Night Has Fallen

He opened his eyes and raised his head, looked around. It was dark.

That helped. Sort of. He tried to push himself up and discovered a scream of protest from his shoulder. He stopped and lay back down again briefly. Plan two.

He lay still and looked around. He couldn't tell how long he'd been lying there unconscious. He couldn't see the night sky from where he was and he felt as if he'd been out for weeks. His brain was so fuzzy he couldn't be sure that wasn't really an exaggeration.

He took a long, slow breath and tried again to move. Using his uninjured arm, he pushed himself upwards and brought one knee forward. Success. At this rate he could count on getting home sometime before the millenium. He was able to brace himself and bring his other leg up until he was kneeling almost upright. He took stock of his surroundings again with a slightly clearer head.

The burned out building was still more formless debris than structure, just as it had been when he'd come upon it that evening. There were no signs of intruders -- besides himself and the obvious sign that someone had been here, at least once, to plant the bomb that he had triggered.

He winced, as much as in chagrin as in pain. Not that it hadn't been well-hidden, and not that he hadn't detected it at the last second. But, rather obviously, he hadn't been fast enough. At least he was alive to regret it. Not too badly injured, either. He began checking himself over and found that other than cuts and tender proto-bruises, all he had to show for his error was a badly wrenched shoulder.

That and several pieces of very dead equipment. He looked down at the particles of plastic and electronics scattered in the dust and broken bricks. He poked at one piece that used to be a GPS tracker. The faceplate shone dully. At least Bruce could afford to give him a new one. Even if he didn't know that Dick had borrowed it.

Although knowing *him* he did know, now. As soon as he walked into the BatCave he'd have noticed the missing equipment. Probably knew exactly who had taken it, when, and why. And the where, Nightwing added as he looked down at the former GPS. Batman probably had been tracking *him* with it, even as Nightwing had followed the truck he'd tagged.

Groaning, he got shakily to his feet. He blinked. Oh yeah, walking home was gonna be *fun*. He wondered if he could catch a bus in his Nightwing outfit. Would anyone care?

The bus driver might, since he didn't exactly have exact change.

Nightwing groaned again as he looked around again from this slightly higher vantage point. Whatever he had been tracking -- and it wasn't the truck, that he'd figured out as soon as he'd entered this godforsaken building -- it wasn't here any longer.

He staggered a step and discovered most of his body was still working, and still talking to him. So. Now what? Nightwing asked himself as he took another step. Millenium, he reminded himself. Get home before it turns January, 2001.

He took a third step. The truck was long gone, that was certain. If Blockbuster were planning-- He stopped.

He knew that black cape-shaped shadow.

Nightwing smiled, glad he could at least beg a ride home. His smile faltered as Batman landed in front of him. The expression on his face was...

Indescribable.

Nightwing blinked, staring in confusion. Batman advanced a step, his expression changing to the merely inexpressive mask he usually wore. The moment it settled in place Nightwing realised what he'd seen before.

Fear. Pure, unadulterated terror that had only begun to vanish as he'd arrived.

"Batman? What are you doing here?" he asked carefully.

Batman didn't reply. He took another step forward and Nightwing could see into his eyes. The terror hadn't gone, it had simply been allayed for a bit.

"Are you all right?"

Nightwing nodded. "My shoulder feels like it's cracked or something. But otherwise I'm fine. OK, I'm annoyed, too. But otherwise fine." He grinned. His grinned faltered slightly as Batman took another step forward, looked down at him, then only touched his injured shoulder very gently. Experienced fingers probed and found the worst spot. Nightwing hissed slightly, then Batman dropped his hands and nodded.

"I'll take you back. Alfred can see to this," he nodded ever so slightly at the shoulder.

"What are you doing here?" he asked again as Batman turned and walked away. Nightwing followed slowly. His bearings were still lying down on the ground, wishing the bomb would hush up.

Batman didn't answer. Nightwing rolled his eyes. He wanted to say 'you can ax the dark and mysterious bit, it's just us' but he didn't. If he had ever intended to say it, he would have said it years ago.

He stumbled slightly, reaching out to catch himself against something steadier than himself. He found his arm caught by a black-gloved hand, and Batman by his side. He hadn't noticed Batman coming back. Not that he never noticed that sort of thing... even though he could do it himself he still sometimes missed Batman doing it. He opened his mouth to say he was all right, but stopped.

Batman was looking at him, terror still shadowed in his eyes. Nightwing started to reach up, then saw even that emotion shut out behind the mask as it slammed down hard.

"Come on." Batman kept a hold of his arm, and paced him slowly out of the building. Nightwing wondered if he would get anywhere if he asked again. Perhaps he should wonder why Batman wasn't answering him. Why *was* he here? What was Batman doing in Bludhaven? Why wouldn't Batman tell him? Nightwing narrowed his eyes as they neared the BatCopter. Batman would have made good time if he'd come here from the cave.

