Video Symbiosis (PG version)
Nightwing/Oracle post NML-timeline
All characters owned by DC Comics. No profit is realized from creation of stories based on these characters.
It's only canon until someone changes it. Departures from established Bat-canon are minor. I've added a couple of details and aspects I thought were nice and would fit well. And Batman drank Earl Grey long before Picard was a twinkle in a writer's eye
Third person POV. Comments and feedback are welcome to SKHwrite@aol.com Part of a small series. Thanks, and please enjoy. ___________________________________________________________________
The window slid shut without a sound, as soundlessly as the shadowy form that had just passed through it into the darkened apartment. Shades were drawn, curtains closed and Nightwing safely removed the bat-shaped mask from his eyes. Home. Another mildly eventful night patrolling the urban wastes of Gotham City's ugly step-sister, Blüüdhaven had yielded bits of information for an ongoing investigation into the corruption and organized crime that pulsed through the city's diseased heart.
He moved quietly through the darkness toward the kitchen, removing his gauntlets as he reached his target destination. The light from the refrigerator illuminated his form briefly as he retrieved a bottle of water, revealing a face bathed in sheen of perspiration. He shut the refrigerator door, passed the cold bottle across his forehead, down his cheek and around to the back of his neck before cracking it open, pulling a long, breathless draught that left the liter-bottle half empty. He cast a cursory glance around the apartment, took another long drink, draining the rest of the bottle. Satisfied that everything was as he'd left it several hours ago he began the mental transition from a tireless masked vigilante to a slightly fatigued young man. A young man living alone.
As Dick Grayson dropped the empty bottle into a bin reserved for recycling he smiled and chuckled softly to himself, thinking about what would be greeting his mentor and former partner, Batman, as he returned to the Cave -- probably about this time -- from his own night's work. A mug of hot Earl Grey tea. A sandwich -- he imagined grilled Monterey Jack on sourdough bread -- on a china plate with a white linen napkin bearing Bruce Wayne's monogram, all served on a silver platter. Dick sighed quietly, sat down on a chair in the kitchen and pulled off his boots. He was hungry, but was suddenly too tired to rummage through the freezer or cabinets to find something edible. He gathered his boots and gauntlets and rose to leave the kitchen, stopping as an afterthought to grab another bottle of water from the 'fridge before padding softly to his bedroom, closing the door on the tiny red "eyes" situated strategically throughout his apartment. Sensors for the security cameras he'd installed.
He was a young man living alone, sixty miles from those he could call "family." Sixty miles, but only a nanosecond from contact with them, if necessary. An electronic security blanket -- ok, system -- naggingly suggested by his mentor, configured and administered by Oracle, the de facto data broker to a good deal of the global superhero community. Oracle, a "super" genius of computer technology and information procurement. Oracle, manager of secret operatives, a "Charlie" with her own set of "Angels," busting crime vicariously from behind a wall of monitors, within a nest of super-computers. To Dick, though, Oracle was just "Babs" -- Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, as he himself was formerly Robin, the first Robin, partner of the Batman. In another lifetime it seemed, Dick and Babs had traveled in tandem through the Gotham night skies, stopping occasionally to kick a little crime-butt. Barbara Gordon now ruled her techno-empire from a wheelchair, compliments of a madman in whiteface and green hair, the unintended and inopportune victim of the Joker's insane, perpetual vendetta against Batman and all those close to him. Babs! "Better check the e-mail before I jump into the shower," Dick thought.
Already minus gloves, boots and now peeling out of his black and blue costume shirt, Dick sat on the edge of his bed and opened up his laptop computer, already and always linked to one of Oracle's servers. He clicked on the Oracle-icon, an eerie floating head image not unlike the "wizard of Oz." He chortled "pay no attention to the 'girl' behind the curtain," as his e-mail interface appeared onscreen. One message from Tim, "...can I borrow that videotape of..." One message from Alfred "please do NOT forget you have a fitting tomorrow for your new tuxedo for the Wayne Foundation Gala... yada-yada...take care 'Sawdust'..." Now THAT elicited a mile-wide grin. Alfred, major-domo to the Bruce Wayne household, and Dick's and Bruce's surrogate mother-figure, diggingly-but-lovingly called Dick "Sawdust" -- a reminder of Dick's circus heritage and of his less-than-formal living habits -- "excuse me, Master Dick, but do you have sawdust on your feet that you think you can leave every article of clothing you own on the floor?" Just the thought caused Dick's toes to wiggle unconsciously to memory threads of running barefoot through the sawdust on the floor of the Haly Brothers circus tent as a small child.
