by Te
July 25, 2005

Te: An image, from sometime after Dick is legal but
before he gets fired.

Bruce has been being Bruce Wayne all night at
some society function. When he gets home, he
moves through the study first, probably because he
knows Dick is there.

His tuxedo is rumpled. He smells a little like expensive
cigar smoke, but mostly like the remnants of the
Bruce-Wayne cologne and the few sips of champagne
he probably hadn't been able to avoid. He's close
enough for Dick to smell that, and his eyes are wide
and a little wild, that *look* he gets when he's somewhere
between Bruce and Batman, or maybe just between

Dick, for his part, is done with his own patrol, showered
and changed into sweatpants, hair still a little damp,
still a little shower-curly. Dick isn't sure *why* he's so
aware of himself, but... then again, he isn't really sure
why he shouldn't be.

Bruce is very close, and Dick...
Dick's had years to know just how many different kinds
of 'bad night' there can be. He should've been at the
party tonight, even though Bruce had needed him to

He hates the parties just as much, of course, but he
*knows* how hard they are, how they make you feel like
you've left everything real behind, and Bruce --
Bruce raises a hand to Dick's --
It's not his face, or it wasn't, or it would've been. Bruce
was *close*, so close, and Dick knows it, even though
he isn't sure what he was close to. Not in any way he
has words for.

And Bruce squeezes his shoulder once.
"Bruce --"
"Sleep," Bruce says, and continues walking to the

Te: DOES DICK FOLLOW? Only YOU can <s>prevent
forest fires</s> decide. Only you.
Sarah: So much responsibility!
Te: *hee hee heee*
Sarah: I'm sure he does.
Sarah: It's his job!
Te: *nod nod nod*!
Sarah: Poor Bruce, stuck at some damn stupid party
with people who don't understand.

He *is* tired, and he *should* sleep. It's just that it's not
as... not as *necessary* as following.
Especially because Bruce leaves the clock open
behind him. One of those wordless invitations that are
so --
He hates them, actually. It's just that they're what he

And maybe -- probably -- it's all Dick can ask for, after a
night Bruce spent surrounded by people who don't
understand, who could *never* understand -- even if they
could be told. Sometimes Dick thinks about how much
time Bruce has been alone, how many ways in which the
world isn't for him, and couldn't be for him, and --
And it doesn't let him sleep. It makes him move, and joke,
and -- not touch. He waits. He -- he *tries* to always wait
for Bruce to make this gesture or *that* expression. The
ones which mean Dick is welcome.

He doesn't always manage it.

He doesn't *often* manage it, but... the clock was open.
(He'd closed it behind him. Alfred should, at least, get
some rest.) So, even though Bruce is just tugging the jacket
and tie off and tossing them with perfect aim at the hamper
(two points, Batman) as he heads for the console, even
though there isn't really anything Dick knows how to say,
or do --
There's something. He *knows* there is. It's just a question
of finding it.

And maybe he's a little -- a lot -- too old to just sit on the
console between keyboard and keypad while Bruce works --
especially since *Dick* already knows everything that went
down that night, and had written the reports himself...
He does it anyway.
Bruce doesn't make a sound, or look at him, or anything
else. Except for the way Bruce's shoulders tighten up under
the shirt -- it can't hide things the way the armor can -- before
Bruce deliberately relaxes them.

That... that has to be better, right?

So Dick waits, and looks back over his own shoulder at the
monitor every once in a while, just to make *sure* Bruce isn't
studying something he should know, too, and doesn't ask
about the party.
He's not going to ask about the party. He *knows* Bruce
would already be talking about it if it was something Dick --
Robin -- needed to know, and since he isn't...
He's not going to ask.
"So... how was --"
"Don't," Bruce says, without turning around.

Sarah: He was going to ask "how was Constantinopole
overcome by the Turks in 1453?', Bruce!

