To read his words, they had to go to the fortune teller.
When Dick was just a baby, they flared bold and black on his hip, but were tiny enough to be illegible. As Dick grew, however, the words grew with him, the messy scrawl stretching up and out and…still illegible. Dat took one look at them, then announced in his fake-regal voice, “I believe they’re in English .” His nose was upturned and his mouth was set in a stately frown, until Dya slapped the back of his hand lightly.
“Stop being dramatic,” she said.
Dat laughed, thrown his hands wide as to say Can’t help it, then kissed Dya on the cheek.
When various books in English Dat owned failed to translate, Dya took him to Haleé. He was the ringmaster after all, and could speak a multitude of languages fluently to cater to all audiences, so surely he could take one look at those magical words adorning Dick’s skin at let him know what exactly would tie his very soul with anotherー
“Is that chicken scratch? ”
Haleé squinted at Dick’s hip, glasses nearly falling off his nose, taking the cigar out of his mouth. “I cannot read that, there is no way anybody could read that. Mon chou, your soulmate is a chicken.”
Dick stared at him blankly. “A chicken?”
Haleé nodded gravely. “The kind that roam the streets in old farming towns, all fluffy and feathery and makes those little bok bok bok sounds.”
“ Haleé .” That wasn’t good. That was the tone Dya took when Dick refused to get off Zitka, so she would count to three and if Dick hadn’t clambered to her side then she would spend the entire day giving him conditioning exercises. That tone meant Haleé was in trouble .
“Calm down, Mer.” Haleé held his hands out, placating. “Just because I can’t read it doesn’t mean nobody can.”
Dya blinked for a moment, then groaned. “Is there anyone else? ”
Haleé shrugged. “You want to read English? She knows English better than anyone in this family.”
“She’s a liar .”
Dick chose that moment to interrupt. “Dat said we’re all liars, because we’re performers , and performing is fancy lying.”
Haleé burst into chortling laughter, clapping his huge hands on Dick’s back. Dya put her face in her hand and muttered a few unsavory words. Dat was going to get his ear chewed off tonight, that’s for sure.
So they went to the fortune teller.
Her bones were brittle and her makeup was extravagant and her hugs were stiff and the layers upon layers of jewelry draped along her form were cold and hard. She told stories about inhuman beings that had the circ locking up tightly at night. She had an old Egyptian hookah that she puffed daily, making her tent constantly fill up with that sleepy, hazy feel. She slapped anyone who dared touch her hand-painted tarot cards without permission.
Dick adored her.
Dya did not.
Nonetheless, the two of them made their way over to the fortune teller’s corner of the circ, and Dya stiffly explained why they had come. Dick, for his part, scrambled on top of a set of plush cushions and played with a couple new scarves the fortune teller had gotten at their last stop in Cadíz. The atmosphere was getting to him, and Dick felt his eyelids begin to droop as he wound the soft material around his arms.
The fortune teller’s voice shifted the haze slightly. The garbled sounds coming from her throat sounded like rocks grinding against each other. Dya said that was what happened when anyone used the hookah, and forbade Dick from ever touching the thing. Still, despite how drifty Dick seemed to feel, the fortune teller was always sharp and stiff and alert, the grim set of her mouth never changing.
It was with that grim set of the mouth that she beckoned Dick over, a small twitch of the lips and a curl of her gnarled fingers. Dick hopped to the ground and went over to the two of them, using one hand to grip Dya’s fingers tight and using the other to pull up his shirt and reveal the scribbles.
The fortune teller raised an eyebrow and said, “A messy soulmate you’ve got there.”
Dick felt a pang of annoyance, and sudden need to defend someone he didn’t know. Because yes , as many soulmate experts would say, messy handwriting had long since been a sign of a disorganized mind and sloppy habits, but Dick had heard of a theory by some English scientist when they were performing in Bristol that the messier a person’s handwriting was, the higher their intelligence, so ha take that .
However, as he opened his mouth, the fortune teller stooped over and thrust her bony fingers into Dick’s side. He let out a noise of complaint, but thankfully her fingers weren't too cold.
The fortune teller dragged her nails along the lines of words, strangely broken up into four lines. She muttered to herself for two lines, but as she reached the end, her fingers suddenly stopped moving. Dick glanced up at her, briefly, before turning his gaze back to his mark when he finally registered what exactly he had seen, and snapped his eyes back up.
The fortune teller’s eyes were wide, her mouth slack, her body trembling.
“Um, Dya? Is she okay?”
Dya, in response, clasped Dick’s shoulder and pulled him away. The grim, stony expression that Dick had known to be a constant all his life was shattering, and her body was shaking. Dick could honestly say he was scared, he had no idea what was happening. Did his soulmark...break the fortune teller? Was it some sort of curse? Spell? Dick frantically tried to remember anything the old woman had ever said about witchcraft, when she finally made a noise, and Dick realized she wasn’t dying.
She was laughing.
“She’s laughing,” Pure disbelief threaded through Dya’s voice, and when Dick looked up at her, the utter confusion was apparent on her face.
The fortune teller, for her part, seemed to be cashing in on the decades upon decades of years she spent repressing every ounce of joy she ever experienced by collapsing in throes of loud, body-wracking laughs. Her spindly arms were wrapped around her waist as she bent over, and tears were streaming down her face. Dick hadn’t even known she was capable of producing tears.
Dya drew Dick closer to herself and backed up slightly when the fortune teller held out her palm, an obvious wait gesture. “I shall,” she gasped out between laughing fits, “I shall translate for you.”
Once her arms stopped trembling and her body no longer seemed to be folding over on itself, she scribbled down four lines on a piece of paper, in Turkish so Dya could read it. She handed the piece of paper over to the hand that wasn’t gripping Dick’s shoulder, and Dya shook out the crinkly paper once.
Her eyes flicked over the words, taking them in. Her face went pink. Then her face went red. Then her face went a deeper red. She whipped up to glare at the fortune teller and some emotion dripped from her voice, one that Dick couldn’t recognize. “You better not be joking.”
The fortune teller raised an eyebrow, still shaking slightly. “Did you not just see how I reacted to that soulmark? That right there is poetry .”
“That’s the last word I would use for it.”
“Dya. What does it say,” Dick knew his voice had gone high-pitched and whiny, but he was sick of the fortune teller and Dya talking like he wasn’t even there. “Tell me!” he demanded.
Dya, in response, pressed her lips into a thin line. “I’ll…tell you later, beta .”
Dick wrinkled his nose. “When’s later going to be?”
“It means I have to talk to your Dat about this.”
“Have fun with that,” the fortune teller waved her fingers, a clear dismissal. Still, the note of amusement in her voice remained.
As Dick walked outside the fortune teller’s tent, blinking rapidly from the sudden assault of sunlight, he slipped his hand inside of Dya’s. Dya gripped his hand back, and looked down at him. “Dick, can you do something for me?”
Dick’s mouth scrunched up, trying to imitate Dya’s frown from earlier, but he wasn’t sure he got it right.
Nonetheless, she managed to understand what he was saying. “Don’t tell anybody about your soulmark. Not yet, okay?”
“Just trust me on this.”
Dat, for his part, had a reaction similar to the fortune teller’s when Dya showed him the piece of paper. His booming laughter rang out across the circ, and he pulled Dick in for a hug that crushed his ribs.
“I’m going to tell everybody! ”
“You will not ,” Dya said immediately. Though, it seemed her initial shock was wearing off, and she was fighting a smile herself.
Dick hadn’t heard that laugher in a long while. In fact, he hadn’t heard laughter at home in general for a long while.
Alfred, the butler, seemed to carry with him a hint of mirth along with his age-old knowledge and patience, but his stiff upper lip refused to twitch. Bruce, for his part, was just so sad . Dick had been in the manor for a couple weeks now, and had never met anyone as sad as Bruce, as lonely as Bruce, not even the lost souls that came into the circus and straggled into the fortune teller’s tent, a resigned and hopeless look in their eyes. Every quirk of the lips Dick managed to pull out of the man was a success in his book, and though it happened far more in the above-part of the mansion than the below-part of the mansion, Dick could rest knowing he’d made Batman smirk, once.
