Oh, yeah. All I had to do was look in a mirror any time I was within a hundred feet of Barbara Gordon and I recognized that look, all right. Oh, yeah.
Slowly, I rose and followed Garth. At first I wasn't sure what I intended to do. But by the time I was back in the main dining room of Aunt Danny Fanny's I'd pretty much made up my mind, I think. Dick's presence caught me by surprise, though. But there he was sitting on one of Aunt Danny's counter stools just like old times.
In more ways than one.
"So, Garth Sugah," said Aunt Danny Fanny, "Ah hear ya'll like ... Dick ... " Solemnly, the Atlantean mage smiled with sunny innocence.
"Oh yes," he replied. "He's quite a stimulating companion."
My eyes narrowed in suspicion. Could it be ... ? Was Garth The Ever Clueless, perhaps *not* so clueless, after all ... ?
The unfortunately named Dick Grayson choked, gargled and nearly spewed Diet Sugar Bubble Cola over all and sundry.
Aunt Danny thumped Dick soundly on the back as he coughed.
"Easy there, Dick, sweetie," he smiled. "It's not as ... tasty ... as somethings, Ah'll grant. But it's not that bad is it?"
Red faced, Dick lowered his head to the counter, buried it in his arms from the sight of mortal man and whimpered.
***************************************************************** Sitting in my car now, watching the entrance to Dick's warehouse loft, I smiled. Five years is a long time. Lotta things can change in five years. Even me. Here we were. It was a new year. Hell, it was a whole new Millennium. I shook my head at the memories. Hard to believe I was ever that dumb; ever that blind. Hey! I've got an excuse. I was only sixteen, right? And I got better, right?
Don't answer that.
In the elevator on the way up, I glanced at my watch. Timed it just right, I thought smugly. Just in time for the Pre-Game show. The first Super Bowl of the twenty-first century. And for the first time in over a decade, the Gotham Knights were playing in the Bowl. 'Course, they were gonna get their pansy asses creamed by the Metropolis Giants ... I grinned, unabashedly. And I was soon gonna have twenty bucks of Dick's money to prove it.
Clutching my packages, I threw open the elevator cage and tossed the six-pack of Bud to Garth, who stowed it in the fridge with a smile. The beer was for me. I still hadn't managed to corrupt Dick or Garth into polluting their precious bodily fluids with the demon brew of alcohol, but I kept trying.
"Pretzels?" I inquired, briskly.
Dick popped open a large economy sized bag of Rold Gold Unsalted (the man has *no* vices!), dumped them blithely into a large clear plastic bowl, and rattled them in answer.
"Check!" he intoned, solemn-voiced.
"Popcorn?" I demanded.
At the stove, Garth shook the large iron pan experimentally, then lifted the lid, releasing the wonderful aroma of popping corn and hot butter to waft through the air. Not to mention a few stray kernels of popcorn making good their explosive escape from doomed captivity. Quickly, Garth replaced the lid.
"Momentarily," he assured us. Dick frowned.
"Ah - check!" Garth amended with tolerance. Dick beamed at his lover.
I lobbed Dick a large, flat package wrapped in grease-stained brown butcher paper, grinning from ear to ear.
"Ribs, drowning in Atomic Sauce!" I informed him. "With fries!" Dick smacked his lips in anticipation as if he could already taste the cumin.
Clutching my last package tightly to my chest like a football, I faked to the left, made an end run around Dick's right, and sent the package sailing over Dick's head into Garth's eager, waiting hands.
"Vegetarian Atomic Chili!" I cried. "With deep-fried jolly penis peppers!"
"Thank you!" Garth smiled, heading for the microwave to the musical accompaniment of the merry plink! plink! plink! of popping popcorn. Dick lowered his head in sadness and humiliation.
"Where did I go wrong?" he moaned. "You love them and try to train them and - " he choked.
"Check! Check!" laughed Garth.
I stiff-armed myself over the back of the sofa, bounced, then settled my nearly 5'11" frame into the comfortable cushions as if I owned the place. I'm taller than either of them now. Tim, too. Still not as tall as Bruce ... but then, Jeezus ... is anybody? I glanced at my watch again. Speaking of Tim ... our baby Robin Bird was gonna be late if he didn't shag ass.
Bruce wouldn't be here. "Crime never takes a Holiday," he said quietly when he politely declined Dick's invite.
"Yeah," replied Dick, shaking his head sadly, "and I guess neither do you ... " Bruce said nothing.
Yeah. That's Bruce all right. Me too, sometimes. It's Dick that keeps me from being totally lost.
"Fabulous sixty-inch surround sound HDTV?" I wanted to know.
"Check!" called Dick, tossing me the remote. Damn. Now that's real love. When a guy gives up the remote for you. "You owe me, Jays. You know how much that thing *cost*?" Dick said, casting me the Romany evil eye. I waved my hands in carefree dismissal.
"Take it outta the money you're gonna owe me when my Metropolis powerdudes stomp your Gotham pussies," I told him. Dick snorted hot derision.
"In your ear!" he shot back, smiling. "Traitor!"
"Hey!" I exclaimed loudly in my own defense, "I'm entitled! I live in the Crotch of Gotham ... I *know* what I'm talking about, here!"
I gusted a contented sigh, watching Garth pop popcorn, while I argued with Dick and crossed my hands behind my head, likewise smiling.
There's no place like home.