Title: Doubt and Awakening
Author: Te
E-mail: teland@teland.com
Recipient: hossgal
Featured character: Lady Shiva
Summary: "If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?" -- Zen saying.
Author's Notes: Takes place at some nebulous point during Tim's training with Shiva.
Rating: Suitable for teens and older.

She doesn't seem uninterested in Tim's... intellectual abilities.

Really the opposite, in some ways.

Bruce was one of the first people Tim had ever met who always, without fail, met his eyes. Who looked at him (and maybe, maybe into him, too), and saw him, and paid attention to the things Tim thought, whether he said anything about them or not.

There are some things you can just... tell.

In any event, Shiva is the fourth person he's met who does this, and while he knows this says a lot about his lack of experience in general, and his lack of specific experience with people who can read him (and how could Bruce have ever thought he was ready? How could Bruce even doubt that he needed more time, more training, more of an edge?), he's also not completely naive.

He'd be dead already if he was, after all -- probably on one of those nights when he'd been wandering through neighborhoods where he had no business, expensive camera in one hand and notepad in the other.

Naivete isn't, Tim thinks, a problem he needs to concern himself with.

He knows that Shiva's first interest in him had everything to do with the 'R' he's not sure will ever feel entirely correct on his chest. And, while he doesn't, really, know anything else... he has his suspicions.

After all, there's nothing whatsoever in either his records or Bruce's about any connection between Dick and Shiva, and while it would've been... interesting, if she'd turned out to be Jason's biological mother, there's nothing to suggest that she'd even made a token effort to pause them in their search for the woman.

It had actually been... somewhat difficult to put it into a context he could deconstruct and analyze the way he needed to. There are so many questions he never really wants to ask which begin with the words 'what if' and include the name 'Jason.' Too many of them end with Tim himself...

He doesn't like to think about that, either, or the way it makes him feel. (As opposed to the way it should make him feel.)

In the end, he's the first Robin Shiva has taken an interest in, and it's not difficult at all, really, to come up with theories as to why this is so. Some of them are irrational, and have far more to do with the doubts he has about his worthiness for this (Bruce trusts him. Dick trusts him. This has to mean something.), some of them aren't nearly as irrational as would be comfortable (the way she touches him, and no one ever, and why would she -- even when they aren't training), but some of them make perfect sense.

"You're over-thinking again, little bird. I've killed you twice where you stand."

Or... some sense.

He had been over-thinking, of course -- he knows it. Bruce hadn't had to give him all that many bruises before he'd picked up on the simple fact that fighters who were stronger, faster, and more skilled than he was wouldn't have very much difficulty at all destroying him in the time it took him to plan his next moves if he wasn't making some sort of move while he considered.

Perhaps Bruce should've given him more. It's not Shiva's voice -- she's never said anything like that aloud -- but it's there. He'd been training with Bruce for weeks before Bruce hit him hard enough to draw blood. Months before Tim had been allowed to train hard enough to injure himself on the equipment.

It was one thing to feel as though this proof of his own inadequacy was written all over his skin. It's something else to see it in Shiva's eyes, and taste it with the blood in his mouth. It's...


It's almost certainly a mistake of at least a few different sorts that he's trying to place this -- all of this -- within some simple, orderly context instead of resting up for the abuse Shiva will undoubtedly heap on him at dawn. It's just that Shiva knows better than anyone but Bruce that his strengths are not in his, well, strength.

It isn't solely his physical attributes and abilities which are bringing out the sensei in her. He'll never be -- could never be -- a weapon.

That sort of weapon, anyway.


He shouldn't be. He wants to think "of course he shouldn't be," but it never comes out that way. It certainly never sounds convincing, even within his own mind.

He's not naive. Shiva is the most skilled assassin in the world -- including those assassins with meta-human powers of one kind or another. Not even Bruce -- Batman -- is absolutely sure how many people she's murdered over the years, and not even Batman has ever been able to truly defeat her, as opposed to turning her away. (With skill. With intellect, and he should be... he should've studied those cases more strenuously. He shouldn't be here, and --)

Shiva is Shiva, and for every one thing she's taught him about defending himself and avoiding injury -- solely by allowing him to see the way she so easily avoids everything he's been able to do -- she's taught him three more about how to injure others. How to maim, and how to...

"Strike here, you will break your fingers. A bare few millimeters to the left..."

Those lessons are different. Those lessons are direct.

He knows the precise amount of tension he would have to keep in his fingers, the exact angle of his elbow, and the rather surprising slack he'd need to have in his palm in order to stop the flow of blood to the brain of strong, healthy man with one...

You couldn't even call something like that a 'strike.' It's a touch, and...

