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Sturdy and Serviceable

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Fic: Heart, Humble

Spoilers: Robin #125, but frankly you might get a little more out of it if you've read Identity Crisis #6.

Rating: PG13 for cussing and adult topics.

Summary: Back then, all the boys his age had hero-worshipped costumed vigilantes. Jack supposes they still do.

Pairing: none. Gen.

Author's Notes: Thanks to hradzka for beta reading. If this thing has decent pacing, and any ending at all, it's due to him. Any especially brilliant bits are probably his. Thanks to __marcelo for hand-holding when I was ready to accelerate this fic at 9.81 metres per second per second right out the window. Further notes at the end.

It hits him out of nowhere. The first time, he's sitting at the kitchen table with Dana, chairs pulled out and her with her feet in his lap. They're both drinking tea. More than any real fondness for tea, it's a ritual they cherish; time alone at the end of the day to talk, or not talk. Suddenly he realizes: My son could be dead.

He puts the tea down on the table because he's afraid he'll drop it, and tries to keep his face blank. Of course it doesn't work. He loves Dana because she's the opposite of him, sensitive and perceptive. "Jack?" She puts her tea down too, but recognising that he's trying to master himself, makes a joke of it, to give him his space. "Did you suddenly remember that you've missed our anniversary? Because you're a couple months early for missing it."

"I like to be prepared." His son could be dead. Tim can't have realized how dangerous it was. He can't have known. But Jack has always known how dangerous Gotham is. He knows Gotham's homicide rate. It's why he kept his family off the island. Right next to- oh, God, right next to Bruce Wayne. He picks up his tea cup and stares into it so that Dana can't see his face. He feels sick.

It's as if it's a balance to all the years he lived in blissful ignorance. My son could be dead.

Now that Tim's safe, out of the reach of Wayne, he's gripped with terror at intervals. It's as if he couldn't absorb all at once the enormity of the horror, so that his mind slowly and painfully unclenches, letting in painful shards of realization only when he can deal with them. The next time it happens he's meeting with a client. They're discussing tax strategies when he suddenly realizes, he could be dead, it's only luck he's not dead. He has excuse himself to go the bathroom, where he throws up.

He's remembering how they left Tim alone to go on vacations. Was that when it all begun? Did Wayne make some excuse to visit, charm Mrs. Mac? Throw a ball over the fence? He could ask Tim, but he's too afraid of what Tim might say, of what he might say. Tim and he have only brief coded discussions on innocuous topics, where both of them try to say a lot with few words and neither is sure that either understands. Maybe if he'd talked to his son after Janet's death, he would know how to, now. He wants to spend time with his son, his prodigal son, miraculously delivered unharmed, but he's afraid he'll boil over with anger, shout at him, yell, "How could you! How dare you!" But he doesn't understand why his son has chosen him over Wayne, over whatever grip Wayne has had on him all that time, and he's afraid to disturb the balance.

He rinses his mouth out with water from the tap and goes back to the client.

Jack's afraid to go out in the evenings. He thinks Dana's going to notice soon that he doesn't want to go out alone with her or by himself, but only to places where he can take his son along. He's in the comfortable chair, pretending to read the paper, flicking his eyes up to check on Tim every time he turns the page. Tim has his homework spread across the coffee table in front of the couch, leaning forward at an angle that looks uncomfortable for his back. Jack used to think that Tim got such good grades because he spent so much time on his homework, but evidently he spent less time than Jack had thought. All those late night runs, Dad, I've just realized that I'm missing a source, but I'm sure the library has it, were only a cover for his friends' activities. Maybe Wayne helped Tim with his homework.

"Hey Dad, who was the Secretary of State during the Cuban missile crisis?"

Is Tim reading his mind? Does it all show on his face? Jack's not sure what to say. He can't remember off-hand, but he knows where to look it up. But Tim hasn't asked for help with homework since... Well, has he ever? When did Tim start to bring home class-work? He looks at Tim closely, trying to see what Tim's actually trying to say.

Tim holds his expression when he meets his eyes, but then after a moment he flushes. "Oh, yeah, right, Rusk. I knew that," and hunches down as if he's been reprimanded, and doesn't look up from his papers.

Jack turns another page blindly. That, right there, what was that? He knows he's missed something.

Dana leans across the pony wall dividing the kitchen from the living-room. "Tim, you've been staying in an awful lot these past weeks."

Jack tenses, but Tim doesn't. He looks up at her quickly, and says in a particularly unconvincing voice: "Just because they're my friends doesn't mean I have to spend all my time with them."

"Oh, Tim, is it about a girl?" Dana puts down the mail she's sorting. "Because those things seem so important when you're- I mean- Of course they're important to you, because they feel that way, but-"

"Yeah, no. I know. Can we not talk about it?" Jack knows he's staring at his son like a goldfish, but luckily Dana is looking at Tim with a combination of sympathy and suppressed amusement and not looking at her husband. Has Tim always been this good at misleading, lying, deceiving? When did he learn to be so-

Tim bends over his homework again.

Later that night when he's taking off his watch and laying it on the side table, Dana says, "Jack, maybe you should try and spend some time with Tim."

Jack's glad the lights are off. "What? Why?"

"Oh, Jack. I'm not telling you how to raise him, it's just... He's so... I think he's going through a hard time right now, that's all."

