AN: This is based (very) loosely on a conversation Tim has in Robin #156, so I'm gonna play it safe: Trigger Warning for suicidal thoughts. There's nothing too graphic I don't think, but if that ideation gets to you, please skip ahead and take care of yourselves out there.


I'll Catch You

A car horn sounds somewhere below, a noise that makes the man distinctly uncomfortable. He looks for a crash, for something, but there's nothing, no crunching metal, no screams fizzling through a phone speaker. It's deathly quiet; no one's even noticed him up here.

"You can do this," he self-coaches, back against the building behind him while the ledge sits at the tips of his toes. Just one step. It's something so simple, and there's a rush of adrenaline that hits, that whispers that it's so easy now, that the answer's only a never-ending footfall away.

But there's something else that's there. Will it hurt? Will he feel anything? He's looked it up, read the statistics, and he doubts he'll even make it to the ground before it'll be over. Yet he's twenty stories above the rest of Downtown, looking at the ledge like it's something dangerous but he wants it.

"Well?"

The man glances up, panic evident on his face because no one else is supposed to be here. But there is: There's a shadow perched cat-like on one of the statues lining the ledge, limned in frosty backlights so strong that it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust enough to make out the silhouette. The arrival drives home the point once more that he didn't want someone to come; he was supposed to be alone.

"Are you gonna do it?" the voice comes again.

It's someone young by the timbre (a teenager perhaps). But it still stands that the only clue to the shadow's identity is a happy hint of goldfinch yellow that belongs to the fabric behind him. The cape is drifting softly in the direction of the ledge, the wind an invisible force that's beckoning it to throw itself off, teasing it, tempting it.

It lures the man's eyes back down. The breeze is calling him forward too. "Would you care?"

"I would," the admission comes easily, "but that's not what matters in the end." Brown eyes are drawn to meet with the shadow, faintly curious, and it's the most emotion the man's felt in a long time. "What matters is if you would care."

"I wouldn't." The man's words are determined, certain as the concrete that waits below.

The shadow's fallen silent now. Its focus has been pulled downward instead, almost avoidant, but there's a contemplation there that holds the man's attention. "Then what's stopping you?"

It's a question so honest that the man doesn't move, just stares. "You'd catch me," he manages.

"Not if you don't want me to."

"Why?"

The shadow pauses wistfully. It's looking out at the building across the street, surveying it with a tangible intensity as if the lights reflecting on the window can yield the answer to life's problems. "You'd just come out here the next night and the next night," it breathes. "I can't promise I'd be there every time, so if you're going to do it now, I won't catch you."

The avowal lays, thickening in the summer air. It's silent permission from this person that's joined him on the ledge, so the man takes a small step forward, hesitant, and he hates himself for letting his resolve slip even that much.

Car lights continue to drift by in a stream on the street, meek and sweet, and the man takes a moment to appreciate how tempting they are. It's almost too pretty a night for the thoughts swirling in his head. He can't fight them, though; he's been planning this too long, every day, every moment. And now he's here, toes of his shoes leaning over the edge, breath thinned from the height. But his plan didn't account for this.

"I can't do it if you're here," the man admits quickly, taking a step back.

A low hum drones, resonating faintly, but the shadow doesn't move. "I'm not leaving. I might not stop you, but the least I can do is watch."

"I can't," the man repeats. He knows who the shadow is: a teenager. The boy's likely in high school, just like his own son was, and it pulls at his stomach in a way that makes him snap his eyes closed. "You're too young. You shouldn't see this."

Another hum echoes, undisturbed as its owner remains seated on the statue, still looking out at the wall of skyscrapers across from them. "It's fine," the voice comes. "It won't bother me as much as you think."

"But it'll bother me. I don't—I don't wanna go with regrets like that."

"…You've still got regrets, though. You wouldn't be out here otherwise." The words are reaching too clear, too omniscient—like standing on a ledge and considering ending it all is something commonplace that this individual has done thousands of times. It makes the man even more uncomfortable, because it's empathy, a connection to someone else. That's not what he's wanting, not when he's here, so close to just...

"You're right," the man admits, back against the outside of the building now, "but I can't make it right, so this is—"

"The only thing you can do?"

The shadow's cape rustles in the wind. It's a sound that breeches the space between them, a gap that's abyssal but paradoxically nonexistent.

"You're too young to understand," the man works out, already feeling that his words aren't true.

"Try me."

"You..." The sentence stops. There's too much to say, and words really aren't enough. "You're just like him," he restarts. It's a lame thing to divulge, because he can't see the person beside him, not too well, but he knows enough by that goldfinch glint; he already knows who it is. And he also knows it's someone too young to be out here, not at this kind of hour, not for this conversation, but they're there. The two of them are there in a world of their own, one of bright lights and dark thoughts, and he wants to fall but words fall instead.

