New York City… fifteen minutes later…
Robin had forgotten how fast Nightwing could move when gravity had absolutely no hold on his oldest brother. Damian’s youth of body and spirit meant absolutely nothing tonight as he struggled to keep pace with the former circus acrobat as they dashed across rooftops and swung between buildings towards a very specific address. Ten minutes earlier, after learning they had actually found their missing brother, the long lost Timothy Drake-Wayne, once Dick had recovered his composure he had immediately demanded a home address from Barbara, which she was all too glad to locate.
“87 Riverside Drive,” Oracle informed them, and Nightwing was off like a shot, with Damian trailing behind.
Still, despite his initial annoyance with having to play catch up with Nightwing, Robin couldn’t help but enjoy the view in front of him. The man he saw ahead of him was someone he hadn’t seen in years. For the first time in what felt like forever, Dick Grayson was truly defying gravity. There were flourishes and flash in his leaps and flips. From head to toe, he was the personification of sheer jubilation. Despite the uncertainty of his own feelings towards his formerly lost brother, Damian couldn’t help but smile as he chased Nightwing down. Now that Dick, his favorite beloved brother, was truly happy, for the moment all seemed to be right with their world.
They finally came to a stop on the rooftop of a building that overlooked an old, but well kept white townhouse in Manhattan, just a few blocks away from Central Park. Despite being completely out of breath, Nightwing moved to the edge of the roof and peered down at the townhouse.
“Is this it?” Damian asked about thirty seconds later when he finally caught up with his brother. His lungs burned and his muscles ached as he leaned against the railing, trying to catch his breath.
Nightwing didn’t answer immediately. He was too busy scanning the darkened building. Searching for something… And then he froze when he found it.
“There!” he said as he shifted his position a few yards to the left. When Robin followed his brother’s gaze, he saw several illuminated windows and an open balcony door on the top floor of the townhouse. A smile lit up Dick’s face as he zeroed in on movement through the windows. “He’s still a night owl.”
“Send me a video feed!” Barbara demanded through the com link. “I want to see him too!” Of course the man she loved obliged as he activated that component of his mask. She sees what he sees, and what she saw made her breath catch in her throat.
Unaware of the late night audience he’s just acquired, Neal Caffrey was dealing with a bout of insomnia the only way he knew how. Dressed only in a pair of dark pajama bottoms and sporting several bruises from his earlier encounter with Damian, the lean, dark haired man was hard at work on his latest oil painting. He turned his focus from his art only long enough to refill his glass of wine and to readjust a nearby wall mirror, which seemed to be just a little too crooked for his tastes.
“He looks so grown up now,” Barbara remarked quietly. Dick and Damian could hear the smile and the tears in her voice. “Definitely not seventeen anymore, but definitely our Tim.”
Dick silently agreed with her as he leaned against the railing on the roof. He couldn’t take his eyes off his younger brother. It all felt like a dream, seeing him alive and well and very much an adult. He watched with contentment as the man in the townhouse apartment decided to pull out a fresh canvas and start a new painting with quick broad strokes.
While his brother kept his eyes on Tim, Damian lingered in the shadows, occasionally casting glances towards the townhouse. Part of it was from discomfort. Of everyone in their family, he was the only one who hadn’t believed that Tim could possibly be alive after his encounter with Ra’s Al Ghul, his grandfather. He’d held no hope when he was ten year old, and that’s the way it had been with him until just this evening. To be proven so thoroughly wrong after all this time was a shock, to say the very least.
The other part that made it hard to look at Tim were the bruises.
It wasn’t that Damian still hated his other adopted brother. Over the years, he’d realized how much of a arrogant little bastard he’d been when he first came into his father’s house to try and stake his claim as the heir to both Bruce Wayne’s and Batman’s legacies based on bloodlines alone. When he was ten, he’d wrongly assumed that his father had taken the usurper under his wing out of a sense of pity or sentimentality because he was an orphan. It wasn’t until he was older that he was able to understand everything Tim had lived through, lost, and survived to get where he was in the family. Nothing had been handed to him. Everything Drake had, he’d earned through blood, sweat, tears, and multiple trials by fire. At age seventeen now, Damian Wayne did not hate Timothy Drake. In fact, he had developed a quiet respect for his lost sibling. Alfred had explained the unfamiliar emotion to him once.
