The perfect partner
Nightwing moved with quiet purpose along the hallway of the dormitory of the Titans Tower. He walked into his room, throwing the gear bag onto a chair. With his next step, he dove onto his bed, twisting to land on his back with a bounce. He lay back, spread eagle, and relaxed, letting his bones turned to water. Peeling off his mask and closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply, nostrils flaring (Man, I stink). He then sighed heavily in exhaustion.
He looked forward to getting some rest this weekend. He'd had four hours
of sleep out of the last seventy-two. The rest of the
Dick Grayson was a bit bushed.
What the hell was he going to do if he ever got hired at the Blüdhaven Police Department? Clones. Lot's of them. That might help.
And now, here he was at his part-time superhero gig, the Titans. Yep,
here he was, relaxing for the first time in more hours than he could remember.
But he wasn't on call. He was in hiding. Of course (please
God no) if there was a catastrophe or alien invasion, or if the
Tower was beset by the Hive, the Wildebeests, the Brotherhood of Evil,
or a particularly nasty, giant, red, multi-eyed, soul-devouring, antlered
demon, Nightwing supposed he'd have to move his ass off this oh-so-comfortable
For about a week.
Skirting the edge of consciousness, Nightwing vaguely perceived something - what was it? A draft? Fans kicking on? One eye cracked open in time to see Roy Harper — the Titan known as Arsenal - landing feet first on his bed, one foot to either side of Dick's supine body, his bounce sending their bodies a couple of inches off the bed in the counter bounce. Harper squatted over his teammate's belly and tapped him annoyingly on the cheek.
"Robbie! Waddup!? Watchoo doin' sneakin' around herewithout saying hello, dude?" He grinned evilly, gleefully, kindof like the Joker. "You tired Batboy? Playin' too much chase-the-landlady?"
Arsenal partially unfolded from his crouch and began lightly jostling the bed.
(I'm going to commit my very first murder.) A fist that moved too fast to see gripped Roy's shirt. Legs bruised black and blue to match his costume's colors scissored Roy's legs.
Roy felt himself being flipped straight backwards off the end of the bed. Strong arms pulled him to his feet and flung him against a wall. He heard the flat slap of open palms slamming microns away from his ears against the wall. The room was very dark, but he could see a pair of wary, flinty blue eyes very near his own, smell warm breath against his cheeks.
"Hi Roy. Nice to see you, pal. How's things? Lian?"
Nightwing stepped away and turned on the lights. He trudged back to his bed to sit down. "M'really tired, manbusy couple a days. Nap time. Not the best time to mess with me. What's up?"
Arsenal sat down and clapped his friend between the shoulder blades.
"Nap time, my ass. All work and no play makes the
"Dick, let's DO SOMETHING. Let's go get wings `n beeror something.
Damn, I gotta get outta here. YOU gotta get outta
"C'mon Dick. You gotta eat! Don't you want to grow up to be a big, strong Bat?"
"Roy, I am exhaustedotherwise, I'd be happy to go, but right now, all I want is THAT pillow, and THIS mattress, and a thorough examination of the inside of my eyelids. Okay? Please?" Dick implored.
Forty-five minutes later, Roy Harper and a showered-and-shaved Dick Grayson were facing each other over a table at Hooters. A buxom redhead had just dropped off a platter of gooey, steamy wings slathered in sauce that was a decidedly unnatural shade of orange. There was a half-empty pitcher of beer and two empty mugs flanking the mess.
"See Dick, now, does it get any better than this?"
"It does when I'm in my bed. Alone, or with
company. Although at this point, I would actually prefer a little solitude."
Watching his friend, Harper deadpanned, "Mahstah Dick, reeeaaahhlllllleeeeee" in his best Alfred Pennyworth. "Man, Alfred would box your ears to hear you talking. You don't get to have sex."
"Yeah, he would, at that — without a second thought.Y'know, I gotta admit, sometimes I miss the cape. The microfiber makes a great napkin. Dick chomped into a fat drumstick, made an orgasmic face and sighed, "Oh, God, that's good."
"Yeah, tell me how good they are tomorrow on your way outta the john."
While they ate, the two heroes traded bits of stories about work, cars, sports, women, and their "families." They also traded jokes, burps, and turns ordering and emptying pitchers.
After a particularly and horrifically loud belch, Harper announced that nature was calling. While he waited, Dick pushed back from the table, wiped his mouth and, stifling a yawn, looked around the crowded restaurant. After a few minutes, Roy returned.