And hey, if Dick decided to turn Robin training into improv comedy with acrobatics sprinkled in for flair, well, he always knew he wasn’t going to be the type of hero Batman was.
Still, despite, Dick’s one-man mission to shed some light into the shadows of the manor, of the cave, of Bruce , he wouldn’t say he was very trusting. He still remembered the fortune teller’s long nails gripping his shoulders, after that night, telling him to guard his heart and be wary, to love no one and trust even less. Of course, she knew following his advice would be impossible, but her desperate voice and emotional eyes were burned into Dick’s mind, even as Social Services dragged him away kicking and screaming. So Dick was cautious, in remembrance of her.
Bruce and Alfred, however, had proven themselves over and over again. Their brief touches were rough and warm, nothing like the delicate strokes of the upper class of Gotham, pinching his cheeks and simpering. The two of them were steady, were there , and gripping onto Batman’s cape as they caught their breath on a rooftop after Dick’s first big fight, Dick thought Bruce had done more than enough to earn his trust.
So, during dinner a couple days later, Dick approached the question with his personal, subtle, bat-trained brand of questioning.
“Hey, B, you got a soulmark?”
Bruce choked on his noodles.
Alfred came in from the kitchen, chocolate on his hands, and he and Dick took the chance to stare at Bruce judgingly for a couple moments while Bruce regained his breath. Well. Alfred was staring judgingly. Dick was trying to create an expression that was a cross between the face Alfred was making and the face Bruce made when Dick hung upside-down from a stalactite in the cave and refused to come down.
Alfred shook his head and went back into the kitchen. Apparently whatever dessert he was whipping up was time-sensitive.
Eventually, Bruce managed to steady his breathing, though his voice still sounded choked when he gasped out, “ What? ”
Dick frowned, because that reaction was a tad extreme. “Was I not supposed to ask that?”
Bruce cleared his throat. “Well, traditionally, soulmarks are private, something you only share with a select few people. But lately, there’s been less adherence to that particular custom.”
“In the circ, everyone knew everyone’s soulmark. Mostly. They weren’t really all that private.”
“I figured.” Bruce nodded.
“How traditional are you?”
“I’d like to say not that much, but I was raised by Alfred, and he tends to be a bit old fashioned about these things.”
“Oh,” Dick looked down at his plate. “So you’re not gonna tell me about your soulmark. Got it.”
“Actually, I think I will.”
Allowing himself a smirk inside his head, Dick schooled his features into innocent shock and pleasant surprise. He was a solid 90% sure Bruce didn’t notice. “Really? You’ll show me?”
“Well,” Bruce rumbled. “You were going on and on about how partners trust each other yesterday.”
“Because it’s true ,” Dick interjected.
“You’re nine - never mind, not the point. The point is you’re probably right, and it does no harm. After all, I do trust you.”
The sincerity in Bruce’s tone caught Dick off-guard, and without his permission, Dick’s face broke into an awed little smile. “Thanks.”
Bruce shook his head. “It’s nothing you need to thank me for. Although, you have to be careful, extremely careful.”
“Because of what we do. If someone discovered Batman’s soulmark, then somehow connected it with Bruce Wayne’s soulmark, they could identify me in an instant. Then you and Alfred would be in danger, and that’s the last thing I want.” Bruce’s tone had taken a dark tone, and Dick understood. Bruce was excruciatingly paranoid, with good reason.
“So we gotta hide our soulmarks?”
With a nod, Bruce answered. “I know I told you this when you first started out, but never under any circumstances let anybody find out what Robin’s soulmark is. A face, we can play off, but you can’t take back a soulmark. There’s less pressure as Dick Grayson, but I’d still prefer it if you kept it hidden.”
“Mine is in a good spot,” Dick assured. “I can hide it pretty easily.”
“I know,” Bruce said, because of course he did. “I don’t know what it says, but it’s on your hip, correct?”
“Yeah,” Dick nodded. “Wait, so you know where my soulmark is but you don’t know what it says? That’s a little hard to believe.”
“Alfred has tried to instill some manners in me, Dick.”
“I know,” Dick said. “I just didn’t think it worked. You have no idea what privacy means, and this is coming from me. ”
Bruce shot him a wry grin. “Thanks, Dick. I appreciate that.”
Bruce was laughing inside his head, Dick knew he was. “Well, I don’t know what it says, but I have seen it. Rather large for a soulmark, don’t you think?”
“Hey!” Dick raised his eyebrows. “Stop judging my soulmate. Maybe they just love to talk!”
“I don’t think anyone could handle two of you.”
“Very funny, B.”
Those self-congratulating smirks came easier to Bruce Wayne. “I’m just telling the truth, Dick. If your soulmate talks as much as you do, I doubt either of you will ever know the meaning of silence.”
“We’re getting off topic,” Dick said, trying to divert the conversation. “We were talking about your soulmark, not mine.”
Bruce held up his hands, as if acquiescing. Dick hated being humored, but Bruce was in a good mood, so he let go of his irritation for now as the other man wiped his hands on a cloth napkin. Bruce then held out his hands to Dick, holding them across the table.
Dick frowned. “I don’t see anything.”
Then, Bruce slipped off the rings he wore, the ones emblazoned with the Wayne family crest. Dick’s lips parted in an ‘oh’ of realization.
“I have two soulmarks,” Bruce explained. “Which is rare, I know. And knowing me , most certainly a mistake, but…,” he trailed off bitterly.
“The flamethrower in the circ had seven,” Dick said absently, unnoticing of Bruce’s surprised blink. “She said the ones she met were her best friends, but that’s it. What about you?”
Bruce waved one of his fingers, where an elegant script wrapped around the digit. “I’ve met both of them. The first, well, she’s a menace.” Dick suddenly had an image of Catwoman’s delicate hands, quick and sure when writing an address and giving the slip of paper to Bruce. That explained a lot.
Bruce could see Dick making the connection, and shook his head. Though Dick could sense a glimmer of pride in his eyes for putting it together so quickly.
“And the other?” Dick asked.
Bruce waved the other finger with short, stocky letters twisted around it. But as Dick squinted, he realized he couldn’t make out the letters. He cycled through the couple languages he knew, and the notes didn’t match up.
“It’s not any language I’ve ever found. And believe me, I’ve searched. So the only possible explanation is that it’s alien.”
Dick gasped, his expression brightening. “We only know one alien.”
“There’s also Martian Manhunter,” Bruce reminded him.
Dick ignored him. “Your soulmate is Superman! ”
“You should really like me better than him,” Bruce said, mock-jealous. He picked up both of the rings and slid them back onto his fingers, hiding his soulmarks from sight.
“Yeah, but he’s Superman .”
“One of these days I’m going to introduce you to Clark and you’ll realize how much of that hero-worship is misplaced.”
Dick sent him an unimpressed look. “Really?”
Bruce paused for a minute, before he sighed. “No, not really. He’s a good friend. A good person, of that I’m sure.”
At Bruce’s confession, Dick grinned happily. “That’s nice to know, B.”
“And what about you?” Bruce asked. “Will you show me your soulmark? You don’t have to, of course. I’m just curious.”
“Sure,” Dick said easily. “There’s just a, um, a thing .”
“Dya didn’t really want me showing off my soulmark like everyone else in the circ d’Haleé. Not because of what she thought, but apparently because of what it means.”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed a tad, in the same way they always did when he was set on solving something. “Is your soulmark explicit in some way? That is somewhat common.”
“No?” Dick tried. “Yes? I don’t know. I don’t really understand what my soulmark means.”
“It’s in rhyme,” Dick said helpfully.
Now Bruce was well and truly confused. “Is it a poem of some sort?”
