A shot…blood…no, no, no…whispers…silence…death…no, no, no… A shot…blood…no, no, no… whispers…silence…death…no, no, no… A shot…blood…no, no, no…whispers…silence…death…no, no, no… A shot…blood…no, no, no…whispers…silence…death…NO, NO, NO!
The screaming woke Bruce up. Sure he was dog tired, but in this house, that was not uncommon, and made no matter. He was already to the room in question when these thoughts surfaced. Speed was his friend, time is enemy. Without hesitation Bruce reached to open the door, but a hand landing on his shoulder ended his single train of thought.
"I've got it Bruce, I'll take care of him," Dick Grayson's blue eyes looked tiredly, but steadily into Bruce's own. Go get some rest they said, lord knows you need it.
"You need to recuperate. Two months off, remember? No debate. You keep this up Dick, and it'll be longer. Your body needs rest to heal itself," Father looked to son concernedly. Dick ran himself too hard, not that he was one to talk…
"I know Bruce, but I've got this really," Intermittent yells still came from behind the door, when Dick opened it and entered the room, swiftly closing the door behind him. Gradually, the screams subsided. Bruce sighed. That was his job, not Dick's, to be in there, comforting his own flesh and blood son. He made another move to open the door…
"That would be most unwise, Master Bruce," His hand fell away from the door. Alfred. Always there to watch over any of the Wayne household. Always. Always knows best.
"If you are referring to Master Damian's nightmares, then I must proceed to tell you almost every night since your, absence, shall we call it now?" Silence filled the dark corridor.
"It should be me in there, my job. I'm his father, not Dick. I never meant to saddle-"
"You didn't, Master Bruce. Master Richard would be in there anyways, regardless. You see, the first time, Richard wasn't home. I do believe I sat for four hours with the boy, shaking, all tremors, and he wouldn't tell me a thing. Master Richard came and, well, you can imagine. Despite everything, your sons have formed a bond, Master Bruce, and it is strong,"
"I can't help but feel like Dick is slowly becoming me, Alfred. When his parents were gone, I took him in, and you helped me raise him as my own. And now Dick is raising Damian. It shouldn't be his burden,"
"It shouldn't have been yours either, Master Bruce. But just because it doesn't seem fair, doesn't mean that we don't rise to the occasion. Richard welcomed the chance to do right by Damian, and he took that responsibility onto his own shoulders. He loves your son, Master Bruce, if not as a little brother, then as his own. The burden was never yours alone, Master Bruce, and nor is his,'
Damian's nightmares were always pretty bad. 'Course he is only ten, despite his protests that it won't be for long anymore. He's almost eleven now. God, I can wait to find out what he'll be thinking he'll be entitled to do then, one year older. I doubt he'll act a year wiser, even if he has proven himself to be more than worthy of my confidence in him.
I enter the room, something that I have gotten quite used to, ever since Bruce… Like usual he is thrashing and shaking, in a cold sweat. The nightmares got worse over time, not better. Sometimes I wonder if he even remembers that he has them, if he even realizes the extent to which he was hurt by our Father's supposed death.
He sits up straight at my arrival, something that he has never failingly done. He surges towards me, and hugs me, arms around my neck. This is new. It must have been bad, really bad, this time. He'd never admit to ever having hugged me. He'd never go that far.
"It's okay Damian. He's here this time, remember? Bruce is alive, he's here, with us right now. I can even go get him, if you want," He clings tighter. Tim would never let him live this down. But Tim will never find out. "He's fine, he's alive,"
"Not father, YOU!" he exclaims, and I'm taken aback. Me? But the nightmares have always been about- "Turn around, show me, I want to see it," he demands.
The gunshot wound. I should have known. Me. He was afraid for me. He did his job – …superhero… time…- and he did it admirably. For all he knew I could have been dead already when he was disabling that bomb. His partner, his mentor, his brother, and? Dare I say it? A father figure? I tried being Him once-more than once- and I did it poorly. I'm a performer, it's what I do, not an actor.
I turn around and I can feel his sharp gaze burning into the back of my head, and the healing wound tingles. Satisfied he makes a sound and I turn to see his disapproving smug face glaring back at me. And this kid is ten? It still blows me away.
"You're real lucky, you know that Grayson?" he's being hostile with me, something he hasn't done since, God, the first encounter with Pyg and his Dollotrons. Trying to defend his reputation.
"Yeah, I know Damian, I know," and like a good big brother I grab him and ruffle his hair a little. He may whine, but he'll live. "Now go back to bed so that we can hit the streets in two months like Bruce said I could, kay?"
"Whatever, Grayson," he mumbles sleepily. No matter how he acts, I know now that Damian really does deserve my trust, my approval. I get up and leave, closing the door behind me. Hopefully that will put an end to the nightmares. Bruce is still waiting outside the door, but his eyes contain understanding now. Alfred. Always, Alfred. I'm sure that he explained to Bruce.
"You've got one fine kid there, Bruce, you really do," I say as I close the door. And just barely, as he looks after me, as I head down the hall to my own room, I can hear him say it, his gaze on me. The approval that I always sought from him. The knowledge that I was good enough for him.
"I sure do, Dick, I sure do,"