"Well, well, well," Midnighter says. Him. "We meet again."

"Unfortunately," Agent 37 says, cheerily, and throws him a roundhouse kick.

"Must be fate," another kick, then a jab. Midnighter's left. He sees it all.

"Gosh," Agent 37 wields his batons. "I sure hope not."

"Feisty," Midnighter dodges them like the wind. "And futile. The tech isn't here, pretty boy," Midnighter says, and he doesn't know why he tells him. Out of boredom, maybe, or curiosity. No one is that pretty. "The information is false." And he knows what the spy's reaction would be, anyway. His honesty is obsolete.

Agent 37 grins at him, viciously pretty and vicious all the same. "I don't trust you."

Smile at the abyss, and the abyss smiles back, and so Midnighter does. "A liar who does not trust," he says. "Hilarious."

Something lights in Agent 37's spyral infected eyes, then. Anger, maybe. It's almost as gorgeous as his smile.

Agent 37 is about to punch him. A hook first, and then an uppercut, favoring his left. Midnighter isn't big on that, no matter how pretty the puncher is, so he is going to break Agent 37's fist. He waits. One second before the punch. Zero point —

That grin freezes on the agent's face, twisting into a grim bare of his teeth. No witty comebacks. Instead, Agent 37 jumps backwards, as if about to perform a circus trick, disappearing into the skyline.

He will shoot the grapple, M's brain tells him, entry through the fifty-third window, with the velocity he is at, and not splatter on the concrete.

Midnighter looks down anyway, and finds what his computer exactly told him.

The punch, however, never came.


Midnighter knows people like him. People who think themselves saviors.

The sun is burning razors onto his skin, and burning crystals onto Dick Grayson's. Grayson is glimmering in the light like burnished copper. Shimmering like a heatstroke. Midnighter knows only one other man like him, whose skin shines akin to starlight. He does not like this sudden revelation of parallel. But that other man is a god. Or as close as one can be to a god. A god nevertheless, to Midnighter. His Apollo. Was his. Never has been his, really. You can't own a god.

Dick Grayson is a human. You can't own a human, either.

The desert is cruel. The desert doesn't give a shit about saviors and hero complexes and men with starlight skin.

"I'll kill her for you, if that'd make you feel fucking better," Midnighter says. They've been at it for days. Helena Bertinelli is a tough one, and even she is now curling into herself underneath a makeshift tent, attempting to stow her bleeding at bay. She'll die. They'll all die. Including the kid.

Unless.

"She dies," Midnighter says again, for what feels like the hundredth time. Thirteenth, his brain informs him. "Or we'll all die."

Grayson's back is scarred all over. Each punctures and curves tell a story, reconstructed and told by the whirring mechanic inside Midnighter's head. Bumps and gouged out skin, hills and valleys lined like a topography mapped over a body. Scars on top of another scars, layers and layers of discolored tissue. A proof of how a man can bash himself headfirst against the world, bleed his skin open only to patch it up and tear out the sutures, again and again and again, ad infinitum. Proof of how much a man can take, until he falls. But Grayson hasn't fallen.

He will, Midnighter head tells him. Grayson is no god.

His stubborness, however, rivals Ares' himself.

"If we're dead, she's dead — "

"For fuck's sake — "

" — so we are not dead."

" — you're one stupid motherfucker, aren't you?"

Midnighter is taller than him, by six fucking inches. Bigger, too. It doesn't make sense that Midnighter's vision is swimming, his throat is sawdust gorged into trachea and yet, Dick Grayson has his skin bared nude to the sky, marching into the fucking desert, a child in his arms. Picking a fight against the goddamn sun. Doesn't make sense that Dick Grayson looks like an unerring, immovable thing, looks incandescent, like a fucking

"You think you're so good," Midnighter says, and his hatred is as bare and naked as Grayson's skin, just as scarred, as damaged. Worn out. "You think you are a fucking hero, don't you?"

Midnighter moves, and Grayson doesn't even dodge, just lets himself be held. Midnighter's fingers are cruel and harsh, digging into the meat of his skin. "Guess what, hero? You're one of them, now."

