Disclaimer: I don't own YJ, I am merely a fic writer
Prompt: Batman isn't as good a mentor as Robin (or the fans) make him out to be. As a matter of fact, he's pretty hard to live with.
Dick knew that Bruce tried. Or that's what he keeps telling himself. It would hurt too much to believe otherwise.
The lack of emotional support from Bruce is especially painful when he wakes up in the middle of night, sweat lining his body as he remembers flashes of memories he wished he could forget. A rope snapping, the awful sound that a body makes when it plummets into solid ground, the gasps of the audience - familiar yet dreadful. They were gasping in horror, not in awe.
He never manages to fall back asleep afterwards and his feet often bring him to the kitchen where he loiters until sleep attempts to reclaim him. The darkness of the manor stands out the most to Dick at these times, and he feels a penetrating sense of loneliness.
He had grown up in a circus, surrounded by an extended family of sorts in addition to his loving parents. Here, he was alone.
Well, not quite alone. Sometimes Alfred finds him during his late night trips and helps warm the coldness of the manor through his gentle voice and baked goods. But it's not enough and only leaves him wanting more.
He wants Bruce. He wants a father. He wants someone to hug him to sleep and tell him that everything will be okay. He wants to feel safe and protected.
But Bruce has seen too much - is too scarred - to make those promises. He's Batman, and he knows the nature of his job. He knows these promises are unrealistic and that death is a strong possibility despite his precautions.
Beyond that, he's Bruce Wayne, a man who was once a child who had the same promises made to him and broken just as easily. Perhaps that's why, more than anything, he wants to maintain an emotional distance from his ward. The death of his parents - the death of these promises - broke him in ways he himself does not quite understand.
He does not want to break Robin. Or break him further.
"Master Bruce," Alfred confronts him one day while Dick feigns sleep. Bruce is hiding in the shadows of the kitchen, looking at Dick with an impassive face - although Alfred, from years of experience, can see the faint hint of contemplative concern in them. "He's been having nightmares again."
Dick feels a bit betrayed at that statement, but he remains still.
"It would help the boy if you talked to him. If I recall, you used to have the same problem."
At that point, Bruce had already turned around to exit the room. "I can't." It's still difficult for him, even now, for him to touch on the topic of his own tragedy. He hadn't been able to fully console himself of his nightmares then, and he doubted he could help the boy now.
Alfred would not let the conversation end quite so easily though. "He's lonely," the butler added, following after Bruce.
"I believe in him," Bruce replied. He had survived after all.
"That's not the point," Alfred insisted, "He's a child, Bruce."
And that was the problem. Bruce had not been a child since the day his parents died, and it was hard to reconnect to that part of himself that he had practically buried for the sake of his mission.
Dick remembers this conversation the most out of all his experiences under Bruce's care. Like everything else, it leaves him wanting. But he's only an orphan, a charity case, a boy from the circus living under the generosity of a billionaire. He's not quite sure if it was out of pity or a whim or some empathy that Bruce never fully admits to, but it's obvious that he owes Bruce for how far he's come and is in no position to demand that much more. Any emotional step for Bruce is a big one.
Still, he can't help but want. Even though he's Robin, the boy wonder, the genius hacker, the butcher of the English language, he's also just a child.
Author's Note: Oh my god I just got into the YJ Anon Meme and it is so addictive and someone needs to kill me now because I'm probably going to try to fill way too many prompts (and all the Robin-esque ones because I love my little bird).