The Best Laid Plans
The cave was more or less quiet, as caves were wont to be.
Normal caves, anyhow. Caves filled with computers and other devices tended towards the noisier end of the spectrum. When you added to that mix one, two, or six superheroes...
"Will you stop it! I have to get this done!" Arrowette's voice rang out, echoing off the cave walls.
There was no reply, but a split second later Impulse was standing before Robin. Tim looked up from his own work at him. "You're blocking the light," he said curtly.
"Is this better?" Impulse asked from the other side of Robin's chair.
Tim didn't answer, just turned back to his book.
There was nearly a second of silence. "You're being extra grumpy today." Impulse leaned over Tim's shoulder -- moving too quickly for Tim to form his objection -- then asked, "Geography? Want some help? I can find--"
"No thanks," Tim overrode him firmly, knowing if he didn't it would be some time before Impulse ran down. If he ever did.
"He's right, though," came another voice behind him. "You *are* being extra 'grumpy'." Superboy leaned against the computer bank beside Robin's chair.
"I just have some stuff on my mind okay?" Gamely he turned back to his homework, not that he was having much luck concentrating on it either. But the others didn't need to know that.
"You're not worried about Kali's priest are you?" After Young Justice had defeated the demon goddess' worshipers they'd discovered the head priest had vanished. Superboy didn't, himself, appear too worried.
"No. We'll get him eventually." 'Go away,' Tim thought.
"So what's up?" The two showed no sign of leaving him alone.
"Something wrong?" Wonder Girl asked.
"Nothing's wrong," he replied sharply but had hesitated just a tad too long before speaking. Inwardly, he groaned.
"Can we help?" asked Secret, who had also come over. Tim realised that all his teammates were standing around him, now. Staring at him. Helpfully.
*Wonderful*. "I appreciate the sentiment, guys, but this is really something I have to figure out on my own, y'know?" He looked at them appealingly.
"Problems at home?" Cassie asked with concern.
Tim sighed. Obviously they weren't going to drop it just because he asked. "Kinda," he finally admitted.
"Parents having trouble with the superhero gig?" Cassie continued. She and Cissie were the only other two members who actually *had* parents, mothers at least, at home.
"Parents having trouble with your grades?" she continued, but was interrupted by Superboy.
"Grades? You think *Robin*'s going to have bad grades?"
Wonder Girl turned to the grinning boy, frowning defiantly at him. "Well he would be if, like the rest of us, he barely has time to do his homework because we're always off saving the world!"
"My grades are fine," Tim said hastily, seeing Superboy open his mouth to retort.
"So what is it then?" Superboy asked.
Tim rolled his eyes. "I *told* you," he said, "It's something I have to work out for myself." Silently he wished for some kind of emergency or attack to distract his teammates.
"Don't you think we can help?" Impulse asked a bit disdainfully, then his attention waned and he vanished.
One down, Tim thought.
"If it isn't parents and it isn't school," Cissie said thoughtfully, "Is it -- hey, do you have siblings?"
All four looked interested at the question.
"You do?" Cassie pounced on the hesitation. Tom could just see gears spinning in his friends' heads. One more fact about the mysterious Boy Wonder. Then Cassie looked sympathetic again. "Having problems with them, huh? Which is it, little sister getting into your stuff? Big brother bullying you around?"
"Nothing like that." He almost said he didn't have any siblings, not really, but decided to let the misconception stand. Anything to help maintain the old secret identity. And besides, in a way, he *did* have a big brother now.
"Well how are we supposed to help if you don't tell us?" Superboy asked in a reasonable tone.
Tim allowed himself a faint smile at that. "If I recall, I told you that you couldn't."
"How do you know? Just because none of *us* have any siblings," Superboy nodded at the three girls. "Doesn't mean we can't empathise. We could help terrorize someone into submission." He grinned, and postured. All four of his teammates rolled their eyes at him.
"It's not that kind of problem." Tim rolled his eyes again as he realized he'd just admitted that there *was* a problem.
"Why won't you tell us, Robin?" Cissie asked.
"Hey, look what I found!"
Impulse was suddenly standing there, holding something... furry.
"That thing better be dead, Bart!" Cassie warned him. However, whatever it was, was not dead. A moment later Tim's teammates were chasing the thing around the cave, trying to catch it. Well, all but Bart, who had lost interest again, and Cassie, who was still looking at Tim.
