Colored party lights strung through the trees twinkle in the late summer twilight, as Bruce Wayne's brand new, jet black 1971 custom Jaguar convertible glides through the wrought iron gates of the third largest estate in Gotham. Bright paper lanterns, hung to celebrate the last social event of the season, swing in the breeze that carries soft strains of dance music out across the lawn. The sun-warmed afternoon cooled when dusk fell. Summer is almost over. Autumn is coming, and with it, Dick will be gone.

Bruce looks over at his passenger, who stops fiddling with the radio dial long enough to grin at him. Bruce smiles thinly back, and that makes Dick grin harder.

"It'll be fine, Bruce." Dick absently pats Bruce's arm, then spins the dial once more and stops on some tune—a girl singing about a boy and love. Dick seems to know the song, his tasseled loafer tapping on the floorboard, still grinning broadly.

"Easy for you to say." Bruce doesn't want to go to this party. He'd suggested they forgo it, several times. Just two days ago to Alfred, who'd arched his eyebrow and momentarily stopped cleaning the family silver.

"Really, sir. You have yet to show at any of the senior events, save the graduation ceremony."

"I thought graduation ended it, Alfred. And with that arsonist on the loose—"

"You will both take your communicators, placing them on vibrate only. You will be ten minutes from the manor. If you are needed, you will respond," Alfred said, sighing. "Just as you always do." He narrowed his eyes slightly, continuing. "I hardly need remind you that young Master Dick missed out on the holidays that most of the young people enjoyed already this summer, due to his own… obligations."

"You can't be arguing that a life of indolence is preferable to one of service, Alfred."

"No, I am not." Alfred's tone sharpened slightly, and he put down the tea tray he'd been wiping. "I am simply saying that these things… such as these end of summer parties—are rites of passage. Master Dick has attended four of them this month, given by four different families. Prominent families who have chosen to mark the fact that their children are going away to begin their adult lives."

"I don't think I can give a party for teenagers, Alfred—"

"I'm not saying you should give a party." Alfred's voice softened. "I am saying that most of the other young people's parents do at least attend."

"Useless men and women who don't have anything better to do than spend an evening making small talk and drinking lime rickeys."

"Be that as it may, I think Master Dick would appreciate your presence at a single party," Alfred said, closing the jar of silver polish. "This is the last one."

"I don't fit in with the—other parents. I'm not even…"

"Indeed you do not. I don't think anyone expects you to."

"What's that supposed to m—"

"I'm simply saying that Master Dick might appreciate your presence as a gesture of support. Of normalcy, if you will."

"The other parents are vacuous dolts, stumbling their way through cocktail parties and golf games."

Alfred stacked the silver sugar bowl and creamer neatly on the tray. "They will, as always, be very taken with Bruce Wayne."

"They will pretend, like Selina, to be taken with Bruce Wayne, millionaire."

"Regardless of their—or Miss Kyle's motivations, the ones I would point out you seem adamant to impugn, usually most vigorously after seeing her as a civilian, which I believe occurred last week at the Opera benefit?"

Bruce shrugged.

"I thought so," Alfred said, answering his own question. "The people at this event will focus on superficialities. It will hardly be different from any other Wayne Foundation appearance. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have further chores to attend to," Alfred had said, firmly ending the conversation.

The day before the party, Bruce had suggested to Dick that perhaps their time would be better spent completing the most recent update of the city's blueprints. It was, he'd reminded Dick, the last time Robin would be available until Thanksgiving; Dick's last weekend at home for nearly three months.

And Dick had said, "Sure, Bruce. Work comes first." But he'd looked disappointed enough that Bruce knew he'd better square his shoulders and step into the maws of plastic, trite simpletons instead of any number of ways he'd prefer spending this last weekend. There was plenty of work to be done, plenty of files and data and any number of tasks he could use Robin's help on, but Alfred was right. Dick needed him to attend. It's the least he can do.

So he'd picked up the new jag for the occasion, and Dick's eyes had been huge.

Bruce glides the car to a stop in front of the house, where a valet stand has been erected for the evening. The valets whistle appreciatively to each other as the sleek convertible slides to a stop.

