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Shattered Illusions

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Shattered Illusions
by Anne Higgins

The phone rang. That's how it started. The phone. Answering the jangling annoyance came under the umbrella of the many things Alfred Pennyworth did for him, so although Bruce Wayne's subconscious heard it, he rolled over and tried to stay asleep.

Having a great deal of experience in such matters, he was doing an admirable job when the door of his bedroom burst open. "Sir!" Alfred shouted.

The alarm in that single word had Bruce awake and on his feet in two heart beats. He wouldn't have been at all surprised to find the Joker storming into the room on the butler's heels.

Instead Alfred stood there in the doorway, gripping the knob so hard that his knuckles looked as white as his face.


"Commissioner Gordon is on the phone," the older man said, his cultured voice tight and hoarse. "There has been a shooting at the university."

For one of the few times in his life, Bruce froze in horror. Gotham State University. A shooting. Dick. But they didn't call with that sort of news. A spark of hope gave him the will to move, and he lunged to the phone. "Jim?"

"Bruce," Commissioner James Gordon's voice responded. The analytical part of his mind that could never shut down noted the hollow signal indicating a car phone. "Word I have is that Dick was injured, but not seriously."

"What's happened?"

"What seems to be happening everywhere. A psychopath with an automatic weapon walked into the main lecture hall of the university and opened fire. I'm on my way there now. Montoya was one of the first officers on the scene. She recognized Dick and called me. Said he was conscious and coherent when they loaded him into the ambulance."

"University Hospital?"


"I'm on my way."

"Be careful, Bruce. Dick won't thank you if you get yourself killed driving to the hospital. And I'm sorry I had to do this over the phone. But these days, people call the press before the police."

"I understand."

The trip to the hospital was a blur. Alfred had insisted on coming, guiding Bruce into the back of the Rolls. Taking care of him as usual. Even when the old man was upset himself. Bruce didn't even offer a token protest, his manner almost docile as he settled himself in the plush interior. It was that or be violently ill.

His head was spinning. Stomach churning. Sweating. Heart pounding. In short, he was terrified. While it might surprise many, it wasn't a foreign emotion to him. Not as Bruce Wayne or the Batman. Normally it involved danger to the young man who had a place in both lives. But except for the day Bruce's parents had died, it had never been this sharp.

It some ways he felt a complete fool. From what Gordon had told him, Dick would be fine. There had been times the young man had seemed so close to death that Bruce had envisioned himself at Dick's grave. But it had always been Robin who had been injured, Robin whom Leslie Tompkins had worked feverishly to save in the harsh light of the Batcave's infirmary.

It wasn't that he thought of Batman and Robin as different people from Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. But that he'd always thought of their civilian lives as a safe harbor. It was the Bat and his companion who faced danger. Not Bruce and his ward.

He'd never deluded himself. Batman was as much a part of keeping the boogeyman out from underneath his own bed as he was a protector of the innocent. Death and violence had touched Bruce Wayne once. He'd become the Batman to prevent it from ever touching him again. A bargain he'd made with fate during the nightmare plagued days of youth. He would embrace danger, champion those who could not fight back and never again would death enter his life.

A childhood fantasy that had no place in the cold light of an adult's reality. Yet a remnant of it had clung to him, leaving him shaken to see it defied.

When the Rolls pulled up in front of the emergency room entrance, he could no more have stopped himself from leaping out and running inside than he could have stopped his heart from beating.

A momentary lapse. He would have recovered his legendary calm five steps through the door if Dick hadn't been sitting in the chairs that lined the walls only a few feet beyond the door.

Dick looked pale. His right trouser leg had been slit, and Bruce could see a thick bandage spanning his thigh. A matching piece of tape and gauze graced his bared right shoulder while alarming amounts of blood stained the ruins of his clothing.

"Dick." His voice sounded hoarse and faint to his own ears, but the young man looked up.

He didn't know how he got across the room, but one moment he was standing in the doorway, the next he was beside Dick's chair, gathering him into his arms.

For several seconds they held each other, both trembling with relief.

"It happened so fast," Dick finally whispered. "I was in the middle of the row. ... I couldn't do anything but shield the two people next to me."

Guilt. It dripped from every word. He could almost see how it had happened. A bunch of bored students taking notes one moment, then the next, Armageddon. Dick's reflexes would have saved him from injury, but he'd lost seconds pushing those around him down to the dubious safety of the floor. "Don't. Robin wasn't there."

