I do not own anything. If I did, there would be quite a few changes in the DC world.
This is the sequel to Why I'm Still Here in the Nightwing section. If you haven't read it yet, please do so.
He just couldn't understand it. He's tried to figure out why, but he's just not sure. Was it his fault? No. Wait, was it? Maybe it was something he said or did that he hadn't noticed. But he's gone too long without an answer and it was about time he got one.
Knock, knock, knock. This is it, no turning back now. After a few seconds there was a voice.
"Who is it?" The voice called out.
"Umm...it's, uh, Bruce." Um? Uh? He hadn't known those words were even in his vocabulary. It was just then that he noticed how hard he was breathing and he swallowed hard. Nervous? How could he possibly be nervous? Night after night, he fought the most dangerous criminals in Gotham-some not even the cops could hold their own against-and here he was outside his "son's" door, desperately trying to cover up how worried he looked and sounded.
"Bruce?" It was said in a shocked and bit disturbed tone. That only made him worry more. Did he not want to see him? Maybe he did do something to cause this. No. There must be more to this. A lot more.
"Uh, yeah." Seriously, what was with all the "uhs"?
"Oh." Now it was said in a kind of surprised way. That made Bruce relax just a little. Maybe he wasn't so bothered in seeing him. There was series of clinking sounds as the door was unlocked and finally opened.
"Hey." The voice now had a face and a naked body. Well, except for the black jeans. Really, really tight jeans. Looking at them made Bruce mentally wince. How does he do it? How does he manage to wear tight as hell clothing both with and without the mask?
"Uh, hi Dick." Damnit, he really needs to stop that.
There was a few moments of silence. The younger man just stared at the man who used to be his mentor, waiting. Silence. Finally, Bruce realized that he was waiting for him to him why he was here.
"You want something to drink?"
"Uh, no, no. I'm fine." It was pointless to even try to stop now.
Bruce swallowed hard and took in a huge breath. "I, uh, came here to, uh, talk to you about something that I, uh…believe is about time to address." He took another deep breath, not as big as before, but still pretty noticeable. And Dick was just staring at him. No, not staring. Observing. Scanning for every last detail. Deciphering. After all, he was the world's second-greatest detective. And Bruce, being the greatest, saw it and instantly tried to covered up his nervousness. To some degree he absolutely succeeded. In fact, if this was just anyone he was dealing with, they would have thought that he was being totally cool with everything. But this wasn't just anyone. No, this was the man that he had trained for ten years. He knew something was going on.
"What, did something happen in Gotham?" Bruce just shook his head.
"Here in Bludhaven?"
" No. Well, not…exactly." Bruce noticed Dick begin to worry a little.
"So then, what's this about exactly?" Dick sat down on the couch and Bruce sat to an angle of him in a chair. Bruce sighed. Dick knew this wasn't good.
"I've, uh…been noticing some things."
"Oh, really? What kinds of things." Dick was now breathing and swallowing hard, too.
"Oh, um. A few things that seem a bit different…about you, actually." Bruce was mainly just worried that he might say the wrong thing or Dick might get the wrong impression. That's been tending to happen a lot lately. He was also worried that instead of trying to help, he would only make things worse. Or that Dick would resent him or… All in all, Bruce was worried about a lot of things that could happen.
"Really? Like what?" It had been two days since Bruce had caught him talking to himself-arguing more like it- on top of a rooftop while on patrol. He had been quiet for a while, just standing there, not paying much attention. Then, out of nowhere, he calls out something like "No!" and some other bazaar stuff. Bruce had come up with a pretty fair idea of what the other side of the conversation was about. He thought that maybe he could just ignore it but, damnit, it just couldn't be left alone. He's already wanted longer than he had liked to. He figured that if he let it be and kept a close eye on him, the matter would have dissolved. But it didn't. So now Bruce had to take matters into his own hands.
"Oh, um. Hm. Well, uh, for starters, you've kinda been a little stranger than usual."
"strange? How so?" Dick was playing it off well, but no dice. This was Bruce he was dealing here.
