This was the absolutely last time. He knew he'd said it before, and he knew he'd meant it before, but this... this time was so much more than any time before that... it had to really be the last. He'd tried again, one more time, and one more time it failed. Just like all the times before.

He'd argued, and he'd talked, and he'd done the years of saying nothing and just letting his actions speak the volumes. Actions, or lack thereof. Years, and he still had no clue if he were reaching through, behind the mask, to the man who lived there. To Bruce.

He'd tried everything he knew how to try, and made up a few things out of desperation. Nothing seemed to matter. Nothing had drawn him out to where Dick could talk to him. *Talk*, really talk. To Bruce, and not some amalgam of the bat, and the Bruce that he showed to what little public ever saw him.

Nothing worked, and Dick was no longer sure that he wanted to keep trying. He loved Bruce -- over the years he had loved Bruce most fiercely. But retaining that love was proving to be impossible, and Dick sometimes thought that loving him was becoming a habit: words thought and deeds planned because he had once burned for his love to be returned.

He was tired of it. Tired of only ever catching that fleeting connection when he was out above the city with Batman. Tired of only ever hearing that soft tone of voice when Robin had done something of note. Tired of only feeling those hands catch him, or hold him when Robin stumbled, or once in a very brief while, cradle some bruised or broken part of his body when the fight or fall was over. Moments of gentleness that made Dick believe that Bruce *must* love him back.


Dick bowed his head, and wondered if that would be enough. If it were Batman, who loved him, and not the man behind the mask.