"D'on cry, lil w'ng," Dick croaked in a lazy whisper.

Jason looked up at him and smiled. "Welcome back, Big Bird."


"W-where?"

"Gotham General."

"Why?"

"Head injury."

"H-how?"

"Gun shot wound to the head."

"W-when?"

"A few weeks ago while out on patrol."

"W-who?"

"Er…I don't know."

"Liar."

Jason laughed. "I'm going to let a nurse know you're awake."

"No. Stay."

"Dick, I have to let someone know you're conscious."

"S-stay."

"Okay," Jason replied, adjusting the blankets around Dick before sitting back down on his chair.

"Bruce?"

"Out on patrol with Tim and Damian."

"Where?

"The usual places, I guess. I don't patrol with them anymore."

"No, here. Where?"

There was a pause in Jason's response and Dick had a feeling he knew why. Dick must have already asked this question. But he couldn't remember right now what the answer was. He was in a hospital, but which one and why?

"You're in Gotham General, because of a head injury due to a gun shot wound to the head that happened a few weeks ago while out on patrol."

"Right."

Exhaustion from trying to move his arm and the small conversation with Jason, started to take over his body. Dick could feel his eyes start to droop demanding more sleep. He fought it hard. He didn't want to go to sleep, but he was losing the battle to stay awake.

"Close your eyes, Dick. I'm not leaving. I promise. We'll talk again soon."

"K, nigh' Jay."

"Goodnight, bro."

Dick caved to the exhaustion and went to sleep.


Now that Dick was awake and conscious it was time to start his recovery. There were tests and assessments to see which gaps needed to be filled and what aspects of daily tasks needed to be retaught.

It wasn't a surprise to anyone that Dick was okay with talking. Thankfully there were no signs of aphasia, only slurring when he would get very tired. He could also recognize his immediate family, and a few family friends like Jim Gordon and Babs. The only trouble with his memory was trying to recall what happened the night he got shot. He still couldn't recall what he was doing, who he was with, or why he was on the GCPD roof.

Like most people recovering from a traumatic brain injury, Dick had his good days and bad days. On good days he was smiling and talking. Maintaining eye contact and carrying on a conversations. Only a few times would he ask the same question twice, but other than asking a repeated question it wouldn't easily frustrate him.

On bad days he was moody, depressed and tired. A bad day would typically follow whenever he had a particularly difficult therapy session or a seizure. He was warned that with a brain injury like his, he could have seizures on top of the memory loss, balance issues and mood swings. These were also days where physical and occupational therapy were the hardest, because his body was sluggish from recovering from the seizure. These days always felt like he had taken two steps back in his recovery.

The first time he had a seizure was during one of Bruce and Damian's visits. The three of them were having a good time chatting until Dick started to feel strange. He wasn't able to voice what was happening because he suddenly couldn't talk, focus, or stop staring at a spot on the floor. His body started to stiffen and then shake uncontrollably. The next thing he knew he was back in his bed, his limbs felt like lead and his head hurt.

"Sorry I scared you the last time you were here, Lil' D."

"You did not scare me, Richard. I was more upset that I was unskilled and ill prepared to help you through it. Make no mistake, my ineptitude to aid you will not happen again. Did-did it scare you?"

Dick took a deep breath. "Yes."

Damian gave him a hug.

Dick later found out the very same day he had the seizure, Damian had asked a nurse for instructions on what to do should Dick have another one during their visit. The nurse had simply told him to get one of them as it's their job to take care of Dick. The simple reply to Damian was unacceptable. He insisted she teach him what do, or he would find someone else to show him. He reassured her that he was more than capable of learning the proper skills to help his brother instead of waiting for a nurse to come to his room. The nurse relented and told him everything he needed to know about seizures and the dos and don'ts for family members. Also, that very same day Damian signed Titus and Ace up to be certified service dogs for Dick should he need one of them when he came home.

