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Why Don't you Remember?

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Jason honestly couldn't’ believe his eyes. Or his nose. For that matter, he was struggling with smell, touch, and reality as a whole at the moment. In front of him stood a drunk Richard Grayson.

Specifically, he was standing on the idyllic porch of a elderly couple that was on a three month long cruise while they left their home with a live-in caretaker. Said live in caretaker had been quite conveniently offered the position through an ex-partner who had reconnected with him by almost arresting him for a bar fight over some pool hustling, and knew he needed more stable living conditions. Said couple was this partner’s aunt and uncle and had won the rare and unexpected cruise offer only two weeks ago. Things had just “lined up perfectly”.

Well, Jason knew the truth. Bruce had most definitely had done a little more to cause this situation than the drunken man before him knew. Before it would have been obvious to him.

“Can I help you? If your looking for the Lauttersons, they’ll be gone through December.” The wasn’t whiskey on his breath, it was too sweet. Jason wasn’t sure what it was, but he was somewhat grateful the Grayson hadn’t raided any liquor cabinets. With his new… everything, Jason had no clue on how to read this person he once thought was a staple in his life.

“I’m, uh, actually looking for you?” Jason rarely went for the truth right off the bat, but he felt it was deserved for once. Grayson raised an eyebrow, and then sighed heavily.

“Another one.” He muttered. “Come in.” Jason looked around the living room. On the TV was a muted baseball game. It was post-season, and Jason couldn't’ recognize the teams. On the table were wine coolers. Much too cheap a drink for the couple to buy themselves.

“Putting your pay to good use?” Jason joked. He looked towards Grayson. The guy was standing in the kitchen pulling down dishes.

“What was that? Um, I wasn’t really planning to make anything for dinner, but uh, I can whip up some pasta pretty easily.” Jason blinked. Dick had rarely offered to cook for people. Jason suspected it was because Dick had some assumption that if you cooked for someone else , it had to be 5-star to Alfred quality cooking. Jason had always meant to ask, because he knew Dick was a fine home cook, but it had never seemed important before. Now, Jason was being offered pasta with no hesitation or assumptions on his judgements.

“You’re here at a pretty good time. In about twenty minutes, I don’t think I’d trust myself with open flame.” The water filled pot was placed over the gas stove top. Jason turned from the scene to peruse the living room again.

“Drinking in on a Friday night? Doesn’t seem like like a… you thing.” Jason winced as his pause. His “you” had sounded so accusatory. Grayson couldn’t control it, he knew that. Grayson sprinkled salt into the mildly steaming water.

“You’re not wrong.” He seemed to ignore any unusual inflections. Jason leaned against the doorway, watching the TV. “There have been some break-ins in the neighborhood. I didn’t want the Lauttersons to worry.” Jason turned to the kitchen. Dick was in sweats and a loose white cotton tee-shirt. Honestly , Jason thought, just add more hair and this would almost be normal .

“You’re keeping it buzzed?” Jason asked. Grayson grabbed the box of pasta he had set out.

“I… as long as people keep visiting… I don’t….” He seemed to struggle with what he wanted to say.

“As long as people keep expecting you to magically be like before you want to do any and everything to remove that expectation?” Jason supplied. He was intimately familiar with the feeling. He tried to hide ignore the tightness in his chest when Grayson’s reaction was not what he had expected.

“You understand!” or maybe, “yeah, you get it,” he even thought maybe a “you’ve been there?”

Instead Grayson made a slight scoffing sound and hard look over his left shoulder at Jason. No personal inquiries of his emotional well-being, not questions or further probing for details, no body cues whatsoever that Jason had spent years cataloging so he could anticipate every one of Dick’s numerous responses. He looked down.

Plan B , Jason rolled his shoulders, ignoring how tight they still felt afterwards.

“You’re still in his will.” Another scoff.

“Yeah, so I’ll be financially stable in fifty years?” Jason frowned. “Why would he even put me in his will? He never adopted me like he did the rest of you guys. I’ve found the paperwork as proof.”

Jason ground his teeth to keep from snapping at Grayson. He didn’t know. Dick knew. Grayson didn’t. Dick knew Bruce had tried for eight years to legally have Dick as his son. However, Dick’s paperwork from CPS was so poorly taken care of that any and all required documents either had to be recreated or took years to uncover.

Jason followed Grayson as he set up two placemats on the breakfast bar. He was still thinking about Dick a Bruce. He often forgot that the two were closer to fifteen years apart then twenty, another reason Bruce had had issues filing adoption papers. A not yet thirty year old man attempting to adopt a ten, almost eleven year old child? It had led to some salacious comments that had only ended after Jason’s public death. Jason had read the obituary of his own death multiple times. It wasn’t until years after his revivaly that he truly registered the fact that Bruce had been planning on surprising him with the signed adoption papers. Tim was still technically a ward, but with his official, legal disownment, the adoption papers were bound to be at hand soon. Of course there was then Damian. Not much for Jason to say there. It hadn’t even been a big deal in the papers because Bruce had already adopted Stephanie and Cass by the time he showed up. The fact he was Bruce’s biological son was the only blip on the media radar. Granted, there had been a major villain attack in Gotham about that time as well, but still.

“I bet Damian’s come by.”

“A few times actually. He keeps coming over and playing video games. It’s pretty obvious he doesn’t enjoy them though.” Jason shifted in his seat. He froze wen Grayson leaned away from him, then back into his original position as Jason leaned back again.

“Uh, sorry. Like your personal space?” Jason was almost as shocked as Grayson’s face looked. “Did I say something wrong?” He asked. Grayson cracked a smile.

“No, just… you’re the first to ask me something as if you’re trying to get to know me. Yeah all you asked was a question about personal space, which, by the way everyone seems to assume I don’t care for it?”

“You were pretty free with your physical affections, before .” Jason said with a shrug.

“Really?” Jason nodded around a mouthful of spaghetti. It was a bit too al dente in his opinion, but he could the rising flush in Grayson’s cheeks and over his nose. A quick glance in the kitchen confirmed the stovetop was off.

“I find that hard to believe. I mean, every time someone tries to touch me it feels like fucking hairy… spiders. It feels like spiders on my skin.” His voice had dropped to a whisper.

“It makes your skin crawl?” Jason asked to clarify. He had noticed that Grayson had paused before saying spiders. There was something significant in that, he just knew it. Jason decided to bring it up with Tim later.

“So, will you be staying the night?” Grayson trails off. Jason looks around. The house is gorgeous, and he knows there has to be at least a second room somewhere.

“No. But, I, can I come again?”

“I might be out next Friday”

“I know your favorite bar.”

“From anyone else, like anyone who I knew wasn’t a part time, graveyard shift maniac, that would be creepy. Scratch that, it’s still creepy.”

“Our,” Jason paused. Grayson raise an eyebrow expectantly. “The family does creepy well.” Jason corrected. “Next time I come by, I’d like to bring some friends. They honestly just want to see that you’re ok.”
“So I use to know them?”

“Yeah.”

“They won’t give me shit, will they?”

“Not these guys. Well, not about your shit memory,” Grayson actually smirked.

“Fine, I’ll try to avoid drinking before you guys get here.” The two stood. Jason dropped his plate in the sink and led himself to the front door. Grayson followed him and Jason heard the door lock behind him. He entered the sleek black car that was parked in front of the house.

“How’d it go?” Tim asked from behind the wheel. Barbara was in the passenger seat, her laptop open and a camera giving a very familiar view of the living room Jason had just been in.

“”I talk a fucking big game, but I can’t just let him go either.” Jason slouched in the back seat.

“Well, at least he didn’t tell you to fuck off.” Barbara huffed.

“He didn’t tell you to fuck off Babs, he just emphasized he was living his own life and that you needed to back off and… okay, he basically told you to fuck off, but, in a really cool way.” Tim was rambling. Jason looked back at the house as the car pulled away.

No one noticed the shadow in the tree that shifted.

Chapter Text

Alfred couldn’t deny the stiffness in his joints as he rose from his bed. At this point in his life, he didn’t need an alarm and hadn’t used one in fifteen years. He knew before opening his curtains that the sun had yet to rise and it had been exactly four hours and fifteen minutes since he went to bed. Around  eleven he would take his daily two hour nap while the daily maids cleaned and sorted the manor before feeding them and sending them home with a jovial wave. He knew that just under ten minutes later, whomever hadn’t left the manor that day for whatever reason would arise and go about their errands until nightfall and they donned their mask.

While the schedule had some variance, and emergencies could be expected once a week (honestly it was usually on a Thursday), this schedule hadn’t changed much over the last fifteen years.

Alfred was dressed, his own breakfast (with fish oil pills) eaten, and coffee drunk before the sun breached the treeline. He went about to make the usual Saturday breakfast fare. Eggs Benedict were finished and plated as the ham steak sizzled on the griddle, a side dish of oatmeal and a vegan omelet completed the menu. With the table set, Alfred began the process of brewing coffee. He contained a chuckle as he placed the mugs on the breakfast table. He could just barely make out footsteps coming down the servants’ stairway. Damian, as usual, was the first at the table.

“Good morning, Master Damian.” Alfred greeted. Damian opened his mouth and returned the greeting, though much more slurred. Like father, like son .

It didn’t take long for the rest of the current household members were gathered around the table. Stephanie and Cass were still in pajamas and robes, Jason wore sweats, Tim was bundled tightly in a robe as well, and Bruce, joining the group last, was halfway dressed wearing dark jeans and a plain tee-shirt.

“Will you at least sit with us, Alfred?” Stephanie asked. Alfred smiled as he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat opposite to Bruce. This was new. This habit was only a few months old. It was first driven out of the panic that maybe they would lose a dearly beloved family member. It continued when everyone realized they had, just not in the manner they had expected.

Stephanie worked her hardest to keep a conversation going throughout breakfast. Realistically, Bruce hid behind a newspaper, Damian and Tim were still too asleep to form comprehensive sentences and Jason was always difficult to hold a conversation with unless you had endless patience for snarky, cutting responses. Stephanie came close, but Alfred watched as one of Jason’s barbs was a little too sharp and Stephanie snapped. Cassandra caught her arm from flinging eggs in Jason’s face, but the aborted movement caused the lump of eggs to flop into Tim’s nearer coffee. He just stared as the hot brown liquid splattered on his hand.

“Why?” he asked Stephanie. She giggled while Jason snorted unabashedly.

“Too loud.” Damian muttered, sipping his orange juice. The table calmed. Bruce put down the paper.

“So, you went to visit Richard last night?” It was always Richard now. Even Damian said Richard over Grayson. It strangely was easier to pretend “Richard” was temporary. At least, and Alfred really could lie to himself about this, that was how Alfred saw it. Even after three months, he still had hope that the seat off Bruce’s right would someday again have the carefree young man inhabit it once more.

“Yeah.” Jason spun a fork lazily in the remnants of his breakfast.

“You never told me what you two talked about. You were in there almost an hour.” Tim said. He sipped at his coffee, the oatmeal only half eaten.

“I don’t think everyone would quite appreciate our conversation.”

“But I was right, wasn’t I!” Stephanie broke in. “You were able to talk to him, right! Like, personally connect and all?”

“Ignoring the feeling of being used a tool, yes. I was able to ‘personally connect’ to him as you put it.” Stephanie had a huge smile on her face.

“I wouldn’t be so giddy, Steph. It really ain’t looking too great. For him coming back, I mean.”

“I specifically asked you all to leave him alone. He made it very clear that he didn’t want anyone from his old life bothering him anymore.” Bruce sighed. He didn’t sound angry, just tired.

“Yeah, well. I was the only one to not visit him yet, and don’t tell you didn’t know ‘bout Demon Child here poppin’ over to play video games every other week or so!” Jason snapped as he dropped his fork. Damian kept his eyes on his omelet.

“Master Jason, can we please remain civil?” Alfred asked. Jason sighed, dropping his shoulders.

“It was… it was so strange. He doesn’t move the same, he doesn’t talk the same, like, I feel I could have gotten over him not acting the same, but he was an entirely new person to me. It… it was awful.” Jason rested his elbows on the table and rubbed his eyes. “He made me pasta and we chatted. Then,” Jason looked up again, “this is the kicker; he was so fucking happy I asked how he felt about something. He even said ‘you’re the only one to ask something like you’re trying to get to know me.’ He was happy I treated him like a new acquaintance!” The table had a dour gloom over it. “He was also shocked you kept him in your will.” Jason said, making eye contact with Bruce. Bruce looked down.

“He’s my son.” was all he said.

“Yet, over the course of eight or nine years you really couldn’t get it approved?” Jason shot out. Bruce frowned. “You’ve got Tim’s papers sorted out! And that you only started last year! Steph’s and Cass’ papers were approved months ago! Why the hell couldn’t you get Dick’s approved!” Jason tightened his jaw.

“Strangely enough, Cassandra’s situation was the most similar to Dick’s… to Richard’s situation.” Jason rolled his eyes dramatically.

“I don’t actually care. I’m just so fuckin’ frustrated with this whole situation!” Jason slouched in hsi chair.

“Please avoid such foul language, Master Jason.” There wasn’t much energy behind Alfred’s request. Any mention of Richard was risky at the table. Like a looming axe over everyone’s heads, the unknown future of Richard Grayson worried everyone.

“It’s something I’ve always regretted being unable to do.” Bruce continued. “It took a year just to get track him down.”

“What?” Tim’s eyes were actually open now, the coffee beginning to kick in. “I thought he moved in right away?”

“Are you telling me that the obsessed fanboy got something wrong ? Okay, now I’m interested.” Jason smirked.

“Go on please, Bruce. We don’t get to hear much of Dick’s pre-Robin days.” Stephanie said. Bruce hmm-ed softly.

“That’s because they aren’t exactly happy. You all know that he watched his parents die, but what I’m guessing you don’t know is that by midnight that very night he was ripped away from the circus. Haley was with him in the hospital where they were waiting to see if Dick’s cousin would make it, when the first CPS agent arrived and said the Circus was no place for an orphan. A lot of remnant prejudices exist for travelling circuses.” Bruce paused to sip his coffee. “Most of what I know about what happens next is from the tiniest snippets of what Dick would tell me, and what Gordon tells me he thinks happened. He might be a bit before you were all aware, but the Commissioner before Gordon was a man named Harvey Bullock.”

“Oh, he’s on the list of most corrupt police officers of Gotham history.” Tim said.

“He’s also extremely racist.” Bruce said. “Among other irredeemable qualities, but this was what made it so difficult for Dick. At the time Dick barely spoke English, but he was stuck in a Boy’s Home. This is when I started inquiring about him. This was also when Clayface caused that riot at the juvenile center on the edge of Gotham. With that building destroyed, a lot of the youth from that center were temporarily housed in various group homes across Gotham.” Bruce sipped his coffee again.

“I never learned the full story, but from interviews with the workers, any ‘different’ kid got targeted by these delinquents. You can guess that DIck ran away a few times. After the third time he was deemed a delinquent himself and was shipped off to a few different group homes. Each time he was preceded by his ‘difficult nature.’ Eventually, the original CPS agent who removed him from the circus picked him up again.” Bruce took a minute to breath, allowing the small points of color to fade from his cheekbones.

“For whatever reason, he was dropped off at the police station. It’s about this time I’m talking to Gordon about the little circus boy. Gordon remembered that he had seen the boy in the station earlier that day. He told me he would let me know about the kid’s status as soon as he could.”

“You were so not in Batman garb for that conversation, were you?” Stephanie asked. Bruce released a hint of a smile.

“It was at a Police Department Gala; I was not.”

“So, is that when you got Grayson to live with you?” Damian asked. The weak smile fell.

