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Beneath

by Te

Beneath
by Te
May 2003

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine.

Spoilers: None.

Summary: It's a little like domesticity.

Ratings Note: R.

Author's Note: No, I don't know where this came from, but I think it's probably at least partially Jane's fault.

Acknowledgments: Bas for making me think of anything but, Livia for important Bat-ish information.

Feedback: Yes, please. teland@teland.com

*

Robin took off his mask and settled down to the business of becoming Dick again.

There was a process to it -- one he'd developed over the years. He thought he'd gotten rather good at it, considering. The Kevlar didn't even have to come off before he was thinking like himself again. Homework, phone calls of apology that had to be made for appointments broken off, food.

He never thought about food when he was being Robin. (Your needs are not your own. Your body is irrelevant save in its capacity to be both weapon and warning)

And really, he thought there was probably something pretty fucked about having Bruce in his head, having Batman in his head, but...

He still had something to measure himself against.

Bruce was standing at the bank of computers, running his hand over the main keyboard with a kind of banked, gentle anger that told Dick all he needed to know. The cowl might be off, the cape thrown over a chair, but Batman was still in residence.

That was the thing, really. The Batman was always in residence, and he knew there'd come a day when he wouldn't remember it otherwise.

Dick shook his head. "I'm gonna see if Alfred left us any sandwiches or something. Want anything?"

Bruce looked at him blankly for a long moment, blue eyes far away and more than a little lost. And then he came back online, flaring and shifting and alive, like the world's fastest-booting computer, and he nodded. "Something light. I think I won't be awake for much longer."

Dick nodded and headed for the stairs. It was... it was more than a little disturbing, in more ways than he could handle thinking about most of the time, but... it was what it was.

Bruce was... not his father.

And it wasn't as though he hadn't figured that out years ago -- God, for a long time he'd rejected everything remotely father-like from the man, but the thing was, he'd stopped trying.

Dick had put on the uniform and become something other than just the child ostensibly in Bruce's care, and that was that.

Sometimes Dick thought there must have been some moment when he could've figured this out without... without the kind of drama he'd much prefer to avoid. Some moment when Bruce had looked at him with those Batman eyes and maybe nodded to himself, and muttered about training.

Staves, kicks, the amount of punishment a growing body would take before it just kind of gave up on that growing thing...

Dick stared at himself and smirked. Bruce had maybe missed that mark by just a little.

There was a plate of sandwiches -- crusts cut off, of course -- on the kitchen table, covered with plastic with a post-it note attached:

"Do try to get some rest."

Dick nodded absently and took the plate downstairs with him. Bruce had given up on fondling the keyboard menacingly and was... not hunched. Bruce would never hunch (sit and walk as you intend to live). It was just a particular brand of straight-backed focus. The key-taps echoed through the cave.

He still had his gloves on, which was something Dick used to find impressive -- it was hard to type in gloves. He used to try to emulate it, figuring that there'd come a day when he'd have to use someone else's computer and he wouldn't want to leave evidence behind, but in the end it'd all felt too much like being someone he didn't want to be.

"Bruce. Food."

"Mm."

You really couldn't get more non-committal than that. Dick decided to take it as a half-spoken yes and jumped up to sit on the console. Held a sandwich directly in front of Bruce's face until his face crumpled in a kind of irritable distaste.

"I said --"

"You said 'mm.' That doesn't count as 'leave me alone' in English, which happens to be the language we both share."

There was a smile somewhere beneath the skin of his face. "You speak Spanish. And Romany. And --"

"Eat."

Something a bit too long to be a blink, and Bruce took the sandwich out of his hands and spun around. Took a bite and chewed what Dick thought was probably the absolute minimum number of times. Swallowed. "Is there a reason you don't want me to work tonight, or should I just count this as one of those teenaged whims?" A quirked eyebrow.

Dick gave it back and decided not to answer with more than the sound of his own chewing. Mastication. Heh. He wondered when that would stop being funny. He swung his legs a little, then forced himself to stop. He wasn't a kid, and Bruce knew he wasn't a kid -- counted on it, he thought -- but it was never good to give messages that weren't intentional. (Be as you want to be perceived.)

Dick swallowed and stared at his bare feet. There were socks in the denuded pile of clothes Alfred had left for him, but it hadn't seemed worth the effort. Curled his toes.

A long moment, another, and Bruce was dusting crumbs off his hands and off the uniform and turning back to the console.

"Do you even know what kind of sandwich that was?"

"Good."

"That wasn't what I asked --"

"And again, I'm forced to wonder if you want the jewelthieves to get away."

"Bruce."

No answer but the click of the keys, but there was tension in his shoulders. Something the cape would cover. He would take what he could get.

"We have to talk about this."

Bruce stopped typing with an absent but utterly obvious... gesture of anger? Frustration? Hard to say. He spun around to face Dick again. "All right. It shouldn't have happened." He moved to turn back to the computer but Dick caught his shoulder before he could complete the motion.

Hard, muscular, but no heat escaped through the uniform. "I think... I think there needs to be a little more than that."

A twitch of the mouth, just enough to show a hint of teeth. "Dick --"

Dick took a shuddering breath and watched it impact on Bruce like a particularly well-aimed blow. "I've thought about it, you know."

A look somewhere between bleak and blank.

"A lot. At night, at school. In my dreams. I'm pretty sure the only time I haven't been thinking about it is when we're out. Patrolling. Working."

"All the more reason to get back to this."

"We can't wear the uniforms... not all the time."

"Dick, you have to know --"

"No. No. There's one thing I have to know, and I don't think you have any idea what that is --"

"You were Dick to me. And Robin. You always are."

And Dick wanted to question that, wanted to batter at it, or maybe at some handy member of the criminal element, but there was nothing but the truth there. And Bruce looked almost pleading, like there was something breaking apart beyond whatever he wanted to show the world at that moment. And... it was what he needed to know. More or less.

He shook his head and let Bruce go.

For a moment, just a moment, he thought Bruce would be the one to keep this... this damned stupid necessary conversation going, but he only stared. "You were Bruce to me," he said. "Only him."

"I... we can't do this again."

There was a bundle of raw feeling packaged ill and hard somewhere in his chest. He didn't want to deal with it, look at it... he thought, if he was careful (trust your instincts. trust mine if you can't trust yours.), he would just forget it existed after a while. Instead, he leaned down and in and smelled the uniform and smelled the cologne Dashing Socialite Bruce Wayne had decided needed to be worn, or that Batman decided Bruce needed to wear, and smelled the roast beef from the sandwich and tasted... everything.

Bruce's mouth was still beneath his own, but open, and Bruce's tongue moved like it was a real kiss, like they were really kissing, and then there was a broad, hard hand on his shoulder pushing him away. "Don't."

Dick squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and jumped off the console. Walked over to where he'd stripped and pulled the mask back on. He could feel Bruce's eyes on him, pulling him back and... what? Pushing him away? Urging him on? Show it to me, he didn't say. Show me what you want.

The work of a moment to crawl into the chair with him, straddle his legs and rub the edge of the mask up over a stubbled cheek and slack mouth.

And then it wasn't slack at all and Bruce's hands were holding him close and holding him still and Bruce's tongue was fucking his mouth. Dick tasted acid and need and something a lot like hate and pulled back just long enough to pant, "it's still me under here."

Bruce bit the edge of his jaw, not hard but oddly desperate. "I know."

And that was... good enough.

End.


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