It's a little sad that the only place that Dick wants to hang out at with his friends is the very same place that he works four nights out of the week.
On Saturday nights, Oswald Cobblepot's Gin Joint is lively and loud and the staff members practically run themselves ragged while flitting around trying to make sure that every table is satisfied and every drink is topped off.
For the first time in a week and a half, Dick isn't one of them. It's the first night off in a while that he's been able to get and of course, he decides to spend it where he works. He has his reasons of course: the food and drink are discounted from his entire party, the band is the best one that Cobblepot hires, and all of his coworkers and friends know and like each other.
It's comfortable and cozy, their table a somewhat secluded cove in a sea of rowdy diners and dancers. The only place where Dick feels more comfortable is in Wayne Manor with Bruce himself and even that had taken some time.
Thinking about the home that he and Bruce share makes Dick think of Bruce and he knows, even before Barbara nudges him with her elbow, that he has to be making a goofy, rather obnoxious face.
"You know you didn't have to come out with us," Barbara says, teasing slyly as she smiles at Dick. "You could've stayed home with your billionaire and come out some other night."
Dick shakes his head. "And miss out on half-priced appetizers and a night out with my best friends," he says, not at all bothering to hide his own smile. "Bruce volunteered to watch Chloe for me so we could do this, Babs. I'm not passing up on the chance to get out of the house for a little bit."
"He's watching the munchkin?" Barbara asks, eyebrows lifted. "After the Jello incident last year, I didn't think that he'd ever do it again. It must be love." She's teasing again, of course. "So, when are you going to pop the question and make it legally binding?"
Dick blinks, feeling like his brain short circuits at Barbara's words.
"Propose? To Bruce?" Dick blurts out. He didn't – "I didn't –"
Dick feels clumsy, like his tongue is thick in his mouth and he can't think.
At first, he kind of imagines brushing the whole thing off and laughing as if this is all a really hilarious joke. But then, it hits him. This is his life. He can hang out here with his friends because he has a partner who his daughter adores and who adores her in return.
And proposing –
Well, Dick has never thought long and hard about the fact that there's a rather logical conclusion to their relationship.
"Don't think so hard about it," Barbara says, shifting a little in her wheelchair. "Geez, Dick. If I didn't know better, I'd think that someone just smacked you upside the head. I thought you and Bruce were as good as married already, so what --"
Dick shrugs and then reaches for his beer (his third in the past two hours). He chugs half of it without thinking, relishing the familiar bitterness of the heavy stout on his tongue.
"I didn't think about it," Dick mutters later, glancing down at the bottle instead of at Barbara. Jason and Alysia probably won't notice a thing because they're busy bickering over the next appetizer that they're getting, but he doesn't want to risk seeing any judgement. "I keep expecting to wake up on your couch only to find out that it was all a dream."
Barbara touches the back of Dick's right hand.
"Dick, I --" She pauses, noticeably at a loss for words at first. "Is this what you've been going through this whole time? Why -- why didn't you say anything?"
Shrugging, Dick forces himself to meet his best friend's inquisitive green gaze.
"I don't know, Babs," he admits in a sullen voice. "It's just -- Bruce and I have been together for four years and I just can't stop waiting for the other shoe to drop or for him to leave the way that Cheyenne did. Everyone I know is in a stable and happy relationship and I'm just -- "
Gently, Barbara squeezes Dick's hand.
"Dick," she says, "You're in one too."
Dick sighs, glaring down at his beer as if it's managed to personally offend him.
"Yeah, I know that, but -- Babs, This is the longest relationship I've been in and I don't even know if Bruce wants to get married again."
When Barbara pinches Dick a moment later, Dick yelps and nearly spills his beer all over the table.
"What was that for?" Dick asks.
"You're not dreaming, Dick," Barbara says, the seriousness of her tone belied by the mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "And anyone can see how much Bruce loves you and Chloe. Seriously, I'm willing to bet that the only reason why he hasn't asked you to marry him is because he's in the same boat: panicking about whether or not you feel the same despite how obviously in love the two of you are."
Of course, Jason and Alysia choose that very moment to get back into the conversation.
"Are you freaking out about your relationships again?" Jason asks. He doesn't wait for Dick to answer, setting down his own bottle of beer with a muted clatter before turning so that he can look at both Alysia and Barbara. "He does this every time things get serious: stress himself out of whatever happiness he has. He's been doing it since we were kids and it's fucking ridiculous."
Alysia at least has the grace to hide her laughter behind her left hand. The massive wedding ring on her ring finger catches the light, chips of amethyst standing out against the gleaming platinum band.
"Don't make fun of him, Jason," Alysia says once she's done giggling, her smiling taking on a decidedly mischievous note. "Remember, Babs and I were still roommates when you two started dating and I have a very long memory. He's not the only person that gets weird about relationships."
The implicit threat works well enough and Jason gives in, sinking back against his seat beside Dick.
"Fine," he grumbles.
When Alysia glances at Dick, he feels himself freeze, fingers squeezing tightly around the slick sides of his bottle. Out of all of his friends, Alysia and Barbara are the only two that can look at him and read him like a book. So when she looks at him, her brown eyes soft and yet still piercing, Dick feels like flinching.
"Lys," Dick starts to say, "I --"
"I'm not going to tell you what to do or how you should do it," Alysia says, "But when David and I were dating, I didn't know when or if he'd ever propose to me. So I took matters into my own hands and popped the question. If you love Bruce as much as we all know you do, then just… think about it, okay? And breathe."
Barbara nods. "Yeah, Dick," she says, chiming in easily enough. "We've seen the way that Bruce looks at you when you're together and how he looks at Chloe. He's yours."
Glancing back and forth between three of his best friends in the world, Dick sighs. Not with resignation though, but with relief at how helpful and understanding they are.
"So," he says, smiling for real for the first time since this part of the conversation began. "Does this mean that you three are going to help me make this proposal perfect?"
Back when Dick was younger and still with Cheyenne, his proposal had been far from romantic. Hell, he didn't even have a ring to slip on her finger until well into her pregnancy with Chloe.
But this time, with Bruce, everything has to be perfect.
Alysia nods. "Of course," she says, speaking for all of them. "Like we'd let you do this by yourself -- We're your friends, Dick."
Jason snorts. "Good job pretending that this has absolutely nothing to do with your obsession with weddings, Lys," he says with a smirk. "I almost forgot what a weirdo you are."
Startled into laughter by Jason's teasing and Alysia's mock-outrage, Dick covers his face with his hands. "You're all ridiculous," he says, his voice muffled. "Especially you, Jason."
"Is that any way to talk to the man that's going to help you get a ring on your boyfriend's finger?"