“No. Gordon told me later, when I was in gear, that Harvey Bullock had taken the kid out that day. Bullock returned, the kid hadn’t. We hunted for that kid but it wasn’t until Harley Quinn broke out and demanded what devil had possessed me to put a kid in Arkham.”

“What the fuck?” hissed Jason.

“Who the hell even thinks that’s anywhere near a good idea?” Stephanie shouted simultaneously..

“Hell.” Tim muttered into his raised mug.

“Bad man. I brake legs.” Cassandra grumbled as Damian just held a twisted face. Bruce nodded, his gaze distant.

“I escorted Harley back to Arkham and found the guards doing their best to comfort a crying child. He had on noise cancelling headphones, but apparently he had pissed off Joker and Joker had retaliated in some manner from his cell. Harley was exceptionally compliant as I left her with some guards and carried him out. Bullock and Gordon greeted me at the gate. I used the opportunity to plant the seed of Dick living with me in Gordon’s brain. Dick moved in the next day.”

“Well, what happened to Bullock?”

“He made a bad deal with Bane. They found him a few days later strung up by his own intestines in the, at the time, development district.”

“Good.” Cass said. The table was silent.

“I never knew that.: Tim said.

“All the moving around in those months, as well as the fact he wasn’t a citizen meant he had absolutely no paperwork that I could file to get legal custody. At one point CPS thought there might be truth to the gossip magazines and tried to remove him from here. He said he was going to pack and hid for over six hours until the agent apologized and left. They came back the next day of course and the two had a long chat. By the time Cassandra came along, I had figured out all the tricks and loopholes needed to ensure I could legally adopt her. It was too late for Dick, I mean for Richard. The best I could do was to keep him in my will.”

“Well, Fu-” Jason glanced at Alfred, “-udge.”

Silence fell over the table for a time.

“Anything else you and Richard talk about?” Stephanie asked. Jason nodded.

“He apparently really hates people being in his space.”

“What?”

“That can’t be true?”

Grayson?

“Yea, yea, I had the same initial reaction. From how his body language was, he doesn’t appear to mind initiating contact or some sort of interaction, but he hates it when it’s unexpected or something. I’ve only spent an hour with the guy.”

“That’s just so… so not Dick.” Stephanie said.

“He’s not our Dick anymore.” Tim said. Jason smirked. “Nope. Not gonna go there.” Tim stood.

“Ok, let’s get a move on the day. I’m going to find who the hell wanted Nightwing dead, or let me never have coffee again.” As Tim left, Seline made her way into the dining room. The mild swell of her stomach visible under her stylish empire-waisted top.

“I didn’t miss breakfast, did I? Shit, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Bruce stood and offered her his chair. He swapped his half eaten plate with the full, covered plate, and took the spot next to her. Neither actually wore physical wedding bands, but the energy between them radiated recently married couple.

“Well leave you two for a romantic breakfast. Cass and I have to pack for our move back to Japan anyway. Bye!” Stephanie dragged Cassandra behind her, but Cassandra managed to give a quick wave before being pulled from the room.

“Todd, I am willing to spar with you today.”

“Of course, your holiness.” Jason scoffed, picking up his plate and heading towards the kitchen. “We can do that after Alfred and I finish today’s batch of cookies.” Damian followed him to the kitchen with his own plates, as well as Stephanie’s and Cassandra’s in hand. Alfred rose.

“May I get you anything particular this morning, Madame Wayne?” Seline hid her blush wonderfully around a bite of ham.

“I’m fine, Alfred. Thank you.”

Alfred left the dining room to attend to his duties. A lot had happened recently, but admittedly, not all was bad. He grabbed his favorite feather duster when he heard from the dining room, “So, how did you know they visited Richard last night?”

“Do you really think they’re the only ones who have a camera in his living room?”

Yes, some things had changed, but admittedly, a lot had also stayed the same.

Chapter Text

The bar wasn’t rowdy. In fact, for a Friday, it was surprisingly quiet.

Rick wasn’t sure why, but he was mildly on edge. Something in the back of his head was telling him that situations like these usually didn’t end well. He hated it.

He hated it so much. THat feeling that something wasn’t right. He grit his teeth against a rising headache.

“You ok, Rick?” The bartender, well, the owner’s daughter who was doing a shift as bartender for the night, asked him. Rick suspected it was because he had told her about his attempted meet up tonight. She would deny it if he ask, however.

“Yeah, I’m good. Can I get water though? This isn’t sitting well in my stomach.” He passed over a glass barely touched.

“Yeah, I got you, fam.” She removed the glass and and quickly replaced it with a glass of water. “Want a lemon? Lime?”

“No, thanks.” Rick gripped his glass tightly. He processed the music volume being turned down and a few complaints following that, but was more focused on ignoring the pain in his head.

“Rick, maybe you should go home. You really aren’t looking too good. I’d hate for you to have a seizure here, of all places.”

“Those have all passed, May. It’s just a headache.”

“You don’t get ‘just a headaches’ not anymore Rick.” Rick forced himself to look at her. She was a beautiful dark-skinned woman. Her eyes were warm and full of sympathy. Rick liked her a lot, but she reminded him of someone, but he just couldn’t place a finger on whom. She felt like an older sister who would be down to party, or to kick his ass if he needed it.

“Thanks May. Will you…”

“If they come in, I’ll tell them you went home sick.”

“Oof, maybe not that. These are people from before…” Rick gestured to the wicked, crooked scar on his head. May nodded.

“Ok, I’ll just tell them you never came in.” Rick nodded.

“Thanks. Let me settle my tab and then I’ll head out.”

“Rick, you pretty much only had a glass of water, and barely even that. Go home. Go to bed. Call me tomorrow that you’re ok.” Rick smiled as he stood. He felt a body behind him and twirled around so quickly that when he stopped, his stomach threatened to rebel against him. His vision spun, but he stayed upright as though nothing were wrong. He felt muscles tighten in preparation, but didn’t know why his body reacted in this way,, or how it reacted so quickly. In a sense he knew but just wasn’t familiar with it.

“Sorry, friend.” A deep voice rumbled as the mysterious presence replaced Rick’s spot on the stool. He had a protruding nose and a wicked scar down one side of his face.

Knife wound. Obviously from not quite dodging a downward stroke, as seen from how ragged the bottom is compared to the top of the scar…. What the hell? Why is that obvious?

“Everything alright, friend?” The newcomer asked. The next thing Rick noticed was the man’s false hand, as he rested it on the counter.

“Yeah. Yeah I’m good. Um, night May.”

“Night, Rick.” She sounded frustrated, but just waved as Rick left.

“He’s quite a familiar face, is he not?” The new customer asked her. May frowned at him.

“What will you be having tonight?”

“Just give me a shot of whatever. I’m meeting some friends later.” May nodded and turned to grab the most expensive scotch in the building. Rick had looked ill and this man had been a jerk. He could stand to pay for the shot.

“Ah, nevermind, my friends are here.” May turned, but the customer was half out the door before she could say anything. He didn’t say anything to anyone, but she noticed how his head followed a trio that had just walked in.

The trio approached the bar. Two redheads and a dark brunette with a tastefully dyed strip of white in his hair.

“Good evening. We were  supposed to meet Rick here tonight.” The brunette asked.

“He never came in.” May scanned the bar for the stranger, but he was gone.

“Shame. Thanks. Next time he comes in can you give him a message?” the taller redhead asked.

“Probably not. I’m covering a shift, I don’t usually work this early in the evening.”

“Alrighty. No problem!” The shorter redhead seemed way to hyper in May’s opinion. “In that case, can we get some drinks?”

For May, the evening went pretty, and she was pleasantly surprised at these friends of Rick assisting in keeping the more rowdy regulars under control. She begrudgingly admitted to herself that Rick knew some good people. At least he had, before .




Rick drove his taxi cab to the Lauttersons’ home. He pulled into their empty, attached garage and stumbled into the house. By now his vision was splotchy with black dots encroaching on the edge of his vision. Every step felt like a hammer blow his his brain, with pain echoing down his back. His stomach was clenching, and he felt nauseous, but knew from experience he wouldn’t actually get the relief from vomiting. He registered the couch, and fell onto it.

The pounding in his head seemed too rhythmic. Forcing his eyes open, he noted the start screen of a first person shooter video game.

“You’re back.” Rick painfully rolled his head to see Damian standing next to the TV with a glass of water in his hands. “You look like shit.” Rick wanted to retort, but his vision darkened and he had to curl into the back of the couch. The light hurt. The voice hurt. Everything hurt.

“Oh. You’re….” Damian turned around  and headed back to the kitchen. He flipped the switch to turn the lights out first. He noticed the TV had a mild flicker to it. He quickly crossed the room and turned it off. He made otu a slight groan from the couch.

Damian rushed to the kitchen again and pulled out a cell phone. He shot Stephanie and Tim each a quick text asked about migraine cures. Tim responded with an emoji of a yellow face with ‘X’s for eyes. It was quickly followed with a text asking why. Stephanie responded after Tim with ‘Just try not to OD on whatever you have,’ followed by, ‘if you don’t have rx.’

Shooting Tim the briefest of explanations, Damian went through the kitchen, and then the bathroom looking for meds. He found a stash of Ibuprofen and aspirin. Damian saw he had one last text from both Tim and Stephanie. Both stated that migraines were awful and if you didn’t stop them before they hit, it just hurt.

Damian found himself using the walking style he used to sneak around without a sound. He looked into the living room. Rick hadn’t moved. He looked be barely breathing.

Damian jumped when his phone vibrated. He quickly answered.

“Tim?”

“Is Richard ok?”

“He’s curled up on the couch. He keeps groaning…. Did he use to get migraines?”

“I don’t think so. It might be related to his injury.”

“What do I do?”

“Well, you could let him sleep it off. You could take him to the hospital ER and get a Toradol shot.”

“Uh, I think he’s asleep already.”

“Probably not. I would leave him be.”

“I don’t…”

“I can pick you up in about two hours. Jason is in Bludhaven with Wally and Roy. They could take you home, most likely around midnight.”

“Ok, I’ll just make sure he’s ok until then.”

“Sorry, Damian.”

“I’ve got an incoming call from Stephanie, talk later.” Damian hung up. He didn’t have a call from Stephanie coming in. He did have a good luck text, he just didn’t want to talk to Tim anymore. Tim was trying to move on, he was trying to accept that their Richard wasn’t coming back.

Damian walked into the living room. Rick hadn’t moved. Damian went upstairs and grabbed a blanket. He returned to the living room and draped the blanket over Rick’s body. Rick groaned and rolled over. He blearily blinked his eyes.

“Go to sleep. Richard.” Damian breathed.

“Tha...Thank you Bruce.”And Dick closed his eyes. Damian jerked back, but Rick was already hiding under the blanket.


 

Two hours later, Damian was in Roy’s riding back to Gotham with the trio.

“So, uh, Richard isn’t feeling great?”

“Yeah, a migraine.” Damian kept his eyes fixed outside the car window.

“From the, injury?”

“Yeah. The fucking bullet that almost killed him.” Damian snarled.

“Whoa kid. Somethinghappen?” Wally asked, twisting from the front seat to look at Damian.

“He…. he called me Bruce.” The car was silent.

“Kid, I hate to break it to you, but, uh, you do kid of look like him.” Roy said. Damian did. He had the same intensely blue eyes and strong jaw line that seemed to be a defining Wayne feature. In fact, Damian could have been Bruce’s clone, only a couple decades younger.

“At any point did you talk about Bruce?” Jason asked.

“No.”

“Should we be hopeful about this?” Wally asked. No one answered.


 

Outside of the Lauttersons’ house, a shadow left, leaving a burglar with both hands broken tied to a lamp-post on the street.

Chapter Text

Rick awoke from the couch with only a mild headache. He felt famished and weak, but forced himself to sit up. On the coffee table next to him was a plate of expensive cheese crackers and a glass of water. He didn’t recall setting them out, but gratefully nibbled on the crackers and sipped the water until he didn’t feel like he was going to puke anymore. He thought he remembered having a guest, but he honestly had almost no recall when a migraine hit.

“Do I have…” He pulled his phone from his jacket’s pocket. He had to dig it out actually, from its pile on the floor. He definitely had a text from his boss saying he was expected to work today. Rick groaned, but was slightly grateful his boss was on good terms with the barkeep of the bar he frequetted. May had most likely told his boss he had… he hated calling them “episodes” but the word fit. At least he hadn’t had another seizure. They had been almost common in his first two months of recovery.

Today Rick was as grateful as he was frustrated because he would pulling a C-shift duty. He would driving around from about 4pm to 2am. On the plus side, if he got the other taxis iin his company to agree, he might be able to take the West End streets and go home about midnight, avoiding the post bar crawl crowd as the West end was more residential and suburban.

Rick scoffed at his own trail of thoughts. As much as he was frustrated with himself for it, he struggled to let the other taxis take the South DIstrict, by the docks. A lot of scumbags tended to wander around that way and more than one taxi driver had been “persuaded” to drop off a passenger without getting paid. RIck personally hadn’t had issues with people trying to stiff him. For one, a lot of his clients were young, almost rich adults who thought living by the docks was an “industrial living” type of situation; also his clients were mostly too drunk to try and stiff him. The few clients who had tried went home without the cash in their wallets and potentially broken jaws.

The pay for driving the South end was never as good as the other city districts, but it was going up as more gentrifiers moved into the that part of the city. He was also one of the few taxi drivers from his company that hadn’t gotten hurt driving the Southern Docks, so he already knew he would be choosing that part of the city to drive.

“At least they aren’t driving drunk.” He muttered, flopping back onto the couch. He had at least four more hours to sleep, and he was going to use them.


 

The man waved down the taxi. As the driver slowed and started to pull over, he compared the company number on the side of the car to the number he had memorized previously. Yes, this was the car he was looking for, or actually, the driver.

The taxi car stopped and he saw the driver gesture him in. He slid in the back, with only a slim, hardcase suitcase.

“Evening! You’re dressed a little fancy to be part of the usual bar crowd. Did ya have fun?” The driver was speaking with a classic, local Bludhaven accent, but the passenger knew better. He smiled, leaning back so the shadows of the night mostly covered his face in the backseat.

“Not as fun as I’d like.” He himself was letting a crisp, high British accent come through his words. His butler often mocked it. The driver frowned, almost too bright, blue eyes flashing in the rearview mirror has he glanced at his passenger.

“Sorry about that. Anyways, where to?”

“The docks please.”

“Any address in particular, or…”

“Just the docks. I have a yacht waiting.”

“You have a yacht at the Bludhaven docks?”

“I am far from the only one.” The passenger smiled. He was correct, but it was general knowledge that private yachts at the Bludhaven docks (as opposed to the marina on the West side of town) were only there for less than legal purposes. The blue eyes flicker to the mirror again, looking at his passenger for only a second before pulling the taxi into the traffic again.

“So, having a party tonight or something?”

“As someone who speaks as a local, I rather assumed you wouldn’t ask my purposes to be at the docks at night.”

“I’m nosy.”

“That you are.” The passenger looked out the window. “I’m actually just trying to avoid the marina fees, will you report me for that?” The passenger kept his body purposefully relaxed. He didn’t think he would be reported but….

“Nah. I’ve seen those fees. Outrageous.” They drove on in silence. Here the passenger took time to observe his prey. The buzzed head look was surprisingly attractive. He personally had never seen Richard Grayson with hair shorter than his ears. He liked it.

Beyond the haircut, the passenger knew he would be able to find a long, jagged scar just above Richard’s ear on the left side of his skull. THe passenger also knew that on the right side of Richards head was another bullet scar, though this one was a few years older and not as violently stark against his skin. There was a miracle to be noted that Richard Grayson had survived two headshots in his life. Though, as the passenger observed the silent Richard Grayson, he idly wondered if he had survived the second one.

