I Am The Night-
Author's Note: Here's Ch. 17, I apologize once again for the delay but I got caught up in reading other people's stuff :) I'd like to thank djkauf for the editing and DC Comics for the characters.
Tim is Red Robin.
I sat on my bed, my legs pulled up to my chest. I was done crying though. As soon as I got home, I cried. How could you not. It was Christmas time and seeing Santa putting presents under the tree. You run into the room, jump into his arms, so happy to see him. Then when he speaks and you recognize the voice, tugging on the beard and seeing someone you don’t expect. In my case, it was my father. I was five years old and the fantasy was ruined. I felt like a five year old again. I detested Tim so much and to find out I’d been making out with him all this time made me sick. OK, so sick was a harsh word but as soon as I left the apartment building I bawled my eyes out. What girl wouldn’t? I was certain I was falling in love with the mysterious Red Robin---to say I was shocked was an understatement.
Tim is Red Robin.
It rolled around in my head as I tried to digest it. When I saw the bandaging and the look on his face, I nearly lost it there. I couldn’t help but think about all those scars on his body, the wound I bandaged earlier today. There were so many of them. I felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. How long had I known Tim, a couple of months at least? I used to see him almost every single day. How did I not notice the two of them were similar? They were the same height, the same built. Both had the same chin and sparkling blue eyes. They had the same voice. I was an idiot for not catching that. Ok so maybe Red Robin’s voice was a little huskier, a bit sexy in fact but there was no mistaking that they were the same. The only thing I did have a comparison for was the kissing.
I reached up and touched my lips.
I would have never in my life thought that kissing Tim Drake would have been so good. I shook my head. No, not Tim Drake. Red Robin was not Tim. Ok they were the same person but they were so different. Tim was all angst and sarcasm and Red Robin was dark and mysterious. OK so RR was a little violent and a bit of a loose cannon but he was sexy too. Tim was arrogant and annoying. Red Robin was kind and sweet---at least he pretended to be. The two of us had laughed together, we fought together, we fooled around together. We kissed. Oh God did we kiss. When I was kissing him, it felt like the whole world was on fire. I don’t really have anything to compare it to but I’d have to say kissing him was the best thing in the world.
I can’t imagine what kissing Tim would be like. I groaned at that thought. They’re the same person. I shook my head. No, not the same. Tim was a jackass. I groaned again. But what did that make Red Robin? I mean seriously. They were the same guy. Red Robin was a costume that Tim put on, a secret cloak just like The Bat. We both played a part. But whereas I could differentiate between the two, I couldn’t help but wonder if he could. We talked today, probably the first time we’d had a conversation that long. Tim hadn’t been a dick today. In fact, when he opened up a bit I kinda liked him. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the real Tim. I couldn’t also help but wonder that maybe Red Robin is the real Tim too. Which meant Tim Drake was the mask?
I groaned again. The phone rang, breaking me from my thoughts. I quickly snapped forward and picked up the handset. “Steph’s room”
“You sound like someone ran over your cat”
“Babs, he’s Red Robin.” She sighed heavily on the other end. “Did you know?”
She didn’t say anything for about a minute. I think her silence was all I needed. “Sweetie I swore I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“You could have given me a little hint.”
“I did tell you to stay away from him, remember?”
I nodded even though I knew she couldn’t see it.
She continued. “For what it’s worth, I didn’t tell him who you were either.”
She laughed. “When you first showed up on the scene. He wanted to know who the pretender was.”
I frowned at that. But I guess it made sense. He lived with Bruce, so it was a possibility that he knew Bruce’s secret too. I sighed. “Honor amongst heroes huh?”
She laughed. “Something like that” She went quiet for a few seconds. “Are you going to be all right?”
“I think I might have been in love with him.”
“No. Red Robin.”
She laughed again. I was getting annoyed with her laughing at my expense. “They’re the same person sweetie.”
