Nightwing followed Batman to Gotham's docking district, keeping
to the shadows to avoid detection by his quarry: the Dark Knight. A
dimly lit warehouse caught his attention. He wiped the dirt covered
window with a gloved hand for a better look and witnessed five men
loading pallets of crates onto the back of a semi. A normal
occurrence during the day but not at one in the morning.

"Automatic assault rifles. You take the side entrance. I'll
come down from the roof."

Nightwing actually jumped. "How'd you know I was here?"

Batman ignored the question. "On my signal." He fired his
grapple that took him to the roof.

Nightwing shook his head, wondering with amazement if he would ever
achieve Batman's stealth prowess.

"Great! Guns! That's all we need during this particular
month," he muttered to himself knowing of Batman's
disinclination for guns. Peering through the window again, he waited
for the signal.

"Now," Batman's voice ordered over the comm. link.

Nightwing initiated a perfect somersault through the window, landing
on his feet in a defensive stance. The element of surprise was
definitely on their side as the five thugs stood, frozen at the
sight of a man sized bat gliding down from the ceiling.

Batman seemed unrestrained as he disarmed the gun-runners. Each
unfortunate hoodlum felt the Bat's rage, incapacitated by one or
two sharp blows. Initially anxious his mentor was inflicting too
much damage, Nightwing relaxed when he detected the mastery of each
non-lethal blow. Satisfied, he turned his attention to the remaining
two thugs.

"A hero's job is never done," he quipped, hog-tying the
last of the smugglers.

He turned to Batman, now prying open the crates with a nearby
crowbar. Filled with packaging materials, a loud crash reverberated
through the massive warehouse as Batman viciously kicked the crate
over onto its side, revealing the contents on the floor. Guns. Lots
of guns.

"Well, well. What do we have here?" Nightwing asked, moving
toward the hog-tied thugs. "What do you suppose these guys were
gonna do with all this, Batman?" Before any answer could be
given, a shot rang in his ears. A searing pain spread through his
chest, collapsing him to the floor. He couldn't seem to catch his
breath. Worse, he couldn't move.

Time stood still as he tried to breathe. The pressure generated by
the bullet, even though it bounced off the Kevlar, was tremendous.
Batman must have already immobilized the would-be assassin as
Nightwing felt an ungloved hand run over his body, assessing
possible injuries.

He was finally able to fill his lungs with much needed oxygen, which
caused another surge of pain to flood through his body.

"Nightwing?" Batman sounded anxious.

"Ahhh! That hurt!" Nightwing managed to gasp through
clenched teeth. He gratefully used Batman's arm for support as he
stood, clutching his chest.

Batman placed an unsteady hand on the younger man's chest, again
making certain that the bullet didn't penetrate the Kevlar, then
turned away.

"Hey, I'm ok. Just stunned," Nightwing told Batman,
placing his own hand reassuringly on the other man's shoulder.
There was a slight quiver at the touch, accompanied by a quick
glance away from his own gaze. Reading the older man's body
language, Nightwing knew he had to do something fast before
Bruce's sublimated abandonment issues resurfaced - again.
Remembering that they'd collapsed as a team during another
anniversary a few years before, literally sparking Dick Grayson's
transformation from Robin into Nightwing almost overnight.
Nightwing was determined not to let that happen this time.

"I'm alright, Batman," he said again, his voice strong.

Again, no movement – no response. "Bruce, I'm alright.
The Kevlar stopped the bullet," he whispered. "Always
prepared, remember?"

Batman simply nodded.

"Let's go home," Nightwing suggested. "I think this
evening calls for Alfred's chocolate chip cookies and milk."
He rubbed his sore chest, remembering that Alfred would soothe
childhood injuries with milk and cookies. He also hoped for a
familiar family occurrence to show Bruce that everything was fine.

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

It was early - he couldn't sleep. The night's patrol
replayed in his mind. "You could have lost him," he
whispered as he stood beneath his parents' portrait, the inner
conflict within him bubbling to the surface.

"But, you didn't lose him. He's well trained. He's
his own man now anyway," he argued with himself - against the
desire to automatically push his son away to protect him.
"You've already pushed her out of your life, do you want to
lose your son, too?"

Bruce softly touched the gilded edge of the framed pictured,
desperately trying to remember everything about them.

"It's alright to want to live, Bruce. I can't believe
that they wouldn't want it any other way." Diana answered as
she walked into the room. Wearing a simple pair of khaki pants and a
loose cotton blouse, she assumed a professional distance from him
across the room.

He wasn't surprised by her presence. He had to admit, though,
that he was relieved that she came back. "What are you doing
here?" His voice was rough and he immediately regretted the
harshness in his voice.

"I spoke with Dick. He told me you could probably use a friend
about now." She moved closer, but would not invade his personal
space.

He paused wondering if she could ever forgive him. "I can't
do this anymore," he said quietly, looking to the ground.

"Do what?"

"Be alone. You've ruined it for me." He turned to face
her. "Being alone used to be a comfort…."

"And I changed that?" she asked coyly.

"You made me fall in love with you, Princess," he admitted.

He saw the surprise in her eyes – surprised that he would admit
his feelings, but she remained quiet. She can't forgive
you,' he thought. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean…I
thought…"

She put a finger to his lips, silencing him. "No. You have
nothing to be sorry about."

"I pushed you away. I…I just…It's just hard,
sometimes. Harder than I imagined it would be."

"Why did you push me away?"

"You made me forget a little – I was happy." He gazed at
the image of his parents.

"And that's a bad thing?"

"It happened so long ago. I remember every detail of that night
– the sound of the shots, the strand of pearls my mother was
wearing soaked in her own blood, the moans of pain as they lay
dying…then the silence." He paused, momentarily lost in the
memory. "But, I was young and sometimes I feel that I hardly know
what they were like anymore. At least as Batman I'm focused on
the mission and the reason for it. I'd never forget what
happened."

"Bruce, you don't have to feel guilty for surviving – for
living. They would want you to be happy." She stroked him arm in
reassurance.

"I know," he sighed. "Is it too late, Diana? – For
us?" He looked into her eyes hoping to see some glimmer of
forgiveness.

"I love you, too, Bruce. I'm not going anywhere."

Relief flooded through him as he grabbed her in his arms in an
embrace. "There's something I have to do today." The
anniversary. He would visit their final resting place today.

"I'll wait," she reassured.

"No. Would you please come with me? I still visit often, but
today's different. I don't want to go alone this time."

"You won't ever have to go alone again, Bruce."

The end (or is it?)