Tim woke up that very night with the sudden certainty that something was going to change in their small tent, as usual, Damian was sleeping by his side, small hands curled around his arm in an attempt to appear as stoic as usual while searching reassurance out of his presence – and he had to admit he considered it sweet now that he was used to it – and the constant throbbing of his healing leg was almost dulled to a point of ignorance by now.
Which made no sense for his apparent unrest and anxiety.
Slowly, he got out of bed, being careful to remove Damian’s pudgy hands from his shirt and latching them onto his pillow, stilling for only a moment when the boy protested in his sleep and sighing a small sigh of relief when he finally settled back into sleep.
“You will be the death of me…” he whispered. “No matter how old you are.”
Damian’s chubby face scrunched up in annoyance, his little fist hitting the pillow sleepily, as if he assumed it was still Tim’s warm chest.
“Silence, Mine,” he mumbled, snuggling even deeper. “Sleep now.”
Tim did his best not to laugh, yet couldn’t hold himself back from running his hand through the child’s black hair.
What was becoming of him now, he thought, that he was turning into Dick.
“I must admit,” a squeaky voice called from behind him. “That I never thought you would be this skinny.”
Tim shook his head, swallowing the sudden lump of embarrassment in his throat as he turned – with his best scowl thankyouverymuch – to stare at the child floating a few feet before him.
“I thought I wasn’t going to see you again, Klarion,” he mumbled, shaking his head to free his sweat-soaked hair from sticking to his scalp.
The witch boy continued to float above him, eyes full of mirth.
“I guessed I could leave you alone in this new world and be done with you but then I remembered your propensity to overthink and analyse things,” he said, sharp teeth pulled into a smirk. “And since we have much more time now, I wanted to answer any more questions you can have and be on my merry way.”
“So this settles our debt?” Tim asked, frowning. “Will I ever go back home?”
“You will have a happy ending,” Klarion told him, twirling in place. “That is, if you follow this new path set for you. That I can guarantee on my magic.”
“But if I don’t?” the boy argued, struggling to reach his clutches and stand before his ‘savior’.
The witch boy wrinkled his nose, waving his fingers in the air until blue sparkles came out and enveloped Tim’s leg, soothing the continuous throbbing and sending untold relief down his spine.
“What?” he asked, blinking.
“It was infected,” the witch told him, scowling. “Good thing I came then, you can’t even take care of yourself when there is no apparent danger around!”
Tim rolled his eyes, testing his weight on his leg hesitantly and enjoying the soothing roll of his joints as he moved his foot.
“Thanks,” he whispered, eyes fixed on his wiggling toes.
“Don’t thank me, you fiend!” Klarion huffed. “I took a great risk by bringing you here, you know? If you die, my magic’s gone! Plus that debt, that terrible debt! I was the laughing stock of our community.”
“I’m sure you were,” the other boy sighed, feeling the start of a headache as he stood up straight, hearing the satisfactory pops and cracks of his spine as he was finally able to relieve the tension as he was used to. “Huh, I’m still quite flexible.”
“Stop that before you trigger my puberty, will you?” Klarion snapped, scowling. “Now sit down and let’s chat, I don’t have much time.”
Tim obeyed, more because he was still testing his own physical performances and abilities more than to actually obey the Witch Boy, but the moment he let his body sink in Damian’s ridiculously overstuffed high backed chair, he realized the other boy meant business and was all out for it.
“So, exactly what did you do?” he asked, blue eyes focused.
Klarion huffed, sitting on thin air as he crossed his legs and arms, his scowl not receding.
“I took you from your timeline, of course, I’m sure you can tell by now,” Klarion said, shaking his head. “You were going to die and that, in itself, was something that couldn’t happen. You are the Robin that Succeeded, after all.”
“Robin that Succeeded, yeah,” Tim frowned. “You called me that before.”
The other boy rolled his eyes.
“Trust you to be completely unaware of your own role in the universe, huh?” Klarion snapped. “You arethe Robin, Drake. The one Robin that succeeded when all others, past and future, failed. You are the one that fulfilled the role of the Robin even if you were not the first one. You stabilized an universe that would otherwise collapse in itself.”
Tim snorted, his cheeks coloring.
“You are giving me too much credit,” he said, shaking his own head. “I have never been the Robin,that’s Dick.”
“He was the Robin, yes, yet you are the one who defined the role forever,” Klarion sighed. “Anyways, you cannot die yet, therefore I took your soul from the broken shell of your body and placed it in a time and place that would allow you to heal, preserve you, in a way, and then had to move your younger, frailer body, out of the reach of your own timeline, not such an easy fit, you must be aware.”
“Basically, you took me out of every single reach I might have on the timeline until I was ready to go back to work?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “What happened to my other body, the big me?”
“Not that big if you ask me,” Klarion snorted. “It’s alive, in a coma, but alive.”
Tim scowled, feeling particularly offended that an eternal child such a Klarion would comment on his lack of size.
“Will I ever go back to that body?” he asked, once more steeling himself for the child’s antics.
“Dunno,” Klarion shrugged. “That’s something you can decide, I mean, right now you are in a completely detached position in time. Everything that happens will be determined by your choices.”
“Yet you warned me about ripples in time,” the smaller boy said, index finger tapping at his bottom lip.