I sighed. “Not in person.”
The two of us talked a little more about it. Babs wanted me to tell her why I thought they were different so I told her. She laughed a few more times. I almost hung up on her in frustration. But she did help me understand a few things. She also told me what to do next. She seemed to think it was essential that the two of us---Tim and I---sat down and talked things through. Clearly, I shocked him earlier and he reacted badly. Now the ball was in my court, according to her. After talking for about ten more minutes or so, she told me to go to bed. I was only happy to oblige her.
I was asleep even before my head hit the pillow.
“Are you sure you’re getting enough sleep?” asked Uncle Jim as the two of us sat at the kitchen table.
I looked up from my pancakes and nodded. It was a rarity to see my uncle lately. It seemed like the two of us kept missing each other. What with the Thrill threat making him go into work early and stay real and me with my nocturnal activities. We were like two ships passing in the sea. When I woke this morning and smelled pancakes, I nearly jumped to the ceiling. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such a good breakfast. The pancakes were done when I got downstairs after my shower. When I called Uncle Jim a stranger I think he realized that the two of us needed to spend more time together.
“How’s your schoolwork?” he asked as he set down the paper.
“Good” I said happily, forking a piece of fluffy goodness.
He made the best pancakes in the world.
School was going really well for me. In fact, I thought about trying to graduate in January. I had enough credits for it. I’d been looking into college in my spare time too. I know it was the end of November, probably too late to enroll anywhere but it didn’t hurt to look. I loved high school but I felt like it was passing me by. I was already way ahead of my classmates and was finding it difficult to stay interested. I didn’t need Gym because I got all my credits for that the year before. The only thing I did need was my uncle’s say so. He needed to sign off on the idea. I actually discussed it with him on the phone the other day and I had the paperwork. The filing deadline for early graduation was two days away. I’m just glad it didn’t need Dad’s signature.
“How’s work going?”
He smiled at that. “Much better thanks to a certain someone who shall remain anonymous.”
I smiled at that. No Uncle Jim didn’t know about what or who I was. But I was happy to hear that he wasn’t like everyone else. The Mayor and the DA were both after The Bat. It was like some citywide manhunt. They thought I was a menace and wanted to lock me up. I think the real reason that wanted to get me because they were jealous that I was doing a better job. Tim and I had the city pretty much cleaned up. Yes, there was still crime but criminals were now too afraid to try anything except in The Narrows. Thrill was still a dangerous threat but most of the Parks were gone, the police were seizing shipments left and right thanks to my intel and the dealers were running scared. Now all I needed to do was get my hands on the man behind the black mask and Thrill was done. Of course, I’d have to find him first. Babs was still convinced Dr. Fright might be able to help with that. Of course, that meant finding her too. Babs was checking her resources, calling in favors. Detective Gage was doing a search for her as well---through legal means. She was already on the city’s most wanted list. It was only a matter of time before someone caught her.
We talked a little bit more; I tried to remember the last time the two of us had talked like this. Today was Sunday and he wanted to know if I had any plans. I had to smile at that. Today I was helping with the Talent Show. The actual Show itself wasn’t until Wednesday night but Jen had volunteered the two of us to help set up. At first, I was surprised until I went to the first Set Up Committee and saw her reason: his name was Derek. I never saw Jen more smitten but it was cute. The strangest thing was that he kinda had a thing for her too. That was even cuter. I was happy for her. It was much better than my messed up love life. I was in love with one guy who happened to be two and I hated the other one. How crazy is that?
I finished breakfast and left. Uncle Jim said he’d be home for the rest of the day. Apparently, The Bat was finally giving him some time off. That made me feel good. I couldn’t help but think about it as I drove to the school. When I started this whole thing, Bruce had already done a good job establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with. I wasn’t trying to steal his thunder, if anything I was adding to it. Tim thought I was some kind of pretender---at least at first. Now I’m not saying I was trying to steal Bruce’s spotlight but for the time being it made me feel good that at least I was making a difference. As soon as Bruce got on his feet again I was more than happy to hand things over. He was the Bat; I’m just the girl taking over for the time being.
