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A Little Birdie Told Me

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The maze is crumbling. Walls coming down, new paths forged. Forced. The Court went after the Batman and failed, and they have paid for that dearly. 

The Talon freezes, tucks himself in the corner as the heavy footsteps come closer. He knows it is the Batman, coming for him, to put him into the cold with the rest of the Talons. The rest of the Court. 

He is smaller than the rest of them, and not fully trained. Not fully mutated, either. Not yet. Not ever, now. Thanks to the Batman. 

The footsteps stop. Talon stiffens. He can hear the Batman breathing, not far from his hiding spot. 

“You don’t need to be afraid of me.” Batman says softly. Talon knows that he knows he will be heard. “I don’t want to hurt you, Richard.”

Richard. It is a name he knew once. He thinks it might have belonged to someone important to him. 

“You killed the rest of them.” Talon hisses. “You will do the same to me.”

“You are a child.” Batman turns to face him, but doesn’t come any closer. “I will not hurt you.” He promises. Talon blinks at him. 

“I cannot trust you.” He spits.

“You have no reason to trust me.” Batman agrees. “But I will take care of you, if you let me.”

And Talon does not want to. But what other choice does he have?

“I want to return your life to you, Richard.” Batman whispers. The name bounces around in Talon’s head. 

“I think I prefer Dick.” His whispers, edging out into the light. Batman nods.

“Dick, then. I want to give you your life back, Dick.” 

* * *

Talon-Dick doesn’t trust Batman, though he goes with him. He simply does not see another choice. Batman is right, he is young. Small. Weak. Not fit to be in Gotham by himself. He needs the protection of another, and that is what Batman is promising him. 

Over time, though, the Batman proves more trustworthy. 

He told Talon-Dick of his true identity the night he was brought to the Manor. He calls Talon-Dick simply “Dick”, as if it has always been his name. Talon-Dick likes that. Likes that Batman-Bruce treats him like a whole person instead of an incomplete project. He likes the butler, too. Agent A-Alfred is kind to him, including him whenever he cooks so that Talon-Dick knows that there is no poison. It does not matter, much of the time. There is not much food that Talon-Dick can digest. He tries not to let it bother him, but he wants to participate in meals. He does not like feeling left out. 

He has not gotten Agent A-Alfred to stop calling him Master. As time goes on, he thinks it bothers him less. Agent A-Alfred has accepted Talon-Dick exactly as he is, perhaps Talon-Dick should try to do the same. 

Talon-Dick accompanies Batman-Bruce to the cave one night several months after the destruction of the Court. Batman-Bruce has something for him, or so he says. Talon-Dick finds that he likes not being punished for his curiosity. 

Batman-Bruce presents him with a costume of his own, more colorful than anything he would have been allowed by the Court. It looks to be at the same level of functionality, however, and made of the same material as the Batman suit. 

“I thought you might like to accompany me on patrol sometimes.” Batman-Bruce sounds hesitant. Talon-Dick just stares at him, eyes wide. He has been told that his stare can be unsettling, especially without contacts like he is now, but Batman-Bruce does not back down. After a moment, Talon-Dick nods. 

“I would like that. I think.” It is hard, sometimes, for Talon-Dick to determine what he would or would not like. Neither Batman-Bruce nor Agent A-Alfred have punished him for it, but Talon-Dick has not let his guard down entirely. But the longer he stays, the less convinced of inevitable punishment he becomes. 

* * *

Talon-Dick does not enjoy having to go to school. The other children clearly do not like him - their heart rates increase when he enters a room, and their sweat smells like fear. 

Some of the braver - or perhaps more obedient - ones approach him anyway. Talon-Dick understands that he holds a new position in society, even if he does not like it or truly understand why. But many of the children have been encouraged to befriend Bruce Wayne’s adopted son. They do not wish to be his friend because they like him. They wish to improve social standing, whether their own or their parents, Talon-Dick doesn’t care.

“Richard!” One of them calls. Talon-Dick can hear their footsteps against the concrete floor despite the steady stream of babble surrounding him. “Do you have a date to the dance this weekend?” 

“I’m not going” Talon-Dick says stiffly. His classmate raises their eyebrows. 

“Really? I thought… well, you should come! Some of us are going as a group, you could join us.”

“Bruce and I will be out of town, actually.” Talon-Dick lies. A surprising amount of the skills he learned with the Court have been applicable at Gotham Academy. Talon-Dick is certain this is because no small amount of the students there were raised by its members. 

“Oh. That’s too bad.” His classmate is saying. They do not mean it. Talon-Dick does not care. 

“Maybe next time.” He offers anyway, hurrying away before they can say anything else. 

“B,” he says later, at dinner - Batman-Bruce is eating a pasta dish that smells delicious but Talon-Dick cannot eat. His own dish is a much plainer version - “did you go to school dances?” 

“Sometimes.” Batman-Bruce answers after a moment of thought. “Less after my parents died, but I never had much interest in them. Why do you ask?” 

