title: Incidentals: Forbidden Territory
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: Dick/Tim, dub-con Bruce/Dick, Terry
rating: Teen/Mature
warnings: discussion of rape/dub-con sex
summary: History repeats itself.
notes: ah, gets a little dark in places...

Dick ducked quickly, and spun out with a low kick, unbalancing his pupil. Taking advantage of the time it took his opponent to recover, he repositioned himself, and prepared to strike again. He took his time, though, since he was trying to teach the boy, and not cripple him.

Terry wasn't the world's best student, as he tended to be a bit headstrong and reckless, always assuming he knew enough to get by, but the boy had raw talent that Dick was more than happy to help direct into something more useful than blind fury.

More often than not, though, Terry managed to keep the playing field even simply by being unpredictable.

"So, are you in love with Bruce?"

Dick swerved, neatly keeping on the balls of his feet, but he missed an opportunity to swing as he recovered from the question.

"Terry, I'm happily involved man. You know that." Dick kept his voice level and professional, not wanting to let the boy know how unsettled he had become.

Terry just shrugged as he went on the offensive. "I know that, but so what? I've heard stuff, from Oracle, and Batgirl. You guys have history. I just wanna know how much of that is really history and how much is still present tense."

Dick just sighed as he blocked and feinted, subtly leading Terry into a corner. "Why?"

Terry grinned, that cocky devil may care grin that reminded Dick of Jason, and reminded everyone else of Dick. "I wanted to know what my competition was like."

Dick actually stumbled, and Terry pounced before he could recover. With a quick flip, Dick managed to keep from falling on his ass, but he started to wave Terry off, a simple hand gesture to indicate the lesson was over.

Reluctantly, Terry stood down, relaxing even as he crossed his arms over his chest.

"Competition, Terry? For what, exactly?"

Terry grinned. "For Bruce, naturally. I've decided to make my move, but I wanted to make sure where you guys stood first. I figured, you were the only one that Bruce ever really had any kind of feelings for, so you were my main competition."

Dick did an admirable job from not showing how his head was swimming too much. "Terry... you are much too young to pursue Bruce. He's twice your age! And besides, he's your mentor."

"How old were you when you first made a move on him?" Terry was persistent. That was how he managed to stay in the job as Robin.

Dick put a hand to his face. "Terry... I didn't 'make a move'... and when I did... express to Bruce my... feelings, or frustrations, he kicked me out. End of story."

"So?" Terry shrugged. "That was you. As everyone under the sun is fond of reminding me, I'm not you. Maybe he'll react differently to me."

It took all that Dick had in him to keep from smacking that smug expression off the boy. "Terry, just be reasonable here. Bruce would never become involved with an underaged boy who he was responsible for, in any capacity."

"I'm above the age of consent." Terry narrowed his eyes, preparing for a fight. "And I have a mother. He's not my father, or raising me, or anything."

"But you are still a minor. And he is responsible for you as Robin."

"Tim's way younger than you are." Terry's lower lip protruded slightly, in a face that would be a pout if it weren't so angry.

"That's completely different. Tim was 21 before he ever approached me."

"Yeah, that's fair, for him to sit around for years with his hands in his lap waiting to get old enough for you to deem worthy, watching you make time with everybody but him."

Now Dick's eyes narrowed. Terry compensated for not being the smartest by slipping in sharp barbs from time to time.

"I think you are just jealous, Grayson. You never got a chance with the big man, and now you don't want to see anyone else get lucky with him. Just because things didn't work out with you and him, doesn't mean that it won't work out for me and him. Maybe he just didn't like you that much."

Dick advanced on Terry, fury in his eyes. Terry wouldn't have flinched, but for a second, he actually believed that Dick would throttle him. Dick waited long enough for Terry to fully acknowledge that he was intimidated, before speaking in a low, dangerous voice that few heard without carrying away some major contusions as souvenirs. "Don't talk about things you couldn't know a damn thing about in such a cavalier manner. You haven't got the slightest clue about my relationship with Bruce, and you never will as long as you stay so cocky. I'm not telling you to cool it out of some perverse desire to see Bruce lonely, but for your own good. If you disregard my advice, that's your choice, but don't try to bait me into a fight over Bruce. You wouldn't like the results, little boy."

