Title: Nighttime Hero
Disclaimer: I don't own Young Justice
For the YJ anon meme; 5 times Dick/Robin was comforted by a Batman plushie and the 1 time he gave it to someone for comfort.
1. The first time he was comforted
Dick held Zitka in his hands, the loose threads of the worn out toy elephant tickled his fingertips. He had always had problems sleeping alone when he was younger, but much to his chagrin, his bedtime was earlier than most of the circus folk, including his parents.
Zitka had been his mother's gift.
"Hold onto her, Little Bird. She will keep you company at night until your father and I come back," his mother had said.
But now that he was at the manor, Dick knew: he knew that no matter how many times he clutched onto Zitka at night, how tightly he held her and rubs his nose into the toy in order to get a whiff of that familiar circus scent, his parents were not coming back.
Within a year, Zitka, his protector back at the circus, was moved from the comfort of his arms to the top of the dresser, never to be held again.
He was covered in a mix of sweat and tears. In the midsummer night, Dick laid in his bed with a thick blanket over him; it wrinkled as his fists clutched onto them tightly. His knuckles grew whiter each time thunder was heard, and his eyes snapped shut when lightning followed after.
He had scurried off into his guardian's room with the initial lightning strike, only to find the empty bed. Bruce had forbid Dick from going out on duty until he had finished his training, and so the older man went alone that night.
Now, back onto his bed, the small boy wiped the tears from his face and knew that his body was uncomfortable with the warmth, but it didn't stop him from cowering underneath the sheets.
Dick refused to open his eyes. He was fully aware that nothing was going to hurt him, and that thunder and lightning were nothing to worry about, but there was something about the boom, boom, crack that made him feel uneasy.
Suddenly, the rumbling quieted down. His grip on the blankets loosened and a sigh escaped his lips.
Peaking from the covers, he noticed that it was still raining heavily and hoped that it was a good enough reason for Batman to retire early. At the thought, he slipped out of his bed again. Maybe Bruce is back, he assumed, and bright, blue eyes looked from his own door for the older man.
The room across from his was still lifeless.
With an uneasy sigh, he quietly shut his door again, and turned around.
Dick screamed. Quickly crouching onto the floor with hands clapped over his ears, the small boy began whimpering again.
"Bruce…" Dick cried out softly, but heard nothing but the howling wind outside.
When the thunder had momentarily ceased fire, Dick forced enough courage to look up from his balled up position.
The rain was still knocking at his window harshly, and the wind continued its cries of pain.
Taking in a deep breath, he positioned himself to jump back into his bed for security when a familiar glare caught his eye.
It was Batman.
Except, it wasn't exactly him. It was Bruce's Christmas gift from seven months ago, sitting next to Zitka. Like his elephant, it was untouched; Dick had long given up on relying on plushies to give him comfort, but now, as the light from his window allowed him to see that familiar glare of the Batman toy, Dick felt a little bit safer.
Quickly, Dick leapt into the air, grabbed the Batman doll from the top of his dresser, and ran back onto his bed. He clutched onto the toy, sobbing into it.
Bruce will come back. Bruce will come back. Bruce will come back.
Dick told himself the very thing he had chanted on a nightly basis when he was at the circus with his parents.
Bruce will come back. Bruce will come back. Bruce will come back.
He held onto the plushie tighter and tighter with each passing second as nature continued to roar outside his window.
Bruce will come back.
Bruce will come back.
Bruce will come back.
And he did.
2. When he couldn't sleep without it
It was Dick's first sleepover.
After three months of begging Bruce, Dick Grayson and Wally West were finally allowed to have a sleepover – at Barry Allen's, of course, seeing as Alfred was partially annoyed, partially disturbed by the mess the speedsters had made in the manor on their last visit to Gotham.
The pair had spent the majority of the day terrorizing the living room, and had rushed through dinner so that they could play again. However, by nightfall, Barry and Iris had to stop the two from tearing down the neighbourhood.
"Alright you two, time for bed."
"Awww," they chorused, dropping their shoulders in disappointment.