Once the seizures were controlled the bad days had lessened, though there were still issues with his moods. The neurologist suggested medication to help stabilize serotonin levels in the hopes that it would start to make an improvement and help maintain a balance. Dick didn't like the prospect of taking medication at first, but once he was on the medication it was like a fog had been lifted. He could function.


Relearning how to walk was probably one of the more frustrating aspects of his recovery. He knew what he needed to do. He knew what he wanted his legs to do, but his brain was not letting it happen. When his brain started to let it happen, the progress wasn't as fast as he would have liked, but it was still progress. Babs and Jason were his biggest cheerleaders on these days. He knew Babs could relate to the frustration coursing through his body as he tried to make his legs move. She was no stranger to relearning how to walk. If she could make a full recovery and now be swinging from rooftops, then he could too.

Jason was great at making Dick laugh, always ready with an inappropriate joke at just the right time.

"Jason, if you tell another joke like that they're going to kick you out." Dick chuckled, almost losing his balance. He held on tightly to the hand rails in front of him.

"It did the job, didn't it? You're laughing, and Hank likes my jokes."

Hank the Physical Therapist smirked. "They're pretty funny."

"See, I'm hilarious."

"Although they're not as funny as my abuelita's jokes." Hank shrugged, guiding Dick to a nearby wheelchair. "Hers were also dirtier."

"Of course he's going to say he likes them. Bruce is paying him to teach me how to walk."

"Actually I'm employed by the hospital," Hank answered. "His jokes really are funny."

"Told you, I'm hilarious."

Besides providing Dick with funny, yet dirty jokes, Jason also bought him new shoes. The shoes Dick previously had were a bit worn and not appropriate for walking therapy. The physical therapist provided a list of brands and types of shoes for Bruce to purchase for Dick. Jason stole the list and not only got him the best Nikes, he made sure that they were black with a blue swoosh. Jason got himself a gray pair with a red swoosh to match.


Occupational therapy he preferred not to have a family audience. It was too humiliating for him to have anyone watch him relearn how to eat, that is where he drew the line. But Bruce insisted on attending every session. He told Dick that he didn't want him to be alone. Dick also knew that the ulterior motive for Bruce's attendance was that he wanted to make sure that the therapist was competent. Bruce didn't tell him that he also wanted to make sure that Dick and the therapist worked well together.

"This is so humiliating." Dick growled, putting the spoon down and noticing the spilled food on his chest.

Bruce took a napkin from the table and wiped the food off of Dick's shirt an chin. Dick kept pulling his face away. "I know it feels that way, Chum, but you're doing great."

"No, I'm not," Dick argued, grabbing the napkin from Bruce. "My fingers won't do what I want them to do and all I can do is grip the spoon."

"You'll get there, Dick. It just takes time. Don't rush it."

Dick sighed, feeling a lump form in his throat. "Aren't you tired of coming here all the time watching me make a mess?"

"No, I'll never get tired of spending time with you. You're my son, and you've come so far."

"It doesn't feel like it. I'm tired, Bruce." Dick cried, finally giving into the tears. "I'm so tired of not being able to do the simplest things. This sucks."

"You're absolutely right." Bruce confirmed, putting a hand on Dick's shoulder. "This does suck. Having to relearn how to eat, how to walk, write your name, I know it has taken toll on you. It's okay to be tired. It's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to feel all of this. Just know that we are all here for you and we will never get tired of trying to help you through this, okay."

Dick nodded, wiping his tears with his sleeve. "Can you help me with one more thing?"

"Anything you want, name it."

"Can you tell them I like cereal. Their oatmeal tastes like paste.

Bruce laughed. "I'll see what I can do."


Relearning to write his name wasn't fun either, but at least with the various grip choices the therapist provided made it somewhat easier to maneuver his hand and fingers to write his name. For some reason Tim asked to come to these sessions. Dick warned him that it would be very boring, and all he would be doing was watching him attempt to manipulate a pen and write his name. Tim confessed that he just wanted to spend time with Dick and that he didn't care that it was during a therapy session. Having Tim with him during therapy was actually a godsend. Tim was great at providing idle chatter from talking about strategy, to cases, to future R &D projects. It was just the right amount of distraction that Dick needed to get through therapy. It oddly helped Dick concentrate on his task.