When I got to the school, I pulled around back. The Gym had two exterior entrances, one leading right into it, the other leading into a small foyer next door. I went into the foyer entrance. Usually we met in a room upstairs but seeing as we were so close to the actual show itself we were meeting in the Gym. The Show would be in the Auditorium but there was hardly room there for performers to practice. When I got there, people were twirling batons in one corner, signing in small groups near the bleachers and doing an assortment of other things. I found the Committee on the bleachers, the five or six of them talking amongst themselves. Jen and Derek were sitting awfully close. I was the last one to arrive, which might have been holding them up slightly.
“About time” said a girl name Brittany---the Head of our little group---as I approached.
I shrugged. “Late night.”
I climbed the bleachers and took a seat next to Jen. She smiled and squeezed my hand. She could see it in my face. She gave me a confused look but I mouthed “later” to her. I was distraught last night; I didn’t even bother to call her. I’m not sure I wanted to either. Yes, she was my best friend in the whole world and we talked about everything but I didn’t think it was right to tell her about Tim. She knew about my semi-relationship with Red Robin but I’m not sure how she’d react if I told her he was Tim. She thought Tim was cute but like me, she shared a mutual dislike of him.
Brittany frowned at my comment. Then she gave me a once over with her eyes. I think she was trying to decide if I looked like a girl who’d stay out all night. I smirked at her, which only made her eyes open a bit. Let her think what she wanted, the way I figured it I wouldn’t be in this school much longer.
After she was done giving me the evil eye, Brittany decided to tell us what we would be doing. Each of us had a job for the Talent Show. Jen and Derek were happy to collect tickets. I got roped into handing out programs at the door. After that I only half paid attention as she laid out the schedule for the night. It’s not that I didn’t care but I still couldn’t stop thinking about last night. Tim was invading my thoughts. In my mind, I saw him standing there as himself and then the Red Robin costume slowly formed around him. I knew it was him underneath but every time I envisioned the costume on him, he became a different person. I closed my eyes and saw the same thing. Why couldn’t I get him off my mind?
“Stephanie” snapped Brittany, trying to exert some control over the situation. I opened my eyes and frowned at her. “Am I boring you?”
I debated telling her off but that wouldn’t solve anything. Instead, I opened my mouth to say “No” but then I looked out into the Gym. Everyone was still practicing their acts for tonight. Near the door, Arnold was sitting in a chair, doing his dummy routine. I looked at him for a moment and we locked eyes, sharing a smile. But my eyes quickly lingered over to the door and the familiar figure standing in it. I gasped. What the hell was he doing here? He was just standing there, looking like he owned the place. Our eyes locked and he nodded his head slightly, indicating he wanted to see me. He didn’t wait for me to say anything; instead, he disappeared out the door.
I sighed then turned to Brittany. “I wasn’t paying attention actually,” I said, causing Jen to laugh slightly. Brittany opened her mouth to say something but I was already on my feet.
I ran down the bleachers. She shouted something at me but I didn’t hear her. I ran through the Gym, weaving between the performers. When I got to the door, Arnold looked up from his dummy. I smiled at him as I slipped out the door. I scanned the parking lot, looking for Mr. Mysterious himself. I found him leaning against my car, his arms crossed in front of him. He was dressed like usual, his red leather jacket hardly suitable for this kind of weather. I took a deep breath and slowly approached him. My heart was beating in my chest and my hands were sweaty. I’m not sure why. This was Tim after all, I detested Tim. But he was the Red Robin too and him well…let’s just say I didn’t hate him so much.
When I finally got to him, he uncrossed his arms. He didn’t look pissed like I thought he might be. He smiled slightly if only for a second. “You and I need to talk.”
