I never really speak for extended lengths of time so you'll have to forgive me if I have trouble finding the words I want to use. It's just...being the middle "child" as I've been for the last year or the only child that gets left behind as I was in my life before this you don't get many people asking to hear your story. But I'm getting ahead of myself aren't I? Let's go back to the beginning.
I'm Timothy Jackson Drake. I was born to Jack and Janet Drake of Gotham. Or...well...I guess I should correct myself again. I was born in Gotham, and they both lived in Gotham when I was conceived and born. But neither of them could even remotely say they were "of" that city. They were actually both Irish transplants, and didn't meet until they were stateside. Go figure, right?
I want to say it was love at first sight. But really they just had mutual business interests and found that they worked well together. It only made sense for them to join up as more than partners in the economic sense, the more time they spent together. And then eventually it became even more economical that they stop paying rent on two apartments, stop paying for separate transportation, bills, groceries, etc. and just move in together. It was only when my mom ended up pregnant with me that they decided to make it official and stop by the courthouse on their way into the office one morning. And people wonder why I'm emotionally stunted...
Anyway, eight months or so later there I was. I really think they wanted me once they had me. They just weren't sure how to go about things correctly. Mom stopped working to raise me, and we moved around a lot for dad's work. I don't know if she ever resented doing that. I do know she eventually went back to work once I was in school. It was like she couldn't wait. But I can distinctly remember one family outing - I can't remember what city we had set up camp in, but I know for certain that I was five - I'd tell you how I know that but you wouldn't believe me. Not yet anyway. It's honestly astonishing to me how things have ended up working out.
Oh, right, the family outing. We went to a circus, and mom was fussing about the acts on the broadsheets posted outside. "Are those people really going to be flying through the air on trapezes with no nets?" she asked, over and over. Eventually 'those people' were sent over by the owner who couldn't help but to overhear her worrying. They offered to have my picture taken with them and their son, who was only a few years older than me, to show here they were perfectly normal. Nobody would risk such a feat if they weren't 100% sure of its safety, especially not people with a young child who had the potential to be left alone in this world, should anything happen.
"Honestly, Janet, we've got a better chance in crashing on the car ride home than these folks have of falling tonight." my father had reassured her. It's statements like that, and the subsequent events, that make it hard to trust the numbers - no matter how many times you run them.
The Graysons ended up falling to their deaths that night. And in his rush to leave the scene before I could be further scarred for life, Dad didn't bother to yield at the sign, and never saw the truck barreling down the street right toward us. Mom never had a chance. She'd insisted on sitting in the backseat with me, behind dad, to console me. Maybe to console herself. Either way it didn't do either of us any good. The truck T-boned us. Dad was...lucky? He was paralyzed from the waist down. Chair bound. Helpless for the first time in his life.
I know it could have been worse. At least one of my parents had a pulse. But he'd lost the will to live, and the ability to love the boy with the blue eyes just like his mother. We had lost her, and in doing so my father may as well have been dead too. And these days? He's dead to me either way it goes. I've got a new family. But that deserves another round of let's go back to the beginning.
As soon as he was able to drag himself out of his depression - I was eight and in a boarding school by this point - he threw himself back into his work. And he was definitely able to forget all about me. And that was okay. I had my books, I had my video games, and best of all I lived at my school. Honestly, what could be better than that? I had all I needed.
And one day, when I came home for Summer holiday, I found out Dad had all he needed too - a new wife, Dana Winters...er...Drake. He hadn't even bothered to tell me. Not that we spoke all that often. But still....isn't that weird? And I'd only just been home for Easter holiday. So when had it happened? He never bothered to give me an explanation. But she was a nice enough lady. She paid attention to me and helped to calm Dad down when he would get particularly nasty with me. She was a nice buffer. She was the one who found the letter. Considering we both know where I am in present day - I'll give you a hint, it's where you're hearing me tell you this whole story - you know exactly what the letter is.
You know who didn't know what the letter was? Me. And my dad. But she knew. And I'll always be glad that she was the one to find it first, since she always picked up the mail for my father. The evening it came, after Dad had eaten dinner and gone on to bed, we were watching television. Jeopardy was on and I was caught up in scolding the contestants for not knowing basic components of a computer mainframe. Dana was having a glass of wine and going through the mail for the fourth time since we'd settled in for the evening. I can remember the way she'd sighed and called me a remarkable young man, and handed me the letter with the emerald green scrawl.
