The thing, Terry thinks desperately, about Bruce is that he always pays you back.

It's a dangerous thing to do - thinking, that is - when he's already using ninety percent of his willpower not to grunt in agony, but it's the only thing he can do to stop himself from screaming in pain.

Bruce always pays you back, and it doesn't matter which direction it goes. He gives as good as he gets. And then, when he has to, he taketh away.

'If you didn't want me to do the dusting back there,' Terry says, as his forearms start shaking and his eyes blind out from the sweat trickling onto his face, 'you could've just invested in a vacuum cleaner.'

'Fifteen more seconds, McGinnis,' Bruce tallies, keeping his eyes on the line of Terry's back. 'And then it's twenty reps.'

'Twenty?' Terry chokes, because he's been on the damn bars for the last ten minutes, swearing half of the time and spending the remainder wishing he were dead. If he has to do one more pull-up, his elbows are going to dislocate. Only logical, then, that Bruce wants twenty on top of the previous twenty on top of having Terry hang on his own weight like a - ha - bat in a cave. 'Anyone ever tell you you're a sadist?'

'Never to my face,' Bruce smiles. He knows, has to know, that it makes Terry's arms shake twice as hard. 'But always behind my back.'

'You're a sadist,' Terry says, to Bruce's face. Bruce has to know, too, that he did that on purpose. The fact that the smile widens, sharpens, says a lot more than the old man ever will.

'I'm practical,' Bruce does say, getting up from the chair (young habits die hard) and coming around behind Terry. 'Especially now that I have a proper feel of what you can do.'

And how far I can bend and twist before I break, Terry adds, but only to himself - he's not completely suicidal, and Bruce spent most of the afternoon pacing him through everything from runs to weights to stretches and routines and this entire insane obstacle course that Terry didn't even really know they had. He managed to jump through most of the hoops Bruce threw his way. What was scary was how Bruce matched him; jump for jump, step for step, measured in a way that spoke of all the training Terry knows he doesn't have.

'Not that I don't see a point in PT,' Terry mentions as he waits for the last five seconds to tick agonisingly past, 'but I'm not going to be able to lift my arms for a week after this.'

'You underestimate what the human body can do,' Bruce rumbles from behind him. There's a tonality to his voice that reverberates. Terry flexes his fingers on the bar and tries to believe him. 'You rely too much on the suit to augment your strength.'

'I'm not Superman,' Terry objects. Bad move - Bruce doesn't like the natural fliers, or speedsters, or mutants. That much is evinced by the really creepy plans in the computer that sound way too much like strategies against the metahuman good guys. Rewind: 'Or even track captain at my school, or anything.'

'You could be,' Bruce says. 'You aren't. Now,' he says, just as Terry strikes off his last mental count. The noise Terry makes when he drags his body up to the bar is disturbingly loud - everything hurts, and then hurts more when he's about to come down before Bruce says, 'Clear your chin.' Terry can't, he can't, he just fucking can't, even though he's contracting his abdominals and cheating by using them and curling in on himself; he can't even do one and it drives him absolutely crazy.

'Stop flailing,' Bruce says, still from behind him. Terry's back is soaked through, but he feels a chill run down his spine, electric and Pavlovian. He's not sure whether he likes that.

'Could you stand in - front of me while you're - giving out - the orders, boss?' Terry grunts, locking his knees together and wrenching himself upwards hard enough that he can practically feel the lactic acid building up in his sides. 'One!' he grits out, and when Bruce doesn't object he flops back down into gravity's beautiful, tortuous embrace. 'The entire disembodied voice thing isn't working for me,' he wheezes.

'But it keeps you on your toes, doesn't it,' Bruce states, amused as all hell and showing it. 'That was one rep, Terence. Nineteen more.'

There's a beat. Terry hates to let the silence in, but he does, and then he says, 'I can't do it.'

The humour evaporates, even though Bruce isn't speaking. Terry hangs there, in limbo.

He almost yells when a hand, dry and cool, touches him on the small of his back. 'You're playing my game, McGinnis,' Bruce says, right in his ear, and Terry doesn't feel his arms at all because every one of his nerve endings seems to be connected to that patch of skin just under the line of his shirt, the tiny strip of space where he can feel the rough rub of Bruce's palm right there. Oh god. Bruce's voice is a statement, an order, cardinal. 'And that means you play by my rules. Two.'

And then Bruce's other hand, on his hip, boosting him up.

Terry stretches like he'll drown if he doesn't do this.

The bar comes up to him almost too quickly, and he tucks his chin neatly over it, comes back down in a controlled dip, breathes in, tucks his stomach in on the exhale, three, comes down, inhale again, feels Bruce move to brace him better, oh fuck, fuck, fuck, four, goes up, gasps for breath at the top.

'Exhale,' Bruce orders. 'Slowly.'

Through the nose, small increments, everything else blanked right the hell out, just do it, come back down.

'You've no finesse, McGinnis, and it's going to get you killed one day. Regulate.'

The words brand themselves on the back of his neck and make his hair feel like standing and his mind runs them over one two three times in a row.

'You're on five. Do the next five, each on the exhale, rest on the inhale.' Bruce lets go. Don't let go. 'Do it.'

Terry makes six before he realises his body's responding, seven on the second exhale, eight and he feels his palms go sweaty, nine and he adjusts his grip, ten and his lungs feel like they're fuelled on pure oxygen, and ozone. 'I'm losing my grip,' he manages, trying to see something other than the whiteness of his own concentration.

And Bruce is there again, touching him and grounding him and stabilising him, and Terry's heart breaks, for a moment, because this is day two and half, and none of this is going to last.

'You still have ten more,' Bruce tells him.

'I know,' Terry replies, shattered, and Bruce hears it.

'Can you?' Bruce asks, simple.

'Think I can?' Terry asks; his rules.

Bruce says, 'Yes.'

That, for a blinding, irrational, unbearable, overwhelming instant, is everything Terry needs to do it. He's got so much adrenaline rushing through that he doesn't, can't feel Bruce stepping back after the fifth, and barely hears himself when he finishes.

He hangs there, afterwards, eyes closed and arms trembling and toes curling. Bruce doesn't say anything, but Terry can hear him moving - his steps oddly light until you think about it - to the front again.

'Not bad,' Wayne says.

Terry's eyes flash open, and for an instant he sees past Bruce, right past him and through to the casings at the back of the cave: the Batman, the Soldier, the Robin, the Batgirl, Nightwing, then his, him, Terry McGinnis in the glass, and that's what makes him force dilating pupils to focus on the man in front of him, pleasure written all over Bruce's face like it's synonymous with pride.

'Is that so?' Terry says, rubbing the edge of the nail of his thumb against the bar. He stares down at Wayne, and pulls the weight of everything past his shoulders up, one more time, over and above (the call of duty). 'Well,' Terry pants, voice edged with a craziness that is entirely his own. 'Eleven.'

When Bruce touches him again, it's from the front, his fingers on the hollow of Terry's hips. When Bruce touches him again, it's with pressure, not uplift. 'Can you do twelve?' Wayne asks, looking up.

Terry tells him, 'I can do fifteen,' and pulls up against everything that Bruce does when the old man tries to pull him down.