No armored Robin suit, no utility belt full of weapons, no flashy entrance to give him maneuvering room against a foe with an automatic weapon. Robin could have saved everyone. Dick was very lucky to be alive.

"I didn't even save both of them. Bullet that creased my arm got Julie in the head."

He guided Dick's wonderfully intact head to his shoulder, then rubbed his ward's back with a soothing motion. It must be this Julie's blood staining his clothes. "You did the best you could." Not for one moment did he doubt that. He wondered if even he could have done better. A man expecting trouble sat on the aisle seat and always had something up his sleeve, and Bruce always expected trouble. But Dick had walked into a classroom, not a society bash with enough wealth to tempt a host of violent criminals. No, he couldn't second guess him in this. "You did all anyone could do. More."

Dick was quiet for a long time, then he said, "Next time I'm sitting on the aisle."

The line between Dick and Robin blurred. All Bruce could do was hold him. And mourn.


Dick woke up the next morning with his heart pounding and images of bodies falling around him lingering in his mind. In his dreams he'd seen a thousand ways to stop it, but as he thought through each of them he found the result would have been only to add his name to the list of the dead.

He enjoyed life enough that he was glad it hadn't come to that even as he grieved for those he'd been unable to save. Five dead, twelve injured. That had been the count when Al had cajoled a pain pill down Dick's throat and tucked him into bed.

Well aware of the folly of moving without care while injured, he sat up slowly. A mild twinge in his shoulder ? nothing more than a crease, the bullet had sought a different target. He shuddered, seeing Julie's head all but explode again. If he'd only been faster. If only he hadn't been so damned bored that he was half asleep when that maniac had burst into the room. If only, if only, if only.

If nothing else, his life should have taught him the worthlessness of 'if onlys.' He'd done his best given the circumstances. Next time he'd do better. In the meantime he'd have a few nightmares. It wasn't quite that easy to banish the guilt, but it was a beginning.

He got out of bed, wincing as he put his weight on the leg. That bullet had bit deeper although it too had been more of a crease than a serious wound. Two or three days and both injuries would be a memory. Which didn't mean they didn't hurt like a son of a bitch now.

But he needed to be clean more than he wanted to stay still. The hospital had washed off the worst of the gore and Al had finished the job, but he wanted a long hot shower and to hell with his bandages.

It hurt, but the hot water also soothed the aches. Did a good enough job that he found himself wishing Bruce had given him the sponge bath instead of Al. But not good enough for him to appreciate the fantasy. Seeing no point in lingering further, he turned off the water, dried himself with care, then pulled on a robe.

Al was waiting for him when he emerged. "Have you quite finished undoing all your doctor's hard work, young sir?"

He ducked his head slightly at the reprimand. No one could make a grown man feel like a kid again like Al. "I needed to wash off yesterday," he muttered.

"Hmm, well, sit down and let's get you bandaged up again."

Dick obeyed and decided Al not only had a better touch for dealing with painful wounds than the hospital personnel, he did a better job of wrapping them up, too. "Where's Bruce?" he asked once the butler had finished his task.

Al sighed. "I'm afraid Master Wayne has not yet returned from a night of wreaking havoc on the criminal element."

What? It was nine and the sun well up. Batman was a creature of the night, not the day. Something must be wrong. He was on his feet and headed for the cave ? the pain in his leg pushed so throughly to the back of his mind that he did not even limp ? when Al's hand closed on his upper arm.

More Robin than Dick Grayson, he fought fixing Al with a glare worthy of anyone who would stop him from going to his partner's rescue.

"Calm yourself, Master Dick. He is on his way back to the cave even as we speak."

"You're certain?"

Al nodded. "I spoke to him on the radio just before I came upstairs to see to you."

"Why was he out so late?"

That got him a 'do I really need to tell you?' look. "You gave him quite a scare."

And pounding villains was how Bruce dealt with fear. Dick tried, but was only partially successful, not to feel too pleased that he'd inspired the ultimate emotional reaction from the man. Then he sighed. Sometimes he worried about their relationship. It seemed the only time either was ever comfortable with showing the other how much he cared was when blood was involved.

It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the fact that Bruce had held him in the hospital, but it would have been nice had he received the same hug on a more peaceful occasion. Then again, the less Bruce knew about thoughts like that, the better.

