Castoff

The first thing I did was check the bike, top to bottom. I was a day out of Gotham, headed west -- you can't go anywhere without heading west unless you headed over the Atlantic or into Canada -- when I pulled over at a truck stop. From the look of it, it must have been closed for over a year. No one driving by; no one had been for nearly four hours. Figured it was a good place to drop any bugs Bruce might have snuck onto the cycle.

He said he hadn't placed any since I got rid of the ones on Redbird, but he might have forgotten an old one, from back before he started pretending to trust me. Or he might have lied for 'my own good'. Either way, I knew I would be better off checking it out. I planned on trading the bike in for another one anyhow, just in case, but I didn't want to leave any more of a trail than I had to.

On the off chance Bruce decided he wanted to follow me. I didn't think he would. He was the one who wanted me gone -- why would he chase after me now that I'd finally taken him up on it? Anyway, I had a few days at least to throw him off in case he wanted to find me; I wanted to make it perfectly clear I didn't want to be found. He'd gone up to Metropolis to help Clark with something -- I didn't even know who they were after, just that Clark had asked for our help and Bruce had decided to go alone. That was *after* he let me know how he felt. I cleaned three bugs off my bike before heading south, riding another couple of hours before finding a deserted rest stop to crash for the day.

By the next morning I was headed into Columbus, Ohio, to find a nice big dealership to trade in my old street bike. I hadn't taken the Harley Bruce gave me, nor any of the other bikes he'd offered me over the last couple of years. I was riding *my* old bike, the one my dad had let me buy when I was sixteen. It wasn't worth much, especially after the way I'd been racing it the last year, but that and the cash I'd borrowed would get me something decent.

I figured Bruce owed me a few thousand dollars at least. Isn't like I have an income or anything. Hell, I figured he owed me a lot but I didn't want to hang around and demand he give it. The guys at the dealership were cool, let me clean up my bike in their garage before trying to trade it in. I got a nice Honda, a few years newer than the one I had, and they even threw in a new helmet to replace the one I'd left behind.

I couldn't check the helmet for bugs.

Two hours later I had a new bike, lunch, and a new set of clothes from the army-navy surplus down the street. Everything I'd had on me when I'd left Gotham got left behind in Columbus. As I headed out west again I left like I'd recreated myself.

It wasn't a feeling I particularly cared for.


Six days later I found myself on the west coast. Cascade, actually, which might have been a bad idea if I didn't want Bruce finding me. But Blair was one of the few friends I had whom I could talk to about my problems. I'd followed the newspapers and saw how Batman and Superman had defeated yet another evil villain -- none of the articles asked 'where was Robin?' Batman and Superman were home safe, villains in jail, world secure once again. I felt sick to my stomach and decided to stop eating in roadside diners.

I stood on the sidewalk down the street from Blair and Jim's place. I hoped I was far enough away that Jim wouldn't know I was there. I wasn't ready yet to talk to them, and wasn't sure I wouldn't still just leave without seeing them at all. I was holding my helmet by the strap, trying not to bang it against my leg -- I was nervous but didn't want everyone around me to know it. Maybe I should just head south. Halley's had gone the entire southwest route and I knew it pretty well. New Mexico would be a cool place to start over. Or Nevada, maybe -- I could probably find a job flying at one of the Circus theme casinos.

It occurred to me that wouldn't be a bad idea, and I actually smiled. It sounded like a cool job -- I was good enough to get any job if it were available and I could probably talk my way into making a job if it weren't. Five years ago Jackie had left Halley's for Vegas to start his own one ring show and although he was no longer around he might have left friends who would give a friend of a friend a chance. Best of all I'd get to fly again.

Never see Bruce again. I heard the helmet crack against the sidewalk before I realised I'd dropped it. I felt nauseous again. I picked up my helmet and figured I'd better go up and find Blair. At least I could get off the street and stop making a fool of myself in front of strangers. I glanced up at the sky -- so odd to see it like this, wide and open between the buildings. I didn't know how long it had been since I'd seen a city skyscape. The only time I ever went into Gotham lately was at night. I tried to tell myself I could get used to it then I realised if I worked Vegas I'd be up at nights still, sleeping during the day.

