Yes. His name's 'DICK'. I'm doing my best.
Upon his bed Richard 'Dick' Grayson lay a mournful king.
He didn't smoke and never had before but if there had ever been a time in his life when he needed a cigarette that time was now. Somewhere in the fourth guest room of Wayne Manor a clock began to ding and did so twelve times before it was replaced by the sound of rain on the window as well as the chatter of the party taking place within the rest of the building that Dick had sneaked out of.
"Hey. Babs?" He said slowly into the dark.
There was a groan next to him and a soft: "Mhm?" As Barbara Gordon lifted her head up from the pillow that Richard's elbow was resting upon. Staring up into the ceiling Dick's thoughts turned to how long he'd known her before flipping back into his original question.
"Do you ever think about life?"
Barbara shrugged from her position, green eyes seemingly filled with confusion and a bit of suspicion.
"Yeah. I think everyone does." She said fairly bluntly. "Why? What's on your mind?"
Richard rolled towards her but his eyes moved to the window and the moonlight streaming in. He felt sadness fill his gut and everything became clear in one word.
Just shy of five years ago the city of Blüdhaven, the city that Dick had protected from crime as the superhero Nightwing had been destroyed in a truly terrible supervillain attack. Thousands had died and the sole reason that its protector survived was because he'd been away on business at the time.
Understanding passed on Barbara's face and she moved her head in the way of Richard's, blocking his view.
"You can't blame yourself for that, Dick. Nobody could have stopped it. Nobody even knew it was gonna happen until it did and if you'd been there you'd have died."
Richard lay on the bed, sighing. From the look on his face it didn't seem like he'd really been listening to what she said.
"I've gotta get people to stop calling me that." He muttered absent minded.
"Call you what?"
A smirk broke out across Barbara's face. "What would they call you instead?" She asked. "Richie? 'Ric'?" She stuck her tongue out at that one. "I'm not calling you 'Richard'. We're adults but I'm not that old."
"People have been calling me 'Dick' since the circus, Barbara. I'm twenty five years old. I've been a superhero for most of that time and I don't feel any different." Barbara listened to all this in silent understanding. "I've done so much! I've been Robin, Nightwing, freakin' Batman, dead, a spy, a Teen Titan, the leader of the Justice League and I don't feel like any of it matters! Look at me!" With natural grace he sprang from the bed and landed perfectly on his feet, his father would be proud. He was naked as the day he was born, they both were, but neither Richard nor Barbara cared. "I'm the same as I've always been and completely different but our lives never seem to change."
This brief rant would have surely continued had Dick not caught the look on his companion's face.
"I've been through a lot too, Dick." She said making him fall completely silent. She'd placed extra emphasis on the final word. "We all have." Slowly she stepped out of bed and gently took his hands in her own. "The fact that any of us can return to some sort of routine's a gift." She paused and Dick looked away, she couldn't help but think he looked ashamed. "At least that's what I think."
Before the two could continue a sharp knocking at the door drew both their gazes and the voice of the manors butler drew both their smiles.
"I do hope I'm not interrupting whatever you two are up to in there..." Alfred said sounding ever so slightly cautious. "...but I suggest you rejoin the party. Master Bruce is preparing his speech and would surely notice your absences."
"We'll be right there Alfred." Barbara said before turning back to Dick. "C'mon. Get dressed and let's get back in there."
Reluctantly Dick did as she asked. He pulled his clothes back on and rejoined the festivities but never quite took part in them. He didn't see Barbara the rest of the night and left the Manor grounds around an hour later, speeding off on his black motorcycle like a dark streak of lightning.
For the last year or so he'd been living in an apartment in Gotham City's East End, a nasty district he'd had a hand in keeping safe and clean over recent months. That wasn't where he was headed though. Not feeling even slightly tired he pulled up in a secluded alleyway, triple checked his surroundings and donned his mask becoming his true self. Somehow when in costume he felt different from his normal self. He felt... whole. Opening his cycle's compartment he stashed his clothes, grabbed his escrima sticks and smiled at the drunk homeless man passed out near him. His outfit had been hiding underneath his tuxedo the whole time.
