A/N:warning: lengthy A/N and teary-eyed good-bye at the end. Thank you so much to everyone who doesn't want to read through my rambling ;)
-8 months later-
It was cold, and the icy wind that blew over Gotham's rooftops didn't help. Considering all the time he had spent perched on gargoyles, drenched in the East Coast's freezing rain, it shouldn't have bothered him, but it did. Dick wondered if he would ever manage to get truly warm again. It was weird, he couldn't really explain it… but with the sickness he had overcome more than a year ago, the cold had managed to creep into his bones.
What a scary thought. Dick shook himself, smiling at the metaphorical baggage of these thoughts. It would take a lot longer than 8 months to use words like cold, freezing, or ice, without automatically thinking about a certain someone, who was rotting away in prison right now.
Dick looked at his watch, and then at the glowing Bat signal. They were late, again. Maybe he should play with the signal to make them hurry up, but then the rest of the men wouldn't know what was going on. Nightwing would have simply dropped from the building and chatted with some surprised civilians to pass the time, but Dick Grayson had to maintain his position.
But Dick Grayson could maintain position and still look for warmer coats on his phone. That way, he'd be less bored, too. The first thing Dick had done when his promotion for police commissioner of the GCPD came through was to buy a trench coat. Because you need to honour traditions.. and because it looked super cool.
Then there was a rustling behind him, imperceptible for anyone who hadn't learned to pick it up since age 10. Dick turned around casually, and grinned at Batman and Robin.
They perched in the darkness, only Robin's bright colours and the reflecting lenses of the cowl were visible. They stood perfectly still, glaring ahead, waiting for him to make the first move. Their reputation preceded them – just knowing what they could do when they decided to move would make most crooks drop their weapons.
"Yo," Dick greeted instead and waved slightly.
Bruce and Damian relaxed and stepped out of the shadows. It wasn't really a move that made them less scary, but Dick knew that it was a gesture of trust.
"Commissioner Grayson," Batman nodded, but Robin cut in before Dick could answer.
"Junior Commissioner Grayson."
Dick rolled his eyes. Yes, he wasn't yet Commissioner per se. He had to report to Commissioner Godard, who was some sort of mentor and senior supervisor… on paper. In reality, no one really knew how to behave and what to do, since the position of Commissioner hadn't required any such peculiarities before. But in the eyes of many important people in Gotham, Dick was too young to be Commissioner, and his health was shaky at best; the police department therefore required a settling-in phase, to make sure everything worked out. Dick was fine with it. Godard, back in Blüdhaven, usually approved of his methods, and when he didn't he had good reasons.
"You received the mission plan?"
"Positive. The officers are wearing bulletproof vests?" Batman asked warily.
Dick nodded. "Of course. You'll meet at the agreed time. Everybody's been briefed."
Batman growled slightly, which was his way of showing approval. A cold breeze came up and Dick couldn't help to shiver a little bit. Immediately, masked eyes focused on him – he didn't need to see the glare through the cowl's lenses, he simply knew what Bruce was thinking.
"Request to speak in private."
Dick sighed and pushed a small button at the comm link in his ear. "I need some privacy."
'Understood,' a small voice from the HQ answered, and the line went dead.
"Yes," Dick shook his head exasperated. For someone who drove the best-known car world-wide, Batman was sure paranoid. It was ironic, considering that if Dick ever dared to ask for a private line that would exclude Oracle, the redhead would find a way to immediately strangle him. Through the comm link.
Bruce didn't give him time to dwell on that thought, though.
"It is cold."
"Are you wearing your bullet-proof vest?"
"Did you take your medicine?"
Batman visibly swallowed the next question and didn't look happy about it. In order to secure peace, Dick pulled at a piece of cloth from the coat to reveal the fabric of the bullet-proof vest.
"Grayson managed to survived 4 months without you, Batman" Damian interjected, annoyed, and Dick sighed in defeat. They were going to repeat the same argument they had had for the last two months.
Dick had started in his new position three months ago, and had begun to command missions only a few weeks later. Before that, he had spent 4 months in Brazil – alone, visiting his old Capoeira teacher, who incidentally happened to live in the same city as the world's leading heart surgeon, specialized in cardioverter transplantation.