"Oh, yeah. Life just lost all meaning."
Harper split the last of the pitcher between the two glasses. They both leaned back in their chairs, basking in their full bellies and slightly fuzzy vision.
Dick's mind wandered freely. This really was great. It was a rare opportunity for him to let his hair down and really relax. He shifted his attention back to his friend. "Did it hurt when you got your tattoo? That tribal thing around your arm?"
"Nah. But then again, I don't recall much of it. I DO recall the first couple of pitchers though if that helps."
"I guess that's the unwritten rule of voluntary body mutilation. The drunk part, that is." Dick looked at the tattoo circling Roy Harper's powerfully coiled biceps and triceps. It was a very interesting, intricate design. It was very distinguishing. Dick preferred to blend in rather than stick out, but then, Arsenal/Roy Harper didn't bother to segregate his public crime-fighting persona from his private one. He also was not burdened with protecting anyone else's lifetime of secrets either.
"Well, how else do you shed your inhibitions enough to go through with it? Besides, what the hell does `hurt' mean anyway? You've had Deathstroke, that Az-Bat asshole, and Blockbuster on your dance card. And what about that Blackgate Prison thing? That wasn't exactly a wet-dream either, was it, Dickie? Tattoos're nothing after the kind of shit we've been through. Besides, it's not mutilation" Roy smiled proudly, "it's decoration."
"Riiiiiiiight — not according to BaBruce. "You
don't need any distinguishing marks that might jeopardize your
"Dude, HOW old are you?" Roy leaned across the table glaring directly into Dick's eyes.
"Twenty-four." Dick did not look away.
"And HOW far away from the Bat do you live?" He inched closer.
"Fifty-nine and two-thirds miles." No inflection in his voice.
"And, let's just say, you DID get
a tattoo of some kind. Just what EXACTLY
could he do? FIRE you? Uh, if memory
"This is true." Dick's patented smirk materialized as he sat,
almost preternaturally still, staring unflinchingly into his
Abruptly, Roy SLAMMED his palm on the table loudly. Dick flinched imperceptibly at the sudden noise and movement. Reflexes that would not relax. The empty pitcher tottered and spilled the last remnants onto Roy's lap.
"ShitGet UP, Dickie ma boy! We got thangs to DO!"
Harper shot up knocking his chair over. Some patrons around them quieted
and looked in their direction. Roy returned their
"Let's get outta here DICK."
(Why does he always have to say it like that?)
"The evening is young, so are we, and we have places to go."
Dick sighed and started to get up.
"Oh, and by the way, `GOTCHA.' " Roy jabbed his friend in the chest. "You flinched hero."
Dick flushed. Roy was right. "Did not." He protested, a bit pissed.
"Bullshit. You flinched. I saw your hands."
"You're lucky I didn't collapse your trachea with a knife strike to the throat." Dick smiled smugly and reached for the check. "Any way, if I did, it was because of the beer."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Roy put his thumbs together with the index fingers extended to form a W. "Besides, Bartending-Wonder, haven't' you learned anything at that lame-ass cop bar you work at? Alcohol is NOT an excuse for behavior, only a facilitator." He was referring to the bar where Dick was part-timing in Blüdhaven.
"Shut up, man." Busted, Dick gave a half-smile. "We really should be getting back to the Tower, though, Roy. This fine, nutritious meal and your dazzling company have thoroughly exhausted me. I am bone tired, I have barely slept since last Wednesday, and I must admit, I am having just the slightest trouble standing completely straight."
"Richard, my man," Roy put on a deep voice, "you am da straightest boy in `dis entire `hood! It is high time for me to put a serious crimp in that straight-arrow thing of yours. But, I have just the fix. Got your ATM card? Plastic? Traveler's cheques? Twenty-four dollars worth of beads?"
"Yeah" Dick's eyes narrowed. He eyeballed Harper suspiciously. "Why?"
"Well, pay that damn thing and let's motivate! Like the man said, this is your life and it's ending one minute at a time!"
(Amazing how I always get stuck with the check.) Dick put down several bills that amounted to an outrageous tip.
"YEEEESSSSSS!!!" Roy hooted and jumped up onto a chair. "Ladies and gentlemen, a moment, if you please! We are superheroes out-of-uniform and we are going out on the town. We are going to drink beer and flirt with women we don't know. If there is any kind of emergency, odds are we will be in no condition to be of much help. I just want you all to know that. But I'm sure that someone wearing long underwear will arrive in the nick of time to save the day. Thank you. That is all."