"Why can't my name be three letters like yours? This would honestly be so much easier if I just changed my name to Ric."

Tim furrowed his brow in confusion. "But Rick has four letters too, and Rick Grayson just sounds weird."

"No, R-I-C, no K."

Tim made a face. "That spelling is even weirder."

"C'mon, it would be a nice change. No one even uses the name 'Dick' anymore."

"You do."

"Not anymore. From now on it's 'Ric Grayson'. Goodbye Dick."

"Don't you dare, Dick. Please tell me you're joking."

"I'm just messing with you," Dick laughed. "Honestly, do I look like a Ric Grayson?"


After two months of physical and occupational therapy Dick was cleared to go home and released in Bruce's care. He moved back into the Manor and into his old room upon Bruce and Alfred's insistence. Dick didn't argue these new living arrangements. In all honesty he didn't want to be alone and being in a house with Bruce and Damian again was somewhat comforting.

Ace followed Dick around everywhere and Dick welcomed his presence. It was then that Damian told Dick that he had Ace certified as a service dog should Dick need him. Dick was touched by the gesture. He always liked Ace and while the dog never listened to Jason or Bruce, the canine always obeyed Alfred and Dick.

Dick wasn't pushing to go on out patrol. Going out before he was ready wasn't smart. He was only two months out of the hospital and now with in home therapy, he was more than okay to sit out the next few months. The in-home care therapist supported Bruce in his suggestion to incorporate sparing into Dick's therapy schedule. The sparing helped fine tune Dick's hand-eye coordination and balance.

On nights when the rest of them went out on patrol, Dick stayed behind in the Cave watching the monitors and operating communications. He actually liked being behind the scenes.

Since Dick had woken up from his coma, Jason had been allowed to stay in Gotham. The conditions were simple, he couldn't go out on patrol, he just had to help out with Dick. Not that Dick needed a babysitter, Jason's presence was more for keeping him company.

On days when it wasn't raining, Jason and Dick would go outside and toss a football around. It was something that Hank had suggested once Dick was released from the hospital. On days when all four boys were home, they would try to play a pick up game. Damian always teamed up with Dick.

Bruce hadn't yet told Dick who it was that had shot him, much less if he had even found the shooter. Whenever the topic of conversation came up Bruce clammed up and changed the subject. Dick had his suspicions that the family knew, but no one was telling him anything. He found it extremely irritating to be treated with kid gloves when it came to this matter. He could have just as easily hacked the Batcomputer, or the CCTV cameras near the GCPD roof, but he didn't. He was waiting for Bruce to tell him. It was disheartening to realize that perhaps the reason Bruce wasn't telling him was that he didn't think Dick could handle to news.

All Dick really wanted was for Bruce to fill in the gaps of that night. It still bothered Dick that he couldn't recall anything that happened the night of the shooting. Dick was just about to confront Bruce again, when he stumbled upon the end of a conversation Jason was having with Bruce in the living room.

"…is that all?"

"No, Bruce, I think it's time you told Dick what happened to him."

"He knows what happened to him."

"You know what I mean, Bruce. He needs to know everything."

"I'll decide when it's time to tell him everything."

"Well then you need to do it soon. He keeps asking me and the others and I'm getting tired of keeping this to myself. So either you tell him, or I tell him."

"Is that an ultimatum?"

Jason sighed. Dick could tell that it was taking all of Jason not to loose his cool right now. "He deserves to know the truth, and as much as I want to be honest with him, this shouldn't come from me. It should come from you, his Father."

"I'm just…waiting for the right time."

"There isn't a right time for something like this. He can take it, Bruce. He's stronger and stable now. Just tell him."

Dick decided to step in before Jason said anything further that would possibly get him kicked out and right now Dick wasn't ready for Jason to be permanently absent from the Manor.

"Tell me now, Bruce."

