This is my love letter to Dick/Babs in the Young Justice Universe. Nearly 8,000 words spanning over five years. This took me way longer than expected, but I'm happy with the monster that it's become.
I listened to a lot of music while listening to this, but I recommend Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine because it is perfect and my current Dick/Babs song. Title comes from Two Fingers by Jake Bugg.
Thank you to my beta team, Julina and Kirsten, for being so dedicated to helping me with this baby. Albus Severus Potter is the new Robin forever.
There's s Story in Every Corner of This Place
After Barbara Gordon kisses him at his fourteenth birthday, Dick Grayson wants to ask her to be his girlfriend. It's a heavy thing, going from friends to something more, even at their age, but Dick really likes her, okay? The feelings came on suddenly after they kissed; it was like some cliché, like in the movies where his eyes were opened or something. They came in a rush, like a flood tearing through his previously quiet life.
He was head over heels for his best friend. While he was already kind of head over heels for his teammate...a teammate that Barbara had no idea about. That was on a team that she had no idea about.
Cause he was Robin, and she had no idea about that, either.
It was these things that made him stop. There was so much about him she didn't know, so much she might not ever know. It felt wrong, every day that went by without her knowing, but it wasn't just his secret to tell. Not anymore. Plus Bruce had said no so many times when he had asked to tell Barbara in the past that he kind of was afraid to ever ask again. To Bruce, there was no sense in telling the Commissioner's daughter about their secret identities.
Except for Dick, she wasn't just the Commissioner's daughter. She was his best friend. She was the first girl he ever kissed.
She was Barbara.
One afternoon, seated across from each other at the kitchen table in Wayne Manor, he almost asks her. She looks so pretty with her red hair falling out the bun she had it combed back into, her brow furrowed and her lip between her teeth as she examines a particularly difficult math problem, he just wants to ask her.
They've also kind of been playing footsie the whole time, and the contact, however minimal, is still thrilling to Dick. They haven't kissed since his birthday two weeks ago but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to again.
He wants to kiss her everyday forever.
"Hey, Barb," he starts to say, and she glances up at him. It's when her eyes meet his that he stops, and realizes just what kind of plunge he was taking. He is stepping into the More Than Friends territory and that means a lot of things. What if he screws this up? What if they break up? What if he loses her? He can't lose Barb; he doesn't know what he'd do without her.
She frowns when he doesn't say anything right away. "Yes, Dick?"
"I..." he swallows. It's now or never. "What did you get for number 6?"
Barbara frowns even further, like she has suddenly developed M'Gann's powers and can read his mind. Like she knew what he was going to ask and was disappointed. "I got 16. Did you get that?"
He glances down at his workbook. He hasn't even gotten past number one. "Yeah. I got 16, too."
"Good," she says, smiling tightly. A beat passes between them. "Hey, Dick?"
"About that kiss at your birthday..."
He freezes then. This is the first time they've discussed it. The first time they've brought it up. Does she want to be more than friends, too? Is that what this is about? "Yeah..."
She looks down and away from him, her cheeks quickly turning a hot pink colour. "You know I like you, right?"
His heart is pounding so fast he can hear the blood roaring through his ears. "Yeah, I..." he swallows again and hopes that neither Alfred nor Bruce nor Jason nor anyone is there to witness this conversation. It's too personal. "I like you, too, Barb."
"Oh," she nods, still looking down. "Okay. So. We should probably...just stay friends, I think."
Dick blinks twice. What? "What? Why?" He hadn't been expecting this at all.
Barbara is back at working at her math problems, her pencil moving quickly over the paper. "I just...I think that we're too good of friends to date, you know? You're my best friend, I mean, my best friend, and I don't...I don't want to mess up our friendship. Do you get what I'm saying?"
"I do," he answers, and he does. He honestly does. That doesn't make it any less sucky. "And I agree."
He doesn't really but he does at the same time. It's complicated.
"I just, you know, think this is the best thing to do," she says, glancing up at him shyly and he looks away. "At least for now. At least until we're...ready. Until everything's out on the table."
His head snaps up, but she's directed her gaze at her books again. She knows. She might not know what, but she knows something.
"That...sounds like a good idea."
"Okay," Barbara says, all business. "What did you get for number 7? I got 20, but that seems wrong?"
They babble over math problems. They stop playing footsie. Barbara goes home. Dick locks himself in his bedroom and plays 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' by The Smiths until dinnertime, where Bruce eyes him worriedly.
Christmas passes by and he sees Barbara over break briefly. Then he saves the world and shortly after New Year's, he starts dating Zatanna. Barbara takes it well.
