by Jim Greeno

"Hang in there, Grayson," Nightwing thought to himself as he crossed the rooftops. He'd be home in a few minutes, all he had to do was remain conscious.

The wounds were more superficial than anything, but the blow he'd taken to his head from the business end of a tire iron had surely given him a concussion. Nightwing was already suffering from waves of nausea, and his dizziness was increasing.

Finally he stood atop the building across from his. The swing from here to his fire escape was always a welcome one, usually signifying the end of a long and brutal night on the streets. Tonight, however, this last step home almost proved fatal as his injury induced vertigo momentarily got the best of him in mid swing.

Knowing that staying where he was would end in a hard collision with a stone wall, Nightwing instinctively pulled up with his arms and released, trying desperately to focus his eyes on his intended destination. He tucked and rolled as he hit the fire escape, and inadvertently crashed through his apartment window.

"It's a good thing I work alone now," he said to himself, lying on his back next to his bed amid many pieces of broken glass. "If anyone'd seen that, my reputation would be ruined."


Bridget Clancy had done many things to get by thus far in her life. She'd delivered newspapers as a child, and worked a register at a fast food joint in high school. Since then she'd waited tables, tended bar, temped as a secretary, and even delivered pizza. But then she finally found the one thing she looked for in a job:

Free rent.

Being a super in an apartment building, even in Bludhaven, had its advantages. If you work hard and do preventive maintenance, the job itself isn't too difficult. Especially when your tenants are chosen carefully. The docile former super villain in the basement, a mountain
of a man who always seems more than happy to help her move things, like new water heaters and endless piles of stored junk from here to there. The ornery yet respectful John Law up on the third floor, who wants nothing more than to keep to himself. Dr. Fledermaus, the tenant that always pays his rent on time despite the fact that he's never once spent a night in his apartment.

And then, of course, there's Dick Grayson, quite simply one of the nicest men she'd ever met. They'd become fast friends since he moved in. Charming, funny, intelligent, responsible, caring...what's not to like? Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's as handsome as they come,
and has a body that would make Mother Theresa kick out a stained glass window.

Yes, Bridget Clancy, in her short time on Earth, had become good at whatever task was required to make ends meet. But the one thing she'd truly mastered was the art of sleep. After a hard day's work, all she needed was a horizontal surface and something to call a pillow. Once she's in Neverland, there are few things that can wake her.

Living in Bludhaven, though, the sound of breaking glass qualifies.

Clancy sat bolt upright in her bed, quickly rubbing the sleep from her eyes. It was just now dawn, and the sound she heard had come from the second floor.

"Dick!" She threw her robe on and hustled upstairs.

Clancy reached Dick Grayson's door and began knocking frantically. "Dick? It's Clancy. Are you okay?"

She heard rustling noises from inside and before long, Dick answered the door and let her in. He then turned and went back to cleaning up the glass from the floor.

"Are you all right? What happened here," Clancy asked.

Dick kept his back to her as he swept up the last of the glass into a dustpan and made his way into the kitchen to dispose of it.

"I'm not real sure, Clancy," he called to her from the other room. He hung his head a bit as he came back from the kitchen. "Some kids busted in while I was sleeping. I guess they thought I wasn't here. They bolted when they saw me."

Clancy closed the distance between them and gingerly took Dick's chin in her hand, forcing him to look her in the eye. "Looks like they did more than bolt when they saw you," she said with a slight smile, referring to the bruises and swelling on his face.

Dick turned away from her and took a step back. "I'm fine. Really. I'd like to get back to sleep, though."

Clancy's astonishment was obvious, "You're not going to call the police?"

Dick chuckled a bit, "What for? Nothing was taken, and the window won't cost me much to fix. They're long gone by now anyway. I'll take a look around in the morning, and I'll file a report if I find anything. Us newly appointed cops can do things like that." He smiled down at her, silencing any further protests.

"You sure you're okay," Clancy asked, hopeful that he'd let her get closer. This constantly keeping her at arm's reach routine was becoming more disheartening by the moment.

"Positive," Dick replied. He could see the open disappointment on her face, knowing full well that he'd put it there. "Dinner tonight?"

Her face broke into a sly smile. "You're on. 6:30?"

"Make it 7. I'll pick you up at your place if I can find a place to park," he said, giving her a wink.

"See you then," she seemed to purr in reply. She left, closing the door behind her.

Dick fell back on his bed, determined to get some sleep before heading into Gotham to let Dr. Leslie take a look at his wounds.

"That was a little *too* close," he said aloud as he drifted off to sleep.


If you happen to be Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, or Tim Drake, there is one certainty to life in Gotham City. You never, ever, get a clean bill of health from Dr. Leslie Thompkins.