Dick proceeded into the living room to where Jason and Bruce were standing. Jason turned to Dick and put his hand on Dick's shoulder. "Call me if you need anything."

Jason walked toward the kitchen to leave both Bruce and Dick alone to talk. Bruce gestured to the couch for Dick to take a seat.

"Do you remember anything about the night that you were shot?" Bruce asked as he joined Dick on the couch.

"Not really."

"You and I were on patrol together that night. We were meeting Gordon on the roof. He had received an unusual message that involved Joker and The Riddler. What didn't make sense about it was that both of them at the time were in Arkham. The message was a set up to get us on the roof, to target you. The shooter planted it. He broke into an apartment across from the GCPD roof to get the right vantage point."

Dick nodded his head in understanding, but there was something else Bruce was leaving out. He knew how Bruce was with secrets. All his time as Robin and Nightwing, Bruce still kept things from the family in the guise of protection. What was Bruce not telling him?

"So if this wasn't random that means…"

"…a contract was put out on you to get to me." Bruce interrupted.

"Who?" Dick asked.

Bruce broke eye contact with him and stared somewhere on the floor. "Bane."

"Am I right in assuming that the shooter was a professional?"

"KGBeast."

Dick nodded. He encountered KGBeast a time ago with Jason and the Outlaws. The guy was ruthless and calculated. If he didn't want to be found, he could disappear on a whim. Dick didn't ask for more details, frankly he didn't want them, not right now. At the moment he could feel the beginning of what was likely going to be a prolonged headache throbbing behind his left eye.

"I know you're not alright. This is a lot to process."

"I'm fine," Dick said quietly.

"No, you're not. It's okay to be angry."

"I'm not angry."

He wasn't angry, not really. He knew he should be furious, but at the moment he was just overwhelmed with information.

"You should be."

"Yes, because the answer to everything is anger," Dick retorted sarcastically. "Why does everyone keep saying that to me?"

"I meant that it's okay to be upset with me."

Dick quirked an eyebrow. "Why would I be upset with you? You didn't pull the trigger. You weren't the one who hired the shooter."

"Because all this wouldn't have happened to you if it weren't for me." Bruce confessed.

"Are you kidding me? Bruce, this is the job. This is the life I chose. The life we all chose to protect Gotham from bastards like Bane. There's always going to be some asshole that will hurt us to get to you. Do I like it? No. Am I pissed off at you because of it, no."

If he were honest with himself, he wasn't really sure how he was feeling. There was a weird sort of numbness about the whole incident that was still plaguing Dick. He knew he should be upset. At least that is what everyone was telling him.

It felt similar to the time back when his parents were murdered. Of course he was hurt, heartbroken, grieve-stricken, but he was never angry, never vengeful. He did want justice for their deaths, but not revenge. He was more angry at himself for not speaking up when he saw Zucco harassing Mr. Haly.

Dick dug the heels of his hands in eyes to ease the throbbing in his head. The headache had moved up to a tension headache and he was quickly losing energy.

"Everyone is so worried that I'm not feeling the right feelings; that I'm not expressing them the right way or at all. I know everyone thinks I'm holding all this rage inside me and that one day I'm going to burst. Truth is, I don't really know what I'm feeling." Dick admitted and then furrowed his brow in thought. "Or maybe I am feeling something, but I don't quite know what it is yet. I do miss how things used to be. Like being able to do a simple cartwheel without losing my balance, being able to walk down a flight of stairs without getting dizzy, tying my shoelaces without getting frustrated." Dick shook his head. "I know it's stupid."

"No, its not," Bruce consoled, putting his arm around Dick. "You are feeling something and that is good thing. I'd be more worried if you weren't feeling anything. I know it must be frustrating right now to not to be able to pin-point the exact emotion. But truthfully, Dick, you were never an angry kid, even on your worst day, and I was there on your worst day. Missing how your life used to be before the shooting is normal. All these new challenges that you've had to face to get to where you are today was not easy.

"What else do you miss?" Bruce continued.