"And you think I can help him?" He hears the way he sounds, disbelieving and hopeful at once. Are all fathers so terrified by their sons? Terrified that their sons won't admire them, won't need them, won't heed them, won't- He feels pathetic and ridiculous. It reminds him of when seeing Janet still made his chest tighten, back when she still thought his name was Jim and he was too thrilled to be spoken to to correct her. Or the first time the little red monkey they brought home from the hospital reached out blindly and grabbed his hand.

"Are we going to be able to go to Vermont?"


"Vermont. Did you talk to the agent at the lodge? Because I arranged with Jill to take my clients."

"I didn't get around to discussing it with her. I'll see her tomorrow."

"Is this the smallest set of screwdrivers we have?" Tim says, walking through the room, waving a set of jeweller’s screwdrivers that Jack recognizes from the closet.

"I think so. Why? What are you doing?"

Tim catches himself on the doorframe, turns around. "Your PC is running kind of loud. I'm gonna open it up and lubricate the fan. It should run quieter, and maybe a bit cooler." He steps back into the room. "Is that okay? Are you guys going to need it in the next ten minutes?"

Dana says, from over Jack's shoulder, "No that's fine, go ahead." Tim disappears back into the hallway, and Dana waits a moment before saying, "He's a really great kid, isn't he. You did a good job on him."

"I didn't really-- I wasn't there for him very much of the time."

"Well, I don't think Tim needed a 'pal,'" she makes finger quotes around pal, "who would take him to games, or insert himself in Tim's social life. He's usually pretty independent. But look how he turned out."

What jack-ass he had been. Maybe if he'd been less concerned with keeping his dignity and not butting in on his son's affairs, he would have noticed that his son was consorting with criminals and playing tag with sociopaths.

He could have lost his son. He could have lost the only thing that's left of Janet. His son could be dead. He's supposed to be reviewing Dr. Mendelson's paper for Modern and Pre-modern Societies, but he's not even able to read it. He flips the page back and tries again from the start.

"Dam- Darn. We don't have cream? Did someone use up the cream?"

He suddenly realizes that Dana is speaking. "I used it in my coffee this morning. Did you need it?"

Tim passes through again in the opposite direction, waving the screwdriver set in greeting.

"Well, I was going to make spaghetti alfredo, but I guess it can be marinara. Or- Tim, would you run down to the store for me and grab a pint of cream?" She puts down the grater in her hand. "Let me get my purse."

Jack feels an idiot terror at the idea of letting his son out of his sight for even fifteen minutes, although there's no way Tim can get involved in some Arkham escapee's jailbreak driving between here and grocery store. And Tim glances over at him, and seems to see that.

"Want to come for a drive, Dad?"

He has to start trusting his son sometime. He manages to say, "some other time," without sounding like he's choking.

But Dana is working at cross-purposes to him. "Go on Jack, let me have the house to myself for a few minutes." She presses a bill and her key ring into Tim's hand.

Neither he nor Tim say anything in the elevator. He's not going to amuse the attendant. Tim stands still and looks relaxed, but he thinks he sees a line of tension in his back. Or maybe not. What does he know? He doesn't know his son at all.

When they get to the car Tim raises an eyebrow and offers him the keys. "No, you drive. I'm just along for the ride." While he watches Tim adjust the steering column and mirrors for his height, he realizes he never taught Tim to drive. That can't be right. He must have. But all he can summon is a vague memory of a conversation about car lengths and braking. Wayne must have taught him to drive.

He pays attention when Tim backs out onto the road, and realizes he's hoping to catch Tim in some adolescent mistake; over-steering or swerving with his shoulder check. But Tim's a good driver. As Tim casually navigates traffic he stares at the road, feeling some pressure rising inside him like a bubble until he suddenly says, without planning to: "Tim," and then isn't sure what to say next. Tim tilts his head a little, to indicate he's listening, but doesn't turn from the road.

"I know- I haven't been the best father to you-"

Tim makes a little groan; the first entirely unscripted sounding thing Jack's heard from him in he's not sure how long. "Dad-"

"No- I know I haven't. There's no manual, you know."

"Dad, don't," Tim slides down a little, hunched in his seat.

"Just- You should know your mother and I were- We never really expected- "

"No, it's okay. I understand." Tim skates his hand over the wheel without turning it. "I always understood that you guys had other responsibilities. I mean, you travelled a lot, but, you know, I was okay with that, I didn't- "

"A kid your age, should have had a mother and father who were..." present, would have been good, he thinks.

"Well, you had a lot to- You couldn't spend all your time with a kid. Your work and you know, marriage is a responsibility too, which takes a lot of effort. I notice how much effort you put into making this thing with Dana work. Being a good husband- "

"I had an affair."

Tim, who's been turned away from him, watching the road the entire time, suddenly turns to look at him, eyes a little wild, "What!?" and then immediately turns back to watch the road. "You cheated on Dana?"

"On- No! I cheated, I mean, the affair was with your mother. On your mother." He hadn't ever intended to admit to anyone-- only now he has, and he's babbling not knowing what he's saying.

Tim blows out his breath audibly. "Yeah, Miss Gladwell, Gary Foster's assistant , I know. I thought you meant Dana. Dad, Dana's the best thing that- Dad, you can't do anything like that to her."

"I wouldn't- what- wait. You knew? You can't!" This was never supposed to happen, and now it's spinning out of control. He's told Tim, only somehow... "You were thirteen! Janet didn't even know."

"I think she susp-" but Jack interrupts again.

"Did Wayne tell you?"

"How would he know?" Tim asks, confused. Which is entirely unfair. What right does Tim have to be confused when he's sending everything his father believed to be true up in smoke.

"How do you know?"

