It wasn't often that I took missions that would send me off world for any reasonable length of time. They certainly didn't happen when working with the Outsiders. However, when I was asked by the Titans to help them with some trouble in another sector of the galaxy alongside the Green Lanterns, I couldn't resist the temptation. The work was interesting for about the first week. Then the homesickness made the following two weeks not so much. Exploring alien worlds and traveling across the vast endlessness of space with some of my best friends was fun and all, but in the end I really missed Earth, normal gravity, and being able to sleep in my own bed at night, among other things.
About half an hour before sunrise I finally made my way back home. Conner, Cassie, and Bart were nice enough to give me a lift back to my place in the T-Jet.
"Don't you dare forget to call us later," Bart said from the pilot's seat as they hovered the stealthed jet well above the building I called home.
"I won't, I won't," I repeated for the umpteenth time while trying unsuccessfully to stifle a yawn.
Cass gave me a kiss on the cheek and a hug. "Take care of yourself."
"Ditto," I said with a small smile. Then I gave the pair a parting wave before letting myself fall backwards out of the open door and into the cool pre-dawn air. I enjoyed a few seconds of free falling before flaring out my cape and gliding the rest of the way down. Conner flew down alongside me.
"Y'know, I could've flown you down to the building myself."
"What would've been the fun in that?"
I landed on the balcony as quietly as I could. The city seemed to be enjoying a rare moment of quiet peace at this early hour, and I couldn't resist soaking it all in for a little bit.
"Oh darn. Does this mean I can't have the bed all to myself anymore?"
A broad smile stretched across my face I looked over my shoulder at the dark skinned, brown eyed beauty that was leaning against the open balcony doorway, dressed in her usual sleeping attire of a tank top and a pair of shorts. "Sorry love," I said unrepentantly. "The evil alien overlords decided that they didn't want to play with us anymore. Some nonsense about our games being too rough. So we had to pick up our toys and come home."
Tam laughed. Oh how I missed that sound. "Ah well. I guess I can learn how to share again," she said as she came up, slid back my mask, and gave me a welcome home kiss that I gladly returned in kind. "Morning, Conner," she said afterwards as she leaned against me, her arms wound comfortably around my neck.
Conner just grinned at the two of us. "Morning, Tam. Don't tell me you stayed up all night waiting for this loser to get home."
"If he didn't want me to wait up, he shouldn't have told me he'd be coming home tonight," she said matter-of-factly.
"Wait. I didn't tell you I'd be home tonight."
"Oh that's right. I asked Barbara." Tam smiled knowingly at me.
Conner laughed. "Alright you two. I'd better head back. Cass and Bart are waiting for me." He began to float up into the air.
Tam waved at him. "Tell them I said hi, and let Cassie know I still owe her a spa day out next time she's in town."
With a smile, Conner gave us a final parting salute and flew up to join the others in the T-Jet.
Two years. It was just a month shy of two years since that long, awful night in Gotham City. However, as horrible as that night had been for the both of us, it was ultimately the catalyst that brought us to where we were today.
When Tam had recovered from her shock, and was well enough to move around, I took her to the original Batcave beneath Wayne Manor. It was still in mothballs back then, but it seemed the perfect place to talk to Tam about us, my past, and our future. I finally explained to her the whole complete truth about why I was so scared of being together with her, and why I had been trying to push her away. I told her about how my parents died, how my friends died, and about how only some of them ever came back. I showed her the trophies and relics from so many of Batman and Robin's enemies, and more importantly I showed her the memorial cases that held the old uniforms.
"I love you so much, Tam," I had told her as we sat atop the head of the giant mechanical T-Rex, looking over everything in the cave. "And the thought of losing you to one of my enemies, because of my work, terrifies me. It's not just a fear that's all in my head. It's actually happened." I bowed my head as she slid closer to me, interlacing the fingers of her good hand with mine. "Sometimes, I wish I could just turn my back and walk away from all of this and live a normal life. No more capes. No more uniforms. No more masks. Just… just be me."
Tam had squeezed my hand. "But this is all a part of you. Even when you're not wearing the uniform, I can still see it in you, Tim." She released my hand to bring her fingertips to my forehead. "I can see it here." She moved her hand lower, to the place on my chest right over my heart and let it rest there. "And here."
My own hand came up to rest over hers, and I wondered if she could feel my heart beating beneath her palm. "Knowing who I am, what I do, the dangers and general bad luck that seems to follow me and people I care about… Even knowing all this, you still want me in your life? You still want to be a part of mine?"
