She hears him coming a roof away and stays where she is. Waits until the last second—
His chest grazes her cowl’s ears as she rolls out of his way. She waits for the thud but seven years of Dick Grayson have taken their toll. He curls instead of faceplanting, somersaulting into a crouch and glaring at her over his shoulder.
She grins at him. “Nice try. Better luck next time.”
“Skill abrogates the need for luck.” But the sneer isn’t as much of a sneer as it would have been even last year, and he doesn’t hesitate to give her his back. He slithers forward, peering down over the edge of the roof before turning his head again and staring at her. If she didn’t know better she’d swear his whiteouts just narrowed. “Why are you here?”
She leans back against the access door, arms crossed, making like Nightwing. Making it look good. Making like she knows what she doing, and actually, these days she usually does. She’s just not sure why she’s doing it here.
“Pre-dawn, the dockyards…” Pause for effect and for the annoyance factor. “Where else would a person in a mask be?”
Oooh, good lip curl. Ten points for effort, and an extra two for extreme sneerage. “You are willfully ignorant. This is my assignment.”
She shrugs. “Maybe N thought you could use the backup.”
And yep, that would be the usual grinding of the teeth. He turns the rest of the way around and straightens, arms crossed to match hers. His mouth is jerking at the corners, twitching, which for anyone else would mean lips opening and closing on words he could, is deciding not to say.
She goes ahead and says it for him. “Or maybe I’m just passing through with a message. N got a tip.” Nightwing code for ‘I laid the smackdown on a couple of scumbags until they cried for their mamas’. “He says it’s not going to happen tonight.”
He stares at her some more, suspicion obvious in his – well, his everything. Stiff, uncertain, disapproving even now. Just like his daddy.
And she should be used to it by now; she’s had half her life to get there, but it’s still… something. Annoying. Like him. Like the look on his face when he’s getting ready to cut someone to pieces in several multisyllabic words.
“Why didn’t he contact me himself? Has Grayson forgotten how to use a communicator now?”
Batgirl rolls her eyes; she doesn’t have lenses to get in the way. “Maybe I just wanted to say hi.”
And again with the suspicious staring, which is still way too close to someone else’s expression for her money.
“You’re not him,” she says. “Quit trying to be. Also, you were gone all last week. Is it so weird that I wanted to—”
Make sure you got back all right. Make sure you’re okay. Find out if he talked you into being stupid for another five years.
Her cape shivers around her when she shifts, tiny flip-flap slap settling around her legs. His surprise is more obvious, but it doesn’t even make that much noise. He doesn’t wear a cape anymore, and anyway, he’d never do anything so vulgar as expressing himself in public.
Not that the docks after midnight are anywhere near public.
“Did you tell him?” she asks, and she sees her answer in his profile, turned suddenly toward her. In his shoulders and jaw.
He probably knows he doesn’t need to answer; knows that she already knows. She knows he’ll do it anyway. The harder something is for him, the more determined he is to make a point of doing it.
And maybe it does matter. Because he says, “Yes,” and that… is it relief? Is that why she feels less like she’s got a sucking chest wound than she did two seconds ago?
He doesn’t look like the feeling is mutual, but she can work with that. It’s never easy to leave home, no matter how bad you need to. She knows; she’s been there. Was metaphorically standing where he is now six years ago, and it’s not an easy place to be.
“Yay, independence,” she says, keeping it nice and light. Keeping her hands to herself. “We’ll throw you a housewarming party this weekend.”
And that sound? That would be the tension leaving his shoulders and the air and her entire body.
She says, “You asshole, you are totally screwing with me.” And he snorts, but he’s kind of smirking, he’s not so tight anymore, and—
Oh yeah, it’s relief.
She pulls out her grapple, keeping an eye on him. Walks to the edge of the roof and she feels more than hears him move. Can feel the heat of him just off her shoulder, warm and shivery and right where he should be.
“You coming with?” she asks.
“If I must,” he says, and she whoops and throws herself off the roof.
Hears him say something that’s probably really nasty in Arabic (she is so going to learn this year); hears his grapple go and that’s when she shoots hers and then they’re flying flying flying.
“Hey,” she says into her comm a few seconds later.
“What is it now?”
“You need a new name. Something big and bold. To go with that red stripe. It didn’t work for N, but I think you’ll rock it.”
Is that a sigh? Nah, it’s probably just the wind. “I am still Robin.”
But she’s already barreling ahead because that’s what she does best. “Bat Guy? Wingnut? Bat Wing? No, already been done. Twice, I think. Or no, ooooh, how about Winger?” His breath hisses in; she bites her lip. And she really shouldn’t. Really, really….
But then, she’s never been any good at resisting when there’s no real reason to resist.
She takes the next jump before her grapple is shot because she wants to be in the air for this. She can hear him coming up fast on her left; his line shoots past her and she feels her grapple catch. Hears him take the jump and that’s when she says it, like she just suddenly had the mother of all epiphanies: “No, no, wait, I know… Night Pigeon, scourge of car roofs, windows and hair-challenged people everywhere.”
It’s been a while since she’s heard that one; weirdly enough she thinks she’s missed it, because hello ingrained reaction. Looks like she’s finally got him trained. It took long enough, but the results are so, so worth the wait.
“That’s not what you said last week,” she says. “Something about my legs? I think satisfactory was the word.” And then she can’t talk anymore, she’s laughing that hard.
And she can’t hear herself breathing over her laughter, but over the comm she can hear him, grinding his teeth through the whip of the wind and her voice. And when he cuts her line above the next roof and grabs her on the way down; when his arms are dragging her down; when he’s tumbling them down to the ground, breathless impact and her laughter all around them until he uses his mouth to make her stop—
When he rolls with her until she grips his hips with her knees, uses her treads and gauntlets to stop the dizzy tumble—
When she kisses him back his hand is wrapped around one of her cowl’s ears and her thumb is rubbing, tracing the line of his domino and she knows exactly who they both are.
“Robin,” she says against his ear, his mouth. “Robin.”
He says, “Yes,” and bites the line of her jaw.
She’s trying to decide where she wants to bite him back when Nightwing says, “You guys are worse than me and O ever were,” and she doesn’t even have a word for the noise she just made. Then Robin makes a similar noise and Nightwing starts laughing, and she figures it’s probably just as well.
She kisses him again in front of Nightwing and possibly a few gods and New York City; she makes her, his, their mouths a wet, defiant together laugh because it’s so damn good up here with his weight pushing her down and her fingers in gauntlets curving over his cheek, stroking across his red stripe.
It’s good because he’s him, and she kisses him just for that. And because she can.
Nightwing laughs until Robin stops kissing her and tells him to be, “Quiet, Grayson.”
Nightwing says, “Or what? Also, you still fail hard at code names.”
And Robin’s grinding his teeth again and she’s laughing and so is Nightwing. And this, she thinks, is the rest her life. Pointy ears and rooftops and Robin alternately sniping at her and kissing her while Nightwing laughs long and hard at both of them.
And she doesn’t have to wonder, doesn’t even have to think about it. She already knows it’s going to be excellent.
It’s going to be perfect.