Author's Note: Just sifting through the back-catalogue of stories. This one is pretty fluffy. Dick has a nightmare and runs to Bruce for comfort. Enjoy.
My dreams are always different. I'm never a fighter pilot twice. I could be a postman or a cat or something even weirder. My dreams are cool and I never wake up in a bad mood from having one. But I don't dream that often anymore. When I was a real little kid, I used to dream like crazy. I miss being naïve; knowing exactly how the world works is NOT a good thing. Humanity's ugly side is beyond repulsive; some of the things I've seen people do to one another has actually made me throw up. It happens less now, the vomit thing, but it still happens. It's how I know I'm still human. My dreams are diverse, my nightmares are not. Always the same scenario, the same location, the same people; Batman and Judge Watkins burying me alive.
In the nightmare I keep crying out to them, begging them to let me out of the hole, to let me live. Bruce just keeps shaking his head and telling me how I deserve this, how I wasn't good enough to be Robin, how disappointed he is with my efforts. In the nightmare, he never moves, never looks away; he just stands on the edge of the grave, peering down at me with total indifference, his entire body hidden beneath his cape. It's Judge Watkins that does the shovelling. The Judge is dripping wet and looks angrier than any man I have ever seen. His eyes look at me with such a burning, black hatred that they almost seem to be on fire and all he does is scream at me. He keep shrieking it's my fault he died, that I am the worst and most despicable being in the world and all the while he keeps throwing mounds and mounds of dirt on me with a machine-like rhythm. I try to tell him that Two-Face tricked me, that I tried to save him, but he either can't hear me or isn't listening. He just keeps yelling at me, never stopping with the dirt and Bruce just stands motionless beside him, allowing the Judge to suffocate me. I reach up for Bruce's hand, screaming for the big guy to save me, to rescue me, but he just shakes his head.
"You disappointed me, Dick. You were not good enough to be my partner, I made a mistake with you. It must be rectified. This is the only way." He says it in a blunt, empty tone, one of absolution and the kind that means he will never change his mind. Even though the Judge is screaming his head off, Bruce never raises his voice. He remains level and even, oblivious to the noise beside him. Sometimes, the Judge starts cackling wildly as he shovels, other times he just glares at me with some kind of twisted pleasure. And Bruce does nothing to stop him, nothing to help me. He just lets him bury me alive. That is the most terrifying aspect of the entire thing, Bruce doing nothing. The idea that the big man doesn't want to save me, doesn't feel like saving me from a horrible death, is what usually wakes me up in the dead of night. It's not the dirt rising too high, the Judge screaming or even the blatant fact I am going to die; it's Bruce not trying to save me.
I wake up screaming. The nightmare hit me harder than usual. I'm still disorientated when I stumble out of bed and fumble around in the blackness, trying to find my way out of the dark. My skin feels cold and clammy and my Pjs stick to it uncomfortably as I feel for the door. I start to panic when I can't find it and breathe in quick, shallow breaths. My chest suddenly feels like there's an anaconda squeezing it and I collapse to the floor, gasping for air. For a second, I think I'm going to die right there on my bedroom floor. Then I remember it was only a dream, remember that none of it was real. My breathing slows and I don't feel so tight. When I get back to my feet, I have myself under control. I am now acutely aware of how freaking cold I feel when I open the door. It's somehow darker in the hallway than my room and I almost close it and go back to bed. But I can't go back to sleep, not now; they're waiting for me.
I don't know where I want to go at first. I think I want to go to the bathroom and take a shower, but I'm not sure. Then I think I want to go downstairs and watch TV in the lounge. Maybe I want to go hide in the cave or make a sandwich. I keep changing direction and confusing myself. I eventually decide I don't want to do any of those things. Because I have to do them alone. I really don't want to be alone right now. So I head off to Bruce's room. I'd go see Alfie, but he's way over on the other side of the house and I don't fancy the trip. There are no noises in this house, just deathly quiet. To be honest, I'd actually be less scared if there was any kind of creaking or groaning to be found, because at least that's normal with huge, old houses like this. Total silence, the absence of anything whatsoever, is beyond spooky and it terrifies me. That's why when I go on patrol with Bruce, I have to talk. If I don't open my mouth, the quiet grinds away at me until I think I might go mad.
