slump. He needed to be something more, and that vial could do it for him.

Taking the vial in one hand, Dick went to the medical equipment and took a clean syringe. It was hard not to think of the drug-free presentations at school, of Bruce's stern warning to stay away, of Roy Harper... but this was different. He wasn't using to get high. He needed it to do his job. To protect Gotham, the way he always had. The way Batman should. He withdrew some of the steroid into the syringe and just stared at it for awhile. Was he really sure he wanted to do this? What would Damian say if he found out? What about Alfred? Dick closed his eyes and reassured himself that this was for the best. He put a tourniquet around his arm and found a good vein. This was it.

The tip of the needle barely touched his skin when he heard an unexpected voice. "Dick! What the hell are you doing?"

Dick quickly moved the syringe behind his back so Tim couldn't see it, but he didn't think to remove the tourniquet until the teen was right beside him. He pulled the tourniquet off but it was too late. "Nothing, Tim. Don't worry about it." A look at Tim's expression told Dick that his brother wasn't fooled.

"Don't worry about it?" Tim repeated. "It looks like you're doing drugs." When Dick didn't respond, Tim said icily, "I don't know if you slept through D.A.R.E., but I believe the motto was 'Just Say No'."

"It's not like that, Tim. I need it." Dick realized how that sounded a second before Tim grabbed his wrists and flipped his arms so they were palm-side up. The syringe fell to the floor. "No, I- I've never used before. I swear!"

Tim was now scrutinizing the other man's pupils. "Drug users will say anything to hide their habit from people who would try to stop them from using."

Dick pulled his arms out of Tim's grasp and waved him away. "I'm not a drug user. This is the first time. I mean, this was going to be the first time. Now you've stopped me, so I'm fine. Let's just drop it." Dick was embarrassed that Tim, who had once hero-worshipped him, was seeing him at such a low point. He quickly covered his shame with anger. "And what are you doing here anyway?" he accused.

"I used to live here," Tim said, his voice full of hurt. "I guess I was under the mistaken impression I was still welcome here."

Guilt overcame the shame and anger. "Timmy, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-"

"No, it's me who shouldn't have. Oracle said you seemed off your game tonight. I thought maybe you needed some backup. I suppose you found your own version of backup." Tim gestured to the syringe.

Dick put his head in his hands. The anger left Tim immediately and he was filled with sympathy for his older brother. Dick never asked to be Batman. He definitely didn't ask to be in charge of that demon child Damian. And now Dick just looked lost. Tim knelt beside him.

"What's wrong? Really?" Tim asked gently.

"I'm not good enough. I can't be Batman." Dick's voice was muffled by his hands.

"You mean you can't be Bruce," Tim corrected.

"Same thing."

"No, it's not." Dick looked up in surprise. "Listen to me. I know all about trying to fill impossibly large shoes. How many times did Bruce tell me, 'Dick wouldn't have done that,' or 'Jason would have gotten that by now.' "

"He shouldn't have compared you to us. That wasn't right," Dick said, trying to apologize on behalf of a man who wasn't there, a man who wouldn't know how to apologize if he had been in the room.

Tim shook his head. "Not my point. I couldn't be Jason, I couldn't be you. But I could be Robin. My way. With my strengths. It's not about if I was as good as you. It's about carrying on the legacy, the only way I know how."

Dick took a second to process this. Tim put his hand on his brother's knee.

"You're not Bruce. You'll never be Bruce. And that's okay. You're Batman, and you need to do it on your terms. And you can do this without drugs."

"Thank you, D.A.R.E. Officer Drake," Dick said wryly. Then he smiled, "I mean it, Timmy. You saved me from a stupid mistake."

"I could have told you that. Only an idiot would do drugs."

"Thanks for the boost of self-esteem. I know where to go next time."

"I'm serious, Dick. You know how dangerous this stuff is."

"Got it. My skull might be thick, but you got the point through. Drugs equal stupid." He looked down at the syringe. "I'll get rid of this."

"I'll do it," Tim said. "Not that I don't trust you. There's just no point in leaving temptation around."

