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(Un)Wanted

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He’s walking to his apartment building after work when it happens.

He wants to blame the large raindrops pelting his umbrella and camouflaging the sound of approaching footsteps. Or the report R&D finally emailed him concerning the new drone technology he’s been involved with the last few months (Tam was going to flip out when she got back from her trip). Or even the tension headache he’s carried for the past few days that narrows his focus to his phone. In the end, though, he knows he has no one else to blame but himself for the situation he soon finds himself in.

The moment Tim feels the sting of a needle against his neck, he knows he’s fucked. He spins around and whips his umbrella in a wide arc to create some space between himself and his assailant, but whatever he’s injected with is fast-acting. 

His feet falter out of the defensive stance he automatically takes, and he blinks hard against the overwhelming tiredness he feels. 

“Mr. Drake.” He hears distantly. He doesn’t recognize the voice—doesn’t recognize the man dressed in a dark trench coat and black slacks. His vision is tunneling, and he fumbles with his phone to press the panic sequence he’s programmed into it, but the mobile device is pulled gently out of his grip before he’s able to do anything. 

The action brings the stranger closer—close enough for his nose to catch the scent of cloves and something short-circuits in his brain. 

What are we going to do with him  

Mom...Dad...

What the fuck are we going to do with him?!

Please...

Tim falls forward into inky blackness and everything stops. 

oOo

Tim regains consciousness on his side with his hands restrained and his feet bare. He doesn’t allow his breathing to falter in rhythm as training kicks in. He lays there unmoving and extends the three senses available to him to gain some insight on his surroundings.

He’s lying on a cold, hard floor with wet clothes still clinging to him which suggests he has not been out very long. The air is thick with humidity and there’s an underlying scent of mold he can detect. Only when he’s certain he doesn’t hear anyone in the vicinity does he open his eyes.

He blinks a few times before his surroundings come into focus. He’s in a small room about eight feet by twelve feet. He’s lying on a concrete floor and the cinder blocks that make up the walls go up about seven feet high. There are no windows, furniture, or exposed piping, and there’s a single metal door in front of him without a doorknob. A metal pail and a roll of toilet paper sits in the corner of the room. Lovely, he thinks.

Tim shifts to arrange himself in a more comfortable position when he hears the jingle of metal against metal and feels an unnatural weight on his left ankle. He angles his head up to look and his stomach drops at the sight of a metal cuff wrapped around his ankle. The cuff is in turn linked to a chain anchored to an eye nut on the wall.

On the plus side, there’s enough slack for him to reach the pail. On the downside, there isn’t enough for him to reach the door. Whoever kidnapped him is apparently paranoid enough to think he should be locked up so securely. Considering he’s been kidnapped in his civilian identity, this is very, very concerning. 

Tim assesses himself next. His wrists are zip-tied together in front of him. He’s still in the dark blue, linen button-down shirt and black slacks he wore to work this morning. His belt is gone though. He’s cold, his headache is still present, and he’s still shaking off the grogginess of the drug he was injected with. Overall though, he’s not in bad shape. 

He’s wrestling with his hands to try to reach into his pants pocket to see what he may have to help him get out of here when a heavy clank of a deadbolt being released breaks the otherwise silence in the space.

His eyes snap up to the metal door of the room as he hears the strain of another lock sliding open and a third lock clicks before the door finally swings open outward. 

He doesn’t bother pretending he’s still unconscious. Instead, he cranes his neck to glimpse what is outside this room. Unfortunately, the man in the trench coat and who he assumes is a hired thug blocks the entire width of the entryway. The masked thug has a gun trained on him, which is a bit excessive considering that he’s chained. To. The. Wall. 

“Mr. Drake, or do you prefer Drake-Wayne?”

Tim cautiously gets to his feet, desiring to eliminate the height difference as much as possible. The man still has a few inches on Tim, but he’s faced worse in the boardroom, let alone on the streets of Gotham. “Drake-Wayne. I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mister…?” Tim lets the question hang in the air as he takes his first good look at his kidnapper.

