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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.

by The Brat Queen

Spoilers: Disappearing Inque. Also related to my other story, "Partners" A passing knowledge of both wouldn't hurt but neither is it entirely necessary in order to read this story.
Summary: Terry continues to ponder the depth of his newfound commitments.
Characters: Terry/Bruce, Dick
Warnings: Sort of a PWP but with emotions instead of sex.
Rating: PG for mild language.
Thanks to: The Black Rose for a suggestion and a trivia check.

With a small laser knife Terry cut through the welding he'd placed on the cracks in the Batcave. He stopped only for a quick, cool sip of water before turning his now-tired eyes back to his task.

Well, he thought, it had seemed like a good idea at the time.

He'd done a good job of it, he had to admit. But he'd had to. When he realized that Inque had slipped away from him and was free to roam Gotham as she pleased he knew he'd had to protect the Batcave. The thought of her somehow slipping into the cave and coming after Bruce had been too much to even contemplate. Terry knew it couldn't happen - he wasn't going to let it happen.

So he'd sealed up all of the cracks to keep her from sliding her liquid form into their home.

Their home. Terry shook his head, laughing at himself. He wasn’t sure exactly when he'd started to think of the place as "their home". Not that it was. Not that he was really living here. All his things were back at his mom's place and he still had to go back there for most of his schoolwork and such. But still, he was here whenever he could be. With Bruce. And even if Bruce still seemed unsure about it, Terry considered him a partner.

So he considered the place theirs, even if Bruce - well Terry didn't know what Bruce thought of it. He didn't even know if Bruce considered the place his own anymore. For the most part, Bruce didn't really live anywhere except in his own head. Everything around him was simply trappings at that point.

With one door finished Terry picked up his gear and moved on to the next. It was amazing how much of the cave he'd been able to cover. Truth be told he still wasn't sure if he'd gotten all of the nooks and crannies. It seemed like every time he turned around there was another section of it that he'd never seen before. But, still, he'd gotten as much as he could find which was quite a lot indeed. More than Bruce had ever shown him on his own. He wondered if Bruce was ever going to resume the tour that had been interrupted by Inque's escape. He thought about reminding him but decided not to. Neither one of them had the energy for it.

Not that Terry'd been hurt, of course. He was tired from cutting through the welding but not harmed from the attack. Being captured and held down by Inque had been more embarrassing for him than anything else.

Embarrassing, and inexcusable.

To the list of vows Terry had been making to himself since he took on the mantle of the Bat, he added the vow that he was never going to put Bruce in that kind of danger again. Never again would he let himself be used as bait to lure Bruce into the path of their enemies. Not if he could help it.

He gritted his teeth and attacked the next door with newfound vigor as he took his anger at himself out on it. He could still hear Inque's voice as she called to Bruce through the transmitter in the suit, and the slight mocking tone that she'd taken when she'd asked if Bruce was his father, or grandfather.

Yeah, Terry thought. Something like that. Sure.

"You don't need to use so much pressure on that, you know." Bruce's voice came from behind him, startling him but fortunately not making him jump as he held the still-active knife in his hand.

"Yeah, I know," Terry snapped. "But it's getting the job done." He couldn't resist a glare in Bruce's direction. "And that's what's important, after all, right?"

Bruce, much as he could, looked honestly surprised at Terry's attack. "Terry - "

"No." With a vicious click he turned the knife off to stand up and face Bruce. Tired as he was, he didn't mind continuing the argument they'd been having ever since the incident with Inque had finished. Making sure the safety was on, he gestured with the knife as he advanced on the older man. "I just want to be sure this is clear. It's OK for you to do whatever you want to get the job done but I'm expected to follow the rules? This is what we're saying, isn't it?"

Bruce composed himself, folding his arms as he faced Terry down. For a moment Terry could see what Bruce must have looked like at the height of his power. "You follow the rules, McGinnis. I make them. That's the agreement."

"I've got no problem with that," Terry said, spreading his arms in a gesture of compliance. "I agreed to that from the start because I trusted you and I wanted to learn from you. What I want to know is why you can't follow the rules. Why do you get to go off half-cocked? Tell me that."

"I did -"

"What you had to," Terry said. "Yeah, I know. And it's my stupid fault for getting into that situation. But you still shouldn't have done it! You shouldn't have come and you shouldn't have put that stupid suit on! Do you have any idea what you did to yourself because of that?" As he spoke, Terry felt yet again the emotions that had gripped him when Bruce had arrived to rescue him - the sickening sensation of first knowing Bruce had placed himself in Inque's path, then the even worse sensation of realizing Bruce had put on the mechanized Batsuit which so threatened his heart.

