Dick knows something's wrong when the world shivers around his bike, but he doesn't figure out exactly what it might be until he sees the Gotham skyline. The earthquake reinforcements are just not there, and neither is the Dixon building, or the Perez -- they went up when he was in his teens, and he's flown off of their roofs enough times to know just where they should stand.
His first instinct is to book it for the Manor, reconnoitre and figure out what's going on.
But he sees Batman before he gets anywhere near the Bristol exit, and that'll be easier than trying to get him to interrupt a patrol. Dick parks the bike and hits the roofs.
Six blocks later, he catches up to Batman, crouching on the edge of a roof and watching one of the perennial drug hotspots. "Batman," he says, because the comm's not working.
Bruce turns around quickly -- old, old uniform, he stopped using that paneling back when --
"Keep your hands where I can see them," he snaps.
Dick uses the least threatening posture he knows, hands up and spread. "Hey, it's okay, it's --" just me, he wants to say, but that's pretty obviously not going to do any good.
"Just Dick" wouldn't, either, not if he remembers the different phases of the cape materials right.
"Whatever your plan is, you've chosen the wrong city," Bruce says in his most menacing Batman voice.
Dick shakes his head, trying not to smile. He was never afraid of that voice. "I'm not here to cause trouble, really. I just -- I --"
How many alternate timelines have there been, at this point? How probable or reassuring is "I'm from the future"?
Dick settles for, "I thought you might be able to use some help."
Batman's laugh isn't Bruce's, but it's there. "If you had any idea how much training I've done -- you can't possibly be qualified."
That, at least, he can answer with a grin. "Try me."
Bruce doesn't quite smile at that, but he stands up. "Only to convince you that this is a foolish idea."
Dick spends half a second wishing he'd said something this confrontational to Tad -- to Catalina -- but then he doesn't have time to regret it.
He knows, without being sure of how he knows it, what patterns of blows to expect, how to counter and get under Bruce's guard. There are moves missing from his repertoire -- Dick dodges a crescent kick to the head that they worked on together for months.
There aren't as many roundhouse punches, and -- Bruce hasn't trained Jason, hasn't picked up the habits yet, either.
The nervestrikes are more haphazard.
How old is Tim, here? If Dick --
His parents are still --
His ribs are not going to thank him for doing math in his head while sparring, but he gets Bruce back with a sidekick combination into a capoeira move that shouldn't connect, but does.
Bruce breaks it off by stepping back, eyeing him, and saying, "Hm."
There were times -- not as long ago as they sometimes seem -- when Dick would've punched the air with triumph at that. Now he just grins. "I'm Nightwing," he says, and offers his hand.
Bruce shakes it firmly. "And your other skills -- are they as developed as your hand-to-hand?"
"I know a thing or two," Dick says, and he can see Bruce's eyes narrow, even though he can't actually see it.
"The Burnley Massive --" Bruce says, going back to his roof-edge perch. "They've recently started expanding into this area."
Dick whistles softly, dredging up the notes he remembers rereading, memorized dossiers. "Right, along with the new shipments from Managua. Cocaine, mostly, but opium."
"You've been working against them." It's not a question.
"On and off," and that's true, even though they haven't been in the 'haven, and in this time, if it's when he thinks it is, they haven't been in Gotham for long, either.
Bruce frowns out over the alleyway. "I've been tracking their runners."
It'll be years before Oracle can do it for him. Everything used to go so much more slowly.
And Dick's parents, somewhere, are still alive, breathing and laughing.
He sits back on his heels, moving an inch away from the edge. The drop isn't giving him vertigo, but it would ruin his fragile cred with Bruce if he falls. "Trying to find the shipment timing," he says, like he's thinking about it instead of remembering. "That makes sense."
"Do you have useful data?" Bruce asks.
He knows where their bases are now -- in the time he usually inhabits -- but that's probably not going to do any good. Still -- "They like the east side. And bodegas. Other than that -- not really."
"Hm," Bruce says, and they watch nothing much happen for a while.
It's strange how companionable sitting on a roof with Bruce can be. He's expecting questions, training, something, but he's not a kid, not a sidekick or a partner, and silence is the best thing for a stakeout.
It gives Dick plenty of time to think about what to say and what not to say. Time paradox isn't something they've discussed much, but he's pretty sure "The owner of Haly's Circus is being blackmailed. Stop Tony Zucco from killing the Flying Graysons," is one of those things you just can't say and stay where you are in the universe.
His parents --
And how many people, exactly, has he saved in the years since they died? Someone else might have stepped up and done the job, but maybe not.
He doesn't need an angel to tell him that it wouldn't be such a wonderful life for Gotham without Robin, let alone Blüdhaven without Nightwing.
But his parents --
He's sure he knows what Bruce would say.
He's sure Alfred didn't leave John Stuart Mill lying around at random.
If he gets a chance, he wants to see them. Let them know, somehow, that he loves them -- which -- they have to know.
Maybe he could tell them he's sorry.
"There," Bruce says, and it's automatic to put aside all the thoughts that aren't related to the job at hand. "That man is one of the dealers."
"Shall we?" Dick asks, standing up.
Bruce smiles tightly at him and gets out his grapple. "I'm sure they'll be surprised to see you, at least."
