Rule number one of storm chasing is to not, you know, actually get caught in one of the storms. You can’t track them and document them and send warnings over the net if you’re dead. That simple. Safety over chasing, and all that.
Tim, suffice it to say, is not putting safety over chasing. But it’s fine. Totally fine. His boat’s only at a 50° angle and getting rocked back and forth. Like — it's not like Tim can see much of anything with the wind and the rain but that's fine. Everything is totally fine. Yeah.
The chatter of the radio is drowned out by the harsh banging of waves against his boat and rain hitting the deck. Tim thinks, maybe, he can hear the voice of one of the coast guard workers. He just can't focus enough to pay attention to what the voice is saying.
Okay, maybe not everything is fine. There’s a rip in his sail, and the fucking knots are coming undone. Tim lurches forward towards the piles of rope and pulls , desperately trying to redirect the sail. The boat tips yet again, and Tim wraps the rope’s slack around himself to keep himself from getting thrown off. The rain bounds against his skin, dripping into his eyes, and he can barely see, but if he can just navigate himself to safety —
Lightning flashes, illuminating the sky, revealing the churning waves in the ocean. Revealing a particularly large wave, right in front of him, looming over and ready to crash down. Tim barely has time to mentally curse, much less do anything else, before it floods the deck and knocks the boat violently, the entire world tipping, tipping, tipping —
Tim is going to die in this hurricane, which is way less than fine.
He isn’t entirely sure what happens next. One moment he’s under the waves, rope from the boat wrapped around his ankle and keeping him trapped under, his lungs begging for air, and the next…the next his coughing up violently on a boat deck, someone rubbing his back and shielding him from the rain. He’s on his side, convulsing and trembling. There's a puddle of bile, blood, and saltwater that he keeps involuntarily adding to.
Distantly, he can hear radio chatter, peoples voices and rain, rain, rain. His body shakes as a warm blanket is wrapped around him.
Softly, someone says; “You’re alright, dude, it’s alright, everything’s alright.”
With that echoing in his ears, Tim drifts into darkness.
When he comes to, there’s an ache in his throat and the after taste of salt water on his tongue. Every muscle in his body aches and his mind begs to go back to sleep so it doesn’t have to deal with the aftermath of getting too close to the storm. It’s also really warm inside what feels like a blanket cocoon. The memory of freezing ocean water tickles at his nerves and he decides. Yeah, going back to sleep is an excellent idea.
Tim burrows deeper into the warmth, letting out a content sigh, and — the warmth giggles. What the fuck.
His eyes snap open and he bolts upright, elbowing someone next to him as he does so. Glancing over, the first thing he spots is an unruly mop of red hair sticking in every direction. Yellow eyes peer up at him, swimming with mirth, his lips twitched in amusement.
“Um.” Eloquent, Tim. That’s what you say to the cute boy who was cuddling with you. “Who are you?”
“Oh!” The guy scrambles so he’s sitting in his own seat. “I’m Bart! I saved your life.”
“ We !” Someone else pokes his head in through the driver’s window, leaning against the door and his arms rest where the window is rolled down. A leather jacket is rolled up to his elbows, red shades low on his nose, undercut tousled in that endearing ‘I just woke up’ way. Tim thinks he might just die anyway. He can see his gravestone now: here lies Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne, survivor of storms, dead by pretty boys. Jason and Damian would never let him live it down. “ We saved your life. Sorry about Bart, he’s very tactile and doesn’t know personal space if it hits him in the face.”
“I’m also very warm.” Bart nods sagely. “Perfect for cuddling a guy who almost drowned at sea.”
“Speaking of that, we should probably get you to, like, a hospital or something.” The guy in the window says, snapping his fingers. “I think there’s one just outside town. Just to make sure, you know?”
“I’m fine.” Tim says quickly. The last thing he needs is to be in a hospital, because that means Bruce would find out somehow , and then he’s grounded from storm chasing. It’s not that big of a deal, anyway — he’ll be fine. “No hospital needed.” A pause. “Where — are we, anyway?”
“Oh! Right, we basically kidnapped you.”
“We saved his life, Kon. That’s different!”
Undercut — Kon, Tim mentally notes — snorts. “Sorry for accidentally kidnapping you, uh…?”
“Sorry for accidentally kidnapping you, Tim. We’re still in Florida, this is our humble abode, the Van of Wonder. We got you out of the storm and then just crashed here. We’re at a gas station now to refuel. Is there anywhere you need to be, anyone you need to meet up with? We can drop you off.”
Tim hesitates. His boat most likely went down with the storm, meaning he had no way back home. Which makes the ‘sail back to Gotham’ plan right out the window. He could call Bruce — he should probably call Bruce — but doesn’t want to bother him with this. Doesn’t want to have to say his first storm chasing trip without the rest of the family sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Literally.
He could probably catch a flight. Could use the emergency card Bruce gave him before he left and — oh. No, that was in the boat. Fuck.
Bart blinks. “Is that a no?’
“ Uhm .”
“That’s a no,” Kon decides, “Hey, dude, what were you doing in a storm in the middle of the night, anyway?”
“I’m a storm chaser.”
Both of their eyes light up, grins wide. “Hey, us, too!” Bart is practically vibrating with excitement and is immediately back in Tim’s personal space. “You don’t have a team?”
“Well, I technically do, but this is a solo venture.” He frowns. “Was.”
He only gives himself a minute to wallow. Everything was on that boat — his equipment, his camera, his clothes, his phone… oh fuck . “Oh, fuck.”
“Oh, fuck .” He repeats, with vehemence. Kon and Bart both stare at him with worry as Tim slowly comes to the conclusion that there’s really no way he’s going to be able to finish this venture. He’ll have to call Bruce, probably from a payphone — where the hell he’ll find one of those, he has no idea — or. Wait. “Can I borrow one of your guys’ phones? I need to make a call.”
“Yeah, sure!” Bart leans over the front seat, rummaging through a pile of stuff, and pulls out a phone. He unlocks it with his thumb and hands it over. “Have at it. I’m gonna go get food.”
Tim doesn’t have time to mutter a thanks before Bart is just gone , as if he was never there at all. He blinks, then turns his attention to finding the phone app. He pauses when he sees the home screen — a picture of Bart and Kon, taken in front of the van, a twister in the background. Kon’s pressing a kiss to Bart’s forehead while the redhead has an arm around his waist and — oh.
He smothers down whatever flames of jealousy flicker up in his chest, refusing to think too hard about who the jealousy is towards, and mutters Bruce’s number under his breath as he opens the phone app.
“You could come with us.” Kon offers, interrupting his thoughts. “We’re headed up to Missouri to do some tornado tracking. I know you just met us and we basically kidnapped you, but. Could be good, could be cool, could be fun.”
Tim starts to decline, but hesitates. He did come out here to chase storms — mostly along the coast, mostly hurricanes, but that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. It’s a terrible idea, considering he barely knows the guys, but it’d mean being able to chase storms just a bit longer before heading back to Gotham.
“Sure,” he says, “yeah, that sounds good. Cool. Fun.”
Kon grins, glancing over his shoulder at the gas pump. “Cool, I gotta go pay —” and then he disappears from the window.
Thankful for the privacy, Tim finishes entering Bruce’s number and hits call. The line hums before opening up, greeting; “This is Bruce.”
“Hey, Bruce. It’s Tim.” He winces at how high his voice is and clears his throat. “So…I’m not gonna make it back to the manor. As soon as I said.”
A pause. “Are you hurt?”
Well. “No,” not technically a lie, “But I — okay, so I met these guys, they’re storm chasers my age, and, uh…we figured we could do a road trip cross country chasing storms. It’d be super fun.”
“Tim,” Bruce says carefully, “You want to run around the country with boys you’ve only just met.”
“When you say it like that…”
A sigh. “Tim.”
“I can take care of myself.” Tim said, his voice still scratchy. It was like he could still feel the sting of saltwater pouring down his throat every time he opened his mouth. Except, this was different. He was laying across the back seats of Kon and Bart’s van, not trapped under a capsized sailboat. He was safe now, so why did he still feel like he was struggling for air?
“I know,” Bruce’s voice is achingly soft — fond — and it does nothing to help him breathe, “I just worry.”
“I’ll keep you updated.” He promises, glancing up as the door of the van opens. Bart pokes his head in, rummaging through the mass of trash in the passenger seat like a raccoon.
“Call me if you need anything , Tim. I mean it.”
“Uh-huh.” He’s only half-paying attention, preparing to end the call, when he remembers— “Oh, actually, I kinda lost my camera. In the ocean. And my phone.”
Bruce chuckles, and Tim can picture him pinching the bridge of his nose. “Yep, that sounds about right. You’re sure you’re not hurt?”
“...yeah.” Tim said slowly. He took a breath; water sloshed in his lungs. He watched as Bart started fiddling with one of the radios, the crackle of static causing a shock down his spine.
The radio popped and hissed, water filling every crack. Tim gripped at it for dear life as he tried to keep his head above water. The rope attached to the sails were pulling him under, and the churning waves were knocking his fragile bones against the old boat. Tim couldn’t see- the rain fell too hard and the wind rushed too rapidly. He clawed at the boat desperately.
“MAYDAY. MAYDAY. MAYDAY. THIS IS THE NEST. I AM AT LONGITUDE NI-”
“Tim.” Bruce’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts.
“ Tim. ”
“Swear, Bruce, I’m fine. Just a bit shaken up.” Understatement of the year, considering he hasn’t been able to breath properly since the hurricane. Hasn’t been able to look at the water without thinking of it drowning him under. But what Bruce doesn’t know won’t hurt him. “And in need of a new camera.”
A sigh. “I’ll wire you the money. Stay safe.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure thing, Dr. Worry Wart. I’ll let you know when we’re in Missouri.”
“Love you, kiddo.” Bruce’s voice is sickeningly fond again, and this time it does help ease the tightness in Tim’s chest.
His voice is embarrassingly small when he replies; “Yeah, love you, too, dad.”
Bart looks up from where he's fidgeting with the car radio. “Hi, Tim’s dad!” he shouts.
Tim blushes from ear to ear with embarrassment as he hears Bruce’s warm laugh. “Ignore him.”
Bart laughs and leans forward, grabbing Tim’s hand and shoving his face into the phone. “Don't ignore me! I wanna meet your pops!”
Tim winces as Bart wiggles around to grab the phone, Bart’s elbow bumping into his ribs. He leans back and starts coughing, wet, ugly noises escaping him. He heaves for air and turns to grab a napkin to wipe any blood off his hands. Maybe he wasn’t as fine as he let on, but Bruce didn’t need to know that. Tim looked at Bart with teary eyes, the boy happily chatting away with Bruce.
“Hi, Mr Tim’s Dad, my name’s Bart, thanks for letting us take your son on a roadtrip chasing dangerous forces of nature, I swear we aren’t gonna kill him or anything —”
Kon opens the driver's side door and gets in. He gestures vaguely and Bart starts climbing through the piles upon piles of stuff — still chattering away at Bruce, dear God — to close the van doors. The engine revs, growls and hisses then stops. Kon lets out a groan and bangs his fist against the dash, and tries again. With a roar, the engine turns alight and the car is zooming off.
The phone goes flying out of Bart's hand, landing face down on Kon’s leather jacket that was balled up on the floorboards. Bart and Tim eyes meet for just a moment – an unsaid question of who’s gonna grab it first?
Both boys charge at the phone, slamming into each other and tangling into a mass of limbs and laughter. Tim cheers as he raises the phone over his head and hangs up the phone call. Bart sighs and begins to untangle himself from his friend when the van lurches, throwing Tim and Bart against the side of the door. From where they landed, Tim was on top of Bart’s lap, his hand next to Bart’s face, pinning him down. Their faces dangerously close together, like they could kiss. All the jostling causes Tim to heave up another wet cough, splattering blood over Bart’s face.
They stare at each other for a tense moment, before Tim is scrambling back and off his new friend. “Oh, fucking shit .”
Bart’s eyes are wide with concern. “ Dude. ”
Tim gives an anxious smile; “I am so so sorry, oh my God.”
“No, don’t — I mean – dude —” he stumbles over his words as he tries to say a million things at once, “Are you okay? Hey, Kon —”
Shaking hands clasp Bart's face, muffling his voice. “ I'm fine.” Tim hisses.