Four down, Tim thought, and one to go.
"Look, Cassie, I appreciate the concern, I really do, but... this is private. It's not entirely my secret to tell. You understand?"
"Oh." She nodded. "Yeah, I understand." She took a step away, then stopped and looked at him seriously. "But if you *do* need any help, you'll ask us? One of us, anyway?"
Tim gave her a reassuring smile. "If it's something I can share you know I will."
He sighed in relief as she drifted over to join the rest of the team, leaving him in peace. That was taken care of. Now if he could only figure out what to do about his 'little problem' in the first place.
Two weeks previous
Batman and Robin were in the BatCave, trying to run down some names, faces, and partial fingerprints. Usual detective work, and nothing very urgent.
Nothing more urgent than tracking down criminals always was, that is. But nothing that was making Batman glare angrily and impatiently at the computer screens. He was walking back and forth, behind Tim's chair, cowl down as he read over some of the reports they'd already pulled from the federal databases.
"I can run the info again," Tim offered, knowing even as he said it, he wouldn't find anything he hadn't found the first three times.
"No, let's wait and see what Nightwing gives us," Bruce replied. He sounded distracted.
And not "I'm thinking my way through a problem" distracted. This was "worried" distracted.
"Dick's not overdue," Tim pointed out, hoping to calm his mentor's nerves a little. A nervous Batman was not a fun person to be around.
"Hmm?" Bruce stopped his pacing and looked up. His expression was almost confused. There was a bit too much 'caught out' to it to be honest confusion. But Bruce shook his head. "I'm not worried. Dick can take care of himself."
Tim nodded in agreement, even as he mentally chanted "liar" at Bruce. The man was so worried it was pouring off him in waves. Bruce went back to pacing, scowling at the folders, and periodically exchanging the papers in his hands for others scattered around the desktops.
"You have a reason to believe that things might have gone wrong?" Tim finally ventured when the edgy silence became too much.
"No, of course not."
The tone of his voice was an odd mix of Batman, and Bruce. Tim wished Dick would just call in already. Whatever was bugging Bruce, that would probably take care of it. He paused for a moment, frowning. There was something he was missing, something that if he just followed his train of thought far enough...
The beep of the communicator distracted him. Bruce's grabbing past him for the radio startled him. He watched closely as Nightwing's face appeared on the small screen.
"What have you found?" Batman asked brusquely. Tim noted that under the brusque tone there was a hint of relief.
"Have another name for you. And a couple of faces. I'm sending the pictures now." Nightwing was smiling, as if he'd had a grand time of it.
"They're coming through," Tim confirmed, finding himself smiling back, Dick's mood contagious.
Batman, on the other hand, was frowning ever so slightly. "And the name?" His all-business tone held a chastisement.
Again something tickled at the back of Tim's brain, whispering he was missing something obvious. Nightwing returned the frown, his expression clear. 'Phooey on you' was how Tim would describe it.
"Franklin Craden," was all he said, however.
These two were a matched set, Tim thought, glancing from Bruce to Dick. The more they cared, the harder they tried to hide it.
Wait a second...
"Need anything else?" Nightwing asked in a flippant that didn't, and probably wasn't meant to, hide his irritation. It was a tone Tim had only heard him use with one person. Batman. His suspicion grew just a bit more solid.
"No," Batman replied. Before he could add anything Nightwing nodded.
"Fine, then I'm headed back to watch Grubeck." Tim's eyes widened as he flicked his gaze back and forth between the two. He was growing more certain by the second. Actually he was wondering how he could've missed it for so long.
"Grubeck? I thought he'd been arrested last night." Batman asked with some surprise.
Grimly, Nightwing nodded. "Yeah. He's out. The cops in Bludhaven...." He shook his head. "Anyway, I'm gonna go try and keep him out of more trouble."
There was the briefest pause, then Batman said, "Be careful."
Grubeck had torched three office buildings, a dozen cars, and very nearly one superhero, in the previous week. It made sense for Batman to warn Nightwing to take care but for the first time Tim heard the unspoken words under the terse order.
"Hey, I'm always careful." Nightwing was still grinning.
The unspoken words were just as clear in that.