"If you'll return to your room, young sir, I'll bring you a breakfast tray."

Dick shook his head. "I'm up, might as well go downstairs and eat like a civilized human being."

His adrenaline and Robin-mind-set got him down the main staircase before his leg protested. Thankful that the sofas were comfortable enough not to force him to go back upstairs any time soon, he limped into the kitchen and sat down at the small table.

The morning paper sat on top of it. At least according to the headline, the death toll hadn't gone up during the night. He started reading but found little that he hadn't known before he'd gone to sleep. The gunman had been a disgruntled student who'd flunked the class which had meet last semester at the same time and place as Dick's class. After taking his revenge for the ills visited upon him, he'd taken his own life. Case closed. Except for the death and emotional scars he'd left behind.

Morbidly curious he unfolded the paper and got a look at the full front page. A good portion of the lower half was taken up by a photo. A photographer neither of them had seen had captured the moment Bruce had begun to pull Dick into his arms. 'Oh, my God,' he whispered as he stared at the look on his own face.

It was there. Displayed on the front page of a paper read all around the world. Love. No, it wasn't fair. He hadn't know for long enough. Hadn't had a chance to decide what to do.

He'd loved Bruce almost from the beginning, but he'd not understood the true nature of it until a few months ago. He dropped his head into his hands and groaned.

A few months ago. It had all been so clear then. Bruce had insisted he go to college although the man had taught him more about criminology than any university could hope to. But the children of the rich and successful went to college, and he was considered Bruce's ipso facto son and heir. That meant he would run Wayne Enterprises some day. Not that Bruce did much of that now. Lucias Fox tended to handle the business, but this detail didn't get Dick out of a business major at Gotham State and strict orders that studies came before Robin.

Furious, but knowing Bruce would never agree to any future which didn't include a damned diploma, he'd declared his independence by moving out of Wayne Manor and into a dorm room when neither one of them had wanted him to leave. Oh, yeah, he'd showed Bruce he was a man all right.

Next had come the relationship with Barbara Gordon. he'd been on the verge of asking her to marry him when she'd been kidnaped by Mister Freeze. A few months ago.

Batman and Robin had rescued her from an abandoned oil rig which had burned, then exploded around them. Batman had sent him to the Batwing to provide the way off while he'd gone after Freeze.

Robin had hovered the plane above the flames, watching, Barbara safe in the seat behind him, and it had all been so clear. He would have mourned Barbara's death, but losing Bruce would have destroyed him. Not the love of a friend or a brother then, but the love of one man for another. The love of his life.

The breakup with Barbara had been painful, but they'd managed to stay friendly enough that they didn't avoid each other on campus or pull her father and Bruce into the mess. Wouldn't that have been the icing on the miserable cake ? destroying one of Bruce's oldest friendships because Dick had been a blind fool who hadn't understood his own heart.

So he'd done the right thing. It was the 'what next?' part plaguing him. Classic dilemma ? risk what he had for something more. For a person who survived by making fast decisions and following his instincts, he was being positively wishy washy about this. One day he'd be certain Bruce's long string of inappropriate women friends and failed relationships was proof they were destined for one another; the next, he was convinced even hinting at it would ruin their partnership. He'd figured that if he could hold an opinion for two consecutive days, he'd act on it.

Except a front page photo had exposed his secret before he'd had those two days. Then again. ... Hope flickered. Maybe he was seeing something no one else would because he knew how he felt.

Al sat a plate of hot cakes in front of him, then touched his shoulder. Dick looked up at him and the grey head nodded toward the paper. "An appalling breach of privacy."

"Yeah." *What do you see, Al?*

"But you and Master Wayne are public figures. I suppose circumspection was too much to hope for."

How did he ask what he needed to know without giving away his secret if Al didn't suspect? "Strange that they used this one though. You can't really see Bruce's face." Only his own. His face as he had been drawn into the safe haven of Bruce's arms. His face as it had fairly glowed with love and need.

Al gave him a gentle smile. "Love is never something to be ashamed of, Master Dick."

"Oh, God," he whispered, closing his eyes against the chill flooding through him.

The hand on his shoulder tightened. "You must not worry yourself, young sir. It will be all right."