He meets his eyes, hard as diamonds. Like he knows Midnighter wouldn't hurt him. Like he knows, after all those fucking speech, Midnighter wouldn't touch a hair on that child. Wouldn't hurt him. Like Dick Grayson is the one with a precognitive brain and not him. And for a moment, something burns in Midnighter. Contempt.

"You'll die," Midnighter tells him, because he will. "I'll die. That child will die. This is what I do, kid. I see what's coming."

Grayson's shoulders are scalding under his hands. The heat feels electric. Those skin must be bruising, right now, under Midnighter's grip; the damaged, worn out thing. The baby is sleeping, blissfully unaware of their impending doom, tiny little hands gripping onto Grayson's chest, head tucked to his pectoral. Midnighter has watched Grayson hold it so carefully, feed it and clean its waste, tend to its infant crying day and night. Sway it gently in his arms until it sleeps. Singing under his breath to it, a lullaby. Móri drágo piko séj, lá lumáko szomnákáj. Dear tiny daughter, all the gold jewels in the world.

It's ridiculous. It's sentimental, and it gives a bad taste in Midnighter's mouth. Lights a bitter, bitter burn in the pit of his chest. Contempt.

The sun is relentless. Grayson's gaze on him, is relentless. "If we are dead, she's dead," Grayson says, unerring, fucking immovable. "So we are not dead."

"I know people like you, Dick Grayson," Midnighter says. Spits, really. Hard and hateful. With disgust. "You think you can save everyone."

That light. That burning furnace in those fucking blues, but it's not anger. It's something entirely different, something that his computer brain refuses to pick up. Can't comprehend. Something illogical, so incredulous and dumb, and bright — something so endearingly, painfully human.

"I can't," Grayson says. "But I can try."

And he walks.

Midnighter watches as he does, and he thinks the sun is playing tricks on him. With the augmented piece of tech he calls a brain, he doesn't have the luxury to perceive something like fatamorgana; Midnighter can't lie to himself. But he watches, and he almost believes.


"I memorized every move you've ever made … right down to the smirk on your face before you jump, Nightwing."


"I hate you," Grayson tells him.

"Hate and love," Midnighter says, "are two sides of the same coin."

"I fucking hate you."

"Oh, I assure you," Midnighter snaps back, obscenely, out of spite and perhaps, some misdirected lust. "You'd love fucking me."

Grayson sneers, a vicious bare of his teeth, somewhere between a jeer and a tease, and doesn't even bother to respond. Utterly unaffected by inappropriate commentary, as far as Midnighter can see. Probably got fed up by too much of those, to the point of desensitization.

"You better get us out of this mess," Dick says. A growl, really, none of that laid-back, easy-on-the-ears voice he usually sports. "Fuck that. I'll get us out of this mess."

Midnighter would put a hand over his heart in mock hurt, if it were not for the high tech cuffs binding his hands apart from his shoulders in crucifix. "Have some faith, Grayson, would you? I know how this is going to go."

He does.

Grayson rolls his eyes. "I'm starting to get sick of that catchphrase."

"What do you want me to say? Holy fucking Batman?"

Grayson shoots him a cold glare, which he responds with a petulant, cocky kind of smirk that sends Grayson's forehead twitching. Midnighter rolls his eyes, now. "You think I'd get caught without a plan?" Really, who does Grayson take him for?

"No," Dick seethes. "I think you got caught, on purpose, to piss me off."

And Midnighter is the one with an augmented brain. He grins, big and lazy, something throbbing in his chest, old and familliar. "Second best detective, was it?"

And that must rankle, because Dick goes so still for a heartbeat, mouth pulling into a grim line, a nasty look flashing on his face. And then it's gone, replaced by a neutral expression, so fast that Midnighter would think he had imagined it — except he didn't. He doesn't have the ability to see things that isn't there.

Interesting.

Dick starts to swing his legs, building up a momentum. Underneath both of their feet: a forty feet tall chasm. A fall to death.

Midnighter knew Dick doesn't have a fear of height, but even this makes his eyebrows rise. Dick swings, again, and kicks. Both of his feet catch onto the rock ground half a metre above his head, rendering his body bent almost in half, upside down. Hands bound.