Bruce forces his face to smooth into Bruce Wayne, socialite guardian. If Dick is getting four or five of these invitations a month, Bruce can force himself to be here tonight, he tells himself. Dick, of course, can go and has gone to as many as he'd like. Bruce trusts him. He's trusted Dick when he'd gone on the two or three events he'd found time for, and he's trusted him at these parties, whether Alfred brought him or Dick caught a ride with a few of his friends, always making it home by curfew, even though he sometimes calls, protests having a curfew at all. The scent of his aftershave mixed with some girl's perfume. But in time for patrol.

The host and hostess, Peggy and Tom McAfee, are waiting at the door to greet their guests. Inside, the lights are bright and the teeny bopper music is loud. "Glad Dick finally got here," Peggy McAfee says, a deeply tanned woman with shellacked blonde hair. She sticks her hand in his and squeezes. "Everyone was watching for him. Our Penny's crazy about him."

"That girl," Tom McAfee says, shaking Bruce's hand and his own head. "She's too crazy about boys."

"Both of the twins are," Peggy says. "I don't know what trouble they'll get into at the university."

"They better watch themselves," Tom says with a wink to Bruce and a nod toward Dick. "And the boys, too."

Bruce trusts Dick as he watches him cross the room to join the young people. He watches a girl—he recognizes her from another time—was it Dick's sophomore year? Time goes so quickly—when she hung all over Dick. Penny, he supposes. Or maybe the other one, her sister. Maybe she's the one he took to that dance last spring. She's very pretty and she can't take her eyes off Dick. Giggling at whatever Dick's telling her and taking his arm. She pulls him closer, bringing him into the group of young people.

"Bruce Wayne," a big, booming voice calls out. Bruce turns to see the familiar face of one of the most odious of the parents. The man is Bill Turgible, a financier, and Bruce has had to listen to his investment spiel at every one of Dick's major high school functions, freshman to senior year. That must make five times by now.

"How in the hell are you, Bruce?" the man says, clapping him on the shoulder. "Am I ever glad to see you, Buddy. Come on, let's leave these 'kids' to themselves. They've got the rec room. No reason why the adults can't have the rest of the place!" He winks, adding under his breath, "The real party's on the patio, my boy." To his son he calls, "Mark! See you later, kiddo!"

He leads Bruce outside, into the backyard. The ambiance is sultrier, more suave, more adult. Instead of raucous, the music is smooth. Bruce vaguely registers it as something mellow, maybe Tijuana Brass. 'Taste of Honey'. The obviously new, bright aqua pool is lit from below with underwater lights and above by paper lanterns. A few people are dancing in a cleared space on one side of the pool, between the freshly painted cabana and an extensive, rolling lawn. Crowds of adults cluster here and there, mostly grouped around a buffet and an open bar. For a party for teens, there are three times as many adults. Makes sense, of course, two parents per child is the norm, maybe some family friends have been invited. Everybody loves these kids.

"Glad Dick finally got here," a woman says, turning to smile at Bruce, her eyes already a little liquor-glazed. "My daughter Janey was watching for him. She's mad about your kid."

"That girl," a nearby man, perhaps Janey's father, says. "She's too crazy about boys."

"Too bad he's been so busy this summer," the woman continues, her words only slurring slightly. "I don't think they've even had time to see each other, apart from these little soirees. It's hard to see our darlings grow up and leave us, isn't it?"

From out here on the patio, Bruce can see inside the McAfee's house. A large, brightly lit window faces the pool, and inside, the young people are dancing. "Which one is yours?" A man beside him asks, digging into a tower of boiled shrimp on toothpicks.

"Dick Grayson," a woman at his elbow answers. It's the hostess, Penny's mother. "This is his guardian, Bruce Wayne. Cocktail, Mr. Wayne?"

Bruce accepts the drink she hands him. It's a little dim out here by the pool, but he makes out that it's something clear, with a twist of lime. The glass is sweating, cold in his hand.

She toasts him, and he raises his glass.

"To empty nests," she says.

