The world had gone to hell. So long ago, really, that Dick couldn't remember a friendly stranger's face. What it looked like - he couldn't think of those things they had to kill as human, and he couldn't really imagine seeing a face he didn't recognize. Some mornings, that thought managed to make him sick to his stomach, and he skipped breakfast, earning concerned looks from his family. Noone pushed him though, and for that, he was grateful.
The superpowered fighters had left. He wasn't sure where, but Bruce and Clark had gone off after a particularly rough day (Wally hadn't said a word since, Roy having killed himself after getting bitten, and Wally had been the poor guy to find his boyfriend's essentially headless body some thirty minutes later) and when they came back, Bruce looked grimmer than usual, and the light, the hopefulness was gone from Clark's eyes. They had decided that it just wasn't beneficial for anyone for the ones who were immune to stick around and watch the people they had spent the greater portion of their lives working with die or succumb to the disease that had ravaged the world.
Kon had stayed. He had gripped onto Tim's hand so tightly that Tim actually briefly let pain dance across his features, and Kon had said goodbye to Clark, Diana, Cassie and Kara and so many others. Tim had tried to reason with him, and Kon had frowned so fiercely at him that it was possibly the one fight that Kon had won - let alone won before it managed to get started.
Their group had slowly whittled down, until it was poorly evident that Bruce's training of them had made them a small army, capable of staying alive. Not that the others hadn't been capable - most had died fulfilling their role of 'hero' to a T, watching each other's back and then facing their inevitable, necessary death with fear, but also a serenity that Dick envied.
Colin (besides Wally, but it was so easy to look past Wally these days, a silent ghost of himself after Roy left them) was the only outsider to the Wayne family left - he fought well as Abuse, and Damian protected him fiercely when the kid was too tired to access the Venom in his veins.
Dick hated the fact that during dinner time in whatever safe house they had taken up for the night, he would look up from his place beside Bruce (always beside Bruce, even though they hadn't really so much as looked at each other since the first reports that this was a widespread problem, and God how empty and little those words seemed now, compared to what it really was) and wonder which would be the next to go. Who would he have to look in the face as they turned feverish and grey and near tears with the amount of pain that seemed to course through the infected's body?
He'd had to shoot friends point blank upon their asking. They all had.
They didn't talk about the dead once they were dead. Alfred was a name long gone from their lips, and someone had made the mistake of mentioning Roy, only for everyone to regret it when they'd nearly lost Wally too for it. They didn't say 'dead' either. Or 'dying' or 'kill'.
It was all 'leaving' or 'left' or 'gone', and not even Jason, with all his cocksure attitude, fought that unspoken attitude.
Dick couldn't remember the last time he had felt so much in solidarity with Jason. He wished it had been on better terms. But then, Dick wished for a lot of things, and none of them involved the desolate wasteland scattered with infected, or the small caravan of cars that they traveled in, packed together in a small relief of the feel of other human flesh, warm, but not warm in the way that blood covered their hands in a fight, and not in the way that the gun felt heavy in their hands, smoke still snaking its way into the air.
Dick wished for a lot of things, but anymore, he was just grateful to feel Bruce's hand squeeze his, a subtle, gentle reminder. He was just grateful to see all the same faces around the fire at night, and know that, for at least one more day, they were surviving.
He didn't know what day it was. Hell, he didn't even know what year it was, anymore, even though it was both simple and difficult to accept the notion that they had lasted against those things for longer than a year.
All he knew was that Wally was talking, actually honest to god (even if Dick could no longer even somewhat consider a god, and most certainly not an honest one, with this sick joke that covered the earth) talking for the first time in so many months that it was scratching and whisper-like and hardly there. Dry sobs raked across the otherwise silent camp. Deathly silent, and the irony made Dick chuckle, though the humor was gone. Most everything was gone except for the buzzing in his head, and the fear that pitted low in his stomach.
The others had said their goodbyes. They treated it like he was just going away. Vacationing. But it was still a punch in the gut to watch Damian holding back tears, and to watch Colin - always the weaker of the two, and before this whole mess, the one who cried to Damian - hold his friend tight. Comfortingly. It killed him to tell Kon to take care of Tim, and it hurt to tell Tim to stay safe. To see the accusations mixed in with the hurt in Tim's eyes.
He and Jason had just watched each other briefly, before clasping hands. Silence. Understanding. Respect, mutual and Dick once more was left wanting for things to have been different between them.
Bruce had gone outside when they had noticed the deep gash of teeth on his forearm. He had stood up, and let the door slowly, softly click behind him, a whisper of everything that was wrong with the world.
And Wally had stared wide-eyed at him, and demanded to know when it happened, and when Dick was unable to answer - not out of lack of knowing, but the inability to tell Wally that it was another person died protecting him - Wally had sunk to the ground, eyes wide and hopeless and grabbing at Dick's hand, holding onto him tightly as if it could keep him from leaving. Dick could say nothing, but just held onto his friend until the world started to get a little fuzzy.
