I FINISHED IT!!! WEEE HAW!!!! *does the happy snoopy dance of joy*

SPORADIC DISCLAIMER: O.K. In case you guys missed it the first few times around, I own these characters. Every last one of them. Well except for Alfred darnit. And Dick. And Barbara...and Bruce...aw heck. I only own the kids. Cheers and Happy reading!


The next day Dick sighed heavily as he climbed the front steps of the Manor. It had been a long night, and incredibly longer day now that he was working the morning shift at the station. And it was only halfway over he realized. He had just started to reach for the door when it was suddenly opened from the inside. Dick looked up, slightly startled, but smiled as he reconized Alfred, the gentleman's gentleman, and surrogate grandfather figure to the Clan.

"Hey Alfie. Got your message... you said it was urgent?" Dick's smile faded to mild concern as he greeted his longtime friend and confidante.

Alfred ushered the youngest of his 'boys' into the house and closed the door, before taking Dick's jacket, as a proper butler should before he cleared his throat. "Indeed young sir. Might we step into the kitchen, as I've taken the liberty to prepare some lunch for you before you go traisping back to that horrendous mountain of paperwork you've clearly become so fond of."

Dick raked his hand through his hair as he muttered, "It's more of a love/hate relationship. You love it when others remember to fill out the paperwork and hate it when your the one filling it out."

Alfred's deadpan face gave away nothing as he nodded sympathetically, "Quite so sir." And then a thought seemingly occured to him as he walked through the kitchen door. He had been wondering how to broach the subject and here he had been given the opporutunity. Well...when opportunity knocks... "It would seem that is a reccurring theme in our lives Master Richard."

Dick's head jerked up as he followed Alfred to the kitchen, taking a seat on the stool by the island counter. Richard? Full name usage can only mean trouble. Why was HE in trouble? Eyeing the passive butler with a wary look he asked, "What do you mean by that?"

Alfred took his time answering as he placed a plate of sandwiches in front of Dick, followed by a glass of milk. Having made sure that he had taken care of all the utilarian needs, he now turned to face Dick making direct eye contact so as to get his message across in it's entiriety. Both of his boys had the chronic problem of thick-headedness and it was imperative that Dick understand what he was about to say. "There have been several instances where members of this family have made decisions that others are not too fond of. Their reasons are usually sound, and sometimes even noble, but the path they take or the way they wish to carry out their mission may not always agree with us."

Dick sat there in midbite for a moment trying to decipher what Alfred had just said. He knew from the older man's continual eye contact and tone of voice that it was important. Finally the light broke through "Ah." Dick swallowed before placing the rest of his sandwhich down on the plate before him. "You heard about last night."

Alfred nodded contritely. "Indeed."

Dick scoffed almost bitterly, "So you brought me here to lecture me on how foolish it was of us to allow Jymmy to be Robin in the first place." He should have known this was coming. Alfred had always been against costumed crimefighting, ever the since the beginning, even before Bruce actually put on the cowl.

"On the contrary. I asked you to come here today so that I might ensure that you are eating a healthy nutritious lunch. And to explain something to you." Alfred's gaze never left him as he continued. "I don't believe you understand all the reasons of why I permitted Master Bruce's ...'extracurirricular activities'. " The aging butler sighed wearily, and sat down across the table from Dick.

Dicks eyes widened as his mouth fell open at the valet's gaffe in formal properness.

"Dick...there are some people in this world who have a mission. Something that they MUST do. Something that drives them and keeps them going from day to day. Without it, they just drift...and it tears away at them bit by bit, until that part of them is gone."

"Master Bruce has such a mission. More compelling than most I suppose. I would think that of all the people in the world you are the only one that comes close to understanding that. You recognized that as a lad when you came to stay with us. Your relationship with him has been broken and healed on the very basis of that recognition. At your most distant, the two of you fought your doubts and fears of the PATHS you two chose, but never once did either of you doubt the mission."

Dick continued to sit there in a state of dumbfoundedness. This was beginning to happen a lot lately and he hoped it wouldn't become a habit. He listened carefully to the man across from him, not wanting to miss a word. Alfred rarely spoke of the deeper, emotional and often ignored, turmoil that gripped the Clan like an iron claw.

"The same is true for Master James. He watches silently for things unsaid, and understands a great deal more than you think." Alfred paused here for a moment, letting the slight shift in focus sink in for Dick. "You and Master Bruce do a great deal of good and the world is a far better place for it. But the two of you so rarely think of the ones you leave behind each night. The ones that sit at home and wait."

Dick blushed a dark red as he looked at the glass of milk on the table, "That's not fair Alfred, I think of Babs and the kids every night."

"I have no doubt that you do Master Dick, but you must see it from their point of view. Children naturally feel helpless at times, of events that surround their lives. Some of these they accept without question, and others they fight with every fiber of their being. Master James has accepted that you are his father. Whatever uniform you wear that will never change. To him you are only one man. He knows he cannot ask you to stop being Nightwing, any more than he could ask you to stop being Officer Grayson. It's too much a part of who you are. He accepts that. What he does not accept...is that he must sit by idly and wait for a moment that may never come, or may come someday all too soon."