On his drive back to Bludhaven, Dick wondered with bemusement exactly how many times he'd heard Dr. Leslie say, "You're okay this time, Dick, but absolutely *no* costumes for the next few that understood?"

Of course, she knew that they understood all too well, just as she knew that they'd be back on the streets as soon as the sun set. In the end, she just patched them up as best she could and prayed for their continued safety every night. This is probably the biggest reason, Dick
thought, that she and Alfred get along so well.

Dick had a concussion. Not severe, but also not minor. For most people, that would mean a few days in bed, a delicate diet, and the best painkillers money can buy. For Nightwing, it meant reduced aerials, using the car instead of the rooftops, and doing what he could not to
get hit in the head again.

Several hours, a few aspirin, and a nap later, Dick was knocking on Clancy's door, dressed in a button-up and a favorite pair of jeans.

The door opened to reveal Clancy still fiddling with an earring.

"Hiya, handsome. Come on in, I just have to get my shoes."

Dick smiled as he entered her apartment and took a seat on the arm of her sofa. "You look fantastic, Clancy. Sorry I'm late."

"Late?" she called from her bedroom. "It's 7:02, cut yourself some slack."

Dick laughed. "No can do, milady. My grandpa Alfred always told me, 'It's highly improper to keep a lady waiting,'" he said, intentionally leaving out the "Master Richard" part.

Clancy came back into the living room, ready for a night out. She was wearing a navy blue and black dress, cut a few inches above the knee. Not too dressy, but enough to make Dick regret his choice of worn-in jeans. "I just knew there were gentlemen *somewhere* in your family. So what do you think," she said, doing a quick spin.

"Positively stunning, Clance. Love the colors. Any idea where you want to go?"

"Already taken care of," she said as she picked up her keys and led him out into the hall. "We're going to Primo's, so I hope you gassed up that oversized guzzler of yours."

Primo's was one of the nicer restaurants in the Haven, set in the outskirts of the city. Dick had often staked it out as Nightwing, as it was also a mob front for the Cirelli family, who "owned" what Blockbuster didn't of the Zee Moores district.

"Nice place. And yes, your guzzling chariot awaits," Dick said with a mock bow as he lead her out to the car.


Dinner had gone well, all things considered. Clancy prodded him about whether or not he'd gone to see a doctor, and he assured her that he had, citing "the possibility of a mild concussion" as his reason for his light dinner selection.

He'd noticed some shifty patrons while they were eating, a couple that he'd even recognized. He took comfort in the fact that they'd only recognize him if he showed them the soles of his shoes. After he'd paid the bill, Dick heard sounds of angry shouting coming from one of the
back rooms and thought it best if they left for the evening, making a mental note to stop back later that night when he was more properly dressed.

Clancy walked out ahead of him, stopping short as they got into the parking lot, purposely causing Dick to bump into her slightly. She used that moment to turn and put her arms around him.

"Thanks for dinner," she said as she leaned in and kissed him passionately.

He returned her advance in kind, placing his hands gently on her face. The kissed lingered for a few long moments until he broke away.

"Clancy...," he said as he pulled away a little, taking her hands in his. "Clancy, I can't..."

"You can't what," she asked incredulously, fear and hope both evident in her eyes.

Dick gave her a reassuring look. "No...I don't mean...I don't know what I mean. I just don't want this to move too fast."

She gave him a short laugh. "Too fast? Dick, we've known each other for over a year! If this is fast, we won't get past kissing until we're both collecting Social Security!"

"I know. I'm sorry. I'm just not sure that I'm ready, and I don't want to hurt you. There's a lot going on in my life right now, and..."

"Are you seeing someone else," she interrupted.

"No. Not really."

"Not really? What does that mean," she asked as she pulled her hands from his.

Dick held his ground. "This doesn't have anything to do with another woman, Clancy. I'm not seeing anyone else. My life is just very complicated, and I have to sort some things out before I can give you the kind of attention you deserve."

Clancy turned away from him angrily. "Oh, spare me the boy scout act, Dick. You've been leading me on for months now."

He could hear the tears in her voice. "I know it seems that way, Clancy, but I promise you that I'm not. There are a lot of problems that I..."

She spun back toward him, looking him in the eyes, tears flowing freely now. "We all have problems, Dick...responsibilities, obligations, you name it. Being with you, feeling what I'm feeling, makes my problems easier to deal with. If you don't feel the same...I...I'll talk to you
later." She walked away without a backward glance.

"C'mon, Clancy. Let me drive you home," Dick pleaded.

