title: Incidentals: Confession
fandom: DC Comics
characters/pairings: Angel, Bruce, Dick
rating: Teen
warnings: discussions of dub-con/rape
summary: Angel has something she needs to ask Bruce.
notes: none

It was a long night, though he couldn't remember the last time he had a short one. He was back in the cave before the bats were. Most of the bats, anyway.

He wasn't the only one, though. He saw the bike right away, of course, but she wasn't anywhere obvious, and he didn't go looking for her. He actually figured that she was there to see Alfred. Maybe get some cookies and sympathy. Though, Alfred was sleeping more these days.

Things were... changing.

"You're glaring. Anything I should know about?"

Bruce scowled a bit more, but at least he wasn't just going to say the first thing that came to his mind. He never did. "I've got it covered. Anything I can help you with?" Perhaps his voice was a bit more growly than it should have been, but that was fine, too. If she was put off, that was fine.

She was too young to be doing... this anyway. She should be focusing on college! Then, grad school! And... just living a normal, happy life! What was Dick thinking, anyway... Bruce was sure Babs agreed with him, so...

"Well, there is something," she said, and she pulled a chair over, so she could sit next to him. Rather... closely next to him. He eyed her cautiously from the corner of his eye. She looked so much like her father from some angles. It made Bruce... unreasonably happy.

Unreasonable... he had no right to think like that.

"I'd like to know why Tim doesn't like you."

For a moment, he couldn't even think.

He recovered quickly, though. Think on your feet, that was essential for survival. He was even able to keep his voice even, but then. Well. It was mostly the Bat's voice. "What makes you think that?"

"C'mon, Bruce," she sighed, shaking her head. "I'm not a child anymore. I've always seen it. I've heard... some things. I want to know the truth. I know my father still loves you, and I know that Tim hates you. I want to know... really know what went on so I can. Well. Know." To her credit, she was keeping her voice steady, and she wasn't looking away from him. It was he who couldn't hold her gaze.

The truth.

He shook his head and frowned. "So you can hate me, too? It is what it is. Do you really think it will matter if you know... the truth?"

"That depends on what, exactly, the truth is, doesn't it?" she countered, sounding flinty.

Damn. "Why don't you ask your father, then?" he bit right back.

She actually flinched, and that caused him to flinch, too. Damn it all. "No. I'm... I'm not going to ask him." She took a moment, like she was chewing on her thoughts before speaking. "I've talked to Garth and Donna. They've told me... things. About... well. About when you kicked him out. And he traveled a bit, and settled with the Titans and all. And Joey. And Joey dying." She paused for a moment, seeming to be really concentrating.

Bruce felt a terrible urge to just... run away. He didn't like to think about Joseph Wilson under any circumstances, no matter how selfish that made him, but his death and Jason's death led directly to...


"I don't mind apologizing... you know, for asking," she said, and she actually did look a bit, well, crestfallen. "It's not that I want to... to hate you," she swallowed hard. "I... I'm pretty sure that couldn't, anyway. I just want to know." She said it so matter-of-factly. So simply.

Bruce stared at the computer screen for a moment. And then he closed his eyes, and put his forehead down against his hand. He'd never... ever... not even with Alfred. Especially not with Dick. And now... he was supposed to confess... To Dick's daughter?

She didn't want to hate him. He could maybe make her, though.

"So, do you know, then. What sort of relationship we had. Your father and I. Back then," he asked.

She didn't answer right away, but he wasn't about to rush her. "I know... dad's friends. His Titan friends. They all think it was... inappropriate." She looked like she was chewing lemons when she said the word. It was somewhat cute, though he wasn't sure why. Inappropriate, huh? "But I also know... He's told me. He never thought of you as his father.

"He remembers his father."

Bruce inhaled deeply, and leaned back. Dick would throw that out to him all the time. I know my father! That was never really the point, but at the same time, it always was. Strange. He saw things... differently now. Differently? Was there... a different way to see this? No, of course not. Inappropriate was barely the tip of the iceberg.

"And I never saw him as my son. But maybe I should have. I love your father." That was physically painful to admit, out loud. To Dick's daughter. He looked away, ashamed. "I loved him too much, in some respects. I also lusted for him. At that time... At Jason's funeral... I'd like to say that I wasn't in my right mind. But it doesn't change anything," he spat out, bitter. Desperately bitter. Maybe Angel would think of Bruce as her 'other' dad if he'd...