Right. Well, technically, he hadn't asked. Technically.
It seems like he should be better at this, by now, at
negotiating this space between them which isn't really
about being Batman and Robin, especially since, for him,
the lines are so clear.
He should *know* all of this by now, in the same ways that
he knows when to dive under the bullets and when to leap.
If not instinct, then habit.
Sometimes he wonders if it ever really will be. But...

Dick looks over his shoulder again, and Bruce is done with
the night's reports. There are additions to be made to the
Arkham files, and Dick is reasonably sure that the *next* time
he turns around, it'll be time for Bruce to go over whatever's
been happening with the JLA. After that...
He doesn't know. It's not that he's impatient. It's just... "Bruce..."
Nothing, not even tension this time. Well, Dick knows that,
too -- Bruce is waiting for him to have a reason for saying
something, for *interrupting*.
It makes him angry, sometimes, and it makes him... if he can't
touch, and he can't *talk*, then what? Sometimes Dick thinks
he'd like to go back in time, just enough to make the thirteen
year old he used to be get Bruce to set a few more rules down
in stone, even though the idea of it -- *them* -- being a contract
is... more than a little queasy-making.

No matter how much it would've helped.

"You have an eight o'clock class tomorrow," Bruce says, with
*almost* the right blend of absence and command in his voice.
Or maybe it's the exactly right one.
It doesn't matter, because Dick knows that *Bruce* knows that
that kind of thing had stopped working on him back in the days
when the only thing he had at eight o'clock was homeroom.
"I know," Dick says, and resists the urge to swing his legs in the
way that always makes Bruce frown at him. There will be *no*
reminding Bruce of things like youthful exuberance, Robin. Dick
smiles to himself, a little.
The swinging is more of a scrape these days, anyway.

Bruce makes a distantly annoyed little grunting sound, and... and
Dick can still smell him. It took a while to get it back, with the
different air currents down here, but it's more than just memory.
He wants to tell Bruce that his parents had never smelled anything
like that, and that no one he knew ever did, but not enough to
actually spit it out. It's not like he knows what he'd say after that --
much less what reason he could possibly fake for saying it. It's
pointless, really.
Except for how it would kind of -- sort of -- explain why the only
thing keeping him from moving closer is the fact that he doesn't
want to mash the keyboard with his butt.

Te: *tries to decide if there will be smooching*
Te: Oh wait, I don't HAVE to
Sarah: *snort*
Te: Will there be smooching, oh Sybil Sarah?
Sarah: Yes.

"You're... fidgeting."
He isn't. He hasn't *moved*, except to look over his shoulder
again -- JLA files.
"You *want* to fidget," Bruce says, and he knows Dick exactly
well enough to make him not need to make that a question.
Maybe Dick had glared, or frowned, or something. "But I'm not,"
Dick says, and...
It's the same victory it always is -- that little *twitch* at the corner
of Bruce's mouth which is pretty much all Dick has ever needed
in the way of encouragement.
"In fact, I'm reducing my heart rate as we speak."
That -- finally -- gets him a look. A tilt of the head, just enough to
shift the open collar on Bruce's shirt. A look which is both
measuring and knowing.
"I'm almost meditating," Dick says, fighting past the constriction
in his throat, and the fact that --
"You're not."

-- he isn't. Probably, at this point, Dick should be over the
stomach-dropping *feel* of being caught in a lie, at least one that
he'd entirely intended to *be* caught in.
Hadn't he?
But Bruce... the twitch at the corner of his mouth stops, gets
harder, and Dick knows he's going to turn away again.
"Bruce, wait, I --"

