“You spent how much?”
Jason’s expression was incredulous at best.
Tim shrugged. The unusually golden magikarp slung between his arms flailed uselessly in response, the carnival’s bright multicolor lights glinting off its scales.
“I don’t care if it’s a weird as all fuck color, that shit’s still useless,” Jason mumbled. He aimed a kick at an abandoned bag of cotton candy as they passed. It rolled to the side of the boardwalk, but his gengar snatched it up and shoved it in her mouth before it could fall off the edge. “But I guess it ain’t like you can’t spare the cash.”
The magikarp looked up at Tim with a baleful glare. He felt an inexplicable urge to tap it on the front of its fishy face.
“It’s not about the color,” Tim said.
“Then what the fuck’s it for?”
“It’s an investment.”
Tim only smiled.
The fishtank in Tim’s renovated theater finally had a purpose. Besides hiding the lever that opened the door to his secret base, that was. But it was only a temporary solution. The tank would be far too small for a growing magikarp. And once his plan reached its final stages…
Well, he’d cross that bridge when he came to it.
Mr. Fish seemed happy enough for the moment. Tim watched him flop around in the tank, bumping into the little ornaments he’d buried in the tank’s gravel.
“That tank is too small. He’ll suffocate,” someone said at his elbow and it was only due to years of training that Tim didn't jump in surprise.
“Pru? What are you doing here?” he asked, edging away until there was a bit more space between them. He didn’t have a problem with her—for an assassin, she was mostly reformed at this point and used rubber bullets more often than not—but she also had unreasonably sharp elbows that for some reason had a habit of finding their way into his side when he least expected it.
“Crashing. Your fridge was empty again, so I filled it. You’re welcome.” She circled around the tank, eyeing its newest resident with disdain. “If you get a bigger tank, you can get a corphish to help keep it clean. I’m thinking we can just seal the cracks on that ridiculous glass-walled gym you have downstairs, cut out the ceiling and the floor of the room above, add a few ecosystem-appropriate plants, get a good filter, and you should be all set.” Pru paused, looking at Tim. “What are you doing?”
“Taking notes,” Tim said, not glancing up from his phone. “This is very helpful—I’m working on a training schedule, but didn’t really think about the rest of it. I didn't know you were into fish.”
Pru made a grumpy, frustrated noise. “I’m not, can’t stand the things when they’re not properly fried. Just, Z used to breed goldeen, you know? Guess it’s a ninja thing or something. Anyway, he’d drone on and on about them whenever we were on stake-out and no matter how hard I try, I can’t forget.”
“Well, at least it’s coming in handy now.”
“Ugh. I don't know why you even want the damned thing. They’re completely useless, you know.”
“But, Pru—I just saw his gaped-mouthed face and I had to bring him home. He reminded me so much of you.”
She was still on the other side of the tank, so he was easily able to avoid the pointy elbows. Of course, she insisted on giving chase after, but he decided to count it as a win, especially since he still needed to get in his cardio and they were apparently going to take out his home gym.
“Of course Drake would acquire the most useless pokémon known to man!” Damian eyed Mr. Fish disdainfully as he moved forward to take his position. “You are an embarrassment to us all.” Even his greninja seemed to be eyeing poor Mr. Fish scornfully.
How did he manage to teach his pokémon how to be snarky? Tim considered the question briefly, then decided that he didn’t really want to know.
Instead, he rolled his eyes, patting Mr. Fish reassuringly on the side. “He didn’t mean that. Well, he did, but it isn’t true. You’re going to be great, I just know it!” He smiled secretively, ignoring the concerned glances from his other family members gathered in preparation for their own events. It wasn’t as though the tournament mattered anyway, except to maintain their civilian covers.
“You’re gonna lose,” Jason told him, trying for a sympathetic expression but only managing an amused smirk. He hefted his sharpedo. “Whatever, just means the tournament’s that much easier for me to win.”
“Aw, don’t be so hard on them!” Dick grinned encouragingly, his jigglypuff giving them a sweet smile as well. “I’m sure you guys will…” He faltered, gaze moving over Mr. Fish’s gaping mouth, feebly twitching fins, and unfocused, dull eyes. “Um.”
