Richard Grayson looked down on the crowd from his lofty perch above the big top, the roar and cheering caused the platform to vibrate but he was quietly confident that he was secure as he saluted to the adoring masses and stole a glance at his mother who was proudly announcing: 'Richard Grayson, ladies and gentlemen, the only man in the world who has completed that maneuver and lived to tell the tale, please show your appreciation… Richard Grayson!'
With his athletic physique and dazzling good looks, he'd quickly become the darling of the crowds, pulling in a record audience to see the legendary 'Grayson quadruple somersault'.
The other members of the touring company had joked that he was possibly the only circus star who had his own fan club and groupies.
A television company had even offered him his own show, a mixture of his act and a chat show, but he'd turned it down, insisting that it sounded like 'Jerry Springer on the trapeze'.
No, Richard Grayson liked his life just the way it was.
Spiraling down the guide rope, he landed on the ground with a dramatic last minute back flip from a considerable height, causing the crowd to collectively suck in a breath before roaring with joy as he landed and bowed.
Fico the clown sighed longingly, "Man, that kid knows how to work a crowd, you gotta give him that!"
Somersaulting his way from the main ring he finally skipped behind the scenes and let out the breath that he always held until the performance was over.
John and Mary Grayson greeted their son warmly.
"That was fantastic son," John said as he ruffled his only child's hair as if he were still a five year old.
"Yes Dick, you were wonderful!" his proud mother beamed as she threw her arms around his neck.
"Thanks Dad, Mom," Dick hugged them both hard, " I gotta go get a shower!"
"Don't forget that you're having dinner with us tonight, young man. Never mind the date I know you've made with that young contortionist," his mother warned.
"It's your anniversary, what kind of a son would I be if I missed that?" Dick gasped in mock horror before kissing her on the cheek.
His mother's face softened into a warm smile, "A beautiful man is a deadly thing!" she growled before slapping him playfully on the chest, "Now go and get cleaned up."
Dick made his way between the tents to his trailer. He'd been so proud when his mom and dad had presented him with a trailer of his own on his eighteenth birthday, he'd felt like an adult at last…well, until he went 'home' that night for dinner because he had no food in the place.
Closing the door and remembering to lock it behind him (an incident with a very young female fan and getting caught naked in the shower had taught him to always lock his door these days.) Dick stripped off his costume and stepped into the shower, letting the soothing warm water cascade down his back.
'Never believe a performer who tells you that they don't ache like hell after a performance like that,' his father had once told him after a particularly grueling display of aerial acrobatics and he was now learning the truth of that advice the hard way.
But, a good shower, some stretching exercises and a solid night of sleep were usually the key to conquering the aches and pains. His mother's cooking didn't hurt the process either.
By the time he'd finished his shower and slipped on a clean shirt and pants, he was feeling better and even a little rested. As he hunted for the cord to tie back his hair, he suddenly had a flash of a dream, --violent and dark-a chill ran down Dick's back and he shuddered. Now he remembered waking last night sweating and breathless after that strange nightmare. He remembered a rooftop, stretching on forever, darkness all around and a man…a man in a black cape, he seemed to blend with the darkness like a ghost, coiling around the chimneys with a serpents grace as he moved away into the distance.
Cold...intense cold, yes Dick remembered feeling terrible cold but not the kind brought on by a chill wind, the type that wrapped around your soul until you choked on its evil.
Again he shuddered. Dick didn't want to think about that; he was going to have a nice anniversary meal with his parents then maybe take a late night stroll with Tara the new contortionist before bed.
'Tomorrow we'll be in Gotham, then on to Metropolis' he thought, 'Then a two month break. I think I'll get on my bike and go investigate America.' The thought of the wind in his hair and the endless road made him smile as he snagged the cord from the dresser and secured his long dark hair.
'Yeah, just Dick Grayson and the open road.' He decided.
Grabbing the bottle of champagne he'd been keeping in the fridge and the gift that had sat in the cupboard for months, he headed over to his parents trailer.
So silent, yet the city is below, he can see it, but there's no sound. Like watching a movie with the sound muted; eerie and surreal.
Not the traffic below, but a fluttering like a bird…no, not a bird.
Leathery wings…like a bat.
Cold, so damned cold.
He holds himself tightly to try to preserve body warmth, but he's so cold. Glancing down at his hands; they are gloved in a strange material, clinging like lycra but so much tougher. Dark…black but the middle fingers are streaked with blue.
A costume; like a circus costume, but not.
The sound again, leathery wings beating close by, someone there, someone watching.
A sound…a name…not his?
"Who's there?" he asks.
Another sound, the voice whispers on the wind.
"Who are you?" he demands.
Too quiet, can't hear, can't make out the sounds…want to listen, but just can't hear.
Suddenly the cold closes in, the blackness becomes so inky that he can't see anything, can't move or breathe.
Fear, terrible numbing fear.
Dick sat up sharply, gasping for breath and fighting off the darkness that wasn't there. Trying to focus, he glanced around; he was at home in his trailer, in his own bed quite safe.
He ran his fingers through his hair and steadied his trembling hand; these nightmares were becoming more and more vivid as each night passed.
'Grayson, you need a vacation more than I thought,' he mumbled as he poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher at the side of the bed and swilled it back. Dropping back onto the pillow, Dick tried to relax but random images raced through his mind of the dark rooftop and the voice-if only he could have heard the voice.
'I should have taken Tara up on her offer,' he suddenly thought with a smile, but she was very young and pretty immature and Dick hadn't wanted any further complications in his life right now, though company would have been nice now he was lying staring at the ceiling.
Turning over and punching his pillow, Dick tried to slip back into sleep, it was going to be an early start to get everything to Gotham and set up before the first show there and he really needed the rest.
If only the nightmares didn't come back.
"You look tired, sweetheart?"
Dick glanced around from his position of helping the men to load the big top on the trailer and smiled.