No, that wasn't right. But he still believed it. He would have been the one, if only he hadn't...

Her voice shook him, as if he'd forgotten that she was there, and could speak. "It... was not consensual, then?" she asked. Her voice sounded remarkably strong. Maybe she'd been expecting that. You raped my father! She would hate him, just like Tim did. Because Tim knew. Dick... told Tim about it. Bruce was fairly sure that everyone else was just guessing, but Tim knew.

Tim knew... Dick's side of things.

"It's hard for... sex to be consensual when... when one party never asks. I never asked. I... hurt him. I started out... just wanting to hurt him. I was hurting, and he was, and he... he was still in love with Joseph..." He wanted to stop talking. He didn't need to speak anymore. She knew now. She knew enough. "I was angry, at myself. And I was angry at him, for no good reason. I wanted him to feel pain. And then I just wanted him. I... I threw him against a mirror. I... I don't remember all the terrible things I did, but I know... it took him a long time to. To recover."

There was silence, and it was damning. If he was worth anything at all, he would look her in the eye, and accept her judgment. If he was worth anything. But, he just wasn't able to at the moment. If the silence stretched much longer, he'd be able to slip into a nice, deep brood. He was good at that, and not much else.

Her hand came over and covered his, and the shock of contact jolted him.

"Well. I know why Tim hates you," she said, her voice shaky. "Thank you. And... again, I'm... I'm sorry. But. Bruce. I also know that my dad still loves you. And you and he were the only ones involved that night, so." She leaned over and kissed his temple. He looked at her, too shocked to speak.

She wasn't pretending to smile at him, and there were tears in her eyes, but she wasn't crying, and she wasn't judging.

"C'mon. I think there are cookies upstairs. You were always really good at finding Alfred's cookies for me. Right?" Now, she was smiling, or trying to, but it wasn't like she was forcing it. It was just... complicated.

It wasn't like he forgot, but he remembered little 'expeditions' to the kitchen, when Bruce 'found' cookies for Angel. Any time she came over, there would always be cookies, and Bruce would lift her up so she could discover them on the top shelf, or on top of the fridge. Something that was between them, and they shared... Alfred prepared for it, of course. He baked and he stashed the cookies. Just so Bruce could help her find them. So Bruce could... have something to do for her. Alfred didn't do as much baking these days, though. Unless... did he knew that Angel was coming?

If he did...

"Well. Well. Yes. Let's see... I don't think I've lost my touch..." he said softly, and then he got up. He felt old. He could feel it in his joints, and bones. He could sometimes feel it in the way his thoughts worked, or didn't, or in how he saw things or heard things differently. Mostly, it was in the way everyone around him had grown up.

He put his arm around her shoulders, and squeezed her close. She was tall, taller than her mother, he thought. She looked a lot like her father, though Dick always said that she looked like his mother. They were both still in costume, too. She wore a costume those days. He still had mixed feelings about that.

He led her upstairs, finding himself hoping that there would be cookies.

Her father sometimes wore these little half-moon glasses when he was reading. She thought they were pretty adorable, and totally hilarious. She was positive that he didn't need them. She wasn't even sure that he was looking through them. It was some sort of affectation he picked up when he started to study the law. Maybe he thought it made him look 'smarter.' She'd always thought he was pretty smart, though.

For instance...

"Is there a reason why you are lurking in my doorway?" he asked, his eyes still flicking between his tablet and the law tomes he had spread out and open.

"Practicing," she replied cheerfully.

"Well, I'll give you an A+. Now, stop it. In or out, as they say," he smirked, looking up at her long enough to wink.

She pushed off the doorframe and ambled inside, since she had to make a choice.

"Tim said you headed north at the end of patrol last night," he asked lightly, but it was a leading question. He wanted to know if something was going on that he needed to know about, without outright asking if she was holding back on him. He was good at that, being intrusive and polite at the same time. It was charm or something, her mom said.

"Yeah, far north. I went up to see Bruce last night," she said breezily, seating herself opposite her father. She put her cheek in her hand and waited for him to look at her.

He did, but then he started to flick through the pages of one of his books. "Oh? How is he?"

