Leaving the Nest (and Coming Back)

They say that once a bird leaves the nest the mother won't take it back. Dick hoped fathers were different.

He'd been off his game for weeks. So determined to prove he didn't need Batman that his attention was scattered, trying to be everywhere. He knew better than that. Batman had taught him better than that.

But he'd been stupid. Dick hadn't noticed the mugger with a knife crouching in wait to help his friend. A quick slash and a flash of near-blinding agony later and Dick was bleeding from a cut he imagined spanned the length of his back.

So he'd slowly made his back to the Batcave at 4 in the morning hoping to find Alfred there, willing to sew him up. Instead he found Bruce. Home early it appeared from patrol.

"Thank you Alfred - " He turned around to find Dick covered in his own blood swaying where he stood. "Dick!" Dimly he realized Bruce looked terrible – like he hadn't slept in the three weeks Dick had been out trying to prove himself.

Dick stumbled to a table doing his best to stay standing. "What happened?" Bruce was at his side, large hands surprisingly gentle as he helped Dick onto the table.

"Mugger with a knife." Dick bit out. "My back." Bruce sucked in a breath taking in his son's wound.

"Alfred," Bruce pushed the intercom button that connected them to the kitchen. "Forget the coffee. We could use your medical kit though."

"We, sir?" Alfred's voice wasn't surprised though, only knowing. "Right away, sir." He continued without waiting for an answer. The intercom clicked off smoothly leaving behind an awkward silence they both tried to ignore.

Bruce had just finished cutting away Dick's uniform when Alfred reached the bottom of the cave.

"Master Richard." Alfred greeted warmly a sharp eye on his back. "I see you're as determined to get yourself half-killed as Master Bruce is. Lie down and hold still. I'm going to numb your back before I stitch it up."

Gritting his teeth Dick did as he was told. He was surprised when Bruce appeared by his head gently holding Dick's shoulders in place for Alfred.

Twenty minutes later Alfred was done and Dick exhausted. "I'll get you something for the pain, sir. Maybe something to help you sleep too."

"Thanks Alfred." Dick heard himself say groggily. Dick wasn't sure if it was blood loss or he was just sick of fighting but for whatever reason he looked over to Bruce, now sitting next to him. In the most causal tone he could summon Dick asked, "Could I sleep here tonight?"

Bruce cupped a hand around Dick's face in a rare gesture of affection. "Of course."

Dick had a hard time staying awake long enough for Alfred to come back and it was only with the dim awareness built from years of practice that he realized Bruce was carrying his upstairs to his own bed in a house he could still call home.