Dick Grayson was in a terrific mood as he pushed the Clock Tower doorbell. Barbara had finally loosened up and let him back into her life. It hadn't exactly been a smooth transition, but he loved her and she loved him back. He felt like as long as that was true, the details would work themselves out. He'd brought with him a box of take-out Thai food and his camera. It was about time he updated the picture of him and Babs on the wall in his apartment. His plan was for her to eventually see his place, and he didn't want her thinking he was clinging to the past with that picture from five years ago of them standing in each other's arms, fit and wearing swimsuits.
He could hear the doorbell resonate through the tower. A moment later the door opened. It was Dinah. "Hey, Grayson. Come on in."
"Dinah, how's it going?"
"Good, I just got back from Rheelasia, so even better."
Dick held up the box. "I brought Thai food. Hope that's okay, I didn't think about you being in Asia."
"No problem, I didn't exactly have much time to sample the local cuisine."
Dick laughed. "I hear you. That's how my travel time seems to work out too."
Dinah chuckled. "I swear, one day I'm going to have a real vacation."
"I had one once, Babs and I at the beach, it was great. Of course, that was years ago."
They walked into the kitchen just as Barbara was entering through the other end.
"Hey, baby." Dick leaned down and kissed her lightly across the lips.
Dick set the box on the counter and then pulled off his messenger bag. Barbara went for silverware, while Dinah set the food on the table. The girls took to the food like starving waifs.
"Geez, when was the last time you two ate?"
"Last night," Dinah said.
"Yesterday afternoon," Barbara answered through a mouth full of Pad Thai.
"You guys don't eat right."
"I eat right," Barbara protested.
"When you remember to eat," Dinah smiled.
Barbara stuck her tongue out at her. "Like you're any better."
"My point exactly," Dick grinned.
They had almost finished before Dick remembered the camera. "Listen, Dinah, since you're here, will you do us a favor?"
"I brought my camera. I'd really like a new picture of Babs and me. The one I have is like a million years old."
Barbara set her fork down. "I don't think so, Dick. I really don't like having my picture taken."
He looked at her. "What are you talking about?"
"I just don't like it."
"Come on, you're beautiful. We'll sit on the couch."
Barbara shook her head.
"Come on, one picture isn't going to hurt you."
She gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes. "Fine, but just one."
They finished dinner and then retired to the living room. Dick showed Dinah how to use his camera and then sat next to Barbara on the couch.
"Okay," Dinah said, "on the count of three. One, two,"
Dick could feel Barbara tense.
The shutter snapped and Barbara flinched. She immediately pulled herself back into her wheelchair and rolled toward the door.
Dick watched her go and then looked at Dinah. "Well, I guess that's that. Thanks."
"Okay, is it just me," Dinah asked, "or was that a little weird?"
"It's not just you." Dick wiped a hand across his face. "I'll go talk to her."
Barbara was in the kitchen throwing food containers in the trash, throwing them a lot harder than necessary. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she said, but the tightness of her jaw told him otherwise.
"You don't seem fine"
"I'm just tired. It's been a long day, actually, I think I'll go ahead and turn in."
"Well, I was planning on staying, if that's okay."
"Um, tonight might not be such a good night, okay. I'm really tired and I don't feel well."
"If you're sick, maybe I should stay."
"I think I just need some sleep."
"We could sleep—"
"Not tonight, okay?" She turned around and rolled down the hall.
He was putting his camera back in his messenger bag when Dinah walked into the kitchen.
"Where are you off too?" she asked.
"I guess, I'll stay at the manor, I've been kicked out of the tower for tonight."
Dinah wrinkled her forehead. "Really?"
"Yeah, really. I'll see you around, Dinah."
"Okay." Dinah looked down the hall at the closed door to Barbara's bedroom. "You sure you don't have any idea what this is about?"
Dick laughed wryly. "Nope, but I can guarantee you one thing."
"She's not going to tell me."
Dinah nodded. "Yeah, I hear that."
Twenty minutes later, Dick was standing in the darkroom of the Bat Cave.
"I'm perfectly happy to develop your photos for you, Master Dick."
"No thanks, Alfred. It's just one picture and I can do it myself."
"Would you like something to eat?"
"No, I just ate, thanks anyway."
"Then I shall be upstairs if you need me."
An hour and a half later, Dick was pulling an 8x10 photo out of the solution.
"I'm surprised she let you take that.," Batman said from behind him.
Dick held the picture up to Batman. "Look at her wincing. You'd think she was getting poked in the eye."
Batman stared at him. "So you have no idea why she doesn't like to be photographed?"
"No, but clearly you do."
"You've never read her file?"
"Her police file, from the shooting?"
"Why would I have read that? We knew who did it and you had him back inside Arkham before the night was over."
"You might want to read it." Batman walked out of the darkroom.
"You want me to break into the Gotham P.D. just to read a file? Why don't you just tell me what I need to know?"
"It's not at the G.P.D."
"Then where is it?"
"You stole a police report?"