Bruce had no idea that the strength Terry used to help free himself came from the urge within him to rip the deadly suit from Bruce's body.

And if Bruce thought Terry didn't know how much damage his heart had taken from the suit, he had another think coming.

"It's over, McGinnis," Bruce was saying. "No further discussion."

"Yeah, that's new," Terry said. He turned his back on Bruce and resumed his work. "Bruce Wayne's Stock Answer #241 - not to answer at all. You did a stupid thing, Bruce. You could have been killed. You shouldn't have done it. You know, for a guy who's supposed to be such a great detective you're pretty dumb sometimes."

Terry turned to glare at Bruce again from over his shoulder.

He wasn't surprised to find that Bruce wasn't there anymore.

Hours later, when he dragged his exhausted and filthy body from out of the Batcave, he was still going over the argument in his head. He hated fighting with Bruce but he just couldn't help it this time. What Bruce had done was inexcusable. It was better that Terry got hurt, or even killed, instead of Bruce risking himself like that.

Why couldn't Bruce understand that?

Terry's habit of staying at Wayne Manor was now so usual for the both of them he didn't even bother to seek out Bruce to let him know he'd be doing it again this night. Instead he climbed the stairs to the guest suite he'd taken over as his own and with only a long enough pause to shed his clothes, threw himself into the shower.

The bathroom and the bedroom attached to it (which wasn't Dick Grayson's former room, Terry had made sure of that) were not grand by any means. In fact, outside of the minor servant's quarters, they were the smallest in the house. But Terry didn't care about that. For him, this suite was perfect.

It was the one closest to Bruce's room.

Terry needed that. He needed to be close to Bruce. Close enough that he'd hear if Bruce called out, or hurt himself, or collapsed in pain. The thought that any of those things could happen while Terry was at his mother's house and Bruce was here, alone, literally kept Terry up at night.

He found that lately he could only sleep well if he stayed at Wayne Manor. Fortunately neither his mom or Bruce really seemed to mind.

Done with the shower he quickly toweled off and then crawled into bed. Instinctively he curled up as close to the head of the bed as he possibly could. It rested up against the wall between his room and Bruce's. If anything happened to Bruce, Terry would know of it.

And the funny thing was, Terry thought as he drifted off to sleep, as important as all of this was to him at no point could he really explain why.

When Terry woke he at once knew there was danger. Though it was hours before he would normally awake something inside of him was screaming at him to get up now. Without thinking about it he knew something was very wrong. In a flash he was out of bed, tugging his pants on then running out of the room to where his instincts told him the trouble was.

He found himself going downstairs.

He slowed, then stopped as he heard voices. They were coming from the main hall. Terry listened for a moment, got a mental picture of where they were standing, then positioned himself on the closest landing, keeping himself within earshot but hidden.

It was Bruce and Dick. Arguing.

Still listening, Terry glanced around, trying to see if there was anything nearby he could use as a weapon. Unfortunately, save for a few faded tapestries, there was nothing to be found.

Which didn't bother Terry much. If he had to take Dick Grayson down with his bare hands so be it.

In the meanwhile, he listened.

"- don't see why this is your concern," Bruce was saying. "I gave you your privacy. You had everything you asked for. Why come here now?"

Mentally, Terry was surprised to find that Bruce could be downright talkative under the right circumstances. Compared to their usual conversations this was more out of Bruce than Terry usually heard in a month.

A lick of jealousy ran through him but Terry forced himself to ignore it. He felt it, but couldn’t understand or comprehend it. So he told it to shut up.

"I came because you're doing it again, Bruce," Dick replied. "When Barbara told me you'd given it up for good I thought that maybe it was true and maybe you were going to start to live a normal life. Barbara said you had pulled out of society so we thought you had just decided to fully retire. Neither one of us had any idea that you'd gone out recruiting!"

"So Barbara is the one who called you in."

"Barbara was concerned," Dick said. "I came because I wanted to."

There was a moment of silence in which Terry would have given his right arm to see the expressions on their faces.

"I'm not recruiting," Bruce said, finally.

"Come on, Bruce. Who are you kidding?"

Terry needed no help imagining Bruce's reaction to that.

"I had hoped things had changed with you, Dick. I can see they haven't."

"Hey, what I do to myself is my own business. And I'm past giving a damn about how you want to live your life. But I'm not going to let you ruin the life of another kid, Bruce. I still can't believe you're doing this after everything that happened with Jason."