“I have no idea what’s happening right now.”
Dick laughed, then bounded over to the other side of the table. “Here, maybe you’ll understand.” He pulled the hem of his shirt up, just enough to expose the scribbles scrawled across his hip.
Dick watched Bruce read the words, the terrible handwriting apparently not a deterrent. Then, unlike what Dick expected, Bruce’s face went completely blank.
“Are you...,” Bruce paused for a second to collect his thoughts. “Is this real?”
“Not a fake tattoo? Not marker?”
“This is your actual, legitimate soulmark.”
“The one you were born with.”
Bruce put his face in his hands. Then, a strangled croak escaped from his throat. Startled, Dick stepped backwards, only for another one of those noises to escape the older man. His shoulders were shaking and there it was.
Now that was the reaction Dick expected. If his soulmark could make the fortune teller crack more than a smile, then there was no way Bruce would be able to look at it with a straight face.
Except Dick was now concerned for his well-being because Bruce was still laughing like he didn’t want to, but couldn’t help it. Actually, knowing him, that was probably the case. He finally lifted his face from his hands to stare at Dick’s soulmark again, and drowned in another set of chortles.
“Oh my God .”
“Yeah,” Dick said. “That’s what everyone says.”
Bruce fought for control and took a deep, sobering breath. “Whoever your soulmate is, I can’t decide whether I hate them already or need you to meet them.”
“Need me to meet them?”
Bruce chuckled—he chuckled —and said, “Dick. I have a feeling the two of you are going to be a particularly troublesome pair of best friends.”
Just then, Alfred entered the kitchen, holding two cups of chocolate mousse in his hands. “I suspect whatever issue the two of you were discussing has been resolved?”
Bruce shot Dick a look, one that asked Do you mind?
Dick sent him a smile in response.
“Alfred,” Bruce’s voice was careful. “Can you read Dick’s soulmark, please?”
His brows crinkled in confusion, but Alfred responded, “Of course, Master Bruce.”
Dick sent a mischievous look to Bruce, raising his eyebrows playfully. Bruce gave him a glance in return as innocent as possible. Whoever said the Batman couldn’t have fun? He turned to face Alfred, holding still as Alfred bent slightly and took in the words on his hip.
And that was the first, last, and only time Dick ever heard Alfred let out the most undignified, surprised, and amused snort as possible.
“I said no.”
“You’re being stupid.”
“I’m being rational.”
“I’m an acrobat . This is an acrobat costume. ”
“It’s not a costume, Robin, it’s a uniform.”
“It’s a costume. And mine has meaning, B. Acrobats and aerialists wear leotards.”
“They also wear tights. And you will be wearing tights.”
“I don’t want to wear tights!”
“If it’s such a big sticking point, you can wear a leotard over your tights.”
“ Oh my God. ”
“Those are the rules, Robin. If you want all those months of training to actually get used, then you will wear the tights. And the cape.”
“Is this because of my soulmark?”
“It is, isn’t it.”
“I’m being practical , Dick.”
“No, you’re being an absolute garbage pile of bird poop.”
“No, you’re being a dick.”
“Real mature. You’ll…ugh.”
“What? I’ll understand when I’m older?”
“Fine. Jeez, I’ll wear your stupid tights. But the minute I understand whatever the hell my soulmark means I’m taking them right off.”
“Hearing curse words from your mouth sounds strange.”
“ Deal with it .”
It was one of those days when Dick couldn’t decide whether to be nervous or excited.
Back in circ d’Haleé, that same mix of nerves and adrenaline threaded through his veins before every performance. He gripped Dya and Dat’s hands tightly as they gave him reassuring smiles, and when he stepped out onto the raised platform, those nerves turned into pure exhilaration as he lost himself in the lights, the sounds, the movement.
These days, the only time he ever felt that was in the midst of a brutal battle with Harley Quinn, the two of them uncaring of whatever Batman and the Joker were doing, simply focusing on increasingly dangerous flips and moves, their minds racing with puns, jokes, creepy laughs, and barbs to one-up the other.
But Dick was feeling it now, though he was only in the cave wearing his costume (tights included) and his mask. He remembered how much of a fight it was to bring the two of them to this moment, pointing out how the Flash had saved the world over and over again, how readily he took orders from Batman and followed them to perfection despite the fact that he was a creative thinker and strategizer well capable of leading his own team, how Barry Allen was a brilliant forensic scientist with a worth ethic to match his genius.
In the end, Bruce had firmly denied telling the Flash his identity, but allowed Kid Flash and the Flash to enter the cave, letting Kid Flash and Robin meet for the first time.
What was that saying? Shoot for the stars, and even if you miss, at least you’ll fall on top of the world.
Batman was leaning over the batcomputer, trying to trace the paper trail a coke dealer had left behind. Intel said the money was changing hands in three days, so the two of them needed to find the location fast. Privately, Dick thought B should utilize the people in lower Gotham that no one noticed, never once believing they were capable of knowing the information they did. Paper trails were long and painstaking, and too easy to fake if someone knew what they were doing.
But Dick had bigger problems to worry about. Batman wanted to lose sleep for a week hunched over a computer with the worst posture imaginable looking for information Dick could get with one visit to the kid he’d saved from getting assaulted a month ago? He could go right ahead.
Robin was too busy wondering what exactly he would say to Kid Flash when the hero showed up. On a stage, with all of his lines and the adrenaline giving him the bravery to improvise? Dick shone, charming anyone he met with a dimpled smile. But ever since coming to live in the manor, trying to use his pitifully tiny lungs to blow enough air to lift the drape of sadness that was suffocating this entire family, he’d grown a little...rusty with his people skills.
He’d done his research, but knowing that Wally West displayed “excellent academic tendencies” and “a remarkable interest in scientific fields” (according to a lady who was wearing a denim jacket in her faculty picture and had two counts of racist language and behaviour towards students on her record) told him nothing about Kid Flash .
Would Kid Flash be rude and condescending to him because of his age, despite how much experience Robin had? Would he be a complete novice and force Dick to cringe as he explained the basics of vigilantism? Or would he be immeasurably nice, as all Central City newspapers seemed to claim? What if he wanted to actually be friends? What if he asked for Dick’s phone number to keep in contact? What if he asked Dick’s real identity? What ifー
“Robin. I can hear you fidgeting from here.”
“What if he’s my soulmate?” Robin blurted out, voice entirely too loud in the thrumming stillness of the cave.
Apparently, that startled Bruce enough to look up. “What?”
“Because I’m a vigilante now, right? Which means my options for soulmates just cut down dramatically, because no way the universe paired me with a civilian or a villain or something. At least, I think,” Dick was rambling now, but he couldn’t help it. “So chances are, my soulmate is another vigilante, or hero, or whatever . And there aren’t a lot of heroes my age, except for Kid Flash, and that one rumor of the guy in Star City, and so what if Kid Flash ends up becoming my soulmate? What if I’m not ready and make a terrible impression? What if he wants to know our identities!”
Batman was unimpressed. “Are you done?”
“Am I done? ” Dick practically shrieked. “B, I’ve been stressing out over this for almost a week now, ever since you told me they were coming.”
“Dick,” Batman sighedーno he was Bruce now, Dick was getting better at telling the difference. “Where’s all this coming from?”
“I told you. We’re living in a world of superheroes. Anything is possible!”
“You want to know what I think?” Wow. The corners of Bruce’s eyes were crinkling, his face was softening. Bruce rarely ever made that expression in the downstairs part of the house.
“I think you’re scared because you’ve never made a friend before.”
“Hear me out, chum.”
“No,” Dick crossed his arms.
“Performing doesn’t count as making friends, Dick. You’re up there, and you know exactly what you have to do to win everybody’s hearts. But given the way you grew up, and the way you’ve lived in Gotham thus far, you haven’t exactly figured out the formula to making friends yet, have you?”
