Author: Silver Spider PM
No matter whether or not he thought it was real, Robin remained calm and collected throughout the entire nightmare. That didn't mean he was alright. Post-FailsafeRated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Hurt/Comfort - Bruce W./Batman & Richard G./Nightwing - Words: 1,140 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 138 - Follows: 12 - Published: 11-06-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7528666
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Working on my other two, but just had to write this one. Post-116 – Failsafe and for 8swords for all her help and just being an awesome, awesome fandom sister :)
By: Silver Spider
Robin hadn't uttered a single word during their entire flight from Mr. Justice back to Gotham, and even before that he'd said little. That was precisely why Batman had opted for the physical flight rather than simply using the Zeta Beam. He'd been hoping the alone time during the flight would help relax the boy.
No such luck.
He'd made it a point to learn to read him better than any telepath ever could, and it wasn't hard to tell that his mind and body were completely locked down. It was as if he'd built an impenetrable black box around himself; not to keep the world out, but to keep whatever it was inside. He was almost certain he knew exactly what it was but he'd give it a little more time. The boy had till the end of the flight to give that particular demon voice on his own, before Batman would be shattering that wall whether he liked it or not.
But the Batwing had just flew in and landed in the cave, and still the child hadn't moved or spoken.
Alright. Time's up. Good-bye, Batman, vigilante. Hello, Bruce Wayne, father.
He pushed back the cowl. "Dick. We're home."
The boy jolted, as if startled awake. He looked at him with mild confusion, probably wondering why he was using real names when they were still in costume. Seeing that the cowl was gone and that the hatch was already hissing open, Dick looked around.
"Oh." The single syllable came out completely devoid of any emotions.
Bruce shut the engine off and got out. He'd just unfastened the cape and began moving towards the exit when he noticed that Dick, though slowly following him, hadn't even removed his domino mask. He frowned.
"Just because Alfred's away in England, doesn't mean we disregard house rules. No suits or masks upstairs. Go get changed. I'll meet you in the kitchen."
Dick made a face, the first sign of feelings he'd seen from him all evening. "Can I just go to bed? I'm really tired."
"I know," Bruce nodded not unsympathetically. "But we need to talk. Then I'll let you go."
He watched him trudge towards the locker area then followed his own instructions. In the kitchen, he set the water to boil and checked the cabinets for snacks though he didn't think Dick would actually be up for eating. When the boy emerged five minutes later in gray pajama pants and shirt, he wordlessly indicated for him to sit and pushed a box of crackers across the table towards him.
"Milk, juice, water, or tea?"
"Umm..." Dick wrinkled his nose at the crackers. "Water."
Bruce poured him a glass and a cup of tea for himself, set them both on the table, and sat across from his son.
"Alright. Let's talk."
Dick finally looked up at him. "About what? The exercise?"
"Anything you like," Bruce offered. "Anything that's on your mind. Just talk to me."
"Okay." The boy was silent for a full two minutes, but this time he allowed it. He could tell he was thinking. Finally Dick spoke. "The mission... training exercise sucked."
Bruce nodded slowly. "It was supposed to 'suck'. I am sorry to have to put you – all of you – through that, but it's best to be at least somewhat trained for a crisis situation. For what it's worth, you handled yourself extremely well. I'm very proud of you."
"I know!" Dick balled up his hands, looking down at the table. "I know it was important. I know why we had to do it. I just..."
He was on the verge of hyperventilating. Bruce reached out across the table and covered his smaller hands with his far larger palm. The effect was almost instantaneous. Even without being told to, Dick took a deep breath.
"It wasn't that Artemis died." His son bit his lower lip. "I know everyone thinks that, but it wasn't that. I've always known someday I'd have to watch a teammate die, and I knew it would suck..."
Bruce noticed that he kept using that word. Usually Dick found a more creative way to express himself. The fact that he couldn't only emphasized just how distressed he was.
"...but I... I never thought I'd have to watch someone I called 'Dad' die twice! First time was really really horrible, but again? What other kid in the world has to go through that?"
Realistically, you might, Bruce thought silently. It was unlikely he'd die of old age, but he also knew when to keep his thoughts to himself. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Dick was still talking. Now that floodgate was broken, there was no stopping the tide of words and emotions.
"I mean we knew it wasn't real at first, but then we didn't... and then all I could see every time I even blinked was you and that plane and how you were just... gone! I kept thinking, 'Why didn't I say good-bye?' I knew the mission was dangerous! Every mission is dangerous! And I never bother to say good-bye!"
By now Bruce was only catching every other phrase, the rest getting lost among his son's sobs and hiccups. He got up and, moving around the table, gathered the boy into his arms. Dick was crying in earnest, his face buried into the crook of his neck. His father simply held him, rubbing wide soothing circles across his back.
He felt so small in his arms, just like after that awful day at the circus. Sometimes Bruce forgot just how young the boy really was. Losing a parent so early was a horror he knew all too well and wouldn't have wished on anyone, let alone twice. That his son had to go through that – that he had forced it on him, regardless of necessity or reality – tore away at Bruce. He held the child until the tears subsided.
I'm not going anywhere, Dick, he wanted to say. I swear I'll never put you through that again. I'm sorry. I love you.
But the future might prove so much of that a lie, and he couldn't do it. Instead he gave voice to the words he knew with absolute certainty were true. The words that he'd never questioned.
"I'm so sorry, Dick. I love you, son."