Actions

Work Header

anyone who knows what love is

Work Text:

“Hey, B?” A green glove sneaks into a black glove. Room even in that stony fist (even then) for such thoughtful fingers. “You’re my best friend.”

*

Bruce’s fingers hover over the piano keys. Plink out a few notes at random. There are patterns his hands remember, though he can’t recall the last time he played. His memory’s like that sometimes. Fuzzy. It doesn’t matter, as long as he preserves pertinent details.

This one--fairly simple, repetitive tone. He frowns at the blare of a wrong note and goes back over, trying to fix it. He must have been so caught up in his own mistake that he missed the shy arrival behind him.

“Oh, they don’t know what happiness love can be…”

Caught off-guard, he strikes another painful misstep.

(A memory long buried: he was eight years old then and his mother and his father and the song and the firelight swirl together and stab him in the chest.)

Turning his head fast, eyes narrowed, he finds Dick standing there, hands behind his back, pink in his cheeks.

“Sorry,” Dick says swiftly. “I can go.”

Bruce does actually consider it. He hasn’t quite gotten used to this small person sharing his space.

(And back then, he didn’t imagine that he would ever favor his company over solitude.)

Bruce has been playing in his parents’ memory, though he hasn’t gotten around to confessing that to himself yet.

When his mother played, the firelight glinting off the ring on her finger, and sang with his father, who kept one hand on his mother’s shoulder, one hand on Bruce’s.

The boy’s voice is untrained, not the lovely, even alto or smooth baritone of his memory.

And yet there’s a sweetness to it. Or maybe that’s his stare of innocent uncertainty.

“That’s the song, right?” Dick fidgets, tiny brown feet on plush carpet, and something in Bruce gives way.

Swivelling back around, he says gruffly, like a reprimand, “That’s not how the song starts.”

“I came in when you were in the middle,” Dick says in his defense with the breathiness of relieved amusement.

(Years from that night, Bruce will search for that laugh hidden under his words, when he’s unmoored, Dick’s smile his only beacon.)

For now, he lays his hands back on the keys with all the correctness of form that his mother trained into him, slender fingers folding around his stubby ones.

“Are you gonna start from the beginning?” Dick hovers around his back, politely impatient. “I mean, only if you want.”

Bruce plays.

Dick clears his throat, quick. “You can blame me…” He stumbles. “T-try to shame me, still I’ll care for you…” His chest expands with his voice, makes contact with Bruce’s back.

Forcing himself not to recoil, he lets Dick creep in closer like he’s doing increasingly these days. You can’t shut the boy out, Alfred tells him, and Dick seems equally determined to force his way in, gentle and unstoppable.

Now he hears that confidence he saw. A boy who could soar through the air like a bird, whose small lungs can fill a room with a ceiling like a circus tent. “The world...may think I’m foolish…”

Bruce makes the mistake of meeting his eyes.

(How, he had thought then, a man who had traveled the globe and whose world was still atrophied, could a chest so small hold a heart so big?

It was far from the last time he’d ask himself that.)

“They can’t see you,” Dick sings, eyes crinkled, hand finding Bruce’s back without permission, “like I can.”

*

“Last night of your twenties.” Roy keeps one eye on Lian, who’s playing tug-of-war with Titus, as he drapes his arm along the sofa behind Dick. “How’s it feel?”

“Like death row.” Dick snags a pita chip off Damian’s plate and Damian glares, then stands still until Dick can take another. He grins at him in thanks.

“Where’s Bruce?” Donna asks as she comes to sit by Dick’s hip, leaning into him.

“Case, where else?” Dick isn’t too bothered. He guessed Bruce would make a break for it. “Alfred, take a break,” he called into the kitchen. “Everyone has plenty of food.”

Alfred sighs and emerges, one grey eyebrow raised.

Standing, Dick crosses to him and presses a kiss to his wrinkly cheek. “Thank you.”

Alfred blinks at him and softens. “Really, Master Dick, it was no trouble. I have not hosted a birthday for you in over a decade.”

“Okay, okay, make me feel my age,” Dick says, laughing, not feeling particularly old at all.

He’s seen so much. Been through a lot. Loved so many people.

Things are--good. Everyone’s getting along, or as much as a bunch of adrenaline-addled capes with their history ever could.

It just seemed right to have his birthday here, though the excuse he made was that his apartment could never be big enough to fit all his guests.

Feels--circular.