"Well, you kind of, um. I knew at the time, that you and Mom were... And then later, when you had such a weird reaction to Miss Gladwell at the Christmas Gala... It was kind of obvious."

God, Jack remembers that party. Stacy slightly drunk and flirtatious, Janet brittle and sarcastic and he in agony to keep them apart. Which had been fairly simple because Janet had wanted him to notice how much fun she was having with whatsisface, the Jaeger trust fund kid, and kept tossing her hair and laughing from across the room, looking at him to make sure he noticed, while Stacy circling the room on a twenty minute circuit, approaching, flirting, being shot down, and then doing the round again. He had, however, thought that no one had noticed.


Tim winces. "Well, no, not- I didn't really realize at the time, but later I put it together."


"When I was, maybe, fifteen?" Tim hunches down a little in the seat, as if expecting some further explosion, but Jack can't think of anything to say. When your secret shame has been known to the one who you would do anything to keep it from for two years...

The car goes silent when Tim removes the keys, and Jack realizes they've parked. Apparently they've agreed not to discuss the matter outside of the car, because they're both silent crossing the parking lot and entering the store. Inside, they exchange identical glances of bafflement and split up to search for cream. Jack finds the dairy section several minutes later and finds Tim staring bemusedly at a large glass fronted refrigerator.

"Lite cream? Whipping cream? Half and half? How can you have light cream? Did you know there were so many kinds of- Do you think it will matter much which one we get?"

Since Jack suspects Dana has manufactured this shopping emergency in order to trap him and Tim in a car together in the hopes of forcing a conversation, the answer is probably no, and they choose based on colour.

"I think teal cream will really make the meal."

"Teal? You sure that's not more of a periwinkle?"

"Have you been watching the home and gardening network again, Dad?"

They make their purchase and head out. Tim's holding the door for Jack who's carrying the bag, when Tim suddenly lets go of the door, turns to Jack and says, "Hey, what about-" and while looking at Jack collides hard with another hurrying shopper coming out the double door beside them.

"Whoops!" They both go down, Tim and the dark haired guy, scattering packages everywhere. The other guy tries to stand up, but Tim flails out, trying to regain his feet and accidentally swipes the kid's feet out from under him so that he goes down again. Tim gains his feet, and tries to help the other guy up. Jack tries to decide if he should put down the bag and lend a hand, or stay out of what looks like a sticky situation. Tim tries to pull the kid up by the collar of his jean jacket, pulling his arms back and up in what looks like a rather uncomfortable way.

"Let go of me, you fucker!" The kid is understandably angry and a little upset with Tim's clumsiness.

"Hey, sorry man, just trying to-"

And out run two store clerks, both drawn by the drama on their front step. They look at each other, not sure how to step in.

"Um, excuse me sir. I think you forgot to stop by the check-out with those purchases." Everyone but Tim turns to stare at the store employees. The kid looks defiant, then scared, and stands up.

"Oh yeah. Whoops. Maybe I better come in and straighten that out."

"Yeah, I think our manager would like to talk to you." The bigger of the clerks has positioned himself (Jack now notices) to cut off the kid's retreat. And the kid is escorted back into the store by the uniforms.

Tim gets up, dusts himself off, and heads for the car. Jack realizes that he has once again missed what was going on until it was over. Tim's halfway to the car, and he's standing on the sidewalk holding a plastic bag containing a pint of cream.

Jack catches up with Tim at the car. Tim's sitting in the drivers seat with the window rolled down, keys on the dash, making no move to start the car. Jack climbs in the passenger side and sits too. "So, did you actually have something to say, or was that just to make it looks spontaneous?"

"Just for verisimilitude." Both Tim's hands are on the wheel, and he's holding onto it, as if for balance.

"You could have died!" Jack yells, and it's far too loud inside the car. "You could have!-"

"Listen," says Tim desperately "That doesn't count, okay? He wasn't dangerous at all, just a shop-lifter. Anybody might have stopped him if he was running."

"Yes, he was- Did you ever think that maybe he- He was stealing groceries! Would it have been so bad to let him get away?"

Tim skews around to look at him, finally. "Groceries? Didn't you - That was, like, seventy dollars worth of cigarettes."

Jack honestly can't remember what the kids was carrying when Tim collided with him, but, boxy parcels- could have been cigarettes. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Didn't you- He dropped a bottle of ketchup on the floor in front of the counter and then grabbed the cartons and walked out with them when the clerk started to clean it up. I thought she would notice quicker, but-"

"Even if he was- Tim, you didn't have to do that. Stores have insurance to cover these kinds of losses. What if he had been carrying a gun?"

"A gun? With that jacket? How would he? Dad, stealing over fifty dollars worth of merchandise from a store is an initiation rite for los Lobos. Los Lobos feeds into the Burnly Town Massive. To get into the Burnly Town Massive you have to bring a kid into prostitution- repeated rape is the most common way, or rohypnol and blackmail-."


"It's true!"

Tim's fists are clenched on the steering wheel, and he's refusing to look in his direction again.

"Tim, you're not responsible for preventing every horrible thing that happens in this city."

"Somebody has to. What if it were... somebody you loved? Wouldn't you want somebody to save her? What if it was you?"

"Tim..." Jack breathes out loudly, looks at his hand. "Tim, if you were in danger I wouldn't,-- I would throw a bus-load of nuns into a volcano." He stops. Fiddles with the air-conditioning vent. Doesn't look at Tim. "But that doesn't mean it's right to... You're just a kid."

Tim sneaks another short look at him. "I saved you once. And Dana."

