It started as a slight nagging in the back of Tim’s mind. The same feeling he gets when he’s missing an obvious clue. Placed nearly central in the large room, Tim discreetly surveyed the room and its occupants. To the untrained eye, it was another one of Bruce’s charity galas, men and women all dressed up, gold on wrists, fingers, shoes and decorations. Bruce was with the Commissioner on the landing, constantly looking over his city with or without the cape. Steph was trying to get the musicians to play better music; Damian looked ready to impale himself, caught between Ms. Vreeland and Nicole (Tim could never remember her last name). Cass, after a bit of searching, was at Bruce’s side. Whether she had been there the whole time or not, Tim didn’t know. So far, so good, no bad guys, no drunks, no fights, no serving issues, what was Tim missing? He excused himself from Mr. Saddows - the conversation was turning towards Batman anyways, as it always does with the reporter - and made his way to the outskirts of the room, aiming to reach Bruce. Steph tried to wave him over to her but he kept his sights on the stairs, ignoring her quick apology to the fat man she was talking to and her chase after him. Tim was three steps from the top when it clicked. He froze, one foot in the air. Steph stepped on his heel and cursed.
“What the hell, Tim?” Tim spun around, looking over her head at the people below him. Damian was edging towards the stairs, Bruce and Cass were at his back, Steph glaring up at him from the step below.
“Where are they?” Blond and brown hair in the crowd was dismissed, red glanced over, black focused on. “When was the last time you saw them?” Too long.
“Saw who? Tim, what’s wrong?” Steph was starting to look concerned, glancing back into the crowd as well. Tim backstepped up the last few steps, nearly running into Bruce. Bruce, who put a hand on his shoulder and raised an eyebrow. The commissioner excused himself with a pointed but ignored cough. Cass, Steph, and Damian circled him, obstructing his view.
“Where’s Dick? And Jason?” Four heads turned in unison to the crowd Tim had already assessed. “When was the last time anyone saw them?” Dick was always difficult to miss with his blue suits and pulled back hair and the girls (and guys) fawning over him as much as he tried to blend in. There was no such knot on the floor. Jason was easier to miss, still technically being dead, sticking to the shadowed corners and certain people. The corners were all empty. The hand on his shoulder tightened marginally. Normally, Barbara would be there to help one or the other, keep Jason entertained, make sure Dick has personal space, but she was with Dinah for the weekend.
“We’ll ask Alfred first. Good chance Jason left already.” Bruce stated. And yes, Jason might have, but Dick? Not while he lived here, not while Bruce relied on him to keep the Wayne image during these events. God knows a smile might kill Damian. Cass pointed at herself before heading down the stairs towards the servants doorway. Tim turned to look at Bruce. “You know there’s a reason Dick left, Tim. We just need to figure out where he went.
“Yes but why did Grayson leave, Father? He knows his place is here.” Damian looked angry, as he always did, but Tim could hope there was worry underneath. “If Todd is the reason-”
“You telling me you wouldn’t ditch at any chance you got short stuff?” Steph broke in, smirking down at Damian. Damian sniffed, crossing his arms.
“Of course not Brown. My presence is a necessity here.” Steph turned back to the room, biting her lip to keep her from laughing. Tim bowed his head to hide his own. There wasn’t much to do until Cass got back. Bruce pulled out his phone, presumably to text Dick. This would have been Tim’s first step if Bruce didn’t implement a no family members allowed phones at galas rule, with him being the exception. Tim thinks the rule is a result of Jason, but he has yet to get a proper answer from anyone. Cass marched back up the stairs, her face neutral. Reaching the top step she shook her head no. Tim felt the stress seep into the family, himself included. If neither Jason or Dick have left the Manor, but neither of them are currently in this room, where were they and why? Tim had his suspicions, he’d seen the way they look at each other. Lips pressed into lines, pointed distance, staring at each other when they didn’t think anyone was paying attention. Even without how they went off whenever the other did something stupid and got hurt, it was obvious how much they hate each other. Bruce had never told him about their relationship prior to Jason’s death, but Tim assumed this had been going on for a long time. So they were probably in a tucked away room yelling themselves mute over a disagreement from last night’s patrol or something like that. Bruce sighed, mind probably on the same track. He nodded to himself before addressing his kids.
“Alright, normally I’d say split up, but with the lack of phones that’ll just make it worse.”
“Yeah and whos fault’s that, B?” Steph asked lightly. She went ignored, though Tim appreciated the jab.
“I do have an idea, though I don’t know if it’s best for all of us to leave.” Bruce glanced back to the crowd.
