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Ties That Bind

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The worst part is, it might not actually be the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to him. For Christ's sake, he used to cross-dress for justice with frightening regularity when he was younger. And the number of times he's been kidnapped -- well, the "Boy Hostage" moniker did have some unfortunate roots in reality.

But the whole stripped-down, oiled-up, about-to-be-auctioned-off-as-a-sex-slave thing? It's actually a new one. He's not quite sure if it's a good or a bad thing that he's been drugged to the gills, because he isn't so stoned that he doesn't realize that's Bruce in the front row wearing a buyer's mask, but he's feeling un-lucid enough not to care that he's wearing minimal covering in front of his former guardian. Really minimal.

He blinks again at the sea of masked faces, and wonders for a second if he only hallucinated Bruce's presence. He can hear the auctioneer trying to drive up his price, and he knows this operation specializes in exploiting illegal aliens, women and girls who have been backed into an impossible corner. That Dick is here is mostly bad luck, being in a really bad place at exactly the wrong time. Still, most of the people here aren't in the market for young men, or at least not young men who look like him.

Bruce holds up his numbered sign one last time, and the auctioneer says, "Sold! To Gentlemen Number 43," and Dick is so screwed.

One of the handlers urges Dick to his feet by the collar around his neck, and he somehow manages to find his feet under him, although he sways a bit when he stands. He doesn't know what they've given him, but he hasn't fought them. Something niggles at him -- a sense that this is familiar, that he should know what it is. But the thought is swept away as they lead him down the hall and outside to a loading dock.

An unfamiliar car is waiting, with a stranger in the driver's seat. But the back door opens, and he'd know those shoulders anywhere. His handler exchanges the leash for the suitcase Bruce is holding, and Dick shivers in the night air of early spring while the handler verifies the contents. He stumbles forward, his forehead resting against Bruce's shoulder.

"Pleasure doing business with you," the handler says, and if he were in control of himself, Dick would take great satisfaction in knocking his teeth in.

Bruce doesn't respond, but he does shrug out of his jacket and wrap it around Dick's shoulders. Some part of Dick's brain suggests that it's going to be ruined by all the oil coating his body, but Bruce doesn't appear to care and manhandles him into the car. He's still wearing the buyer's mask, and Dick reaches up to brush his fingers against the edges. He feels loose-limbed and liquid, like he's been poured into Bruce's arms, anchored in place by the fist Bruce still has wrapped around the leash.

"I'm glad you bought me," Dick says, and he thinks his words are slurred.

Bruce is silent for a long, long moment. And then he says, his voice lowered into Batman's growl, "We're going to have a very serious discussion about this."

"Oh, joy," Dick says, and passes out.


He wakes next when Bruce is lifting him out of the car. Dick's no lightweight, but Bruce could still bench press him with ease. He can hear Tim nearby, asking if Dick is okay -- Dick would answer himself, except he's not too sure he can form coherent words. The drug, against all reason, appears to be making him feel even worse than before.

Bruce lays him down on a blessedly firm surface, which he realizes after a moment is the examination table. He winces when a bright light overhead is turned on, and something about the taste in his mouth pings the right part of his brain, and he manages to say, "Ivy."

Bruce narrows his eyes, but he doesn't ask Dick to repeat what he said. Dick can practically see him thinking through the possibilities as he draws blood from Dick's arm, doubtless for analysis. The grip he has on Dick's bicep is hardly erotic, but his suspicion about the drug being of Poison Ivy's creation just gets a lot more solid when the brush of Bruce's hands against his skin makes him gasp. Bruce gives him a sharp look at that, but says nothing in response.

"Did he say, 'Ivy'?" Tim asks.

"Go upstairs," Bruce says flatly, staining two glass slides with Dick's blood and feeding one to the computer for analysis, then putting the other under a microscope.

"I can help," Tim protests.


"Geez, okay."

His head still feels completely fogged and he should be cold -- the Cave always is, and a little damp -- but it's almost like the last time he had a fever. Again, except for the whole half-naked, oiled-up thing. When Bruce rolls him on to his side, hands moving swiftly over his body in a detached, professional manner in search of any injuries, it's clear that he's not done racking up things to be deathly embarrassed about later -- namely, a long, low moan when Bruce's hand brush across his hips. It's only when Bruce slides his fingertips carefully through Dick's hair that he gasps, and not from any whacked-out drugged pleasure -- he must have one hell of a goose-egg from where they clobbered him over the head.

"Did they hurt you?" Bruce asks, and if his voice had been flat and cold before, there was something behind it now. He knows he's not thinking clearly, but Bruce almost sounds angry.

"Um," Dick says, a little confused. Of course they hurt him, what did Bruce think that lump on his head was? But he'd definitely had worse -- one knock to the head was nothing to write home about.

He gets it a moment later when the flimsy fabric slung around his hips is pushed out of the way, and this is hell -- getting an empty imitation of what he's wanted for a stupidly long time. He concentrates on making no noise, and though it probably only lasts a few seconds, he knows that moment where he arches his back despite himself will stay with him for a torturously long time.

