EDS AU Overview: To put it simply, Dick has a connective tissue disorder called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS/EDS) that causes, among plenty of other things, a lot of joints problems (hypermobility, instability, dislocations, etc.) Any specific hEDS information needed for the story will be found at the end.
Disclaimer: I draw off of my own experience with hEDS for these fics and I do my best to supplement that with lots of research, but keep in mind that everyone's experience with EDS is different and I'm not an expert. This is just for fun and self-projection to get more chronic illness representation out there.
Dick is 15 and Jason is 12 almost 13. This takes place in July, about 2-3 months after Dick quit Robin, and Jason is in the middle of being officially adopted. I think that's everything, so enjoy the fic!
When Dick stepped down from his role as Robin, Bruce thought he would finally get a chance at normalcy. Not having to train daily and go on patrol most nights means Dick is having fewer flares and less fatigue. Sure, he's not on the same level as his average, healthy peers, but he's getting there. He's getting better. Dick is happy and heading towards normalcy, and that's all that matters.
However, it's these same positive changes that are simultaneously making Bruce feel guilty. Guilty because he hadn't pushed Dick to stop sooner, angry that he had been against Dick quitting in the first place. That he had gotten into an argument with his sick son over the matter.
Bruce had been in denial, and now it's all too obvious just how blind Brue had been.
But that was then and this is now. This is better. Dick is happier and healthier and now has the energy to do normal fifteen-year-old things. Like dating.
"So, can I?" Dick asks, the first indication that he is, in fact, asking for permission instead of merely informing Bruce of his plans for the upcoming Friday afternoon.
Bruce is going to let him go; Dick needs this. But first, "Who did you say you're going with again?"
"Kaitlyn. She's on mathletes with me and we had the same English class last semester."
"Kaitlyn Elston?" Dick nods. "I talked with her parents at the last Wayne charity event. Good people. What time were you planning on going?"
"Um, we thought it would be better to go to the one o'clock show because it wouldn't be as crowded," Dick explains.
"I have a meeting that afternoon and I won't be able to get out of it, but I think Alfred could drop you two off. If you go to the theater at the mall, maybe he and Jason could go get Jason's uniforms for September while you and Kaitlyn are at the movie," Bruce trails off.
Dick raises his eyebrow. "So, like, you don't want to send someone in to spy on us or anything?"
"I want to talk to Kaitlyn's parents to make sure they're alright with it, but I think you two can be trusted to watch a movie by yourselves." Besides, Alfred will be right there if anything happens.
Dick smiles. "Thanks, Bruce!"
"No problem, Chum," Bruce hums, returning to his paperwork as Dick leaves the room.
Normalcy. It's kind of nice.
Bruce parks his car in the garage before leaning over onto the steering wheel, closing his eyes, and letting out a frustrated groan. He had had a long day. His meeting was full of arguments and, despite running long, ended with no final decision. They had decided to call it and meet up again first thing Monday morning. Now he's exhausted and wants nothing more than to be left alone for the rest of the evening. That isn't an option. But tonight's patrol may prove to be a more satisfying alternative.
Two weeks ago, Batman had received an anonymous tip that a stolen weaponry auction was going to be held. He had been investigating the suspected group behind it for a few days, but everything had been quiet. He thought he had lost the trail, but then the anonymous tipper had been found dead. A little more detective work from the clues he had picked up and Batman had found the new location and an idea of what kind of weapons would be at the auction. That auction is tonight, and Batman intends to stop it.
He checks his watch: just enough time to eat dinner and take a quick nap before meeting up with Barbara to go over their plans one last time.
Nights like this are when he misses having Dick's help the most; lots of (dangerous) people and wanted criminals will be there, and Batman could really use the extra back-up. Batgirl will be there, of course, but with a bust this big, the more hands the better. It would be cutting it close with just the two of them, but Bruce is positive they can handle it. And if it comes down to it, they can always have Jason step in. The kid still has at least another month of training before Bruce feels comfortable bringing him out on patrol, but Jason is bight and capable. If Bruce needs to use him as backup, he's sure Jason will rise to the occasion.
Bruce pushes away thoughts about that evening's plans and contingency plans and gets out of the car. Briefcase in hand, he walks towards the house's attached garage door and checks his watch again: dinner probably won't be ready for another thirty minutes or so, giving him plenty of time to check in with Dick. His date with Kaitlyn had been that afternoon and Bruce is eager to hear how it went.