Dick had returned without a cardioverter and without his old Capoeira skills, but that wasn't important. It was too early in his recovery to think about serious martial arts or open heart surgery, but the first steps were made. He was training again, and had remastered the basic techniques of self-defence. He was growing fitter by the day, and had taken his first swings on the trapeze again. Dr. Alvez was interested in his case and had agreed to cooperate with Wayne Enterprises' R&D in order to create the best cardioverter for him.
The trip had foremost helped Dick to recover mentally, though. It had felt awesome to be independent and trusted again. In Brazil, Freeze's case was on the news too, but not constantly as it was in the US. He had felt at ease, had put enough miles between himself and the insanity that was going down in Gotham, to finally relax and recharge his batteries. The hot Brazilian sun had helped to regenerate his tan, his curls had smoothed out over the months, and when he returned, Dick had looked pretty much like his old self.
And recognizing yourself when you looked into a mirror helped more than Dick wanted to admit. It helped to find his character balance again, and this balance had given him peace of mind… which was wonderful. During the few times he had to skype with his lawyers, police investigators, or his family, the miles between them had made it easier for him. For the first time in a long series of personal crises, Dick had felt truly in control again.
Which was also why Dick refused to be sucked into the same argument again. Bruce was being overprotective, he himself might add to that worry by visibly itching to be part of the action again, Damian was jealous and snapped at everyone. Even though the little whirlwind wouldn't admit it, he probably missed Tim. Half a year ago, Tim had left with Kon for California to study and start a new team. It was quiet in the Manor, Alfred kept telling him, and Damian was increasingly irritable.
He had been appeased by the fact that there had been a huge, pink and glittery Britney Spears poster greeting Drake in his new dorm room. Kon, bless him, had reacted quickly and had taken hundreds of photos of Tim looking decidedly unimpressed and unamused in front of the bright poster. It had been just at the right time, right after Bruce had found a way to delete the photo of him sitting on the ground and looking shocked at Jason-Batman from their phone backgrounds*.
(Bruce kept denying that such an incident had never taken place after that. While Dick never actually admitted he was the one responsible for making the university believe Tim was a Britney Fan**, he had made sure his little brother was appeased by sending him a box full of pictures of himself. Again, Kon had proven his worth by putting them all up in Tim's room and then throwing a party in their dorm.)
By now, Damian and Bruce were hissing at each other, so Dick sauntered over to the Batsignal and turned it off. The sudden darkness startled the two vigilantes, and they finally turned to the Commissioner again.
"Are we done?" Dick asked innocently. "My men are waiting."
Damian growled. "Our informant didn't report any change in the gang's plans. It's going down tonight."
The 'informant' was Jason, or Red Hood undercover, who was still refusing to officially return to Batman's team, but worked with them frequently through the exchange of information. It helped that Dick had the GCPD pay him for this. Jason's intel had helped to shut down drug cartels and one human trafficking ring already, and tonight they had a plan to tear down the last stronghold of a gang that was dealing meth to children and teenagers.
"Are you protected?" Batman asked, unhappy with Dick's role in the gig. Even though the Commissioner wouldn't be part of the battle, wouldn't even enter the building, he was stationed in close proximity. Gotham's criminals had already put a prize on his head – no surprise there. Batman was constantly worrying over the fact that Dick sent his best men into battle with them, instead of as guards for himself. Hence the bullet-proof vest, hence the double communication channels he had to keep open with the GCPD and with the vigilantes, respectively.
"Totally safe. You gonna connect me?"
Batman nodded and pulled out a small electronic device from his belt, which he handed over to Dick. Attaching it his other ear, Dick pushed a small button and finally heard Oracle and Red Hood's voices debating about something.
"Commissioner online," he announced, and the two voices hushed immediately.
'Receiving,' Oracle answered, at the same time as Jason was greeting him with some creative insult.
'Good evening, Master Dick. Master Jason, this was not appropriate.'