"What!? When?"

"The Save the Rainforest Gotham thing, where uh, Pamela Isely showed up, and-"

"Isely? The Poisonous Oak? Do you know how many men she's killed?"

"Ivy, Dad. And, no, I don't know. Are we counting the one's who are still in unexplained comas, the one's who are missing, or just the bodies that have been discovered?"

"There's no need to talk to me like that."

"Yeah, I know. Sorry. It's just- "

"Tim, she's a serial killer."

"I know that. I really, really do, okay?" Tim leans his forehead on the top rim of the steering wheel for a moment. "I guess we better get this to Dana if we want supper."

And neither of them talk on the way home.

They keep to innocuous topics for the next several days.

Jack's realizing that even though he was horribly, horribly wrong, he was also right. When Tim went missing, late in the evenings, or wasn't where he had agreed to be, or even when he disappeared for a weekend, or a week, he never worried, because Tim was so obviously a responsible, sensible kid that Jack figured he could keep himself out of trouble. He thought the occasional disappearance was just Tim kicking against the traces. Well, he was right that Tim was a resourceful kid, wasn't he?

He's watching the news when Tim comes in, and he starts as if he were a teenager looking at a skin mag when his mother walked in. His unthinking impulse is to turn it off. But Tim only looks briefly at the screen, and then goes across the room to pull a book off the book shelf. The anchor on TV is intoning with a ridiculous sort of gravitas, emphasizing the final word in each phrase:

"third such event this month. Passers-by reported seeing flashes of coloured light at the Wellington site, although we are unable to confirm this. Police will only state that those responsible have been apprehended."

Jack hits the mute button. "Is that him?"

Tim doesn't dissemble for a second. "Not likely."

Jack wonders if he's saying that because he senses that his father's a little exercised on the subject of the batman. "Oh? How do you know?"

Tim wanders over to the couch, holding the world atlas in his hand. "Well, if it was him, people would have noticed noise as well as light. Probably it was the Sentinel. Or some kids with flashlights."

"The who?"

"The- the old Green Lantern from way back."

Suddenly it's as if Jack is thirteen again. He'd set his heart on a scrapbook of Green Lantern memorabilia: news clippings, photographs, perhaps a shred of his cape. For a year he had followed the Lantern's exploits obsessively, never collecting more than dozens of pieces of newspaper and a brick Jack pretended had been blasted by the Green Lantern but really just came from a tenement building down the block. Jack had kept that scrapbook for nearly a dozen years, before throwing it out to "make room for the baby's nursery," at Janet's insistence. And, although it makes no sense, he's fiercely jealous that Tim can speak of the Lantern so casually.

Back then, all the boys his age had hero-worshiped costumed vigilantes. Jack supposes they still do. And if Tim took it a little far -- well. Tim's always been an overachiever.

Tim probably knows who the Green Lantern really is.

Tim could have died.

He can't get away from that. He noticed yesterday that Tim was wearing a long sleeved shirt, although it's pushing seventy-eight degrees. The habit of suspicion is new, and now it follows him everywhere. He had spent the rest of the day trying to get a glimpse of Tim's arms; pulling back when passing Tim the casserole so that he would have to extend his arm, asking him the time to get him to use his watch, and in a particularly ill thought-out stratagem, asking Tim to do the dishes, before Dana pointed out that they had a dishwasher.

Today, when Dana leaves for her book club meeting, Tim comes to find him.

"Dad, I'm not doing drugs, alright?"

Well, if they're going to talk about it, fine. "Then why are you trying so hard to keep your arms covered?"

"Don't freak out, okay? I have really pale skin, and it looks worse than it is." Tim pulls his shirt off over his head. "See?"

Jack fucking hopes it looks worse than it is, because he can't see how his son could have acquired such a collection of scars without systematic torture being involved. He has a patch of mottled white skin on the inside of his left arm that looks like a faded chemical burn. There's a ropy scar coming up from his right hip across his belly, and God, were his intestines hanging out there, did he have to be sewn up? There are a set of five indentations in a line going up and over his deltoid, like someone inserted claws there, or- is that what bullet holes look like? He has a half moon scar in his upper arm...

"We were able to get a dental impression, and actually tracked him down off of that, which was a lucky break. Turned out he had raped two women, breaking into apartments off the fire escapes, but we stopped him before he escalated -- " Jack jerks his eyes from the bite mark in Tim's arm to his face, horrified. "But I guess you don't care about that."

"No! No, I'm- " well, he can't say glad or pleased, "it's good, of course. I just don't see why it had to be you. Why do you have to be the one risking your life?"

"Because I'm good at it." Tim twists his shirt in his hands. "I'm smart about it. I'm careful- More careful than someone else might be."

"That- " is the most horrifying thing I've seen since they showed me pictures of my wife's body, he doesn't say. "That doesn't look like careful to me."

"I'm not doing it anymore. I-- I only did it because it needed to be done. But I wanted you to know that I was-- " Tim untwists his shirt and puts it back on. "I was careful. I was good at it. That's what I wanted to tell you." He falls back against the doorframe, and knocks his head against it twice, making Jack wince in sympathy. "I, you know, I planned it out something like a hundred times. How I would tell you." He laughs softly. "I really, desperately, wanted to tell you, although I can see why you wouldn't believe that."

Jack waits, afraid that if he says something he'll spook Tim, and not hear this, but Tim doesn't say anything, just looks at the opposite pillar of the doorframe. Finally he asks, "Why didn't you?"