Trench Coat is in his late forties, with brown hair gelled back in a way that’s reminiscent of your typical Italian mobster. He still dons his black trench coat, which completes the look, but just marks him as some crackpot given that they’re indoors. He’s wearing a mask to cover the lower half of his face. Smart. Overall, there’s nothing distinguishing about the man. Tim could have passed him on the street without a second glance. 

The smell though. It’s stronger now that they’re not outside with the elements. Cloves. It makes his stomach twist, and he swallows back a sudden bout of nausea. 

The man sees his unease and smiles, likely thinking the situation he’s in is the cause. The man couldn’t have been more off the mark.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Trench Coat ignores his question. “This is your run of the mill ransom kidnapping. Nothing fancy or elaborate. Your father pays 100 million dollars for your safe return, and we all continue with our happy lives. Of course, some of us with pockets a little more padded.”

‘Dad doesn’t have a 100 million dollars’ is Tim’s immediate thought. The next is ‘Dad’s dead’ and ‘Oh, he’s talking about Bruce.’

“Now that we’re all on the same page, hold out your arms.” The man takes a step into the room and extends out an actual paper newspaper. He wasn’t kidding when he said this was an ordinary kidnapping. Tim does as he’s told. He doesn’t have enough intel to do anything else but cooperate. He manages to balance the paper on his elbow joints right before the flash of a camera phone goes off and that’s that. 

“Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Drake-Wayne.” The man smirks down at his phone before glancing up and meeting his eyes. “The stories about you being a rottweiler in the boardroom must be greatly exaggerated. You seem more like a pug to me.” The man is clearly trying to get a rise out of him, but Tim doesn’t change his neutral expression. Seeing this, all traces of amusement vacates Trench Coat’s face. 

“We’ll be in touch. Enjoy the facilities we’ve provided to you.” He sneers before both he and the thug leave.

Tim manages to catch a glimpse of the room beyond as they turn their backs. He’s in a residential basement. He sees tools and toys and briefly wonders what person does this in their own home? Once the door closes and locks, Tim doesn’t waste any time and begins to inspect every inch of his cell. It doesn’t take him very long. The room is completely barren and has maybe a few dust balls or grit here and there; the only loose item is a light bulb mounted to the ceiling which is about a foot away from a small air vent. The ceiling is too high for him to reach any of the screws he could have potentially used to pick the lock on his ankle. The floor is a solid slab of concrete with no seams or holes. The mortar used to build the wall was completed in a way that there were barely any grooves between the blocks. Bottom line, it made it impossible to scale. Other than the metal door, he doesn’t see another way out.

He’s in the middle of inspecting the chain links for any imperfections when he hears the locking mechanisms on the door releasing in a much more rapid succession than before. Tim stands and takes a step away from the chain just as the door opens to reveal Trench Coat. He’s holding the gun this time, his expression twisted in indignation and his cheekbones flushed red. 

“Why is your father’s number disconnected?” he demands.

The question catches Tim off guard. “What?”

Trench Coat takes an angry step towards him, gun pointed at his chest and Tim immediately takes a step back, raises his bound arms defensively. He could have taken the other down easily, but Tim Drake isn’t supposed to know how to do that.

“Your father’s number. From. Your. Cellphone. It’s disconnected.” Each word he punctuates by shoving the barrel of the gun against Tim’s chest.

Tim’s ire raises in defense. “I don’t know what you’re...oh.”

The realization hits Tim like a bucket of ice water. He never deleted his dad’s number from his cellphone. He remembers trying to once, but he couldn’t make his thumb press the red button. Whenever he got a new phone, he would just automatically transfer all his contacts over (deceased family, friends and all).

He knows what it looks like keeping the number, but other than Steph grabbing his phone to do an occasional internet search, there wasn’t much chance of anyone seeing his contact list. It shouldn’t have mattered. Until now, he supposes, but how was he to know a future kidnapper would erroneously use it for a ransom call?

“Call Bruce,” he offers instead. “He’s listed under…Bruce.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” the man says, tone dripping with derision to which Tim thinks fleetingly, yes. Yes, I do. “I ditched your phone before I came here.” Trench Coat takes a step back, gun still trained on him, while his other hand reaches into his pocket to pull out a flip phone. 