“Like you haven’t left in the middle of hundreds of these, Father.” Damian pointed out. “And they seem to be doing fine without us. I am finding Grayson.” Tim nodded, he’d never verbally agree with the brat. Bruce looked at them, and Tim almost felt like he was in the wrong costume for a second because of it.
“Well then.” Bruce turned without any more ceremony, heading for the door to the right. Damian pushed past Tim immediately; Steph punched his arm in passing, hot on Damian’s heels. Tim looked at Cass, who made an ‘after you’ gesture. He smiled and trailed after Steph, Cass following him.
They didn’t go to Dick’s bedroom, or Jason’s, like Tim had expected. They didn’t go anywhere near the ballroom the gala was in. Bruce headed for the other side of the manor without hesitance. Something about this was making Tim feel weirder and weirder, though he didn’t know why. They checked out the kitchen in the outdoor living room - the weather was perfect -, cracked open the door to the games room, and stopped at a miniscule but cozy library Tim didn’t even know existed. All duds. Damian was getting irritated, thinking Dick had run off into the night with some girl he met at the gala, Steph was complaining that her heels were killing her, Cass had her suit jacket undone and sleeves rolled up, and even Bruce had loosened his tie. They weren’t returning to the gala, no matter how the rest of the night played out.
Finally, there was a sound. Which was as creepy as it sounds. They turned into the hall that had all the old portraits of long dead Waynes - Steph and Cass both barefoot - and there was music. Piano music, to be exact. All five of them froze in unison, four faces turning to Bruce for answers. Bruce, however, had a faraway look in his eyes and a sad smile on his lips.
“Father?” Damian questioned. Bruce’s eyes darted to his son, then back down the hallway. Tim noticed for the first time the wall tapestry had been pushed roughly aside, revealing a wooden door half open. Tim really didn’t live in a normal house did he?
“Be silent.” Bruce’s lips tipped up again as he started to creep down the hall, almost happily. Tim shared a look with the other three, but followed suit. Bruce reached the door, and stopped on the threshold, Tim, still a few feet from the door, nearly tripped when suddenly Jason’s voice started coming from the room as well. He was singing. Tim didn’t know Jason could sing. Tim didn’t know he would even want to, never minding how good Jason actually was. Tim made the last few steps in record time, the other three silently pushing to get a good view as well. Steph inhaled at the sight, not that Tim blamed her.
The room itself wasn’t much, an old marble floor music room, mostly unused. But on a raised platform to the side was a beautiful grand piano, all sleek black and quite high end, probably more expensive than the one in the ballroom. Sprawled across the top like some sort of movie character was Dick, propped on his elbows with his hair down and top button undone,
shoes, jacket, and tie discarded on the floor. On the bench was Jason, dressed in a similar manner with his sleeves rolled up and an additional button popped. Neither of them were aware of the newcomers, this, Tim was sure of. Finally, Tim clued in to what Jason was singing.
“ Need someone to stand by you, here I am. Oh here I am, here I am. ” Jason’s fingers danced across the keys, looking up to meet Dick’s eyes as Dick smiled and opened his mouth.
“ If you need a helping hand, need someone to lend a hand, here I am. Oh here I am, here I am. ” Tim looked to Bruce, confused and delighted.
Bruce remembered this well. The giggling boys disappearing to the piano room as soon as they were able to escape from the galas. He could almost picture how it played out this time, Jason whispering something to Dick, Dick pretending he would much rather stay at the gala with the cougars and socialites and people he hated. Bruce could hear the excuses Dick would manage as Jason grabbed his wrist and pulled them away, both shedding clothes and stiffness and formalities until they’re just a gypsy and a street kid making their way through the halls, probably not laughing and racing anymore but still just as excited.
“ Here I am, I’m reaching out, to give you love that you’re without, I can help you find what you’ve been searching for .”
Bruce knew Jason had tears in his eyes the first time Dick sang that line, Dick had told him in confidentiality at 14 years old, nearly crying himself.
“ Oh here I am, come to me, take my hand cause I believe ,”
And hadn’t Jason always been the one to pause once they got to where they are now?
“ I can give you all the love you need and more. ”
The harmony between the two of them was something Bruce was always awed by, and so glad of its existence. Somewhere between before Jason’s return and after, his and Dick’s relationship had gotten twisted in other people’s mouths and Bruce knows what Tim thinks their relationship is, and Damian and the girls, and Bruce had never corrected them, it had always hurt too much. And then Jason had come back, and for a long time no one knew where Dick and Jason stood, and if it was even Dick-and-Jason like it used to be.
“ Oh here I am, here I am, here I am .”
But Dick was determined, like he had been at 14, and pulled Jason in.
