Ollie knew, had known since he caught a stricken look from her when she was 17 and Bruce was unusually curt to her. They didn't talk about it much, but at least he was supportive and listened when she needed to vent. He tried to talk her out of it at first, just stated the obvious problems with the idea, but since that first time he had backed off. Back then they both had hoped it would pass, some phase or fixation that just felt like something more at the time - after all, she was a teenager, and she knew as well as anyone that her brain was not technically done yet. But it hadn't lessened, and Carrie doubted any age-related increase in faculty would have any affect.
It had happened to Dick, after all, and it drove him insane. Maybe it had happened with Jason, too - he had raced off to an early death, after all. Maybe being Robin just came with too much hero worship, and when you got older it just turned into something… more. Different. Certainly not healthy, and certainly not welcome. Bruce was never anything but there, demanding everything from you and pushing you further than you could go on your own. She wondered if any of the boys had caught it as well, even though she was his only special one, trained apart by Bruce alone.
It had taken awhile for Lara to catch on. It wasn't really until then that both of them seemed to realize they were actually friends, not just playing at it in the name of better information. She had flown away one week, confused that Carrie said she "liked" someone while vehemently denying anything to do with any one of the boys. The next time Carrie saw her she was pulled aside before a meeting and Lara just said, "You're in love with Batman. That's absolutely disgusting." But her eyes held amazement and some strange type of awe, and the next time they talked Lara fairly hammered her for details. And then they were friends, because Lara could analyze males for days and was constantly developing brief and intense regard for various Kandorians or team members. After that incident the floodgates really opened.
Carrie realized it was ridiculous that the two of them sat around and talked about boys for hours, given their line of work, but it was liberating as well. After all, Lara never tried to talk her out of anything, and after her initial eww reaction the next thing she said was, "You should tell him." It was Lara who spent time trying to plot some sort of confrontation between them, the plans for which had grown increasingly complex and occasionally bordered on insane. It was Lara's intensity that marked her in a crowd as more than human, and all of it seemed to focus on sex in her off hours. Kandor didn't help matters, with it's supply of available men equaled by the complexity of it's manners and customs which Lara didn't have the patience to master. She hated that even though her family was fully responsible for their survival she was still treated as an outsider, someone who had to be vetted by each individual. And even beyond that, Lara's nature and Amazonian upbringing did not lend itself to a slow courtship.
So she vacillated between obsession with some boy from Kandor and fixating on one of her teammates, most of whom were too achingly human for anything to happen. It did give Carrie a great deal of entertainment, the idea that Lara desperately wanted Hal, then Ollie, and then Barry, who was married anyway. Four months ago she was fascinated with Bruce himself, and Carrie vacillated between being edified and annoyed. Lara, after all, would have filled out the catsuit that burned with the cave. That crush was relatively short-lived, and Lara's skills at commiseration had improved dramatically since then.
Carrie's first impression of Lara as stony and angry hadn't changed much. The girl was always surprisingly literal, and there was nothing for her between a dead glare and laughter. They'd been close for over a year now and at times Carrie still couldn't tell if Lara was kidding or not. Bruce, at least, didn't joke when he was in a bad mood, but Lara often changed in an instant. It could just be their mutual oddness and shared sexual frustration that drove them together, but it was better than expected to have someone else in her life. Bruce was still 90% of her life, the person closest to her in the world, but man cannot live by bread alone, and Carrie liked to shop.
After seven years they had too many understandings between them to count. After Grayson got her Bruce explained more of his internal history of the Batman. Not much, but now when he told her about the old days to illustrate a point he would include what he remembered of his own reactions and frustrations on a case. So many of his exploits she knew from growing up in Gotham when Batman was half a myth. Parents (not Carrie's, but others) told you, but no one she knew had more than half believed. Except her, and she believed them all.
She'd slept off to his side since they first moved down to the caves, within easy reach for protection from the boys. Then it was a cot at the foot of his bed, for years and years. After the tights reveal she took up the public identity of Carol Kayne, and they tried to separate, but nightly dreams of Grayson drove her whimpering into the protection of his presence. After a month she dropped the facade and went straight to sleep in his room, constructed directly under her "apartment" that formed the penultimate story of the Kayne building. They had no Alfred, but the boys kept up appearances above and below. Bruce had said nothing, and he kept the dreams away. The room grew into the place where they planned in private, discussing the boys' performances and other guarded things. Often it was the only time they saw each other, between her duties up top and below, not to mention in the streets at night, but she made a point to keep his schedule, his old and new schedule, sleeping through the early part of the day and living mostly in the night. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the greatest idea. As she grew older she suffered more often from other, more embarrassing dreams, from which she would usually wake pressed against her Boss. And slowly things changed, until she realized it was him she usually dreamt about in that way, and that could only mean trouble. After bad days there were nightmares even he could not keep away, in which he discovered her secret and cast her away in disgust, a failure, another Robin ruined by weakness. And yet he never expected her to be him one day. When they were preparing for the great tights debut he had promoted her to partner. Catgirl now, not Robin. He hadn't even slipped in that in over a year. On her eighteenth birthday she made herself start to call him Bruce instead of Boss or Batman when they weren't in public or costume. He had never mentioned it. The Catgirl thing... well, for one thing, it made sense. Internal rhyme with Batman and all that. And she knew damn well that costume had been in the old cave for a reason. Maybe 'girl' hadn't been the best choice, but calling herself Catwoman at 16 would be a bit too bold, not to mention that Selina's demise was still fairly recent then.