She doesn't speak to him for a week, but mostly, all things considered, he thinks she's taking it well.
When they're fifteen, Barbara has her first boyfriend and Dick hates his guts. His name is Austin and he's a blonde haired, blue-eyed dreamboat that Barb met working at the library. He's dumb as a rock and of course Barbara is in looooove with him and Dick hates that, too.
He hears Barbara gush about him sometimes to M'Gann, Artemis, and Zatanna and he just wants to slap the pretty out of the boy's face. The kid doesn't even know how lucky he is, doesn't even know how great Barbara is. Doesn't even seem to get that she's brilliant, literally the smartest girl in school, and good at everything. That she punched him in the face when he finally told her he was Robin and then insisted that she get to join in the fun. That she worked Bruce down until he had no more excuses to not let her join their band of merry men. He doesn't even know that he's dating Batgirl.
He completely takes her for granted.
Everything is going great until Austin cheats on her and Barbara finds out. They break up. Dick gives him a black eye. Barbara breaks his nose.
They end up getting suspended for three days. Their fathers are not happy.
"So," Dick says with a sigh as he slumps in the chair he's sitting in, an ice pack pressed to his knuckles. Barbara is seated next to him, a similar ice pack wrapped around her own hand. Both of their father's have been contacted and Alfred is on his way to pick them up and deposit them at their own residences so they can be thoroughly scolded and grounded appropriately. "Bruce is going to kill us."
"Bruce?" she hisses, "My dad is going to barbeque me. I'm never going to see the light of day again."
"Nah," Dick says, shaking his head. "He'll go easy on you. Given...given, you know."
"I mean, Bruce is probably going to suspend us from patrol," he winches. "And from the team. And from seeing each other. He's definitely going to take away my phone." He grins at her. "Think we can set up one of those can-telephone lines? I bet we could hack it using some spare equipment so it's super high-tech and actually surpasses a regular cell phone. I bet we could get Jay to help...if we're not banned from him, too."
"Right," Barbara says, her tone clipped. "Right. Sure. I'm sure it'll be great."
Dick frowns, inching his chair closer to her's. "Babs, hey, are you—"
"Is it supposed to hurt this much?" Barbara says abruptly, her gaze falling on his. He's startled to see tears gliding down her cheeks; he can count the times he's seen her cry on one hand. "Cause it hurts a lot."
"Babs," he whispers, his hand resting on her shoulder. "He's an asshole."
"I know," she snaps, her fingers brushing away her cheeks. "I know he is. But...I liked him. I liked him a lot and he just stomped all over those feelings like it meant nothing and it hurts. Did you hurt like this when Zatanna and you broke up?"
He swallows, remembering the way he and his dark haired magician just sort of stopped dating one day. "Yeah. Sort of, I mean," he pauses. "Yeah."
He doesn't like to think about it too much, even if he and Zee are on good terms. Even if they still make out sometimes. But that's another thing he has difficulty thinking about all together.
Barbara presses her hands to her face. "I feel so stupid," she says, "God, I thought he liked me as much as I liked him. I'm so stupid."
"Hey, hey, hey," Dick grabs her hands, drawing them down from her face. "You are not stupid. You are Barbara Gordon and you are beautiful and smart as hell and funny and you are everything that a guy could want and Austin is an idiot. Okay? He's an idiot."
Choking on a sob, Barbara folds herself into him. His arms wrap around her and he pulls her close.
He wants to go dislocate the boy's shoulder.
"I hate him, Dick," she whispers. "I hate him for making me feel like this."
"I hate him, too, Barb," he says into her hair. He presses a kiss to her temple. "He doesn't deserve you. He doesn't. I would never treat you that way."
She stiffens and he realizes his slip. "Dick..."
"Uh," he feels her shift in his arms to look at him, her face still red and wet. "I mean...I..." he sighs. "Well, I wouldn't."
"Dick, we've been over this..."
"I know, I know," he squeezes her arm. "Our friendship. I know. Doesn't mean it's not true."
She smiles, a sad sort of half smile, and presses a kiss to his cheek. His heart feels so full he thinks he might burst. "So do you think we can get Bruce to break his legs before he grounds us?"
Dick laughs. "Maybe, if we ask nicely enough."
Alfred arrives five minutes later, armed with a first aid kit (he deems the school nurse incompetent) and a Tupperware full of cookies. Barbara slides into the backseat next to Dick and curls up under his arm, sniffling every once in awhile.