I knock on Bruce's door, loudly. I stand and wait. The silence returns for several minutes. Then I hear the door handle turn; you will never hear the guy get out of bed or walk to the door. He is Batman after all. When the door opens, all I can see of him is a colossal looming shadow silhouetted against the doorframe.
"Yes, Dick?" Bruce doesn't do surprise. He doesn't do obvious questions. He doesn't even sound tired. He sounds like he would if we were having a conversation at breakfast, totally unfazed by my presence at stupid o'clock in the morning. I guess it's because the man's a detective; he probably already knows why I'm here. I tell him anyway.
"Had a nightmare."
"I see." I feel his hand on my shoulder for a brief moment before it draws back. "Are you cold?" He asks having made an appreciation of my damp clothes.
"Okay. Come on, let's get you changed." His hand is back on my shoulder as we walk back down the hallway, towards my room. He knows I'm embarrassed. That's why he doesn't say anything, ask any more questions. He knows that all I want is his presence to remind me I'm not alone. So that's what he gives me. We get to my room and stop. "I'll wait here for you." The big guy says. I feel his hand slip off my shoulder. I almost ask him to come in with me, but think better of it. He's just outside. He's just outside. I go in and turn the light on. It hurts my eyes. I find my spare pyjamas and quickly get changed before letting him in.
Bruce is wearing his dressing gown and must have literally just got up, but he already looks like he's ready for a board meeting. His hair's combed and his expression is not marred by tiredness or sleep. Meanwhile I, having clocked myself in the mirror, look a dishevelled mess. He looks at me before turning his attention on my bed. The sheets are damp, soaked with fresh sweat. He says nothing as he pulls off the sheets and throws them into a distant corner. He takes the spare bed linen out of my closet and quickly re-makes my bed. When he's finished, he pulls back the covers and gestures for me to get under them. I stare at my bed, unsure whether I'm ready for sleep or not. What if the nightmare starts again?
"Everything is fine, Dick." Bruce tells me whilst gently putting a hand on my back. He softly pushes me towards the bed until I am right on the edge. I get in without any more coaxing. The big guy replaces the covers before sitting down. He looks down at me then runs a hand briefly through my hair. "Would you like me to stay a while?"
"Yeah." I don't want him to stay a while; I want him to stay indefinitely. Bruce can protect me from the bad dreams, the nightmares. So he sits there, watching me and stroking my hair for really long, slow minutes before saying anything else.
"Would you like a glass of water?" He asks me. I shake my head. He goes back to stroking my hair.
"Would you like a story?" He says a few minutes later. I shake my head. I don't want to hear any stories right now. I just want him here.
"Do you…would you like it if I were to get into bed with you?" Bruce inquires after exhausting a dozen other options. He doesn't sound comfortable with the idea at all. I don't want to force him, but I have to nod my head at that. Because the big guy's all about helping people, he won't ignore my wishes. He sticks to his own rules. I shuffle over and he gets under the covers. Then I shuffle back so I'm against him. He holds me without any awkwardness. I know Bruce has nightmares too. With everything he's seen, everything he's experienced, he must have more than his share of bad dreams to contend with. But they don't scare him. Nothing scares him anymore and why would it? Batman doesn't fear the madmen he faces or else we'd all be in trouble. I'm sure, for him at least, reality is a greater nightmare than whatever his head can come up with.
"I'm pathetic, aren't I? I can't even sleep without needing you."
"Pathetic is the last word I would associate with your character, Dick. With the things you have witnessed it is a wonder a boy of your age can sleep at all."
"But aren't you disappointed I'm not stronger?"
