Too Deep To Breathe
by Rea

"Owwww!" Cassandra shot bolt upright in bed. Twisting her head to the side, she glared at Batman. "What you do?" She kicked angrily at him. "Make head hurt."

"So nice of you to rejoin us." Batman said drily. His half smile corked the edges of his lips. "That's one back. How's Timothy, Alfred?" He frowned. "Alfred?"

"Oh dear." The old man was standing next to Tim's bed. His head was bowed. "Oh dear."

For the first time, Batman was aware of the flatline scrawling across Tim's heart monitor. "No."

"Nooooo!" Cassandra's voice boomed through the room. Pushing Batman aside, she stood at Tim's side, face pinched. "Tim, you wake up! Wake up right now!" When he didn't give her a response, she drew her hand back and slapped him. "Wake up!"

"Cassandra!" Bruce grabbed her wrist. "That won't help."

"Should we attempt to revive him?" Alfred was standing by, paddles charged and ready. "Sir, your decision!"

Bruce shook his head.

Slowly, Alfred pushed the crash cart away. "Are you certain?"

"Let him go, old friend." Bruce was aware of what the people standing outside would think. Jack and Dana would certainly believe he'd let their son die. Barbara would never forgive him. "Just let him go."

Alfred nodded, and slowly pulled the sheet over Tim's face. From outside, Bruce could hear some panicked screams and a body thud against the glass doors. He was glad he'd locked them.

"Noooo." Cassandra was crying. Big tears ran down her face. "Not fair. Robin wake up. Robin come back to me." she stared helplessly at Bruce. "We date. Be boyfriend and girlfriend."

"I'm sorry."

Cassandra whipped the sheet back. Leaning over him, she slowly stroked Tim's face. "I fill big gaping void. I here. I wait."

Bruce watched her and felt dead inside. He'd failed: again. Life wasn't fair. Tim's life had been cut short. Bruce consoled himself with the knowledge that at least, Tim had died doing what he loved to do. But there was so much more, he thought, so many loves he'd never know, friends he'd no longer meet. Family that had finally realized what a special gift he'd been but would never be able to tell him.

Feeling shaky, he reached behind him for Cassandra's abandoned bed. Hard plastic steadied his frame as he watched Cassandra grieve.

It wasn't fair to her, either.

"It's not fair to any of us." Alfred whispered in his ear. "Yet another soul has been taken from us."

Bruce hadn't heard the old man's approach but he didn't protest as Alfred squeezed his shoulder. "It wasn't supposed to end this way."

"Few things seldom go as we wish them too." Alfred's voice was leaden with emotion. "My dear boy, where do we go from here?"

Bruce knew he didn't just mean Tim's death. There was Jack and Dana to contend with. He doubted they'd walk away from this. They'd expose him, and everyone connected with him. Barbara might be spared but he and Alfred would at the center of their storm.

"I'm sorry old friend." Bruce felt his facade crack. Tears stung his eyes, making him grateful for the cowl. "I've ruined you."

"Nonsense." The butler drew Bruce into a fatherly embrace. "I joined your crusade with eyes wide open. Whatever is to come, we will face it together."

"I don't deserve your loyalty."

"Family is about more than just loyalty, my dear boy, it is about love."

Bruce Wayne felt his heart break. No longer caring who was watching, he leaned into Alfred's shoulder and cried.

In the hall, Dana was screaming. Jack held her as she hammered against the glass, his frame racked with sobs nearly matching his wife's in anguish. Barbara was weeping quietly in her chair. Superman sat on the floor with Kon-el as the boy sobbed.

In the exam room, Tim's face was as wet as Cassandra's. Cassandra cradled his limp form, her tears running in salty rivulets down her cheek onto his face. She was no longer speaking. Her sobs had retired to sorrowful moans as her dearest friend cooled in her arms.

It came as a great surprise to her, when Tim suddenly bucked.

"Gah!" His chest heaved as bony arms flew to his throat. "Can't breathe."

"Robin?" Cassandra stared dumbly at him. "You alive?"