The throbbing thing in M's chest throbs harder. M recognizes it now: want. He ignores it. Though he can't help his eyes raking the graceful, hard lines of Dick's figure, a picture perfect fucking acrobat. Gorgeous as hell, too.

"Neat trick," M says, almost condescendingly, not acknowledging how dry his throat suddenly feels. Dick does as flick with his feet, and something thin shoots out of his shoes. Tungsten needle.

"Nice toy," M says. Dick's hands are free, and he throws the needle to M's open hand. M catches it. It's almost a crass action, but Dick knows he wouldn't miss, and M knows Dick wouldn't.

"I had a plan, you know."

Dick — on the side of a lethally vertical cliff, balancing himself precariously with nothing but his hands and feet, and some fancy spy toy — smiles, grim and cold, none of that dashing supermodel one he usually sports. "I was your plan, Midnighter."

Second best detective indeed.

"I know what's coming," M says. Because he does. He's seen this played out, a hundred different times. What happens next, however. And then, he says, "are you going to jump?"

And because Dick ignores him, he says, "Grayson." This was not in his plan.

Grayson looks at him, something almost mischiveous in his eyes, a manic, feral kind of bright. Midnighter throbs. His brain computes. Hundreds of scenarios, and yet, what happens next is the most illogical. A thing so incomprehensible that his brain refuses to even consider it.

He feels like he should know, by now, that Grayson defies all laws — laws of logic, laws of fucking gravity.

"Some people love to fall," Dick says, and jumps.


Grayson must know that he looks like that.

"Whisky. Straight. And one for this — " Midnighter blatantly appraises him, up and down, up again. "Gentleman right here."

"Oh, no," Grayson says, and he gives M a look. "I'll have a dry martini, please. If you don't mind?"

Midnighter can't keep his incredulous, and perhaps far too fond, smile at bay. "Not at all."

"Oooh, may I have a Vesper?" Grayson executes the british accent disturbingly well. "Medium dry martini, lemon peel. Shaken, not stirred," he turns from the bar and gives Midnighter a wink. "I've always wanted to say that. Now, what can I do to help you, Mister …?"

"M," Midnighter says, and Dick raises an eyebrow, and tilts his head to the side, in a way that makes his jawline look like it can cut salami. A calculated gesture, he's sure. "A letter? That's all I get?"

Midnighter leans forward, just the right amount of distance to seem indecent, but not that indecent. "Gotta work harder for the rest, sweetheart."

Dick giggles an overwhelmingly fake laughter. "Is that so," Dick says, one foot hooking on M's calf. "Well, Mister M." He leans forward, too, and licks his lips — another calculated gesture, Midnighter is sure — their knees are touching now, and Dick's mouth is so close to his ear that his breath is coming hot against M's lobe, a distracting thing. And then Dick whispers furiously to his ear, "what the fuck are you doing here?"

Midnighter laughs, as if Dick just said an especially hilarious joke. Dick leans back, a perfect, artificial smile on his face, sweet as arsenic.

"Aw," Midnighter grins like a shark. It's odd seeing Dick with blond hair. Not unpleasant — Midnighter doesn't know if Dick would look bad even if he dyed his hair neon green, or any perceivable shade on the color wheel, that is — but odd. Wrong. Not that Midnighter isn't into blonds — hah, that would be the worst lie ever, wouldn't it — but nonetheless. "You want me to leave?"

Grayson grits behind his smile. "I'm working, you insufferable asshole. Nice suit, though," he adds, and it'd sound sarcastic, but M knows, for a fact, that he looks good as hell right now. "Brings out your eyes."

"So feisty," M says, who is enjoying this far too much. "I do love a challenge."

And Dick, who is pretending not to be enjoying this, shoots him a thinly concealed glare. "I'm working."

"Whisky," the bartender says, and Dick immediately throws another charming smile to his way. The transition is both impressive and eerie. "And dry martini for the gentleman."

"Thank you, love," Dick says, his expression entirely cherubic, batting his eyelashes coyly. The bartender looks far too pleased. Midnighter barely holds his scoff.