The last message was from Roy Harper, AKA Arsenal, a fellow Titan, reminding "Uncle Nightwing" of Roy's daughter's fourth birthday party at the Titan's tower -- Lian wants a Poké-thing computer game. "Screw that!" Dick thought. He already had Lian's gift, a small, hand-carved and meticulously decorated elephant, "Elinore," his old friend from his circus days. On the nights when Dick had trouble sleeping -- usually from disturbing dreams that plagued him when he was overworked and under-rested -- he had begun crafting a tiny, resin-carved circus, actually only three figures so far, and only one of those was complete. He figured that by the time Lian graduated from high school he might actually have recreated his entire circus for her. It was pleasant therapy for the nightmares and the results were a lot better than some silly "gotta catch 'em all" TV marketing junk. It was a small legacy he planned for the daughter of one of his oldest friends, a bright and affectionate child who was developing a quick wit and beguiling charm. "...like her Dad," he winced. Roy was one friend who took great care to press every button he knew Dick possessed, with the never-ending mission to crack Nightwing's "Bat-trained" stolid reserve.
"Just three messages, that's gotta be a record. I must be slipping somewhere," noting with mild disappointment the absence of an e-mail from Babs, who usually left him at least one daily message, whether it was light and personal or containing critical information he'd requested. "Oh well, guess I'd better hit the showers," he thought, moving toward the bathroom, pausing briefly to skin out of the final part of his costume -- the black leggings -- in a quick and fluid motion, before proceeding to his destination. He didn't notice the red flashing sensor light on his laptop, indicating an active video comlink.
"Hey, there you are, finally!" Babs called out over the vidlink -- to an empty room. She remotely panned the tiny video camera embedded in Dick's laptop, surveying his bedroom. "Ooh, paydirt!" she thought, "He usually logs on from the sofa." After having checked the other video feeds from his apartment-wide security system, which had displayed only darkened, empty rooms, she boosted the audio, anticipating where he might be, out of camera-range. She detected the hiss of running water, and panning the camera in the direction of the master bathroom, caught sight of steam beginning to drift out of the doorway. She also noticed his discarded costume's parts and pieces dropped where he'd removed them. "That's Alfred's boy, alright," she wryly noted.
At that moment, a whine and groan from the old apartment building's plumbing announced the conclusion of Dick's shower. "I gotta get Clancy to take a look at that," he thought, painfully. He grabbed a towel and vigorously dried his hair, then blotted the rest of his sculpted, muscular body dry. Before exiting the bathroom he wrapped the bath towel around his waist and walked out into his bedroom.
Dick immediately saw the red sensor light, felt a quickening in the center of his chest for just a moment, then he casually turned away from its direction -- not out of modesty, but to shield the perfectly wicked smile that had begun to spread across his lips. For just an instant he might well have been, once again, high above a net-free center ring, mentally preparing for a well-rehearsed, but very dangerous, high-wire stunt, anticipating the startled gasps yet to escape the throats of his audience. His audience. "Showtime, Dickie, Thrills and Chills, guaranteed to keep the people coming back for more!" Oh, he was going to love this!
Regaining his composure, he stepped into his performance persona. Reaching just inside the bathroom door, Dick pulled another towel from the bar on the wall. He then strode across the room with unaffected grace bordering on feline, and paused at the small shelf-stereo on the opposite side of his bed from the laptop, selected a CD and inserted it into the player. It was a mixed selection pressed from several favorites, tracks by various artists. Musical score engaged, Dick turned off the overhead light in the bedroom, leaving just the bedside lamp on, casting a golden spotlight, into which he stepped, affording the tiny vidcam a good perspective of the center of his "stage". He didn't have to touch it, to disturb the screen saver that hid any indication that his audience was "there" other than the light that verified the active video link.