“ My world is such an empty place, I need someone to fill the space, and here I am, oh here I am, here I am. ”
The line used to mean lack of parents, food, friends, shelter. It used to mean Jason was desperate, but afraid to ask. Used to be when Jason would look Dick in the eyes and both of them reached a wordless agreement that spanned past galas and masks, to midnight cocoa and movie marathons and book shopping and nail painting. Bruce may have been shut out since Jason returned, but here and now, the look they shared, he knew nothing had changed, not the stuff that mattered at least.
“ Because I’ve got so much love to give, I need someone to share it with, and here I am, oh here I am, here I am .”
Dick hadn’t always been a touchy-feely person. Or, he had, but he didn’t show it because he didn’t think it was acceptable. The galas and the capes, and trying to not be a dark skinned, Romani speaking, queer, orphaned, gypsy boy in a white socialite society had put a wall around Dick’s heart that threatened to overflow with no one to recieve it all. Harper helped, sure, and so did West and Barbara, but it wasn’t until Jason that Dick really let the walls break. Suddenly, there was always laughter and hugs and kisses, and the most blinding now patented smiles. Because of Jason, and it all left because of him as well. Not his fault obviously, and Dick built back up, but the tapestry over the door collected dust.
“ Here I am, I’m reaching out, to give you love that you’re without. ”
Dick’s love had always held Jason front and centre, and Bruce knew now, without a doubt, the feelings were mutual. His boys now fully grown, loving like they’re the only two in the world, putting all the hardships behind them to live in the past, just for a little bit.
“ I can help you find what you’ve been looking for. ”
They’d both come to Bruce a little broken, a little sad, a little angry, and determined as hell. Really, though Tim and Damian would never see it, Dick and Jason were so alike. Somehow the two youngest had grown up with the notion the two eldest hated each other, and were like night and day. But they weren’t, not really. And Dick taught Jason how to move in ways Bruce never could - ways suited for Robin - and Jason helped Dick with English, and Bruce knew something had been missing from Dick for the first few years, and again after Jason’s death, but Bruce didn’t think ‘just Jason’ really encompassed it. It was everything the two were for each other.
“ Here I am, come to me, take my hand ‘cause I believe, ”
An invitation from Jason, one Bruce would never know exactly what was included.
“ I can give you all the love you need and more. ”
When they were younger, when Dick would show his bare forearms and Jason turned away at the smell of cigarettes, this line included blushing and Jason smirking and Dick biting his lip. It always had made Bruce laugh, his two boys so in love but with no idea of how to go about it, and maybe that was partially on Bruce. Bruce who was a playboy billionaire, and Batman, with no serious relationship until Selina. Maybe the mask shielded his heart more than he had intended it to, but when he had walked in on them - Jason pinning Dick to the wall, two sets of hands groping and breathing laboured before both almost having panic attacks at his intrusion - he had not yelled, had not shamed, but pulled them both into a hug, placing a kiss on each’s temple and telling them both he loved them. Seeing them now, careless around each other, playful, reminding him of Cat and himself, Bruce let himself hope.
“ Oh here I am. ”
Finally, perhaps, Jason was returning, if not to Bruce, at least to Dick. He used to nearly whisper this line, like he was afraid admitting he existed would be ruinous. Despite his history, Jason did not whisper it now, looking Dick dead in the eye.
“ Oh here I am. ”
Instead Dick whispered now. Bruce wondered when their roles had switched. It was obvious, somewhere between then and now - a somewhere that included Jason’s death and Barbara’s paralysis and Mirage and Tarantula and Spyral and Damian’s death and and and and - Dick had faded and Jason had become solid and vibrant.
“ Here I am. ”
Bruce is not religious, but he prays anyways. To Dick’s Gypsy gods and to Buddah for Jason though he knows that’s not really how it works. He prays for his boys to find the halfway point between melting ice cream at the beach, sliding down the halls in socks, falling asleep together on the couch, books for Jason and makeup for Dick, and Nightwing and the Red Hood. He prays, as Jason draws out the song, neither wanting it to end, that Damian and Tim see a different side to both of them that no one will have to explain because none of them will really be able to. Bruce grabs the arm nearest to him - Stephs - and starts reversing them all out of the doorway.
“Prettybird.” Jason takes his hands off the now silent keys, leaning forward towards Dick. Bruce returns Cass’ glare with one of his own until she steps back.
“Little wing.” Dick leans forward, dipping towards Jason. Bruce tries not to look at the tops of the wings tattooed on Dick’s back as his shirt goes askew, for Dick’s own sake. Tim has no qualms, staring as Bruce pulls him into the hallway as well. The rest, if there was any more talking, they miss as Bruce efficiently silently manhandles three teenagers and one child back down the hall.
Tim tried to have a talk with Dick the next morning. Once he realized Dick didn’t actually spent the night in his own bed, Tim figured the talk can wait.