Terry swallowed, wanting to come back with a witty rejoinder, but silenced as he recognized the glint in Dick's eye. He wasn't staring down Dick Grayson, or Nightwing.

He was staring into the eyes of the Bat.

His eyes shot away, not able to withstand that glare.

Dick composed himself before heading to the showers.

He'd had enough of sparring with Terry.

Dick leaned back against the couch, letting the leather adjust around his body as he accepted the bottle of water from Bruce.

He wasn't looking forward to this.

Bruce leaned back, putting his feet up. "Thanks for coming by. I like to get your opinion on overhauls to the batmobile. You tend to be a lot more... creative with mechanics than I do."

Dick smiled, watching Bruce's feet. "No problem. I enjoy working on cars, you know that. I'd be mad if you didn't invite me over, actually." Dick turned his sparkling blue eyes to Bruce. "Um... As a matter of fact, there is something that I need to talk to you about."

"Yeah?" Bruce inclined his head to Dick without actually meeting his eyes.

"A-about... Terry."

"I know you've been working with him. I'm glad. He needs more diversified training so that he'll be ready for anything." Bruce wrapped his hand around the bottle, securing it between his thumb and forefinger, letting the chill moisture on the side burn into his skin.

"He. He has a crush on you." Dick kept his head down, not wanting to see Bruce's reaction.

"I know." Bruce nearly relaxed. If this was all it was, it wasn't going to be as bad as he thought it would be.

"You... You know?! And you aren't... you aren't...upset, or nervous, or something?" Dick turned to him, nearly overturning his own bottle of water.

Bruce suppressed a sigh. "Well. It's not... that is, it wouldn't be... which is to say..." Damn, how should he phrase it?

Dick snorted. "Not the first time a Robin jonesed on you, huh?"

Bruce actually nearly blushed. "I... sorry. But, it isn't a problem. Until he decides to do something about it, it's just a harmless infatuation." He shrugged, taking a sip of water.

Dick scowled. "And if he decides to do something about it? What will you do?"

Bruce gave Dick a shrewd look. "Is there a good reason you think that he will?"

Dick shrugged, not sure what to say. "Well. He said he was going to make a move. Is that a good reason?"

Bruce actually started. Blowing air out his teeth, he sighed. "Well."

Dick felt his heart skip a little. He wasn't sure what he was feeling, but he started to feel the blood rush in his head. "What are you going to do, Bruce?"

"First off, I'm not going to make the same mistakes I made before." He almost wanted to smile.

"Funny, Bruce. Very funny. It's a good time for humor, too. Seriously." Dick took some water, looking away.

Bruce's face fell and his head bent down abruptly, washed over with a wave of regret. Getting to his feet, he ran a hand through his hair. "Well, what can I do, Dick? The age gap is too great..."

Dick suddenly felt like someone had popped a balloon inside of him, leaving his weak and unable to hold himself up. Why was he reacting like this? So what if Bruce's only concern was the age gap? If Bruce and Terry... But Dick couldn't force his thoughts past that point. Bruce and Terry. It ripped him apart.

"Dick?" Bruce sat down on the coffee table in front of the couch, wanting to take Dick in his arms. Dick just sat with his head down and his face in his hands. "I... I don't know what to do here. You... you don't have to worry about Terry, Dick. I'll take care of it."

Dick struggled to get air into his lungs, feeling the pressure against his ribs but ignoring it. "Bruce." Dick spoke carefully, a quiet, low tone that focused on each syllable, each sound coming out in its own time, being heard separately. "If you have feelings for Terry, don't run away from it or push him away. There will have to be boundaries. But... don't run away from this, please."

"Dick." Why did it have to hurt so much, to hear the way he said his name? Why did Bruce Wayne still have to have so much power over him, that when he spoke that small name, it could stir him so? It wasn't fair. So much time, so many years, and in one word Bruce could bring every pain and hurt and rage and pleasure that Dick had every felt at Bruce's hands in one fell swoop. "Dick..." And now Bruce couldn't hold back anymore, he had to touch, to make contact. He took Dick's arms in his hands and pulled Dick to the edge of the couch. "Dick, how could you even think that I would harbor feelings for a child, a brave and good soldier, but a child none the less, who was in my care? I respect Terry, and I'll do whatever I can to keep him from getting hurt, but he's not the person I love. You know that."

