The next morning.
"Where is everyone?" Tim asked.
It was Sunday morning. He'd slept in which was weird. Dick had also managed to slip out of the room without waking him up, which was just plain embarrassing. He'd been trained better than that!
Dick grabbed a can of soda from the fridge "Bruce went to work and Alfred went to visit a friend. Come on."
"I said come on. Grab some toast or something and get moving."
Tim grabbed a slice of bread from the box, then quickly followed Dick to the garage "Are we doing some trapeze training?" he asked hopefully.
"Do we keep the Traps in the garage?"
"Then I guess not."
Dick paused for a moment, seeming to consider the selection of cycles available to the boys, before choosing a dark black Ariel Cyclone – the custom one with silver etching on the sides. He slid the can of soda, and a brown paper sack he carried, into the leather bag on the side of the bike. "Climb on."
Frowning in confusion, and feeling both nervous and excited, Tim climbed on behind him, and pulled his helmet into place.
Soon the two were out cruising down the road in early morning traffic, which wasn't bad, though still reasonably busy.
"Where are we going?" Tim asked, glancing back as they crossed the bridge and left Gotham far behind them.
"On a field trip," Dick replied simply.
"Can't we just Zeta-tube there?"
"What? You have something against my driving?" Dick challenged.
"Well. . . No. . ."
"Then chill Tim. You're normally chill-er than this."
Well ya, that's before you almost died, Tim though in dismay but said nothing.
After a long drive, and after Tim watched the buildings around them vanish into rocky hills, Dick finally pulled his cycle to a stop on a rocky bluff, pulling the leather bag from its hooks and flinging it over his shoulder. He walked through the dry, weedy grass; Tim easily catching up and holding pace, "You aren't going to bury me out here or something are you?"
The ground was littered with bits of broken metal and glass. Tim saw several empty bullet casings which made him pause with uncertainty.
"Hold this." Dick said, handing him the leather bag. Tim obeyed almost automatically as Dick took out the soda can, taking the bag back and setting it aside. He tapped the top of the aluminum then opened it and took a sip, brushing off a rock and sitting on it. He drank about half the soda before handing the rest to Tim.
By now, the third Robin was terribly thirsty from the ride and willingly took it without complaining about germs. He politely left a little bit inside for Dick to finish, which the older boy did before standing."feel re-chilled now?"
"What are you trying to do?" Tim asked. He sensed one of Nightwing's classic games or jokes coming on. Seriously, sometimes he wondered if this guy (who for all intents and purposes was more of a brother than teammate.) Wasn't better suited for some crazy Joker sidekick, not Batman's.
Dick smirked then walked away several yards until he set the can on a rock and walked back. He pulled the brown paper sack from the leather bag, then removed its contents.
Tim gasped and jumped to his feet, backing away.
Dick was holding Two-Face's gun.
"Now don't go swearing on me," Dick said, pointing the gun a safe direction and opening the cylinder. "It doesn't suit you."
"Why do you have it?!" Tim felt betrayed somehow.
"I picked it up on our way out. Two-Face is a former cop, he has guns. It's not like the police needed it for evidence."
"You know how we feel about guns!"
"Tim." Dick said, patiently but also somewhat forced, "This gun is no different than your knives or your staff. No different thanthe countless other tools you, I, and Batman use every day." He paused briefly ". . . And yet, you're terrified of it. This one in particular; not because of the shot it fired, but because of the shot it could have fired. So. . ." He turned the cylinder a few notches then slid it into place; the single bullet in the chamber. "Let's fire it." He held the gun towards Tim, who backed away.
Dick just took a step forward to account for the distance "Tim. You weren't the only one terrified. I was too," he said gently, voice even. "I was tied up there, praying that something would happen, that something would make it stop. And when nothing came and it just kept going. . . I just prayed it would be me and not you."
"Me too." Tim whispered quietly, then looked away. "Except for the praying part. There's no way there's a God up there who could let all the thing I've seen happen."
"You can believe that if you like," Dick replied with a grim frown. "But what I can't let you believe is that you're broken somehow because of what happened. You're not the only one who's 'seen' things and you're not the only one who still has nightmares because of it. I think part of it is because so many of the things that have happened to us, so many things we try to do, are always unfinished. There's never a real end. The crime never stops, the bad guys always come back. . . we never get to properly say goodbye. . ."
Tim shut his eyes, nodding, and thinking about his parents, and after that, Jason. The other brother; or at least, he could have been.
"So, let's finish this one okay?" Dick offered. "Let's fire this one bullet and never have to worry about which one of us it's going to kill again. Sound good?"
Tim found himself nodding again. He held out a hand and Dick set the gun in his palm then stood behind him. Both their hands clasped around the butt of the weapon, their fingers overlapping each other on the trigger.
"One," Tim started.
"Two. . ." Dick breathed out once and Tim did the same.
With a loud crack, the gun went off, the bullet landing somewhere off to the side of the hill to the left of their target in a puff of dust and spray of gravel.
The soda can sat there, glinting in sunlight.
Tim laughed, half tearfully. "We're really bad shots."
"Ya well. . . We don't have to tell anyone that," Dick said, rustling Tim's hair then taking the empty gun back. "Time to head back home now?"
Tim nodded. Dick was right. It felt like it was over. Finally over. "Ya. . . Definitely."
Dick nodded, turning to pick up the now empty bag.
There was a heavy 'Chink!' sound as Tim threw a small bat shaped knife into the can, knocking it over in a crumple.
Dick sighed in annoyance "Go get that. You can't just leave it here."
By the time Tim caught up with Dick again, knife in hand, the older teen was nearly to their motorcycle. "You know. . .What you said about goodbyes. . ." Tim started, slowing as he fell into pace with him "I think you're right. I think that would be the hardest part. . . Not getting to say goodbye." He bit his lip.
"Well," Dick said, latching the bag back to the bike. "Not that either of us are planning on getting killed anytime soon, but for future use: Timothy Drake Wayne, AKA Robin: You've been a great friend, a spectacular little brother, and annoying as crap sometimes; but, if either of us should go, I'd miss you. So goodbye and I love you."
Tim stood very still.
"Don't look at me like that, I'm allowed to love my little brother." Dick complained, climbing onto his bike and scooting forward to leave Tim room to sit. "Seriously! stop looking at me like that!"
It wasn't that, it was just. . The way he'd said that whole thing. Like he'd been thinking on it. . . Like he really meant it.
". .. I love you too." Tim said.
"Yep. I know. That's what a family is for, even a crazy – small, vampiric, mammal based – crime fighting one."
Tim grinned "We're a Bat-family?"
". . .Hu not bad. I like it."
Tim climbed onto the motorcycle, putting on his helmet. We're a Bat-family he thought, smiling again at his rather 'Dick Grayson' like play on words.
He felt now, like he'd left something deep and dark behind him. And Dick's goodbye, though it should have terrified him, actually made him feel better. Maybe because now. . . If it should happen. . . He'd know. Tim paused, realizing he hadn't given Nightwing the same comfort, the same. . . Freedom. He took a breath. ". . . Goodbye Dick Grayson."
Dick laughed. But somehow, Tim knew that he'd needed to hear it too.
And without another word about what the future might hold, the two of them sped along the road back towards home.