Bruce takes a sip of his drink. It's bitter.

The man at the seafood tower, a tall construction of ice, toothpicks and naked pink shrimp—a bull-necked fellow with a crew cut, introduces himself. "Clint Rayburn. Nice to finally meet you, Wayne. I'd shake your hand, but—" he motions toward the plate he's holding in one hand and his drink, in the other. "Aw, hell." He sighs, putting down his drink, wiping his hand on his trousers and extending his hand.

Bruce shakes it.

"I wish our daughter could find someone like Dick," says the man, dredging a shrimp through cocktail sauce. "Instead of College Boy over there." He stabs a toothpick toward the warm, bright room.

"Why can't our Monica be more like Penny?" the small, compact redhead on Bruce's left muses.

"My wife, Connie," bull-neck says.

"Date someone nice like Dick, instead of a frat boy three years older than her?" Connie continues.

"BMOC," says bull-neck. "Big Man on Campus. Our Monica's in love."

Bruce picks Monica out of the crowd in the rec room. She must be the one in the sleeveless eyelet dress. She's hanging all over an older boy in a varsity sweater with leather patches on the elbows. The boy's regular featured, good-looking face wears an expression of aloof superiority. The kind that's never anything but a cover for youth, insecurity. He almost expects the kid to pull out a pipe. Like the other boys, this one is wearing his hair a trifle longer than young men used to; letting his sideburns get a little more pronounced.

Dick is wearing his hair a little longer lately, too, and Bruce sees that the blonde is touching the hair that's growing and curling ever so slightly at Dick's collar.

She's in a miniskirt, but at least she's not one of the girls in go-go boots as well. She's a cute, preppy blonde that was in all likelihood a cheerleader until graduation.

The other kids are mostly cookie cutter duplicates. He'd say it had to do with being a teen except—he looks around himself—all of their parents are cookie cutter duplicates as well.

Bruce takes another sip of his drink. It's a lime rickey.

Bull-neck introduces him to a woman. She's a dark-haired divorcee in a short, short cocktail dress wearing heavy black eyeliner. She reminds him of Jackie O and… someone else. When he lights her cigarette, her eyes flick up to his and he sees—something in them reminds him of Selina. Maybe it's the eyeliner, maybe it's the look in her eyes.

Someone's put a new song on the stereo. "This Magic Moment." Dick likes this song. Bruce heard it coming from Dick's bedroom almost every day for a solid fortnight after prom. One day, on the way to school and work, Alfred had briefly switched the Bentley's radio from the news station, and a snatch of this chorus had sounded through the limo. "It's that song you like, Master Dick," he'd said, and Dick had blushed.

He'd heard it again, three weeks ago, with Selina. The music had wafted up from a bar to a rooftop—itheir/i rooftop, and Bruce can't believe he'd thought he could claim that for them, that he could claim her.

"Dreadfully dull, isn't it?" the divorcee says. "I just came tonight for my daughter. My ex-husband's here too. Wants to make business contacts. He's schmoozing plastics." She taps the ashes of her Virginia Slim into a potted palm, probably rented just for the party. "You look as bored as I am. Come and dance with me?"

They dance the Twist to the music Dick likes. Or perhaps, liked, once. The music that had played as he'd held Selina close, until she'd slipped from his arms, left him alone on a cold rooftop. It's mechanical, and the song seems to go on too long.

Inside, the kids are doing something else. It looks like they've gotten hold of a makeshift Limbo stick. Bruce moves closer to see.

Jackie O wanders away, then is back. She puts a martini in his hand. He wonders where he left his other drink. "He's adorable," the woman says, following Bruce's eyes toward the mansion window.

"How do you know," he asks, "which one is… mine?"

She rolls her eyes at him. "We all know who you are, Mr. Wayne." She winks and Bruce is more reminded of Selina than before. She clicks her drink to his, then raises her glass toward the McAfee's house and its teenagers. "Hope their hormones don't get in the way."

She lets him light another cigarette for her. "Mine's the one holding up the wall."

He looks to see who she means.

"In the corner." She points. "Oh, look. Dick's talking to her."