The passenger leaned forward, softly tossing a pen towards the front. Richard twitched, barely twisting the wheel and batted the projectile away.

“What!”

“Sorry, I was trying to grab my pen to take notes.”

“It’s pitch black outside!”

“It’s the kind of pen that writes on tablets.”
“Oh, sorry. I’ll get it back to you when we get to your destination.” The blue eyes flicker to the mirror again. “Oh dang.” He breathed. A single silver eye met and held two bright blue ones. He didn’t say more and went back to focusing on the road. Slade leaned back. He felt… disappointed wasn’t quite the right word.

On one hand, he had thought that an amnesic Richard Grayson would be the perfect being to model into his successor. On the other, his reconnaissance over the last month had shown him a character that would never become a mercenary. This Rick Gray, as he introduced himself, was too soft, too lazy, and had none of the determination that Dick Grayson had shown. All the had made Dick Grayson the perfect potential candidate, had also been erased with the memories. Slade had also only seen the barest hints of Dick’s physicality in this new form.

“We’re here.” Rick was turned back in the seat, presenting the pen. He seemed to pointedly not look at it, probably noticing it wasn’t the type of stylus pen Slade had said it was earlier.

“Thank you.” Slade handed over cash. He got out of the car before Rick could finish counting and return his change. He walked away. This time he did feel disappointment as Rick Gray didn’t call after him. The taxi drove off.


 

Slade was almost to his chosen extraction point when a figure removed herself from the shadows. LIterally walking out of them in fact. Raven blocked his path and other fell in to surround the mercenary.

“Why are you here?” Slade watched as the martian, M’gann, stepped forward. Her voice demanded an answer.

“I was investigating a job. The job didn’t have the profit I require. I’m attempting to leave.

“You’re lying.” M’ganns eyes turned red and Slade felt her probing at his mind.

“Stop.” He said. The presence receded from his mind. Maybe she had done something to him because he felt an urge to tell the truth. Though, often when it came to Grayson, he felt the urge to act against his habit. “I was investigating if it would be worth it to encourage Richard to join me, as I had heard he now has no ties to his previous life. However I find that would be impossible.”

“What do you mean?” It was the knock-off Superman, Slade mentally noted.

“I mean, RIchard Grayson is no more. That man I met was no hero, no villain, no fighter .” Slade paused, almost shocked about what he said next, “He has a chance he deserves more than any other person I’ve met in this line of work, whatever side you choose. He is getting the chance to leave, to start anew. He had no qualms, no regrets, no guilt . I would have thought that as those who once called themselves his friends, you would support him.”

The dock was silent. Slade glance around at all who were present. Beyond Raven, Miss Martian, and Superboy there was Beast Boy, two Amazons (recognizable by their muscles and height) one who was blonde and one who had black hair, a speedster he didn’t recognize and the new Guardian. WIthout a word said between them, Salde watched as they backed off. Raven stepped out of his path.

“Don’t start trouble, Slade .” Beast Boy snarled. Slade didn’t respond and continued towards his yacht. He would depart and return to his next plans, without a protege.


 

The remaining group watched the mercenary leave.

Do you think he was right? Dick’s never coming back? Cassie asked. Donna gripped her shoulder tight.

Gods, I hope not.

Chapter Text

It was the day after payday. Ric decided he wanted a drink. It had been over a week since his last interaction with anyone from the so called “Batfamily,” so he was feeling less irritated than usual. He was actually snickering as he entered his favorite bar.

“Something funny about my bar, Ric?” May called.

“It ain’t your bar!” He called back. He sat easily atop one of the barstools.

“Ooh, feeling sparky today?” She asked, passing over a glass of club soda.

“I was just wondering if anyone has actually called those Gotham heroes the ‘Batfamily’ to their faces.” May paused hardly a fraction of a second in wiping down a glass. Ric noticed.

“I think one of the previous heroes actually came up with it.” She said. “The pretty one, Nightwing?” She had turned away from Ric, and her voice was it’s usual easy wave calm, yet Ric could feel a tension from her shoulders.

Is she one of the ones who knew me? Before? The thought barely registered in his mind before he brushed it off. He thought it more likely she was one of the people who had a crush on NIghtwing and when his death was announced (for like, the third time or something?) was sad about it, like when one’s favorite celebrity died.

“Isn’t Nightwing the one that died recently?” He wasn’t sure why he asked. Something inside him wanted to confirm his assumptions. IT was almost nagging at him when he couldn’t be sure of something 100%.

“Don’t be rude. Nightwing has been seen around Bludhaven a lot. He didn’t die. That was just a rumour.” May turned back to him, glass cleaned and returned to its proper location on the shelf.

“Yeah. The superhero community has a fuck-ton of weird rumours, don’t they?” He sipped his drink.

“Oh, so now you feel like having a drink with us?” Ric turned to face the complainer.

“You waiting for these gents, Ric?” May leaned over the counter. Her finger was no doubt hovering over the silent alarm.

“I was actually. I couldn’t meet them last week, so I invited them back again. I’ll be covering their first round.” May relaxed and stood. Roy, Jason, and Wally all pulled in their stools and ordered just a round of waters. May raised an eyebrow but delivered the drinks promptly. She went to tend the growing line of bar crawlers on the other end of her bar, at ease that her friend was going to be fine.

“She greeted us last week.” Wally had finished his water already. “Nice lady.”

“She’s the kind of person you want to be friends with.” Ric agreed.

“So, you feeling better? Damian said you had a migraine last week.” Jason purposefully avoided leaning in and making direct eye contact. Ric noted this. He just wasn’t sure why.

“Yeah. It was the first one in a while. Had a lot of seizures and migraines they first few months, but they’ve dwindled down really quickly. The docs say I’m lucky, within a couple years, I might not have any such symptoms at all.” Ric found Jason just as easy to talk to as he had a month ago, when he had first met him. Jason was the only person from before that Ric didn’t feel guilty talking with, so they had communicated often via text. On one hand, Ric just knew that some of their idle chats had been relayed to the enigmatic Bruce Wayne/Batman figure who Ric hadn’t seen since waking in the hospital, but on the other, he knew Jason was keeping some things private as well. It was because Jason had vouched for Roy and Wally that Ric was willing to meet them.

Ric took the lull in conversation (In which Wally had downed two full glasses of something) to observe these two. Roy and Wally were both redheads, unarguably, but in very different ways. Wally was the classic pale skinned, freckles, and bright vivid red hair that curled up on itself and looked constantly wind-blown. Roy however was closer to an auburn red and had a deep tan. Roy also had a five o’clock shadow that was looking closer to ten o’clock, and was still wearing sunglasses inside. Wally was back onto drinking water, and nervously fidgetted, rotating a gold band around his ring finger.

“Sorry I’m late.” Came a new voice. Ric looked over, then to Roy, then back to the newcomer.

“This your….brother?”

“Clones.” Roy said at the same moment. Ric just blinked.

“Clone.”

“Actually, He’s the clone.” The newcomer grumbled. “I go by Arsenal though because of reasons .” He sounded bitter. Ric hid behind a stein full of… root beer? He glared at May. She caught his glare and winked.

“Anyways,” Wally drew out the word, waiting for someone to say something.

“Well, I guess I’ll go next. I’m Ric Gray. After a TBI I have been hounded non stop by people who say they know me. Jason is the only decent bastard I’ve talked to in months.” OK, Ric thought, I sound a bit bitter too.

“Uh, Roy Harper. I was one of your…. Of Richard Grayson’s best friends. I’m going to have to take off in twenty minutes because Jade asked me to watch our daughter tonight.”

“You married?” Ric didn’t see a ring, but that wasn’t the most uncommon thing.

“No.” Roy didn’t elaborate.

“Yeah, sweet! I’m Wally West, another one of your bestest friends. Happily married, baby numero uno on the way! Also, uh, a meta?” He had the sense to lower his voice.

“Honestly, what I’m really picking up on here is you are all redheads. Barbara is a redhead. Did I have a fetish?” Ric asked. This allowed the group to laugh, most of the tension dissolved.

“We all wonder.” Wally admitted.

“Yeah, yeah. Also, are all my friends like super attractive?” Ric asked. The others had varying facial expressions, from Wally and Arsenal’s shocked faces, to Roy’s flush, and finally Jason’s exasperated face palm.

“I’mma guess yes.” Ric smirked into his root beer.

“You’re...you’re just as shameless as ever!” Arsenal sputtered slightly. His face was brightly flushed, and he avoided looking at Ric. Roy just took a long gulp of his own drink, no longer water.

“Did we hook up?” Ric asked Roy and Arsenal. Jason hit the bar with his forehead, while Wally hid his laughter behind a hand. Ric was teasing three people at once, and it just came so naturally.

“Um, no.” Roy was trying his damndest to not react. He remembered, even if Ric didn’t, that responding would fuel the fire. Arsenal however was a lost cause.

“Never! We would never! How could you? What made you? No!” Ric was in the same boat as Wally, holding back laughter. Jason was groaning against the bar, and Roy was pretending none of them existed. As Ric turned and leaned on Wally to balance himself during a burst of laughter, and sharp stab of familiarity left him breathless. He sobered quickly.

 

It was mid-winter and he entered a bar, finding Wally and Roy already on their third round. Thanks to Wally’s metabolism, he was wasted already, but by the time Roy and he were wasted, Wally would already be nursing a hangover.

“I can’t believe you’re here!” Wally shouted in his face. He was holding up his friend much more than one might think looking at them”

“Yeah, what about your date?” The words were warped, and barely audible, but it was definitely Roy who had spoken.

“Babs wasn’t too upset when I told her I was delaying our date. You need us tonight, Roy.” Roy looked relieved.

“Lian is with Artemis tonight, so you can relax and party!” Wally yelled. He was lucky the bar was packed, so his shouting wasn’t garnering too much attention.

“It’ll be fine.” He said, his own voice was barely recognizable. He was drunk already?

He felt the brick of the alley against his back.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I just miss her!” Roy again, always the teary drunk. He himself had drunk way more than usual, and found himself pulling Roy against him.

“It’s ok, it’s ok.” Sometime during this comfort session, he found himself pressing little kisses against his friend’s neck and ears. For a moment he felt Roy’s lips against his and then Wally cried out, “You guys just left me in there!” Roy turned towards the voice, and vomited.

 

“Woohoo! You in there Ric?” It was Wally, same intense green eyes, and a smile that should have been too big for his face, but was perfect because he was always smiling. This mildly forced smile that was covering his concern was a little heartbreaking to witness. Ric wasn’t sure why he knew this face so well. Except he did. These two men before him were his closest friends. The operative word being “were.”

“Did, did you remember something?” Jason asked. He sounded so hopeful that Ric was reminded of something else, but had no memory, just an empty impression of something he thought he should be able to remember.

“I… a bit yeah. I think we were drunk make-out buddies.” Ric gestured to Roy and himself. Roy choked on his draft, while Wally was sent into another round of laughter. Roy looked to the heavens as thought praying for salvation.

“I had forgotten that! You two would get so cuddly when you got drunk!” Wally was very clearly buzzed at this point himself. Arsenal made a puppy-ish sound that resembled “lucky bastard” towards Roy who groaned.

“It only happened like twice.” Roy grumbled.”Besides, Jade and I have figured things out now. We’re a stable couple. Just, we’re not gonna get married again.”

“Yeah yeah, Artemis keeps me pretty up to date with her family drama, man. She is going to die laughing when I tell her about tonight.” Wally laughed.

“Can we move on ?” Roy begged.

“Yes!” Jason agreed. May walked over.

“I never carded you boys.” She said. “I’m honestly only worried about skunk boy and the the short one.” The others still dug out their IDs to flash towards her.

“I am not short.” Arsenal grumbled, working out his wallet. His prosthetic arm was in “civilian mode” so it appeared to be just a normal arm, as long as no one touched it.

“Really? Skunk boy?”

“Babe, you got dark hair with a white stripe. What were you thinking?”

“It’s from an injury.” Ric said. May’s eyes went wide.

“Oh my God! I am so sorry! I didn’t….”

“Relax.” Jason pulled out his ID. Well, one of them.

“Jason Todd Wayne. And from Gotham. Any relation to the millionaire?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” May whipped her eyes from Jason to Ric.

“Well, I will gladly take his money, so please come back often!” She did a cursory glance over the rest of the groups IDs and ruffled Ric’s hair as she went to other customers again.

“You took his name?”

“Hey, money talks.” Jason shrugged. The group went into a lull again for drinks.

Wally took a steadying breath and opened his mouth, From hsi glazed over eyes, it was evident he was near drunk at the very least. “The team misses you.” He said, lying his head on the bar.

“The team?” Ric honestly found himself trying to remember any teams. He found just blanks, like looking at a pack bookshelf and finding a hole where a book had once been.

“All of them. The Titans, the YJ group, the League even! That ain’t even all of them.” Wally ran a finger down the side of his glass.

“It’s weird. It’s not like you’ve retired, or that you’re dead.” Roy continued. He checked his watch. “It’s about time for me to leave, and I think I should take Wally with me.”

“I’ll go with you guys.” Arsenal said. “In fact, I’ll drive. I’ve only been drinking water.” The trio of red heads started to stand, with Roy supporting Wally.

“Take care of yourself, Ric. And if you ever want to drink together again, give us a call.” Roy called as he partially dragged Wally out. Ric waved.

“Did they pay for their drinks?” Ric asked.

“You said you would pay for them.”

“I said I’d pay for first round.”

“Just teasing you, man. I told them before that I was paying for all of us.”

“But!”

“Money talks, remember?” Jason put down a Wayne Co. credit card.

“This is an interesting company expense.” Ric chuckled. Jason just smiled.

“Those teams those teams that Wally mentioned, are they doing alright?” May came over and grabbed Jason’s credit card.

“Yeah. They’re operating well. You, uh, NIghtwing made sure that the groups would be stable with or without him.”

“That’s good.”

“Emotionally, they’re a wreck and have spent the seven months unsure if they should be mourning or waiting anxiously for your recovery, so.” Jason turned to look at Ric. Ric was staring at the back of the bar, running a single finger around the rim of his glass, again it was root beer.

May’s’ the one feeling sparky. Ric thought.

Jason released a long sigh. “I don’t know how you do it, but everyone loves you.” Ric glanced over, a single eyebrow raised. It was such an ALfred expression that Jason couldn’t help but smirk slightly. “We, and yeah, I have to include myself, all want what’s best for you. Every time anyone has ever needed help, you were one of the first to show up. You’re on everyone’s emergency contact listings, and you have somehow even have half the villains rooting for you.

“So, we’re at a lost. On one hand, you are the rock for everyone, stable, unchanging, and constant. Hell, people have traversed realities because you died. In their reality, not ours. Also, if anyone named Thomas Jr. introduced themself to you, run away.” Ric snorted and nodded.

“And on the other hand, I’ve done so much for others, that I seem to have lost myself in the process.” Ric continued. Jason paused, then nodded. “I’ve read a few reports about Nightwing, and I’ve listened to people talk about Nightwing. He, he was always doing things for others even when it hurt him. Hurt me. Fuck, dude, from what I’ve heard, Nightwing was the heroes’ hand towel. Always dependably there, but only noticed when missing. Shit, that sounds more like toilet paper, doesn’t it. Gross.”

Jason looked down, like his shoulders weighed a ton. “I doubt you understand the significance of this, but even fucking Slade agrees with you. He said to let you be.”

“Slade?”

“The president of your, of Nightwing’s fanclub.”

“O-kay?” Ric wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“We miss you.” Jason whispered.

“What?”

“Nothing. Damn, without the redhead circus act, everything gets gloomy. I’m heading out for the night.”

“I actually have a quick question. About me, the uh, before me.” Jason paused his stretch and turned to face Ric. “I, uh, I dated the girl Barbara, right?”

