Author's Note: I could not for the life of me think of a satifactory name for this story, so I stole one. Assume there will be spoilers for any given episode.

"Still sulking, McGinnis?"

Bruce spoke almost absently and wasn't surprised when Terry didn't answer. He waited a few seconds, then tried again.

"Still awake, McGinnis?"

This time there was a chuckle before Terry's amused response came over the comlink.

"I'm not speaking to you, remember?"

"Sorry; I forgot. I'm still not grovelling, though."

"Well, then, I guess I'm still sulking."

The corner of Bruce's mouth twitched and his eyes gleamed. Terry was fully capable of milking a joke for days if he felt like it and nothing came up to make him drop it. For that matter, he still whistled tunes from That Show every now and then. This particular joke stemmed from a discussion they'd had earlier. Not an argument- neither of them had been more than mildly annoyed- just a discussion. At least, it had been until Terry had broken off in mid-sentence, blinked, and started to laugh. That had earned him a raised eyebrow, forcing him to explain that the last minute or so had been almost word for word the text of his and Dana's last argument. Except quieter. And Terry had been speaking Dana's lines. Bruce had been amused enough to ask what came next.

"Well... I should suddenly go off on a tangent about how you're neglecting me and never have time for me- which you'd think would be the same thing but apparently not- then I tell you I'm not speaking to you and storm off, leaving you scratching your head and wondering where the hell that came from. I sulk for a few days, you work off stress by beating the crap out of any Jokerz you come across. Then I... think I'll skip the next step, because that way lie scary visuals and people already tell strange stories about us, but you do some abject groveling and things go back to normal."

"I'm not grovelling."

Terry had pretended to consider this.

"That'll be awkward. I can't stop sulking until you grovel. Rules."

"Then you can sulk while you're on stakeout. You wouldn't be the first; it's a time-honored tradition."

"Not that you ever did it."

"I don't sulk, either."

"Of course not- you brood instead."


Terry had left for the stakeout shortly after that. The stakeout was admittedly a long shot, but they'd agreed that even a slim chance of catching this particular arms dealer was worth the sacrifice of a sunny Saturday.

They'd agreed. That was happening more often lately and Bruce knew it wasn't just because Terry was maturing. The Joker's attack, now months past, had shaken him more than he'd ever admit, forcing him to realise once and for all that trying to protect people- and himself- by driving everyone away just didn't work. He'd made a conscious decision to try to be a bit more open, to lighten up a little. It wasn't easy, but the reactions from everyone around him seemed to indicate he was doing the right thing- which had the contrary effect of making him feel like an idiot. When he'd mentioned it to Barbara she'd grinned at him and told him to go with the feeling.

He'd even gone so far as to apologise to Terry for what he'd said and done the night he'd tried to fire him. Terry had just looked at him for a few seconds, then told him bluntly that the next time he thought Terry was getting in over his head he should just say so, then they could argue about the real problem without getting bogged down in bullshit. Subtext, he'd added, was a bitch. Bruce had been literally speechless; not only was Terry right, which was a little annoying, but he'd also sounded uncannily like Selina Kyle.

"Hey, old man, turn on the vidlink. You gotta see this- talk about too cute for words."

Terry snickered quietly. Bruce activated the link and gave another example of his trademark twitch/smile.. The scene was in fact too cute for words. A heavyset woman in business casuals was lying on the grass, enjoying the autumn sun while she could. What she had apparently forgotten was that Gotham squirrels led the nation in sheer nerve and one had decided to remind her of the fact by climbing onto her and perching on her ample chest. The woman was gazing at her shameless new companion with an expression of utter enchantment. The squirrel gazed back for a few seconds, then unfastened the pin on her lapel and darted away. Bruce and Terry gasped; the woman jumped to her feet with a shriek.

"Give that back, you fuzzy-assed tree-rat!!!"

The picture began to shake as muffled snorts came over the comlink. Bruce leaned back in his chair, a rare grin spreading across his face. Soon he too was shaking with silent laughter as the chase became increasingly slapstick. Later, he suspected, he would be annoyed that this had destroyed any chance they might have had to catch the dealer- there was no way he'd stick around through the commotion- but for now he was enjoying himself. So was Terry, obviously.