"Well?" Dick says, behind his cocktail glass. "I'm sure you didn't come here just to buy me a drink."

"No," Midnighter sighs. "Though, would you be interested in that? I think I can clear Saturday for you."

"Cut the shit."

Midnighter smiles, slow and sleazy, the kind that he knows sets Dick's teeth on edge. "I'm a stand in for your tall, dark, and angry friend."

"Oh?" Dick leans onto the bar, a hand propping his chin. M doesnt miss Dicks forefinger tapping against the his left ear, contacting his boss. A second passes, and Dicks nearly pouts. "Understood," Dick sighs to his comm. He appraises M up and down, almost lazily, and then he shrugs. "Ah, what the hell," Dick says. "Wasn't really looking forward to make out with Tiger, anyway." And then Dick shifts his seat, and they are very close, at the moment. The kind of close that feels too far.

"Oh yeah?" Midnighter murmurs, and hey, this is called method acting, right? "Why is that?"

"Not a sweet talker, that one," Grayson says, staring at M's lips. People are actively staring now. Not that they haven't, they have, since probably the moment Dick stepped into the bistro. Can't blame them — that mesh white dress shirt Dick is wearing, which M swears is a size too small, is … eye-catching, to put it mildly.

"You do like to be praised," M is playing along, the role of an interested, charmed business man looking for an easy fuck. Not a hard role to play at all, especially with Dick — damn his soul — as his acting partner, but they both know that.

"I do, don't I?" Grayson smiles sweetly, glimpsing a flash of perfect teeth. Some has to be dentures (three incisors, one canine, two molars, his brain tells him.) Its not a real smile — far too picture perfect to be one. He leans forward in again, much forward, breath tickling M's adam apple. Playing the role of the promiscuous young man looking for a charmed business man to squeeze money out of. "Now," Dicks lips are pressing onto the line of his jaw, and god damn. "Do I need to tell you what to do, or what?"

Grayson really doesn't.

Midnighter turns his head so their mouths catch, and Grayson makes a salacious noise that's too loud to not be faked. Grayson drags his thigh scandalously over Midnighter's. He probably knows how good his legs look, and feel, fabric straining against the planes of his thighs. "Vesper?" M scoffs. "You are a terrible spy," M murmurs against a tongue, making sure his lips can't be read. Dick starts kissing his way down his jugular. M bares his throat to give him a better access. Dick retorts to his pulse point, "but an excellent honey trap," he bites, and then returns to M's mouth. Dick tastes like vodka and lemon and ice.

Midnighter would be lying if he said he hadn't been thinking about this for fucking months.

Goddamn everything.

"People tell me I have a magnificent bone structure, you know," Dick says cheekily to his mouth, and M scoffs again, but does not provide a rebuttal. Grayson's cheekbones, after all, are chiseled like fine china. And M unabashedly enjoys the view they provide, so well, the least he can do is to rectify their aesthetic. The arrogant nature of the words, though — now that's funny. Grayson isn't arrogant. Confident, but never arrogant.

Playing a role, as usual.

Grayson is good. An awful spy — and they both know this, Grayson's boss knows this — but good nonetheless. Done his fair share of covert ops in his time in tights, M is sure. An excellent performer. And Midnighter is enjoying the performance.

So is half the room. And their mark, a redhead in pinstripes.

"Alright, big guy," Dick tells him. "I'm gonna punch you now."

Midnighter wants to retort, but then Dick kisses him again, and his train of thought is shot to hell and back. The kiss is slow and languid, this time. It almost feels sweet. It almost feels real, and not an act. He scrapes a thumb across Dick's adam apple, feels it bob under his fingertip, and Midnighter thinks: fuck.

And then Dick punches him.

After Midnighter is done getting kicked out by the bouncer, and the mark — who is the owner of the bistro — has his arm slung a bit too low around Dick's backside, and after both he and Dick beat the shit out of aforementioned mark and his cronies and get the garden tech into a safehouse, and after the both of them are enjoying some really great xiao long bao in a small, family chinese restaurant — Midnighter looks at Dick and he says, "you know, I wasn't really kidding about Saturday."

