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Loyalty

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I'm exhausted. More exhausted than usual, that is to say. It's not that I've worked so hard that I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted because I feel so defeated. I'm exhausted because Batman demanded something of me, and I gave it to him. Just like I always do, no matter how much I age.

When I first became Nightwing, I promised myself that things would be different. I told myself that I would no longer live in Batman’s shadow, that I would become my own man and my own crime fighter. I am not sure I've accomplished that.

Unlike Jason, or Tim, and even Damian, I am ultimately incapable of saying no to Bruce. Maybe for irrelevant, superficial things I can deny him, but the serious stuff? No. I can never reject his commands. In the end, I always give him what he wants.

Roy was right about what he said. I would never say it out loud to anyone, especially not Roy, but he was completely right about me. I say I'm over being Batman’s sidekick, that I'm over doing everything he tells me, but that’s not true.

I still always do what he asks me, because maybe somewhere deep down, I'm still in desperate need of his approval.

I pull my motorcycle up into the Batcave, parking it right next to the vintage 1960’s themed Batmobile. I pull off my Nightwing helmet with a loud sigh, glancing around the cave with a small sliver of hope of seeing him there.

He is there, just as I wished he would be, standing in front of Jason’s old Robin suit. The one he was murdered in. His expression is serious and hard, his body stiff. The Batman uniform is still on, but the cowl is pulled back to reveal his face.

I approach him slowly, unsure if it's okay for me to join him or not. After all these years of working together, I still don't know for sure if he wants me standing by his side at all. If he deems me worthy to.

“How did it go with the Giovanni family?” Bruce asks, his body as still as a statue. He doesn't bother to turn around to see who’s standing behind him. He already recognized my footsteps, my breathing, my scent.

“As expected. GCPD is handling them now,” I tell him. I take a few hesitant steps toward him.

“Good, good,” he says with a nod. Bruce looks over his shoulder at me, his eyes glassy and his mouth turned down into a permanent frown. “You did well.”

I try to take pride in his compliment, but I can't. It's clear to me that he's distracted, that his mind is elsewhere. I clear my throat, stepping closer.

“I did what you asked, by the way.”

Bruce only hums in response, his eyes glued to Jason’s old uniform.

“I disbanded the Titans,” I clarify for him. Bruce finally turns to face me, a glimmer of satisfaction in his eyes. He nods approvingly at me.

“Good. You made the right decision, Dick. That team was dangerous.”

I press my lips together in anger, swallowing down my objections. The Titans were not dangerous. We weren't just a team of heroes, we were a team of friends. Best friends. And sure, maybe we were beginning to act like we were in a soap opera, but that doesn't change the fact that we made a good team.

But the Justice League didn't see it that way. Batman didn’t see a group of best friends working together, he just saw a danger that needed to be stopped. So he asked me to disband the team, and much to the objections of my teammates, I did. Because despite him being a total asshole about it, Bruce had made a good point. The Titans were letting their emotional ties get in the way of the mission, and as a result, we couldn't be trusted. I just wish I hadn't disappointed Bruce in the way I had, because even though he never flat out said he was disappointed in me, I knew that he was. His silence was answer enough.

I hesitate for a minute before answering, wondering if I should tell him what has been troubling me the most. I want to tell him, but I'm afraid of how he’ll react.

“Roy did say something about it. Something that hasn't….been sitting right with me,” I mutter, staring down at the floor. I rub my arm nervously, not daring to look Bruce in the eyes.

What happened between me and Roy the other day? It really upset me, and not just because he totally kicked my ass. (Something I will not be sharing with Bruce, by the way). No, what really upset me is what he said about me and Bruce, because he was right. In every way, he was right, and I'm ashamed of that.

“Dick,” Bruce starts, taking a step closer. “As the leader of a team, sometimes you have to make decisions that not everyone’s going to agree with.”

“I know that,” I answer him quickly. “I understand that, but this was different. This wasn't about the Titans. It was about, um, you and me.”

Bruce’s eyebrows raise in surprise, clearly taken back. He wasn't expecting that. There’s a moment where I swear I can see a glimmer of fear in his eyes, but then the fear is gone. His expression smoothes out to one of minor interest.

“What did he say? I'm sure whatever it was, it’s not true.”

I pull at the collar of my uniform.

“He said that I became Nightwing to step out of your shadow, but at the same time, I still do whatever you tell me to do,” I tell him, watching his expression closely. Predictably, it doesn't change. “He said that I'm more loyal to you than to my own friends.”

Bruce hums, rubbing his chin. Roy was right; I am more loyal to Bruce then to my friends, but what’s wrong with that? Shouldn't my loyalties be to my mentor first, over my friends? Doesn't family always come first in these sort of situations, because afterall, Bruce is my family.

“That's a very interesting observation,” Bruce muses, his eyes staring off into the distance. His gaze glazes over, as if he's forgotten that I'm even here.

“Is it?”