Alfred looked over at his onetime charge, searching for a hint of comprehension. Dick for his part was sitting there with a pensive look.

Dick rubbed a hand over his face as he took a deep breathe then looked at the man he had come to think of as his grandfather. "So...what your saying is....Robin isn't really my choice anymore. James already made that choice. It's his mission and it's what he's going to do with or without my help." He kept his eyes on Alfred as he haltingly made his way through the summary, looking for any telltale sign that he had misinterpreted. So far nothing indicated that he had. "The only question now...is what relationship I choose to have with my son." Dick finished that sentence even as he realized the truth behind it. The small smile spreading across Alfred's lips confirmed it.

Alfred always knew Dick was a bright lad. All he needed sometimes was a gentle push in the right direction.

Haley's words came floating back to Dick, prompting him to ask, "Haley feels the same way? She mentioned something about us 'Ruining everything'."

Alfred barely managed to suppress a chuckle. "I believe Ms. Haley is living vicariously through Master James at the moment. He appears to be acting as her field agent."

Dick gave a short laugh. "That explains a lot. Why she's always talking to Jymmy on patrol, and hanging out with Oracle." He frowned as he thought of something else. "Those two are awfully close. She's been sleeping in his room...pretty much ever since he started being Robin last year."

Alfred nodded in his infuriatingly sage way, "Similiar fears often bind people together, providing common ground."

Dick looked down at the plate in front of him with it's half eaten sandwhich staring back at him. "They never said anything."

"And I doubt they ever will."

Dick sat there for a moment longer, lost in his own thoughts before he stood up. "Well...thanks for the lunch Alfred. I gotta get back to the 'Haven for work. Amy's gonna have my hide if I'm late again." Picking up the sandwich he headed out of the kitchen with a wave and a bite.

"Anytime Master Dick...and PLEASE, remember to use a napkin."

* * * * *

Later that evening, Jymmy entered the family living room at the clocktower, throwing his hockey bag down by the door and walked into the kitchen. Opening the fridge he scoured for a can of soder for a few minutes before straightening in triumph and he turned around soder can in hand. The late evening sun was cutting through the window, leaving the room dim but not completely dark as he hadn't bothered to turn the light on when he came in. He popped open the can, and nearly spilled it when he saw Dick sitting at the kitchen table. Apparently he hadn't bothered to turn the light on either...or...judging from the unreadable look on his face he'd been waiting there for a while.

Jymmy stepped a little closer, and saw two objects lying on the table beside Dick. Taking another step forward, he realized they were masks. Nightwings and Robin's. Wordlessly Jymmy looked from the table to his father with a puzzled expression. He was fairly certain this had to do with last night but he wasn't sure where this was going.

"Jymmy, " Dick paused for a moment trying to work through the lump in his throat before he started again. "Jymmy. I've been thinking a lot about what happened last night. I've been thinking about a lot of things actually." The shadow from the setting sun fell across Dicks face, making it difficult to see his face. "I'm not going to take Robin away from you. I don't think that'll work anyways. You've pretty much made up your mind. So instead I thought I'd give you a choice." He waved a hand to the masks sitting on the table. Nightwing's mask was on the right, near Dick and Robins on the left closest to James. "I'll give up Nightwing...if you give up Robin."

James looked at his father in disbelief. It was several seconds before he could get his mouth to work, and several seconds after that before he could find his voice. There was movement in the doorway behind Dick and he could see Haley leaning around the corner. "I'm not sure I understand...You give me Nightwing..."

"...And you give me Robin." Dick was suddenly aware that Haley was somewhere behind him, but he kept his eyes trained on James. Even though the sun was on Jymmy's face, he couldn't see what he was thinking.

He was offering to give up Nightwing, Jymmy realized. If he wanted, he could choose Nighwing's mask and there would be no more long nights of waiting. No more wondering when the comlink went silent.

But what about the innocents? That next person that lay bleeding on the ground could be someone elses sister, someone's child, someone's mother. Someone's father. James caught his sister's eyes and there was an unspoken message in them and he knew immediately what his choice would be. It was the only choice really. Haley nodded and then disappeared from the doorway down the hall.

Dick had his answer a moment later, as James reached out slowly but surely and picked up the Robin mask. Nodding to himself he stood up and picked up the Nightwing mask, "All right...your grounded for 3 weeks for going out past curfew. Robins grounded for 2 weeks and double training sesssions with Batman. We'll see where it goes from there." Dick could only stand there for a moment trying to gather his thoughts. He was surprised when Jymmy rushed forward throwing his arms around his waist to hug him for all he was worth. Dick hugged back just as fiercly, holding him as tight as he could. Why then, he thought as he looked down at his son, does it feel like I'm letting go?

Later that night, Nightwing returned home after patrol and when Oracle had long since signed off, Dick stood in the doorway watching his daughter's chest rise and fall, alseep in her own bed, in her own room for the first time in nearly a year. Maybe he wasn't the only one learning to let go.