Nightwing clicked off his radio, and Bruce looked down at the other computer screen where the BatComputer was busily searching for IDs on the pictures. Tim sat and stared at the computer screen unseeingly for a long moment thinking. Then before he could lose his nerve he asked, "Bruce?"
"Yes?" Batman was back to digging through the piles of information they'd already gotten.
"How long have you been in love with him?"
There was silence.
Bruce was staring at him with an expression of pure surprise. But, Tim noted, there was no denial anywhere.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, finally, in a nicely moderated tone.
"You and Dick." Tim shook his head ruefully. "I should've seen it before, the way you two act around one another..."
Bruce frowned at him. "You don't know what you're talking about." He set down the folders he'd been skimming. "Do we have Craden's files yet?"
Tim handed over the requested folder. "I think I do. You're the one who taught me to read people to find out what they're not saying with words. And what you're not saying with words is that you're in love with Dick."
The glare he got for that only confirmed everything he'd seen. "Whatever you think I'm 'not saying' is not open for discussion." He glanced over the new information. "We have work to do." Batman looked at him darkly, as if warning Robin not to challenge him.
Knowing that it was useless to push when Bruce got that look on his face, Tim sighed and turned back to the computers. But he didn't forget. Somehow he had to get his two mentors to admit their feelings for each other.
A few days later Tim found himself in Bludhaven. He'd come down to give Nightwing a hand -- and a foot, as it turned out. After saving Dick's life by giving him the only thing available to grab onto as he fell, they'd both decided not to mention the reason for the felons' escape to Batman.
After an hour of fruitless searching, they gave it up for lost and headed back to Dick's apartment. Tim's revelation of a few days before was still very much on his mind and he paid close attention to Dick's reactions when they talked about Batman.
The rueful smile and laughter, when Robin had looked down at him dangling from his foot and said "Don't let go. I don't want to explain it to him," was no more nor less than he'd expected.
But later, in the safety of the apartment, Dick spoke in much more interesting tones. "He'd make us both go through training, you know that? Ignoring the fact I've been on my own for years. Grab me my the ear and haul me off to the cave." Dick handed Tim a root beer, and flopped onto a chair.
"You still think he has trouble seeing you as an adult?" Tim asked, watching Dick through narrowed eyes over the top of his root beer.
"I don't know," Dick said after a moment's pause. "He does, otherwise he wouldn't leave me alone down here." He gave 'Robin' a grin. "As much as he does, anyhow. But he still sometimes acts like...."
Tim nodded. "Yeah." Then, slowly he ventured, "I think that might be because he doesn't know how else to show he cares. That he doesn't *want* to show it, it just kind of sneaks out 'round the edges when he's worried. And it comes out more as dictatorial orders than expressions of feeling."
Dick snorted. "Tell me about it. I think I've heard more orders from him than... than anything."
"That's because he cares about you more than anyone," Tim said, then watched closely for Dick's reaction.
"Hmm." Was all Dick said. There was a flicker of something in his eyes, however.
Tim allowed himself a small satisfied smile. "You don't believe me?"
"Tim, I know he cares. I--" Dick stood up and headed towards the kitchen, glanced at the bottle still in his hand and hesitated. He set it down and began digging through cupboards as if that had been his goal.
"You hungry?" he asked.
In some ways, Tim observed, Bruce and Dick were exactly the same. Both hated to talk about their feelings and would try to get out of doing so as quickly as possible. It was just their methods that differed. Bruce just ordered you to drop it. Dick, well, Dick evaded. He cooked.
"I could eat," Tim replied, backing off slightly for now.
"Great. You can help, then." he took Tim by the collar and dragging him, grinning, into the kitchen. Several minutes later, Dick asked casually, "How is he, anyhow?"
Suppressing the thrill he always got when he found more proof to back a theory, Tim answered easily, "The same as always. Though I think he's been worrying about you a lot, since you had that run-in with Grubeck."
"Grubeck." Dick shook his head slowly. "I can handle a guy like Grubeck."
Did he imagine it, or Dick sound pleased? Tim ventured again. "I don't think he doubts that. I just think he wishes he was still there to watch your back."
"Yeah." There was a note of wistfullness there. As if Dick, too, missed flying the skies with his mentor.
"You know," Tim began, trying to make it sound like the idea had just occurred to him, "maybe you could ask for his help a little more often. Not that you *couldn't* handle things alone but it might make you both feel better if he got to watch your back again occasionally."