Dick heard him, but didn't believe him. Odds were Bruce would take one look at the God damned paper and know his pathetic excuse of a ward had gone and fallen in love with him. Fallen in love with a man who defined the word macho. His stomach churned at what might happen next.

A pinging made him jump. It sounded like a digital timer going off in the kitchen, but that particular tone was a way of letting Al know the batmobile had entered the cave. He looked at the older man with wide-eyes.

"It will be all right," Al repeated with another squeeze. "I'm certain of it."

Somehow he managed a nod -- the closest he'd ever come to lying to the man.

Al gathered the paper while Dick fought the impulse to snatch it away, then destroy it. Bruce always wanted to see the morning paper first thing after he returned. Depriving him of it would only annoy him, while forcing Al to come up with a new copy.

With one last reassuring pat and a smile, Al turned, then left the kitchen.

It took five minutes to go from the kitchen to the silver closet, then down to the cave. Another 10 for Bruce to clean up and reach for the paper. That gave Dick 15 minutes to decide what to do.

Run was very high on his list. But how? His leg hurt too much to run literally, and he doubted it would be too thrilled with a ride on his motorcycle. Briefly he considered one of the cars, but, given Bruce might banish him from the manor by the end of the day, such an option seemed too close to theft. So what could he do? His mind screamed 'go!' Told him not to be around when Bruce had his first reaction. Give the man time to think, to remember that, in love with him or not, Dick had never forced his attentions on him. Yes, time. He needed time.

He couldn't run, but he could damn well hide. To put it mildly, Wayne Manor was huge. When he'd first come to live here, he'd literally gotten lost a few times. Simple enough to do so deliberately.

Though his leg protested vehemently, he went upstairs, considered the situation, headed for the east wing, then up another flight. This floor was all guest bedrooms used in the last century when an invitation to a party at the manor meant staying the night because of the long ride back into the city. He closed his eyes and walked, doing his best not to think at all as it would lead to a thought process which could be reasoned out and allow someone to find him. When he decided his leg would only support him for a few minutes more, he went into the nearest bedroom.

Once a month a cleaning service descended on the Manor, making certain none of the unused rooms fell into disrepair so the bed he settled on wasn't coated with dust, nor did the coverlet he pulled up over himself or the sheets he rested against smell of mildew. Being Robin had changed many things for Dick. His sleep habits among them. He could get by on only a few hours sleep a night, but he'd also cultivated the skill of making himself sleep when in a physical or emotional state that would have meant long-term insomnia for anyone else. Tired, hurt and seeing no use in further reflection -- hell, maybe he could find some answers in his dreams -- he reached for oblivion and found it.


Bruce tossed his towel into the bin, pulled on his robe, then emerged from the shower room to find Alfred waiting for him. "Morning," he muttered, his tone somewhere between exhaustion and Bat-growl.

Alfred gave him the look that usually accompanied some 'witty' remark about Bruce not being a morning person, but this time he said nothing. Instead he stood there with the morning paper tucked securely under his arm. Normally it would have been on a silver tray along with a large glass of orange juice.

Now what? He held out his hand. "Let's see it."

A long considering look studied him, then with a slight nod, he gave Bruce the paper.

One glance at the front page told the tale. "Has Dick seen this?"

"Yes. He's in a bit of a state right now."

Bruce sighed. "I can imagine."

"I take it you knew?"

He favored the man with a scowl. Bruce knew he could be somewhat oblivious in personal situations, but he was far from a clueless idiot. "For years. But he didn't." Strange didn't begin to cover it. Watching a boy's adoration grow to love, but not the sort of love expected, all while the boy seemed unaware of the signals he was giving off. Bruce hadn't allowed himself to think about it much until after the incident with Barbara and Freeze.

He'd seen understanding as well as love in Dick's eyes after that. So Bruce had thought about it. Long and hard. His conclusion had been obvious and annoying -- he should do nothing.

"Well, he knows now, sir. And may I say he's terrified as to what your reaction will be."

He glanced at the photograph again. Bruce had been too upset to notice the look yesterday, but now he felt a warmth spreading through him. Not that it made any difference. "Then he can stop worrying. I don't intend to have a reaction."

"I beg your pardon?"

"He's fourteen years younger than I am and my ward. Decency demands I let him make the first move."

"Hmm, perhaps, but I doubt he will without at least some encouragement. You really are quite the intimidating specimen. Or so I'm told."

