Reposted from my FF.Net account
If I suddenly become the owner of anything, I’ll let you know.
Rating: PG-13/T for my usual stuff
WARNING/NOTE: I’m a huge fan of the Matrix Trilogy, and due to the nature of this story (including all spoilers I will not reveal in my author’s note!), there will be some blatant Matrix references herein. Now enjoy!
High-pitched beeps sounded softly in time to the heartbeats of the two young people lying side-by-side in their hospital beds. Plastic tubes protruded from their veins, their skin, leading to IV bags and countless more machines designed to do heaven knew what. The only noise in the room was the hissing of the oxygen as they breathed it in and out, in and out, in and out…
Dick shook his head. He’d always known they could get into some serious trouble doing what they did, but never had he been able to imagine his little brother in a hospital breathing air out of a metal canister and just…not doing anything. He hated this, hated every second of it, but he wasn’t about to leave Tim there. No way would he just walk out on him now, after so long of coming by every day to see him.
He reached out and gently wrapped his fingers around his little brother’s wrist. “Hey, there, Tim,” he greeted him softly. “You don’t look quite so pale today. I think you might be getting better.” He glanced over to the left, at Tam, and swallowed hard. “I don’t know if you can hear me, if you even listen when I talk to you. You never used to. But, if you can, could you just…could you just get better fast? We all miss your smile, and your laugh, and your voice over the phone when you’re pissed off at work. We miss you coming over unannounced just to make dinner with Alfred and sit down for a movie. We miss everything that we all used to do together, and I just…please. Please, if you’re in there and listening, come back to us soon.”
He felt more than heard someone walk up behind him, and warm, strong hands were placed on his shoulders comfortingly. “He’ll get better, Dick,” Bruce reassured his oldest. “He’s strong. You’ll see.”
Dick sighed. “I hate myself for saying this, Bruce, but…there are times when I wonder if it’s a hopeless cause. They’ve been lying here in this hospital for six months. Their conditions have barely changed. I mean, they’ve both had one or two moments, but that’s pretty much it. I just…” He trailed off. “I guess I just don’t want to get my hopes up, just in case it doesn’t work out.”
Bruce exhaled slowly through his nose and squeezed Dick’s shoulders. He didn’t want to have to admit that he was considering the same thing, but, then again, Tim had probably had similar doubts, back when Bruce had been lost in time. The boy hadn’t given up on his father, so the man was determined not to give up on his son. “They’ll both get better. It’ll just take some time, like everything else.”
Across the room, Lucius Fox stood up and left his daughter’s side for the first time in six months. He walked over to the other two men, every footstep seemingly weighed down by a thousand pounds of misery. He shook his head and took a deep breath. “I just wish I knew how this happened,” he murmured.
“We all do, Lucius,” Bruce replied, moving a hand from Dick’s shoulder to that of his old friend. “We all do.”
Quiet enveloped the room once again as the three continued to keep their watch over their loved ones.
Six months ago…
I collapsed onto the couch in my living room, rubbing my temples to rid myself of a stress migraine that was just too damn persistent for its own good and mine. My house had just been finished, my headquarters was now fully operational, but there was one thing missing.
Five days before, I had watched my girlfriend walk out on me, and for a legitimate reason, too. She had believed her father was dead, I’d saved him, but I neglected to tell her that. I was just trying to protect them both, trying to keep the news low-profile until it could afford to be revealed, but apparently, that wasn’t good enough for Tam Fox. She would still talk to me occasionally, yes, but only about Wayne Foundation business and only on a professional level. It was like she hated me.
And she probably did.
And I was not okay with that.
I got up to go into the bathroom and check on the wounds I’d received from Cricket. (Was it bad that I wanted to pummel that kid solely because he reminded me so much of Damian…?) Standing in front of the mirror, catching a glimpse of my reflection in the glass, I couldn’t help but gaze into the cool gray eyes looking back at me and want to hate myself. I’d just proven to Tam, yet again, my aptitude for being an utter asshole to her. She’d been right; I’d victimized the one person I was closest to. And yet…despite all of that, despite the fact that I should’ve felt bad, I didn’t, and I had no idea why.