"My hair," Dick smirked.

"It's growing back, what else?"

There were so many other little things that Dick missed. Reading and writing was still a bit difficult, but he was too embarrassed at the moment to admit it to Bruce. Puns and jokes weren't any fun to tell anymore, because you had to remember them and a joke isn't fun when you draw a blank on the punchline, or just blank out in general.

"Right now I miss my bed and pain meds. Shit, this headache is brutal."

Bruce helped him up and walked him to his room. Dick took a pain pill and settled into bed intending to sleep off the headache and hopefully not have a blackout.

Blackouts were also another side effect of his brain injury. They started when he had came home to the Manor. They didn't happen often, but when they did, he'd find himself in other various rooms unsure how he got there. One time he found himself in Damian's room sitting cross-legged staring at the window with Damian's duvet over his shoulders and Ace asleep at his feet. Another time Dick woke up in Jason's room sitting at his desk with a capped pen in his hand and a pillow under his head. The worst had been the first time he had awoke and found himself in the kitchen. Luckily he had never tried to cook anything, but the kitchen had been left in shambles with various boxes of cereal opened and numerous bowls all over the counters still filled with milk.

Dick hated it when he'd blackout. The loss of control was scary and unnerving. It left him feeling helpless and a burden to others. Ace was great at his job when it came to keeping Dick safe. If Dick wandered into another bedroom at night, Ace would follow him and either wake the occupant of the room, or alert whoever was already awake. If Dick happened to wander into the kitchen, Ace always woke up Alfred.

The few times Dick had woken up and found himself in the kitchen, Alfred had always been there with a smile and a cup of tea.

Dick woke up and could hear whining and feel fur at his feet. In front of him were at least ten bowls of various sizes all half filled with milk. His shoulders sagged at the realization. He blacked out again. A familiar hand placed a steaming cup of tea in front of him.

"I'm sorry this happened again, Alfie." Dick apologized, staring at the cup of tea in front of him. Shame made it impossible for him to look the kind older man in the eye.

He stood up and started to gather all the dirty bowls. Alfred placed a firm hand on his shoulder redirecting him to a chair at the table.

"It's quite alright, Master Dick." Alfred replied, pushing the cup of chamomile tea in Dick's hand. "Now go sit down and drink your tea. I'll take care of the dishes."

Alfred collected all the bowls and placed them in the sink. He busied himself with making a cup of tea for himself.

"It's not alright. You didn't make the mess, I did. How are you okay when I blackout? How is everyone else okay when this happens?"

"You can't control when these blackouts happen." Alfred consoled, joining Dick at the kitchen table. "We are all here to help you in anyway we can, and if helping you is ensuring that you are safe, we will all endeavor to meet that task. We do it because we are a family, and we love you. As far as the mess, well, it's my job to take care of this house, Master Dick. The added bonus of this job is that I also get to take care of you. Now drink your tea, my boy. Things will get better with time, you'll see."

Everyone was so positive that things would eventually get better for Dick. It was hard for him on this side of his recovery to see that he will one day be up and swinging from rooftops with the rest of the family. It scared him a little to think that he might have to hang up his escrima sticks for good instead of out on patrol helping people.

Alfred got up from the table and made his way to the kitchen sink turning on the water. Dick followed him placing his cup and saucer on the counter and grabbing a dry dish towel from the drawer. Alfred started washing and rinsing dishes then handing them to Dick to dry.

"And…," Dick swallowed thickly. "…and if this doesn't get better?"

"We endure, we adapt, we survive."

Dick sighed. "Yeah, that sounds like us."


Eight months later

For the first time since the shooting Dick was starting to feel like himself again. Dick insisted that in order for him to be at his best going back on patrol as Nightwing, he would need to amp up his training. At four months post shooting, he had graduated from in-home physical and occupational therapy. But in order for him to be at his optimum crimefighting condition, he would need more intensive training. Bruce more than obliged with Dick's request.

