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DISCLAIMER: The following story is a non-profit, amateur effort not intended to infringe on the rights of DC, Warner Bros, Kid's WB, Bob Kane, Bruce Wayne, the Wayne Foundation or any other copyright holders that I might be unaware of. I make no claims on said copyrights, I merely put my fingers on a keyboard and posted the results. The universe continues to revolve.

Partners
by The Brat Queen

Rated: PG
Characters: Terry, Bruce, Dick
Spoilers: Slight spoiler for Mask of Curare

Summary: Terry McGinnis starts to figure out just how strong his commitment is to Bruce when he finds out what happened to one of Bruce's commitments in the past.


Terry smiled as he watched the police haul his latest catch away. "You know," he said to himself, "some days it's just good to be a crime fighter."

The night had been an easy one for Batman. Truth be told, Terry probably didn't need to be out at all but he figured there was nothing like a little practice. Two purse-snatchings and one bank robbery later and he was feeling pretty satisfied with himself.

"Alright, McGinnis," Bruce's voice came at him from the suit's hidden speakers, "time to come in."

Terry considered protesting but then saw no real reason for it. The night had been good, Bruce seemed proud of his work (or at least as proud as Bruce ever seemed about anything) and it was getting close to dawn. "I'll be right there," he said, lingering long enough to watch the last of the cop cars take off before doing the same himself. He'd taken three steps and was just about to launch himself into the air when a figure materialized in front of him.

"Hey, Batman, we need to talk."

Terry stopped short and looked over at the speaker. It was a man, approximately sixty years old with long gray hair. He wore a tan trenchcoat with a suit underneath. He stood still, watching Terry in turn but not posing any threat that he could see.

Terry decided to go for "hero" mode. "No time, citizen, I must be going."

The man shook his head. "I think you should stay and hear what I have to say."

Terry drew himself up to his full height and stared down at the man in a way he knew was impressive. "And why is that?"

"Because I know you're not Bruce Wayne."

It took Terry a few moments to regain his equilibrium. In the meanwhile the man had stepped closer to him. His posture was still non-threatening but he showed no indication of leaving anytime soon. "C'mon, kid," he said. He held a hand out to indicate that Terry should follow him to a more private location. "I'm not going to unmask you anytime soon. But I do think there's a few things you should know about your… partner." With that he began to walk off. Terry shook his head to clear it then followed him.

"And why should I trust you?" he asked, giving the man his best Batman voice. "Who are you, anyway?"

"The name's Grayson," the man said without turning around. "Dick Grayson. And if you know anything about Bruce, that should be all you need to know."

With that Grayson turned a corner and disappeared into Gotham City Park. It took the best of Terry's limited tracking skills (and the majority of the Batsuit's senses) to keep up with him. In the meanwhile, Terry's mind was racing.

Grayson. He knew the name. He'd seen it around Bruce's mansion a few times. And it had come up in the research he'd done on Bruce as well. He'd been Bruce Wayne's ward after some freak accident had killed his parents during a circus act. The two of them had stayed together until Grayson had graduated from college and after that the news archives didn't have anything to say about them. Dick, especially, had vanished from print.

So what was he doing here now?

He led them into a secluded sector of the park. It was a small alcove that was so well hidden that not even the usual muggers or panhandlers had made their way to it. Terry scanned around with the suit's senses and knew that they were alone, and probably would be for a while.

"Alright, I'm here," he said, trying to see if he couldn't take control of the situation again. "What have you got to say for yourself?"

Grayson looked at him silently for a moment, then shook his head. "God, kid, how old are you? Did Bruce even let you finish high school before he dragged you into this?"

Terry felt his hackles rise. "Nobody dragged me anywhere, Grayson. I'm here of my own choice."

Grayson gave a soft, mocking laugh. "Sure kid. We all said that at first. But it's not like that. It's never like that. He -"

"Forces you," Terry finished for him. He allowed himself to feel smug at the look of surprise that quickly passed over the other man's face. "Yeah, I know. I've heard this little sob story from Batgirl already. I didn't buy it then, I'm not buying it now." As he spoke, Terry's mind continued to work quickly, trying to piece together everything he knew with what he was finding out now. He decided to hazard a guess and see if it paid off. "Or is it a rule that all of Batman's partners and Boy Wonders have to carry a chip on their shoulders at all times?"

