SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Ah don't own these characters. DC Comics does. This is a fanfic for entertainment purposes only and NOT intended to infringe on copyrights held by DC Comics or any other! So don't sue moi!

Rated G for pure as the driven snow! Some kind of intense stuff heah but nothing snarky. Ah promise!:):) The water is safe ... c'mon in!

NOTE: The core of this little ficlet, Jean-Paul's addiction to Venom, really did happen in canon. Not quite this messy... but it happened. This started out an a response to Dark Lady's Babs Fic Challenge, but it's much too long for that now:):) Anywho .... here it is!:):)

Merrily,Merrily,Merrily,Life Is But A Dream

A Tale of Romance by Dannell Lites

I guess it all started with Bane.

Christ, it seems as though everything in my life lately can be traced back to some super powered megalomaniac or another. Sad, huh?

When Bruce's image filled my screen I had no idea what I was in for. None. He looked out at me and said softly, "Barbara, I need your help."

Imagine that.

Stunned, I sat back, staring at him. Bruce never asks for help. Never. Especially when he really needs it. And my help? He hasn't needed that for a long, long time. Information, yes. Help? No.

So you can see that I walked into the thing blind. It wasn't until I saw Alfred holding his head, keeping back that mass of golden blond hair while Jean-Paul vomited into a little pink plastic pan that I began to understand.

Bruce said just one word and I understood.

"Venom."

I paled. Bane's latest little trick. The new and improved Venom. Probably one of the most addictive drugs on the face of the earth.

And I was looking at an addict.

"He brought Bane in, just as he said he would," Bruce told me in a brittle voice. "He's back in Blackgate. But he left us a little surprise. I found him about an hour ago, collapsed on the Batcave floor." I didn't let myself think about what this must be like for Bruce. He went through this Hell himself. To see it happen to someone else .. Dear God.

"We'll have to watch him constantly."

I could only nod.

So, for the next three days I watched it all; the fever, the delirium, the suffering and the pain. I watched it until I almost went out of my mind. I watched it until I just couldn't stand it any more. Bruce caught me standing over my "Bright-Eyes" with the needle in my hand.

"That's not the answer, Barbara," he murmured holding my wrist. "You know that."

I burst into tears and the needle slipped from my nerveless fingers, shattering on the stone floor. The acrid, coppery scent of Venom filled the damp air. I buried my face on that broad chest and wept. His arms went around me and he stroked my hair with scarred hands.

"This is my fault," he rasped. "I should have realized what this was doing to you. But I - I looked away because... " Beneath my fingers I could feel and hear his heart stutter. Gritting his teeth, his embrace tightened. "Because I didn't want to see this," he admitted in a distant voice. "Because I wasn't sure I was strong enough to do this again. Even by proxy. Can you forgive me?"

After that, he rarely left me alone with Jean-Paul. He was always there holding my hand. He never said anything, but he was there. I think the pleading was the worst. The begging in broken French for someone, for me, to stop the pain. The anger I could deal with; the screaming and the threats. We had to restrain him. Twice he broke the thick leather and Bruce finally had to use metal restraints and worry about the bones in his wrists and ankles later. Throughout it all I clung to Bruce's steady hand.

By the time it was over we were all exhausted; Bruce, Alfred, Leslie, and I. Leslie isn't as young as she used to be. But I had to smile at the tongue lashing she gave the red faced Batman when he tried to send her home to sleep.

Leslie recommended hydrotherapy for our Angel.

"He's got at least two dozen pulled major muscles from the spasms," she rubbed her tired eyes. "I didn't bother to count the non-major ones."

Bruce picked him up like a child and carried him to the hydrotherapy tub. Jean-Paul clung tightly to his neck and lay his head on Bruce's shoulder like an exhausted tittle boy. I could read it in his blue eyes. He was so humiliated; and not just because he was naked under that warm blanket Bruce wrapped him in, either. But he was too weak to protest.

"One of us is going to have to get in there with him." I pointed out with what I could only hope was practical logic. "Otherwise, he might drown." Trust me,. I've had a lot of hydrotherapy in my time.

"Are you volunteering?"

I bit my lip. "Ahhh ... " I stammered.

I swear he smiled. "Both of us, then," he replied just as logically, with just as much practicality. "Besides, I think we could both use the relaxation, don't you.?"

I blew a strand of scarlet hair off my moist forehead with a gusty breath and nodded.

"There's a suit in one of the lower lockers in the Changing Room," he told me." You left it here ... a long time ago." He looked me up and down, appraisingly. "It should still fit.". I blushed.

That was odd. Convenient, but definitely odd. Why would he keep something like that around after all this time, I wondered? Sentiment? Not much like Bruce. As I slipped into the still perfectly fitting swim wear, I realized with a start just how wrong I was about that. Bruce is a very sentimental man. Jason's costume in a glass case ... scrapbooks filled with pictures of a smiling, impossibly young Dick Grayson ... even that huge oil portrait of his parents that still hangs so imposingly over the fireplace in the Main Sitting Room upstairs ...

... and a silly, cheap black polyester bathing suit festooned with bright yellow bat-symbols bought on a lark to annoy him ...