Dick had looked up at Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry – he had gotten into the habit of calling them that after the two, plus Wally, had insisted on it; he liked the idea of adding more people into his family anyway.
"Can't we stay up a little later? It's our first sleepover," Dick asked. The young hero had hoped that his pouting lips and widened eyes would convince the two adults to let them stay up longer – he never understood why that worked though, but even the Batman was often susceptible to it.
Upon seeing this, Wally had mimicked Dick's actions, even providing them with an angelic smile.
The couple sighed, glanced at one another, and back down at the children.
"Fine," Barry sighed.
"You two have half an hour before bed. And we mean it this time," Iris lectured, shaking her head in defeat.
"YAY!" The two boys cheered, and continued to race around the house.
Eventually, they landed in Wally's bedroom, deciding that it would be a good time to take out the sleeping bag that Dick had intended to sleep in while Wally slept on the bed – Dick thought it was nice of Barry and Iris to give Wally their spare room for when he visited, which was a lot, from what he could tell.
Dick had reached into the backpack that Alfred had given him before his departure from the manor, pulling out his small pillow and unzipped his sleeping bag. However, upon reaching into his bag to find his toothbrush, Dick felt something softer.
He froze for a second, hesitantly pulling his arm out and turning around. He saw Wally still outside of his bedroom and chatting with Barry, and he looked around the young speedster's room. It was heavily decorated with Flash merchandise and some of Barry's old chemistry textbooks, but even Wally didn't have a stuff animal.
He'll think I'm a baby if I take Batman out, Dick thought to himself and regrettably zippered the bag.
Finally, Barry had told them goodnight and turned off all the lights.
The pair had snickered several times within the first half hour, whispering jokes to each other, but eventually, there was just silence. At least, Wally was silent.
Dick continued to toss and turn and felt lonelier than ever. True, his best friend was in the room with him, but it just didn't feel right being in the dark without Batman. The boy had spent a good hour trying to sleep, keeping his eyes shut for as long as he could, but still, he felt restless.
Then he heard something.
Opening his eyes, Dick could see a figure standing across the room. His lips parted as he tried to take in a deep breath. Okay, Dick. It's just a burglar. You can handle this, even without Batman. And Flash is here! He'll know what to –
There was a loud crash and someone had whispered: "Ow!"
Dick's eyebrows furrowed at the recognizable voice. "Wally?"
The shadow across the room suddenly stood straighter. "Dick?" Wally then tiptoed towards the light switch, and the room was illuminated again.
"What are you doing?" The younger boy asked, confused as to why Wally was up. Suddenly, he noticed that his best friend had suddenly turned really red and was scratching the back of his head in embarrassment.
Wally stuttered his words. "I…needed to get something."
Curious, Dick asked, "What did you have to get in the middle of the night?"
After a gulp, Dick saw Wally reach from behind his closet door, a small, cotton filled toy.
It was a Flash plushie.
"I can't sleep without it," Wally admitted shyly and looked onto the floor, avoiding Dick's eyes. What he didn't see though was the grin on the smaller boy's face.
"Really?" Dick's voice suddenly chirped. He quickly crawled to his backpack and pulled out his own plushie. "I can't sleep without Batman either!"
Wally looked up in amazement, wide-eyed that with so many other things in common between the two, this was also one of them. He then gave an identical grin to Dick's and turned off the lights before speeding towards his bed.
"Mine's still better."
3. When he spent way too much time calculating
Robin didn't spend much of his time at the cave. Sure, he had divided his time evenly between school, Batman, and his own team, but he didn't live at the cave like M'gann and Conner did. In fact, of the six of them, he had spent the least amount of time in the cave.
Which was why that first night when he had entered his bedroom there, it was completely empty. The team had gotten back from a mission later than usual, and most of them were too exhausted to do any more travelling, so they had all agreed to stay at the mountain for the night – M'gann seemed very excited: yay, this would be like a sleepover!
Except Aqualad had wisely pointed out that although having a "sleepover" would be an interesting method of team bonding, they were all in need of rest and that it was technically a school night for most of them.