Talon-Dick knows now that Batman-Bruce is asking because he wants to know Talon-Dick’s thought process and not so he can correct his thinking. 

“There is a dance this weekend. But I told someone that we would be out of town.” He says quickly, before Bruce can get any ideas. 

“Okay.” He says easily. “Where would you like to go?” 

Talon-Dick blinks at him. He has never been outside of Gotham, and says as much. Bruce tilts his head, considering. 

“I think you’ll like London.” He says finally. Talon-Dick can do nothing but nod. 

“And I was thinking you might like to meet some of the other League proteges.” Batman-Bruce has always been careful to avoid calling Talon-Dick his sidekick. He is thoughtful in ways that Talon-Dick had never realized people were capable of. 

“I did not realize there were others.” Talon-Dick admits. Batman-Bruce nods. 

“Not many.” He concedes. “But you might enjoy spending time with people your age who understand the idea of multiple identities.” 

“I would like that.” Talon-Dick decides.

“I’ll set it up.” The grin he gives Talon-Dick has no trace of Batman in it. Talon-Dick finds he likes it. 

* * *

The proteges Bruce told him about are, somehow, nothing like Talon-Dick was expecting. More than anything, though, none of them are scared of him. Speedy treats him exactly the same as he does Kid Flash, and Aqualad seems both impressed and unimpressed by all of them. Even with his skills, Talon-Dick finds the Atlantean difficult to read. He finds it does not bother him as much as it would have before his time with Bruce. 

At Bruce’s suggestion, he doesn’t tell them he’s a Talon. It isn’t necessarily that he doesn’t want them to know - they are not from Gotham and would not know the significance of the title. But he wants to be able to just be. He wants to learn who he is outside of the Court and their expectations, and outside of the ever-present need to impress Bruce. 

To his own surprise, Talon-Dick enjoys spending time with the other heroes outside of their training sessions almost more than he does the training. This feeling only intensifies when Superboy joins them, filling in the space Speedy left behind nicely. 

It is easy to let the team believe that all of Dick’s skills come from a combination of his time in the circus as child - despite the fact he can barely remember it - and the training Batman has out him through. He and Bruce had discussed several different pasts that he could claim, but Dick had wanted to stick as close to the truth as he could without revealing anything about the Court.

He wants these people to be his friends. And, as far as he can tell, friends aren’t supposed to lie to each other. 
Between the training and the socializing, Dick rarely has time to be bored anymore. Alfred is clearly relieved - he does not approve of Dick’s default activity of throwing knives at increasingly difficult targets. His greatest feat was a line of knives lined up perfectly along the bannister in the entry hall, but Alfred still shudders whenever he looks at the holes it left. 

* * * 

Out of all the team members, Dick sleeps the least. Part of it is that he’s a Talon, and simply doesn’t need the rest. The other part is everyone else. 

He can hear Conner sneaking into M’Gann’s room every night, and he can hear what they’re doing. He hates that he knows that they don’t talk much after everyone’s gone to bed. He hates that he knows what they sound like when they make out. He hates that he knows when they start doing more than that. 

There’s a similar problem when Zatanna joins the team, after her dad becomes Dr. Fate. She and Artemis hit it off immediately. They spend… a lot of time together. 

“Do you think Artemis would go out with me?” Wally asks. He and Dick are the only ones in the common room - Kaldur is Atlantis, Conner and M’Gann are out on a date somewhere. Artemis and Zatanna have disappeared into the mountain somewhere. Dick could find them if he wanted, but he doesn’t care right now. He likes having all of Wally’s attention to himself. 

“No.” Dick says firmly. Wally gives him a look.

“You sound pretty sure. Is it me? Oh shit-“

“Walls. Shut up. I’m pretty sure she’s going out with Zatanna.” 

“Oh. Oh.” Wally pauses. “How do you know?” 

“I mean, I don’t. It’s just a feeling.” Dick shrugs.

“I can’t believe we’re the only single ones on the whole team. We’re obviously the hottest.”

“Oh, definitely.” Dick snorts. Wally, sure. But Dick is pretty sure that no one finds bright yellow eyes attractive. 

“Hey, you’re getting down on my best friend, there, and I just can’t let that happen. Sorry, dude.” 

* * * 

Dick sniffs carefully at the air, making sure his sunglasses are in place before he slips out into the hall, following the smell of M’Gann’s cooking through Mount Justice. 

“Too much pepper.” He says after pretending to taste it. M’Gann nods.

“Thanks, Robin - Nightwing.” She corrects herself with a smile before adding a splash of milk and another pinch of cheese. Dick pretends to lick his spoon again as he smells the steam coming from the pot.

“Maybe a little more salt, too.” He says, dropping the spoon in the sink before drifting towards the common room. M’Gann nods absently. 

