Leila. "Daughter of the night."
It was a surprise Tim wasn't ready for.
How one night close to five years ago would change everything for Tim and Raven.
“Hey, I’m in Gotham,”
The message seemed strangely out of the blue to be sent at 4:23 in the morning, but when he saw the ID on his phone Tim sat up in bed and stared at the screen. Whatever dregs of sleep he felt disappeared instantly.
Not wasting time, he called her. Raven picked up on the second ring.
“Hey,” her voice drifted through the phone, her voice soft and familiar.
“Hey yourself,” Tim greeted, smiling into the phone and slowly rolling out of bed. It was nice to hear from Raven again after all those years. After she quit the team, they barely heard from her. Raven said she wanted a normal life, away from their superhero work. While with the Titan’s she had gone to a community college in San Francisco and it didn’t come much of a surprise she got into grad school right away on an academic scholarship. “It’s been ages,”
Raven hummed, her voice just a little distant. “Yeah, it has. Sorry for the early morning text,” she said. He could hear her moving around, plates rattling in the background. Probably preparing her morning tea, he thought. He could picture her making her favorite blend of herbal tea, the memory of her in the Tower still familiar to him.
Tim entered his own kitchen and placed her on speaker as he started preparing his coffee. He set his phone on the large granite counter. “Don’t worry about it,” he assured and started puttering around in his kitchen. “What brings you to Gotham? Do the others know?”
There was a brief pause from the other line and Tim stopped dumping heaping portions of coffee into his old coffee maker. Multi-millionaire and he still had yet to buy a decent espresso machine. His brows furrowed at the silence.
“Just some personal stuff,” Raven finally replied. There was some distant noise and a door closing in the background. He heard the line rustle with her movements.
“I see,” he breathed with piqued interest. In the last five years or so, Raven barely stayed in touch. She kept the team updated on her travels across the globe, but barely delved deep on her personal life beyond her life as a research assistant and her latest whereabouts. This was new. He knew that Raven’s mother was originally from Gotham and with the ex-Titan wandering around the globe, he assumed she had some business to take care of.
“Do you need help with anything? Are you alright?” he asked, suddenly standing still and waiting for her reaction. Worry laced his tone and he tried to pick up anything that felt out of the ordinary. “Just say the code,”
Raven released a soft huff of laughter, the sound familiar to his ears and he visibly relaxed around his coffee. She did not sound in distress. “I’m fine,” she said.
Tim stared at his phone waiting for her to continue as a pregnant pause filled the air. He heard her line rustle again. “Raven?” he prodded gently.
“Sorry,” Raven breathed. “Got a little distracted,” she said over the clatter of plates. He wondered where she was. That sounded way too much china for just morning tea, breakfast perhaps?
“How long will you be in Gotham?” he asked. Tim checked the time on his phone, making sure he still had enough time to get ready for work and make it on time. He had a meeting with R&D in the morning and he had hoped not to come in late today.
Raven hummed. “I’m not sure, for a while, I think,” she said.
Tim frowned at how distracted she sounded. He wondered if she truly was alright, her voice seemed distant. “That’s great. You think we could catch up?” he asked while picking up his phone and coffee and heading back into his bedroom to get ready.
“Actually, yeah, that’s why I’m calling,” replied Raven, there was a waver in her voice that Tim could not quite place. “Do you think we could meet up?”
Tim blinked, mildly surprised at the offer. “That’d be great,” he said, hiding the surprise in his tone. How strange for Raven to initiate a meet-up. His curiosity picked up and he blinked at his reflection in his bedroom mirror, mildly wondering why she wanted to meet up. Raven barely did social calls. “When?”
“Are you free later, after work?”
While Monday’s were always terrible, Wednesdays were the worst for Tim. Mid-week meant meetings with the Audit department, review of project proposals, a stack of finance documents to review and sign, and project update meetings, and business planning for the new joint venture. Lunch was something he hardly tasted, barely touched it and had it whisked away from him as fast as it arrived. The rest of his Wednesday was spent neck deep in reports, Tim had barely some time to breathe.
His stomach churned from either hunger or his nth cup of coffee today. Or, he chalked it up to the curiosity that came with seeing his teammate after so long. While a million questions ran through his mind, Tim genuinely hoped that Raven was alright and in no way in any trouble. Social calls were hardly her thing.
Tim had just gotten back from work, surprisingly still daytime (a first in his entire career) and busied himself in the kitchen. Raven would drop by any minute, she had insisted on just coming over instead of meeting at a cafe. After throwing his suit jacket over one of the kitchen stools (a terrible habit he still had to outgrow, despite his age), he rolled up the sleeves of his white business shirt and prepared a plate of crackers. Alfred would have his head if he didn’t prepare at least something to nibble on for his guest.