Brue unlocks the door and enters the manor through the kitchen. Something is in the oven, but Alfred isn't anywhere in sight. He doesn't think much of it and continues on his way to the media room where he's expecting to find the boys.
No luck. He frowns but keeps walking down the hall, turning into the library when he sees the light on.
He enters the room, spotting Jason curled up on a chair with his earbuds in and a book propped up on his knees. "What're you reading?"
"Hmm?" Bruce watches as the mop of black hair turns around. Spotting Bruce leaning over his chair, Jason pulls his earbuds out and closes his book. "Oh, hey, Bruce. Did you just get home?"
"Yes, just now." Bruce turns his head to get a glimpse of the title: It's Kind of a Funny Story. "Is this a book on your summer reading list?"
"No, I finished those already," Jason answers, twisting his earbuds between his fingers as he does. "We finished the school shopping early, so we went to the bookstore to look around until Dick's movie got out. This one looked good and Alfred said I could get it."
Bruce nods, the hint of a smile on his face. "And is it?"
"I just started, but yeah, so far."
"Good. Do you know where Dick is?" Bruce asks.
"Um, he went to his room when we got home." Jason pauses, frowning. "I don't think he's feeling good."
"I'll go check on him. Enjoy the rest of your book, Kiddo." Bruce lets his hand run through Jason's hair.
Jason pulls his head down, but there's a not-so-hidden smile on his face. "Whatever," he mumbles, putting his earbuds back in and curling back into the chair.
Bruce turns to leave, allowing a soft smile to appear on his own face. However, it vanishes as soon as his focus switches back to Dick. Bruce just hopes that his son's sickness hadn't kicked in until he had gotten home.
"Ah, Master Bruce," Alfred says in a quiet voice.
Bruce doesn't bother with a greeting. "How's Dick?"
"Migraine, I'm afraid. He believes it was the cinema that triggered it," Alfred explains.
"Did he catch it early enough to take a triptan?" Bruce asks.
"I'm not sure; he was rather agitated when I spoke with him so I didn't feel it best to ask. However, he did take some Excedrin when I offered it," Alfred says.
Meaning that even if Dick had taken a triptan, he either didn't take it soon enough or it just didn't work. Bruce makes a mental note to ask Dick how the triptans are working when he's feeling better. They didn't have an appointment with the neurologist for another month, but if the triptans aren't working, Bruce has no problem calling and seeing what they can do until then.
"Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes, Sir," Alfred mentions before continuing down the stairs. "Hopefully Master Dick will be joining us."
Try to convince Dick to eat something. "I'll see."
Bruce takes the last few steps up the stairs and walks down the hallway until he reaches Dick's room. It's dark behind the door. Quiet, too. He supposes that's a good thing—he's had too many experiences of listening to Dick moan and cry through these attacks. His hand hovers above the knob for a second, taking a moment to close his eyes and swallow before turning it and pushing the door open.
"Hey, Chum, how're you feeling?" Bruce approaches the lump on the bed and sits down next to it, remembering to keep his voice quiet.
Dick doesn't roll over to look at Bruce, but he does turn his head to the side so that his voice won't be muffled. "Sick."
"I'm sorry. When did you take something?" Bruce's hand hovers over Dick's back for a second, debating on whether or not to risk it; he never knows when Dick's migraines will make him touch sensitive. Odds are against it, but the small possibility of Dick flinching away from him (and that feeling it produces) is enough to make him question it.
He risks it. This time, Dick lets him rub his back, and Bruce is thankful.
"I dunno." Dick brings a hand up from under his covers and pushes his palm into his left eye. "Ten, maybe fifteen minutes ago."
Still too early to tell if it will work or not. Dick is communicating in more than one-word sentences, though, so Bruce continues. "How was the movie?"
"… Fine, I guess. Kaitlyn said she liked it."
"… Did something happen?" Of course something happened.
Dick sighs before pushing himself into a sitting position, knees against his chest. "I think movie theaters are a trigger now."
Bruce sighs; Dick loves going to the movies. "When did it start?"
Dick picks at his sock. "Prodrome started not even halfway through the movie."
Bruce frowns. Poor baby. "Did you step out to take something?" Please say yes.
Dick shifts, shakes his head. "I was going to, but I didn't think to grab a triptan before leaving the house."
