“Hey, will you ease up, Barbara,” Dick complained. The redhead folded her arms across her chest. Dick wriggled to get more comfortable in bed. He’d been sitting up in the one spot for the last hour. “Bruce is just... you know what he’s like.”
“He’s obsessed and that obsession almost got you killed,” she insisted, stabbing a finger at him.
“Whooow,” Dick disagreed, raising his hand. “No, it didn’t. I did that all on my own. I made the decision to leap up onto that stage. I knew what was going to happen.”
“Then why did you do it?!” Her response held so much force that her wheelchair jerked.
Dick blinked. “Did you expect me to just stand there and watch him get shot?”
Silence filled the room.
“No... I...” Barbara bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry. I... I’m sorry. I don’t really have a right to...”
“Right? Please. Now you’re starting to sound like him,” Dick snorted.
Tears welled in Barbara’s eyes. She loved Dick. She hadn’t realized she was in love with him until that single moment at the hospital when she had known with certainty that he was dying. "I thought I was going to lose you,” she choked out.
"By the sound of things, technically you did,” Dick commented as he reached for the glass of water Alfred had left for him.
"Don't be flippant about this," Barbara snapped.
Dick withdrew his arm and studied her face as a tear teetered on her cheek before sliding off. “Hey, relax. I’m okay, pretty lady.” He reached out to her and Barbara took his hand in both of hers. “You have to know by now that you aren’t going to get rid of me that easily.”
“Dick, please,” she whispered.
He frowned. “What? Hey, Babs. Come one. I’m fine.” He squeezed her hand and nodded once in assurance.
Barbara lifted one hand and wiped her eyes, but continued to grip his hand with the other. It was time to tell him. She’d practised and rehearsed this moment for the past six weeks. “Dick, I... “ All the words were gone apart from the three she wanted so desperately to say. “I love you.”
“Yeah, I know,” he stated, easily, bouncing their hands twice. “You and me are like siblings.”
Her face contorted. “Siblings?” she repeated, as if the word were something particularly unpleasant.
“We’ve grown up together. Outside of Alfred, I don’t think anyone knows me as well you.”
Barbara’s lip began to tremble. “I don’t want to be your sister. Dick, when I said I love you, I meant... I...”
He continued to gaze at her and his eyes widened a little as his handsome face creased with surprised understanding. “I’m in love with you too... have been since the day I hit puberty, but I didn’t think... I think we should wait.”
Barbara opened her mouth.
Dick shook his head. “Let me finish. Let’s give ourselves some time. I don’t want this to just be a temporary thing.”
“Temporary?” she asked, confused.
“I don’t want you to be influenced by what’s just happened. We’re all feeling a bit shell shocked at the moment. Let‘s take it slow until...”
Barbara leaned forward and placed her finger on his lips to silence him. “What just happened made me realize that all that I’ve been looking for I’d been taking for granted, Dick. I’m not in love with you because I almost lost you. I’m in love with you because... because I love you.”
“Oh.” He was genuinely surprised... happily taken aback.
She smiled at him. “So, do you still want to take things slow?”
“Hell, no.” She leaned into him and their lips brushed.
“That’s enough, you two.”
The pair sprang apart like two teenagers caught by a parent.
Alfred strode into the room, shaking his greying head. “He doesn’t have the strength for that.”
Dick glanced at Barbara and mouthed, ‘Wanna bet?’ Barbara blushed beautifully.
“Miss Barbara, your father is downstairs ready to take you home.”
“Thanks Alfred.” She leaned forward and kissed Dick on the cheek. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”
“On the cheek? That‘s it?” Dick asked. He squeezed her hand again.
She beamed at him. “Love you.”
Dick grinned and glanced at Alfred. “I’m seeing an older woman.”
Barbara slapped him playfully. Her and Dick’s eyes came together and they shared a look of passion that had Alfred turning away to give them some privacy. When he looked back, they were just pulling apart, Barbara red as beet and Dick’s eyes sparkling.
Alfred clicked his tongue with amusement. “The first time I had to pull you two apart, you were fourteen, Master Dick and you, Miss Barbara, must have been...”
“A little older,” Barbara jumped in.
“Quite so,” Alfred agreed. “This time there is a difference, though. This time, I approve.”
“Since when did we need your approval, Alfred?” Dick chuckled.
Alfred shot the young man an ‘unimpressed’ look which left Dick laughing.
“Tomorrow,” Barbara said as she pulled her chair away from the bed and headed out the door. “I’ll ring you tonight.”
“I’ll be waiting, pretty lady.”
“I will be out in a moment to assist you down the stairs,” Alfred called after her and then he turned back to Dick.
“She loves me, Al.”
Alfred nodded, genuinely happy for Dick. “I don’t believe there has ever been any doubt.”
Dick leant back against the pillow and rubbed the back of his hand across his weary face. He got so tired so quickly. It was frustrating.
“I’ve just had another phone call and orders to ‘check’ on you.” Dick rolled his eyes. “I know, I know. He’s smothering you.”
“He's treating me like I'm eight again,” Dick complained, reaching for the glass of water and sipping from it.
"He wants to show you how much he loves you, but the only experience he has in showing any emotion to anyone, was that period of time when you were young and so he's drawing on that. Be patient with him,” Alfred encouraged, taking the glass from Dick.
“Alfred, I'm not a kid any more.”
“No, you aren’t... despite how you often act.“ The pair exchanged a wry grin. “He has never known how to deal with the fact that you grew up. He was able to handle you becoming Nightwing because...”
"Because Nightwing is part of his team and he's the boss. He gets to make all of the decisions," Dick grumbled.
Alfred nodded. "He can't do that with an adult Dick Grayson."
"He's a control freak."
"Yes,” Alfred agreed, love shinning from his face. “But he's our control freak."
Dick shook his head, but he was smiling too. “True. You know, I'd go crazy if it weren't for you, Al."
Alfred removed the second pillow from behind Dick and helped to ease him back down into the bed. "And I would be relatively sane, if it weren't for you,” he whispered, sweeping Dick’s hair of his forehead. “And now, it is time for you rest... and if I come back in here and find you are sneaking girlfriends into your room, I‘ll tan your hide."
Dick burst out laughing.
“She loves you, young man. You are very lucky indeed... and so is she.”