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Fic: China; Tim & Bernard; PG-13

Title: China
Author: Aravis Tarkheena
Pairing: Tim and Bernard mostly it's gen
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Graphic descriptions of violence, angst
Disclaimer: Not mine, everyone's legal
Word Count: 3,500ish
Author's Notes: I keep forgetting to post this. For dylogger. Incidentally in my head, this takes place a few years before Permanent Fixtures. Though it can be read as a stand alone. Thanks to kirax2 for the beta. She is awesome. <3




China


Bernard had his headphones in his ears before his professor even moved completely out from behind the podium at the front of the classroom. Bernard's class had been over for a grand total of five seconds, before Bernard had his MP3 player tuned into the local public radio station. As he packed his own notebooks and pens up into his bag, Bernard listened intently to the reporter on air.

Bernard slung his bag over his shoulder, barely acknowledging his classmates with a nod goodbye, before he pushed out the door and into the hallway. The hallways in this particular building had awful reception. Bernard all but jogged down them to get to the stairwell. He took the stairs two at a time, pushing past irritated undergrads and jaded masters students, stomach churning as he willed the news to turn national.

“Come on, come on, come on,” he breathed, as some man with a nasal voice droned through a weather report that seemed to encompass the whole damned month.

The bus was just pulling up to his stop as Bernard jogged up the sidewalk. He ran his pass through the reader with a nod to the driver, and put the volume up on his player. He tried hard to drown out his whirling mind as he focused on the news reports. Fingers tapping nervously on his thigh, Bernard listened through the local news and a few advertisements, as he made the short ride home.

Practically flying off of the bus when it hit his stop, Bernard rushed up to his building. Clumsy in his haste, he fumbled his keys from his battered backpack and flicked through the locks and security doors. He ran up the steps to his building, and impatiently did the same dance with his own locks.

When he finally made it into his apartment, Bernard made a beeline to the television. He hit the numbers for GNN on the remote as he booted up his laptop and settled on the couch. The GNN anchorwoman's face appeared on the screen just as Windows asked for Bernard's password.

Bernard keyed in the word and hit enter before he pulled the headphones from his ears. He turned his attention to the television as the story changed on the screen to exactly what Bernard had been waiting to see.

Three days ago an object had set down in the middle of the Colorado wilderness. It was eventually revealed, after a great deal of initial panic, that the object was a sort of transportation vehicle from another dimension.

The military had been deployed almost immediately when the thing had been discovered. They arrived on the scene to find that the Justice League and the Titans already in the thick of things. There was some initial conflict with The Strangers, as the media was calling them.

Details were sketchy and it was difficult to get close enough to the action to really see what was going on. There was a whole lot of speculation, bullshit and talking heads saying a hell of a lot about nothing at all.

Since the situation had come to light, Bernard had been following the news somewhat compulsively. His roommate started making noises about OCD around day two, and Bernard had felt the need to defend himself.

Bernard pointed out, rather acidly, that he probably wasn't the only one in Gotham City glued to the news feed considering the circumstances. He went on to further illustrate that anyone who wasn't so myopically self interested would be concerned. Then he gave his poor, much abused, roommate a lecture on the far reaching implications of this inter-dimensional visitation.

His roommate hadn't said more than two words to him since.

What Bernard didn't get into with his roommate when they argued was the difference in motivation between himself and everyone else in the world who was fixating on this thing. Mostly, the people still glued to the TV and internet were concerned about their own skins. Bernard was more concerned about someone else's skin. That wasn't something he was willing to let himself think about too closely.

At least, not just yet.

There hadn't been any mention of the toll the fight with the Strangers was having on their side. At least not on the television or the newspapers. Bernard was a journalism student, however, he knew how to play the game. The best, and often times the most relevant, information was always the stuff the editors wouldn't let their journalists report on.

Bernard had called his friend Claudette. Claudette had taken a job at GNN as a researcher when he had graduated the year before. She was pretty grim when she gave Bernard the info he was looking for.

The military had reported injuries and causalities of their own. They weren't giving out details or numbers. They were keeping pretty mum about the types of injuries sustained by their troops.

When Bernard asked, Claudette told him, even more grimly, that no one seemed to have any word on the members of the League or the Titans. He had even coaxed Claudette into calling a friend she had over at the Daily Planet. The two of them had figured someone over there would have word on something considering their close ties with Superman.

They hadn't had any word either.

