Author's Note: Happy New Year, wonderful readers! Just a couple of quick notes for clarity's sake: first, please note that this is set in a different universe than my story 'Reconciliation.' I felt like imagining more than one way that Bruce and Dick might have made amends, and this popped into my head. This will be a three-shot; chapters one and two are up today, and I will have the last chapter up by New Years Day at the latest. Bear with me on Batman's attitude in this first chapter; I promise fluffiness by the end. As always, thanks for reading!
"Hey," Nightwing said awkwardly, straightening from where he'd just bound three men. "Cold night, huh?" Oof. He looks pissed. Can't really blame him, I'd be ticked if he popped up on my side of the river unannounced. Still, I have a good reason.
"What are you doing?" was returned bluntly, eye slits a blank white.
"Catching these guys," he gestured at the trio. "Gotham PD can have the collar – hell, you can take credit, if you want – I just wanted them off my streets."
"These aren't your streets."
"I know that," he answered evenly. Not anymore. You disinherited me, so to speak. Trust me, I remember. "But this isn't home for them. Bludhaven is."
"Then why are they here?" Batman growled, curious in spite of himself. I'm still mad, he told himself even as his gaze roamed hungrily over the figure facing him. He looks too thin. He always looks too thin. Something Tim had said the week before flashed through his head. He just came back from a mission abroad. That explains it. He never eats when he's away…
"They come here for church. Every Tuesday, same time."
"…Church?" he repeated, snapped out of his thoughts by that revelation.
"Hey, don't act surprised. They've got plenty to repent for." He nudged one with his boot.
"And I suppose there's no repenting in Bludhaven," he sneered, no longer referring only to the criminals. I told you to get out of Gotham, and yet here you stand, blatantly disobeying me. Typical.
"…Sure there is, Bats," Nightwing replied slowly, raising a finger to push the lenses of his mask out of the way. "But it's harder to admit your failures at the scene of the crime." He paused, looking up at the half moon that hung above them. "Sometimes, though, there's no other way."
…Did he come here to make up? Is that what this is? "Why are you here? You didn't come just for these three. They took you all of five seconds."
"I knew you were watching." A beat. "…How was I, compared to the great and infallible Batman?"
"You took unnecessary risks. You leapt before you looked, as you always have when only your own personal safety is involved." It was nothing new; they were the same words he'd thrown at him the last time they'd spoken. "You also failed to report your presence to local patrol in a timely manner."
"…You forgot to criticize my efficiency," he replied tightly. You're making me start to regret coming here tonight, he cursed to himself. You have no idea how hard it was to convince myself that there was any chance you'd be interested in seeing me...
"I didn't criticize it because there was nothing wrong with it. For once." Everyone says you're even more amazing now than you ever were with me. They say you train constantly, too hard, like you're trying to prove something. They say you hurt yourself sometimes, push too far, but you don't complain. You never change, Dick.
He stiffened. Fine. You still want to be an asshole, that's fine. I thought maybe it had been long enough for you to realize some things, like I did, but obviously not. "Well, good. I'm glad I managed to not make you completely ashamed of me. For once," he echoed quietly, unable to keep a bit of the pain those words had caused him out of his voice. Seeing the cowl cock slightly to one side – oh great, he's sensed my weakness and now he's fixing to pounce – he went on. "They're triplets, by the way. Marco's a rapist. Marcus is a jewelry thief. Marius just likes to strangle people. They usually work together, and somehow they always manage to work all three of their fetishes into the mix. You can have them. Call it a Christmas present."
"Gotham doesn't need Bludhaven's problem children." Are you happy there, Dick? Clark says you love the police work. He says you're good at it, too. I read Bludhaven's crime statistics; violent crimes are down by half compared to three years ago. I know that's due to Nightwing.
That hurt, Bruce, he thought, a little stunned as he assumed the jab was about him as well as the men he'd collared. "If that's how you feel, Batman," he managed after a second, "then just let them go. Maybe they won't come home again." Eyes hot, he shoved his lenses back down roughly and turned, preparing to leap off of the roof and swing away, back to his side of the river. Bastard. I came to apologize, to try and make amends, and you say things like that. And here I thought maybe you've been hurting the way I have, hating this rupture. I guess not. I guess you really don't need me. It seems no one does anymore. The moonlight hit his face, making the single tear that had escaped glisten on his cheek.
"I don't release criminals."
"…Criminals," he repeated slowly. "Yeah. I forgot. You expect them to pay for the rest of their lives, no matter what they do to try and show that they're sorry. Nothing's ever enough for you. There's no rehabilitation in Batman's eyes." Those blank, awful eyes, Bruce. I've always hated looking at you when your lenses are down, because that's when I know you aren't really there. "And the judge is never wrong, either. No miscarriages of justice ever occur in your court. I guess I forgot that, too," he spat. "You must think it's amazing I remember anything you taught me. Just watch, next I'll be forgetting to throw my grapple out mid-flight."
