It started out as just a bump. A small swell right by his bellybutton. Dick only noticed when he had a split second to look in the mirror.
He was going to see Zatanna about Artemis's illusion charm. It would make the perfect excuse. It wouldn't be to much of a lie anyway. Everyone gets embarrassed of a little fat.
So he shrugged it off. "I just need to work out a little more. I've been sitting too much. Besides I'm peckish for a little action"
He tied Artemis's choker round her neck and slipped a jeweled armband round his bicep. It was mere happenstance that her neck and his arm had the same circumference. Dumb luck. Sweet fortune.
No one knew, besides Zatanna, of the second charm. He asked her to design it so it would fit under his uniform comfortably. One for use and one for disguises.
Obviously the disguise charm wasn't for him. She knew that. She could read him like a book. She didn't care as long as the wearer was safe. An elaborate disguise would do that. But she worried about the second one. Was Dick really that concerned about his looks?
"Oh Dick, what pit have you fallen into now?"
Artemis was the one wearing her charm. No wonder she was nearly caught. She modeled the design after her. Damn. Note to self, next time wait a year before making a tribute to someone.
Recognise Artemis B-07 Recognise Miss Martian B-05 Recognise Nightwing B-01
Sobbing filled the halls. Mostly from Artemis. Some from M'gann. A little from Dick. But it was there.
'Seems like that note has just become more relevant.'
It toke hours for the crying to stop. People were flooding in from their mission. Someone had the bright idea of grabbing every pillow and blanket in the watchtower. Robin or Dick must have stolen Batman's credit card because there was 13 different flavours of ice cream around, the majority chocolate based. That person also had the foresight to buy tissues in bulk.
Everyone ended up sleeping over, helping everyone grieve for the loss of the speedster. Even Batman stayed, holding tightly to his kids though he didn't dare shed a tear in public.
Zatanna fell asleep with the thought of the second charm far far away. She was too preoccupied by her friends' pain and and her own to notice.
Bang Bang Bang
Dick jumped awake, rolled out of bed just like the perfect acrobat he is, and promptly slipped on Chinese takeout and right into a pile of long overdue laundry.
Bang Bang Bang
Dick managed to untangle himself for the dirty clothes and jogged over to the door watching his step. He opened the door to a steaming Zatanna.
"You're quiting?" She pushed herself in.
"I'm not quitting I'm just-"
"Taking off and leaving?" She paced.
"Going soul searching? Trying to rebalance yourself?" She slipped.
And he caught her.
She detached her arm and looked around.
"Moping in your own misery?"
"What! It's been 3 weeks. I know it hurts. I know you feel like drowning. But drowning in beer and fast food isn't going to help! How the hell did you get beer anyway?"
Silence. He wouldn't look her in the eyes.
"I didn't steal. I left money."
"You still bought alcohol illegally." She kicked around some of the the trash. "With all this crap food and alcohol you should have a ginormous beer belly by now." She froze.
Dick ran a hand over his face to wake himself up more. "Zat, I'm sorry-"
"Wait." She cut him off. "Beer belly..." She looked him in the eye. If he wasn't a bat he would have stepped back from that piercing gazed.
Her eyes studied his form. Same face. Same hair. Same muscled arms and legs. His torso...There!
She yanked up his shirt.
"Hey!" He tried to put her arms down but she fought, her eyes never leaving his chiseled chest.
She let go after a moment.
"What the hell was that?!"
"Are you still wearing my charm?"
This time he did step back.
He plopped himself back onto the coach in his meager apartment. He dropped his face into his hands and toke a deep breath. And another. She joined him on the coach running soothing circles on his back. He sighed and looked back at her.
"I don't think I have."
They both knew that Zatanna's charm failsafe was to make the person have no bellybutton. It was easy to overlook but easy to spot when you knew what to look for.
"Do you want me to take it off?"
She gently rolled up his sleeve and found the black band. Then her hands rolled around his bicep and latched onto the clip.
They were expecting a little flab. A bit of cushy tissue. Not... Not that.
Dick ran a hand over his abdomen. Zatanna just sat there, silent. Their eyes never leaving the swollen mound.
They both sighed at the same time.
"What do we do?" Dick spoke first.
"Are you in any pain?" Zatanna's eyes finally looked away to search his face.
"Then we schedule a doctor's appointment and go to the Watchtower for a look."
He only nodded dumbly. She patted his arm.
"Come on, let's get you dressed."
"Where are your sweatpants?!"
"In the dirty laundry."
"Are all your clothes dirty?!"
A loud sigh. She looked back at Dick. He hadn't moved in 30 minutes. He had stopped rubbing the bump, if you could call it that, a couple minutes after it's unveiling. Now he just settled for holding it in his palms.
"You still not in any pain?"
"O~kay. I'm gonna go up to the Watchtower and snag one of those nifty portable ultrasounds. You..." She grabbed her coat that she had discarded 10 minutes in to searching for clean clothes. "You stay there. Here is a phone." She pressed the landline phone into his hand. "If you start feeling pain, you call an ambulance. Then you call me. Understand?"
Sigh. Deep breath. "Am I understood, Dick?"
He cracked a small smile. "Crystal, Major"
"Oh thank god!" She made her way to the door. "I'm gonna go. I'll be back in less than an hour. Seriously, use that phone!"
And the door slammed shut.