His friend’s eyes narrow, watches him for a moment, before fucking biting his hand. Tim stares at him for a moment, not even flinching. He’s used to getting bitten — thanks, Damian — but was not expecting it to come from Bart. “What the fuck , Bart?”
“He bit ‘cha?” Kon speaks up from the driver's seat, a grin in his voice.
Tim makes an incoherent noise in response as Bart launches at him, scratching at his arm in an effort to make him let go. Kon, the bastard , laughs, resulting in the car swerving quickly to the left and then the right. Bart gets launched backwards with a yelp, finally free from Tim’s grasp.
It’s in that moment where Tim decides that, yeah, he’s gonna die before even getting halfway to Missouri.
“ As I was saying ,” Bart says, clambering over the seats to talk to Kon, “Tim coughed up blood. That’s not normal, right?”
“I almost drowned . My throat is just a little raw from the literal saltwater. I’m fine.”
“I cannot believe you put ‘drowned’ and ‘I’m fine’ in the same breath.” He nudges Kon. The van once again goes off course. “Can you believe this shit?”
Tim grabs onto the seat in front of him for stability. “No, I said almost drowned. There's a difference!”
Kon’s eyes narrow as he looks up at him through the rearview mirror. “Yeah, no, I’m calling bonkers on that.”
“Heh,” Bart snickers, “bonkers.”
Tim grins. “ Bonkers, ” he repeats, dramatising his somewhat-heavy Jersey accent.
Bart wheezes, falling back into the seat next to him. “What the — ha — how dare you — in the good midwest — haha —” He trails off into bubbling laughter, unable to speak through his giggles. Tim is slightly worried over whether he can breathe.
“No city boy shit in my pure midwestern van!” Kon says, dramatising his own southern accent. “Speaking privileges have been revoked!” Tim snorts. The driver rummages around in the main console, pulls out a GPS, and throws it at him. “You’re on navigation duty.”
“Ha,” Bart mocks, grinning around a handful of chips. Tim doesn’t even have time to ask where in the Van of Wonders he found that before he’s climbing into the passenger seat. Kon helpfully grabs a handful of trash and clothing and throws it behind him, hitting Bart square in the face. Tim follows his lead before plopping down onto the seat and booting up the GPS.
There’s shuffling behind them, and then the static of a radio. Tim closes his eyes against the sound, pushing back memories of the waves and pressure and water in his lungs, chopped up radio static — “Whiskey-zero-alpha-hotel, mobile.”
Tim blinks, glancing over his shoulder at Bart as the water in his mind evaporates as his mind pieces together W-0-A-H — “Your callsign is woah ?”
“Fuck, yeah, it is.” Bart nods, grinning. “Extra class swag.”
“More like extra vanity .” Kon says, earning an empty Sonic cup to the face. The van swerves. “Hey!”
Yeah, they’re definitely not gonna make it to Missouri in one piece.
“Says the guy whose vanity is literally his name!”
Tim snickers. “Most people’s vanities are — Kon, take a right — are their names. You’re the weird one, here.”
“Tim. Timbo. Timmers. Timothy .”
Tim’s nose wrinkles. “Ew.”
“Don’t tell me your vanity is your name.”
Tim smirks. “W-2-T-I-M.”
“Fuck, yeah, we outnumber you, Bart.” Kon laughs. “K-0-N-E-R.”
Bart pouts and huffs. “Yeah, well, Cassie has a vanity that’s not her fucking name .”
Kon groans and pinches his nose bridge. The wheel turns and the van is swerving again. “And is this Cassie in the room with us, Bart?” He says sarcastically.
“What the hell’re you two on about?” Tim asks. Both Kon and Bart groan.
“Okay, so — I have this friend named Cassie and her call sign is W-0-N-D-R and Kon doesn’t believe me that she's real,” Bart states.
Kon rolls his eyes “I would totally believe she’s real, man, but like — dude. I’ve never heard her once! And she's never come out with us!”
Bart whines, “I told you she’s not a storm chaser!”
“We could look her up on Q-R-Zed.” Tim suggests.
“Nah, that’ll confirm it, and that takes away the fun.” Kon says, shaking his head. “If she’s real, I can meet her to believe it.”
“Whatever, babe.” Kon’s tone is laced with disbelief. “What ever .”
Somehow, in the midst of Kon and Bart’s arguing, the constant radio feedback, and swerving car, Tim manages to relax. Buzzing energy quiets down to a dull hum, and he closes his eyes for a moment. Sleep comes in like a gentle wave, lapping against his mind.
The sun is warm on Tim’s face, salt water filling his nose and laughter bounding through his ears. Tim’s showing Damian how to tie a knot, the rest of his family gathered around him. Bruce is at the bow of the ship, gently rubbing his eldest son’s back as the boy leans overboard, vomiting his lunch. Next to them, the twins, Cassandra and Jason are watching the waves rise and fall. From where he sat, Duke, the second youngest, is reaching into the warm summer ocean. It's a beautiful day, and nothing can go wrong.
The wind shifts, the sail billows, and Tim is a child again. Hands scramble frantically to redirect the sail towards deep grey clouds in the horizon. Waves reach up against the side of the ship and it rocks, rocks, rocks, like an empty cradle.
Bruce opens his mouth to speak – it's his father’s voice; “Timothy, turn back now.”
“I got this, Father!” Tim calls out. He holds steady to the ropes, the boat tossing him around. A strong wind pushes him to the starboard side and he falls, landing on his wrist with a crack. Through teary eyes, he watches as Bruce- no- his father stands and grabs control of the ropes. The little boat rocks again, and the sky is dark with rain. the sky tips, and Father is careening off the edge of the ship. Tim’s scrawny arms are reaching, flailing, and –
Tim wakes up with a scream. His head whips around rapidly as he tries to take in his surroundings. A van, an open road, and very, very beautiful blue and green eyes looking at him with furrowed brows. Kon gives him a panicked look – the car swerves off the road and Bart’s head slams against the door with a loud; “OW, FUCK !”
Tim looks away, a blush blooming across his skin. No, he couldn't think like that. Bart and Kon were dating. Tim had no business pining for either of them. He looks back at the road, calming his ragged breathing.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to fall asleep on you guys,” Tim says. An awkward laugh is shared by the passengers. Tim rolls down the sleeves of the cream coloured sweatshirt he's in, trying to hide how his hands shake.
Bart humf s unhappily. “I’m cold,” he whines as climbs between the two front seats and settles into Tim’s lap. Warm hands snake under fabric and suddenly Bart is climbing through his sweatshirt. His head pops out right next to Tim’s before nustling in his shoulder. Arms wrap around Tim’s small torso and oh . They're cuddling .
Tim’s heart rises to his throat as Bart lets out a content hum. His eyes dart over to Kon, who’s smiling at them both. That damned smile will be the death of Tim.
The car falls into a comfortable quiet as Bart drifts to sleep. Billy Joel – and god , Tim thinks his ears are going to start bleeding – plays softly from the car radio.
“So,” Tim whispers “....You and Bart…yeah? You guys like – travel together? Chase storms and everything?” There's an underlying question, but Tim can’t quite muster the gall to ask it.
Kon keeps his eyes on the road, a bright smile forming. “Yeah, me and Bart.” He doesn’t say anything more, and that answers the unspoken question. Keeping a hand on the wheel, Kon reaches over and gently ruffles the sleeping boy's hair. In his sleep, Bart lets out a soft noise of content.
Tim thinks his heart is shattering. Still, he smiles. “Cute. I – I mean – you two are cute. Together! Not, uh, –” Great save, dumbass.
Silence hangs in the air for a moment before Kon clears his throat. “So uh, what about you? You got family or anything?”
Tim hesitates. “Yeah. I got adopted into a huge family. Three older and two younger — all boys except my older sister. Oh,” he can’t help but grin, “and then there's my ex-girlfriend who basically adopted herself into the family.”
Something in Kon’s face shifts at the mention of an ex-girlfriend. “That's neat. I'm the oldest. It's me and him with ma and pa on the farm. Well.” He pauses, his face scrunching up. “Sometimes I’m with Lex in Metropolis. Child of divorce.” Before Tim can comment, he’s changing the topic. “Bart’s family’s fuckin’ bonkers , man. Like, I swear, every time I visit there's, like, five more of ‘em. And their ages and relations make no sense , I tried to figure it out once and got a headache. I think someone could just show up and claim to be an uncle, and they’d all accept it. No questions asked.”
“Yeah, that's how it feels for me, too. I go out to chase a storm and when I'm back; ‘Welcome home, Tim! Here's a new baby brother!’” Tim laughs a little. “It's nice, honestly. Growing up as an only child sucked. ”
Kon scoffs. “What, you didn’t get all the attention?”
“Nah, man. When my mom died my dad, like — completely shut down. It was just me raising myself for a while. Then, ya know, Gotham is as Gotham be, yada yada and now I have 5 siblings.”
Silence, then an empathetic; “Shit, man.”
Tim just shrugs. “It’s fine. Well, not fine , but. I’m…at terms with it? I’m happy where I am, I guess.” Silence settles between them again , and Tim is suddenly very aware that he trauma-dumped to the cute boy he just met. “Uh, child of divorce, huh?”
A pause. “It’s…a really long story.” Kon laughs bitterly. “I used to spend weekends and holidays with Dad in Metropolis, but once you turn sixteen you can choose who to stay with permanently. I chose Ma and Pa. I still talk to Dad and visit sometimes, but. He’s not really a guy you want to be around, even if he’s doing his best. Plus, he came with, uh, a legacy I didn’t want to live up to.”
The ‘long story’ is missing parts, but Tim doesn’t push. He doesn’t need to know, and Kon clearly wants to keep some semblance of privacy. “Sucks, man.”
Kon smiles. “Yeah, but I’m happy where I am.”
Tim smiles back at him. He can’t help but notice how Kon’s Blue and Green eyes light up in the golden hour, or how his tan skin wrinkles up when he smiles – really smiles – or the light dusting of freckles across his cheeks and nose bridge or god how nice it would be to kiss hi—
No. Bart and Kon are together. Tim has no business thinking like that.
The drive is nice, as the east coast melted away into open fields and small towns, the hurricane's storm stretched inwards. By the time the sun had set, the rain was just a gentle pitter-patter on the roof.
“I’m gonna be real with you, Timmers, I’m a shit driver in the rain,” Kon admits at one point during the dusk. Tim stops himself from scoffing but Bart speaks up.
“You’re shit at driving, period, Kon.”
Kon rolls his eyes fondly. “Whatever. Anyway, do you guys wanna crash in the van or find a motel? We’re like a half hour out from the closest town”
Bart, who's lying in the back on the air mattress announces; “VAN! Park and come cuddle me!”
And just like that, Kon pulls off the highway and finds a good place to stop for the night. Tim watches with curious eyes as Kon clambers into the back and dives face first into a pile of blankets and clothes. Bart is wrapping his arms out Kon in an instant before placing a gentle kiss to his forehead.
From the passenger's seat, Tim adjusts himself into a half slumped over position. He closes his eyes, trying to smoulder any burning embers of want when Bart sticks his head between the seats.
“Hey! You're not gonna join us? We have a pretty awesome cuddle pile happening,” Bart offers And, oh , the fire’s alight in Tim’s chest again.
“Oh – uh, I mean – I don’t want to intrude you guys – since, uh–” Tim stammers out like the lovesick idiot he is.
There's shuffling in the back of the van before Tim lets out a yelp, the back of his seat falling flat. Kon, whose hand is firmly gripped on the seat lever, grins.
“Government mandated cuddle time, sailor!”
Acquiescing, Tim crawls in the back and lays down with a huff. Within an instant, Bart and Kon are on either side of him, snuggling close. Bart giggles and starts singing; “Timmy in the middle!”
Kon echoes in reply; “Smack dab in the middle!”
“I hate you both.” Tim says with a yawn. He smiles warmly at the two boys, holding them both close. He drifts off like that, huddled together and happy.
By the time Tim woke up, Kon and Bart were in the front seat, whispering . Tim just laid there, focusing on slowing his breathing and listening.
“ Do we talk to him about it?” Bart’s voice.