His gut tells him it’s the night to be here, and if there’s any lesson he’s retained in thirty years, it’s to trust his gut.

It’s been twenty years, he realizes as he cuts Alfred a slice of cake against his protests, since the first birthday he celebrated at Wayne Manor.

(“Would you care to--?” Alfred extended the mixing bowl, expression almost pained.

Dick lit up and snatched the spatula to lick. “I won’t tell Bruce. Pinky promise.” He extended his little finger and Alfred gravely linked it with his own.

Later, he saw Bruce standing by the sink. He was pretending to ponder the sweep of the lawns. But Dick saw what he was really doing. Swiping a thumb across a bit of cake batter and--

“Gotcha!” Dick called from the doorway.

“I was only going to,” Bruce began frowningly.

“Get salmonella?”

He dodged his cuff and jumped out of the way, laughing in happy incredulity when Bruce gave chase through the twisting corridors of the manor.)

At the end of the night, it’s just him, Tim, Cass, and Damian left. “I’ll clean up,” Dick tells them, waving them off when he sees Tim bravely muffle a yawn.

Three pairs of feet troop upstairs and he smiles down at the mess of the living room. Picks up the birthday card Lian made him, Roy’s scrawled signature in the corner, piggybacking like he always does.

(Those early years, when theirs were the only lives they carried on their shoulders, they were good.

Still--one family was stolen from him, but he was given two. And he wouldn’t trade this life for the world.)

It’s pushing three AM and Bruce isn’t back yet.

Again, nothing he hasn’t predicted.

Dick knows the value of recovering lost sleep on nights when he doesn’t have patrol, so he gets himself to bed.

Once upstairs, though, he glances at his old room, then down the hall.

It’s a temptation.

(“But he’s your--”

“He’s not my father.” Dick crossed his arms over his abdomen, eyelids squeezing shut.

Donna looked at him for a long moment before she sat down beside him. “He is your mentor.”

“Yeah.” He heaved a sigh, then hid his face against his bare knees, regretting broaching the topic with her. They hadn’t even known each other for that long yet.

“Sometimes on Themyscira students who’ve come of age seek out their old teachers like that,” Donna mused to him. “But at the age you are now, with the power he has over you…” She shook her head.

The truth had been boiling in his belly for ages and ages and he had to tell someone, had to. He made the right choice.

“We’re equals,” Dick insisted, but continued earnestly, “I know he shouldn’t do anything. And I don’t even know if I want him to right now.” He pressed his gloved hand over his abdomen like he could push the ache of wanting and not having right out of him. “But it still hurts.”

Donna placed her hand over his.

Relieved that she had not turned away in disgust, he moved closer to her reassuring warmth on the balcony.

Mouth against his sun-hot hair, she murmured, “One day it will not hurt this way.”)

He gives in.

The pillows are redolent of him: vaguely chemical, thoroughly comforting. Breathing him in, he sinks into Bruce’s bed.

(On a few nights when he was new to the manor, tormented by nightmares of falling, he would go to Bruce’s room.

Bruce would gather pillows and blankets and they’d sit on the floor together. Not saying much, just being there. And it was enough.

He never really remembered falling asleep, but he’d wake up to the smell of Alfred’s English-style breakfasts--still a luxury for someone who used to munch on a cereal bar and a banana before morning acrobatics practice--in his own bed.

In his teens, when he knew what it meant when Bruce took a woman upstairs on his arm, he’d think about sharing Bruce’s silky sheets.

The thought itself was bold enough that he had to hide his blush behind his half of their shared newspaper at the table.)

That night his slumber is long, deep, and without dreams.

*

“Don’t you want to go with your friends instead?” It sounds like something a normal guardian would say.

Bruce eyeballs the largest pair of ice-skates they have to rent and looks down at Dick, hoping to be released from this.

Late for backing out now, sure, but he’s been trying since yesterday, when Dick came in from the cold, rosy-cheeked, flyer in hand, and pleaded, and no couldn’t make it past his lips.

“I already went with Garth and Wally. Remember? I told you.” Dick doesn’t seem too offended, certainly not offended enough to decide he wants nothing to do with Bruce now that he’s trying to get out of skating. “Anyway, I asked you to come skating because I wanted to go skating with you. You know, for a smart guy, you’re pretty dumb sometimes, Bruce.”

Scowling, Bruce watches Dick lace up deftly.

