Disclaimer: Recognizable characters are someone else's.
Summary: Bruce wakes up. And then wakes up. "Consider the hairpin turn."
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to DC.
Notes: One of the most clichéd plot-devices ever. I know and I'm sorry. But only a little bit.
Inspired by Richard Siken's poem "You Are Jeff"
Bruce woke up to voices saying something about non-linear timestreems and thinning barriers and collapsing the wave singularity. Then he woke up again to someone shining a light in his eyes. The word 'concussion' was repeated, and someone taped an IV into his arm. Before he could ask what was going on or where he was, he woke up.
Nightwing was standing over him, and Alfred was watching him from a few feet away. "Batman?" Dick asked, snapping his fingers. "You know, you could at least pretend you've got enough faith in my abilities to listen to my report."
He shook himself mentally. "I'm listening."
The younger man snorted his disbelief, but continued talking. Bruce tried to focus on the words, but the topic was completely unfamiliar to him. He wondered if he'd gotten dosed with some form of toxin and was unaware of it.
"I need to set that arm, Master Bruce," Alfred said as soon as Nightwing paused to take a breath. Bruce hadn't even noticed the odd angle at which his right arm was bent, or the throbbing pain. At least… he hadn't noticed it until Alfred drew his attention to it. Silently he trailed after the butler, sitting and extending the damaged limb. Nightwing did not follow, retreating to the showers.
"Jesus, Bruce. Are they trying to figure out how many places the same bone can be broken before the arm becomes useless?"
The voice was familiar. Every muscle in his body went rigid, and he opened his mouth to call a warning to Dick, to move to protect Alfred. Before he could do either, he saw the newcomer's face. Harvey Dent had been a beautiful man before the acid and Bruce was reminded sharply of this fact as Dent himself moved into his line of sight, no sign of scarring visible.
"It does indeed seem that way," Alfred said after Bruce's silence was inching toward uncomfortable. Harvey leaned against a table, watching as Alfred worked. Bruce didn't know what to say, how to react. There should be something, demands for explanations, anything but this inability to speak, this clenching of his jaw muscles and mental freeze-up. Harvey was talking, something about The Joker and a call from the Gotham police regarding a break-in at Wayne Enterprises and then moving on to a rather vicious diatribe regarding the failings of some law-firm or another. Bruce reacted with nods and blank smiles, his mind recording everything that the other man said even as he focused more on figuring out what the hell was going on. He remembered falling off a building, and then… Dimensional shifts. Concussion. He was either in an alternate reality or delusional. He came very, very close to slamming his head into his palms.
Alfred finished with his arm, recommending that he get it looked at by someone a little more suited to treating broken bones. And then, with a final reminder that Bruce had to be up early for a meeting, the older man was gone. Bruce stood at the same time that Harvey stepped closer, and they wound up face-to-face, almost touching. Part of Bruce wanted –no, needed—to get out of the situation, to put some space between himself and this version of his former best friend with the concerned inquiries and gentle smile and sharply intelligent eyes. The rest of him, the parts that knew logically that what he was experiencing was either someone else's reality or his own mental wanderings, wanted nothing more than to let things progress as he was sure they were going to.
Harvey was still talking, one hand resting over Bruce's undamaged wrist as he tried to make a point. His broken arm throbbed. The room started to spin. "Bruce, you're not listening to a word I'm saying."
Bruce kissed him in place of a response. His suspicions hadn't been unfounded at all if the way the other man's arms were suddenly around him and the way his tongue was warm and demanding in his mouth were any indication. Somewhere behind them, an alarm went off, piercing and shrill. Bruce pulled back, one hand still cupping the back of Harvey's head. The alarm grew louder. The room seemed to blur. Bruce woke up to the insistent ring of the telephone.
The room was unfamiliar, the bed not his own. He fought his way from under the silk sheets and stretched to reach the handset.
"Hello?" He kept his voice and greeting as non-descript as possible, not willing to give away anything about his identity until he found out where he was and how he'd gotten there. If he was very lucky, he thought, this would turn out to be another dream and he would soon awake back in the manner, alone but for Alfred.
"Bruce? I'm sorry, did I wake you? That's what you get for being out so late every night."
