title: Watching
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: one-sided Bruce/Dick, implied Dick/Joey
rating: G
warnings: stalking
summary: Batman develops a new routine once Dick leaves the Manor.
notes: this could be a sequel to Dangerous Comfort or not. depends on whether you liked that or not. ^_~ This takes place in comic continuity, although it would work just as well in a slightly fudged animated series continuity as well. Slightly (ha!) demented Bat-voice...
there's a weiss kreuz version of this fic, as there was a weiss kreuz version of dangerous comfort. again, just throwing that in there in case anyone were by some outstanding circumstance to trip upon both, it isn't plagiarism. i just use different pen names for batman and nonbatman fics. both versions are on this site.

Batman was in position with more than three minutes to spare. He didn't keep any records that might be considered incriminating, even electronic ones, but he knew the schedule by heart. There was an eight and a half minute window before his target would come into view, so he had plenty of time to set up the telephoto lens.

Not that he had any pictures. Not any real ones. If he had any, and they were discovered, there would be trouble, pure and simple. Instead, he memorized the images in his head, and when he needed them, they were there in perfect clarity for him to dwell on every detail.

Robin never disappointed him. No, Nightwing never disappointed him. Five minutes after Batman was in position on the roof overlooking the window to Joe Wilson's balcony, his target came in to view. The mute boy acknowledged the presence of his guest with only a slight smile, the comfort of familiarity preventing the necessity of anything more.

Robin - Nightwing - was wearing his red t-shirt with the grey-blue overshirt today. This was only slightly out of the usual pattern, as he normally wore the red t-shirt about 30% of the time, tending to cycle it slightly less frequently than his more faded t-shirts. He also tended to wear the red t-shirt after he wore the blue t-shirt, or the long-sleeved pale grey t-shirt. Yesterday, he wore a white t-shirt and a black overshirt, but that wasn't completely out of the pattern. After all, it was just probabilities.

Batman liked the red shirt. It should have looked too overt for comfort, but it looked good. Of course, Batman thought that Robin - Nightwing - looked good in all of his clothes.

Robin's visits - Batman tried to remind himself that it was Nightwing now - to Joey were practically ritual. He sat across the breakfast table and took two slices of toast and two slices of bacon from the plates in the center of the table. They would eat in silence, naturally, until the meal was over, as Joey was never comfortable carrying on conversations when his hands were otherwise occupied. When they were done, Joey would pour a cup of coffee for his guest from the insulated carafe, and then he would wait until it had been tasted.

Furious conversation would ensue, in which each young man's hands would move faster than an eye across the street and above them could follow easily, although Batman usually was able to follow the gist of the conversation fairly well.

They talked about sports. Exclusively. Everything from football to swimming to track to cricket.

Batman sighed as he watched the two young men together. His whole chest ached and ached. Ever since his parents had been killed, he had felt as if he might never again know what it was like to have someone really love him. Of course, Alfred cared for him like he would a son, but neither of them was very comfortable expressing that directly. Instead, they showed it in a million indirect ways, like the tea sets he was always getting for Alfred, or the way Alfred rarely spoke against his life as Batman. He had only the vaguest of memories of his parents anymore, and his few recollections were faded with time. He remembered his mother's perfume, and his father's hands, and the way they always ate together for breakfast and dinner, no matter what.

The night they were killed was indelibly etched into his memory with such agonizing detail, each second burned in sharp relief into his mind until he thought that perhaps he had lost any semblance of sanity.

That was when he needed the mantle of the Bat most of all. Alfred did love him, probably, but only Robin understood.

It wasn't fair to stalk Robin like this. Or Nightwing, whatever. He knew it was wrong, and he tried to stop himself, but it wasn't working. Every day, he tried to tell himself that he needed to leave Robin alone, and every day, he followed according to the schedule anyway.

He didn't go to the office anymore. Not that he did much in the office anyway, but he gave up even the pretense of working there. He went out as Batman, undercover, during the day and followed the schedule, and at night he would don his armor and take out his frustration on every crook and hood he could dredge up.

The schedule was simple. Morning exercises at seven, visiting with Joey, some training in a private gym, then a light lunch, usually salad. The afternoon was spent at a youth center, assisting in coaching sports while playing with the kids. He would spend time the rest of the day with the Titans, in training or in work.

Batman didn't want to intrude on his privacy. In truth, he didn't want to know every detail of Robin's life. He didn't want to know how often he did laundry, or how often he went to the grocery store, or which brand of dishwasher detergent he preferred. But Robin meant so much to him, too much to him.

He always had.

Batman could remember the first moment he had met Robin. The night seemed to be in black and white in his mind. The terror of watching the Graysons fall... And then the little boy, hunched into himself with his head hanging down and his ink-black hair shrouding his face. He had put his hand on the boy's shoulder, wanting to say something but knowing too well that there was nothing to say. The only color in the night had been in the boy's blue eyes when he looked up, the tears held in, the little chin trembling with the effort. And then there had been the moment when the little face rested in the crook of his neck, and the tears could not stay in anymore. He had felt then that this boy was himself, and that it was his obligation to shield him as best he could.

It was a foolish thing to think now, perhaps, but Robin had seemed so flawless and admirable, Batman couldn't help but think that Robin was his savior and not the other way around.

Robin had been the smile that Batman had needed to realize that the sun did still rise every morning. Robin's laughter and joy filled Batman with desire to laugh as well.

Robin's fingers reached out and brushed against Joey's, and Batman shuddered in response.

How long Batman had loved Robin was irrelevant. What mattered was that Robin was the only connection he had any more to humanity.

It was wrong to follow him, to study him, to watch him from afar.

Batman promised Robin every night as he said goodnight from afar that it would be the last night, and every morning he apologized from afar for following for another night.

It wouldn't hurt so much, except that Batman was afraid that he would never really 'see' Robin again. They would never work together, and they would never associate again. When he stared at the ceiling in the pre-dawn hours and thought about never being with Robin again, the pain was too great, and he had to get up and go through the schedule.

Perhaps with time he would be strong enough to go through life without Robin, but he really didn't see how he could.

He carefully packed up his lenses, securing them in his case with tender care before getting up, ready to precede Robin to the next item in the schedule.

He paused to look at Joey for a moment before he stepped down. He prayed, as he did every morning, to a god whose name was unknown to him, that Joey would love Nightwing.

Even if it killed him to think it, he knew he had to let his Robin go.