Feedback: Hell, yes.
Note: While some of this story is obviously based on pre-reboot canon, a bunch is made up by me. Don't take it as gospel.
You know the old saying 'you don't know what you have till it's gone'? I guess that's the file this belongs in. All right, guess has nothing to do with it. That's where it belongs and I placed it there myself, eyes opened and without hesitation—or not much, anyway. I was stupid and I'm trying to own it, for what little good it will do. I'm trying to be honest here, otherwise what's the point of even writing this, right?
So, what's gone? No it's not a what, okay, who's gone? Dick Grayson, Robin, Nightwing; take your pick. I was his first crush, puppy love, fantasy girl subject of a lot of dreams and, I strongly suspect, a few other firsts as well.
I know, everyone has someone they regret. Everyone has someone somewhere who they keep coming back to and can't help wondering 'what if?'. Dick is mine and the kicker is that now that he's good and gone, I miss him and and can't stop thinking about him with regrets because the simple truth is that I'm the one who kicked him to the curb and slammed the door. Even when he kept coming back time and time again, I slammed him hard and finally he gave up and I can't even blame him.
It started out unbelievably innocently; I was his babysitter when he was nine, ten years old and I was in high school. Bruce had taken him in after his parents were killed and so needed someone to look after him when he had to be somewhere and knew he really couldn't ask Alfred to cancel whatever he had going on yet again. I'd get the call because Bruce and my dad are friends and it was an easy fit.
Dick wasn't always an easy kid. He wasn't a bad kid, not at all; it's just that he was so damn smart and was still hurting so much back then and didn't really know what to do with all these feelings he had, the anger and the pain—he was so young. I didn't know what to do with him, either. I was only fifteen when we first met, still half grown myself so I did the only thing I could think of—I was nice to him. He'd want to have pizza and Doritos for dinner with a milkshake chaser then follow it up with a pound of M&M's and I'd say 'sure'. He'd want to go to Bruce's gym and show off, I was fine with that. He'd decide to watch the entire Harry Potter series in the home movie theater and I'd make the popcorn. It wasn't that I was trying to spoil him or anything, I'd just never had to deal with a young kid and it seemed easier to go along than to fight.
I guess that was why I was his favorite babysitter and, sure, I knew he had a crush on me. I figured it didn't matter and he'd get over it soon enough so I never did anything about it. I mean, c'mon; I'm almost seven years older than he is. That was a lifetime back then.
Then he wasn't a little kid anymore. I've heard all those cliches about how fast kids grow up and it goes in the blink of an eye. I blinked and all of a sudden little Dickie was taller than me, built like an Olympic athlete and looked like he should be on the cover of GQ. And nice; he was so damn nice to me. And he still had that crush on me but now it seemed like it was more than just a crush, I guess that grew up, too.
The other thing about Dick was that he was the nicest guy I'd met—still is. He cared about me, what I said mattered. He listened to me, asked me what I thought and tried to make me happy whether it was where we had dinner, what movie we went to or when he'd give me a birthday or Christmas present. It wasn't like he was trying to impress me by how much he could spend but just by finding something which would please me (which was a lot considering he had access to Bruce's credit cards).
And he's just so damn much fun to be around; did I mention that?
You know how some people sleepwalk through life and others take a big bite and dive in eyes opened and feet first? That's Dick. It's not just that there's nothing he won't try, no place he doesn't want to visit, nothing he doesn't want to see, it's that he does it all with a smile on his face, thrilled at what's happening. And if what's happening isn't all that great, he deals with that in stride, finds whatever fun's to be had and keeps going. 'You know how rare that is? The age thing didn't matter, I just wanted to sit in the same room with him, watch a movie, talk about how the day had gone and make sure his latest torn muscle, scrape, injury was okay and I'd kiss whatever it was that needed to get better. We clicked in spades.
And sometimes when he looked at me I felt like one of those heroines in a cheap paperback; my knees went a little weak (not enough to fall down or anything, but enough that I knew). I'd get an honest to god flutter in my stomach and I'd have to make a conscious effort not to giggle or smile like a seventh grader. I looked forward to the times he'd show up, grab my jacket for me and we'd go somewhere—anywhere—on his latest bike, driving like a maniac and me laughing behind him, holding on for dear life.
God, I'd always prided myself on being a woman and I felt like such a girl around him. I was in love or as close to it as I guess I'm capable of. I started having fantasies of picket fences, me in an apron cooking dinner (while manning the Oracle computer) and kicking the kids toys out of the way. Yes, kids; our kids.
