title: Incidentals: Flight Progression by Chicago
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: Bruce, Dick, Tim
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: A lesson leads to memories.
notes: yay, i've infected chi's brain with my bruce!! whee!! i can't begin to tell you how happy this makes me... squee!! please please please shower her with love and attention, because she deserves it, doesn't she? *happy*

He wasn't watching.

He couldn't watch.

Instead he sat at the computer, his back ramrod straight, his body unmoving save for his fingers on the keys. Still. Focused. Not watching. Not listening, even, to their voices, to the laughter in their tones. There were those coaching notes in Dick's voice, the demands he made couched in something closer to encouragement than insistence, but not more forgiving for that. He had his own style of teaching, and Tim responded to it like a fish to water.

Even without a fraction of Dick's talent, Tim was ready to dare the heights, to take a chance on the trapeze. Bruce knew where today's exercise was heading. Dick had even checked with Bruce before he started building Tim up to it.

Aerial somersaults.

Nothing fancy, Dick had hastened to point out. Just a single, just to help Tim loosen up in the air. The boy was cautious to a fault. He needed a little higher risk. Dick could teach him, Bruce could work with him. If Tim could learn to trust that even if he lost sight of up and down, that there would still be someone to catch him, he would relax.

Relaxation would save his shoulders and wrists when he began to really use the jumplines, and as his Robin experience increased? He'd need the jumplines more. Bruce approved, agreed whole-heartedly, and ruthlessly stamped down the pride in his heart at Dick's clearly reasoned approach.

He had no right to be proud of Dick's accomplishments, not anymore.

He typed at the computer, forcing himself to ignore the sounds of the net being strung over the cave floor. Dick's voice was speaking in the familiar cadence of contained excitement that it always had when they strung the net.

He loved flying. Bruce loved watching him fly. Loved catching him. He couldn't watch now.

Bruce hadn't caught Dick since before... and now he wasn't convinced Dick would trust him to make the catch.

Their voices were moving into the upper reaches of the cave, Tim sounding nervous and thrilled, Dick sounding happy.

He wouldn't listen. He couldn't listen.

He remembered, before Dick got shot, the last time they had rigged the trapeze together. Dick had been laughing, glancing at Bruce from beneath lowered lashes in an unconsciously seductive way, pointing out he was now strong enough to catch Bruce. Bruce had half-teasingly suggested Dick was underestimating Bruce's weight; it was one thing to pass hand to hand, but another to catch a body moving at high velocity.

In truth, Bruce knew Dick could catch him, but it was more fun to make it a dare, a challenge.

Defiance flushed Dick's cheeks, and he growled, "Try me, old man." Even then, he almost had the Voice down, only his own amusement keeping it from really working. Bruce had made himself stern, caught between relishing and regretting the disappointment on Dick's face. That disappointment faded quickly as they worked together, and Dick gleefully pulled off the quad that would prove the clue to his identity that had brought Tim Drake into their lives.

There had been nerve-wracking moments for Bruce, too, as Dick tried new combinations and twists, often only managing a fingertip hold to save him from plunging to the net below.

Dick was laughing, though, fearless, daring...

Bruce forced away the memory, deleting several lines of meaningless characters he'd strung together on the computer screen. He kept his fingers moving, because they would notice if he stopped, would look over, and he was not going to watch. He could hear their voices dopplering as they swung over head, starting with simple passes.

There was a whoop of laughter as Dick deliberately let Tim fall to land unharmed in the net.

Tim sounded flustered and embarrassed, but Bruce understood Dick's reasoning. Fear of falling was a good thing, but learning skills required a willingness to fall.

They continued to chatter as Tim worked his way back up the ladder, making a little more noise than Bruce would like. They'd have to work on making his stealth skills more unconscious, something he didn't have to think about.

Bruce kept typing, forcing his attention back to updating his files.

He tried not to notice the shift in conversational tone in the cave above his head.

Both Dick and Tim had gotten quieter, and Bruce knew Dick was explaining to Tim how he could do this somersault, how Dick would be there to catch him. An unconscious tension was building in Bruce, forcing itself into his throat.

That last time he had flown with Dick...

They were wrapping up their workout when Bruce had surprised Dick by swinging out again on the trapeze.

"Bruce?" he asked.

"Well?" Bruce had called back, working up momentum. "Are you going to catch me or not?"

Bruce's fingers slowed on the keys, and he closed his eyes, remembering the smile, that amazing smile that lit up Dick's face and his blue blue eyes...

Dick had scrambled for a trapeze, had matched Bruce's swings with expert judgment.

Bruce called out his intention to do a double somersault, and Dick had joked about him missing the catch even as he readjusted his swings.

Then they were ready, and there had been that moment - Bruce had released the bar, tucked his head, tumbling through the air...


A loud whoop of success came from Tim.

At the computer, Bruce's fingers quit moving. He again closed his eyes behind the cowl. Dick was looking down at him, smiling triumphantly, his hands squeezing around Bruce's wrists as they swung through the air.

His eyes said, "I love you."

Even if Dick didn't really realize it.

Bruce closed the computer file he'd been working on and moved toward the heavy bag without an upward glance.

He forced himself to perform an abbreviated warm up. Tim might not notice, but Dick would, if Bruce skipped this step.

But no, they were still deep in conversation, still high from their training, and as Bruce drove his fists into the heavy bag, he tried to obliterate the memory of what could never be again.