“Tell me.”

Tim rattles off the number. He’s barely finished reciting the last digit when he’s clocked over the head with the butt of the gun. The blow is jarring and completely unexpected and he’s breathing hard from where he’s fallen on the floor. 

“If this number doesn’t work, you’ll be seeing me again.” He slams the door shut behind him, locking it and leaving Tim alone. 

A few things pop to Tim’s mind as he pushes himself upright and gingerly touches the bruise forming on his temple. 

Trench Coat is unstable. 

Trench Coat has no qualms about using violence. 

Trench Coat is not to be underestimated. 

Tim bends his knees to his chest, back against the wall and hopes Bruce picks up his phone so he can get out of here tonight.

oOo

A day passes with no changes. Tim still hasn’t found a way to get out of his situation. Bruce hasn’t responded to the ransom. Batman hasn’t staged a rescue.

He’s not worried. It’s been a day. If anything, he’s gotten a full night’s sleep for once.

Another day passes, and then another.

He wakes to Trench Coat yelling in his face on Day 4.

No, he doesn’t know why Bruce isn’t calling him back.

Yes, he gave him the right number.

He receives a punch in the face for his responses and instinctively, Tim sweeps his leg and takes the man down. He feels Thug approaching from behind and elbows him in the solar plexus and finishes it with a double-fisted blow to the face that knocks the stocky man into the wall.

It takes a split second for Tim to realize what he’s just done, and even less time to regret his actions.

Because he’s still chained to the wall. Trench Coat doesn’t carry the key to it with him. This information was mockingly shared with him yesterday. It was stupid for him to engage.

The gun shot is deafening in the small space. The accompany pain that sears through his left arm burns.

Tim stumbles back into the wall behind him and grits his teeth against the pain. He looks at the wound. It’s a graze. He can’t tell how deep, but it’s bleeding a lot.

The gun pointed at him is steady as Trench Coat picks himself up off the ground. 

“That’s quite enough, Mr. Drake. B.”

Tim stiffens at the moniker, but realizes he’s speaking to the thug. “B” grabs him directly over his wounded arm and Tim gasps, vision whiting out as he’s spun around until his face and chest is pressed against the wall. In his periphery, Tim sees Trench Coat pull a syringe out of his pocket and he involuntarily begins to struggle. Thug pulls him back and slams him against the wall again and Tim bites back a groan. He doesn’t notice when Trench Coat injects him with the syringe, but soon his struggles begin to weaken until their nonexistent.

He’s lowered onto the ground. Trench Coat pats him patronizingly on the cheek several times and his stomach rolls at the smell of the man’s cologne.

Damn worthless piece of trash.

Tim jerks his head away from the hand—from the memory. His eyelids unwillingly falling shut.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Drake. You’ll be all patched up the next time you’re awake,” Trench Coat assures him. “Perhaps by then we’ll have some good news from your family.”

Tim’s last thought before he loses consciousness is that he certainly hopes so.

oOo

Tim’s arm is in fact bandaged properly when he wakes up, but he’s also gained a mild fever. He’s not too surprised with the development but is frustrated, nonetheless.

Ever since he lost his spleen, his body has been more prone to infections—more so if he doesn’t take any antibiotics. It’s a weakness he’s had to adapt to, which he’s been successful for the most part. He’s fairly regiment with his medication and vitamins to avoid any illnesses and careful to clean any wounds thoroughly to prevent infections.  Obviously, he can’t do that now, and he highly doubts Trench Coat has or cares to give him anything for his arm. So, Tim just hopes he’s not here long enough for the fever to evolve into anything too serious. Already his thoughts are starting to get muddled and it makes tracking time extremely difficult.

One minute he’s blearily counting the blocks on the opposite wall, the next Trench Coat is yelling in his face again demanding to know why Bruce isn’t calling him back.

Tim doesn’t know what to tell him. Bruce may be off planet, but he can’t actually say that. His messages get forwarded to the Manor’s main landline though whenever he is with the League. Alfred should have gotten them. Was Alfred in the country? Tam certainly wasn’t. She deserves the time away.