"What, let him get it out of his system, you mean?" Dick laughed. A little nervously.
"More like... touch base. I don't think you're something he *can* get out of his system."
"You make me sound like a parasite." Again Dick gave a laugh. But there was a thoughtful look in his eyes. Then it faded and he shook his head. "He'd just decide I *couldn't* handle it. I made it a point to tell him how important it was to me, to do this myself."
"That's why he'll never *ask* to help, even if he wants or needs to," Tim pointed out. "Because you told him you wanted to go it alone. But that doesn't keep him from taking his frustration out in grumpiness on Alfred and me."
"Grumpiness?" Dick repeated, startled. He began laughing, leaning back against the counter. After several moments he managed, "Grumpy... oh lord I can see... because I'm not--" The laughter stopped abruptly.
"Dick?" Tim asked, wondering if his friend had figured out what he'd been dancing around.
Dick turned back around, to tend to the makings of the midnight supper. He didn't say anything, but Tim had seen a look of what might have been regret.
"What is it?" he asked. If he got Dick talking then maybe...
"Nothing." Definitely regret, in his tone.
"It doesn't sound like nothing."
Dick shrugged. "Maybe I will ask him down sometime. When there's nothing going on in Gotham that needs his attention. Make him less grumpy," he gave Tim a small smile.
"You always cheer him up," Tim said earnestly. "Cept when you're driving him crazy."
"Heh." There was a definite lightening in his expression, now. Still the regret, but now combined with pleasure.
"I think he even misses that part when you're out of touch." Tim was doing all he could short of coming out and *telling* Dick how Bruce felt to lead his friend to the right conclusion.
"Tell you the truth, I sometimes miss *driving* him crazy. You really don't do it well enough," Dick teased.
"Hey, I'm the level-headed one. I'm not supposed to drive him crazy." Tim considered for a second and then decided to push just a little further. "You're the one that he-" He cut himself off, trying to look like he'd just said something he hadn't meant to.
Dick gave him a look. "That he counted on to drive him nuts?"
Dick gave him a patently false smile and fidgeted nervously. 'Come on Dick, you're a detective, I'm giving you all the clues you could possibly need to follow up on this so...'
"Maybe I'll invite him down, then, by suggesting he's had it too easy."
Tim resisted pounding his head against the wall by a very small margin. Dick gave him a short look. 'Don't push me,' it said.
Apparently he was going to have to ditch subtlety. "He loves you," he said bluntly.
Dick dropped a spoon, looked at him like he was mad for a moment before his expression settled into one of understanding. "I know, Tim," he said resignedly.
Tim went on determinedly. "No, I don't think you do. When I say he loves you, I mean he's *in* love with you."
Dick stared at him, unblinking for a moment. Then he frowned -- it made him look just like Batman. "You don't know what you're talking about, Tim."
God, they were just so much alike! "Yeah, that's what he said at first too," Tim replied.
"WHAT?!" Dick's eyes widened and behind him something was beginning to boil over, unnoticed. "You mean you talked to him about--" Dick stopped, then asked a moment later, "'At first'?"
"Yeah. And then he totally clammed up, ordered me to change the subject." He looked at his friend. "You know him Dick. Would he have done that if there was nothing to it?"
He couldn't quite figure out Dick's expression, then. But then Dick shook his head. "If there *were* anything, he would have said something." His voice dropped, "He probably just knows how I feel. Maybe he didn't want to embarrass me. Or himself, trying to explain it to you."
"Dick when you have *ever* known him to just 'say something?" Tim asked exasperated.
"Well then he probably meant what he said -- he didn't want to discuss it!" Dick slammed his hand down, switched off the stove burner under the wildly boiling pot, and walked away.
This time Tim gave into the desire and banged his head against the wall. Several times.
In the days following, Tim had been unable to determine what exactly had to be done. His two friends were being particularly pig-headed about this, to the point that he couldn't even bring the matter up without getting his head glared off. Hence his retreat to Young Justice's headquarters, to think in relative peace.
Emphasis on the word relative.
"If you two don't knock it off," Cissie's voice interrupted him, "I'm going to lock you in a closet together!"
Tim sat up straighter. No, it couldn't be that easy. Could it? It was certainly a cliche... but didn't things become cliches because they were true? All he had to do was find a good 'closet'....
