Life’s Greatest Blessing
The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.
The funeral had been three hours ago. Most of the capes in the crowd had come because they were Dick’s friends; a showing of ‘family’ support. There were the other Titans, of course, and even a few of his old friends from Young Justice, but…
Tim just wanted to be left alone. Nothing anyone said could make it better, and he didn’t want to hear any more fumbling attempts to try. He’d finally resorted to hiding in the ‘Cave, but as night approached, he knew he’d have to find somewhere else to be.
Hijacking the JLA transporter wasn’t the brightest idea he’d ever had, but he needed space, and he wasn’t getting it in Gotham. He couldn’t go to the Tower; even if none of his friends were there, Gar, Vic, and Kory lived there, and would eventually be back. The Watchtower was out for similar reasons; currently its residents include J’onn J’onnz, Shayera Hol, and Princess Diana.
But the Outsiders HQ should be deserted.
Or not, Tim discovered upon materializing in the middle of the monitor room, coming face-to-face with Roy Harper. He was just thankful that he had thought to put on his Robin uniform before transporting, in case he ran into anyone.
Roy blinked at the miserable mess of red, green and morose teenager in front of him and quickly shut off the computer. “Jesus, kid, what are you doing here?”
“I…needed to get away,” Tim replied evasively. “What are you doing here?”
“There was a thing, with Deathstroke, awhile ago,” Roy waved him off. “And Rose couldn’t take care of Lian anymore, obviously, so I moved us in here until I can find Lian a new nanny.” He gestured for Tim to follow him, and led him down the hall.
They turned a corner, and ended up at the door of what appeared to be the living quarters. At least, someone appeared to be living in them, namely Roy and Lian Harper. The two beds were made up with standard issue white sheets, there were clothes visible behind the half-open closet door, and Lian was on the floor in the far corner playing with some of her toys.
Silence reigned as they watched her, and unable to think of anything else to say, Tim said, “I…saw you there, today. Thanks for coming.” He appreciated the outpouring of support, but nothing anyone said could change what had happened, and he wasn’t ready to let go of his hurt enough for anything they said to make him feel better.
Roy simply nodded. “Glad to be there.”
“I would have thought you’d have changed out of your suit by now, though,” Tim said, trying to lighten the moment.
It didn’t work as planned, but then, nothing had, lately.
“I swung by to visit Donna on the way back here,” Roy replied, and while Tim could hear pain in Roy’s voice, the fact that he was able to talk so casually about the woman he’d loved for the greater part of his life…
“How do you do it?” Tim asked despite himself. At Roy’s uncomprehending look, he elaborated, “Deal with all the…deaths.”
Pained green eyes looked at Tim. “It isn’t easy,” he stated. “It hurts, every single time, and each time it takes longer to get used to the hurt. But…” Roy’s eyes focused on his daughter. “At the end of the day, as long as she’s okay, I can shove everything else under the rug to deal with later,” he said. “The most important thing in my life is all right, and everything else can go hang.”
Tim just watched Lian for a moment. She had half a dozen action figures of various superheroes, and it looked as if she was making them have some sort of fighting contest with each other, complete with disturbingly realistic explosion noises. He really wasn’t sure what the most important thing in his life was, now that most of those he considered family were dead. How do you prioritize family? “So, you think I should go and get a supervillain knocked up?” he asked, trying to inject enough humor into his voice that Roy wouldn’t take offense.
Roy glanced at him sharply – probably checking for real ridicule – then relaxed. “Nah, I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said with a small grin. Looking slightly wistful, he added, “You miss out on the first couple of months that way.”
Tim just nodded; Roy hadn’t gotten Lian until she was almost a year old. It now appeared as if said child’s Superman action figure was in battle against what appeared to be a G.I. Joe with red hair and a cobbled-together bow and arrow. Superman was losing, badly, so obviously the G.I. Joe was supposed to represent Roy.
“However,” Roy continued, snapping Tim out of his contemplation of the youngster in their midst. “Family is important,” he said, with so much emotion in his voice, Tim’s breath caught in his throat. “But while Lian’s the only biological family I have, that doesn’t mean she’s the only family I have, you know.” He gave Tim a speaking glance, conveying the similarities that he and Tim shared.