"I'll go inside and call a cab. Drive safe, boyo," she said as she slipped back inside the restaurant.

Dick cursed himself as he stood alone in the parking lot. He was unsure whether to go after her. On the one hand, he didn't want to push things and cause a scene in a public place. On the other hand, he didn't like the idea of Clancy being in there alone with known criminals. The least he could do was go in and wait for the cab with her, just to make sure...

Gunshots suddenly rang out from inside the restaurant.


Clancy scurried underneath a table as the gunfire continued to erupt around her. The argument she'd heard just before she and Dick had left had obviously escalated into something more. There was shouting as the gunshots stopped. Three men seemed to be
arguing about missing money. From where she crouched she could see the body of a man that had been shot several times in the midsection.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash and a new voice. "Carmine, I see you're still not playing nice with others," the new voice said ominously. Clancy slowly peeked out from under the table to get a better look.

The man standing where the front door once hung elegantly was dressed in a form-fitting blue/black uniform. The mask covering his eyes couldn't hide the anger apparent on his powerful features. One of the armed gunmen lay at his feet, crumpled into a beaten heap, the heavy carved oak door still partially on top of him.

This must be Nightwing, Clancy thought. Stories, almost folklore, had been circulating on the streets about a masked man not unlike Gotham's Batman, and how he was wreaking havoc on the Bludhaven's criminal element. Well, if this was him, he sure is impressive, she thought. And mad.

"Don't move an inch, Nightwing," Carmine Cirelli shouted with his gun trained on Nightwing's chest. "I'll kill you. I swear to God I will."

Nightwing raised his hands slowly. "Okay, Carmine. You and I will sort this out, but first thing's first. Let's get all the innocents out of here. Your dad wouldn't be happy if any bystanders got hurt in his restaurant, and you wouldn't want the police looking any harder at him than they're already going to."

Cirelli nodded nervously.

Nightwing soothed his tone. "Okay, everyone get up slowly and make your way past me outside. Don't make any sudden moves, and do *not* run. Do as I say and no one will get hurt."

Clancy did as she was told, as did the other dining patrons and restaurant staff. Her eyes never left Nightwing's, and she noticed him watching her as she moved. She stayed to the back of the exiting group, her curiosity about this mysterious man getting the best of her.

She was almost outside when she heard the sound of the kitchen door being kicked open.

"NO!" Nightwing shouted as he grabbed Clancy by the arm and pulled her behind him.

The automatic gunfire was brief, and she groaned loudly as Nightwing fell backwards on top of her. And just as quickly as he'd fallen, he was gone again. She sat up against the wall and watched as the dark clad man leapt into the air, flipped once, spun twice, and took out a
gunman with each foot as he landed.

Though she expected him to stop there, he turned his downward momentum into a crouch and swept out with his leg, tripping a third thug. He grabbed the last man's gun with his left hand as he rose, driving the heel of his right hand hard into the man's jaw. The sound of breaking
bone echoed across the room as the fight ended.

Nightwing stood triumphant, his back to her. Then he suddenly fell to one knee. Clancy first thought that he may have been saying a prayer, then he placed a hand on the ground to help support his weight. He tried to get up, then thought better of it, surrendering his weight
to his hands and knees. He was hurt.

Clancy wanted to run, but this man had just saved her life. She rushed to his side and helped him sit a bit more comfortably. As he did, she saw the gaping gunshot wound to his midsection.

"Oh, you've been shot. We've got to get you to a hospital," she said worriedly.

He looked up at her, something weighing heavily on his mind. "There's no other way...," he finally said.

"Right, I'll just call 911 and..."

"No! No, that's not what I meant. No hospitals. Get out of here as fast as you can. Cirelli's men are probably on their way, and I don't want to give them a reason to remember your face."

Clancy hesitated, "What about you? That wound is really bad..."

"Dammit, Clancy! Listen to me! Get OUT of here. I'll meet you in the parking lot," he barked. She stood quickly and ran out of the restaurant and into the parking lot.

She crouched between two cars, keeping her eye on the front door. How had this man known her name?

Three minutes passed like an eternity as she waited, afraid that Nightwing had collapsed after she left. She was about to go back inside when a hand from behind her covered her mouth. She tried to scream, but couldn't.

"Shhhhh, Clancy. It's me." Her mouth was uncovered as the man behind her fell backwards onto the pavement. Recognizing the voice, she whirled around.

"Dick!" The pain on his face was evident as he clutched his midsection, trying to slow the bleeding. "Oh my God! What happened to you?"

"No...time," he said through clenched teeth. "We've got to get out of here."