It didn’t take long until his alarm system notified him that someone was outside the building, waiting to be let in. Briefly checking through his phone that it was indeed Raven, he buzzed her in. “Come on in,” he spoke through his phone, tapping a button and letting her through security.
When he made it to his front door, he heard Raven softly knock against the reinforced door. Swinging open the door, Tim smiled. “Hey,”
Raven looked the same from how he remembered her five years ago. Her hair came longer now, black hair cascading past her shoulders. Her ruby jewel on her forehead was gone and turned into a pendant. Dressed simply in a pair of jeans and stylish black sweater and oversized jean jacket, Raven smiled at Tim.
“Hey,” she mumbled, familiar blue eyes bright as they stared up at him. Raven sounded the same, and much to Tim’s relief he noted no signs of distress. Perhaps he was just overthinking everything.
“Come in,” he said, stepping aside to allow her to pass through and moving to close the door after her. He stood awkwardly by his now closed door and watched her briefly glance at the tastefully decorated hallway. For a brief moment he panicked, unsure what to do — could they hug? Was she okay with hugs now? Was a handshake okay? Or should he just wave?
Raven seemed to sense the mild awkwardness and she stepped into his space and took him by surprise and hugged him. “It’s good to see you,” she mumbled into his shoulder, she barely came up to his chin as she stood on her tippy toes.
“Raven, it’s been years,” he chuckled and squeezed her small form. Tim wondered if she had gotten smaller, if that were even possible.
Raven hummed in agreement and stepped out of the hug. She sent him a smile that didn’t quite reach the eyes, but then again, Raven barely smiled. He ushered her into the apartment, directed her where to hang up her jacket, and told her to take a seat in the living room while he went to get them something to drink.
“You really didn’t need to prepare anything,” Raven called after him. Tim laughed and shot her an amused grin over his shoulder. “What kind of host would I be if I didn’t offer my guest something to eat and drink?”
Raven made a face, her calm expression crumpling as she wrinkled her nose. “Host?” she teased.
Tim left her to her own devices, likely perusing his book collection along the large wall that led to his home office. When he returned moments later, sure enough he found her reading the backcover of a book. Little Women, First Edition.
“You know you can borrow anything you’d like,” he announced while setting the large tray with crackers and tea on the living room coffee table.
“It’s a first edition,” Raven noted in mild surprise, gently cradling the book to her chest. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before here,”
Over the course of their time together with the Titans, Raven had visited his apartment a handful of times. Each visit had her inspecting his book collection, commenting on his lack of classics, and how he could have impossibly not read every management book that lined shelves. (“Some of these look like they never were opened,” she told him dryly, eyeing a Peter Drucker book in amusement.)
“I took that from the Manor a while back,” Tim told her. “You could borrow it if you’d like,” he motioned her to join him on his ridiculously large leather couch. He set a steaming mug of tea, prepared to her liking (as far as he could remember), in front of the empty space next to him. “Now come here, have some tea, and you can pick books you can borrow later,”
Over the course of years he had known her, Tim easily spotted the brief moment of hesitancy that crossed Raven’s face. She hugged the book tighter to her chest and shuffled towards the couch and slowly sat down next to him, just a fraction of a distance away from him. He could smell the familiar scent of her lavender perfume. Setting the book on the table, Raven carefully reached for the steaming mug of tea and took a tentative sip.
“Well?” Tim asked, smiling and casually angling his body to face her, hoping to break the seemingly awkward silence that stretched through the air.
Raven smiled over the mug. “This is good, you remembered,”
Tim grinned teasingly. “Hard to forget when you chugged tea every hour of every day,” His smile grew when the tension left Raven’s shoulders and she released a small huff of laughter.
“As if you’re any different with your coffee,” Raven shot back.
They fell into an easy conversation, quickly catching up on the years apart. Tim learned Raven had traveled quite a bit over time, spending most of her time in Asia and Europe consulting on ancient literature research with local universities. She enjoyed her time in Europe and the slow travel to different countries by train. Tim thought it seemed very much like Raven to enjoy traveling at such a leisurely pace. This was the first time she was back in America after close to five years.
“So what brings you to Gotham?” Tim asked, after they shared a laugh over old memories of the Titans.
Raven blinked, and that distracted energy he noted from her came back. He watched her blink, the corners of her lips lifting tentatively as she shot him a brief glance before turning back to the now cold tea.
“It’s complicated,” Raven began and absently tapped the side of her mug. She stared at the plate of crackers, seemingly briefly lost in thought. Tim patiently gave her time to collect her thoughts, worry slowly brewing in the pit of his stomach.