"Well, obviously I knew you wouldn't be pleased. I knew you would be worried. And I guess I was afraid that you might do something like... Something like you did." Jack winces.

"Maybe that's all bullshit though." (Jack has suspected that his son knows how to swear, but it's a shock to hear him) "I think I was really afraid that you wouldn't be proud of what I was doing. I was doing this incredible thing, saving people's lives and I-- And you just wanted a football player, you know?"


"You don't have to, you know, pretend or anything." Tim slides down in the doorway until he's sitting across it, his back against the frame and his legs across the lintel.

"Tim- What you- did," and Jack hasn't been thinking of it in terms of saving lives, so much as in terms of fighting some obscure game with insane rules with criminals. But he supposes lives must have been saved, or at least Tim thought of it that way. "If you saved even one life, that's incredible. It's more than most people will ever do. I'm proud of that, when it doesn't horrify me. But- "

"I delivered a baby once."

"Uh... You did, really?"

"It was as terrifying as anything I ever did in uniform. This woman was trapped in a building by a firefight, and she went into labour. Batman just told me to take care of her. There's a kid out there that's named Robin. Lucky she was a girl."

God almighty, Jack loves his son. And he will never, ever let anything happen to him. Tim's capable of so much, and Jack refuses to see him die for a cause, and he doesn't care how fucking noble it is.

Tim picks a bit of lint off the carpet. "You wanna go see the Jackie Chan movie tonight?"

Tim seems to enjoy the movie, although sometimes he cracks up for bits that don't seem that funny to Jack. He supposes that Tim is watching it with a differently critical view.

They eat popcorn and make dumb jokes, and he wants to ask, "Did Wayne ever do this? Did Wayne ever take you to movies?" but Jack hasn't really taken him to movies either. Tim wipes his buttery hands on his pants, and Jack feels a little bit of triumph. Wayne certainly didn't teach him that.

It's dark when they get out. The sunset is only a thin red line between a few western buildings. When he drives them home, the conversation is aimless and just for the sake of the noise.

"...but do you really believe he does all his own stunts? Because he has to be pushing fifty."

"I dunno Dad. Most of that stuff takes skill, more than... Can you hand me the cell phone?"

Jack reaches for it without thinking. "Why?"

Tim nods towards a group of kids, five or six of them, coming towards them down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. He notices that they're all wearing the same kind jacket, and it looks sort of familiar. The group sways and parts, and he sees that they're escorting a drunk and stumbling girl, blond in a sort of short skirt and funny green, furry, jacket. He slows the car to watch.

"When I think of all the time I wasted worrying that you would get in trouble with the drinking crowd," he says ruefully.

"Dad, she's not drunk, she's drugged," says Tim, and his tone is-

Of course she's drunk, he's about to say, when she sort of stumbles, and the man with a grip on her upper arm gives her a hard yank. She pulls away from him for a moment, and he yanks her again and pulls her along quicker and it's not... It's not nice. They're... They're a gang. They're going to...

He stops the car, hits the automatic lock for the car doors with one hand, and dials 911 with his other.

"Dad, they're not- They don't care about us. We're safe," Tim says reassuringly, and he gives his son an incredulous look while he listens to line ring. They're safe? Doesn't he see the girl?

The voice in his ear says soothingly, "No operators are available to take your call at the moment. Please stay on the line, and your call will be answered in the order in which it was received. If this is not an emergency, please contact-- " He can't believe it. He pulls the phone away from his ear to stare at it in case its some kind of... he doesn't know, joke or dream, or something. This isn't how 911 works. You call them, and they come and stop the crime. That's what's supposed to happen.

He keeps holding it to his ear, waiting to hear an operator. They're pulling the girl along, (he skews around in his seat, and sees their destination) towards a parked panel van a half block past where Jack has stopped his car, and they're almost exactly even with Jack and Tim on the other side of the road. He's listening to home safety tips on the recording now. He's supposed to be telling the police the address, he knows what address to tell them, but he's listening to a woman tell him to make sure that drape cords are out of reach of children. Calling 911 was the only idea he had. He doesn't know what else to do. He looks up and down the street. There's no one else. There's only him, and-

Tim reaches over. "Give it to me." Jack gives Tim the phone. He's not sure how, but maybe Tim knows a code or something, to get connected directly to the 911 operator and skip the queue. But instead Tim re-dials.

"Yeah, it's me. I'm at Hargrave and Bently. Who do you have... No, that's... No one quicker? Yeah, alright, eleven minutes might be-- Tell her as fast as she can." Then he hangs up.

Jack isn't surprised, really, that this drove Tim back to being a vigilante. He couldn't sit and watch that girl get dragged off and... brutalized. But Tim doesn't open the door. He doesn't run across the street and yell at them, or throw some kind of-- he sits there tense, makes a fist, and bites down on the first knuckle of his thumb. Hard.


He pulls his fist out of his mouth. "I, I-- I think she'll be here in time. I'm not going to-- I said I wouldn't and I won't."

Sometimes you realize that you're stupider than you've ever previously suspected. "Tim, go."

Tim hesitates for an almost immeasurable fraction of a second, then pulls on the door latch. "Dad, the locks." Jack finds the lock button under his elbow, and when he looks up, Tim's across the street and in an alley, between two buildings, about twenty feet from where the gang is. He didn't even hear him open and close the door.

In the dim light, he can see Tim's face and hands, but not the rest of his body. He jumps up against the side of the building, pushes off, Jack assumes, with his feet, and grabs a fire escape. He doesn't bother pulling himself onto the platform, just swarms up the outside of it, straight up six stories faster than Jack would ever have believed was possible for anyone. Then he's at the top of the building and disappears.