Dick reddened, furious. He grabbed Harper by the wrist in a vice-grip and pulled him down from his perch. "Let's go."
"NOW." This time the growl was his own. And it carried just as much weight and power as his earlier imitation.
"Okay. Chill man. I was just "
They were outside before it happened. Roy knew it was coming and he also knew that he deserved it. Might as just shut up and take the mediciOUCH — he felt the forearm in his neck and the grip on his belt just before he slammed face-first into the window of an SUV.
"WHAT the Hell was THAT?!" Dick growled in his ear. It was disturbing just how much he sounded like his mentor. "You can't dick-around like that. What were you thinking?"
"Come on dude " Roy gasped. Not a whole lot of air was making it into his lungs.
"No. I am not screwing around here. There is a LOT at stake with what I keep private. More than you know. This is something I take VERY seriously I will not put myself, my friends, my family, or anything else at risk just so you can mess around in a bar."
He thumped Harper's face into the glass for punctuation.
"Ow. Jeezuss man, lighten up." Roy felt the pressure lessen. At that moment, he pushed back off the truck sending Grayson stumbling.
Dick rolled with the blow he had anticipated. As he went to his back, he swept Arsenal's weight-bearing leg with his own right leg. While the archer flopped hard to his back, the acrobat did a kip-up and was on Roy's chest in the span of two heartbeats. He grabbed his friend by the lapels and pulled his face to his own.
"I want you to know something."
"What?" Roy spat.
"I am dead serious when I sayGotcha."
The tiniest intimation of a smile tugged at the corner of Dick's mouth. Then it showed in his eyes.
"You piece of "
The man who was Nightwing rolled backwards down Arsenal's body, pushing
off with his hands into a handstand and then
Roy Harper started to say several different
things, but just resigned himself to the fact that his fellow Titan did,
"All right. We're even. I flinched. Now let's ride. I've got several bartenders in this town who count on me to support their families."
"My man." Dick clapped Roy on the shoulder conspiratorially.
"This is a good suit though man, you could've kept me offthe ground."
"You're lucky I didn't put your laughable ass in that puddle over there."
"You have exactly seven minutes to fume about this," Dick smirked. "After that, I will have no memory of this event." (It was pretty funny.)
Roy slapped at his jacket to get rid of the last of the dust. "All right Robbie! Let's go. You gotta learn to live in the moment."
Dick knew he was giving-in too easily. Maybe it was fatigue, or maybe
it was the beer, or maybe he thought that he had just
"Tonight is going to be a cab night if ever there was one, Arrow-breath!"
Bat be damned, Dick Grayson was going with the flow.
Why don't we get drunk
After loading up at an ATM with what Dick knew to be rapidly disposable cash, the two Titans walked through the doorway of a club — Dick was asked for ID, Roy was not — with loud techno music, dim lighting and several stages occupied by writhing, undulating, scantily clad — if they could even qualify as clad — nearly beautiful women. Dick gazed around the club, blinking in the atmosphere. As they walked through the club, several performers, waitresses, bouncers and patrons said hello to Roy. None of them said anything to Dick. After the archer disappeared into the smoke to forage for supplies, Dick turned his drifting attention to the performers. One girl particularly caught his eye. She slowly bent backwards until the top of her head touched the stage, her G-string-clad hips swaying to the pulsating throb of the music.
"Niiiiiiice. I wonder if Donna can do that?"
Roy's voice found Dick's ear as he pressed a bottle of beer into Dick's hand and held a pair of shots along with his own beer. They toasted with the small glasses and tossed them back. Tequila always burned Dick's throat, but the Corona chased it away.
"Yow!! Man, now THAT'S what I'm talkin' `bout! Nice job, Dickie. Didn't think you'd be able to do that in one hit," Roy congratulated his somewhat repressed friend.
Dick winced. "Thanks? I think." He swallowed more of the crisp, lime-laced beer to ease his throat.
"Well, since that went so well, I think we should get right back on that horse. Heather?" He held a hand up with two fingers raised.
They stood at a tall, circular table adjacent to one of the main stages.
An impossibly beautiful waitress materialized at Roy's
The heroes settled into themselves and became merely another couple of
boys out for the evening, not two men who have
When another round of tequila shots arrived, Dick rolled his eyes and
groaned. "Maybe I should just crawl
to the bathroom
A dancer was eyeing Dick conspicuously. When he shyly smiled at her, she flashed rows of teeth that would have impressed any politician. The black lights reflected their brightness and made them seem to glow. She winked.