Trench Coat shakes Tim one last time before angrily shoving him away so the back of his head hits the wall. Tim winces and watches as the other stalks away, muttering to himself that he should have taken the brat instead. The statement momentarily clears the haze in Tim’s mind for him to snap, “Stay away from Damian.”

The tone of his voice has Trench Coat pause in step and look over his shoulder. “You’re in no position to make any demands, Drake.” The man then scowls. “Drake,” he spits out as if he’s eaten something foul. “Should have known Brucie would care less for the kid who wouldn’t drop his old name. Probably just using you so he can gallivant around the globe scot-free.” The man continues to mutter under his breath as he leaves. Before he closes the door, he tosses two slices of bread into the room and, out of spite, sets a plastic cup of water onto the floor just out of Tim’s reach.

Tim continues to glare at the door long after Trench Coat has left him alone. He’s frustrated. At his situation and especially at himself. He’s better than this. To be held captive by some commonplace kidnapper in a basement somewhere in Gotham is just…pathetic.

And Damian. He hopes Trench Coat was just irritated and not seriously considering taking the demon brat. He knows Damian can take care of himself, but there’s always the chance that Damian may behave like the kid his age dictates and allow himself to be taken just to protect the family’s secret.

Tim’s brow furrows as the scene plays out in his head. If Damian was taken, his absence would be noticed immediately given Alfred’s meticulous knowledge of the youth’s schedule. A quick call to Oracle would have her scanning all CCTVs and, after picking up the trail, would narrow the search area down to within a one square mile radius. Batman and Nightwing (because without question Nightwing would be there) would take it from there, and Damian would be back in the manor that night slightly annoyed but safe, nonetheless.

It’s one of the few rescue scenarios Tim has played out for himself, sitting here, day after day. Trench Coat was not some criminal mastermind after all. So, Tim surmised his rescue to be indisputably straightforward—especially considering ransom calls were made to notify his…family…of his situation. And yet, Tim’s still here. Waiting to be noticed. Like always.

Tim feels his mood quickly plummeting, and he gives his head a firm shake. He shouldn’t be wasting energy feeling sorry for himself. It’s not productive. He should be focusing on maintaining his strength and biding his time until some avenue of escape materializes—no matter how unlikely that may seem right now. He just has to wait this out. Bruce will come.

Resolve hardened, Tim raises his head, eyes the cup of water and shuffles forward. He bends down to pick up the bread and stretches his arm out as far as he can reach and uses it to soak up the water in the cup and eats.

oOo

The days begin to blend into one another.

Tim performs some stretches and squats to fill in the hours and to maintain some sort of fitness, but once his arm starts to throb unbearably with even the slightest of movements, he’s forced to stop. From then on, he can only sit and count the number of blocks on the wall. He’s done it so many times that he’s memorized how many blocks there are in each row by row. There’s not much else to do.

The room gets hotter. It takes some time for him to realize that he’s not sweating, and the heat he’s feeling is in fact his body temperature rising. In other words, his fever has spiked a few more degrees. He doesn’t need to inspect his arm to know that it’s infected. As his temperature continues to rise and his body is racked with chills, his thoughts become increasingly jumbled.

Tim pulls on the chain once more to no avail. Frustrated, he throws it to the ground and presses his bound hands against his forehead—grits his teeth against the pain.

He tries to ignore it: the doubt that has planted itself firmly in the back of his mind. Yet, as the days pass with no word from Bruce or anyone else for that matter, it takes root and starts to grow. It sprouts and flourishes until the whispered words take shape into something more tangible.

They’re not coming.

Tim curls his body against his knees and chuckles without humor into his thighs.

Because what are the odds of this happening to someone twice in their lifetime?

Tim is ten. He’s walking home from the library on a rainy day when he’s taken. A gloved hand covers his mouth and he’s lifted off the ground and shoved into a van. It takes a matter of seconds.

He’s tossed into a room. There’s a bed, a blanket, some books, and a single light bulb swinging from the ceiling.

His kidnappers are not cruel. Not at first. They give him food, let him use the bathroom, and let him leave the light on throughout the night. It’s after a week has passed with no word from his parents when they become agitated. 

