Title: Falling (PG) - added March 24,
Author: Lacey McBain
Characters: Dick, Bruce
Summary: It's always the same.
It's always the same.
night, a different rooftop. Or the same rooftop. It doesn't matter. The
differences are negligible. Concrete. Gravel. The slight slope that
comes from age and neglect. Occasionally boots land on tile, fitted and
polished, when they cross into the better part of Gotham.
That doesn't happen much these days. Or at all.
spends his nights on rooftops. Or at least Batman does, and Bruce gets
dragged along for the ride, like a reluctant child who can't let go of
his mother's hand for fear of getting lost. Bruce worries about getting
lost on the rooftops. In the dark. Reaching out a hand and finding
Nothing to hang on to.
It shouldn't surprise him
his world is shaped by the edges of buildings, the sharp corners of
city blocks and streets, endlessly dividing and reproducing like a
rabid amoeba. Wherever he looks, there is always more. Buildings thrust
into the skyline like fingers on a glove. More things to keep him up at
night. Keep him doing this.
This thing he's done so long he can't remember doing anything else.
Being anything else.
light sound of boots touching down beside him. A few feet away. A puff
of air too small to ruffle the hem of his cape. Robin has always been
small. Or at least smaller. All things are relative.
Sometimes Bruce looks at him, remembers Dick when he was ten and
fit easily in his arms, and thinks he can still tuck him in the palm of
his hand if he tries, believes he can make him small and manageable
again instead of fifteen and stubborn and--
Far too much like him.
quiet," Dick reports. His voice is professional. Give the information.
Nothing more. Don't whine about warm beds and cold nights. The cookies
Alfred was making when they left. Homework due tomorrow. Bruce has
taught him efficiency. Silence. Distance.
He wonders if Dick even realizes that's what this is.
nods. Scans the endless sea of buildings for something. Anything. A
feeling there's something hiding in the dark. Waiting for them. For
him. A feeling he can't shake, and it's been there for years. It's why
he keeps coming up here.
Even though Bruce is afraid of heights,
deathly afraid of the first sweep of air across his face, the
stomach-clench of falling, and still he does it. Every night. Because
Batman demands it of him, and fear can be a useful tool in keeping you
He wonders if Dick knows that too. That he's afraid.
cape holds back the first splashes of rain, and Bruce can hear the
muted protest as Dick slips under the eaves of the roof entrance.
There's little protection this high up, and the Robin suit soaks up the
rain like blood, turns a deeper shade of red. Bruce hears him shiver.
Dick won't admit he's cold. Wants to go home. Would give anything for
the taste of one of Alfred's cookies, chocolate melting on his tongue,
sweet and warm. Tasting like home.
Bruce would give anything for that. Too.
he says, and in the lightning flash of decision, it's there. On the
edge of his vision. A figure draped against the moon, hair a rotting
mess of straw, colour of cracked-corn. The sliding peak of his hat,
bent over and soft, as if struck down by the feet of too many crows,
claws harbouring in his skin, insides tumbled out. Prometheus still
alive, spilling into night. The air is wet with rain and burlap. The
pale damp stench of fear.
"Scarecrow," Bruce says, although it's
not necessary. Dick is already moving, bird in flight, red and sharp as
a feather quill. He ducks and spins, avoids the first smash of metal
against flesh. A burst of greenish gas that promises nightmares. And
worse. Bruce is pulling his gas mask from his belt, batarang already
spinning through the night. Catching on empty space.
moves like a dream. Swift as thought, and harder to catch. Somewhere
there is laughter, and Bruce is a whirl of cape and darkness. Watching.
Waiting for the next flash of lightning because it's not as easy to see
in the dark as it used to be, and he wonders if he's getting old. It's
not something he'd ever considered possible.
He assumed he wouldn't live that long.
the silver wink of light, he spots them both. Scarecrow. Robin. Perched
on the edge of the roof, and Bruce doesn't know how that happened so
fast. He runs towards Dick, but the roof has become as large as a
field, every step leading him further away. He opens his mouth in
warning, the Scarecrow's scythe cutting the night like a crescent moon,
and Dick just grins that altar-boy smile and steps back. Even beneath
the mask his face is all invitation. Dare.