The computer displays the analysis on a large screen, which Bruce reads and frowns at before he wraps Dick up again in a robe. His head swims when Bruce lifts him and maneuvers them into the elevator. He might have drifted out again, because he blinks and he's in a darkened room, and Bruce is laying him down on a bed. "The drug should be out of your system in another four hours," he says.

He makes to move away, but Dick catches hold of his trousers. He can't maintain much of a grip, but he hears a ghost of a sigh, and then Bruce says, "Well, you are concussed," before sitting down next to him, and Dick sinks back into a hazy, fevered sleep.


When he wakes again, he really wishes he hadn't. He curls in on himself and groans softly, because he has the mother of all hangovers and even the relative dark and quiet of the room does not make him feel less sorry for himself. He lies there miserably, face mashed into a pillow, and it's probably due to the fact that his head is throbbing so mightily that it takes a while for him to register that he can smell Bruce's aftershave in the sheets. That particular realization makes him sit up gingerly, carefully, because holy shit, what has he done -- and whoa, he sat up too fast, he's going to --

He makes it to the bathroom just in time to retch helplessly.

He doesn't hear Bruce walk into the bathroom, but Dick knows he's there, just the same. So he's not startled when Bruce crouches beside him on the floor and holds out a glass of water and a couple of pills, which Dick takes without even asking what they are. "Must have been some night, huh?" Dick jokes weakly.

"What do you remember?" Bruce asks, voice mercifully soft.

Dick frowns. "I was -- I was tailing a few guys in Bludhaven, they looked like some punks we tangled with in Gotham a few years back, and then--" the rest of it swims together in his mind, and he shakes his head once to clear it, and that was another really bad idea. He breathes through his nose for a few moments, and Bruce rubs his back in long, slow strokes.

"Don't do that," Bruce says. "You have a concussion."

"Thanks, figured that out." Dick decides he's had enough of kneeling on the tile and pushes to his feet, Bruce rising at the same time.

"You'll feel better after a shower," Bruce says, and it's not that he's unkind, but he usually leaves these suggestions to Alfred. "Don't forget to wash your face."

"What?" Dick asks. Bruce definitely doesn't usually concern himself with other people's hygiene -- it was always Alfred telling him to scrub behind his ears when he was a kid.

Bruce reaches forward and gently brushes his finger under Dick's eye, and when it comes away, it's smudged with black. Dick doesn't understand for a moment -- what would he have --


"I'll, um -- thanks for letting me borrow your bathroom," he says, and manages not to squeak.

"Anytime," Bruce says, and he looks at Dick for one long minute before Dick begins to fuss with the belt of his robe, and then he turns and walks out of the bathroom without another word.

"Oh my god," Dick moans piteously into the shower. His initial assessment is right -- he is so screwed.


He raids Bruce's closet for a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, which are huge and too long on him, respectively. He thinks about flopping back into Bruce's bed and sleeping off the rest, but he's parched, and god, his stupid stomach is thinking food is a good idea, no matter how much his head might disagree. So he makes his way carefully down the stairs to the dining room, where Bruce is sitting at the head of the table with the morning paper and a cup of coffee, and Tim is trying to shove pancakes in his mouth and do the daily Sudoku puzzle at the same time. When Dick had first come to the manor, he and Bruce had sat at opposite ends of the table, a seemingly endless expanse of dark polished maple between them. But when Tim had arrived, he'd declared the previous seating arrangement "kind of lame and weird" and now they all sat clustered around Bruce's end of the table.

He takes the chair to Bruce's right, and no sooner does he sit down than Alfred sets a plate of food in front of him, and it's not like he can't cook for himself after a fashion, but Alfred always makes his eggs perfectly. Alfred also won't spill the beans, metaphorical or otherwise, on what his secret with coffee is, but it's one that Dick has long appreciated.

He's gingerly starting in on his food when Bruce separates out the entertainment section with the ease of long practice, handing it to Dick wordlessly. Bruce is staring rather intently at him, and it takes him a moment to realize that what Bruce is specifically looking at is Dick absently rubbing the tender line on his neck from the collar. He flushes a little and drops his hand quickly, and Bruce looks at him for a moment longer before returning his focus to the newspaper.

"Are you feeling better?" Tim asks, and Dick's sure he means it to come out normally, but his obvious worry pitches his voice a little high.

"Getting there," Dick says ruefully. "No going out tonight."

"That's surely a bit overly optimistic, wouldn't you say, Master Bruce?" Alfred says, and Bruce, that traitor, nods his head with firm agreement.

"All right, all right," Dick says, because there's no use fighting both Bruce and Alfred.

"More coffee, Master Dick?" Alfred asks, all warmly solicitous. "Perhaps you'd care for some pancakes?"

Dick sighs, because there's even less use fighting Alfred's attempts to feed him up. And besides -- pancakes.

"Can I have some coffee too?" Tim asks.

"May I," Bruce corrects automatically.

"May I have some coffee?"

Alfred pours him a cup without another word.

Dick's not entirely sure, but he thinks he's feeling a little outraged. "Wait, you're fifteen, aren't you?"