Fighting beside Bruce is as beautiful as it always is, except that Bruce is putting in more of a conscious effort to stay out of his way than normal, and it shows. The runners go down in a heartbeat, and the dealer's heavies are next, one-two-three.
The dealer himself ends up slammed against a wall with Batman growling questions at him while Dick does his level best not to make Nightwing look like a grinning fool. His heart's still pounding from the fight, and the answers aren't anything useful, or anything that Bruce couldn't have figured out, even when the guy gets scared enough that he's shaking.
Bruce is scowling when they make it back to the roof, with all the gang members unconscious behind them. "Waste of an evening," he says, never mind that it's two in the morning.
"There was no way to know what you were going to find out," Dick says, trying to be reassuring.
"No," Bruce admits -- and that's more than he would normally do, however many years down the road it is -- "but it's still a wasted night."
Dick puts his hand on Bruce's shoulder. "It's okay."
He's prepared to be ignored or pushed away, for Bruce to act as though he didn't say anything, or as though nothing he said could be useful.
He's not prepared, even remotely, for Bruce to throw another punch, not a sparring punch, but a real one -- but he blocks it, and then they're fighting each other in the way that's more like a dance than a fight, and he's warmed up enough now that it's better than it was before.
He can remember all of the tricks to use against Bruce that Bruce has no defense prepared for, and they get through -- even the trip he swears he picked up from Selina Kyle, and the spin-kick-360 Babs drilled him on until he could do it better than she did -- and Bruce falls, at that one, and Dick pins him before he has time to think.
"Are you staying in Gotham?" Bruce asks, hoarse but not admitting to breathlessness, for all his arm is ninety degrees out from his body and Dick's got his pressure point targeted.
"I --" He has some cash, if they don't look at the bills too hard. The credit cards are worthless.
There are places to go, even without money, but they're not so restful.
"Maybe," Dick temporizes. "Why?"
Bruce shifts a little and Dick lets him up. He expects Bruce to knock him over -- and he does -- but the kiss that follows it surprises him more than anything has since the skyline.
Bruce doesn't --
Bruce would never --
There's nothing at all preventing Dick from kissing him back, from clinging to his shoulders and knotting his fists in the heavy but not as heavy as it will be material of the cape.
"Hm," Bruce says, against his mouth, when one of them -- and Dick will never be sure who it was -- breaks the kiss. "I thought -- perhaps."
Dick feels dizzier than he ever has. "You --"
"I wasn't looking for a partner, but --" Bruce kisses his cheek, teasingly, too lightly for Dick to catch him and make it something more. "You're beginning to convince me it might be a good idea."
He can't stay.
Someday in the not terribly distant future, there's going to be a tragic accident, and if Bruce isn't there, then everything will break.
And if he did stay, then --
He can't think it through, can't let himself imagine what might happen, because if he spends more than a heartbeat thinking about Bruce's mouth, and his smile, and what it could mean, there may not be a way to stop.
"Oh," he says, and that's all he has time for, because Bruce is kissing him again.
There's no way to stop himself from wanting it to be somewhere else, some other time, somewhere softer than a windy Gotham rooftop.
Bruce's uniform is easy to open, even one-handed -- the alarms came later -- and he gasps against Dick's mouth. "Is that a -- yes?"
Dick kisses him harder, the only answer he can give without explaining why it's all right and how long he's wanted the chance to feel Bruce shake with desire. If he could speak, he'd promise never to leave, even though he'd have to lie to do it.
It's worse and better when Bruce gets his hand down Dick's tights in turn and squeezes him just right. "God -- Batman --" The wrong name is too close to his thoughts, not least because Bruce is smiling at him in between kisses, and that's nothing like normal.
Bruce chuckles and strokes him harder. "You make me regret not giving you my name -- Nightwing."
Dick thrusts into his fist. "It's -- god, it's mutual, but --"
"Not safe," Bruce says, and Dick could cry, or laugh, if only he could breathe.
"You're right," he says, instead, and the best he can do is kiss Bruce, with every trick he knows, but it doesn't feel like enough.
From the way Bruce shivers, though, it might be. "Perhaps -- in the morning --" he says, and nips at Dick's ear.
If he stays, if he gives a false name that could be his real one -- or his real one -- there will be enough times when he comes in Bruce's hand with a shout.
They won't make up for the desperation of the first time, but with enough chances, it could be mollified.
"The way you move --" Bruce says, and Dick feels his face heat with a blush on top of the heat of orgasm. Another kiss, and he can't slow his hand, can't stop himself from getting Bruce off with the same breakneck speed.
"God, I --" Dick catches himself before he says anything that would be insane, here. Before he says anything about love, or any names that he shouldn't know, he has to get up.
But the universe blinks, then, and Bruce is gone.
Dick shudders and looks up to check the skyline. It looks like home.
His comm buzzes a moment later and he says, "Nightwing here."
Bruce says, "You went off the scans momentarily -- and skipped several miles."
Dick takes a deep breath. "Must have been a glitch." He doesn't ask if Bruce remembers what happened.
Bruce doesn't volunteer anything. "I'll look into it. What's your ETA?"
"Twenty," Dick says, though it's a ten minute drive to the rendezvous point.
At least Bruce doesn't question him, either. "Acknowledged. Batman out."