She helped him to his feet, then into the passenger side of his car. As she rounded the car to the driver's side, she looked at him through the windshield, and the pieces all began to fall together. Moments ago she was torn to let the masked man fend for himself while she aided Dick, only to realize that they were one and the same.

Clancy got into the car and slammed the door shut. Dick reclined the passenger seat for added comfort.

"Keys, Dick! Where are your keys?"

Dick weakly leaned over and reached under the driver's dash, seeming to flick a switch. As he did, the dashboard came control panels appeared where they hadn't been before. Clancy gasped as she raised her hands away from the steering wheel, almost afraid to touch anything.

Dick rested a hand on her thigh. "It's okay. On your left. Red and yellow buttons."

"Push them?"

He seemed to laugh and cough at the same time. "Yes."

She did as instructed. The red button started the car, and the yellow tinted the windows to full black, even the windshield. Just as she thought she'd never be able to drive the car if she couldn't see, the windshield flickered "on", displaying a digital image of what was
outside. The other windows followed suit.

"Okay," Dick said, squeezing her knee to get her attention, "Switch next to the red button."

She flipped the switch, and the dashboard radio rotated upward, revealing yet another LED display, which read, "AUTO SYSTEM ACTIVATED. AUTHENTICATION REQUIRED."

Dick reached into his pocket and pulled out his Nightwing mask, raising it to his eyes. The lenses flickered for a second. "Nightwing authentication pattern Five-Seven-Seven-Six-One-Seven-Alpha," he said.

Clancy looked at him in astonishment, then back to the display as it changed. "VOICE AND RETINAL AUTHENTICATION SUCCESSFUL."

"Okay, Clance, your turn. Red button again."

She pushed the button, which changed the display again, "DESTINATION?"

Dick reached over his right shoulder with his left hand, grabbing and fastening his seatbelt. He nodded to Clancy, indicating that she should do the same. She fumbled a bit as she did it, but complied nonetheless.

"Medical Priority Five...Execute," Dick said, adding a loud cough for emphasis.

The vehicle lurched into motion, causing Clancy to grab the steering wheel. Try as she might, she couldn't get it to turn. She felt Dick's hand squeezing her knee again, and she looked over at him.

"It's okay. You don't have to drive," he said. He seemed to get paler by the minute, the sweat on his brow increasing with the pain. A loud, continuous beeping noise suddenly filled the inside of the car.

" gauntlet. Back seat."

Clancy unfastened her seatbelt and turned in her seat to look for the gauntlets in the back. She hoisted them to her as she righted herself, astonished that someone could wear something so heavy and still move as he did. She buckled her seatbelt once again, the beeping sound beginning to annoy her.

"Which one," she asked plainly.

"Either," he responded. She placed a gauntlet in his lap, noticing that his eyes were closed tightly. Without looking, he opened a small compartment in the wrist portion, removed something small, and placed it in his ear. The beeping stopped.

"Nightwing...I'll be fine, Oracle, just patch me through. Can't talk now."

A few moments passed.

"I'm hanging in, Alfred. Yes, and identity situation, but she's a friend...No, only Robin. I'll need help getting inside...GSW, mid-torso, no exit. Yes. Okay. Nightwing out."

Dick took a couple deep breaths, then opened his eyes and looked at Clancy.

"I'm sorry, Clancy. I'll explain..."

She reached over and took his hand in hers. "You'll explain later, when you're well. Rest now..."

He gave her a weak smile before closing his eyes, giving into the blackness.


A hand pressed gently against his forehead woke him. His eyes blinked open and adjusted to the light in the room. Dr. Leslie Thompkins was leaning over him, smiling. The car's autotracking system had taken him to a building across from Wayne Enterprises, a safe house Batman had established after the quake.

"Look who's awake. Should I give you the 'following doctor's orders' lecture now, or would you like a rain check?"

Dick wiggled his fingers and toes instinctively, a habit that brought feelings of relief and stabs of guilt simultaneously.

"Rain check, please," he said with a sheepish smile.

"How are you feeling, Master Richard," Alfred asked quietly as he moved into Dick's view.

Dick nodded slightly, "Fine, Alfred. How is she doing?"

"If by 'she' you are referring to Ms. Clancy, I assure you that 'she' is doing quite well. She's napping on the sofa at the moment."

"You didn't send her home?"

Alfred cocked an eyebrow as he responded. "Ms. Clancy was quite adamant about staying, Master Richard."

Dick laughed. "How am I, Dr. Leslie?"

"I extracted the bullet with little difficulty. You required three units of blood and minor reconstructive work on the rib that was shattered in the process. All said, you were very lucky. That shot could easily have hit your lung or spine."