Dick watched Tim pick up the syringe from the floor and the vial that was still sitting on the desk. "There's more in the safe," Dick admitted. Tim confiscated that as well.

"Is that all of it?" Tim asked.

"Yeah." Dick paused. "And Tim? You're always welcome here."

"Good to know."

"Thanks again. I owe you one."

"Pay it forward, big brother."


Random fact: Just as I was finishing this chapter, "Better Than Drugs" by Skillet came on my Pandora station.


Author's note- Takes place after Dick becomes Nightwing again. Trigger warning for mentions of alcoholism, child abuse, and spousal abuse.

Chapter 2

Jason

Jason stormed into his apartment. Well, the storming was interrupted by the fact that he had to crawl through the window. He was still wearing his Red Hood uniform. It wouldn't be smart to go through the front door with a key. As soon as he was inside, Jason took the helmet off and threw it on the couch. He wanted to kick the helmet across the floor in anger, but that wasn't a good idea with explosives inside of it.

He went to the fridge to see what was available. Bologna. An old, withered apple. A six pack of beer. Jason took a can and popped it open. He took a long drink before returning to his couch. He could feel the anger burning inside his chest like a fire. He had been so close to taking down three criminals who were involved in human trafficking. But one of them got in a lucky hit - the man had swung a two by four at Red Hood's head- and even with the helmet on, the blow was hard enough to knock the hero to the ground. By the time Red Hood had gotten to his feet, the criminals were gone.

Jason had cussed up a blue streak while hunting the men, but after twenty minutes, he had to conclude that he had lost them. The swearing turned from insulting the men to insulting himself. Really? He couldn't take down three losers? Jason took another long drink. He looked at the fridge and then went over to it to get another beer. Jason didn't usually drink two in one night, but hey, it was a rough evening. He knew his limits.

As time went on, Jason found his anger and self-recrimination building instead of dissipating. He stood and paced his small living room/dining room. He ran his fingers through his hair. He shed his jacket and shoes and threw them across the room. At one point, Jason reminded himself that he wanted to stay on his neighbors' good side and making a lot of noise trashing his apartment wouldn't do that. Then he remembered the smug look that arrogant man had given him just before swinging the wooden plank at his head, and he got angry all over again.

What good was he if he couldn't do the simple stuff? He had been kicking the bad guys' asses since before he would ever dare to say the word 'ass' in front of Bruce. Bruce. The man's name set off a different kind of anger. Bruce would look at him with that judgmental look that he so frequently wore on his face. Whatever. He didn't need Bruce's approval.

Jason looked down and saw that he had another beer in his hand. There were three empty ones on the floor by his feet. He didn't remember drinking the third one, or even getting the fourth one out. He shook it slightly, hearing the slosh inside that told him that it was more than half empty. He should put it down and go to bed. Jason didn't want to end up like-

There was a noise from the window. Jason turned, but his reflexes were dulled by the alcohol. Nightwing was already in his apartment before Jason could stop him. "Get out," Jason said, surprised at the slur in his voice. Three and a half beers shouldn't do this to him. His body weight was more than enough to dilute the effects. Then again, how quickly had he consumed those drinks? He tried to think, but his thoughts kept skittering away from him.

"Came to check on you. Oracle said that your guys got away. She's got a lead on where they are now. I came to tell you, and see if you wanted my help. I wasn't going to bag your baddies without you." Nightwing looked the other man over. Jason's anger turned toward his unwelcome guest.

"Thought I toldja to geddout." Jason blinked. Nightwing looked blurry. Was that some new Bat technique? Look blurry and your opponent would have a harder time hitting you? Jason laughed. Nightwing frowned.

"Jay, how much have you had to drink?" the other man asked cautiously.

"None of your business. And if you can't count, then I'm not gonna teach you," Jason retorted.

Nightwing moved closer. Jason felt suddenly paranoid and stood so he wouldn't be at a tactical disadvantage. Dizziness hit him, and he sunk back into the couch while pondering the word 'tactical.' Sounds like there should be tacks involved, doesn't it?