"Yup," Tim says.

Dick scowls in Bruce's direction. "You wouldn't let me have coffee until I was seventeen. No coffee, no soda, no nothing. What happened to your 'caffeine stunts your growth' mantra?"

"Recent studies indicate that it's not a critical factor," Bruce says blandly.

"Plus I was already drinking it when I came here." Tim looks entirely too cheerful.

Dick really has to think hard about flicking a piece of pancake across the table at him, because it's not fair. Apparently it's true what they say -- little brothers do have it easier.


"It could happen to anyone, I guess. I mean, how many times has Batman rescued me from an underground sex slave ring? -- oh, right, never," Tim says.

"I will give you anything to stop mentioning it," Dick tells him, slumping at his seat at the computer in the Cave. "Also, people who get slapped on the ass by Two-Face probably have no room to talk."

Tim looks instantly chagrined. "You heard about that?"

"Oracle said you shrieked."

"I did not!" Tim crosses his arms defensively. "At the most, it was a yelp."

Dick almost yelps himself when Bruce lays a firm hand on his shoulder.

"Any luck finding those files?" Bruce asks, and he sounds mild enough but Dick knows if he hadn't already found them and was just screwing around with Tim instead, he would be seriously toast.

Dick pulls up the files in question on the big screen. "I was right -- these two clowns, Perry and Rosini, they were with the outfit operating in Gotham."

Bruce leans over his shoulder to tap a few keys, skimming through the file. "We didn't miss them in the clean-up."

"It's an old song, Bruce, feel free to join me on the chorus -- let out early for good behavior."

Bruce frowns. "And then they went to Bludhaven."

"Either they learned their lesson about trying to do business under the eyes of the big bad Bat, or they're with someone a whole lot smarter than they are," Dick says, and pulls up his own surveillance files -- which, he noticed, were already in the Cave's mainframe, and boy, do they need to have a talk about that. "I noticed them near this warehouse on the docks, but it wasn't immediately apparent what they were doing -- at first, I thought they were running drugs."

"Maybe they were, at that," Bruce says thoughtfully. "You said, 'Ivy,' when I brought you back here."

Dick carefully cranes his head around to look at him, still mindful of his concussion. "Maybe. Does this really feel like a Poison Ivy operation to you, Bruce? Sure, she's no friend to industrialists, but I can't really see her being in on a scheme to exploit girls like that."

Bruce is quiet for a moment, the unfocused look in his eyes suggests that he's thinking -- as does the thumb he's rubbing against Dick's shoulder. "Someone new. Local Bludhaven talent, perhaps -- the original ringleaders are all still in jail."

"That's what I thought," Dick says, pleased. "So I thought if I got in, I could find out who was running the show."

Bruce's grip tightens on his shoulders. "If you got in?"

Tim subtly leans away from them both.

"Yes?" Dick says in a very small voice.

"Dick," Bruce says, and yikes, that's a really dangerous tone. "Did you get yourself kidnapped on purpose?"

"Oh, like you've never done it," Dick says, even though Tim is mouthing shut up at him.

"We're not talking about me," Bruce says, his tone even but his words enunciated. "We're talking about you, going in without backup."

Dick wants to slouch in his seat, but from the grip Bruce has on both his shoulders, that's not going to be happening. "I told Oracle I was going undercover."

"Which is still not the same as backup, and she called me when she hadn't heard from you." Bruce spins Dick's chair around so that Dick is facing him. "Do you understand? You could have been seriously hurt, they could have--" Bruce stops speaking abruptly, his eyes flickering to Tim once before staring down at Dick again, his hands resting once more on Dick's shoulders, pushing him back into the chair.

Dick is a little gobsmacked, because Bruce -- Bruce had really been worried. "Hey," he says gently, reaching up to curl his fingers around Bruce's wrist. "I'm okay. Nothing happened."

Bruce looks at him for a long moment, and then says, "We're not done talking about this." He lets Dick go and stalks off to the gym section of the Cave.

Dick sighs. "You want to go spot him, or shall I?"

Tim gives him a look. "I'll go," he says, long-suffering. He stands, but before he walks off, he turns and says in a low voice, "He was really pretty freaked out. I mean, as much as he ever lets us see him freaked out."

"Yeah, I get that," Dick says softly.

Tim looks even more upset. "I was worried, too. You can't just -- you shouldn't be so stupid, you could have asked for help!" And then he wraps his arms around Dick in an awkward but fierce hug, and Dick's eyes widen in shock but he hugs Tim right back.

"I'm okay," Dick whispers into Tim's hair. "I'm sorry, it was kind of a last-minute decision."

Tim thumps him on the shoulder. "Don't do it again. And don't tell me, I'm not the one that needs to hear it." He pulls away, and looks a little calmer now.

"You think I should--" Dick nods his head in Bruce's direction.

"Not now," Tim says, exasperated. "Go talk to him tonight, after he's cooled down. Geez, Dick, you know what he's like."

Dick touches the side of his neck, where one of the buckles on the collar had rubbed against his skin. "Sometimes he still surprises me."