I headed over to the building where Blair and Jim lived. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, but I needed to do something before making any more decisions. At the least I could get a shower and a sandwich before hitting the road again. I yawned. And some sleep indoors for a change. Surely they'd let me borrow the couch for an afternoon.


Jim moved away from the window. "He's heading over."

Blair jumped up from the chair where he'd been trying to sit still ever since Jim had seen Dick Grayson standing beside a motorcycle down the street. Jim had been out on the balcony and glanced down by chance, catching sight of a figure looking their way. Curious, he'd focused in and recognised the young man. Blair had wanted to go down and meet him; Jim had told his partner to wait and let Dick make up his own mind.

"If it were serious trouble he'd already be up here telling us about it," Jim had pointed out. "If it weren't serious he'd already be up here telling us why he's here."

Blair had rolled his eyes but accepted the other man's assessment and forced himself to wait patiently. Fortunately for Blair, Jim soon gave him a nod. "He's coming up the stairs."

"Am I supposed to pretend we didn't know he's coming?" Blair asked only half seriously. Jim just shook his head, glancing upwards in an oft-used appeal from whatever deities had sent Sandburg to him. Blair saw it and threw a pillow at his mate before heading for the door. He reached it as soon as Dick knocked; Blair pulled it open to see Dick's surprised face.

"How... oh. Jim heard me?"

"Yeah," Blair shrugged. "Actually he saw you off the balcony. We've been kind of waiting for you." Blair suddenly blinked, taking in his friend's appearance. "Man, you look terrible. What's wrong? Is Bruce all right?" He asked the last suddenly as if only realising then something might really be wrong.

"No, he's fine I guess. I saw the photos in the papers and he didn't look hurt."

"What do you mean?" Jim had walked over, as neither man had moved away from the front doorway. Blair was still holding it open for Dick to come inside.

"I haven't seen him since he left for Metropolis."

Blair gave him a look of surprise, then reached out and grabbed Dick's arm, tugging him inside. He continued tugging until he had Dick beside the couch. He gave Dick a gentle shove, and stood over him when he tried to stand back up. "What's going on, Dick?" His tone was calmer than his bearing suggested. Jim just shut the door and let Blair handle it.

Dick answered quietly, "Bruce dissolved the partnership."

"Oh my god. What on earth for?" Blair was sitting down on the couch beside him in a second.

"I don't know, I didn't stick around to ask. He just said it wasn't working."

Jim walked over and stood behind the couch, hands on the back behind his partner. "He didn't say why?"

Dick tried to just shrug; Blair interrupted them by asking, "Are you sure you'd be able to tell from the photos if Bruce were hurt?"

Dick's face suddenly changed from closed off and miserable to outright alarm. "Oh, hell!" He leapt off the couch and walked past Blair. He stopped halfway to the phone, then started over again. Blair and Jim watched as he tried several times to pick up the phone and call; finally Dick grabbed it and began dialing. Blair gave Jim a look of satisfaction which faded when they heard Dick speak.

"Mrs. Kent? Hey, I wondered if I could ask you something? Could you call Clark and ask him if Bruce is OK?"

They waited as Dick listened; Blair shot Jim a glance to see if he was listening in but Jim shook his head with a mild look of reproach. Blair waved it off with a brief grin.

"No, don't have him call Bruce. I don't... I'm not in trouble. We just... we had a fight and I don't want him finding me just yet. He'd trace my call, but I need to know if he's OK." There was a brief bit of silence, then Dick sighed. "Thanks, Mrs. Kent. I really appreciate it. OK, I will. Thanks." He hung up and looked over. "I'm gonna call her back in about ten minutes. Is.. oh, I'm sorry, it's a long distance call." He dug into his jeans pocket, ignoring Jim's assurance that it wasn't necessary.

"Whoa!" Blair moved forward and took the wad of bills from Dick's hand and unfolded them. "This is a *lot* of cash!" He began fingering the hundred dollar bills. He gave Dick a suspicious look. "Bruce gave you this?"

"Sorta. He won't come after me looking for it, if that's what you mean." Dick's tone was clearly bitter and hurt. Blair handed him back the money with a look of sympathy.

