title: Incidentals: Parting Glass
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: Bruce, Dick/Tim, Angel
rating: G
warnings: deathfic
summary: Bruce faces the end.
notes: deathfic!!! gah, i hate deathfics... well... most of the time. heh. this is totally Chicago's bunny. it just... somehow got latched to my leg, so... apologies in advance for depression, tears, unhappiness, whatever... it's not really my fault... *points to Chi* *tiny voice* but it's a happy deathfic! i swear!

In the end, it wasn't the Joker, or Two Face, or Bane, or any other resident of Arkham or Blackgate. It wasn't even some punk who got lucky, or just an accident. It was cancer.

At first, Dick thought that he would fight it. Why wouldn't he fight it? He'd fought everything else in life. Perhaps he hadn't realized what Bruce's life had become. Alfred has passed away eighteen months prior, and Leslie had retired, and then passed away less than a year before. Terry had left, still operating in Gotham, but no longer living in the Manor. He didn't even use the cave anymore. Barbara was present, of course, but she and Bruce had had a bitter falling out shortly after Angel hit the streets 'professionally,' and she refused to come see him anymore. Helena had left Gotham. Jean-Paul no longer kept in touch.

They were all he had left.

Bruce refused surgery and chemo. The cancer had been detected in a routine x-ray following an injury; his ribs weren't cracked, but there was a spot on his lung. Too many years of breathing in smog from the top of rooftops, Tim explained, carefully. The bad luck they ran into was that miraculously, Bruce had managed to go nearly four years between chest x-rays, so they weren't sure when in that time span the cancer had first appeared. The better technology in padding and protection probably saved his life a dozen times over in that time span, but it did mean that they had not detected the growth until it was eleven centimeters long. Tim and Dick had both argued for surgery, Tim reasoning out his case with statistics and information from the latest and best medical research, and Dick gesturing wildly as he passionately harangued Bruce for even thinking of giving up.

The cancer was found in his bone marrow two months later.

It was just a question of putting his affairs in order, and managing his pain. Bruce was stoic. He had never expected to live forever, and as he was nearing the end of his life, he was finding a detachment from his own experiences that he had sorely lacked before. There were things that he regretted, and things that he could now be proud of, seen for the first time from a more global perspective. All in all, he wasn't upset about dying. In a way, it was a gift, because he had never thought that he'd have time to say goodbye.

He turned over his mantle to Terry, mending some fences with the man as he did. He even apologized to Barbara for calling her the world's worst mother, admitting that Angel had become a very skilled vigilante. He put some things in order with Wayne Enterprises, finally giving Lucius his due. He even went as far as making contact with Clark and Lois, and a few other members of the Justice League that he'd let himself lose contact with over the years.

But when he looked in Dick's eyes, he was too choked with regret to say much of anything.

They never asked, and didn't even talk to each other about it. It was such a given, they just went home, packed a few bags, and gave Angel free reign of the house. Tim still went into the clinic everyday, though he kept more reasonable hours. His commute was actually shorter. Dick arranged with his office to work from the Manor, though he restricted his workload considerably.

For five months, they lived like that.

Bruce was painfully aware of the fact that the first thing Dick did was move a queen sized bed into his old room. But he could pretend that things were like they used to be, so very long ago, during the day, when he and Dick were alone together. The pain wasn't even that bad, most of the time. He was more active than they had suspected. They went to the beach together, staying at the old beach house. There was an odd sort of familiarity between them, and after a while, awkwardness blended away in the daily grind of their schedules, until it seemed quite normal for the three of them to share their lives.

Honestly, it was all Bruce had ever wanted.

He knew better than to think that he could ever actually be the one. He'd always known that. But he was with them, and he was a part of their lives, and sometimes, when Dick was smiling at him or laughing, he could think that it was just for him. He didn't even feel that swell of jealousy and bitterness every time they touched.

Angel came to visit quite often. She and Dick would talk shop, and it was a marvel to watch. In the time that he had lived there, Dick had gotten to know the whole of Bludhaven at least as well as Bruce knew Gotham. They had a shorthand for the streets and intersections and neighborhoods, and they knew the names of just about every beat cop and drug pusher and pimp and information broker. It made Bruce proud, like his influence stretched out beyond the borders of his home, like he had, in some small way, helped to make the world a better place by passing on his skills.

He stopped seeing Tim as the interloper. He had not even been consciously aware that he had been seeing Tim as the interloper, but he stopped. If he could pick just one regret to go back and change, it would be his relationship with Tim. They would never regain that level of trust that they had shared while Tim was Robin, but they weren't competition for each other, either. Tim knew that. He seemed... grateful, that they had the chance to repair what they shared.