After bidding his team good night, the Boy Wonder entered the security code that allowed his door to open and walked into the small room. He quickly changed into the spare set of pajamas that were all neatly hung up in his closet. Dick belly flopped onto his bed and gave a sigh.
His body was aching more than usual, although it was understandable considering what they went through the previous night – the team could never have a normal mission, he realized, regardless of how boring it may seem to be at first.
Dick pulled the sheets over his body and turned to his side. He knew that due to how exhausted he was, sleep would overcome him momentarily. Except it didn't.
The young boy tossed and turned and even tried sleeping on the other side of the bed. It even got to the point where he was doing handstands and flips in order to get into the perfect sleeping position for his body, but nothing worked.
Frustrated, Dick knew exactly what was missing, but he also knew for a fact that he should've stopped the habit a long time ago. In fact, he knew it was completely wrong for him and the team to go on a rant with their mentors about how they were old enough to take care of themselves and go on their own missions, only to come home and hold onto a doll for comfort.
His arms felt useless though. He continued to flail them about, but there was always that feeling of something missing in his grasp. Dick had even tried to hold onto his pillow, but it wasn't the same.
"Argh!" He growled; he was tired and he knew that, his body knew that, but it refused to shut down until he had his plushie.
Fine, Dick thought, if it takes me around ten minutes to change plus an extra ten minutes for sneaking out to the zeta tubes… add that to the twenty minutes it takes to get to the manor – plus an additional fifteen minutes in case I run into some baddies and five more minutes if today's mission had affected my agility.
The boy used his arms to launch his body upwards so that he was in a sitting position. Hand under his chin and eyebrows furrowed, Dick continued to calculate.
That means it takes me a whole hour to get back home. His eyes darted to the corner of the bedroom where the alarm clock sat. It read 2:28AM.
Dick frowned. I'll be home by 3:30, that is, if I don't wake anybody up sneaking out and having to explain to them why I'm leaving in the first place –but then we have Supes and his superhearing…
Gah! So not asterous. Even if I do manage to leave in time, M'gann wanted to have breakfast with all of us together in the morning, and it'd really upset her if I left early… Which means I gotta be back here by the time she wakes up at, let's say average human time at 6:30. Then again, knowing her, she'd get up at least half an hour earlier just to make us breakfast, so I would have to be back here at around 5:30. This means that I'd have to get up at around 5:00, so if I leave now, I could have at least an hour and a half's rest before I have to be back here.
Dick turned back to his alarm clock. It read 3:04AM.
Okay, make that an hour's sleep.
He wanted to curse at his luck, but the last time he said something foul, Alfred had literally handed him a bar of soap – it did not taste good.
Taking a deep breath, Dick decided to take action. Throwing both of his legs off of the side of the bed, he sat up and quickly got dressed in his Robin uniform. As quietly as he could, Robin opened his bedroom door, only to hear noises.
M'gann was trying to suppress a giggle – and failing – and from what Robin could see through the crack of his door, Conner was sneaking out of her room and making his way to his own room across the hall.
Robin blanched and quickly shut the door.
Now that he knew those two were awake, sneaking out would be a lot harder. Sighing in defeat, Robin stripped himself down to his boxers and tossed himself on the bed again.
The next morning, Dick, with his sunglasses on, made his way (exhaustedly) towards the kitchen. He could hear (and see) M'gann and Conner giggling, and making the same flirty eyes that Batman and Catwoman make before Batman tells Robin to go home and that he would take care of patrol.
Turning away in disgust, Dick decided to sit down next to Kaldur who was trying to intervene between Artemis' and Wally's heated and much too early argument.
Rubbing his eyes underneath the shades, Dick heard someone call out his superhero name.
"Are you alright?" M'gann asked with worry in her voice.
"S'alright," Dick replied, "didn't get much sleep last night." Wrong. He didn't get any sleep that night and it was then that Dick decided that he would never sleep at the cave again –and if he had to, he was definitely bringing his Batman plushie – he didn't care if his teammates laughed at him, he has a whole file's worth of blackmail for every teammate stored in his computer.