The music kicked in. Dick kicked in with it. His audience was spellbound with disbelief. For a couple of minutes, the little red light blazed on, its gaze as intense as the rapt attention of the audience with the front row, center ring seat, as Dick found his rhythm.
He concluded his performance with a short hop to the bed, landing on the mattress. His breaths came in deep, smiling gasps. In his mind he had released the bar at the critical moment of his outswing and propelled through the deadly quadruple somersault, spinning, tucking, rolling through the air. The tension, fatigue and loneliness he had felt earlier dissolved with a glorious burst of laughter as golden and welcome as the sunrise after a storm, his features relaxed with happiness. He sank back into the bed, then rolled to his side, head resting on one hand, and tapped the keyboard, bringing the monitor out of screensaver mode, and revealing the 'girl behind the curtain.'
"Ta-daaa." He intoned with soft merriment, eyes crinkling with his satisfied smile. He waited, not without some measure of impatience, for the reaction from his audience.
It took about thirty seconds for Babs to get her breath back, stolen by peals and squeals of laughter combined with heartfelt applause.
"Bravo, Rockin' Robin, standing-O," she gasped, emerald eyes shining with tears of delight, "Vegas undoubtedly awaits your highly anticipated arrival!"
Dick rolled off the bed, executed a dramatic bow, nearly losing the towel around his hips in the process. He righted himself, adjusted his "costume," then hopped back on the bed, landing on his tummy, and head cradled in his palms, gazed happily at his heart's favorite sight.
"I thought you might enjoy that."
"Of course, but, Dick...Elvis?? What's up with THAT??"
"Hey, my dad loved Elvis, he even met him once in Vegas."
"Well, you're just a 'hunka-hunka burnin' love'."
"Yep. 'I'm burnin' a hole where I lay…"
"Nice costume, too, but what's with the towel around your neck?"
"It's a cape! The Elvis-in-Hawaii cape! -- Sometimes I really do miss the cape, Babs," and suddenly serious, "I miss you, too. It gets pretty lonely here sometimes, all by myself."
"Waddaya mean, all by yourself, Grayson? I'm here in a nanosecond, online, live and Memorex at the same time, ready to cheer wildly, even at the moves I know you don't know I see. So, what do you do for an encore, Twenty-something Wonder?"
"Oh, I have a very sizable repertoire, ready to perform at a moment's notice, guaranteed to earn rave reviews. I can take it on the road, too, and be onstage in oh, say, forty-five minutes?" he offered, with a transparently hopeful smile on his still-flushed face.
Babs looked at him, drinking in the total package and adoring it. She unconsciously chewed her bottom lip for a few seconds.
Oh how he'd love to be doing that for her, he thought, beginning to plan how fast he could be dressed and on his 'bike to Gotham.
A sudden klaxon of alarms sounded on her end of the transmission, causing her to jump and utter a mild curse. Babs turned away from Dick's direction momentarily, then back again with a frustrated and apologetic look on her face.
"It's Dinah. She needs help and she'll only be in a communication window for less than thirty minutes. After that she'll be on the move and will need GPS tracking and guidance. Sorry, sweetie. Looks like Babs has left the building and Oracle's up next."
Dick smirked ironically, taking his turn on the receiving end of the vigilante-ditch. At least he knew why, and for whom. What goes around...
"Not to worry, Babs," he flashed her his best smile, "just tune in again for a return engagement, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel! -- 'Night, Babs." And with that, he palmed the mouse, clicked off the transmission, and powered down the laptop. After a second thought, he closed the laptop's lid, as well. If he was going to mope, he didn't want her to have a close-up view of it. Dick was about to turn out the bedside lamp, when his stomach growled fiercely. He knew that sound, it was the sound of Capt'n Crunch calling his name. He hopped off the bed and padded out to the kitchen to answer the Capt'n's orders, singing under his breath,
"Lord-a-mighty, I feel my temperature rising..."