"Okay, I think I'd better lend a hand now," Terry said after awhile, his voice decidedly unsteady. Before Bruce could say anything there was a flurry of motion and the next clear image was of Terry's gloved hand holding the squirrel by the scruff of its neck. The woman stopped short, wheezing a bit and gaping at the sight of Batman and the furry felon. When Terry spoke again, there wasn't a hint of a tremor in his voice.

"Is this the individual who robbed you, ma'am?"

"Smartass," Bruce muttered. The woman blinked a few times, then bit back a smile.

"Why, yes, it is, Batman, but I don't wish to press charges as long as I get my pin back. Especially considering his extreme youth."

"Extreme-? Oh. Right. Can't be more than two or three years old." Terry took the pin, gave it back to the woman, and carefully placed the squirrel on a low-hanging branch of a nearby tree. When it didn't run off, he addressed it sternly. "All right, we'll let this one slide, but don't let it happen again."

The woman snickered. Bruce sighed. The squirrel bounced up and down on its branch, let out a furious stream of chitters, then three jaws dropped as the squirrel made an unmistakable gesture as it turned and ran away.

"....Did that squirrel just flip me off?"

"Yes," Bruce and the woman chorused, both grinning.


Half an hour later Terry leapt from the Batmobile and pointed a finger at his mentor.

"One word and I'll rig the computer to automatically log on to the Hampster Dance every time you try to access your e-mail."

He would, too, Bruce knew, so he didn't so much as raise an eyebrow. There were some things even he hesitated to face.

"Seriously, though," Terry continued, disappearing into an alcove to change," did you ever run into a situation so ridiculous even you couldn't help laughing? -That didn't come out right."

"Do tell."

"Look, I know I told the Joker you didn't have a sense of humor, but I was just messing with his head. I know you've got one, you just don't show it much, and I'm just digging myself in deeper, but you know what I mean."

"Yes, Terry, I know."



"Ah, come on."

Bruce decided to give him a break, just this once.

"Interesting you should mention the Joker..."

Terry popped out of his alcove, shirt in hand, staring.

"You actually laughed at something the Joker did?"

"He didn't do it intentionally, and he was in no state to appreciate it anyway."

Terry pulled his shirt on quickly, walked over, and leaned against the computer.

"Okay, this I gotta hear."

"Robin- Dick- and I were chasing the Joker once and he slipped on a banana peel, hit his head on a lamppost, and knocked himself out. Landed right at Jim Gordon's feet, too."

"You're kidding."

"Gave himself a concussion."

Terry cracked up.

"A banana peel?"

"We couldn't believe it either. The four of us- Harvey Bullock was there, too- we just stood and stared for a few seconds, then I caught Jim's eye and it was all over." Bruce snickered, remembering. "When Harley caught up with us she thought he'd got us with his laughing gas before he went down, but Dick pointed at the banana peel and she started laughing, which just set us off again. When the Joker found out, he sulked for weeks."

Terry was sounding a bit like the Joker himself at this point, and Bruce was openly grinning. Even Ace was wagging his tail.

"You don't want to know how Harley tried to cheer him up."

Terry stopped laughing and turned pale.

"No. No, I really don't. My dreams are already wierd enough."

Bruce allowed himself to laugh. Terry shot him the look he always gave the old man when he didn't want to admit Bruce had got him.

"That was uncalled for."

"The Hampster Dance."


"Now we're even."

Terry laughed again and raised his hands.

"Okay, I surrender. And I better get going; I promised Mom I'd pick up some stuff at Kamalic's and they close early on Saturdays."

"Don't forget the milk."


"He can tell you the name of every villain I've ever fought, but he can never remember the milk," Bruce commented to Ace.

"Says the guy who holds a million patents and still can't cook."

Bruce bowed his head to acknowledge the hit. He still thought of the time Terry had caught him trying to make an omelet as one of the more embarrassing moments of his life. Especially since Terry hadn't laughed at him, just sighed, shook his head, and took over. And made an omelet almost as good as Alfred's. And to add insult to injury, hadn't rubbed it in. Much.

"See you later, old man."

He bounced up the steps before Bruce could answer, taking them two at a time as usual. He paused at the top to shoot a grin over his shoulder, pleased at getting the last word for once, then vanished into the Manor.

To be continued...