"Strength comes with age and experience; it is not an immediate characteristic one is born with. You will become stronger. All you require is time."
"But don't they say you'll be stronger if you learn to stand on your own?" I look up at him, this massive, impossible man and see him looking back at me. His arms are still holding me close, but he seems kinda distant.
"My father thought that. He always held me at an arm's length when I was afraid. It troubled me deeply." Bruce is getting personal, something he's famed for not doing. I only know what his parents were like from fragments of conversation with the big guy and Alfie. I don't know if what I want to ask is inappropriate or not, but I ask it anyway.
"Did you think he didn't love you?"
"My mother always told me it was simply the way a father is supposed to act. A father is supposed to toughen his children. Attention, she said, is always a mother's priority." Just from the tone of his voice, I can tell he doesn't really believe its any kind of excuse for being cold.
"Is that why you never push me away? Because you don't want to be like your dad?" Bruce shakes his head.
"My father was a good man. I was only a child when he died, barely eight. There is nothing to suggest he would not have warmed to me as I grew older. And, as for never keeping you at an arm's distance, you are not me and I am not my father. Regardless of your training, your age or your personality, you are, by nature, a very emotional boy. You need love and attention to stay as you are. Without it, you would become numb and angry inside, as I became when my parents were killed. I do not want you to ever become like me and I would do anything to keep you as you are."
I squeeze him tighter. My parents used to say warm things like this to me when I was upset. Somehow, because Bruce isn't my dad, what he's telling me means even more than it did coming from my parents. With Bruce, you have to earn praise, earn his respect. It's hard to get his approval, but when you do, there's nothing else like it in the whole world.
"You're a good guy too. I'd be happy if I turned out anything like you. You're really not as dark as you think." I tell him to earn a smirk.
"And you are not as weak as you think. If you have help, you should turn to it when you're scared. You shouldn't be ashamed of asking for it or embarassed for taking it. I have always thought if people want to help you, it is often a compliment on you as a person. It is proof you are liked and respected."
"But, you don't have any help." Bruce just smiles at me. When he starts stroking my hair, I get a little confused.
"Remember what I said to you once, about the nature of our relationship? What did I tell you?"
I'm about to tell him I can't remember when it suddenly hits me. I remember exactly what he said to me, word for word, because I was so shocked he'd admit having such strong feelings for me. He looks at me expectantly.
"I have never been or felt closer to another human being than I am with you." I reply to earn a gentle ruffle from his colossal hand.
"You have helped me in so many ways since you came here, I scarcely know where to begin. Before you, there was and still is Alfred. Without him, I would have fallen apart when I was a child. People have always helped me and I am grateful for all of it. I am the man I am today because I was never too proud to turn away people's help. And, I think, what I'm doing now by helping you, will contribute towards becoming a better man in the future."
Sometime after that, it all gets to me; the warmth of Bruce's body, the kind, fuzzy words of acknowledgement and encouragement and of course the fact that I'm currently being cuddled by the most dangerous, amazing man on the planet...and he's all mine. It's that thought I think that finally gets me to drift off. Bruce leaves, of course. When I wake up in the morning, the big guy's nowhere to be seen. I start thinking maybe I imagined it all, that it was all a crazy, wonderful dream. Then, as I'm getting out of bed, there's a knock at my door.
Bruce is stood in the doorway, still in his dressing gown. He nods at me. "Good morning, Dick. How did you sleep?" I briefly scan his eyes for recognition of last night's events, but he's too hard to read. I smile and nod.
"Pretty good, thanks." I tell him, wandering close to the door. I check my alarm clock. It's only seven in the morning. "What you doing up so early? Didn't you have a heavy night?" The big guy shrugs his shoulders.
"I thought it would be nice to have breakfast together." I try and read his expression again, to see if he's pitying me for what happened. Again I get zilch.
"This isn't about last night, is it?" I ask him. Bruce shrugs his shoulders again.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Dick. Are you coming or not?"
"Yeah, sure. Let's go."