I nodded. “I’m sorry about last night, I didn’t mean to out you like that.”
He shook his head. “I don’t care about that.”
He sighed. “I did at first but I thought about it a lot. I knew there was something familiar about her but I just couldn’t place it. When she pulled off her mask last night and I saw it was you, something just clicked.”
So he thought of us as two different people as well. “I felt the same way once I realized who you were.”
The smile came back but it disappeared just as quickly.
I opened my mouth to say something but he spoke again. “Do you want to take a walk with me?”
I nodded numbly. He reached out and took my hand. I didn’t protest. We didn’t say a thing to one another as he led me toward the football field. It was a combination football stadium and track field. The track ran along the outer rim of the field. It didn’t take the two of us very long to get there. For a few minutes, we walked in silence. I should have been annoyed that he was holding my hand but it felt kinda nice. It did surprise me though. This was the most affection I’d ever seen him show. With Ariana, he hadn’t even been this affectionate. They were all about lust. Now holding his hand and looking up at him felt right for some reason. I know I’m supposed to detest him but I couldn’t help but feel that maybe this was the true Tim.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner about who I was.”
“Why would you have a need too?” he said “its not like I was rushing to reveal myself to you. When Oracle refused to tell me who you were I knew she had a reason to protect you.”
“She’s my cousin,” I said, he nodded.
We didn’t say anything for a few more minutes. We just walked. Finally, he cleared his throat and sighed. ‘My parents were murdered.”
That surprised me. I could tell he was building up to it. I squeezed his hand tightly. “I’m sorry.”
He smiled weakly. “My Dad was a cop. He and Mom were out to dinner when the brother of someone he put away gunned the two of them down. I was spending the night at my friend’s”
“That’s horrible,” I said then added a moment later. “How did you end up with Bruce?”
“He was a friend of Dad’s. After being kicked around a bit from one foster home to the next, he took me in. I was twelve at the time. After that he became like a surrogate father to me.”
“And Red Robin?”
He smirked. “He came about after Bruce got hurt. I knew the city needed someone to pick up the slack while he was recuperating so I volunteered my services. Bruce had spent quite a few years teaching me how to fight but he refused to let me go out with him. He said I’m too angry” He sighed. “He’s right but if he wasn’t doing it then someone had to.”
“Then I came along”
He nodded. “You’re amazing by the way. I’ve never seen anyone move the way you do and your fighting, it’s incredible. You’re really skilled.”
I smiled. “I have a good teacher.”
He nodded. We walked in silence for a little while more. He was thinking things over for a bit. I could almost see the thought process rolling around in his brain. Something was bothering him. It was clear that he didn’t come here to talk about himself. He was here on a mission and I was pretty certain he was building up to it now. It took him a few more minutes to finally speak and when he did, I was surprised by what came out of his mouth: “I think you should quit.”
I stopped walking, pulling my hand from his. “Excuse me?”
He stopped and turned toward me. “It’s getting too dangerous”
I smirked. “I can take care of myself in case you haven’t noticed.”
He took a step toward me and took both of my hands. “Run of the mill thugs are one thing, Steph, but we’re getting closer to the boss man. I’ve done some checking up on this guy and he means serious business. He’s dangerous.”
I opened my mouth to say something but instead of speaking, he pulled me close. Even before I knew what was happening he leaned down and pressed his lips against mine. I half expected a forced and aggressive kiss. But it was soft and gentle. I may have thought of them as two different people but Tim and Red Robin kissed exactly the same. At first, I protested but then I started to melt in his arms. It felt so nice, so good, so right. I got lost in the moment if only for a second. After that second was over, I realized what he was trying to do. Anger flared up inside of me and I pushed him away.
“You think kissing me like that is going to change my mind?” I asked, the anger boiling to the forefront.
He got a bit angry too. “You can’t keep doing this.”
“Why because it’s dangerous and I’m a cute little girl?”