“On and off. You two hadn’t been a couple in like four years, before this.” Jason gestured to Ric’s head.

“Did I ever, cheat on her?” He felt a tightness in his gut at the thought.

“No one’s perfect, dude. It was low key common knowledge that if you got drunk enough, you would want a cuddle/makeout partner. I think the two of you might have had a talk about it, but I don’t know. You weren’t much of a drinker before. You’d have to ask her.”

“Do you think I should talk to her? Last time we spoke, I pretty much told her to fuck off.”

“It’s up to you, my man. She’d be very happy if you did.”

“Then, not… yet. I’ve got some stuff to think about. I’ll call you sometime.” And before Jason could finish saying good-bye, Ric was up and gone. May returned with his card.

“I was wary about his old friends, but you seem cool.” May told him. “See ya!”


Two days later, Jason met up with Wally while escorting Damian to Mnt. Justice (2.0 as Bart called it.)

“I wanted to tell you something.” Wally said. He was watching carefully as a relatively pregnant Artemis started a lecture on fighting in various environments.

“Shoot. Me, preferably, but whatever.”

“I’m just gonna ignore that. But it has to do with Dick. Ric. NIghtwing?” Wally huffed. “Anyways, I thought you should know that M’gann has been going around and collecting people’s memories of…of Dick and Nightwing. So, if he ever gets curious, we, uh, have that resource.”

“Oh.” Jason looked over the group, where a majority of the younger kids were doing drills with each other while Artemis supervised.  Damian was trading barbs with Bart, one of the few people who seemed to never get annoyed or angry with him.

“You know how I’ve been moonlighting as Nightwing?”

“I thought it might have been you.”

“Most of the time it is. We’ve got a couple wannabes wearing approximations of his outfit, but that’s besides the point. What I’m getting at is I’ve been crashing at one of his old apartments. He owns the building, and when he was in the hospital, the deed went to Batman. I convinced the old man to keep it. I found a secret stash in Dick’s apartment. It was behind a secret wall that held another copy of his uniform. On the floor were journals. Apparently the bastard is one hell of a note taker. I haven’t read any in depth, but after a brief skim I found case notes and he has a bunch of personal stuff written down. If he’s ever curious, I was gonna offer him those.”

“So, I guess we just wait then?”

“Yeah.”

“Stay safe tonight.” Wally said as Jason left. Jason just gave a half-assed wave.


That night, in Dick Grayson’s apartment, Jason stared at the uniform on the wall. The version that fit him lay on the bed. His eyes felt like they were burning. His hands hurt from gripping so tightly. His jaw was clenched. He opened his mouth slowly, and felt a hot rush of shame as it came in ragged. Flem trickled down his throat, and hot tears welled over his eyelashes.

“Fuck.” He sobbed, dropping his head. He wasn’t surprised to hear the soft thump from the window behind him. He also wasn’t surprised to see glossy black combat boots appear in his vision, encased in their own black backdrop. A heavy gloved hand coming to rest on his shoulder however made him jump. He clenched his jaw tighter.

“Jason, you’re the only one who hasn’t cried about this even once.” Batman’s deep voice was caring and soft, unlike normal. Jason shuddered.

“I’m trying so hard to not be hopeful, but I can’t act like he’s dead because he isn’t! And sometimes he’s so close to what I remember. But he’s never coming back, Bruce. Never.” And the dam broke. Jason sucked in a wet gulp of air and bit his fist to hold back a wail. The bed next to him dipped, and Jason was pulled sideways into a black cocoon.

There were no more words, no rocking, or even a comforting pat. Bruce just held him tightly while he cried. Jason couldn’t look into Bruce’s face. If the cowl was up, he would look like a stone gargoyle, if it was down… what if he looked the same? A revelation struck Jason and he bit his lip to stop another sob.

Dick was their light. How long until all of them were unable to express emotion? Stephanie tried, but it was beyond the abilities of one person. Cassandra and Damian might lose all the progress they’ve made, Tim would become more like Bruce, the two becoming more and more like robots. Jason was scared about himself. After his reincarnation, Dick had been that always hopeful, always optimistic flea that never gave up on him. And Alfred would be sad, and Jason hated seeing Alfred sad. And then the newer additions: Duke, Luke, and Harper. They would never understand what it once was like. Already they couldn’t believe some of DIck’s stories from his early days. If Dick really never came back….

Jason woke up alone, tucked into bed with his face itchy and his throat sore. The adjusted suit was hanging in front of Dick’s in the hidden closet. Sunlight drifted through the windows, and Jason felt lighter. Gathering his belongings, Jason left the apartment.

He was done being Nightwing, because there could only ever be the one.

From now on, Bludhaven was going to be under the protection of Red Hood.

Chapter Text

It was Lucas’ first time in the Watchtower. He was trying his best to be more stoic, to act as the others of Batman Inc. did. Batgirl stood next to him. He caught her eye for a moment and couldn’t help himself from smiling at her. She returned it, slightly. The quick turn at the corner of her mouth was probably a smile, he thought.

She was currently getting him acquainted with the Watchtower’s security system. It was honestly very similar to creating a new employee account. Lucas tried not to laugh at the protocols. Tried being the operative word.

“I’m sorry, but who designed this? It’s way out of date!” Batgirl, currently Barbara Gordon, raised an eyebrow so expertly, it was visible through her cowl.

“I did.”

“Oh. Uh.” Lucas felt heat rising to his face as Barbara stared him down.

“But you’re right. I’m not sure if anything has been updated since I stopped being Oracle.”

“I mean, that was only like, a year ago! It’s, uh, it’s holding up pretty well. You design….uh, you code good.” Barbara actually laughed out loud.

“Come on, you bat-brained nerd. Look at the retinal scanner. It’ll be bright for a bit, but don’t blink.”

“Retinal scanners are so 2018, Batgirl.” He smirked. Barbara rolled her eyes.

“Ok, we got the DNA sample, fingerprint, retinal,”

“Gah!”

“So, all that’s left is to type your name into the system, and fill out your information.”

“I can’t see !”

“Do you have to watch your fingers when you type?”

“You….” Barbara’s soft chuckles cut off his train of thought.

“Ok, let’s get this done.”

Barbara brought up a screen of select files. Lucas’ jaw dropped.

“Ok, so your file is under ‘Batman’ and it does have a passcode, but don’t expect him to tell you what it is for another year or so. The files never get deleted, and I hope to God, yours never needs to be updated, because that usually means you’ve died. All right! You’re all set!”

“Wait, before you close out, did I see a suits file?” Barbara paused. She blinked, and gave a coy smile.

“Why, yes there is! ” She quickly opened said file.

“Who the hell decided to store suit designs?” Lucas laughed.

“I….don’t know!”

You don’t know something?” The duo hid their surprise as Superman floated over to them.

“Oh! I know, right? But we’re both wondering the who, what, where and whys about this suits folder.” Barbara gestured to the screen.

“You’re sounding a bit like Lois.” Superman smirked. He looked over the open file. “Oh, I guess this did start a bit as a joke. Oliver found a fan’s collection of known superhero suits about ten years back, and realized he didn’t know who all was a superhero, or what everyone was wearing. I feel I should mention that Batman and Robin were doing some major costume revamps about this time, and there were a bunch of younger folks joining the League. So, Oliver starting collecting the original seven’s costumes to compare it to what we were currently wearing. Then, Hal and John got into it? But John wanted to put in all of the Green Lantern Corps? Somehow Bruce agreed to it, and we’ve been keeping visual records ever since. It’s why we always ask for various heroes to send in updated versions of their uniforms, otherwise we have to use media shots. Very few of those are flattering.”

“Do you have mine?” Lucas asked. Clark opened up a folder labelled ‘Bat Inc.’ “It’s not labelled Batfamily?” Lucas asked. Clark’s coughed slightly.

“It’s, uh, Bruce’s month to be in the Watchtower starting tomorrow….”

“You renamed it for the month!” Lucas and Barbara fought and failed to stifle laughter. Clark looked mildly sheepish.

The folder showed a surprising number of….numbered files.

“I won’t lie, I was expecting our codenames.” Barbara said.

“Wait, there seems to be a pattern to these numbers….  2120131141…the next ends in 2....”

“That spells Batman, if you assign A as 1. That is not a code, or cypher. What the hell, Bruce.”

“So, it goes Batman 1, 2 and so on?” Lucas rolled his eyes. However, in his suit, unless he rolled his entire head, the motion could only be assumed. “God, he was not concerned about security then.”

“Uh, Dick filled out these files, not Bruce. Bruce agreed to it, but still thought it stupid.”

“Oh Clark, you have to see his file on suits back in the Batcave.” Barbara skimmed through the files. “Huh, if we follow the letters-numbers association, this one is ‘Misc.”

“Ooh, open that one!” Lucas egged her on. Barbara opened the folder. Her good humour dropped instantly.

“Oh. Nevermind.” She backed out and pulled Lucas away from the mega-computer terminal. “Thanks Clark! See you later!” and the two left, the smooth automated voice announcing their departure.


In Mount Justice, a majority of the young heroes were just lazing around the common area.

“Anyone find anything fun?” Bart groaned. He was flopped dramatically over Jaime. Jaime, was successfully ignoring how Bart rolled on him and demanded his attention. At one point, Jaime absent-mindedly patted his hair. Bart pouted.

“What’s got your attention, my man?” Bart tried again to distract Jaime.

“I...uh, there’s this unlocked file from the Watchtower. It’s all the suits of the current and past heroes.”

“Oh! That sounds interesting!” M’gann floated over. Jaime didn’t even react as a green squirrel scampered to rest on his shoulder.

“Getting ideas?” Conner stepped into the room, heading towards the kitchen and pulling cookies out of the over. They were perfect.

“Uh, it started as a history lesson….”

“Dude, the League has only been around, like, 30 years.”

“Yeah, and I’m in my twenties. If it’s before your birth, it’s history.”

“Huh, am I living in history then?”

“Shut up Bart.” Bart gave Jaime a quick peck on his cheek.

“Oh, do they have to original Robin uniforms on there?” Tim was also lounging with the crew. This was a rarity, as he was usually in Jump City with the Titans.

“Why?”

“I’ve heard rumors of the costume Dick wore for his first couple of outings, before Batman went and forced into not….wearing what he was wearing.”

“Oh my god.” Jaime flipped his screen around showing a garishly bright uniform that was vaguely humans shaped. The only available picture was an old newspaper clipping.

“That’s why Roy calls him pixie boots!”

“The disco suit was worse.”

“The what now?”

“Huh, this one isn’t really labeled beyond the numbers on the file.”

“Put it on the big screen.” The screen Jaime was looking at was connected to the holo-screen. There were three suits in this file. The first was a black suit, but only shown in sketches.The second was a better uniform model, but it was almost disturbingly small, and white with a hood. The third, another full suit model, was mostly black with half the torso being red.

“Who the heck wore these?” Tim shrugged. “I recognize two of them….

“I recognize that last one.” Gar had shifted back to a more humanoid form.

“What? Whose was it?” M’gann asked, serving the cookies.

“That was Dick’s. When Slade, uh, Deathstroke, was blackmailing him. It was a long time ago.”

“Why are these in this file?”

“All suits worn by known heroes are in this file.”

“Huh. I bet Batman started it. Seems like an obsessive thing he'd do.”

“I’ll ask him.” Tim stood and stretched.

“Wait, does that mean the Arrows’ crew of uniforms are in their?”

“I bet they are!” And Tim left.


In the cave, Tim sighed as he went through his most recent report. He anxiously tapped a pen, fighting the urge to just stop his work and look up what he wanted to look up. He felt oddly…. Disgruntled. He had been wrong about the first year Dick had spent in Gotham. He had never known Dick had been blackmailed by Deathstroke. He hadn’t figured out that Dick had faked his death to infiltrate Spyral. And now… Tim felt he was missing something. Something that would bring his brother back.

He jumped at the heavy hand coming to rest on his shoulder.

“Take the night off. Run comms for us, will you?” Bruce asked. His cowl was held in his opposite hand, he expression softer than it had been in what felt like years. Tim sighed.

“Yeah, I can do that.”

“When I get back, let’s have a talk.”

“Why?”

“I suspect you might need it.”

“Bruce, I’m fine!”

“Maybe I need it.” Tim froze, but BRuce had moved on. HIs cowl was up and he was almost at the vehicle dock, throwing out orders to Lucas, Barbara and Damian about patrols. As they took off, Tim couldn’t help but think that, maybe a talk would be nice.

Chapter Text

Ric was baffled. This honestly wasn’t too unusual for him. The psychologist who was working with him had given him some warnings about how his brain injury would affect his abilities to interpret his daily world. Afterall, the bullet had torn a groove along the surface of his temporal lobe. In fact, the bullet had pierced the just anteriorly to the temporal lobe and had lodged itself somewhere about the cingulate gyrus of limbic cortex. Basically, as far as Ric could tell from quick, online checks was that he should feel very lucky that his most persistent symptom seemed to be his memory, or lack thereof.

However, even if one took in all his medically related bafflement (he definitely felt baffled at the vocabulary alone), his current bafflement was unrelated to any of it. He was currently baffled because his current aquaintices, and one friend May, had somehow convinced him to travel to Gotham for a live show.

Was Ric Gray a sucker for broadway, not really. In fact, his injury had made him almost completely unable to understand words that were sung. If people spoke too fast, he also struggled, but with every weeks he seemed to be improving. Singing words still eluded him, and reading lyrics from the internet didn’t help as the high contrast between lyrics and the backlit screen of his phone gave him a headache. Again, not relevant for his current situation.

Ric groaned as he caught his train of thought running off the rails and into a mental cement wall. He had a strange, uncanny feeling he knew how that felt.

“God, he’s not even paying attention!” Snapping fingers in his face brought a flash of fury and his thoughts painfully to the present. He snatched the hand in his face, his grip strong and confident. It only took for his acquaintances face to twist in pain that he caught himself and let go.

“Damn, you go a grip.” The plaid clad woman tenderly rubbed her hand. No one else seemed to concerned.

“Alex, that was so rude! What did you expect!” Teased her girlfriend, who dutifully kissed the hand better. Ric gae a sheepish smile and shrugged. He caught eyes with May. Her deep eyes held concern, for him not Alex.

She casually guaranteed her spot next to him as they filed into the theater. As Ric looked up and around, he had a strange sense of deja vu. He was sweating as he sat down, his focus obstinately towards the rafters. He honestly couldn’t tell if the placid, plain white faces in the corners of his eyes were real or his imagination.

“You ok?” May asked. Her hand rested protectively over RIc’s on the armrest. He looked down. He was shaking he noted.

“I-I think I’ve been here before?” He couldn’t tell. He glanced up. “May,” he stopped.

“Do you want to leave? We can leave! This is a crazy big trip for you to be making right now.”

“It’s only two hours away!”

“Ric, you got shot in the head . It’s only been nine months. Don’t…. Don’t feel like you need to push yourself too hard.”

“May.”

“Ric.”

“You paid for our tickets. I want you to see this…. What are we seeing again?”

“It’s a musical adaption of The Tempest. Kale wanted to see it.”

“Who’s Kale?” Ric hissed under his breath. Theoretically, he knew his the “memory” center of his brain was physically fine, but boy was he bad with names and faces these days.

“Alex’s brother. It’s his name-day celebration.”

“And….”

“I invited you because I thought you should take a little break. God, I’m so selfish! You should be home resting!” May looked almost distraught. Ric snickered to himself. May gave him a looked, one eyebrow arched impressively high.

“Uh, traught?” He offered. She blinked in confusion. Rick cleared his throat. “Look, I’m fine. It’s just some deja vu, I get it all the time! You know that! Let’s enjoy this.” His face must be convincing because May leans back with a slight smile.