"You of all people should understand."

"No, Bruce. No I don't. What I understand is what you do and what these kids turn into. Or have you even told him what happens? Knowing you, probably not."

"I've told him everything he needs to know. And the door is always open if he wants to leave."

"Yeah, like you'd let him. I remember how much you hung around my life after I left. I couldn't turn a corner without seeing you there. Bruce, you've got to stop taking over these kids' lives. Stop making them live your life for you. It's bad enough what it's done to you. Stop inflicting your insanity on them."

"He's never done that!" Terry came out of hiding, unable to listen to this garbage anymore. Coming down the stairs to stand behind Bruce he faced down Dick Grayson with his best defensive stare.

Dick, for his part, simply looked aghast. Looking down at himself, clad only in his jeans, Terry wondered why.

"Don't tell me this is him," Dick said, turning his attention to Bruce again.

"Yeah, it is," Terry said. "Terry McGinnis is the name. And don't worry about introductions, Bruce, Dick here and I have met. So why'd you crawl out of your hole this time, Dick? Lose your place as guest of honor for the local comic's convention?"

"Stay out of this, McGinnis," Bruce said. "This doesn't concern you."

"Robin, here, wants to tear down your life," Terry said. "I think that concerns me." He gave Dick a significant look. "I am your partner, after all."

Dick shook his head. "I don't believe it. Kid, what do you think you're getting yourself into? Is this really what you want to do with your life? Look at him, kid. What kind of a future can he offer you?"

Terry tasted bile. "You just shut your mouth, Grayson, or I'm not going to be responsible for my actions. I didn't ask for this little intervention of yours and I know Bruce didn't invite you here either. But since he's taken you in as a guest - " Terry couldn’t resist giving Bruce a disapproving glare for that one " - I'll behave myself. I suggest you do the same."

"Or what, kid?" Dick asked. He gestured around him. "Do you really want to win this argument? What do you think you're going to get out of it? Don't tell me his inheritance because I can tell you - "

With a roar, Terry leaped to attack Dick. He was held back only by the touch of Bruce's cane against his chest.

"That's enough," Bruce said. He looked from one to the other. "Both of you."

"Dead, Grayson," Terry hissed. "You are dead."

"That's enough," Bruce said again. "Terry, calm down. Dick - it's not what you think."

The look Dick gave Bruce was contemptuous. "I'm not stupid, Bruce. Or blind. I don't know how you - "

"Dick," the note of menace in Bruce's voice sent chills down Terry's back. He'd never heard Bruce speak like that before in his life. He wondered if that was what Bruce had sounded like as Batman. "I do not want things to be bad between us. But leave Terry out of it."

"I'm not going to let you do it again, Bruce," Dick said.

"I never asked for your help, Dick," Terry said. He was silenced again by a look from Bruce. That didn't keep him from making faces at Dick behind Bruce's back.

"Dick," Bruce began, then stopped. He turned and gave Terry a look that Terry couldn't identify. Finally he turned back to Dick. There was a different note in his voice, also unidentifiable to Terry but Dick seemed to more than understand it. "Whatever you think about this is beside the point."

Dick snorted. "So are you going to tell me it's not true?"

Bruce, as always, did not back down. "That is beside the point."

Dick shook his head in disbelief. "I thought so. I can't believe it, Bruce. After all this time, I simply can't believe it."

"How you feel about it does not matter," Bruce said. "You are always welcome here, Dick, but I will not let you act this way around Terry. Your problems are with me. They stay with me."

"I can take care of myself, Bruce," Terry said. He was again silenced, this time by a gesture of Bruce's hand.

"I should have known," Dick said. He took the two of them in with a glance, shook his head again, then turned to leave. "You never change, Bruce. I should have expected that." He turned to level a look at Terry. "I'll be back, kid. You can count on that. Don't think that his favor is going to protect you from all this. It just makes it worse."

"I'm here whenever you're ready, Dick," Terry said. He longed for something to throw after Grayson's retreating form but let the solid boom of the front door closing speak for him. "So what the hell brought that on, Bruce?" Terry turned, then kept turning. "Bruce?"

He finally spied Bruce climbing back up the stairs. He raced to catch up with him and then stood in his way.

"Oh no. Not again." Terry said, folding his arms and standing his ground. "You and I need to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about, McGinnis," Bruce said. He tried to move around him. "Go back to bed."