Their tone is patient when they ask him again if he gave them the right number. 

Tim did. He’s memorized them since he was four years old. Tim’s good with numbers. His teachers had said so. 

They’re away, he tells them, but they do check their messages. Maybe not every day, but they do. 

Another week passes and that’s when the leader snaps. The man grabs his shirt and drags him until he’s barely an inch away from his masked face. The man smells strongly of chai tea like Mrs. Davis used to drink. What once was a comforting scent now fills him with dread.

“Where the fuck are your parents? Don’t they want you?!”

Tim bursts into tears, multiple apologies spilling past his lips. The man is so loud and angry. Tim doesn’t know what to do.

“Hey, Reese. Calm it down. He’s just a kid,” one of the other men wearing a green beanie interjects.

The man called Reese shakes Tim one final time before letting him go in disgust. Tim stumbles and falls on his butt. He wipes furiously at his eyes, but he can’t seem to stop crying. He should stop. He’s not a baby.

Reese paces the small space, yanking at his hair. “What are we going to do with him? What the fuck are we going to do with him?!”

They eventually congregate in a corner of the room, arguing furiously with one another. They may think they’re speaking quietly, but Tim can hear everything.

“Look, this was just bad luck. Who knew we’d grab a kid his parents wouldn’t miss?”

“What a fucking waste of time. Damn worthless piece of trash. I can’t believe this!”

Each word is like a stab to the heart and the longer he listens, the more numb Tim feels.

He jolts when a hand lands on his shoulder.

“Hey kid, we’re gonna drop you off where we found you, okay?” The man in the green beanie is kneeling in front of him, and Tim blurts out, “My mom and dad do want me. They do.” He looks down to his lap. “They’re. They’re just away. I don’t. I don’t know why they’re not…They love me.” Tim’s voice breaks, hands fretting with the hem of his shirt.

The man sighs and awkwardly pats him on the shoulder. It does nothing to make him feel better. “Of course, they do, kid.”

Neither does that.

Tim is blindfolded and dropped off at the exact spot he was first whisked away. He pulls the cloth down from his eyes and stands there long after he loses sight of the white van. He feels lost and confused as to what he’s supposed to do now.

“Honey, are you alright?”

Tim blinks and sees an older woman in front of him. She’s in a smart, navy pantsuit, her hand clutched around the strap of a matching purse. Her eyes look kind, but so did the man in the green beanie.

“Are you lost?” She glances around him. “Where are your parents?”

Tim chokes and his vision immediately blurs. He doesn’t want to answer any more questions, especially about his parents.

He pivots on his sneakers and, despite the shouts of concern, runs all the way home.

Tim’s eyes snap open; the memory is sharp and caustic leaving him feeling wretched.

He hasn’t thought of the incident in years. He repressed the memory so deep one would have to get an oil rig to drill down to it.

It was one of the worst moments of his life. Tim never wanted to feel like that again and yet…

He knows things have not been the same ever since Bruce was lost in time—that he and Dick were not as close anymore because he still carries a residual bitterness after being forced out of his role as Robin. That Bruce is busy (and rightfully so) playing catch up and spending as much time with Damian to get to know his son better. Tim understands. He does, and he still answers whenever they need him. He still provides information or support when it’s requested. So, he doesn’t understand why he’s still here—why he hasn’t been missed. Was it not enough? Was he not enough?

Didn’t they know he was gone?

Tim inhales a shaky breath and releases it slowly. One after another until he doesn’t feel like he’s going to be crushed under the weight of his expectations. It’s his fault for allowing himself to have them. He knows better.

Tim presses his heated brow against the cool wall for some much-needed relief and waits.

oOo

He wakes to a hand brushing through his hair and a familiar gravelly voice speaking his name.

He’s lying on the floor. His injured arm is pulsing to the beat of his heart; he’s uncomfortably hot; and his eyelids feel welded shut. The tone is insistent, however. He can’t ignore it. He never could.

It’s a fight, but he manages to crack open his eyes.

“Batman,” he rasps, voice sounding as worn-out as he feels. “You came.”