It was when I finally admitted to myself all of the above and was about to let the walls down, let him in both figuratively and literally the door slammed shut, the windows crashed down and I stopped receiving from pretty much everyone and everything.
That was the day Joker destroyed life as I'd known it.
Dick did everything he could think of to help—a lot of people did but I wasn't hearing any of it. I was broken, damaged, not whole and all the kings horses and all the kings men...well, you know how that goes. He kept telling me over and over that the chair didn't matter to him, ignoring or not understanding that it sure as hell mattered to me. He could talk until he was blue in the face (and almost did a few times) but nothing he did or said made any difference.
A couple of times we were close to understanding and connecting but I always put on the brakes, usually while hurling insults and obscenities.
He kept trying, though; I suppose he thought that if he tried enough times I'd come around. He never gave up but this is Dick we're talking about and would anyone expect anything less? I know I didn't and, while I never actually thought about it, I assumed he'd always be there for me. I never thought he'd finally give up and move on. I always counted on him being on the other end of the phone or knocking on my door or surprising me with whatever caught his eye he thought might make me smile.
God, I was so stupid.
He even proposed, on his knee, ring in hand and I said yes. We were engaged when Bruce took him and Tim on a 'round the world male bonding thing. He apologized, said he'd be back but by the time he was home I'd talked myself out of the whole marriage thing because he wasn't here to hold my hand, talk me down when I got scared and so threw him away. I was mad at everyone and everything and transferred all that anger to Dick because he could still walk, run, jump, do all those things I couldn't and he was the one standing (standing!) in front of me. He'd never asked me to give up my work, never asked me to cook dinner or clean the house. He said—I even believe him—that he was okay with not having kids or adopting. All he asked was to be together. He said he wanted to be with me, not an empty apartment. He told me how he looked forward to waking up with me every morning, joked about big family holidays around a ridiculously big, over-decorated tree.
He loved me as I am, no questions asked, no issues with what I can and can't do.
The worst part is that I believed him then and I still believe him now. I simply couldn't—I couldn't what? Accept it? Accept him? Accept that he loved me, that he really was that selfless, that amazing? That there actually was someone who saw beyond the chair or, rather, saw it but honest to god didn't care?
No, that's not right either. He knew the damn chair was there and that I was stuck in it, that it would affect almost everything from where we could live to how we'd function.
The truth was that I didn't/couldn't believe that he loved me that much and that he really did accept everything about me. I reacted by patronizing him, making him feel like crap with stupid nicknames like 'short pants', 'former boy wonder', 'legs' and all the rest. I was a human push me/pull you with my unending go away, no, come back.
I knew he didn't like it, knew he hated it and didn't understand but I kept it up; probably trying to get him to walk away. If he had left then it wouldn't have been my fault, he would have been the bad guy, not me. But it didn't work.
I didn't just end the engagement, give him back the ring, tell him I hoped he'd have a good life, let's be friends.
I was a total bitch to him, threw him to the floor and then mopped it up with his feelings. I knew what I was doing, hated myself but couldn't stop. I wanted to make sure that he wouldn't come back this time while hoping the whole time that he would. But he didn't; I did too good a job of twisting the knife. When he walked out, shoulders down and crushed I knew I'd gone too far. I'd left no room for apologies, for telling him I didn't really mean it and that I'd said all that because I was scared to death and let's forget it and start over; pretend I'd never said any of that.
My fault, it's all my fault and I know that. Bruce gave me the same look he reserves for murderers the rare occasions when I saw him and then he stayed away if or pretended I wasn't there the few times we were both at the same place for some reason. Dad never asked and I never volunteered information. Dick's old friends, the Titans, dropped off my active list of people asking for case help, clearly not wanting to even deal with Oracle.
And now I miss him. I miss the closeness (when I allowed it), I miss the way he could tease me out of a depression, how he'd surprise me with Chinese food or a pizza—always cold and congealed. I miss lying beside his warmth, miss tending to his endless cuts and scrapes. I miss knowing he was there for me, that I could call him day or night and know he wouldn't mind, that he wanted to hear my voice. I miss trying to find the perfect Christmas or birthday present for him then watching his face when he opened the package. I miss stupid things like holding his hand, watching a movie together, joking about some stupid thing which happened that day. I miss hearing the water running when while he takes a shower then smelling the clean soap and steam smell. I miss the idea of being with someone; I miss him.
It's my fault and now it's too late.