Suddenly, everything shifted underneath Dick. It was like the sound had been removed from the universe, and all the focus was shifting and turning. He couldn't breathe, and then the air was coming in and out of him against his will. He felt colors spinning around him, and he started to see the edges of Bruce's face in sharper and sharper relief as he started to understand.

He didn't want to understand.

"Bruce... I..." Words hurt.

Bruce pulled Dick closer, the pressure binding his flesh under Bruce's fingers. "Dick, you know I don't love him, don't you?" Desperation tinged the words, ruining them.

Dick needed to leave.

"Bruce... I think, I should go now. The car should run smoothly, but if you have any problems, just let me know." Dick made an aborted attempt to stand, but Bruce's hands were still on his arms, binding him.

Bruising him if he resisted.

"Dick, wait. Let me just..." Bruce unconsciously tightened his grip, not wanting to lose the chance.

Dick fidgeted. "Bruce, I'm making dinner for Tim and I tonight, I have to get home." If he slapped him across the face, he couldn't have made more of an impression on Bruce.

Bruce relaxed his grip, his hands falling helplessly to his side. Clearing his throat deliberately, he put his hand on Dick's shoulder, his hand relaxed as it rested on the soft cotton of Dick's t-shirt, effectively blocking Dick's only egress from the room. "I know, Dick. And... I... I'm not stopping you. But, before you go, I just want to make sure..." But he didn't know himself what he wanted to say. What was there left to say, when Tim was at home while he was here? "Dick, you should know that you don't have to worry about Terry and I." His fingers tightened and relaxed, an attempt to soothe Dick's muscles.

Dick's lungs were shuddering, his respiration a chore. "Bruce, I think... it would be better if... maybe..." He felt himself getting foggy. He wasn't sure why he was reacting so viscerally to Bruce's words. He just hadn't realized before...

Bruce moved his hand to Dick's cheek, letting his fingers caress the slightly stubbled skin. He hadn't been so close to Dick in a long time, he hadn't been so tempted since... Since Tim had become a part of the equation. He hadn't touched the skin, or been so close to the lips, or been able to smell the sweat of his partner and equal for years now. He hadn't been so tempted in a long, long time. He hadn't been so vulnerable in even longer.

He felt weak.

Dick watched, the world sickeningly surreal, as Bruce leaned in, his body and face coming closer and closer, his eyes slowly slipping shut and his lips drifting gently apart.

He could remember when he would have given up vital organs to have this happen to him.

Now, he just knew he had to get away.

Sliding down the couch away from Bruce's arm, he flipped himself over the back of the couch, taking a step away. "Yeah, so, I need to go. I'm... I'm sorry. I have to go. Sorry. I shouldn't... I shouldn't have said anything."

Bruce just sat there, his arm still partially extended, as Dick walked away from him, his pace fast and his stride long.

Tim lathered the foam in his hand, building it up. Carefully, he spread it over his chin, lip, and lower face. He turned off the water, the sink now full, and wet his blade. He was cold, the bathroom felt stark and chill, the tiles reflecting the light haphazardly and the mirror unflinchingly. He paused, his stiff back facing the open door to the bedroom.

"What happened?" His words echoed, sounding hollow.

Dick was flat on his back on the bed, one forearm covering his eyes. He sighed. "I left."

Tim brought the razor up to his cheek, letting the blade scratch one long, even patch clean. "So. That was it?"

Dick didn't know what to say, what he was expected to say. "Basically."

"Did... you want to kiss him?" Tim splished the blade in the water, cleaning it.

Dick was quiet. "No. It took me by surprise." Dick shifted, laying his arm flat on the bed. "I thought... I didn't think that he still..."

"What?" Tim tried to push the steel out of his voice, but he couldn't fully manage it. "You didn't think he still had feelings for you?"

"No." Dick almost sounded like he was whining. "Should I have?"

Tim would have laughed, but he was cutting another swath through the foam on his face. "I don't know. It appears so."

Dick just sighed.

Tim stared into the eyes in the mirror. He wasn't accustomed, of late, to there being such weary sorrow in them. He started to speak several times, and couldn't. Bringing the blade up again, he spoke fast and low. "Do you still love him?"