(I have a little devil sitting on my shoulder. He has red hair and carries a bow and arrow. Great. The angel on my other shoulder wears a cape-and-cowl and is scarier than Satan himself. Great.)
"I gotta hit the head Roy," Dick announced, laboriously finding his feet.
"Okay Robbie, but first" Roy handed him another shot.
When Dick paused, Roy gestured with his chin to drink up, taking a
Dick scowled, "Sadist." He gave his friend his most intimidating glare, licked his hand, poured the salt, licked the salt, did the shot, sucked the lime, made a face and slammed the glass down on the table. "Watchoo got, Speedy?"
Roy's eyebrows raised. Was that a lighthearted challenge? Maybe this was a good idea after all.
"Wimp." Dick muttered as he made his way to the men's room,
glad to have scoped out its location when they first arrived.
Moments later Dick navigated his return to their table, physically relieved
and moving subconsciously to the driving beat of the
On the other side of the runway, Roy caught the movement and burst into guffaws at his friend's plight.
Dick laughed good-naturedly as he wiped the water from his dripping forehead
on the sleeve of his shirt. He smiled broadly
Roy stopped laughing. He sat in astonishment, watching this stunning,
mostly naked blonde wrap herself around a guy who
"Hullo, Danni, I thought that was
you up therewhat're you doing in New York?" Dick blushed at
the singular attention
"I moved here last month with my girlfriend, Mayathat's her
over there" pointing at a lithe black woman in a fedora,
Dick smiled again. "Well, I guess any move out of the `Haven is
a move up. Are you doing okay here, they treating you right?"
Dick also noticed the beefy security guys one of whom looked to be approaching them with stern determination. An iron clamp grabbed Dick roughly under the arm.
"No touching the dancers, Holmes. Hands-off, right?"
Seeing his friend being roughed by one of the bouncers, Roy was off his barstool and striding to Dick's side in an instant.
"What's up, yo? Problem here? This beautiful young lady approached my friend, not the other way around!"
"Roy, I got this, it's cool." Dick reassured his friend.
Danni, looking a little startled, spoke out. "Shavaughn, it's all right, this is a friend of mine from the `Haven."
Facing the hulking black bouncer, Dick backed up the dancer.
"That's true, sorta, I met Danni when she performed at my Police
Academy graduation party. I didn't know she was here in
The large bouncer looked at Dick cautiously. "Aah-ight. 'S'real nice an' all. I'm not gonna kick your asses out of here. We gots to take care of the blue right? But we all got a job to do here, an' you getting in the way dig? She gets the dollahs to make people hollah, same? Wait till she's done as the feature."
Dick grinned lop-sidedly. He was relieved not to have his butt kicked,
or to cause an incident that might get the young dancer
"'S'aah-ight now. All taken care of. Hey, Roy — Danni, Danni — Roy." Dick introduced the dancer to the superhero.
Roy's lips curled into his most charming, rakish smile, and he took the dancer's hand, kissed it chivalrously. "Extremely pleased to make your acquaintance. And for the record, you'd be wasting your time with this flatline here. He doesn't know his ass from his elbow when it comes to incredibly beautiful women, such as yourself. I, on the other hand"
"What's Donna doing tonight, Roy?" Dick interjected, peeved. They were interrupted by a waitress, who returned Dick's credit card, along with a bill for him to sign. Dick pocketed his card and looked at the bill. One eyebrow rose momentarily, then he smiled and signed the paper, returning it to the waitress.
"What was that?" queried Roy.
"Nothinghey, let's grab a table?" indicating one next to the stage where Danni was dancing.
"Yeah, be right back," Roy grinned, and winked at his friend.
Turning back to the dancer, Dick spoke. "I guess you'd better get back to the show before Shavaughn reconsiders."
"Yessir, Officer Blue-Eyes" Danni saluted and kissed
Dick on the cheek. "I wouldn't want you to have to handcuff
He was still blushing when Roy reached their new table with their drinks.
"Dude! What's up with you having a party with
Caught off-guard, Dick looked at the other Titan briefly, then looked
away, at the familiar blonde dancer on the stage. "The
After an uncomfortable silence, Roy changed the subject. "Hey, Tanya
said some guy bought a round of drinks for everyone in
Dick cut his eyes toward Roy. Smiled just a little. "Tanya?" Then returned his attention to the main stage. Danni was "arresting" a member of the crowd.
