Damian first noticed the flowers when he returned to Tim’s room to look for Alfred the cat.
There had been stalks of lavender hung up above the desk in his room, spinning slightly as the wind from the open window brushed over them. Damian paid it little mind, leaving after he realized the cat wasn’t in his room. Tim didn’t bring up any of the others pranking him at the dinner table that night, so Damian tucked that small piece of information away without thinking much about it. Just another thing that made Tim… Tim.
He had little habits that seemed minuscule but unique in a way that Damian hadn’t seen anyone do the same. His affinity for gardening and collecting candles, paired with the way he would be one of the last people to go to bed, and the aromas floating from behind his closed doors late at night. Tim didn’t go out of his way to hide anything, and Damian had a little more faith in him to believe that he wouldn’t hold back information dangerous to the rest, so he let it be.
At least, before he started leaving small pots of Aloe Vera around the home.
It was a small thing, really. Nothing to worry about, but it seemed out-of-place compared to his previous behaviours. Damian spotted the teen setting one down in the kitchen on a windowsill by the sink, one at the front of the home on a side table, one in the family area. He even came back to water them every couple of days. It was strange, considering his forgetful nature, but he always came back in the afternoon like clockwork to check up on each of them before returning to what he was occupied with beforehand.
After particularly dangerous missions, Tim would be in the kitchen brewing tea and setting it aside for the group that had gone out. The blend was something that he hadn’t tasted before, but he didn’t question it too harshly past checking for poison the first time Tim had served it.
During large meetings at Wayne Enterprises that Damian occasionally sat in on, he could spot Tim fidgeting with a… bean? During particularly stressful cases. Overtop the table, there was no evidence of the teen’s discomfort, but he had a knuckle-tight grip on the small object in his hand.
He could always find Tim sipping at a mug of tea afterwards, a stark difference from his usual cup of coffee, but not unwelcome. Damian thought that he was much too unhealthy in his work habits, despite the hypocrite that would make him. He always made sure to keep in peak physical form, however, so Damian thought he was well within his rights to criticize Tim now and then.
The random increase in recipes involving pomegranates wasn’t lost on Damian, despite the little attention that Pennyworth had brought to the subject. He was almost certain at that point it had something to do with Tim, though he couldn’t say it was something he had to stop, or that he had to immediately explain.
It was just odd little things that Tim had always done, nothing dangerous or overly-suspicious. Questioning Dick and Jason about it had little results aside from a fond smile or snark uncalled for (in Damian’s opinion.)
Come October, however, and these habits seemed to have picked up in frequency. Damian knew it wasn’t something to do with Halloween, considering he had been doing them year-round, but the month was still significant to the teenager for some reason. He had found sachets of lavender under his pillow following particularly bad nights plagued with bad dreams and encounters with Scarecrow.
Small pots of rosemary had shown up at every bedside table in the home, always watered and taken care of. Damian was starting to get curious, but not annoyed. The attitude was a little surprising, but no one indulged it that much, only causing the want to learn about the why’s of Tim’s habits to increase.
Damian’s curiosity came to a peak on Halloween, staying home with Alfred and Tim while Bruce, Dick, Jason and the others had gone off to their own separate plans. The large manor was practically unoccupied, leaving Damian much more bored than he had cared to admit.
Which is what lead to him standing outside Tim’s room, hesitating to knock on the door to enter the room. He shook his head and bounced on his heels slightly to shake off the mild discomfort he felt before knocking on his door, watching the small bough of hazel branches at the top of his door bounce against the dark wood.
A moment later, the door opened and Tim’s head poked out, looking around for less than a moment before fixating his gaze on Damian with a tiny look of surprise replaced with a smile.
“You didn’t go out with the others?” He said as a greeting, gaining a shrug from Damian.
“I see no use in parties or trick-or-treating.” Tim’s smile grew at the nonchalant demeanour that Damian gave off.
“What brings you here, then?” He asked, opening the door a little more and leaning on the frame with his arms crossed, fingers tapping against the sleeve of his black sweater absently.
“Well, the past couple of months, I’ve noticed all of your… Gardening. And herbs and habits, and the teas you make and the things you put all over the home and I wanted to know why you do so. Any attempt to speak to Grayson or Todd led to little results.”
Tim’s grin grew impossibly bigger at the words, clapping his hands together. “You couldn’t have picked a better day to ask about this. Come in.” Damian eyed him warily as he moved to clear the doorway, giving the younger a space to come in. He stepped through the doorway and his eyes immediately locked onto the large windowsill that had been cleared off and decorated.
The plain candles and jars that Damian had given Tim so long ago were replaced with dark red and orange ones circling around three sides of the space. The jars he had were reduced to two, one filled with marigolds and the other with chrysanthemums. The rest of the space was taken up with a small pumpkin, a skull that looked to be plastic, and a few photos of Tim’s friends he didn’t recognize, along with a photo of his passed parents. It was finished off with a small empty plate and a cup of tea.
Damian stayed standing as Tim shut the door softly and flicked the lights off once more, candles lighting up the room in place of the ceiling lamps. The younger quickly found his voice, speaking up as he took a seat on the bed right by the windowsill.
“What is all this, Drake? A Halloween shrine?” He asked dryly, though there was more curiosity in his voice than malice as he hesitantly took a seat at the edge of the bed. Tim hummed quietly, amused.