That hit home. Grayson glared at him. "I'm here as a favor to you, kid. I could just as easily leave."

"Then why don't you?"

"Because I'm still interested in doing the right thing." Grayson looked him over. "Some of us don't need masks to do that, you know."

Terry folded his arms and leaned against a nearby tree in a posture he hoped was nonchalant. "So, are all of Bruce's former lovers this snotty or do you and Batgirl have a franchise on it?"

Grayson's eyes were downright hateful now. "Who told you?"

Terry shrugged. "Nobody. Come on, Grayson - a rich, handsome bachelor living with an acrobatic 'ward'. Doesn't take a detective to figure that one out. Let me guess: you're here to tell me how mean old Bruce forced you into the mask while he felt you up at night and you and your inner child haven't been the same since."

"It wasn't like that - "

"Didn't think so."

Grayson glared at him again, then looked away. Hands stuffed firmly into his pockets, he paced back and forth angrily for a moment before he looked back at Terry. "Look, kid, I know it sounds good now but trust me when I tell you the honeymoon's going to end and end soon. Do you even know how many Robins he went through? How many people he's hurt? How psychotic he is? For God's sake, kid, he's been living alone in a cave all this time, doesn't that tell you something?"

"Yeah. He's picked some really suck partners so far." Terry stepped forward, meeting Grayson's eyes. "Why did you really come here, Dick? This is some act of charity for somebody I've never met and don't even care about. Feeling a little jealous? Wish he'd given the mantle to you?"

Grayson gave a bark of laughter. "Hardly, kid. I tried his life and wouldn't take it now if you paid me. I'm just trying to stop the cycle. If you've met Batgirl then you know she turned her back on it. I did too. There aren't any more Robins left alive - why don't you end it all here? Let Batman die, kid. It's what he's supposed to do."

"Batman, or Bruce?"

"Both, kid," Grayson said. "And if you don't know that there's no difference between them, you need a lot more help than you think."

"I don't need anyone's help, Dick," Terry said, advancing on the former Robin. "I'm not the one carrying a forty-year old grudge. I say you should walk away, let it go and stay out of his life. Bruce doesn't need a jerk like you hanging around. I doubt he ever did."

"Suit yourself, kid," Grayson said. He turned and walked away. "But when you get hurt by this - and don't think you won't - just remember that I told you so."

"Oh yeah. Because what I really need right now is someone else's emotional baggage ruling my life. Thanks a lot, Dick. That's some favor."

"He's a manipulative bastard, kid," Grayson said as he vanished from the clearing. "Always has been, always will be. Get out while you still can." There was a pause before he added. "I'll be around."

"I'll send him your love," Terry said snidely before turning and walking away himself. Bruce, he thought, you sure could pick 'em.


By the time Terry returned to the Batcave he felt ready to rip something apart. He couldn't believe that Dick Grayson, the Boy Wonder, had showed up in his life and decided to be such an asshole. First by showing up at all, then by leaving Terry with the problem of dealing with Bruce. Bad enough he was now hours late getting the Batsuit back, now he had to figure out what to tell Bruce about the delay. What was he supposed to do? Tell Bruce that Robin had decided to pay a call? Terry snorted. Hardly. If he had any say about it Bruce would never find out about any of this. The only problem was that Bruce always had a way of finding things out. Bruce had a way of finding everything out.

But Terry decided he was going to try all the same.

"Sorry I'm late, Bruce," he said as he entered the main chamber of the cave. He took off the helmet and laid it aside. "I got caught up in another hold-up and I couldn't just…."

Terry trailed off, realizing he was alone. He looked around, activating the suit's sensors to scan the entire cave.

There was no sign of Bruce.

That was so unlike him as to be impossible.