His head still aches, and when Tim catches him wincing one too many times, he suggests in a voice loud enough for Bruce to hear that Dick should go lie down.

It's a strange impulse that makes him pick Bruce's bedroom to rest in -- he could have slept in any of the approximately three thousand spare bedrooms, or even his old bedroom. But instead he crawls back into Bruce's bed, and Alfred must have changed the sheets because there are no remnants of oil and eyeliner from the night before. The scent of Bruce's aftershave still clings to the pillow, though, and the familiarity soothes him right into sleep.

He wakes again later as the bed shifts under him, and when he opens his eyes, Bruce is sitting on the bed next to him. He's holding the collar they had bound around Dick's neck, his callused fingertips tracing over the leather. It's a very utilitarian collar -- not the kind he's seen in the windows of fetish shops, but something frankly practical and sturdy and god, it really shouldn't make him shiver to see Bruce stroking it.

"Your plan wasn't entirely bad," Bruce says eventually. "It's too easy for these men to scatter and regroup if you don't get the core perpetrators. I trust we don't need to discuss my opinion of the actual execution of your plan again."

"Right," Dick says, still focused on the Bruce's hands and the collar.

It's quiet in the room for another moment, and then Bruce says, "Ask me."

"What?" He blinks, his eyes flicking up to Bruce's face.

"It's in Bludhaven," Bruce clarifies, looking gravely serious.

Dick almost smiles to himself, because for all his other faults -- and there are a few -- Batman has always scrupulously observed Nightwing's territorial claim. Which is not to say that Bruce hasn't covertly funneled money into a few operations without Nightwing's prior knowledge, and he is awfully prone to having "extra" equipment that he unloads on Dick at every available opportunity. But he always insists on this formality, being actually invited to help with any problem in Bludhaven, and Dick loves him for it.

"Please," Dick says, and it doesn't cost him much anymore to ask.

"We'll go undercover, I think," Bruce says, turning the collar this way and that in his hand.


"Well," Bruce says, and there's something in his tone that is dark and god help him, seductive. "I already bought you. Perhaps I'm in the market for more. Perhaps I'm interested in a share of the operation."

Dick swallows. "That...sounds like a plan."

"Not yet, it doesn't. We'll need to do some more investigating before we can begin to infiltrate. Which will also, not incidentally, give you time to recover, and give us time to procure necessary supplies." Bruce sounds like he's already about twenty steps ahead and might actually have detailed blueprints, but that's pretty much par for the course.

"What kind of supplies? I assume you're going to use your disguise from last time, and it's not like it's going to be hard to get enough money to deal you in."

"Not for me. For you," Bruce says, and he's still stroking that goddamned collar.


The corner of Bruce's mouth quirks up, just slightly. "How do you feel about diamonds?"


"I can't tell if this is the funniest thing ever, or if I'm totally traumatized," Tim says.

"Join the club," Dick says sourly. Bruce had already made him put on some sinfully expensive trousers and silk shirt, and what he thinks are custom handmade Italian shoes that fit him perfectly, and he really just doesn't want to know why Bruce has those in his possession.

Tim looks simultaneously interested and repulsed as he watches Bruce carefully line Dick's eyes in black. "Bruce, you're disturbingly good at this."

Dick knows better than to fidget, especially with the grip Bruce has on his chin, tilting his face up to the light. "Well, he did used to put me in a dress an awful lot when I was younger, so he's had practice."

The expression of complete horror on Tim's face is priceless. "That...explains so much about you guys that I never wanted to know."

Bruce puts down the eyeliner, then applies a quick coat of mascara before leaning back to study his work. Then he picks up another brush and says, "Relax your lips."

"You are not putting lipstick on me," Dick says firmly.

Bruce frowns, clearly not happy with any editorial advice on his undercover disguises. "Just a little, to make it look like you just--"

It takes Dick two seconds to get it, about the same amount of time to blush furiously, and a moment later, they both dart glances over to Tim, who is apparently old enough (or has spent too much time with Kon) to get the insinuation.

"Oh my god, trauma forever," Tim moans.

Bruce finishes reddening Dick's lips to his liking, and then circles around Dick's chair. He can feel the warmth of Bruce's fingers against his skin before a cold weight is fastened around his neck. Bruce steps back again to survey his work, and there's something like satisfaction in his eyes.

"Well, let me see," Dick says impatiently, and walks over to nearby mirror.

He shouldn't doubt Bruce's skills, because he looks like he's worth every penny Bruce paid for him, and then some. The diamond collar is the only ridiculously ostentatious thing about his outfit -- the rest speaks of subtle but undeniable wealth.

"These too," Bruce says, coming up behind him with another jeweler's box. He reaches for Dick's hand, and fastens a string of diamonds to each wrist. And then they both look at Dick in the mirror, and their mutual transformation looks complete when Dick steps in against Bruce's side, and Bruce's expression turns possessive and even predatory, and wow, this is messed up, even for them.

"Are you guys going to have to swap spit?" Tim asks, sounding morbidly curious.