Kon’s voice comes back just as quiet; “ No, man. Listen, he said he had an ex-girlfriend. I…I don’t think…I think we…”
“Oh—” Bart’s voice trembles in a way that makes Tim’s heart shutter. He’s forced to alert the boys that he was awake when his stomach roared to life.
“M’ fucking hungry,” Tim groans, sitting himself up. Bart was in the passenger's seat that was still laying flat. From where Tim was sitting, he could see that Bart had changed out of his bright orange hoodie and into a grey shirt. The back of his neck and his arms were covered in angry, red scars that stemmed out like branches on some pale tree – lightning scars. Something hisses in Tim’s chest, like the string of a violin snapping.
Before Tim could try to piece together this new emotion, he was falling backwards into the seat, a bag of chips colliding squarely with his face.
“Listen, we just got to Ohio. I’m not taking a break till we reach Star City at least,” Kon groans.
Bart lights up and turns on the radio. “Cassies from Ohio! I can finally prove she’s real!”
“Nah, man. I’m with Kon on this one.” Tim smirks.
Kon cheers, letting out a loud WHOOP-WHOOP; the car, for once, doesn’t swerve off the road. Instead, it slows into a steady stop. They all sit in silence for a moment, staring at each other with bated breath. Then —
“Did our van just die ?” Bart’s eyes are wide as he watches Kon try to start the engine again, only for it to stutter and go silent.
“She’s not dead,” Kon insists, “She’s just having a hard time waking up.”
“Mood.” Tim quips. Ignoring the matching worried looks he receives from his new friends, he continues; “I can take a look at the engine, but no promises.”
Minutes later, Tim is elbow deep in an engine held together by duct tape, prayers, and chewing gum. He gives Kon an incredulous look, who just shrugs like did you really expect anything different ? And, you know what? Yeah, he should have expected this. This makes more sense than an actual, functioning engine. Clearly.
Yet he still finds himself gesturing to the somewhat-impressive botched engine and asking; “ Why? ”
“Duct tape is the greatest invention known to mankind,” Bart says defensively, “And I didn’t have a sauter on hand, so. She’s been running on duct tape and dreams for years, it’s never been a problem before.”
Tim deadpans. “It is now a problem.”
Bart pouts. It’s ridiculously adorable and Tim has to force his gaze away to keep from saying so out loud. Mentally, he chastises himself for thinking like that.
“Oh! Duh!” Bart facepalms, appearing next to his boyfriend in seemingly the blink of an eye — what the fuck — and points at him with a triumphant grin. “I can call Cassie!”
Kon blinks. “W-0-N-D-R, Cassie?”
“ Doesn’t actually exist , Cassie?”
Tim swears to God Bart is vibrating so fast he could rearrange his molecular structure. “She exists! Her and her sister live in Ohio, I swear it’s somewhere near here, we can call them on the radio! She’s good with mechanics.”
“Doesn’t-exist-Cassie is good with mechanics. How convenient.” Tim deadpans, making Kon giggle quietly. Oh, fuck. Tim would give anything to hear Kon’s laugh and – shit , he's down bad.
“I swear —” Bart is back in the passenger seat, scrummaging through for a handy talkie, and then appearing back next to Kon. “W-0-N-D-R, W-0-A-H.”
There’s silence from the radio. Tim and Kon share a look , and then —
“W-0-N-D-R. Wassup, my guy?”
Kon’s jaw drops. “ No. ”
Bart grins and responds to Cassie. “Hey, Cassie. So, funny story.”
“Our van broke down!”
There’s a long pause. “We’re not allowed to curse over the radio, but know that I’m cursing at you. What’s your location?”
Bart rattles off what road they’re on and a brief description of the van. Kon continues to stare dumbfoundedly, and Tim is starting to worry that his entire worldview may be rearranging itself.
“Donna and I will head that way — you’re about ten minutes out from the shop. You guys storm chasing?”
“Yep! You finally get to meet my beloved boyfriends.” Boyfriends –with an S. Plural . Tim’s heart skips a beat. Bart probably didn’t mean to add the S. No, he couldn’t have.
“Uh-huh,” Cassie says, tone full of doubt, “ the boyfriend. ” One, singular boyfriend; Kon.
“He’s real!” Bart protests. “Why does nobody ever believe me?”
The radio catches the tail end of her laugh as she says; “See you in ten!”
“See?” Bart grins triumphantly. “She’s real!”
“And what’re you gonna do when she shows up and it's some 70 year old catfish?” Tim asks.
“Nuh-uh, trust me, her vibes are totally Gen Z.”
“Said every person getting catfished ever.” Tim sighs. If he knows one thing about growing up in Gotham — especially as a ward of Bruce Wayne — it's to be paranoid. And well-defended. “Do you guys know if any of my stuff was salvaged?”
Kon nods. “Yeah, whatever was in the pockets of what you were wearing.”
Tim nods and wanders off to the inside of the car. He comes back a few moments later with an artistically crafted butterfly knife. “Listen, I’m not gonna let myself get jumped in the middle of Ohio, ” He says when he notices Bart’s glare, “Ohio’s like – the New Jersey of the Midwest.”
“That makes no sense,” Kon says, “Do you even know how to use that?”
“I could kill you with it in fifty-seven different ways.” There’s a pause as the two just stare at him and Tim realises that is not a normal thing to know. At least, when you’re not from Gotham and have been kidnapped a few times because the hyphenated part of your name happens to be on literally everything. He suddenly realises that he hasn’t told Bart and Kon either of those things and says the first thing that comes to mind. “My dad’s really over-protective.”
“Dude,” Bart gapes, “I barely know karate .”
Kon blinks. “Since when ?”
“Max enrolled Thad and I to see if it would help with the ADHD but we ended up mauling each other in the living room every day after school so we got pulled out after the fourth hospital visit.”
Now it’s Bart’s turn to be stared at incredulously. He just shrugs.
“Anyway,” Tim says, waving the sheathed knife and not at all practising proper knife safety while Kon watches in amusement. He raises his eyebrows and twirls the knife around, the blade dangerously switching from finger to finger. Admittedly, he made Jason teach him tricks to look cool. “We're not getting killed by a catfish on my watch.”
“I heard that!” A voice hollers. The voice comes from a teenage girl, waving her arm out the window of a red service truck. Wonder Mechanics is written on the side in golden cursive, the ‘i’ dotted with a star. The truck has barely pulled to a stop when the blonde opens the door and marches towards them, the driver laughing with amusement.
“Cassie!” Bart bounced on his toes before launching himself at her, nearly toppling them both to the ground in a hug.
Tim smiled a little and nodded. “So, looks like the W0NDR girl is real after all.”
Kon huffs and digs into his pockets to pull out a wallet. With a groan, he pulls out a wad of cash. “Get your fuckin money, dumbass.” He says with a warm voice.
Bart pulls Cassie along and grabs the money. “This is the boyfriends!” Boyfriends, again. He gestures to Tim and Kon.
Cassie waltzes up to Kon and looks up at his eyes. “Huh, I’ll be damned. You the boyfriend, eh?”
Kon smiles from ear to ear, making his eyes crinkle up and freckles glow just a little bit more. Tim is enamoured. “Yeah, I’m the boyfriend!”
Cassie turns to Bart and throws a wad of money in her hand. “I guess you weren’t lyin’, lightning bolt.” She teased, passing the money to the short boy, who pocketed it quickly.
Bart just grins, giggling to himself. “I told you guys!”
While everyone was chatting, the driver steps out of the car and gets to work, looking at the engine. “Why in gods name is there melted fucking duct tape all over the engine!”
“Hey, don’t diss the tape!” Bart protests. “It’s been doing us wonders .”
The woman looks up from the engine and – oh fucking hell. Donna Troy, aka Dick’s friend, is looking at Tim.
“Lightning bolt, did you kidnap a fucking Wayne ?” She yells, turning to Bart.
Bart, Kon, and Cassie all turn to Tim, who lets out an awkward laugh. “Hi, Donna,” he mutters.
“Does Dickiebird know you’re stranded in Ohio?” She asks, accusingly raising an eyebrow and crossing her arms.
“Uh. He knows — I’m not in New Jersey.”
Donna sighs. “I’m calling your brother.”
“NO!” And, yeah, that sounds desperate. He forces himself to relax. “It’s fine! He’ll just worry and start mother henning, it’s fine. I’m totally fine. Besides, Bruce knows where I am, so.”
Donna rolls her eyes, pulling out her phone and putting in Dick’s phone number, muttering to herself. “Right, because Bruce would fucking —” She puts it on speaker. The line rings once, then twice, then — Dick’s voice; “Y’ello?”
Tim groans, sparing a glance at Kon and Bart before answering. “Heyyy, Big Bird.” Play up the little brother role, excellent plan, he might get out of this unscathed.
“Where have you even been , man? B said that you were gonna take some time to get home but it's been like — days.” Dick chastises. Quietly, he mutters; “No, I'm on the phone with Tim. Yeah, yeah, Dami no —” the sound of a thump and a new voice is shouting.
“DRAKE. WHERE ARE YOU?” Damian cries out.
He is not getting out of this unscathed.
Tim shoots Donna a glare — look what you’ve done — but she just grins and holds out the phone closer to him. “Calm down, Dames, I’m just in Ohio.”
Damian actually seems to sound a little upset , like, genuinely upset. It was slightly disturbing. “Cassandra and I were following the news! There's a million stories running of the Wayne Enterprises boat sunk in a hurricane! We haven’t heard from you and —” his voice shakes “ — You — you’re an idiot, Drake.”
Tim actually thinks his heart drops. He’s never really heard Damian upset, especially when it’s because he’s worried about him . They just…haven’t always had the best relationship — their usual affection is hidden behind taunts and insults, not exposed and raw. “Uh, yeah — sorry. I lost my phone in the — in the storm, so I haven’t been able to keep you guys updated. Sorry.”
There’s a pause, then Dick is back with; “Tim. Please tell me you didn’t get caught in that hurricane and then go to Ohio.”
“ Tim.” Dick sighs. “Just, be careful, okay?”
Tim sighs. “I will, promise. Is…are any of the others there, or is it just you and Dami?”
“Cass is here, too. She says hi! Duke has a new summer job so he's at work, and Jason is out with friends.” Dick explains.
He snickers. “Jason has friends?”
Dick doesn’t miss a beat, saying as deadpan as possible; “Only because he stole mine. And now you’re stealing Donna. I can’t believe this.”
Tim can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of him, and he can hear Dick’s triumphant grin when he says; “Hey, Don, keep an on him for me? And get him a phone — I’ll pay you back — so I can badger him.”
It’s said in that lovingly-yet-threateningly way Dick has perfected, and Donna laughs lightly. “Sure thing.”
“Awesome. Love ya, little bird. Anyway, I need to go drive Dami and Titus to the dog park. Don’t get into too much trouble.”
“I won't, Dickie, “ Tim calls out before the call ends.
The group of teens all look at Tim.
“I’m sorry – Dick as in Richard Wayne ?? And – and Damian and Cassandra and Jason and Duke Wayne are your siblings? What the hell?” Bart shouts, throwing his hands up in the air. Tim winces, thinking Bart was angry, before the kid continued; “That’s like – so fucking cool! Dude you’re practically famous! Oh my god, have you met famous people? Who have you met? Are famous people, like, super weird because I feel like they’d be weird, ya know?”
Tim laughs, his shoulders relaxing. “God, no, I’m not famous at all. Just — lucky, I guess.”
“Lucky my ass!” Bart giggles. “Your dad’s a fuckin’ billionare!”
“We should see if he’ll buy us a new van.” Kon jokes, patting Tim’s shoulder.
“If it takes my parents dying to be adopted by Bruce Wayne, it will have been worth it.” Tim says solemnly.
“God, you and Dick are two peas in a pod I swear.” Donna laughs. “Sarcastic little shits”
Tim giggles; “You love us!”
Donna just sighs and goes back to working on the van. “I don’t know how in hell this car even drives…it’s gonna take days to fix this.”
Cassie rolls her eyes. “I mean, there's a motel in town you guys can stay at? Until we get this piece of shit into working order.”
Tim shrugs; “I’d be okay with that.
The drive to Cassie’s house is short but pleasant, the group of teens chatting amongst themselves. The Sandsmark household is cosy, with a large garage with work-in-project cars and radio tech. They enter the garage laughing among themselves, tired but high on good company. The group teeters off into silence as they wander around the garage, examining the cars and side-projects littering the floors and walls.