"I'm sorry, Dick. No, forget about the phone bills. Just tell us what happened." Blair verbalised his partner's refusal to accept the money Dick was holding out. Dick pocketed the cash and moved away, then stopped and remained near the phone. "I don't really know anything except what he said. We'd been training all day -- hadn't had any trouble in Gotham in about four nights, things were pretty quiet. Everything seemed fine. I know I'd had some trouble about a week before; I got caught by some of StakeOut's goons but I got out of it OK. We lost StakeOut that night but we found him the next and Bruce never said anything about being upset.

"Then we're heading up for a shower and he stops and I can see by the look on his face that he's gonna say something serious. I never expected.... he said the partnership wasn't working. He said there were gonna be some changes now that Barbara was ready." Dick looked away, out the window at the sunlight streaming in. "He never even asked me about it, never let me know he wasn't happy. But I couldn't argue with him." He looked back and Blair and Jim could see tears in the young man's eyes. "I know he's never been really happy with me but he seemed like he'd rather be with me than not. Guess he changed his mind now that he's got a partner he can trust."

Dick started to move away; Blair reached over and stopped him with one hand on his shoulder. "Dick, Bruce trusts you. Maybe he just wanted to keep you safe?"

Dick glanced back. "I asked him about that. I asked if he meant our working together, or us being together. He said he was talking about both."

Neither man said anything. Dick took advantage of the silence to pick up the phone again. A moment later Clark's mother answered.

"Yeah, it's me. Is he-- Oh. Yeah, I know. You didn't--? Thanks, Mrs. Kent. Yes, I will. I am. Bye." After he hung up Dick faced away from them and said nothing.

"He's ok?" Blair asked, worried.

"Oh, yeah! Sorry, he's OK. Not hurt, anyway. She said Clark said he's worried about me."

"You didn't tell him you were leaving?" Jim asked.

Dick shook his head. "I figured it was obvious... if he didn't want me around, why stay in Gotham? He fought this every step of the way, you know. Didn't want Robin working with him, didn't want me sleeping with him. All he wanted was to take care of me after Two-Face killed my family. I knew he felt responsible, but I figured... after a while I figured it had become more than that." Blair and Jim watched the dejected man go back to the couch and fall down on it, elbows on his knees and head in his heads. "Maybe it wasn't. Maybe he just wanted it to be and he finally realised it wasn't." Dick looked up. Blair saw a calm expression settle on his face; Blair went back to sit beside his friend. Dick looked at him. "Should I be glad he figured it out at all?" His voice was a whisper.

"No," Blair shook his head. He took Dick's hand and held it lightly. "No, you don't have to be glad about anything. Dick, I am so sorry...."

For a moment they just sat there, saying nothing more. Then Dick gave himself a slight shake and looked down at himself. "I feel disgusting. Could I borrow your shower?" There was only a mild look of life in his eyes.

"Of course, man. I'll dig out some clothes for you." Blair was standing and heading up the stairs before Dick could push himself off the couch. Jim showed Dick the way to the bathroom, collecting fresh towels from the linen closet as they went by. Dick was still only getting his boots off when Blair returned, laying jeans and a shirt on the hamper.

"Don't worry about a thing, Dick. You can hang out here as long as you need," Blair offered, then elbowed Jim in the stomach to cover his partner's objection. Dick didn't notice, and Blair nudged Jim back out of the bathroom and shut the door behind him.

"Blair, I don't mind letting him crash for a couple days but that sounded like an open invitation."

Blair dragged his mate by the hand back to the living room. "Relax, Jim. He's not staying more than a day or two."

"How do you know?"

"Because tomorrow I'm talking Dick into calling Bruce. He'll either be heading back home or so furious he won't want to see my face again for months." Blair smiled, worry clear in his eyes.

Jim said nothing, just shook his head with a slight grin.


I finished my shower and stayed for a moment in the warmth trapped in the bathroom. The water had felt extremely good, washing dust and grime away. It almost made me feel ready to go out and face Blair and Jim again. Knowing Blair, he'd be full of questions and sympathy, probably either try to talk me into talking to Bruce or going back to Gotham City. He meant well, but I'd done nothing but replay the last year in my head for the last six days and I was ready to not think about it anymore. I knew I couldn't hide in the bathroom forever -- if only because they only had the one and eventually one of them would want to use it.