“Thanks, Dick.” Tim smiled up at the older man, who was still staring at the pokémon in his arms with that expression of baffled dismay everyone got when they thought he wasn’t looking.
It was all part of the plan.
Tim’s smile widened. Possibly too much, because Dick eyed him for a long, careful moment before edging away slightly. Probably best to tone that down a bit next time. He lived with a family full of detectives after all, it wouldn’t do to make everyone suspicious.
In the end, the tournament went badly for Mr. Fish. Tim hadn’t actually it expected it to go well, but he had been hoping they would last a bit longer than they did in the first fight.
Jason’s sharpedo took poor Mr. Fish out in the first round with a fairly powerful initial attack. Tim had to fight back a wince as his magikarp went flying with a sad little fishy cry.
Jason and his sharpedo both turned similarly looking smug grins at Tim. Feigning consternation and feeling some actual worry, Tim rushed to the side of his flopping pokémon. Fortunately Mr. Fish seemed more demoralized than injured after the battle. After reviving the magikarp from the faint, he checked him for any serious wounds, but was relieved to find none.
Patting Mr. Fish’s side comfortingly and whispering soothing reassurances to him, Tim tucked his pokémon into a portable tank and sat back to watch the rest of the tournament. Fortunately, events had worked somewhat in his and Mr. Fish’s favor. They had been chosen to fight fairly early, so now that they were disqualified, the two of them had plenty of time to watch and learn.
Tim picked a spot in the area away from the other fans and pokémon trainers. They had a good sightline to the action in the area, but not a lot of people nearby. He was hoping people would think he and Mr. Fish were sulking after their loss and leave them alone.
The crowd roared, the pokémon called to each other, and the sun beat down on the stands as Tim and Mr. Fish settled in to watch.
As Tim observed the rest of the battles in the tournament, he took studious notes on each one. Marking down which particular attacks each of the other pokémon who battled were most susceptible to. Identifying and marking out each pokémon Trainer’s strategies and reaction times. Watching and understanding the dynamic at play between each human and pokémon pair.
By the time they were nearing the end of the action for the day, Tim and Mr. Fish had built up quite a database of information on their potential opponents. Including, and especially, Tim’s brothers. They learned that Jason’s sharpedo was very scared of breloom and tended to keep his distance from them as best he could. Damian’s greninja did particularly poor against a very aggressive chesnaught and startled at anything even vaguely green for an almost two hour time period after the battle. He also learned that Dick’s jigglypuff was easily distracted when someone walked past the area with a tray full of cotton candy.
When they finally left for the evening, with Tim’s brothers crowing over their success and teasing him and Mr. Fish about their failures, he didn’t feel at all bad about the outcome. He’d gotten exactly what he needed.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Fish,” Tim said to his pokémon when they got home that evening. “All we need is a little time for me to learn and for you to grow…”
From the depths of his tank, Mr. Fish looked up back Tim with large watery eyes that very much said: ‘you need to figure out a way to learn that doesn’t involve me almost drowning.’
They figured it out, eventually.
Since battles weren’t the most ideal means of training—all the encouraging words in the world couldn’t do much when it came to getting a splash attack to cause anything more than negligible damage—Tim found that the best way to work on strengthening Mr. Fish was by combining their workouts. It hurt his soul at first to take the poor creature from his comfy tank, but studies conducted by many highly reputable pokéinstitutes had proven that magikarp could go for long periods of time outside of their natural aquatic environments. Sure, they gasped and flopped and looked horrible the entire time, but that was more a case of being overly dramatic than actual, physical distress.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Tam, forever the voice of reason for the both of them, gave poor Mr. Fish a critical look.
Tim shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”
With both arms wrapped around the magikarp to keep him steady, Tim lay back on the bench. He shifted his hands under Mr. Fish’s side, making sure to keep them about shoulder distance apart.
And then, he began to start bench press reps.
About five minutes in, he made the mistake of looking over at Tam.
Tam, who was supposed to be spotting him but who was instead looking a little purple in the face with a hand clasped over her mouth.
With the look from Tim, she completely lost it. The laughter she had been holding in spilled out, and she fell to her knees with the force of it.
Tim brought Mr. Fish back down to chest-level and shifted his position so he could sit up without knocking him on to the floor. “Seriously?”