“Ok. But do not hesitate to let me know if you need to go home. Remember, it’s a two hour drive.” Ric smiled and squeezed her hand. His shaking had subsided and he felt like he wasn’t sweating anymore. As the lights dimmed, he gave one last glance to the rafters. Instead of a white face, he thought, just for a moment, that he had seen a flash of red and brown leather.

Ric had to admit, the special effects were good. He thought the tunes were nice, though when it got too loud his hearing seemed to just…. Turn off. It only happened once, and he had somewhat expected it. His brain was confused, and if it got too overwhelmed, he tended to just black out for a bit. This did cause him to miss a dramatic declaration or some other of the sorcerer character, but he wasn’t really able to follow the story too well anyway.

He enjoyed it, he couldn’t deny that fact. May was laughing and the rest of the crew was obviously delighted at the spectacle. Ric honestly found himself watching them more than the actors. He wasn’t sure if it was habit, paranoia, or just luck, but he glanced up just in time to see a flash of purple settle on a rafter.

 

“What the fuck is with this color? Eggplant? Seriously! You should have done navy blue!”

“Navy blue! You fiend! I detest navy blue!”

He followed the sound of the conversation. He felt a twinge of joy mixed with sadness at the scene before him. Jason, Red Hood, was giving quite the power stance against the debuting Spoiler, Stephanie.

“What’s wrong with navy blue?” He asked. Stephanie barely turned to look at him. The response made sense. Jason, Red Hood, was too unpredictable.

“Oh joy, Golden Boy is here.” Red Hood sneered. His grip on his handgun tightened, but the weapon itself stayed holstered.

“Aren’t you glad to see her? I mean, we all thought she was dead a month ago.” Nightwing stepped forward. He forced his posture to be relaxed, his tone light. It seemed to work as both Red Hood and Spoiler let their hands separate from their respective weapons.

“Aren’t you guys glad to see me?” Red Hood mocked.

“Yes.” Spoiler responded. Her voice was earnest. Her posture was tall, and her gaze, covered though it was currently, was penetrating. She meant it. “I am glad to see you.” Nightwing said nothing, his focus on Red Hood. Red Hood was stiff. Nightwing could imagine his face. He was probably blinking under the hood, his face twisting with mixed emotions.

Nightwing was so glad for Stephanie. He hadn’t known her well enough before she had “died.” He had remembered the horror of thinking another Robin dying. The horror of not being there . He had supported Tim, yet he hadn’t been around much when Stephanie replaced Tim. He owed the two before him. By God, did he owe them apologies at the bare minimum.

Stephanie however, and maybe it was her good nature or a strange obliviousness, never seemed to have notice Nightwing’s absence. He could only hope being here now made up for it.

“Damn. I thought only Goldie could say things like that straight-faced.” Stephanie turned to Nightwing. She didn’t uncover her face, but Nightwing got the distinct impression she was suggesting he leave.

Maybe she did notice.

And maybe that would help her get through to Jason,

Oh Nightwing was so glad for Stephanie.

Nightwing gave his biggest smile, “Only for you, Little Bird!” And he left. Since Red Hood, Jason, didn’t pursue or flee, maybe Stephanie could get through to him. Maybe.

 

“Ric? It’s intermission. How are you doing?” May’s voice gave Ric a shock. “Oh, you ok?” She placed her hands on his face to focus his vision on her face. He took a breath.

“Yeah.” He looked up. He couldn’t see anyone.

“Let’s get some drinks.”

“They’re serving drinks?”

“I was just going to get water.” May had a look on her face.

“Ok, no drowning my sorrows in spirits, got it.” Ric gave her a shit-eating grin, one he knew exasperated her. It worked.

The lobby was crowded, but not horribly so. Ric found himself taking notes of those around him. He had an itch in his shoulders to get high, get a bird’s eye view. He rubbed his eyes. He felt them watering, and rubbed them some more. Then his nose got itchy and he rubbed that. Then he really needed a drink of water. He say May had a bottle already. He would steal a sip of hers. He blinked. May was there, then gone.

“Ric?” She was right next to him. Was she pale? She looked sallow at the very least. Was he pale? His face felt hot. Really hot.

“I, I think I want to go home now.” He said. May nodded. Their exit was interrupted by the intercom coming to life. A calm female voice announce the theater had been exposed to Fear Gas. If everyone could remain calm, an antidote was sure to be on location soon.

“Oh Fuck.” May hissed, sliding down a wall to sit. “I forgot that this was why my pops left Gotham.”

“Yeah cause in Bludhaven you only have to worry about being shot to death by a jogger, or getting your face stolen. None of this nasty fear gas.” Ric joked. He felt ill. He was about to ease himself down the wall when a black glove gripped his upper arm.

“Richard.” He looked at the hooded figure. The cloak was purple, eggplant , but the eyes were clear. Vividly sapphire eyes fixed him with an intense gaze. He felt like he was on fire. Was he on fire? He hated being on fire. Why did he know what that felt like?

“You, you’re one of the heroes, right?” Was the May’s voice? He really felt ill now. People were rushing by quickly. Sounds were popping in and out.

“Spoiler.” He said. They both looked at him. They must have been speaking. He couldn’t hear them. The world seemed oddly misaligned. The purple girl, Spoiler, thought a good two inches shorter than him obviously had no issue supporting him.

When did she start supporting him.

“Hey, hey!” No snapping, but those eyes were right in his face. “I don’t know how this will affect you. Let me take you home. There you can recover in absolute safety.”

“Ric.” May’s voice was shaky. Was she scared? Of what?

“You’re right.” He gripped Spoiler’s arm tightly. “May, I’ll see you in Bludhaven.” She looked sad, but her eyes focused on something behind him. A slight glance showed Alex, the girlfriend and who must have been Kale crossing the lobby.

“If you think that’s best.” May reached out and Ric gripped her hand. They were both clammy.

“The antidote will be here soon. Just try to stay calm. Everything else has been taken care of.” Spoiler yanked Ric and they headed to a door hidden behind a curtain. Outside the door was a bike.

“In front with you. I need to grip you.”

“I’m taller.”

“Damn logic. But also, I have GPS guidance and my bike can drive itself, so don’t worry about it.” Ric didn’t, because the next thing he noticed was that they were in a really dark area.

“What did you do?” Came an angry, deep voice.


Ric next came to awareness sitting on a cot. An elderly gentleman was using a penlight to check his pupils. He still felt feverish and clammy. He shivered.

“Would you like something hot to drink?” Ric blinked.

“Uh, no.” He stared at the old man. “Alfred.” He didn’t remember the man, but he knew the man had been one of the ones who had visited him in the hospital while he was still bedridden.

“I’ll bring you some soup then.” and he was gone. Ric looked around. He was in some sort of room, but two of the walls were clearly from a natural cave wall. No sound permeated the man-made walls. Yet, even with no stimuli, his heart was racing and he could feel sweat all over his body.

The door opened. In the frame was a slim man with dark hair. What looked like a cowl hung down his back. His hair hung long in his face. Ric had a feeling that they would be rather close in height. Yet the shadow if this man warped and grew. Large and looming, the skin turned blue. No longer was the attractive young man, but a looming, ghoulish beast. But no beast would be so cordial.

“How are you feeling?”

“Uh, I’m.” He was panting. His body began to shake.

“Yeah, you’re definitely showing physical symptoms of fear gas poisoning. Don’t worry, the most recent antidote is ready. If you could follow me,” The beast stepped out and back, one bulbous arm giving a wide sweep to freedom. He should run.

I have to get out!

Another swallow followed by a deep breath and he felt more in control. He stood, a wave a nausea washing over him, but he stood straight. He walked to the door but didn’t exit the tiny room. The beast, now much smaller and more man-like now that he was only a foot away, barely paused and turned to lead the way.

There was a white curtained area that they entered. From the machinery, it had to be the medbay. Ric could help but collapse into the first gurney presented to him. The young man had a twisted face, but Ric felt his expression must be more concerned than demonic. He was rather certain where he was.

“Just give me the antidote so I can leave.” He gasped.

“You’ll need to extend an arm.” Ric was shocked to see he had pulled his legs in and was effectively a human ball on the gurney. He stuck out and arm and watch the demonic young man ram a bloody, dull needle into his arm. Deep, noxious green goo ran from the bag into his arm.

“Bucket.” Came a quick call and Ric found himself heaving in a bucket being supported by a feminine pair of hands. His vision travelled up and he saw the Asian woman with cropped hair giving him a mostly bland look. He wasn’t sure, but he thought the bland looked might be forced. Something about her jaw was just seemed to tight to be relaxed.

“You don’t have to keep holding it, Cass. Just leave it with him.” Cass, the woman gave one hell of a vicious glare and Ric confirmed the bland expression was a mask. “I won’t stop you from holding his vomit.” The young man left.

“He’s right.” Ric swallowed bile. “You shouldn’t be holding that bucket, it’s gross.” The mask dropped.

Cass set the bucket down and took a gentle hold of Ric’s hand. “Good to see. You’re good.” She muttered. She turned towards the curtain.

“Can you leave it open?” He called as she pulled the curtain aside. She paused, looked to someone Ric couldn’t see, then left the curtain open.

It took a long while, but eventually the shadows stopped lurking and reaching for Ric. He only heaved twice more, but towards the end, he flopped back onto the gurney and let his exhaustion drag him into slumber.


The music was loud and happy. All the notes rang like bells, the very sound infectious for smiles.

The colors were brighter than possible. Reds, pinks, blues, purples, greens danced with a disco ball along the striped insides of a tent.

He couldn’t make out the words, but he knew them by heart. Haley wasn’t one to mess with something that worked. The crowd was rambunctious, excited and perfect for their show.

“Come on, my Little Robin!” His mother didn’t need to encourage him, but she did. She winked at his father. He didn’t see it, but she always did before a show.

They were so high! Hee loved it! His mother tossed him towards the small white bar. He grabbed it and swung across the great divide. He was limitless. His arc was impossible slow, because he flew. The joy of the performance overrode the little voice in the back of his mind that was worried, that thought it felt a bump, that remembered the man with the scarred face. Nothing could touch him here, in the air, between worlds of solid land.

He tucked and exploded out as his father gripped his ankles. He was released and gave another flip before landing on the next tower. He gave a wave to the crowd,  then let himself fall backwards off the very edge of the ledge (hiding the hop to cover the distance) as his father’s long arms connected and gripped his wrists. They weren’t even sweaty.

They reached the height of the next arc and he was free. He really was a robin, flying. The red of his uniform flashed. He brought in his arms and twisted as he flipped and felt the slimmer, but equally strong grip of his mother on his ankles. That jolt was just cause he over shot again, right?

His mother released his ankles and he tucked tightly, landing on the first tower once more. He spun to wave at the crowd. His mother was already on the other tower. He caught the bar. Now his father was on the tower. Now the act.

He mimed reaching for his parents, encouraging them to come back to him. The crowd laughed. His face paint gave his expressions almost a comical quality. The bird-esque face-paint was shimmering in the bright lights under the tent. His mother was first on the bar. On her return towards the tower, his father jumped and they held onto each other. She tossed him. The timing was engraved in his soul. He couldn’t miss. His father reached the bar with a flourish.  He swung back and forth a couple times, showing off strength and flexibility in sync with his mother. It was her turn now. She released and grabbed onto his father.

He smiled, on the edge of the tower. With his mother hanging from his father, he wouldn’t have to jump, she would just grab him. He reached up, ready to accept her embrace.

He saw her arms. Aligned with his hips. The sound caught up as he looked down.

She was smiling until her eyes saw the base of the ledge. Her arms reached for him. He fell to his stomach reaching, reaching, reaching. They grew smaller, smaller, and down.

Colors glowed under the lights in the tent. He was still reaching.


Reaching out Grayson shot up. “No!” He shouted. Sweat left a gleam over his body, his eyes were blown, his faced flushed, and he panted as he realized he was awake once more.

“No.” He repeated. It was a whimper.

Damian turned to Bruce.

“I’ll go talk to him.” Jason offered, moving from where he was leaning against the Batcomputer. Bruce’s frown was a little bit disappointed, but he said nothing.

“Weird, he didn’t seem to be hallucinating from the fear gas. It’s probably just a regular nightmare.” Tim said.

“The gas might have, you know, awakened some memories.” Oracle, Barbara, suggested. She seemed to accepted Grayson was gone now. They were all still wary about the subject of Grayson in general, but it no longer felt like taboo.

“Possibly.” Tim agreed. He rubbed his eyes, evidently tired.

Bruce stood and walked over. Damian followed. Standing next to his father as they approached Grayson, he remembered the Migraine Incident.

“I couldn’t catch them. Them. Who were they?” Grayson muttered under his breath. Jason looked unsure.

“It’s rather late.” Bruce interrupted. Truthfully it was early, about 3am, the end of a long patrol. “I think it might be best if you stayed the rest of the night and I’ll have someone drive you home in the morning.” In classic Batman style, it didn’t sound like a suggestion.

“Fuck off Bruce. Ask him what he wants to do!” Jason snapped. Grayson winced.

“Uh, if you have a better bed than this….” Grayson looked exhausted, but shaken.

“There are a few.” Grayson nodded then stood. He was watching something in the distance, following something no one else could see. Damian knew his bloodwork from just 45 minutes ago was clear for fear toxin. He also knew Grayson had incredibly detailed memory. Damian stopped himself from laughing at the irony.

“I can guide you.” Bruce offered. Damian wanted to follow, but he also didn’t. He was exhausted and had to babysit Jon tomorrow.

The trio did walk up together.

“Night, Damian.” Grayson said. No shoulder pats, no hugs. Nothing Damian missed. He slipped into his room quietly.

 

Bruce stayed close enough to catch Richard should he fall, but the man seemed much more stable now. He was mildly lost in his thoughts when he noticed Richard had stopped. He had stopped in front of his own room. The door looked like the others, but it felt cold. Not even Alfred had been in for a month. It was a mausoleum.

“Whose room is this?”

“He’s no longer with us.” Bruce answered, unab


le to look at Richard. Richard seemed to know.

“Oh. Ok.” The next door was Bruce’s and beyond that a turn to the hallway that held Jason and Tim’s rooms as well as Stephanie’s. Cass often liked to share with Stephanie, or Barbara when she was in her guest room, but Cass’ personal room was technically in the next hallway (Next to Barbara’s).

At the end of this hallway was also the rotating guest room. It was always prepared to house a guest, and was far enough from Bruce’s room that there was no way even a meta could hear the results of nightmares.

Richard entered. For a moment the two looked at each other through the door, until Richard closed the door. He found night clothes and personal hygiene products ready for his use.

 

Come morning, Alfred is surprised to be greeted first by Richard. He was also shocked as Richard accepted coffee and a plate of pancakes with fruit. There wasn’t even a glance at the cereals.

Richard was only two bites into his first pancake when the rest of the family started trickling in, one by one. It wasn’t until Bruce sat down that it seemed anyone noticed Richard’s presence in his usual seat.

Richard appeared tense, but carried a tense, casual conversation with Bruce and Tim about his job as a taxi driver. He was describing a story of a client with a weird scar on the side of his face wanting a ride only about two blocks long when Jason interrupted with a question about workouts.

Which was how Richard found himself in the Batcave again, dressed for a workout.

“I have a trapeze.” Bruce offered softly.

“A trapeze?” Richard looked at the specially installed equipment with both trepidation and excitement. “Not yet.” he whispered. After a light workout, Richard was ready to drive home.

“I’ll take him.” Alfred said. It was no wonder how Bruce had developed the ability to “suggest” options.


 

The ride was quiet and it wasn’t until they were at his apartment that Richard spoke.

“Alfred, what was I to them? Who, who was I?”