He could take them.
4. When he felt alone
"My word… Master Bruce, what happened?" Dick heard Alfred exclaimed the moment the two stepped out of the Batmobile. He had found himself leaning onto the vehicle's door for support as his head felt heavier than normal.
"Fear gas. The vaccine I shot him with did the trick, but it took a while before the effects kicked in," Batman explained, pulling off his cowl.
Dick felt himself being lifted into the air, realizing that Bruce was carrying him upstairs and into his room.
"You should rest, Dick," Bruce said, "You've had a long night."
"M-sorry, Bruce, fors crewin' up..night.." Dicks words slurred, but was clearly too exhausted from the reaction of the toxin to say anything coherently.
The older man gave a smile, pulling the sheet over Dick's body and giving him the Batman plushie that he knew his ward liked to sleep with. "It's alright, Dick. Don't worry."
Dick closed his eyes, hearing Bruce turn off the lights and then stepping out of his room. He immediately opened them afterwards, and turned his head to the side; he stared into the toy Batman's glaring eyes and frowned.
He remembered being alone.
When he was hit with the fear gas, all he felt was loneliness. When he was younger, he knew that whenever he got hit by Scarecrow's toxin, it would've been his parents that he saw, falling and crashing and dying. But now… Now it was being alone.
Dick had seen himself in the middle of a flaming, abandoned building – the same one where he and Kid Flash were in on that night… that horrible, miserable night when everything had went wrong and Miss Martian had unconsciously taken control. It was the night Batman had "died" and left him – when he failed as a leader.
Dick shook his head, trying to get the memory of the failed stimulation out of his head – he couldn't. He couldn't shake away the feeling of being the only one left; there was no one left in the world in these nightmares, and Dick was left to fend for himself.
Ever since the stimulation, Dick had realized how useless he had been. How he had subconsciously believed that no matter what, Batman would have his back. And now, even Scarecrow's toxin was warning him that Batman wouldn't always be there for him. At any given time, Kid Flash, Superboy, Aqualad, Miss Martian, and Artemis… they could all disappear from his life.
He remembered the fear gas also showing him Babs, who ignored him when he approached her at school. There was Alfred who didn't pay him a second glance at the manor, and how even the Watchtower was unresponsive.
Dick was scared. Not of death, not of seeing his parents die, but of being alone, cut off from the world, and being away from his loved ones.
He could barely go through the day without communicating with someone – Dick believed that that's why he and Wally had initially hit it off so well: the boy couldn't keep his mouth shut.
Squeezing onto the Batman doll tightly, Dick tried to summon all of the doll's power to cure him of this feeling, but for the first time since he started sleeping with it, it didn't work.
He could even feel a headache coming on from all of these thoughts, but ignored it as he got up from his bed. There was only one thing to do now: he walked to Bruce's room.
Gulping, Dick quietly opened the large doors so that Alfred would not be woken up, and poked his head in. For the first time in years, he said, "Bruce?" He was glad that he could form proper words this time. "Could I sleep here tonight? Bruce?"
Unfortunately, Bruce was not in his bedroom, causing Dick to frown – the older man must be stowed away in his study or in the cave.
Sighing, Dick reasoned that it wouldn't hurt to wait for him here and jumped onto his guardian's large bed. He tucked himself in with the Batman plushie at the ends of his fingertips. He stared at it. Then, he saw something that sat on the nightstand next to the bed. Sitting back up, Dick leaned closer and thanks to the light coming from the window, he saw it.
It was Bruce's Robin plushie.
With a soft smile, Dick remembered asking Alfred to teach him how to make it so that he could give it to Bruce for Christmas, the year after he had received the Batman plushie (Alfred had to fix it up, of course, seeing as the eleven year old couldn't sew properly, despite his best efforts, and because he had accidentally left a sewing needle on the inside).
Picking up the Robin plushie, Dick held it next to his own Batman doll; he felt a little more at peace. The sight of the pair made the tension in his head disappear and it allowed him to breathe properly for the first time that night. He pulled both plushies to his chest and laid back down onto Bruce's bed.