Dick reached for her hand, and she offered it lovingly. "Thanks for the help, Dr. Leslie. What's the prognosis?"

She smiled and shook her head. "That's Bat-speak for, 'How soon can I put the mask back on?' You'll be very tired for the next two or three days. You will remain in bed until the wound mends, then we'll take a look and see how things are."

They spoke for another few minutes before Dr. Thompkins made her exit, leaving Dick to rest and Alfred to his usual duties.


Clancy woke with a start as a hand lightly touched her shoulder. The kind older gentleman she'd met the night before was standing before her.

"I took the liberty of preparing breakfast for you, Ms. Clancy."

Clancy looked at the table across from her. Alfred had indeed prepared breakfast, and what a breakfast it was! Pancakes were featured prominently amongst the spread of eggs, bacon, sausage, muffins, orange juice, and coffee.

"Wow, I hope that's not all for a wee lass like me!" She looked up at him thankfully. Alfred had still not displayed any surprise that her Irish brogue usually brought about.

"Master Robin will be returning shortly. His appetite can be quite daunting in the mornings, so one may be best served to help themselves before the lad arrives." His smile was warm as he offered to help her to her feet.

Clancy took his hand and rose before him, giving him a smile of her own.

"How is Dick?"

"Master Richard is napping at the moment. The doctor has assured us that he will make a full recovery."

Clancy allowed herself a sigh of relief. There were moments on the ride here that she thought he wouldn't survive.

"Can I see him when he wakes up," she asked.

"Most certainly, Ms. Clancy. Also, please feel free to use the bathing facilities in the master bedroom behind you. You will find a robe in the closet that I trust will be comfortable while I have your dress cleaned."

Clancy looked down at her dress. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" She still wasn't quite sure what this man's relationship was to Dick, for he seemed a bit young to be his grandfather. Regardless, she imagined that a dress stained with Dick's blood must be at least as difficult for him to look
at as it was for her to wear.

"Please, do not alarm yourself, my dear...," Alfred started as Clancy hurried into the master bedroom.

Alfred shook his head as he went back to the kitchen to finish preparing Dick's oatmeal. He knew it would be torture for Dick to watch everyone eat his favorite breakfast while he stuck to his recovery diet.

Perhaps that would teach the lad to worry an old man so.


Clancy returned to the small dining area to find Robin eating a healthy portion of pancakes. The young man still wore his mask, though his cape, gloves, and boots were heaped on the chair next to him.

Clancy was wearing a robe, her hair still wet from the shower. Her dress was balled up in her hand as she walked over to the table.

"Um...hi," she said, embarrassed.

Robin rose to his feet with a smile. "Hi! Sorry I started without you, but Alfred didn't know how long you'd be in the shower. I'm Robin, by the way. We didn't really get to meet last night. Sorry about that, too."

Clancy was a bit taken aback by the boy's friendly demeanor. Were it not for the uniform and mask, she'd swear she were meeting a boy scout.

Clancy had only seen him in passing the night before. As the car finally came to a halt, he was immediately opening her door, obviously expecting Dick to be where she sat. He quickly apologized and then literally flipped over the hood of the car to the other side.

Clancy was amazed at how easily he managed to maneuver Dick. Robin was obviously exceptionally strong for a boy his size. He and Alfred then placed Dick on a gurney, and Robin wheeled him inside. She hadn't seen Dick since.

Alfred introduced himself and very politely escorted her inside. He gave her a quick idea of where everything was and showed a great deal of concern for her health. Once she assured him that she hadn't been hurt in the evening's events, he had hastily excused himself and headed off to the next room where they'd taken Dick.

The next time she saw him, he was bringing her a snack and some hot cocoa. He'd said the doctor was still with Dick and that he would keep her informed on his progress.

She fell asleep on the sofa not long after that, exhausted by the trauma of the evening. Sometime before dawn, Alfred woke Clancy to tell her Dick was out of the woods and resting comfortably. He then offered her a ride home, which she refused. Nonplused, he then said that she would be more comfortable in one of the bedrooms. Seeming to understand her
desire to be close if Dick's condition changed, he brought her a blanket and pillow.

Though it seemed impossible at the time, Alfred had made her feel welcome and comfortable during the most chaotic and confusing night of her life.

Snapping out of her reverie, Clancy said, "Don't apologize. I understand, really." She held up her dress, "Is there somewhere I can dispose of this?"

"I'm sure Alfred can have it cleaned if..."

"No, thank you. I appreciate it, but I don't think I could wear it after...," her voice trailed off.

Tim stepped forward, took the dress from her hand, and smiled knowingly. "I understand. I'll take care of it for you." He pulled out a chair for her and waved her into it. "You have a bite to eat, and I'll be back in a sec."