Chapter Text

Bruce doesn’t read the paper this morning. He doesn’t want to. It sits, headlines up, mocking him. It wasn’t the front page that haunted him. It was actually something found on the last page of the main section. A tiny little box, resting closest to the crease, next to the “This Day in History” box.

The sounds of his family coming down the back steps had him reflexively reaching and opening the paper. It was open before he could think.

“Anything interesting in the news?” Tim asked. He didn’t sound interested, in fact Bruce was pretty sure it was some carry-over from his day of business meetings the other day. Sometimes Bruce felt bad about passing the CEO position over to Tim with Tim being on 18, but Tim had been so grateful. He had then decided to skip college completely and just run the business. Bruce had been furious at first, expecting Tim to get some sort of degree before actually taking over the company, but if the fact that Bruce had been able to buy a car for every single employee that lived in Gotham as a winter bonus this year was any sign, Tim was doing just fine.

“I just opened it.” Bruce admitted. Light claws ran across the back of his neck, and the Selina gracefully collapsed into the chair to his right.

“God.” She hissed. Her stomach was swollen, and under the flowing cotton, Bruce knew the skin was taut. “Any chance the paper says when she’ll be born?” Selina’s voice had a permanent breathiness to it these days. Bruce knew it was her contractions and perfectly normal, but that didn’t stop him from reaching over to give her a comforting hug.

“Wasn’t she supposed to be born last week?” Luke asked, giving Barbara a peck on her cheek before sitting next to her and accepting a plate of eggs.

Bruce noted how Barbara tensed at the affection. He knew she felt guilty for finding someone new, but no one at the table felt she had anything to feel bad about. She and Dick hadn’t been a couple for years before the...incident.

“You think any kid of this oaf would listen to reason like that?” Selina was able to joke. She then rubbed her stomach wincing slightly. “I can only hope she’ll be ready soon.”

“I must admit, I’ll be excited to babysit. Jon is really excited to meet her as well.” Damian added. The table went silent as people began to eat. Bruce smiled as Alfred joined them. He had been quiet and a bit sullen (for Alfred) since bringing Dic- Richard home.

With a frustrated sigh, he skipped the paper that he didn’t want to read to the back page. There was the mocking little box: “ Famous Birthdays .”

About a third down the first column was Richard Grayson, 27.

Bruce put the paper down. He was done with it. He picked up his plate and stood up.

“Going to the cave already? It’s not even 11.” Selina said, obviously trying not to sound disappointed.

“That or my office. I have work in either place.” Bruce said.

“Ok. But. Can. Oh.” Selina put a hand on her stomach. “Oh. Oh! OH! Hospital NOW!” She stood. Bruce reacted and just picked her up bridal style.

“Oof woman.” He muttered, power walking towards his favorite, family car.

“You’re carrying two people here, feel strong, jackass.” She laughed in between counting breaths. Behind them the table was alive and borderlining on panic.

“We’ll call.” Bruce shouted across the house. Whether he was heard or not he didn’t care. His wife was definitely going into labor.

 

Two hours later and there was no phone call. Barbara had headed off to work (and to sneak a peek through hospital cameras no doubt), Jason was sparring against Luke, and Damian was just lounging on the back of the T-Rex model. Tim assumed he was sketching. He wondered if Damian knew he was slowly discovering all of Dic- Richard’s (why was it still so hard?) favorite lounging spots. Knowing Damian, yes.

Speaking of Richard…..

Tim looked at the Box. It was just a hard plastic crate without a lid. Inside were a surprisingly large amount of journals. Towards the bottom were bigger books that were stiffer, Tim surmised them might be more like scrapbooks than plain journals.

This box was both treasure and a curse. Inside was who knows how many years of Richard's thoughts and memories. However, the family had agreed to not read them. THe unspoken yet was never voiced, but Tim knew eventually one of them would break. He had honestly thought it would be Bruce or Damian, and was surprised they hadn’t yet. Those two were the nosiest people on the planet, possibly tied with Barbara.

So, Tim didn’t exactly notice he had grabbed the top notebook when a shadow appeared over him.

“What are you doing?” it was Damian. Tim paused.

“Not thinking.” Tim said, placing the notebook back.

“You should do that more often.” Damian announced, yanking the notebook from Tim’s hand before it had been returned.

“You both are idiots. We should be starting at the beginning.” This was Jason.

“Oh, are these the rumoured journals that RIchard wrote?” Luke asked. The four sat around the box.

“I’m going to get Cass and Steph up of the computer.” Tim said. It didn’t take long, but by the time he had the screen arranged and returned to the circle, the entirety of the collection had been spread out. It was evident some of the journals were old, as the paper was yellow.

“The beginning?” Luke picked up the oldest, most battered notebook.

“Any chance it’s dated?” Jason asked.

“Uh, yeah. Oh, it isn’t nearly as old as I thought it was. He must have left it out a lot or travelled with it for it to look so old.”

“Well?” Damian pressed.

“Yeah, ok, it’s from…..six, no seven years ago.” Luke looked up. “I definitely wasn’t in the picture then.

“Neither was I.” Damian pouted.

“I’m not sure I was either!” Stephanie said from the screen. “And if I wasn’t, was Cass?”

“Well, what’s the first page say?” Jason asked. He had a particular look on his face that was harder to read than his helmet.

“Uh, it looks like, Grayson had rather sloppy handwriting, didn’t he?”

“Not usually, only when he’s-”

“Angry.” Jason finished, He grabbed the book from Luke, scanning just the first page. “He’s ranting it seems. Looks like it’s about a fight with Bruce. Not necessarily uncommon, though it’s still hard to imagine just what they fight about.”

“Everything.” Tim, Damian, and Cass said. Jason scowled.

“Wait,” Cass interrupted from the computer, “Wasn’t seven years ago when you…” She trailed off, but was clearly looking at Jason.

“Yeah. I was a little… crazy back then.” Jason muttered. She spent a few more moments trying to read the sharp, scattered thoughts that were the rantings of a very angry Richard Grayson. “God, he’s got some harsh words. He… he was really pissed at Bruce, but he doesn’t say why.” Tim’s brow creased.

“Wait, is there a month there?” he asked.

“Yeah, October.”

“Fuck.”

“Tim!” Cass scolded.

“October, seven years ago that’s when Dick…” The room watched Tim intensely. “That was when DIck killed the Joker.”

The cavern was dead silent. Event the bats were hushed.

“Bull. Fucking. Shit.” Jason said. Each syllable punctuated the emptiness of the cave.

“Yeah, the Joker’s still alive, right?” Luke looked around for confirmation.

“Yeah.” Tim agreed. “Ok, listen to the story first, and then yell. But Nightwing killed Joker. I watched him do it. Batman brought him back.”


 

Bruce called the Batcave.

“You’re not stopping me.” A very stern faced Nightwing answered the video call. The dark of the cave seemed to swallow all light from the Watchtower, even though the screen.

“You can’t go.” Bruce tried anyway.

“You aren’t stopping this. That bastard is out.”

“It’s been two years already, Nightwing. To what purpose,”

“To what purpose! Are you really fucking telling me that? Fuck! Fuck no, Batman .” Nightwing snarled. BRuce felt two shadows behind him, but by the door so they couldn’t bee seen by the camera.

“Nightwing, don’t put yourself at risk! I’ll be Earth-side within the hour.”

“And hour is too fucking long, or don’t you remember?” Nightwing snapped. Bruce had the vicious image of a mad dog frothing at the mouth.

“You aren’t thinking clearly.”

“I am, and you know it. You’re twisted fucking morals are just getting in the damn way!”

“Nightwing!”

“Yeah, what’s your argument? Kill Joker and worse will show up? What’s worse than the Joker! Tell me!” Bruce was silent. “Thought so, Don’t even try to stop me, Batman .” And the screen went blank.

“Bruce? Diana and Clark approached.

“Joker escaped. He’s somewhere near Tim’s patrol area and Dick…. Dick is going to kill him.” Bruce whisked towards the zeta tubes.

“Bruce, think about this. Would killing the Joker really be so evil?” Diana asked. Bruce paused. When he turned back, Clark looked sheepishly like he was in agreement.

“Do not get me wrong. I would tear the Joker apart with my own two hands if would bring Jason back. But it won’t, and once you start killing, you cannot stop.” He fixed Diana with a hard look. “And what does one do when those who ‘deserve’ to die are dead?” She looked away. They would never agree, and she knew it, even if it broke her heart a little bit. “That said, I would appreciate if… Clark, please come with me.” Now Diana looked offended. “He can fly faster.” It was a truth, though not one usually brought up. “And Dick, Clark you’re still his hero. He might listen better to you.”

“Me over his father?” Clark asked.

“Yes.” Bruce had turned his back towards his friends. “We have no time to waste. I have a few ideas as to where they’ll be, but I’m not certain, and Gotham is big, with many places to hide.” And they departed. Diana couldn’t shake a sense of dread building in her heart.

 

It was quiet, but Tim could heard the slapping sound of hard soled shoes on a hard surface. He opened his eyes, gasping at the pox-marked, white painted face inches from his own.

“Another birdy-boo!” The Joker leaned back only to laugh. “If only Batsy were home! Who is it now? The baby bird that grew up? Think he’ll beat the Bats?” His breath smelled of acid and Tim gagged. “The Great Boy Wonder, Robin. How many of you are there? Think he’ll just replace you too? After I’m done with you?” Tim jumped as something cold and hard caressed his face.

“You don’t tremble like the other one did. Nor do you sass like the first Boy Blunder. I swear that one never shut up. Honestly, I would have killed him if I had the choice. But I didn’t. Hey, is the original Boy Blunder now that hunk Harley keeps slobbering over all up in black and blue? Ugh. Suck a tacky color combo.” Joker had started circling the chair Tim was tied to. His voice pierced into Tim’s head.

“You know, you’re kind of boring compared to the first two. Granted, I never got to really get to know the first Robin. Two-Face did, said he had a delightful scream. Almost made the ole lawyer goody-shoe up! But no, I never got any really personal alone time with the original traffic light. Think someone will save you?” There was no warning. Pain erupted from Tim’s chest he cried out.

“You and I, we’re gonna get along real nice, I can just tell!” Joker smiled, his red lips all Tim could focus on.

The crowbar was raised. Tim screamed before it even fell as his winced pulled at his crushed ribs. The crowbar hit his bicep. The bone didn’t break, but his arm was totally numb. The Joker just laughed.

“HAH! You might be better than the other one!” He raised his arm, Tim couldn’t watch.

The blow never fell. Tim heard the sound of something hard making contact with flesh, but felt nothing. He opened his eyes.

Just then a green and purple blur raced across his field of vision, hitting the wall with a sickening crunch. A black and blue blur followed. Tim tried to steady his breathing but his ribs were burning. He shakily started working his hands, each moment feeling like an eternity and he worked his way out of sloppily tied knots.

He freed his arms and stood, just as Nightwing three Joker against the wall, pinning with a forearm over the Joker’s neck.

“Heh, heh. Looks like the pretty one did show up in time!” Joker spat blood. The glob hit Nightwing’s cheek and slowly slid down his face.

“Nightwing.” Tim croaked. “I’m safe. It’s done.” Tim’s voice cracked as he fell, gripping his ribs. He wasn’t sure what hurt more, pressure or no pressure.

“He doesn’t deserve mercy.” Tim froze. Had he not watched the figure before him fighting, he might have thought someone was impersonating Nightwing.

“Hmm, I really don’t! HAHAHA!” Joker coughed out more blood. Nightwing threw him to the ground.

“You don’t deserve to die easy.” Nightwing growled. Tim’s blood ran cold. As Nightwing turned towards him, Tim suddenly realized he was terrified of him.Time fell to his knees. Nightwing didn’t even make it a step towards Tim though.

“Lucky you got here in time! I was just preparing my grand encore! Except this time! I wasn’t gonna leave you no body! HA! NOBODY! Just gonna blow him up. Even better than I did the last one!”

It was that moment that Tim realized he was face before a person who truly felt no regrets, and another who was the embodiment of hellfire. Tim wasn’t psychic, but he felt the wave of fury off of Nightwing.

“Nightwing, no!” Tim gasped, his own breath betraying him as he gasped in pain more than saying words. Nightwing was already upon Joker.

“No!” Tim gasped. He pulled himself up. He reached out to grab Nightwing’s shoulder, but it moved too much. Suddenly Tim was hit in the face with something. A glove.

Blood marred the knuckles, the built-in iron knuckles were dented. The sickening crunch of both, and the sick gush of wet muscle echoed throughout the room.

Tim fell upon Nightwing’s back. The force of Nightwing’s punches threw Tim back.

“He’s dead!” it came out as a croak. “He’s dead! He’s Dead. Dick he’s DEAD!’ Tim screamed.

“Richard stop!” A deep voice shouted and a black shadow fell over the scene. Batman grabbed at Nightwing, who turned and suckered punched him right in the face. Batman stumbled backwards, and arc of fresh blood adding to the growing puddle.

“Dick!” A new voice, not quite as deep, announced Superman. He darted forward, catching Nightwing’s right arm, then the left as they strained to continue pummeling the red and purple mass below him.

“Stop!” Superman ordered, But Nightwing kept punching, somehow twisting a hand out of Superman’s grip. Superman yanked him backwards, and a new crack echoed through the room.

Nightwing didn’t make a sound. He just leaned back against Superman, panting. He was showered in splatters of bright, red blood.

“He’s dead. He’s dead. God, let him be dead.” He chanted to himself.

Batman leaned over the broken body.

“No! Don’t you dare! Dammit, Bruce! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Stopit! Stopit! Stopitstopitstopitstopit! NO!” Dick screamed and pushed against Superman’s hold as Batman commenced CPR.

“I called the paramedics.” Batman announced as Joker gave a wet gasp.

“WHY! HE KILLED JASON!” Nightwing screamed, twisting his broken arm in Superman’s grasp.

“Stop kid, you’re hurting yourself.” Superman muttered.

“I won’t let you become a killer. Not for him.” Batman turned a sharp look down at the groggy, moaning Joker. Nightwing just broke down into tears.

Batman turned and Superman released Nightwing, who just fell forward to his knees, caught by Batman.

“We’ll leave him to the paramedics. We’re getting you home. Cl-Superman can you,”

“Batman. I don’t know if I could intervene if he crashes again.” Clark looked stern. “I’m not sure he’d even make it to the paramedics while under my care.” Batman looked at him.

Clark just knew his friend had a betrayed expression. He held Nightwing closer. A beat passed. He pushed Nightwing, who was limp and fightless now, back into Superman’s arms.

“Get them both to Dr. Leslie.” he turned to Tim. “I’ll be by soon.” The flashing lights and siren of the ambulance could already be heard. Clark picked up Nightwing, who seemed to have checked out and was not responding .

“Go along Robin. If you need him to carry you, just ask. He’s strong enough. Tim nodded. As he was by the door he heard a guttural, wet laughter.

“Heh, heh. Well, Batsy, I think I won! No matter what, I made your boy a killer! HA!” He spasmed. Batman didn't respond, but Tim saw his fists tighten.

He left.


 

“Fuck.” Stephanie broke the silence first.

“I can’t believe Superman had to intervene!” said Luke.

“I’d almost forgotten about it honestly. It the grand scheme of our lives, it didn’t seem super major. It had been about two weeks after Jason had emerged as Red Hood, and stabbed Dick.” Jason got a round of glares. He shrugged.

“Pit effects.”

“Dick didn’t return to Gotham for months. Not until Red Hood stopped being so…. Red Hoody.” Tim sighed. “I’d almost forgotten. Dick so rarely gets angry, but when he does….”

A long moment of silence passed. Luke ruffled through the box.

“These scrapbooks seem older than the journals, well, except for these two. Should we look at them next?”