"Mom, I'm fine, stop being such a…a…mom."
"Did you sleep okay?" Mary Grayson persisted.
"Yes, great. Mom, I'm fine."
Smiling Mary touched his arm and nodded, "Okay, just say 'mind your own business, mom'."
"Hey, I am your business and your concern is never an intrusion, you know that. I love you, Mom, don't ever think that you being a fusser is an imposition, it's not."
"Okay, I'll see you when we get to Gotham, baby." Mary kissed her son briefly and walked back to the waiting trailer already hitched up to the truck.
As Dick finally climbed aboard his own vehicle, he gave a sigh, just six more shows then he could take off for a while and clear his head.
"Look out Gotham, here we come."
Driving in Gotham City was like entering Hades; dark and depressing. The buildings were tall and darkly ominous, jutting into the skyline like the bars of a cage.
Dick felt his blood run cold as the long winding road led into the bustling metropolis and dull gray brick replaced the soft greens and browns of the countryside.
He wasn't sure why he felt so chilled as he wound up the window to shut out the cold that suddenly appeared to descend.
The Mayor had secured them a place for the big top within the city limits; which was unusual these days with cities forever encroaching on open spaces and everyone was excited to be performing in such a big place.
When eventually they pulled the caravan of vehicles onto the local parkland, Dick breathed a sigh of relief.
It would take the rest of the day to put everything up and do the safety checks, thankfully the first performance wasn't until tomorrow night.
Hearing a commotion outside, Dick rushed from the van. A small crowd had gathered around a number of police officers and an argument was breaking out.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Stefano the juggler turned away angrily, "These fascists are demanding to see all of the permits before they'll even let us turn off the engines!"
Dick frowned, he knew that all of the paperwork was okay, he'd checked it himself. But a traveling circus was not an office and it could take several hours to get everyone organized.
"Look officers, I can assure you that we're completely legal, we have the blessing of the mayor, we just need a little time to get everyone settled. Give us a break here!"
"Hey buddy, it's not our fault. The Commissioner wants the paperwork checked before we let you take a piss!" one officer drawled.
"And we don't have a problem with that, but it still doesn't change the fact that you can't expect an entire circus full of people to just have paperwork on hand at a moments notice. We've been driving most of the day, we have children and animals to feed and tired people."
"Like I said buddy, that's not my problem!"
A crowd had gathered around Dick and tempers were fraying, at the same time, more police officers had begun to turn up brandishing weapons.
Dick could see things getting out of hand but he too was tired and weary and his own patience was getting a little thin.
As the mood darkened and people began to push and shove, a large black car pulled almost silently onto the grounds and stopped. A man in an expensive suit climbed out and immediately the police calmed.
"What's the problem here, officer Murphy?" the man asked.
Dick shot the stranger a glance, something seemed so familiar about him, but Dick had never seen him before, he was sure of that. He'd remember a guy that big, imposing and patently wealthy.
"Mr Wayne," the policeman swallowed hard, "Commissioner Gordon insists that we have all of the paperwork from these people before we let them unpack anything."
The big man nodded and zeroed in on Dick, "Is your paperwork in order?" he asked.
"Yes, but we need time to find everything and at least feed the kids and animals. We don't have any problems here, but we're a circus, not a traveling office!"
"Very well. Officer Murphy, please tell the Commissioner that I'll be responsible for these people and I'll be sure to escort this young gentleman to the police headquarters tomorrow personally with the necessary documentation. Would that be acceptable?"
"Erm..well..I dunno.." Murphy grumbled.
"Are you doubting my word or maybe you think that I'll skip town?" the man smiled and the other police officers began to chuckle.
"No sir, Mister Wayne," Murphy stumbled over his words, "I'm sure that'll be just fine."
In moments, the police had melted away and the crowd dwindled. Dick stood watching and trying to work out who this guy must be to have that kind of power.
"Forgive me, my name is Bruce Wayne," the man said as though reading Dick's mind.
"Dick Grayson," Dick took the proffered hand and shook it.
"I'm sorry that your arrival in this city was so unwelcoming, but we recently had a tragedy. Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Barbara was shot and killed two nights ago by criminals. She was a wonderful woman, kind and generous and it's shaken this town to its core. The Commissioner is beside himself with grief and I feel he's being unduly harsh towards your company because he's not really thinking clearly at present."
"I'm sorry to hear about the Commissioners daughter, Mister Wayne, truly I am, but we're just here to entertain people, we don't want any trouble."
"I know and please call me Bruce?"
"Thanks," Dick smiled, still holding on to Bruce Wayne's hand, "And thanks for helping us out here."
"It's my pleasure. I'll get my driver to pick you up tomorrow and I'll attend the police headquarters with you just to make sure that there's no trouble."
"Thank you, that's very kind."
The two men stood staring at each other. Dick shivered slightly, he had the strangest feeling that he knew this man, everything about him was just so familiar and comfortable, but he couldn't figure out what it was.
When eventually Bruce released the hand and smiled, Dick almost had to physically shake himself to become aware of the words the other man was speaking.
"I'll go and let you get on with your work, Mister Grayson."
"Please, it's 'Dick'." He felt himself blush slightly, he wasn't sure why he continued to go by the name of 'Dick' especially with its connotations these days, and he'd spent years trying to get his parents to call him 'Rick', but to no avail, so eventually he'd just given up and let it slide.
"Nice to meet you, Dick." Bruce Wayne nodded and turned away, strolling back to his car and disappearing into the back seat, before the vehicle pulled away.
Dick watched the car slink away into the grayness of the city like a jungle cat and still he felt 'disturbed' by something. It was almost one of those 'someone walked over my grave' type feelings, but he couldn't pinpoint what was bothering him.
Shrugging, he wandered back to his trailer and began the preparations to help with the raising of the big top in Gotham City.
"Dick?" Mary Grayson called out.
Peering from behind the blind on his motor home, Dick smiled and unlocked the door, "Hey Mom, what's up?"