“Don’t take it so lightly, Robin who succeeded,” the witch warned, rolling his eyes. “If you cause enough ripples your own existence would be erased, and all that you hold would collapse.”
Tim closed his eyes, his senses acutely focusing on Damian’s even breathing just a few meters away from them, how he seemed to protest his loneliness in his sleep.
“He would have a father who loved him openly,” he whispered lightly, not daring to look at the child.
“He would be killed upon entering his father’s realm, most likely by his own father, his corpse hanging next to Grayson’s,” he said, finding it all amusing. “The Man of Bat was hanging over the edge of his sanity when he found you. And you pushed him back into the light. Do not forget that, Robin who succeeded.”
“And don’t forget your precious outsiders, the children without a thread,” Klarion continued, once more in a good mood. “Without you, the clone would have been put down like a dog and the speedster would have disintegrated into ashes.”
Tim hung his head.
“So, no ripples,” he whispered.
“Considering my continued survival also depends on you, yes,” the witch agreed. “No ripples.”
“What about Damian, then,” Tim asked, once more opening his eyes and finally turning to the sleeping child. “Won’t my presence here cause ripples in his own timeline?”
“Whatever your presence here changed will be added to your memory of your previous meeting, I would guess,” Klarion mussed. “Considering it all fits into the grand scheme of time. From the way he is angry towards a world that has betrayed him, to the homicidal tendencies he showed when you tried to shake his hand.”
Tim nodded, feeling disheartened.
“Won’t my being here affect my timeline anyways?” he said suddenly, blinking. “If this body is the one I had at my current age I disappeared from home, Mrs. Mac might look for me.”
“Would she?” Klarion sneered. “You know the answer to this already.”
Tim shook his head, sighing.
“And if I stay here then, I won’t be able to go back and help Bruce or the others…” the boy said softly. “It will all come to pass anyways.”
“You will have to go back to your home before then,” the witch boy replied, rolling his eyes. “I am trying to save your life, remember?”
“Right,” Tim said, sighing. “So, no ripples, yet I do have to try and go home, but I can’t try to save everyone or they will die, but I can’t stop, say, Jason’s death…”
“Because then your own usefulness would be compromised and no one would be there to create your group and your friends would die horrible, lonely deaths,” Klarion said, smiling. “And saving them would only leave a wide berth for the Man of the Bat to be hunted down while trying to reach back in time.”
“This is giving me a headache,” Tim complained, moaning.
Klarion quieted then, his eyes narrowing.
“I have to go now, Robin who succeeded, the future awaits you,” he said, looking away. “You are far too unfairly beautiful for such a broken thing.”
“Huh?” he asked, blinking.
But the witch boy was gone.
“Great,” he mumbled, scratching the back of his head. “That was as enlightening as it was disturbing.”
Tim got up, once more enjoying the feeling of his now completely healed leg and stretching, when he heard the unmistakable sound of steel against the desert wind – and how was this his life when he could differentiate the sound alone? – and within seconds Damian was out of bed, sword at the ready and teeth bared into a snarl.
“Mine, are you okay?” he asked sleepily, his one free hand rubbing over his eye as he walked towards him.
Tim gulped, seriously unable to form a coherent emotional reaction that would not resemble something Dick would do at the moment.
“I… think I heard something, so I came to investigate,” he muttered, eyes wide.
“Do not fear, mine,” the child growled, grasping his hand. “Show yourself, whoever you are!!”
The shadows around the tent seemed to shift and coil in eachother before their eyes, the whisper of steel and desert becoming even more distinct as a group of darkly dressed ninja materialized in front of them.
Tim stared, now remembering why he had used his glasses most of his young life.
Damian stood up straighter, visibly unimpressed.
“You,” he hissed, his hand tightening around Tim’s.
“My Lord,” one of the ninja said thickly. “Your mother has requested you return immediately.”
“Mother,” Damian growled. “I believed she would collect me herself.”
The ninja tried not to show their impatience, or at least Tim wanted to believe that was the reason for their shifting.
“She believes you are not in need for her company considering your new… companion,” another ninja said hesitantly, a female this time. “We were ordered to bring you home and to present your pet to her at once.”
“And if I refuse?” Damian challenged. “He is, after all, mine.”
The ninja shifted again, their fingers making soft whispers as they tightened on the leather of their weapons. Damian’s fingers were crushing Tim’s and his pose was one of battle.
“Young Master,” he whispered, attracting Damian’s eyes towards him. “If your mother wants to make sure I do not represent a threat to you, you should honor her concern.”
“Her concern…” Damian scoffed, eyeing him.
Tim decided to opt on the side of diplomacy, imagining his mother’s small, thin smile of pride as he thought about his choice of words.
“Please, Master,” Tim insisted. “If only for my sake. I would not forgive myself if my presence caused a rift between your mother and yourself.”
Damian continued to stare at him, his pale face and tired eyes, his tense shoulders and skinny fingers.
“Very well,” he sighed, finally. “If only for your peace of mind, Mine.”
Tim sighed back in relief, his own smile curling his lips.
“Thank you, Young Master.”
The ninja stared at eachother, unsure how to proceed.
Damian wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist, his face one of pure malice.
“Take us to mother, then,” he ordered. “My own and I are dying to meet her.”