"I mean, it's not like you're usually strange, it's just you…haven't really been yourself lately, Dick. You've been preoccupied-had mind set somewhere else. And you've been reckless and moody. Well, I mean, you're always reckless, but I mean even more so. And you're never moody."
"I, ah, see. Hmm."
"Yeah, and, uh, you haven't really been answering your phone either." Bruce pointed out. Dick glanced at the phone to his left. When has that rung in a while? He didn't recall anyone calling. Did someone call?
"This concerns me, Dick. You've been zoning-out and completely unaware and non-attentive in battle. And just downright foolish!" Dick shot Bruce a glance.
"What do you mean in battle?"
"You have been following me around, haven't you?"
"I knew it! I knew I felt you there. I thought maybe I was just imagining it, but I wasn't. You were there all along."
"Why the hell were you following me around, Bruce? What, did Gotham run out of criminals so the Bat decided to see how I'm taking care of my city?"
"You what, Bruce?"
"I just needed to make sure you were okay."
"What makes you think I wouldn't be okay?"
"I think you know what." Dick swallowed hard and Bruce sighed.
"What do you know?" Dick asked after a few moments of silence.
"I know you've been cutting yourself again. And I know that you've tried "it" at least once."
"What drew your suspicion? I mean, I know you said I've been acting weird, but something must have caused you to notice so much to stalk me."
"That…incident that, uh, happened 7 weeks ago…"
"You know about what happened? How?"
"I was there. I was the one who called the hospital in enough time to revive you. I had thought about talking to you about it sooner, but you just seemed so agitated and stressed by everything. I didn't want to make it any worse. So I figured that if I gave you some space and time to sort your own problems out before I talked to you, it would eventually just thin out. And I wanted to keep an eye on you…"
"In case I tried anything again." Bruce gave what had to be the world's smallest nod. After a few minutes of letting Dick it all in, they both sighed in unison and looked at each other.
"Dick. I just need to know…"
"I'm not telling you why, Bruce."
"I can't. I…it's…it's nothing you need to be bothered with."
"Bothered with? Dick, the only thing that bothers me is knowing that you are hurting yourself again and there's not really much I can do about it to help you because you don't trust me enough to talk to me."
"You don't have to do anything, Bruce. I've…gotten this under control."
"Under control? Tell me exactly how cutting and doing god knows what else to yourself, is keeping your impulse for death under control."
"This is not under control. Having the situation under control would be actually talking to someone-anyone really. Has it even occurred to you that if you really had it under control, you might be checking with a psychiatrist? I mean, do you even want to get better?"
"I…" Dick looked away as his eyes began to sting a bit.
"Do you?" Dick said nothing and just continued to look down at the floor for several long minutes. Dick now had his knees up and his arms wrapped around them as he hugged himself tightly and tried so hard not to cry in front of Bruce. It wasn't until he felt a strong, but surprisingly gentle hand touch his arm that Dick noticed that Bruce had found his way onto the couch and was now sitting to the right of him.
"Dick, please. Answer me. Do you want to get better?"
"Well, yes." Dick answered in a small, weak voice that Bruce probably wouldn't be able to understand if he hadn't had special bat-training. "But I've been trying so long, I don't know if I can or ever will. And, to be honest, Bruce, I don't really know if I even care anymore." A single crept down the side of his soft, gentle face.
"Hey. Hey. Look at me. Don't cry, alright? Look, it's…I, I know it can get better. And if you would only confide in someone I'm sure it would."
"I, I can't, Bruce."
"I…you, you wouldn't understand."
"Oh?" Dick looked down, but the only thing he could see was Bruce's broad chest. He turned away from Bruce and got up, arms still clung to each other.
"I, um, am kinda tired now, Bruce."
"You can sleep all you want, but I'm not leaving you alone, Dick." He began to protest but saw that it would be pointless and he really wasn't in the mood right now.
"Alright." He walked off to his bedroom for an afternoon nap.
"Yes. Sleep, my son. And I shall protect you until you awaken." Bruce whispered into the empty room.
**To Be Continued**