"Sorry, sweetheart, I wondered what was wrong when you didn't turn up for dinner?"
"What?" Glancing at his watch, he frowned; nine pm? "Mom, I'm sorry, I must have fallen asleep, but I don't remember. I sat down to file all of the tent and animal permits and…"
Mary's face softened, "It's okay, baby, I didn't like to interrupt in case you had 'company' but it wasn't like you to just not turn up."
"Mom, you know I'd never stand you and Dad up, even if I did have company."
"I know, anyway, if you're hungry I have some cheese pie and vegetables left in the oven for you."
A grin spread across Dick's face, his mother's cheese pie was divine. "I'm on my way!"
Shoveling his favorite pie down with appreciative glee, Dick moaned as the taste exploded on his tongue and his mother beamed with pride.
"Oh Mom, this is…oh wow."
"You okay to sort out the permits tomorrow son?" John Grayson asked as he pulled on his pipe and leaned back in his favorite chair.
"Yeah, Dad. No problem. Bruce Wayne said he'd come with me to smooth things with the authorities. Dad, have we ever been to Gotham before?"
"Er…yeah, a few years ago now though, you were about nine years old I think. Why?"
"I dunno, I keep getting the feeling that I know the place, the people. Even Mister Wayne seemed familiar."
"I don't recall us meeting anyone last time, we only did one show then we left."
Dick rested his chin on his hand, "Hmmm? Must be my imagination."
Finishing his meal, Dick stretched and playfully grabbed his mother, dragging her onto his lap, "Thanks Mom, that was perfect!" he kissed her and held her tightly to him.
"Oh get off you big fool, you're just like your father!" she scolded and pinched his cheek.
"I have no idea what I'd do without you two, you know?" Dick sighed as he placed his mother back on the floor and climbed to his feet.
"Oh you'd do okay, Grayson's are tough!" she slapped his chest and gathered up the dishes.
"Okay, I'm off. I'm still really tired so I'm heading to bed. 'Night all!"
With the voices of his parents still fresh in his ears, Dick headed across the compound to his trailer and stripped off his clothes, falling into bed wearily.
Tiredness washed over him and soon he'd fallen into a fitful sleep.
Creeping darkness, moving across the rooftops; cold like the approach of death.
Can't run. Can't hide.
It's here, behind him. He can feel its presence, help!
Fear; terrible fear.
'Help me, please?'
The sound, the leathery beating of its unholy wings, a demon for sure!
Have to run, to leap from the rooftop, need to cry out but his throat is tight and he's so afraid.
He can hear a voice, so low it's barely audible.
Behind him; speaking to him. So close he can feel its breath on his neck.
"No!" Dick sat up suddenly, the room spinning before his eyes and the sweat trickling down his back. "Oh God, what is wrong with me?" he whispered to himself and rubbed his face with his hands to clean away the image burned into the back on his eyes, that last image on a hand on his shoulder…
He glanced at the clock, it wasn't quite four a.m and still dark outside. Deciding that he didn't want to go back to sleep and just fall straight back into that accursed dream, Dick decided to get out and take a walk, fill his lungs with air and walk off some of the adrenaline still pumping through his system.
Gotham was far from a handsome city, it was gray and impersonal with never-ending streets filled with beggars and trash, stray dogs skittered in the alleyways and the air hung heavy with smog.
Dick wandered from the small park, which was to be home to the circus for the next few days, and pushed on along the dreary streets, barely taking in the sights, but feeling the need to be on the move.
He had walked for a few minutes when he heard a noise in the alleyway. Curiosity getting the better of common sense, he skipped along the darkened passage to find out what was going on.
When his eyes became accustomed to the dim light he was shocked to see a man dressed in black, fighting three rough looking men, one of whom had just produced a switchblade from nowhere.
"Hey, watch out, he has a knife," Dick yelled and before he knew it, he'd somersaulted across the trashcans and kicked the attacker to the ground. The man in black dispatched the other two with ease before binding them with a fine line and pushing them to the ground.
For the first time, the man turned, "Thank you," he spoke as his face left the shadows for the first time.
He wore a mask.
The wind whistled down the alley sweeping the cape from his shoulders and flapping it noisily; it slapped like the leathery wings of a bat.
The fear and terror rose in Dick's throat and before anything further could be said, he ran as fast as his feet would carry him back towards the circus.
He wasn't sure why he felt so afraid, but the illogical terror bit and clawed at him as he struck for home, stopping to catch his breath only as his trailer came into sight.
Dropping down on his bed, he played the scene over and over in his mind. The man in the mask, the sound of the 'wings', the darkness and the smell of fear, it had been overwhelming and Dick was now grateful that they'd only be here a short time before moving on.
He needed that vacation way more than he thought.
Waking with the sun shattering through the trailer blind, Dick groaned; he'd fallen asleep in his clothes. Dragging himself off the bed he stripped and hopped into the shower, immediately waking as the water blasted into his face. He was soon stirred from his reviving shower by someone banging on the door.
"Hang on, I'm coming," Dick wrapped a towel around his waist and rubbed at his dripping hair as he unlocked the door. "Jeremy!" he exclaimed, "Hi, what can I do for you?"
"I forgot to give you the permit for the fireworks," the young man explained stepping just into the trailer.
"Oh right, just drop them on the desk, that should be everything now."
"How are you doing, Dick?" Jeremy asked eyeing Dick greedily.
"I'm good, you?"
"Yeah, but I miss you, man."
Dick bit on his lip and looked away. Jeremy, or Pepe the Clown as he was known professionally, had been Dick's first male lover and their stormy relationship had lasted almost a year. Dick had never made a secret of the fact that he was bisexual or that he tended towards women more than men, but he and Jeremy had clicked to begin with and he'd found a great deal of fulfillment in their relationship. However, Jeremy had become increasingly jealous and possessive and Dick had eventually broken up with him to preserve his own sanity.