Bruce doesn't break Austin's legs. He grounds them from patrol and from the team, but he surprisingly doesn't ground them from each other, and they're most happy about that.
Valentine's Day is a bust. Barbara doesn't know why she's surprised; she's dated a couple of boys here and there since Austin, but no one seriously because she doesn't really see the point. It will never be serious enough to last forever and they're so young that even if it were serious, it wouldn't happen anyway. Call her a pessimist, but it's just the way she's been thinking.
She agreed to go out with Kyle that Valentine's Day anyway. They had been on a couple of dates and she liked him well enough and she was still a girl; Valentine's Day was still supposed to be romantic and adorable and all of those good things. But he showed up late and slightly unkempt and wanted to take her to a sports bar so he could watch the game. What kind of game, she didn't know, and she did not care.
She politely declined and took the bus home, even if it involved a short walk in the cold, blustery winter weather of Gotham. Anything to get out of there.
She should have just hung out with Dick. Should have just called him up like she had been wanting to the entire day anyway. He had his own date, though, and this was life in the friendzone.
It kind of sucked.
"Hey, Dad," she called into the apartment, shaking off her snowy coat and scarf. "I'm home! Boys are dumb, you know?"
"I keep telling you that, Barb," her father's voice comes from the living room. "You never listen."
There's a laugh. A distinct laugh; one that she would never forget or misplace. She walks down the hall quickly into the living room, where sure enough, her father and Dick are seated on the couch, watching the same sports game that Kyle had tried to drag her to.
"She is awfully stubborn, isn't she, Commissioner?" Dick says from his spot on the couch. Barbara blinks at him, entirely confused at his appearance in her apartment, in her living room, on her couch. Wasn't he supposed to be out with that girl from their chemistry class? The one with the big brown eyes and the dark hair; the brilliant one who used to date the captain of the basketball team?
"What are you doing here?" she asks, placing her hands on her hips.
"I asked him the same question," her father says, a stern expression on his face. "He just showed up here about half an hour ago and insisted on hanging out until you get home."
Barbara rolled her eyes. Her father had been using that tone around she and Dick lately, narrowing his eyes and insisting she keep the door open when he came over. It wasn't one that he ever used in all of the years she and Dick had been friends. She supposed things were different now.
Different now that Dick had grown broader shoulders and had a deeper voice and had a smile that made her a little weak in the knees.
Still, they were just friends. There was no reason for her father to be so hard on him.
Barbara folds her arms. "Date a bust?"
Dick nods. "Yep. Yours?"
"Such a bust," she shakes her head. "Let's go watch a movie and make fun of all of the actors." She walks over to the kitchen and grabs a bag of chips and a bottle of soda. "We'll be in my room, Dad."
Her father frowns as Dick stands up to help her gather a bowl and cups. "Okay," he says hesitantly, "but keep the door open."
An hour into the movie, they're barely watching as they recount their terrible date experiences and Barbara is laughing so hard she can't believe. If she thought her date was bad, Dick's was a nightmare.
"I'm serious!" Dick says, lying on his side. "Her ex-boyfriend straight up crashed our date! It was horrible! I thought he was going to fight me!"
"No, no, no," Barbara says in between laughs, "that didn't happen. That's not real life. Things like that only happen in Disney movies!"
Dick shakes his head and pops a chip in his mouth. "No, it was actually real and it actually happened and I wished I was dead. He acted so macho. I mean, dude, I don't care that you're captain of the varsity basketball team? This girl is way too smart for you anyway, but if you want her you can have her, cause she is clearly still in love with you."
Flopping down on her bed beside him, Barbara props her hand under her head. "Was she really?"
"Yeah, it was written all over her face," Dick shrugs. "But I should have seen that coming. When I asked her out, she was wearing a necklace with his initial on it."
That got Barbara laughing again. "No! Like we're in the fifties or something? Oh, Dick, that's hysterical."
"Yeah, maybe for you," Dick says smiling. "Pretty crappy Valentine's Day, but I think it turned out alright. I'm sorry your date was such a bust, too."
Barbara shakes her head. "Don't be. I didn't expect much from it anyway."
"But you dressed up so fancy," Dick says, waggling his eyebrows. "In that pretty blue dress of yours. You didn't expect anything of it? Not even a little?"
Pursing her lips, Barbara narrows her eyes at him, before sighing. "Okay, maybe a little. Can't blame a girl for having a little hope on Valentine's Day."
