As Time Goes By

by Chicago

Disclaimer: Characters belong to DC Comics, borrowed for fun and not for profit.

Note: Okay, I won't vouch for the quality of this - it's derivative at best, desperately contrived, and probably unfair of me to bestow upon this pairing, since it is unlikely I will ever write them again and set them to rights. But I was trying to read a very dry book, and I had this collection of torchsongs on the CD player, and finally the bunny distracted me and compelled me to write. Please be gentle when you throw the rotten tomatoes. :)

Pairing: Dick/Bruce

Warnings: just angst, and the fact that this is songfic

Rating: G, maybe, unless slash automatically qualifies for PG



"You must remember this," a baritone voice rumbled from the darkness. Dick started, then cursed himself for the reaction. Still the Bat's house, he reminded himself bitterly, refusing to turn. Instead he stared adamantly out over the Manor grounds. The sounds of empty laughter over a string quartet drifted through the open French doors. High society. Yes, Dick remembered this. Vapid, clingy women, arrogant men, every one of them trying to get an angle, ingratiate themselves with Gotham City's golden boy. Through any means they could find - including the little orphan boy Brucie had been so good to take into his home. He remembered it, and he didn't miss it.

He came tonight because in some ways, it was safe. A first shot over the bow, an overture that he might be ready to return. Maybe.

A Wayne function was easier than other options, because they could be civil, but distant. Where one moment of bad judgment on his part wouldn't strain the silence between them. Or so Dick thought. But even here, a kiss was still a kiss. It still hung between them, undiscussed.

The silence stretched, and finally he heard a sigh behind him. That surprised him, but when he turned, Bruce was gone. Now what did that mean? Exasperation? Wistfulness? He replayed the sound in his mind, trying to assign it some value. No use. Just a sigh.

Which he echoed with one of his own. Two long years since that night, but the fundamental things still applied. They remained two stubborn men with too many shared secrets, still drawn to one another inexorably and yet constantly distancing one another, unable - either of them - to fully accept that they might...

He shied from the thought, forcing himself to focus on the scenery. A giggle attracted his attention, and he glanced down to see a pair of young lovers retiring to a dark corner of the patio. He felt a pang of jealousy, imagining their easy "I love you's." Not that there had been many of those between him and Bruce, even before...

Or ever. One thing he could rely on. No matter what the future might bring, it seemed a sure thing that he would never hear those words from Bruce's lips.

Did he really want to? On one hand of course he did, but the kiss had complicated things. He stared across the moonlit grounds as the string quartet played some timeless love song, remembering.

A moment of pure passion, an uncontrollable impulse straight from the heart. It had surprised Dick as much as it had Bruce. Surprised not only because he had acted on his heart's passion, but that he recognized in that moment that it *was* his heart's passion. One part of him which he had reserved for pure love, protected from the jealousy and hate that motivated Gotham's seamier denizens. It was those denizens that prompted the kiss, really - he had come too close to losing Bruce that night. And then he really did lose him, at least in spirit. Because in that kiss, pure love became somehow tainted in his mind - not warrior spirit bond eternal, but something far more carnal, the desire for a mate in a sense other than that of the soul.

Because he and Bruce were already soulmates. That no one could deny.

"Same old story, Grayson," he muttered to himself, tossing back the dregs of his long since flat champagne. It had been a bad idea to come back, a worse idea to think that he should offer his return to "Brucie." He should have just appeared on the rooftops, silently rejoining Batman's fight and hoping that a few good do or die cases would restore the pristine quality of his love. Or at least let him go out in a blaze of glory.

"Master Dick?"

Even Alfred sneaking up on him? His inner Bat began a lecture on awareness as he turned. He offered a weak smile. "Hi, Alfred. Guess this was a bad idea, huh?"

"Nonsense, Master Dick," the older man corrected. "Master Bruce is most delighted to have you home."

"Funny way of showing it," Dick muttered, although even to his own ears he sounded more disconsolate than angry.

"Master Dick."

"Sorry, Alfred."

Alfred shook his head. "Some days I feel I must despair of both of you. Enough is enough. Richard John Grayson, listen to me and know that I have said exactly these words to the man who is now moping in his study rather than doing the appropriate mingling with his guests."

"Moping?"

"Don't interrupt, young man."

Dick blinked. Bruce was moping? Brooding maybe, but-

"Master Dick."

"I'm listening."

"Good. I can only speculate on what tangled mess you two have created, but if my one bit of wisdom can start to set it right, it is worth sharing. And it is merely this: no matter what you may think about it, the world will always welcome lovers. Always. Not always as we might expect, but true love is a rare enough thing that it cannot be lightly turned aside."

Dick stared in shock. "Alfred?"

Alfred held up a staying hand. "I've said my piece. Anything you'd care to add I suggest you share with Master Bruce rather than me."

"Alfred-"

"You won't solve this through me. And I feel certain it will be solved as time goes by. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have guests to attend."

Without further words, Alfred walked back throught the French doors into the Manor, leaving Dick standing open mouthed and bewildered, trying to process what he'd just heard. Then his mouth closed and slowly crept into a little grin. He glanced down over the balcony, noting the space to which he jumped down as a boy had not been taken over by any change in landscaping. And there *was* a dim light streaming from the window of Bruce's study. With a quick look to make sure he was unobserved, he dropped down to the ground to practice a little breaking and entering - because, he decided, enough time had already gone by.



-end-