Dick can hear Conner talking to Red Tornado in the mission room, and it sounds like… yes, Kaldur is on the phone, maybe with Aquaman. Artemis and Zatanna aren’t back from Happy Harbor yet, though Dick thinks they’re getting closer. Wally is… pacing. Again. 

“What’s up, KF?” Dick asks, dropping silently onto the couch beside him. Wally sighs. 

“Stuff at school, mostly. It’s hard, balancing all of this,” he waves an arm around them, “and school, and a social life. You know.”

Dick doesn’t know. He doesn’t have to sleep much, and he doesn’t have friends at school, really. They think he’s creepy. 

“Yeah.” He says anyway. “I get it.”

“I think you’re the only one that does, dude.” Wally sighs again, then flings himself across Dick on the couch. “You’re so bony. Do they not feed you in Gotham?”

“Agent A would be offended by the very insinuation.” Dick says dryly. Wally laughs. 

“There anything going on with you, though? I feel like all we talk about are my problems. What’s going on in the life of the mysterious Nightwing?” 

Dick hesitates for a moment. 

“Found another type of food I can’t really process.” He admits. “It’s exhausting. And Agent A is trying so hard. But I was just too messed up for too long, you know? It sucks.” 

“I can’t even imagine. I just… inhale everything. Like, there were a few things that didn’t really sit right before the experiment, but now…” Wally shakes his head. Dick feels it against his arm more than he sees it, really. 

“Well. Lucky you.” It’s a conversation they’ve had before, and there’s no heat in Dick’s voice now. Wally snorts into Dick’s side. 

“Oh, someone tried to steal the tires off the Batmobile.” Dick says, pushing up into a more upright position. Wally flails as he falls to the floor. 

“Someone tried to rob Batman?” He asks. “Like physically remove the tires from the Batmobile, possibly the scariest vehicle in existence.”

“You’re the only one that thinks that.”

“I’m not. You think the Gotham rogues like that thing any more than I do? You’re wrong, Rob. Wrong.”
“But yeah, B was out on patrol last week. And this kid is trying to take the tires off the Batmobile. He’s probably, like. Twelve. B was just gonna make him put them back, but the kid ran.” 

“Yeah, I would too if I got caught trying to rob Batman. Jesus.” Wally shakes his head as he pulls himself back onto the couch. 

What Dick doesn’t tell him is that he went after the kid himself, followed him to an abandoned townhouse in the middle of Crime Alley where the kid had set up some kind of home base in the basement. It was a smart move, to get underground in the middle of another unforgiving Gotham summer. He’d told Bruce where the kid was hiding out, but he’s not sure if Bruce has actually done anything about it, yet. Or if he will at all. 

Part of Dick is hoping that he will, because the kid clearly needs help that Bruce is clearly willing to provide. The other part is all too aware of the fact that, time with Bruce aside, Dick is a Talon, and this kid is from Gotham. Maybe he’ll move into Mount Justice if Bruce brings the kid in. Dick won’t make him live under the same roof as a legend he’s probably feared since he could talk.

“What are you thinking about?” Wally asks, poking Dick in the side. “You got all quiet, and that’s your thinking frown.” 

“I don’t have a thinking frown.” Dick protests, batting Wally’s hand away. 

“You do, you’re doing it right now. So what’s up?” 

“It’s just… Batman should help the kid if he can. But what if it isn’t safe?” 

“Isn’t with Batman the safest place to be in Gotham?” 

“You’d think so.” Dick mutters. Wally frowns at him, but Dick doesn’t elaborate. 

* * *

The team falls into something of a pattern. They hang out, train, Batman comes and gives them a mission. But this mission is grueling

They get caught in an explosion one night, and Dick goes flying off the catwalk he’d been creeping down. He lands hard on one foot, can feel the bones snap. Across the room, Kon winces like he heard it. Dick just grits his teeth, dragging himself closer to the wall until it can heal. 

There’s another explosion. The team scatters. Even Wally, who had been making his way towards Dick, is out of sight. Dick can hear them yelling, but the fallen support beam in front of him is going to make it difficult for them to reach him. 

He assesses the area as his ankle puts itself back together - if he can make it to that wall, he should be able to blast a hole in it with some of the explosives in one of his pockets. He can make it to the rendezvous point from there. Hopefully the team won’t try too hard to get through the rubble - his comms are down. 

“Rendezvous point!” He shouts, hoping that Kon can hear him. He’ll find out soon enough. 

The whole team looks surprised when he lands in front of them, grapple gun in hand. 

“I heard your ankle break.” Kon says. 

“And I watched it.” Artemis adds. Dick bites back a sigh. He knew they would find out eventually, but he’d hoped it wouldn’t be like this. 

“Not here. Please.” He says. “We need to get out of the open.” Kaldur, who has been watching him carefully, nods his agreement. 

“Nightwing is correct. But do not think you’re getting out of this conversation.” 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Dick laughs. Kaldur grins wryly as he leads them back to the bioship. 