“Should we look at any of them?” Damian asked softly. He understood something about Richard Grayson now that he wished he didn’t.

“We should.” Jason said. “Cause, he isn’t here anymore, but I still need his stupid advice. And this is the best I’m gonna get.” Jason grabbed another notebook.

“Let’s keep going.”

Chapter Text

Luke held the notebook in his hands. He had read it, of course. Twice in fact. It was only half filled.

Its pristine-ness had implied it was a newer notebook. Luke felt like a fool. He should have known that something being pristine could also have been cause by it being shoved as far aways as possible and never touched again.

He dropped his forehead against it, ignoring the buzzing of his phone. He had texted Barbara he didn’t want to talk tonight. She really should respect that of him. The second his phone stopped buzzing it started again. This time it was Jason’s icon. Lucas sent it to voicemail immediately.

“Ok, fucker. Rude.” Luke jumped as Jason climbed in through a window. He was honestly more surprised that Tim came in behind him. Both were decked out in patrol gear.

“You said you’d help out tonight, since B is on paternity leave.” Tim said. Luke felt like Tim was making a joke, but he probably wasn’t.

Batman is taking a paternity leave?”

“Well, it’s not like he announced it like that or anything, but he’s definitely going to take easy for these next few months.”

“You mean Selina is going to make him.” Luke sighed. He set the notebook done, unconsciously tapping it as he headed to his wall safe that held his uniform.

“You know, eventually I’m going to head back to South Africa. I can’t keep  camping out here in the states, helping whenever you guys need it.”

“David is doing fine though.” Tim said.

“Oof, relationship issues?” Jason asked, glancing for one of Oracle notorious house cams. Luke didn’t respond.

“Shit, dude I didn’t mean…”

“It’s not her fault.” Luke leaned over his credenza. The notebook taunted him. No. It haunted him.

“Luke?” Tim glanced at Jason. “Is it something from that notebook?” Tim asked. Luke felt his nails scratch the finish of the wood.

“Fuck. Yes! Yes it has to do with the fucking notebook!” He spun. His eyes burned. Tim and Jason looked shocked under their domino masks. “And yes! Yes I’m fucking pissed at Barbara, at Bruce, and at the two of you!” Luke picked up the notebook. His stomach churned. He threw the notebook at them. They both dodged it. “You fuckers.” The anger left him almost as rapidly as it had boiled over. He leaned backwards resting his elbows on the credenza.

“Luke? What was in the notebook?”Jason asked, staring at it like it might bite him.

“What do you guys know about some bitch named Catalina? Catalina Flores?” Jason whipped his head to glare through his mask at Luke.

“I know she was Bruce’s least favorite of Dick’s paramours.” Tim said. “I don’t think any of us liked her. She went by Tarantula, right?” Tim looked to Jason. Jason took a deep breath.

“Yeah, she did.”

“Where is she?” Luke asked, staring at his ceiling.

“Dead.” Jason grunted. Looked straightened.

“Damn.” He said.

“Am I missing something?” Tim asked.

“I think you are.” Luke said. “Dick wrote he never wanted to date Catalina. Or marry her. He has a vow against drinking after she almost convinced him to get a marriage license while he was drunk.”

“That’s why he stopped drinking?” Tim said.

“That bitch. I knew I hated her.” Jason grumbled.

Luke looked at the two. Did Jason know? From how he wasn’t shouting in Tim’s face about the family’s obliviousness, he doubted it. If anything, it was Jason’s natural instincts to recognizing subtle body language. He had probably picked up tells from Dick that made him wary against Catalina.

“How did she die?”

“Uh, remember the whole inter-dimensional-take-over-your-reality-cause-ours-is-exploding thing from three years back? She died in an altercation after escaping from Blackgate." Tim answered automatically. He looked uncomfortable, as if he was re-analyzing some memories and didn't like his new conclusions.

“They weren’t dating?” Tim asked to clarify.

“Not by Dick’s definition.” Luke affirmed.

“Dick’s not the type to do no strings…” Jason started. The two looked uncomfortable.

“Yeah. He isn’t.” Luke knew he was being mean, but he was so angry. So fucking angry. “How, how the hell did none of you notice?” He asked.

“Luke, usually we’re down to play mind games and solve puzzles, but please, just be blunt.” Tim said.

“You just don’t want to say it to yourselves.” Luke snapped.

“Dammit Luke!” Jason started.

“You don’t want to admit that when your brother, the one you all love so much,”

“Get to your fucking point!”

“When you’re beloved brother was raped , you didn’t notice?” Luke was yelling. “How the hell did you not notice!” Luke hadn’t been around. He knew he couldn’t really judge. But he remembered talking to Barbara about it.

 

That was when I really knew Dick and I could never be together. He just… he falls for people so hard and so fast. He wants to see the good in everyone. And his type of love is always so… physical

 

“He was hurting ! He was begging you to notice! He practically told you right out!” Luke snatched the notebook from Tim’s hands, opening directly to the page he wanted.

 

I had dinner with Bruce and the family last night. Bruce took us out to eat with his date of the week. She kept leaning over and putting her hands on me. Like Cat does. I had to leave, I was sick in the bathroom. I didn’t return to the table. I went home and changed. I went out on patrol early and alone. As alone as I could be. Her voice echoes in my head sometimes. Sometimes when my family touches me, I remember her hands. I’m sickened by Tim’s hugs! What the hell is wrong with me!

Bruce pulled me aside and asked what my problem was. He asked in Catalina’s arrest hurt me so much. Tim just stared at me. We were on a rooftop. Jason was there too. Hell he had been trying to fight us, but me almost falling on my face because I thought I heard her voice and missed my landing was too funny to start a fight over.

God they think I’m not over her. They think I loved her. I looked Bruce in the eye. I told him, “I can’t forgive her.” and he scoffed and turned to argue with Jason. Why can’t he see? Why can’t anyone them see?

Everyone keeps touching me. I heard some of my teammates commenting how “sexy” I was. I had to leave and got sick in the bathroom again. In the stall I heard some guys complaining how I always get laid. I held in my vomit until they left. Why does EVERYONE KEEP TOUCHING ME?????

 

Luke pulled the notebook away. It was the last entry.

“It wasn’t too long after that, that Damian showed up.” Tim said, glancing at the date from the top of the page.

“Fucking hindsight being 20/20!” Jason whirled towards the window. “God it’s so obvious! He always avoided standing next to her! The whole fucking Blockbuster thing screwed him over so hard!”

“We… we should have seen it.”

“You sure you didn’t just ignore it because it was Dick? You sure you didn’t want to allow your ‘Golden Boy’ brother to need help?” Luke sneered.

“Shut up.” Jason dropped his head. “Fuck.” He muttered under his breath. “Barbara never forgave him for their break up during that time. Not really.” Jason looked out the window.

“Did you show this to her?” Tim asked. Luke shook his head. “You should.”

“Don’t you think he would have told you guys if he wanted you all to know?” Luke asked. He suddenly felt guilty knowing this about Dick. He felt worse when he realized Ric didn’t even know this about himself.

“You’re right. We wouldn’t allow Dick to need help.” Jason said, still facing the window.

“And so he would, to his best ability, never let us see him needing help.” Tim finished. “But this.”

“Wouldn’t it just make everyone feel worse?” Luke asked.

“It would also explain a lot.” Tim argued. “After Blockbuster, Dick pulled away, hard. Damian brought him back, but after he was Nightwing again, after Bludhaven was destroyed, he was so distant. It was like he couldn’t trust us.” Tim glanced between Jason and Luke. He looked younger than he was. “If we know, we can repair things. We can work to understand.”

“I’m going on patrol.” Jason said suddenly. He left. Tim sighed.

“Bruce is mad we read the journals.”

“He hadn’t?”

“Apparently not. I think he was… optimistic that Dick would be more curious about himself and want to read them. I mean Ric!” Tim nervously fiddled his fingers.

“I’m going to hand Bruce this notebook, punch him in the face, then have a long talk with Barbara.” Luke said.Tim smiled softly.

“Sounds like a plan.”


 

Jason landed on the alley window ledge of the small apartment near crime alley. He knocked on the window. Finally a figure slammed the window open. Her red hair was a mess, and her green skin flushed dark with anger.

“Why the FUCK are you here!” Pamela snarled. The window plants grew threateningly towards him.

“I need to talk to Harley.”

“Why, Red Hood?”

“I...I need her advice.”

“‘Bout wa’, suga’?” Harley sleepily rubbed her eyes as she approached the window. Jason removed his helmet(but not his domino mask). The two women looked at him in shock.

“Please, Dr. Quinzel, I need to talk. I need to know how to talk to someone. Someone who has experience… something the both of you are too familiar with. His voice was heavy with emotion.

Harley and Pamela exchanged a look.

“Come in, Suga’. Let’s have a chat.”

Chapter Text

Alia was alluring as always. As the man’s neck snapped, Tiger found himself suppressing a shudder. He wasn’t the type to get turned on by violence, but it was exciting to see someone so confident in their actions; so comfortable in themself as though they had never doubted anything in their whole life. She glanced over her shoulder and winked at him. He missed her.

That night, he remembered her again. In the pale moonlight, he held her close as their combined sweat dried on his skin. This felt good, but something nagged at him.

“You slept with 37.”

“I also slept with you.” She looked up at him. Her eyes were sharp. She was ready to tear him apart, verbally or physically he couldn’t tell. He kind of liked that.

“I mean nothing to slight you. I enjoy sleeping with you. We should do it more often.” He tried not to feel jealous. 37 had been here, what, a week? Two at most and yet he’d ensnared Alia already. The man must know everything there is to know about seduction. Tiger had never seen Alia swoon over anyone so quickly before. In fact, people usually swooned for her.

“He is lonely.” She said, her head resting on Tiger’s chest. His thoughts careened to a stop. What was Alia playing at? You didn’t just share these things to other agents. “He doesn’t belong here, Tiger. He’s not like us.”

“That is obvious. He is an ex-cape.”

“Not by choice. I’m not sure why he’s here , but the world thinks he’s dead, including his family. That’s… that’s different then us.” She pressed up, looking Tiger in the eyes. Alia wasn’t soft, not emotionally. She was wild and fierce and knew exactly who and what she was. This… sympathy was not usual for her.

“He’s made his choice. While I disapprove of his opinions towards guns, and honestly I question how long he’ll survive here, he is effective as an agent.”

“You underestimate him, Tiger.” Alia hard a strange glint in her eye. “He’ll adapt, but it will hurt him.” She paused, looking towards the window and out to the stars. Tiger followed her gaze, but kept his focus on her. She had used moments like these to start a fight before. “I almost want to get him out before….” She trailed off.

“He is no child. He has experience. Do not worry for him.” Tiger bristled as Alia’s thoughts were clearly on the other man and not him. She turned to look at him, a playful smile on her face.

“If only we didn’t have a mission so early tomorrow.” Her voice was deep and seductive. However, she pulled away and got out of bed. As she dressed herself, Tiger watched. “Don’t worry about it, Tiger. You’re correct. 37 will either adapt, or die.” She pulled her shirt on last. “Sleep well,” and she was gone.


 

Days later, Tiger watched as Alia bled out, the bullet hole through her throat almost comically large. He was frozen in a way he hadn’t been in decades. His voice cracked as he reached for her, her body too limp as it hit the ground. He heard shouting. He felt his body being tackled. Someone lifted him, a fireman’s carry, and Alia’s body disappeared as they turned a corner. He called for Agent 37, to turn around, to go back.

“We can’t, Tiger. We can’t.” Tiger focused on the face before him. His own Hypons allowing him to see sapphire eyes that were wet with heavy tears. Tiger’s throat was tight. His fist met 37’s jaw and he heard a crack. 37 was sprawled on the floor. Tiger stood.

“You absolute fool!”  He doesn’t see 37 for weeks afterwards. He likes that.


 

Paragon’s laser eyes almost burn through him for a third time. He’s tired, angry, and is out of ideas. 37 leaps around, drawing Paragon’s attention, and being a nuisance. Tiger hasn’t seen the other man in weeks, and honestly it could have lasted longer.

“Dammit!” He snarls, diving away as part of a pew comes flying at him. He watches as 37 is tossed and gun and takes aim.

“Wait! The Agents said you’re a horrible shot!” Tiger is painfully aware he is behind Paragon as 37 takes aim.

“Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do,” The echo of the gunshot is muffled by the scream as the robot short circuits from the bullseye shot. “We lie.” 37’s eyes meet his across the room. Tiger is baffled. 37’s hands didn’t shake, his eyes were steal, and he had actually hit the target. Tiger crossed the room, standing next to 37.

“Did I impress you?” 37 sounds too happy. Tiger doesn’t want to say yes. He schools his face back to a frown. He remembers Alia then. She had died because of Agent 37’s hesitancy. Tiger looked back at 37, who had empty the gun of bullets and was talking to some other agents who had arrived. He met Helena’s eyes. She looked a little too smug as her eyes darted from 37 back to him.

“37, we need to talk.” He demanded. 37 looked back at him. He gave a dramatic sigh, but followed Tiger as they left the rest of the agents to clean up. “You know how to use a gun?” He felt strangely empty. He wondered when the anger would come.

“I was a cop. We get trained.”

“That was pinpoint shooting.”

“I wasn’t just trained by cops.” 37 looked away. TIger wracked his memory for any scrap of information about Nightwing and Robin. Neither used guns.

“Where did you learn to shoot?” He asked. He bit his tongue immediately afterwards. An unspoken rule at Spyral was that you avoided topics about the past. 37’s eyebrows shot up. He looked...happy?

“I wish I could tell you! However, that’s protected information. You have to be level 3 friend first!” 37’s voice was cocky and overly happy. It grated Tiger’s ears. 37 was an ass. He hoped he didn’t have to deal with him anymore.


 

Helena was the devil, Tiger was convinced. First he was partnered with 37. Then this overnight mission after only two weeks? Next, his private room had been accidentally cancelled? Now, he was forced to either sleep on the floor, or share a bed. With 37. Who was singing .

“Do you ever shut up?” Tiger moaned. 37 glanced over at him, towel over his shoulder as he headed towards the bathroom.

“Part of my charm, Tony.” Tiger frowned. Tony? Had they decided to use code names? Tony was bad, if was vaguely similar to Tiger so he would be able to rapidly recognize he was being called for, but it was also really plain and forgettable. What should he call 37 then? Tiger was pulled from his musings at the sound of the shower. 37 hadn’t closed the door.

“What game are you playing?” Tiger snarled, reaching into the bathroom to grab the door. He was grateful for the drawn curtain.

“You really want me to close the door when we could be jumped any second? You never know who knows that we’re here.” Grayson said. Tiger noted steam had yet to rise from above the curtain.

“You would charge out, naked?” Tiger wasn’t sure if the thought was mortifying, or hilarious.

“It worked for the Scots; dicks are scary!” as 37 laughed at his own joke, Tiger groaned and stepped out. While he doubted they would get ambushed in their room, he didn’t close the door.

37 didn’t shower long but it was long enough for Tiger to start his evening prayers without distraction. When Tiger finished, 37 exited the bathroom, wiping toothpaste from his mouth.

“So, we cuddling tonight?” 37’s voice was the same, annoying, too peppy tone as usual, but Tiger felt something was off. He cursed at how familiar he must be getting with 37, because he could just see the tightening in the other’s temples at the question. Something was bothering 37, but Tiger didn’t know what.

“I refuse to go to a ball with a sore back. You are welcome to the floor, or feel free to join me in bed.” Tiger lifted the sheets, then glanced up. 37 had a faint flush on his ears but just nodded as he pulled up the covers on the other side of the bed.

Tiger suddenly felt a bolt of something drive through his core as they both climbed in and adjusted their covers and pillows. 37 was lying too still, but so was he. Oh, Allah, he wondered, what is this... awkwardness?