Roy followed Dick's gaze to the luscious blonde. "So. D'ja get her
number, Robbie? Gonna meet up with her later?
"Nah — not my type." Dick smiled at Danni as he took another sip of his beer. So talented. So
"Not your type? What? Dude. A: she's gorgeous. Second: she digs
you. That can't happen very often. And D: SHE'S EFFING NAKED! That spells
`my type' in any language on this planet.
She's the universal donor! `Clueless-Wonder'! What,
Dick turned to Roy, his expression solemnly serious. "She sort of
asked me the same thing, Roy. II couldn't lie to her,
"I told Danni I couldn't, you know, `see' her because" Dick paused to clear his throat.
"Roy, I don't know how to say this Roy, I have, for a long time. I jeez, I thought maybe you knew I thought" he trailed off.
Dick put his hand on Roy's knee.
Roy glanced down at Dick's hand. On his knee. Then he looked back up at Dick's face — and he was suddenly uncomfortable.
Dick moved in a little closer, his hand firmly on Roy's thigh now, his crystal blue eyes unwavering. Dick watched Roy's expression change from concern to panic. God, this was so difficult, he didn't know if he could actually go through with this
"I love you Roy — I've tried to fight it for a long time. Do you think you could ever —"
"Uhhhh" now uncomfortable with the sound of his friend's name. "Look, man, I'mflattered. Really, and all, but" Roy blushed and stammered. He looked away for a moment, not knowing what to do or say — he was flummoxed. He knew Dick was a brainy, sensitive kind of guy, with a tumultuous emotional past, plus the whole living-with-a-grown-man-running-around-in-tights thing, but this? Roy heard a sound like a tight squeak, followed by a gasp. He turned back in time to see Dick double over in laughter.
Dick laughed hard, barely able to catch his breath between peals, tears
appearing at the corners of his eyes. Smilex. He
"" and more laughter. "That's twice." Oh, his stomach hurt now. Ow. But this was too good.
Roy sat stock-still, glaring at the man across the table from him who was nearly prostrate with laughter.
"Did not," Roy uttered. Terse. Clipped.
More laughter, gasping. "Riiiiiiiiight!"
"No way, Bird-brain, I knew you were goofing on me all the time," Roy lied, seeing no easy way out of this humiliation.
"Oh, puh-leeeze, Roy. Oh wow. Jeezus
that was great! Your face was the same color as your hair!" Dick
slapped the table,
Roy just sat as Dick attempted to calm himself. Dick looked at him again
and hooked his index finger into the side of his own
"Gotcha." Dick repeated, raising two fingers on his right hand. He was beginning to catch his breath and quiet himself down as the quart of endorphins released by his laughing-fit took effect. He looked at Roy and sighed contentedly.
Roy glowered back. Then his smile broke through. He raised a glass.
Dick returned the toast with a quizzical look on his face.
"Well, evidently, you have had the bat successfully removed from your ass."
"Screw you, Harper!"
"Blow me Grayson." There was nothing else for the archer to say.
"Izz'at an invitation, Roy?" Dick's voice cracked at the end, and his laughter started all over again. "Are you starting to come around?" He choked out as tears ran down his face.
There was only one thing Roy Harper could do. He got up and went to the men's room.
When Roy returned to the table Dick had composed himself and was watching
the arresting blonde dancer again, sipping his
"What are we gonna do about these shots, Arrow-head?" Dick's gaze never left the stage.
"I say we kill `em. Now."
"A merciful death."
"Like the one you'll be begging for, come morning."
"Which I'm sure I'll be cruelly denied."
"Right. Like they say, `Lick-it, Slam-it, Suck-it!'"
The two friends spent the next hour enjoying the exotic entertainment, tipping frequently, and getting riotously hammered.
I treat my body like a temple - you treat yours like a tent.
"I'm not so sure, dude you look a little shaky." Roy didn't feel too steady himself.
"Okay-okaym'okay," Dick reassured himself, as well as
Roy. He straightened up and looked at his friend. He put his
"You think you're ready?"
"I'm ready. I can do this. I wanna do this.
"Good for you, Robbie. I'm proud of you. Do what?"
Another fine mess.
"I'm not making noise —"
"Whoa! Heeheeheeheehey! Shhhhhhh!"
"Cut that out, I don't need a shower, dude."
"Wanna bet?P-U! — heeheeheehee" A sharp gasp. "Uh-ohh" A groan of misery. "Are we at my room yet?"
"Not yetyou're not gonna spew, are you?"