It took some time and work but eventually Tim had everything in place. He sent messages to both Batman and Nightwing that he had faked to sound like he'd been captured by Grubeck. Then he sat back to wait for their arrival.
Nightwing was first, as he was already here in Bludhaven. Robin had made sure that neither was in the middle of any real pursuit of villainy. He watched as Nightwing arrived, carefully checking the place out before he entered. A moment later, Batman arrived. Tim watched from his hiding spot in the rafters as his mentor also did a careful observation before proceeding inside. Heart beating a bit faster in anticipation, Tim watched as his plan unfolded flawlessly before him. He hoped, flawlessly. If this backfired *both* the men down there would string him up by his thumbs.
Nightwing was searching the left side of the room while Batman searched the right. "I don't see anything," Nightwing finally said.
"Then we keep looking," Batman replied, his tone terse.
Tim saw Nightwing roll his eyes and continue looking. He held his breath as Nightwing came upon the vault.
"Hey." That was all it took for Nightwing to get Batman's attention.
The older man was across the room in an instant. "Is it locked?" he asked his companion quietly.
"No, door's open." Nightwing gave the door a slight tug. He'd already examined it as well as he could before touching it.
Tim watched as the two men looked at each other, then looked at the door. 'Go on,' he thought at them. 'You know you want to look inside...'
Nightwing pulled the door farther open and looked in. "Huh."
"Anything?" Batman asked.
"Just that." Nightwing pointed at the small box. The LCD readout said "6.00"
From his vantage point Tim couldn't see his mentor's face but he could imagine him frowning. "Could be a bomb," Batman muttered.
"It isn't attached to anything," Nightwing pointed out.
"That we can see from here."
"Can you see what's written on the note?"
"Not from here."
'Yes,' Tim urged them mentally. 'Go on. Just a step closer and you'll be able to read it...'
Nightwing just looked at Batman. "Do you want to do the honours?"
Batman hesitated for a few seconds then took a step inside. Nightwing took a half step after him, not close enough to read over his shoulder. He waited patiently as Batman scrutinized the note.
Suddenly Batman stiffened. "Move!" he ordered, pushing Nightwing toward the door of the vault they were now both well inside of. Tim had been waiting for this though and touched the button that would seal the vault for the next six hours. Nightwing and Batman both slammed up against the door. Their combined weight was nowhere near enough to shove it back and it closed shut with a resounding thump.
Grinning, Tim activated the surveillance system he'd secreted in the vault beforehand. So far, so good. He watched as his two friends began checking every inch of the vault. He knew what they'd find, though. A note, a timer, and a locked door.
"What did the note say?" Nightwing finally asked.
"'Hope you enjoy your little vacation. Don't worry the lock will open in six hours.'" Batman was still dilligently searching for any way out.
"Great." Nightwing also continued searching. After a few moments Batman pulled out his radio and called Oracle. He gave her a brief summary of their predicament and asked her to find Robin and send him down to Bludhaven. Tim was relieved to hear not even a smile as she said she'd get Robin there as soon as possible. Then Batman resumed the search for a way out.
Tim watched patiently, knowing that sooner or later even Batman would give up and wait. It took longer than he thought it would, almost an hour, but finally Batman sighed and sat down. "Looks like we wait," he said tersely.
"Wonderful." Nightwing gave Batman a look which Tim recognised readily. Batman, who was looking the other direction, probably hadn't even seen it. It said "Trapped with the world's greatest conversationalist. Lucky me."
Silence descended on the room as both men seemed to retreat into themselves. As it lengthened, it was all Tim could do not to grind his teeth in frustration. They weren't just going to sit there for *six hours* and not say anything.... were they?
"So. How 'bout them Raiders?" Nightwing finally ventured in a tone that said he didn't expect a serious answer.
Even with the mask on Batman somehow managed to look startled. "What?" he said and there was just a trace of laughter in the word.
"Well there's not much point in discussing the weather, in here." Dick shrugged. "Controlled climate conditions and all."
"And you want to talk." It wasn't a question.
Nightwing shook his head at that, obviously quelled. Once again silence overtook them. But it didn't last nearly as long. This time it was Bruce who broke it. "I think the Gotham Knights are going to cream them," he said softly, reconciliation in his tone.
Dick laughed. "You say that every year, you know."
