Richard looked up at the woman before him. She had light brown hair that fell down her waist. The ends that had been dip dyed blue about a year ago had faded now until he could barely see them. Her dark brown eyes looked at his kneeling form with something that he knew as surprise, but not the surprise he was used to. Then surprise turned into an infinite happiness and her head was nodding as vigorously as her beautifully graceful neck could manage. He stood up and kissed her hard with her kissing him with equal passion back. He broke away only for a moment to place the beautiful sapphire and diamond ring onto her left ring finger before kissing her again and again.

As he looked back at her into the face of the girl who loved him unrequitedly, it suddenly morphed into something more terrifying. Something that wasn't quite human, something dark and purely evil. It lunged for his heart.

Richard woke up with a start, sweat rolling down his face and body, his breathing rapid, his heart pounding rapidly against his chest. He could still feel the creature grasping for his heart. He shook his head. It was only the nightmare, Richard, only the nightmare. Looking upon his wife, sleeping through his turmoil and he knew it was only the nightmare he had been having for the past seven years since waking up from that coma of his.

His wife, Cassandra, lay as beautiful and human as ever. Perhaps even more so considering she was heavily pregnant with their second child. After marrying her about five years ago, they quickly discovered rather quickly that yes, it does only take once to get pregnant. Abby, there first and eldest daughter was four. A bright young thing with his hair and eyes, but Cassy's charm and grace. Now they were expecting a small little boy to join their chaotic family. He couldn't be happier in his life right. If only it wasn't for that stupid nightmare.

Cassandra slowly woke up to see him panting, her brow furrowing. She sat up slowly, grunting only a little, and began to stroke his hair softly. She rubbed his back in small circles, relieving tension, easing his breathing. After a few minutes of only comforting her husband, she dared to whisper, "The nightmare, again?"

Richard nodded slowly, reluctantly admitting that he was afraid. "It's changing every time. Tonight, it was the afternoon I proposed to you that you changed. The night before last, it was Abby. It's getting worse, Cassy. I don't know what to do anymore."

Cassy smiled sympathetically and thought about it for a moment. When she finally opened her mouth, Richard could feel his eyelids beginning to droop once more even though it frightened him to fall asleep. "First thing in the morning, we'll take you to see the doctor. And seeing how it's four thirty in the morning, we might as well get up. Another half hour isn't going to make too much difference."

Richard nodded before slowly walking over to the back of the door where he kept his robe hung. He put his on, tied the string and handed Cassy hers. They walked down the hall into their tiny little kitchen where Cassy began to make coffee, strong and bitter as he liked it. She placed a mug of the dark liquid down my his chair when it was done brewing. It wasn't until an hour later or so of small talk, mostly about deciding on their son's name, and the eggs were being scrambled that Abby dragged herself out of bed and walked to the table rubbing her sleepy eyes.

Life started early in Richard's family. After his coma, he had never liked sleeping much, not being able to get more than a few hour's at a time. Cassandra was a second grade teacher so being a morning person was in the job description. Abby had not however taken after her parents insomniac ways. She was grumpy and cranky in the morning and was about as much fun as a cat in water. This was apparent now as she sat down moaning about being tired.

"Morning, Abby," Richard greeted his sleepy daughter who was only awake to eat her scrambled eggs.

"Mmph." she grumbled through a mouthful of eggs.

"Abby, chew with your mouth closed."

Abby scowled, but proceeded to close her mouth, and Richard grinned slyly at his wife. She was raised by her rather eccentric type A grandfather who was always particular about manners. It was always humorous to see his type B wife have type A moments. He watched adoringly at her and her growing belly as she came over to the table with the both of them. She picked her around a bit until Richard said something.

"Oh, I'm just not hungry. You would think morning sickness would have the decency to go away with only a couple of weeks left."

Richard kissed his wife affectionately on the forehead lovingly before leaving to get ready for work.

Cassandra was in her class room watching the children play on the playground and have a grand old time. She was in particular watching Abby who had started kindergarten a year early. She was as bright as her father, though it got her into more mischief at this age as it did now. Cassy smiled fondly at her daughter as one of the adults on yard duty blew her whistle and walked over to Abby. Abby grinned crookedly like her father always would when he was caught in some mischievous act. The man who caught Abby and her friends brought them before Cassy, perhaps hoping that she could set them right when in reality, she had about as much control over her daughter as she did her husband.

"Mrs. Gray can you please tell your daughter that throwing wood chips into boys' eyes from on top of the monkey bars is not allowed? I'm afraid she won't listen to us anymore."

Cassandra laughed quietly to herself as she looked into her daughter's eyes. Normally, she would squat down to eye level but lately, she could barely sit. "Abby, do you know what you did wrong?"

"I hurt the boys, Mommy."

"Right and-"

"But they were hurting us too! They pulled our hair and said we couldn't play with them because we were girls!"

Seeing her daughter as indignant as this, Cassy knew the boys had pushed her too far. Little Abby could never backed down from a challenge. Even if it meant doing it in crude ways. "Now, Abby-"

"I know, it was still wrong, but I didn't know what to do!"

Cassandra had a flashback to her husband this morning and saw how very little Abby took on after her. While the realization should have hurt her, she felt nothing other than calm acceptance. "Okay, just don't do it again. You can go play now. But don't throw wood chips!"

As the girls ran back outside with an impressed couple of boys waiting to play with them, the man who wore the brightly colored jacket stared at her with open disgust.

"Yes?" Cassy spoke with her back turned, preparing for the lesson after recess.

"What are you thinking? Children can't just hurt others like that."

"I'm sorry, but those boys provoked her-"

"You can't blame the boys for not knowing any better."