Dick is ready to hit the showers as soon as they get back to Mount Justice, but Artemis stops him with a glare. Dick raises his hands in surrender. 

“Fine. Sorry I didn’t want to have this conversation covered in… whatever this is.” He gestures between all of them. 

“The couch has seen worse.” Wally reasons, cutting a glance towards Conner and M’Gann. Dick winces. He knows exactly how much worse - he’s never wished to have normal hearing more than he has while living with the team. 

“The faster you explain, the faster you can shower.” It sounds like a threat, but most of the things Artemis says do. 

He follows the team into the tv room, sitting heavily on the couch. Wally tucks himself into Dick’s side, a show of support even though he has no idea what Dick is about to say. 

Dick is struck, for a moment, by how lucky he is to have Wally as a friend, or as whatever they are now, four dates in. He laces their hands together. 

“Please stop looking at him like that.” Conner groans. 

“Like you have any room to talk.” Artemis snorts. 

“I believe we are owed an explanation.” Kaldur says mildly. Dick lets out a long breath. 

“There’s a legend in Gotham,” he starts.

No.” Artemis interrupts. “They don’t exist.” 

“What doesn’t exist?” M’Gann asks. 

“The Court of Owls is not real. There is no such thing as a Talon.” Artemis spits. Every muscle in her body is tense as she pushes down her fight or flight instincts. 

“They were real.” Dick whispers. “But I’m the only one left.” He peels off his mask and looks up at them with yellow eyes. 

Artemis is gone before he can even put it down. 

“What’s a Talon?” Conner asks. 

“Why is Artemis so upset?” M’Gann adds, staring down the hall after their friend. 

“Talons are assassins.” Dick says. “Chosen by the Court of Owls - select members of Gotham’s most elite - and altered to be more… efficient. They don’t feel pain and they’re… functionally immortal. They don’t age.”

“You age. We’ve seen it.” Wally protests. 

“I’m… incomplete. Batman dismantled the Court before they could, ah, sink their claws in all the way.”

Kaldur hasn’t said anything yet. Dick keeps talking. 

“Artemis is upset because the Court and their assassins have been used as a cautionary tale in Gotham. ‘Beware The Court of Owls, that watches all the time…’” He shakes his head. “Kids are brought up to be terrified of Talons. And for good reason. They were dangerous.” 

“But you are the last one.” Kaldur says. 

“Yes. The only way they can be stopped is extreme cold. Batman put them all on ice. I was nine.”

Wally burrows closer to Dick, tucking his face in Dick’s neck. 

“That must have sucked.” He says, voice muffled. Dick just nods. 

“Do you think Artemis will come around?” M’Gann asks quietly. 

“I don’t know. She grew up hearing stories about how people like me would kill her on a whim. Can you come back from that?” 

“I hope so.” M’Gann murmurs. Dick just frowns. 

* * *

Bruce brings the kid - Jason Todd - to the Manor when Dick is on a mission with Arsenal and Superboy and tells him about the older brother he can expect whenever he gets back. Their missions have to tendency to go slightly awry. 

“What did you tell him?” Dick asks, standing next to Bruce in the door of the library on his first night back. It’s possible that the mission took much longer than it was supposed to. Jason’s been in the Manor long enough now that he looks comfortable curled up in one of the old armchairs in the library, stacks of books surrounding him. 

“That you’re highly skilled and fiercely loyal. I think he likes you already.” Bruce says, chuckling. Dick levels him with a glare. Bruce raises his hands in surrender. 

“You can stop staring anytime.” Jason says, not bothering to look up as he turns a page. Dick smiles as he steps into the room. 

“What’s your favorite book?” He asks, settling on the arm of Jason’s chair. Jason looks up at him, considering. 

“Right now, it’s this one.” He lifts the book in his hands so Dick can see the cover - Pride and Prejudice. “Later, it might be something else.” 

“Fair enough.” Dick allows. “Maybe you can put together a list of the ones you come back to the most for me.” Jason eyes him, wary.

“If you want.” 

“I do. We can start a book club, right, B?” 

“If Jason wants.” 

They both turn to the boy in question. 

“Uh. Maybe, yeah. That could be cool.” 

“Awesome.” Dick stops himself from reaching over to ruffle the kid’s hair - there’s tension in every line of his back and shoulders. He clearly doesn’t like being the center of attention. 

“Hey, B, I think I’m gonna stay in tonight. Had a long weekend.” Dick says, moving to settle into his own armchair. Jason’s eyes widen as he speaks, like he doesn’t really believe Dick is giving up a night of patrol to spend time with him.

“Sounds good, Dick. I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself.” Bruce smiles at both of them before he disappears down the hall. 

“So, Jay. Where should I start?” 

Jason frowns, considering, then he hands Dick a book from the piles around him. 

“This one.” It’s an old copy of Jane Eyre. Dick settles in happily, wrapping one of the plush blankets around his shoulders before opening the book. He can feel Jason’s eyes on him for a while, but he goes back to his book eventually. 