Neither of them says anything for a moment, Barbara settling down off her arm into her pillows, just the sound of the television still going behind them. "You did look really pretty, Barb," Dick says, looking straight at her. Since he grew broad shoulders and developed a deep voice and a smile that melted hearts, he's become a little more confident. There's less nervousness in his delivery.
She smiles, her heart fluttering a little at his words. Sixteen years old and she still feels like she's thirteen around him when he says things like that to her. "Thanks."
"No," he moves a little closer to her. "I mean, really, really pretty. You looked gorgeous, Barb, and Kyle was too dumb to realize what he was screwing up."
"Dick..." she looks away from him then, his gaze a little too intense, her cheeks a little too hot. "With words like that, Gabriella had no idea what she was missing out on either."
Dick blushes and her heart skips a beat at the reaction. "I...might have thought about texting you the entire time I was with her."
Barbara moves a little closer, too, so their knees are touching and she can feel his breath on her face. "I...might have wished that I was with you instead of him."
"Babs..." he says and then his mouth is on hers, hot and heavy and right and they are making out. She has a boy on her bed, in her room, on Valentine's Day. The boy is her best friend and her dad is right down the hall.
What is she doing?
"Be my girlfriend," Dick gets out between kisses, his voice shaking like he was thirteen again. "I like you so, so much, Babs. You're the only girl I want to date, the only girl I want to take to stupid dinners. Just be mine."
Barbara kisses him back hastily, heart thumping in her chest. "I like you, too, Dick," she says, leaning in for more and more. "So, so much. But..."
Dick pulls back, alarmed. "But?"
"This is complicated," she said, lacing her fingers through his. "You know it is."
He frowns. "I know."
"So...let's...just start with today. Be my Valentine?"
He grins. "No one else I would rather spend the day with."
"Good," she grins back at him. "Ditto."
There's a pause. "We can still make out, though, right?"
There are hands all over each other as they attack the other with their lips. Limbs tangle and Barbara is floored at just what a good kisser he is. She hasn't kissed him since she was fourteen and he wasn't bad then, but damn, have things changed—
"Barbara!" he father calls from the living room. "It's too quiet! Door open!"
She jumps away from Dick like he's poison. "It is open!"
"Okay!" her father calls back. "Get off the bed, too!"
The mood is officially broken but they shoot each other sly looks from across the room. They continue the movie neither one of them are watching, because they are too busying watching each other. Dick watches from her desk chair and she watches from the floor by her bookshelf.
Her father walks by every twenty minutes.
When Jason dies, Dick feels like there is a giant, gaping hole in his chest. One that eats him up from the inside, gobbling up the good feelings and then cracking at his surface until there's nothing left. Until he feels completely and entirely empty.
His insides feel numb and everything aches all at once. He can't look at Bruce, he can't talk to Alfred, he can't even think about Barbara. He can't think about anything except for Jason and how he was too late and now he's gone. He's gone and he's not coming back and if Dick and Bruce had just been a little faster, gotten there a little sooner, maybe he wouldn't be. Maybe he would be here, safe and sound and whole.
Everything is falling apart around him. Bruce ebbs in and out of being present; he's completely shut off, and his hunt for the Joker is ruthless and never-ending. But the Joker has seemingly disappeared and there are no clues left behind to help guide him at all. Alfred has thrown himself into cooking and preparing cups of tea. Barbara hovers around them like a stranger, insisting on staying the night, despite being completely unsure of how to act around any of them. He hears her crying from the guest bedroom she holes herself up in sometimes, in the middle of the night. He knows she doesn't do it because she thinks it's safe to then, because she thinks they're asleep. He knows she knows better; there's no way any of them could sleep now. She does it then because she can't hold it in anymore.
Everything and everyone is falling apart and it scares him. Everything they had built, everything that they were, is crumbling because Jason isn't here to hold it together. Jason isn't here to be a part of their family.
Dick's already lost one family. He doesn't want to lose another.
Life seems impossible. Living seems impossible. Nothing seems to right itself. It's been a week since the funeral and everything still feels raw and fresh and painful. He wants out of his own skin, out of his own body. He wants to claw his way out. Have that heartache eat him up from the inside and set him free.
He doesn't want to do this anymore.
He just misses his brother, misses him so fucking much. His stupid little brother who was such a punk sometimes; who talked back and made a fuss and screwed around on missions more times than Dick could count. Who laughed at all of Wally's jokes. Who shamelessly flirted with Zatanna. Who would stay over at the Cave to play video games with Gar. The one who frustrated Barbara when she would tutor him; the one who drove Bruce up the wall. He wants his partner in crime back.
He wants his brother back.