It was, in many ways, a foolish question, because Tim knew that Dick did still love Bruce. He had known all along that there was one small corner of Dick's heart that would always belong to Bruce, and he had been able to accept that simply because he had known that there was no way that Dick and Bruce could work together. Dick had told him so. Therefore, he knew that he had nothing to fear from Bruce, not because Dick's love for him was so much greater or more powerful than his love for Bruce, but because he knew that it was a failed cause already.

It didn't hurt until something like this came up.

Dick digested the question carefully. "I do, but it's complicated. It's not like..."

"You don't have to try to make me feel better. I understand." Tim let the water splash as he cleaned the blade again. Drops smashed into his naked chest as he leaned heavier against the edge of the vanity.

Dick's eyes shuttered. "Do you? Maybe you can explain it to me, then."

Tim let his fingers rest in the cool water, his own eyes closed.

Dick began to speak, his voice drifting from sound to sound of its own accord. "I don't know why I felt so... betrayed when I thought the only problem was the age difference. Except... I remember being 17, and wanting Bruce. He pushed me away so hard then. I guess it rankles a little, thinking that Terry would be accepted where I was rejected... I just feel like, it wouldn't matter so much if he wasn't him, if he wasn't..."

"Robin." Tim's voice was shallow.

"Yeah." Dick sounded empty. "Like a newer, younger, better version of me. But... I don't know. I do want Bruce to be happy. And then... God, when he wanted to kiss me... I felt like... like I did then."

Tim splished the razor in the water again, watching with tired eyes as the foam and shavings dispersed into the water. "Then?"

Dick took his time forming a response. "There's so much history to go back to, to wallow in. So much of it was just... we clashed a lot, we still do, but when I was younger, it was more... I was more aggressive, he was more unrelenting, we were both in denial."

Tim guided the razor over the sensitive area under his nose. He let his thoughts drift and skate, not letting them form into images or ideas. "What happened?"

Dick stared at the ceiling, navigating his gaze over the texture of the paint. "I left. I was with Joey. Joey died. Jason died." There his voice caught. There was no going past that point, because that's where the danger was. Jason's death led to Jason's funeral, which led to...

Dick's fingers etched the memory of Bruce's hands on his arms earlier that day, reawakening the ache.

Tim stared into the mirror. It would be easier to accept that locked away corner in Dick's heart if it wasn't in the middle of things. "Were you... were you and he... were you ever lovers? Is that the history that is hard to get past?"

"It wasn't... it wasn't like that..." Dick sounded almost confused.

"What was it like?" Tim sounded harsh, his hands wanting to scrap away foam and skin and hair with much more force than they were. If half his face were sliced off, it might be easier than talking to Dick about Bruce.

"He..." Dick didn't like to think about that time. Didn't like to even think about thinking about it. He had never really analyzed it or labeled it. He found the word fascinating to think about, as if it were an alien rock. A lump of ground from an alien planet there in the midst of his past. "He raped me." And he almost had to wonder at the sound of it, the very words seemingly alien, as if they didn't quite fit in the landscape of his experience.

"Fuck!" The razor kissed a line in Tim's cheek, leaving a red line in its wake. Dropped the blade on the counter, it slid and sploshed in the water with a ploop. Tim grabbed the towel, bringing it to his face to wipe at the blood and remaining foam, now pink. He turned, seeing his lover for the first time since he had pulled off his shirt and escaped to the bathroom. "When?"

Dick was wearing only the bottoms of his Nightwing costume, looking very sexy in the tight black pants, his bare feet poking up at the end of the bed and his bare torso set out like a feast. Normally, Tim would be instantly turned on by just that amount of flesh. That was the sufficient quantity of flesh necessary to begin a reaction. But Tim's eyes weren't preoccupied with his lover's fine muscles and trim form.

They were fixed on the crease between Dick's eyebrows.

"It... wasn't like it sounds. I mean, I could have stopped him. I was giving as good as I got. He was just... I mean, in a way, I let it happen, but it wasn't like he ever stopped to ask if I wanted it. Never bothered to concern himself with whether or not I wanted to be with him. And... I never wanted it to be like that." Dick's lower lip threatened to tremble, but he fixed his concentration to the sensation of the mattress giving way for his lover's body pressing down. Tim's gentle hand reached out to brush away stray locks of hair from Dick's face.

"Oh, Dick... how old were you? When did this happen?" Tim forgot about the cut on his face as his hands touched Dick's face, lingering on his temple.