Half an hour later, Alfred comes in with a tea tray. He pours for both of them, then slips out the door. Dick sips his tea for a moment, letting Jason do the same before he speaks. 

“What did Bruce tell you about me?” 

“That you’re one of the best things that ever happened to him.” Jason answers quickly. Dick blinks, shocked. Bruce is absolutely the best thing that’s happened to him, but he didn’t think Bruce felt the same. “He said you’re a great hero, and a good leader.”

“Did he tell you about my life before I came here?” Dick asks carefully. Jason shakes his head.

“He said it was pretty bad, and that you would tell me about it yourself.”

“He’s right - it was pretty bad.” Dick bites his lip, hiding the movement behind his teacup. Even after all these years, he feels guilty when he projects like that. “Jason, what do you know about the Court of Owls?” 

“That’s a myth.” Jason snorts, dismissive. His expression changes as he looks at Dick. “Right?”

“Batman took down the entire Court seven years ago. He… he saved me from them.” 

“What do you mean? I thought you were in the circus before Bruce.” Jason’s doing a good job of hiding his frustration, but Dick can hear it anyway. He takes a deep breath. 

“Jason. I’m a Talon.” The younger boy stiffens at the title. “I just… wanted to make sure you had all the facts. I… I can live at Mount Justice full time if it makes you feel better. Bruce is a really good man, and you shouldn’t have to give up on all this,” he gestures to the room around them, “because of me.” 

It’s quiet for a moment. 

“I thought Talons were supposed to be scary.” Jason blurts. He looks horrified as soon as he realizes what he said. “Oh god. I mean-“ He cuts himself off when he realizes Dick is laughing so hard there are tears streaming down his face. 

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever called me scary.” He manages after a minute. “‘Unsettling’, sure, but not scary. I’m not a full Talon.” He explains. “Bruce took the Court down before they could… complete the process.” 

“Is that better?” Jason asks. His book lies forgotten on his lap. Dick shrugs as he takes another careful sip of his tea. Jason copies the action. 

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. Though it does mean I can get away with eating some stuff. And I don’t have those nasty black veins.” He holds a hand out as proof. “So, better for blending in, if nothing else.” 

“So what can you do?” Jason asks eagerly. Dick’s grin widens. 

“Wanna see?” Jason nods. Dick sweeps him out of his chair, settling Jason easily on his back. He carries him down to the cave, to where they keep the throwing knives. Even after all this time, they’re his favorite. And he’s definitely trying to show off. Jason watches, awed. 

“Can you teach me?” He asks when Dick is done. 

“Absolutely.” 

Bruce comes back from patrol to find them in a heap on one of the sparring mats, breathing heavily, with matching grins. He smiles fondly at both of them. 

They don’t get along all of the time, of course. They argue again before Dick has to go off planet with the team. Dick doesn’t want to leave it like that, but he knows that Jason knows he loves him. They’ll talk it out when Dick gets back. 

* * *

Except they won’t. Bruce doesn’t even call. He hears it from Alfred, two months after the fact. Jason is dead at the hands of the Joker. The entire team looks horrified when he tells them - they’re still in the bioship, making their way back to Earth. 

Dick goes deadly still as they get closer. The team hates it. He’s always moving, fidgeting, saying something. His eyes glow like lamps in the low light, his fingers dig into the arms of his chairs, knuckles white. 

It’s the first time they see him more as a Talon than as the friend they’ve known for years. It’s the first time they’re really scared of him. Even Wally, though he stays determinedly in the seat next to Dick’s. Later, Dick will appreciate it. Now, he can’t think beyond the fact that the man that killed his little brother is still walking around Gotham torturing people. 

“I need to go.” He says as soon as they get back to Mount Justice. “I have to.”

The others just nod.

“Call me when you can, okay?” Wally asks, squeezing Dick’s hand. But it’s like Dick doesn’t hear him. He returns the pressure on his hand, however briefly, then disappears into the zeta tube.

Recognized. Nightwing, B-01.

Fuck.” Wally yells, knocking a crate over. 

“Yeah.” Artemis agrees.

* * *

Dick arrives in Gotham with one goal in mind. The Joker dies. Tonight.

It doesn’t take long to track him down. Thugs in Gotham still fear the Court despite the fact that they haven’t been active in years. And an improvised Talon costume will put a lot of fear in a lot of people. 

The Joker seems to be waiting for him. 

“A Talon for my head?” He cackles. “How… poetic.” 

“You have been sentenced to die.” Dick growls. 

“By who? The Court of Owls hasn’t been active in years.” 

Me.” Dick flies at him, flicking the blades from his sleeves. The clown never stood a chance. 

He doesn’t go to Bruce, after. He shouldn’t have had to kill the Joker - Bruce should have done it two months ago, after he killed Jason. It doesn’t matter now. It’s done. 

He calls Wally. 

He goes to Wally’s apartment in Central City. 