Jack looks again at the girl. She's not struggling now, she's compliant and limp enough to be a bit of a problem. They're trying to rearrange her so that she's between two men with an arm over the shoulder of each, but she's not cooperating and seems to be trying to hug one of them. The circle of light they're standing in flickers, and Jack looks up just in time to see Tim fall on them like an avenging angel. Jesus. Death from above. A bolt of dark out of the sky. That's my son.

He already brought one down by landing on him, and almost before they both hit the concrete, he's turning and spinning, kicking another one in the face. The windows of the car are cutting the noise, but he can tell that Tim's silent and the gang members are yelling. Almost at the same time, two of the goons pull guns and he, he doesn't know what to do, there's nothing Jack can do. "Guns, Tim! They have guns!" he yells uselessly to the inside of the car. He's pulling at the seat-belt, scrabbling with the buckle, but Tim's already behind one of the guys with a gun, disarming him and twisting him to the ground with some sort of complicated hold.

And the other gunman is holding his gun straight out, less than eighteen inches from Tim's face.

Jack freezes, as if his breathing might cause the gun to fire. Tim freezes. The gunman holds the gun steady, but looks uncertain. The only other gang member standing unbends from his panicked crouch and takes a step towards Tim. The girl staggers in a semi-circle and throws up.

The guy holding the gun winces away from the smell, and in that instant Tim's head goes way back so that his spine is arched in a cee, his arm comes up and grabs the guy's wrist, and he pulls. When the gunman loses his balance, (and drops his gun for some reason. Pressure points?) Tim lets go, ducks under the other hood, (Jack ducks behind his steering wheel in sympathy, as if he could somehow reinforce Tim's movements) and clips the gunman in the side of the jaw as he reels, trying to regain his balance. He punches (Jack bobs a punch in his seat) one of the men (Jacks lost track of who's who now that neither of them have guns) who bellows, and holds his jaw, and then Tim kicks him in the solar plexus. Then he turns around and punches the last hood standing, three times, rapidly, in the face. He goes down.

Jack lets out his breath. His son isn't dead.

Tim goes over to help the girl up, which takes a little bit longer than it should. Jack can't tell whether her exceptionally high heels are to blame, or her impaired state. Tim keeps a hand on her arm as they cross the street together, and holds the rear door open for her.

"...like zuperman. You zuperman?"

"Nope. Watch your head," says Tim, and then climbs in the back seat with her.

"Are you sure? I pro'ly smell like puke. I think it got on me."

This is true. Jack doesn't turn around to look at her. He can still hear his pulse thumping in his skull. He hopes he doesn't start to shake.

"Yeah, don't worry about it. So where do you live?"

"At home."

Tim is patient. "Where's your home?"

"Where I live."

"Uh, will you let me see your purse for a second?"

"Do you... It was a sale. Really cheap. But I don't remember how much."

Jack interrupts. "Should we- Do we need to call the police?"

"I think our cell should be broken," says Tim sounding a little uncertain of how this suggestion will be received.

"You mean... we should look for a payphone."

"Yeah, exactly," and he can hear Tim's grin, pleased at his father for catching his drift.

"What if they come to and wander off?"

"They won't."

"But, I think I see something moving-." He hits the locks again.

"No, you really don't."

"But-- "


"You're really cute. Do you have a girf... a girrffr... a girrrrrfriend?"

"Um, actually yeah. Dad, head for 78 Langside."

"Hey, that's where I live!"

Jack knows where Langside is, but it's not a nice part of town. Normally he would avoid going there this late at night. Tonight, it doesn't bother him. He can hear the blonde moving around in the back seat restlessly. He hopes she doesn't vomit again.

"So what's your name?" Tim asks.


"Tana?" Tim seems a little confused.

"No, Tana."

"Uh, Tania?"

"Yeah, Tana." She sniffs. Then suddenly and without looking, it's apparent to Jack that she's not sniffing back there. She's crying. He's immeasurable glad that it's Tim in the back seat and not him. "I don't think those guys were nice. I think they were gonna rape me. I don' wanna be raped."

"I think you're right Tania. You know that to be safe it's a good idea to go out with someone you trust, and never leave your drink unattended."

"I don't feel good."

"That's because you were drugged."

"I think I drank too much."

"You're not gonna remember any of this in the morning, are you? Give me your purse a second."

"What you want my 'liner for?" Tim doesn't answer. "You got pretty eyes. Do you wear masc'ra?" She tries again, concentrating on each syllable. "Masc-ah-ra."

"Um no, not often."

"Hey! You're getting masc'ra on my mirror!"

"Yeah, I know, I'm leaving you a message."

"Is it your phone number?" Tania has forgotten that she was crying only a moment ago, and now sounds pleased and cheerful.


"Would you like my phone number?"

"Uh, sure."

"Okay, its... um... I dunno what it is. I can't remember my phone number." She sounds pretty distressed by this and Jack is a little worried that she may start crying again, so he joins the conversation, although he hates to lose his outside observer status.

"It's okay Tania, we're taking you home. Your phone is there, so you don't need your phone number."

"Hey, he's driving!" Jack already regrets bringing himself to her attention. "He's Zuperman, you must be the sidestick, Batman. Sidekick. Kick."

In the backseat, Tim makes a sound like he's aspirated jello.

"Uh, sorry, no. Look, is this your building?"

"Yeah? I think so?"