It was after that little piece of information had been imparted to him that Bernard started to get almost sick with worry.

That first night, when the news was running nonstop on all the stations and Gotham City was all but panicked, Bernard stood transfixed in front of his television. All he could see in his minds eye, while GNN played footage of the Justice League trying to contain the threat, was the image of Tim Drake slipping, unnoticed, out of a party the two of them had both been attending a few hours before.

Tim hadn't looked happy. He had looked almost grim as he grabbed his coat, and sneaked out a back door. Bernard had been a little too drunk to care at the time.

He had sobered up pretty quickly when his mind made several critical connections.

Bernard couldn't put a finger on the exact moment he had figured Drake out. He had always known, from day one, that there was something a touch off about Tim. After the Gang War that fact had been all but inescapable.

The Gang War had been a blur of blood and violence for Bernard. It took months, years even, for Bernard to remove himself far enough from it, emotionally, to process exactly what had happened to himself and the people around him.

Bernard wouldn't let himself think about it for a long time. His parents and teachers urged him to get counseling, but Bernard had always turned them down. He liked to think, if he put it all behind him and focused on moving forward, it wouldn't change him the way it had changed other people.

It came back eventually though, as all things do, despite his best efforts to force the memories down. Bits in snatches of moments passed slipped into the forefront of his mind. Things that Tim did that day, things that Tim said, the scent of blood and violence and death in the humid, fetid air.

Those were things Bernard would never truly be able to escape. They got under his skin in those few horrible days. They infected him with their violence and fear. It was a disease Bernard wasn't entirely sure there was a cure for. He tried to shake it off, to ignore the the effects. Despite his best efforts those few days changed him in ways, deep inside himself, that he couldn't even begin to touch, let alone fix.

Through it all, through the stink of blood and fear sweat high in the summer air, Tim had been there. He had been there, and he had fought. Tim had fought for Darla's life, and he had fought for his classmates' safety. He had fought for Gotham, and he had fought for Bernard.

Bernard wasn't stupid. He knew that, just because he didn't let himself think about what it was that Tim did, didn't mean that Bernard didn't know.

He did know. He knew exactly where Tim was, and what he was doing, and he also had a damn good idea of how dangerous it all was.

Bernard had tried Tim's cell dozens of times over the past three days. The recorded message he kept getting said that Drake's cell was out of range. Only thing was, Tim had a satellite phone. A satellite phone created by Drake's overprotective daddy's company. Wayne Enterprises didn't do anything by halves. From what Bernard knew, there was no such thing as 'out of range' for those things.

Tim's Facebook status had him off to China on another 'emergency business trip'. Bernard had asked around, and no one else had heard from Drake since the night of that party. No one else seemed at all concerned.

Bernard hadn't quite worked up the nerve to contact Drake's family. He was pretty sure they would all be ‘in China' as well, anyway. He wasn't certain, but two plus two always equaled four, even if the four was sometimes lopsided.

The voice of the talking head on GNN broke through Bernard's thoughts. He glanced at the screen, when he saw the image of 'The Landing Site', as the reporters called it, he turned up the volume.

“... deeply regret the damage that was done, before the departure of these Strangers from a different dimension,” the anchorwoman said, as the screen changed to another shot of the Landing Site.

This time, the Site was clear. A large patch of brown grass and churned up earth was the only sign that there had been anything there at all.

“Both the military and the Justice League have confirmed that the area is cleared,” the woman continued, as Bernard's heart began to beat loudly in his chest.

“What about causalities,” Bernard said to the screen but his voice was low and harsh, barely above a whisper.

The screen cut to a shot of Superman, flying valiantly, suit in tatters, though the sunlight as the anchorwoman prattled on about the great victory over forces unknown.

“What about the causalities?” Bernard heard himself repeat, louder this time. There was an anger in his voice, and a fear he didn't like.

Bernard let out a frustrated sound, and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He punched in Tim's number, and listened to it ring.

It went straight to voice mail, just as he had every other time he called.

Bernard disconnected, only to try to Tim again seconds later. As he listened to Tim's phone ring through for a a second time, Superman came on the screen. He was brilliant, and he was golden. He also looked really rough for a guy who was invulnerable.

It made Bernard's stomach drop out.

“We're all just happy to be going home,” Superman said to the camera, with a confident smile.

Home.

They were going home.

Bernard had his keys in his hand, and was out the door, before any other conscious thought made its way through his mind. Bernard unlocked his bike with shaking hands.