His phone buzzes and he glances over at it from his position on his bed, debating about whether or not he wants to answer it. No one else in the manor is home, Alfred busying himself with errands and Bruce busying himself with his manhunt. Dick kind of likes the solitude. Kind of likes the quiet.
But he also hates it. He isn't a quiet person and neither is...was, Jason. If anything, the quiet is just filling all of the spaces Jason used to occupy.
He answers the phone.
"Dick," Barbara's voice comes through the phone, breathless and strained. "Hi, I'm coming inside."
He sighs. "Okay."
"The gate is stuck," she says, and he realizes her sounds of struggle are her pulling herself over the massive gate that closes off the manor. "The ice has really worked its way into the ridges and I just can't be bothered to try to deal with it. I just wanted to let you know. Maybe Alfred can figure it out later? Hot water or...something."
"Okay," Barbara says, and he hears her hit the ground. "I'll see you in a minute."
She hangs up and he feels his heart sink. He doesn't want to push her away, but the thought of losing her is scaring him more than he expected. He wants to pull her closer; he doesn't want to let her go. He doesn't want to lose her. It would hurt too much.
And that's the scary part; she's Batgirl. The risk is so much higher. He could lose her anytime, any day.
The thought makes him want to throw up.
He hears the manor doors open and Barbara rummaging around, but he doesn't go out to greet her. Maybe she just left something here. Maybe she won't come upstairs. Maybe he wouldn't see her. Maybe he wouldn't have to deal with wanting to be as close to and as far away from her as possible.
"Hey," her soft voice rings from the doorway to his room. "Alfred called and said you might need some company, so I came over. I made some tea."
He glances over at her and she looks tired. She looks just as broken as he feels and his heart lurches at the sight. She's wearing a long sleeved striped t-shirt that she pilfered from his closet months ago and a pair of black leggings, her hair in a messy bun on the top of her head.
She looks heartbroken, standing there in the doorway of his massive bedroom, holding two mugs of tea.
He can't turn her away, even if the fear of losing her makes him feel paralyzed.
"Babs," he chokes out and she puts the mugs down quickly before practically throwing herself across the room, into his arms. He pulls her close, breathing in her scent.
"Dick," she presses her hands into his shoulders. "God, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, I miss him so much."
Burying his face into the space in between her shoulder and her neck, he presses kisses there, trying to take away the bad feelings. Trying to feel something other than hurt. "I miss him, too."
She pulls back from him, placing her hands on his shoulders, and she kisses him gently. Gently at first and then they kiss with more passion, more aggression, and he can feel the way she's responding to him. Can feel her skin getting hotter. Can feel her breath getting quicker.
They move against one another, kissing and tugging and biting and undressing each other. They've messed around before, messed around plenty, but they've never gone this far before, never gone here. But Barbara feels like home and he loves her. He's been thinking he might for years, thinking it when he was on dates with other girls and when he and Barbara would spar and when they would make out in the very last rows of darkened movie theatres. He's been thinking he loves her for years and the timing is so fucked up, but right now she feels like home.
He needs to be reminded of all of this so he lets himself unravel into her. Let's her unravel into him. Let's them find the comfort in each other that they so desperately need.
"Are you sure?" he asks, hovering over her, her naked chest pressed against his. He shivers at the feeling. This is so bad and this is so wrong but it's so right and he needs her right now. But there's a part of him, and large part of him that wants her to say no. He doesn't want to take advantage of her and he's not but it almost sort of feels like he is.
"I'm sure, Dick," she says, running a hand through his hair. "I need this as much as you do. I need you, too."
They join together. It's the first time for either of them. It's awkward and they fumble and Babs winces in pain too many times for him to really feel any enjoyment. But she's close and she's warm and she's Barbara. And he loves her.
He tells her as much when it's over. They've cleaned up and are lying tangled in his sheets. He's holding her so closely that a piece of paper couldn't get between them.
"I love you," he says to her softly. "I've loved you for years. I'm not saying this cause we slept together and I'm not saying this because of Jason. I'm saying this because I love you and I need you to know that right now. I need to know that you know."
She presses herself even further into him. "I know," she whispers back. "I've known the whole time. And I love you, too. I'm not saying it because we slept together and I'm not saying it just because of Jason. I'm saying it cause I love you and I always have."
Silence passed over them. He pressed a kiss to her nose. She slid her hand up and down over his arm, touching the scars and the ridges.
"We can't be together," she whispers. "Not now."
The silence works it's way back in. The silence Jason left behind is too loud.