“There’s a old saying,” the aged butler had said back when Damian was fourteen and had been driving himself crazy with some of Tim’s old encrypted files. “You never really know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.” Damian had stumbled upon several dusty forgotten hard drives in one of the old safe houses the Red Robin used to frequent, back when he’d gone rogue. Inside them was a veritable treasure trove of incomplete projects that Drake had never had a chance to bring to life. There were planned upgrades to his motorcycle and to the equipment for his uniform. He had a wing design in the works that would allow him to actually fly for short distances, instead of just gliding with the capes. Tim also had a theoretical concept for linking the capture of one criminal directly to the next one. Something he called the “hit list”. To Damian, the discovery of this wealth of knowledge was inspiring.
At least, it was until he started to wonder how much more he could’ve learned from Tim if he’d actually survived… or even if he’d actually been nicer to him when they first met.
In the end, Damian began work trying to complete some of his brother’s projects, as a quiet tribute to his memory. The uniform he wore as Robin today was his first. The hit list concept was one he finally perfected last year. This year, his pet project was the flight suit.
And so, after all that, it actually made Damian feel a little ashamed that, once again, the first meeting between him and his brother resulted in bruises and bloodshed, although the more sensible side of him kept repeating that if he hadn’t punched Tim in the head a few times, he’d never have gotten that blood sample for Barbara.
Still, Robin stood back.
He couldn’t look at the bruises.
“Damian? Do you hear me?”
Robin looked about. Nightwing hadn’t budged from his spot, so he knew Barbara was only talking to him. “Yeah,” he whispered as he silently shifted further away from his brother. “What’s up?”
Oracle’s voice was guarded now. “There’s… something I don’t understand. You did say Tim’s current alias is Neal Caffrey, right?”
“Of course. That’s how we found his address. Why?”
“Something else came up with his name when I ran it through the system. Sending you the files now. Make sure Nightwing doesn’t see them.”
After taking a second glance to make sure his brother’s attention was firmly occupied elsewhere, Robin flipped on his virtual palm top computer, which consisted of a holographic projection of a small computer screen from a micro emitter on his gauntlet. The files Oracle sent him popped up immediately on the screen, and he furrowed his brow as he scanned them. “I think you sent me the wrong files,” he said. “This looks like one of Selina’s old rap sheets.”
“They aren’t the wrong files,” Barbara insisted. “Take a closer look. Those are documents from the FBI and Interpol on Neal Caffrey.”
Robin took a closer look at the files, and his eyes widened in surprise. “What the hell is this, Oracle? Money laundering? Embezzlement? Art forgery?”
“I don’t know all the details,” Barbara said solemnly, clearly the wind taken out of her sails from earlier. “All I know is that as far as the FBI and Interpol are concerned, Neal Caffrey is one of the world’s most notorious white collar criminals.”
“Um… Guys,” Nightwing’s voice caught Robin’s attention. “I think I’ve just been made.”
“What makes you say that?” Robin asked.
Nightwing looked down at the townhouse once more. Still cloaked in shadows, he followed his brother’s gaze again, this time using his own mask’s telescopic lenses to get a closer view of what he was seeing.
Down in the townhouse apartment, Neal was working rapidly on his new painting. It was a hastily painted picture of the wall mirror he adjusted a few minutes earlier… And the reflection in that mirror was the building the two vigilantes were currently perched upon. The last stroke of paint Neal put on the canvas was a small, but obvious, crimson V on the rooftop.
Nightwing sheepishly glanced back at Robin. “Just a hunch?”
Here in Chapter 7, after the emotional revelations of the previous chapter, here we get a small look at the how Damian feels towards Tim Drake. The boy has grown up quite a bit in the last seven years. He’s not quite the blood-thirsty, short-tempered, arrogant kid with an entitlement complex he used to be. Well, he’s still short tempered, but at least Neal didn’t require a hospital visit.