"I'm am NOT gonna throw up! I promised, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but I don' truss you."
"But Roy, you've trusted me with your life, man, we're TITANS!" Dick grabbed Harper by the lapels on that last word.
"Yeah, I trust you with my life. I just don't trust you not to hurl on me right now, you unnerstand?"
"Oh thanks. Now I really don't need a shower."
Whining painfully, "Where the hell's my room? Are we on the right floor? I wanna lie down, Roy."
"Don't lie down here! We're almost there, just a few moredamn, you're heavy — will you just walk, man?"
"here isa good place, Roy. I gotta lie down man. Here. NOW."
"No, no, no, no, Dick, not here, waitaminit, dammit"
"Ohhhhh. No, nooh, jeez. Oh — God"
"Aaahhh shit. Dude! You promised! See what I mean - I can't trust you, you lightweight pussy!"
"Shut UP! Ohhhhh God, please God, please, just let me get to my bed"
"Roy?Dick? What's wrong? Are you all right? You said you'd be home three hours ago! I was worried!"
"Donna! Hey! Babe! Yeahwe're late, we gotsidetracked — never happen again, I swear!"
Weakly, "Donnaheeeyyy, DollI hafta lie down now. Or else I'm gonna"
"Oh-hey-no, man! No, you're not! Donna, can you give me a hand here, please, babe? Please? He's an inch away from"
Dick's legs buckled and he slid out of Roy's arms to the floor. Roy squatted
over him — deja-vu — and tapped him on the
"Are you just going to leave our fearless leader lying on the floor, Roy?" Arms crossed. Foot tapping lightly. "He pukes, you die."
"Guess not." He hooked his hands under Dick's arms and pulled
him up halfway, until Dick slipped out of his jacket — and
The Amazon glared javelins at the disheveled archer, shoving him backward
until his head thumped the wall behind him. She
"Open the door, Roy."
Rubbing the back of his head pitifully, he mutely obeyed.
"Get the covers."
Roy dutifully pulled the bedspread and sheet down. Donna lay Dick carefully on the bed and sat next to him, smoothing a stray lock of hair off his forehead. She began to unbutton his shirt. "You want to get his shoes, please?"
Off came the Titans' leader's shoes and socks.
Donna tenderly slipped her friend's arms out of his shirt and pulled it away from his body. She looked at Roy. "His pants?"
"He's okay, Donna, it won't kill him to"
"That's all right, I'll do it myself. Go on, get out of here. You've caused enough trouble." She moved to unbuckle Dick's belt.
Roy swatted her hands away. "I'll do it, jeezus, make a federal
case" Roy yanked his victim's pants off and quickly
Donna rolled Dick onto his side and placed a pillow behind his back,
and a throw pillow from the chair in front of him. She
"Dick, wake up for just a minute, honey. Wake up."
"Uhnnn. N-nono. Can't do tha', Doll, pleeeeze."
"Dick, listen to me. If you need to be sick — are you listening? — If you need to throw up—"
"Yeah, dude. If you're gonna spew, spew in this." Roy did his best `Garth Algar'.
Donna gave Roy a look that made his testicles shrivel. "If you need to throw up," she said sweetly, "roll forward and do it — I put the waste-basket right here, next to your bed. Okay?"
"Hokaypuke in th' trashcanbut, I don' wanna throw up, DonnaI h-hate throwing up" He was miserably pitiful.
"I know, honey, I know. Would you like me to stay here with you for a while?" Donna rubbed Dick's back lightly, watching him with concern.
With his last particle of conscious thought, Dick realized that THAT
would bug the ever-loving crap out of Roy Harper. His
"Would you? Tha's so sweet, Doll, thanks. Luv you"
Dick closed his eyes and fell into a senseless abyss.
"That's so LAME, Donna. He'll be
fine. C'mon, let's go to bed." — Shit. Roy realized he should
Donna seethed. "No, Roy, YOU go
to bed. YOURS. You go check on your daughter
and then you go to bed. I am staying
"Ibut it was" Roy stammered. Defeat. It
was best just to flee and live to fight — or love — another
Nothing is sure but this brand-new tattoo
Sensation slowly returned to the corpse-like body sprawled across the
bed. Dick Grayson lay belly-down on the mattress, a
Dick was afraid to open his eyes. If what his brain told him was true,
vision would not help the situation at all. He must be back
The feeling slowly dawned on him that he might not be alone. He needed
to try to open his eyes. But the prospect of the sight
"Unca Nightwing?" a small voice filtered through a couple of tons of elephant flesh.