Bruce rolled his eyes before considering what had been said beyond the insult, then gave Alfred his best piercing stare. "Are you saying I should seduce him?"

A slight smile crossed the wrinkled face. "Forgive me for saying so, sir, but, in my experience, there is a great deal of ground between doing nothing and actively seducing a young man."

He wasn't going to win this one. He could tell. Alfred had appointed himself matchmaker and was determined to speed things along. Hurricanes and Alfred Pennyworth. Both impressive forces of nature. He sighed. "I'll talk to him."

"Very good, sir. Now, if you'll excuse me, I do believe I need to tidy up the cave."

In other words, he was going to keep out of the way. Bruce supposed that was better than having him hovering around offering tips. He'd bet his fortune Superman didn't have problems like this. "Have fun," he muttered, then headed for the staircase.


His dark, grumbling mood lasted as he went upstairs, then checked the kitchen, the front parlor, the library, the gym -- though he would have killed Dick if he'd found him there -- and up another flight. It transformed into worry when he found Dick's bedroom empty. Where had he gone? He was hurt, should be sleeping, not doing whatever he was doing.

Panic licked at the pit of his stomach, but he pushed it aside and sat down on Dick's bed. Okay, the boy was afraid of his reaction and had known the photo would have revealed the secret. But he *was* hurt. Dick would want distance and time, but he couldn't go far. So where had he gone?

The fear tried to churn again at the thought he might have run away despite all logic to the contrary and with fear came memory. When he was much younger and uncertain of his place in Wayne Manor, Dick had often gone exploring. Gotten himself lost more than once. Bruce had always found him, had even come to suspect that the last few times had been to gain his attention more than a real loss of direction. Or at least it had never happened again after Bruce had begun to devote more time to him.

He groaned slightly. Tired and bruised around the edges, he wanted to sleep not play hide-n-seek with his insecure ward, but the pattern was clear. Dick might think he wanted time alone, but if he'd gone to ground in the manor, he wanted Bruce to find him.

With a sigh, he stood up, then began the hunt.

Given that his ward was 18, not 10, he didn't think Dick would go so far as to crawl under a bed or hide in a closet, thus he confined himself to opening doors. A daunting task in this monument to gothic architecture, but he'd rejected the idea of trying to figure out exactly where Dick would be. He wouldn't want to be easily found and would know Bruce was all too familiar with his mindset. No, he'd do all he could to randomize where he'd holed up.

It took him an hour and 20 minutes to locate the right room. Dick had gone to sleep in a room done in gold. Bruce closed the door behind him, then leaned back against it. He'd found him, but now what?

If he'd found a 10 year old, he'd have gathered him into his arms and carried him back to Dick's bedroom. Somewhere along the trip, the boy would have woken up and they would have talked. He considered doing the same thing now, but he didn't want to invoke the past. He wanted to encourage the future.

Weariness pulled at his body, but he couldn't return to his own room. Dick needed him. Loved him. Wanted him. Yet the answers Bruce had sought remained elusive. What did he do? This was the boy who was supposed to have been like a son to him. He shouldn't want to make love to him. But he did. Pointless to deny that. He loved Dick in a way that would make a society matron swoon in horror. Bruce loved him. Why didn't that make it easy?

Beyond Alfred -- who obviously approved -- he didn't give a damned what anyone thought. The Bat even whispered in his mind that Bruce Wayne having a male lover would misdirect any who thought of a homosexual as weak and effeminate away from who he really was. No, he didn't care about anyone else, but he cared about Dick.

Perhaps he would have known what to do two days ago, but right now he was shaken by fate's attempt to take Dick from him. It would all too easy to forget that he could be cold while Dick craved warmth. He'd been such a cuddly child, hungry for a friendly touch on the shoulder, a ruffle of his hair. While, more often than not, when Bruce touched anyone it was in violence.

He moved across the room, then knelt by the bed. "You deserve more than I can give," he whispered, stroking a finger lightly along Dick's jaw.

Eyelids fluttered, then opened a little. "Bruce?"

"Shh, go back to sleep."

Obviously more asleep than awake, Dick reached for him. The first move? Or a sleepy child reaching for comfort? Did it even matter? He'd almost lost him. Every train of thought kept coming back to that. The Bat couldn't keep Robin safe. Bruce Wayne couldn't keep Dick Grayson safe. But he could love him. Love him forever.