Dick looks at him, something in his eyes that M can't decipher, and Midnighter already knows what his answer would be.

"If I don't need to save the world by then," Dick says, "then why the hell not."

There is something unspoken there. Hanging thick in the air. Something the both of them, M knows, pretend not to see.


(Dick saved the world that Saturday.)


Dick's brows are furrowed so hard, frown so prominent that he looks five years older. Not that it's a bad look. It's — different, maybe. But it's really not. "Those people melted in front of me," Dick says, and laughs. It sounds furious.

Those people. As if they aren't a pack of blood sucking monsters, genes irreversibly altered, molded into one of blood-thirsty killers. Sounds pretty fucking familiar, to M, and yet — the way Dick calls them: people.

Midnighter, inadvertently, smiles into his glass.

"I'm not letting this drop," Dick says, so rigidly, voice sounds like it can trample a truck. "Akakyevich is out there. Hoarding garden tech. Your origin file. I pinged his nano-signature before the martian cells degraded. We know where they were made."

"I liked you as gleeful captive," Midnighter tells him, "but I can learn to be into the sullen participant. Ivan Savelyevich! One more to blind us as we dive into the dragon's den."

M slides him the shot. Dick downs it in one go. "Easy there, Bat Boy," M says, and Dick shoots him a bright, heated glare, and then M gets what's different, and why it's really not. There is no performance. No acting, no smiles carefully crafted and pasted on a pretty face, no ambiguously, flirtatious lines that he might or might not mean. No punch line.

This is just a man, a man stting next to him, angry and gorgeous, and maybe a little tipsy.

It's not even Saturday.

"Top me up," Dick tells the bartender. M says nothing. And then he turns to M, and he says, "Don't call me that. I'm not him."

That light in his eyes. Hard as diamonds, twice as bright. Dick repeats, "I'm not."

M thinks he's starting to get it. He says nothing. Slides Dick another shot.


"Stop blubbering, Dick. It was a good time."

"Fuck off."


The next time he sees Grayson, he is stitching his own stomach up.

"You came," Grayson says.

Midnighter wouldn't say he got on his knees fast, but. "Grayson," he says, hisses, really, and he sounds too angry for his own liking. "Are you a fucking idiot?"

Grayson, the bastard, has the audacity to heaves a sigh, as if M is the one being difficult. "Why do people keep asking me that." His pallor pale, hands red all over and shaking, eyes hazy and pupils constricted. M holds onto those hands with one hand, the other pressing against the gash on Dick's torso.

"Morphine?" M says, through gritted teeth. The wound is fucking four inches long, but not deep, and the bleeding has stopped. All those red are blood on the way to coagulation, as much as they are. Grayson has cauterized it himself. His swiss army knife, his brain supplies. Heated to the temperature of

Shut up, he tells his brain.

"Codeine," Grayson slurs, but from the way his brows scrunch together and his breath coming out in short, trembling pants, he didn't take enough. No surprise there. Though, maybe smart on his part. Can't take the pills until they take you. Someone like Grayson doesn't strike him as an addict, however. Too stubborn. Not quite compliant enough.

The incision isn't clean. The margins are abraded, the skin around it bruising black and blue underneath all that crimson. It's the kind of slash wound that feels white-hot searing through you. No foreign material inside. A lot of blood. It's been what — ten, fifteen minutes? Long enough for the codeine to kick in. Grayson must've lost at least one pint.

One and a half, his brain supplies.

Shut the fuck up.

He takes the needle. Grayson's done a commendable job despite it all. M has no idea how Grayson manages to do all that with his system clouded in drugs, and his hands shaking as much as they are. Probably too used to it.

No time to think about that. Midnighter starts methodically suturing the wound, his movement mechanical. Impartial.

"What happened?" he already knows what had happened. He knows what'll happen next.

"Y'alr'dy know." He knew Dick would say that.

He doesn't care. "Just fucking tell me, Dick," he says, syllables harsh and grinding. Copper on his tongue. Too angry. Too distressed.

It's a mistake. A sloppy, stupid mistake. This was all a fucking mistake.