It was a whirlwind of information after that. We both knew dad wasn't magical, and mom had been so mundane....may she rest in peace. So she filled me in as best she could on the millenia of history that had just fallen into my lap in the form of an acceptance letter to a school I'd never applied to, and a shopping list of things I'd never heard of except for in storybooks that I'd read myself to sleep with. Dad couldn't know, not with his already unstable condition of mental health. And so together we devised a plan.
A prestigious normal boarding school in Scotland had inquired after my attendance. Dana knew one of my father's business associates was actually a wizard himself - and none other than the headmaster of the school. He vouched for the "academy", said his own ward attended it, and that it was so exclusive that they didn't even allow non student visitors. Hearing from Bruce Wayne himself that not even he had been allowed to take a tour of the grounds drove the point home for Jack. He couldn't go and check things out. Not that he'd wanted to. And it was free of scholarship so it was even better. No, even better was the fact that it was out of the country - and Janet's eyes could no longer haunt him as often as they did now.
Bruce and Dick Grayson - yes that Dick Grayson took me shopping with them for my supplies, and I joined Dick and his friends on the train not long after. Fast forward through a couple of years of normalcy. As normal as going to a school to learn magic can be. I was sorted into the house of Ravenclaw, which made me more than a little sad. My one and only friend and hero and big brother figure was in Hufflepuff, and his friends were all in Gryffindor. So I was alone for awhile. He still managed to look out for me whenever he could. But eventually I found my niche in the house of blue and bronze. These were my people, honestly. It was like they'd taken every well-read and studious kid in the UK - and beyond in some cases - who showed any affinity for magic and plopped them into one snug little tower. Dana wrote to me often with updates about Dad. I wrote back telling her all about how much more at home I felt at Hogwarts. But of course, whenever things go well, they of course have to get worse. So, so much worse.
When I came home for the summer, after my second year, I was ready to catch up with friends and veg out with Dana, avoid my dad and let my brain breathe after a year of hardcore studying to continue to catch up with the others who had had an upbringing in the craft. But when I walked into our living room, my double code locked school trunk dragging behind me, my stomach fell to my knees. Dana was crouched in the corner, crying. Dad was standing....standing? Papers were scattered. I recognized my stationary. The room was a mess. So much was happening. Dad was standing? I approached him, my arms open, nonthreatening. I ventured a word, still trying to piece together every last detail of the scene. Dad was standing. The house was wrecked. He was holding one of my letters to Dana. "Hey Dad....hey look at you." I'd said. I can still hear the waver in my voice as I tried to decide if I should approach him or not with the way Dana was cowering and covering her head.
"My physical therapist made a break through while you've been away....I wanted to surprise you." he said. He was staring at the letter in his hand. I swallowed. I was just a kid. How could I possibly protect Dana or even myself if he flew off the handle? I couldn't use magic, not yet. And besides that my wand was shut away in my trunk until September when I would go back to school. It made me sick that the sight of him being out of his chair made me feel everything but joyful It was untelling how long he'd been restrengthening his body. I wasn't sure if he'd taken his first steps yesterday or before Christmas. There would be no stopping him if he came after either one of us. But apparently it didn't matter. He didn't speak another word for a very long time. He sat back in his chair and finally said I had until the morning to pack my things and get out. I looked to Dana for support but she looked like she was ready to bolt right then and there. I didn't need anything. I would leave then too. But she wouldn't meet my eyes. She wasn't going to take me with her.
I turned on my heel, dragging my trunk out the door with me. I never looked back. Bruce would tell me later that had been the best thing to do. I could stay with him and the rest of his growing brood of castoff kids in London until other arrangements could be made. And that was two years ago. I haven't left yet. I don't know that I ever will. Just as I found my niche at Hogwarts, I think I've finally found my place outside of school. And even if, for the most part, none of them want me there. I'm so very grateful to have what I have with them. I've learned to be strong, physically and mentally. I've learned to handle and even channel any darkness inside of me. I've grown in so many ways and I have Bruce and the rest of my family to thank.
Man...I'll never get used to that sensation. The way it feels to say my family and have it mean something...