This intensive training helped Dick regain much of his coordination back as well as help his confidence in navigating climbs, performing flips and handling heights.

Bruce wasn't the only one who helped get Dick back up to his Nightwing condition, his brothers all participated in any way they could to help Dick start to feel like himself.

He knew that not everything was going to go back to the way it used to be. Headaches and some memory lapses were still aspects of his past injury that he still dealt with, but not to he degree that he struggled with eight months ago. He hadn't had a blackout in six months, which was encouraging for him.

He was also thankful for the gradual independence he now had to roam around Gotham on his own. Well, relatively on his own. Ace still followed him around diligently doing his job as his service dog. While the Manor grounds were spacious for a dog Ace's size, Dick could tell that he was bored of the same old environment, or at least that was the excuse Dick used to get away and take Ace to the dog park once a week.

"I don't see the point of going to a filthy park when the dogs have plenty of room on the grounds, Richard."

"Change of scenery doesn't hurt, Lil' D. There's nothing wrong with doing things different every now and again. Plus I like this park and so does Ace."

Damian glared at Dick. "And so did a mugger who was terrorizing joggers."

"Yeah, at night. But during the day this park is known for drawing in family birthday parties and reunions. See, there's one over there closing up." Dick pointed out.

They both watched as a large group of about forty to fifty adults and kids were saying their goodbyes and packing up their belongings. From the looks of it, it had been a family birthday party. Dick watched for a bit, until Ace got bored and nosed his hand that had the frisbee.

After about a half hour, of taking turns with Damian tossing the frisbee to Titus and Ace, Dick glanced over to where the large party had vacated. To his shock, there was a little girl sitting on a lone bench. She couldn't have been more than six or seven years old. She had a worried expression on her face and kept craning her neck looking around for someone, a parent maybe.

"Damian," Dick said, pointing to the little girl. "I think she's in trouble. She was with that large family and they've all left."

The sudden urge to help someone in need surged through Dick. Without a second thought, he jogged over toward the little girl. Ace trailing closely behind him followed by Damian and Titus.

"Hi, are here with someone? Is your mom here with you?"

The little girl just kept staring at Dick and Damian with frightened eyes, tightly clutching a Nightwing plushie.

Dick's heart skipped, now he had to help this girl. She was a Nightwing fan, or at least one of her parents. He tried again kneeling this time to reach her level. "Are you lost? Do you need help finding your mom?"

Still nothing from the little girl. Each question from Dick seemed to make her more and more reluctant to answer. Ace came over and pushed his way passed Dick putting his head in the girl's lap. At first the girl was surprised and squirmed, but soon she was smiling and petting Ace on the head.

"I was here with my dad…," The girl said quietly, not taking her eyes off the dog. "…for a family party. I didn't know very many people."

"Where is your dad?" Dick asked.

"I don't know. It's his Saturday to have me. I think he forgot that I was with him."

Dick wasn't a stranger to finding lost children. When he was a cop in Bludhaven incidents like these happened more often then he liked to remember. Most times it was a matter of miscommunication between the parents. One parent thought the other had the kid, add a chaotic event like a fair or a parade, and it happened more often not. On very rare occasions it was a case of a neglectful parent. Those were always the sad ones. Dick hazard a guess that this 'weekend dad' may have also been drunk.

"My name is Dick. What's your name?"

"Dick, that's a funny name."

"It is, isn't it. I'm thinking of changing it to Ric"

The girl tilted her head and gave him a scrutinizing look.

"You don't look like a Rick to me. My name is Sarah."

"Hi Sarah, nice to meet you. This is Ace," Dick introduced, petting the dog's head. "And that is my little brother Damian and his dog Titus. We are going to help you find your mom. What's her name? Do you have a phone number for her?"

"Her name is Maria. I don't know our new phone number yet. We just moved here from Bludhaven, so she could be closer to her job and school."

"Where does she work?" Dick asked.

"At a fancy restaurant. I can't remember the name, but there are fish on the sign."

"Sounds like 'Hudson's by the Sea' on Main."

