It had been another long night and once again I had started an argument with Bruce that even I recognized as being juvenile. He left cave in the car once again to finish out the night without even speaking one word to me. Alfred came over to finish up the stitching and pulled a couple of times harder than he should have.
"Ok, Alfred, I know what the term butt-head means and who it should be directed towards"
With one last tug he replied, "That is so good to hear, Master Dick. I would hate to know my 'sewing' was going unwarranted"
I put on my best smile, "Yes, trust me, I am to", and after a moment of silence I asked more to myself than anyone, "Why do I push his buttons so much?"
Cleaning up the medical supplies Alfred began, "That you will have to figure out for yourself. However keep in mind, young sir, that he pushes some as well also"
"Yeah, but he usually has motives with some kind of Bat logic"
With a small chuckle, Alfred quits with the supplies long enough to turn to me, "Out of all the monstrosities the two of you have faced, which one was your worse one?"
The answer was all two easy, "Two-Face"
"And why not the Joker?"
"Alfred, when I won that coin toss and watched Harvey drown the judge and then have him and his goons beat me half to death was so much worse than when the Joker shot me"
"And yet you were fired both times after each instance"
"Like I said Bat logic"
"Master Dick, you and I both know the difference between the two. You merely have to admit them to yourself. Then you might begin to understand why you two do the things you do to each other", and with that he left me in the cave.
He was right. I did know why Bruce was the way he is. Take tonight for instance. The both of us together acting like a well oiled machine again brought down two dozen of the Riddler's men. That blasted question mark cane of his began Bruce and my downfall. He aimed it right at Bruce and I dove in the way to take the shot. It would have hit Bruce square in the back but I managed to just get hit in my shoulder. Bruce went ballistic about me jumping in the way and I egged him on more than I should have when did. A lot more in fact and brought up the classic 'I am my own man speech' again.
The same speech I gave him when I became Nightwing. The same speech I gave him when I found out he gave Jason my Robin costume. The same speech I gave him when I was marrying Kory. After awhile even I knew how stupid that sounded. Tonight, I laid it on real thick. I owe him an apology but that has never gone well for either of us.
I walked to the mirror and looked at my new stitches. It was funny when I looked at it I saw the scar from my first bullet. The one that got me fired. It was on the opposite side in almost the same location of my new one. I start to wonder if Bruce thought of that and then I remembered of course he did, He's Batman. I wasn't sure how long I was down there when I finally heard the Batmobile pull in.
I met him as he jumped out the car. We stared at each other for what seemed like minutes but to more realistic was probably only seconds.
As he walked by he said, "You're a grown man, Nightwing, go home"
With one simple statement he caused my blood pressure to rise again. Right when my normal smart-ass mouth was getting ready to take over, my stitches started to itch. I realized at that moment what I wanted to do.
"You're right, I do need to go but I have one simple question to ask you first"
Without even turning around, "That will be a first. What is it?"
"When did I become your son?"
That stopped him dead in his tracks and before he could continue, "And please don't tell me when I signed that piece of paper. You said yourself all it did was say things we had known for a long time. I want to know when in your heart you began to think of me as your son"
Turning around he simply stared at me to ask, "Why?"
"It's important to me"
Turning to the computer he pulled up a file to ask, "Do you remember this?"
It was a simple case involving Catwoman from years before. There was nothing special about it except that I remember it being the first time that Bruce had the hots for her. It brought home how human even Batman could be.
"I remember a few elements about it", with a slight grin on my face.
"What about afterward?"
"I don't remember anything afterward"
"That's because I always treated you like a 'good soldier' so don't think as 'Robin', think as 'Dick'"
It took me a couple of minutes but then it hit me, the chandelier. I look at him and he sees that I remembered.
"You had another nightmare that night and then laughed hysterically when Alfred told you what you had done. Anyway, this was one of the few times that you were sleep walking. Alfred yelled for me and when I reached the stairs you were doing incredible acrobatics while swinging around on that old thing. It took me about five minutes to get you down. I hate to say the only performance I ever saw of you and your family was that final night but right then I knew I would have paid tons of money to travel the globe to see you perform"
"Ok, I guess I can see that", as confusion is clouding my face.
"No, you can't. That chandelier should not have held you up and yet it did. Somehow it managed to survive until the quake but none the less it should not have held you up. Dick, you were by my side doing things as Robin that no one could ever believe you were doing. Clark more than once was awestruck at the way you flew through the air and, believe it or not, was quite envious of it. But at that one moment in time all I knew is that I had to rescue Dick, not Robin. My heart felt like it missed tons of beats. You scared a few years off of me. Robin was still my soldier but Dick became my son"
"You started to be a lot harder on me after that night. I always thought it was because I knew how you felt about Selina then"
With a small smirk that would be considered a wide smile for most people, "Well, maybe she had a little to do with it but in reality I got over that. I never could get by the fact that at that moment in time you became my son though I had promised you I never would be your Dad."
Silence hung between us for a bit as we both were lost in thought. Finally Bruce broke it, "If you don't feel like heading home, your old room is always ready"
"Thanks and in fact I will leave you to your logs and go up to bed then" and I began to walk off. I hesitated at the stairs long enough for Bruce to stop typing and look at me. I wanted to him to know when I thought of him first as a father. Then with that smirk like smile on his face he answered for my question for me.
"It was that same night. It was Dick's time to shine for me and for you it was realizing I was human after all with Selina. This is the other reason I came down so hard on you. However that being said, I started to become someone new for you. You began to see Bruce and not the Bat. You might not have actually thought of me as a father figure right at that moment but you did begin to open up to the idea"
"I told Alfred my worse night with one of our adversaries was with Two-Face and not when Joker shot me. That still holds true. The worst moment with you was the morning after the Joker though. I had never been fired before. I think Babs once told me that since we both lost our parents at an early age we have no idea how to be dad and son. I guess that's true on a lot of levels. I just never wanted to believe it. I thought you so totally overreacted as my partner and I was right you did. However, as my dad, you acted exactly as you should have. You think we will ever be normal?"
"Ask Alfred and let me know what he said"
Smiling I simply waved bye and went up the stairs. Bruce and I never have nor will we ever use the dreaded "L" word but I can't imagine anyone outside of our own parents who could love us more. Well, except for the older gentleman coming into my room to "tuck" me in.
"Alfred, has anyone ever told you that you are the greatest?"
"Alas, young sir, not as often as they should"
I might not ever hug Bruce or tell him that dreaded word but when it comes to Alfred I have no issues with that sort of thing. So I walk up to him, hug him, and simply say, "I love you, Alfie, and thanks for being here for us"
"Always, Master Dick, and I love you and the man you are becoming"
"Not gonna let me live the whole 'I'm my own man' thing are you?"
"Why, sir, what would Ms. Barbara think of me if I did? Good night"
"You know, it certainly has turned out to be"