The shy, washed-out creature looks uncomfortable in her own skin, and in her unfortunate choice of dress. Its style and color do not flatter. Her mother should have helped her, Bruce thinks. The girl's arms are folded, protective across her chest.

He watches Dick go to the girl, take her hand, bring her into Limbo, into the party, into the fun. She's hesitant at first, smiling nervously, obviously resisting, until Dick pulls her, laughing, from the chair she's most likely been glued to since she arrived. Bruce sighs. Dick. Bringing her into the warmth of his smile.

Bruce excuses himself, ostensibly to freshen his drink. He wanders the grounds, restless, ignoring some assignation that seems to be occurring behind the cabana between two adults who are probably not married. At least, not to each other.

Near the roses in the side yard, he ends up running into the hostess, who leads him on a home tour that covers most of the first floor, then takes them upstairs past the 'kids'. He sneaks a look. Popcorn and cokes and Monica has spilled some on her white eyelet mini dress and Dick has taken off his sweater vest—always the gentleman, he's dabbing it at the bodice of her dress, using it to try to clean up the worst of the spill, Bruce notes with minor dismay. Bruce and the hostess—Peggy, he reminds himself—end up somewhere on the third-floor landing. The hostess offers to show him more, but he's seen a bedroom before. She's tipsy. With just a touch of the hiccups.

The teens are still dancing when he escapes and makes it back downstairs. Dick is laughing with the frat boy, who punches him playfully in the arm when Dick cuts in on his dance partner. They're doing a different dance now. Bruce doesn't know what it is. Laughing and gregarious, Dick is pure charisma. Shining, pure charisma. Strength and fearlessness and grace. He's dancing with the blonde girl again. Suzanne? Bruce remembers her from some other time. She's very pretty and painfully young. Fresh and clean, a Breck girl right out of a magazine.

It hurts. His heart is breaking. Dick is going away soon and his heart is breaking.

He wants to keep it all as it was, but nothing is ever going to be the same again, ever.

He'd never, when he began his mission, thought that he would have—icould/i have someone like Dick in his life. Something real and important, revealed through a violence that Bruce couldn't fail to understand. And even then, even when he met the child in that same hour of need, unable to not reach out, he had no idea. No idea of the road ahead for them, or that he would ever think that by saving the child, by giving Dick what Bruce Wayne lost so long ago in an alley…

He's fooled himself. Saving Dick, as important as it was, as iright/i as it was, has done nothing to save Bruce Wayne. He'd thought it had. He'd not brought Dick into his life with the intention of easing his own aching emptiness; he'd done it because fate and destiny had made it clear that he must. The decision, however, had the unexpected repercussion of making him, making Bruce… a different man. Although, he accepts now, only for a while.

He'd thought that Dick's happiness had been enough to make ihim/i happy, but in reality those good years had only hid his loss, because… Because the child is a man now and Bruce feels more lost than ever.

And when he'd tried to turn to Selina, seek comfort for this, a way to soothe the pain and grief and loneliness, he'd failed. If he cannot be who he truly is, there can be nothing real between them. Selina will never care for him without his mask, his life is falling into pieces, and all he can do is watch it fall apart.

Bruce Wayne can never have Selina, not really, and all at the same time he is losing a son, a friend and a partner, and he is going to be as alone as he was before Dick came into his life, gave him a purpose and a reason, a family. Made the manor a home.

He's jealous, he suddenly realizes, biting back the tiny bark of a shocked, suppressed laugh, honestly surprised that he didn't know before. Of these vacuous dolts and their ridiculous partnerships and entanglements. Of the children, their future. Of the little blonde Breck girl, who can travel forward with Dick, move with him and the other children into their new destiny, this new phase of their lives: adulthood, independence. The trials and pains they will face, alone and raw and innocent. And yet they are all so casual, laughing too loud at each other's jokes, dancing and touching each other's hands and hair.