“So, which came first,” Kon asks as he runs his hand over the hood of a cherry red car, “cars or radios?”
Cassie hums in thought at the front of the garage, hands on her hips. Her eyes drag along the cars and the radio station tucked away in a corner. “Cars.” She decides with a definitive nod. “Donna used to have my help with replacing parts, and that's how I learned all about radio bits and bobs. I built my first radio when I was, like, twelve and now here we are.” She smiles as she says it, something light and nostalgic, as she motions towards her station in the corner.
There’s a series of clangs from one of the cars in the garage, and all three of them jump as they turn towards it. The upper half of Bart is shoved through one of the windows of a car, rummaging through the seats for something.
“Bart —” Cassie sighs, more with an amused fondness than anger; “ What are you doing?”
Bart kicks his legs in the air, and Kon grins in amusement as he pulls him out by his ankles. He doesn’t let go once Bart is out of the car, and the small boy twists around to look at Cassie and hold up what he’s found: a brown gladiator jacket, with yellow and red accents on the sleeves. “Jacket?”
Tim bursts out laughing, the sound snapping something in the air, until they’re all dissolved into giggles. Like a bunch of school children. He doesn’t notice the way Bart — now out of his boyfriend’s hold and sitting on his shoulders — and Kon watches him, light and fond and something too much, before exchanging a quick, meaningful glance.
Tim hasn't been this happy in a long time.
He likes this — his friends and their weirdness.
It feels like home .
The laughter quickly takes a turn for the worst, becoming an awkward cough into Tim’s elbow. His grey sweater sleeve comes back covered in blood, dark foreboding. Tim feels his stomach drop, the tell-tale thoughts that something good has just been ruined again. Surely, this is a problem for another time. No one seems to notice, anyway. It’s not a big deal.
But Kon’s knowing, mix-matched eyes catch Tim’s when he goes to cross his arms, to hide the evidence, and any chance of not ruining the moment vanishes. “Timmy,” he says softly, coming up next to him and laying a hand on his lower back. The touch makes Tim turn red from ear to ear, heart kicking into high-gear. “You good there?”
“I’m okay!” The familiar lie tumbles out before he really processes it. And, judging by Kon’s raised eyebrow, is not believed. “I’m just — I’m super happy I came with you guys!” Tim gives a practised smile, the one reserved for old ladies at charity galas, but instead of the usual charm it just causes his friends to wince. Shit. “What —”
“Dude.” Bart blinks, pointing at him. “Blood.”
Tim’s eyes narrow. He raises a hand to his face, patting around his nose and mouth, and his fingers come away sticky and covered in blood. Ah, so hiding it wasn’t really in the cards in the first place. “Shit.”
There’s a moment of silence, then —
“I’m calling Donna.” Cassie decides, pulling out her phone. All three boys physically jump and a chorus of disagreement tumble out of their mouths as they zero in on her location. But she’s already typing furiously — until Bart ducks beneath her legs, grabs her phone, and is suddenly across the garage in the span of a blink, like a flickering bolt of energy or video game character that clipped through a wall.
Kon gives a thumbs up. “Nope! Don’t do that! Everything is A-ok!”
Bart smiles confidently. “Yep! Just a normal amount of blood loss!”
Cassie makes an incredulous noise in the back of her throat, trying to get past Kon and towards Bart, without much luck. “There’s nothing normal about blood loss , what the fuck guys —”
Tim sighs, pinches his brow and bows his head. With a mischievous grin, he says; “Wow, you almost drowned once and everyone tries to tell your big brother on you.”
“What are we telling Dick?” Donna asks, sticking her head into the garage.
All four heads swivel towards her — Cassie, who is currently climbing Kon like a tree; Tim, hiding his face with his hands; and Bart, who's pocketed Cassie’s phone and has decided to crawl on the wall. Tim decides not to question it.
There’s a long moment of silence in which Donna’s brow furrows, and her smile wavers, and then —
“How Tim’s always so goddamn cold.” Bart throws the leather jacket at Tim, who catches it. He quickly uses the sleeve of his sweater to wipe off his teeth before pulling the jacket on.
“Yeah, always freezing,” Tim supplies, readjusting himself. Thank God Bart can think as quickly as he speaks.
Donna just rolls her eyes. “Yeah, keep Mama Bird out of that. Listen, Timmers, Dick wants me to get you a new phone. Whadda ‘ya want, kid?” She asks.
“I don’t care,” Tim shrugs, “WayneTech?”
Donna laughs to herself. “‘Course, don’t know why I asked. You want to come with to get it or you wanna stay with your boyfriends?”
Sputtering out an embarrassed cough, Tim turns away. His face heats up, and he can feel Kon and Bart looking at him, and he tries desperately to say a complete sentence. “They're not — I mean — I — uhm —”
Kon elbows Bart lightly, the both of them watching Tim’s expressions shift from embarrassment to bewilderment to doubt to —
“I mean, Bart and Kon are boyfriends —” He finally manages to spit out, gaze locked on anything but his friends, “I’m just — I’m just hanging around.” Donna eyes the way Bart and Kon practically deflate, but doesn’t say anything.
There's a moment of awkward silence before Donna steps away. “Riiight. Okay, don’t blow anything up!”
“That was one time!” Cassie calls after her, finally on the ground instead of climbing Kon. “ One time! ” She waits until she can’t hear Donna’s impish cackle — Tim can’t help but think how similar it sounds to Dick’s — before she turns on the three of them, hands on her hips and brow set in determination. “Ok, why aren't we telling Donna about the blood?”
“Because Donna’ll tell Dick and Dick’ll make Tim go home!” Bart says, like it’s obvious.
Cassie lets out a huff, gesturing towards the now-bloody jacket of hers. “Tim is literally coughing blood!” Her voice is high pitched, tone drowning in worry. “I think he should go home!”
“Hey!” Tim protests. “You almost drown and then you can judge.”
Kon laughs, all light and airy like a summer breeze, like dandelions and windchimes, like warmth. “Don’t worry, we’re not gonna let you leave us yet, big brothers be damned.”
“Yeah!” Bart agrees, shifting so he’s wrapped himself around Tim like a snake. “If Tim goes home, then dye my hair black and and call me a Wayne because I’m not leavin’ him.”
“And you wonder why Donna called you boyfriends.” Cassie rolls her eyes, a small smile crawling onto her face. Tim tries to ignore the fire that's burning in his chest and his cheeks.
Cassie turns away and slips through a crack in the stacks and stacks of junk . “You guys want soda?” she calls out from…wherever in the garage she’s in.
“I– what–?” Tim mutters to himself as a hand pokes out, holding a can of ice-cold soda. Bart reaches forward and takes it.
“Thanks!” he chirps, opening up the can and taking a long sip. Cassie reaches out again, holding another can, and Kon takes that one. Tim just watches in bewilderment as Cassie climbs out from between the towers of stuff with two more cans.
She passes one to Tim, who takes it. “It’s cold,” he states, like a fucking idiot.
“Yeah? It was in the fridge?” Cassie replies casually.
“There's a fridge in your garage?” Tim’s eyebrows furrow in confusion.
“Bart, how did you manage to pick up a city kid?” Cassie laughs to herself. “Yes, Tim, there's a fridge in the garage. For drinks. And meat.”
Tim feels like he’s losing it. “Why not just…use your inside fridge?”
“Inside fridge is for inside stuff. Outside fridge is for outside stuff, and what doesn’t fit in the inside fridge.” Bart explains like it's the most normal thing in existence.
Tim shakes his head and opens up his soda. “Ok, sure. I think you guys are fucking with me.”
“ I think you guys are fucking with me,” Kon mimics in, just, the worst attempt at a Jersey accent Tim has ever heard. It takes him by such surprise that he can't stop himself from laughing, spewing the soda he was drinking out his nose.
“OH MY GOD!” Bart yells, shirt soaked in soda-snot. He’s laughing so hard he falls to the ground on his ass. “Oh my GOD! Oh my god!”
Tim is red faced and burying himself in the jacket Bart had given him. “Oh my god — fuck —that hurt. That hurt, oh my god.” The laughter between every other word makes it less concerning that it would be under other circumstances. Kon and Cassie join in, Kon snickering under his breath while Cassie throws her head back in a laugh.
“I don’t sound like that!” Tim hisses, lightly shoving Kon.
Bart grins ear to ear, and, somehow doing a worse impression, echoes; “I don’t sound like that, aw my gawd.”
“I hate you both. You’re idiots.” Tim laughs to himself.
Cassie gives an evil smile. “ I hate you both, you’re idiots, ” she echoes, voice slipping into some mock New York accent.
The entire group evolves into giggles and laughter all over again, only calming down when Donna returns to shuffle them away to a hotel.
“Holy shit, a bed ,” Bart yells, falling face first onto the terribly uncomfortable mattress of the local motel. In the few moments Tim was gone to get a toothbrush, Bart had already changed into pyjamas and crawled into bed. The shirt he’s wearing — one of Kon’s — is sleeveless, revealing the bright scars that run across his arms.
Bart catches Tim looking at him repeatedly, occasionally just out of the corner of his eye, as the set of friends get ready for bed. “You can just ask about them, you know,” Bart says at one point, when Kon is somewhere in the motel searching for his lost wallet.
Tim’s sitting on the bed, fidgeting with the TV remote. “What?”
A sigh, the bed shifts, and then Bart is leaning his head on Tim’s shoulder. “You can just ask about my scars. It's not like I hide ‘em.”
Tim bites his lip and looks away. He can feel Bart’s slow breathing on his neck and warmth. “I just…I didn’t think it was my business.”
Bart reaches forward and holds Tim’s hand in his own. “Sure it is; of course it is. I want to share my business with you, I guess.” His usual demeanour seems to have disappeared, clouded over by a softer, more serious side. It was strange; it felt too personal, like something Tim wasn’t supposed to bear witness to.
“Oh….” Tim whispers.
“You know, a lotta people think I got struck by lightning during a chase, but I didn’t. I didn’t even know what storm chasing was yet,” Bart says, a goofy, lopsided grin taking over his features, “it’s my brother's fault, really. He’s this total tech whizz, nerd shit, and he was trying to like — I don't even know what. Make a machine go super fast or some shit? But it was storming and he was trying to harness electricity and in my defence uncle Max didn’t tell me not to touch Wally’s contraption – and then– bzzt kaboom I got hit by lightning!”
Tim….really doesn’t know how to respond to that. “I…I honestly expected something a lot…more traumatic..? I guess?”
Bart nudges his shoulder and they're so close— “People usually do! I think you have enough storm trauma for the both of us, though.”
“Yeah,” Tim laughs, “You know, my dad — my biological dad — was a sailor, too. He taught me everything I know.”
“Yeah! He used to do these, like — global sailing races. He would be gone for weeks at a time, but he was always one of the best. He’s the reason I started chasing, I guess.”
Bart looks up at Tim, studying the boy's face, the way his eyes are a pale, stormy-ocean blue or the small scar he has across his right cheek. Tim looks like he could be a siren, in some beautiful, mythical world. “Your dad liked to follow storms?” he asks. Tim turns away and clouds shift in his eyes.
“Nah, my dad actually uh, he died at sea. He got caught in a rogue storm during a race to Madrid. It was kinda the push to track em, ya know? So it wouldn’t happen to anyone else, I guess?”
“You’re amazing,” Bart blurts out in earnest.
Tim shakes his head, a deep rosy blush spreading across his cheeks. “No, I–”
“Listen” Bart cuts in, cupping Tim’s cheeks in his hands and turning the boy’s head to face him. They were so, so close. “You, Timothy Drake-Wayne, are amazing.”
Tim flounders for a moment, unsure what to do with his body. Bart is right there…and...it would just be so easy…Instead, Tim begins to speak; “Bart, you have a boyfriend.”
Bart seems to shrink away a little. “You don’t — you don’t get it, do you?”
“I don’t get what?” Tim parrots, eyes watching the door open for Kon to come in.
“Kon and I…we…we like you .”
“I know, you’re my friends.” Tim replies, and Bart looks like he’s going to scream.