He slid into the bed and pulled Dick close. "Sleep," he repeated as the young man settled against him. "I'll be here when you wake up."

Dick snuggled closer. "Promise?"

On impulse, he kissed Dick's forehead. "Promise. Now, sleep."

A soft murmur of agreement escaped Dick's lips, then he obeyed.

Unquestioning obedience. More than once the Batman had told himself that if Robin did absolutely everything he said, Robin would always survive. He tightened his grip around the warm, wonderfully alive young man. Dumb luck and instinct had saved Dick. The Bat had helped put strength and knowledge behind instinct, but he'd never thought to tell his partner how to guard against madmen with guns in classrooms. No, when it came down to it, nothing had worked. Not obedience. Not deals with fate over duel identities and serving good over evil. Not even skill. It had all come down to luck.

Bruce felt stripped bare. In love and terrified, but alive. So very much alive. Like the young man in his arms. The young man who loved him. If his life hadn't already damned him to hell, he knew this would do it. He should be strong, should insist Dick find someone else who could give him the casual affection he needed, but he couldn't find such strength within himself. No, he could not deny the truth.

He lay on a bed in a room unused for decades, holding his sleeping love and made a vow. He knew it would not save either of them from the whims of fate. That much had changed from the day he had knelt at his newly slain parent's grave and had sworn to avenge them and to protect others from their fate. Yes, he had a man's sense of reality now, but he considered this vow as sacred and binding as the one he'd given to his parents. "I will make you happy, Dick Grayson," he whispered into the soft dark hair. "I swear it." For all the days fate allowed them.


Dick woke slowly. He normally went from asleep to completely alert within seconds, but he felt safe, warm and completely disinclined to do anything remotely like waking up. He knew why -- Batman was holding him. Beyond that, nothing else mattered.

He supposed he'd been shot again. Bludgeoned. Knocked off a building. Stabbed. Whatever. All he knew was that he was floating in the euphoria that meant pain pills and being cuddled by a distraught Dark Knight. Ah, he enjoyed this far too much. Often it made him wonder if he weren't some sort of poster boy wanna be for the local BDSM chapter. As the song went, 'All You Need Is Love,' but in his case a few major contusions helped a lot.

His amusement pulled him that much more toward consciousness, and he became aware of a few discrepancies in his theory. For one thing, he was lying in a bed. The Bat never cuddled him in a bed. By the time his situation had gotten to sheets and a mattress, not to mention stitches and/or bandages, it was left to Alfred and Leslie to comfort him.

Then there was the fact that it felt like silk -- not an armored batsuit -- covered the powerful body beneath him. Curiouser and curiouser.

Mentally he sighed and resigned himself -- if he wanted to know what had happened, he was simply going to have to wake up. Damn. Disgruntled, but defeated by his own busy mind, he opened his eyes.

A bedroom. Not his. Not the caves infirmary. What? ... Oh. he'd come here to hide from ... Bruce. Because. ... Panic tired to set in, but he ignored the impulse. He was, after all, being held very snugly against the man he'd feared would try to toss him out of the Manor on his ear. A grin split his face as he wiggled and discovered the silk he'd felt was the blue robe that so delightfully showcased Bruce's broad shoulders. Further investigation proved his sleeping guardian had nothing else on. Better and better.

Having been trained by the world's greatest detective, Dick smiled. It seemed his erstwhile guardian was far from displeased at the notion of his ward having designs on him. Now what to do about it. Spread out before him was the sculptured body that had made bad women reform and good women go bad. *Too bad ladies, the man is all mine, and I don't share.*

He shifted again, turning enough so he could comfortably nibble on the span of bared chest his head had rested against. He'd never had a hairy-chested lover before, so he couldn't resist playing with Bruce's 'fur.' He stroked it with his tongue, then clamped his teeth together and gave the trapped hair a few playful tugs.

"That's attached," Bruce's voice rumbled.

"Mmm," he answered pulling again.

A big hand descended on his backside with enough force to make him yelp. Before he could protest further, the hand shifted downwards, securing Dick's injured leg, then the iron mass of muscles beneath him moved, pushing up and over. Within the blink of an eye, Dick found himself lying on his back with Bruce's weight pressing down upon him, intense blue eyes devouring him. "I get the impression you are no longer worried about my reaction."