Dick glared at the ground for a second, holding his grudge for a tad longer. Then he slumped, but didn’t uncross his arms. “Why do you always have to say exactly what I’m thinking?”
“Because you’re entirely transparent and easy to read.”
“Thanks for that.”
“No seriously,” Dick said, looking up at Bruce, making his eyes wide. “Thanks. Because I don’t want to be all closed off and emotionless like you pretend to be in front of other people. Clark and Diana barely trust you, and the Flash tries to hide it but he’s scared of you. And I want to be friends with Kid Flash. I don’t want him to be scared of me.”
Bruce was silent for a moment, unreadable to most, but Dick could tell his words had struck a nerve. “In the long run, though, it’ll protect me. More importantly, it’ll protect you . That’s more important to me than the relative comfort of my team.”
“Clark’s your soulmate ,” Dick said, only ever earnest.
“They’ll be here soon,” Bruce said, then stood up. “If you want, you can practice your routines on the bars, just to impress them when they show up.”
What Bruce didn’t say was that the routine would calm him down, would take the nervous jitteriness spreading underneath Dick’s skin and turn it into grace and strength that Robin was so well known for. He’d turned into Batman once he walked away, but Dick managed to catch his hidden meaning anyway. It was his job after all.
He was holding himself up on the shorter of the two bars, body tensed and completely vertical, when all the hairs on his body stood up. There was a crackle in the air, and Dick heard the two speedsters skid to a stop near the entrance of the cave. He could almost feel the two of them looking around the cave with barely concealed awe, Kid Flash much more openly than the Flash, and he knew exactly when Kid Flash caught sight of him: the gasp he made wasn’t exactly subtle.
Allowing himself a grin, Dick did a couple giants around the bar, one with a half turn, before jumping to the high bar with a shaposhnikova. He did an L grip endo, threw in a piked stalder for fun, then dismounted with two saultos. He snorted softy when he heard Kid Flash let out a whoa , before turning to the two of them, Robin’s grin firmly in place.
He bounced over to them, but before either of the adults or Robin could get in a word, Kid Flash spoke so fast his words tumbled over each other. “ Oh my God that was so cool! ”
Dick laughed a little at his eagerness and with a flourish of his hands, gave him a bow. “It’s a Robin-special, just for you.”
When Kid Flash had no outward reaction to his words, something inside Dick settled, a little disappointed but calm nonetheless. So he wasn’t Dick’s soulmate. That was fine, because he was grinning at Robin bright and happy, looking at him with stars behind his eyes, and Dick was beaming at him right back and he had no idea what he was even worried about in the first place.
“Do you do this sort of stuff all the time? Like, in Gotham fighting bad guys and stuff?”
“Yup!” Robin chirped proudly. “I can jump from building to building without a grapple, unlike Batman here. And I once did a double roundoff that ended with me kicking Harley Quinn in the face.”
Kid Flash’s jaw dropped a little. “ Seriously? ”
“That is so awesome.”
“I mean yeah, but you can catch bullets out of the air .”
“Aw,” Kid Flash said, unusually shy, a midwestern drawl draped around his words. He’d been all bluster and boldness in the interviews Dick had watched online, some lucky reporter managing to snatch a couple words to answer their questions. Now, though, Kid Flash was red and flushing redder, looking as if Robin’s approval meant the world to him. “It’s pretty simple.”
“It’s incredible,” Robin announced. “You wanna check out the training center?”
“You guys have a training center?”
“We have two training centers.”
“I know,” Robin said, and led the other hero towards the training mats. While Kid Flash was gazing around, taking in what he’d missed when he was watching Robin on the bars, Dick turned back and winked at Batman. He conveyed see, I told you this would be fun and don’t worry we’ll be careful and Kid Flash thinks I’m cool! in one gesture, and Batman’s stern mouth lost some of its tension, telling him let’s not get ahead of ourselves and good, I trust you and wow, what stunning approval that is .
“He is nothing like you at all,” Flash said, the first words coming out of his mouth since entering the cave a little bemused.
“And thank God for that, right?” Robin said with a sly grin.
Flash snorted, then blinked in surprise as the audacity of what he just said just fully registered, taking a noticeable step away from Batman. “Ah…”
Dick could tell internally Bruce was cracking up how the Flash was practically vibrating with tension, but Batman just stared, letting out a “Hn.” Then, B turned to move towards the bat-lab. (For some reason, Bruce hadn’t taken to that one as fast as “batcomputer,” but that was alright. It had taken weeks for Dick to train Bruce into saying “batmobile” instead of “batcar” or just “car.”)
“Flash, I need you to analyze this granite sample for me. Your forensics training is more advanced than mine. Put special focus on the exact composition of the granite, and any unusual elements in it.”
“Uh,” Flash trailed off, switching between staring at Robin and Kid Flash and staring at Batman. “I don’t suppose I get the grand tour too?”
Batman turned to glare at him, and he nodded. “Right. Got it. Granite sample. I’ll get right on that.”
Robin let out a little cackle, laughing even harder at the Flash’s betrayed look, before Kid Flash piped up from a distance away, “Is that a rock climbing wall?”
“Yeah,” Robin said, hurrying to catch up. “You wanna give it a go?”
“ I figured it out!”
“You figured what out?”
“My soulmark, B!”
“Oh yes. I know what it means now!”
“Which means you understand why exactly your mother wanted you to not show it off.”
“I mean yeah, but it also means I know why you and everyone else had the reaction you did.”
“I am begging you to stop talking.”
“According to our agreement, you have to let me wear the leotard now. Especially now.”
“No way in hell.”
“I think it’ll be fun.”
“It will not.”
“But anyway, it doesn’t matter.”
“I’m hesitant to ask.”
“It doesn’t matter because I knowwwwwww what my sooooULLLLMAAARRRKK MEEEAAANNSSS .”
“Dick, has anyone told you that you cannot sing.”
“It means I’ve got aー mmpfh! Hey! ”
“And that’s enough.”
KF’s legs were swinging over the ledge of the roof. Dick remembered when he was too nervous to even sit at the edge of a building, instead choosing to plop himself down firmly cross-legged in the middle of the roof, resolutely ignoring Robin’s longsuffering, amused huff. Now, he was overlooking 45 stories with no hint of fear, leaning back on his hands, popping curly fries into his mouth every couple of seconds. Robin felt almost proud.
“No, see, that’s not how high school works, Rob.”
“You’ve been in high school for all of two months,” Robin said dryly, taking a slurp of his smoothie.
Central City had some of the most fun restaurants he’d ever eaten at since he’d been in the United States. Wally’s favourite restaurant, second only to an ice cream shop that explained the science behind liquid nitrogen as they gave you a demonstration, sold traditional American diner food but in frankly ridiculous proportions. All Robin had ordered was a side of curly fries and a strawberry smoothie, but the curly fries dish was big enough for the two of them to share and the size small smoothie was taller than his forearm.
He didn’t bother to act shocked at the amount of food his friend was putting away, having grown used to the boy’s metabolism in the past year.
“Two months is enough!” KF insisted. “I’ve worked out exactly how the social hierarchies operate, so manipulating them should be a piece of cake.”
“You’re the regular bottom-of-the-chain high school nerd, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” he slumped, taking another bite of his burger despondently. “Two days ago one of the football players poured milk on my head. I could’ve dodged it so easily but…”
He didn’t need to finish the sentence. Dick understood. Breaking off another piece of curly fries and popping it into his mouth, Robin said, “I never knew American school was really like that.”
“Y’know. Social hierarchies, lunchroom bullying, the like.”
“Don’t you go to school?”
With a straight face, Robin said, “Batman cloned me from his own DNA to create a perfect partner that’ll fight exactly how he wants, and when I’m not in use, he puts me in a cryogenic chamber that has these nodes that connect to my head, so everything I need to know about school and life gets downloaded into my brain.”
“ What? ”
“Kidding, I’m kidding,” Robin laughed.