"You're not the boss of me, or the alcohol police. And it's three anna half," he said. He leaned his head so it rested on the back of the couch. He stared at a stain on the fabric. It looked a little like Italy. He had always wanted to visit Italy.

"Look, let's get you to bed. I'll bring a trash can to you in case-"

"Shut up!" Jason roared. He leaped up and swung for Nightwing's face. He was so sick of the other man acting like he was better than him. "Shut up or I'll make you shut up!"

Nightwing easily dodged and got Jason's arms pinned behind his back in an embarrassingly short amount of time. "You know you can't take me when you're like this," Nightwing said calmly.

Jason thrashed around until Nightwing let him go. Without the stabilizing force, the younger man tumbled to the ground. "I'll get you for that," he said and tried to push himself back up.

"You'll thank me for this in the morning," Nightwing said. "Well, actually, I don't think you would ever thank me, but you need this."

"I don't need anything from you," Jason said stubbornly. Nightwing put one arm around Jason's neck to keep him still.

"Jason. If you've started drinking since you've been home, you've had three beers in less than two hours. That's not good."

"I said get off me, now!" Jason tried to pull away from Nightwing, but ended up tripping and falling instead. Dick went down on top of him, so Jason twisted to throw his brother off him. Jason got on top and raised his fist.

"Jason, stop!" Nightwing commanded.

"Or what?" Jason sneered. "You come into my place and order me around? I don't think so."

Jason swung at Nightwing, but the older man dodged.

"I mean it. You don't want to do this."

"How do you know what I want and don't want?"

"I know you don't want to be like Willis." That comment froze Jason temporarily.

"Don't you talk about him. I'm nothing like him."

"Usually, I'd agree, but you're drunk and you just tried to hit me." Dick threw Jason off him and then pinned him to the wall. "You're letting your anger get the best of you. Calm down. Focus on your breathing."

"Oh, so now you're Bruce?"

"Jason, you're not in control. I know your independence means more to you than just about anything. Are you really going to be a slave to alcohol?"

"So I had a little too much. What's the big deal?"

"The big deal is that I sat with you after your nightmares about your father beating you and your mom after having "a little too much." You swore to me that you wouldn't be like him."

Jason struggled in Nightwing's grip and then slumped over. "You don't understand. You don't know how hard it is."

"Try me, Little Wing. I think you'd be surprised what I understand."

Jason opened his mouth, but black spots dotted his vision. "I think I'm gonna pass..." he slurred, and was unconscious before he finished his sentence.

In the morning, Jason woke with a splitting headache. He groaned and turned over slowly in bed. Did he get a concussion last night or something? A hand holding a glass of water appeared his in vision. Jason blinked twice, but it was still there. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Then he took the water. He was too tired to look to see who it was or worry if the water had been drugged. His mouth tasted gross, so he wasn't going to say no to the water. After consuming half the glass and handing it over- he could see it was Dick now, dressed like Nightwing but sans mask, was he in the Cave?- he was offered aspirin. Jason accepted that, too, and took them dry.

"What happened?" he asked, wincing at how awful his voice sounded.

"What do you remember?"

Jason glared at Dick. Why did everything have to be a test? For once, couldn't someone give him answers without making him probe his aching head for memories that would probably suck? When Dick didn't budge, Jason closed his eyes and thought. The criminals that got away. The alcohol. Fighting with Dick. That last one wasn't anything new, but Jason had been better behaved around all of his brothers since getting out of prison. And he had never fought someone while drunk before.

"I guess I owe you an apology," Jason said, getting the worst of the conversation out of the way first. Better to deal with it than have it hang over their heads.

Dick shook his head, rejecting it. "Don't worry about it. I get worse bruises fighting with my hair dryer."

Jason huffed out a laugh. "I don't apologize often, Dickhead, so you should count yourself lucky and accept it."

"I count myself lucky that I got to you in time," Dick said seriously. "You could have had alcohol poisoning if you kept going. You could have injured your head and not woken up. I was worried about you."