* * * 

Wally can’t stop pacing. He knows, somewhere, that Dick is functionally immortal. He’s seen Dick walk off injuries that would put any of their other friends in the ground. 

The rest of the team sent him home when they realized what Dick was doing. They were going to have some difficult decisions to make. He’s too biased to help make them, and he’ll side with Dick either way. Because it doesn’t matter. Wally knows he won’t do this again, not unless something similarly horrific happens. 

His phone rings.

“Wally?” Dick’s voice cracks on the single syllable.

“I’m here, babe.”

“Where are you?”

“Central. Do you- can you get here? I can come to you.”

“No, I’ll… I can zeta. I’ll see you soon.” The line clicks off. Wally rushes around, straightening things up just for something to do. He knows Dick doesn’t care about the mess, he never has (he’s just as bad), but Wally can’t just sit and wait for him. He stops in the bathroom, hand on the shower faucet. After a moment of thought, he runs the tap on the bathtub instead. He has a bottle of the bubble bath Dick likes somewhere… the hears the lock click. Wally’s shoulders relax. If Dick is here, he’s safe.

“In the bathroom.” Wally says, confident that Dick will hear him. He hears a blade hit the floor, then the rustle of some kind of jacket. When Dick joins him, he’s wearing a pair of brown pants and a plain shirt. There’s a pair of yellow goggles pushed into his hair. 

“It’s done.” He says. Wally nods. 

“C’mon, get in.” He gestures to the slowly filling bathtub. Dick just nods, does as he’s told. Wally takes a moment to feel weird about it, but pushes the thought aside when he finds the bottle he’d been looking for.

When he turns back, Dick has settled against the back of the tub, head tilted back, eyes closed.  

“Scoot.” Wally says, sliding his pajamas off to join him. Dick slides forward just enough for Wally to settle in behind him. They sit, silent, as the water cools and the bubbles dissipate around them.

“Thank you.” Dick murmurs as they stand. Wally presses a kiss to his shoulder, the only part of Dick he can reach at the moment.

“I would do the same for you.” He admits. Dick turns to stare at him, eyes wide. “Don’t look surprised.”

“I love you.” Is all Dick says. Wally pulls him close.

“I love you too.” 

* * *

Dick moves to Blüdhaven. He still hasn’t spoken to Bruce, though he’s been in sporadic contact with Alfred. 

The city takes a lot of his attention, between getting himself settled in an apartment and at a job, then as a vigilante. People know who Nightwing is, though it seems to take them a while to realize he’s here for them, now. It’s not easy, setting up shop in a new city. But he’s grateful for the work right now. It keeps him from thinking about Jason.

“This place is kind of a shithole.” Wally says the first time he comes over. 

“Fits the area.” Dick shrugs. Wally snorts. 

“Come on. We’re getting you some new furniture, rich boy.” 

Dick lets Wally drag him into different stores, picking out furniture from the options Wally presents. He’s so grateful for Wally, for the fact that Wally knows everything there is to know about him. He takes control when Dick needs him too, when decisions are too overwhelming. He steps back, too, when Dick feels like he’s the only one in his brain. 

“I’m so lucky to have you.” Dick murmurs as they settle into bed that night. 

“I love you too, Dick.” Wally answers, mostly asleep. Dick drifts in and out, listening to Wally’s heartbeat. 

* * * 

They patrol together, when Wally can spare the time. Dick isn’t Bruce, he doesn’t have any kind of no metas rule. Not that it had kept Wally out of Gotham anyway.

It’s Wally that finds the kid. 

A tiny kid in a domino mask and a homemade Robin costume. 

“I’m looking for Nightwing.” He says. Wally can hear his voice shaking. 

“Of course you are.” Wally groans. “Okay, come on.”

He starts towards the edge of the roof, and what is it with these Gotham kids and roofs, but the kid doesn’t move.

“You coming?” Wally asks. “Where are you taking me?” The kid asks warily. Wally rolls his eyes.

“To Nightwing. Or do you not want to see him tonight?” 

“I do. I need to talk to him.” 

“Then let’s go.” 

Robin - and Wally feels weird calling him that, even in his head, but he doesn’t have anything else - follows him closely through the city. He looks nervous. 

“What do you need from Nightwing?” Wally asks as they get closer to the apartment building. 

“He needs to come back to Gotham. Batman is… it’s bad.” Robin admits. Wally bites down on a wince. It’s been months since Dick moved to Blüdhaven, and Wally knows he hasn’t heard from Batman since then. 

“Well, Batman hasn’t exactly been great to him either.”

Robin frowns. 

“Did he kill the Joker?” He asks quietly. Wally pauses with his key in the door. 

“He did.” Out of the corner of his eye, Wally sees Robin nod. 

“Babe?” Wally asks as he steps into the apartment, gesturing for Robin to follow.

“I’m here!” Dick calls, climbing back in the window. He’s wearing a tshirt and sweatpants and his hair is wet like he just got out of the shower. He hasn’t bothered to put his contacts in. Wally relaxes a little at the sight of him but he can feel Robin tense behind him.