"Unca Nightwing? You waked up yet?"
Lian was here to rescue him. `Lian, push the elephant off my head, will you, Princess?' he silently implored.
"Unca Nightwing, you gots to wake up. Auntie Donna says I'm not s'pose to talk to you `til you're waked up."
Dick risked opening one eye. Elinore was still there, but she had now
become invisible. He focused until he could discern a
"Hi, Unca Nightwing, you're waked up! You were asleep longer than Daddy!"
Was she speaking English?
It was too soon after waking with an invisible elephant on his head to
accurately process speech. Or any other higher
Dick blinked stupidly at the little face before him. He knew he had to say something. How exactly did speech work again?
"Hi, Lian" Dick spoke through the mouthful of hay and elephant dung. His voice echoed painfully through his skull.
Dick tried moving. `A fetal position sounds nice. Can I do that?' He tucked his knees under him and pushed backwards, to lie on his side.
Seeing Dick's movement as an invitation, Lian climbed onto his bed and
scrambled over him, slamming her little knee into the
Dick prayed for death. His. Quickly.
Her father's child. No DNA test required there, no sir!
The bouncing stopped (thank you God).
Then Lian spoke with the profound wisdom of children:
"Unca Nightwing, how come you gots a Batman on your booty?"
Dick's eyes snapped open. The elephant dissolved.
"Huh?" he posed to the child, looking over his shoulder at her.
"How come you gots a Batman on your booty?" she repeated.
Muscles and brain-function came back online instantly. He realized far
too much of his bare skin was exposed to this child
"Lian, honey, Uncle Nightwing has to go potty. `Scuseme"
he explained as he gathered the sheet around him and
First things first, he quieted his screaming bladder. Next, he stood
with his back to the mirror and looked over his shoulder.
`Jeez, I've got to get closer' thoughts gaining clarity now. He removed a hand-held shaving mirror from a drawer and sat on the countertop, angling the hand mirror to the larger wall mirror. Dick's breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened. No. Oh, no-no-no. Uh-uh, no WAY! — THAT was not THERE!
"Oh, Holy SHIT!" he hissed in horrified disbelief.
On his lower back, actually at the base of his sacral mound, his "tailbone," Richard John Grayson now sported a tattoo.
A very particular tattoo.
A tattoo of-the Bat-insignia.
The tattoo was about three inches wide and an inch high. The bat's tail
descended into the top of the cleft of his buttocks.
Dick had absolutely no memory of how the tattoo had appeared on his body. That alone was scarier than having actually *gotten* a tattoo. How the hell was he going to explain THIS? Of course, it was a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, he'd have to - Batman had a way of finding out EVERYthing. Dick looked up at his reflection. He was looking at a dead man. His eyes narrowed into a furious scowl. He was not going to be the only dead man in the Titans Tower!
Dick grabbed his bathrobe off the hook on the back of the bathroom door. He pulled it on as he flew down the hallway. He was bellowing Roy Harper's name all the way.
And how it got here I haven't a clue
"pasted a hundred-dollar bill on this chick's ass andOh, `morning `Wingster, or rather, afternoon. Coffee?"
Standing in the kitchen, Roy held out a mug of coffee to Dick. The enraged Titan slapped the mug out of Roy's hand, sending mug and coffee flying to spray and shatter against the stove. He twisted his fists into Roy's shirt and slammed the archer against the refrigerator, pinning him with his feet barely touching the floor.
"How did this THING get there, Roy? How the hell did I end up with thisthing on my ass? Is this some kind of sick practical joke? TELL ME!!" Dick snarled venomously through clenched teeth.
Knowing how pissed, how freaked, how deadly his friend was at that moment, Roy Harper remained calm, not moving his eyes from Dick's.
"Easy, Dick. You told me `I've got to learn to live in the moment, I'm ready to do this, I want to do this!' You asked for it, you drew the design out, you specified the colors, you chose its location, you paid for it, and you laid down and had it done. Simple as that. Now, you want to let me down, man? You're scaring my kid, okay?"
The cloud of fury dissipated from Dick's brain. He released his friend as his expression morphed from angry to confused to contrite.
"Maybe you oughta sit down, okay, Dick? Have some juicy-juice and a couple of ibuprophens?"
Dick looked around the room and saw that Argent and Damage were staring at him, mouths agape. Donna, however, was trying to hide a smile behind her hand. Lian was sitting at the counter next to Donna, a cup of juice and some cookies in front of her.
