I listened to this song on repeat while I was writing. It's incredibly beautiful and heart-breaking and inspirational, but it produced a pretty dark story, so... beware. And I decided to give Jason a break from angsting, so Tim came out to play instead. Poor dear. *pets him*
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Characters: Tim, Bruce
Word Count: ~1160
Warnings: Hints at major character death, dark themes.
Summary: Tim has never been very good with loss. So when he loses his big brother, he takes up house-breaking, and counting. [Tim's POV]
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I don’t know why I’m here.
I enter through the window. It’s dark inside. Cold. Not surprising, given that no one has lived here for almost three weeks now. I creep across the living room and into the kitchen. There are still bowls in the sink, an open box of stale cereal on the counter. He probably assumed he would be back at some point to clean up the mess.
He was wrong.
The streetlight outside casts the apartment in a jaundiced glow. It’s just enough for me to see the pictures on the fridge, overlapping each other in no semblance of order and held up with a mish-mash of magnets. Not a single one matches. It’s a strange collection. There’s one shaped like the Superman symbol, unsurprisingly holding up a gleaming photo of Clark Kent and Kara and… him. There’s a Bat symbol, too, above a picture of our family. A plastic corn on the cob, with a picture of Roy and Donna and him. Smiling. Laughing. Young.
There's one from Niagara Falls. One of the pyramids. And one with a bear on it that says “Exit: Pursued by a bear.” It’s from the Globe Theatre in London. It was his favorite Shakespeare quote. Bruce got it for him, I think. I pocket it.
I turn back to the living room. There’s a paperback lying page-down on the coffee table, its spine creased and faded. I pick it up. Some of the pages are dog-eared from lying folded for so long. I straighten them, my eyes skimming the dense text. Only one word registers, over and over: 'time.’
I close the book and replace it on the coffee table, not even bothering to keep the place. It’s not like he’ll need it again. I look around the room. Nothing has changed. I thought it would look different, feel different, but there’s still a part of me that expects him to come walking through the front door at any minute, to flip on the lights and grin at me and tousle my hair and ask if I’d like to grab some food.
My throat constricts and I shove those thoughts away. Repression has served me well in the past. Maybe it will again.
I pause outside the open door to his bedroom. His bed isn’t made. The sheets spill onto the floor and the pillows lie crooked. Typical. A sweater is strewn over the foot of the bed, half-inside out. I wonder if it’s the one he wore before it happened. I step over to it, pick it up gingerly. It smells like him. I close my eyes and I can see him. Feel him. How his arms used to wrap snug around me, how he would rub my back and murmur kind things.
I’m shaking. I open my eyes and my vision is strangely blurred. I swipe at my eyes with the sweater and it comes away wet. I drop it on the bed.
The closet door is open and I can see myself in the mirror, a dark shape in a dark room. I think I see something move in the open doorway of the bedroom, but when I look there is nothing there. Just a shadow, then. A shadow of him.
I can’t breathe. I feel my knees buckle and I slump onto the bed. The sheets smell like him, too, and I topple over, bury my face, breathe in deep. I count the muffled ticks of the clock in the kitchen and do not move. After twenty seconds I allow myself to exhale. Twenty more and I breathe in again.
Twenty seconds for twenty days since I last saw him.
Something moves in the front room, and a low voice calls my name: “Tim.”
It’s not a question. He already knows I’m here. Of course I’m here. Where else would I be? My hands fist in the sheets.
Twenty seconds, breathe in. Twenty seconds, breathe out.
He’s in the bedroom now. I don’t hear the cape swishing on the ground. He’s not wearing the costume tonight. That should mean something to me, should tell me something about his own grief, but I’m too busy counting.
Twenty seconds in.
The bedsprings creak and the mattress dips and a large, warm hand covers my hair.
“Tim,” he says again.
Twenty seconds out.
“It’s time to go,” he says, and the hand shifts, stroking, gentle. His voice is low and rough. It’s been like that for twenty days.
Twenty seconds in.
“No,” I whisper. I can’t tell if he hears me. He doesn’t say anything, but I hear him sigh and it’s such an odd thing for him to do, so vulnerable, so un-Bruce, that it makes me tremble.
Twenty seconds out.
Then the bed moves and strong arms gather me close and suddenly I’m fourteen again, weeping and orphaned and terrified in the sheltering arms of the Batman. I turn in his embrace and the death-grip I had on the sheets transfers to his shirt. I’m wrinkling the silk, clawing at his chest, but he doesn’t scold me, just holds me close, rocks me a little, and my throat is clogged and there’s a rushing in my ears and a warmth in my cheeks and I can’t hear the clock ticking anymore and I lose count, I don’t know when to breathe, I can’t breathe. I clutch at him like a child and my lungs heave and air tears its ragged way down my throat and someone is whimpering and I am shaking and he holds me close.
And then I hear him counting, slow and steady, and when he reaches twenty I let out a tremulous breath and he starts over at one. He is rubbing my back, rocking me, counting, counting, and I close my eyes against his shoulder. The numbers are quiet but I feel them in his chest, hear his heart, count the beats. I don’t know what I’ll do if it stops. I don’t know what I’ll do if he follows his eldest, his pride, his first.
I don’t know what I’ll do.
I calm slowly. He’s still holding me, rocking me, counting, counting. I can hear the clock again. The ticks match his voice like an echo. Like a shadow. Beyond that, it’s quiet.
“It’ll be okay,” he says. It’s only then that I realize he stopped counting, that I’m only counting ticks again. Listening to his heart. Willing it not to stop.
He says, “Let me know when you’re ready to go home.”
“Not yet,” I say.
“Don’t leave me,” I tell him. My voice is weak. No more than a croak.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he says, and he’s still rocking me, still rubbing my back. “I’m here,” he says.
My eyes are closed, but I can still see shadows. Shadows of him, of his fall, of his blood. My fingers clench. His arms tighten.
“I’m here,” he says.
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On another, more personal note, I am in the middle of my senior-year crisis, aka, WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE WHEN I GRADUATE. At first I was thinking grad school, then I was thinking publishing, and now I'm back to grad school and I JUST CANNOT DECIDE. GRAGH. I NEED TO MAKE A DECISION. But at the moment all I can do is mope and whine and assume my life is ultimately going to be a failure.
So. Yes. There's that. Stupid senior year.
Okay, off to silly things like class. Tootles!