He let Batman help him into the copter and leaned back. Review the facts, he told himself. What do you know?

'I know my shoulder freaking hurts,' he told himself.

Besides that, he said, carrying the dialogue on. He leaned back as Batman shut the copter's doors. If Batman had been after someone in the Haven, he would have said something to Nightwing. Either asking for information, or asking for assistance. Or at the very least asking him to stay out of the way. Batman wouldn't just sneak in and sneak back out...

Would he?

If he would, and was, then what was he doing *here* pulling Nightwing out of a building? That is, Nightwing modified his question slightly, given that Batman would rescue him anyhow, what was he doing *here* in a position to see that he needed help?

He looked out the window and saw they were already halfway to the BatCave. Had he blacked out again or was he just thinking too hard? If Batman didn't want to tell him why he was in Bludhaven, either he was up to something he didn't want Nightwing to know about or... He winced and rubbed his head. Or he needed some aspirin before he tried to outthink the Bat.

Leaning his head back against the headrest, he decided to wait until Alfred had a chance to wrap him up before trying to do anymore heavy thinking. He glanced at Batman, saw the man's face in profile. It was hard, dark, mysterious. He reached over and touched him briefly on the cheek. A second later he screamed at himself what he was doing, but for the moment he simply touched.

Batman didn't react. Nightwing let his hand fall. As he turned away he saw the clock on the copter's dashboard. He'd been unconscious less than an hour.

He knew why Batman had come to Bludhaven. The bad part was, there was nothing to say about it.

Nightwing had been carrying the GPS tracker he'd borrowed from the cave. When it had been destroyed, Batman had known. Not known what had happened, but known something had. There had been almost enough time from the moment the bomb had gone off to the time Batman had shown up, for a BatCopter to reach Bludhaven from anywhere in Gotham.

Almost, unless one pushed the copter to its utmost limits.

Nightwing figured he ought to apologise. But that engendered admitting he knew how the other man felt. That was something they didn't discuss. They both knew. They both *had* to know. World's greatest detective and his protege... they couldn't not know.

But they didn't discuss it.

Nightwing watched as they approached the cliffs. Maybe Bruce wouldn't be so scared of losing him if he would just say the words out loud. But maybe he wouldn't. When they landed Nightwing got himself out of the copter without any assistance, but Batman was at his side again before he'd taken a step.

"Alfred!" Batman called in a calm and controlled voice. Nightwing refrained from saying he could have made it by himself. His head was pounding and if given a choice he almost would have preferred to be carried.

Alfred was at his other side in a moment. "This way, Master Dick. We'll have you right in no time."

Nightwing let his old friend -- both of them -- help him to the infirmary. Batman excused himself and soon Nightwing heard him speaking to Robin over the radio. Apparently Batman had left his partner on stakeout duty somewhere in Gotham.

Then Nightwing was lying on his side, costume half-off, and listening to Alfred chastise him ever so politely for getting hurt. A moment later Batman was standing there again, looking at him. Waiting. Bruce reached up and pulled the mask back and continued to stare at him with hooded eyes.

"There. You'll be fine," Alfred announced a few minutes later. Dick had his shoulder wrapped and his arm in a sling.

"I guess Blockbuster will have his way for a while," he said ruefully. No way he could bustcrime like this, even if he thought he could get away with trying.

"I can check up on him," Bruce offered. "What is he up to now, anyway?"

Dick grinned. "What *isn't* he doing? I was trying to find out, actually. I've been following some shipments the last few nights, trying to find out what his next big plan is. I think he found out. Decided to dissuade me." Dick indicated his shoulder, referring to the bomb.

"Hm. It would seem so." Bruce nearly frowned at him, but didn't quite. He wasn't quite smiling, either.

Dick was beginning to feel a little better. Nothing like getting bandaged up and medicated -- Alfred had given him a needleful of something, but he didn't know what -- to make the pain go away. Only slightly, whatever the painkiller it wasn't strong, just enough to take the edge off. He yawned. Bruce smiled at him then held out a hand to help Dick off the table.

Dick went willingly, letting Bruce guide him back out to the locker room. With his arm slung he had to let Bruce finish stripping him out of his costume. Alfred helped him into a robe while Bruce changed quickly, then Bruce was at his side again helping him towards the elevator.

It was on the tip of his tongue to ask.

However, he didn't ask as they headed down the hall and to the bedroom. He didn't say a word as Bruce helped him to bed. Bruce hung up their robes then in silence, crawled into bed to lie behind him.

It was only as he closed his eyes, lying in Bruce's embrace, that he asked it silently.

Knowing Bruce would lie awake until dawn, when Robin was safely home and the night safely over, Dick fell asleep. In his dreams he felt Bruce lean down and kiss him, and answer him.