These nights were hard.
And they were hard for so many reasons. Hard because he was already tired. Hard because they were so unexpected.
Hard because there was nothing he could really do to help his boys.
These nights were rare. Once a year, sometimes less. Sometimes more. It all depended on their lives, on what happened every day.
But he knew on this night, as he climbed back in the window, already peeling his Nightwing mask off his face. Jason was twitching in his sleep. Was sweating and mumbling. Little grunts, and a ‘no, please’ here and there.
Smack in the middle of a nightmare.
So Dick didn’t wait. Dropped his mask, and pulled his uniform down to his waist, but otherwise didn’t change. Just fell into bed and grabbed Jason’s hand, holding it as tight as he could as he murmured his own gentle shushes right back at him.
Jason couldn’t hear him, of course. Unconscious in the throes of terror. Absently, Dick wondered what his nightmare was about tonight. The Joker? Bruce? Himself? Damian? Was it his death? Was it a monstrous recollection of when the Court of Owls tried to ruin their lives so many years ago? Was it rehashing Damian’s nights out as Robin, that he still hated so much?
Or was it a mundane nightmare? Was it that all the milk at the grocery store was already spoiled? He forgot his pants going to work? Endless dirty dishes?
It didn’t matter, Dick knew that. He just wished he could pick Jason’s brain. Wished he could magically jump in there, take all the demons away, replace them with the facts of how loved Jason is, by everyone around him.
Jason twitched, squeezed his hand impossibly tight. Dick just continued to shush him. Pulled himself closer and slid an arm under Jason’s trembling shoulders. Kissed his sweaty forehead and lingered there, whispering sweet nothings that Jason wouldn’t hear.
There was guilt gnawing at him, just like always. If he wasn’t out as Nightwing tonight, then maybe he could have prevented this before it started. If he was here, maybe Jason wouldn’t have had a nightmare at all. Maybe he’d have been happier when he fell asleep, or felt more stable in general.
The same thought he’d had for years – maybe he should quit Nightwing. For him. For his family.
Jason whimpered, and Dick just hooked his chin over his head. Rubbed at his shoulder, and ran his thumb over Jason’s hand.
He could sleep later. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t slept in almost two days. Jason came first, especially in moments like this.
Still, he closed his eyes, listened to Jason’s breathing and muttering and cries. Breathed deeply himself, to let out a long sigh.
And then, down the hall, Damian screamed.
Not just a shout, or a yell. A full scream. A shriek. Bloody murder.
Dick jerked at the sound, and Jason stirred in his arms. He didn’t know if his husband was awake, but right now he couldn’t wait around to find out. He unwound himself from Jason as carefully as he could, and jumped from the bed, racing for his son’s room.
Damian was already sitting up by the time he got there, looking eerily similar to Jason. He was sweating, skin pale, breaths heaving. He was sitting up, trying to control himself, fingers twisted as tight as they could be in his sheets.
He was fifteen years old, but nothing reverted you to a child quicker than a nightmare.
His eyes twitched over as Dick entered the room, and he didn’t put up a fuss as Dick sat in front of him. Just fell into his dad’s arms, held him as tight as he could. Dick could feel his shoulders shaking.
And he didn’t ask – Dick learned a long time ago not to do that. So he just did what he did for Jason. Held him, hooked his chin over Damian’s head and rubbed at his back.
He couldn’t help but glance at the door, though. Because surely Jason wasn’t that far from waking up in terror himself, and he’d rather Jason didn’t go through that alone, not if he could help it. And Jason would understand, surely, that Dick was in with their son, but. He didn’t want it to look like he chose between them.
Jason had been chosen last so many times.
He wondered if Damian would object to being moved. Probably not, the boy still loved to annoy his fathers by taking up their bed like it was his own. But Dick didn’t want to try to carry him. He could, absolutely, but it was awkward and somewhat painful for the both of them. Would Damian walk? Could Damian walk? Or was his fright paralyzing him? It had before.
Turned out his internal dilemma was all for naught, though, as suddenly he heard the creak of his own bed, and seconds later a haunted-looking Jason appeared in the doorway.
