Face the Day

~ Written for calicojane for charity.

He doesn't remember when taller became better. Ever since he was a teen, and Batman let him go out alone, he would perch on the rooftop of some tall building and look down on the city. At first it was enough to just be there.

Gradually, though, when he really needed to be alone, he would find taller and taller buildings, until finally he went right for the the tallest building he could find and crouch on its edge. He thinks it's because he needed to get away from any hint that there were people down there.

Bludhaven doesn't have buildings that are anywhere near as tall as Gotham had. But Gotham is still rebuilding from the quake and no one seems all that eager to build huge skyscrapers anymore. Even Wayne Enterprises is keeping their buildings shorter, as though not wanting to remind people of what they once had.

Now Nightwing sits on the rooftop of the Falsom building on east 49th, and pretends that he can't make out individual people walking down below. He can't hear anything other than traffic, and he prays it stays that way. He doesn't need a reason to go flying to someone's rescue.

He feels sick. As if he has any right to rescue anyone, now. He can still see Blockbuster's -- Desmond's -- face. He can still hear his accusations and Dick *knows* it is not his fault Blockbuster's mother died. Not..entirely, and not as though it was anything other than an accident. Dick would have felt enough guilt for that, but then Blockbuster began systematically taking away everything Dick cared about.

He tries to feel bad that Blockbuster is dead. He feels horrible things he can't quite name that he allowed Blockbuster to be killed. He feels guilt at the way it happened. But he can't really feel *bad* that Blockbuster is dead.

He wishes he'd never come to Bludhaven. He knows, though he never said so out loud, that he chose Bludhaven because in its own way it was worse than Gotham ever was. Perhaps because Gotham had had Batman around for long enough that the horror was focused on him. Normal, everyday life in Gotham only seemed to be touched by evil in the news and pictures in the paper. The kids Dick had gone to school with talked about fights they'd read about as though describing a sporting match.

Kids in Bludhaven talk about fights they've seen in the street, or in their homes, or dancing across the rooftops in brightly coloured costumes.

Dick knows it was pride that brought him here, wanting to prove something to himself -- to Batman. Show him that Dick could do as much. That he could take a town as badly off as Gotham had been, once upon a time, and save it.

And now he's fallen as far as a man can fall. Dick looks at his hands and doesn't see any blood. He can feel it, though. Desmond's blood is there and it will never wash clean.

He tenses, and forces himself to relax before Robin lands on the roof beside him. Nightwing doesn't look over, continues to scan the city stretched out before him as though he's really on patrol.

Robin sits down next to him, close enough that their arms and thighs touch. He doesn't speak, faces the city as well -- but Dick can tell his attention is on him, not Bludhaven. Dick waits, and when it becomes clear Tim isn't going to break the silence, he has to decide whether or not he wants to.

He'd rather Tim went away, but Dick can't ask him.

He also knows the conversation they could be having. Death isn't unique to any of them, and Tim of all people knows what it is like even if his was an accident and Dick's was no less than premeditated.

They could talk about how it changes you completely, how it makes everything you've ever done seem worthless. Tim can tell him that eventually you go on with your life, and saving other lives makes it balance.

They don't say any of it, and Dick is grateful Tim isn't trying. Dick leans ever so slightly towards him, a minute change of pressure on his arm, and the side of his knee. The pressure is returned, and the conversation that didn't happen, is over.

"He knows," Dick says, and the night seems to swallow his words. Is it darker, now? Or is it just a cloud against the moon?

"He always knows," Tim says, and there is a light, and sardonic edge to his voice. The thing everyone relies on most of all is the thing Dick has privately hated most. Because he knows, and there is so much he pretends not to know, and Dick has never understood why silence is better than...other things.

Tim understands, because he's young enough to still be finding his way into himself. Having someone see inside you and know every move you've made is disconcerting enough when you're an adult.

But it isn't the fact that Batman knows what Dick has done that makes Dick fear this. As soon as Blockbuster fell to the floor, Dick knew that the one thing he would have to face was Batman. He knows he'll never be ready for it, but sooner or later it will happen and he will have to see Batman's eyes. They're probably not speak of it, and Batman will allow them to pretend it never happened. But they will both know, and Dick won't be able to pretend they aren't both ashamed of him.

Sometimes he thinks it's why he wanted to go to jail. Batman -- and Bruce -- would never follow him there.

"He hasn't said--" Dick cuts himself off, because his brain is oddly slow, tonight. Robin is here, in Bludhaven.

Maybe *he* is the message.

Dick risks a glance over, and Robin is looking at him. The mask hides his eyes, but the set of his mouth and the curves of his cheek tell him what he would be seeing. Tim shakes his head. "I'm here because I wanted to come. He didn't ask me to say anything. Or not to, for that matter." There's a curve to his lip, briefly, and they share a moment of frustration at Batman's infamous mystery.

When Dick was fifteen years old, he spent several weeks leaving Bruce cryptic messages that meant nothing. Revenge, he thought, for all the times Batman would say only enough to let him figure it out himself -- eventually.

Of course Bruce had known what he'd been doing, and let him.

Nightwing looks back at his city -- by rights he can't call it that anymore. He never really could. All the years he's been here, and the best he ever did to keep it safe was murder a man.