Bruce wants to tell
him to be careful. Have a cookie. Do your homework. Wonders why he's
brought him out here. Up here. He's wondered this a thousand times and
the answer is always the same.
twirls his scythe like a perverse baton. The night is full of whispers,
and Bruce is running in place, water splashing on his cape like tears.
His mouth is open. Silent. He can't say the things he needs to say. The
words get caught in his throat like a bone. He chokes.
He's done this before.
bounces on the balls of his feet, perfectly balanced. Ducks the sweep
of blade. The fingers reaching for him, scrabbling at his suit like
claws. He steps back. Away.
Lightning flash, a mouthful of rain
to drown the scream, and Bruce knows the exact moment when Dick's feet
touch air. The round white eyes, bright moons, and the name that breaks
the silence isn't Batman.
And now the world is
moving too fast. The distance to the edge crossed in a single leap,
gauntleted hand stretching into emptiness, reaching, reaching, and--
flesh. Sliding on Dick's rain-wet skin, bicep to elbow, the edge of
gauntlet, Dick's wrist captured in Bruce's palm like a wren. Bruce
pretends he doesn't know how fragile Dick's bones are, hollow inside
a bird, and he could crush him to powder without a second thought.
He must be careful.
A second. Passes.
"Hold on. Don't let go."
found his voice, but his boots are slipping on the tile. Or concrete.
He doesn't remember which. The rooftop is slick and dark. He doesn't
know where Scarecrow has gone. Doesn't care, although he knows he
When his world isn't hanging from the rooftop.
And Bruce can't pull him up. Strength leeched from his body like
eaten him from the inside, hollow as an egg, and he wonders how long
this has been going on. This slow scraping of his bones. Emptiness
blowing through him like a Gotham wind. Wonders if Dick could break him
too. Snap him in half like a decayed limb on a long-dead tree. Squeeze
him to dust. Forgotten. Lost.
"Don't let go."
is a promise clinging to him by a damp thread. His fingers can't hold
on the shining leather of the gauntlet, and there is a breathless
second when Bruce knows Dick is going to fall. All the air has been
out of his lungs. Punctured. His body is empty. A vacuum.
had always imagined if it happened, there would be silence. A moment
like this, eyes meeting, knowing, and then the heartbeat-second when
the world changed. Instantly. Like the snuffing of a candle. And he
closes his eyes against the spill of red. A drop of flame.
Extinguished. Robin-red. Red breast. Blood red.
didn't expect to hear screaming. More surprised to know it's his throat
that will be raw by morning, Dick's name ripping through his mouth like
an arrow edged with glass, and he can taste blood underneath the
Knows that Robins can't fly. Not really. And he'll be
gathering broken wings against his cape for the long flight home. But
he can't stop himself from reaching, reaching, as if he could stretch
himself into a rope and catch him before he hits--
sounds like "bruise" in his ears, and it fits. Feels right. Body a
purple ache of tender skin, and even the raindrops hurt where they
fingers against his wrist, and he opens his eyes. Dick is kneeling on
the edge of his bed, nails pressing crescent moons into his flesh.
eyes are tipped with fear, and Bruce wonders how long he's been trying
to wake him.
He breathes. Air damp with rain, and he's left the
window open again. Dick shivers, not just from the cold, and Bruce
reaches for him, not as small as he was, but enough to tuck
against his chest. And
"You were screaming," Dick says. Cool hands pat Bruce's skin, slip
around him in a sideways hug.
The way children always comfort adults. Awkward. Fierce. With all
the love in the world. "You were calling my name."
Bruce says. The dark hair smells clean against his skin, and he knows
Dick would taste like warm milk and chocolate chips. If he allowed
himself a taste.
Which he doesn't.
Instead he holds on.
Leaves Batman on a rooftop somewhere, stalking demons. Folds Robin's
costume in a neat square of red like an origami bird. Tucks it away.
Bruce wraps fatherly arms around Dick and holds him. Just holds him.
And doesn't let go.
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