Though she wasn't very hungry, it seemed a shame to let such a wonderful breakfast go to waste. She was used to cereal and donuts. Clancy served herself a couple of pancakes and a muffin. Robin then returned, having disposed of the dress, and poured her a glass of orange juice.

"Thanks so much...Robin."

Robin laughed lightly. "I know this has to be really weird for you. Dick was afraid something like this would happen one day."

"Afraid that I'd find out, or that he'd get shot right in front of me?"

"Both, I suppose. I know last night scared him," Robin added.

"I'd be scared, too, if I'd gotten shot like that," Clancy replied, amused.

Robin shook his head as he finished a bite of his pancakes. "No, not that. He's been shot before. When we brought him in last night and he came to, he was really worried that he'd put you in harm's way. Something about how he knew the restaurant was a mob front."

Clancy put her fork down, a little surprised at what she was hearing. "But *I* picked the restaurant. Maybe if he'd actually trusted me with who he is, it wouldn't have happened."

Robin leaned back in his chair and looked Clancy in the eyes. "Ms. Clancy, you don't understand. Dick *does* trust you, and he cares very much about you. I know that for a fact. But telling you that he's Nightwing, that's something that puts both of you in a lot of danger. And if there's one thing that Dick is adamant about, it's the safety of the people around him. That's probably why he doesn't seem to make friends that don't do what we do, whatever you wanna call it."

"Ha! What about me, boyo? I'm the super for an apartment building, NOT a superhero."

"That's what I mean, Clancy. That's how I know that he cares a lot about you. He wouldn't have let you in otherwise. When he first moved into your place, he said it was temporary. But he stayed, though the logistics of it makes what he does a lot more difficult," Robin stated.


"Lotsa reasons. Having to sneak in and out. Keeping up appearances in the building. Getting a job and paying rent when you don't have to. But mostly because if anyone ever finds out who he is, or if he's ever followed, he'd be putting everyone in that building in jeopardy."

Clancy weighed Robin's words, not sure that she liked the idea that she could be caught in the crossfire without ever knowing why.

"So why does he do it? Why live there if he has so many other options?"

Robin shrugged, "I'm not sure. I guess because he likes living a normal life. I mean, I doubt he would have become a cop if he didn't live there. Doing what we do, you have to have a certain amount of detachment. But living with you guys every day made him want to help
the community, not just fight crime. That's why he bought the building and spends so much time with Mutt, and I..."

Clancy leaned forward, "He's the one that bought the building?!?"

Robin covered his face with his hands. "If anyone asks, you figured that one out on your own, okay?"

"I don't understand, Robin. I guess I can sympathize with all that, but if he cares so much...I don't know."

"Clancy, I know this is a lot to take in. Just try, if you can, to look at it from his perspective. You're confused, and you probably feel more than a little betrayed. But above all that, consider where that bullet was heading, then where it ended up."

Clancy sighed heavily, "But being who he is, he would have done that for just about anyone, right?"

Robin shrugged, then nodded. "Yeah, but he told us what happened. There are human risks at all times in what we do. Dick could have charged that place and dropped the baddies before a shot was fired. That's what I would have done, because that's what Batman trained us to do. In that situation, there's a minimal chance that an innocent will get hurt. When you're playing with life and death, you play the odds.

"But Dick waltzed in there and announced himself, training two guns on him in the process. By doing that, the chances of him getting hurt multiplied, so why play it that way?"

"Because of me?"

Robin nodded. "That would be my guess. He didn't want to take any chances with your life. Things went bad and he did what he had to do to save you."

Clancy bowed her head, shaken by his declaration. "Great, I feel much better now."

Robin smiled. "Don't blame yourself, Clancy. What happened wasn't your fault at all. Dick did what he did because he's a hero. He gave up his chance to lead a normal life so that other people could. Heck, he's the whole reason I'm sitting here dressed like I am...because he's *my* hero."

Clancy smiled. Robin was obviously a big fan of Dick's. "You sure know an awful lot for a boy your age, Robin," she said with a wink.

"Hey, at the end of the day, I'm just a kid. But I'll tell ya, knowing Dick is going to make me a better man. I'll be happy if I become half the man, or the hero, that he is...and lucky to have the kinds of friends that he has. You know, the kind that'll get you to a doctor when you're gutshot and bleeding," Robin added a wink of his own.

"Ms. Clancy, Master Richard is awake. You may see him now," Alfred stated from the open door to Dick's room.

