The first knock on Barbara's door startles her so badly that she only narrowly avoids spilling her mug of coffee right onto the beige carpet.

It's close to 12 o'clock in the morning, so the drink's decaf, but the heavy thump on the door causes her hand to jerk as if it's loaded with jittery caffeine. She steadies her hand, sets the cup down on the kitchen counter and pads on socked feet to the door.

Barbara grasps the handle, opening it with a small frown.

"Nice night, isn't it?" Nightwing says, leaning heavily against her doorframe. His face is bloodied and speckled with the beginnings of purple bruises, and his mask and uniform are torn in several places.

She takes a reflexive step backward and gasps. "What happened to you?"

He grins, dazed, wavering a little where he stands. She just barely manages to catch him before he starts to collapse in the doorway.

He's bleeding heavily, but she doesn't have time to throw down a towl; resigns herself to the fact that she'll have to replace the sofa. Again.

"Where are you bleeding from?" she asks frantically. "How serious is it?"

"Just a few scratches," he groans, mostly relying on her to keep him upright. "Miscalculated a landing or two."

"Onto what, a bed of nails? A window?" She asks in disbelief, bringing him fully inside. He's heavy, almost deadweight, but she's pretty strong. Maneuvering the door shut with her ankle, Barbara deposits him on the sofa and goes for a washcloth in the kitchen, her coffee abandoned.

"Crystal chandelier, actually." He shoots her a self-deprecating smirk, but discomfort tugs at the sides of his mouth. Stretching out across the sofa scrapes against his sore muscles and scratched limbs, and he winces.

"You went on patrol without me," she accuses. "You promised you wouldn't!" After wetting the washcloth, she returns to the living room, shoves his legs over to make room for her to sit beside him.

"Hey, I've been patrolling alone longer than you," he argues, starting to sit up and then thinking better of it. "I can take care of myself."

"Which is exactly why you're currently bleeding all over my couch," Barbara deadpans, swiping at his facial cuts with the cloth.

"Okay, well." He closes his eyes. "Most of the time."

"And not that I don't enjoy having you ruin my couch, -again- but why didn't you just go back to the Manor?" she asks, brushing his hair over to wash off the congealed blood on his forehead. "Alfred could do a much better job of this than me."

Dick flinches when she accidentally prods a sensitive bruise in the process of removing his shredded mask, and Barbara mutters an apology.

He cracks one eye open then, says, "Your apartment's closer," grinning cheekily.

She sighs, lowers her voice minutely. "You promise you'd get some sleep tonight." He shuts his eyes again when she rests a gentle hand on his cheek to turn his face to the side, brushing at the scrapes on the other cheek.

"Wasn't tired," he mumbles, but she knows that that's Dick-speak for I had a nightmare.

Barbara moves from cleaning his face to unzip his ruined suit a bit, peeling off his arms and upper torso to clean the torn skin there.

This isn't the first time she's done so, but her face warms anyway. Not that he'd notice, though, with his eyes shut so tightly; barricaded against either the uncomfortable brush of the cloth on his tender bruises, or the nightmares the roused him from sleep in the first place.

"Your parents again?" Barbara asks softly, pulling his face closer to work away at the dark, clotted blood matting his hair to his head. She leans forward, startles a bit when his blue eyes flicker open in response, searching her face for a moment.

"Yes," Dick replies honestly, his voice catching.

"I'm sorry."

He recovers quickly, replies, "It's okay. I tried to go back to sleep, but. I couldn't, and I was staying at the Manor to help with repairs to the Cave, so I just left out the window."

She rolls her eyes at his easy smile, because he is so ridiculous sometimes. Water-diluted blood runs down his face and neck when she finally works the clumps out of his hair, trailing onto the couch. "You're just too good for doors now, huh?" she quips, and runs a hand down a particularly long scratch on his forearm, making him shiver.

"Nah, it's just that I told Alfred I was going to skip patrol tonight, and if he caught me out of bed at this hour, there would be hell to pay."

Realization dawning on her, Barbara drops his arm and jumps clear off the sofa. "Oh, I see how it is -you didn't come to my apartment because it was convenient-you just didn't want Alfred to catch you out of bed!"

Dick blinks innocently, says, "What?" but she knows better.

"What am I going to do with you, Wonder Bread?" She rubs her eyes, pinches the bridge of her nose. "Get your lying ass in the shower and scrub the rest of this crap off yourself."

Extending a hand, she hauls him up off the sofa and onto his slightly steadier feet.

He knows better than to argue, just asks meekly, "Do you still have that change of clothes I left over here?" His bright blue eyes laugh down at her.

Pointingtoward her room with an expression of mock-frustration, she huffs, "In my closet."

He stumbles his way down the hallway, gets the clothes he'd left behind before a mission once, and hops in the shower.

His suit's completely ruined, slashed to pieces; she tosses it in the trash. The mask can probably be salvaged, so it stays. Having lost her apetite for it, she pours the rest of the now-cold coffee down the drain. Oh, well. She doesn't really need the empty calories, anyway- just likes the taste of it.

He'd given her such a scare, showing up at her door, covered and bruises and bloody, matted hair. She shivers involuntarily, wraps her arms around herself.

Less than five minutes later, he emerges, covered in pinkish scrapes but otherwise clean. His wet hair drips onto his shirt, and Barbara has to smile when he shakes it out, like a dog after a bath.

"Gross!" she laughs, throws up her hands to protect herself from the spray. He grins, then collapses back down onto her couch; as a temporary fix, she had flipped the cushions to the non-bloodied undersides.

Barbara walks over to him, sits in the armchair opposite the couch. "Call Batman, can you bunk over?" she asks sarcastically.

"Count on it, Gordon," he says, throwing an arm over his eyes.

She sighs, turns off the lights, and settles back down in the chair for the night.

After a minute, Dick murmurs, "Babs?"

"Yeah, Dick."


She mumbles the truth- that it's no problem; that he'd do the same for her, and rests her cheek in the corner of the chair contentedly. Exhausted, they both drift off momentarily.

(And somehow -she's not saying how, mind you- by morning, she ends up curled beside him on the ruined sofa.)

how my days, they spin me 'round

how my days, they let me down

and then there's you

and then there's you

and then there's you