I put on the T-shirt and sweats Blair had left for me and headed out. Blair was walking out of his study with an armload of books when I met him in the hallway.

"Hey, the bed's made up in there, feel free to crash whenever you like."

It seemed the lecture was going to wait for a bit. I was grateful." Thanks, Blair. I really appreciate this... I'll be going tomorrow, so I won't be getting in you guys' way for long."

"That's not necessary, Dick. Why don't you stay a couple of days and hangout, rest up?" Blair gave me a perfectly innocent look. It was the one I'd been trying to learn since I was fourteen -- I didn't believe it for a minute.

"That's OK. I'd rather be on my way." I headed into the room, and saw the bed was turned back. The lack of wrinkles made me suspect Jim had made it up fresh while I was in the shower. I frowned at myself; there was no longer any need to be so careful about observing everything around me. No longer a detective in training, I was headed out to make a new life for myself.

Blair followed me back in, stacking the books on the hutch and sitting on his desk. "Where are you gonna go?"

I sat down on the bed and felt my body relaxing. It recognised a mattress when it felt one, and knew what was coming. I kept my eyes open from too much recent practice. "I thought about heading down to Vegas. I can get a job flying at one of the casinos."

Blair gave me an encouraging look. "That sounds like a good plan. It doesn't bother you that you'd be working for an illegal operation?"

I had been hoping no one would remind me of that fact. How many honest casinos are there in Vegas? I glared at him. "What if it doesn't?"

He shrugged. "It doesn't bother *me* any... you know my cousin--"

"Yeah, I know your cousin Robert. He still owes me a hundred bucks from last month." I grinned briefly. That had been a hell of a weekend. Jim and Bruce had gone one way, Blair and I another, for the entire weekend. Granted, Jim and Bruce had been working, Public Relations stuff which involved no crime fighting whatsoever. Blair and I had hooked up with Robert, and spent our time with some 'victimless gambling'. Blair had given us an entire monologue on the virtues of committing the occasional harmless vice once in a while. I'd surprised myself first by enjoying it, then by feeling guilty about it after Bruce and I got home. I never mentioned it to Bruce.

"You know I don't judge other people... at least not without good reason." Blair smiled. "But I can't see you being able to work for people like that. Not after seeing what they're capable of."

"Yeah, I know. I was kinda hoping I wouldn't think about it." But I knew that was impossible. The first hint I got of someone breaking a law I'd be all over them. For a second I thought about doing just that, helping the Vegas PD clean up their town. But I didn't want to be Robin without Batman, and I couldn't see being able to do much good -- without being killed -- without Robin's armor and arsenal. Which, I just realised, was back in Gotham anyhow. I laid down on my back, stared up at the ceiling. "What else can I do? Flying's all I know."

"You could be a mechanic," Blair started counting on his fingers. "Or a private investigator, if you wanted. That wad of cash will get you a year of school at a community college and you could pick up enough financial aid to get a degree -- don't roll your eyes at me, Dick," which was exactly what I'd been doing. "I know how you feel about college. I'm just saying there's a lot you can do besides flying a trapeze. Heck, you could get a pilot's license and fly a helicopter."

This is why I wanted to talk to Blair. He's good for my morale. I tried to think about what I wanted to do, but I noticed my brain shutting down. Without quite deciding to, I closed my eyes.


I only realised I'd fallen asleep when I opened my eyes and realised it was three hours later. The room was dark and the door was shut. I could hear Blair talking softly outside; I also heard the sound of metal clanking on tile so I knew they were making dinner. I took a couple of minutes to figure out if I wanted to bother them by joining them for dinner as I knew they'd ask, or if I should take off and get a pizza or something. What I felt like doing was staying in bed and going nowhere.

I rolled over and faced the back door. It was dark outside, and I knew there would be a cool breeze on the fire escape. There's no feeling quite like being high in the air, cape whipping in the wind. I actually started to stand up before I could tell myself I couldn't keep trying to hang on to things like that. Or could I?