"It was the night of Jason's funeral."

Tim gasped nearly silently, air rushing in through his nose.

Dick paused, his eyes shutting closed tightly. "Joey had died not that long beforehand, and I was still grieving for him. Jason died, and it was the first time that I had been back to the manor since I had stormed out when I was 18. It wasn't even that much time since then, but so much had happened, it felt like it had been a lifetime. And then I was there, with Bruce, and I was grieving, and he was grieving... and then..." Dick turned on his side. "I had bruises for weeks. Little cuts here and there. Bite marks. I would stand in front of the mirror, and look at each bruise as it healed, and each cut and mark, and I would think... I would think that I deserved it. I hated myself so much then."

Tim leaned down to put his head close to his lover's. He wished he could stop the words, each one cutting into him, but he didn't want to. He wanted Dick to let it go.

But the idea of Dick Grayson and the concept of self-loathing should be completely incompatible.

"I hated myself, because I hadn't been able to save Joey. Because I hadn't been able to love him as well as I should have. Because I had held back so much, and he deserved better. I hated looking at myself, and I wanted to have more bruises, I wanted scars. I wanted to be disfigured. I deserved it. And I thought I deserved to be treated like an animal with Bruce. I thought... Damn. I thought that was the best that I could hope for." Dick curled up a little, his body sheltering him. "I didn't stop hating myself until you came along." He knew that, but when he said it, it was like he was realizing it for the first time.

Tim's body felt like it was being shocked, voltage chasing through his nerves.

"When you came, insisting that I had to be Robin again, that was the first time that I saw Bruce again after that. That was the first time I felt like there might be any kind of hope for me, like I wasn't a lost cause. You are the only reason that Bruce and I have any kind of relationship now. Don't kick yourself. You are the only reason I'm not him."

"What do you mean?" Tim let his hands wander over Dick's back, gently.

"I didn't become the Bat, never will. Because you pulled me out of that masochistic hole I had buried myself in." Dick turned to face Tim, his eyes half-closed. "It didn't happen overnight, but that was the turning point. And then, after that, I gained purpose and found life again.

"I've gotten to the point where I think I'm a halfway decent guy, now, because of you.

"When I was with him, I hated myself. When I'm with you, I pretty much like myself."

Dick moved to rest his forehead on Tim's shoulder, letting his lover comfort him.

Tim felt like he'd been put in a bucket and spun around by a giant. Moments ago, he'd been in the darkest place he could find for himself, and now he felt like the air around him was crystal, and all the light was sparkling as it made its way to his eyes.

"I thought he understood that." Dick's whisper across Tim's collarbone. "I thought he accepted it. I didn't think... I didn't want to think, I guess, that he still... I thought he realized how much better I was with you. But he doesn't think that at all, does he?"

Tim sighed, letting his hand rest on Dick's back. "He does, Dick. He just wishes that he could be the one."

Dick shook his head, his hair tickling Tim's chin. "He still wants me, ves'tacha. Just like... then. It's only the Bat's control that keeps him from it."

Tim couldn't respond to that, letting his hands and body say what he couldn't.

"I thought he had moved on." Dick sounded vaguely bitter. "He should have."

Tim closed his eyes and held Dick close. "I love you, Dick, remember that."

Dick burrowed in tighter, measuring his breath and his heartbeat.

He had wanted Bruce to move on, too.

Tim slipped into Barbara's apartment, pulling the door behind him shut quietly. Babs and Angel were in the kitchen 'cooking' together, and he wanted to surprise him.

He should have known better.

As he entered the kitchen, he got pummeled with two handfuls of flour, coating his face and shoulder. Laughing, he entered into the fray with gusto, and soon the whole kitchen was a mess. He swooped up Angel in his arms and swung her high above his head, claiming victory.

Babs was laughing so hard, there were tear tracks through the flour on her face.

"Timmy! Mommy and I made cookies today! Wanna have some?" The dark-haired nymph asked, her bright blues sparkling with mirth.

"Sounds great, Angel-baby." He grinned as he scooped up a slightly black mound of cookie, making delighted faces as he chewed. "Yummy!"

"Mommy and I are great cooks." Angel spoke matter of factly, as she nestled into his arms.

"Good day at work?" Babs asked as she wheeled herself to the dinner table.

