Tim settled on the porch step, Jason’s gigantic hoodie swamping the upper half of his body. His hair was half pulled up in a messy bun, the other half coming to rest along his neck and shoulders.
It was a chilly October night in Gotham. Rain pattered against the ground, not harsh, but enough to soak Tim’s socks that were poking out from the covering of the awning. He didn’t pay it any mind, looking out across the front yard of the manor. The hedges surrounding the gigantic porch shook as water hit the leaves, and light from the Manors many rooms glinted off the driveway’s wet pavement.
He rested his elbow on his knee and his chin on his hand as he let out a small puff. If it were much colder, he would’ve been able to see his breath in front of him.
When he was younger, he used to pretend he was a dragon. He’d run around outside with his snow boots and a heavy jacket. His mom would force a hat on his head that would always come off within the first five minutes of being in the snow. He would run around making snow angels, snowmen that were more like mudmen, and kick the snow around without a care in the world. He’d be out there until his legs went numb and he couldn’t possibly trudge around anymore without any feeling in his calves. He’d go inside, and his mom would set hot chocolate down in front of him, and they’d warm up the fireplace.
He was five the last time that happened. After that… Tim didn’t know. He came out, he figured. And they hated him for it. They hated who he was, even if they begrudgingly let him wear suits instead of dresses because he would refuse to go to a gala otherwise. They left more often and stayed away longer. Until they didn’t come back.
Tim drew in a sharp breath, closing his eyes for a moment to keep from letting his mind delve much deeper. He didn’t want to think about that phone call. He didn’t want to think about their closed caskets, their bodies too broken to even think of letting people see them.
Out of everything that could be the end of Jack and Janet Drake, it was a plane crash. It wasn’t some Gotham rogue out to get them or something going wrong at a dig. It was a plane crash .
Tim scratched at the back of his head a little too harshly before forcing himself to look back out on the Manor grounds. Rain still pattered, and Tim could feel that his toes were utterly soaked at this point.
Another soft breath and he stuck his hand out past the awning, letting the water collect in his palms. He watched in silence as light glinted off the droplets.
Tim used to hate the rain. He still hated storms, the thunder making him jump until he eventually had to slot himself into one of his many stolen hoodies and shove headphones into his ears. He would turn the volume up until he was sure the loud cracks were just his imagination and stay like that until long after the storm had passed. His stomach churned with anxiety just sitting on the porch, headphones upstairs on his desk where he’d left them yesterday, but he forced the feeling down. He wasn’t ready to go back inside yet.
He wiped his hand on his sweatpants before sticking both palms out this time, letting the rain patter against his skin.
Tim missed his house sometimes. It was absurd; he knew it was. The Drake residence had never been a warm one. You walked in and could feel how lonely the place was. Dick had spoken that exact sentiment when they went over to collect Tim’s things. The Mansion was quiet, barren, and too luxurious for its own good.
The Manor was the complete opposite. The decor in most places was old, but it wasn’t stifling. It was the definition of a home . Everything about the Manor screamed love and warmth, even when they hadn’t turned the heat on yet. Signs of life could always be seen across the grounds, and yet, that’s why Tim missed his old house sometimes.
The loneliness had been all he knew for so long; it almost became comfortable. It was his normal, and sometimes the constant sound of people was just too much. You could hear Damian playing his classical music or talking to his pets. Dick and Duke playing video games or watching youtube videos. Cass practicing her ballet or giggling with Steph. Alfred cooking with Jason or chastising someone for running through the house. Bruce humming to himself as he worked on paperwork or checked up on his kids to make sure no one had been murdered. Sometimes the noise was too much, and Tim needed reprieve.
Tonight was one of those nights. No one had even been particularly loud , but it was still too much for Tim’s overwhelmed brain to be able to process.
He pulled his hands back from where they’d been facing the sky and shoved them into his hoodie pocket. His fingers were starting to get cold, and he wasn’t ready to go back inside yet.
The tears came on faster than Tim could comprehend, burning the back of his eyes and sliding down his cheeks before he even knew he was sad enough to cry. Why was he crying? He didn’t know. He didn’t feel particularly bad , but he knew he wasn’t feeling good, either. The heaviness in his chest was testament to that fact, so he let the tears keep coming. He was alone after all, and it’s not like his parents were around to scold him for crying. If he was so adamant about being a boy, he should act like one. Boys don’t cry. Boys suck it up and don’t. Cry.
He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. No. No. He was allowed to cry, just like he was allowed to paint his nails and wear makeup and dress up in skirts. He wasn’t less a man for it. He was allowed to cry.
And oh boy, did the tears keep coming.
His body shook with quiet sobs. The rain in front of him kept its steady pace, unwavering even as Tim felt like he was falling apart.
The tears eventually dried up, and Tim found himself feeling only slightly better. A headache was starting to wash over him, but he ignored the feeling as he quickly wiped his cheeks before moving to card his hands through the hair tangled on the back of his neck.
Another breath came out shuttering this time.
A light turned out upstairs. He could see when it stopped shining off the driveway, and he took a moment to try to gauge how long he’d been out here. When he found he couldn’t figure it out, he pushed himself up from the porch steps. He hesitantly turned the knob, knowing that Bruce’s phone got a notification any time the front door opened. He knew Tim was out there and let him be. He was glad for that fact, unsure of how he might have reacted if someone walked out on him.
He made it halfway to his room before he ran into anyone. Dick was standing in the hall, one hand in the pocket of his joggers while the other scrolled through something on his phone. His brother looked up a little too casually, acting as if he’d just realized he had company. “Hey Timmers,” he greeted, shutting his phone off with a ‘click’. “Alfred’s making his hot chocolate if you’re interested.”
That’s how Tim knew. Alfred didn’t make his hot chocolate on just any random night. It was for special occasions only. They all knew Tim needed his space and had let him be. (He almost started crying again just at the knowledge. Almost.)
He cleared his throat, knowing he’d been quiet for a beat too long. “Sure.” Neither of them commented on how hoarse his voice sounded.
Tim followed Dick silently into one of the sitting rooms, finding the rest of the family already gathered. None of them paid any mind to the pair as they settled down, each grabbing their mugs from Alfred with quiet ‘thank you’s. Tim glanced around to see everyone doing their own thing. Dick resumed scrolling through his phone, Damian was sketching something, Duke and Cass were playing a game together on the switch, and Jason and Bruce were each reading a book. Everyone sat in companionable quiet, the only sounds being that of clicking buttons, page turns, and pencil on paper.
As Tim settled further in his chair, inhaling the sweet scent of his hot chocolate, a warmth started to overtake the feeling of dread that had previously taken over his chest. It didn’t go away completely, he wasn’t sure it ever would, but his family understood. They knew, they listened, and they cared enough to be there for him in the way he needed them to be.
He took a small sip of his drink, letting himself be. Because that’s what family was really about.
Being allowed to exist without repercussions.