“Yes” he said then quickly added. “No” when he saw the look on my face.
“I don’t need your protection. I think it’s sweet that you want to be my big bad protector but I don’t need you to protect me.”
“They’re getting closer,” he said, fighting to control that temper of his. “It’s only a matter of time before they set another trap for you and you walk blindly into it like the last one.”
That pissed me off. “You think I blunder around?”
“I didn’t say that. I just think you need to be more careful.”
I groaned, pushing him further away from me. I didn’t even give him a response. I started to walk angrily away. I got a good twenty feet or so before he ran to catch up. He grabbed my arm but I shrugged off his hand. But he wasn’t taking no for an answer. I knew he’d try to pull something like this. He thought he could protect innocent little me because I was a girl. He was nothing but a sexist pig just like the Tim I knew and hated. That pissed me off. If his mocking wasn’t enough when I hated him but know he was thumbing his nose at me when I actually thought he was sweet. The bastard lulled me into a false sense with a gorgeous smile then went in for the kill.
“Stephanie, wait,” he said, grabbing my arm again.
I reacted without thinking. I grabbed his wrist, twisting into his body. I pulled him over my shoulder and slammed him on the ground in front of me. It was an instinctual reaction, one I didn’t mean. Lying on his back, he looked up at me dazed for a second. He recovered quickly, jumping to his feet. For a second I saw pure rage flash across his face. He clenched both fists at his side. I thought he was going to hit me. Instead, he took a deep breath and unclenched them.
“I was trying to keep you from getting killed,” he said angrily, shoving his hands in his pockets. “But I can see I was just wasting my time. If you don’t want to listen to reason then I guess I’ll have to take care of things myself.”
Before I could say anything, he turned and walked away. I took a step forward but I was too damn furious to follow him. I was bound to say or do something just as stupid. So instead, I stood there and watched him walk away.
I cried myself to sleep for the next few days. No amount of cheering up from Babs or Jen seemed to help either. They both tried though, taking me on shopping trips to the mall and trying to do things with me to get my mind off him. But no matter how much I tried to forget him I couldn’t. So instead, I tried my hardest to work. First, it was on the Talent Show. I chipped in wherever I could, even going so far as being a mock audience for Arnold. He had a good act, probably one of the best there. He had this great routine I think everyone would love. If it wasn’t the Talent Show, it was college prep.
My application to graduate early came through. So in January, Stephanie Brown was going to officially be a high school graduate. I threw a lot of my free time---when not training or patrolling---into finding the perfect place to go. I think I was going to go to Northwestern like Babs. She said I could room with her but I kinda liked the idea of living in a dorm. My transcripts were already in order---Jenet was able to pull some strings with the legal stuff, getting things changed to fit my new gender. I suppose the government is good for something. I talked to her for a while on the phone the other day. I think she was interested in seeing how I was adjusting. I didn’t tell her about my extracurricular activities, of course but I did tell her how I’ve gotten a grasp on my powers. We talked for a few hours about them. She wanted me to come see her as soon as I got some time. I kinda liked the idea of showing off a bit and told her I’d try to find some time for her. When I told her about my college plans, she was only too happy to help. She said that if I needed anything that she had some pull.
When not working on college stuff or Talent Show stuff, I stayed in my room. I couldn’t help but think about Tim when I was alone. I tried calling him after I got back from the school but he was gone. I tried numerous times but he wouldn’t answer. Babs tried too, both as herself and as Oracle. She was unsuccessful. It annoyed the hell out of me that he was playing things so childishly like this. We had a fight; it didn’t mean it was the end of the world. But after Sunday it was like he walked off the face of the planet. I even went so far as to call the Manor. I talked to Al for a few minutes, told him what happened. If Bruce knew who I was and what I was doing, so did Al. He didn’t seem at all shocked when I told him about my nocturnal activities. According to him, Master Tim had not been home since Sunday either.