“You need help with your skates?” Dick taps Bruce’s loafer. “I know Alfred shines your shoes. He doesn’t tie them, too, does he? Don’t tell me you don’t know bunny ears, Bruce,” he chatters.

“Cheeky,” Bruce growls, and that seems to be what Dick was waiting for, because his ears go red and he bounces upright in a way that has Bruce struggling not to make a bunny comparison himself. “I can tie my own skates,” he adds, and Dick snickers.

“Okay, okay, I believe you.”

Ice-skating, he did with his parents only once. His mother had not taken kindly to his father’s teasing. Bruce had fallen repeatedly. The winter was one of Gotham’s warmest; nevertheless, his father had bought them all hot chocolate.

The edges of the memory still stand out cool and clear in his mind.

It troubles him that he might overwrite it.

(Not just being happy again. Being happier.)

He couldn’t have what he had with Dick if they hadn’t lost their parents. Celebrating their beginnings would mean celebrating endings.

As good as this can be, Bruce knows it would still be better for both of them if things were different.

Out on the rink, he takes Dick’s hand. Dick’s the picture of grace walking and jumping and flipping. That doesn’t preclude nasty slips on the ice. He means to steady him. But--

Dick smiles under his cherry-red pom-pom hat. “Don’t worry, Bruce, I won’t let you fall.”

Gleefully grabbing up his other hand, Dick skates them backwards easy as breathing.

Stupefied, it’s all he can do to stumble along with him.

*

How can Dick enumerate to anyone what he lost?

(The bottom fell out of the Earth.

The rope snapped.)

For that matter, how to explain who he lost?

(Mentor.

Endless source of frustration.

A barrier, a beacon.

Years since he wore red, green, and yellow and still: partner.)

He has lost him, and now he is expected to be Bruce.

More precisely, to be Batman, but he’d never divided the two as sharply as Bruce had.

Holding the cowl in his hands still feels like holding a funeral shroud, but every night he puts it on, he flies by the side of Bruce’s son and tries not to look at him in the light that makes his brow too proud.

Bruce was gone and all he had left of him was his duty. So he would do his duty.

Jason’s uniform may be the one most grotesquely on display, but Bruce keeps many relics.

Here’s the blue splash of first Nightwing suit. Dick remembers with shame the harsh words he said to him then. How he must have hurt him when he knows better than anyone how many weak spots there are in Bruce’s armor.

Finding a neat starched white shirt and a badge takes him aback. Not a vigilante suit, but something Bruce still classified as heroing? Bludhaven, where it all went to shit and he broke his own heart. What did this uniform mean to Bruce? He can’t know now.

At night, when he doesn’t have even the company of his mantle on his shoulders, that’s what brings the lump to Dick’s throat.

They had so long together. It could have never been long enough.

He wants to ask Bruce what he dreamed the night before he died. Tell him that dream is back, the one where Bruce falls through the air and Dick can’t catch him, and he hasn’t woken up from it yet.

In a way he always knew that it would end like this. This is how Bruce would have wanted it.

He was a bit broad for a rocking chair.

There was time, he would think, at the end of dark hours when Bruce was in arm’s reach and his voice was husky with fatigue. There was time for it. There was no rush.

Every near miss, he would kick himself. Tell him.

He could melt him with his mouth. Take him to his bed and put his ear to his chest to hear the ocean held back by his ribs. Cocoon himself in the quiet of him.

They could have faced the shadows hand-in-hand.

Tell him before it’s too late.

(It was too late.)

*

“So you just made someone else Robin?” Dick explodes at him over the video screen. Another mission in space, or he supposes he’d be getting chewed out in person. Bruce doesn’t know which would be preferable. “Am I that replaceable?”

You’re irreplaceable, Bruce thinks about saying.

(Or, I didn’t know how lonely I was until I met you.

Or, I wanted to save someone the way you saved me.)

Instead, he says, “I want you to train him.”

Dick stares at him for a moment, furious.

Then the screen goes grey.

Probably he deserved that.

*

His argument with Kory leaves her jaw tight and her glowing eyes brimming. It’s regrettably public, the whole team watching. Leaves his throat raw.

“You know better,” Donna admonishes.

Dick knows how Kory ticks, how Donna ticks. He knows the ins-and-outs of everyone around him. So he knows how to handle people with sensitivity and empathy. But he also knows how to hit where it hurts. And sometimes he wants it to hurt.

He wanted it to hurt.