Drake's apartment was half a mile from campus. Bernard peddled over to his building with energy born of blind panic, and a reckless disregard of any and all traffic laws.

He was sweating and panting by the time he reached Tim's building. Another tenant held the security door for Bernard, as Bernard jogged up the stairs. Bernard nodded in thanks, and took the stairs to Tim's floor two at a time.

Bernard hammered at Tim's door with what was probably far more force than was strictly necessary. Tim pulled the door open with lifted brows.

“Bernard,” Tim began, but cut himself off when Bernard threw his arms around Tim's shoulders, and pulled him into a fierce hug.

Tim smelled like soap and dryer sheets. His t-shirt was the same threadbare red Haley's Circus shirt he had been wearing to bed for as long as long as Bernard had known him. Tim had long since grown out of it.

The shirt was frayed around the hem and collar. It was worn through to near transparency in spots. It had worn so thin that Bernard could feel the thick patches of bandages and scar tissue under it as he ran his hand over Tim's back.


It made Bernard shiver to feel the evidence of injury and violence written clearly on Tim's body.

“Uh, hey Bernard,” Tim said tentatively, as he brought his arms up to give Bernard a quick squeeze. “Would you like to come inside?”

Bernard held fast to Tim as the two of them stumbled back into the apartment. Tim kicked the door shut behind him, and gave a huffing little sigh. He tightened his hold around Bernard, and gave him a real hug.

“I'm,” Bernard began, but his voice broke. He swallowed hard, and tried again. “I'm glad that you're...” he trailed off again, unsure what to say, or how to say it. He was all mixed up inside his head, and he couldn't seem to express anything at all that was shooting through his emotion clouded mind. “Back,” Bernard finished lamely, his face still pressed to Tim's shoulder.

“You missed me that much, Bernard?” Tim teased in a light tone of voice. He ran his fingers comfortingly up and down Bernard's spine. “I know China seems far away, but it really isn't that bad.”

“I tried to call,” Bernard blurted out, feeling stupidly frantic. “I couldn't get you.”

“I'm sorry,” Tim's voice softened. “They kept me pretty busy. I barely had time to sleep, let alone make phone calls.”

Bernard looked up into Tim's face. It was clear that Tim was lying with as much of the truth as he possibly could. Tim was obviously completely exhausted.

Tim's skin was pallid, and there were circles, dark as bruises, heavy under his eyes. He looked as if he were ten seconds from falling asleep standing up.

Bernard lifted a hand, unconsciously, to to press against Tim's cheek. There were thin patches of stubble on his jaw, and his skin felt slightly damp.

“I understand,” Bernard said quietly. “It's just that... I get scared. When you... When you go to China.”

Tim stilled in Bernard's arms, almost imperceptibly, as the full meaning of what Bernard had said, and the implications of what he pointedly hadn't said, sunk in. As Tim processed the tone of Bernard's voice, and the significance of his pauses.

“I go to China all the time, Bernard, and I come back every time just fine,” Tim pointed out gently.

Bernard took a deep breath, and pressed his face back into Tim's shoulder.

“I know,” Bernard bit out. “I just worry that one day... You might not come back. It'll be like Darla all over again. One minute you'll be right here, smiling at me, and the next you'll be gone. Forever.”

Tim buried a hand in Bernard's hair, and tilted Bernard's head back until their gazes met. Tim's eyes were deep and serious in ways that made something flutter in Bernard's chest.

Bernard could tell that his sense of panic had sort of infected Drake. He knew that Tim was sensing all the fear and uncontrollable emotion that had to be coming off of Bernard in waves.

That was the thing about Timothy Drake, he was endlessly empathic, and he always tried so hard to make things better. For everyone. Be it a girl bleeding to death in the street, or a near hysterical dipshit practically sobbing all over him.

“I'm not Darla, Bernard,” Tim told Bernard, seriously. “I know China. Better than most people.” Tim paused, and took a deep breath before meeting Bernard's eyes again. “And when I go to China, Bernard, I'm never alone.”

Bernard closed his eyes and thought about Superman. He tried to let the idea of Superman being there, huge, and powerful, and larger than life, as he watched Tim's back in the middle of battle comfort him. He tried to let the notion sooth his frazzled nerves, but the feel of those bandages under his fingers seemed to make that sort of solace unreachable.

“I know,” Bernard admitted. “I still just...”