His expression still horrified, Kid Flash let out a shaky sigh of relief. “Don’t even joke about that stuff. I never know if you’re being serious.”
“Really? That’s in the realm of possibility for you?”
“He’s Batman ,” KF said in answer, gesticulating wildly.
“A stunning observation.”
“You know what I mean. Anyway, yeah, school’s really like that.”
Making a sudden decision, Robin stared resolutely at his feet and said, “I wouldn’t really know about public schools. I go to a stuffy private school, and it’s just like what everyone says it is.” That was the largest amount of personal information Robin had ever told Kid Flash, and he wasn’t sure how B would react if he found out what Robin had shared.
Luckily, KF seemed to recognize what a big deal that was. When Robin peeked at KF from the corner of his eye, the other boy had a stunned little grin on his face, but said nothing except, “Wow. Private school seems awful. I’ll take a public high school over that any day.”
“Yeah,” KF nodded. “I mean, I don’t actually have any friends yet, but some of the teachers like me!”
“That’s good, at least.”
“Yup. They let me take chem along with first year physics because of my test scores, so I get to talk to my chem teacher about all sorts of stuff after school.”
“Well it’s a little weird to be friends with your teachers,” Robin joked, “but at least you have some people to talk to.”
“It is a little weird,” KF wrinkled his nose. “But I have a plan for cementing my place in school as something other than the resident nerd.”
Robin asked, “Oh? Do share.”
“So what’s the best way to prove you’re not a loser?”
“Drink a bottle of peanut oil mixed with nail polish remover and then taze the lunch lady?”
“What? No. What? ”
Robin shrugged. “Sounds like a good way to establish yourself as resident badass to me.”
KF stared at him with wide eyes. “Uh. I’m not trying to be resident badass .”
“You said you wanted to prove you weren’t a loser!”
“There is a range of statuses between loser and resident badass.”
“KF, look me in the eyes and say you don’t want to try it.”
Kid Flash opened his mouth, but no sound came out. At Robin’s smug grin, he sighed. “Okay yeah, now I want to try it.”
“See? Told you. So if that’s not your plan, then what is?”
“The best way to not be a loser? You play a sport!”
Robin made a thoughtful noise. “A sport?”
“Yeah. Hear me out,”
“So football’s out,” KF ticked off his fingers. “I’m definitely not physically big enough and I don’t want the pressure or popularity that comes with being on the football team.”
“Alright, no football.”
“All basketball players are either tall or have been playing for years so they’re super good. And I’m neither.”
“Soccer is...too intense for what I want. Like, I still want academics and stuff to be my main focus, and soccer sort of takes up all of your time and energy. Plus, everyone on the soccer team already knows each other.”
“My hand-eye coordination’s improved ever since I became Kid Flash, but it’s not great . Plus everyone remembers my actually awful attempts at playing baseball when I was in third grade.”
“Yeah. Baseball’s out. And tennis.”
“Ah, got it. So are there any sports you can play?”
Kid Flash stared at Robin, offended. “Well jeez , tell me what you really think, Rob.”
“We’ve gone through every high school sport I can think of off the top of my head,” Robin pointed out. “Other than, like, wrestling.”
“Ew,” KF said. “No.”
“See? So what else is left?”
“I’ll tell you what’s left,” the speedster said, then threw his arms out dramatically. “Cross country!”
Robin stared disbelievingly for a couple seconds, then he set his smoothie on the concrete so he could clap sarcastically. “Wow. Great job, wonderful thinking. I hope you have fun on the cross country team, Kid Flash .”
“Oh, hush,” KF batted Robin’s arm. “I have a good reason!”
“Really? You actually have a good reason?”
“I have two ,” KF said. “First, I don’t have to work all that hard. I mean, I have to work a little, but I won’t spend a whole lot of time training for cross country to be good at it. I can keep my focus on my studies.”
“You can do that with other sports,” Robin pointed out.
“Secondly,” KF said, ignoring the other boy, “think about it. If I train myself to run faster on normal human power, then my muscles and endurance get stronger. Then, when I run as Kid Flash, I get faster there too! I’ll apply everything I learned in cross country running to speedster running, and running is running right?”
“That’sー” Robin paused, considering. “Does the speedforce work like that?”
“I dunno. But I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Huh. You may be onto something there, KF.”
“Wow. I’m so glad I got the almighty Robin’s approval.”
Grinning, Robin decided to play along. He put his hand over his head dramatically, as if heartbroken. “There was a time when you respected me, when you thought Robin was the most stunning superhero alive. Now look at you. Oh, how quickly the time flies.”
But instead of rising to the bait, KF just looked down, his face a little red. “I mean, I still think you’re the most stunning superhero alive.”
Dick dropped his arm, and in a voice entirely too soft to go with the mask he was wearing, asked, “Really?”
“Yeah, dude,” Kid Flash turned to him, wearing a bashful grin. “You took down a human trafficking ring by yourself last week, when Batman was with the League. What part of that isn’t awesome?”
“You can quite literally walk on water ,” Robin said in response. “ That’s awesome.”
Kid Flash smiled, but neither of them seemed to know where to take the conversation after that. Robin ate the last curly fry, rubbing his hip absently, right over his soulmark.
“You ready to go? I can drop you off in Gotham,” Kid Flash stood up, stretching. Robin nodded, and KF threw away their trash in the time it took him to jump to his feet. Expecting to climb on his back like usual, Robin made a noise of surprise when the speedster picked him up bridal style.
“Hold on,” KF said, and Robin’s arms automatically went around KF’s neck. Before he had the chance to ask what exactly Kid Flash was doing, the speedster had taken off, and Robin shrieked at the sudden lurch. He hid his face in KF’s throat to protect himself from the wind, and tightened his grip when he heard KF chuckle.
Either too soon or too late, Kid Flash came to a stop in the middle of the cave, and Robin automatically hopped off, shaking his head to clear it.
“Well,” Robin said. “Good luck with your cross country experiment.”
Wally grinned, bright and brilliant, his face still a light shade of red. “Thanks, Rob. See ya soon!”
Then, with a two fingered salute, the speedster was gone.
“He’s not your soulmate,” Dick told himself, hand over his hip. “Doesn’t matter how well we get along. How incredible of a friend he is. He’s not your soulmate.”
“Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad.”
Apparently it was, in fact, that bad, because Batman was thundering . The sound of his heavy pacing filled the cave, and realizing that he was purposefully making his steps as loud as possible just to accentuate his point both made him internally giggle and increased his guilt.
Because Batman didn’t get angry.. Bruce may have his emotional moments when Dick got hurt, but as far as Robin had seen, Batman was cool, calm, and collected. He was levelheaded and objective, a world-class thinker and strategizer.
But Batman was yelling now, hysterical on the Batscale of emotion. Batman had taught him to read people’s body language, to see what they were saying with their movements instead of their mouths, and all Robin could see right now was fear. Fear and concern and anger all wrapped up in love.
“You could have died . That man was holding an entire population hostageー”
“Technically only the Hatton Corners Teen Club.”
“ーhe was a powerful meta capable of killing you in many different waysー”
“I mean, with the twister powers, his options were kinda limited.”
“ーand he would have . Do you understand that, Dick? He would have killed you.”
Oh. He was talking to Dick. Which meant that even though the suit and cowl were on, Robin was looking at Bruce. Robin nodded a little, and softened his posture, his face. “I face people who try to kill me every day, Bruce.”
“But I’m there with you. And if I’m with the Justice League, I’m keeping tabs on you, or Alfred’s on standby. This time, I had no idea where you were, no idea who you were facing. Dick, I had no idea if you were alive or not.” Bruce’s voice was hoarse, filled to the brim pain.
“Take the suit off,” Dick said.
“We’ll continue this conversation when you take the suit off.”
“Dick, what does that have to do with anything? ”
“I’m not hugging kevlar, B, now take the suit off.”