“You are an amazing dumbass, Tim.” He says, and then it's all happening so fast. Bart’s lips are sort-of chapped but it's all so soft and the fire in Tim’s heart is raging and he kisses him.
The door swings open, and Kon is there, grinning like an idiot. “Looks like you’re doing a little more than hanging around,” he jokes, sauntering into the room as if Tim isn’t frozen like a deer in headlights.
“Kon–” Tim begins, voice a panicked tremble. “It's not–” and then he notices Kon’s smile, and the blush that's spreading over his tanned skin and, oh, he's not mad. Bart's words echo in Tim's head– we like you .
Kon sets his things down and, “Hey, hey, it’s good. It's cool.” He sits down on the bed next to Bart, who's grinning like an idiot.
“It's good?” Tim replies.
Kon answers, “It's cool.”
Bart speaks up, grinning ear to ear. “It's fun, too.”
Tim and Kon are watching each other carefully. They both sit there for a moment, unmoving, just taking each other in.
Tim is the first one to move, leaning closer to Kon. “Can I kiss you? Because this is– this is beginning to feel like a staring contest and I really do want to kiss you because you are just, very pretty and–”
Kon doesn’t hesitate to lean forward and kiss Tim. kissing Kon is different– he seems more…careful, or unsure, but his arms wrap around Tim’s sides and he pulls him so that Tim’s in the middle of him and Bart, and all three of them are laughing, blushing messes.
“Ow! Ow! Laying on my arm!” Bart shouts, wiggling and writing in the bed. He gets himself free then promptly flops himself on top of Tim and Kon, declaring “Revenge!”
“I was most definitely not laying on your arm, you just wanted to lay on top of us.” Tim argues,blushing, because the three of them are basically one big pile of limbs and homosexuality.
“You did lay on my arm,” Bart pouts, “but I also just wanted to lay on top of you, so, good enough” he smiles, leans forward and gives Tim a quick kiss.
“Hey! C’mere!” Tim wraps his arms around Bart and kisses him again.
“No fair! I feel left out!” Kon fake-pouts. Tim giggles and kisses him too.
The night fades like that, the three boys holding each other close, sleeping in a pile of limbs and blankets, and when they wake up, it will be to smiling faces and soft good morning kisses. Most importantly, something will have changed, shifting like a puzzle piece, and everything fits in right.
The car gets fixed in a matter of days, and things are nice.
“You should come with us,” Bart offers, one sunny day, while the gang are all in Cassie’s garage, drinking soda and lounging about the cars.
Cassie runs her hands through her hair, tying the dyed-black hair into a ponytail in the back of her head. She rolls up the sleeves of her jacket– the now not-bloody leather jacket Bart had fished out of her car. She’s helping Tim clean out the Van of Wonders, elbows deep in food wrappers and junk. “Hmm, dunno.”
Tim sticks his head through the middle of the front seats, face to face with Cassie. He’s smiling, and there's a trickle of blood dripping down his bottom lip. “You should come, it’ll be fun.”
“Tim, you’re bleeding,” Cassie deadpans, tossing him a napkin.
“Ok in my defence, Bart bit me.” Tim mutters, wiping off the blood.
Cassie raises an eyebrow, lips pulling taught to a smirk; “He bit your lip, really?”
Bart clammors on the van’s roof, leaning over and sticking his head in one of the windows. He’s in one of Tim's shirts– it's overly baggy with a big Gotham U logo. “It was an accident!”
“You’re going to dent the van! Off the roof!” Kon is the first to chastise. He climbs up on a ladder and scoops Bart up into his hold. Bart thrashes in his arms, biting Kon’s arm repeatedly.
“What were you– why–” Cassie tries to find the words, but she's pretty much dumbfounded. Bart seems...more energised than normal, and that's saying something. His grin is so much bigger than it has been, and it's like he has a permanent blush.
“Timmy! Save me!!” He calls out, reaching for Tim, who's carrying a garbage bag outside the garage. Tim just giggles and kisses Bart as he passes then climbs back in the van to continue cleaning.
Ah , Cassie sees, now. A smile cracks across her face, and a warmth grows in her chest. The boys aren't as dumb as she thought, then. “I dunno, I’m not really one for storms,” she thinks aloud.
“You can drive. Hang out with us. Help with the radio.” Tim suggests, and all of that does sound fun.
Cassie thinks for a long moment, humming to herself and pursing her lips. A sly smile tugs at her cheeks as she begins to speak; “I mean, I don’t really have anything better to do, I guess.”
“YES!! THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!!!” Bart shouts, throwing his hands up in the air and accidentally slapping Kon’s face.
Tim barks out a loud laugh. Cassie snickers
“ I’m driving,” Cassie declares, and Kon gasps dramatically as he whips around to glare at her.
“I’m the captain here,” he says, and Bart starts snickering beside him, “and I will not allow someone else to pilot my ship.”
Cassie sends Tim a look , raising one eyebrow as she turns to smirk at Kon.
"I'm COLD, " Tim whines out, somewhere between Ohio and Indiana, laying across the back seat of the van, wrapped in two hoodies, Kon's jacket, and all the blankets piled in the van. Bart is sitting on the floor next to him; Cassie's driving and Kon is up front on map and radio control.
"Tim, you're in literally every blanket and it's hot as shit in here, how are you cold ?" Bart grouches, wrinkling up his nose in frustration.
Tim sighs, and something in his chest hurts more than normal. He grabs an empty water bottle from the floor and clears his throat once, then twice, then spits into the bottle, blood pouring down the plastic sides. He's been coughing up blood more, which is fine. They're almost in Illinois, which means they're practically in Missouri, so they're basically almost at their destination. Yeah.
He mumbles something, and whatever it is causes Bart to scoot forward and cup Tim's cheek. His golden eyes seemed to brim over with worry, as he mutters; "Hey, stay awake Timmy."
Tim leans forward and presses his forehead against Bart's cheek, muttering "...don't feel good,"
"What's wrong?" Bart asks, eyes flicking back and forth, trying to study Tim's pale, grey face and pasty blue lips.
Tim lets out a choked noise, then yawns, sputters, then spits out another glom of blood. "Lungs," he whispers, voice hoarse.
Bart scurries down and digs through some stuff, pulling out a half-drake water bottle and lifting it to Tim's lips. Tim leaned forward and sipped at it.
"Hey, Konnie, dear, how long till we get home?" Bart asks, causing Kon to shuffle through the maps.
"God, uh, eight hours?" Kon announces. In the driver's seat, Cassie grins.
"I can make it six," she challenges, and the car lurches forward, hitting well over 110 on the empty highway.
True to her word, the gang is climbing out of the van at 2:34 in the morning – a whole five and a half hours after Cassie said they'd make it in six.
Even in the middle of the night, there's this sort of electric feel about the house. Tim notices it the first time he steps through the door, like his hairs standing up and the lights flickering. Like something in the house is alive and thriving, humming with electricity. Tim comes to a stop in the living room, examining the well-worn carpets, the family photos adorning the walls, the chipped paint and creaky floor-boards. It feels like home in a way Drake Manor or even Wayne Manor never did — nothing is perfect, everything is just a breath out of place, and it’s obvious that the family here loves each other and their home.
Bart comes in behind him, carrying some bags, and drops them by the stairs that look like they may fall apart at any second. Tim turns to help carry them up, startling and dropping the duffel in hand when the house shakes and the lights flicker.
"Don't worry 'bout that, it happens when a storm is brewing," a voice speaks up. Tim turns to look at the person – scraggly ginger hair and eye bags that were practically Chanel, crouched up on the couch surrounded by a computer and notebooks.
Something about the way Wally is studying him makes Tim hesitant. There's this look about him, worried and confused and maybe even hurt, and Tim doesn't know what he's doing wrong by just…standing there.
"You're Dick Grayson's kid brother." Wally states and, oh, of course, that's why Wally looks at him like that. He knows Dick. Great .
Tim shifts his weight between his feet awkwardly. "Yep," he pops the p, then looks over at Bart, trying to make a why is it suddenly so tense sort of face. "Hey Bart, aren't ya going to introduce us?" Tim hisses.
Bart coughs awkwardly. "Wally, Tim. Tim, Wally. Alright, we're going to bed–" and before he can walk off, Tim is grabbing him by the sweatshirt hood and pulling him back.
"Care to explain why he knows Dick?" Tim whispers–snaps.
Bart is beginning to flush bright red. “It’s — a long story. Has Dick really never mentioned him? Ever?”
Something in Bart’s voice emulates hurt on his brother’s behalf, and Tim takes a minute to think back to Dick talking about his friends. He thinks Jason might know more about that, since Dick was already grown and moved out when Tim came around. But it’s also not like Dick to not mention people important to him. He knew Donna, Dick talked about Donna all the time. And Dick’s the reason Jason and Roy met in the first place. But Wally isn’t ringing any bells.
Tim shakes his head. “Not that I can remember.”
“Huh,” Bart says, shrugging, “that fucking sucks, then.”
Another head buts in between them. Bright eyes and blond fluffy hair, flushed cheeks and grinning an almost malicious smile. He looks and sounds eerily like Bart when he whispers out; "Dick broke his heart."
Tim lets out a strange noise and steps back, more out of shock of the new Bart clone that seemed to have appeared out of thin air than the actual information he said. "Who the fuck–"
"I'm Thaddeus. The better Bart." The blond introduces himself, much to Bart's dismay.
"Tim, that's Thad. My twin." Bart mutters begrudgingly. Thad elbows him lightly, and Bart is on him in an instant, shoving him. The two fall into a weird shove–off, leaving Tim, Kon, and Cassie to watch them bicker
Trying to keep up with their babbling of, "I'm better," and, "no I am," is making Tim's head spin. He leans – no, more like falls – against Kon, who catches him with ease.
"You ok?" He whispers, and Tim nods.
"Lightheaded," Tim responds, voice weak and quiet. He tries to take a deep breath, and that's when his lungs start itching, and he starts coughing again. The room is spinning, his chest is burning, and Tim thinks he sees Kon's face turn to horror before he's falling, hitting the floor and drifting into unconsciousness.
The thump of Tim's body hitting the floor is what gets the twins attention off bickering and towards Tim.
Thad looks at the body, who has blood dripping down from his mouth and pooling on their very expensive rug. "Bart, I think your boyfriend just fucking died."
Bart might have, maybe, possibly, yelled a very potent; " FUCK!!!" as he ran over to Tim. He grabbed Tim's wrists, his skin almost so pale it's grey and began feeling for a pulse.
A door opens, and a tall man with greying hair and groggy voice asks; "What's going on?"
"Bart's boyfriend died." Thad deadpans. The older man is holding Tim in an instant, like he just appeared .
"Bart, can you get the med kid?" The man asks, and Bart is off like a blur. He comes back moments later with a full box of high grade medical supplies.
Cassie makes a face of confusion, so Wally explains; "We're a family of scientists, medical emergencies are pretty much commonplace." Like that's supposed to make her feel better.
The group watches as the elder runs through normal procedure, taking his heart rate and blood pressure. They all wait with baited breath for Max to announce: "Someone call 911. Now ."
"Oh my god. I manifested him dying." Thad whispers in disbelief.
"He's not dying," Kon snaps, then turns to Max. "He's not dying, right?"
"See!" Cassie shouts. "I told you we should have told Donna weeks ago ! I'm calling Dick–"
"Already on that,'' Wally supplies,
Thad is tackling him in a moment, shouting; "NO. NO CALLING HIM."
Wally cries out, swatting at Thad; "STOP BITING ME! LET ME GO!"
Cassie steps out of the room with Tim's phone, waits for the ringing to stop, and for Dick to pick up.
"Wha–?" He asks, voice gravely from sleep. Shit, it's almost 4 am there, isn't it?
"Hi, this is Cassie Sandsmark, Donna's little sister. Yeah, hi, um. Tim might be dying."
" What? " Dick asks, instantly more awake than before.
"We're in Keystone city at Bart's house. I think someone's called 911 so they're on their way. Tim's fine, probably."
"Ok, wait. What is wrong ?"
Cassie sighs, all drawn out and exhausted; "Ok so, apparently, like, Tim's been coughing blood since the shipwreck. Um, I think it's been getting worse, but like, he just. Went into a coughing fit then collapsed."
There's the sound of shifting from the other end of the phone – like Dick was getting up. “Let me know the hospital’s address when you get it. I'm on my way.” And the call ends with a click.