There, Dick would fall asleep while waiting for Bruce to come back, but it was alright. Dick was alright. He knew that he didn't have to worry about being alone, because where there's a bat, there's a robin.
Dick would never be alone. Batman wouldn't allow it.
5. When it was with him, even in the worst times
"Me? Sick? Never." Robin had once said to his team, and now he was sure that some voodoo magic, karma curse was in the air that night, because this was so not as-ast-aster –
"Sheesh, Robin. Could you at least cover your mouth when you do that? Yuck!" Artemis complained. Her hand was waving in the air as if it could avert the direction of his bacteria particles – hopefully Wally didn't see her do that; Robin could not take another argument between Artemis, Wally, and science.
The three humans of the team were all laying on their individual beds in the med-bay. Upon returning to the cave from a mission, the three had found themselves with a virus – despite them shrugging it off and claiming it was a simple cold, their mother hens (their mentors) refused to let them leave their sight, and around other humans who could catch this potential threat.
"Do you really want Alfred to catch your illness, Dick?" Robin had remembered Batman asking him, and was struck with the memory of Bruce and his home cooked "meals" after Alfred had went down with the flu several years ago; it had sent shivers down his spine. He had decided to stay at the cave as well, mostly for Alfred's sake.
But now he regretted it. Whoever was the one who decided to stick all three of them in one room had never thought about the repercussions of Wally West and Artemis Crock being in the same room. Robin knew that those two alone accounted for the major headache he was feeling and that their constant arguing was like some sort of spell that was helping the viruses in his body multiply.
"Urgh," he groaned, sinking down into his bed and covering his face with the thin, white sheets. It didn't help reduce the noise, however, and made it even harder to breathe considering his stuffy nose.
Thankfully, Kaldur had chosen this time to enter the room – lucky Atlanteans, Martians, and Kryptonians who were immune to common human illnesses that even Kid Flash was too slow to escape from.
"M'gann has informed me that she has found a soup recipe that is intended to cure your colds. She and Conner have begun preparing your dinners," Aqualad stated. "Until then, I advise you to listen to Black Canary's instructions earlier today, which was to have plenty of rest."
Robin had a feeling that the older teammate had meant for that last instruction for Wally and Artemis only. He was about to lie back down on his bed when the sight of Kaldur leaving reminded him of something.
Kaldur turned around. "Yes, Robin?"
The Boy Wonder squirmed in his seat. "Erm, I was wondering if," he paused, waiting for Kaldur to walk towards him and stand next to his bed. He whispered the next part: "Could you go into my room, please? I need something – it's sitting on top of the alarm clock. My security code is 0-8-3-4-4-7."
Aqualad nodded. "Of course, Robin. I will be back."
Robin smiled, and after Kaldur had left, he had turned his face only to see Artemis and Wally stare at him curiously.
"What was that?" Wally asked.
Robin shook his head. "Nothing, guys. Just get some sleep." He had dropped his head down onto the pillow, and smirked when he noted that both the archer and speedster had done the same thing – it was about time those two learned that if he said it was nothing, it meant nothing.
The boy laid on his side, eyes watching the door. The moment he heard it slide open, he had used his hands to push himself up, and extended his arms to welcome the Batman plushie – he was thankful that Aqualad wasn't judging him (either that or he must not realize that plushies weren't common for the average thirteen year old).
After thanking Kaldur and watching him leave, Robin was about to lie back down on the bed when a voice interrupted his plans.
"Is that a Batman plushie?" Artemis asked.
Robin immediately spun around, seeing both the blonde and the redhead awake and sitting up. Blushing and lifting his blanket up to cover the doll, he nodded. He half expected Artemis to laugh and half expected her to question as to why he would need one, but was surprised when he heard neither.
Looking up, he noticed that she was smiling.