He had another hour left, or so. About. But better to be safe than sorry, and there was still - there were things to be said, still.
He told Wally that things would be okay, that the others would take care of him, and that he was so, so, sorry. Two out of three being true wasn't bad, right?
Bruce was leaning against the outside wall of the safehouse, staring ahead. Dick wasn't surprised that there was no sign of stress aside from deeply imbedded crescents in the palm of both hands, and wordlessly, he lifted one hand and then the other, kissing away the marks. Bruce didn't pull away, just watching him with hurt and betrayal and anger. A word that had never before passed between them in conversation, but had often filled their actions, lay dormant somewhere in the back, and Dick wished, briefly, that he'd never put it between them. That Bruce would just be losing a son and not a lover as well.
"Don't." It was his Batman voice, heavy and controlled and his shoulders drew up defensively.
"You're the only one I can ask. I-" He looked down, between them. Somehow, without noticing, he'd tangled their fingers together, and squeezed gently. "I can go ask Jason," he corrected with a shake of his head.
"No. If you-" Bruce sighed, and somehow, it seemed to say everything. "I'll do it. Just give me a little time, first."
Dick didn't tell him that they didn't have time. Dick didn't tell him sorry, or even how much their time together meant to him. He didn't say how much he wished that they had said 'fuck it' to appearances and let the world really see them. He just nodded and leaned forward, resting his forehead on Bruce's chest and feeling the older man's chin settle on his head.
If the world wasn't falling apart at the seams, Dick would swear that he was imagining the fact that they were swaying gently to music that wasn't there.
They had danced. Once. Just the two of them - the manor had been empty, even Alfred gone to fetch groceries. Dick had been listening to swing music on the old record player in the study, and when Bruce walked back, he'd dragged him into a dance. The song had switched to the comforting sound of manufactured silence, a gentle scratch of the needle at the end of the record, and they had seamlessly drawn closer, arms wrapped securely around one another as they swayed in place, a million things passing between one another without a single word, an understanding that came from years of working at each other's side.
Dick hummed the melody to Bei Mir Bist Du Schön and it startled a weak laugh out of Bruce. He managed his own smile as he drew away, and touched Bruce's cheek. Suddenly, he understood the calm the others had all possessed - it was selfish to do otherwise. To go to the person they trusted most (and did that say horrible things about Roy, that he hadn't trusted Wally enough, or was Roy better than the rest of them, that he hadn't burdened his death on any one else like Dick was about to?) and then be panicked about dying when the other person had to go on living with one more person's blood on their hands? No, Dick wouldn't do that to Bruce. He could make his peace with his death, even if his hand shook a little when he handed Bruce the revolver from his back pocket.
His smile shook more, and he wanted to cry at Bruce's attempt to return it.
Suddenly, he wanted to run back inside. He wanted to snatch the revolver right back, and hand it to Jason. Tell Jason to do it because while they were reconciling now, they had never been so close. He didn't want his last memories in Bruce's head to be a lifeless body - fodder for the infected to eat. He didn't want to put Bruce in this position.
But, at the same time, he knew that it was only fair. That, were their situations reversed, he'd feel hurt and betrayed knowing that Bruce hadn't gone to him. Knowing that someone else had been the last person to see that glorious, wonderful light in Bruce's eyes that denoted living and breathing and wonderful.
"Let's move a bit away from the house." Dick murmured, and Bruce assented with a short nod, leading the way with a enviously steady hand on Dick's. They both pretended not to notice the blood pouring down from the bite in Dick's arm. They pretended not to notice how it was thickening and darkening and changing into something wholly inhuman.
They faced each other once they were what Bruce deemed to be a good distance from the others. Dick dropped his hand from Bruce's, and managed a smile. They couldn't kiss - it'd be as bad as sentencing Bruce to the same death sentence, and the others needed Bruce. "I-"
"I know, Dick," he said softly, busying himself with opening the chamber and making sure that there were bullets in all the slots. He clicked it shut once more. "Me too."
"Good." Dick smiled, a bit more sincerely. There was nothing else to say. 'Stay safe' was redundant and unnecessary - and cruel, considering the circumstances. They'd exchanged their feelings in the way they were comfortable doing. And it was no use giving Bruce instructions when he knew what he was doing better than Dick ever had. So instead, he watched Bruce's face, feeling the disease fill him with a cold sweat, and felt his body shake as if this was something he could just physically throw off his body. He opened his mouth, and sang the first few lines of The Andrew Sisters big hit, and hoped that Bruce would never somehow come across it so long as he survived.
"-means that you're grand," he practically whispered, and never fully heard the revolver go off before he crumbled to the ground.
The world had gone to hell.