"I'm surprisingly awake," Terry said. He refused to let him pass. "Talk to me. Why did you let that jerk in here?"

"That's none of your concern."

"You know, I'm really sick of hearing that," Terry said. "How many times do I have to tell you, Bruce - you are my concern. That asshole comes here to hurt you, I want a piece of him. Plain and simple."

"It's between him and me," Bruce said. Which for him was tantamount to a confession.

"He seemed pretty eager to bring my name into it," Terry said. "What's his problem? Why does he have a problem with me? Is it something I did to him once in a former life or something?"

Bruce looked at him long and hard, almost as though he couldn't believe what Terry was saying. "No," he said at last. "It's nothing you did, McGinnis."

"Then what?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

Terry was floored. Only Bruce could combine honesty with yet another subterfuge. For a moment, Terry was speechless. Bruce took this chance to pass by him.

"I'm going back to bed, McGinnis. I suggest you do the same."

"But Bruce - "

"No buts! Conversation over, McGinnis. Now."

Terry turned to give Bruce yet another angry lecture about trusting one's partner when the sight of Bruce stopped him. Bruce's last sentence - spoken in what Terry thought was anger - was actually a moment of pain. Bruce was leaning heavily onto the banister, his face an all-too familiar shade of white.

"God damnit, Bruce," Terry said. At once he was at Bruce's side, supporting him and helping him to make it up the stairs and back to his bedroom. "Where'd you leave your pills this time?"

"Bedside table," Bruce said as he sat down heavily on his bed. He spoke in a gasp, but Terry could tell he was trying to keep his voice strong.

Terry quickly fished out Bruce's medication and helped him take down a glass of water to swallow the pills with. After that, he did his best to help Bruce lie back until the pain in his heart eased up.

"You see what you get for letting Dick in here?" Terry asked. He perched on the edge of Bruce's bed with his feet tucked up underneath him.

"It's not Dick," Bruce said.

"Yeah well it's either him or your stupid move with the Batsuit and I'm tired of yelling at you for that." Terry sighed. "I don't get you sometimes, Bruce. Why do you do things like this? What do you possibly get out of all of it?"

Bruce was quiet for so long Terry became worried that he was under yet another attack. Finally he answered. "It's my own concern, McGinnis."

"No it's not!" Terry turned to face him. "You are my partner, Bruce. Your stupid mistakes affect me. How do you think I'm going to feel if you die, huh? How do you think I'm going to feel if you get hurt trying to come after me? For God's sake, Bruce, how do you think I feel right now? I want to kill Dick for making you feel like this. And that's just Dick! How much worse would it be if somebody like Inque or Blight or God knows who else out there got to you? Dammit, Bruce. You're not alone anymore. You've got to stop acting like there's nobody out there who gives a damn except you, OK?"

"I'm sorry."

Terry was convinced the world had ended and no one had told him about it.

"Excuse me?"

"You're right," Bruce shifted to take some weight off of his side. "I'm no good if I'm like this."

"Well… yeah," Terry said. He was definitely in unfamiliar territory now. If Bruce peeled his face off to reveal an alien underneath, Terry would have taken it in stride. In fact, it would have made sense. "Look, Bruce, I'm not trying to say I'm not grateful for you looking out for me. And it was my stupid mistake to get caught by Inque like that. Just take better care of yourself." Terry gave him a weak grin. "Or else my heart is going to be the one in trouble here."

"Agreed," Bruce said. He lay back against the pillows. "Now I think I need some sleep."

"Alright." Terry got up from the bed carefully, quickly checking the nightstand to make sure anything Bruce would need was in arm's reach. "You'll call me if you need me, right?" He waited for a response but Bruce was already asleep.

Terry crept quietly out of the room and left the door ajar. For lack of anything better to do he went back into his room, pulled out his portable computer, and started in on some schoolwork. As he stared at the screen, though, he found he couldn't concentrate. His mind kept going over and over the past few days - everything he'd done, everything Bruce had done, Dick's cryptic comments and, maybe most importantly, Bruce's newfound strange behavior. He did the best he could to turn it this way and that, knowing somehow that it would all make sense if he could just find the key, the one thing which would fall into place and turn it all into something understandable. It was out there. He just needed to find it.

He sighed, doing his best to give up on it all and focus on his studies. "McGinnis," he said, "for an ace pupil, you're not so bright either."

He sighed once more, making himself concentrate on his work and adding one more promise to his still-growing list.

He was going to figure out just what the Hell was going on between him and Bruce Wayne.


© 2000 The Brat Queen.

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