"Yeah... hup... what's... huff... with the... huff... huff... waterworks?" A shaky hand brushed at the salty liquid on his face. "Did someone die?"

"You!" Before he could react, Cassandra had him in a bear-hug that threatened to break his back. "You alive! I knew you not leave me!"

"No... huff... I'm still here." Managing to wriggle out of her embrace, Tim had only a moments peace before Superboy crashed the doors of the infirmary.

"Rob! You're back!" The jubilant Kid of Steel tackled Tim and noogied his head. "I knew it man, I knew you were too damned stubborn to give up!"

"Give up?" Tim looked around the room wonderingly. "Um... is it me or are we in STAR labs? What happened to Demarit? Where's the institute?"

"Dude, the institute blew sky-high!"

"What?" Tim's brow furrowed, "When was this?"

"Last month."

"What?" Tim frowned, but didn't have time to question it as Jack and Dana flew into the room. Tim's eyes widened as his parents flanked him from both sides, his father ruffling his hair while Dana planted kisses on his face. "What are you doing here? Um... you can't be here."

"Tim, oh god, my little Timmy." Jack hugged his son tightly. "I thought I lost you."

"Timothy, we were so worried."

Over their endearments and embraces, Tim looked helplessly at Batman, who, god forbid, was grinning crazily. Appalled at the tearful demeanor of the group, he couldn't help but wonder "Am I hallucinating?"

Barbara laughed. "Nope." Her face sobered. "It's nice to see you again, Tim."

"Same here." Timothy rose shakily to his feet only to sit down again as pain lanced through his leg. "Ouch!"

"What is it?" Every eye in the room was on him. ""What's wrong?"

Tim's brow furrowed. "It's my leg. Something hurts."

Bruce leaned down and pulled up the hem of Tim's pant leg. To his surprise, he found the ankle broken.

Three Months Later...

Tim Drake sat on the front steps of his family's new, albeit downsized house, in the suburb of Gotham Memorial. His chin was propped on his hand, which was propped on his knee, as he stared aimlessly across the street as he waited for Kon and Cassie to pick him up.

So much had changed. He still felt overwhelmed by it all.

The story of Dr. Demarti and his coma continued to leave him reeling. It sounded far-fetched to his own ears, even though everyone, including Bruce, assured him the events were all fact.

Tim didn't believe them for a minute.

The porch boards creaked as he was joined on the porch. "They're late again."

Tim smiled up at his father. "Yeah."

"What is it this time? Alien invaders? Killer bloc?"

"Killer Croc and no, nothing exciting." Tim stretched out and leaned against the steps. "We're going to an outdoor concert."

"Who's 'we'?"

"Cassie and Kon."

"Okay." Tim could hear the relief in his father's voice. "Is the rest of the gang going too?"

"Not today." Tim's eyed danced with mischief. "They're off fighting alien invaders from mars. But don't worry, Anita promised to call if they need back-up."

"Very funny." Jack ran a hand through his graying hair. "Want company while you wait?"

"Sure." Tim moved over so his father could sit. He knew his father was having a hard time with the whole hero thing. Initially, he'd wanted Tim to quit. Dana had talked him out of it. "Are you and Mom going anywhere today?"

"Nah. We thought we'd hold down the fort until you got home."

"You don't have to stay in all evening." That was another new development, since the "accident" Jack and Dana had been acting more like parents. The wild parties and constant trips had ended. They'd even cut back on their work time in favour of designated 'family days.' Of course, this meant Tim had to cut back on his Robin hours as well. In addition to Wednesdays, he now had weekends off with shortened patrols during the week to accommodate school. "I heard Bruce is back in town. He'll probably want to know how that joint venture with STAR labs is going..."

"Another time." Jack ruffled his son's hair affectionately. "It's Saturday. The work week doesn't start until Monday."

"But as the newest CEO of Drake/Wayne Enterprises, I'd have thought you'd be antsy about getting the new account all ironed out. You wouldn't be getting soft in your old age, would you?"

