Similarity and contagion
October 3, 2006
Disclaimers: Not mine.
Spoilers: References to old, old storylines.
Summary: If you look at a memory enough, you
*understand* it, and it becomes real. More real than
Ratings Note: Mostly harmless.
Author's Note: Because LC technically requested a
snippet for this icon.
Acknowledgments: To Petra for audiencing and such.
He's never had someplace he needed to be before.
There were times when he had to be dressed carefully
formally for some dinner-party or another where children
were necessary for reasons which have never -- quite --
become clear beyond the larger need to display the latest
(and best) accessories, and there had been times -- mostly
when he was much younger -- when it was important for
the nanny to have him ready at *just* this time in *just*
this style of readiness for traveling, but --
Tim was very young when he realized that other people had
different definitions of 'had to' and 'need to' than his
parents, and the people his parents called friends.
It had been scary and a little incomprehensible for a long
time -- this sense that if you weren't there, or if someone
wasn't there, and also ready to do what *had to* be done,
then terrible things would happen. He didn't know how
that worked, beyond the memories (and so many dreams
he isn't sure if he's glad or not that he stopped counting),
but memories were (are) special things.
If you look at one enough times, and you're really thorough
about it (sawdust, blood, silence and screams), as thorough
as you could be (his neck had been itching because his
father was wearing a sweater his mother had given him
from some country not here, made of something he was
probably -- in retrospect -- allergic to, and he had blushed
because he had to scratch, even though he should've just
been staring and screaming more, more, you had to) --
If you look at a memory enough, Tim thinks, you
*understand* it, and it becomes real. More real than
There was need which his parents either didn't know, or
didn't see fit to share for one reason or another (but if he
was too young, then he wouldn't be *here*, *now*), and
once he knew it, once he *understood* it...
He needed it.
He has it now, and it's --
Wonderful, thrilling. Frightening and intimidating -- these are
different things, and Batman's sketchbooks say he
understands -- and strange and perfect. It makes him smile
too wide (the Case) and it makes his heart beat too fast.
The place on his neck which had once itched at precisely the
wrong time feels hot and tight with everything he isn't
saying, everything he can't say because there's too much
behind it, too much.
(When he was very, very young, his father had sometimes
painted. He'd only ever taken the course on watercolors,
which led to very strange things because he only ever
painted when he Wasn't Talking to Tim's mother. It's like
that. Like blood isn't, according to everything he's learned.
Messy and unfitting. He should have maybe used oils.)
There are other places on his neck which are sore very often
now. He knows it's really his shoulders (the trapezii), and it's
embarrassing for other reasons. There's so much to see.
His parents are much taller than he is, of course, and many
of the ceilings in their home are quite high, but there is
nothing very important to see up there.
It's silly to be angry at them for not putting more
meaningful things high on their walls just so those muscles
wouldn't be strained by the *looking*.
It's not their fault that he often finds himself needing to sit,
or kneel, or crouch in front of the Case.
(He knows Batman knows. He knows Batman knows its
right, even though he doesn't. Even though Batman
shouldn't. Even though Batman can't.)
He's not Robin, yet, and Batman says he might not ever be,
but Jason is.
The Case is always right there, and it's the definition -- the
true one -- of need, and it's a lesson, and it's all Tim has of --
Sometimes, in his mind, there's an image of the day when
his father had been so annoyed by one of his own paintings
that he'd thrown it in the wastebasket without even letting it
dry. Tim had reached out with just his finger, and the colors
had run in between the whorls of his fingertip. Eventually,
they had all just turned too brown for him to distinguish the
individual shades, but for a while --
Sometimes he thinks Jason will just sink right in if he waits
long enough, if he stays still enough, if he just -- *looks*.
And then every place on his skin that's too tight or itchy or
sore or just too soft will make sense, and he'll *be* Robin,
and Batman won't be alone.
(Sometimes he thinks, "I'm here. I'm *here*" as loudly as
he can, and blushes, because he isn't sure what he's trying
to say to whom.)
Batman shouldn't be alone.
Tonight, judging by his calendar, his parents are on their
first night of their second hotel of this trip. They are tanned
(in his mind), and laughing, because Gotham makes his
father irritable, because Gotham makes his mother restless,
because sometimes parents need to be by themselves,
even though they love him very much. It's dark where they
are, but not the kind of dark it (ever) gets here.
Right now, Batman is doing what needs to be done so that
people can do the things which make the city live and
breathe and *be* the way it (Batman doesn't -- always --
say 'she.') is in the sunlight.
This is something else which seems a little incomprehensible:
both Dick and Jason continued attending school regularly
even when they were going out as Robin *every* night. Tim
has the records, and had even acquired photographic
evidence of Jason when he started to wonder if the records
were lies, given all of the photographic evidence he'd had of
He'd had to cut school to get it, which is both humorous
(maybe it even would be to others) and the proof of the
essential dilemma -- there are not enough hours for this.