“Raven?” he gently prodded.
“I have a daughter,” she announced without much preamble.
Tim blinked, genuinely surprised at the announcement. Well, that wasn’t what he was expecting.
“Oh, wow,” he breathed. He watched her worriedly stare at him, as if studying his reaction. “Congratulations, Rae. That’s awesome,” Raven offered him a small smile, she looked sheepish and inhaled deeply, as if collecting her thoughts. “This is great news,”
The corner of Raven’s lips curled into a wry smile. “Her name is Leila,” Raven carried on and suddenly broke eye contact. Tim watched her in mild worry as she absently stared at the orange teapot Alfred gifted him as a housewarming gift many years ago. “She’ll turn four this year. She’s a very smart little girl. She likes books, going to the park, going to the beach, playing with dolls and Lego, dancing, and drawing,” A fond smile plays on Raven’s lips as she thinks of her daughter. “She’s talks a lot and asks a lot of questions,”
Tim smiles as he pictures a little girl that looked exactly like Raven. The image couldn’t be cuter. His smile grows at the thought. “She sounds wonderful, Raven,”
Raven looked at him and caught his gaze, she smiled at him like any mother proud of her child. “She is,”
“You should have brought her with you,” Tim told her. Tilting his head curiously, he watched her body stiffen. “Who is looking after her while you’re here?” He paused, wondering if it was the right time to ask. “The father?”
“She’s at daycare,” Raven answered, not really answering his question. Inhaling deeply, Raven set her cold tea on the coffee table in front of them. She stared at it for a moment, as if seemingly studying the intricate patterns that danced on its surface.
“Raven?” Tim looked at her in confusion, worry again starting to creep up slowly in his stomach. Was Raven alright? Was her daughter safe? What was going on?
Raven blinked, breaking out of her stupor, and she looked up at Tim, an unreadable expression crossed her face. “When I said I wanted to leave the Titans for a more normal life, I guess I truly got that,” she said wryly. As if catching Tim’s concern, she caught his confused gaze and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. Tim had never seen Raven look so hesitant.
“When I left the Titans, I did not know I was six weeks pregnant, Tim,” she said. There was a brokenness in her voice in her confession that made his heart jump into his throat. His stomach churned uneasily as his mind began to process the information.
Raven’s eyes widened in alarm, as if sensing Tim’s jump of emotions. She watched him go rigid, staring at her in alarm. “I didn’t know, until a few weeks later. I guess half-demons show pregnancy symptoms late in the cycle,” she explained, her smile wry.
“Raven,” Tim’s voice sounded strained, as waves of emotions suddenly seemed to swell in his stomach. Thought after thought ran through his mind, how could he have missed a pregnant teammate? His stomach heaved.
“Leila has been asking a lot about her father,” Raven whispered. There’s a hesitancy and brokenness in her voice that made Tim worry even more. “She wonders where her father is and she’s such a curious child. And I can’t –” Raven paused, her voice wavering and her breathing hitched as she sensed Tim’s spike of emotions. Her blue eyes locked with Tim’s alarmed dark blue ones.
“She deserves to know her father. And her father deserves to know she exists,”
Tim’s ears started to ring as he finally processed the information. Six months pregnant once she left the Titans. Six months — “Raven,” Tim hissed, his breathing hitching and his chest tightening. He felt breathless, his ears continued to ring loudly, and it felt like the world was spinning out of control. A distant memory, clear yet faint crossed his mind, that had his heart stutter and suddenly his world titled to the side.
“Tim,” He heard her despite the mad ringing in his ears. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. She pressed on, her voice a mad mix of apologetic and panic. Her face crumpled into deep regret, her eyes trying to catch his panicked stare. “I tried to tell you —” she whispered and Tim felt his world explode.
“But I couldn’t, I was scared, I didn’t know what you’d do, what the Justice League would do, I as afraid they’d take her away from me, I did not know how you’d react, you were with Stephanie again soon after, and I was embarrassed and just scared,” her words were a jumbled mess, her voice uncharacteristically rose with a mix of emotions. Her blue eyes shone with unshed tears. “I am so sorry, Tim,”
Tim felt like the wind was knocked out of his chest and he inhaled shakily, desperately trying to find air to breathe. “So she’s —”
Well, so here's that. Just another wild idea I could not let go of. I had to write. I always wanted to explore the idea of Tim as a father, I knew he was good with kids and the idea kind of grew on me over time. I know I have a couple of other stories in the works, but this one I'll keep short, just so I can let go of this plot bunny that's been bothering me for a while.
I wonder how I two birbs will navigate parenthood together?