Tim swallowed hard against his tears and nodded. “Yeah, I…I know.” And it wasn’t just the rest of the Batclan, or even Young Justice and the Teen Titans, whom he considered family. Dana was too distraught at the moment to be a stepmother to him, but she was finally out of the hospital and had said she wanted to keep in touch. Bernard was…withdrawn, and avoiding everyone, which wasn’t like him, but Tim had called him once or twice, and while the conversations had been stilted, it appeared their friendship was mostly as solid as it ever was.
“Dick is like my brother,” Roy said quietly, so Lian wouldn’t overhear his name, Tim presumed. “And he says you’re like his brother, so that makes you family in my book. If you ever want to come and spend some time with your niece to remind yourself why we do this even when the whole world’s gone to shit…” He waved a hand towards Lian as if to illustrate his point. “Just try and knock first, or the security system’ll alert the JLA,” he added with a tension-breaking grin.
“On the door or the window?” Tim asked, arching a brow.
Roy shrugged. “Either one.”
G.I. Roy had apparently finished beating Superman to the proverbial pulp, and now Lian wanted some time with the real article. “Daddy, who’s your friend?” she asked, climbing up into Roy’s lap.
Roy hugged her close, grinning, and answered, “This is Robin, Nightwing’s little brother. Remember me telling you about him?”
Lian nodded vigorously, and turned to Tim, an eager smile on her face. “You’re a superhero, too, right?” she asked. “Like my daddy.”
Tim nodded, and, though he didn’t think he could smile just yet, tried to look less threatening. “Yes, I am.”
“And you work with Batman?” she continued.
Tim nodded. With, for, against…their relationship was complicated.
“Daddy says I can be a superhero, too, when I get older. As long as I’m really, really careful and do everything he says.” Lian said this last in the manner of someone quoting something they’d heard a hundred times before. “Did Batman say the same to you?” she asked curiously.
Tim froze for a moment, then inexplicably relaxed. “Yes, as a matter of fact, he did,” Tim said. It hadn’t been in anything like those words, but carelessness was not to be tolerated in the Batclan.
Lian cocked her head to the side, inspecting him. She pulled up Robin’s cape and looked at his arms. “You don’t use arrows like my daddy, do you?” she said, obviously noting the difference in the amount of musculature between Tim and Roy.
Tim shook his head, twitching the other half of his cape behind his back. “I have a bo staff.” At her wrinkled brow of confusion, he explained, “It’s like a long pole.”
Lian seemed to consider that for a moment, then her eyes lit up. “Like Unca Nightwing’s ice cream sticks?” she said excitedly.
Tim surprised himself by not only smiling, but almost laughing at her mangling of ‘escrima.’ “Yes, only longer. And I only use the one.”
“Will you teach me how to use a bo staff when I get bigger?” Lian asked, large green eyes pleading with him to say yes. Add to that the trembling lips and pout, and the Harper charm, it was no wonder she was the darling of the superhero set.
“I…yes,” Tim agreed. After all, by the time she was old enough to learn, she’d probably have forgotten about it. And even if she hadn’t, she’d mostly be so caught up with archery, she wouldn’t want any other skills.
“Cool!” Lian squealed, jumping over and giving Tim a tight hug.
Tim was so surprised by her actions, he found himself instinctively trying to hug – or fight; he wasn’t sure – back, but found he couldn’t. Lian had him in an iron grip. He’d never known that four-year-olds were so strong.
Or maybe, faced with the unconditional love of a child, he was just finally allowing himself to be as weak as he needed to be.
“Thanks, Unca Robin!” Lian said, before letting go of him and running back to her toys. Her lack of attention span had finally kicked in.
Tim felt kerfuffled, like he’d just been hugged by a small tornado and left to twist in the wind of her wake.
Roy wasn’t even trying not to grin at him. “She’s something, isn’t she?” he said, pride in his voice.
Tim nodded slowly, “Yeah, she is.”
They were silent for a few heartbeats of time, before Roy asked, “So, you want to stay for dinner?” At Tim’s indecisive look, he added, “C’mon; I promise it isn’t chili.” He had the large green eyes and the Harper charm, but the pout didn’t work nearly so well on him.
Tim’s smile was weak, but real. “All right,” he agreed softly.
He had family to get to know. After all, he’d promised to teach Lian how to use a bo staff when she was older.