That got me worried a bit. Aside from crying and training, I spent Sunday and Monday nights looking for him. But he was nowhere to be found. I threw my frustration into the job. I broke up a small scuffle, getting a little too into it. I didn’t hurt anyone real bad but I was a little more violent. When I left the goons tied up for the police to find I stayed around in the shadows to make sure they were all right. None of them were seriously injured.
Wednesday came before I knew it. I was in a funk during the whole day. It didn’t help that Jen was still trying to cheer me up.
“Derek and I are going to get something to eat after the show tonight; you’re more than welcome to tag along.”
I smiled but shook my head. I didn’t want to spend the night watching my best friend and her boyfriend play footsie all night.
“You two go and have a good time.”
Jen frowned, looping her arm through mine. “Tim is a dick.”
I sighed and nodded. I only lied to her a bit about what really happened. I told her he came to talk to me and things went in a direction I hadn’t expected. She still didn’t know he was Red Robin but I told her about the kiss and how he treated me afterward. I’m not sure if she got why I was so mad but she was my friend and would stand by me no matter what.
When school ended, we only had a few hours before the talent show started. Instead of driving home, I went to the Morgan’s house. Her grandparents still treated me like I had the plague but at least they were a bit nicer. I think they realized that I was no longer a boy pretending to be a girl. Jen tried to explain the whole Meta thing to them but her grandmother was still convinced I got a sex change operation. When she thought I wasn’t in earshot, I heard her call me “that boy” on more than one occasion. I guess you can’t please everyone. Jen and I spent the few hours getting ready in her room. Even though neither one of us was participating, Brittany thought it would be a good idea if everyone working the show dressed up nicely. So I donned a good blouse and skirt, Jen wore a pink dress. When we were finished, we drove in my car. Jen tried once again to get my mind off Tim and it helped some. She started pointing out to me all the flaws he had, the reasons I hated him in the first place. Before I would have joined in but now I wasn’t in the mood. As much as I hated him, there was a small part of me that liked him. I knew the truth or at least part of it. If I’d been through what he’d been through, I’d be kind of a dick too.
I spent an hour before the show at the front door with another girl. I don’t know her name but she was dressed very similar to me. The two of us handed out brochures until we ran out. It was good timing too because as soon as we were done, the first act started. I didn’t really pay attention to most of them. They were good but the only reason I was here was to see Arnold perform. It was about an hour into the show when someone walked on stage, leaving behind a stool. A minute later, Arnold walked out carrying Mr. Scarface. He was dressed in a white button down shirt with a bow tie. Mr. Scarface was dressed in his usual 1930s gangster clothes, complete with fedora and plastic tommy gun. When Arnold sat down, I smiled.
Arnold cleared his throat, looking nervous. It was a part of the act though.
“Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Arnold Wesker and this is Mr. Scar…”
A gruff voice with a New York accent interrupted as the dummy’s mouth moved. “Shut up Dummy, I’ll be doing the talking tonight”
This got some chuckles.
“Sorry, Mr. Scarface” stuttered Arnold, playing the part well.
The banter went back and forth like this with Mr. Scarface dominating the act. Arnold played the stuttering, simpering Ventriloquist well. The act was good. It got a lot of laughs, more than some of the other stuff tonight. The audience seemed to enjoy it. I smiled, I couldn’t have been happier for him. About half way through it though, I felt a vibrating buzz. I cursed and slowly got to my feet, apologizing as I made my way down the row and up the aisle toward the exit. When I got into the main foyer of the school, I pulled my cell phone from my purse and flipped it open. On the screen was a black background with a flashing yellow Bat, like the one on the chest of my costume. It was our own little “Bat Signal”---the call that Babs used to tell me if something was wrong.
I groaned and pushed the talk button. Why couldn’t I have one night without any problems?
“This better be real urgent” I said, annoyed.
Babs sighed. “I found Dr. Fright.”
Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF
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