“CASSIE!” Kon calls out, he's by the door and waving at her furiously. Behind him, Tim is being loaded into an ambulance. Cassie puts away the phone and runs over.
“This guy’s saying we can't join Tim.” Kon hisses, glaring at one of the EMTs.
“Sorry, kid, not family.” The man sighs.
“Come on, we can take the van.” Cassie says, grabbing Kon by the jacket and dragging him away. Everything seems to blur, somewhere between Cassie getting in the van and Tim going under the knife – something about his lungs.
It's nearly 8 am when Cassie, Bart, and Kon all find themselves pacing across the waiting room floor. Wally is on his computer, typing away at his damned dissertation and trying to distract himself from the situation at hand. The door opens, and someone walks in, and suddenly Wally is looking up, locking eye to eye with a sleepless Dick Grayson.
“How’s Tim?” He asks, turning away from Wally and towards Max, who's reading a book.
“Stable,” He supplies casually. He looks up from his book and smiles warmly at Dick. “It's good to see you again. How have you been?”
“I've been– ugh, busy. I've started this new gym in Gotham for kids to get out and exercise and have, like, a place, but it's a lot of work.” Dick explains.
Bart tunes out the conversation, eyes drifting around the room and landing on a small child balled up in the corner. The kid has spiky black hair and dark skin, and he’s crying, clutching a plush elephant to his chest.
Bart looks over at Kon for a moment before getting up and walking over to the child. “Hi, can I sit here?”
The kid looks up at him with dark, emerald green eyes. He nods stiffly, then sniffles. His voice is barely above a whisper as he asks; “Is Timothy ok?”
Oh. oh, dear.
“Of course he is, kiddo.” Bart gives a small smile. “Timmy’s gonna be a-ok!”
The child – Tim’s little brother; Damian Wayne – buries his face into that old plushie, and Bart decides to ask “What's it’s name?”
Damian shrugs, then mutters something under his breath.
“Hm?” Bart asks.
“Zitka. Her name is Zitka.” Damian answers, holding her out for Bart to see. Bart doesn’t take the plush – he wouldn’t dare – but he does run his hand over one of the soft, velvety ears.
“She's very lovely. '' He compliments me. “I have a plushie at home. He's a dog, and his name is Sparks.” Bart admits with an awkward smile. In honesty, Thad and Bart had torn the plush in half during a fight as kids. That doesn't mean that Bart doesn't still keep the sewn up top half of the old toy hidden under his blanket.
“That's a dumb name.” Damian mumbles to himself, with a small smile. “My dog's name is Titus. Oh, and my cat's name is Alfred. Do you like cats?”
Bart shrugs. “I’m allergic! But I have always loved dogs. Do you have a lot of pets?”
Damian nods, and his hesitant smile starts to crack into a real one. “I have a cow.”
“A cow? ” Bart is genuinely surprised. “In Gotham? ”
Damian gives a proud smile. “Yes! His name is Batcow.”
“Well, he has a spot that looks like a bat.” Damian explains, like it's the most obvious thing ever.
The sound of someone clearing their throat gets everyone's attention. They all watch as a doctor begins to speak: “As I said before, Timothy is in a stable condition. The salt water from the storm seemed to irritate his lungs, causing abrasions to form in his bronchioles.”
“So what you're saying is he's just been– what– choking on his own blood for the better part of the summer?” Damian sneers.
The doctor looks away sheepishly. “I– yes. That is, essentially, what's happened.”
“Is he going to be ok?” Dick asks. He’s sitting between Max and Wally. The younger’s hand just distantly hovering over his own – Dick takes it and squeezes.
“Oh, he’s fine. Just a blood transfusion, and medication for a couple of months. He’ll heal right up.”
Bart gently nudges Damian, whispering; “ Told ya so.”
Damian ignores Bart, instead asking; “Can we see him?”
The doctor nods. “Yes, but only two people at a time.”
Dick shoots up, accidentally pulling Wally with him. He announces; “I want to go.”
The doctor looks over at Dick and Wally, then nods. “You two, come on.” And he pulls them away.
Wally keeps his distance as he watches Dick sit by Tim’s side. The two are chatting casually and Wally is just…there. It's not like he’s talked to Dick since their last break up — when he asked Dick to stay. It's just…well…the breakup was formally followed up by months of heartbreak and crying, clutching half-eaten tubs of ice cream and watching Sex and the City on repeat. Normal college student behaviour, if anyone asked.
But, after that, after that last ultimatum, they haven’t talked at all. Dick didn’t want a boyfriend , he’d made that abundantly clear, and Wally was too head-over-heels to try and go back to being friends.
Wally looks up, shoved out of his thoughts, when he hears another voice – coming from the phone. Bruce Wayne is on speaker, asking Dick where he was.“Um.” Dick stutters, eyes locked on Wally. “I’m…visiting Wally?”
Out loud, with a tired voice and gruff tone; “Didn’t you break up with him?”
Wally wants to die. Wally actually, really, wants to fucking die.
Dick looks over at him, eyes flicking up and down like he's trying to read Wally’s expressions, he speaks; “Yeah – um, yeah. That was, a few years back, ya know?” He turns away from Wally, looks down, then mumbles, truthfully. “I just — I missed him, I guess.”
“So you flew to Missouri in the middle of the night?” Bruce asks, in disbelief.
“I was having a bad night.” Dick answers.
“Alright. Sure.” Bruce sighs. “So, next question — where is Damian?”
“He came with! Um — he wanted to meet the twins?”
“Right. The twins.”
“You know? Bart and Thad — the weird, loud ones?”
“Didn't one of them rip the portrait of my parents?” Bruce asks, and Wally is cringing at the memory of that Christmas dinner in high school.
“I thought Damian would get along with them?”
Before Bruce could come up with a retort, the doctor was in the room. “So, he should be ready to discharge tomorrow —” he pauses; the entire room looks at him with horror.
“Who’s getting discharged from where?” Bruce asks, and the whole lie falls apart.
“Hi, Dad,” Tim calls out, voice hoarse. Bruce just lets out a long, heavy sigh.
“ Richard John Grayson-Wayne .” Bruce growls. Dick immediately pales and freezes. Wally would laugh if he didn’t feel so bad for the guy.
“Yeees, Dad?” Dick asks, voice trembling.
“Where are you right now?”
“A hospital,” he admits.
“ Why are you in the hospital?”
“Tim almost bled out.”
Tim snorts, quietly. He can't help but laugh at how anxious Dick looks. Bruce is quickly on his ass, though.
“ Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne .”
Tim shivers in horror.
“What, pray tell, is Dick talking about?”
Tim hesitates. “Soooo, remember that um, little tiny shipwreck–?”
“How could I forget?” Bruce scoffs.
“Well, apparently my lungs um ...got…injured? And I've been, uh, bleeding?”
Bruce sighs, loudly. “Tim. Have you been bleeding internally for a month ?”
"Oh god, Tim ," Bruce says, voice pitched slightly higher and barely hiding his worry.
Tim isn't quite sure what to say. "Well, you know, there were cute boys and — I was ok?"
“You should come home.” Bruce says, sighing, tired. Tim knows he’s right. He's not ready to leave, but he should. He should, shouldn’t he? He’s injured, has been injured for a while, and he misses his family. He does. And he knows going home is the smart thing to do, but —
“I’m…having fun out here, though.”
There’s silence on the other end for a long moment. “I’ll be at the hospital tonight.”
And it’s not a you can stay or come home anyway or i miss you, i’m glad you’re safe , it just…is. Tim sighs through his nose, ignoring the lump that forms in his throat. “Okay.”
Bruce ends up coming to visit, much to Dick and Tim’s dismay. He showed up by midnight that very same day, tired and stressed and worried out of his mind.
He steps into the small hospital room to a curious sight — four teens all piled in Tim’s little hospital bed. Their limbs are tangled in a mess, all tied up in a sleeping blob that has to be uncomfortable. In the chair next to them sits Dick, asleep, with Damian curled up in his lap and napping. Wally is dozing off in the chair next to them, head dipping down and leaning on Dick’s shoulder.
It's a sweet sight, really.
So Bruce, with a soft smile, steps outside and back to the waiting room.
The next morning, he's woken up by Thad. Bruce is pretty sure it's Thad — but the kid is moving around too much to really process anything. Worst of all — he won't shut up.
Damian is across the waiting room, sitting in a chair and forced to listen to Thad’s blabbering. The poor kid looks like he’s on the verge of tears, sort of bouncing or rocking back and forth in the chair, trying to get rid of all that energy that's buzzing in the air. He hunches forward, covering his ears because everything is loud and Thad won’t shut up and his voice is piercing and the hospital is to bright and — and —
Thad keeps poking him, grabbing his hands and uncovering his ears, asking; “Hey why aren’t you listening to me? What's up? Kid, c’mon. You’re no fun.”
Bruce stands quickly, beelining to their corner of the room. He scoops up Damian easily, shielding his son in his embrace, and decides to make towards Tim’s room. Damian’s arms loop around his neck, face buried in his father’s neck. Bruce’s grip on his doesn’t lighten until they’re outside Tim’s room, and he sets his youngest down on his feet.
“I’m going to see Tim,” he starts carefully, “there’s a lot of people in there at the moment — would you like to wait out here until they leave?”
Damian hesitates, glancing from Bruce to the empty hallway to the chairs outside the door. He nods once, stiffly, and Bruce nods in return.
He enters the room, leaving Damian waiting outside. All six occupants look up at him as the door closes, and he clears his throat before asking; “May I speak with Tim alone?”
The two boys Bruce can deduce as Conner and Bart send Tim a look, only moving to leave after he nods. Wally basically drags Dick out of the room, who pauses next to Bruce with a quiet, “ Go easy on him, yeah? ”
And then it’s just him and Tim, in an empty white hospital room, the only sound the steady beep of the heart monitor.
“One month,” he says slowly, “at home. To recover.”
Tim perks up, something just shy of hoping shining in his eyes. “And then?”
“And then,” Bruce pauses, shaking his head, “then you can resume your storm hunting with your new friends —” Tim is practically vibrating with excitement, opening his mouth to speak, but Bruce holds up a hand and continues. “ — on the condition that you message someone in the family everyday, so we know you’re alive, and tell someone about your injuries if they occur. This,” he gestures to the hospital room, “will not be happening again.”
Tim nods frantically, and then he’s reaching out, making grabby hands at Bruce, and pulling him into a hug the minute he’s close enough to the bed to do so. That angle is awkward, and Tim is still practically shaking with glee, and Bruce has always been too stiff when being hugged, but he hugs back anyway.
“ Thank you ,” Tim says softly, insistently.
“Knowing you, you’d have found a way to sneak out and do it anyway,” Bruce sighs, but he smiles, and holds his son close. Then, belatedly; “You’re welcome.”
one month later.
The hot months – late June and early July – are usually spent on the waters, following topical storms and summer rain. For Tim, these times are sacred, where some of his earliest childhood memories reside – moments like swimming in the ocean with his mother, cleaning the sailboat with his father. Even later memories – making Damian try his first bomb pop, collecting seashells with Cass and Jay, teaching Duke how to drive a boat – all exist in these hot days.
It's a particularly hot day in late June when Tim finds himself sprawled across the backseat of the Van of Wonders. He's in a pair of sleep shorts and a baggy t-shirt, and he's hot.
“Caaaaasssss,” he whines, tossing his head back so he could look between the two front seats. “Turn the air oooon.”
“Can’t. The air conditioning is broken.” Cassie replies with a frustrated sigh. This is probably the fourth or fifth time she's had to repeat herself.
“CASSSSS!!!!” Bart joins in, tossing himself across Tim’s lap. “WE’RE HOT!!!!!!”
“Guys I literally can't. Look– there's a gas station a couple miles away and we’re all out of water. How about we just get there and then take a break. Bask in the air conditioning. I can try to fix it.” She suggests, and the van erupts in low-energy cheers of joy.
That gas station ends up being a janky one — but the air conditioning works and they have ice cream in the freezer.
“Oh my god. Cold. ” Bart gasps as he lays across the freezer. “That feels so good.”
“Bart, get off. I want an ice cream," Kon says before picking up his boyfriend and placing him in some other freezer.