“Not exactly.” He turned his back on the small altar, facing Damian. “What do you know about Paganism? And Wicca?”
“Not much,” Damian admitted with a small frown, slightly disappointed in himself. Tim hummed once more, sitting up cross-legged on the blankets as he adjusted himself to sit on one end of the bed. He gestured to the foot end, which Damian crawled up onto and settled down on.
“Wicca is basically a religion, the same way Christianity and Islam are. It was founded sometime in the 1950s, though a lot of people think it goes further back than that,” Tim explained. “There are spells and magic, channelling of natural energy and such. Through plants and rituals and incense. The Divine are thought to be in nature, so we show respect to plants and animals and such the way we would humans. Each religion has it’s holidays, and today happens to be Samhain.”
“So all those plants you have around the Manor? And the teas?” A smile tugged Tim’s lips up.
“Hazel to attract good luck, comfrey tea for general healing. That’s what I usually make for you guys after a couple of hard-hitting patrols, though sometimes it’s a mixture to help with anxiety. That’s usually after fights with Crane. Sprigs of lavender under pillows for better dreams, potted rosemary also helps. Little things like that give me peace of mind.” Damian nodded at the information, mind latching onto something he had said before.
“And you said today was a holiday?” Tim nodded again.
“Samhain. Like a witch’s new year. A time for… celebrating the cycle of life. Honouring those who’ve passed. Stuff like that. I was about to do a ritual before you came.” Damian frowned again, moving to slide off the bed.
“I’m sorry for interrupting you, if you’d want, I could go and-”
“No no no, it’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m actually pretty glad you wanted to learn a little bit about it,” Tim cut him off, speaking a little rapidly with slowly-colouring cheeks. “If- you could join me? If you’d like, I mean. You don’t have to, I get you might find it weird or something, I know B wasn’t used to it when I started practicing here, but… yeah,” He ended off lamely.
“It’s not weird,” Damian stated. “It’s interesting, really. I’d like to learn more about it, if you’d have me?”
The smile that spread across Tim’s face in the dimly-lit room was practically contagious, though Damian did his best not to show it affecting him the way it did.
“Of course,” He grinned. Tim shuffled back to make space for Damian, moving his pillows to rest on the ground next to the bed. He sat cross-legged in front of the altar and waited for Damian to settle down next to him before he spoke again.
“For now, just meditate. Think about someone who’s passed whose memory you want to honour today. Pets, family, anyone you considered to be family,” Tim said softly, eyes already closed as he took slow breaths. Damian nodded seriously at the words, shutting his own eyes and settling on the memory of the girl who he had befriended while he was in the League of Assasins.
She was probably his first friend, though he never was permitted to learn his name. After rough training days she would sneak him painkillers and extra food, and Damian would smile at her across halls during particularly boring meetings he was forced to sit in at. He was, after a short while, forced to… dispose of her, once his Grandfather caught wind of the attachment Damian had.
He didn’t think about her often. The memories were usually too painful to be soured more through grief, but tonight, he let those thoughts wash over him comfortingly, forcing back the bitterness.
“Tonight,” Tim’s gentle voice cut through the fog of memories, “We celebrate Samhain, honouring who came before us and the lives of who we’ve loved and lost. We honour them and keep them alive in our hearts and memories. Tonight, I honour Kon, one of my first and best friends. Steph, one of the most important people in my life. I honour my parents for raising me, and Owens and Z, who gave up their lives to help me continue mine.”
Damian got the basic idea of what he was to say, shifting a little before speaking up. “I honour the, um- One of the girls who had served my family when I was with the League. My first… my first friend.” His voice trailed off to a murmur. Tim didn’t point out the lack of a name, which he was grateful for.
Tim reached back onto his desk and picked up a piece of bread, breaking it in half to offer to Damian. The younger watched his movements as he placed it onto the small empty plate on the altar, murmuring a small prayer. Damian did the same, whispering a small thank you, feeling less out-of-place than he had beforehand.
He watched as Tim picked up the mug of tea, closing his eyes for a moment before taking a sip and passing it to Damian. He hesitantly did the same before handing it back to Tim, who placed it on the altar once more.
Tim turned to face him properly, prompting Damian to mirror him. He flinched slightly once Tim’s hands clasped his gently but closed his eyes once he saw the other teen’s flutter shut.
“Parents, sisters, brothers, family, and friends,” Tim murmured, words sounding as though they had been practiced, which Damian wouldn’t doubt if it was true. “We thank you. We thank you for joining us, and for helping us become into the people we are today. We honour you for this gift you have given us, and we thank you again.”
He was silent once more, and Damian kept his eyes closed, letting his emotions simmer as he took a deep breath before relaxing as he breathed out through his mouth quietly.
Damian let his eyes open once Tim’s hands slipped away from him. He blinked in surprise at the movement, not realizing that time had passed at all. He watched as Tim blew out the candles and closed the curtains gently, leaving the two in darkness save for the glow-in-the-dark stars they had painted on the ceiling so long ago.
He felt… at ease. It wasn’t as though he had mourned the girl for years, but the ritual had somewhat assuaged his misplaced guilt. It was liberating, to honour her aloud. Damian couldn’t imagine how it felt for Tim, who had been mourning his close friends.
“Thank you,” Damian said suddenly, gaining Tim’s attention from where he had been staring off. He hesitated before tacking onto the sentence. “ Tim. ”
A small smile settled on Tim’s face. “Of course.”