"Bruce?" he called. Stupidly, as though the sensors would have missed something, he ran around the cave looking for him. "Bruce?" Oh God, if he's had another heart attack again… Please, God, don't do that to him. Not now, please…

When his search through the cave turned up nothing he turned his attention to the main computer. There were sensors and cameras throughout the entire mansion. If Bruce was inside of it anywhere, Terry would be able to find him. "Come on, man, where are you? Don't leave me now." He reached out, his hand instinctively going for the joystick that manipulated the camera controls.

It stopped halfway there.

Terry's heart froze, then sunk to the depths of his chest. His eyes remained fixed on a single sight.

"Oh… shit…" he whispered. Without thought his hand moved, leaving the joystick to move over the panel to the one thing that had caught his eye.

It was a blinking red button. The recorder for the Batsuit's senses.

Terry pressed it.

"… a manipulative bastard, kid," Dick Grayson's voice said from the speakers, "Always has been, always will be. Get out while you -"

Terry slammed his hand down on the stop button.

Oh. Shit.

It was several moments before Terry could see anything but red again.

"Oh man," he said. Feeling sick he braced his arms against the control panel and let his head fall down between his shoulders. He tried to take in deep, cleansing breaths as Bruce had taught him. "Oh man. Oh man. Oh shit. Oh FUCK. I am gonna kill you, Grayson. So help me God I'm gonna kill you. You are dead. You are so fucking dead, man. I'm gonna track you down and I'm going to hurt you so bad, so help me you are DEAD!" His hand slammed down on the panel again, this time so enhanced by his emotions that he didn't need the strength of the suit to leave a heavy dent in the panel. Imagining Dick Grayson's face before his eyes he aimed again, this time leaving the panel behind to focus his attentions on the much sturdier stone walls. By the time he was done several chunks had fallen to the floor and his hair was covered in a layer of dust. Panting heavily, he tried to clear his head. It didn't take long for him to remember what he really cared about.

"Bruce," he whispered. He abandoned the cameras and ran upstairs, this time spurred on by the vision of Bruce Wayne's dead body - collapsed from a heart attack - lying abandoned somewhere in the cold mansion rooms. "Bruce!" he called, running from room to room, the Batsuit's sensors strained to the max. "Bruce? Where are you? Bruce!"

He found him in the upstairs study, finally. The sight of his still form sitting in a chair, his back to the door, nearly gave Terry a heart attack of his own. If it hadn't been for the Batsuit's sensors supplying him with the sound of Bruce's pulse he might very well have had one. As it was he did his best to calm down and not hurt the older man with his own raging emotions.

"Bruce," he said again, quieter this time as he entered the room. "Bruce, forget about it. He's a jerk. He's not worth your time."

"He's right," Bruce's voice carried a power all its own, even though he spoke as softly as Terry had.

Terry blinked in surprise at this affirmation. Bruce never admitted that anyone was right.

This definitely wasn't good.

"About what?" Terry asked. He drew closer to Bruce and knelt down on the floor beside him for lack of anywhere else to sit. "What does he know? He's spent his whole life being bitter. Talk about a waste of effort."

"He's right," Bruce said again. He turned his head just enough to look down at Terry. Terry felt his heart lurch when he saw how pale he was. Oh shit, he thought, hysterically, his heart. He had another attack. That fucker actually broke his heart. I'm gonna kill him. I'm truly going to kill him.

Unaware of Terry's thoughts, Bruce continued. "The Batsuit isn't meant for anyone, McGinnis. It should be retired. I want you to turn it in now, effective immediately. No arguments this time."

"No," Terry said. Even he was surprised by how firm his voice sounded. "Fat chance, Bruce. I'm not going to let some two-bit former superhero rule my life. And neither should you." And then, a bit mercilessly, he added, "Or are you going to let all of Gotham suffer because of him?"

That point had hit home. Bruce's expression, like always, didn't change much but Terry knew he'd pushed a button. "Look, Bruce," he continued, "I don't know what happened between the two of you and you don't have to tell me, but whatever it is has changed. Dick Grayson is nothing but a stupid old man who doesn't deserve the time of day."

The words were out before Terry realized the full impact of what he was saying. He sat up at once, doing his best to backpedal "Not that - I mean - he's just… Damn it, Bruce, you're not that old and he's just an asshole! That's all there is to it!"

