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Partners? Partners.

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Dick was in the middle of trying to stanch the bleeding from his nose when his comm started beeping in his ear. He sighed at the terrible timing and quickly wrangled off one of his blood coated gloves to receive the call. 

“Talk to me,” he said, voice sounding high and distorted as a result of pinching his nostrils closed. 

“Whoa,” Babs said. “What the hell is wrong with your voice?” 

“Got a bloody nose,” Dick explained quickly. It was really uncomfortable trying to breathe and talk only through his mouth. He was definitely going to need a huge glass of water after this. “What’s up?” 

“The Owls are what’s up. I need you to get your tush to the cave ASAP.” 

Ah, fuck. 

“What kind of trouble are our freaky electrum filled friends getting up to?” he asked, already tugging his glove back on and booking it back to where he’d left his bike half a block away. He knew he looked fucking ridiculous running while holding his nose, but it seemed pretty insignificant compared to the idea of Talons running loose and slaughtering people. 

“Just one friend, actually,” Babs said. The lack of urgency in her voice made some of the anxiety in Dick’s chest dissipate. It also made him realize that they were talking about a member of the Court and not the Talons. 

“Oh yeah?”

“She was schmoozing it up at the Aparo Auction House with Brucie Wayne and a hundred other rich people.”

A feeling of disgust settled in his gut, his mind replaying the time he infiltrated one of the Court’s underground auctions. The same auction that had tried to sell off the crowbar Joker had beaten Jason with. 

A shiver traveled all the way down to his toes as he leapt over a puddle that was in the middle of the sidewalk. His bike was now in his sight. He could tell it was his because of the way its blue accents gleamed in the moonlight. 

“Looks like Scarecrow and the Court have been doing business with each other,” Babs said in that slightly distracted way of hers that Dick was used to hearing when she was trying to talk while rubbing at her eyes. It was something she did a lot since her eyes were always strained from looking at computer screens for hours on end. “Fear toxin was released through the vents at the auction. It caused an absolute shitstorm of chaos, as you can imagine.”

“Damn,” Dick said, straddling his bike. He was secretly glad he was wearing his thermal suit so he wouldn’t have to ride to Gotham on a cold seat. The only thing he was annoyed about was that he was getting blood all over his handlebars and helmet. “Is B okay?” 

“Yeah… about that…” 

The anxiety in Dick’s chest cranked back up tenfold. Irrational images of Bruce lying dead in a red-stained tuxedo flashed through his mind. He shook his head, mentally yelling at himself to cool it. If something like that had happened, Bab’s wouldn’t sound as casual as she did now. 

“He keeps thinking you’re dead,” Babs said, and for a second, Dick thought he misheard her over the sound of his tires peeling off down the street. “Red Robin says he keeps switching between rationalizing that you’re alive and thinking you bit it.”

“Huh,” Dick said, not really sure what to make of that. It wasn’t the first time Bruce had delusions of him or someone else dying while on fear toxin. Dick was just slightly surprised because it had been years since he was the sole subject of Bruce’s fear. He wondered if it was tied to Bruce knowing that a woman from the Court was at the auction. Bruce might have associated her with Dick in his mind since the Court had been after Dick for the last few years. 

“All I’m saying is that you might want to hurry home quick, Hunk Wonder. Robin and Red Robin are out distributing an updated antidote to the people who got dosed at the auction. B’s antidote won’t really kick in for another thirty minutes.”

“I’ll be there in fifteen.”

“It should take you longer than that,” Babs said suspiciously. 

Dick grinned under his helmet. “It would if I wasn’t making my way there like Sonic the Hedgehog on a caffeine high.” 


“Gotta go, O! I’ll catch you at Cass’s birthday party next weekend!”

Dick disconnected the call, knowing full well that Bab’s hated when he did that and was sure to give him an earful the next time they talked. But that was a problem for future Dick to deal with. 

The ride to the batcave was filled with a lot of weaving and a few angry honks directed his way. Dick was pretty sure he might have even shaved off his expected arrival time by two minutes. He was very decidedly not going to share that with anyone else except for Roy. Roy was the only one who would appreciate it without giving Dick the third degree about safety precautions. 

The cave was about as lit up as it could get when Dick’s bike came to a screeching halt next to one of the batmobiles. Alfred had probably turned on all the lights since they’d learned over the years that shadows and fear toxin really didn’t mix that well.  

Dick left his helmet on his bike and hurried over to the cot Alfred always had them lie on when they were sick or injured. Sure enough, that was where Bruce was currently sitting, his feet bouncing in agitation against the floor. He was already out of his batsuit and was dressed in a soft looking blue shirt and gray sweatpants. 

Bruce’s eyes were squeezed shut and his arms were wrapped tightly around himself, his knuckles white. Dick wasn’t really sure what the correct way was to approach him, but he figured letting Bruce know he was there was probably a good first step.

“Hey, B, I’m here,” Dick said, walking slowly up to his dad to try and give him enough time to work out what was real and what wasn’t. 