"Yeah, so you said. I'm fine now, so can this be one of those "drop it and never talk about it again" things?" Jason was hopeful. Sometimes Dick would take pity on him and do just that. But if the other man got into "Protective Older Brother Mode" there was nothing that would make Dick Grayson back off. By the look on Dick's face, it looked like one of those times.

"I think we do need to talk about it, Jason. What made you drink so much?"

"It was a bad night, I didn't count the beers as well as I should've. It happens."

"It's dangerous. You know the risks of becoming an alcoholic."

"I'm not Willis," Jason said angrily, remembering that from last night. "I won't be him."

"Good," Dick said forcefully. "I'm glad to hear that. Because I think you need to keep telling yourself that. Each time you have a bad night. It doesn't take much to go down a dark path. And then it's difficult to get yourself going the right way again."

"What do you know, Golden Boy? Are you a closet alcoholic? If you are, I'm telling."

"Not alcohol," Dick said quietly. "But I got really close to..."

"To what? You can't start and then cut yourself off like that."

Dick took a breath. He didn't want to tell Jason but he felt the only way to get him to see was to show that he himself was human and imperfect. "Using drugs."

Jason stared at him for several seconds and then barked out a laugh. "I hope you're kidding."

"I'm not."

"You do realize I kill drug dealers, right?"

"You used to. And I'm not a dealer. I was having trouble... being Batman... and I thought it would give me an edge. An advantage so I wouldn't be constantly falling behind." Dick regretted opening his mouth. Now Jason would start on the rant that he would have been a better Batman than Dick. This was not a fight Dick wanted to revisit. He was already planning his escape from the room when Jason surprised him by nodding.

"I get that."

"You do?" Dick couldn't have been more surprised if Jason announced that he was going to quit crime-fighting and become a professional soccer player.

"Yeah. I know how this life weighs on you. How you're never good enough. If I knew that being Robin, don't I know that being Batman would be ten times harder? Plus, I bet you had Bruce's voice in your head the whole time."

"Yeah," Dick said quietly. "You're right.

"I'm always right." His brother gave him a pointed look and Jason backed down. "Okay, fine, I'm right about the important stuff. I know how it is with you two. You've got some serious Daddy issues."

"So do you," Dick said, not challenging, but matter of fact.

Jason pushed himself out of bed and walked over to the closet. He saw that Dick had changed him into sweatpants last night, which he appreciated. He'd accidentally slept in his uniform before, and that was not comfortable. Jason pulled on a shirt and then turned back to Dick.

"Yeah, so I do. Guess we've both got our issues."

"I'll call you on yours if you call me on mine?" Dick offered.

"Deal." Jason cracked a grin. "Only 'cause your issues are worse than mine."

"Yeah, right!"

"Whatever. I'm starved. Let's get breakfast."


Author's note- Takes place sometime after Bruce is "alive again." Trigger warning in this chapter for a suicide attempt. I feel like this is the darkest of the four chapters. But there is still a happy ending!

Chapter 3

Tim

Tim finished updating the document and hit 'save.' This was it- the final revision. He had been contemplating the idea for weeks now, but the time was never right. There was always something else to do, and Tim wasn't the kind of guy who would leave a responsibility unfinished so that someone else would have to take care of it. After many sleepless nights, he was finally caught up, or at least as caught up as a CEO and vigilante could ever be. There were just a few more preparations to take care of, but tonight was the night.

Barbara Gordon stared at the phone. She hadn't spoken to Tim in a few weeks, so she had called him to see how the teen was doing. The call was... weird. Barbara couldn't put her finger on what was strange about it, exactly, but there was something bugging her. Should she call him back tomorrow? She almost decided to do that and get on with her work, but Oracle didn't like not knowing things. She hacked into Tim's hard drive -he had installed new firewalls since last time, good for him- and looked at his recent documents. Tim lived on his computer almost as much as Barbara herself. If something was wrong with Tim, his computer would have evidence of that.