“Yes,” Bruce says, his eyes meeting mine again. He takes another step closer, making it so that we’re only inches apart now. I can hear how heavy his breath is. I tell myself to move, to take a step back, but I can't. I don't want to.

Bruce has been this close to me before. There have been many times when he has embraced me, and told me how having me in his life has changed him for the better. I've been in situations like this with Bruce before, but something feels different this time. I can feel an electrical charge in the air, and the way Bruce is looking at me right now? I don't think he's ever looked at me that way before.

“Is it true?” He asks, his voice low and grave.

“Um, is what true?” I ask dumbly. I'm so distracted by the way he's looking me, that I've completely forgotten about what we were talking about in the first place.

“Are your loyal to me, above everyone else? Even your closest friends?”

I lick my lips. The mood between us has shifted so much, into something that I'm not familiar with. At least, I'm not used to feeling this way with Bruce. It feels like something is about to happen between us, and it's never felt that way with Bruce before. I just don't feel that way about him. I don't think I do, at least, and I thought for sure that he didn't feel that way about me. I'm not so sure now, though.

“Um, y-yes,” I stammer, and then clear my throat. What is wrong with me all of a sudden? I'm never this nervous around anyone, especially not Bruce. “Yes, I am.”

Bruce is quiet, letting the silence between us grow. I wait for him to say something, anything. His face is unchanging, his expression clear of any emotion. I have no idea what he's thinking, but he watches me through narrow eyes. As if he's studying me.

I'm shocked when he pulls me into a hug, crushing his body against mine. He wraps his arms around me, pressing his face against the side of my head. It takes me a second to register what's happening, but then I wrap my arms around him in return.

This is strange. The only time Bruce hugs me is after a life threatening event. He never hugs me without reason.

I close my eyes and tell myself it's not worth questioning. I should just enjoy this moment for what it is, instead of over analyzing it. Maybe Bruce just needs a hug right now? Maybe he had a really bad day or something?

“You're so good, you know that?” He whispers against my ear, a hand running down my back. I feel myself stiffen under his touch, because Bruce has definitely never done that before. “You're not like the others, Dick. I can always count on you.”

I swallow loudly, trying to ignore the way his hand lingers on my lower back, pulling me closer.

“What about Jason, and Tim, and Damian?” I mutter into his shoulder. I wonder if this awkward embrace will ever end. Bruce's lips brush against my ear, making me shiver. I have never been in such an uncomfortable position with Bruce before.

“It's not the same. They're not the same.”

Before I can question that statement further, Bruce runs his lips down from my earlobe to the crook of my neck, leaving a soft kiss there. For a moment, I don’t even register the kiss, and by the time I do, he's already leaving a wet trail down my neck.

My blood goes cold, I freeze under his touch. I continues to hide my face in his shoulder, trying to make sense of the situation.

But I can't. I have no idea what's going on right now.

“Um, uh, Bruce?” I breathe. Bruce doesn't answer, instead choosing to leaving open mouthed kisses across my collarbone. He pulls at my collar, and I try to tug away, but it's pointless. His grip is just too strong on me. “What’re you doing?”

“You're so good to me. You always have been,” Bruce mumbles, his lips skimming my cheek. I shiver under his touch, knowing what's about to happen, but not knowing how I feel about it. I don't know whether I want Bruce to kiss me or not.

“Um, I think, uh-”

Bruce interrupts me before I have the chance to form a proper sentence, pressing his lips against mine. I'm surprised by how soft the kiss is at first, how gentle he is. His hand combing through the back of my hair, keeping me in place. His mouth is slow and curious against mine. He's in no rush, he wants to take his time.

I find myself actually leaning into him, my arms relaxing around him. His other hand brushes back the hair on my forehead as he kisses me, his tongue innocently poking at my mouth. I respond in kind, allowing Bruce access to the inside of my mouth.

When our tongues touch, Bruce's hands come up to hold my face, his body tensing with excitement. Our kiss becomes sloppy and wet, and I don't even realize it when I clutch at his backside, silently begging for more. I groan into his mouth, my body grinding against his. It’s not nearly as satisfying as I wish it to be; our uniforms get in the way.

I don't know how this happened, or where it came from, but I find myself very happy it did. I had no idea Bruce even had these kind of feelings for me, and while I should be skeeved out by how inappropriate this is, I'm not.

I mean, Bruce is the closest thing I have to a father. He’s raised me since I was nine years old. This should feel so wrong, but it doesn't. If anything, it feels right.

“I need you,” Bruce whispers into my mouth when he pulls away to breathe. He pushes me up against the Batcomputer, grinding down harder against my thigh. I have no control over my body as I close my eyes and moan in want. “I need you now.”

I let Bruce take me right there against the computer; me whispering his name every time he thrusts into me, and him telling me how good and loyal I am. If I was smarter, I'd ask myself what this means for us, how this changes things. But I must not be that smart, because I don't question any of those things. I just let Bruce claim me as his own, and wait to see what the morning brings.

Something's for sure, though, and it’s that Roy was right. Above all else, my loyalties are to Bruce first, and I think I'm all the better for it.