Bruce’s head jerked at the sound of his voice, his bloodshot looking eyes immediately seeking out Dick’s own. He looked… well, not okay but not terrible either. Mostly just pale and a little shaky. 

It was the way Bruce was staring at him that made Dick feel nervous all over. His eyes were wide and haunted looking as they soaked Dick up like a sponge. It was the kind of raw look Dick had only ever seen on parent’s faces when they realized their baby wasn’t coming home. 

It was Bruce after Jason’s death. It was Bruce after Damian’s death. It was Bruce after T—

“You want to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours?” Dick asked quietly, becoming more alarmed as he noticed Bruce was breathing so quickly that his chest was practically heaving. 

Bruce’s voice cracked as he murmured, “Dick?”

Bruce’s increasing panic didn’t make sense until Dick reached out his hand to comfort him and saw all the blood coated over his glove. 

Oh wow. He was a fucking asshole, wasn’t he?

He jerked his arm back to his side and whirled around so that Bruce couldn’t see all the dried blood on his face.

“I’m okay, Bruce. I’m okay. I got a bloody nose from patrol and… just wait, okay? Let me clean this off.” 

You’re such an idiot, Dick thought as he jogged towards the shower area, ripping off his gloves as he went. Once he was hidden from Bruce’s sight, he quickly peeled off his suit because, yeah, he found that blood had dripped on it as well. No wonder he was staring at you like you’d actually… like you were really…

He grabbed a clean towel from the pile they kept on a rack, and then he wet it and went about scrubbing all the blood off his skin until his face looked raw and the towel looked rusted. He was shivering by the time he was done. The cave was always cold and the water definitely wasn’t helping with that. 

Dick looked in the mirror and made sure there was no more blood on him before he went to their extra clothes supply rack. Weirdly, the shirts and hoodies from his own pile were missing. He barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes, knowing Tim and Damian had probably been taking his stuff again. Tim always forgot to replace the clothes he borrowed after washing them, and Damian usually hoarded the clothes in his bedroom. 

Bruce and Jason’s stacks were still pretty well stocked. Dick made a considering sound in the back of his throat as he looked between them. Jason would definitely blow a gasket if he realized someone had taken his clothes, and contrary to popular belief, Dick really didn’t like fighting with Jason. On the other hand, wearing Bruce’s clothes was kind of weird. 

Says the guy who wore his batsuit, his traitorous brain reminded him. 

Shrugging, Dick grabbed some red gym shorts from his own pile and a black t-shirt and hoodie from Bruce’s pile. He did end up taking Tim’s Nike slides because his own slip on shoes had been stolen by two kleptomaniacs.

By the time he’d gotten himself dressed, he saw that Alfred had returned from upstairs and was coaxing Bruce into eating an artfully prepared sandwich. Dick wouldn’t mind eating one as long as there was no sign of cucumbers in it. 

“Ah, Master Dick,” Alfred smiled, looking both happy to see him and also relieved that he wouldn’t have to deal with Bruce by himself. Bruce whipped around to where Dick was, and their eyes locked briefly before Bruce dropped his gaze like he was embarrassed about needing to reassure himself that Dick was actually there. 

“Hey, Alfie,” Dick said with a small smile of his own. He plopped himself on the cot next to Bruce, and before Bruce could protest, he grabbed Bruce’s fingers and forcefully pressed them against his wrist where his pulse was beating steadily. Bruce’s fingers trembled against his skin from the effects of the toxin, but he didn’t try to move them away. Instead, his shoulders relaxed into a more comfortable position, and he ended up leaning some of his weight against Dick’s shoulder. 

“You gonna eat that sandwich?” Dick asked Bruce who had closed his eyes and seemed to be silently counting the beats of Dick’s pulse. 

Alfred would normally intervene at a time like this and insist that he could go get Dick his own sandwich, but this time, Alfred stayed silent and watched them both with a knowing look. 

“No,” Bruce shook his head lightly. “You go ahead and eat it.” 

“Are you super-duper sure? Or just super sure? Or just duper sure? What level of sure are you?”

Bruce finally cracked the tiniest of grins at the game Dick used to play with him back when their worlds were a little smaller. Back when Casa de Wayne only had a population of three. 

Score, Dick thought with a smile of his own, feeling proud of himself. 

“I’m super-duper sure you can eat the sandwich,” Bruce said. 

That was essentially code for: I’ll throw up all over the floor if I have to eat even a bite of that sandwich.

Dick took it as a sign to back off. 

“Well, as long as you’re super-duper sure,” Dick said, making grabby hands at Alfred for the sandwich in question. Alfred only looked mildly exasperated as he handed it over. 

Bruce’s fingers tightened around Dick’s wrist. “Trust me, I’m good.”

When Dick looked over at Bruce, he realized that Bruce’s eyes were open, and this time, they looked much clearer. The antidote seemed to have finally made its way through his system. 

“Good,” Dick said, playfully jostling Bruce’s shoulder. 

There was no stopping his surprised laugh when Bruce jostled him back.