Bruce changes his grip slightly, pulls Dick tight against him and looks down at Dick with a strange expression in his eyes. "If the mission requires it," he says coolly, and then lets Dick go.

Considering that Bruce didn't even kiss him that time they went undercover as a bride and groom, Dick's not very hopeful -- then again, he's twenty-four now, and also, he doesn't look remotely virginal and pure at the moment.

"Trauma, trauma, trauma," Tim sing-songs under his breath.


Dick is artfully draped against Bruce's side when the negotiations begin in earnest.

"I can't help but think that you're missing a substantial business opportunity in Gotham," Bruce says in a sharper, more nasal accent. He doesn't know who Bruce learned the art of disguise from, but like the rest of Bruce's training, Dick's sure he learned from the best. Even without the anonymity of the buyer's mask from before, he still looks unrecognizable.

Perry and Rosini both look momentarily uncomfortable. "Operation in Gotham presents some challenges," Perry says finally, his voice as slimy as his personality.

"If it's a secure transportation system that's in question, I think we can work something out," Bruce says, mouth broadening into a too-pleasant smile as he strokes the skin just below Dick's collar. "That is, if your pipeline isn't about to dry up."

"Not at all!" Rosini snaps. Perry clearly wishes Rosini would keep his mouth shut, but fortunately for them, he continues. "No problems there -- the merchandise keeps coming, and it's good quality, yeah?" He leers in Dick's direction.

"I wouldn't be interested, otherwise," Bruce says, tipping Dick's chin up and giving him what he would have to classify as a smoldering look. "I did wonder -- how do you keep the merchandise so quiet?"

"Something new," Rosini says smugly.

"Let's not get bogged down in details yet," Perry says hurriedly. "You want to make a serious offer, you gotta meet the boss."

Bruce's hand doesn't even pause in stroking Dick's neck. "Well, then. Do I have to make an appointment, or can I see him right now?"

Perry and Rosini trade a look. "You can see the boss now," Perry says. "But leave the boy."

Dick knows better to bristle at being called a boy, and instead cuddles in closer to Bruce's side, making sure the camera in his collar is getting all of this.

"After what I paid for him?" Bruce says incredulously. "He stays with me. Besides, you have your ways of making them not talk -- and I have mine." He stands and holds out a hand to Dick to pull him to his feet, before settling one hand at the small of his back. "Time is money, gentlemen. Shall we?"

They are led down a dank hallway, and when the door opens, Dick thinks at first that it's a case of really bad lighting -- and then he realizes it isn't just that.

The Black Mask is apparently alive and well, and boy, Batman is pissed.


"Yeesh, like Bludhaven didn't already have enough criminal element of its own -- no, no, let's go ahead and import some crazy people from Gotham," Dick mutters as he sits down at one of the computer stations in the Cave.

"I thought the Black Mask was dead," Tim says, already pulling up the relevant files.

"So did we," Bruce says darkly, and begins sorting through the images that Dick's camera captured.

"We never did find the body after he fell from the roof, though. I guess that's just asking for trouble," Dick says. "And I think there's definitely something fishy going on with that drug of theirs -- who wants to play 'Which Wacko Was Recently Released from Arkham?' Anybody?"

"Ooh, pick me," Tim says sarcastically. "And the winners are: Poison Ivy...and Kite Man?"

Bruce and Dick both stare at him. "Who?" Dick asks blankly.

"Don't look at me, I didn't name him. So, Poison Ivy. Wow, Dick, that means you can identify drug manufacturers even when you're totally high on sketchy sex pollen."

"It wasn't sex pollen," Dick objects, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

Tim gives him a really skeptical look. "If that's something you can be trained to do, I'll pass."

"Tim," Bruce says sternly, and then he looks a little awkward. "I never trained Dick to--"

"Hey, doesn't this look like an alternate holding area?" Dick interrupts hastily.

Bruce meets his eyes, and he looks uncomfortable and maybe even conflicted, but he lets Dick change the subject, which is just as well -- discussing the extent to which he was reacting to the drug versus reacting to Bruce is really not high on his list of things he'd like to do anytime soon.


It almost goes according to plan, which is kind of the story of Dick's life.

Batman, Dick and Tim are engaged in a knock-down, drag-out fight with various goons and hired muscle, when Poison Ivy shows up to join the party. She walks right past the brawl and up to Black Mask and socks him one. "That's for destroying part of my greenhouse," she says, and then hits him again. "That's for stealing my plants." She gets him with sharp kick to the ribs next. "Do you know what I do to people who kill my precious darlings and try to cheat me in the process, all so they can sell little girls to ugly old bastards like you?"

"Should we be stopping her?" Tim asks.

"Nah," Dick says, but then yells out, "Ivy, remember the deal!"

"I said I wouldn't kill him -- I never said I wouldn't kick the crap out of him." Ivy smiles down at Black Mask who is starting to look really unnerved.

"Oh, well, carry on," Dick says. He clobbers Rosini, which is pretty satisfying, and Batman takes down Perry a minute later.

