Disclaimers: All belongs to DC.
Spoilers: None, really. Takes place during Tim's
Summary: The nightmares belong to this life.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Content some readers
may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Owes a great deal to Grant's work
on Batman and DetC.
Acknowledgments: To LC for audiencing.
Tim has nightmares sometimes. At least a few nights
a week, really, and more now than ever. He falls, and
he drowns. He's blind, and he's choked by the stink
of the things left on the suit when Bruce comes in.
The things left in the car.
And they're terrible -- he *hates* needing coffee in
the mornings before he truly feels awake, even if
Alfred's is better than his mother's ever was.
(He dreams of his mother. All the time.)
They're normal. He almost wishes he couldn't
remember the nightmares of childhood so vividly --
dinosaurs and scorched earth and, oddly, fish --
because the nightmares are part of *this* life. Written
in the perpetual glare of the Bat, and in the shadows
beneath Alfred's eyes.
They're a sign. He...
Light, ordered and rational, in the sky. The flutter of
wings, feathered and not.
The signs -- the meanings he attaches -- aren't
rational, and he knows that, but they appeal, just the
And it isn't only nightmares.
The first time *he* came, he'd fallen asleep in the
Cave over a surprisingly dull text on abnormal
psychology. When he'd woken, a part of his mind
had laughed at the imprint of -- equally surprisingly --
cheap ink on his cheek. Another part had turned
his head until he looked at the Case.
It had been an effort to force himself upstairs the
next night, and lay his head on the pillow. But he'd
done it, and he *hadn't* come.
But he'd come the next. And the next.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell -- to be *sure*. The
dreams often reel their way from memories,
branching and tangenting through the lens of a
camera, the lenses of a pair of binoculars.
They sketch themselves on the orange of arc-sodium,
and the deep blue-purple-browns of the night sky.
He remembers, and remembers, and...
Of course there's no way to *truly* be sure. Not for
something like this, even if there wasn't the difficulty
of parsing memory, fantasy, subconscious
neuron-firing, and... and Jason.
When he comes, he talks.
He points, and he -- he moves when he speaks. Not
like Dick -- nothing like, and of course Dick never...
Dick *couldn't*, and he's *glad*.
There's a muscular *power* to every gesture, even
when he smiles -- bright and broad and bloody -- and
reaches past the nothing that marks the far edges of
Tim's vision, even in dreams, to take his hand.
It never feels like flying.
And he never stops *talking*, even when he shows
It's the worst, for any number of reasons. He can
hear the endless patter of sand against the outer
walls as a storm kicks up. He can hear grunts and
laughter and *laughter*.
He can hear the sounds, beaten out of the Jason on
But he can't hear the whispers in his ear.
He tries, so hard, and he wakes up pleading for other
reasons, good reasons. Silent and not.
And sometimes there's a mug of cocoa beside the
bed, and he drinks it, and listens to the silence and
silence and *silence* of the Manor, and the grasping
Sometimes there's a deeper silence just beyond his
door, watchful and patient. Waiting for him. For
He doesn't know, yet.
And when he lies back down and closes his eyes, he
always *hopes*, but... Jason never comes back twice
in the same night. Another frustration, itching like a
healing scratch, pulling like stitches.
He falls asleep, once, beside his father's bed, and
that time he blames the endless awful beeps, the
gasp of the respirator, he blames it and it isn't
"I can't *hear* you, Jason," he says. "Tell me, please,
tell me *how*!"
And Jason stops -- he never stops. He stops, and he
reaches up, and Tim's heart pounds so badly that
he wakes himself up.
And straightens the sheets on his father's bed.
He will not make that mistake again. He has to be
It takes nights, but, to be fair, he hadn't been
sleeping very deeply at all. Bruce was injured, and
his nightmares are always louder when that
happens. Always more...
Alfred has suggested, gently, that he close his own
door more firmly on nights like those, but he can't.
Listening to Bruce moan, listening to him beg not
to be left alone...
That's a part of this, too, even though it's a sign
of something which happened too long ago to
Sometimes, on nights like those, he slips out of bed
and moves, silently as he's able, to stand in front
of Bruce's door. The first few times he hadn't been
silent *enough*, but now he is. And he stands
shivering and flushing and steadfast -- yes, *that* --
against every creak of the manor, everything
which would have him jump or break, until Bruce
When he sleeps, truly sleeps, again, Jason meets
him outside Bruce's door. He smiles something
which isn't for him, and traces the air over the door
in patterns --
-- some part of his mind whispers, faintly and
stupidly -- *sigils* --
-- and laughs silently and powerfully.
And then he turns to Tim and whispers, and he
knows these words *are* for him, but it doesn't
matter that he's nearly as good a lip-reader as Bruce.
You can't read in dreams, not really.
He shakes his head, and he says "*Please*," and
Jason keeps whispering, the smile on his face
broadening into something as terrible as --
No, not that.
And then he stops, and holds up his hands, and
Tim's heart pounds, louder and louder -- *no*.
His heart pounds, and he nods, and Jason reaches
up and pulls the mask from his face, revealing -- he
He doesn't understand. Not even when those
fingers touch *his* skin, and the cold whips through
him like --
When he opens his eyes, Jason says, "Come to
And when he opens his eyes, Tim understands.
.And wonder while you