"I've had worse." Tim winked at her, smiling.

Tim got the pleasure of checking Angel's homework (two worksheets that were beautifully colored and a list of words that started with 'G'), helping her to wash up, and tucking her into bed. By the time he re-emerged, Babs was in full Oracle mode.

"Busy night?" Tim snagged some chips as he pulled up a chair.

"I've had worse." She smirked at him.

"Seen my crazier half?" He smirked back, feeling comfortable.

She paused, her fingers dancing over several keyboards. "He's... at the Third National in the 'haven, a 'minor' gang, according to his royal recklessness. Want me to connect you?"

"No." He shook his head emphatically. "I came here to talk to you."

"Something up?" She gave him a concerned look from the corner of her eye.

"Yeah, you could say that." Tim looked at his fingernails, studying them as he gathered his thoughts. "What do you know about Bruce and Dick?"

"By Bruce and Dick, I'm assuming you mean... Bruce and Dick? Not much. I wasn't around much at the time, but I have heard... rumors. Donna or Roy might know more." Her voice was brittle.

Tim shook his head. "No, they don't know. He... He wanted to talk to Bruce about Terry."

"And his crush." Babs shook her head. "What is it with Robins and their Bat fixation?"

"Don't ask me," Tim actually smiled. "I was fixated on the former boy wonder."

She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. "But you were a hell of a lot smarter than any of the other Robins."

"Yeah. Well. He went to talk to him about Terry, and things got... complicated. And that brought up a whole mess of issues. Apparently, Dick wasn't aware that Bruce wasn't over him."

Babs snorted. "Really? Excuse me while I go pretend to be shocked. No offense, Timmy, but your boytoy is a twit when it comes to relationships. He thinks that people forget about him as soon as he is out of their line of vision. So, naturally, he thinks that Bruce is over him."

"Well, he's not." Tim sounded disgusted.

"No shit. What happened?"

"Bruce almost tried to kiss him."

Babs made a disgusted noise, and ripped the headset off, turning to Tim. "Bastard."


"He thinks of Dick as being his."


"Fucking overbearing..."

"That's not the point, though."

She stopped, and looked up at Tim, noticing his blazing eyes for the first time.

"Afterwards, we got to talking, about their past... What do you know, Babs?"

She couldn't maintain his gaze. "I know that... for a while, some people, people close to both of them, some of them really weren't happy with Batman. I know that some people still think there's... something wrong there. I also know that there was a time in both of their lives when the people who really knew them were afraid for both of them. And, I know that there are rumors... Bad rumors."

Tim's shoulders sagged slightly, as he leaned his elbows on his knees and clasped his fingers together in a web. "I don't know how he can forgive him."

Babs sucked in a breath and looked away. "Are... are the rumors true?"

Tim's head drooped lower. "What I know... is vague. And it's not my place to confirm or deny anything. But, seriously, Babs... How? How can you forgive him?" His voice was pleading, desperate.

She sagged. "There are times, Tim, times when I hate him. I hate him so much, I wonder if he's any better than the people we fight. And in those times, I really don't know why any of us put up with him. And then... he does something, something anyone else would think was impossible, and it... helps. I don't know why Dick forgave him, Tim, but I know that Dick is the first person to stand up and defend him, and the last one to ever give up on him. So, I know there must be a reason. Maybe it's as simple as Dick is the sort of person who loves well, or maybe Bruce redeemed himself to Dick... Maybe it's history, being there for each other in the beginning, before things got screwed up. I don't know. There's only one person who does."

Tim sighed, feeling weak. "How can I talk to him about this? When I think about it... I want to kill Bruce. And, honest to God, Babs, that scares me, because I've never wanted to kill anyone before. Not really. But I spent most of today imagining all kinds of wonderful ways to torture and abuse him." He scoffed. "As if I could..."

"Tim..." Babs reached out to touch his shoulder. "I don't know, Tim, how you guys... But you need to talk to him about this. This is something that you deserve to know, and something that will intrude upon what you two have built together if you don't face up to it. Listen." Babs gathered herself. "The thing about Bruce, about the Bat is... he's insidious. It's that whole urban legend thing. He's a shadow, he's the night... He doesn't need to break every back in the city if the specter of him can break every spirit before they have a chance to try anything. Tim." She squeezed slightly, bunching his flesh and shirt beneath her hand. "Don't let the specter of Bruce Wayne break your relationship."