"Alfred probably had one, you could've called him."
"I didn't think of that," Dick snaps.
Bruce closes his eyes, counts to five.
"Besides, how would I have explained that to Kaitlyn? She would've noticed if I had been gone for ten minutes." Dick's forehead is resting on his knees now, both arms wrapping around his shins.
"I'm sure she would've understood."
Dick's head snaps up to glare at Bruce. "She doesn't even know there's something wrong with me!"
Bruce ignores the death-glare and places his hand on Dick's shoulder. He looks him in in the eye, and with a serious voice, assures him, "Dick, there's nothing wrong with you."
"Yes there is, Bruce," Dick hisses, shaking Bruce's hand off as he does. "This isn't normal. Getting sick because you went to the movies isn't normal."
Bruce clenches his jaw. "That doesn't mean you should be embarrassed about it."
"I'm not—it's not that—I just," Dick cuts off with a huff. He takes a deep, shaky breath and releases it slowly. Then, eyes toward the ceiling, he tells Bruce in a quiet voice, "We were going to get ice cream afterward, but after the movie got out, I just had to get home. I couldn't even walk her into her house."
Bruce doesn't know how to respond to that.
"We barely talked on the way back. I tried, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't focus and, honestly, I didn't want to." Dick bites his lip, looking back down at the comforter. "I don't think she'll want to go out again."
"It's not like you did this on purpose, Dick. If you explained yourself—"
Dick makes eye contact with him, and Bruce stops talking immediately. "That's not the point, Bruce."
"Then what is? If you're not worried about Kaitlyn, then what's the problem?"
"I… I just…" Dick sniffs and leans into Bruce, who automatically wraps his arms around the boy (his boy, his little boy who's on the verge of tears and Bruce can do nothing to make it better).
"I just thought I was getting better," and Dick's voice sounds betrayed. "I quit Robin, I quit gymnastics, I'm keeping up with my PT, I'm taking my medication—I'm doing all of these things to make me better, but I still can't do anything. It's not like I was going hiking or something. It was just the movies."
This isn't about a date not going well, this is about Dick not being able to do the things he used to and knowing he might not ever be able to do them without consequence again. This is about Dick realizing the impact EDS is having on his life.
Bruce pulls Dick closer. "I'm so sorry, Dick."
"It's not fair, Bruce. It's not fair." Bruce feels hot tears drop onto his shoulder.
"I know, I know it's not." Bruce rubs Dick's arms. "Tell me what I can do, Dick."
Dick doesn't respond because, really, there's nothing that they can do. They can just try to manage symptoms as they come and try to find ways to prevent them in the first place. It will take time, but chances are that it will get better. It just isn't better yet.
But Dick doesn't need a pep-talk, he just needs Bruce to be there for him. So that's what Bruce does; he just holds his kid because sometimes that's all anyone can do. Sometimes that's all anyone needs.
Dick will never be normal by their old standards, and it was false hope to ever think that he would. But they'll eventually adjust and learn how to cope with this. Soon they'll find their new normal, and maybe that's hard to think about and accept now, but it will happen. They will get better at dealing with this and learn how to handle the bad days.
The normalcy they used to live by is gone, but their new normal isn't far away either. And that, that is something both of them can hope for.
Migraine Triggers: Migraines can happen randomly or be brought on by triggers. These can really be anything (certain foods, smells, flashing lights, etc.), and it's more common in episodic migraine (which Dick has) than in chronic migraine (which I have). Sometimes there's a mix of randomness and triggers. For example, mine mostly just happen because, but certain things (usually a combination of things) can trigger an attack. Triggers can also change over time, so something that never used to be a trigger (for migraine or something else) can become one out of nowhere.
Preventative Treatment: Even if a patient is taking their meds regularly, doing PT exercises, and whatever else is working for them, that doesn't mean their symptoms are gone as long as they continue doing those things. Most of them will still have symptoms most/all of the time despite doing the treatment, the symptoms are just more manageable/less intense. A preventative plan also won't prevent certain activities from triggering flares, so there are some things that EDSers just can't do, no matter how good they're feeling that day.
No matter how long you've dealt with chronic illness, it still gets to you sometimes. I wanted to show that, which is why this takes place about a year and a half after Dick got his diagnosis. I hope you liked it, thanks for reading! And if you could do me a favor and leave a review telling me what you thought, I would really appreciate it!