Dick officially becomes leader of the team and Barbara calls it a cause for celebration. Such a cause for celebration, she says, that they must do something they have never done before; break into her father's liquor cabinet.
He laughs and reminds her that they have done that; they do it all of the time. Did she not remember the drunken game of truth or dare they had played with Wally and Artemis only two weeks ago?
She says she's been trying to forget.
They're curled up on the couch, the same one she found him sitting on two Valentine's Days ago, the same one they made out on a month ago (and her dad had walked in on them and that had been awkward. Technically Dick wasn't even supposed to be here as he was temporarily banned from the apartment but: celebrations). Their drink of choice was whiskey ("What are you, a wuss, Grayson?" Barbara had teased when he had protested) but they're nursing it, if anything.
They're just happy to be together.
Time together has been hard to come by as of late. She's been busy with school, patrol, and the team and he's been busier, with school, the team, patrol, training Tim, the new Robin, and the small harem of women that seemed to be following him around wherever he went. They're able to steal moments here and there, little patches of time, but mostly when they hang out it's in a couple. It's with Wally and Artemis or Conner and M'Gann and other friends who tease them and roll their eyes at their lack of coupledom. Sometimes they think they need new friends.
Mostly they think they just need more time together.
"Congratulations, Hero," she says from her spot on the couch, her legs over his lap. "I'm proud to say that I knew the big, fancy leader when he was a little pipsqueak who sucked at Pokémon cards."
"I did not suck," he glares. "You just had better cards than me. And you cheated."
"False," Barbara says, knocking back some of her whiskey. "I am just ridiculously good at everything."
"That's an understatement," Dick quips and Barbara sticks her tongue out at him. "You've only been making me look mediocre pretty much my whole young adult life."
Barbara shakes her head. "No," she says with a smile, "you do that yourself."
"Ha ha," he leans over and kisses her, hard. "You're so hilarious."
"I think so," she presses her hands to his face and leans in for another kiss. "One of my many talents."
They kiss then, abandoning their whiskey and laying down on the couch. Barbara thinks that there's a pretty good chance her father is going to walk in at any moment, but she pushes it to the back of her mind and instead feels his lips work against hers; his hands making their way under her shirt.
"You know what would make today even better?" he whispers in her ear and she shivers.
"If you agreed to be my girlfriend...finally."
She stops kissing him. "Dick..."
He groans sitting up. The heat in the room evaporates. "I know," he says, frustrated. "I know, we can't. I get it."
"Dick," she says again, sitting up and wrapping her arms around her shoulders. "It's not that I don't want to be with you...I do."
"Then what's the problem, Babs?" he looks at her, taking his hand in her own. "What is holding you back? I love you; love you more than any person in my life. You say you love me, so what is it? We've been dancing around this for years! All of our friends know and Artemis is going to kill me if I change my relationship status on Facebook to 'It's Complicated' again."
Barbara quirks an eyebrow. "Is this because you're afraid of Artemis killing you? Cause she comments passive aggressively every time we change it anyway, so I don't think this will make much difference."
"No!" Dick pulls away from her. "It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with wanting to be with you and you continuously saying we can't. Why can't we?"
Barbara takes a deep breath, looking away from him. "Barb?" he presses. "What is it?"
"I mean this in a good way. Not in a bad way. I just..." she lets out her breath, sighing. "I know you. And I know me. And you're...we're not ready. "
"What?" He stares at her and she can tell he's not thrilled with her explanation. "We're not ready? I'm not ready?"
She winces. "You're not."
"Barbara, I want to be with you," he snaps. "How much more ready do you want? It's been a year since Jason, and I'm better. It's not an overnight process, but I'm healing and I want to be with you. I want to be your boyfriend. I don't get how you can just say I'm not ready and call this thing off."
He yanks himself away from her and picks up his whiskey, downing the whole thing in one gulp. She presses a hand to her temple, feeling it throb. She never held any sort of alcohol that well, and this is giving her a headache of epic portions.
They've skirted around the issue for years, claiming things like they were too young, or they were too afraid of risking their friendship. But it's been too long now; they've slept together too many times, they make out every time they are alone, so it can't be a question of worrying that the added intimacy will ruin their ironclad friendship. That excuse has worn out long ago.
A part of Barbara had hoped they might not bring it up until the time was right, but she shouldn't have hoped for that. This was Dick Grayson after all, boy who wore his heart on his sleeve. Of course he would ask her to be with him at every opportunity he got. He loved her. And she loved him. It was never going to be easy.