Their eyes met, and searched. Tim had always felt close to her in a way that he never could articulate. She was the big sister he had needed to get through the crazy mess of his youth. She was the one that he could talk to about loving Dick before he could even think about it with himself. She was the one that he could goof off with, and talk computers with, and bitch about his boyfriend's cluelessness with.

She was the one who always had the good advice that he didn't want to take but he knew that he had to.

He sighed and lowered his head. "No worries, babe, I'd rather die first."

She smiled at him, ruffling his hair. "Good. Because I don't think that I could ever get Bruce to let me live vicariously through him..."

He laughed, feeling his tension break with the effort.

He loved Babs.

Limbs flew at breakneck speed in an intricate dance that weaved together form and ferocity. Terry's skills were improving, but he still lacked essential discipline. Dick held back, feinting and defending, waiting for his opportunity to arise.

It didn't take very long. Terry became frustrated at the face off, and tried some more daring and bold attacks. Dick took advantage of the weaknesses Terry's recklessness had revealed, and struck hard.

Watching the stars swim by him as he lay flat on his back, Terry contemplated certain inevitable truths of his existence. The main one being, that no matter how much he wished it to be otherwise, Dick Grayson had a leg up on him in many important arenas.

For now.

Dick stretched out his hand for Terry, giving him a lift up. "You ok?"

"Yeah. Just my ego and my bum. They're both well-padded, though." Terry gave Dick a crooked smile.

Dick grinned, despite himself. "You wanna go over what you did wrong, or just think it over yourself?"

Terry inclined his head. Bruce never gave him the option. "Let me ferment a bit. Sometimes, good things happen that way."

Dick laughed slightly, shaking his head. "Just don't leave things corked up too long."

Terry's grin dissolved into seriousness as he considered Dick's words. "About that... I've decided what I'm going to do about Bruce."

"Oh?" Dick feigned disinterest well. Reasonably well, at any rate.

"I've decided to wait until I'm a bit older. I don't think that he'd ever take me seriously as long as he saw me as a child. A brave and good soldier, but a child nonetheless. Say nothing of the fact that he's still jonesing on you, man." Dick's jaw dropped. "The way I see it, I should just play it cool, and bide my time. If, when I'm older, I still feel the same way about him, at least I'll have a fighting chance. And, in the meantime, I can be young and have a good time." Terry shrugged. "No point closing the door when I don't have anything better to be doing anyway."

"That's... very wise. Terry, I'm sorry that you had to hear..."

"Forget it." Terry shrugged, and turned his back to Dick. "It was better that I did overhear. Better than getting some humiliating stock rejection speech from the big guy, huh?"

Dick chuckled, trying to imagine what Bruce might say. 'Look, (insert name here), I'm sorry that I can't return your feelings at this time. You are a wonderful (insert gender here) but I am not ready for the type of relationship you have requested. Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused by my rejection.' "Yeah, I guess you're right. I'm still sorry, though... that you got hurt. I... remember that."

Terry worked up a smile, and turned to face Dick. "But everything worked out in the end, huh? So, I've just gotta think positive. Everything will work out." He nodded, for emphasis.

Dick smiled at him. "I'm sure."

"I'm not interrupting some male bonding moment, am I? I hate to interrupt bonding..." Tim leaned against the doorframe of the training room, grinning.

Terry shuffled away from Dick with a grin. "No way, man, I leave the 'bonding' to you two, I'm not getting involved in that!"

Tim chuckled. "Smart boy. Maybe the rumors are true. I've heard people say that you have a brain..."

"Ha ha ha." Terry sneered, with a grin. Dick shook his head. It took a long time before Tim would even stand to be in the same room as Terry. He always said that he no longer had any place in the realm of the Bat, and his 'replacement' wasn't any concern of his. But the longer that he was involved with Dick, the more impossible that became.

It was good to hear them kidding around together.

"Do you need a ride back to Gotham, Ter?" Dick tossed the boy some water.

"Nah. My mom said that she would meet me at the station. And Bruce gave me money for cabs. But thanks!" With a quick wave, Terry made his exit, smiling much brighter than he had been the last time he left Dick's training room.

Tim shook his head after the retreating boy. "He seems to be in much better spirits. Everything ok?"