“Think too much,” Tim finished the sentence for him, knowingly. A wry sort of understanding was thick in his voice.

It made Bernard want to hide his face again.

“Yeah,” Bernard agreed. “That...”

“Bernard,” Tim began, his voice suddenly very tense, “about my trips to China...”

“I won't say a word,” Bernard promised in a hoarse voice. “We need you there. I need you there. Just... When you go, try to call.”

Tim was tense in his arms, muscles hard and tight under Bernard's hands. Bernard could feel Tim's heart pounding in his chest.

“I know you won't always be able to,” Bernard blundered on, trying hard to express all the things he felt, but not feeling certain he was managing it. “I just need you to promise me that you'll try.”

Tm pressed his face into the hair at Bernard’s temple, and took a deep breath.

“How much do you know?” he asked quietly.

“Probably more than either of us is comfortable with,” Bernard admitted.

Tim pulled back and gave Bernard a stern look.

It was a familiar facial expression. It was the look Tim gave him when he thought that Bernard really didn't need another shot of tequila. It made Bernard feel, somehow, back on familiar ground.

“Tim,” Bernard said much more confidently, “I've lived in Gotham City my whole life. I know how important your trips to China are.” Bernard smiled at him wryly as he spoke with the unnecessary ambiguity. “I've seen enough of what you deal with to know how important it is to keep my damn mouth shut. I can do that. I will do that. I've done it so far, haven't I? I mean, it's been almost four years and I haven't even said a word to you about it.”

Tim looked a little like Bernard had punched him in the gut.

“That long?” Tim asked, and he sounded a bit miserable.

“I know how to stay quiet,” Bernard insisted.

Tim nodded at him as a look of determination came over his face.

“I always knew you'd be trouble,” he said. “You're too damn smart for you own good.”

Bernard lifted an eyebrow at him. Tim tried not smile.

“I'll get you a phone. I can call you on it. I just need you to follow my instructions exactly,” Tim told him.

Bernard nodded. “Believe it or not, I can do that,” he promised.

Tim nodded and went on.

“If you don't, there are quite a few Chinese businessmen who would be seriously pissed at us both,” Tim warned wryly.

“I shudder at the thought. They won't run me over with a tank, will they?” Bernard asked, acidly.

“No promises,” Tim answered, amusement clear in his voice, as he lead Bernard into his living with a warm hand at his back.



A/N: Who wants to take a nap with me? I have lots of spare pillows. ~<3





*

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
dylogger
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
...

*is speechless*

...Wow. I love the unspoken connection and understanding between the two near the end... and Bernard's worry and panic... but mostly the unspoken connection. xD

Thanks a thousand times!
aravistarkheena
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
That's the thing about Bernard, he's smart. There's no way he didn't figure it all out after the Gang War. Tim wasn't subtle. He couldn't afford to be. Not with Darla bleeding to death in the streets, you know?

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope this was at least SORT OF what you were looking for. Maybe?
dylogger
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
Bernard is most definitely not an idiot, and being, well, Bernard, he wouldn't be in denial, either.

Eh. It's unlike others that I've read before, so I wasn't expecting it, but I did love reading it.
aravistarkheena
Mar. 2nd, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
He wouldn't be in denial for very long, anyway. I think there would be a 'naaaaaaaaah, couldn't be' time period.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have a bad habit of writing fic slightly to the left of what was requested.
dylogger
Mar. 3rd, 2011 01:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, but that wouldn't be him deluding himself; he's knows what Tim's doing, he's just hoping he's wrong.

Hey, it's not a bad habit unless you do it for a living (or something). It just means you have imagination!
littlemissgriff
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
I WANNA TAKE A NAP WITH YOOOOU!

Also? Love. Mass love. With sparkles. Heeeeeee.
aravistarkheena
Mar. 2nd, 2011 12:38 am (UTC)
YAY! My bed is tiny but so are the two of us. We will JUST fit. Mew can keep our feet warm. But you have to promise to protect me from the scary Alien Spider dude on the TV. Oh Star Wars, why can't I quit you?

*sparkles back*
littlemissgriff
Mar. 2nd, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
I can totally protect you~

RAWR
aravistarkheena
Mar. 2nd, 2011 03:47 am (UTC)
Fierce Griff ~<3
darthbatgirl
Mar. 2nd, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Oh poor Bernard. Loved the fact he kept the secret of the fact he new the "secret" even from Tim for four years.