He's even jealous of the parents, going through their tedious days with no knowledge of what they have. People with whom they can share more than simple physical encounters, people with whom they can share their ilives/i. Men who go to sleep next to wives and wake up beside them in the morning. Someone with whom they can let down their barriers and share their fears. Share their hopes and dreams and worries, even the trivialities no one else would listen to. Someone with whom they can argue and make-up, have a conversation with over dinner, talk about their day, share a private joke.

Bruce rejoins the darkness at the edge of the cabana and watches. They are dancing too closely. One of the Breck girl's hands is resting on the bare skin at the back of Dick's neck, under the collar of his shirt. He watches as she runs a finger through the hair there, once, then makes a little frowning moue as both she and Dick laugh. It's certainly damp by now—after all that dancing—damp just around the edges, curling a little at the base of his neck and over the edge of his collar. Bruce can't tell if he likes it longer or wishes Dick would cut it short again.

Bruce forces himself to roam the pool area, slowly moving amongst the jaded Gothamites who want to ingratiate themselves to him and his father's money. He looks up at the sky and wishes for the Bat Signal. If it was there, Dick would have to leave with him.

He and Jackie dance again, then she whispers something in his ear and slips away. Bruce considers. He has made love—if it could be called that—twice in the last six months, both times with Selina. Rushed, stolen masked moments between two people who are still almost strangers. Exciting and thrilling but not enough, not…

He decides. While the young have their wholesome, laughing fun, he will seek solace with a stranger. He joins her in a cabana dressing room. It's quick, and perfunctory. She doesn't remind him of Selina at all, anymore. She doesn't want to be kissed—"Don't muss my hair or makeup, darling." The only place his hand touches bare flesh is at her shoulder blade, under the back of her sleeveless black dress, stroking.

It could be anyone's back, really. Anyone's shoulder blade his palm is gliding over, someone else his hips are pressing against. Someone who has warm green eyes and is twisting around to kiss him. Who knows him—who he really is, and wants it all.

He closes his eyes and it helps. The fantasy helps, too, building inside him, as he sees; catches Selina in an alcove back at ihis/i home, during a party ihe's/i giving. The children are laughing and dancing somewhere on the first floor, home from winter break—because they always come home—and he's leading Selina upstairs. And she lets him lead her… anywhere. Some small room where he can lock the door. Selina looks surprised, confused. She doesn't even know he's Batman, but he knows he's going to tell her, and knows that she is safe, can keep his secret. Her green eyes are wide, searching. "Bruce, what are you…" and when Selina figures it out, knows who he really is—her eyes change to desire. Want and welcome and desire.

In his nobler fantasy, he would kiss her breathless. Tell her how much she means, how much he needs her, make his case for her love, for making something ireal/i together—he can keep the house a home. He won't have to move away when Dick leaves, flee to a penthouse because he can't take the silent halls, absent with the sound of Dick's running—don't run in the house—sneakers.

Earn it. Earn a home and fill it with the people he needs. There's no one else—no one else with whom he can share his life. If only… if only, like Dick with the girl, he could go to her, go to Selina. Show her who he really is, let her know him, trust him. Trust her. If he could have her; her love.

If he could stop time while he made her love him—Bruce Wayne, the actual man… reveal himself to her and have her care for the whole man, not just a part. If he could earn the other kind of—if he could, in some perfect, make-believe world, earn the other kind of feeling, he would show her. Show her everything. With warm, gentle kisses and waves of pleasure. Make her gasp and smile and tremble all at once. Soft skin and slow, warm lovemaking, not a rushed, adrenaline filled grope on a dirty rooftop. Press against her, feel her, tender and needy. And in the morning, Selina would wake in his bed, warm and happy and content. She will have been made perfect, perfect love to, and it will be their first real time together without masks and pretense and ambivalence and she loves him—the real him. He won't be alone.

Jackie says something but he doesn't hear her. He leans closer, feeling the rasping fabric of her dress, smelling her perfume, closing his eyes against the sound of her voice.