Dick smiled. "A naked man in my bed is a very reassuring thing."

The right eyebrow quirked upward. "I'm not naked and this isn't your bed, but otherwise, I can't fault your logic."

"I love you."

"I know." Bruce brushed his lips against Dick's. "I love you, too."

Dick's jaw almost dropped open. "I never thought you'd say the words." Not even in his wildest fantasies.

A slight smile with a hint of sadness crossed the handsome face. "I'll try to say them often. But even when I forget, they'll always be true."

His guardian always fancied himself a puzzle within an enigma wrapped in mystery, but what was going on in Bruce Wayne's brilliant mind was crystal clear to Dick. It wasn't easy, but he shook himself out of his sense of euphoria enough to scowl at the man, then nipped his earlobe for good measure.

The small pain wasn't enough to make the Bat do more than glare back, but it felt good all the same. "What was that for?"

"I love you."

"You said that."

"But you obviously didn't hear me." He upped the wattage on his scowl. How someone could be so brilliant and so damned dumb was beyond Dick. "I love *you.* If I'd needed someone to coddle, pamper and otherwise treat me like something made out of glass, I'd have hardly fallen in love with the big, bad Bat."


Dick decided Bruce looked ... cute when he was perplexed, then sighed. "Honestly, Bruce, I think I'm insulted. You raised me to be a realist. I know what I'm getting into and exactly who you are. I'll take the words and treasure every one of them, but don't think my happiness depends on you trying to be something you aren't."

Those incredible eyes bore into him, but he didn't flinch. Not at all. He loved Bruce Wayne. Obstinate, domineering, aggravating, brilliant, brave and dangerous -- that was the man of his dreams.

After a few minutes, Bruce nodded slightly, then bent down and kissed Dick. Not a light brush of lip to lip this time, but a firm press and the lick of a tongue demanding entry.

Intense. How could he have forgotten intense? Dick's head swam as his mouth was consumed by the single-minded focus of a man who could stare down any living thing. Oh, God.

Hands roved his body, pushing up his t-shirt, pulling down his warm up pants to free a cock that had gone from flaccid to painfully erect within seconds. Everything else seemed to move in slow motion. Bruce wouldn't let him move his leg or the damaged shoulder, but his guardian-turned-lover had no such restraints. He nibbled, licked, kissed, caressed and stroked every inch of the front of Dick's body until passing out seemed like a real possibility. Dick had always known Bruce had a sadistic streak in him.

"How fortunate that you have a masochistic one," Bruce muttered around his explorations of Dick's left ankle.

Ah, it seemed he had reached the point where every damned thing that popped into his head was going to come spilling out his fool mouth.

"Mmm hum." The ankle had been abandoned in favor of toes.

Dick clamped down his jaw, more to prevent a scream than the voicing of any further scattered thoughts.

Bruce nibbled at his little toe, then began to suck. With a gasp Dick arched upward and came. Wet warmth splattered his belly, and Bruce's tongue quickly followed in its wake.

Sated almost beyond movement, Dick managed to lift his uninjured arm enough to get his hand to the back of Bruce's head. The silk of the man's hair made his finger tips tingle while the rest of him flat out purred.

He hadn't stopped when Bruce shifted and reclaimed his mouth. "Don't let me hurt you," Bruce whispered when their lips parted, then he began to thrust, a column of aroused iron gliding against Dick's contented flesh. Once, twice, three times, then he watched the powerful body stiffen and warm fluid once again spread across his belly. Nice.

Dick expected Bruce to settle down beside him and snuggle, instead the aggravating man bounced out of bed. "Hey! Come back here!" he protested as Bruce committed the grievous sin of recovering his gorgeous self with the robe.

A smile answered him, then he was swept up without benefit of any covering and carried out the door. "Bruce," he hissed against a silk-clad shoulder, "Alfred."

"It's a big place, Dick, and he's a grown man. I doubt the shock will kill him if he happens to be in the vicinity. Besides, my bed is a lot more comfortable than your hiding place."

Hmm. It made sense, except ... "I notice you aren't parading around naked."

"You're younger and prettier. You can get away with such lapses."

There was a flaw in there somewhere, but before he could zero in on it, Bruce found his mouth again and gave him one of those teeth rattling, highly distracting kisses. Dick purred for the rest of the trip.

