As I put in the in the summary, this fic focuses on intrusive thoughts. If that's not something you want to read about or if it's something that could be triggering for you, I'd recommend just clicking the back button. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy the fic!
Title from the song I Found by Amber Run
Bruce is starting to realize that he might have a bit of a problem.
He's lying in bed a few hours after patrol, hoping that he might fall asleep and get a couple of hours before his alarm goes off and he has to leave for work. This bit isn't the problem, this part is all too normal. Then the anxious thoughts start pouring in. Mistakes he made on patrol, calls he made that might've been wrong (had there really only been four guys, or did the fifth get away? Was that noise he heard really just a car alarm that meant nothing, or had it been a victim trying to get his attention, had it actually been a scream?) This, while not uncommon, is still normal for him. These, he thinks, come with the job. (They come from trauma, from that pesky little thing called mental health that he seems to be lacking too many nights.)
The actual problem is when these thoughts force him into acting. He can't lie there with them, he needs to move and act and check. Because if he doesn't, they don't stop and his brain is just screaming at him that something is wrong and he needs to get up. Right. Now. He needs to check or else it's true and he just can't be bothered to do something.
Dick got hurt on patrol tonight. A jagged knife had slashed across his stomach and went right through the kevlar, though Alfred had assured him that it didn't go past the muscle. It was bloody and messy, but a few stitches and some oral painkillers later, Dick was good as new and put to bed. He's safe. He's fine. Bruce knows that. But.
But what if the wound is infected? Even though the wound was disinfected, Dick could still get an infection. That happens sometimes, hell, it's happened to Dick before. He could be showing signs right now. And what if he picked up something deadly? Gotham streets aren't exactly clean, and Bruce doesn't trust the crooks they fight to clean their weapons before going on a stabbing spree. He needs to check the wound for redness and warmth. He needs to check Dick for fever and glassy eyes. He needs to know how he's feeling. He needs to get up and check.
Except, Dick is probably fine—is fine—Bruce tells himself. They'll check the wound regularly, as is protocol, and Dick will be fine. Even if there is an infection, he'll be just fine.
But what if the stitches were pulled? It's happened before, to both of them. They just move a little too much, too fast, too hard, and Dick is always moving. He's never still. The stitches could've broken and he could be bleeding out. He could be soaked in blood, and he lost too much too fast that he can't call for help because he passed out. Maybe he tried to get up, and now he's lying on the floor with a bashed skull, bleeding from two too many spots. Bruce needs to go find him. He needs to check.
Except, that scenario is incredibly unrealistic. Even if Dick did get up and fell, he wouldn't have cracked his skull. And he wouldn't have undone his stitches in his sleep, no matter how much even he moves around. And if the stitches did break, he wouldn't have bled out that fast. He would've been able to call for help. He would've woken up, noticed the bleeding, groaned, and then gone to get Bruce. Alfred would've re-stitched the wound and Dick would've been fine.
But what if there was internal bleeding? No wetness to wake Dick up, and right now the painkillers are keeping him asleep and preventing him from feeling it. It's been hours since Dick went to bed, he could be in organ failure right now. Bruce would have no way of knowing. This kind of thing almost always results in death if it's not treated right away, and it's been hours. Dick could be dead. His son, his little boy, could be dead. He needs to check.
He's out of bed before he can even finish the thought, before he can think to calm the anxiety. All he sees is an image of Dick, limp and cold with blue lips as he lies lifeless on his bed. Too late, too far gone, to be saved because Bruce didn't listen to his gut. Why didn't he check on him? Why didn't he make sure he was okay? Why didn't he—
Bruce flings the door open in such a panic that it causes Dick's body (body, not corpse, body) to jerk in the bed. Bruce goes to him, the reaction not enough to reassure him that Dick is alive. He checks for a pulse, which is there and normal—thank god.
"Bruce?" Dick's voice is tired, a little cranky from being woken up so suddenly and after so little sleep. But this was important, Bruce had to know. He turns on the lamp. "What's going on?"
He's trying t push himself up, but Bruce isn't letting him. "I just needed to check on your stitches, chum," Bruce tells him calmly, pushing the hair away from the boy's eyes.
"They're fine," Dick assures, trying not to whine. He yawns and tries to relax against the pillows. "You already checked them after Alfred finished. Remember?" His voice is calm and reassuring, like he thinks Bruce is losing it. If he was paying enough attention, it might make Bruce angry. But he has more important things to focus on. Important things to fix.