He drops his head and he wants to let it all be over.

He feels Tim's hand touch his hair, lightly at first as though Tim isn't sure how he'll take it. Dick doesn't move, and Tim touches more firmly, but still with hesitation -- which is absurd, because it isn't as though they've never done this before.

Dick turns his head and looks at him, and he knows from the way he feels that Tim can see inside his soul as well. His own mask is useless against this, and Tim strokes his cheek to tell him that it doesn't matter.

It does, but he can't argue with what Tim wants. He should -- Dick knows he doesn't deserve any of this, and knows that penance doesn't begin with comfort. If he can't pay the price of what he's done, he should at least bide his time before asking to be free of any of the guilt.

But Tim is touching his cheek again, and his fingers are so soft and all Dick can think about is the times when they've been elsewhere, and costumes are on the floor and the doors are all locked, and the room gets filled with laughter and playing, touching and wrestling and sometimes it leads to more and sometimes it doesn't, but it has always, always been good.

He's never needed Tim to heal him before, and Dick knows that somewhere in the back of his mind he is screaming. But he leans into Tim's hand, and he can see that this is what Tim was waiting for.

Tim leans in and kisses him, and Dick takes him, holding on as though he's about to fall all over again. He doesn't want to forget himself in physical exertion, and he certainly doesn't want a repeat of sex on a rooftop -- it always seems to lead to interruptions of varying embarrassment.

The time Superman showed up was the least of them.

But he doesn't stop kissing Tim, or Tim doesn't stop kissing him, and Tim is holding him and all Dick wants is to melt away.

He really needs to stop this, because he'll forget why he's here and he'll lose himself inside someone who seems to think he can be forgiven. That's an argument he doesn't intend to have, and it's one Tim will assume Dick will lose. But it hurts too much to let go of, and Tim's hands are enough that Dick might forget anyway.

He pushes Tim away, gasping for air and trying to tell him why. Tim holds his hand, gripping it when Dick tries to yank it back.

"I'm not absolving you of anything," Tim says in a hard voice that they've both learned from the same place.

"Good, because--"

Tim's finger is on his lips, and the surprise is what silences him.

"You won't believe anything I have to say about why I'm here. So I'm not going to say it. But you are the *worst* when it comes to not letting anyone bandage your wounds."

Dick almost looks at his leg, wondering if he's started bleeding again. But then he knows what Tim means, even though Tim also means the physical wounds as well. Tim nags as well as Alfred, when it comes to bandages and resting.

"I had a bad influence," he says weakly, trying to echo a joke they always make. It's harder for Dick, having grown up with Bruce. But his own father was so unlike Bruce that perhaps it isn't any harder for him than it is for Tim. Batman is an impossible standard for anyone to live up to, and the one Dick tries hardest to be.

Tried, because he's pretty sure he's put any chance of becoming what Bruce wants him to be, behind him. And why his father's influence isn't louder in his ears than Bruce's, he doesn't really know. Perhaps because his father clearly loved him, and Bruce....

Dick presses his mouth against Tim's fingers, wanting more -- wanting to stop thinking and talking about things that he can't deal with. Tim brushes his finger along Dick's lips, then lets him come in for another kiss. He feels Tim encouraging him, obviously not caring that they are tempting fate with their record of never, ever getting away with this on a roof.

But Dick can't keep caring, since Tim is holding him and kissing him as though it isn't leading to sex at all, but being something else. Dick knows what it is, and he can hear words in his mind, whispered softly in a language his family now doesn't know.

He thinks of his grandfather buried in rubble, and he gasps. Tim's hands close on his arms, and he finds himself looking into Tim's eyes. He's pulled his mask away, and Dick knows he could do the same. Let this connection be the strongest one, instead of falling away into the past. But the past is only days old, and he can't let it go.

"You don't have to," Tim says, and Dick doesn't know why he doesn't hate it when Tim can read him as well as Batman.

"You should go," Dick tells him, because of all people, he doesn't want TIm touched by the blood.

How is it that Blockbuster didn't kill Robin, or Oracle, or Arsenal? Dick tries to take a breath, and can't quite manage. He knows -- he doesn't even think how it is Batman isn't dead. He's been there before and he knows there is no way Blockbuster could touch him. But the others....

It hits him that of everything he's lost, he hasn't lost what he loves most. And perhaps that explains the feeling of hatred he's been beating himself with.

Tim's touching his hair again, waiting as though he can hear the words tumbling in Dick's mind. Perhaps he can feel them through his fingertips, and he knows that Dick hates himself for being glad for who wasn't killed.

He looks up at Tim, and he wants -- needs -- something. He doesn't know what, exactly, though he knows what Tim will offer. He nods, though neither of them has asked, and Tim moves forward and kisses him again. It doesn't take the pain away, but Dick refuses to let him go. Tim doesn't try to stop, and soon Dick is focused on Tim, and his mouth and his hands and the way they are too close to the roof's edge to take it any further than this. Dick lets himself go, and slowly something creeps in beside the pain and the guilt and he has to admit that he's glad Tim is here.

Even if it isn't what they both want most, it's enough that they can close their eyes and pretend.