The most recent file made her blood run cold. 'Last Will and Testament- Bats version.' Swallowing hard, Barbara clicked on it. Her eyes quickly scanned the document. Then she forced herself to read the whole thing. With something like this, she didn't want to get the wrong idea. Tim was organized and prepared to a fault. Not every 17 year old had a will, but then again not every 17 year old was CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. Tim had learned about contingency plans from Batman, and he took those lessons to heart. Maybe this was just another example of Tim's over-preparedness.

The document started with two pages of business matters. 'R&D has the go-ahead to pursue the production of 10,000 units of the water filtration system for third world countries.' 'The travel budget needs to be cut by 10% by the end of the quarter.' But then it said, 'The slideshow for Thursday's meeting is complete. I have tape recorded my speech, just press play on both.' That made it sound like Tim wasn't going to attend the meeting. And if that was the case, why type it in a document instead of calling or emailing someone at work?

Then it went on to superhero business for another page. 'I've improved the fuel efficiency of the Batmobile by 12%.' 'The Titans have been training hard lately. I don't anticipate problems with them working effectively without me.' That could mean that Red Robin was returning to Gotham. Or it could mean...

The end of the document, one paragraph long, was a goodbye to his friends and family. 'Sorry to put you through his.' 'Don't know what else to do.' 'You'll get along, like you always do.' Barbara noticed that in the last paragraph, not a single sentence began with the word 'I.' Tim was trying to distance himself from this.

Barbara sat back in her chair when she finished reading. She had to be careful how to approach this. Tim was a master at pretending he was okay. If she confronted him without a real plan, he would smile and lie, and the second she took her attention off him, it would be too late. A phone call wasn't good enough. Neither was Skype. She had to be there in person. Barbara checked the document again. It was set up to email her and Bruce at midnight. He was going to do it tonight.

After briefly considering the Zeta tubes, Barbara discarded the idea. She would have to navigate Gotham on this side and then San Francisco on the other end in a wheelchair. She almost dismissed her next thought, but then again this was an emergency. Barbara tapped her comm. "J'onn? I need transport."

Tim looked over his apartment. He was glad that he had decided to move out of Titans Tower into his own place. He had told the others that he needed a space to be himself, not the corporate head or the hero, and that was true, to a point. But what he really needed was a place where he didn't have to keep up the mask of having everything under control. Some days, he spent so much energy pretending he was fine that he didn't have enough strength at the end of the day to actually be okay.

The apartment looked fine. His will was updated and scheduled to be sent to Barbara and Bruce in a few hours. His official will was also written, the public one with no mention of superheroes. He was stalling, and he knew it.

He got the gun out of the safe and put it on his bed. Tim felt guilty, like he was betraying Bruce by doing this, but there was a reason guns were the method used for over half of suicides- they worked. The bathroom would be the best choice, Tim thought. The mess would be easier to clean. He reached for the weapon when a knock at the door made him flinch. Who could that be? He wasn't expecting anyone. Maybe they would go away if he waited. The knocking repeated, and after another few seconds of silence, repeated a third time, even louder.

Tim brushed away the annoyance. He would dismiss whoever it was quickly. He made sure his patented smile was on his face before he opened the front door. "Barbara! What brings you to the west coast?"

"I came to see my favorite Timmy, of course. Aren't you going to invite me in?" Barbara smiled back at him.

"Now's not really a good time."

"I won't be long."

"I'm actually in the middle of something."

"C'mon, I traveled all this way. The least you can do is let me in for a cup of tea."

Tim forced his smile wider. "Come in." He held the door open as she wheeled herself in. "I didn't hear the elevator."

"Maybe you were too engrossed in whatever you were doing," Barbara said breezily. Tim made a cup of tea and brought it to her in the living room."So how have you been?" she asked.

"Really? You come across the country just to ask how I'm doing? There are these things called phones. And computers. Remember email?"

"I did call you. And you sounded like you could use a friend." She took a sip of the tea and watched his reaction.

"I've got a lot on my plate, but I'm coping."

"Nothing you want to talk about?"

"Babs, what do you want?" Tim said, his patience waning. Barbara put the cup down on a coaster.

"You know, I've never seen your apartment. Care to show me around?" Without waiting for an answer, she wheeled herself down the hallway.