Why should losing Bruce make me give away the part of me that was Robin? Neither Bruce nor Batman owned that part of me. There was nothing stopping me from picking a city and settling down and becoming a masked crimefighter there. I could even travel as I had done all my childhood, from town to town, fighting crime wherever I went.

I could do anything I wanted. Except go back. I got out of bed and left the room. Jim and Blair were still in the kitchen, looking up at me as I walked out. Blair was obviously still worried about me; Jim I couldn't read so well but he probably was as well. They're both good friends.

"Hey, Dick. Feel better?" Blair was tearing up something dark green and throwing it in a bowl.

"Marginally."

"Dinner's almost ready," Jim said casually, as if he were not going to say anything about what had happened.

"I don't think I'm very hungry."

"So sit and keep us company. You can just play with your food. We don't mind."

I looked at Blair, wondering how in the world I could respond to an offer like that. I glanced at Jim; he was smiling. No help there. I shook my head. "OK, I'll keep you company."


I ended up not eating much after all. I played with my food, listened to Blair talk, and ate a bit. It was good, would have been better if I'd felt like eating. I made a half-hearted offer to help with the dishes and was surprised when Blair handed me a towel. He kept talking while we cleaned up, and only hushed -- somewhat -- when we sat down to let a hockey game on TV amuse us. It wasn't until I was headed back to their spare room that I realised I didn't really know what he'd been talking about. I knew he wouldn't be surprised to hear that if I told him.

I stood in the middle of the room, staring at the bed. Sleep? Or would I lie awake thinking about Bruce? I thought briefly about heading outside, but I realised that Jim would only keep an ear on me and I didn't want to disturb him anymore than I already had. I could easily spend the entire night up on the rooftops, thinking or trying desperately not to think, and I didn't want to make Jim lose that much sleep. He would, too, because he had done it last time I tried to sit up all night thinking. Bruce had been laid up for the night at Sisters of Mercy with a mild concussion; Blair and Jim had dragged me out of the hospital, insisting I couldn't stay. I'd spent the night awake, on the roof, and the next morning discovered the Sentinel hadn't slept a wink. He didn't say so, but I had seen. Hopefully if I stayed in bed and didn't make any noise, he wouldn't try to keep watch.

It didn't take me long to throw my clothes in a small heap and crawl back under the covers. The bed was so small, barely a twin size. I hadn't slept in a bed this size since my family's trailer when I'd slept in a bunk below my brother. Unlike the close comfort of that bed, where I could whisper up to my brother or hear my parents in their curtained-off section, this bed and this room were small, cold, and entirely too empty.

Not long after I began staring in earnest at the darkness, I heard a noise. A soft thump, a little squeaking, and then an unmistakeable muffled moan. I smiled. The sounds continued, and I was glad that they hadn't let me interfere with this, at least. It made me hurt for Bruce, made me want to roll over and ask myself how I was going to survive alone. I'd never been alone before. I closed my eyes shut, tightly as I could, and tried not to think about how it would feel to be held in Bruce's arms.

I fell asleep to the soft sounds of my friends making love, and dreamt about my mom and dad.


The next morning Dick had been sent down to the corner grocery store to buy a few things his friends said they needed. Blair had let him think it was a way to pay them for their hospitality. As soon as Dick was out of the building, Blair picked up the phone; Jim put his hand over the cradle.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? Chief, if they've broken up there's nothing--"

"There is always something. You can see it everytime they visit! Man, don't you remember last time they were here? You couldn't keep Bruce's eyes off Dick. Even when we were just hanging out here, drinking beer and watching the game, Bruce was keeping tabs on him... moreso than you *ever* do with me," he added with a smile. "And that's only because you can listen for me without being too obvious."

"So maybe he's just paranoid," Jim offered.

"Maybe he's just in love and scared. You remember what Dick said, about his parents being killed. That's why it took Dick so long to get Bruce to even admit he was in love. Dick told me that it was six months before he'd say he loved him for the second time. I'll bet you anything Bruce is just trying to protect himself."

"By losing someone he loves?"

"No," Blair shook his head. "By trying not to be in love with someone he feels he's bound to lose."

"So what do you propose to do about it?" Jim no longer sounded doubtful, but he clearly didn't think they should interfere.