“Walls? Who’s this?” Dick asks.

“Um. I’m Tim.” Robin offers. He steps out from behind Wally shyly, like he’s afraid of what Dick’s reaction might be. To be fair, Wally would be, too. 

They can both tell the second Dick registers what Tim is wearing. He freezes, shoulders tensing, arms drawing closer to his sides. Wally has seen greater men cower under the glare Dick unleashes on the kid, but Tim doesn’t look surprised. Scared, sure. But not surprised. 

“Why are you wearing that?” Dick demands. His voice is doing that scary Talon thing that Wally hates. 

“You need to come back to Gotham.” Tim blurts. “Batman needs you.”

“If Batman needs me, he knows where to find me.” Dick scoffs. He hasn’t relaxed any. Wally drags him over to the couch. 

“Sit. I’m gonna change. You two, talk.” 

They aren’t talking when Wally comes back. Dick is still glaring, and Tim is picking at the hem of his cape. 

“So. Tim. How’d you find us?” Wally asks. 

“Well, I figured out who Batman and Robin were forever ago, and I noticed when you became Nightwing.” Tim starts. Wally glances at Dick, but he’s ignoring that bombshell. “And when the last Robin died, Batman… changed.” 

“What do you mean?” Wally asks carefully. Tim frowns. 

“He’s more dangerous. Not pulling punches.”

“Good.” Dick mutters. Wally elbows him.

“It’s scary.” Tim whispers. 

“You’re Tim Drake.” Dick says suddenly. The kid stares at him.

“How did you- Talon. Right.” 

“You know about that?” Wally asks. Tim just gives him a look. 

“Okay, you know what? You shouldn’t be here, Tim. It’s late, I’m sure someone is looking for you.”

“They’re not.” Tim mutters. Dick and Wally exchange a look. 

“Either way, you shouldn’t be here.” Wally says. He meets Dick’s eyes again. “I can run him back to Gotham.” He murmurs, quiet enough that Tim shouldn’t be able to hear. Dick frowns, but nods. 

“I’m gonna take you back to Gotham.” Wally tells Tim. The kids frowns. 

“Please don’t fight us on this.” Dick sighs. “I can’t stop you from being Robin if that’s what you really want, but Bruce is a grown man. You shouldn’t run around solving his problems for him.”

“I just want to help.” Tim whispers. 

“And I get it. But Robin’s a dangerous gig. You need to know that going in.” 

“I know what happened to Jason Todd.” Tim snaps. “And I know what you did about it.”

“And I would do it again.” Dick snaps. “Go home, Tim.” He’s off the couch and halfway to the bedroom in one fluid motion. Tim just watches him go. 

“Come on, I’ll run you back.” Wally sighs. Tim turns to him, wide-eyed. Not that Wally can see beneath the domino, but he has some experience with how they stretch as the people wearing

them move their faces. 

“I’m a Flash, remember?”

“Yeah, I just. I’ve never traveled at superspeed before.” Tim admits. Wally grins at him.

“Get ready, then.” 

* * *

The kid does become Robin. Dick isn’t surprised, he didn’t really think he could talk Tim out of it. And, despite his best efforts, he likes the kid. He’s smart as hell and quick as anything, and so willing to call people out on their bullshit. 

He still doesn’t think Tim should be Robin. But if he’s insisting on keeping the job, Dick is going to make sure he’s well-prepared. 

It might be the thing that saves his life. 

Tim is staying overnight at Mount Justice when he hears the zeta come to life.

Recognized. Robin B13.” 

“B13?” Conner asks sleepily from the couch next to Tim. “You’re B20.”

“Yeah. Call Nightwing.” Tim says, setting his laptop down on the coffee table. 

The man standing in the mission room is built. He looks like he could snap Tim in half if he wanted to. 

“The replacement.” He growls. Tim runs. 

The guy catches him in the memorial room. He fights like a beast, hitting hard and fast in a style Tim’s never seen before. But Tim has been trained by a Talon. He moves quickly, uses his opponent’s momentum against him. He keeps a knife in his sleeve that Batman doesn’t know about, which means no ones else does either. He swipes at the other guy, but he dodges. Knocks the knife out of Tim’s hand. 

Tim swears. 

His opponent grins cruelly. He lunges again, and his hood falls back. 

“It is you.” Tim whispers. Jason Todd lunges at him again. 

The knife catches Tim on the throat as he turns. His hand flies up. Jason looks like he’s ready for another pass, but someone is coming in, yelling Tim’s name. 

“You got lucky this time.” Jason snarls, disappearing into the shadows. All Tim can do is stare after him, one hand pressed to the cut on his neck. 

“Tim, you’re bleeding.” Kon says. “Who was that?” 

“No one.” Tim mutters. “Batman training exercise.” 

“And they cut you? Dude, that’s fucked.”