Tam’s only response was to nod frantically, clutching at her abdomen as she absolutely broke down with laughter. Next to her, a little red light blinked on her phone screen. Tim recognized the camera app well enough to know that she’d recorded the whole thing.
“You know, normally I’d be mad.”
“Believe me, I—” Tam had to pause to keep laughing. “I know.”
“But I think you should save that. I think I’ll have a use for the footage.”
On the gym floor, Tam wiped at the corner of her eye. She even managed to sit up halfway. “Do I even want to know?”
“Probably not. Although...” Tim thought about it. Tam was technically on his payroll. And after one too many times where Brucie Wayne had ditched nagging investors with her so that he could go put on a costume and punch people, she understandably had a bit of a grudge.
“How would you like to hear about a business opportunity?”
“I repeat, do I even want to know?”
“It involves trolling Bruce.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Seriously?” Tim asked. Tam stood on one side of Mr. Fish’s tank. He stood on the other. Between them, her vulpix stared intently at Mr. Fish.
“Seriously.” Tam smiled. It was less than reassuring.
“I don’t know…”
“Come on, we’ll go easy on him.” Tam wiggled her eyebrows obnoxiously. “It might be more effective than bench pressing him…”
“Fine,” Tim relented. “But you’re helping me take care of him after.”
“What made you think I wouldn’t?”
Tim had never quite understood why Wayne Enterprises Tower had a pokémon-training facility built into it. Even though Bruce spent every night lurking around in a—if Tim was being honest—completely ridiculous zubat costume, he had never shown much interest in actually training pokémon. Maybe it had something to do with his hangup about being a chronic loner despite literally having trained about half of Gotham’s vigilantes.
In the prep room off the side of WE’s main training gym, Tim stood wrapping tape around his wrists. He had considered wrapping tape around Mr. Fish, but he was also pretty certain that all the tape in the world couldn’t suddenly make a magikarp a viable contender in a pokémon battle.
Mr. Fish sat flopping on the table. There was an air of discontent to it, though he figured that was to be expected with dragging a mostly aquatic pokémon out of water.
“You ready?” Tam called through the open doorway from the adjacent gym.
“Almost!” Tim fixed a stern look at Mr. Fish. They’d both committed to this. Neither of them could give up on it now.
He hooked his hands around Mr. Fish and lifted. He was bigger than he’d been when Tim first brought the magikarp back with him from the carnival, but not so big that he couldn’t carry him around if he had to.
With both arms around the pokémon, they headed into the gym.
Tam was already there, waiting. With her training gear and her vulpix hopping around excitedly, she looked like the real deal.
When the vulpix spotted them, she yelped enthusiastically and bounded over, sticking her nose up into the air to sniff at Mr. Fish. On the side of Mr. Fish that wasn’t pressed up against Tim’s chest, Tim saw him roll his eyes downward to look at the sudden intrusion to his personal space. He let out a low, groaning magikarp sort of sound, at which Tam’s vulpix yapped happily.
There were times when Tim wished he could speak pokémon, and this was definitely one of them.
“Well,” Tam said, “they certainly get along.”
It took them another few minutes before the pokémon finally settled down enough to get started.
Tam took her vulpix back to the starting area opposite Tim’s. Tim put Mr. Fish on the ground, where he flopped dejectedly.
There was a moment of silence where all Tim could hear was the buzzing of the electric lights far overhead and the fishy slaps of Mr. Fish’s fins against the floor.
And then, all at once, Tam was in motion.
“Stephanie, tail whip!” she called out. Her vulpix turned in a tight circle. Tim was sure that if he were a pokémon, it would have been somewhat intimidating.
“You named her after Steph?”
“Yeah!” Tam shouted back. “She’s the most fiery person I know.”
Well, Tam was right about that.
“Mr. Fish.” Tim looked down. Mr. Fish looked up. “Splash!”
His fins began to flap frantically. Around him, the air began condensing into little droplets of liquid. With a full body flop that was nothing short of inspired, Mr. Fish sent them flying towards the vulpix.
Each landed in a little sizzle of heat, causing smoke to rise off of her fur. She blinked, looking mildly confused. Mr. Fish just wiggled where he’d landed.