"Actually..." Dick smiled as he drank some water. "Everything is fine. That kid... He surprises me from time to time. I forget that he's a good kid, underneath all his 'charm'."

Tim snorted, laughing. "Yeah, I forget that a lot too."

Dick took a swipe at him. "That's not what I meant and you know it..."

"Suuuuuure it wasn't, Dickie!" Tim smiled as he went to sit behind his lover.

Dick didn't even bother to fight back. He knew when he was beat. So he just sighed instead. Rolling his neck and shoulders, he groaned. "That kid is still a pain in the neck, though! It's getting harder and harder to kick his ass from one side of the room to the other."

Smiling quietly, Tim dug his fingers into Dick's sore muscles, unwinding them.

Dick leaned back before he knew what he was doing, moaning with relief. "Now, what have I done to deserve this wonderful little backrub? Or is it something that you want me to do?"

Tim's fingers continued to work as he composed himself. "Well, I always like to get my hands on your naked, sweaty flesh. I can't resist. Besides, it gives me a chance to practice my medical massage techniques. Those bums with poor circulation are not good motivation for me to keep up to date with this."

Dick laughed, leaning back even further, tipping his head until it touched his lover's. "Whatever I can do to advance the cause of your skills."

Tim slipped his arms around Dick's shoulders, bringing Dick's back flush with his chest. Kissing Dick's temple lightly, he whispered, "I did want to talk to you too, and I figured it could only help to have you fully relaxed."

Dick almost tensed. "One of those conversations, huh?" He took Tim's hands in his, holding them over his stomach.

"'Fraid so, babe. I... I tried to put this out of my head, but I can't help it. After our last... conversation like this... Damn it, Dick. How can you forgive him? I've been inventing new and horrific forms of torture to inflict upon him. I... I don't think I could stand to be near him, right now. How can you still care about him? Love him, even?" Tim tried to mask the raw emotion thinking about this made him feel, but it was a struggle. Besides, the man who he held in his arms was good at reading total strangers, much less the person he loved and shared his life with.

Dick brought Tim's hands up to his mouth and kissed each finger in turn. "I hated him, for a while. And I hated myself. When I stopped hating myself, I found that I couldn't hate him either." He shrugged. "It's just... I know our relationship is screwed up, and complicated is a euphemism, but still."

"But... he's the man that... that... that hurt you, in so many ways, the man that...."

"Took me in when my parents were killed, gave me a home and a life when everything I had known had been taken away from me, gave me a way to focus my rage into something productive and useful, made me into the man I am today, and gave me everything he had that I wanted in order to help guide me. He is the one that gave me the strength and the wisdom to be able to help people, so that tragedies like my parent's deaths might be averted. Whatever else he is, whatever else he's done, ves'tacha, he's always that man to me. I guess that's why I can forgive him. Because nothing can change what he was to me, what he will always be, in some fashion. Besides, he did a lot more damage when he kicked me out."

Tim leaned against his beloved, processing. "I... well, that makes sense, I guess. I suppose I would just be happier to know that he wasn't always using his power to hurt you so much."

Dick laughed, mirthlessly. "Me too, ves'tacha. Me too. I understand, believe me. If you had told me that someone had... I'd want to kill that person, no questions asked. But, like he taught us, it's important to ask those questions. There's more to the story than meets the eye."

Tim sighed as he snuggled in close. Closing his eyes, he sighed. "Dick, I... I really don't want to do this. I respect your privacy, and your boundaries, and I know this topic has a big Do Not Enter sign in front of it, but... I need to know. I need to know what happened... that night."

Dick paused, just holding his love's hands. "Ok."

Tim jerked. "O-Ok? Really?"

Dick shrugged, smiling slightly. "There's no one in the world more important to me than you, Tim. Nothing I would deny you if it were in my power to give it to you. I... try not to think about that, ever. But if you need it..."

"Have you ever talked to anyone about it, Dick?" Tim spoke gently. Dick just shook his head. Tim kissed the nape of his neck gently. "Maybe... we both need this, then."

Dick sighed, griping the hands in his own tightly, and melted against the body that held him upright.

When he spoke, his voice was hushed and stilted, taking his time to go through the details, pausing from time to time to gather his thoughts.

Their hands stayed tightly enwrapped together.