He watched me without expression as I wheeled myself over to the tub. Wordlessly, he swung the overhead trapeze in my direction, waiting for me to lower myself into the heated, bubbling water. I was more grateful for that than I can tell you. He was going to let me do it myself. One of the hardest things about this damned chair is getting well meaning people to allow me to manage for myself. Bruce understands that. Looking at him now, it's easy to forget that for almost half a year, six endless interminable months, he was confined in a chair just like this one.

I had to smile. Well, okay. Not exactly like this one. Not once Bruce and some WayneTech technos were done with it. Trust Bruce to turn something as innocuous and even pathetic as a wheelchair into a lethal weapon. Not to mention the man in the chair.

It was only then that I remembered just how influenced I'd been by Bruce's refusal to be defeated by his handicap. His iron determination that he was still a person ... still The Batman, that he was more than that damned chair he was trapped in.

That's what comes of thinking too much. I should have been paying attention to what I was doing. I wasn't. So, when my wet hand slipped on the slippery metal of the trapeze I was taken completely by surprise. Surging out of the water, Bruce caught me before I could immolate myself on the cold stone beneath us. Lord, did that bring back memories.

Bruce taught me to fly over the rooftops of Gotham. To soar and spread my wings. But before I was allowed to fly solo there were many, many hours spent clinging to him like a second skin, my arms flung around his neck, my legs entwined tightly around his hips with the wind rushing through my hair as we flew. Safe and so secure in those strong arms.

"Trust me, Barbara, I won't let you fall." he'd say.

And he never did.

Want to know a secret?

I still blush at some of the lurid dreams I had in those days. I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that Bruce was my first big major crush. I thought he was the most magnificent, the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. Of course, I was smitten. Who wouldn't be?

I think he knew. He was always very careful to treat me like the impressionable teen aged girl I was without ever once being patronizing.

I was beginning to realize that I'd never forgotten those feelings, those dreams .... just misplaced them.

Held in his arms like a feather, I was dizzy for a moment with his nearness. My God, he's strong. And, suddenly, I felt safe again for the first time in a really long time. Safe and protected from the world and all its hurts.

<"I won't let you fall,"> a deep voice whispered in my ear and I smiled.

Slowly, oh so carefully as if I were something precious he might lose, Bruce lowered me into the water and sank back down himself. He put an arm around Jean-Paul to support him and I did the same. With a small thrill of electricity our fingers touched. Between us Jean-Paul stirred sleepily and lay his golden head on Bruce's tanned shoulder. It seemed to feel natural there for him.

"Sing me a song?" he murmured. "Please?"

Bruce looked at me frantically for rescue. "I'm not sure I know many songs," he said.

My heart squeezed. I know too much about Jean-Paul Valley, that's the problem. I made it a point to find out as much about him as I could. In his slumberous voice I could hear the echoes of the lonely, abused little boy who never had anyone to tell him a bedtime story or sing him to sleep when he was sick or sad. Suddenly, I thought of a song and began to sing.

"Row, row, row your boat.
Gently down the stream;
Merrily, merrily, merrily...
Life is but a dream."

Butterflies blossomed in my stomach when I heard a deep baritone voice join me.

"Merrily, merrily, merrily ..Life is but a dream."

My Bright-Eyed Angel smiled and was soon fast asleep; lost, I hoped, in pleasant dreams of peaceful meandering streams and blue, blue skies.

Being very careful not to wake JP, Bruce carried him to the bed, dried him off, and tucked him in. It'd been a long time since Bruce had done that for Dick, I thought with a smile. But he hadn't forgotten how, it seems. Some things you never forget, I guess.

When he rejoined me in the tub, I caught a glimpse of his eyes just before he sank gratefully back down into the steaming water. He was tired. Pale beneath his tan and very tired. This had been a lot less easy for him than he'd wanted me to know.

"Pillow your head on your arms," I instructed, "rest them on the side of the tub, and try to relax."

Surprisingly, he obeyed me. When I lay my hands on those tight shoulders he almost flinched. He wanted to, I think. I stroked his tense neck and ran my fingers down his spine, unknotting muscles as I went. I have a lot of upper body strength. I work out every day to make sure of it. So, it wasn't as hard for me as it might have been for an ordinary woman to knead those iron muscles into relaxation. And I've certainly had enough physical therapy to know what I'm doing, that's for sure. But I'm here to tell you ...it was like trying to crush rocks with my bare hands his back and shoulders were so knotted.

The many small soft sighs and moans of pleasure he made were reward enough. By the time I worked my way down to his feet he was purring like a cream fed cat and limp as a strand of spaghetti.

"You have ...talented ... hands," he murmured, barely able to speak.

I looked him over in silence. If the evidence of my eyes was any clue then I had just discovered something very interesting about Bruce. His hands and feet are major erogenous zones for him, I think. That speedo was beginning to look quite uncomfortable.

So I took it off of him.

All right. I'll admit it. I took ruthless advantage of him. He was tired and all his defenses were down. And then, suddenly, he was floating on a wave of physical pleasure and euphoria. I never gave him the chance to protest. I swept him over the edge and his body took over before he knew what was happening. It was glorious.

He's asleep now.

And I'm very, very frightened. How will he feel about this when he wakes? What will he do?

Dear God, what have I done?

What have I done?

The End