"I'll be right there. Thank you, Alfred," Clancy replied, returning her attention to the young crimefighter seated opposite her at the breakfast table. "And you, 'Master Robin,' thank you, too. It seems to me you're already a step or two ahead of our favorite hero." She flashed him a wicked grin as she rose from the table.

Crossing to his side, she leaned over and kissed Robin on the cheek, causing him to blush.

"Ummmm, thanks, Clancy," Robin stammered as she left the room.


"Master Richard, you have a visitor," Alfred said as Clancy walked in. "Perhaps 'she' can convince you to eat your breakfast." He closed the door behind him as he left, ensuring as usual that he'd had the last word.

Clancy pulled up a chair beside Dick's bed and sat down, putting a hand on his.

"How are you feeling," she asked bluntly.

"Much better now, thanks to you."

"Aw, you make it sound like I did something more than get kidnapped by that car of yours," she said with a laugh.

Dick wouldn't let it drop, "Really, Clancy, I might not have made it here without your help."

"Dick, seems to me you got in that car all by yourself, and that's all it took. And I have it on good authority that if I *hadn't* been there, you wouldn't have gotten shot."

Dick sighed deeply. "You don't understand, Clance. If we hadn't been there like we were, I would have been at home, asleep. That fight still would have happened, and how many of those people would have been killed when that guy came out of the kitchen? Or if I'd been there alone and gotten hit like I did, how would I have made it out?"

"I don't know, just like you did, I guess."

Dick laughed. "Okay, Clancy, have it your way. You want the truth?"

"The truth? From you? What's the occasion?"

Dick could taste the anger in her words. "Let me tell you what it feels like to be shot, Clancy," he said carefully, studying her face. "The momentum of the hit drives you backward, the severity of the sudden movement is enough to break bones and tear muscles. Then there's an intense burning sensation that brings on a large, dull pain.

"When I collapsed after that fight, I'd already lost over a pint of blood. The pain and blood loss team up on your senses, and you find yourself unable to stand. Then you black out. Being me, a lot of things can happen at that point. You can bleed to death, of course.
But Cirelli's boys would have shown long before then. They may have made it quick and painless, but they probably would have made it tortuous and slow considering what I did to his son. Worst case, they would have patched me up and sold me to Blockbuster, who would have taught me the meaning of the words 'slow' and 'tortuous.'"

Dick looked at her, knowing that his words were causing the tears in her eyes.

"This is my world, Clancy. The truth is that I was an inch away from dying last night. But at the last possible moment, my head was filled with an Irish lilt. A kind, beautiful, and compassionate woman, despite the risk to herself, stayed behind. She sat me up, talked to me, and reminded me that someone I care very much about might still be in trouble," he squeezed her hand. "Circumstances be damned, without that woman, I wouldn't be here today."

Clancy sniffled briefly and looked at him with a grin. "Yeah, but if I'd known at the time that he was the same guy that just gave me the brush-off in the parking lot, who knows what would have happened?"

Dick laughed as he tugged at her hand, urging her to get up. She sat on the side of his bed and they shared a long embrace.

"Does this hurt," she asked as she held him, momentarily putting aside the multitude of questions she wanted to ask.

"I don't care," he replied in a whisper.

Clancy sat back down as they separated, but continued to hold his hand.

"You know, you really scared the wits from me last night, Dick."

His smile turned to a frown and he gave her a look she knew she'd seen before, but never understood before now. The look of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am about all this. I hope it hasn't been too awful."

Clancy laughed. "Aside from you almost dying, I've had a wonderful time. Great couch to sleep on, a breakfast you would not believe, a nice hot shower, fluffy robe, and generally being waited on by two very cute and courteous gentlemen."

Dick could imagine all too well. "Alfred's guests always get the royal treatment, as do the rest of us. Unless we're shot, of course, then we get oatmeal and lectures."

"Anyway, Alfred and Robin took excellent care of me. And of you, I might add. Those two guys think the world of you, you know."

Dick could only smile and nod.

"And so does Oracle, for that matter," she added.


"Oh, she called nonstop until the doctor said you were okay."

Dick looked as though he wanted to ask something, then stopped himself, causing Clancy to laugh aloud.

"I know you guys have your secrets, but some things are just obvious, Dick. Anyone that calls that much has to be a woman. And from what I overheard, she must be that Ms. Not Really you started to tell me about last night," Clancy said.

Dick didn't know what to say, but couldn't deny the implication. "Clancy, despite what you now know, there are still things about other people that I just can't tell you, because they're not my secrets to tell. You asked me if I was seeing someone, and the honest answer is that I'm not."

"But that's not all there is to it, is there?"