"Jeremy, you know that what we had is over, don't you?" he said finally.
"So you say."
"Yeah, 'I say' because it's true. We just couldn't go on punishing each other for being what we are. We're just plain incompatible."
"We weren't for a year, a whole year!" Jeremy pleaded.
"But we almost destroyed each other in that year. Yeah, the sex was fun and I loved you, I really did. But you know that I can't handle your possessiveness and you have problems with me talking to women."
The younger man looked away and sighed, "Yeah, I know all of the arguments, Dick, but I still love you."
"I'm sorry, but I can't be what you want." Dick held up the paper, "Thanks for this. If you'll excuse me, I have to get dressed and get down to the PD to get all of this straightened out."
"Sure Dick, see you around, huh?"
"Yeah, see you around."
When the huge black car pulled into the circus compound, Dick waited and a few seconds later Bruce Wayne climbed out.
"I'm sorry we're a little late, Dick, there was a traffic accident on the way here. I had to get my private helicopter to come from Wayne Tech to airlift the injured man to hospital. You don't mind me picking you up, do you?" Bruce asked with a warm smile.
"No, thanks! I was just about to get my bike out when I thought you weren't coming."
"No need for that, Alfred knows the way and the car will give us a chance to talk."
Settling into the luxurious back seat beside Bruce, Dick smiled uneasily. There was still something about this man that felt…strange.
Oh, he was a nice guy and incredibly good-looking, big; bigger than Dick by several inches and wider. He had huge muscular shoulders and the neck of a weightlifter.
'He must work out a lot,' Dick thought idly.
The two men made small talk as they cruised the streets of Gotham and Dick admitted to himself that he'd begun to feel very comfortable in Bruce Wayne's presence, add to that the fact that he found the man incredibly attractive and the day had begun to look brighter already.
After settling the permit problem with the police, Bruce asked Dick to have lunch with him at a local restaurant and despite needing to get back for rehearsals, Dick agreed.
Bruce thanked the waiter as he placed the food on the table and left, he poured Dick a mineral water as ordered and himself a glass of wine.
"You know, I remember seeing you perform with your parents in Gotham about …ooh, about fourteen years ago, you were just a young boy!"
"Yeah, I only vaguely remember being here back then," Dick smiled as he sipped his drink.
"You were very good, very professional," Bruce smiled.
"I have ringside tickets for tonight, I wouldn't miss a performance from the legendary 'Flying Graysons'."
Dick looked up in blatant surprise, "You do?"
"Of course. I was going to ask you if you'd like to have dinner with me after the performance, at my home, 'Wayne Manor'?"
"Well, I usually go rest after a performance..."
"Of course, my mistake." Bruce looked away and a strange expression flitted across his face momentarily, a mixture of disappointment and frustration.
"Well, if you don't mind a dinner guest who might just fall asleep over his meal from exhaustion, then I'd like to very much." Dick smiled as Bruce's face softened into a smile.
"Excellent, I look forward to it. Of course, you're welcome to bring your wife or partner."
Glancing up, Dick smiled, "I'm not married and I don't have a permanent partner right now."
"Oh, well just feel free to bring a guest if you so wish, or just bring yourself--- that would be fine with me."
"Thanks. And thank you again for helping sort out our permit problem, when we were invited by the Mayor, we didn't think we'd get hassled by the police!"
Bruce's face darkened, "We've had a run of tragedies here lately, including the death of Barbara Gordon. We also have issues with a criminal element that is causing a great deal of trouble. Gotham is not a happy city, Dick. We've seen misery and destruction in abundance recently and the people blame the police. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as that, the police are out of their league with the criminals who wish this city harm, but they're getting the angry backlash from the honest tax paying citizens."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"But enough of the troubles of the city, tell me about yourself…" Bruce settled back and listened while Dick told him about life in the circus and as part of the 'Flying Grayson' trapeze artists.
They laughed and talked until Dick checked his watch finally, "I'm sorry, I'll have to go I have a rehearsal before the show tonight."
"Yes of course. I too have a task to fulfill before the show tonight, I have a dear friend in hospital and I promised him that I'd visit today."
"I'm sorry, is it something serious?"
"He's broken his back unfortunately. I'm getting him the best medical help that money can buy, but I think it will be a long slow process that's if he can be saved at all." Bruce's voice beheld a sadness that touched Dick deeply.
"What was it an automobile accident?"
"No, he was attacked and thrown from the roof of a building."
"Oh my God!"
Bruce nodded slowly, "I know, it seems beyond any man to do that to a boy, he's only fifteen and so full of life. But, I remain positive, Tim's strong, I'm sure he'll come through this."
"I hope he's okay, Bruce, it must be terrible for his parents."
"He lives with his father who is disabled, it has been very traumatic for the poor man. Anyway, enough of my troubles, please let me drop you back at the circus?"
"It's okay, I can get there…"
"No, I insist."
As the car pulled away, Dick watched it go with an odd feeling in his stomach and a familiar feeling in his groin.
Bruce had been coming on to him all day, oh it was subtle and very polite, but still a come on all the same.
Not that he minded, the man was lovely and he'd been more than happy to accept the dinner invitation.
'Maybe a little romance is what you need, Grayson?' he thought as he skipped back into his trailer with a smile and a mind full of images of that big man without the expensive suit and preferably horizontal.
"Everything go okay, sweetheart?" Mary Grayson called out suddenly.
"Yeah, everything's fine, we're a go for tonight, we got clearance from the police."
"Wonderful. Hurry now, rehearsal is just starting."
Dick peered from the darkness of backstage and spotted a familiar figure in the front row. A thrill ran through him and he shivered.
'Get a grip, he's just a guy!' he thought to himself with a sigh. He hadn't been this interested in a man since…well, ever.