Bruce already has Dick's shirt pushed up to his chest and he's peeling the gauze off as he says, "Yes, but I just want to be sure you're not showing signs of infection."
"Are you okay?" Dick asks. Bruce doesn't answer, so Dick places his little hand (not cold, warm with life) on top of Bruce's. "Bruce? You're scaring me a little. What's wrong? Did something happen?"
The skin on Dick's abdomen doesn't show signs of infection. He touches it and it's not abnormally warm. Dick is fine. He pushes the gauze back down, gently pressing the edges with his fingers until it sticks again. "Everything's okay, kiddo." He lifts his hand to feel Dick's forehead. No fever. Everything's fine. "Get some rest."
Dick is looking at him with concern and suspicion, but he doesn't say anything about it. "You too B."
"Hn." Bruce tucks Dick in and then flicks the light off. He leaves the room, keeping the door open.
"Night," Dick calls.
He walks back to his room feeling strange, almost dizzy. He's relieved that Dick is okay, but he's also starting to feel a little ridiculous for giving into his anxiety. Logically, he knew Dick was fine, but he didn't feel like he was and he had to make sure. And then there was the way Dick looked at him . . .
He doesn't think he'll be able to sleep after all. He looks at the pill bottle on his nightstand; they're sleeping pills, but after looking at the clock, he decides against them. It wouldn't matter much. Just a waste of medicine at this point.
He could go downstairs to the gym; a hard work out sometimes helps when he's feeling anxious like this. Or he could go work on a case. Or check the news, go over the papers for the meeting he has in a few hours, maybe—
Wait. When he checked on Dick, was the skin actually a normal temperature? Did he check for temperature, or just for redness and hardness? Did he check for hardness at all? Now that he thinks about it, he didn't even wash his hands before touching the area. Sure, in the moment, his priority was to make sure that Dick was still alive, but it had been careless all the same. Dick was at a higher risk for infection now, and he didn't even bother to pay attention to the warmth of the wound area. He needs to go back and check.
Except that he's pretty sure he did and that it was fine. And when he was talking to Dick, he seemed normal. A little off, but that was only in reaction to Bruce. Right?
He's wringing his hands, noticing that they're a little warm. And that means that maybe if Dick's skin had been warm, it could've felt normal to Bruce. He needs to go check again. He needs to check.
Except that this is just anxiety, and if he gives in it will just get worse. Giving into these thoughts only provides short term relief, followed by an increase in anxiety. That's what's happening now. He should do a breathing exercise, he should distract himself, he should—
Check on Dick. (He's fine.) Check on Dick. (He's fine.) Check on Dick! Check on Dick!
He's racing down the hall again, this time making a stop in the bathroom to wash his hands. He keeps the door open so he won't have to touch the knob again once his hands are clean. He gets his hands wet and applies a generous amount of soap, counts to sixty as he lathers it on, then rinses before applying more soap and repeating the process. He dries his hands and grabs the medical kit from the cabinet. Then leaves the bathroom, turning the light off with his elbow as he goes.
When he gets into Dick's room, he turns on the overhead light with the hand holding the kit, then makes his way to the bed where Dick is already groaning and blinking at the sudden brightness.
"Come on, I'm trying to sleep," Dick whines, shoving the pillow over his face. "I have school tomorrow."
Dick should probably stay home tomorrow—today, now. He doesn't want him walking around, putting unnecessary stress on the wound. He should rest, he should stay where people can watch him closely. Bruce should cancel his meeting.
"It will be quick," Bruce promises, pulling Dick's shirt up with the hand that had been holding the first aid kit.
"You just checked it," Dick says, pulling the pillow off of his face. "I'm fine." He tries to push Bruce's hand away and pull his shirt back down. Bruce doesn't budge. "Maybe I should get Alfred."
Bruce takes Dick's hands and forces them back down onto the mattress. "Stay still. I just need to clean the wound and make sure it's alright."
"Bruce," Dick's wavery voice sounds a little distant as Bruce pulls back the gauze.
"Everything's going to be fine," Bruce tells him, "just let me check."
He can feel Dick's eyes on him as he takes out an alcohol wipe and starts to clean his hands again. In the corner of Bruce's eye, he can see that Dick's biting his lip, too. He's scared. But Bruce will keep him safe.
"It's a little red," Bruce says when he looks back down at the skin. It's not red right next to the stitches, though. But sometimes that happens.