“Um,” Tim said. “It’s a start.”
Across the arena, Tam looked at him like she wondered what he had expected to happen.
“Try ember!” she shouted in an encouraging tone.
Her vulpix looked back at her, even more confused.
“Go on, you’ve got this!”
The vulpix turned back to where Mr. Fish was flailing around anxiously. She took a couple of cautious steps forward. When she was nearly standing over him, she coughed up a single glowing ember. It fluttered down, landing on Mr. Fish’s scales.
He jumped about half as high as Tim stood tall before flopping back down and wiggling around frantically.
Stephanie the vulpix looked back at her, unimpressed, before walking over to lick at the spot the spark had landed.
Tim and Tam looked at each other.
“That’s probably all he’s got for today,” Tim admitted, sheepishly.
“Fair enough. Want to try again tomorrow?”
Tim looked over to where the vulpix had decided to snuggle up against Mr. Fish’s side.
They come back the next day, and the next. Eventually they work past the point where Stephanie the vulpix dramatically pretends to faint every time Mr. Fish uses splash. Later still, Mr. Fish figured out how to use his instinctive jumping reaction to throw his entire body at his opponent. It… didn’t do much. But it was something.
Three years and sixty four days after Tim first decided to train Mr. Fish, he drags the pokémon and Tam into Wayne Mansion’s pokémon checkup room after one of their training battles.
Tim had gotten Mr. Fish onto the scale just fine. But...
“I’m probably going to need your help with this,” he said, looking over to the couch set against the far wall of the room. Tam looked up from the datapad her eyes had been glued to for the last few hours.
“I’ll say.” Setting her datapad to the side, she stood and crossed to where Tim was, coming to a stop on the other side of Mr. Fish. “He’s getting pretty big.”
Mr. Fish wasn’t quite big enough yet that Tim couldn’t move him on his own if he had to, but it had been a rough month on the poor guy, so he didn’t want to upset him any more than necessary. He moved his hands so he could support Mr. Fish’s head. Tam did the same with his tail, and between the two of them they managed to get the magikarp back into his portable tank without too much trouble.
“How have you two been doing with all the…” Tam paused by the side of the tank, waving her hand in a vague gesture. “You know.”
“Constant harassment and belittlement from my family over my choice in pokémon?”
A weak blush bloomed across Tam’s cheeks. “Yeah. That.”
She stuck a hand down into the tank very slowly to avoid too much movement in the water. Mr. Fish swam towards her and bumped his face against her open hand.
It was enough to keep the grimace off Tim’s face, if only for a moment. “We’re getting by.”
On the other side of the exam room there was a small rolling cart full of bandages and salves specialized for water-type pokémon. Tim wheeled it over, already setting aside what he’d need.
He called for Mr. Fish’s attention and, begrudgingly, the magikarp swam to the surface of the portable tank. The small burn above his right eye hadn’t been there at the beginning of the day, but training had been difficult that morning. Tam’s vulpix curled around her legs sheepishly, bumping her nose against the tank with a quiet chirrup.
It wasn’t the worst burn that Mr. Fish had ever gotten in training, but they had been getting less frequent lately.
Today, they’d slipped up and things had gotten a little out of hand.
Tim went for the bowl of berries that Alfred always kept stocked in the manor’s exam room. After a quick deliberation, he bypassed all of the oran berries in favor of the single rawst he found buried beneath them, and tossed it into the tank in the general vicinity of Mr. Fish’s mouth. He snapped it up without a problem, and the burn began healing over just a little more quickly.
He hated to see the little guy in pain for any amount of time.
“Here,” he said, handing off some of the water proof bandages to Tam.
She took them without complaint, only handing them back once Tim had applied one of Alfred’s salves. The rest of the process went easily enough, but they’d had practice. The bandage came next and, once that was fully applied, Mr. Fish was free to flop around as much as he wanted to.
Which, generally, was quite a lot.
In the tank, Mr. Fish drifted lower and pressed his face against the glass where Tam’s vulpix was pawing at it.
Tim looked on, a small smile forming. “It’s not as bad as it could be, really.”
Tam raised an eyebrow.