In his deepest fantasy, he would tell her who he is—who he really is. He would trust her, not falter. And Selina would not turn her back, disappointed. He would keep her with him; claim her so well and so deeply that she would be marked with his truth; his. Drag her to his home, his bed. Silence her questions. Kiss her, touch her. Touch and taste and take until…

Jackie gasps. He doesn't open his eyes yet. In his fantasy, he's at his house, his home. Walking back downstairs, looking all the world like nothing ever happened. Calm, confident, he watches the teenagers—young adults, really—dance. A few moments later, his bedroom door opens and Selina makes her way toward Bruce, smiling as she joins him. A little flushed, satisfied. Dressed and pristine again. His lover, his companion. Not a reckless fling, not a stolen, nearly anonymous tryst. A woman who knows and loves Bruce Wayne, and accepts him for all that his is, even the less stellar, day-to-day man he knows himself to be, full of flaws and imperfections, too often haunted by a deep, aching emptiness. She nods to Dick, who rolls his eyes but smiles back. Bruce has a family, and Selina knows who he is and loves him for it. Loves him all the same, the way family does.

They finish. Bruce is filled with self-loathing.

Jackie lets him kiss her cheek. One of her false eyelashes has come loose at the corner. He leaves her to fix it. Out by the pool, a man who may be her ex-husband finds him and tries to sell him some shares in a plastics company.

Some of the parents have left the party by now. The adult group is decidedly smaller. Bruce makes another round of the slightly lonelier circuit, nodding and responding to inquiries, but his mind is elsewhere. He decides to keep Dick with him. He will keep him from going to New Carthage. He will pull the Robin card.

He will appeal to Dick's sense of duty and loyalty. He will tell Dick that he must live at home next year, because Robin is needed. In Gotham, where he belongs. Gotham would, it is assuredly true, be safer if Robin stayed at home. He can live at home and commute to the community college twenty minutes away. Bruce will buy him the best car in the world, and he will tell Dick that he, Batman himself, will be safer with a partner—a Robin—than he would be alone. It will only be the truth, after all.

Things will be as they have been. He will accept what Selina wishes to bestow, ask for nothing more. Take what she offers and let it be enough, something between a man and a woman who understand the rules of a very dangerous game. They will never remove their masks and everything will be as it was before, as it has been. It will be enough.

He sits in the cooling, dark night on a wicker chaise lounge and stares at the yellow rectangle of light. It seems far away. The young people are still dancing. He can hear their music over the instrumental jazz playing out here by the pool.

Someone sits down beside him and blows a stream of smoke past his line of sight. It's Jackie. Her voice is husky. "It's wasted on them, you know." She sounds as if she may have been crying a little before she left the cabana.

"Hmm?" Bruce says, realizing she's speaking before the words quite make sense.

"It's wasted on them." She takes another long drag on her cigarette. "Youth. Innocence. They squander it before they even know what they have."


"Just like we did."

"Perhaps," Bruce says again, helpless.

He looks away from the McAfee's window, toward the direction of New Carthage, thinking. And sees, silhouetted against the night sky, the Bat Signal. It calls to him and he knows, even as he stands to heed its beacon, that he can't keep Dick at the Manor. Can't keep him from normalcy. Dick will go out in the world. He will grow up; he will be happy. He will come and go from Bruce's home, but he will always be in Bruce's life. As would, perhaps, Selina. If only he'd take the chance and let her be a real part of him.

"Jackie," Bruce says, ready to walk away.

"My name's Adele," she says.

"Ah. My apology. Please excuse me, Adele."

She nods.

He goes to collect Robin.

Dick is not in the rec room. Several of the teenagers have disappeared.

"Penny wanted to show him," one of the boys, Mark perhaps, begins. His words are slurred. He's been in the liquor.

Mark's friend punches him in the arm.

"Yes," Bruce waits, impatient.

"I think she wanted to show him the gazebo." Mark sniggers. "Or maybe her black light posters."

Bruce heads to the gazebo, out on the front lawn. The valets have abandoned their post, but the jag's keys are hanging on a hook and he snags them on the way. He will find Dick, they'll drop the jag at the manor, then be in Gotham in twenty minutes.

He encounters a couple there, in the gazebo. Penny is part of said couple, but Dick is not the boy in question. It is the frat boy and both members of the couple are embarrassed, fumbling.