She still didn't know much about whatever had been between the two of them, but they had apparently matched each other. But Carrie wasn't like Bruce, wasn't like Selina either, apparently. She had loved being Robin, she loved being Catgirl. She loved having a purpose, having her own odd little family. She had no regrets. She had no trauma, other than Grayson. And in a way Bruce was lighter than when she first met him. The death of Alfred and the manor let him become Batman more fully. His guilt was gone. He was a savage, straightforward, devious genius beast of a man. In that they were the same - they did what they did because they enjoyed it, first and foremost. They liked the puzzles, the planning, the fighting sometimes most of all. And now they were everywhere, with access to basically every computer in the world, thanks to Carrie. There were people to watch, threats to be made. Order to maintain. And Carrie was his special one from the beginning, his protégé, his sister in arms. He gave her free reign. The fact that she wasn't him had saved them several times, and that was why they were more partners now. From the beginning she didn't listen to him when it didn't make sense. And he was three times her age, but he'd been her protector, her mentor, but never like her father. Her father had been affectionate when he remembered she was around. She took care of them both, her parents, had them win a lottery after she ran away with Bruce and he and her mother were shacked up in some tropical paradise, happy as stoned clams. It wasn't like she hadn't thought of the inherent oddness, possibly wrongness, of her feelings. Starting at 15, she had analyzed herself at length. Yes, there was no one else in her life, except the boys who would be under her charge as much as Bruce's. He was the boss, but she was their general. They could be good soldiers, but were hardly capable of keeping up with her mentally. She'd looked at boys before, assessed them when she was out in public. Most were too dumb on site, or too undisciplined, or full of themselves. None of them could match the power with which he moved. She'd never even seen another man who could possibly feel right in her arms, big enough to engulf her, solid as stone.
And she had idolized Bruce. She wanted him to be proud of her, and he always was, though he rarely said it in so many words. She revolved around him, but who could say what was unhealthy in that situation? Since she started thinking about boys at all he was the ideal that it was inconceivable anyone could match. Even trying to imagine it, she knew she could never bear to leave her life with Bruce, or leave Bruce at all. There simply could be no greater peace and happiness than discussing battles before she fell asleep next to him. She was old enough to want more, and the only one she ever wanted it from was Bruce. Was that so wrong, so ridiculous? Ollie still ran around with women only a few years older than she. She didn't realize what she was feeling until she had the first dream. Like many others, rigorous gymnastic training had put her physical maturation off it's typical cycle. The first glimmering of her hormones hadn't happened until they'd been down in the caves for over a year. It was a rough time for Carrie, with no girls around to speak to, but she could do research and she got through it. Bruce had never said anything about it, just gave her some space when a reprimand from him brought on a crying jag. When she would appear back at his side he sometimes would ruffle her hair in something between an apology and forgiveness.
He slipped into bed without turning on the lights about an hour after she had first laid down. She could feel he was tired, tell by his tread across the carpet, his breath itself. "Boss," this time, given what she was going to ask. "Boss, do you ever think that I might turn out like him?"
"Hmmph." Bruce settled deeper into the bed, back to back with her and two feet between them, a common way for them to start out the night. Some days, when they had more time together, he wouldn't have had to ask.
"Him. The other Robin."
Bruce turned on his back, addressing her a bit more directly, more awake now. "Not once." She didn't respond. "Maybe someday you will hate me," she shook her head silently and thought he smiled, "but you wouldn't blame me."
She was still quiet. "Maybe I shouldn't have tried with Dick, but I saw revenge on his face and I thought I could help. Someday you might wish I had sent you home. But you're never trying to be me, like he did. You can stand on your own." His arm rasped against the silk sheet and his fingers grasped her hair before falling away. It was as big an invitation she'd ever received from him so she rolled into his side as quickly as she could, tucking her head in the hollow between his shoulder and pectoral. The height of his chest might make her neck ache in the morning, but that was a small price.