"And most times it's true."
"Everybody makes mistakes once in a while."
"Mistakes? That's what you call last season?" Dick sounded more or less satisfied with the conversation. Tim wondered if he were just happy to be spending some "quality" time with Bruce. Even talking about sports.
"Well I hope it was. If last season was on purpose..." Bruce trailed off and Tim noticed a faint smile on his face.
"Maybe Hanringer *did* pay 'em off," Dick suggested in a slightly darker tone. As if he hadn't wanted to talk shop.
Bruce appeared startled as if, for once, a potential criminal solution hadn't been on his mind. "He wasn't," he finally said. "If he had been I would've..." Again he trailed off, this time with a faint air of embarrassment, probably at being caught actually investigating such a charge.
Dick began laughing delightedly. He leaned sideways against the wall as he laughed, losing his balance. "To get out of paying off our bet?" he finally teased, when he could speak again.
"You found me out," Bruce replied in kind, a rare full smile gracing his face.
Dick returned the smile, with as much warmth. Then it faltered and Dick turned away. He looked around the vault. "Wonder what he's doing," he said darkly.
"Grubeck? Or Robin?"
"Can't do anything about either until we get out of here. Tim's good. He won't do anything too reckless."
"I know. I just don't like sitting here." Dick glanced over at Batman. "Not that you aren't good company."
"Thanks." Again that understated dry humor of Bruce's pervaded the word.
Dick didn't respond, however. He leaned up against the wall, folding his arms in front of him, and waited. He looked as though he were ready to wait, thus, for the next five hours.
Tim turned a glare on Batman. 'Talk to him,' he thought as loudly as he could. As if he heard him, Bruce shifted uncomfortably then hesitantly offered, "You're good company too."
Dick blinked, obviously surprised. But he just said, "Thanks." After a few more moments of silence, he said quietly, "It's kinda nice to get to talk to you... even under the circumstances. We hardly see each other any more."
Bruce didn't answer right away. "I thought that was what you wanted," he finally ventured. "To make your own life. Away from Gotham." 'Away from me.' He hadn't said it but the words rang clearly in the small vault anyway.
"That doesn't mean I wanted you out of my life," Dick responded. He was still standing opposite the vault from Bruce, and was looking down at the floor, away from him. Tim wondered if he should have brought a snack. This looked like it might take the entire six hours he'd put on the timer.
"I didn't want to crowd you. I was trying to respect your wishes and not interfere." Bruce glanced over at Dick and then away again and when next he spoke his voice was barely audible. "I'm sorry."
"Thank you for not interfering," Dick said after a moment. "But...." He sighed.
"But I miss having you around."
Again Bruce glanced over at Dick and Tim was amazed at how open that normally guarded face was. Unfortunately Dick was looking at his feet and missed it. "I-Likewise," Bruce replied finally and some of that openness made it into his voice as well.
At *that* Dick looked up. Bruce's face was still partly unguarded, and both Dick and Tim could see the emotions there. But Dick looked away again without saying anything. Tim was about to scream into the video pick-up when Dick asked quietly, "Maybe you could drop in sometime?"
Bruce just looked at Dick for a long moment and the room suddenly seemed charged with possibilities, even over the camera. "I'd like that."
Dick gave him a tiny, very pleased, smile. To Tim's eyes he was still obviously nervous about something.
"Maybe you could visit Gotham a little more often too?" Bruce ventured hesitantly.
Tim rolled his eyes. He should have added more to the note. "You love each other" or something equally subtle. Of course even telling them to their faces hadn't worked. They had to figure it out by themselves, obviously. Tim just wished they'd get on with it already. They were supposed to be two of the greatest detectives ever, so start detecting already!
Dick nodded. "If...." he paused for a moment. "Maybe even off-duty?" he finally asked.
"That's what I was thinking of," Bruce replied. "Though it's hard to ever predict when something is going to come up."
"I know. But maybe sometime... at least we can try." Dick shrugged, turning the conversation casual again. "We can take in a Raiders' game," he grinned.
Bruce smiled back. "Whatever you want."
The conversation died again, and they stood there in silence once again. This time it was almost amiable, though Tim could still detect the strong undercurrents of everything still unsaid. Bruce kept shooting glances at Dick but didn't say anything else.