So Jack parks the car, and he and Tim unlock the door for her because she can't figure out how to use her keys. They ride up with her in the elevator, which makes terrifying groans the whole time. Because he's curious, he asks Tim, "The mirror?"

"Tania, can I have your mirror again?"

"Oh, you're okay," she assures him. "You look good."

"Thanks." He takes the little clam-shell mirror from Tania, and flips it open, displaying it to Jack. Inside, it's got a mirror on top and some sort cosmetic powder on the bottom. Tim has written across the surface of the mirror, in some sort of grease pencil, as neatly as possible in the cramped space: U wer drugt/Do not lev drinks un-a10ded. Tim flips it shut again, wipes the mirror off with the bottom of his shirt, and hands it back to Tania, holding it by the edges.

When the elevator reaches her floor, and after briefly wrestling with the cage to get it open, they take her to her apartment, the number of which she luckily does remember.

"Goodnight Tania. I'm glad I got to meet you," says Tim, and Jack hears what he means by that.

"You sure you don't wanna come in and have a drink?"

In the fluorescent lighting of the hallway, Jack gets his first good look at her. She's only a few years older than Tim, maybe twenty, and her attempts to flirt with his son make him feel a little fond of her, despite her stunning failure in it. "I think you've had enough tonight, don't you?"

"Yeah," she says sadly.

They decide to take the staircase down, since the elevator was a little un-nerving and they're not in a hurry. Their footsteps resonate in the stairwell. Jack's hesitant to speak, not because he's dreading the conversation, but because the silence between them feels like an understanding. But he's a little worried about the heap of injured gang-members.

"Should we be finding a pay-phone and calling in an anonymous tip?"

"Nah, Batgirl has already taken care of that."

"Batgirl? There's a Batgirl?"

"Yeah, that was her you saw moving. She got there just in time to cuff everybody up." He looks at Jack sideways. "It's too bad she couldn't get there faster. You would have been able to see her take care of those guys. She's awesome."

Jack can't really imagine anything more spectacular than the way that Tim just- "That- what you did was pretty amazing. You didn't even get a bruise."

"Well, we'll see tomorrow. I scraped my knuckles on the one guy's face." He holds his hand up for Jack to look at, and its true, his knuckles are a little scraped. "I'm used to the- I'm not used to fighting with my bare hands."

"Listen, Tim. I shouldn't have-- It was wrong of me to ask you to stand aside and let people be hurt. I-- I can't ask you to do that, when you could do something. I'm sorry."

He wants Tim to say something, but Tim pushes through the fire door at the bottom, and they're in the lobby.

"Just because I can't accept you running around in costume, it doesn't mean, I don't- I do- I trust you to do what's right. You should know that. Tim?"

"Oh, cool," says Tim, "look where we are." He strides purposefully towards the door, and out onto the sidewalk, but then heads away from the parked car.

Jack lengthens his stride to catch up. "Where are we?"

"We're on Langside, which crosses McMaster at the next street, and then you're at McMaster and Wellington. "

Jack doesn't really know this part of town. "If you say so. But what's so special about Wellington?"

"I don't know if it'll be there, but..."


"Look." Tim points, but Jack doesn't see anything. It's a building that looks like an abandoned gentrification project. Before the quake there had been attempts to turn warehouses into housing in this part of Gotham, and this looks like one of the ones that didn't get started up again after the quake. But as they get closer he notices a ripped off bit of police tape around an exposed beam.

"Wait, is this.."

"It's the place they were saying the Sentinel was, on the news. If it was him, and not some... No, look." Tim points up at the side of the building, about ten feet up. The wall is illuminated by the flickering street light, and there's a line on the brick that looks almost as if... as if it were burnt, in a curving sweep about six feet long. Tim bends over and picks up something. "See this?" It's a corner of a brick, a little smaller than Tim's fist. "The brick's partially fused. That's the Sentinel, almost for sure."

Jack takes it from his hand. He would never have known that this brick had been blasted by the Green Lantern. He wouldn't have recognized it if he had seen it, twenty-some years ago. But when Tim says it's been turned to glass, he can see it, and he's holding it in his hand right now.

Suddenly Jack realizes what he's doing. He's walking around at night, in one of the worst parts of Gotham, and he's not even a little bit afraid. He's with his son. What could possibly hurt him?

Did Wayne ever have this? This choking feeling of knowing that Tim is exceeding him in every way, and glad of it? He doesn't care. Jack has it now.

All these years he didn't even know who his son was. He wanted Tim to be a good kid, (and yeah, maybe a football player,) but instead he's a hero. Tim always was an overachiever.

For further story notes, of varying degrees of thinky-ness, see this post

Oh, I liked that very much! The combination of horror and jealousy on Jack's part just hit me right in the gut. Very well done!

I *heart* Jack Drake; never thought it'd be possible until I read this fic :). Yay!

Football players are *so* overrated...

I kind of worry that I've whitewashed Jack. I did want his innate ass-hattedness to shine through.

But yeah, football players. Very few of them have any decent conversation.

You made Jack make sense.

I'm completely incoherent but I loved this.

[cautiously] Does this mean I'm forgiven for my 103 word drabble?

I've never read a fic like this, and I have to say I really enjoyed the perspective of Tim's father and his concerns about whether Batman had been more of a father to Tim in some ways. It was believable and honest and a bit heart-wrenching in spots, and Tim is so accepting of not being able to be Robin anymore, and yet he can't entirely give up the impulses. The scene where he leaves his dad in the car to go fight was excellent. And I really liked Jack's fixation with the Green Lantern - it sort of brings home the fascination with superheroes ... and yet it's not so easy when it's your son.