Bart leans forward and reaches in, pulling out some ice cream cone and opening it right there. The cashier watches in horror as the teens practically raid the store. Bart and Kon are digging out the ice cream storage, meanwhile Cassie packs up bags of ice into their coolers and Tim pockets as many cans of Pepsi as he can fit in Kon’s jacket.
“Someone grab me beef jerkyyyyy.” Bart whines, causing Tim to give a thumbs up from another isle. The sound of falling cans and sizzling soda echoes throughout the store, alongside a quiet, “Ah, shit”
“I got candy!” Cassie announces, pocketing handfuls of sour candies and sweets into her jacket pockets alongside Kon.
“Are you gonna pay for all that?” The woman behind the counter announces, shouting at the kids as they all run out of the building and pile into their van.
Kon climbs into the driver's seat, earning a heavy glare from Cassie, but then they're off — the old van jerking once or twice before zooming away.
Tim lounges across the back of the van, Bart next to him, the both of them trying to not spill their sodas as Kon drives down the highway. They’re currently on route 66, somewhere outside of St. Louis and heading eastbound – the sky is clear and the weather is perfect, and it's a beautiful day for a car ride.
Kon turns on the radio and rolls down the window, blasting music. Cassie hangs her head out of the window and reaches out towards the fields and rolling land. For one, blisteringly bright movement, the entire car is singing, shouting out; “Oh , don't give us none of your aggravation!!! We had it with your discipline!! Oh, Saturday night's alright for fighting!! Get a little action in! Get about as oiled as a diesel train!!! Gonna set this dance alight!!!! 'Cause Saturday night's the night I like!!!!! Saturday night's alright, alright, alright, ooh!!!!!”
It's pure joy, even when Bart throws his arms in the air and spills soda all over Tim's lap. When he giggles and kisses him and it takes like pure sugar. And when Kon jerks the car to the beat so aggressively someone else starts honking at them, Tim sticks his head out the window and yells in as thick as a jersey accent he can muster; “AY! FUCK YOU!” sending the entire van into hysterical laughing, and the van swerving off the road.
“I TOLD YOU YOU SOUND LIKE THAT!” Bart shouts out in between loud, chopping laughs and high-pitched giggles. His face is blushed bright red with excitement and Tim stops for a moment. It feels like there's static in the air as he throws himself forward into a kiss. Bart laughs loudly, climbing on top of him and hanging his arm out the window as the two kiss and cuddle and laugh.
“Hey, no fucking in my van!” Kon shouts, swatting at the boys to get them to break it up, giggling and laughing to himself as he does so.
“Not without you, dear.” Tim jokes, grabbing Kon’s hand and squeezing it. From up front, Cassie makes a gagging noise.
“Oh you love us!” Tim calls out. Cassie reaches into the back and pets his head, laughing to herself.
“Oh, of cou—” she's cut off by a high pitched scream.
Kon’s hand is on the radio dial instantly, and he's yelling; “EVERYONE SHUT UP GUYS SHUT UP” as he turns the volume as loud as it can go. Quietly, a familiar piano melody plays. The entire car erupts into pure, unadulterated chaos as Kon starts to shout-sing; “ IS THIS THE REAL LIFE? IS THIS JUST FANTASY? ”
The entire van is shaking to the bass. Bart and Tim are holding onto the back of the driver's seat, belting and laughing along to the lyrics. Cassie puts her hand up, and the boys pause with the song. Quietly, she begins to sing, too. “ Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead.”
Kon joined in; “ Mama, life had just begun, but now I've gone and thrown it all away .”
Bart shoots up, standing up and throwing his arms into the air; “ MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!! OOOOHHHH”
Both of the boys are going wild, crying out; “DIDN'T MEAN TO MAKE YOU CRY!!!!!!”
Tim hesitates for just a second, enough to a single beat, before he's joining in; “ IF I'M NOT BACK AGAIN TOMORROW CARRY ON! CARRY ON AS IF NOTHING REALLY MATTERS!!!! ”
And then it's all of them, singing the parts, high and low, back and forth, the van swaying with them.
It's perfect. The perfect summer day. The perfect friends. The perfect whirlwind of chaos that has them all going 102 on the miracle mile.
They're… somewhere. It's early afternoon, the sun hidden by rolling clouds. All around them are open fields, wind running through the sky. A storm brews on the horizon. Bart is on the roof, finagling with his set of home–made weather tech. He's calling down to the rest of them the current statistics – the storms still far off; the wind is nearing 30 mph; it's fucking hot; he wants a snack.
From inside the van, Cassie and Kon are in the front. They're both controlling the radios, relaying Bart's messages to the masses. Well, the messages aren't that I'm hungry or I'm bored. Tim is in the back, hoisting open the trunk door and stepping out. He looks at the grey horizon; this is his first time witnessing a tornado, after all.
"Hey, is the sky supposed to look like that?" Tim calls out. The sounds of thumping on the roof alerts everyone that Bart is climbing over to yell over at him.
“YES!! ISN'T IT COOL?” Bart yells from the roof.
“I guess?” Tim shrugs. The surroundings are nothing like he's used to. The rain is just starting to pitter patter on the roof, leaving Bart scrambling to bring his tech inside the van. Tim continues to stand there, letting his clothes get soaked through from the rapidly pouring rain. Thunder shakes the ground, rattling the van. Tim stays, frozen, watching.
Kon is yelling his name. Tim watches the horizon. The wind is picking up, and around him, things are being picked up. Rocks and tree branches. Clumps of dirt.
The wind rushes again, shoving Tim off his balance, making him stumble and almost fall. He looks over at the van, and everyone is looking at him. Watching.
Then, there's a blur of copper red hair and Tim falls into a blanket pile with a thump. Bart is standing outside. Lightning strikes in the horizon.
Tim and Kon reach out, grabbing Bart by the arms and hoisting him in. Cassie is driving 0 to 100mph through the fields. Someones yelling through the radio. The tornado has touched ground, a pocketful of change miles away.
“DRIVE, CASSIE, DRIVE!!!” Kon howls, reaching out to hold Bart and Tim close. The van back door flies open, their supplies tumbling out the back and flying away. Bart reaches out for Kon's jacket, already picked up by the wind. With the revving of the engine and a gust of wind, Bart disappears.
A scream pierces through the storm.
Cassie grits her teeth, turns the van around and drives. "Someone get on the roof! Get rope or something !" She orders. Outside the window, Bart is clutching to a tree for dear life. The gang can't hear what he's shouting, but Kon safely assumes it's something along the lines of: OH SHIT FUCK MOTHER FUCKER OH GOD HOLY SHITBALLS.
The entire world is shaking. The van swerves, wheels being picked up alongside rocks and plants. The doors are flying off, with kids hanging out the sides with rope and safety–net blanket contraptions. And, like a sort of cherry on top from Hell, the radio is on, screeching guitar and hillbilly–rock n’ roll twang. Above all the yelling and tree-branches slamming on cars and cursing, there's a piercing noise – motherfucking Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird on top volume.
Cassie's furious. She's white-knuckling, heavy breathing, storm chasing anger, yelling; “SOMEONE TURN THAT SHIT OFF OR GOD HELP ME!”
The radio, surprisingly, does not get turned off. Tim is too busy gathering stuff in the back to even worry about the music playing. He hands a rope to Kon, and holds a blanket tight.
“I HAVE A DUMB IDEA AND IT MIGHT WORK!” Tim yells out, catching everyone's attention.
“WHAT?” Bart yells from the trees.
“TIE THE ROPE AROUND YOURSELF AND HOLD ONTO THE BLANKET LIKE A PARACHUTE! WHEN I TELL YOU TO LET GO YOU LET GO OF THE TREE. ”
Cassie and Kon both look at Tim with horrified expressions. Tims too busy chucking a line of rope with a blanket tied to it outside the back of the van for him to notice the others staring at him. Bart catches it, ties the rope around himself, and clings to the tree.
“CASSIE, WHEN HE LETS GO YOU HAVE TO TURN THIS VAN AROUND AND HAUL ASS.” Tim orders. He's praying this will work. Or, well, praying it won't end with a dead Bart.
Bart gives a thumbs up from the tree, Cassie reddies her o’le lead foot, and with a yelling NOW, the gang is off, driving as far and as fast as they can.
Bart gets swooped up by the wind, the blanket slowing his descent and rope keeping him tied to the van. He’s screaming– then– no. no. For the love of God, Bart is laughing. His kicking in the wind, whooping and cheering.
“OH MY GOD!” Kon yells, laughing in disbelief. Tim grins, laughs to himself. The absurdity of this moment, or maybe the amazed, proud look on his friends faces, makes something in Tim shift.
He sticks his head out the window and shouts out to Bart; “HOW'S IT FEEL TO PARASAIL A TORNADO?”
“OH MY GOD!” Bart calls out between choppy laughs. “HOLY SHIT! TIM YOURE A FUCKING GENIOUS. ”
And just like that, Bart slowly starts to descend, until he's safely lifted into the back of the Van once more. Once he’s safely sitting in the pile of blankets and junk, Tim practically jumps to hold him in a tight hug. Tim nestles his head in the crook of Bart’s neck and just holds him there, silently.
He's safe. He's safe. Bart is here and alive and safe.
“Tim?” Bart asks, hesitantly hugging him back. “Are you crying?”
“ No? ” Tim mumbles, sniffling.
“Oh, c’mere.” Kon coos, kneeling down and hugging Tim.
“I'm not crying. ”
“No, no it's ok,” Bart starts to pet Tim’s hair, to calm him down. “It's ok. I'm safe. I'm safe. You saved me, Timmy.”
Tim could never save anyone. Not his mother. Not his father.
But Bart is here.
Bart is safe.
Bart is alive.
Tim’s foot taps against the white tile of the hospital waiting room.
They’d all unanimously decided to bring Bart to the hospital, to make sure there wasn’t another Tim Incident. (Tim couldn’t even bring himself to argue against that.) Kon had texted Clark an update, since the Kent’s were next on their road trip, and then they’d sat down to wait.
Everything probably would’ve been fine, if not for the fact that Kon apparently fucked up his one job. He’s an idiot. Tim loves him.
“You’re an idiot.” Not-Kon says out loud, from where he had Kon in a head-lock. “ I’m in the hospital. That’s what you call an update? Fucker.”
“Fuck off!” And then their positions are flipped, and Kon has his white-haired doppelganger in a head-lock instead. “What are you even doing here?”
“Wow,” Not-Kon drawls, scrambling out of the head-lock and collapsing on the floor, “I found out my brother’s in the hospital and I can’t come visit him?”
“I’m not in the hospital, asshat, my boyfriend is!” Kon’s voice is higher than normal, hands thrown out in front of him as he glares at his…brother? Kon had only mentioned one brother, and he was younger, not — not a twin.
Kon makes a frustrated noise, sitting heavily in his chair and crossing his arms. “Tim, this is Match, my twin brother who I hate.”
“Sup. You the boyfriend?”
“Yes,” Tim says, squinting, “Kon didn’t mention he has a twin.”
“He lives with Lex.” Kon adds helpfully. “And we don’t get along. So I don’t bother.”
“Suffer.” A pause. Then; “Oh, God,” Kon mutters, eyes wide as he’s coming to a realisation, “but if you’re here, then that means —”
“Ha,” Match mocks, snapping his gum, “you’re so dead.”
Kon makes a strangled noise. “Why the fuck is Lex coming?”
“He’s outside arguing with Clark, so technically he’s already here.”
Another strangled noise. “ But why? ”
“Because Clark said you were in the hospital and Lex freaked out, duh.”
Tim can see Kon’s brain stop working as he tries — and fails — to comprehend that information. Match’s grin only widens.
Tim, decidedly, does not call Bruce. Not for any real reason – besides having to explain to him they're in the hospital again. He watches Kon and Match bicker, and part of him wonders if he's the only one who's not a twin, here.
Which is really weird, in retrospect. The Kents and the Allens are weird. Like — weirder than half the family in Gotham. It makes Tim wonder if someone's been putting crazy chemicals in their waters, instead.
Wouldn't that be fuckin' funny.
"So…." A man drawls, stepping into the waiting room and sitting next to Tim. He's tall, strong, with baby blue eyes and greying hair. He looks well dressed – he looks exactly like a guy in a photo that sits on Bruce's desk. "You're Bruce's kid?"