Not in the day, and not, as Jason would probably tell him,
in the life.
Maybe that's why he'd hardly missed a day of school, even
though Alfred often seems non-plussed about him keeping
his *own* attendance as perfect as possible just because
Batman had kept him up late with his training, or the other
things (Robin things) Tim does.
It's not that Tim thinks *Batman* would consider watching
old mysteries with him, or reading interesting papers in the
study with him to be training -- everything of Tim's training
has been in the *Cave*, thus far, whether intellectual or
physical -- but.
Sometimes -- and he hates to think this for a lot of reasons
he doesn't like to think *about* -- Alfred reminds him of
his mother. When she wants Tim's father to read something,
or look at something, or do something (and, of course,
when they're in Gotham where things are *harder*), Tim
can always tell exactly what it is -- because there's no sign
of her by whatever it is.
If it's a book, her bookmarks are gone, or in some other
books entirely. If it's a broken clasp, the necklace it belongs
to is nowhere in sight. If it's a dinner party, she'll speak --
casually and obviously -- about the entirely different plans
she has on the same night.
For a long time he wondered why his father never noticed,
but Tim knows now that he always does. It's just one of the
things which used to make him paint, and that now makes
him buy long, extravagant trips for them both. He thinks he
understands why his mother does it that way, though. No
one ever wants to look as though they need the things they
In Tim's mind, his parents speak directly to each other in
the sun. The brightness won't let them look away from each
other, or --
This is childish thinking, because he has no proof. Alfred
would call it a 'harmless daydream,' and perhaps do so
under his breath while he's in the process of leaving the
study, or the sitting room, or the library, or wherever Tim
is waiting with Batman, being with Batman.
Being what Alfred knows (thinks?) Batman needs.
Looking for -- and finding -- Batman under the calm of
Bruce's eyes, and the intimidating (yes, that) stillness of
Bruce's hands as they watch, or read. For Alfred, this is as
much of a Robin thing as any of the skills Batman teaches
him in the Cave, and perhaps it's even moreso.
Luckily, saving homework for those times seems to work for
Alfred as much as the other things.
One of the sillier things he would've liked the chance to ask
Jason (he doesn't think he's going to talk about this stuff
with Dick for a very long time, in the same way he doesn't
think his father is going to talk to his mother about a lot of
things unless they aren't where Tim can be close, or even
hear) is if this, if *Alfred* had anything to do with why he
seemed to spend as much time in school as he *could*,
even when Tim could see the outline of bandages through
clothes too warm for the weather.
You had to be prepared, maybe, even if it was only with
It could've been something simpler, though. Batman and
Robin saw death all the time. Maybe every piece of life was
more special, once you were... real, or important, or...
Something necessary for life to *continue*, even if that life
is incomprehensible in and of itself. Useless.
There are not enough hours.
One day, Tim thinks, he'll say that to Batman -- not until
after he finds a way to make it into an intelligent question,
of course, but still.
It's not that he doesn't already know -- think he knows --
what Batman will say. It's not that he thinks it would be
anything very different from 'there has to be, no matter
what,' but he wants Batman to know that he's thinking
about it. That he's considered it from all the angles he can,
and that he knows it will be hard, and painful, and crushing
in a kind of... of invisible *weight*.
He wants a way to tell Batman that even when he can't
quite tamp down enough of his excitement to make his
expressions correct, or even suitable, to make his head
stop tilting *up*, to make himself to stop *looking*
(drinking it *in*), he knows that it's serious, and large, and
that the only magic is in the work, and how they (he's
*here*) *do* it.
He wants, one day, for Batman to look at him and know that
his gratitude, and his *joy* wouldn't be half so great
without this knowledge, and that he...
Well, he isn't sure of the rest, really.
There's never enough time to *refine* that sort of thing, as
opposed to merely living it, and being it. Maybe Jason
thought that, too. It's comforting to imagine so.
For now, the tracers on the car say that he'll probably have
just enough time to finish rereading this file on Ivy before
Batman gets back. If he were to go home now, he'd
probably just disturb Mrs. Mac's dreams.
She knows where he is -- a friend's house -- and she knows
he'll call if he needs anything, and she knows Tim will be in
school (in a few hours) tomorrow, and that his social life
has gotten busier, the way the social life of a boy his age
If Batman isn't injured, there'll be strong but decaffeinated
tea in the study, or the library, or the sitting room, and
also light and healthy snacks. This month's issue of The
Scientist arrived earlier, according to Alfred, and.
And Jason isn't really here, and Alfred will pretend he isn't
really here, and Tim isn't Robin, yet.
But he thinks, maybe, he's close enough.