And Grayson must've gotten that. He must've caught that, even with all that narcotic and adrenaline in his system, because even when he doesn't have any god damned computer in his brain, nothing really slips past Dick Grayson, somehow. And Dick is looking at him with drugged eyes, bloodless lips, blood and debris in his hair, with something like understanding and something else, unreadable. Even with a computer in his brain, Midnighter doesn't know what the fuck that is. Doesn't want to know.

"'S a meta," Dick tells him. "Soundwave ability. I got her, but n't b'fore blasting me through the," Dick's forehead scrunches. "The roof. Couldn't control … her p'wers well … a newbie. P'werful, but sloppy…"

"You're one to talk." He finishes the braided suture with a knot. It's decent enough, at least until they get ahold of proper medic, and it'll hold if Dick isn't dumb enough to do a backflip in another five hours. Which is precisely the problem.

"Aw," Dick says. "Y're w'rried that much?" and it should sound like a joke, except it doesn't.

M grins, anyway, bitter and shark-like. "You're making my heart bleed, Grayson. Can't you hear my heart breaking?"

Dick returns the grin, bright and wide, a little drunk, but mostly gorgeous. "Fuck you."

"Sure." And this one should sound like a joke too, but alas. "When?"

Dick stares at him, that unreadable fucking thing in his eyes. "Gee," he says, and his voice is doing that thing where they sound blithe and glib at the same time. But this time, however — perhaps due to the drug, or the blood loss, or the slash in his torso — it doesn't quite manage to be. Sounds a little strained, a little too fond. "At least buy me dinner first."

Something unspoken. Hanging thick in the air.

Midnighter wants to punch him. And a part of him wants to kiss him, because even like this, primitive stitches in his torso and having been blasted through a roof fifteen minutes ago, he still looks like that. And it's not even about how Dick looks, anymore. Not since Russia. Not since thinks about it, sometimes. He doesn't want to.

Lust, he can deal with. But this

Midnighter calls the Door. "Where to?" he says, maybe sarcastically, rougher than it needs to be. "My place or yours?"

Flirt, flirt, flirt.

Dick shakes his head, eyelids drooping, pulse steadying. The drugs doing their job. "Hey," Dick slurs, as M carries him, bridal style, gently in his arms. "'M not that kinda girl."

M knows.


"You'd think you enjoy being in my debt," Midnighter says, when Dick shows up at his door.

Dick looks at him. "I trust you," he says, and something distantly twists in Midnighter's chest. Midnighter ignores it.

Dick doesn't. Trust him, that is. He plays the amicable superhero next door, but Dick is too smart to trust him, or anyone. And yet, it's not so much as half a lie. They both know this. Dick holds his gaze. "Will you help me or not?"

As if he can say no. He knows this. He doesn't like to think that Dick does, too. "Kid," Midnighter says, "I save the world for breakfast."

Dick smiles, and Midnighter thinks: fuck.


"Not that I don't admire a dramatic suicide mission faced with steely resolve — but if you keep going — you're alone out there."

"Don't sound so broken up, Midnighter. You'll ruin my steely resolve."


"Well," M stares at him shamelessly. "Well, well, well."

"Take a picture," Nightwing says. "It'll last longer. I'll even sign them for you."

"The pictures won't do them justice." Nightwing puts his hands on his hips. his face are mostly obscured by his mask, but Midnighter can basically see the raised eyebrow. "I meant the suit."

Who is he kidding? He feels like singing Queens. Mamma mia, fucking mamma mia.

"I didn't ask you to come just to drool over me," Nightwing says, after, well, maybe M has been staring a tad too long. Nightwing tilts his head an inch to the side. "Much."

Right. "This wasn't a booty call?" That one might've been too far.

But Nightwing — for a quick, split second — breaks into a smile. A breach in the mask. It's Dick, through and through.

"Happy to disappoint," Nightwing says, throwing him a map. M catches it. It's a casefile.

M snorts. "Very analogue."

Nightwing shrugs, not seemingly offended in the slightest. "I like to keep things old-fashioned."

"Dinner first, huh?"

Another smile. It lasts longer. 0.3 second longer, his brain supplies. "Burn it when you're through," Nightwing says. "We are going to Bali in one."