Jeremy had been nice and a pleasant experience until his overwhelming jealousy had become unbearable and overshadowed the physical pleasure enough for Dick to want to end it. But the sheer electricity that he felt when he was near Bruce Wayne was indescribable. There was still a strange feeling of deja-vu that he felt about everything since he'd got to Gotham, Bruce included, and it nagged at this consciousness almost as much as the rush of heat tugged at his groin right now.
"Ready son?" John Grayson said suddenly and Dick had to cover himself as he felt the hardness in his cock push at the tight fabric.
"Yeah...sure," he replied, cursing himself for letting his mind wander and wondering if he was going to be the first man to do the fabled 'quadruple somersault' with a raging hard-on?
By the time he got his 'curtain call' he'd managed to get himself under control and now had his mind on the task ahead. This was not something to take lightly, the Flying Grayson's never used a net and one tiny slip could mean disaster. Dick prided himself on being a professional and when he walked into the circus ring, he had his mind fully on his duty as a performer.
He could never put into words the feeling he got as his hands tightened around the bar after coming out of the maneuver and he knew he was home free. By the time the roar of the crowd reached him, he was safely on the crows nest, taking his bow and saying the trapeze artists prayer.
Dick allowed himself a glance in Bruce's direction as he skipped from the arena and was privy to the big man with a wide smile on his face, applauding as wildly as the rest of the crowd.
Racing back to the trailer, Dick quickly stripped and showered, eager to get away at the end of the show with Bruce and feeling just a little immature at how excited he was.
'Stop being such a teenager!' he hissed to himself as he quickly dried his hair and slipped on his clean pants and shirt.
As he closed the trailer door behind him finally, he saw the big black car still sitting waiting, the crowds having dwindled away now and the circus begun to close down for the night.
The door of the car opened and he made his way across to it.
"Hi!" he smiled, popping his head inside the vehicle.
"Hello. Ready for dinner?" Bruce asked as Dick slipped in beside him.
The house was impressive beyond words and Dick suddenly felt a little intimidated by it all as he followed Bruce through the magnificent entrance into the drawing room.
"Alfred should have dinner ready in a few minutes, until then lets have a drink?"
"Sure, thanks," Dick shuffled a little uneasily.
"Don't let the house intimidate you, Dick. I know it does some people. What would you like, Whisky? Bourbon? Brandy? What? "
"Bourbon thanks. I admit that this place is pretty impressive!"
Bruce poured the drinks and moved across the room, handing Dick his drink, "So are you."
Smiling despite himself, Dick felt his cheeks color slightly, "You wouldn't be trying to seduce me here, would you Mister Wayne?" he said with a grin.
"Yes, Mister Grayson, I think I am," Bruce replied, "Am I succeeding?"
Thinking for a moment, Dick sipped his drink, "I'll let you know after dinner."
Bruce Wayne laughed out loud, "Oh I knew I'd like you the first time I set eyes on you."
Suddenly there was a rap on the door and moments later a man entered, "Dinner is served, Sir."
The dining room was four times the size of Dick's trailer and it was like being in another world where he suddenly felt small and lost. But Bruce Wayne's smile more than made up for any discomfort he felt and the unspoken promises of what was for 'dessert' were making him feel warm and tingly.
The conversation was pleasant and fun and Dick felt so totally at ease with this man that it was like chatting with a lifelong friend, not a man he'd met only the day before. The food was divine, the atmosphere charged with electricity as Bruce constantly touched Dick's hand during the conversation causing bolts of desire to race south to his cock.
Dick shuffled slightly to try to readjust himself as his groin throbbed and pounded against the tightness of his pants and he prayed that Bruce would ask him to stay tonight, dreading the alternative of having to jerk off alone in the shower at home.
After a wonderful meal, Bruce took them into a small living room, which doubled as a personal library. The room was so unlike the others he had seen, it was small and cozy; warm colors decorated the walls, personal photographs hung between old volumes of Bruce Wayne's favorite novels and Dick felt that this was more in tune with the man he'd been talking to.
Dick was glancing at the books on the old oak bookshelf as he felt hands on his waist, "This is my favorite room. I only ever let very close friends in here." Bruce whispered in his ear.
Shivering at the deep baritone voice and the heat of the man so close behind him, Dick swallowed hard, "It's a beautiful room. It seems to reflect you more than the others."
"That's because the others are my façade, the face I show the world, but this is my soul laid bare. Can I kiss you?"
Almost missing the end of the statement, Dick turned and gasped as Bruce pulled him close, the heat seared through him and the sheer strength of the man was overwhelming.
"Sure you can kiss me," he tried to joke, but the words caught in his throat and came out tight and strained, "Thought you'd never ask!"
Bruce met Dick's lips with an urgency that took the younger man's breath away, there was nothing tentative about it, nothing polite, it was raw passion finally unleashed as tongues battled it out and hot bodies pressed close.
"You'll stay tonight?" Bruce asked breathlessly.
"Yes," Dick answered without a second thought.
The staircase seemed endless and Dick thought that his legs would surely give out on him before they got to the bedroom. But when eventually they closed the heavy door behind them and both fell onto the huge four-poster bed, Dick gave way to the rush of pleasure that was beating at his brain. Bruce was pulling the shirt from his shoulders, flinging it away haphazardly. Fingers fumbling at Dick's pants soon freed his heavy, aching cock as the fabric was peeled away leaving him naked, his cock arcing up towards his belly, red and swollen, the head shiny with moisture. In a single movement, Bruce had swallowed it, taking in its length, sucking hard, his tongue washing around the crown, dipping into the slit, making Dick groan with pleasure, each thrust of the hips accompanied by a grunt and the clawing of his hands through Bruce's hair, trying to push further in, to be devoured by this man.
Bruce pulled back before Dick climaxed, he finished his own undressing and crawled back on the bed, lifting Dick easily in order to run his fingers along the cleft of his ass, watching as Dick bucked and writhed when a single finger entered him.