Bruce knew it was the day he was going to die when he woke up. Something about the sun shining through his bedroom window just seemed like it. He was happy. He didn't tell Dick that, because he knew Dick wouldn't understand. He asked Tim to stay home with him, though. He didn't want Dick to be alone when he died. It was astonishing, but he was glad that Dick had Tim. It was a comfort now, to know that Dick wasn't losing something so valuable that he couldn't go on; he prayed that Tim outlived Dick, and it was only when he was done that he realized it was the first genuine prayer of his life.

He tried to stay focused and alert, but the pain was getting bad, and he couldn't control his limbs very well. Tim insisted on morphine, and he was almost ashamed of the relief it gave.

Dick sat on the bed with him, held his hand and cried tears over him. He looked to Tim, who just nodded briefly at him as he fussed over the drugs and the machines and the needles. Bruce understood. It felt... good, in a way, that Tim was grieving for him as well.

He tried to lift his hand to touch Dick's face, but he didn't have the strength. He thought that Dick's blue eyes might be the last thing he saw, and he smiled. Dick would never understand it, but this was a better end than he had any right to expect. He tried to speak, tried to apologize for things he hadn't thought about in years, tried to pass on some meaningless words of wisdom that he didn't really believe in, anyway.

Dick leaned down and kissed him.

It took his breath away. He could taste Dick, could smell him. Through the fog of pain and drugs, true, but still. It had been a real kiss, not a peck on the lips a son might give a father, or a warm, friendly gesture. It was an act of love.

He had never considered the possibility that Dick might still love him. Dick had said so, so many times, and they had shared an odd kiss here and there, but this was the first time they'd had any real contact that wasn't tainted by the memory of what had happened in that very room thirty-five years ago.

Dick was squeezing his hand, and begging him to hold on, telling him things, beautiful things, things that Bruce could only now believe, because it was the end, and they had lost any context that they might have had before.

He was not dying alone, and unloved.

He hoped that Dick would one day understand, because he no longer had the strength to explain it to him.

It was just so fucking cold. Dick hugged his legs to his chest, and stared at the door to Bruce's bedroom. He'd left... ten? twenty? minutes ago to let Tim handle the 'end.' The end. It was just so damned cold, these big houses were always so damned drafty, and the chill had reached his bones so that he thought he might never be warm again, and god, how he craved the warmth...

The door opened, and Tim stepped out.

"It's over." Tim's voice was quiet, faraway. Like his professional voice, like when he was dealing with a patient, but not quite. He was hurting, too.

And he had plenty of reason to hurt, didn't he? Dick was swallowed with guilt. "Tim..." He reached out. "Ves'tacha...."

Tim came to him right away, of course, and Dick spread out his legs and pulled Tim down, clinging to him, needing him so badly....

"Ves'tacha, ves'tacha, I'm so sorry..." He put his face against Tim's shoulder.

"Don't!" Tim reprimanded harshly. "Don't. I know, ok? It's fine."

"I love you so much..." Dick sniffled, feeling broken apart. "You're my life, my everything. I..."

"Shhhhh..." Tim sighed. "I know, my love, I do. I'm not jealous. I'm not threatened. I know how you feel about him. I know how you feel about me. It's ok."

Dick sobbed. "He's gone."

"I know, baby, I know." Tim rubbed his cheek over Dick's hair. "I know."

"Promise me something?" Dick needed to see Tim's eyes. Needed to see Tim. His love. "Promise me?" He cupped Tim's face in his hands, his fingertips grasping onto Tim like a lifeline.

"Anything, baby." Tim tried to nod, putting his hands on Dick's arms to steady him.

"Promise me you won't die before me, because I swear to god and to the devil, if you do, I'll be right behind you. I can't live without you. Do you understand? I can't live without you." Dick searched Tim's face, trying not to squeeze too hard as he fervently sought out clues.

"Dick..." Tim sighed. "I can't... I... You won't have to. I swear. I'll always be here."

Dick needed to taste Tim. Needed contact. Would have ripped off his clothes and had him right there in the hall if it was in any way feasible. He needed that contact. Promises were promises, and he could trust Tim, but he would never trust words as much as actions, not ever. He needed it.

Tim seemed to understand. Of course Tim understood. He pulled off his shirt, and slid his arms under Dick's shirt. He kissed Dick hard enough to make his lips bleed. The metallic burn of the blood interlaced with their saliva, and somehow, that calmed Dick down.

They had so much to do. There was so much work left to be done. So many phone calls to make. So much had been prepared for, but now they actually had to do it.

Later, though, later. Later he would wrap his legs around Tim's waist, and they would make furious love, and when they were done, they would stay connected as they fell asleep. He didn't mind pain or discomfort, as long as they could be together.

...and i'm sorry!!!