After, he wants to talk to someone other than the team. He can’t talk to Babs or Helena about Kory, obviously. Tim would just blink at him. Alfred heard enough of his shit when he was a teenager.

Bruce? No. Bruce would stare at him from behind the cowl. Bruce would question what he meant to achieve.

When Bruce says the horrible things he says, he either says them utterly purposely or with utmost purpose.

He says them because he only wants to make someone better, doesn’t know how deep direct unfiltered criticism can wound. He says them like a sign to keep out, stay away, because he’s scared, in a misguided effort to protect.

Dick could tell him that he lashed out just to lash out, and it would only hurt Bruce, too, because he wouldn’t understand.

Donna didn’t say you should know better. Because he does know better.

And that makes him worse than Bruce, whose biggest blind spot is love.

*

Though Dick may be grown, he still worries one day he’ll mess up so bad that Bruce will disown him. Just as much, though, he rejoices in provoking him.

This time it isn’t playful, though. It’s necessary.

“You can’t do that,” Dick tells him, crossing his arms over the blue splash on his chest. A dozen focuses flick from Bruce’s face to his, and Bruce’s white lenses round and then narrow.

“What do you propose, Nightwing.”

Dick stands and moves to point out the error in Bruce’s schematics. He can feel eyes on his back and he doesn’t care. He was born to perform. Trained to question everything.

Bruce listens.

(In front of the Justice League, the team Bruce supports and doesn’t lean on, the team whose collective ability outweighs Bruce’s tenfold and Bruce dismisses anyway, Bruce--yielded.)

Pride surges inside Dick.

Here is a man who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with princesses and aliens. The greatest power Bruce brings to the table is his stubbornness. And he compromises.

Pulling out a chair, he takes his seat again and watches Bruce pace back and forth in front of the room, hands folded behind his back and cape sweeping behind him. So dramatic.

Bruce catches Dick’s eyes for a second and Dick nods, hiding a smile in the turn of his shoulder.

He’s so proud of him.

*

Does everyone see what he sees in him? A private, possessive part of him hopes they do not.

*

He’s so proud of him.

Bruce has never said it aloud in so few words. His justification for this shifts situationally. It’s either because he doesn’t want to distract him or because he doesn’t want to overinflate his ego.

What Dick has, though, it isn’t ego. It’s confidence, a confidence Batman in his brusqueness hasn’t reached.

He makes an expansive gesture to indicate a shortcoming in Batman’s plans. All eyes on the room are on him.

(Nightwing. A name Clark had gifted to him in a time when Bruce had failed him. But this man was still Bruce’s boy.)

They might see his performance, but they would never have every piece of him. No one would.

Dick Grayson belongs to everyone and no one.

But.

But Dick looks at him sometimes in a way that scares him out of his skin because Bruce knows what that look means. Dick would rend his chest and show Bruce all the tenderness of him for the taking, if only Bruce were to ask.

Bruce doesn’t ask.

The day he can ask is the day he can put his hand on Dick’s shoulder and give back every smile he stole from him.

*

On Christmas Eve, Dick invites everyone ice-skating.

Steph and Cass circle holding hands. Tim and Damian squabble good-naturedly and try to tug each other down onto the ice. Alfred, sailing by serenely, turns a blind eye in the holiday spirit. Helena attempts spins, Kate’s low laughter spiking with her thudding staggers.

Barbara’s even there, in her chair on the sidelines, Dinah behind her, whispering things in her ear that make her smirk so wide Dick can see it from across the room.

This afternoon’s special guest, though, is Jason.

Bruce glides sedately past Dick and he can see him sneak glances at Jason, broad shoulders bundled into a coat, surly and reluctant, but here. Amazement in Bruce’s face so great it’s almost trepidation.

“I regret calling you an airhead,” Jason grumbles to him, trying to tug down the flaps of the too-small red hat to cover his ears. Dick remembers a winter when he was Robin and he had green-and-yellow earmuffs; the cold makes Jason’s head throb. “There can’t be room for anything in there.”

Dick pats him on the pom-pom, finding Bruce beyond Kate’s wild hair. Bruce’s eyes are full of light.

When he sits beside Bruce in the bleachers later, contentment rolls off the corners of his mouth, resting at the rim of his coffee cup.

“I raised good kids,” Bruce says, and Dick nearly tumbles off the bleachers. “Despite myself,” he adds with a wry tick of his mouth.

Dick’s insides eddy.

