(CR: Another Narnia AU scene. This takes place weeks before the scene with Tim, Dick, and the Lasso of Truth, back to about a week after Tim and Tam return from Narnia. I was in a mood to write out a scene where Tim and Tam go house hunting for a place outside of Gotham.)
“You know hon, if we settle on this house, the commute into Gotham is going to be a bear,” Tam observed from the passenger seat of Tim’s car. “I know we both wanted to find a place well outside the city limits, but this might be pushing it.”
Behind his sunglasses, Tim’s eyes darted between the GPS screen on his dashboard and the road ahead of them. He frowned as the signal flickered again, causing the digital map to read “signal lost” for the umpteenth time that afternoon. “Well, it won’t really matter if we can’t find the place, now will it?” With a sigh, he pressed a button and just turned off the device. “Can you pull the map out and see where we’re at. The trees are so dense in these woods the GPS is useless.”
Tam sighed as well. “If only the trees could talk,” she murmured nostalgically as she gazed out the window before turning her eyes away so she could rummage through the glove compartment.
“If only,” Tim echoed wistfully.
Aside from the technical glitches in their car, Tim and Tam were having an otherwise productive Sunday afternoon. It had been a week since they’d returned to Gotham City after their blink-of-an-eye/fifteen-year sabbatical as rulers of Cair Paravel, but it hadn’t taken long for the pair of them to realize that the massive modern city just wasn’t “home” for them anymore. Though living together in Tim’s place was far better than living separately and pretending to be single, the two of them still hadn’t had a single decent night’s sleep since their return. The city at night was just far too bright and noisy. Of course there were light blocking and noise dampening features built into Tim’s state-of-the-art modern house, but it wasn’t perfect darkness or silence that they wanted.
They missed being able to look up at the night sky and see a multitude of stars from one horizon to the other.
They craved the sounds of nature from their open bedroom windows.
So the pair made plans to go house hunting over the weekend. The majority of Saturday had been spent looking at homes just on the outskirts of Gotham’s city limits. However, none of them felt right. Either the architecture was not what they wanted, or the location left something to be desired. So the bulk of their Sunday had been spent exploring locations even further away from the city.
This remote location was to be their third and last house of the weekend. This house for sale here was at least a good hour’s drive away from Gotham City, tucked away in a heavily forested rural area, and it was already approaching 4PM. Tim had patrol later that evening as Red Robin, so he had to be back in the city before too much longer.
Once Tam had gotten her bearings, it took fifteen minutes to find the driveway they needed. It was a good thing they had the map and that Tim had very sharp eyes because they almost missed the driveway entrance, which was little more than a narrow gravel path that was tucked between a veritable wall of trees. If there was a house on the other end of the driveway, there was no seeing it from the street. Tim brought the car to a stop at the start of the gravel road and glanced over the top of his sunglasses.
“Is this it?”
Tam double checked the map. “It should be,” she confirmed, then pointed. “See. There’s the ‘For Sale’ sign.”
With a shrug of his shoulders, Tim drove the car onto the gravel driveway, which turned out to be a quarter-mile winding path before opening up into a clearing. He parked the car beside another that was already waiting in front of what appeared to be a two-car garage and removed his glasses before he stepped outside.
“Wow,” he murmured softly.
“Wow is right, love,” Tam echoed as she met her husband at the front of the car. “Just look at this place.”
Tim and Tam stood in front of a house that was situated in the middle of a small clearing surrounded by trees on all sides. The air smelled sweet and clean, and one couldn’t hear any sound of the street through the woods they’d just come from. The only noises floating on the warm breeze were sounds of insects, birds, and rustling leaves. Somewhere in the distance, from the woods behind the house, the faint sound of a stream or brook could be heard.
The house itself was an old, but well-preserved three story building built with a Victorian “Queen Anne” style of architecture. Though small when compared to a massive building such as Wayne Manor (maybe a tenth the size of the sprawling mansion his adopted father lived in), it was still a generously sized single-family home, especially when that family consisted of just a husband and wife.
“You must be Mr. Drake.”
Tim and Tam turned their attention to a smartly dressed, dark-haired woman in her mid-fifties who had been sitting on a comfortable wooden swing in the shade of the veranda at the front of the house. She walked down the steps to greet the pair. ”I’m Lucy Martin. We spoke on the phone.”
Tim smiled. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” He turned to Tam. “This is my wife, Tamara.”
“Nice to meet you,” Tam said politely.
“Wow… So young and married already! How romantic.” Lucy clapped her hands together. “Oh! I hope you two didn’t have too much trouble finding the place.”
“It was a bit more of a drive than we’d anticipated,” Tim admitted sheepishly.
“Well, you found it, which is a really good sign,” Lucy said cheerfully. “You have no idea how many potential buyers I’ve lost just because they can’t find the driveway in the first place.” She began to lead the way back towards the house.
“Too bad for them, then,” Tam said as she placed a hand on Tim’s offered arm. “This place looks lovely from the outside.”
“The inside is even better,” Lucy assured them as she opened the front door. “C’mon in!”
Once inside, it was as Lucy had said. The interior of the house was fully furnished with a stylish assortment of antique furniture and decorations. Rather than make the decor of the house feel dated, though, it gave off an aura of elegance and comfort that neither Tim nor Tam had felt with any other house they’d toured so far. Lucy was quite thorough as she gave them a tour from the basement (half of which had been converted into a wine cellar) and the attic (which was almost entirely empty save for what looked like some sort of large dresser or wardrobe hidden beneath a white dropcloth sitting on the far side of the spacious room). When the tour was finally over, the three of them settled in for coffee in the living room.
