Sleepily Dick reached out for his companion in the darkness of the night. He lifted his head when his hands fell on empty air and looked blearily about.


For a moment the silence was his only answer. In the dimness his sharp eyes brought him the shape of a tall shadow sitting utterly still and quiet in a neglected corner of the tiny guard post. He tensed. Somehow, the posture ... the presense of the figure ...

No ... not Jean-Paul Valley. He knew that.

"Non, Jean-Paul is ... gone ... " said a deeper, harsher voice than the one he'd hoped for.

"Azrael," Dick sighed, mouth gone suddenly dry. He tried very hard to keep his lips from setting themselves into a thin, white line of distant disapproval.

And ... loss?

He found that he did not entirely succeed.

"It's almost time for us to go," the Angel of Vengeance said, impatience staining the rich timbres of his voice. "The morning guards will be arriving soon." His mask covered the whole of his face, so Dick could catch no glimpse of the shy young man, Jean-Paul Valley. He sighed in resignation when he noticed the small pair of gold wire framed glasses sitting casually, discarded on a table.

"Give me a minute," Dick said and rose to dress.

"What's the problem here, Grayson?" he quizzed himself without mercy for his weakness of the night before. "You knew the Angel was bound to show up sooner or later. Jean-Paul Valley is Azrael. And you seduced him. Deal with it. You were lonely and afraid for Bru- just afraid, okay? So you did something really stupid and now you regret it. It wouldn't be the first time. Ask The Huntress about that. And it probably won't be the last, either."

He refused to let himself look at Azrael, watching silent in his corner, as he pulled on the protection of his costume. What the other man though or felt, if anything, of the night before was, of course, impossible to tell. And perhaps that was best, after all.

Still ... it would be comforting to know that it meant something ...

"If it does, you'll never know it, pal," he told himself and reached for his boots.

He found the note neatly folded in his left boot pocket, tucked safely away from harm and all notice until he was ready to read it. He recognized the precise, controlled handwriting immediately It's careful letters and small concise dotted i's and crossed t's made it plain to any stranger that there was more to the simple young man Jean-Paul Valley than met the eye. Reading the note, he smiled.

Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

And, as his strength

Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains

Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied-
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

There was no signature nor was any needed. With another smile, Nightwing folded the note carefully and tucked it back inside his left boot pocket, once more safe from all harm.

The End