Confidence Lost - Chapter 8

New York City… a moment later…

Dick had never felt more nervous about anything in his life. After instructing Damian to remain on the rooftop, which the teen oddly had no argument against, he took out his grappling gun and made his way to the balcony where his brother was waiting. He could feel his heart thudding in his ears as he silently landed just a couple of yards away from Tim.

Observing his brother from the distant rooftop through telescopic lenses was nothing compared to standing within arms reach of him. This close up he could see how much Tim had grown over the years. Though he obviously gained in height and was now maybe two or three inches shorter than Dick, he was still obviously the shortest of all of Bruce Wayne’s sons, adopted or otherwise. Despite not being a vigilante any more, it looked like Tim still took good care of himself. There was one curious observation that Dick filed away for contemplation later.

His scars were all missing.

Over his years of work as Robin, Tim Drake had collected a generous amount of battle scars, like everyone else in their family who fought crime. Gunshot wounds, stitched up blade injuries, burn scars, etc. However, as Dick stood there looking his brother over, he could see nothing but clear, unmarred skin across his upper body.

“Took you long enough,” Tim said after taking a moment to drain the last of his wine. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever show up.”

Dick raised an eyebrow behind his mask. “You were expecting me?”

The man before his shrugged. “Of course. I know what you’re here for.” He motioned for his brother to follow him into his home.

Dick was at a loss for words. Tim was expecting him? Did his memory return between the incident at the gallery and now? Wordlessly, he stepped into the well-lit apartment and absorbed all he saw. Though this was clearly a studio apartment, what it lacked in size it made up for in style. It looked like Tim had developed a taste for good art, antique furniture, classic novels bound in leather, and fine wines. The only sign of his former addiction to all things hi-tech was a small unassuming laptop on his dining table next to the kitchen.

It definitely wasn’t the typical bachelor pad he kept when he was the same age as Tim, and Dick was certain Alfred would be praising the Lord almighty that at least ONE of his boys developed a sense of good taste.

“Here. Catch.”

“Huh?” Dick was distracted from his observation by a small black remote tumbling through the air at him. His quick reflexes allowed him to snag the object before it had a chance to rebound off his chest. “What’s this?”

Tim shrugged. “That is how I got into the vault in the Wayne art exhibit this afternoon.”

Dick stared at the device with confusion. “You think I’m here for this?”

“Of course. Why else would you be here?” Tim poured himself another glass of wine. “I tried to tell Peter that Bruce Wayne would have someone from the cape and cowl set watching over the gallery. Must be nice having the Batman in your back pocket.”

The derisive tone of voice coming out of the man who looked like his brother stung, and Dick had to resist the urge to wince. The dreamlike quality of the evening had come to a screeching halt. Quickly, he was reminded that while yes, this man was Tim Drake, he didn’t know that. His brother was calling himself Neal Caffrey, and Neal Caffery had never met Dick Grayson or Nightwing. In fact, Dick came to the late realization that he had next to no clue who Neal Caffrey was. “It doesn’t sound like you care too much for folks like me,” he remarked casually as he made a show of looking over the device. He honestly couldn’t make heads or tails of things like this. This kind of object was the sort of thing he’d give to Damian or Barbara to puzzle out.

Neal smirked. “Well, in my previous line of work, avoiding you and your comrades was kind of the point.”

“And what was that work?” Dick’s curiosity was piqued.

A surprised look crossed Neal’s face, before melting into amusement. “Wow… And here I thought my reputation preceded me with nearly every law enforcement agency in the world.” He shook his head and meandered over the mirror. “Although, I suppose never having visited Gotham did do a lot to keep me off the Bat’s radar.”

Dick frowned. “You’re not going to tell me?”

“Of course not.” Neal said with a charming, yet extremely sly grin. “You people have a reputation for being detectives to uphold. I can’t just give you the answer. That, would be an insult to your competence.”

If Dick didn’t know better, he’d have sworn up and down he was bantering with Selina Kyle back during the height of her Catwoman days. It was an uncomfortable comparison, to say the very least, and triggered more questions than he knew what to do with. He tumbled the device in between his fingers.

“I suppose that would be the same answer if I asked you exactly where you got this thing?”

Neal flashed him another thousand-watt smile.

“Well then,” Dick said as he pocketed the device in an empty pocket on his utility belt. “I suppose we’re done here. It’s been an enlightening visit.”

“Oh we must do it again sometime,” Neal said as he followed Dick to the balcony. “It’s been fun. Although, next time, call ahead first. We can do tapas. I know this great little Spanish place just down the road.”

He was mocking him! Tim—no Neal- was mocking Nightwing! He obviously held no great fondness for masked vigilantes, but he wasn’t at all intimidated by one in his home. If Dick didn’t know that this was really Tim, he’d have thought he just spent the last few minutes with Selina Kyle’s non-existent cocky little brother. The realization made Dick’s head spin. He pulled out his grappling gun and aimed it for the nearby rooftop. Before he let the line fly, he glanced over his shoulder at Neal. “It was nice to meet you, Neal.”

“Pleasure was all mine.”

Dick was quickly back on the rooftop where Damian had been waiting. The teen had a stoic expression on his face, as he normally did to the untrained observer. However, Dick was an expert in reading his youngest brother’s subtle facial cues. As soon as he saw Robin, he could tell the teen knew more than he was letting on. Dick frowned as he turned opened up the com link with Barbara once more and spoke with both of them at once.

“Alright you two. I want everything you have on Neal Caffrey, and I want it now.”

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Author Notes:

The dream-like state has ended for Dick Grayson, and now the reality of the situation has settled into place. Neal Caffrey does not like costumed vigilantes. Neal Caffrey was once in a profession where avoiding them was a high priority. Neal Caffrey’s silver tongue reminds him too much of Selina Kyle’s. And tomorrow morning, Dick Grayson has an appointment with Peter Burke.

The End

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