“You know,” she started, “you’ve been working at this for what, a couple of years now? At what point does the effort you’re putting in outweigh what you’re going to get out of it?”
It was Tim’s turn to look incredulous.
“Right. The Plan.” Tam sighed. “Sometimes I forget you’re the guy who came up with this absolutely batshit idea and then decided it would only work with a magikarp. No offense to Mr. Fish, but if you wanted to carry around an aquatic pokémon all the damn time, there are plenty of them that are...” she waved her arms in a vague motion indicative of nothing in particular. “... less like complete trashfish?”
In the tank, Mr. Fish rolled over so that he was looking at the vulpix upside down. He started flailing wildly and making small, panicked noises until Tim reached into the tank and flipped him back upright.
“Excuse you,” Tim huffed dramatically, shaking the water off of his arms and splattering Tam with it, “he’s my emotional-support trashfish.”
“... I still can’t believe they gave you the certification for that.”
Tim shrugged. “The right charitable donation will get almost anything done.”
“So,” Tam started. “Do you think he’s going to be ready?”
“We’ve been training him nearly non-stop, haven't we?”
Tam narrowed her eyes at him. “Come on. Even you know it isn’t as simple as all that. You need very specific conditions...”
“And he’ll get them. I’ve already arranged everything to make this work. And several contingency plans just in case something goes wrong.”
Tam’s expression was flat, but Tim knew her well enough to recognize the amusement creeping under it.
“Why am I not surprised.” She didn’t phrase it as a question.
Tim reached a hand down into the tank, giving Mr. Fish a scratch behind his dorsal fin.
“Just be sure you have the camera ready and that you’re standing in a good spot.” In his tank, Mr. Fish burbled contentedly, tilting a little to give Tim better access to his back scales.
“I’ll take care of the rest.”
The day was upon them. A Tuesday, as it happened, with relatively clear skies for Gotham and, as luck would have it, a press conference that Bruce had, through guilt and guile, convinced all his (legal, living) children to attend. It was excellently planned in terms of both media presence, timing, and any number of other things. Unsurprising, as Tam was quite efficient at her duties, particularly when she had good reason to be.
Damian, true to form, turned in his seat on stage and began his hissed protests as soon as Bruce started in on his speech.
“Drake, I insist that you remove your pathetic pokémon from the stage at once!” He shot a fierce glare at the specially modified doggy stroller and its occupant.
Sitting up even straighter in his uncomfortable folding chair, Tim stared down his nose at the boy. “I’ll have you know that Mr. Fish has to be here—he’s an emotional support pokémon.”
“What a preposterous excuse!”
“I require his presence to help me deal with difficult social situations.” Entirely legitimate reasoning on his part, particularly since every situation involving Damian inevitably became a difficult one. Tim narrowed his eyes, daring his brother to contest the statement even as he leaned forward to access the stroller’s special waterproof-pouch so he could retrieve the certificate declaring Mr. Fish to be a qualified service pokémon.
“Besides,” he said, holding it out to Damian, “I have a permit.”
“Ridiculous! How, exactly, does this useless waste of space offer ‘emotional support’?” Never one to let an opportunity go to waste, Damian took the opening provided for him, lunging over Tim, headed straight for the glass tank and poor, sweet Mr. Fish who had never done anything to hurt him except exist. The stroller tilted, the sloshing water unbalancing it, Damian's hand slapping the magikarp even further and higher in a last-minute realization that this was neither the time nor the place for such a display.
For one brief, glorious moment, Mr. Fish soared through the air like the Flying-type he might've dreamed of being, had he the brain power.
Loud enough to be heard from the stage, one of the reporters asked “Is that a magi- ”
It was as far as he got. At the top of Mr. Fish’s arc, perfectly situated above the podium, the cameras and all of Gotham, Damian's blow seemed to finally register and the pokémon's already shiny self began glowing and pulsing with some hidden power.
“Oh CRAP.” The reporter finished. Below, the audience began screaming and scrambling out of the way.
A large, serpentine shadow descended over the stage and Mr. Fish, having the misfortune of losing a battle with gravity, lost his aerodynamic beauty and dropped like a stone. From somewhere at the front of the stage there was a quiet, barely audible, “meep!”