"Dick," she begins, coming to sit beside him. She tucks herself under his arm. "Here's the thing. I do love you. I do want to be with you. But when we go there..." she reaches for his hand and squeezes it, "Dick, when we finally, finally stop playing this game...I want it to be one of those things that matter. One of those things that mean everything. I want to play for keeps."
He shifts, brushing his nose against hers in the process. They're so close, she's certain he can count the freckles on her skin.
He's probably memorized them all anyway.
"Barbara," he says her name so softly it sends a chill up her spine. "I want to play for keeps too. If we do this, then I'm in it. I don't want it to be a silly kind of puppy love. I want to be in it for the long run."
She glances away, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I know," she says, "I know you will be. But you're not ready. And before you protest, hear me out; you're still healing from Jason's death. I know Tim helps, and I know you love him, but it's not that easy. It's going to take a long time for you...for me, to get over losing him. Plus, you've just become leader of the team. You've wanted this for years! This is your time. You have so, so much on your plate. You need to...figure things out before you figure them out with me. Do you know what I mean?"
He nods, slowly. "I get it...but I don't necessarily agree."
"Please," she chuckles, "You know I'm right. Plus that legion of girls you've got...that should be the first indication there, you dog."
"Hey!" he looks up, indignant. "That was a low blow, Wally."
She laughs, scrunching her nose. "You think I believe that? I don't buy this Dick Grayson playboy act for one second."
"Hey," He flushes. "You don't believe that I'm a Casanova extraordinaire?"
She kisses him then, long and soft. "You mean the super sweet boy who told me we didn't have to do anything during Seven Minutes in Heaven at his fourteenth birthday party? The one who gave me my first kiss?" she presses her mouth to his again. "Hardly. You're not the kind."
"I wouldn't be the kind if you'd just say yes when I ask you out," he says lightly. "I wouldn't go out with any of those girls if you would just say yes." He's joking, she knows, but he's also a little serious. She knows that, too.
"Playing for keeps, Grayson," she says once more. "We're playing for keeps. When you're ready...when we're ready, we'll know."
"Right," he pauses. "We'll know."
They polish off their whiskey and lay down on the couch, wrapped in each other's arms. They talk about the team and their friends; gossiping about the tension between Conner and M'Gann. They speak fondly of Tim, who is so young and green and is trying so hard. They speak about how much they are growing to love him. They make out a little more. Dick gets to second base. They curl up and close their eyes, ignoring that her father really, really could walk in at any minute.
They fall into silence. It's getting easier to handle now. It's easier to handle when they're together.
Dick nuzzles her hair with his nose. "Hey, Babs?" he whispers.
"Yeah, Dick?" she responds, her voice tired and sleepy.
"I'm ready now."
The night they return home after The Reach kidnaps the Team, Dick makes Barbara stay over at his apartment. He insists, like she hasn't spent the night there dozens of times before. Like this is something new.
He just wants to keep her close. He was too close to losing her. Too close to losing everything, but mostly too close to losing her. That's all he can think about right now. That he almost lost her. That everything around them was so messed up and it was all because of him.
He's in over his head. He doesn't know what he's doing. He almost lost Tim. He almost lost her.
He almost lost her.
"My dad totally thinks I was just shacking up here the last four days," Barbara says as she comes in from the bathroom, her hair tied up in a knot, her breath minty fresh. "I am texting him now and I said I was here and he said that that was what he figured. He literally hasn't heard from me in four days and he thinks it's because I've been here having some sort of sex marathon."
"I would be okay with that idea," Dick says as she pulls back the covers and slides into bed with him.
Barbara laughs. "Ha! After what I just went through, there's no way you're getting lucky tonight, Hero. No way you're getting lucky for a while. I need to recharge and then we gotta get Zee together and amp up this saving Blue thing or we are screwed." She settles into the pillows, looking at him curiously. "You okay?"
"I almost lost you today," he says quietly, his voice shaking. He pulls her to him, crushing her against his body. "God, I almost lost you."
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she clings to him. "Dick," she says softly, "it's okay. I'm here."
"But you almost weren't," he breathes in the scent of her skin, the scent of her hair, of her everything. "Babs, I don't know what I would have done if I lost you. I can't imagine my life without you. I can't do this without you."
"And I've been lying to you. I've been lying to you and everyone for months."
She swallows, her eyes searching his. "I know."
He blinks, taken aback. "You know?"
"Hey, I'm a detective," she says sheepishly, and he laughs in spite of himself. "But more than that, I know you. I don't know specifics, but I have a hunch. I know you've been keeping something from the team, from me. I know it's been eating you up."