Although he can’t see past the white lenses, something shifts in Batman’s posture. His voice is slightly off when he replies, “Of course I did, Tim.”

Tim’s eyes slide shut, the brushing motion of Bruce’s hand on his head is extremely soothing.

“I…I didn’t think they were going to let me go like last time,” he murmurs and Bruce’s hand stills. “Trench Coat isn’t as nice.” He laughs a little at his own joke. No one else is laughing though. How can they? No one else knows.

“Tim.”

He realizes his hands are untied and he reaches forward to grasp on to Batman’s cape. “Can we go home?” He’ll be embarrassed later for the degree of pleading in his voice, but he just doesn’t give a shit anymore.

“Yes,” Bruce replies, placing his hand atop Tim’s and squeezes. “Let’s go home.”

oOo

Time passes in snapshots.  

He recalls his cheek pressed against Kevlar as he’s moved outside.

He hears concerned voices along the journey in the batmobile. 

He’s on a gurney and the noise ratchets up to a hundred. Doctors ask him question after question, but he doesn’t have the energy to answer. It’s too hot. The constant movement is dizzying. He gags but there’s nothing in his stomach to throw up.

He’s on a bed. It’s the most comfortable thing he’s laid on in forever. His head is still pounding though, and he feels like he’s in a furnace.

Alfred is suddenly there above him, face pinched with worry. Dick is right there beside him with a similar expression. Damian stands a few steps away, face expressionless, but his hands twitch occasionally belying his desire to appear unaffected.

Something’s missing though. Someone is missing. He doesn’t know why his heart rate spikes. He doesn’t know why he suddenly can’t breathe. 

“Master Timothy, it’s all right now,” Alfred soothes, hand on his brow. 

It doesn’t help. He needs. He doesn’t know what he needs. 

He hears Dick shout something, but he can’t decipher it over the roaring in his ears. It’s not a moment later when Bruce fills his entire line of sight. Tim’s breath stutters, his vision blurs. Bruce is cupping his face, thumbs brushing away tears that are trailing rivulets down his face. 

“Tim. Stop apologizing. What’s wrong?”

Is he? Apologizing? He is. He has to. Has to let him know. He was good. And he could be better. He wasn’t worthless. He wasn’t.

He wasn’t unwanted. 

“Oh, Tim.” Dick’s voice sounds wrecked, and it upsets Tim even more.

Please. Please don’t throw me away.

He’s pulled against a warm chest, strong arms holding him up as he continues to babble apologies and promises that are coming from somewhere deep inside him. From a time that he felt so lost and scared and rejected. The tide of emotions is overwhelming, pulling him every which way. It leaves him drained, his hands that were once fisting Bruce shirt lose their grip and fall to his sides.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he repeats the mantra until he’s just mouthing the words against damp fabric. Throughout it all, Bruce holds him and murmurs back that there is absolutely nothing he should be sorry for. 

oOo

He wakes up feeling hollowed out and with a headache. He doesn’t think he’ll ever know what it feels like to not have a headache. That’s the pessimist in him though.

Tim’s lucid enough to take whatever medicine the nurse gives him before falling back to sleep. He ignores Dick who is sitting at his bedside, holding his hand. He thinks he feels him brushing the hair off his forehead but ignores that too. 

He thinks he sees Jason at some point, perched by a cracked open window, lit cigarette in his mouth. Then Damian, who keeps to the far corner of the room. Both have eyes trained on him as if trying to figure out some complicated puzzle. He ignores them too.

The next time he regains consciousness, he feels a bit better and can form an actual coherent thought. He’s surprised to find that he’s in his bedroom in the manor. He doesn’t remember being moved but feels grateful to be in a familiar place nonetheless.

The curtains are drawn back to let in some light. The sun casts long shadows across the carpeted floor and almost reaches his bed. It looks like it’s well past midday.

Tim rubs the gunk out of his eyes and braces his good arm against the mattress to sit upright. His grey comforter falls and pools around his waist as a result. He shivers slightly at the loss of the layer.

There’s a presence in the room. He’s felt it since he woke up. The intensity of the stare and accompanying silence can only translate to one person. 