Batman turned and glared at him. "Jim Gordon gave it to me. Asked me to keep it safe. I have."
"Why would he—?"
"Sometimes things disappear from evidence and wind up on the Internet. Jim didn't want that happening."
"Why would anyone—?"
"Read the file." Batman walked off in the direction of the manor exit.
"Fine." Dick walked to the large room where files were kept in the cave. The room was wall-to-wall filing cabinets. It was easy to find Barbara's file in the G drawer. The police report was short. It included some photos of the crime scene depicting a broken glass coffee table with blood all over the carpet. Barbara's clothes were on the floor where the paramedics had cut them off. Dick shut his eyes and turned the page. The last page said only SEE SLIDE EVIDENCE xx22aa131. It was Batman's box system for evidence that wouldn't fit in a folder. He found a small box of slides inside the larger evidence box. There was a slide projector in the evidence room along with a microfilm reader and several other pieces of equipment one might need when looking at evidence. The slides were corner tagged so Dick easily loaded them into the carousel of the projector. The first slide came up extremely blurry. Dick used the remote to adjust the focus and promptly dropped it.
He could barely hear the remote as it clattered against the floor. The image was horrific. It was Barbara with her top off, bleeding, lying on the shattered remains of the coffee table. At first he couldn't understand why the police photographer would snap a picture of a living victim. His hands found the remote and flipped to the next slide. This time she was completely naked. Her position had changed. Who would move someone with a spinal cord injury? He began clicking the remote faster. The pictures got worse, various positions, close-ups, the pool of blood around Barbara grew larger in each shot. These clearly weren't police photos. That means, it could only mean... The remote clattered to the floor as Dick raced to the door. He barely made it to the side of the cavern before he lost his dinner. He knelt there, leaning over the side for a long time, trying to catch his breath, trying to erase those awful images from his head.
"I'm sorry." It was Batman's voice.
Dick turned around to see Bruce. "Do you have any idea what kind of cold-hearted son-of-a-bitch you are? Why couldn't you just tell me what he did to her?"
"I thought you needed to see it for yourself."
Dick stood and faced his adopted father. "No, Bruce, I'm not you. I trust when my friends tell me something, that it's true. I didn't need to see that. I never needed to see that."
Bruce didn't say anything.
Dick started to walk off but then turned around. "I'll tell you something else. They better keep him in Arkham, this time. He gets out again, he's dead."
Bruce didn't say anything. Dick went back up to the manor, didn't stop to say goodnight to Alfred, got back in his car and headed for the 'haven—" Once there, he donned his Nightwing costume and kicked the butt of every thug he could find. At 3:00am he finally headed home, showered and went to bed.
After a few fitful hours of sleep he headed back to the Clock Tower. Dinah was coming out as he was going in.
"How is she?"
"Didn't sleep much. Nightmares." Dinah yawned.
"How about you?"
"I sat up with her. I'm going home."
Dick held up the box of Dunkin' Donuts and the Box o' Joe. "Coffee or donut before you go?"
"No, on the coffee, I'm going to try and sleep. But I will take a donut." She reached into the box and pulled out a chocolate glazed. "Good luck, Dick."
"Thanks, Dinah, get some sleep."
She smiled at him and headed for her car.
Dick found Barbara in her wheelchair staring out the window. "Morning. Coffee?"
She turned her chair to face him. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Dinah and I met at the door."
Barbara nodded. "Dunkin' Donuts, you're a genius."
"No," Dick said pouring her a cup of coffee from the box, "you're a genius, I'm just pretty bright. Most of the time anyway."
Barbara gave him a strange look. "Oh, God."
"What?" Dick handed her the coffee.
"You saw them."
"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. I can look at you and tell that you've seen them."
Dick poured a cup of coffee for himself and was horrified to realize a lump was forming in his throat. What are you going to do, cry like a girl now, Grayson, he chastised himself.
"I didn't ask, didn't want to see them."
"Let me guess, Bruce?"
"He can be such an asshole sometimes."
"Yeah." Dick pulled out a kitchen chair and sat next to her. "I didn't understand about the photo thing."
"I know." She put her hand on his arm. "I probably should have just told you myself."
Dick nodded. "That would have been nice, but I can see how saying something like that would be very difficult."
"I say difficult things all the time. You'd think I'd be used to it by now."
"I don't think talking about something like that is ever something you should get used to."
Barbara took a sip of her coffee. "Maybe not."
Dick took her hand and intertwined his fingers with hers. They sat that way for a long time just sipping their coffee.
"It's really just the sound I can't stand, that shutter snapping sound is in all of my nightmares, I mean, I've never actually seen the pictures. "
She rested her head against his chest. He set down his coffee and wrapped his arm around her.
Two weeks later, Dick Grayson found a note in his mailbox saying he had a package waiting for him. He picked it up in the landlord's office and carried it upstairs. Inside it was a digital camera, six mega-pixels all the bells and whistles. With the camera was a note.
Thought you might like this camera.
It makes no noise when you take a picture.