"Ah, Suzanne then," he thinks.

There's music and the tiny ray of light coming from one car in the parking area, far from the house. As he gets closer, Bruce realizes it's that song—the one that Dick likes. The car is a battered Thunderbird, some kid's dad's hand-me-down, and it's got three bumper stickers on the back: Goldwater, a fraternity, and one for Hudson U. The seats are tilted three-quarters of the way back.

From his place in the shadows, Bruce can see three young people, bathed in the blue glow of the car's low dash. It's Dick. Dick and that Breck girl and one other—Monica, Bruce realizes, using her boyfriend's car. They all seem fully dressed, thankfully, but arms are tangled around shoulders. Dick's eyes flutter open and closed, then stay closed as he kisses them—kisses, very intently, and with a lot of gusto, like a clumsily amorous puppy—their lips and throats and all the skin he can reach. Dick's head tilts back, and he's smiling. Smiling as one of the girl's lips find his, smiling as the other girl kisses them both.

Bruce is surprised to find that this… this does not bother him in the way he would have imagined. He watches for a long moment: the joyful, youthful exuberance.

Bruce knows he should probably talk to Dick about discretion, but right now… their faces, all open and surprised, laughing and gasping. So young, so handsome, so beautiful. No one should look so young, tender faces flushed, hands trembling against white eyelet.

And just like that, he decides. Just as he is not losing Dick, not really, he has not lost Selina. Not yet, and not if he hasn't tried. He is going to try. Show her the man he truly is, not just his mask.

Alfred buzzes him on his intercom. Bruce steps deeper into the shadows, his voice low. "Yes?"

"The Bat Signal, sir." Bruce can't say why for sure, but he welcomes the familiarity of Alfred's voice. Bland as ever. "The commissioner."

"I'm on my way," Bruce says. "Dick's going to need a ride home. Can you pick him up from the party?"

"Certainly, sir."

"I'll let him know," Bruce says, looking over at the Thunderbird.

"Very well, sir. Shall I adhere to Master Dick's usual weekend curfew time?"

Bruce checks his watch. "Yes, Alfred. I think that will be fine."

"You're going out alone then, Master Bruce?"

"Might as well get used to it, working on my own. It has been a long while, hasn't it?"

"Indeed it has, sir. Alfred out."

As Bruce climbs into the jag, he buzzes Robin, once. From across the lawn, he hears a car door open and close, and a few minutes later, Dick's voice, breathy and a bit ragged, comes over the com. "Yes?"

"Dick, I'm going to have Alfred come and get you."

"Um, okay Bruce."

"He'll be there by curfew."

For once, Dick doesn't even protest. "You—you see the signal, Bruce?"

"Yes. Are you only now seeing it?" he chides.

"Um, yeah." Dick clears his throat. "I mean yes. Do you need me?" And just that quickly, he's Robin.

"I'm taking this one alone. Be ready for Alfred when he gets there." Bruce pauses, hesitates. "Also, one of the girls is looking for you. Suzanne, I think. Maybe Penny." To make sure tonight's… activities with the young women are now at an end, he adds, with a perverse kind of pleasure, "And I believe Monica's boyfriend is looking for you."


"Perhaps he has your sweater. Wants to return it to you."

"Um…" Bruce imagines Dick looking back at the house, at least a little nervous. "Okay, Bruce." There is silence, except for panting breaths.

Bruce just… listens. For a moment. "And Dick..."


"I'm going to pay a visit in Gotham. I may be home quite late."

"You sure you don't want help?" Dick says. "It'll be the last time…"

"I know," Bruce says, perhaps too sharply. "But I'm going to take care of a… a personal matter."

"Oh."New Story

Bruce can hear the question in Dick's voice but he does not respond. Instead he reminds Dick to thank his hosts for the party.

"Acknowledged," Dick says. "Robin out."

"Batman out."

Bruce checks the time as he speeds through the estate's iron gates. It's not quite midnight yet, and he feels ready to dispatch whatever problem is calling him to Gotham in record time. With any luck, he can find Selina by dawn.