Covering for himself, he swipes sugary hot chocolate foam off his lips with his tongue, looking down into his own cup. “Well, I hope you’re not giving yourself credit for me.”

“I’m patting myself on the back, not putting myself down,” Bruce drawls.

Dick chokes on his hot chocolate and shoves Bruce, delighted.

Coffee splashes up Bruce’s perfect aristocratic nose.

Alfred materializes like a wizard with a handkerchief.

“You deserved that,” Dick mutters to him, and Bruce’s nose crinkles at him once he’s finished wiping it. “Anyway,” he says after Alfred leaves and he stretches his feet out again. “You didn’t raise me.”

Silence from Bruce.

“We grew up together,” Dick says with confidence. He’s said it before, but he’s hoping Bruce is considering it this time.

Silence again. Maybe he is.

Bruce sips his coffee neatly. “Did you grow up?”

“Just watch me try to have a moment with you again,” Dick scoffs in disbelief, but not really.

Convenient timing for Bruce’s dormant sense of humor to peek out. Deflecting with quips may, unfortunately, be something Bruce picked up from Dick himself.

“Hh. I was only returning the favor.”

They’re both spectacularly bad at this. Dick thinks Jason only showed up for Alfred, anyway. And Damian’s stomping up the bleachers to them now like a little thundercloud.

Nice while it lasted.

*

He sees the boy’s parents plummet--hears the gunshots that stole his own from him too soon--thinks--he’s like me.

The longer he knows Dick, the more he knows how unlike they are.

It’s a relief, not a disappointment.

As the years tumble on, though, the comparisons to Bruce increase.

Dick shuts out his team, shouts at Bruce.

He’s ruined him, Bruce thinks.

(He comes no closer to forgiving himself when Dick smiles at him and tells him that he wouldn’t have his life any other way.)

*

“Anyone who knows what love is will understand,” Dick murmurs to the beat-up guitar in his lap. His fingers pluck at the strings. “Anyone…”

“Did you go back through those police recordings?” Bruce asks instead of a greeting as he peels his way out of jacket and tie.

(They’d been together for years already. He didn’t remember when they mutually gave up on “hello.” Unlike other things they lost, it didn’t close doors between them, but seemed to open them.)

He tries not to stare.

(Admiring the power of Bruce’s shoulders under his neat grey shirt had just begun to feel dangerous.)

The cut of his jaw angles under his ribs, the steel of his irises slices him to ribbons.

He knows his skill and strength as well as his own, but he’s never known Bruce to be a weapon like this before.

“I’m gonna,” Dick assures him with no outward expression of his internal gymnastics. Tapping on the body of his guitar, he smiles at him. He actually wants to look at those recordings. It was his suggestion, even, to go back over them.

But Bruce has spotted him at a frivolity and now he won’t hear the end of his disapproving silence. That same silence that chases him out of home to things like Guitar Club.

“Secondhand?” Bruce’s face is smooth and tight as he places his briefcase on the coffee table.

“I know I could buy new.” Dick colors in the spaces in conversation Bruce leaves empty, knowing Dick has the numbers. “But I didn’t wanna waste your money on a whim.”

At that, Bruce frowns down at the thick yellow folder in his hands. Dick knows he hates the phrase wasting your money.

(He’d liked to think it was because Bruce doesn’t mind Dick spending money on himself, but he knew even then that it was more about Bruce not quite conceiving money as a limited resource.)

On the other hand, Bruce would categorically consider guitar-playing a whim.

Dick tucks a foot up in the stool and strums the starting notes, letting them trail out into the air.

Dick’s allowed to have whims. He’s permitted to have passing fancies.

Sometimes Bruce will even suddenly shove him towards the trivial, like that’ll get him to give up cape and boots and endeavour instead for the normal Dick’s let run out of his reach all this years.

Like Robin wasn’t his own thing, wasn’t his own choice.

(Like Batman made Robin and Robin didn’t make himself.)

”It’s up to you,” Bruce keeps telling him. ”It’s all up to you.” A plea or a promise, and Dick never says ”I know” until he’s done because it’s too sweet to stop halfway.

(He means well. He always means well.)

“What song were you playing?” Bruce asks with practiced indifference. Cluelessness, carelessness--costumes.

“You know this one, B,” Dick returns, fond. “Lemme just run through it once and then we can go over the recording together?”

Bruce’s head picks up. He’s surprised him. Maybe it’s Dick’s defiance against Bruce’s disparaging. Maybe it’s just the idea that Dick would choose to spend time with him.