"Relax," Bruce whispered and caressed the heavy sacs of the younger man's balls, rolling and massaging them until they began to tighten.
Dick shivered as the waves of ecstasy washed over him, sweating as he was hurtled towards the edge again and again only to be denied his release.
He pulled Bruce in for another kiss, needing to taste the man, to have his body pressed close, gasping as Bruce's rock hard cock bumped his own, grazing along its length, pushing into his stomach.
Bruce was preparing him, he could feel the slick fingers sliding into his ass, but still the bigger man kissed and caressed, not breaking contact for a moment as he rolled on a condom and pumped his hand along his length with gelled fingers.
Effortlessly Bruce entered him, Dick gasped as the blunt head slipped inside him and the pressure built as inch by inch Bruce Wayne filled him.
His body was slick with sweat, heart pumping and adrenalin racing as Bruce came to rest against him.
He felt so full he thought he'd explode, it was just the right side of being painful, he'd never taken anyone so big before, never felt this kind of animalistic desperation until now and as Bruce began to move in long, slow, deliberate thrusts, Dick wailed in his glorious torment.
Faster, Bruce was pounding faster, his hand now stroking Dick's cock in unison, sliding along the engorged flesh, the blood pumping hard along the jutting column until with a shout, his whole body lifting from the bed, Dick spilled into Bruce's fist, the creamy white come splattering his own chest and the blinding intensity of the orgasm tearing through him.
A low moan from Bruce signaled that he'd followed close behind and he withdrew with a groan, kissing Dick's belly lovingly as he stripped off the condom and taking a moment to wipe Dick clean before he sank back onto the bed.
Heart still pumping furiously in his chest, Dick sprawled back on the bed like a rag doll, limp against soft mattress, his flesh still tingling from the rush.
Everything was so perfect it felt almost like a dream.
With Bruce's arm now slung heavily across his chest, Dick slept.
The voice is clear now.
"You have to resist, Nightwing, please listen to me?"
Pleading, begging, desperation.
And the cold, the clinging darkness that chills. It's coming across the rooftop, darkness blotting out everything in its path; a creeping evil.
Have to get away, but the voice…..recognition, a pull…
But the fear, the fear is still there, so all encompassing.
Have to run, to hide…to wake.
The darkness takes a shape, blackness forming into an unholy form, slick and leathery, the sound of wings again…
Eyes, it has eyes. Piercing and riveting. The mouth moves, but the sound is muffled at first by the heaviness of the darkness; like fog dulling the sound, causing the words to delay like a badly dubbed movie.
"Dick, please," it's pleading now, begging.
Oh my God.
He knows its name.
He knows the fear.
He recognizes the darkness.
Bruce, Bruce Wayne…….
Waking with a start, Dick almost flew from the bed. He stood for a moment watching the sleeping figure of Bruce Wayne as images flooded his mind, vivid colors flashed across his vision, red, green and gold, a badge, or insignia stood out, the letter 'R'. Then a dark sleek image, like a panther, a flash of blue lightning suddenly splitting the image in his mind, but some how he knew it was him, the colors, they were him, but he didn't understand how.
The darkness was Bruce and he knew that for sure, the fear, that creeping terror, it represented Bruce Wayne and he needed to run.
Grabbing his clothes, Dick quickly dressed and slipped from the room as quietly as he could. Glancing around, he made his way down the winding staircase and out of the door.
Then he ran. Like a man pursued by the devil himself, he ran.
It took a couple of hours before Dick finally arrived back at the circus, he stumbled towards his trailer tired and still deeply affected by what he'd discovered in his dream. Nothing within him doubted what his dream had revealed because somehow it made complete sense.
As Dick fumbled with his key, a hand touched his arm. Almost leaping from his skin, Dick flattened himself against the vehicle, his heart pumping and the sweat trickling down his back, only to find the slight figure of Jeremy standing beside him.
"Dick, are you okay?"
"Yes…no…I don't know. I have to get inside, Jez," Dick stuttered.
Taking the key from Dick's trembling fingers, Jeremy unlocked the door and helped him inside.
"Sit down, Dick I'll get you a drink, you look like hell, man."
"I'm sorry, I'm just a little shaken up."
"What happened?" Jeremy asked as he turned on the kettle and took out a sachet of chamomile tea that he knew Dick always kept for those times when he was too buzzed from a performance to relax.
"I..I can't explain, Jez. It's all kind of bizarre."
Handing over a hot cup of herbal tea, Jeremy sat down beside Dick, "You are shaken up, aren't you? It's been a long time since you've called me 'Jez'," the young man smiled gently.
Dick's worried face broke out into a weak smile, "Sorry. Old habits."
"That's okay, it's nice. It feels like we're friends again."
"We were always friends, you know that. Even when we broke up, I always considered you my friend."
"Okay then, tell me what happened." Jeremy sat back and crossed his arms, determined to hear Dick out.
Reluctantly Dick began to tell him about the dreams, how they'd escalated in their intensity lately until the one tonight when he'd woken in Bruce's bed and it had all suddenly made sense; Bruce Wayne was the evil entity in his dream.
"And you just left?" Jeremy asked.
Dick nodded, "I couldn't face waiting for him to wake, I just grabbed my clothes and ran. Shit!" Dick ran his fingers through his hair, "I was so attracted to the guy, I've spent the past couple of days trying not to step on my tongue I found him so compelling."
"Hey, we leave here tomorrow, you never need to see him again," Jeremy placed his hand on Dick's shoulder, "I'm sure that once we leave Gotham, the dreams will go away, you just need to forget all about Bruce Wayne and this 'bat demon' persona he has and think about what a wonderful life you have here. You have a loving family, you're world famous at what you do and you have friends among the circus people--*your* people, who care for you. Just forget all about that guy, Dick, and get on with your life."
"Yeah, you're right, Jez, I know that. But, this has all been so weird, I keep getting the feeling that there's something I should know, something I should remember but I can't."