Blair gave him a sheepish grin. "I hadn't thought that far ahead. I was going to call Bruce and just wing it."

Jim rolled his eyes. "You know Bruce is as good as I am at detecting your bullshit, Chief."

"So maybe I'd tell him the truth!" Blair protested. "But there's no way Dick will go back to Gotham, not unless Bruce asks him to. And unless they start talking, Bruce won't be able to ask him to."

"Blair," Jim took the phone receiver out of Blair's hands and replaced it, keeping hold of the other man's hand. "It might not work."

"I can't just stand here and watch, Jim. Dick won't go back -- he trusts Bruce too much to ever doubt his judgment. He might not agree with him but he never doubts him. Comes from being the only one who really understands the guy. I'll be the first to admit he's the best detective on the planet -- no offense, love -- but that doesn't make him perfect. Dick hates this but he's not willing to accuse Bruce of being wrong."

"Maybe because it isn't wrong, Blair." Jim said gently.

Blair glared back, defiantly. "Then I want to be convinced, myself. I want Bruce Wayne to explain to me why he can't be in love with Dick. I want to hear it for myself why Dick should have to leave him. If he's right, then I'll leave him alone." He paused. "Well, no I'll yell at him first, but *then* I'll leave him alone. Jim," Blair shook his head. "They're *in love*. How can they not be together?"

Jim suddenly took his partner in a hug. He didn't say anything, and Blair put his arms around Jim's waist.

"I just hate it, you know? Seeing people hurting each other when they shouldn't have to. Love should be enough, Jim. It really should."

"I know, sweetheart." Jim kissed Blair on the head. "I know. They're not in an easy situation, though. They need a lot more than love. If they don't have it, then maybe they shouldn't be trying." He said it softly, face pressed in his lover's hair. Blair shook slightly, then unwrapped himself from his mate.

"I'm going to call Bruce before Dick gets back." Jim made no move to stop him this time. Blair dialed a number from the little black book in his head and heard only one ring before it was answered. He recognised Alfred's voice immediately.

"Hey, it's Blair Sandburg. Is Bruce around?" This time Jim listened in, and heard the reply.

"I'm sorry, sir, he isn't taking calls. Would you like me to deliver a message?"

"It's about Dick."

"One moment."

Less then ten seconds later, Bruce was on the line.

"Is he there?"

Both men heard the worry and relief in his voice; Blair glanced up at Jim and replied, "Can I ask you something?"

"Blair, is Dick all right?"

Blair heard the desperation that time. "Yeah! He's fine. Bruce, would--"

"I can be in Cascade in six hours."

"Bruce, wait a minute," He saw Jim glanced towards the parking lot and knew the Sentinel had noticed Dick approaching. "Look, I just wanted to ask you something, OK?"

"What?" Bruce sounded startled and confused.

"Why'd you break up with Dick?"

Both men heard the reply clearly. Silence for nearly five seconds, then, "My god. No wonder he left if that's what he thinks. Blair, I promise you that is not what I was trying to tell him. I didn't have a chance to explain before Clark called, but I was not trying to break up with Dick." The firm voice broke suddenly. "God, what he must have thought. Blair? Can I talk to him?"

Jim held up a hand, letting Blair know it would take about four more minutes for Dick to return. Blair nodded, and asked, "Why didn't you take him to Metropolis with you, then?"

"Because I knew I didn't need to. I wanted to keep him safe, at home."

"Bruce," Blair shook his head. "That never works. Trust me, man. That's never the right thing to do."

This time the tone was distantly amused. "I think Jim could argue with that."

Blair found himself grinning. "He tries, but he never wins." Blair laughed at the look his lover gave him.

"Blair... may I please talk to Dick?" The voice was patient, and Blair heard the finality of that patience.

"He's on his way up, Bruce. Uh... he doesn't exactly know I called..."

Blair heard the short laugh. Before either man could say anymore, Jim was opening the door and taking the bag of groceries from Dick. Dick looked at him in mild confusion, then stopped completely when Blair held out the phone.

Blair and Jim headed for the stairs, giving their friends privacy. Jim herded Blair to the bed; they lay there, cuddled together, and tried not to listen to Dick talking. Blair lifted his head to look into his lover's eyes when they heard Dick ask what had happened. Jim leaned over and gave him a kiss, then they lay quietly.