"Ivy, look out!" Tim shouts, and Dick turns to see Black Mask holding a gun. It looks like a trank gun of some sort, and Ivy grunts when the needle embeds in her skin. She pulls it out and laughs, and the Black Mask scrambles to reload.

"Why isn't he fighting back?" Tim asks as he ties up some thugs.

"I don't think she'd come out for a night on the town without wearing some special perfume," Dick says. It looks like it's all the Black Mask can do to wrestle a new dart into the gun.

Unfortunately, his shot goes wide and hits Batman instead, and that's the moment when Dick knows that everything is about to go incredibly pear-shaped.

They hear the police sirens next -- Ivy takes advantage of the moment to knock the Black Mask out cold, and Tim trusses him up.

Dick gets one shoulder under Batman's arm, although he doesn't seem extremely unsteady on his feet. "You'd better get going, Ivy," he says.

"You'd better get him some place private," she retorts.

"Why?" Tim asks. "Wasn't it just a tranquilizer?"

Batman shifts so that he's pressed more firmly against Dick's side, and then -- "Hands in new places!" Dick says, his voice going a little high when Batman grabs his ass.

Ivy is looking at them with distinct interest. "I never did test it on a man of his size," she says thoughtfully. "It's likely he'll react differently. I wonder if he attempted to synthesize an antidote."

"The police will take care of the rest -- let's get out of here!" Dick says urgently. "Robin, you're driving. I'll keep him occupied."

The two of them manage to shove Batman into the passenger side, and then Tim hops into the driver's seat. "Nightwing, where are you going to -- oh, no."

Dick grits his teeth and levers himself gently into Batman's lap and says, "Just -- don't look. Drive fast."

This, he thinks, may now be the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to him -- not being sold off as a sex slave, not going undercover as a blushing bride. Because that's just not enough, clearly. He has to be perched across Batman's thighs in the Batmobile with a sizeable erection pressing against him, and Batman hasn't gotten any less handsy in the five minutes since Tim peeled out of the side street they had been parked on, leaving Dick's motorcycle behind.

He twists a little bit on Batman's lap, enough to look him in the eye and say, "Seriously, Bruce, could you not--"

He squeaks when Batman grabs the nape of his neck and pulls him into a kiss, hot and wet and just a little messy, and Dick really should not be letting this happen, but he's all twisted up and it's not like there's anywhere to go.

"I'm going to need so much therapy," Tim says, keeping his eyes on the road.


"My word," is Alfred's reaction.

"Nothing to see," Dick says, yanking off cowl and cape and letting out a tiny moan when Bruce backs him up against a wall in the Cave, evidently taking costume-removal as a go-ahead.

Tim is looking at them from behind his hands. "Shouldn't we sedate him?"

Dick manages to keep Bruce's hands out from under his clothing while he strips off the heavy yellow belt. "We're not sedating him with whatever is in his system. Ivy was right--" he gasps when Bruce leans down and nibbles on his neck -- "he might have -- oh -- made some kind of antidote, he's obviously a lot less passive than I was."

"I told you it was sex pollen," Tim says.

"Master Tim," Alfred says reprovingly.

Dick breathes in sharply through his nose when Bruce starts investigating the back of his uniform for its closure. "Okay, that's it -- Alfred, I know how you feel about downstairs clothes going upstairs, but I think it's better for everyone if I get him up to his room."

Tim looks dubious. "Are you going to be okay?"

"No worries," Dick says more confidently than he feels, and herds Bruce into the elevator, and from there, up to the master suite. It's not like he's never helped Bruce take off the Bat costume before -- chemical spills, injuries, etc. -- but Bruce usually isn't trying to grope him at the same time. When he finally has Bruce stripped down to his jock, he gives him a good solid push back into bed. "Stay there," he says firmly, hoping the drug has still left Bruce at least slightly suggestible. He goes into Bruce's closet, which is roughly the size of his apartment in Bludhaven, and trades his own spandex for pajama bottoms, taking care to stuff both uniforms in a special bag, to be taken down to the Cave at the earliest opportunity.

Bruce is still lying on the bed when Dick comes back out, which argues for Bruce being amenable to clear, precise orders. When he gets close enough to hold out the pair of boxers he'd retrieved from Bruce's closet, however, Bruce grabs his hand and pulls him down onto the bed.

"Okay, seriously, you can pass out any time now," Dick says, and manages to roll them over so that he has Bruce mostly pinned to the bed. "Usually I don't do bondage on the first date, but I will make an exception if you think I'm going to let you do something you'll really regret."

Bruce blinks at him, and his eyes still look glassy and a little unfocused. He lifts his head up to kiss Dick, and to his shame, Dick allows it for a few seconds, his eyes slipping shut at the warm press of Bruce's lips against his. And then he pulls back and says clearly, "Stop it. I know you don't want this, not really. You don't want me. You're drugged, and I'll be damned if you stop speaking to me out of misplaced guilt. Got that? Go to sleep."

Bruce lets his head rest back on the pillow, and he obediently closes his eyes.

After a few moments, Dick thinks its safe enough to climb off him, settling on the other side of the bed. "I'll be right here," he says softly. "Sleep."