“This old place used to belong to my mother,” Lucy said with a smile that was touched with melancholy. “She bought it shortly after moving here from England back in the 1949. Even after she married my father a few year later, she never gave this place up. We lived in New York City, but would often come here for vacations in the summers and winters of my childhood.”
“It sounds like you really love this place,” Tam said as she set her coffee cup down on the end table. “So why are you selling it?”
Lucy sighed. “My mother passed away last year, God rest her soul. Though I told her I had no problem keeping the house and making sure it stayed in the family, before she died she made it perfectly clear that once she was gone she wanted me to sell this place and use the money from it to put her grandchildren through college.” She set her own cup down, a somber expression on her face. “However, she set down three… ‘conditions’… that a buyer has to agree to before they can buy the place. It’s made finding a buyer extremely difficult.”
“Conditions?” Tim asked.
“Deal-breakers,” Lucy clarified. “I’ve had several strong offers for this place over the last several months, but because they couldn’t promise to meet my mother’s conditions, I couldn’t, in good conscience, agree to the sale.”
“What are these conditions?”
“Well… First, there’s the matter of the furnishings.” Lucy glanced around the living room. “My mother said that whoever buys this place must keep all the original furniture, artwork, and books within the house. They mustn’t be sold, destroyed, given away, or otherwise removed from this place. If they must be moved somewhere, the attic or basement are the only suitable locations for storage.”
Tim and Tam shared a quizzical look.
“Any particular reason why?” Tim asked.
Lucy shrugged. “From what I understand, nearly all of the of the pieces were items she inherited when the majority of her family died in a train crash in England shortly before she moved to the States. These pieces were, quite literally in some cases, all the things she had left of them.”
A pained look crossed Tim’s face before he could mask it. Lucy noticed.
“Is something wrong?”
Tam placed a comforting hand over her husband’s even as he answered their host. “I understand what your mother must have felt. I have lost… far too many loved ones over the years due to tragedy.”
Lucy nodded sympathetically. “My condolences.”
Tim nodded and made a quick decision to change the subject. “So what is the next condition?”
“Well, the second condition concerns the acreage this house sits on,” Lucy said. “As I mentioned over the phone, the house is being sold with about ten acres of land, most of it wooded with a stream that runs through the acreage at the rear of the property. However, the second condition is that none of the surrounding woods can be cleared for development. If a tree here and there are felled for firewood, small projects, or safety reasons that’s fine. However, large tracts of them cannot be chopped down to make room for an expansion to the house or to widen the driveway or other paths through the woods.”
Tim and Tam shared another short look before Tam finally spoke up. “And the final condition?”
“The third and last condition is the one that seems to be the hardest for buyers to agree to,” Lucy admitted. “The last condition my mother set for a future buyer is that once they buy the house and land, they are not allowed to resell any of it during their natural lifetime.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Lucy said. “My mother was quite adamant though. She always said that it would take a certain kind of person to fully love and appreciate this place. She assured me that when I found the right buyer, this last condition wouldn’t even be an issue to them.”
Suddenly a bright melody cut through the serious tension of the conversation. Lucy reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Oh, it’s one of my sons. I need to take this.”
Tim nodded. “Take all the time you need. My wife and I need to speak in private for a moment anyways.”
Lucy gave them both a small smile before putting her phone to her ear as she made her way back outside, her voice trailing off as she closed the door behind her. “Yes Peter…?”
Tim rose to his feet and went to gaze thoughtfully out the window. Tam followed suit, though instead of the window, she merely wandered around the perimeter of the living room.
“What do you think?”
Tim sighed. “I think I’m in love with this place.”
“You do realize that the ‘conditions’ set by Ms. Martin’s mother make it pretty much impossible to do any kind of remodeling to the house to make room for the equipment of your ‘night job’.”
Her husband made contemplative face. “Far as I’m concerned, the majority of that stuff can just stay in the bunker beneath our place in the city.” Tim smiled a little. “Truth be told, I kind of like the idea of putting a some distance between my work and our home.”
“What happens in Gotham, stays in Gotham?”
Tam paused by the fireplace and idly studied the painting of a ship on sea that rested upon the mantle. The ship had a very Narnian look to it, which made her smile fondly at the memory of watching the ships that would sail in and out of Cair Paravel.
“How do you feel about keeping the furnishings as is?” Tim asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t mind at all,” Tam admitted. “In fact, I like most of it, and buying this place fully furnished saves us the trouble of going furniture shopping and getting everything shipped out here.”
Tim nodded in agreement. Though it was a mostly distant memory, he recalled the annoyance and headache it was to furnish his current home in the city back when the construction had been completed on it. It was not an activity he enjoyed. He turned back to look at his wife, his expression softening with fondness as he saw her smile.
“Do we even need to worry about the last condition?”
“Not at all.” Tam looked over at her husband, her eyes full of warmth and affection. “I think I’m in love with this place too.”
About that moment, Lucy came back into the living room. She paused at the doorway. “You’re both smiling,” she observed aloud in obvious surprise, which quickly turned into guarded hope. “Smiling is good, right? Does this mean… what I think it means?”
Tim shared a look with Tam before looking back at Lucy and nodding. “I believe it does, Ms. Martin. I believe it does.”