Characters: Tim Drake
Summary: Tim hides it really well, armed with his camera against the world.
AN: Written for the prompt Armor at prompt_of_day, and based on two headcanons on tumblr, one about Tim having OCD and the other about Tim taking off-duty pictures of his family through the camera in his cowl. In regards to OCD, I just want to clarify that OCD is a lot more than the obsessive hand washing or stove/door/window checking that people tend to associate OCD with. This was a bit terrifying to write, to be honest, but it reawakened my love for Tim, so that makes it worth it. Comments and constructive criticism is always appreciated. I hope you enjoy the story.
Tim is never without a camera. Sometimes it’s just the one in his phone or in his mask, and sometimes it’s a high-tech camera he uses for surveillance or even just to take random pictures. His family has gotten used to his odd habit, and the Titans are slowly learning to accept it too: Tim will not leave anywhere unless he has a camera.
Most people consider it a joke. All the Bats have stolen it at least once – and stealing from Tim is not easy. The Titans have started to do the same thing. Usually it is aggravating, but not a big deal because his phone has a camera and so does his mask, so it’s not really like he’s without. Sure, Damian might have grabbed the handheld camera he was going to use to chronicle the students leaving the university, but his cell phone will work in a pinch. And, yeah, going without the camera he needs for surveillance is annoying, but his mask and hijacking security cameras in the area will work as well. He will make do. He has to.
But even the knowledge he has a backup still causes that sharp pain to rise in his chest. He feels light-headed and he starts breathing hard and his skin starts to crawl and he knows that the cameras will be returned eventually, and he knows he has a backup. It’s okay, he whispers to himself. Calm down. Do not freak out. He repeats the mantra sometimes aloud and sometimes in his head. He starts to pick at himself – his cuticles, his finger nails – trying to forget. Sometimes he bleeds, sometimes he wants to bleed. Sometimes they get infected and while it’s annoying, he’s also secretly glad because it means he feels something.
He is never at peace. Tim’s mind is a whirlwind of worries, what-ifs, have-nots, obsessions. He hides it well – or at least it appears so, because no one except Helena and Leslie have ever brought it up, and even then, Tim had enough going on in his life at the time to convince them that this was just a reaction to the extreme stress he had been dealing with, and he’d be fine – things were going to settle down soon.
And…sometimes, Tim does think that – that it will go away once his life evens out. But then he looks at his life and what the future might hold for him, and he just can’t. He is a teenage superhero running his own Team, protecting his own city, the son of a billionaire, the middle child in an insane family, a genius who has never completed high school.
Tim acts well. He can force a smile on his face and dress nicely and act appropriate and very polite in society. People talk about what a nice, well-spoken and intelligent young man he is. He has the world at his fingertips.
They don’t know that that is what scares him the most. Tim does not want the world at his fingertips. Tim does not want to be well-known, high-profile, rich, anything. Not even a superhero, anymore, except Tim knows that he can’t give it up. It’s a trap he has fallen into, one that will never release him until he dies. The time he was forced to give up Robin by his father, and the time between Dick’s betrayal and his beginning as Red Robin hurt so much that he…he sometimes wondered if it would be better off to be dead. Not that – it’s not that he wants to die, because he doesn’t want to. At least not most of the time. Sometimes…he will be standing on a building and just wonder what would happen if he took a step off. Sometimes, he will be standing on the subway platform as a civilian and wonder what it would be like to step in front of the train. He chops vegetables with a knife and ghosts the knife across his wrist, touching enough to feel the blade, but light enough to leave not even a scratch.
He hides the knives for a week.
Tim moves into a safe house and sets up surveillance on his neighbors. There is no reason to: the neighbors are families, retirees and a few elderly citizens who pay their bills on time, keep their apartments neat, greet each other when they see one another, and have lives outside of the building, except for the few elderly tenants, who tend to receive visitors more often than they go anywhere. It is idyllic as life in a huge city could be, and Tim wants to fit in so badly at the same time he wants to run far, far away.
After a week, Tim says hello to his neighbors. He takes pictures of everything. He tells them he’s an aspiring photography student. His camera almost never leaves his neck. He puts it up to his eye and pretends to be shooting when people pass by, possibly wishing to ask questions. He flips through photos when he’s traveling, using it as a barrier between himself and the world. He fiddles with the strap and adjusts the settings and spends hours just staring through the viewfinder, waiting for the perfect shot.
His camera is his armor against the world. He feels naked without the camera – the right camera, because while he always has a camera on him, it needs to be the correct one, the one he needs for whatever project he’s working on, the projects that show him what life is, what life can be, what his life isn’t, and what life he wants, even though he can never have it.
He likes things orderly. Not necessarily clean or neat, but in a certain order. One day Dick drops in, wondering how he’s been, why he hasn’t been around lately. Dick touches his things. He ruffles the papers sitting on the desk, he picks up pens and puts them into the holder, he unfolds a blanket and folds it up again, he moves the coffee maker to the other side of the sink when he’s finished using it. Tim doesn’t say anything to Dick, of course. Normal people don’t freak out when their well-meaning older brother drops by for an unexpected visit and starts to tidy things up. But Tim cannot deny the sudden pain in his chest, the clench of his fists, the way his fingers start to pick at his thumb. He bites the inside of his lip when Dick jumps out the window, leaving the window open.
Windows are meant to be shut.
He immediately goes to fix everything Dick has moved.
Tim doesn’t have a photographic memory, but he can close his eyes and see the way things are supposed to be even when he’s far away. The chemistry text goes underneath the biology text, which is underneath the geology text. The spines are lined up; the books are unfortunately the wrong size, and this irks him, but at least the bottoms and spines are together, and it makes a little pyramid, and he can deal with that. Pyramids are nice things.
His camera is there to remind him of what life is like for other people, and to reinforce his memories. There is something off in that room for days – something he cannot place, and he’s scouted the entire room, looking for it. He enters the room and feels uncomfortable, but he’s spent so much time making this apartment as comfortable as possible (even though he will never succeed to make a place completely comfortable, free from any worries). There is something wrong, and finally one day when he is going through photos, he sees it – a CD is moved just the teeniest bit to the right; two papers have been switched around in a pile. Minor things, hardly noticeable. He wasn’t even looking for them, and he doubts he would have noticed them if he had.
He goes to Sun Dollars and buys himself a mocha and takes pictures of the park in reward.
When he comes home, he feels…okay. Maybe not perfect, but that tingling in his neck is gone, and he can watch TV without worrying about the state of the room.
His camera is, as always, on the table in front of him.