"Dick, why don't you try to get some rest and quit worrying about it?"
"Yeah, I think I will. I have a performance today and I feel wrecked, guess I should rest, huh?"
Jeremy stood up and pulled Dick to his feet, leading him over to the bed and pushing him down.
"Yeah, get some rest and that's an order!" he grabbed the boots from Dicks feet and dropped them onto the floor. Picking up a blanket he gently laid it across Dick. "You sure you're going to be okay? I don't mind sitting in the chair just in case you need someone here?"
Dick grabbed the young man's hand, "I'm fine, Jez, thanks. You need to go get some sleep too, I'm not the only one working tomorrow."
"Yeah, but I don't work 'up there'," Jeremy smiled and pointed skywards.
"I'll be okay, really. Thanks, I mean it!"
Jeremy smiled and leaned down, placing a kiss on Dick's forehead, "I'm always here for you, Dick. Now get some rest."
Finally letting his now aching body relax, Dick fell into a fitful, restless sleep.
The car pulled almost silently onto the circus ground, but somehow Dick had 'felt' the arrival of Bruce Wayne minutes before the vehicle even came into sight.
"I'm looking for Dick Grayson," he heard Bruce say and he tried to hide the shudder that followed. A part of him still desired the man intensely, but the images in his mind of that dark figure stalking the alleyways and rooftops chilled him to the bone.
Turning to see the imposing figure of Bruce standing unsurely in the doorway, Dick took a deep breath.
Bruce glanced around before moving in a little closer, "What happened last night, I woke up and you were gone?"
"I had to get back, I had early rehearsals," Dick lied badly.
"How did you get back here at that time of the morning?"
"You walked," Bruce gasped, "Dick, you're not telling me the truth. What happened, what did I do?" he pleaded, "Did I hurt you?"
"No!" Dick turned around to face the big man defiantly. He didn't want Bruce to think that he'd caused him any pain and something within him was still touched deeply by the man's concern. "No, you didn't hurt me, it was good…really. I just, erm… I'm sorry Bruce, it just won't work between us."
"But I thought we were getting along well?"
"We were, it's not you it's me. I'm just going through a rough patch right now and you got caught up in my neurosis, I'm sorry Bruce."
"So am I," Bruce's voice was heavy with emotion and he took a step back, "I'd still like to see you again, just as a friend, before you leave?"
"Yeah, that should be okay."
The two men stood and stared for a moment, both seemingly locked in their own painful silence.
"What aren't you telling me, Dick?" Bruce whispered, "If it's something I've done, please tell me what it is?"
"No, really," Dick tried to lie again but the words caught in his throat, "I'm sorry, I can't explain," he moved away, taking a hold of the coiled rope that was lying on the floor, "Excuse me, Bruce, I have work to do."
At that moment, Jeremy appeared at the door, "Everything okay, Dick?" he asked eyeing the big man cautiously.
"Yeah, everything's fine, Mister Wayne's just leaving."
The upset had caused Dick to seek solitude and peace after his performance so that he could try to gain his composure again before they moved on to Metropolis.
All day the images had battled it out in his head, the man in black; Bruce Wayne, a demon tempting him away from the life he loved, but somewhere buried deep within him, a voice called out; warm and reassuring, pleading with him to listen.
Needing to be alone, Dick decided to walk and try to work off the adrenalin still rushing through his veins, refusing to let him rest.
Soon he found himself back on Gotham's dark and dreary streets. It had begun to rain and the mist hung low, giving the sky an almost reachable depth.
A sound shook Dick from his waking dream as he wandered past the now abandoned theater, peering inside he was shocked to see the bat-man fighting with another man in a purple suit, his face a twisted clown's mask. Around them, were a number of burly men, obviously henchmen to the man in purple.
"Surrender, Batman," the man spoke as he hurled the other man back against the balcony edge.
"Never! While I still have breath in my body I'll never give you Gotham, Joker!" Batman hissed.
Dick watched in horror as blood began to seep from beneath the bat man's mask.
"What will it take with you, you winged freak?" Joker growled, "First I dispose of Batgirl, who it has to be said, mewled like a kitten as she died, then I test the boy blunder to see if he bounces; he didn't, but that's not enough for you, is it?" Joker struck out, hitting Batman again, this time the big man slumped against the old, rusty rail.
"If I give up and hand you Gotham on a platter then they suffered and died for nothing and I'll be damned before I'll let that happen!" Batman snarled.
Joker grabbed the now profusely bleeding man and lifted him almost over the balcony, "Then be damned!" he chuckled.
"NO!" Dick yelled suddenly. Before he knew it, he was in the old building and fighting off the henchmen who fell like nine pins against his agile kicks.
"Get away from him!" he shouted as the Joker tipped Batman a little further over the edge.
"No, Dick…run.." Batman squeezed out the words.
"And let him kill you? No!"
You'd better go, sonny, before I get angry and shoot you," the Jokers painted on smile twisted into a grimace.
"I won't let you kill him."
"He's your worst nightmare, remember?" a voice said suddenly from behind him and Dick felt the world slowing down. Almost in a dream now he turned to see Jeremy standing behind him.
"Dick, you have everything here, your family, your friends, fame and fortune, what more do you need?"
"He's going to kill a man in cold blood," Dick gasped.
"The Batman is evil, you know that, he's been in your dreams, tortured your subconscious, if he dies, that will all go away."
"No." Dick shook his head violently; he could hear another voice and now a shadow was forming, another 'Batman'.
"Nightwing, don't listen to him, he has you under a spell, you must break it, you have to come back of your own free will." The voice urged.
"I don't understand what's happening?" Dick fell to his knees and held his head, there was a pounding in his brain and the confusion….
"Nightwing," the 'new' Batman hissed, "Dick Grayson, look at me!"
Looking up as instructed, Dick watched as the man pulled off his mask and Bruce Wayne looked down at him, "Dick, the Dream Master took a throw away comment that you made while we were arguing and made it a reality, do you remember?"