“How long was I out?” Tim asks, voice hoarse from lack of use. He coughs trying to clear his throat and grimaces.

Bruce, who’s seated in a chair beside his bed, hands him a cup of water and two pills. “About four days from when we found you. Fifteen from when you were taken.”

Tim downs the pills without question and drinks the entire glass before handing it back. Bruce takes it without a word. 

Silence fills the room. Tim has no urge to break it despite having so many questions. He’s considerably wary of the answers he may get and that alone seals his mouth shut.

“I was off planet,” Bruce is straight to the point, and Tim feels a weight immediately lift off his chest. “Alfred was on his sabbatical in England. Damian was at the Kent farm. Tamara called Dick as soon as she came back from Belize and noted you hadn’t come into the office.” Bruce looks down at his lap as he says, “I’m sorry, Tim.”

“It’s okay,” he’s quick to reassure because what else can he say? It’s what he surmised at the time: an unfortunate set of circumstances that all lined up perfectly to allow him to be missing for days without notice. “Thanks for getting me out of there,” he adds, the need to convey his thanks is a force of habit. “Trench Coat was becoming really inhospitable.” He cracks a grin at Bruce, but the attempt at humor doesn’t affect the man’s demeanor at all.  

Tim looks away, smile sliding off his face the moment he does. He’s quiet for a moment before asking, “Is he...?”

“Jail? Yes. Detective Montoya will be over to get your statement when you’re feeling up to it.”

Tim nods and waits, fingers fiddling with the drawstring of his sleep pants.

He knows there’s more that Bruce is wanting to ask. One doesn’t break down into a babbling mess over nothing. 

Tim doesn’t remember all the details of his hospital stay, but he remembers enough. He wants to blame his fever for amplifying his behavior, but he’s not so sure if that’s the complete truth. He never talked about what happened with anyone, kept the secret locked away for so long that recent events must have triggered him. His hands clench tightly around his blanket. He never thought how being taken all those years ago had messed with his head. It’s... troublesome to say the least. 

“You were kidnapped.”

Tim flinches despite knowing the conversation was imminent. He licks his dry lips before answering. “Yes.”

“How old?”

Tim glances at Bruce before staring at his knees. “Ten.”

“Your parents.”

“Traveling.” Tim wants to wrap his arms around his stomach—knows how vulnerable it will make him look. Instead, he bends his knees and wraps his arms loosely around them. “I deleted the messages.”

“They never knew,” Bruce states to which Tim confirms. 

“They never knew.”

Bruce leans forward, fingers rubbing circles around his right temple. He looks tired. “How long?”

Restless, Tim folds his arms above his knees and rests his chin above them. “Two weeks. They uh. They actually felt sorry for me. The kidnappers, I mean.” He rolls his head to the side to look at Bruce, his lips quirk up in a wry smile. “Pretty sad, huh? Criminals with a conscious,” he jokes. At Bruce’s flat expression, he grimaces and turns away. 

“It was summer break,” he continues without having to be prompted. “The first time I didn’t have a nanny to watch over me. My parents wanted to see if I could handle it considering I was the big one-oh.” Tim threads his fingers through his hair, gives the strands a quick tug before dropping his hand back onto his bed. “I was so clingy when they got back that they decided I needed someone to keep me company. That’s when they hired Mrs. Mac.”

Tim lets his voice trail off, thinks he’s provided enough information to satisfy Bruce. But Bruce doesn’t know when not to push. It’s something Tim’s known for too, but he has more tact. He’d like to think so anyway.

“You didn’t think we would come get you.”

Tim doesn’t react visibly to the statement, but the knots in his stomach return in full force. It’s the one thing Tim doesn’t want to talk about. He doesn’t answer immediately because he doesn’t want to lie. In the end, he did doubt them—doubted that they would come. Because the people who were supposed to protect him once upon a time didn’t and apparently, the ordeal stuck with him after all these years. 

Tim, as Robin, was caught by criminals countless of times throughout his career. He was always rescued. No one even noticed when Tim Drake went missing. No one was there when he finally raced home to an empty house and went about things as if it were normal. No one ever questioned where he was during those two weeks of the summer. It was as if the world continue to spin for the people around him and his being there just didn’t matter. He didn’t matter.