Bruce's breathing evens out, and Dick lies awake for what feels like forever, but eventually the past few days catch up with him and he drifts off, too.


He wakes again at a touch on his arm.

"Dick?" Bruce says, sounding confused. The pre-dawn light is just enough to see by -- Dick neglected to close the curtains last night.

Dick rolls over onto his back to find Bruce propped up on one elbow, gently rubbing at one temple with his fingertips in a circular motion. "So," he says, keeping his voice quiet in case Bruce has as wicked a hangover from the drug as he had. "Are you still feeling the need to molest my nubile body?"

"...Nubile?" Bruce looks almost comically disconcerted.

"You heard me." Dick yawns and stretches a little, and thinks about going back to sleep. His eyes snap open, though, when the bed shifts under him and Bruce is half-propped up over his body.

"That's not a definitive test," Bruce says, and Christ, are they really going to argue about methodology after the night they've had?

"Fine, fine, we'll go downstairs and take a blood sample," Dick says.

"That's not what I meant," Bruce says, and he looks down at Dick for a few silent moments. "I wanted to. Before."

Dick freezes. If this is the drug talking, so help him, he will slug Bruce anyway. "Since when, exactly?"

Bruce looks uncomfortable, but he doesn't look away. "Since I bought you. Perhaps earlier."

"That's all it took? If I'd known a collar and a little eyeliner would do it for you, I would have--"

"No, that's not it," Bruce says, almost impatiently, and then falls quiet again.

Once upon a time, Dick would have been tempted to fill in the silence, but he knows better now -- knows that Bruce will speak, if he waits him out.

He doesn't disappoint, although every word seems like it's pulled from him, syllable by syllable. "Everyone was looking at you. They were all looking, trying to assign a price to you, but I would have--"

"What?" Dick prompts, voice barely above a whisper.

Bruce's eyes fall halfway shut, as if in remembrance. "I would have surrendered my father's fortune before I walked out of there without you."

Dick stares at him silently for a moment, mouth parted in shock. He doesn't know how to respond, really, except to say, "You're sure you're not drugged anymore?"

"I attempted to synthesize an antidote," Bruce admits, and then looks a little sheepish. "Obviously, it could use some refining."

"Obviously." Dick smiles up at him, feeling a little shaky.

Bruce has a rather charmingly appalling case of bedhead, the result of his hair being mashed under the cowl and then slept on. Still, it feels soft under Dick's fingertips, and he doesn't have to pull very much at all on Bruce's nape to bring him down for a kiss. If the kisses earlier had been marked by a certain lack of control, these are all Bruce -- long and slow and their mouths fitting together just right, over and over again. Bruce kisses the way he does everything the first time -- with patient thoroughness, like he might not get another chance and needs to map and memorize the feel of Dick's lips and tongue and the sound of his sighs.

And Dick certainly isn't trying to discourage wandering hands now, and pulls Bruce firmly on top of him by wrapping one leg around Bruce's waist. He gasps when Bruce moves on to kiss his neck, licking and biting gently where both collars had been, his head thrown back and his hands clutching at Bruce's shoulders. "You're sure -- you're not drugged either," Bruce murmurs against his throat, and Dick bucks his hips up against Bruce's at the sensation.

"No," Dick manages to say, even as he's attempting to pull down Bruce's jock strap with his toes.

"You liked the collar," Bruce says, as if he's just now putting everything together. "The diamond one. Did you want--"

"Oh, will you shut up and help me?" Dick says desperately, and Bruce obediently slides the jock the rest of the way off before catching the waist of the borrowed pajama bottoms and sliding them down Dick's hips. And then they're finally naked, and everyone appears to be in their right mind, or close enough, and Dick can finally say, "Please."

It's still not dawn but it's fractionally lighter when Bruce pulls a few things out of the bedside drawer without looking, and then -- oh god -- Bruce is kissing his thighs and breathing warm, humid air against his balls. Dick squeezes his eyes shut when Bruce takes his erection in his mouth, only opening them again when he feels a slick finger pushing into him, and when he looks down he sees Bruce's lips wrapped around his cock, blue eyes staring straight up at Dick, and it makes him shiver, makes him rock against Bruce's finger. "I want--" he says, and trails off helplessly when Bruce does something entirely too wonderful with his tongue.

Apparently, what Dick wants, he's going to get, because Bruce gives him two slick fingers, and then three, moving them in and out, achingly slowly, the slick wet sounds obscene in the air around them. The noises Dick is making are garbled and it's all he can do to grab a fistful of Bruce's hair, pulling him up gently but insistently. Bruce won't be rushed, though, and even though it only takes a few moments to put on the condom, it seems to take forever for Bruce to slowly press inside. Dick thinks he'll go out of his mind if he doesn't get what he wants, which is anything beyond this glacially cautious pace, and maybe it shows because Bruce begins to thrust into him faster but no less deliberately.