“We forgot the lights.” 37 said. He got out and flipped the switches, not that the room got much darker, it was a full moon that had risen early in the evening. 37 drew the curtains which helped considerably. Tiger ignored how he couldn’t hear 37’s footsteps, ignored the swish of sheets as 37 climbed into bed, and ignored the heavy sigh 37 released as he settled. Tiger listened to 37 listening to him. The world felt fake, the moment hazing. It was a moment of limbo. Tiger looked to his right. The tiny cut of moonlight caught every shade of blue in 37’s eyes.

He’s lonely.

He looked lonely.

Neither blinked. Tiger briefly wondered if 37 was sleeping with his eyes open, but then 37 smirked slightly and made to roll over. He was stopped as Tiger found his own hand on the other man’s shoulder. 37 looked back at him. This time, those blue eyes burned him. Tiger felt a different bolt of something strike through his core. Tiger withdrew his hand. He turned his back towards 37 and squeezed his eyes closed. The bed quickly grew warm with two bodies in it.

It was morning surprisingly quickly.


 

37 look fucking fantastic in a suit. The slicked back hair, the straight cut of the man’s body, the slight aire of superiority off of him? The man gave off the aire of danger, or power. Tiger liked it. This was Richard Grayson, the son of the playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne. No one would recognize him, but everyone would love him. Tiger straightened his bow tie.

“You know our mission?”

“Yes, Tony, I know.” Tiger followed him into the ballroom. While 37 seduced the heiress, Tiger kept watch as a waiter.

“Excuse me,” Tiger turned, schooling his face to avoid looking annoyed. A surprisingly young man stood before him. “Is that cider?” Tiger recognized this boy. He fought the urge to glance over at 37.

“Unfortunately, it is Champagne.” He said, making his English as accented as he dared. The boy looked sad.

“Damian.” Tiger’s blood froze. Yes, he recognized the boy. Bruce Wayne stood behind him.

“Father, I’m just looking for a drink. One that isn’t alcoholic.” The boy sounded prissy and snide.

Brat .

“Any suggestions?” Bruce Wayne asked, eyeing a female waiter. Tiger fought a groan. Was this the person 37 based his overly peppy and happy persona on? Tiger couldn’t stand the salaciousness pouring off the man. How the hell had this man raised kids? Wasn’t he engaged?

Tiger paused. Richard Grayson had died nine months ago, and yet… Bruce seemed to be completely over his eldest son’s death.

“There is juice across the hall.” Tiger lied. He just wanted them away from him, away from 37. Here they were partying while Richard wasn’t even a year dead! Tiger watched the two head across the room to the fabled (and nonexistent) juice. Tiger glanced around for Rich- 37.

“Hey, watch it!” Tiger whipped his head towards Damian’s unmistakable proud tone.

“Pardon me, I was a little distracted.” Tiger’s jaws tightened as 37 gave a slight bow to Damian in apology and headed towards the exit. Tiger watched as Damian’s eyes followed him, a confused look on his face. Bruce called to him, and Damian turned back to his father. Tiger decided it was time to make his exit.

They met back at the hotel.

“So, we’re leaving before dawn, are you packed?” Tiger asked. 37 stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection.

“37. Grayson!” Tiger snapped. 37 jumped and looked at him. He gave a sheepish smile.

“Sorry, T. Yeah, I’m packed.” Tiger felt a painfully delayed realization. Richard Grayson was Damian Wayne’s older brother. How long had it been since he’d last seen any of his family.

“Why did you join Spyral?” Tiger asked. 37 looked him in mild surprise.

“I thought everyone here knew.”

“Your identity was exposed during an inter-dimensional war, you died, except you didn’t, and now you’re here.” Tiger was also curious as to how Ricahrd Grayson had survived being blown up, but that was for another time.

“Sorry, Tony. That’s a story for level 3 friends only!” Tiger rolled his eyes. Fine. He didn’t need to know.


 

37 looked good in a suit. Too bad Tiger had to kill him. Even as Tiger nursed his headache and argued his point, he couldn’t get 37 in a suit out of his head.

He’s lonely .

He’s lonely? What the hell. 37 dealt with loneliness is shitty ways. Shitty, murdering his colleagues ways. Shitty knocking him out with a single punch ways. (Tiger wasn’t impressed. Not in the slightest)

“You’re too soft for him.” Tiger accused. Matron, Helena, scowled at Tiger. She wants to accuse him of being the same. But that would mean admitting it.

“You’re too close to this case. I will handle it. I have a different job for you.”

 

Did Tiger mention 37 dealt with loneliness in shitty ways?

Apparently, 37’s method of dealing with loneliness was to hunt him down in the catacombs beneath Rome and try to kill him. Tiger had thought the two had actually started to start to understand each other, or something. Really, this was quite rude.

It’s minutes into their duel when Tiger notices something off about 37’s strikes. 37’s movements were just barely off, but Tiger couldn’t pinpoint how. As he lay, slumped and barely conscious and a second Agent 37 runs in, he feels he understands. As the 37s duel, Tiger feels an odd suspicion rise in his brain. As one of the 37s falls, a killed escrima stick to the head felling him, Tiger rips out the Hypnos implant in one eye. Two images overlap, one of a bloodied 37 stalking towards him: the other of a ghost.

“Alia?” He croaks. He wants the agony to hit, but it doesn’t. He wants to scream that he can’t believe it, but he can. He wants to feel like, somehow, he didn’t expect this when 37 claimed he was being framed.

“You gonna rat me out, Tiger?” 37’s peppy tone blends with Alia’s deep alto voice. Tiger looks at the unconscious 37 in her hands. She tosses the limp body towards him. He catches it, prevent 37’s head from hitting the ground.

“Why?” He asks.

“He doesn’t belong here. He’s not like us.”

“So you tried to get Spyral to kill him?”

“I’m making him leave.” Tiger frowns at her.

“He caused your…” He was going to say death.

“Yeah, the bastard almost killed me. They brought me back.” Alia’s smile was dark and seductive. Tiger felt no draw to it this time. Alia smiled like a cat before a mouse.

“He’s adapted.” Was Tiger defending Grayson? Fuck.

“It been months, he has yet to kill anyone, for real at least. I was wrong.” Alia looked down at them. She seemed suddenly contemplative. “It’s a shame, he’s cute as fuck.” She drew a gun from a holster at the small of her back. “Sorry, Tiger dear.”

“So am I.” Tiger can’t explain this. In the future, it’ll keep him up for nights on end, but he’ll never regret it. As soon as he knew it was Alia, his own gun had been in his hand, hidden by his own sloped posture. This time, he knew she was dead. The new hole in her forehead couldn’t be faked. With that, Tiger hoisted Grayson into his arms and carried him out of the catacombs.


 

“How did… how did we get out?” Grayson asked. He was leaning against the window of the airplane, doing his best to only appear mildly airsick instead of heavily beaten. (How he had avoided any black eyes, Tiger would never know.)

“After you were knocked out I killed your doppleganger.” Tiger huffed out softly. The flight attendant was approaching.

“No.” Grayson groaned. Tiger closed his eyes.

Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do. We Lie .

Yeah, he couldn’t tell him. “It wasn’t a real person, you idiot.” Tiger huffed. Grayson gave him a suspicious glance.

“Water?” The flight attendant asked.

“Yes please. Two.” Tiger ordered. After she left, he sipped the iced water slowly. Grayson did the same.

“I’m not sure I believe you, and I don’t approve,” Grayson started, Tiger pointedly avoided looking at him, “but thank you.” Tiger’s eyes whipped over. Grayson was looking out of the plane.

It was a quiet plane ride. Long and quiet.


 

Tiger hated to admit it, but Grayson, as annoying as he was…. Was growing on him. Like mold of course.

As Tiger treated Grayson’s laser burn, he tried to figure out why he kept hanging around this fool. Yes they worked together, but they spent a lot of casual time together as well.

“You know, I think you’re starting to like me, Tony!”
“Don’t call me that.” Tiger grunted. Grayson’s yelp had nothing to do with his sudden increase of pressure with the cloth. Not at all.


 

Tiger was getting suspicious of Helena. This was the fourth mission since the doppleganger situation  where they were sharing a room with one bed. The good news was they were adults and could share. The bad news was they were adults and…. Tiger was beginning to notice Grayson. At least, he was noticing Grayson’s flirting.

Grayson was a known flirt, right? Nightwing slept with half of the other heroes Tiger knew about, right? Midnighter and Grayson flirted back and forth all the time , and Midnighter was married !

Tiger glanced towards the open bathroom where Grayson was showering. It was oddly reminiscent of the first night they’d spent together.

He’s lonely .

I’m fucking lonely. Tiger looked to the full moon, barely risen. Grayson had been with Spyral for over a year now. He and Tiger had been partners for almost ten months.

“Earth to Tony!” Grayson appeared before him, hair dripping as he rubbed it with a towel. He was shirtless, and his sweatpants hung low on his hips. Tiger let his eyes linger, noting when the slight red hue tinged Grayson’s tanned body.

“Enjoying the view?” Grayson jokes. Tiger gave Grayson a long, slow, full body appraisal. Grayson’s eyes were tight. He’d have crows’ feet soon at this rate. The smile was forced.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Tiger asked. Grayson huffed a laugh.

“I mean, am I reading this right? Are you those your bedroom eyes? They look very similar to your, ‘I’m going to kill you’ eyes.”

Tiger was silent. Spies were never direct.

“You’re lonely.” Tiger said. Grayson stiffened. Tiger raised an eyebrow, tilting his head towards the bed. Grasyon comically looked between the bed and Tiger. Then the bed again, and back to Tiger. He recovered from his shock quickly. A superior smile grew on his face.

“You ever fuck a man before?” Oh, so Tiger wouldn’t be his first. Good. Grayson wasn’t Tiger’s first either.

Tiger stepped into Grayson’s space. He pressed one single, long finger into Grayson’s chin, lifting it to meet Grayson’s eyes.

“Want to find out?” He purred. Grayson’s pupil’s dilated into flat disks. Tiger smiled a feral smile and pulled his prey in.

 

“You will say nothing.” He forced his voice to stay stoic.

“Depends what I’m not saying.” Grayson replied cheekily. He had a beautiful dark hickey on his shoulder. Even the deepest and loosest of V-neck shirts wouldn’t show it. Though the one on the side of his neck was glaringly obvious.

“If you say anything, it is that the air conditioner was broken and froze the room.” Tiger snarled, pushing Grayson to roll over. Tiger pulled himself forward and felt Grayson's back against his chest.

“Tiger?” Grayson didn’t sound scared, or concerned. In fact, he almost sounded bemused.

“You always look pathetically lonely.” Tiger supplied. “It’s even worse after fucking.” Tiger didn’t hold him tightly. In fact he was barely touching Grayson.

“Oh. Thanks.” This was a new tone for 37. It was soft and slightly surprised. Tiger felt oddly proud about causing it. Tiger felt Grayson’s body relax. His own did as well. Grayson was nothing, nothing like Alia. While both were stripped of body fat and had hard angles from finely toned muscles, Alia still had the soft curve of a waist and breasts. Grayson…. Didn’t. Tiger just let his hand hang off of Grayson’s waist and counted the other man’s breaths. Morning came too quickly.


 

Tiger was going to go on record and say being chased down by Syndicate was a pain. It was worse that the person they were trying to help had sicked Syndicate on them, and now they had to protect her… but admittedly it wasn’t the worst thing to have happened to him.

Also admittedly, Grayson made it bearable.

Travelling the world really grew people’s bonds. After that hour in Superman’s lair, where some very important things had been discussed, Tiger found himself galavanting globally with Grayson, and enjoying it.

After saving Helena, and securing her position as Director, and his own as Patron, he didn’t know what to do with his relationship with… with Ricahrd.

“Tiger?” Dick was warmest in the morning. He loved to just languish in bed and absorb the time he had with his lover. Tiger enjoyed it as well. But it was distracting. Dick’s relaxed face made it too hard to discuss important things. Things like their futures. Dedalus had accidentally allowed Dick to take up the Nightwing title again, should he want it. Spyral and Syndicate were no longer after them. Dick had even revealed his alive status to his family. (The dark bruises on his jawline faded pretty quickly. Some had been very upset.)

No one really knew about them, and Tiger kind of liked it like that, but he also knew soon Dick would want to introduce his family. That scared Tiger. Batman was terrifying, and each iteration of his proteges got progressively more terrifying in their unique ways. But if Dick wanted to…

“I’m going to tell my family I’m seeing someone Friday.” Dick told him.

“Should I be there?” Tiger asked, burying his nose into the crook of Dick’s neck.

“No. I’ll need to explain things to them first. I’m thinking of doing isolated introductions. My family tends to team up against people.”

“Hmm.”

“Yeah. I’ll call you let you know how it goes.”

Tiger never got a call that Friday.

Or the next Friday.

It took two weeks for the news to reach Spyral. Helena stood next to him, her face stony as she replayed the news footage.

“In a horriyfing event, caught on camera! We have witnessed the masked vigilante, Nightwing, get shot in the head! There is no news on his recovery as of now.”

~~

“Last week we reported Nightwing’s public headshot that was caught on video! Our sources say he survived, but barely. It seems this might be the end to the world’s sexiest hero.”

~~

“Nightwing is still off the streets, but our sources say he lives! However, those same sources assure us that yes, the career of the world’s sexiest hero is done.

Maybe he’ll go into modelling!”

Tiger turned off the TV.

‘Modelling?” He scoffed. “Disgusting news anchors. What kind of bullshit are they,”

“Tiger.” Tiger stopped.

“I’ve been in contact with Oracle.” Tiger said nothing, fixing Helena with a hard stare. She kept her eyes fixed to the dark screen. “He’s gone.”

“The news said he lived.”

“No, not like that Tiger.” Helena looked at him, stifling her tears. “He’s gone . He’s forgotten everything, everyone .” Tiger knew in that moment that Helena knew about them. That was why she had called him here, to her office. It was why she was explaining to him that what should just be another contact was down personally.

“Everyone?” Tiger asked softly. Helena looked back to the screen.

“Everyone.”

“It’s only been a couple weeks. He’s probably barely even awake….” Tiger tired to think of everything he knew about headshots. Before his eyes flashed Alia’s face. The third hole between her eyes.

He’s lonely .

Did she mean me?


 

Tiger sat at the bar, observing the man on the opposite end. The bartender gave him a pitying look. He wanted to remind her of her job, but that would honestly make her job harder.

“You like the view?” Tiger turned his head towards the familiar voice. “Ric Gray” stood before him, leaning on the counter. Mae set a glass of water next to him. Tiger nursed his apple cider (it looked like whiskey as long as no one got too close).

“It’s appreciable.” Tiger admitted. Ric sat down on the stool. He smiled until he frowned, giving Tiger a hard look.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

“Pretty shitty pick up line.” Tiger almost called him a fool. He couldn’t give any hints. He was letting Dick move on with his life. He was letting Dick start again. It was going to be ok.

“I must not, you’ve got a face that’s hard to forget.” Ric leaned in slightly. TIger wanted to laugh. He had Hypnos in currently. His face was the definition of forgettable.

“You busy the rest of the night?” Rick asked. Tiger felt Mae looking at him.

Ric’s hair had grown over the year. It was almost the same length it had been when Tiger had met the man. His eyes were the same, crystalline sapphire blue.

“Unfortunately, I am. Maybe next time.” Tiger made to stand.

“Hey, at least give me a name?” Ric asked. Tiger thought for a moment.

“Tony.”

“Well, Tony. I look forward to seeing you again!” And Tiger left.

He’s Lonely.

Yeah, well, that’s what we spies do. We Lie .

We fucking lie when we’re lonely. Tiger thought, and stepped out of the bar.