Tam smiled at me in that reassuring way she had and nodded. "With all my heart."
I'd taken a deep breath and made a firm, conscious effort to squash the fears that tried to rise up and sabotage the moment she and I were having. Tam seemed to sense my discomfort and immediately set to work to distract me from the unpleasant emotion. She drew in close, brought her lips to mine, and for several solid minutes we made out right there on top of the T-Rex. Eventually the two of us just laid back to relax on the dinosaur head, Tam using me as a pillow, as we watched the bats flying around the cave.
"I really wish I could just put to bed all this anxiety I get whenever I feel like I'm getting closer to you," I admitted as I soothed myself with the intoxicating scent of her hair. "It's not so bad when I'm awake and with you right now like this, but when I try to sleep the nightmares make it impossible to get any rest these days."
"The nightmares are all of those different sociopaths that are constantly in and out of Arkham, right?"
I shrugged. "Except for a few, I guess most of them are."
Tam shifted to rest her head more comfortably on my shoulder. "Well, if that's the case, then why don't we just get rid of the source of the nightmares?"
"You know we can't do that, Tam. It's against the rules…"
"I don't mean killing them." I could hear the frown in her voice, and my curiosity was piqued.
"Are you talking about moving them somewhere else?"
Tam shook her head. "No, Tim. Simpler. The other way around." She lifted herself up on her arm to look at me directly. "Why don't we move?"
The obviousness of Tam's solution totally blew my mind. I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner. Why couldn't we leave Gotham and live together somewhere else? Somewhere far away from Arkham and even Blackgate for good measure. It's not like many of the native psychopaths here ever really left the city limits for long, even when they did escape. And aside from my family and friends, it wasn't like I had any other concrete ties to Gotham. My work with the Outsiders and the Titans kept me globe trotting half the year anyway.
Tam, of course, wasn't averse to moving at all. She was just finishing her senior year of college at Gotham U, and after everything she'd been through, she was more than willing to put this city and its demons in her rear view mirror. Especially, she assured me, if it meant we'd be leaving together.
I really shouldn't have been surprised to find out that Bruce already had a plan in motion when I came to him about relocating out of Gotham. That making me the leader of the Outsiders and forcing Red Robin to become a covert international operative was part of it was what really threw me for a loop, though. He'd been quietly working on this plan for years and I didn't have a clue.
"When it comes to people in our profession who want to have a chance at a normal life, this city is toxic," he'd explained. "And when I saw how close you and Tam were becoming, I wanted a contingency plan in place to give you the best chance possible for some semblance for a normal life with her, if you wanted it."
And so, for the first time in a long time, things fell into place that actually made life better. Tim Drake-Wayne was officially assigned to oversee operations in the Metropolis branch of WayneTech along with Tamara Fox after her graduation. We moved into a secluded penthouse apartment in the Mount Royal neighborhood, and started a life together far from the nightmares of Gotham City. By day, our lives were the picture of two young business professionals trying to take care of our families' respective legacies while staking our own claim of independence away from the nest. By night, I managed my Red Robin affairs, mainly with the Outsiders and occasionally with the Titans or Batman Inc.
The missions with my two groups normally took anywhere from several days to several weeks. Tam covered for me beautifully when I had to be out of town unexpectedly for extended periods of time. There was a catch, however... A compromise we agreed on when we first moved to Metropolis.
The nights that didn't belong to Outsiders, Titans, or Batman Inc. belonged solely to her. It was one of the reasons we chose to live in Metropolis. This city had more than enough heroes to take care of its local criminal population. Though every now and again Clark or Kara would hit me up for information or recon work, especially if it involved Luthor or LexCorps, regular patrols of my new hometown were not part of the job description anymore.
It was a compromise that was hard to deal with initially, as old habits do die hard, but now I liked it perfectly fine.
Tam made sure of that.
"Would you like a cup of coffee, love?" Tam asked after Conner and the others had flown off back towards the west coast. "Or would you prefer just to go to bed now?"
"Depends. Is sleeping mandatory or optional?"
Tam's smile was full of wicked promises.
God, I loved this woman.
We remained on the balcony a little while longer so that we could watch the sun rise over the shining Metropolis skyline together. However, the gleam of the sunlight off the metal and glass buildings of the city couldn't compare to the way the same light danced brilliantly within the diamond ring I slipped onto Tamara's finger in that same shared moment.