"What is it, Dick?"
He just... he just wants Bruce to feel *better*. To shed some of
this... whatever it is that's all over him like the smell of other
men's cigars and champagne he knows -- he *knows* Bruce
hadn't wanted to touch. What could there possibly have been to
celebrate at a party like *that*?
It's not enough that Bruce is still looking at him, that he waited
just because Dick asked him to. It's not enough that they're this
close. And --
He knows that, even now, most of the times that Barbara looks
at him, all she sees is the boy who hadn't been able to keep his
mouth shut, or his body still, or anything else. The one with not
enough control, and not enough forethought, and nothing like
The boy who --
Bruce's mouth is hard, and still, and open under Dick's own.
Just not open *enough*. And Dick isn't sure when he'd wrapped
his arms around Bruce's neck, when he'd made the decision -- it
had to have been a decision -- to *move*, to let himself fall
against Bruce until there was room between Bruce and the
console for *him*.
It feels -- it doesn't feel like a kiss so much as an insinuation, or
maybe just a prank that went too far, or...
It doesn't feel like any of that.
And even though Dick knows that when Bruce opens his mouth,
it's only to --
-- say his name, he still can't make himself stop. Just... when you
kiss someone, even if it's Bruce, you're supposed to wait, you're
supposed to try just as hard as you'd try to do anything else,
you're supposed to *believe*.

And Dick moans right into Bruce's mouth when the kiss starts to
*be* a kiss, when Bruce's mouth doesn't get any softer but starts
to move against his, just a little --
It's enough, he thinks it's enough, this time, and it explains so
much that Dick can't keep his hands out of Bruce's hair, mussing
it the way -- almost the way -- it would've been if Bruce had gotten
to wear the cowl tonight, and the feel of Bruce's hands on his
biceps makes him grunt, and tighten his hands in Bruce's hair,
and suck, just a *little* on Bruce's lower lip --
And Bruce tightens his hands and pushes. No. *Holds* him, away,
and Dick realizes that he's struggling far too long after Bruce
says his name again.
Long enough for him to say "Robin," and freeze Dick where he is,
straddling Bruce's knees and.
He's aware of himself again, and the places on his chest where
the buttons on Bruce's shirt pressed, and the tingly feeling in his
mouth, and his own wide eyes.

And that, maybe, is enough for Bruce. Because all *he* is, right
now, is *waiting*, patient and sure.
They both know that Dick is supposed to back away, now, to
stammer a good-night and leave, just as if he'd walked into a
conversation he shouldn't have, or maybe just yet another
not-quite-truth between Bruce and Selina.
It isn't that he doesn't understand. It's... it's *clear* that Bruce
already thinks this was just an aberration brought on by Robin
overexerting himself, or Dick just not thinking. That it wasn't *him*,
the same boy he's always been.
But it's also Bruce, so it's really only a matter of time before he
stops being patient and starts frowning, and it's also still *him*,
and there's never been anyone who could pin him just by the
Not even Bruce.
Dick uses Bruce's hold to balance himself for a moment, for just
long enough to get his knees up and his feet planted on Bruce's
chest --
"Dick --"

-- and *twist*, giving himself the Bat-equivalent of an Indian burn
on his biceps and *getting* himself free enough to move, get
close again.
Right up against all that stony not *enough*.
"It wasn't a mistake," he says, because it's the first really clear
thought he has.

"Yes. It was."
"You kissed me back, Bruce. And --" You hesitated, just now. He
doesn't have to say it, because Bruce can *see* it on his face. The
knowledge. "You kissed me back."
And Bruce's hands kind of... twitch. Moving for his biceps or
maybe his waist, for the *right* hold, and... stopping again.
"Bruce," and Dick leans in, and he's not even trying for another
(better) kiss. He just wants to get *closer*.
So it shouldn't feel so bad when Bruce turns his head away. It
"It won't happen again, Dick."

Bruce is waiting again, patient again. Just another lesson Dick
hadn't gotten the first time, maybe. Another thing he's... missed,
or misunderstood, or...
Or just an excuse to lean in that last inch or so, enough to press
his mouth against Bruce's cheek, enough to let Dick keep it there
until Bruce's stubble threatens to tickle.
Because Bruce won't move until he does.

And Dick hasn't agreed to anything, this time.