Shaking his head, Dick struggled to try to think, but everything was so hazy.
"We had a disagreement about our relationship and you wished that your parents had never died and you'd never met me," Bruce's face was hard, but the hurt was clearly shown, "He made it a reality for you, but this is the price. In this reality, Babs and Tim are dead or dying and if you let him kill Batman, then you've 'paid' for the return of your old life. But it's a high price, Dick, look around, look at Gotham and Bludhaven is even worse; that's a city just introducing martial law to try to bring order. Dick please, you have to remember!"
"Don't listen to him, Dick," Jeremy urged, "He's evil, you know that! Your parents are back at the circus waiting for you, they're not dead and all you have to do is walk away now, just turn and walk away and your life will go on being perfect."
Head pounding and sweat trickling down his back, Dick rested his forehead on his knees; he was so confused.
"It doesn't feel right, that's what's been bugging me, even though it was so wonderful, it just doesn't feel right," Dick mumbled, "I'm not that Dick Grayson, not any more."
"Dick, you are, you're the man who made the Flying Grayson's world famous. You have loving parents who adore you." Jeremy moved in close, placing a comforting hand on Dick's shoulder
"No!" Dick sprang to his feet, tears rolled down his cheeks, "I am Nightwing and my parents died when I was a child!" he reached out for Bruce who looked on helplessly, "I was taken in by Bruce Wayne who cared for me and loved me… and he still does."
"But it can be different, you can have your parents back," Jeremy insisted.
"At what price? The death of Barbara, Tim and Bruce? A Gotham without Batman and Robin to protect it and Bludhaven in chaos?"
"What does that matter, you'd have what you wanted; your parents would be alive!"
Dick shook his head, "Some prices are too high. My parents; my real parents, would never forgive me if I let all of this happen because of them."
"Dick, please think it over?" Jeremy pleaded.
"No, put things back the way they were."
"Be sure that you mean that!" Jeremy's image began to change as a metamorphosis took place and the young man melted away into a twisted form of an older man.
"I mean it, I am not this Dick Grayson, no matter how much I'd like to be. I am Nightwing and I belong with the Batman of Gotham. Now change things back to the way they were!"
Waking with a start, Dick felt his head thud and slowly, memories of the 'dream' began to surface.
Climbing from his bed, he turned on his computer and punched in a code, waiting impatiently until an image flickered into life.
"Grayson, this had better be urgent," Barbara Gordon groaned, "Have you any idea what time it is?"
Dick felt a huge smile spread across his face, "Babs, you're okay?"
"No, I'm tired because some big jerk just woke me up to ask me if I was okay," she pouted, "Now what's up?"
"I…er….I just had a bad dream.." he smiled sheepishly.
The disheveled woman at the other end glared, "You woke me up because you had a bad dream? What do you want, a bedtime story?"
Unable to remove the wide smile from his face, Dick shrugged, "Sorry Babs, I'll make it up to you."
"Better believe it, hotshot. I think Pistachio and mint ice cream might do it, from that little Italian place on Wiltshire?"
"Okay, it's a deal."
"Oh Dick, did you sort out that..er…disagreement with Bruce yet?"
"No, but I will, today, I promise."
"Good, I don't like to see you two fighting," her face softened into a smile, "But I suggest that you leave it until a reasonable hour before you wake him!"
"Yeah, will do. See you Babs!"
"Ah, Master Dick, what a pleasant surprise, " Alfred almost smiled as he hurried Dick into the lounge where Bruce Wayne was sitting reading.
"Hey!" Dick smiled as Bruce looked up.
Climbing to his feet, Bruce shot his young companion a wary look, "Everything okay, Dick?"
Without another word, Dick pulled Bruce into his arms and kissed him hard, pouring every ounce of need he possessed into the kiss.
"Heavens!" Bruce spluttered as Dick finally broke the kiss. The bigger man flushed slightly and tried to loosen his collar with his finger, "Are you sure you're all right, Dick?"
Sitting them both down after Bruce had poured them a drink more to calm his nerves that Dick's, the younger man began to explain what happened……
"…When it came down to it, I couldn't sacrifice you and Tim and Babs, not even for my parents."
Bruce reached out tentatively, touching the younger man's hand, "It must have been a difficult decision?"
"No, not really. You see, that Dick Grayson had no real 'meaning' he wasn't needed. I like to think that the world needs Nightwing and I hope that what I do contributes to someone's happiness, somewhere. And then there was you."
"I was attracted to that Bruce Wayne despite being told that he was the 'demon' in my dreams and even though he smiled way too much to really be you," Dick grinned, "I couldn't get past how I felt about him, how I felt about you. Despite his best efforts, the Dream Master couldn't prevent me being drawn to you and in the end, that was the test; was I willing to let you die so that my parents could live?"
"And you couldn't?"
"No. If I could turn back time and prevent their deaths, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I couldn't be responsible for taking the lives of you, Tim and Babs just to get them back, they'd never want that."
"Well, I'm glad your back, Dick," Bruce said quietly.
"Bruce, about the disagreement we had, I'm sorry, okay? I never meant those things I said."
Bruce Wayne smiled and nodded, "I know, I'm sorry too. It was childish and you know that it only happened because we're too much alike for comfort sometimes?"
"Yeah," Dick replied with a smile, "Scary isn't it?"
"Let's agree to talk things out in future before we fly off the handle?"
"Sounds good. I've seen the alternative now, the world without you, Tim and Babs and I realize how much I have here. Hell, I'll even admit that we need Batman… I need Batman, I just don't want to share my bed with him any more… or my dreams!"
Bruce Wayne tried to hide the smile that was threatening but failed. "I promise that the Batman stays out of the bedroom."
"Okay, it's a deal."
Smiling and relieved, Dick Grayson sat back in the chair and sipped his drink.
He was home.