"W-wait! I haven't cleaned up. I might still have dirty clothes out or something!" Tim hurried after her.

"Oh, like I haven't seen dirty clothes before. You don't need to clean up for me. I'm not company, I'm family..." her voice trailed off when she pushed open his bedroom door and saw what was laying on his bed. "Oh, Tim."

The teen reached around her and pulled the door shut. "It's nothing. You don't need to worry about it."

"Tim, there is a gun on your bed."

"So are you going to tell Batman on me, then?" he asked sarcastically.

Barbara grabbed his hand before he could pull away. "Tim, I saw the document. The one you updated today."

Tim's face drained of blood. "How?" he whispered. "You- you hacked my computer! Barbara, that's an invasion of privacy!" he accused. "How could you?"

"Because I care about you. You're like a little brother to me, and I'm worried about you."

"Why? What have I done to make you think you had to dig through my personal files?"

"It was scheduled to be sent to me in a few hours."

"So you can read it then, not right now!"

"Tim, are you thinking of suicide?" Barbara asked softly.

Now that it was said, it couldn't be unsaid. There was no point in pretending. She had seen his will, she had seen the gun. Tim took a step backward so he was pressed against the wall. His legs didn't seem to want to support him anymore. He slid down the wall and pressed his forehead against his knees. Barbara leaned forward and put her hand on the top of his head. "Why couldn't you have given me another hour?" he said so quietly that she almost didn't hear him.

"Because then it would have been too late, wouldn't it?"

He lifted his head suddenly and she pulled her hand away. "I'm just so tired. There's something that has to be dealt with all the time. It's a constant stream of problem after problem that needs to be solved. I work as hard as I can but I still can't get my head above the water. I'm drowning."

"Let me help."

Tim laughed bitterly. "How? How can you help? Are you going to stop all crime? Make the mountain of paperwork at WE disappear? I didn't know it was going to be an 80 hour a week job. Bruce certainly didn't spend anywhere near that much time there. I go from working a full time office job to a full time crime-fighting job to a full time job fixing everyone else's problems. 'Tim, can you research this bad guy for me?' 'Tim, my computer's having problems, can you look into it?' 'Tim, I need those figures on my desk in an hour.' I tried cutting back on sleep so I would have more hours in a day to get things done, and when I was drowsy during the day, I upped my caffeine intake. I haven't had more than 4 hours of sleep a night in months. And with getting everything situated so things would run smoothly once I'm gone, I haven't slept at all in the last three days."

"Tim," she said, that one word conveying all the empathy she felt with the pain he was going through. Barbara held out her arms, and Tim scooted forward so he could put his head in her lap. He started crying.

"I miss my dad. And my mom. I'm tired of losing people. Bruce is back, but he's too busy for me. Dick and I... we're not good anymore. I don't know if I'm waiting for him to apologize, or if I think I need to, but we haven't talked in weeks. I don't want to burden my friends with this. I just don't know what to do."

"You need sleep," she told him, running her fingers through his dark hair.

He shook his head. "No time to sleep. When I sleep, I fall further behind. I fail at my job, all my jobs. I fail the people I care about."

"And what about if you were gone?"

Tim sat up suddenly. "No, I made sure that everything was taken care of. I calculated that there would not be a significant increase in crime in the area without Red Robin's presence. I have a short list of people who can replace me at WE. I finished all the major projects I was working on. I-"

"No, Tim," Barbara interrupted. "I'm not talking about Mr. Drake-Wayne or Red Robin. I'm talking about Tim Drake, son of Bruce, brother of Dick, Jason, and Damian, friend to Steph, Conner, Garfield, Cassie, Bart, Vic, Donna, and Rachel. I'm not saying it will be hard for us to have one less superhero, or one less tech support person. Remember how much you were hurting after your dad died? That's how all of us will feel if you take your life."

"You don't need me, not like that." Tim buried his face back in Barbara's lap.