"He's fine. You know. He's Bruce, so." That was a bit of a joke, and he didn't take it to mean anything else. After a moment, she took a deep breath, and plunged onward. "Was it... was it hard to forgive him?" she asked, keeping her tone light, but. It was a difficult thing to ask.

"Forgive him for--" he started, but he looked up at her, and he looked into her eyes. And then his face fell, and all the color drained away. He leaned back in his chair, his arms limp at his sides.

Her heart was hammering away, and she nearly jumped up and took it back, but it wasn't like she really could take it back at this point anyway.

"Why are you asking?" It wasn't a casual question. So. He needed a real answer.

She looked down at her hands, rubbing her thumbnail. "Ah. Well. I... I suppose because I want to know." She flinched a bit, though. Was that a bad answer? Would he get mad at her? She couldn't really remember him ever being mad at her, even when everyone else in the world was, but... First time for everything, after all.

He didn't say anything for a minute, though, and then he just exhaled, and stretched out, putting his hands behind his head. "I was never angry with him... so I guess that's why it was easy to forgive. It's just that. It's impossible to forget." He sounded a bit haunted just then, so Angel couldn't help it. She surged up and slipped around the desk at double time, going to put her arms around him. She was about to apologize, but he cut her off with a laugh, wrapping one arm around her tightly enough to remind her how strong he was.

How strong he used to be.

"Hey, hey. It's not like that. It's..." he was searching for a word, and she didn't want to leave him thinking about it for too long, so she tried to help out.

"Complicated?" she grinned, rueful.

He laughed again, and tugged on her hair. "Yeah... that's kind of an easy word to use, isn't it? It pretty much covers everything about Bruce, in so many ways."

She'd always known that her father loved Bruce. "If... if that night hadn't happened... would you... you know, you and Bruce...?" She wasn't quite sure why she was even asking. Tim was her father, too, after all. She... she just couldn't imagine her dad without Tim.

He shook his head immediately, though, and he cupped her cheek in his hand, caressing her skin with his thumb. "No. No... what I learned... that night... was that we could be good for each other, or we could be very, very bad for each other. It took a long time, after that, to get back to the good for each other groove, but. If it hadn't been that night, it would have been something else. It just... doesn't work like that between us." He smiled at her, and then he tweaked her nose. "Why are you asking about this stuff, anyway? Did someone... did someone say something to you, or...?" He looked a tiny bit afraid.

She had some of that Grayson charm, too. She grinned and shrugged her shoulder. "No, nothing like that. I've always known, well, something. When I was little... I noticed how. Well. Bruce would be... affectionate, in Bruce-terms, with you, but always a bit stiff with Tim. And if I was staying at the Manor for whatever reason, and you picked me up, that meant that we'd all sit down at the table and have cocoa and you and he would talk for ages, and I could stay and play longer," she winked at him. "But if Tim was picking me up, he wouldn't even come into the house, he'd just wait at the door. So, I always knew there was something," she half-shrugged again.

"I didn't know that," he murmured softly, shaking his head. At least he wryly grinning. "Adults never understand how much kids are picking up on, huh?"

"Kinda scary, isn't it?" she teased him, poking him.

He laughed, "Terrifying! It's a wonder you grew up to be such a well-balanced young woman. Well, then again, maybe that just explains a lot..." he teased right back, shaking her head playfully. She pushed his arms away gently, but she didn't really want him to stop. "So, are you staying for dinner, you hooligan? And what time is it, anyway?"

"Of course I demand to be fed," she replied haughtily. "And it's time to put your homework away. Tim will be home soon, so you have to cook for him. If you don't order something soon, Tim will beat the delivery boy," she stood up, and grabbed his arm, dragging him up, too. As soon as he was on his feet, she put his cane under his hand.

He gave her his look, and then he tossed his glasses away. "Just for that, chikni, I'm going to make you help me actually cook something. And it better be good enough for Tim!"

She laughed, feeling the last little bit of pressure she hadn't realized she'd been under evaporating. "Good enough for Tim... that's one of those 'adult' things that I'm supposed to pretend I don't understand, right?"

He groaned, and thwacked her with his cane. She skipped ahead of his reach, but not far beyond.

She didn't need to get to the kitchen that far ahead of him.