Bruce took the suit off.
Dick gave him a hug.
Bruce was clutching him, drawing him so close that Dick could feel him shaking. So Dick stood as still and steady as he could, hugging Bruce’s neck until B’s trembles shook their way out of him.
“I’m right here, B. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I don’t know that,” Bruce whispered. “IーI planned for everything. Every contingency. I didn’t plan for you leaving willingly.”
“I didn’t leave ,” Dick said, incredulous. “Where did you get that idea? Those kids sent out a distress signal and I went to go help. Sure, it wasn’t in Gotham, but there’s an entire world outside Gotham. And I came back.”
“But what if you hadn’t?” Bruce’s gaze was locked on the ground when he said that, almost as if he couldn’t bring himself to look at Dick’s face. Dick understood the feeling: waking up from nightmares was terrifying, and forcing yourself to look at your loved one’s face even more so, because maybe the blood and wounds splattered across fair skin wasn’t just a dream. But there was always relief when you finally made yourself look, when you reassure yourself the image wasn’t real. Bruce hadn’t figured that last part out yet.
“Don’t dwell on what-ifs,” Dick announced. “They’re pointless and depressing. I’m here, I’m alive, I’m okay , B. And you can just train me harder so I don’t end up in that situation again.”
Bruce nodded, seemingly collecting himself, before taking a breath and letting out a barely there, disbelieving laugh. “Thank God for Wally West I guess.”
Dick squirmed. “He didn’t do... all of the work.”
“No,” Bruce said. “He just saved your life three times. ”
“Three’s a stretch.”
“It is not. First when he used his speed to build that monument the villain wanted so he wouldn’t take his anger out on the students and on you. Second, when you went to fight the man by yourself and you got knocked out and he rescued you. Third, when Wally basically stopped him by himself, with help from you and Aqualad.”
“Am I wrong?”
Dick sighed. “No, you’re not.”
“Still, I have to wonder,” Bruce said. “Wally saved you three times.”
“He’s a hero. He was just doing his job.”
“You specifically, Dick. He was watching over you the entire time, and fought the villain ruthlessly once he hurt you.”
“I…” Dick sighed. “He’s not my soulmate, Bruce. You know that, you were there. And honestly, my words sound like something he would say, they really do. But he didn’t, and from how he reacted, I don’t think I said his either.”
“But you like him, don’t you?”
Dick knew how, oftentimes, what a person didn’t say was more telling than what came out of their lips. Besides, some things were hard to say aloud anyway, so he let the silence speak for him.
“Well,” Bruce said after a lengthy pause. “You’re growing up, aren’t you.”
“Me liking someone is grown up?”
“I still remember when you had no idea what your soulmark meant,” Bruce said wistfully.
Dick snorted, but then looked up at Bruce with wide eyes. “You’re not going to stop KF from coming over, are you? Because he’s my best friend, and I know I like him and everything, but hopefully that’ll go away soon and we’ll keep being best friends because I’ve never had a best friend before andー”
“Please don’t go full Batman on him. He doesn’t even like me back.”
“I’m not going to go ‘full Batman’ on him.”
“Really?” Dick asked, as unconvincingly as he could muster.
“Well, part of me wants to lock him in one of the panic rooms in the cave and keep him alive through an IV and never let him see the light of day again.”
Dick sighed. “I figured.”
“If you had to choose someone to be sweet on,” Bruce sighed, “you could do a lot worse than someone who just saved your life three times over.”
Surprised, Dick stared at Bruce for a second, before letting out a disbelieving laugh. “Uh. Wow, B.”
“But just so you remember, I have cameras in every single inch of this cave, and you are well aware that there is not a single blind spot.”
“B!” Dick exclaimed, and though his skin colour didn’t really allow for much blushing, the red tried to make its way valiantly on there anyway. “We’re notーhe’s not, he doesn’t even like me back!”
“You sure about that?”
“Yeah,” Dick said. “I’m sure. But it doesn’t matter anyway. I told you. I’m not his soulmate.”
At that, Bruce drew away a little, putting his absurdly large hands on Dick’s shoulders and meeting his eyes intensely. “Dick. I want you to listen to me very closely, okay?”
“You do not need to be someone’s soulmate to love them.”
Dick frowned. “Mismatched relationships, I know I know. Butー”
“No, Dick, listen. I do not care what your classmates at school say, I do not care what Brucie Wayne’s taste in company says. You’re my son, and regardless of whether or not you decide to date with a matched or mismatched soulmark, that won’t change.”
Dick held the gaze for a little longer, then smiled and said, “I know, B. You don’t have to reassure me.”
“I just,” Bruce paused. “I just wanted to be sure you knew.”
“I do. Don’t worry.”
“Good,” Bruce nodded. “Do we need to have another taー”
“ No , God, no. Nope. No.”
“ Good. ”
“Like I said. KF’s just my friend.”
“And I did tell you thatー”
“Yeah, that was like, two seconds ago, B. But…” Dick chewed his lip. “The universe gave me a soulmark for a reason, you know? And the person on the other side of it seems funny and kinda sweet. Part of me wants to give them a chance.”
Bruce sighed. “I can’t make your decision for you, Dick. I still say you’re far too young for any of this. But evidence points to the contrary. You do whichever feels right to you.”
“Thanks B.” Dick said, then laughed again. “God. We’ve done a lot of emotioning tonight, haven’t we?”
“It’s exhausting,” Bruce said. “I’m going to sleep for twelve hours, I swear.”
“Same. Oh wait, no, I forgot. Me, KF, and Aqualad are meeting up tomorrow.”
“You’re what? ” Bruce yelped. “After what happened the last time the three of you were together?”
“And also we invited Speedy and Diana’s niece that she keeps talking about.”
“What the ever loving fuck.”
“Oooh, that was surprising enough to get a curse word. I feel accomplished.”
Bruce took a deep breath in, then let it out. “Robin. What the fuck are you doing? ”
“I know we almost died and stuff,” Robin said, “but it was nice to hang out with other people my age who know what it’s like to live a life like this. So KF and I thought we’d get the five known kids like us in America together. Kind of like a club meeting or something.”
“Absolutely not,” Bruce was firm.
“Too bad, it’s already happening.”
“No, you don’t understand. I’m not giving you a choice. If the five of you get together, someone will probably die. Some villain will attack, I know it. I am not allowing this. That’s an order .”
“Well tough,” Dick crossed his arms. “We planned a day and everything.”
“Robin. As long as you are my partner, I guarantee you, this... club will never, ever happen.”
“It’s called Titans Tower,” Dick said, standing in front of the building, arms thrown wide. The four teenagers behind him ooh ed appropriately. “Batman bought it just for us!”
“Hey B! What do you think?”
“What do I think of whaー at ohmyGod. ”
“I think they look nice!”
“Dick. Ah. Erm.”
“What, exactly, are you wearing?”
“Well. They are certainly...um...short.”
“I know, right? It’s so awesome. Look, I can do a scorpion in them! I don’t have to change into leggings or weirdly stretch out the fabric or anything!”
“That’s, ah, good?”
“It’s super good. I am...allowed to wear them right?”
“Yes! Of course, you can. Uh. As long as it’s not grossly inappropriate, you can wear what you wish.”
“Right. Awesome. You’re headed to Star with the Titans, right?”
“Yeah, KF’s picking me up. Don’t worry, my sunglasses will be on the entire time.”
“That’s good. It’s snowing in Star City. Wear a jacket.”
“Yes. The long winter one, I think.”
“Uh, sure Bruce. Why?”
“It’s cold, Dick. I don’t want you to freeze.”
“Yeah, I know that, and thanks, but why that jacket in particuーoh come on.”
“Really, B? Really? ”
“You are wearing those . It’s a necessary precaution.”
“ Necessary precaution , oh my God . Do you hear yourself right now?”
“I’m being rational.”
“You’re being an overprotective dad.”