"Bruce took me there for lunch last month. They have the best crab cakes."

"It's not far from here. Stay with her and I'll go." Damian suggested.

"No, you stay here, and I'll go. It's only a few blocks away and it will be better if you are here with her. Don't worry, I'll take Ace with me."

Dick set off toward Hudson's. It wasn't a very long distance, but the walk would have been too far for a six year old. Once he reached the restaurant, he peered in through the front window. It looked like the staff was prepping for the dinner crowd.

The kid wasn't lying. The restaurant was fancy, marble floors, spacious crystal chandelier in the center. Fresh red roses adorned every linen covered table. This wasn't anything new to Dick. He had been to classier places than this one. He spotted the host and knocked on the window. The man seemed thoroughly put out, but he proceeded toward the front entrance and opened the door.

"Sir, we are not opened for dining just yet and you are rather underdressed," The pretentious man in a tux drawled to Dick.

"I'm not here to dine, I'm here to talk to a member of your staff named Maria. It's an emergency regarding her daughter. Can you get her?"

Pretentious Tux, or Rex as indicated by his name badge, looked at Dick with wide eyes, nodded, and disappeared. Dick looked around and was mentally preparing himself for whether or not he would have to play the 'Wayne card'.

Not five minutes later Dick heard thundering footsteps of someone running. A woman came into view with the same almond eyes as Sarah and Dick instantly knew this was Maria. Rex followed her at a steady pace.

"Who are you? Where's Sarah? Is she okay? Where's Jesse?" Maria blurted all at once.

"My name is Dick Grayson. Your daughter is safe, she's with my younger brother. We found her at the park alone."

Sarah started to cry and desperately trying to untie her apron. Rex, upon overhearing Dick's abbreviated story, relieved her of her burden. "Go, to your daughter, Miss. She needs you. We will manage tonight."

"Thank you, Rex."

The walk back to the park went faster than expected and for that Dick was relieved. Maria looked both upset and weary all at once. He could hear her muttering things under her breath like:
'court appointed visits, my ass'
'never again'
'I'm so gonna get fired'
'no more school'

"You must think I'm a terrible mother." Maria said, breaking the silence. "Leaving my daughter with someone who would be so irresponsible."

"Not at all. You left her with someone you thought you could trust. Someone who should have taken the role of 'Father' more responsibly. From what I can see you have a lot on your plate like, raising a child, maintaining a job, going to school. That's too much one person."

Maria gave him a tight smile. "Thanks. You manage when you have to. Waitressing is the only job I can get that will accommodate my school schedule."

"I might know someone who can help you," Dick offered, reaching into his wallet and pulling out a Wayne Enterprises business card. "Ask for Angie, she can help with a job and I know someone who runs the Wayne Foundation scholarships to help you pay for school."

Dick could see the wheels turning in her head, wondering if the offer was genuine or not. He made a promise with himself to follow up and make sure Angie in HR was receptive to this request. She owed him a favor. As well as talk to Bruce about making Maria one of the candidates for the scholarship.

Once they reached the park it looked like Damian was teaching Sarah some very basic self-defense moves. Dick was impressed with Damian's patience and Sarah's progress.

"Momma!" Sarah shouted once she spotted Maria. She ran full tilt to her mother. Maria ran toward her as well, scooping her up and holding her tightly.

"I'm so sorry, my love. I'm so sorry. This will never happen again. I swear." Maria promised, planting kisses all over her daughter's face. She turned to Damian and Dick. "Thank you so much for helping us. For keeping my daughter safe and bringing me to her."

"We will make sure you get home safely," Damian declared. "We have room in our vehicle."

"You both have done so much already. We'll be alright taking the bus."

"We insist, ma'am. It's getting dark and this park is very different at night. Please let us see you home," Damian urged.

Maria looked skeptically at both Dick and Damian.

"It's okay, Momma. Nightwing will keep us safe." Sarah gushed, holding her Nightwing doll up to her mom's nose.

"He sure will," Dick whispered to himself. "Always."