"A surprise honeymoon? Gosh, Dick, you shouldn't have."

Nightwing rolls his eyes, a gesture he somehow manages to convey — but that fucking smile. "Names," he says, and then, "shut up and read that file."

"Yeah, yeah, the world needs me, big fucking deal."


It really is an ugly city. Blüdhaven, at least, is honest in its ugliness. Wears it like a medal on her chest, baring the grime and horror of her for all who can see. Swallowing you in dirt and waste, like its own gutter. It wants blood, and it's covered in it, head to toe. A crime scene of a city.

But Gotham isn't like that. It's the kind of ugly that'll choke you up before you realize it. Arching skyscrappers and fancy billionaires, the rich on one side of the city, and the poor on the other. The kind of ugly that catches you walking with your family after a movie, and shoot you dead in an alley. It isn't honest. It wants blood, and it'll take, it'll keep taking, and watch you dully as you and your wife bleed to rigor mortis on its concrete. But it still won't be enough. Not a speck of blood left on its cold, pretty surface. All that gore is swallowed up, swallowed clean. It's barely a city; it's a bottomless pit.

Fighting it is fighting gravity.

"I've been looking for you," Midnighter says.

Some people love to fall.

"So this is what you've been doing?" Anger unfurling, quick and irrational. Flaring up his damn bones. "Playing pretend?"

Batman says nothing.

"Dick," Midnighter says, and it sounds too desperate. Too vulnerable. He hates it with every inch of his cursed being. "Why are you — ?"

"Names," Batman says, and then, "I don't want any metas in my city."

He says it matter of factly, not quite rude, nor threatening. Just a cold, detached statement. A command that expects itself to be done. My city.

M grins a petulant, cocky kind of smirk that he knows Dick especially hates. Doesn't think about how he recognizes that voice, the low-pitched growl, the sheer ice cold of it. He's heard that voice before. "Ouch," he says, furious and vicious. "Can't you hear my heart breaking?"

Batman says nothing. Like this, perched on that goddamn gargoyle, an adult man dressed as a fucking bat with a cape dramatically bellowing behind him — he should look ridiculous. He should. And then Midnighter would make fun of him, make fun of those stupid fucking ears. But like this, like that, Dick looks like something out of a painting. like something out of this world — arching black, darker than the night sky, obscuring his humanity. An impression of something out of hell, a blotch of ink, shadow bleeding down the roof. Larger than life, but not quite live. Not quite human.

I'm not him.

This is not Dick.

It's not quite the sound of his heart breaking, not really.

"Do you want me to leave?" his voice morphing itself into something cruel. Contempt.

The Bat says nothing still. Still, still as a statue. This is — this is not Midnighter's friend, enemy, frenemy, something not quite a friend and yet, far from a lover — whatever the fuck their relationship is, whatever this fuckshit mess they call a relationship is. This is not Dick.

His head whirring. Something cracking. Not quite the sound of his heart breaking.

"Dick," he says, he calls. "What the fuck are you doing?"

I'm not.

Not really.

Something unspoken. Something the both of them pretend not to see, until it blows up in their face. Until it suffocates.

"Say it," Midnighter snarls, laughs, teeth bared. It's cruel. Dick Grayson is cruel, and Midnighter can be cruel if thats how Dick wants this to go. "Say it, god fucking dammit. Fucking say it, you — if you want me to leave, fucking say it."

He knows how this would go.

He wonders, when did he start to believe. When did he start to believe that he could be something other than this.

"Leave," the Bat says, voice inflectionless. Then, a shift of weight, a pull of gravity, and the Bat falls from the sky, down to the earth. Gotham glimmering behind him like diamonds. Or perhaps, like stars breaking all over the floor.

When did he start to believe that he could be something gentle? Could be a savior?

Midnighter knows — entry through the fifty-third window — but he looks down anyway. City noise reaching his ears like white static, a flap of a cape. The traffic blinks up to him, lights strewn all over the dark. Shards of starlight, mutilated corpse of a shooting star. The Bat is nowhere to be seen.

Over the skyline, dawn breaks. And maybe — just maybe — something in his chest breaks with it.