post-Auld Acquaintance

They don't get back until five in the morning, after they've talked exhaustively about new contingency plans and emergency protocols and those 16 hours no one remembers.

In other words, it's been a long night.

Dick immediately goes to bed, leaving Bruce to go to the Batcave and continue working.

Alfred, however, has no intention of letting Bruce stay up any longer than he already has. The two have an intense staring match, but they both know the outcome: Alfred's resolve is not to be outdone.

So Bruce goes to his room and prepares for bed. It's pitch black, but he knows the floor plan so well it doesn't matter.

Well, it doesn't—not up until the moment he slides into bed. There, he's surprised by the foreign form lying there.

The body shifts, and Bruce thinks he can detect just the slightest flash of bright blue eyes.

"Dick," he addresses plainly.

He's unsure. Unsure because this isn't typical for Dick—not since he was young, when his parents had just died and then just after he started being Robin, and then after the first time he was kidnapped and then after he experienced the Joker for the first time. That was the last time, really. Not even after the exercise had Dick spent the night in Bruce's bed.

That's why this night was such a surprise, why Bruce doesn't know how to react.

"I—I just didn't want to be apart," Dick says softly. "I don't want to look away and then find out you're not—that you're not you." His voice falters, hitching with unsteady breathing and restrained emotion.

After that, Bruce remembers the old habits that took him so long to develop (he was never a paternal person—not before Dick). He brushes hair away from Dick's face. "Okay."

That's all he says. He and Dick established a long time ago that too many words only made things more uncomfortable. Everything important goes unspoken, unsaid—but always understood.

I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough.

This idea in particular is mutual.

It hurt. I know you hate emotions coming out in the field, but it was so hard this time.

This thought is all Dick's.

You shouldn't have to see that, do that—but you did, and I'm proud of you for it.

That one is solely Bruce's. Not an apology, but as close as he'll come.

It's enough. It's more than enough. So when Buce settles into the sheets, Dick doesn't feel the urge to touch his adopted father.

Just seeing his face in the dim light, knowing he was there—that alone lets Dick slip to a dreamless, restful sleep.