So wrapped up in his thoughts, Tim doesn’t notice when Bruce sits beside him on the bed. His body tenses when an arm wraps around him and pulls him to the side. Bruce begins to rub his hand up and down his shoulder, being careful to avoid the bullet graze, and after several seconds, Tim relaxes against the older man’s chest. 

“Tim, I’ll always come and get you,” Bruce reassures him, voice firm and brokering no argument. “Always.”

Tim lets the words wash over him, waits for the relief the promise is supposed to bring, but instead he feels nothing. He knows Bruce means it, but for some unfathomable reason he can’t truly believe it—can’t let go of that niggling voice that whispers ‘will he’?

When the silence stretches too long and without Tim giving any indication of speaking, Bruce’s voice is plaintive when he speaks next. “You went through something no child should ever have gone through. A trauma like that stays with you.”

Tim’s breathing momentarily stills at that word.

Is that what he is? Traumatized? Tim’s uncertain if he likes the sound of that, but the symptoms fit: numbness, emotional outbursts, anxiety. It’s textbook.

It sucks.

“I’m sorry, Tim.”

Tim frowns at that. “What for?” he asks, tilts his head to look up at Bruce directly. Bruce looks pensive, his mouth downturned.

“I’m sorry that it happened. I’m sorry you felt like no one cared or missed you. Because you would be missed. You’re important to me, Tim. Son,” Bruce says, reaching over with his free hand to squeeze Tim’s. “Don’t ever doubt that.”

Tim blinks at the onslaught of words before looking away. He blinks rapidly at the burning sensation building behind his eyes and sniffles a little. He lets the silence stretch for a while—twists and turns the words over and over in his head until something inside him finally settles. Eventually, he murmurs, “Okay.” The two-syllable word seems completely inadequate given what Bruce has just said to him, but it’s all that Tim can offer right now.

Tim glances up uncertainly to see if Bruce is disappointed with his response but sees that the older man is leveling a tentative smile in his direction. It’s a genuine Bruce Wayne smile, and the warmth of it melts all the stress Tim’s been carrying down to nothing.

Bruce doesn’t leave. He stays and allows Tim to rest more and more of his weight against him as he begins to drift off to sleep again. It’s nice.

At some point, Bruce asks if he’s up for visitors. Apparently, not being able to confirm Tim’s well-being has Dick literally climbing up the walls.

Tim gnaws at his lower lip uncertainly. “Can we just…stay like this for a while?” It’s been a long time since Tim has had Bruce all to himself. With Batman Inc., him living away from the manor, and Titans business, it just wasn’t the same as when they were just Batman and Robin. After everything that’s happened, he can’t help but feel a little selfish.

“Of course, Tim.” Bruce replies, brushing his hand through Tim’s hair. “Anything you need.”

Tim buries his face against Bruce’s chest and smiles.

oOo

At Alfred and Bruce’s insistence, Tim stays at the manor for the rest of his recovery. Even after his physical injuries heal, for a while thereafter, Tim tires easily due to the bullet wound infection. It leaves him napping at random times throughout the day, usually in the media room or in one of the more frequented sitting rooms. Yet, no matter where he falls asleep, he always wakes to find someone in the room with him. Whether it’s Dick who is napping along with him by his feet; Jason who is catching up with Alfred over tea; Damian who is doing his homework or playing with Titus; or Bruce who somehow always manages to move him to a larger sofa without waking him so that his head is resting on his lap and he’s covered beneath a blanket.

It’s…nice and soothes the spike of anxiety he now feels when he finds himself alone in a room, but Tim has a hard time believing it will last. That this attention is just a consequence of him being taken and soon everything will revert to what it once was.

However, as weeks and subsequently months go by with regular calls and the occasional work lunch with Bruce, frequent texts from Dick, and Jason sprawled across his living room couch more often than is deemed appropriate for a guest, Tim starts to believe that maybe this is the new norm.

It’s smothering at times and clashes with his propensity for independence, but deep-down it leaves Tim feeling warm, cared for, but most of all, wanted.

End