It's nothing like the fevered haze of the drug -- Dick feels like he's aware of everything: the slight scratch of Bruce's stubble against his cheek as Bruce leans down to lick his neck, the slick slide of their chests together, the way his toes curl when Bruce hitches Dick's knees up and leans in just so. And he's spent so many years determined not to ask for help, determined not to beg, but it all falls away now and he can plead hoarsely, "Oh god, Bruce, please, give me--"

"Anything," Bruce groans, and it only takes a few strokes of his hand before Dick's hands are making fists in the bedsheets, and he's coming messily between them. Bruce doesn't last much longer, his head dipping down to rest against Dick's shoulder as he shudders and then stops, his breathing warm and loud against Dick's ear.

Their breathing slows, and Dick watches the room get brighter and brighter. He's usually in bed before dawn -- seeing the sun rise generally means it's been a long, long night on patrol. He finds himself asking, "What happened to that collar? I thought I left it down in the Cave."

Bruce makes a muffled noise and gently disengages, throwing away the condom before reaching up under the pillow Dick's head is lying on to pull out a long strand of diamonds.

Dick looks at the collar, then looks at Bruce. "You're a disturbed man, and I love you."

Bruce doesn't say anything in return, but he does smile and fasten the collar around Dick's neck. And really, Dick thinks as he curls against Bruce for what will hopefully be a long nap, that's all the answer he needs.


Dick is down in the Cave, writing up a report and tapping his foot to the music playing at what Alfred calls, "a civilized volume."

He's in an unabashedly good mood, and everyone knows it. There's a definite imprint on his neck from sleeping in the collar, and also, Bruce wasn't exactly discreet with his teeth last night, and he's seriously too old to have hickeys but what the hell. The stolen turtleneck sweater he's wearing mostly hides them.

"What's wrong with that song? I like it," Dick says as Tim ruthlessly cuts it off mid-warble and brings up his playlist.

"Of course you do," Tim says, rolling his eyes. "You have the musical taste of a preteen girl."

"You're lucky you even get to listen to your music down here," Dick says. "And I still can't believe he lets you drink coffee. Let's face it, you owe me -- I broke him in for you."

"Yeah, yeah," Tim says. "Younger siblings always have it easier, blah blah blah." He brings up a computer program he's been tinkering with, and they work in companionable quiet for awhile, Dick humming occasionally with the music.

"This should be a no-humming zone. You're seriously tone-deaf," Tim says.

"I am not," Dick says, and reaches out one hand to mess up Tim's hair. Tim attempts to duck but Dick gets him, just the same.

"So," Tim says, and he's not exactly doing a good job of sounding casual. "You and Bruce are still speaking to each other this morning."

"Yup," Dick says, and almost starts humming again.

"So nobody died of embarrassment last night, except for me. And maybe Alfred."

"Seems that way," Dick says cheerfully.

Tim is silent for a moment, and then says, "You seriously did a lot more than swapping spit last night, didn't you."

Dick knows it's time to come clean. "Yes, it was consensual, yes, no one was drugged at the time, and yes, I do expect it to continue."

Tim takes a deep breath. "Okay, then." And Dick can tell that he means that sincerely, that it really is all right.

Dick looks at him sideways. "I heard you're going to Metropolis for spring break. You guys are being safe, right?"

"Oh my god," Tim says, mortified. "Who told you? Alfred? Never mind -- can we talk about this later? And by later, I mean when I'm thirty?"

"Seriously, did Bruce give you the safe sex talk?"

Tim buries his face in his hands. "There was a Powerpoint presentation. Oh god, I'm going to die just remembering it."

"Well, this is Kon we're talking about. Bruce probably just wants to make sure you don't get knocked up."

Tim lifts his head, his eyes wide. "Shut up. That's not -- you can't -- I'm not getting pregnant."

"At your age, Master Tim, I should certainly hope not," Alfred says behind them, Bruce standing next to him.

"Bruce," Tim whines, "Tell Dick that can't happen."

"He's a half-alien clone," Bruce says dryly. "Let's not take any chances."

"I -- you know, I bet I have some homework that I could be doing," Tim says, and makes a break for the elevator. Alfred follows him in, and gives Bruce and Dick a knowing look before the doors close behind him.

Dick spins his chair back around to face the computer, and even types a sentence into his report before he feels Bruce's hands rest on his shoulders.

"That's a nice sweater on you," Bruce says, fingering the turtleneck that doesn't quite hide all the bite marks on his neck. "A little big, though, since it's mine."

"Clear me some space in that cavern you call a closet, and I won't have to wear your stuff," Dick says, his hands stilling on the keyboard.

"I didn't say I objected." Bruce slides his fingertips inside the top of the turtleneck and stops when his fingertips brush the collar hidden underneath. "Are you...always going to wear that?"

"It's a little dressy for everyday, don't you think?" Dick says, spinning the chair around slowly to face him. Bruce leans past him to tap a few keys on the computer, and Dick raises an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"

"Disabling the feed for the Cave," Bruce says.

Dick frowns. "I thought you said we were never supposed to do that."

"By all means, don't start doing what I say now," Bruce says.

"That's unfair," Dick objects. "I can be good."

Bruce pulls the sweater down enough to expose the collar, and leans in close to whisper against his lips, "Show me."