“Yeah. It is.”

* * *

Dick makes Tim tell him about the encounter twice.

“Whoever it was, they looked exactly like him.” 

“I just… Bruce buried him. He watched them put the coffin in the ground.” Dick runs a hand through his hair. 

“You weren’t there?” Tim asks carefully. Dick barks out an angry laugh.

“No. I was on another planet with the team. Bruce didn’t think it was important enough to try to get a message to me. Thought I would be ‘distracted’.” He’s gone still in the way Tim has learned he’s really pissed. They’re quiet for a moment.

“Sorry. I just… don’t think I can ever forgive Bruce for that.” Dick says quietly. Tim just nods - there’s not much he can really say to that. He has no idea how he would react in a situation like that. 

“I’m gonna go find him.” Dick says suddenly. He pushes back from the table, balancing easily when the chair tips back. “I’ll see you later, Tim.” A moment later, the zeta tube announces his departure. 

It’s raining in Gotham. It’ll make Dick’s job a little harder - the water dampens scents just like it does everything else - but not impossible. Dick does have the senses of a Talon, after all. 

And the man with Jason Todd’s face is waiting for him. 

“Bats send you to hunt me down?” He demands when Dick steps into the rundown apartment. Dick scoffs, taking the room in as he answers. His eyes dance across peeling wallpaper and broken lights, landing briefly on the bomb crudely hidden in the fireplace. 

“I haven’t spoken to Batman outside of a... professional capacity in a very long time.” 

“No?” The man in front of him is pretending to clean his nails with the tip of a knife. He’s wearing gloves. 

“Not after he neglected to tell me that the Joker killed someone I care very much about.” That gets his attention. 

“He didn’t tell you?” 

“No. He didn’t.” Dick pauses. “I killed the Joker for it either way, but I would have liked to hear it from him.” 

“Jesus Christ.” Jason mutters. And it’s definitely Jason, Dick can see it in the way he stands, the way his shoulders tilt ever so slightly to the right. 

“You killed him?” Jason asks quietly. Dick nods. Jason’s shoulders sag - with relief or something else, Dick can’t quite decide.

“Let’s get out of here.” Dick says softly, reaching a hand towards his brother. Jason just nods.

Dick sends a quick text to Wally that he’s bringing Jay back to their apartment, then they steal a car from one of Batman’s garages in the city and start for Blüdhaven. 

“I thought… hoped it had been Bruce.” Jason admits, staring pointedly out his window. He’d taken the helmet off as soon as Dick locked the car doors, peeling the domino mask he’d been wearing under it off shortly after. 

“I’m sorry.” Dick offers. Jason just snorts. 

“It’s better this way.” He says. “Bats gets to keep feeling good about himself because he kept the high ground.” 

“I have the high ground, Richard.” Dick says in a poor imitation of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It gets an honest to god laugh out of Jason. 

“You don’t have to go back to him. You don’t owe him anything.” Dick says, watching Jason out of the corner of his eye. 

“I guess you’re right.” 

“I usually am. Big brother MO. Look, you can stay with Walls and I for a while. Get back on your feet, establish an identity. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I always wanted a little brother.” 

“What about the replacement?” Jason asks, some of the bitterness from earlier creeping back into his voice.

“Tim’s okay.” Dick allows. “He’ll probably be good for Bruce, but I’m pretty sure that’s not our problem anymore. He could never be you, Jay. You’re irreplaceable.” 

“To the left, to the left.” Jason says under his breath. Dick snorts. 

“I forgot about your freaky hearing.” 

“No you didn’t.” 

A while turns out to be a long time, but Dick doesn’t mind. He’d picked an apartment with a guest room because of some vague unidentified hope, but never really had any guests to stay in it. Giving it to Jason seems right. 

Bruce comes to see them, once Jason’s had some time to settle in. He tries to lecture them about ‘acceptable methods’ and ‘doing what’s right’, but Dick threatens to kick him out and he stops. Tim tells them after that Bruce asked him to spend less time with them. 

“I think he thinks you’re going to give me ideas.” He says. They all laugh. 

“We’d never force you into anything, kid. When you’re old enough, it’ll be a decision you make all on your own.” Dick says seriously. Tim rolls his eyes.

“You’re almost as bad as he is. But I know. And… thanks for trusting me to make the decision.” 

“That’s what older brothers are for.” Jason says, dismissive. Dick bumps him with his shoulder. 

“Yeah, well.” Tim shrugs, then scurries off before Batman can come back. Dick and Jason aren’t quite sure how the kid got on the Watchtower, but they stopped asking questions a while ago. 

It had taken a lot to get Tim and Jason in the same room without asking them to be civil, much less to like each other. The three of them have come pretty far since Jason came back. Dick mostly resists an urge to chirp at them. 

“Are you sure you aren’t actually a bird?” Jason asks as they start back towards the zeta. 

“Does it matter?” Dick counters. Jason shrugs. 

“I guess not.”