Batman nodded, as well. So Dick concentrated to ignore the ensuing argument over manners, and clicked at the comm link in his other ear to establish contact with the HQ again. "Private talk ended. I'm hooked up to the vigilantes' channel."
Dick glanced up at Batman and Robin, who shook their heads in unison. They hadn't heard the police officer's voice. It had been quite tricky to find a way to have comm links conversation with the vigilantes and the police at the same time without them hearing each other – Dick had tried to reason with them to simply opt for one shared link, but the vigilantes' condition for the extended cooperation was independent communication. So Dick was playing the Relationship Manager again and spent most parts of his mission evenings explaining why Batman had decided to drop a smoke bomb without warning the officers to the police, or justify why the police officers had decided to shoot at the villains or, unintentionally, at the vigilantes. At least they were working together somewhat.
"Oracle, are you ready?"
'I've been waiting for hours, Boy Wonder.'
"Officer, start the data transmission."
'Yes, sir... data transmitted.'
Batman and Robin in front of him touched their temples. A bright map had appeared on their lenses in the periphery of their vision. Of course, secretly, the vigilantes had known the location of the action already, but the police intel needed to seem valuable to ensure the police's cooperation.
"Well, then," Dick grinned at the figures before them, including everyone who could hear him. "Let's get going. Good luck, everyone."
Bruce and Damian were gone in a blink, and Dick turned around and made his way through the rooftop's door, down the stairs. Not that long ago he would have jumped over the roof tops. This way of transportation was decidedly warmer, though, he had to admit, and involved a much smaller amount of flies between your teeth.
"Oh, and Batman?" Dick remembered to ask on his way. "Please try not to destroy any buildings this time, okay? I really can't explain to the mayor yet again why you keep tearing down his city."
'It's my city. I'm Batma-'
Bruce was cut off by the collective groans of five people. Dick nearly tripped at Bruce's sulky -tt-.
*this goes back to chapter 16, and ** this goes back to chapter 17
A/N: aaaaand it's done! Who would have thought! Wow, this is it, folks, the 'Lines-verse is finished. I want to thank everyone who read, who followed me this far, and especially you, dear reviewers: you made my days, time and time again.
I started to plan the Lifelines-sequels only after the idea of Commissioner Grayson wormed its way into my head. I'm madly in love with that image: Commissioner Grayson, standing on the roof tops in a trench coat and flippantly chatting with the Batman. I wanted to have the characters move on from where I left them with Lifelines: Dick needed to find a way out of the crisis, Bruce had to get a grip, Jason needed to forge new bonds, Tim needed to do his own thing, and Damian had to open up. I hope I managed to show this in a somewhat realistic manner (it's still a Batman story, after all...). I debated about a romantic aspect between Dick and Babs, but opted against it since I'm terrible at romance and it would have complicated things too much.
And talking about complications: I have to apologize for the long waits between chapters again. I just realized that I needed almost 3 years to write Faultlines! That's crazy (to give you a comparison: Lifelines took about 6 months)! I know that waiting and the occasional hiatus are part of the fanfiction way of life, but it still sucks and let me assure you, I never left you waiting without a guilty conscience.
Which brings me to the next point: what's next? There's nothing definitely planned. Right now I just want to catch up reading all those lovely stories I neglected over the last months. I have sooo many ideas in my head, though... one shots, drama, long stories, humour... Honestly I fell a bit out of fandom recently, and am flirting heavily with a Fullmetal Alchemist story... but don't worry, Dickiebird stays one of my all-time favourite characters. I still have this super-serious racism story in the back of my head, sometimes its a simple 'five times when...' structure, sometimes a crazy, multi-chaptered Nazi-Germany Auish/multidimension Jay/Dick plot – who knows what will happen with that.
So, once again: Thanks to everyone! A special thanks to Callypse, who was betaing since Lifelines and had to suffer through my weird spelling and inability to incorporate all her corrections. If you find typos or grammar mistakes, it's 100% my fault. Thanks, Jill! And thanks to all those lovely people who wanted to write one-shots, translations, etc, to my stories. I'm so honoured. Thanks to all the reviewers, followers, and favs. People are awesome!