Thanks for sharing this.

Does that mean you haven't read Fathers and Daughters by hradzka? Because it was, in part, my inspiration, and if you liked this, you really should check it out.

Oh, wow. I really, really enjoyed this. It's a shame there wasn't more of *this* Jack Drake in the recent issues of Robin; his death would've hit harder, I think.


I hadn't realised how much I needed this story, until I read it. Because Jack Drake wasn't just a terrible father or an idiot. He was a man who realised almost too late that his many mistakes had caught up with him and tried to right them in an unthinking panic, but he loved his son, and he felt a kind of terror that any parent should in similar circumstances.

There's so much *here*. It most certainly is a coherent story, the pacing of it is wonderfully organic both in the way each scene unfolds and in the way Jack gradually comes to better understand Tim. And you describe Tim-in-action brilliantly, particularly from the perspective of Jack who doesn't follow what's actually happening well, if at all. I could go on all day talking about how good this story is... (:

Jack's POV saved my bacon in that fight scene, because if it were Tim's POV I know he would be thinking about what he was doing, and I can't fight for beans.

But please feel free to go on talking about the brilliance of, etc.

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This was so written as a band aide for the self inflicted GSW to the head written over in Robin.

For the first time in the history of ever, Jack Drake works as a character. You've made him human and even made his actions post-pulling the plug on Robin make sense. A most excellent fic. And I loved the little Green Lantern bits! Like father, like son. <3

It's nice when canon gives you crack cut with ground glass, because then you look like a genius if you can pull it into something vaguely coherent.

Oh, wow. This just all the right buttons. Jack's mistreatment in Robin universe has been a major sore point for me, and this is just what I needed. I never thought that Jack was perfect, but he was certainly a decent character who *tried* (at least until some people took over writing him). This story makes sense, and is very much in character for both, Jack and Tim, and it certainly filled in a huge hole of unfairness in canon. Everything felt right here. Jack's jealousy as he realized how many mistakes he made with his son. His fear. His slow understanding of who his son was and how important it was for Tim to do the right thing. And his pride at realization of how good his son is. Just perfect.

Oh God. You made Jack a person, you made Jack a *sensible* human being, you made him likable and you made his actions... right. You gave *Dana* her due, and *JANET*. I... I LOVE YOU. I needed something like this so much, it's like balm for my Robin-shriveled soul. Gorgeous and perfect, and incredibly powerful.

I think I'll print this out and tape it inside Willingham's Robin issues. Just so I can remind myself that sometimes from shit comes great art. *beams*

Oh. *wibbles* I think I love you. <3 That was wonderful. <3

Thank you for the chance to see Jack trying really hard. Physical therapy aside, he always seemed lazy to me, in canon, whether it was from apathy or depression. He didn't care.

This one does, bless him, and now I am sad that he's gone. He's blinded by his preconceptions, yes, but he's not painfully stupid. For once, I have the sense that he loves his son, rather than that he's engaged in some bizarre territorial ritual.

Wondering if Wayne feels overshadowed, and proud of that; feeling perfectly safe because he's got Tim there -- yes, that's what Jack should feel. Protective, because he's trying to be a parent and he hasn't practiced enough, but proud of Tim's terrifying achievements, because he's trying to be a good parent.

Canon treats Jack as the bad guy, sometimes. "How dare he try to keep Robin from his destiny?" y'know? But any sane father would try to. Not that Jack's a great parent... but they didn't have to make look like a raving loon to have him ground Tim.

Glad this worked for you.

Aaaaaaaaand this is why we have fanfic.

Because you've taken a character who's been used all too often as merely a plot device and shown what's really going on inside. The Jack POV was the right choice; we're right there with him as he looks at Tim, utterly baffled and terrified and suddenly realizing that he knows absolutely nothing about his son.

And the way you manage to bring in the memory of Janet and the love they shared (no matter how much they failed each other and sought to hurt each other) without slighting Dana -- again with the well-rounded characterization!

Did I mention the utter Tim-ness of Tim? You underplayed the way he's caught between his promise to Jack and his drive to do what needs to be done just right. He's practically vibrating in place under the stress and it takes Jack quite a while to realize that his son just might shatter.

Yeah, Janet doesn't show up so much in Comics, and I can't understand why that is. She's got to be (have been) one of the driving forces for Tim for most of his career. Except for the bizarre valkyrie story-line, we never had any mention of her after her death.Yeah, Janet doesn't show up so much in comics, and I can't understand why that is. She's got to be (have been) one of the driving forces for Tim for most of his career. Except for the bizarre Valkyrie story-line, we never had any mention of her after her death.

The POV really worked out quite well, but it wasn't so much a choice. It was really all I started with, and the plot followed after. Or more accurately was beaten into the fic by hradzka.

Ah. Nice. A fic that gets into just how *deeply* this whole thing screwed up the late Mr. Drake.

It was a joy to beta this one, and I'm really glad it's posted because that means I can rec it now.

I don't think I mentioned how much I liked Tim's being "differently critical" of film fight scenes (I'm like that with gun stuff in movies!), or the other little touches -- but this story is excellent, and I'm really glad to see it posted.

(Folks: Betty's overplaying my contributions a bit. I made some suggestions. The ones she used? She improved on. A *lot.*)

Don't be too modest. If it wasn't for you, it would have ended with Tim picking lint off the carpet. Not a note to go out on.