Dick hesitated before responding. "There are people in my life that I have feelings for. In each case, there's a roadblock keeping those relationships from going forward. Until last night."

Clancy looked up at him in surprise.

"Clancy, I'm feeling all of the same things that you are. Before last night, I had a big issue with getting involved with someone that I'd have to lie to and run out on at the drop of a hat. You deserve better than that, and I didn't want to hurt you any more than I already had."

"But now I know...," Clancy stated.

"Right, now you know. But what you know is the easy part. Almost everything else you know about me isn't true. You know what I do, and probably why I do it...but there's so much more that you don't know."

Clancy let go of Dick's hand, sat back in her chair, and crossed her arms with a smile.

Leaning forward a bit, she said, "So tell me."


Over the next few hours, he told her the stories that he hoped to one day tell his grandchildren. Every time he looked at the clock, he felt as though he were telling her his life story, from DNA right up to that afternoon. And, in essence, he was.

His childhood, his parents, the circus, the murders, Batman, becoming Robin, the Titans, Kory, the change to Nightwing...everything. The who's, what's, where's, why's, and how's of his life. He changed names and left out tidbits here and there as necessary to protect her and others, but was otherwise candid and forthright.

Through it all, Clancy sat enraptured. She laughed when he did, and seemed most amused by stories of Gar Logan. She cried when he spoke of his parents, then later as he described what had happened to Jason Todd and Joe Wilson. She even went as far as to give him a hard time when he got to where he'd "dropped the ball" with Kory.

Dick and Clancy both came away from that conversation changed.

Clancy was finally able to see Dick for who he was. She could tell that he'd wanted her to know him from the start; that the concept of meeting someone new that he could openly share his life with is something he hadn't been able to do since his parents died.

And Dick found that he could look Clancy in the eye for the first time without feeling pangs of guilt. She was no longer the woman who had eyes for the Dick Grayson facade he'd created as a cover. He found himself sitting across from one of the few people in the world that knew
him from top to bottom. "And she likes me anyway," he joked to himself.


"So that's your life in a nutshell," asked Clancy with a laugh.

Dick looked at the clock for the umpteenth time. "Yeah, and a seven hour nutshell at that."

Clancy stood and pushed her chair back into the corner where she'd found it. Moving next to his bed, she brushed the hair away from his eyes and kissed him gently on the lips.

"You need your rest. I'll call you in the morning."


Clancy closed the door behind her quietly and breathed in and out deeply.

"I trust your discussion went well," Alfred said as he came in from one of the bedrooms and handed her a smile pile of clothing. "These are some of Master Robin's things...sweatpants and what he insists is a trendy T-shirt. Though not ideal, I think they'll prove comfortable.
The remainder of your garments from this morning are cleaned and pressed in the bedroom."

She took the clothes, "Thanks so much, Alfred." She started toward the bedroom, then turned back to Alfred and gave him an impromptu kiss on the cheek. "I love you for the wonderful man you raised," she whispered.

She looked up at him as she backed away, and made a mental note to tell Dick that she'd actually rendered Alfred speechless. With that, she disappeared into the bedroom.


The sweatpants and T-shirt *were* ideal, as far as Clancy was concerned. Alfred had obviously never seen her when she worked.

She gave herself one last check in the mirror then left the bedroom and made her way to the foyer.

"Ms. Clancy, would you care for some dinner before your return to Bludhaven?" Alfred always seemed to know where she was.

"No, thank you, Alfred. I really have to be getting home, or the tenants may start to worry. I can call a cab if you can show me where the phone is."

Alfred shook his head, "Nonsense, young lady. I shall drive you home myself. Just let me get my coat." His tone left no room for protest. He donned his coat and hat and they were on their way out of Gotham before she knew it.

Alfred stopped the car in front of her building, and she opened the door before he could offer to "properly" do it for her. He gave her the same look of mild disdain he had when she'd refused to sit in the back seat earlier.

"I know I don't have to say it, but please take care of Dick," she said as she swung her feet out onto the pavement.

"I shall endeavor to do so, Ms. Clancy. And I can assure you that Master Richard will return to Bludhaven as soon as he's able."

Clancy smiled as she got out of the car, "He'd better. He's promised me dinner when he gets back. And don't worry, he said he's cooking, so no more gunfights."

Alfred deadpanned his reply, "Indeed, my dear. I fear, however, that you may prefer last evening's escapade to Master Richard's somewhat limited culinary skills."

She laughed hysterically as Alfred drove off. Always the last word with that man.

"What's so funny," John Law asked as they both entered the building.

She patted him lightly on the back.

"Oh, nothing, John. An old friend of Dick's just suggested that I have his kitchen fireproofed..."