"Just as you cannot blame my daughter for not knowing! She understands it was wrong. Now I am tired to being interrupted. Please leave and attend your duty out in the yard!" Cassy huffed with color flowing into her face as the man just narrowed his eyes. He was almost out the door when he said something he almost didn't hear.

"I suggest you watch you back, Nightshade. For your family's sake."

Cassandra watched, her eyes wide in horror as the man walked out of the room, smirking slightly. She placed her hands protectively over her unborn child, wondering what was in the future for herself and her family.

Richard gazed outside the window where there were fruit trees, a neatly manicured lawn, and everything was in order. Everything had it's place. He turned his head back to the man who was his therapist when he first woke up from his coma several years ago. His hair was blond and his eyes were a vibrant green. He smiled nicely, giving you a safe feel.

"It's been over five years since you've had your last session, Richard. Why are you back?"

Richard felt his stomach twist, not sure if he really wanted to talk. He understood he should, so why couldn't he get the words out of his mouth? "I... I promised my wife I would."

"Ah, yes, how is she?"

"Fine, fine. She still has morning sickness, but it's not as bad as it used to be."

"Little Abby and the baby?"

Richard smiled fondly. "Abby won't slow down. And the baby is kicking to get out. Or so I'm told."

"That's wonderful to hear. And when's it due?"

"Two weeks."

"That must be exciting. Is everything ready?"

"You can never be completely ready for something like this."

"No, I suppose not. You mentioned that you promised your wife you would come?"

"This sounds pathetic, but I've been having a nightmare lately." Richard was impressed he managed to get the words out. They were jumbled though and he lacked the conviction of this-was-nothing.

"A nightmare?"

"Subtle details change every time, but the end is always the same. Someone I love always changes into a monster and destroys my heart. Or tries to. I wake up before it happens."

"This sounds like your previous nightmares after waking up-"

"But it's different. Before it was someone dark trying to comfort me. Now it's someone comforting becoming dark. I don't know what to do about it."

"You said it changes every time?"

"Sometimes it's Cassy, others it's Abby. Even our unborn son though he's older."

Richard stared at the therapist while he pondered the information. Eventually after putting his clipboard where numerous notes, both new and old, were down, he looked Richard right in the eye. "This is hard to say, especially considering you're obviously unsettled by this, but I think you're only afraid of failing your family. It's completely natural to have these fears of being inadequacy before having a child."

"This is my second time though. Why now? Why not when Abby was being born?"

"Probably because you were still living in the honeymoon stage of your marriage. But now that you are slowly moving on, thinking about the long term future, and that includes your family and can be quite scary for some people."

"But I'm not scared!" Richard insisted. He was unsettled by the dream but the thought of starting a family didn't scare him. he was in love with the idea of having something to come home to everyday where he should be.

"Richard, admitting-"

"There... is... nothing... to... admit." Richard willed him to get that thought through his thick shrinky head. As the man opened his mouth to talk some more, Richard decided that he had heard this man's explanation which was all he promised. He grabbed his jacket and walked out the door, ignoring the indignant expression on the man's face.

Richard sighed as he unlocked the door only to smile as Abby ran up to him to give him a hug. He knelt down, squeezing her tight, as be brought her up to give her a piggyback ride to the living room where Cassy was sitting on the couch, her feet raised, and a look of utter exhaustion upon her face. They all sat down together as a family, smiling at each other, simply happy with each other's company.

He changed the TV channel from Abby's kid show to the news, hoping nothing would come on that Abby would be scarred for life for. Thankfully, nothing too bad was on. Merely another crime in Gotham by Joker with Batman winning. As Batman threw the final punch, Abby, who had been watching intently screamed in excitement, cheering for her favorite hero. Smiling Richard waited for that wonderful question that always made him smile.

"Daddy, when I get older, can I be a superhero?" Abby smiled big, batting her long dark eyelashes that Richard practically melted into.

"Of course, my dear. Who do you want to be like?"

Abby thought about the question for a while before answering the answer both her parents knew she would say. "Batman."

"Why? He doesn't have any powers." Cassy asked.

"That's why, Mommy. He doesn't need them to be awesome."

Richard felt his heart stir, some old dusty unused gears on the edge of his mind slowly begin to turn once more. A memory that had long escaped his grasp begin to float tauntingly in front of him. He tried to reach for it. It left before he could reach far enough. He sighed in frustration.

Richard opened his eyes to see Cassy come back into the room from putting Abby in bed. He looked at his watch to see that a couple hours had gone by. He must have dozed off somehow. He laid his head against his wife as she shifted her body closer to his on the sofa with his hand unconsciously rubbing her belly where his soon-to-be son was growing. He spaced out thinking about his son until Cassy's voice called to him.

"Richard, I think we should move."

The thought struck him as bizarre and he quickly turned his head around to look as his very serious wife. While he was about to protest, saying this house was fine, all that came out of his mouth was, "Where to?"

"A bigger house."

"We have everything right here."

"The kitchen is crowded when more than one person is in there and we only have two bedrooms. While we can put this off for maybe a year, with our son on his way, we won't be able to stay put for much longer. Another bathroom would be nice too. I think it's time."

Richard thought about this carefully. He knew enough about his wife to know she was very serious and wasn't going to reconsider without very strong arguments. "Gotham, perhaps? It's a lovely city."

Cassy cocked her head thinking. "Maybe, but it has high crime rates. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with Abby running around without one of us always there which we can't always do. How about Central City? I have a friend there who I haven't talked to in a while and I'm positive I could find another teaching position up there to. And I'm sure you could easily find work. They always need construction workers."

Richard thought about it more. He thought and thought. He knew that Central City was a great place and Abby would certainly love the parks up there. He grinned crookedly which sent worry from his wife's face into love. He leaned over and kissed her, while patting her belly. "Next weekend then we'll start looking for a big ol' house in Central City."