(That one still caught Bruce charmingly off-kilter.)

Dick takes his pause as victory--it often is--and permission (usually safe to assume). “Oh, they don’t know what happiness love can be…”

(He remembered how gingerly he sang, wary at that age of inopportune voice-cracks. His adolescence had been smoother than most, self-confidence and clear cheeks mostly intact, but puberty was not a victimless crime.)

Bruce’s head drops down and his shoulders come up.

(Up go the shields/down comes the wall.

Oh, Bruce.)

“I know, I know to ever let you go...” His toes curl around the stool, his eyes drift closed so he can imagine Bruce looking him in the face, but he won’t have to meet his gaze, just in case. “Oh, it’s more than I could ever stand…”

*

Jason was Jason was Jason. Batman changed his circumstances, but he could never change him. He loved him. It wasn’t enough. It might have been the worst thing he could have done to him.

Tim was an island an archipelago away. It was deliberate, Batman knew, and even wise, the distance Tim maintained. And he kept his distance, too. He and Batman were a team built on functionality first.

Stephanie. He didn’t want to call Stephanie a mistake. He will admit now that she was never incapable; Batman was just not who she needed, and she was not who Batman needed, either.

Batman’s blood Damian might have been, but the boy remained an unfathomable creature, small face with too many stories behind it already.

When Robin was young, when Batman was young, those days were different.

When it was a man and a boy armed with a handful of toys against succumbing to the shadows all around them and inside them.

When calling code names across rooftops seemed like little more than a private joke.

When they were amateurish, naive, fumbling.

Trust remains reflexive, partnership assured.

But everything else has grown labyrinthine in the intervening years. Things were simpler before.

When they, despite themselves, were happy.

When he was Dick’s, and Dick was his.

*

They don’t kill.

Unlike Bruce, Dick doesn’t think it’s the only way to be a hero anymore, but that doesn’t mean he takes it any less as a personal principle.

They’ve both come close to that line.

(When he remembers the crunch of the Joker’s nose under his fist, he doesn’t feel as guilty as he should.)

In those early days, when they were lacing together the groundwork, everything seemed a possibility. And his exhilaration wasn’t so tempered by caution then.

(Coughing and waving away the thick black cloud, Robin declared, “Smoke bomb worked!” and earned from Batman what might have been a smirk on a lesser man’s face.)

They’ve trained together so often that their bodies are extensions of each other.

(The thunk-thunk-thunk of Dick’s palms on the pommel horse; the tap-tap-tap of Bruce’s fingers on the keyboard.)

Sparring is like dancing, eyes locked and blood singing.

(Knee on his big chest as he panted, escrima stick across his pale throat as he swallowed--victory, or so close to it Dick could taste it).

Dick is always moving. Bruce stands still.

Dick pushes and Bruce plants his feet.

Ultimately, Dick values his rigidity.

When Dick swings out, the world a trapeze in his hands, Bruce is the platform always in sight.

*

Bruce and Dick are like this:

If humanity had never been grounded, no one would know what a wonder it was to fly.

*

“Dick?” At first, he thinks he’s a sleep-deprivation-induced hallucination.

“Mmh.” Black lashes flutter and then two bright eyes stop Bruce’s heart.

Dick is in his bed.

“C’mere.”

Batman has many backup plans. Bruce can only pull his cowl down and cross the room to him. Knee on the edge of the mattress. Hovering. Not fear, just something like it.

“I’m thirty years old today, Bruce.” Taking his hand, Dick opens up his bracer. “How much longer are you going to make me wait?”

Speechless, Bruce can only watch as Dick bends over his wrist. Kisses his pulse like a caress of velvet.

All but seizing his face, Bruce pushes Dick back against the wall of pillows. Dick beams, unafraid.

He’s always been so fearless, since he was a boy. Always willing to take the right risks. He stood tall under the Bat and held his own. Carried Bruce’s legacy and cleaned up his messes. He has taken the hunger under his skin and proved himself not just Bruce’s equal, but in many ways, his better.

He can deny it no longer.

Not when Dick’s lithe arms wrap around him and his gaze lifts, imploring, all the gravity of him beckoning Bruce into his embrace.

It’s been a lifetime coming.

There have been precipices from which they should never have been able to return. And yet they come back.

Day breaks.

They kiss.

*

“You know that, right?”

(Not yet.)