And it's been days, now. Days of learning the way Shiva laughs when she knows he's only still on the ground because he's hoping to steal more time to recover -- regroup -- before rising again, and the way the skin beneath her eyes tightens when he pulls a blow she thinks he should've followed through on.

He'd known, full well, what would happen after she cupped his elbow in one palm and his hand in the other --

"Perfection, little bird."

He'd seen what he would learn in the brief flash of her teeth as her lips parted, as he moved to repeat her motion --


And it had been instinct, more than anything else. It had been, because she's his sensei, and more than that, she's his teacher, and he's spent his entire life working so very hard to be right for them, to learn quickly, and well, every lesson he could. It had been instinct, because once he'd begun thinking clearly again, he'd deliberately performed the move incorrectly again, and --

"Yes... almost."

And he knows the meaning of the smile which had been on her face, too. It's a cataloguing sort of smile. A satisfied sort of smile, edged with everything she knows about him, now. Everything.

"You will lie to get what you need. What you believe you need. Interesting."

She always knows when he's lying --

"A trick of the body, which I believe I will keep. For now."

This isn't a surprise. He imagines it would be something of a necessity for a person in her line of work. It's just that there's a certain sort of finality to the way she has only ever corrected him when he truly needed to be corrected.

For every other time... there's just another lesson, or another laughably brief excuse for a spar.

This isn't a surprise, either. Shiva is... immensely efficient.

And he...

Sleep is something else which has changed since he began training with Bruce, something else which has become very specific. There is the sleep he gets when he deliberately puts himself to bed, as perfectly cyclic and lucid as he can make it, and then there's the sleep he gets when he neglects the deliberation.

He's far too tired to remember the dream he was having before his brain had stopped trying to translate the touch of Shiva's hand on his thigh into... whatever his subconscious had been trying to suggest.

He's far too well-trained, at this point, to be anything but fully awake right now, and embarrassed.

"I've killed you more times than I can count without growing bored, little bird."

Tim doesn't close his eyes, or look away from Shiva's own. "I apologize."

She nods, once, and slips in beside him with casual grace. The hand which had been resting on the coverlet is between her own before he has any idea what to do.

He waits.

"My first sensei would break a bone for every rule I broke," she says, idly, and tests the newest calluses on his fingers with her short, strong fingernails.

"You'd think he'd wait to do it during training, if only for the opportunity to get another lesson in while he was punishing you."

"Some men," she says, "find far more value in principle than practicality. Do they not?"

The images in Tim's mind are of all the times -- not many and too many -- he's managed to walk into a blow he should've been able to dodge. He's long since lost the ability to be disappointed at his own capacity for literalism. And there's nothing to say.

After a moment, Shiva laughs and releases his hand. "Which bones shall I break for you during your lessons today?"

Tim thinks about it, trying to --

"No, tell me now." Her tone is clipped and short.

Delaying his answer would be breaking another rule. "I'd prefer you focus on my toes," he says, as easily as he can manage.

She smiles, and cocks her head to the side. The smile is real, he thinks. The head-cock less so. "Did you choose because you feel broken toes would prove to be the least hindrance to your fighting style...?"

"No. I chose because I'll be spending most of the day on my back --"

"Or your face."

Tim clears his throat. "I chose because I'm here to learn new fighting styles from you, and it's possible that having... a handicap would help. With that." He isn't sure whether he's surprised or not that this is the absolute truth.

He definitely isn't sure how he feels about the... ambiguity.

And Shiva is still beside him, hands folded over the belt of her gi, expression entirely...

Entirely something else about which he isn't sure.

Tim works on controlling the rhythm of his breaths and blinks, and wriggles his toes beneath the sheets as much as he can, as subtly as he can.

Shiva can see it, of course, and, after a long moment, she smiles. "You will almost certainly try to leave me before I'm willing to let you go, little bird."

Batman needs... Robin.


He doesn't want to say anything. Anything he does say, at this point, is only likely to encourage one (or several) of the thousands of things he absolutely doesn't want to encourage with Shiva. But. "Yes?"

"Do you know the habits of the cuckoo?"

Tim closes his eyes, and reminds himself that quite a few of his fears are irrational, that Bruce trusts him, that Dick trusts him, and that Batman needs. Batman needs him.

"Answer me, little bird."

"Yes," Tim says, and bites his lip.

Shiva pets his hair, one long, firm stroke up over the crown of his skull and down to rest at the back of his neck. For a moment.

And then she leaps, lightly, out of Tim's bed and onto her feet.

"Ten minutes," she says, as she walks toward the door.

She doesn't look back.

She doesn't need to.


"Where there is great doubt, there will be great awakening; small doubt, small awakening; no doubt, no awakening." -- Zen saying