While Tim supposed he should be concerned about Bruce’s safety—though the man appeared to be handling the situation fine, since he quickly shook off his brief moment of surprise in order to roll out of the way of 270 kilograms of sudden fish meat—Tim found himself hoping that Tam had gotten the best angle to record the entire thing. And had copied it to a secure cloud. There was, after all, a rather good chance that Wayne Enterprises would demand the media turn over all their recordings of the event, and that just wouldn't do.
Glancing across the half-destroyed stage, Tim shot his younger brother a vicious smile. “That’s how,” he said, finally answering Damian's earlier question.
Landing half in the area the audience had scattered from and half in the wreckage of the destroyed stage, Mr. Fish roared into the air with all the fury and majesty of a newly-formed red gyarados. Half the audience ran. The farther half stood shocked and still. The cameras rolled on, various news reporters looking panicked and awed.
On the other side of Mr. Fish’s awesome mass—honestly, it was quite impressive, Tim wouldn’t be surprised if they managed to set new records when it came to shiny-type gyarados—Bruce brushed the debris from his suit, picked up the microphone that had somehow, impossibly, survived the encounter, and climbed to his feet. He looked out over the shocked crowd, looked ready to say something to them, when he stopped. Glanced in Tim’s direction. And gave him what was nothing short of a heartwarming smile in terms of Bruce body language. “Good job, son,” he said. Then he turned back to the mass of reporters and notables and resumed his speech.
Tim stared, unable to process what had just happened. The months—years—of planning, the endless ridicule he’d endured, all for this perfect moment of catching Crobatman off-guard. Yet somehow, through some impossible, inconceivable power—Bruce had one-up’ed him. And he'd done it in such a way that Tim couldn't even complain.
Even so, it was Tim who got the last laugh.
Miraculously, Bruce—and, by extension, WE—did nothing to edit or otherwise censor the news feed that resulted from the incident. Of course, it no doubt didn’t hurt that for some strange, incomprehensible reason, Wayne Enterprises’ stock went up as a result of the company figurehead being made into just about the best reaction gif ever. (There was a poll on a popular blogging site; Stephanie forwarded Tim the link.)
None of it worked out the way Tim planned. He’d hoped to pull off the most epic trolling of the century, and instead he’d simply managed a rather inglorious media stunt. There were already conspiracy theories claiming that he had nothing to do with Mr. Fish’s training outside of public appearances, and while it shouldn’t bother him, he couldn't help but find it irksome.
His brothers were frustrated with him—they still hadn’t figured out the point of it all, and even Dick had just shrugged and looked bewildered when an intrepid reporter tracked him down demanding an explanation. In fact, the only member of the family who hadn’t gone through various stages of suspicion and confusion had been Bruce—the one person who certainly had absolutely no idea just how much effort went into ensuring that Mr. Fish would evolve at exactly the right time. Would evolve at all, when it came down to it.
No, Bruce only knew that a pokémon evolving was a significant event—something he learned back when Dick was the only kid running around the manor—and that it took a really dedicated trainer to do it. Nor did he care about the viral meep, because—near as Tim could figure—whenever he saw the video he only saw that his son accomplished a difficult thing through hard work and dedication and his heart swelled with pride.
“So, it completely backfired?” Tam eventually asked him about a week after the incident. National news shows and gossip rags still hadn’t stopped talking about it. According to Tim’s phone, ‘#isthatamagi-ohcrap’ was still trending on Twitter. A new wave of memes was making the rounds.
Behind them, Mr. Fish sat coiled on top of himself. Tim reached back to scratch him on his chin, and Mr. Fish rumbled happily.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Tim said.
Wayne Enterprises stock was up. His dad was—strangely, unbelievably—proud of him, and he had it on camera. He had proof. That, somehow, was even better than seeing Crobatman crack under pressure. That was something no one could ever take away—not Damian, not Dick, no one.
But more than feeling vindicated, Tim had learned something new. Something that might even make some call him a pioneer in this particular field.
“Off the record, the Justice League loves it. Who knew that when you literally evolved a magikarp in front of him without warning, Crobatman’s reaction would be a fucking ‘meep?’”
Art by Rider_of_Spades.
Art by Silver_Snow_77.
Art by Airdanteine.