To his surprise, when they reached the master suite, Bruce laid him on the bed -- face down. "What?"

"I've not finished with you, Mr. Grayson," Bruce told him. "I'm a very through man, you know, and half of you remains unexplored."

"Oh." It was a small sound. He repeated the word in a much louder moan when those talented lips set about mapping the back of his neck. Shoulder blades, the crease of buttocks and thigh, the back of his knees (especially the left one) -- Bruce turned them all into erogenous zones. Not that his entire body wasn't one when Bruce Wayne was the explorer.

Hard, panting with need again, Dick thrust against the mattress, then moaned when a pair of powerful hands gripped his hips to stop him. No, not to stop him, to position him. Before he could process the significance of hands lifting his hips, a pillow was slipped beneath him, elevating his ass, opening him to Bruce's gaze and any other interested parts.

Dick thought to protest. It wasn't as if he'd deny Bruce anything, but it would have been nice to be asked before --

A tongue sliding along his cleft made him yelp. "Bruce?" he whispered, not believing Bruce would want to. ...

"Shh, relax," came the murmured answer, then the tongue caressed his anus.

He almost screamed. His fingers entwined in the sheets as he struggled not to move. Around and in, several deepening thrusts, then around again, down to nibble on Dick's balls, then back to thrust even deeper. Damn, the man. He wasn't going to have to ask because Dick was going to. ... "In me, blast you!" he hissed, deciding aggressive begging had more dignity to it. "I want you in me! Now!"

To his credit, Bruce did not pretend to misunderstand. "I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't." He pushed back, offering himself like some wanton cat in heat. "Not tight."

"Have you ??"

Damn! "No," he ground out through grit teeth and a needful haze that threatened to drive him mad. "Use toys." It didn't sound as sophisticated or witty as 'I lead a rich and well-accessorized fantasy life' but it was the best he could do. "Put it in!"

Bruce, bless him, obeyed. Dick guessed that even the most relentless alpha male could take orders if the rewards were great enough. Muscles loosened by the tongue and his flesh damp with saliva, his body eagerly accepted Bruce's cock. Thick, long, hot and perfect. Oh, holy. ... He'd guessed right about the size, but the heat of the man, the weight pressing down and into him with each thrust. ... Oh, God, ohgod, ohgod ... oh ... God.

He came with a scream and would have convulsed hard enough to strain his wounded limbs, but Bruce pressed down hard against him, using his weight to keep Dick still.

"You okay?" Bruce asked, nuzzling his face.

It took him several moments to calm down enough to manage a reassuring gasp. Another ten and he murmured, "'rrific."

"Mmm, that it was."

Dick tightened his buttocks around the hard flesh imbedded inside him. "Your turn."

"I don't have to ?" He shifted as if he were about to withdraw.

"Stay," Dick hissed, clamping down even harder. "Yours. Should take me."

A kiss pressed against his sweaty temple. "Mine."

Not a question, but he answered anyway. "Umm hum. Prove it."

Bruce began to thrust again, a gentle, but deep glide. In and out. Tip to root. Root to tip. In. Out. Oh, yes. Then he stiffened and groaned his release. Yes.

To Dick's satisfaction, Bruce all but collapsed against him. Probably would have if the man wasn't control personified and mindful of Dick's wounds. But it was close enough to a collapse for a smug warmth to curl through Dick's body as Bruce sort of flopped to Dick's left side.

Too wiped out for more than a slight smile, Dick scooted over and curled up against him. The smile deepened when Bruce's arms wrapped around him. "Sleep now," Bruce murmured into his hair.

Sounded like heaven, but. ... "Might have a few nightmares," he warned, wondering if he should go to his own room to sleep.

"Mmm, keep you safe," came the soft answer. A hug followed, then the even rhythm of Bruce's breathing told Dick the man had fallen asleep.

He smiled against the broad chest. Not a promise Bruce could keep. They both knew that. Neither nightmares nor fate feared the Batman, but the thought warmed Dick all the same. "You'll do, Mr. Wayne. You'll do very nicely." He settled down to sleep. For now. Tomorrow he was going to move back into the mansion, but not into his old room. Fate was a strange thing, he mused as he drifted off. It could take, but it could also give. This time they'd been lucky. Next time. ... Well, next time he'd have to hope Batman and Robin could tip the scales in everyone's favor.