Thirty minutes later they heard Dick hang up and come to the bottom of the stairs. Jim let go of his lover and they headed for the stairs. Dick was looking up at them. "Blair, Jim... thanks. I don't know what to say." He looked away, then smiled. "I feel like an idiot. But I swear, what he said...."

Blair was downstairs and beside him, shaking his head. "Don't do that, Dick. Just tell yourself that next time you're going to talk to him. Even if he says something you think makes sense. If you don't like it, say so."

"It's the only way to find out you've misunderstood." Jim added. "If you don't talk about it, you'll never know."

Blair gave his mate a grin. "Sounds like the training has finally taken!" He rubbed his hands. "Now I can start stage four," he added in his best evil professor's voice. Jim cuffed him in the head. Dick laughed, wiping away the last of the tears that had streaked his face during the last half hour.

"So you're going home?" Jim asked.

"Yeah. Bruce's arranging for me to fly back. I'm gonna ditch the bike, though. Blair, do you want it?"

Blair's eye lit up instantly; Jim clamped his hand over his lover's mouth. "No, he doesn't."

Blair glared and tried to shake his head; Jim brought his other hand up and held his head still. Dick smiled and held out the keys for Blair to grab before Jim could move his hands again. "You can have the helmet, too. If it doesn't fit just trade it in, there shouldn't be any problem. It's brand new."

"Man, this is so cool. Thanks!" Blair gave his friend a hug, both of them ignoring Jim's frown. Blair finally turned and smiled, edged closer to his lover with a pleading look appearing on his face. "Jim, have you ever ridden a bike? Dressed all in leather, arms wrapped around someone's waist, engine throbbing between your legs...." his voice had dropped to a sultry whisper.

"Have you ever seen the guys they bring into the emergency room? Or the morgue?"

"Black leather jeans, leather coat, leather gloves and nothing else..." Blair rubbed up against the bulge Jim was trying to deny.

"Brains splattered all over the highway," he countered.

"Holding me tight between your legs..."

"Blair we have a guest," Jim tried again to dislodge his lover.

"He doesn't mind, he's ridden bikes before." Blair gave Dick a wink.

Dick smiled. "Yeah. It's OK, Jim. I have to go anyway. My plane leaves in about an hour."

Blair straightened, but didn't let go of Jim. "That's fast!"

"It was the first flight out... I think it's a Wayne Corp jet." He shrugged, then smiled shyly. "Bruce wants me home."

"I'd say so..." Blair grinned. "There's advantages to living with a multi-billionare."

"Yeah..." Dick grinned. "But you know what they say, it isn't the size of the shower stall, but the number of heads." Blair and Jim both laughed, but only because they had been in the shower in question and knew just exactly how many heads there were. And what one could do with them.


Jim and Blair gave me a ride to the airport, complete with lecture about how not to screw things up like this again. It was only the third time I'd heard the 'don't run away from it' lecture, first from Mrs. Kent and then from Bruce. Blair told me to screw things up differently, next time, for the variety. I let Jim get him back for that one, he's bigger than I am and knows where Blair's ticklish.

I got on the jet and settled in, waiting for it to take me home. I thought about what Bruce had said, and leaned back in my seat. He'd said he was going to change how things were done. He wasn't happy, and Batgirl was doing so well.... Bruce was right, when he'd said today that I was still pretty insecure about how he felt about me. I had assumed he meant the worst, but even he admitted he hadn't said it very well. When he had said that he wanted to change *everything* I had freaked.

See, I knew where I stood in Bruce's list of priorities. I, and Robin, were a firm second. Higher than anyone else in the world, but only second. When we'd talked an hour ago, Bruce had admitted it as well... and he'd said that the changes he had tried to tell me about were to try to adjust that. I'd almost freaked again, there on the phone, but I heard him say the next bit pretty clearly.

I had been right, he didn't want me as a sidekick any longer. But I'd been wrong about what he did want. Batgirl and I had been working as 'co-sidekicks' for long enough and he wanted to let Barbara start going out on her own. He wanted me working beside him as his partner.

He wanted me to move into his room.


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