"Yes, we do. You are important. Not just because of the amazing things you can do. You're important because you're our friend, our family. We love you, Tim." The two of them stayed in that position for a few minutes, with Barbara stroking Tim's hair as the young man tried to figure out where to go from here. Finally, Barbara said, "Would you be open to seeing a therapist?"

"I don't need one. I can fix this myself."

"But you don't have to. Learn from Bruce's mistakes. Relying on other people doesn't make you weak."

"Yeah. Okay, I'll consider it."

"Good. One more thing. You're coming home with me. You need sleep. Things will look better in the morning. You don't have to do this alone. I'm right beside you."

Tim stood shakily. "What a sight I'll be walking down the streets. How did you get here so fast anyway? Zeta tube?"

"J'onn beamed me over."

"That is for League emergencies," Tim chastised.

"The potential death of Red Robin is a League emergency. Pack a bag. You're on vacation. You're coming to stay with me." Tim shook his head and opened his mouth to argue. "Nope. I am the almighty Oracle. You will listen to me."

A tiny smile appeared on Tim's face. Tiny, but real. Possibly the first real smile in weeks. "Okay, bossy sis."

"You'd better believe it. Let's go. Hop to it." Tim opened the door and the first thing the two of them saw was the gun. Tim took a deep breath and walked over to the bed. He checked the safety and unloaded the clip. He started to put both the gun and the clip in the safe.

"I'll take that," Barbara said casually. "You don't need it."

Remembering when he had been the one to take the danger out of Dick's hands, Tim gave her the gun and got out a duffel bag. Then he remembered something important. He handed Barbara his laptop. "Can you turn off the program so it won't send... you know... to Bruce?"

"I can delete the document for you."

He swallowed hard. That was weeks of work. If he got to the point where death seemed the only answer, he would have to start over from scratch. His need to have perfection and order wouldn't allow him to leave things behind so messy. But what had Barbara said? That his planning may have made the work aspect easier for everyone to deal with, but nothing he wrote would make it any easier for his loved ones to deal with emotionally. It would still be messy. "Okay," he said, and started to pack his bag.


Author's note- Depression sucks. Remember to reach out to the people you love. They will surprise you with how much they care.


Author's note- Takes place after Bruce becomes Batman again. Not sure if this would be a trigger, but warning for a discussion on killing someone and discussion on child assassins.

Chapter 4

Damian

Damian stormed to his room. His heart was pounding in anger. It didn't matter how hard he tried, he was never good enough for Father. As much as Damian had insulted Grayson's overabundance of love and support, right now his missed his older brother. But Grayson was no longer Batman. He was protecting Bl├╝dhaven as Nightwing.

He knew how to be Grayson's partner. Dealing with Father on patrol was a whole different story. Things started rocky, but when Damian complained to Grayson, the older man had reassured him that things would get better as they fell into a groove. That was three months ago, and things hadn't improved any. This night seemed to be the tipping point. When they returned to the Batmobile, Father had criticized Robin's performance without offering any positive remarks on the night. Damian had muttered under his breath, "Grayson would have offered some positive reinforcement." Bruce, of course, heard it and retorted, "I am not Grayson."

Damian shot back, "I wish you were."

Bruce answered with, "When we return home, you will go to your room." As if he were a child. As if he wouldn't already go to his room after patrol. Ordering Damian to do something was the perfect way to get him to do the opposite. The second that Damian was in his room, he changed into the spare Robin costume he kept hidden in the back of his closet. Then he was out the window and to the garage to swipe a motorcycle.

In ten minutes, Robin was back in Gotham. His anger carried him to the seedier side of town, where it was more likely for him to find some criminals to beat up. Or justice to be served. Whichever.

It took a frustratingly long time to find any crime being committed. "Come on, criminals, are you all in beds sleeping?" Robin asked himself sarcastically. "What's the city coming to when the bad guys have a bedtime of one AM?"

Finally, Robin heard a woman screaming. Good. He turned the bike in that direction. When he saw the perp and the victim, he shut off the bike and did a flip off it, letting the momentum carry him. His feet hit the man's chest and the man fell backwards. Robin looked at the woman, wondering why she would be walking around Gotham at this time of night. He saw her nurse's uniform and deemed that an acceptable reason. "Go!" he ordered. He didn't have time to worry about collateral damage. He was going to go all out on this guy.