In the alley lay a shattered mirror which Richard stared into. Something seemed off with his appearance, his form was a bit more lax than usual and he just felt slightly off. The blue symbol on his chest seemed to shine in the dark but he could barely look at it. Then he heard a scream for help and his mind turned to work.
That was how he spent a good chunk of the evening. He handled the usual muggings, robberies and assaults with a smile like he always did. Again it was a bad area of a bad city but Richard felt oddly content as he performed his usual display of acrobatics and jokes. Gotham was a rough place and always had been, but Dick knew it like it was an old friend. That's why when nature called he knew the best place to head to.
"Hey N-Wing. Good to see ya."
Betty's bar was perhaps one of the cleaner drinking establishments in the East End which was a surprise really given the number of drunks passed out all over the place but was true regardless.
"Hi Betty." Dick said, smiling wearily as the night's events began to catch up with him. "Got a bathroom key?"
Betty shook her head from behind the barstand. "Sorry Nightie, customers only. You know the rules."
Any argument had been drained from the masked adventurer. It was with a tired sigh that he said: "Gimme a club soda." And he slammed a dollar onto the table.
"Key's all yours." Betty said, smiling sweetly as she passed the thing over. With a sarcastic 'thank you' Nightwing made his way to the stall and held his nose knowing what lay inside. The toilet was not a pretty sight with it looking like it hadn't been cleaned in the past decade. Graffiti lined the walls and horror lay below so Dick closed his eyes. It was because of this temporary loss of one of his five senses that he was able to hear what happened next. The bar's door slammed open and a voice that Dick vaguely recognized started to speak.
"Hi Betty! You know the drill by now."
"It's been a quiet day, Mitchell. Is it alright if we keep the twenties?"
"Not if ya wanna keep your teeth!"
Hearing enough Dick gripped his escrima sticks and opened the stall door. His training kicked in immediately and he crouched low like a hunter with his feet barely making a sound.
It was the Condiment King robbing the place, a fairly regular event judging by what Dick had overheard and the fact the man didn't even have his guns in hand. He'd been a member of Batgirl's rogue gallery years ago but Barbara had never really mention him for reasons that were obvious. Still Dick had looked over his case file years ago and been amazed by his fast food themed gadgets. This childhood amazement didn't stop Dick from throwing his weapon into the side of the villain's head though. Really it did quite the opposite. As Batman had said when he'd handed Dick the file:
"Never underestimate the Condiment King." So Dick didn't. He watched cautiously as the man fell to the floor, the King's hands already placed where the stick had struck him.
"Ow! Jesus! Owwwww!!!" The King's eyes widened as he saw who had stuck him. "Nightwing?!" He screamed in an almost manic tone. "How?!" Dick smiled as the thrown stick bounced off the ground and bounded back into his hand. He quickly plucked a pair of handcuffs from his belt and placed them around the criminal's wrists.
"Pure bad luck. " He admitted. "For both of us. Betty, I've been coming here for weeks. How come you've never mentioned this to me?"
From behind the bar Betty didn't even look mildly shocked. In fact she was busy pouring the club soda Richard had ordered mere minutes ago.
"How come I never mentioned that a crazed lunatic comes into my bar ever couple of weeks, dressed in a gimp suit, wearing a flamethrower tank and wielding guns that shoot ketchup?"
"I dunno. Guess it slipped the mind."
"But he's a super criminal!"
"He spends it all back anyway. And I don't like getting involved in superhero nonsense." Betty paused. "Except you N-Wing, you're cool."
"Ah." A voice said from the entrance. "In that case I might be an issue."
Dick turned to look and knew upon seeing the red cape to whom he was speaking. He looked to Betty who gave another dismissive shrug, completely uncaring.
He knew the man who'd just entered very well, he'd been there when Dick first became Robin and stayed there in the days, months and years following.
"Hi Superman." Nightwing said, trying not to sound too surprised at the hero's arrival.
The Man of Steel smiled warmly from the doorway. "Hey Nightwing." His face turned deadly serious. "Can we talk?"