“Jesus. Only you would take that as a compliment.”
“Yeah. You did. Whatever, it’s fine, I’ll wear the jacket.”
“Thank you, Dick.”
“I still think it’s unnecessary.”
“Well, wear it anyway.”
“Yeah, yeah, doing it. Hey, do you think I should wear fishnets under these next time?”
“ Richard John Grayson. ”
“I was joking!”
“I’m pretty sure everyone thinks we’re teenage delinquents.”
Robin grinned, fierce and dangerous, eyes narrowing underneath his sunglasses. “Technically we are. I broke a guy’s femur this morning.”
“Oh,” Wally blinked, processing. “Sounds like fun.”
“He was a pedophile, so yeah, it was.”
The two of them were in a playground, the time nearing twilight, so they were taking its abandoned state to their advantage. Robin had climbed on top of the monkey bars, perched on one rung. Kid Flash, who, after spending years as the best friend of quite possibly the most talented acrobat in the world, had picked up a thing or two, scrambled up after him, albeit clumsily.
Now, they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, sharing a pack of gummy worms. It was late autumn, and the crisp evening air gave Robin a reason to shuffle a little closer to Kid Flash’s warmth than normal, despite the fact that he was wearing a hoodie. KF didn’t say anything, just scooted closer himself.
“Anyway, you still haven’t answered my question,” KF said, poking Robin in the side.
“ What? ” Robin asked, drawing out the word.
“What are you getting me for my birthday? November 11th is only three days away, Rob. It’s my seventeenth. Which means you gotta get me something extra awesome.”
“I thought the extra awesome was at either 16 or 18,” Robin said. “You are turning neither.”
“Please! Pretty please! C’mon, Rob, you gotta give me something.”
“Actually,” Robin said, letting more of Dick into his voice than he normally ever did. “I already have your birthday present.”
“Yeah. With me. Right now.”
“ You do?” KF was practically vibrating.
“Justーjust don’t tell Batman.”
“I’m doing this without his permission,” Robin said, staring at the ground a good eight feet below him. “Because fuck what he says, you’re my best friend. And I want to tell you.”
“Dude,” KF said, “You’re not gonna tell me your real name or anything like that, right? Because I think Batman might legitimately murder me if you do.”
“No,” Robin said, turning to face the speedster, “but I am going to tell you this.”
“Okay,” Kid Flash, almost breathless with excitement, turned in response, swinging his legs on the other side of the rung so the two of them were facing each other. “Lay it on me.”
Robin simply held KF’s gaze for a little bit, tilting his head with his entire body. It was a gesture that owls did, and animal gestures always made people nervous. Cops, muggers, even children couldn’t figure out exactly why, but seeing those moves on a human body unnerved them to no end.
But Kid Flash had known Robin so long that he just quirked his head along with him, smiling all the while.
Robin straightened up and said, “You and I have the same birthday.”
There was a pause. Then. “Wait, seriously? ”
“Yeah. We share a birthday. November 11th for both of us.”
“Oh my God, Robin, that’s…” Robin watched Kid Flash struggle with finding the right words, and when they seemed to fail him, the speedster lunged towards him in a hug. Of course, he forgot he was on top of a set of monkey bars, and once he did figure it out, he overbalanced, so Robin swooped in to catch him. Still, it got the intended result: a hug.
Kid Flash was laughing, bright and sparkling. “We have the same birthday. Oh my God. It’s like we wereー” he cut himself off.
“Like we were what?” Robin asked softly.
“Nothing. Nevermind,” Kid Flash waved his hand.
Kid Flash had moved back, but was sitting a bar closer than before, and he was flushing red, that same red that took over his features so often when he was with Robin. His eyes were green and his freckles were orange-y red and his smile was midwestern-perfect and Robin decided to stop thinking so much.
Robin leaned forward, kissing KF once, quick and probably too hard and there . He moved back, and the two of them stared at each other for another second, before coming together almost automatically, kissing much softer and much slower. Kid Flash’s lips tasted like sugar and electricity, which was an odd combination, so Robin didn’t know why he was sucking on KF’s lips like he wanted more of it.
Just as Robin was starting to lean forward a little more, absentmindedly wondering whether or not he’d make it out of this encounter alive if he let KF lick his way into his mouth, Kid Flash overbalanced again and fell against his chest, and Robin locked his legs on a bar to keep them both from falling, and suddenly the two of them were collapsing into laughter like they were thirteen and eleven and prank-calling Green Lantern again.
“So,” Robin said, once they caught their breath. “That just happened.”
“It’s been happening in my mind for a lot longer,” KF mumbled, before realizing he said that particular thought out loud and turning redder than his mentor’s costume.
“Oh really?” Robin glanced at him, amused.
“Hush. It’s not...it isn’tーugh.”
“It’s okay,” Robin chuckled. “Me too.”
KF’s expression turned to one of awe, before joining Robin in his quiet laughter. Eventually, the two of them settled, resuming their positions on the monkey bars, with KF pressed all along Robin’s side and Robin’s head on KF’s shoulder.
But Robin had to make sure Kid Flash knew. He couldn’t go into whatever was happening right now without making sure the two of them were on the same page. “You know...you know you’re not my soulmate, right?”
KF sighed. “Yeah. You’re not mine either, but I don’t really care. Whoever my soulmate is can’t be as incredible as you, they just can’t.”
Robin nodded his agreement. “You’re my best friend, you know,” he said.
“I thought that was obvious,” KF snorted.
“Just making sure,” Robin said. He laced their hands together, KF following his lead as easy as breathing. “Happy birthday, KF.”
“Happy birthday, Rob,” Kid Flash said back, and dropped a kiss on Robin’s forehead. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.
“ーand I think I could convince him to bring doughnuts and oh hi Batman!”
“Rob and I are gonna go to the Metropolis Mall with the rest of the Titans. He, uh, told you that, right?”
“Please don’t murder me.”
“Batman doesn't kill.”
“That statement said in that way is not in the slightest bit reassuring.”
“Because Robin complains all the time about how you’re all overprotective and stuff and I know you know we’re kinda sorta dating because you’re Batman and you know everything and you’re still letting Rob come out with us and hang out with me like normal which is good but you’re glaring at me right now and you may be biding your time to eventually get rid of me for good and so I was just wondering if I could do anything to convince you to not blow me up and turn me into a tiny little pavement smear that used to be called Kid Flash becauseー”
“Kid Flash. Breathe.”
“Right. Sorry. So, uh…”
“No. I’m not going to kill you. You’ve saved Robin’s life multiple times, so you have my trust. For now. Do not break it.”
“Oh. Oh! Um, you got it, sir. I don’t, uh, I don’t plan on hurting him. At all. Ever.”
“Okay. So. Good talk.”
“What good talk?”
“Rob! Hey babe. We were just having a friendly little shovel talk and oh Jesus fuck. ”
“Robin. You are wearing...that.”
“Yeah, B. We’re going to a mall. So, yknow, I dressed accordingly.”
“So I see.”
“We literally had this conversation a couple months ago, B. You were fine with it.”
“Anyway, we ready to go, KF?”
“KF? You good?”
“You...uh. You’re wearing. Those .”
“ Those have a name. They’re called fishnets.”
“Yes. Yes! They’re, um, they’re pretty awesome.”
“Pretty awesome? Your entire face is the colour of your hair.”
“I’m going to be honest, there is not a single rational thought running through my head right now.”
“Oh good, so the fishnets did their job.”
“They what? ”
“Both of you. Go.”
“Uh. Yes sir, Batman, sir.”
“Bye, B! We’ll be back in a couple hours.”
“ Kid Flash! ”
“What? Yes! Sorry, what?”
“If you could stop staring at my ass long enough for us to actually get to the mall, that would be great.”
“Oh. Right. Yes. I’ll get right on that.”
“Ok ok, I’m coming.”
The only thing thrumming through Dick’s head was he said yes he said yes he said yes.