The female voice on the other end was not familiar. "Who is this?"
There was a pause, and then a slightly strained laugh. "It's your mother. Are you feeling alright? I really did wake you up, didn't I?"
Dream. It was a dream. He did not throw the phone across the room. "Sorry, yes. I was sleeping." It was the same voice he used to convince everyone that he was merely Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire.
"Anyway, I was just calling to remind you that we're all having lunch at the manner this afternoon. Your sister will be bringing the baby, and your father and I were just wondering if you'd be bringing anyone."
Bruce pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. He had a very cruel sub-conscious. Or a very lucky alternate self. "No, I won't be bringing anyone today."
"Oh, Bruce. Things didn't work out with the mystery person you've been so happy about?"
He blinked. "Uh… they're busy today. I'll see you this afternoon." His mouth worked to form the polite words even as his mind flailed desperately for purchase in the surreal situation.
"Alright then, I'll let you wake up. See you this afternoon, don't be late."
"I'll be on time," he agreed smoothly. There was a click as she hung up. Bruce stared sightlessly at the wall across from him, phone still cradled between his shoulder and ear. He had spoken to his mother, and not a word of his half of the conversation had truly been him talking. He hadn't recognized her voice. It had been like conversing with a stranger. Were his memories of his parents honestly so skewed and blurry? He let himself fall back on the bed, phone dropping to the floor. It was almost a relief when he woke up.
He was in his own bed this time. Admittedly, he was not in his own bed alone, but it was an improvement. He looked down at the woman next to him and almost smirked. He was reality jumping or delusional. It stood to reason that Selina Kyle would figure in eventually. She blinked up at him, long dark lashes framing the green of her sleepy eyes. "Good morning."
"And by morning, she means three-thirty. Sleep is apparently good for your health. Look in to it."
Bruce launched himself out of the bed and to the other side of the room. "I'm from an alternate reality," he warned in a low gravel, face becoming stony and blank to hide the shock. Edward Nygma watched him from the other side of the bed.
"Alright," Selina shrugged. "You're also naked, by the way."
Bruce calmly picked up a sheet from the floor and wrapped it around his body. He glared at the two in the bed. "I should jump within ten minutes. I am going to wait outside until that happens."
Selina tried to stifle a laugh. "He's got protocols for this, of course," she commented to Nygma.
"I'd be more surprised if he didn't. Bruce, calm down. We don't bite."
"Speak for yourself," Selina chimed in cheerfully.
"You're not helping," Nygma muttered.
She rolled on her back, stretching. "Meow."
"So why are you moving from reality to reality?" The Riddler asked, ignoring Selina.
Bruce intensified his glare. There was, of course, the possibility that the two people in his bed were simply figments of his imagination, but in his experience most individuals didn't take being told they weren't real particularly well. And… well, if his sub-conscious was projecting The Riddler into his bed, he was going to have a serious talk with a therapist. Or at least do a great deal of self-searching. "Quantum physics," Bruce replied flatly. To his credit, The Riddler simply smirked and accepted the non-answer without further comment.
"For someone who plans to stand out in the hallway at three AM wrapped in a bed sheet for the next ten minutes you're not doing a lot of walking towards the door," Selina observed dryly.
Bruce did not throttle her, because he was a champion of justice and a mature adult and also leaving. If the door slammed a little more forcefully than it should have behind him it could easily be blamed on the wind coming in through the open window.
When he woke up alone in his own bed to a very concerned Alfred hovering over him he had to resist the urge to cheer in relief.
"What time is it?" he asked.
"Almost four," the butler answered. "I'm afraid I will be waking you at six as well to insure no permanent damage was done. You've got a rather severe concussion."
Bruce nodded, and promptly winced. "And… we're the only two people here, yes?"
The older man looked at him strangely. "Of course, Sir."
"And… I wasn't hospitalized at any point last night? And there were no… dimensional portals?"
"Perhaps we should call a doctor after all," Alfred observed, frowning.
"No, no need. I'm fine," Bruce reassured him, relaxing back into the pillows.
"As you wish," Alfred murmured, leaving quietly. And to his utmost delight, Bruce fell asleep.