He punched the man long past the point where the other guy was fighting back. It was as if a haze covered his mind. Something broke him out of it though. When he could see straight, Robin noticed the man was curled in a ball, shaking and crying. "Please, no more."

"What did that woman say to you when you were hurting her? You think that I should show you mercy?"

"Please, I've learned my lesson. I won't do it again, I swear!"

"Swear all you want. It's not going to do you any good." Robin took out a birdarang and placed it against the man's throat. "It would be so easy to end you. I think the world would be a better place without you."

Screw his father's rules. Batman didn't understand him, and he didn't really like him either. Mother would approve of this, but then again Damian didn't think he could ever get in her good graces. Grayson wouldn't be happy, but Grayson wasn't here. If he wanted Damian to avoid killing, then he should be around.

The man wept more. "Don't hurt me."

Robin glared at the man, angry that he would dare ask for mercy when he didn't show his victim any. "Shut up. This is what you deserve."

Robin lifted the birdarang in the air and brought it down in a sweeping arc. It would have slit the man's throat, had an arm not grabbed his wrist halfway down. "Stop," a familiar voice said. Robin turned his head slightly so he would have an eye on both his prisoner and the intruder, but he had identified the voice before he saw her. "Black Bat," he said, more of an acknowledgement than a greeting. Black Bat used her free hand to punch the criminal, knocking him out in one blow. Then she moved to face Robin, positioning her body in between him and the unconscious man.

"Are you going to kill him?"

"I'm thinking about it."

"Shouldn't have to think," she said. "Should already know the answer."

"Are you here to lecture me?"

"Robin, he's down."

"Not permanently," Damian said.

"Didn't think you killed."

"I used to. I could again."

"But why would you want to?"

"Listen, I don't need your help here. I've had enough of other people telling me what to do. I don't need your orders or advice."

"Not orders. Maybe advice. I know what it's like. To kill."

"Good for you."

She shook her head. "Not good for me. Bad. I knew it was wrong as soon as I did it. I could feel it." She cocked her head. "Hard to explain. But I knew. And I know now."

"Well, I'm glad that works for you, but I'm different. I was raised to know that if you kill your enemies, they don't come back for you."

"That's not our way. That's not your way."

"How do you know what my way is? Because it's Batman's way? I don't care what he thinks."

"You care what Nightwing thinks." And that was true, although Damian tried not to let it show on his face. "You know he would be disappointed by this. Hurt, too. Do you want to hurt him?"

Damian's anger flared, then waned. He thought of Grayson's pride when Damian had done something right, how the man didn't abandon him when he failed. He desperately wanted to keep his mentor's love. "No."

Black Bat nodded as if Damian had uncovered one of the secrets of the universe. "Good." She bent down beside the criminal and Robin stepped away to let her. She zip-tied the man's hands and feet together, and then contacted GCPD. Robin waited in silence. When she stepped away from the prisoner, Robin followed her. They went to a roof a few blocks away.

They sat in silence for several minutes. "Why do you care?" Robin asked suddenly, although he had a feeling Cassandra knew when he was about to speak.

She thought about it."My father raised me to fight, to kill. Even though I stopped after my first kill, I can't go back and change that. I can't make that man alive again."

Damian thought she was done, but she continued, "Killing was a habit for you for a long time. It was hard for you to quit. But you did. If you killed him tonight, the habit would come back. It would be harder for you to stop again."

"There is some logic to what you are saying," admitted Damian.

"It is important to know who you want to be. Not what my father wants. Not what your mother wants. They are not good role models. Pick a good person, the best person, and be who they want you to be. Then you will be who you want to be."

Damian thought of Grayson again, and how he had flourished under the older man's guidance. Grayson was someone to admire.

Robin stood. "I appreciate your assistance tonight. I will be heading home now." Black Bat nodded, and he swung off the roof. He headed back to his motorcycle. He needed to get home to make a phone call.

End

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