There had been a robot army that was disguised to look like an alien invasion to hide the involvement of one tech assistant fired from Wayne Industries for sexual assault in a plot to murder the president. The fight was brutal, the fight was bloody, the fight ended only after the Flash sacrificed his life to save Batman and almost died. Then, with the image of Flash flinging himself in front of Batman, Clark’s horrified scream ringing in his ear, Bruce had come home to see Wally West and Robin tangled together in the chair in front of the Batcomputer, limbs bent and bodies twisted to fit perfectly, clutching each other under a blanket as they watched the battle from a glowing blue screen.
So two days later, with Wally at home and an exhausted Dick eating a spicy omelette for breakfast, Bruce had allowed Dick to tell Wally his identity. Dick had stared at him uncomprehendingly for a couple seconds before the meaning of the words sunk into his brain, and he jumped up as if electrocuted. Stuffing the last bit of omelette into his mouth, he’d rivaled a speedster as he dashed around, trying to get ready.
And that led him here, Superman dropping him off a block from Barry Allen’s house. He was running on the sidewalk, shoes pounding the pavement yet never making a sound.
He could tell him, he could tell him, he could tell him. Dick Grayson could finally meet Wally West . It was everything he’d ever wanted since he met the other boy, and he couldn’t wait. Nerves and fears had started to take over his mind, but he’d pushed them all down with as much force as he could muster.
Dick bounded up the steps of the little suburban home, jamming the doorbell key frantically. After what had to be the sixth or seventh ring, Iris West opened the door.
“Hello?” She asked, a little frustrated, a little confused. “Who areー”
“Hi Ms. West. It’s me, Robin. I gotta see Wally,” Dick said in a rush, ducking past Iris’ arm in the doorway, leaving the woman confounded in his wake.
He took the stairs two at a time, feeling almost weightless. This was finally going to happen. He was going to tell Wally his identity, tell Wally everything he wanted without anything holding him back. He reached the top of the staircase and stumbled gracefully down the short corridor until he came to what was officially the guest room, but what every person in the house right now knew to be Wally’s room. He flung open the doorー
Only to be assaulted by some truly awful music blaring from speakers. Wally spun around at the sound, hairbrush in hand poised as a microphone, and sang in time with the song.
“ You’re packed and you’re stacked
Specially in the back,
Brother, wanna thank your mother
For a butt like that! ”
And the only thing Dick could think to say was, “Wasn’t that song in the Deadpool movie?”
That left the two of them staring dumbfounded at each other, with Shoop playing in the background. Dick’s hip burned. Then, at the same time, they burst into a flurry of conversation.
“You’re my soulmate?”
“Holy Jesus Christ in a fried shrimp roll, you’re Robin!? ”
“Wait, did I just say your words too?”
“Robin is Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson is Robin. I am dating Dick Grayson. ”
“Does this mean we’ve been soulmates the entire time?”
There was some more staring, and some more eye boggling, and a frankly alarming amount of red was crossing over Wally’s face.
“Let me see your soulmark,” Dick demanded, striding over.
Wordlessly, Wally pulled down his shirt collar to expose the words Wasn’t that the song from the Deadpool movie? scrawled across his collar bone.
“Yours?” Wally asked.
Dick lifted the hem of his sweater and pushed the edge of his shorts down a little to fully expose those four lines.
“Oh my God,” Wally said, a little hysterically. “You really have those words on you. Those words are your soulmark.”
“You can apologize anytime,” Dick said.
“Apologize? Are you kidding me? I gave you the greatest soulmark in the history of the world .”
Dick snorted and let his sweater fall down, then reached out to touch the words on Wally’s collarbone, tracing over them gently. “They’re beautiful,” he said.
“You have no idea how many times I’ve watched Deadpool,” Wally shook his head in response. “Ever since it came out it’s been on repeat in this house. It doesn’t hurt that it’s actually a decent movie, but still. I have it memorized ?”
“Seriously? Rewatching a movie?” Dick raised his eyebrows. “I started wearing nothing but leggings and jean shorts .”
“And I appreciated that so much.”
“Wow. Thanks Wally.”
“You’re welcome, babe. Honestly, the song was not wrong at all. Your soulmark rings true.”
“Is it even my soulmark, though?” Dick sighed.
“What?” Wally whipped his gaze up to meet Dick’s eyes, confused and concerned.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this before,” Dick said, dryly, “but we’ve met before, Wally.”
There was a pause. Then, biting his lip, Wally said, “No we haven’t.”
“What the- yes we have, Wally .”
“No. Kid Flash has met Robin before. But you’re apparently Dick Grayson, and Dick Grayson and Wally West are only just meeting.”
“Wally, Dick Grayson is Robin. I am Robin.”
“I don’t think so,” Wally said, stepping forward to grab Dick’s hands and lace them together. Dick found them kind of distracting in the middle of probably the most important conversation of his life, but he wasn’t going to let Wally go either.
“I’ve...seen you. You’re good, you’re really good. And it took me years of knowing you and you letting your guard down around me for me to catch it, and even then only barely. But there are times when it’s just me and you, and you’re so relaxed that you’re not Robin anymore. That hypervigilant, hypercompetent, highly trained vigilante is gone, and you’re there instead. ‘Cept course, I never really knew what I was looking at, but I could tell when you would snap that mask back on.”
And Dick...couldn’t disagree. Because how many times had he trained himself to recognize the difference between Batman and Bruce? It turned out he’d been doing the same thing all along.
All the same, “Robin’s a part of me, though. I can’t bear to lose it.”
“You won’t,” Wally said, drawing Dick closer. “Robin’s a huge part of you, and it always will be. But it isn’t all of you. Our soulmarks prove it.”
“The question, though, is if you’ll like all of me,” Dick said quietly, those fears he had suppressed bubbling up.
“Oh believe me,” Wally huffed out a laugh. “It goes both ways.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Dude. You’re Dick Grayson . You’re quite literally my celebrity crush. You’reーoh my God,” Wally stopped, a horrified look coming over his face. “I have ranted about how hot you are to your face .”
“That was a fun afternoon.”
“Well now I’m humiliated. You’re, like, one of the most attractive dudes in existence! Second only to Robin, but you are Robin. Oh my god how are you even with me right now. You’re a celebrity and I’m some random nerd from Missouri.”
“You’re not all the way a nerd,” Dick teased. “You also run cross country.”
At that, Wally snorted. “Right. Yeah. Still a little shit, I should’ve known.”
“I’m still me, Wally,” Dick said. “And you’re still you. All that’s different is now you know my name.”
But Wally shook his head. “What’s different is that now I get to learn everything about you that you were hiding before,” he said softly, untangling one of his hands from Dick’s fingers and bringing up to cup Dick’s jaw.
“Well then,” Dick said. “Dick Grayson Lesson Number One. Kissing his boyfriend is one of his most favourite things in the world.”
Wally’s lips still tasted like sugar and electricity, but Dick’s were caramel and coffee and every little bit of personality Robin wasn’t allowed to have, and Dick let Wally lick that personality right into his own mouth.
“Wally. Babe. This case is important.”
“And because of you I can’t move right now.”
“If B walks in here right now he will beat you into a bloody pulp.”
“I’m serious. You’ll be all broken and bruised and then I’ll have to nurse you back to health except I can’t nurse you back to health because I have this case to work on.”
“Wally, seriously, let me go- oh fuck . Wally!”
“You’re being distracting.”
“ You’re the one being distracting. You started it.”
“How did I start it?”
“Okay that’s sweet but Wally you are not helping. ”
“You distracted me, so now I’m just getting back at you. It’s my job.”
“There are cameras in the cave, you know. They’re recording everything.”
“Good, we can rewatch this later.”
“Why are you like this.”
“You know exactly why.”
“Do I? Do I really?”
“Your soulmark practically predicted it.”
“ You’re packed and you’re stacked, specially in the back~ ”
“ Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that.”