"God.” Tim pauses, trying to comprehend this fucking moment. He blurts out the only thing that comes to mind “You fucked my dad.”
The man’s tan skin practically explodes in blotches of embarrassed red and pink. He clears his throat awkwardly. “Ah, um–” he stutters.
Tim gives him a look — “Smallville, right?”
The man buries his face in his hands. He looks like he wants to disappear.
“Hey — pops —” Kon cuts in, which might just be the worst thing ever, because now Tim is looking at him.
It gets worse. It somehow gets terribly worse, because next to Kon is a bald man with pale, taut skin and a rigid posture and that’s Lex fucking Luthor.
Tim blurts out the only thing he can think — “You fucked my DAD AND HIS BUISNESS RIVAL?”
Like it could crumble any more, Lex turns to his…ex? “You fucked Bruce Wayne?” and he sounds utterly betrayed.
Kon turns to Tim with wide eyes. Quickly, he grabs the other by the arm and pulls him out of the room. Match yells something as they go, but neither pay attention.
Kon’s blue–green eyes look wild as he shoves Tim into some broom closet. His hair is a mess and he looks like he might have a heart attack then and there. “Our dads fucked,” its not a question.
The absurdity of the situation hits Tim like a tidal wave, washing over him in some weird way that makes him grin. He laughs,picturing Bruce sighing, still looking at that dumb fucking photo of him and a country hick from highschool. Tim takes a deep breath, trying to stop the giggles, running his hands through his mop of jet black hair. “Oh my god. Our dads fucked.”
“Bart’s cousin fucked your brother.” Kon states, in that same mystified voice.
Tim grabs Kon by the shoulders. “ Your dad is Lex fucking Luthor. ”
Kon grabs him back, shaking him. “YOURS IS BRUCE WAYNE.”
Tim steps back for a moment, eyes wide and hysteric. “Is this incest?’
Kon looks like he's going to pass out then and there. “Oh my god. Oh my god. No, right? I– our dads fucked in highschool. That was years ago. And we didn’t know.”
“I didn’t know Wally and Dick were together. I wasn’t even adopted back then.” Tim supplies.
“Okay — so this is fine. This is fine, right? This is probably fine.”
Tim nods. “Yeah. This is fine.”
A pause. “My dad is still fucking heartbroken over yours though. I think if he finds out who im dating he will actually fucking kill himself.” Tim blurts out.
“Wait—” Kon pauses. “Hang on. I need to like. Draw out a chart. So. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are high school lovers, yes?”
Tim nods. “Yes. Bruce is still in love with Clark. For the record.”
“They’re both disasters.” Kon mutters, throwing his head back to stare at the ceiling. “Ok, and Bruce and Lex fucked a while ago.”
Tim pauses — practically short circuits. His mind is a blank screen. Then; “WHAT?”
Kon gives him a disbelieving look. “You didn’t know ?”
Tim's face is bright red. “NO? I DON’T KEEP UP WITH WHO MY ADOPTIVE FATHER FUCKS??”
Kon looks distraught. “THATS WHY THEY HATE EACH OTHER. DON’T YOU REMEMBER THE NEWS ARTICLE CLARK WROTE WHERE LEX PUBLICALLY CALLED YOUR DAD A WHORE?”
Tim genuinely seems like he's about to start crying out of horror and confusion “ NO?????”
“I’m genuinely jealous of how little you know about your dad’s love life,” Kon deadpans, and Tim can’t help but snort.
“I’m not jealous of you at all .”
Kon groans, looking at the door to the supply closet. “So Lex is here. And Clark.”
“It’s your own fault, clearly.” Tim reaches behind his boyfriend to grab his phone out of his pocket, opening it to the Kent family group chat. “ At the hospital, might be late. Seriously?”
“Our boyfriend was literally in a tornado, I was panicking.”
Tim rolls his eyes fondly. “You still must face the consequences of your actions.”
“If Bruce was here,” Kon says slowly, “you would not be facing him. You can’t do this to me.”
“But when it’s you, it’s funny,” Tim grins, and unceremoniously shoves Kon out of the supply closet, following after him.
There are significantly more people outside Bart’s room when they return to it. Clark is there, talking to–
Oh, for fucks sake .
"Bruce, what are you doing here?" Tim sighs.
“Clark called me.”
Kon snickers next to him. Tim elbows him in the ribs. He only laughs louder.
"Is anyone going to fill me in on what happened?" Bruce asks, obviously annoyed.
“Okay, so–” Kon starts, looking around the room. “Bart got sucked up by a tornado and then parasailed out of it using the van and he’s mostly fine but figured a hospital visit just to make sure was a good idea.”
Thad blinks. “ Bart parasailed a tornado? ”
Kon puts his hands up in defence. "Also the van was totaled."
“Oh, God,” Wally says, but it lacks any fear, sounds only resigned and tired. He turns to leave. “I’m finding a vending machine.”
Bruce makes a face, something between horrified and proud. "Well, bringing him to the hospital was the responsible thing to do."
"That feels targeted," Tim deadpans.
“That’s because it is, baby bird,” Dick comes out of nowhere, slinging an arm around Tim’s shoulders.
“Ok– what are you doing here?” Tim asks Dick, annoyed. Dick just smiles – it's small, and hesitant.
“Wally asked me to be here.”
Tim thinks a part of him dies inside. “No. No. Absolutely not. I’m already with Bart. I have dibs.”
“Jesus, Tim.” Dick scowls “I’m not — we’re not…you know.”
Tim frowns, disbelieving.
“I didn’t think you were…you know...” Dick replies, waving his hand around, you know.
Kon gives a little wave. “He’s dating me, too.”
Dick makes a face – surprised, but not upset. His lips pull into a polite smile. "I sort of assumed…I mean, I wasn't sure."
Kon turns to Tim. "You did tell him you were bi, right?"
Tim's face is completely slack jawed, eyebrows furrowed in annoyance. "Kon."
"I'm going to take that as a no,” Kon whispers to himself.
Bart looks up from his bed, watching them with keen eyes. He zeros in on Dick, studying his face. “If you have anything negative to say about Tim’s relationships, say it now .” He hisses, in some frightening way that Tim’s never heard before. Like there's something there – a fiery, burning, something lingering.
Dick puts his hands up in panicked defence. “No, God, no. I’m not — it's cool, really. No judgement.” His features soften and he smiles, with all the warmth he usually does. “I’m happy for you guys, honest. Just taken by surprise because Tim hadn’t come out. That’s all.”
“Oh.” Bart relaxes minutely. “Cool.”
Kon walks over and takes Bart’s hand, smiling warmly. Tim turns back to Dick, leaning against the edge of Bart’s bed. “Um — I was going to tell everyone, I just —”
“Tim.” Dick smiles. “Don’t worry about it. Uh, I’m sorry you didn’t get to tell me yourself, but I’m also not going to be spreading it around. Or judging you. You're my little brother, I’m happy you’re happy.”
Tim smiles, feeling himself relax. He hadn’t even realised how on edge the whole thing had put him.
“And, I mean, if you and Bart are…” Dick huffs, rubbing the back of his neck. “You should probably know. Wally and I are…we're not dating. But we’re…talking. About. Things.”
“Things,” Tim teases.
“Shut up,” Dick slugs his shoulder, pauses, and then pulls Tim into a headlock instead, ruffling at his hair aggressively.
Tim squawks, trying to escape his older brother’s hold, but to no avail. He’s still struggling to escape, Bart and Kon just laughing at him, the traitors , when Cassie slips her head into the room, grinning widely. “Hey, so they said Bart can be discharged in a few hours, and you will not believe what your dads just pulled.”
Tim stands, hesitantly, by Clark’s side as he watches his friends pile supplies into the back of the van – a brand- spankin -new Van of Wonders courtesy of WayneTech.
Bart is busy with a can of bright red paint, taking it to the white car's hood. Cassie is in the front messing with the radio – flicking things on and off and turning up the music. Kon is sitting on the roof of the van, yelling out; “SOMEONE PLAY MUSIC.”
Cassie yells something back, and the radio turns up, playing – because God hates them – Billy Joel. Tim and Bart both erupt into a chorus of BOOOOOOOs before Kon is climbing off the roof and grabbing his CD collection from the back.
Tim is smiling. He's smiling and he's smiling and he's smiling and everything is perfect. The sun is warm on his back (and, oh god, does it beat down nicely on Kon’s now bare arms. Tim definitely isn't all that upset he lost his jacket in the storm–) and the breeze is just gentle enough to be nice.
The wind carries the sound of music and laughter, and someone’s shouting that Bart got paint on them. It's pretty drowned out by the scratching guitar of Fat Bottomed Girls. Leave it to Kon to play Queen, of course.
“Hey,” Clark elbows Tim, shaking him out of his thoughts. “Aren’t you going to go over there and help?”
It's a simple question — Tim probably looks like an idiot just standing there , but he likes watching. “I dunno.”
Clark makes a small frown, “Hey, go help them get ready and send Kon over here, yeah?” he asks, gesturing to where the kids are messing around.
Tim smiles and trudges over there. The first thing he notices is what Bart is painting – an electric red lightning bolt that spans the car's hood and roof.
“Timmy!” He calls out, jumping away from the wet paint and grabbing Tim's face to kiss him. Red smears across Tim’s cheek, and he laughs quietly.
“Kon–” Tim turns to him, covered in paint and smiling, “Clark wants to talk to you.”
Kon looks up from his well–taken care of CD collection and nods. As he walks away, Tim's eyes follow his physique.
“Stop looking at our boyfriends ass.” Bart giggles.
Tim coughs awkwardly, swinging to push him away. “I wasn’t looking at his ass!”
Bart grins, evilly; “It's ok. I look at your ass all the time.”
“GUYS!” Kon hollers, holding something up – a new, sleek, leather jacket. He runs over to them and pulls it on. There's already patches – logos for bands Kon likes and other stuff (the hand painted trans flag catches Tim’s attention).
Bart smiles like a goddamn idiot; “THAT'S SO COOL!!!” He yells, before rushing into a hug, splattering one of the shoulders with a bright red handprint. Kon turns to it, absolutely mortified, for just a second.
Everyone locks eyes on Kon, waiting for a reaction.
“Oh my god.” Kon whispers, voice low and broken then– and then– he begins to smile. “Oh my god,” he repeats, voice growing tight.
Tim is pretty sure that if Bart wasn’t just discharged from the hospital, he’d be back there in two seconds flat.
“Tim. Go get the paint can.” Kon demands, voice suspiciously… off. Bart makes a face – horrified and scared and–
Tim does not hesitate to get the paint can and bring it over. Bart looks at it with fear, half expecting it to get dumped on him. Instead, Kon grabs Tim’s hand and dips it in the paint.
Tim looks at Kon, hesitantly. Kon nods, and Tim does the first thing he can think of – slapping the damn middle of Kon’s back, right below Bart's handprint.
“OW, FUCK.” Kon jumps away. “RUDE.”
Tim bursts out laughing at the way Kons slouches in pain.
“Cassie! C’mere!” Kon calls out. Cassie is already rolling up her sleeve. She sticks her hand in the paint and gently pushes it against his left shoulder. The back of his jacket is covered in handprints – all from his friends. Together they form something like a crest , a red diamond with yellow in the middle, Cassie’s handprint oddly morphed into a disfigured ‘s.’
"S." Bart mumbles, "S….sssssssssssuper? Sssssssssstupid? Ssssssssssssss…."
"Storm chasers?" Cassie pipes up, and it's so fucking cheesy it actually makes Kon burst into a wide grin.
"Well done everyone," he jokes, patting Tim and Cassie on the shoulders.
"I like it!" Bart announces, gesturing to the big splotchy handprint crest "it's like– we're always with you."
Kon's smile dampens into something smaller and more warm. He looks at Bart with those blue green eyes and all Tim sees is love . Kon really does love Bart.
And then, and then –
Kon is looking at him, his smile growing. He switches, eyes flicking between the two of them. He leans forward and kisses Bart's cheek, then Tim's, too. He takes their hand and squeezes and someone – probably Bart – is wrapping his arms around everyone, pulling Cassie into the fold. The group hug is tight and awkward and warm, but Tim wouldn't trade this moment for the world.