Just great! No costume, no mask, real name flying everywhere, totally out of control he may as well strip his robe off and do naked cartwheels through the kitchen. Well, at least nobody had mentioned Batman.
Lian looked around at everyone. Everybody was so serious. With typical aplomb, she broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Unca Nightwing gots a Batman on his booty. He can be Booty-man now too."
Dick closed his eyes and seriously considered the cartwheels.
The room exploded in laughter. Damage was doubled over. Argent had spit a mouthful of scrambled eggs on the floor. Of course, Arsenal was apoplectic.
"Booty-man?! Bwah-hah-hah! Oh that is great! That is IT! Too awesome!"
(Booty-man. Great. How long am I going to have to live with that?)
Lian was now running around the room holding her blanket around her neck singing, "Booty-maaaaaan! Booooooty-maaaaaan!"
Roy was not helping. "Man can you see it? On a dark and stormy night when villainy is lurking everywherejust look to the sky for those perfectly shaped buttocks. He will be thereBooty-man!"
Dick couldn't help but smile. That was kind of funny.
It's been a lovely cruise
Later that evening, Nightwing wheeled his motorcycle onto the Titans' barge. Arsenal was there with his daughter in his arms, to see him off.
"Roy, again, bro, I'm so sorry I lost it today. It was a pretty huge shock, considering I have absolutely no recollection of theprocedure." Nightwing could barely meet his friend's eyes.
"There's no need for apologies, my `apprentice in debauchery.' It was a blast! You know, I had a feeling you had it in you to let your hair down successfully — we just had to muck through all those years of Bat-imposed repression. Maybe we should ease into it a little more slowly next time. Stuff like that is better left to Masters like myself." Green eyes twinkled above the smug grin.
Nightwing stepped up onto the bank of the island, pulling his friend and his friend's daughter into a hug. He kissed Lian on the forehead. "Bye-bye, Princess. See you next time."
"Bye-bye, Unca Nightwing." She put her arms around his neck and gave him a fierce hug.
Nightwing moved back, slugged his friend in his free shoulder and smiled. "Regardless, I did have an exceptionally good time, Roy. Thanks. I haven't laughed like that in a couple of years, even if it was at your expense."
"Yeah, and if I'd been thinking straight — ugh, no pun intended — I'd have called your bet and played along. What would you have done then, Bird-brain?" Roy winced at the memory of his discomfort.
"I'd have given you the wettest tongue kiss you have ever seen, Bow-head!" Enormous smile.
Returning to the barge, Nightwing disembarked for his trip back to Blüdhaven, musing, (But next time I want peace and quiet to catch up on my sleep, I think I'll just head to Metropolis andget a hotel room).
Two weeks later, Roy Harper abruptly woke to a powerful hand held over his mouth and another one pressed to his throat, constricting the blood vessels that ferried blood to the brain. Eyes scanning wildly, he was unable to make out anything but a dark mass. What had happened to the nightlight he kept for Lian?
A deep, gravelly voice struck Roy's ears as his blood ran frosty-cold with recognition. Oh, he knew THAT Voice, all right.
"Arsenal. Pay attention. There will be No. More. Tattoos. For him. Ever. Do you understand me? Blink if you do."
"Good boy." The hands disappeared, leaving Roy gasping for breath. He immediately reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Not a soul was in the room. Not a sound broke the silence save for the pounding of his heart.
The lamp stayed on the rest of the night, but Roy Harper didn't sleep another wink.
Nightwing slid into the Batwing's co-pilot seat, retracted the ladder, and touched the control that sealed the cockpit shut. "Nightwing-to-Oracleall clear to re-engage the Titans Tower security grid. Bring it back online, and thanks for your help during this little, um, `test'."
"Test, my hindquarters, `Former Boy-Wonder'! Spill it! Come clean. What, were doing evil things with superglue again?"
"Babs, you know me too well. Yeah, there's a story, but I have to tell it in personit's an `illustrated' tale (to put it literally, sort of). How `bout I share it next Friday night over Chinese take-out and a new DVD? Your place, about eight o'clock?"
"Illustrated? Hard copy or demonstration?"
(As hard as you want it, and demonstrated with total abandoncould easily become `the Greatest Show on Earth') "Both, Babs. I'll call before Friday. Nightwing out."
"Take her up and out, Robin, let's blow some sonic booms down the coastline on the way back to Gotham!"
(And you, RoyGotcha).