"It's just agitated from the adhesive that keeps being ripped off," Dick argues. "It's fine—promise."
Dick is probably right, but they'll need to keep an eye on it. He'll need to keep an eye on it. Bruce feels around with his clean fingers. It's not hard, and it still doesn't feel warm, even with his hands still slightly cool from when he washed them. "Hn."
Dick is fine, and now that the thoughts have stopped screwing at him, he's realizing that he didn't actually need to re-check this. Dick would've been fine.
Still, he re-cleans the wound and changes out the bandaging.
"All better," Bruce says, more to himself than to Dick, though. It gives him the same feeling as when he was little and would scrape his knee; all he needed to feel better was the magical healing properties that only a Band-Aid could provide.
He tugs Dick's shirt back down and closes the first aid kit. Dick is staring at him, jaw clenched tight and looking like he's afraid to move.
"I didn't mean to scare you," Bruce starts. "I just needed to check that you weren't showing signs of infection."
"I know," Dick says like he understands.
Bruce throws out the old gauze and used alcohol pads. "Get some rest, chum." Bruce lets his fingers tug gently at Dick's hair.
"Yeah," Dick says, eyes never leaving him.
Bruce sets the first aid kit on Dick's nightstand, then turns off the light and leaves the bedroom. He leaves the door open again, but a "Night." doesn't echo from the room like last time. But he doesn't need one, so he heads back to his room to find something to distract himself with until Alfred wakes up.
He stops when he hears quiet footsteps moving down the hall behind him.
"Where are you going Dick?" Bruce asks, turning around. "You shouldn't be moving around so much just yet."
"It's alright, Bruce," Dick says without bothering to turn around or even pause. "I just need to ask Alfred something."
The feelings of calm and relief are already wearing off to be replaced by feelings of embarrassment and a lack of self-control. Why can't he control this? Why does he have to freak Dick out? He could've left him alone and everything would have been fine. Everything could've been fine. Why does he always screw everything up?
"Damn it, Dick, wait." But Dick's pace is picking up and he refuses to answer Bruce. Bruce follows him anyway, but he doesn't chase after him. Dick really could pull his stitches, and Bruce isn't going to be the cause. He's done enough.
"Alfred," Dick is calling when he's a few yards from the bedroom. He keeps calling, and he lets himself into Alfred's room without knocking, a telling sign of how freaked he actually is.
Bruce stops and waits in the hall, not wanting to walk any closer. Instead, he leans against the wall and slides down to the floor, putting his head in his hands.
The man must have already been up and at the door when Dick opens it because Bruce hears him stumble back a little. That, and the light that floods into the hall when the door swings open.
"What is it, Master Dick?" Alfred asks, and Dick steps deeper inside the room, probably by Alfred's encouragement. "Are you feeling alright."
"I'm fine, but Bruce needs you," Dick tells him, and the concern in his voice is now unhidden fear.
"What's wrong with Master Bruce?" Alfred asks, voice serious and even.
It's quiet, but Bruce can still make it out. "He's acting kind of weird. He woke me up twice to check on my stitches even though I told him I was fine. I don't know what to do."
"You did the right thing by getting me," Alfred tells him, and Bruce feels guilty. "Now, lie down here. You look a little pale."
"Is he going to be okay?"
"Of course he is. I'll take care of it, you just rest."
The light shuts off and Alfred appears in the hallway. He closes the door behind him and walks toward Bruce. Sunlight is peeking through the window, but it's still dark.
Bruce looks up at Alfred, and Alfred tilts his head and sighs a little.
"I scared him, Alfred," Bruce says.
"He's a tough lad; he'll be alright," Alfred promises. "Now come with me." Alfred helps Bruce up and then puts his hand on Bruce's back to guide him forward. "We'll have some tea and a little chat."
Bruce nods and moves his feet.
"Everything is going to be alright, Master Bruce, you'll see. I'll make sure of that."
And if Alfred says it, it has to be true. So he goes to the kitchen and Alfred has him drink tea and they talk for a long time. Alfred has always been able to calm him down and make him see sense, ever since he was little. He feels better and suddenly the world—his world—isn't going to end tonight.
But he still has a problem, and maybe it's time he gets a little help.
I was actually pretty nervous about posting this, so if you could leave me some feedback I would really appreciate it! Also, I don't really know if Bruce is in character here, but 1) I think I'm kind of past the point of caring and 2) Bruce isn't really thinking or acting like himself right now, so there's that. Anyway, thanks for reading, I hope you liked it!