He hadn't known he was going to say it until the words were out of his mouth. Did I mean that? Am I to that point? It seems so…un-me, but…I dunno, it's sounding pretty good right now. What else have I got to look forward to for the next year? Catch some more baddies so they can be turned right back out on the street, and have no one to even bitch about it with? Yay. Sounds de-fucking-lightful.
It caught the caped man off guard, though, and that was something. "…What did you say?" he asked, his voice low.
"You heard me."
"I heard something, but I don't believe it." You wouldn't really, would you? he fretted without showing it. You were just saying that to get to me. You wouldn't really…you sounded like you didn't even mean to say it, though. You sounded surprised. Dick…
"Then don't believe it, Batman. Do whatever you want. You will anyway." I think I did mean it, he realized as he flew away into the night. Wow. I knew I missed him, but…I didn't realize it would hurt this much if he rejected me again. I should be used to that by now. Shit. I didn't even know that thought was in there…
"…You two have issues," one of the captives opined groggily when Nightwing had gone.
"What?" came growled back.
"Well…" he squirmed. "…I dunno why you're fighting, but I think he came here to apologize. And you were kind of an asshole."
In an instant he was dangling over the edge of the building. "Would you like to repeat that?"
"…Look, I'm going away for a long time, right? And because my brothers and I work together, they'll separate us. And I'm not really looking forward to that, so…maybe you should let go."
He was tempted to pretend like he was going to drop him, but a question presented itself. "…How do you three manage to work together?" he asked. "He said you always do."
"We respect each other," the criminal shrugged. "Sure, it sounds weird coming from a guy like me, I know, but…we're close. Sometimes…sometimes we don't even have to say anything, and we can have a whole conversation. It's miserable being away from them, that's why we do all of our stuff together. I mean, I don't enjoy the same aspects of it that they do – that's practically the only way we're different – but we don't judge each other. We fight, but we try not to be assholes about it. And when one of is, we take a little time, and we get over it, and we apologize. Then we move on."
"…And that's easy to you?"
"No. But…" he shrugged. "It sure as hell beats not talking to each other for days on end. We're too close for that shit, it hurts too much."
Christ. I'm standing here taking relationship advice from a criminal who's just been collared and left on my doorstep by my semi-estranged son. This is ridiculous. He swung the man back over onto the roof and let go. …But he's right. It does hurt too much. In the street below, two police cars appeared, lights flashing. "…Maybe if you three want to stay together, you should stop committing crimes."
"Yeah," the bound man laughed shortly. "And you and him will hang up your masks permanently, then go get a beer together. I can see that happening."
It was more than just differences in our night work, he defended. It wasn't just Batman versus Robin, it was Bruce versus Dick, too. A moment after the thought occurred, though, he was uncertain. Wasn't it? "…The police will be up in a minute. I don't advise that you fight with them."
"Nah. We're busted. Besides, they're still knocked out. Even if I got free, I couldn't leave them."
"Mm." And with that, he flew away in the opposite direction of where Nightwing had gone.
"Just let it go," he heard called after him. He flew until he couldn't see the building he'd left his unexpected counselor on, then aimed his grapple upwards and rode up to the top of one of the few skyscrapers in downtown that didn't have his name on the deed. Once there, he pulled out his binoculars, adjusted them to maximum, and scanned the skyline of Gotham's sister city, squatting grungily on the other side of the river. He did it almost every night, but he couldn't remember ever hoping to see a flash of airborne movement more than he did at that moment.
I don't even remember what started the argument anymore, he realized. Probably something stupid. Did I say something about his hair, is that what set him off? It was always too long…it was short tonight, though. It looked good. He's grown. He's too skinny. He- He lowered the binoculars as his eyes grew too wet to see through them properly. I miss him. Oh, hell, that dirtbag was right. I was an asshole, wasn't I? 'Gotham doesn't need Bludhaven's problem children;' how must he have taken that? I didn't mean it to apply to him, but I'm sure that's how it sounded. Stupid.
I could go, he considered. I could go right now, and find him, and…listen. His hand jerked towards his grapple, but he stopped himself. No. Not after what I said to him. Not tonight, at least. I've probably made him angry again. I'll give him time to get over it. A week or so. New Year's Day should be quiet, crime-wise; I'll go see him then. As for that last thing he said… He shook his head; Dick wouldn't do anything stupid like that, surely.
A local church began to toll the hour, the bell ringing three times. Fine. Call it a night. Alone on the roof, he sighed. Some Christmas this is turning out to be.