And clearly Bernard needs to change roommates, if said roommate couldn't care about the fate of the earth. 'tsk' 'tsk'

And the relief and the added worry when he hugged Tim. Sure Tim was there and fine, but Bernard could clearly feel that he didn't go without getting hurt. This is such a wonderful fic darling.

And lastly, yes nap! (We'll just ignore the fact I've been sleeping the entire weekend.) "snuggles Bek and the pillows"
aravistarkheena
Mar. 2nd, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
First off, I can't BELIEVE you still have that icon. I think I say this every time you use it, but STILL. When did I make that for you? THREE YEARS AGO? MORE, maybe?

His roommate was the typical self absorbed college student. If it isn't happening right outside their window, they don't care. I remember freaking out when Benazir Buhtto was killed and my roommate being like 'Who's that?'

I'm glad you liked the fic. I haven't written Bernard in SO LONG. I always seem to write him being all ANGSTY. But, after the Gang War, the poor boy's got a lot to work through. :(

I have Stars Wars on the TV and a purring kitty on my feet. You'd be right at home in my bed, Darth. <3
darthbatgirl
Mar. 2nd, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
LOL it's a cute icon! Plus it's the only Bernard/Tim icon I have.

Well angsty Bernard works, it keeps Tim from brooding. :)

Oohhh Star Wars and a purring kitty! I am so there.
ladyblkrose
Mar. 2nd, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
A) Icon love! That is so cute the widdle storm-trooper petting the kitties awwwwwwww

B) Bernard is such a special character, hard to pin down yet so very involved in Tim's life. He is the friend men cry with and don't feel like punks. Besides I really like your Benard, he's got guts and gumption.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful fic.
aravistarkheena
Mar. 3rd, 2011 12:57 am (UTC)
A. It IS an adorable icon. You know what it reminds me of? Did you ever read ihearthdarth? Such a cute comic. Are you a Star Wars fan?

B. The thing is, Bernard was characterized ONE way when he was introduced. However, I can't imagine he STAYED just that way after the Gang War. So I always write him a bit more serious and introspective. I'm glad that you like my Bernard. <3

I'm glad that you enjoyed it. *fist bump*
the_protagonist
Mar. 2nd, 2011 06:25 am (UTC)
Oh god. The big elephant in the room is a big giant elephant, lol.

And you did a great job of having them talk around it.

This was wonderful, love. Thank you for sharing!
aravistarkheena
Mar. 3rd, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Thanks! I wanted it to be subtle. It's good to know it worked out.

I'm glad that you enjoyed it. <333
larsinger29
Mar. 2nd, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Oh this was *so* beautiful! Just a ball of emotions and complexities. I loved it. Just loved it.

Bernard's angst and worry was so raw and gripping. I was aching for him, wanting to assure him in some way. And then the scene between him and Tim was handled so masterfully. The use of "China" as a metaphor was really well done. It fit, so perfectly, into how the two of them would interact and cover this topic.

This was really terrific! Very powerful and emotional.
aravistarkheena
Mar. 13th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm glad that you enjoyed, Lar!

Bernard is hard to pin down post Gang Wars. I love playing with the idea though. I like bringing him back into Tim's orbit. It's fun.

*knuckle bump*

You know, I was going to email you! Scene two of Part four of Poaching is up on my gmail. If you wouldn't mind checking it out, I would appreciate it. I'm pretty sure you're authorized to read the whole folder. I'm totally gonna have to split this chapter up. It's totally not going to fit into one LJ post...
larsinger29
Mar. 14th, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
I just pulled up the scene, so I'll start going through it tonight! Don't fret about breaking it up, I don't think too many people are going to complain about extra long chapter-y goodness from you. And if they are, well, I'll take care of 'em!
pornosophical
Mar. 2nd, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
This was great. Every little detail of Bernard's perspective was spot on and an excellent take-off from where canon effectively dumped his storyline. And Tim's reaction, their dialogue and interaction was, to echo some other comments, the shiznit. I was totally taken in, and once I finished I hopped back up and read it again just to re-experience the reveal.
aravistarkheena
Mar. 13th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
Bernard was left at such a critical, life altering time period. It's fun to guess who he would grow into and how that would effect both him and his relationship to Tim.

*knuckle bump* I'm glad that you enjoyed it!
saavikam77
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
Oh gods, this was adorable. XD I so love the metaphor for crime fighting being 'going to China'.

*applauds*
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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