Dick, on the other hand, kept glancing at Bruce then looking away again. The glances kept getting shorter and he began shifting his position. His fidgeting didn't go unnoticed. "Problem?" Bruce asked.
"No." Dick stood still for almost two minutes before he began shifting position, again. Suddenly he said, "I was just thinking about something Tim said."
"What was that?"
"About...." Dick seemed to lose whatever confidence had pushed him to say as much as he had, as he fell silent. Just when Tim was about to shout down at them what he'd said, Dick continued, "He suggested I invite you to come down here. Spend some time..."
"I'm sure *this* wasn't exactly what he had in mind," Bruce quipped then turned serious. "He mentioned something like that to me as well."
"He did?" Dick repeated, startled. "What did he... what did he say?" he asked in a guarded tone.
Now it was Bruce's turn to fidget. He opened his mouth to answer then closed it again without saying anything.
Dick's guarded expression turned curious. "Bruce? What did he say?"
"That I should tell you how I-- how important you are to me." The answer was quiet, and for all that it didn't say exactly what Tim wanted it to, it was a giant step in the right direction.
From Dick's reaction, however, it said a lot. His jaw had dropped open and he was staring at Bruce. Tim had told Dick *just* what Bruce felt. Even if Bruce didn't admit it, himself, Dick *had* to be thinking maybe Tim was right. Tim made a fist and punched the air triumphantly, urging them on as if watching a race.
Bruce seemed a bit taken aback at Dick's reaction. "Di-Nightwing?" he asked, uncustomarily stumbling over the name.
"He told me, too." Dick stared at Bruce, almost calmly.
"To-told you what?" If anything Bruce became even more tense. And frightened?
But Dick just remained calm. "How you feel about me. He said you loved me, too," he said, quickly and quietly.
Bruce stiffened and seemed to center in on one word. "Too?" he repeated. Dick nodded. He remained were he'd been standing all along, arms still folded.
It was Bruce who moved first, taking the few steps across the vault until he was standing in front of Dick. Hesitantly he raised a gloved hand, reaching out and almost touching Dick's cheek. At the last second, though, his courage seemed to fail him and he froze, his hand hovering in midair.
But Dick moved at the last moment before Bruce could let his hand fall away. He leaned away from the wall, moving forward just enough to place his head against Bruce's hand. "I love you," Dick whispered, almost too soft for Tim to overhear.
The effect of those words on Bruce was startling. He shivered, eyes closing and then with a small wordless moan he reached out and pulled Dick into his arms. Dick went and a second later they were embracing, kissing deeply and eagerly.
Maybe a little desperately, Tim thought as he watched. A few seconds later he realized he better go let them out now, or at least stop watching. Because the way they were going... He switched off the video, and quickly gathered his equipment. He'd go rescue them before they could... well, do anything. Anything that would make Tim wonder it if were safe to open the vault door. Though the looks on their faces if he did catch them indisposed might just be worth it, he thought wickedly, before banishing the idea altogether.
It took him about fifteen minutes to get the equipment safely stowed away in Redbird then return to the vault. He made no effort to approach silently, nor to 'work' silently on the door. Oracle had reassured him Grubeck was still safely in the hands of the law -- or what passed for it in Bludhaven -- before he 'freed' Batman and Nightwing.
The lock disengaged with a loud click. "Anybody home?" he called out cheerfully, as he pulled the thick door open. He found Nightwing and Batman standing beside each other, looking at him.
"Where's Grubeck?" Batman asked.
"In custody," Tim replied. "You two okay?"
Both nodded, though they exchanged a very interesting glance. "We're fine," Nightwing said, his words speaking volumes.
Tim allowed his eyebrows to raise then he grinned. Nightwing and Batman instantly turned identical, suspicious frowns on him.
"What?" Tim asked innocently. Inside he was jumping up and down and cheering though. His plan had worked. It was worth being chewed out if it came to that. Batman stepped forward and looked down at him. His cape billowed softly forward, edges reaching forward as if to grab Tim.
Then Batman smiled at him, just barely. Behind him, Nightwing was smiling more broadly. Tim smiled back then turned and ran.
Behind him he heard laughter, then a softly called, "Meet you back at the cave, Robin. Later."
Tim glanced behind him and saw his two mentors once more locked in an embrace. Oh yeah. Whatever punishment he got was definitely worth this.