"I was on the phone with him when he died," the man starts. And he doesn't know why, but at the confession, it's almost as if the shadow next to him has gotten even darker.

"My son—He was late, driving home, so I called him. He—" The rest doesn't want to come, but he's already started and he tells himself that makes it easier when it doesn't. "He got distracted—I distracted him. It's been two months since..."

He doesn't need to finish. The sharp crunch of car metal and shattering glass are still heavy on his mind, the car crash an eternal weight that he's realized is already dragging him down, so it's easier to just let it drag him down one last time, to give in.

In the meantime, the shadow that's been beside him hasn't moved, hasn't spoken. It's accepted the words with the same contemplative air that's haunted it throughout the conversation. And it shouldn't be this way, but for just an instant, the man thinks the boy'll be the one to do it, to go over the edge and that their roles are reversed. The shadow just sits, though, motionless aside from the omnipresent pull of its cape.

"It won't go away—that pain," it finally speaks, "but there are people out there who are counting on you."

"He was my everything," the man's voice cracks. "I don't have anyone else. I just…" And there's the briefest moment where the ledge looks so painfully inviting. He doesn't know what'll come after, but— "I just want to see him again."

"You will." It's said as if it's fact, simple and gentle yet grounded in seriousness. "But you do have other people here. You can't see them yet, but they're up ahead." The figure moves faintly, turns away from the street to face the man head-on. "I know it's not easy, and it probably won't be for a long time, but… Someone some day soon'll find you, and they'll make it better, just a bit but it'll be enough. So, can I ask you to hang on—for them?"

A hand extends, black as the night sky around them, and it's the only thing the man can see right then, the only thing that's important. There's something about it that's tempting, more tempting than the ledge. Why that is, he doesn't know, and there's a second when he asks himself when he last held someone's hand, when he last held his son's hand. He can't even remember. But if he can have that again, if somewhere in this lifetime, there's someone waiting, then maybe it's all right.

And somehow, slowly, his hand finds its way.


Bruce finds Tim at the same spot from a few hours ago. His partner had managed to talk a someone out of jumping, and it's always the same with Tim: He always stays up there until Bruce finds him. It's almost as if the teenager is waiting each time, so Bruce doesn't take long to appear, analyzing him with silent eyes, checking for cuts, bruises, wounds.

Tim is fine in the physical sense. That much is obvious. Yet Bruce can't keep himself from checking anyway, because Tim's got that look in his eyes that Bruce never knows how to address. The physical wounds are the ones that can be diagnosed and treated, that can be bandaged and soothed, but the kind of blank emotion on Tim's face as he appraises the street below—That's something Bruce can diagnose but was never trained how to treat.

And so, he stands beside him and waits for Tim to move. He will eventually. He always does, picks up his feet and keeps going as if that dark expression could never belong on his features, still young and kind. Tonight is different, though. Bruce can feel it in the air. He keeps waiting.

After a few minutes, Tim shifts a bit, resituating his legs over the ledge as he sits there. His eyes are still trained on the street below, and Bruce wants his focus to change, to look at him instead because anything is better than watching someone admire concrete like it's something nice. But nothing happens. All that changes is a small gust of wind that murmurs to the both of them. It's pulling black and gold cloth over the edge but their shapes remain, trying to think of the right words to erase the distance that's grown up between them.

"What if I did it?" Tim finally poses, eyes unmoved. Bruce knows what he's asking. It doesn't need to be said, and the answer is on Bruce's tongue in an instant.

"I'd catch you."

Tim's focus shoots up at that. An innocent look is on the boy's face that he's too stunned to hide. "But what if it was all the time?" he asks, and there's a child-like quality to his voice that's blameless and undeserving of the words that are gracing it. "Night after night. What would you do then?"

Bruce vets his partner's expression for another moment, mulling the question over, and there's only one thought that comes. "If that was the case then…I guess I'd catch you. And I'd just never let go."

Tim continues to stare at him, his brain trying to wrap around the statement, because he looks too dazed to believe it. After a long minute, his attention turns back to the city lights. But...Tim's not looking at them quite the same way as he was a minute ago, a nostalgic smile pulling at his mouth and eyes instead like the words have painted the world in a better color. Bruce makes a point to remember that expression. He's not sure what it means, but his shoulders feel lighter at the sight of Tim shuffling to his feet.

"Let's go home," the teenager says, removing his grapnel and snapping it into place. His smile's brighter now, more genuine, and it tells Bruce things are okay. He really would catch him, but he doubts he'll need to as Tim continues, "We don't want to keep Alfred waiting."

Bruce grunts out an affirmative at that, two cables shooting out into the night sky to make sure they land safely.

And they jump.