» Chapter 35

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---- From chapter 34 ----

?: I lived, bitch

----

Gotham was a beautiful city from above. In the far distance, the urban outskirts, the world was a faint yellow blur, the fog painted caramel yellow from the streetlights. From the top of the highest steeples, the whole city was nothing but glass, fog, and light.

Tim had never appreciated it before, for all the hours he spent photographing it.

He'd always been too distracted by a restlessness bouncing in his ribcage, a closeness to the concrete. His perspective had changed, though. The beauty of Gotham was subjective. It could only be observed from the highest points; the CEO offices and private jets. A clinical distance between himself and everything else.

The air above the city was dead in all sense of the word and two years ago it's silence frustrated him. He bared his teeth and camera lens at the way the rain clouds floated above with their arching, scraggly passiveness, mute and mocking witnesses to it all.

Now, though, it's the only air Tim can breathe and feel in his lungs.

It's 3:37 am, according to the time since Nightwing's last patrol update and the lock screen on Tim's phone, and Tim's eyes are heavy. Crime doesn't sleep, but Tim does- more than he used to. Which was weird, given that he was Robin now. It was a scary kind of therapy, to arm his subconscious mind with snapshots of blood splatter and a villainous laugh that echoes. But it was better than the nightmares he used to have when his sleeping mind's only source of inspiration was his real fears.

It's good that it haunts you, Bruce had told him, it means you're still human.

Tim was still waiting for Batman to clear the Granton District and tell them they could move on to the next juncture. Twenty-five kilometres across the city, Nightwing was doing the same.

Tim shifted as he crouched on the rooftop to widen his view of his surroundings, keeping alert even as he winced at the clicking sound his ankle made. An old injury from when he was filled with grief in the flavour of rage. One bad landing and it never quite healed right.

His phone was on silent, tucked away in one of the inner pockets of his suit, and it's weight- just heavy enough to be noticed- was a reassuring familiarity. Dickie thought he had yet to grow accustomed to the cold stiffness of the night, but Tim found himself more than used to it. He was born to be Robin, he knew, just like Dick had been.

Jason, on the other hand, had been born to be something else entirely and Tim had never figured out just what that was before Jason died.

Six months later and that was arguably Tim's biggest regret. Though, those were beginning to pile up. His "biggest regret" was more an album of general decisions and entire years than one definitive moment.

A hand nudges Tim's back and he teeters on the ledge, only his own balance and preparedness keeping him from rocking forward right off the edge. His ankle clicks.

"Asshole," he says as he stands. He doesn't turn around until he's scanned the horizons twice more and confirmed they're not being watched. He's in charge of all security footage across the city and it all filters back to his laptop eventually, so there's little chance of this getting back to Batman that way. Anyway, he's standing in a blind spot that stretches for a good eight feet in any direction.

"Makin' sure you're not too cocky to pay attention," a heavily filtered voice says behind him. Then, "Waxen wings above your reach an all."

"That's not what that quote means," Tim says as he turns around, and it's obscure literary references like that that have Tim so utterly enthralled by this persona that he hadn't done much to disrupt it.

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