Jack took the teasing with good grace. "There are more important things than money: like a certain someone who's going to a rock concert when there's an unfinished history paper sitting on his desk upstairs."

"Da-a-d... it's Saturday!"

"I want it done first thing tomorrow." Jack warned. "I mean it. No funny business. If I let you go today, then no Young Justice tomorrow."

"But it's the end of the month! That's pizza day!"

"I don't care. Either you forgo your concert tonight or you skip your meeting tomorrow."

"But dad--"

"No but's. Homework first. What's it gonna be?"

"Homework tomorrow." Tim kicked at the ground. "Cassie's been looking forward to this concert. She'd kill me if I cancelled."

"I like her." Jack slung a lazy arm around Tim's shoulders. "She's tough. There's no doubt in my mind she keeps you out of trouble."

"More like gets me into trouble."

Jack laughed. "Don't they all? Speaking of which, I think I hear her now."

Sure enough, the squeal of tires and terrified howls of Kon-el announced Cassie's arrival long before she came to a screeching halt in front of the house. Tim cringed as the tires of his precious Redbird smoldered.

"You're driving right?" Jack asked as he waved at the teens. "For the love of god, tell me you're driving."

"I'm driving." Tim assured him. "Have a good one Dad."

"Be home by midnight!"

Tim rolled his eyes as he got into the car. Giving Cass a quick peck on the cheek, he pushed her over onto the passenger side.

"Thank god." In the backseat, Kon was looking decidedly green. "You never shoulda taught her to drive, man. She's a ten car pile-up waiting to happen."

"I good driver." Cass protested as she waved at Jack. "Your father give curfew?"

"Yeah," Tim pulled away from the curb and headed for the freeway. "Can you believe that? I'm a vigilante who faces off against the most demented criminals on the planet, and he gives me a curfew on a Saturday night."

"He love you." Cassandra leaned across the front seat to wrap an arm around Tim's neck "I love you too."

"I love you."

"Me love you more."

"Love you forever."

"Me love for eternity."

"Love you--"

"Guys!" Kon griped from the back. "Ya wanna get a room or something? Cripes, this is worse than when you make out."

"Sorry." Tim grinned. "By the way, how's Cassie?"

"Pissed off. I tell you Tim, chicks over-react."

"What happened now?"

"Ah, she's all mad over these photos in the newspaper. I told her, if you save chicks, ya gotta poise for the paper with'em. There's nothing personal about it. I mean, it's not like I'm banging 'em, you know what I mean? But with the way she goes on about it, you'd swear I'd asked one of 'em to marry me!"

"Don't poise for picture," Cassandra said gravely. "Then no fight."

"What? I can't do that. That'd totally oust me from the cover of Teen Magazine and Big Bopper. Those books are my fan base. Without 'em I'd be a big unknown like your boyfriend. Uh, no offense Tim."

"I like Tim just the way he is." Cassandra planted a wet kiss on Tim's cheek. "Not need pictures with girls. He sexy all by himself."

Tim smirked in the mirror at Kon. "See? What have I been telling you all along?"

"I dunno man, you were a vegetable for so long I forgot."

Silence descended over the car. Kon slapped himself. "Sorry man, that was harsh."

"S'okay." Tim said quietly. "It's not like I can remember anything about it." Though he had been having some really weird dreams of late.

"You lucked out then." Kon and Cass were somber. "It was hell, man."

"But it all good now." Cass giggled. "Me love you."

"I love you more."

"Me love you most."

"Love you forever."

"Me love forever and--"

"Guys get a room, will ya?"

As the sun set over Gotham, a gentle wind blew down over Wayne Manor. Entering an open window, it found the ear of Bruce Wayne. Head cocked to the side, Bruce listened to it's gentle flutter. As the wind ruffled the papers on his desk, he smiled.

"Take care of him." He said gravelly. "And if Kon-el tries anything stupid, strangle him."

The wind blew its understanding in a warm breeze over his face. As an updraft carried the wind from the house, a set of blue eyes winked at Bruce Wayne.

The End.

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