What, Terry thought, the Hell am I saying? But it was too late to stop talking now so Terry decided to make the best of it.

"He left, Bruce," Terry said, standing up once more. "He left and he couldn't handle it. That's his problem. I'm here and I can. So you deal with me now, and forget about him."

Bruce's hands tightened on the handle of his cane. He stared straight ahead and remained silent. Only the slight movement of the muscles around his jaw let Terry know he was listening, and thinking.

"What does he know?" Terry said again. He gestured expansively around the both of them. "Look around you, Bruce? Where's he been? What's he done for you? He was supposed to be your partner and this is what he left you to. And hey, if you really want to do the 'lonely, eccentric old recluse' thing more power to you but somehow I doubt that's what Bruce Wayne - what Batman would really want."

"I'm not Batman," Bruce said, still looking at some point far in front of him and nowhere Terry could see. "Not anymore."

"Fine," Terry said. "Then I am and I know what's best for former partners. And if you ask me what's best for one Dick Grayson can't be said in polite company and if I ever see him again I'm going to kick his ass. With your blessing or without."

Bruce was silent again.

Terry stood in front of him, blocking his view. "I'm going to do this one way or another, Bruce. There's nothing you can do to stop me. I know enough about those computers to keep you out of them if I wanted." He made Bruce meet his eyes. "I just don't want to. You're my partner, Bruce. End of story."

Bruce returned Terry's look. Nothing about him changed or backed down. Finally he spoke. "No you don't."

Terry blinked. "What?"

"Know the computers. You don't."

"Fine," Terry said again. He made a sharp gesture of dismissal. "That doesn't change anything. If I have to break into this house every night of my life I will. Dick Grayson is not going to end this relationship, Bruce. I won't let him." Terry knew now he was starting to skate on dangerous waters. One wrong word would either be too much or get him kicked out of Bruce's life. Or both. But he refused to give up. In his best crimefighting voice he said "I am Batman, Bruce. We both know it. And I will stay Batman no matter what the Dicks and the Barbaras and the whoever else you've got hiding in your closets have to say about it."

The silence in the room was palpable.

"Alright, McGinnis," Bruce said, finally. "For now."

"No," Terry said, firmly ignoring the little inner voice in his head that was telling him to shut up. "Forever, Bruce. I'm not going away, Batman's not going away. Not now, not ever. We're either in this thing for good or not at all. I've made a commitment to this. How about you?"

Bruce was still, then he turned. The angle of his head changed only slightly but he was now looking up at Terry. "You're really willing to do this? To give me everything?"

"Yes," Terry said at once, without even thinking about it. He'd have promised Bruce anything at that point.

He tried not to think about that too hard.

"Even though you know the consequences?" Bruce asked. His blue eyes flickered, indicating the room around them and the life Bruce was living now - the life of a former Batman.

Terry met Bruce's eyes, letting him know he knew exactly what Bruce meant. "Yeah. I do. And I don't see anything I should be worried about or ashamed of. Come on, Bruce. How many times do I have to prove this to you? When's it gonna be good enough? When do you actually start trusting me for a change?"

For some reason that almost elicited a laugh from Bruce. "OK, McGinnis. You win." He leveled his eyes at Terry. "But you had better be here for the long haul."

"Don't you worry about that, Bruce," Terry said, feverently. "I'm not leaving you anytime soon."

He reached out with one hand and Bruce met it in a handshake. Even in the Batsuit, Terry could feel how strong Bruce's grip was. And, deep in his own heart, he breathed a sigh of relief that Bruce's pulse was now much more stable.

He was relieved, and glad, and only somewhat terrified to wonder why he kept panicking at the thought of his life without Bruce in it.

Some things, he thought, didn't bear much thinking about.

But the nagging thought stayed with him, especially as he stayed the night in Bruce's house, and then did whatever he could to make sure he spent most nights in there and keep Bruce firmly in his sights.

And made sure Dick Grayson never laid another hand on him. Ever again.

 
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© 2000 The Brat Queen.

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