Suddenly, a feeling bubbled up in my chest, an emotion, something like anger. Before even giving it a second thought, I balled up my left hand into a fist, raised it, and slammed the soft, fleshy side of it into the mirror. Pain exploded in my hand as the glass cracked outward from the collision point, no doubt embedding tiny pieces in my skin. Shards of glass rained down onto the tile and into the sink, glimmering in the light as they fell. “Shit!” I hissed, diving for the toilet paper roll. Getting out enough to create a makeshift bandage for my hand proved to be harder than you would’ve thought, considering my other arm was in a sling, but I managed it and was hurriedly applying it to my freshly-injured hand when the phone rang.
I rolled my eyes. Couldn’t have one free moment, could I? I pressed my hand against my stomach to keep the toilet paper secure on the wound and, after some struggle, managed to poke the phone enough times that I actually hit the speakerphone button. “Drake,” I said.
“Hey, Tim, it’s Dick. You checked on that hand yet?”
I almost felt myself pale. How’d he know? “Um…w-what do you mean?”
“The hand Cricket smashed up for you, did you check on it yet?”
Oh. “I was just getting ready to when you called.” It wasn’t a total lie, not really.
“Speaking of that…I was actually just calling to make sure you’re okay. I mean, you’ve been acting kind of off the past few days, and I just…I worry about you still sometimes, Tim.”
I couldn’t stop myself from sighing. I’d been expecting this call to come. Dick was always worried about me: always wondering if I was getting enough to eat, or if I was taking good enough care of myself, or if I was completely nuts and had neglected to tell anybody. It was the same routine that had been going on since I first became Red Robin. Nobody seemed able to let go of those days. “Look, Dick…I know you’re concerned, and I understand it. Really, I do. It’s just that…I’m doing just fine on my own. And I know that I used to be in a really bad place, I used to have a really bad mindset, but I’m recovering. I’m getting over it. Can’t you?”
He was silent for a moment or two, and then he let out a slow breath. “Okay. I just feel better—safer, I guess—if I know. You know?”
“Yeah, I know. Anything else you wanted to talk about, or…?”
He got the hint, thank God, and he only sounded mildly surprised when he responded to the dismissive question. “No, no, I’m good. Thanks for indulging my excessive worry, little brother. Catch you later.”
I hung up almost wishing that I hadn’t brushed him off like that. It was rude of me, I know, and I know that Dick deserved better than that, what with all the times he’d been there for me in the past and how willing he was to support me now that we’d both been through what it was like to actually miss talking to one another. But I didn’t not-regret what I said because I was still upset over being treated like I was nuts, not exactly. It wasn’t really anything I could explain, per se. It was just this feeling in my gut, an unidentifiable instinct that told me I shouldn’t be sorry. So, I just…wasn’t.
I eased down onto the couch, moving my hand away from the toilet paper flattened against my abdomen. I twisted both my arm and my neck to see the side of my hand, and my jaw dropped in shock.
Where I’d thought there was a gash, there was only smooth, flawless skin without even a tiny nick.
I glanced down at the toilet paper I’d been pressing it against, and it was pure white, blank…unstained. No blood, no wound, but the glass in the bathroom testified to the fact that there should’ve been. I swallowed hard, hoping my saliva might carry a little bit of the intense unease down with it. My life had always been strange (to put it lightly), but this? This was unnatural.
The sound of the phone ringing again nearly made me jump out of my seat. I reached over and picked it up, saying cautiously into it, “Hello?”
“Have you noticed anything different about your life lately?”
The voice was baritone, warm and chocolaty, one of a male with a slight Gotham accent. And it set me even more on edge, made my skin crawl and my bones chill. I swallowed hard. “Who is this?” I demanded.
A soft chuckle came from the other end of the line.
“Watch your back, Tim.”
And after that, there was only the long, droning beep of the hang-up tone.
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