"You know," Artemis said, "I used to have a Ches – cat plushie. It was based on one of my favourite characters from a story I read as a kid. I was told that wherever I was, the Ches – cat would protect me at all times." Her smile faded as she brought her face down to her knees. "My mom had to throw it out though – it was getting too worn out for me –but you know, I still like to believe that it still protects me when I'm in trouble."
Both Wally's and Robin's faces were still, soaking in the information.
Then, pulling out Batman, Robin looked down at it. The cape was tattered, and the arms had blotches of food stains (from the many sleepovers at Wally's, and the one food fight at the manor) that would not wash off regardless of how many times Alfred scrubbed it. There were also different coloured threads that attached the cowl to the body from the many attempts of fixing the thing.
"I can't sleep without this," Robin admitted to Artemis. He smiled. "It makes me feel safe too."
Understandingly, Artemis nodded and laid back down on her bed, as did Robin – both were in serious need of rest.
Everything was silent until Wally spoke.
"Aqualad! Can you get me my Flash plushie please?"
6. And the one time, it comforted someone else.
"Robin, have you heard anything from the League?" Aqualad's voice rang through their mind link.
"No," Robin replied, shaking his head.
"Okay. Please alert the team when you have received instructions. Until then, we must continue helping these civilians."
It had been an invasion, and for the first time in their lives, they were at war. Lives were lost and casualties came in too many different forms for the young teenagers to count (though they would never forget what death looked like ever again).
The League had handled it – with the help of their covert team – and sometime after the attack, the crisis was averted. But with so much destruction done, and so many tears being shed, the heroes' jobs weren't finished; they had to clean up the mess.
"Superboy, there are some… bodies underneath all the rubble by the convenience store. You're going to have to lift the concrete walls to get them."
The Martian, despite being distressed, continued to scope the area for any missing persons – alive or dead. She was hovering in the air while Kid Flash had raced on the ground, going back and forth between buildings to hand out first aid kits and helping the paramedics retrieve necessary supplies.
It was Robin's and Artemis' job to collect the children who were separated from their families and bring them to a safe location where parents and officials could come and identify them.
Except Robin couldn't do his job properly. He knew that most of the children would not be identified that day, and he knew that for some – most – of the children, they would never reunite with their families.
There was something about the sight of a child without his or her parents that tugged onto Richard Grayson's heartstrings. Except that he wasn't Richard Grayson at the moment: he was Robin. And as the crime-fighting partner of the Bat of Gotham, he had to snap himself out of the flashbacks.
The little boy sitting in the corner of the building alone was the one who had caught his attention at that moment. He had recognized the boy, freckled face and missing front teeth. He had been sitting in that corner for more than half a day – no one had come looking for him.
"Robin?" Artemis' voice alerted him again.
"Oh, sorry 'bout that. A little heavy on the dis in distracted there," he tried to joke, but still, that crying little boy would not leave his mind.
Looking around, he had found a small, dark grey towel. Along with some dusty old newspapers and some string and rubber bands, the young acrobat had wrapped the towel around the newspapers, securing it with the string. Finally, he used the rubber bands to tie two small lumps at the top for ears. He had used a ragged, old cloth to tie around the neck.
Walking towards the small child, Robin gave his best Dick Grayson smile. "Hey there, kid."
The boy looked up, his bangs wet from the tears and his hands wiping his nose.
Robin tried to keep his grin, though it was quickly faltering at the sight of those familiar lonely blue eyes that was staring back at him. He knelt down so that the two were eye to eye. "You see this here?"
The boy nodded.
"This is Batman. He's the greatest," Robin paused, trying to find the enthusiasm in his voice again, "he and the league are doing their best, okay? And as long as you have this, he will protect you."
Still whimpering, the boy looked at Robin, and then to the handmade Batman doll.
"Really?" He asked, and then gave a hiccup.
Robin smiled. "Really."
Slowly, and eventually, surely, he took the Batman doll from Robin and held it close to his chest, looking a little bit calmer.
Later on that day, when the night was settling in and the civilians had found shelter, Robin received a call from his mentor.
He looked up to the corner again, and saw the boy and his Batman, along with an older man and woman huddling together.
"Everything's good, Batman."