"Why didn't you say anything?" he asks, his heart feeling heavy. He's lied to so many people.
She shrugs. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."
The words spill out of his mouth then. He tells her everything; about Artemis and Kaldur. About blowing up the Cave and about how he's fairly certain Wally hates him. He tells her every lie, every fib, every false word. She listens attentively.
Then she punches him in the mouth.
He bleeds all over the pillows while she starts to cry beside him.
They fight for over an hour, yelling about trust and friendship, screaming 'I knew it!' and 'I'm sorry!' at each other until they're blue in the face. Or rather, until the Bludhaven PD arrive at the door with a noise complaint.
She's furious at him. She has every right to be. She forces him to the couch while she occupies his bed. She doesn't leave and he takes that as a good sign.
He doesn't sleep.
She pads out of his bedroom a few hours later, her eyes dark and puffy. He feels terrible as she makes her way into his kitchen, turning on the coffee maker and hoping up on the island, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. He stands up from the couch hesitantly.
"Good morning," he whispers. She turns to look over her shoulder at him and the sight of her crumpled face makes his heart break.
"Hi," she says. "I...I'm sorry about last night."
He's at her side in under a second; moved so fast, even Wally would have been stunned, coming to stand in between her legs. . "Barb, no," he says, gathering her hands into his own. "No, this is not your fault. You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm the one who should be sorry. I'm the one who lied and put everyone in terrible danger. Who put Artemis and Kaldur in danger. It's my fault you got kidnapped by the Reach. These things are my fault."
To his surprise, she shakes her head. "No," she bites her lip. "I may not...approve of the things you've done, but I understand them. I understand why you did it...why you had to keep it from me." She looks up at him, her eyes watery. "You forget that I was trained by him, too."
He pulls her into his arms, feeling her tiny frame cling to him. She's so small right now. He remembers when they were younger and she was taller, towering over him. Now she fits right inside his frame, where he can shelter her.
Not that she needs to be sheltered. She's the strongest person he knows.
"I'm so sorry," he says, pressing his face into her hair. "If I could do it all over again, I would do it differently. I would do it so differently. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," she says once more, "I mean, I hate you right now and I'm so mad at you, but it's okay. I'll get over it. We'll be okay. Just promise me something, okay?"
He nods. "Anything."
"No more lies," she says, looking at him seriously. "I can't do it. You mean too much to me. I trust you with my life, which is why I can look past this whole thing. But you can't do it again. I need to know that you won't do this again."
"I won't," he says, and he means it. "Ever. You have my word."
She lets out a breath, leaning her head against his collarbone. "Okay. I believe you."
Stroking her cheek with his hair, he takes a deep breath. It's not or never. "Barbara," he begins, "I want to be with you. I mean it this time. I'm ready to be with you. I can feel it. I've been ready for a while, but I wanted to wait until the time was absolutely right to bring this up...but after almost losing you, after all of this...I can't wait. I'm ready for you."
"I know you'll probably say I'm not," he says, "but I am. And I know this is all terrible timing and you're probably, definitely going to shoot me down again, but. After all of this, the thought of not being with you makes me feel like the ground is going to fall out from underneath me. The thought of something happening and us never going there, never taking that step makes me feel lost. I want to stop playing this game and start playing for keeps. I love you. You know that. I've always loved you and I want to be with you. I don't know how else to say it."
He avoids her gaze. He's certain she's going to punch him again, give him a black eye to go with his busted lip. She can't possibly want to be with him after everything he's done.
He looks up, surprised. "Okay?"
"Okay," she says, nodding. She kisses him again, gently, minding his torn lip. "Okay. I love you, too. I want to be with you. I mean, I hate you right now. I hate you a lot. But...the thought of us not giving this a try in spite of everything that's happening...that scares me, too. "
His heart feels lighter, his whole body feels different. She said yes. "Really?"
"Well," she pretends to deliberate. "Let's just say that Artemis is going to have something to snark over when she sees our Facebook profiles."
Dick laughs, kissing her. "I love you, Barb," he says against her mouth. "And I'd be delighted if you'd be my girlfriend. The mission, should you choose to accept it, will include going to even more insufferable galas, having to share the covers, copious amounts of double dates, and possibly even marriage. Do you accept?"
"I accept, Grayson," she says, reaching down and squeezing his hand.
"You're stuck with me now, Gordon."
She cuddles against his arm, the warm weight the most comforting thing he's felt in days. "That's okay with me. It's you and me now. For all of it. No more secrets. No more lies. We're in this together."
He likes the sound of that.