Dick sat up, kept Damian in his arms. “Jay-”
Jason shook his head, waved Dick off. Sat behind Damian. But instead of twisting to embrace his son, he just curled into Damian’s back, resting his head against Damian’s shoulder and Dick’s chest simultaneously. Took a shuddering inhale and let out a long exhale.
And without even touching him, Dick knew – Jason was still trembling too.
Keeping a hand on the back of Damian’s head, he reached his other hand out to wrap around the side of his face, stroking gently at Jason’s cheekbone. Jason didn’t move, didn’t react. Damian just kept crying.
“I’ve got you.” Dick whispered, kissing Damian’s head while he continued to pet at Jason’s face. “I’ve got you both, you’re okay.”
Damian just squeezed him tighter, his breaths short and struggling. He choked on his own sob, coughing a little, but it seemed to spark him back into reality, just a little. He twisted slightly, reaching for Jason, while still keeping one arm clinging to Dick.
Jason let himself be grabbed, and awkwardly dragged under his son’s chin. As much as Damian tried not to, he clearly accidentally wiped snot in Jason’s hair. Jason didn’t seem to notice, or care at least, just loosely held Damian back, petting absently at his side.
Dick took the opportunity to hold them both a little closer, a little less strangely. Made sure to sandwich Damian between himself and Jason, no matter how anyone shifted.
“It’s okay.” Dick repeated. “Whatever you saw, whatever you dreamed, it wasn’t real. It’s over now. You’re okay. You’re safe.”
Damian shook his head, as he always did in the lingering moments of a nightmare. Still stuck on believing it’s real, that the horror behind his eyes would continue any moment. Jason didn’t react, just like he never did. His nightmares tended to make him shut down more often than not these days, and Dick wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t say a word until noon or later the next day.
Still, Jason did his best, as he always did. Stuck in his own mind, but still tried to comfort the teenager between them. Kept rubbing his back, and shifted under Damian’s arm to press a kiss to his cheek. Damian leaned into the touch, sniffing quietly. Jason just kissed him again.
Anything for his little boy.
Well, Dick would do anything for Jason and his little boy too.
So he gave them a few more minutes. Gave Jason the silence and Damian the embraces he needed. Then slowly began to unwind. Not far, didn’t actually leave at all. Just moved enough to twist his body, and manhandle the other two onto the mattress.
It was Damian’s bed, so there was no way all three of them could fit comfortably. But as long as two of them did, it was good enough. Dick gently pushed and pulled until Jason’s back was against the wall, and Damian tucked securely under his chin. He smiled then, as he carefully brought Damian’s blankets up to cover them, then sat on the edge of the bed, gently placing his hand on the arm Jason had around their son.
“Go back to sleep.” Dick whispered. Damian was shaking his head, but already drifting back off in the safety of his father’s arms. He tried to get his arm out of Jason’s cocoon and search for Dick, but Dick just shifted the hand he had on Jason, so Damian could feel him too. Jason just glanced up at Dick with a semblance of worry, and it made Dick smile, just a little. “I’ll be right here.”
Jason frowned at that, knowing it meant Dick wouldn’t be sleeping himself, even though he needed it. Dick just laughed, and squeezed Jason’s arm.
“I’ll keep you safe.” He whispered seriously, stroking his thumb across Jason’s skin. Jason watched him for a moment more, then closed his eyes and buried his face in Damian’s hair. He smiled a little more at that. Sad to anyone else, maybe, but it wasn’t. More appreciative than anything. A soft smile to remind himself that his family was here, and though riddled with nightmares, safe and protected in his care. Right at his fingertips, where he was always afraid that – maybe one day – they wouldn’t be. “I promise.”
“You can’t.” Damian breathed. “You can’t promise.”
Dick let his smile widen completely now, as he leaned down, draped himself over father and son, kissing Damian’s forehead.
“Yes I can.” He hummed, brushing Damian’s hair back, even as he dropped his head lovingly against Jason’s shoulder. “I just did.”
And even through his tears, Damian scoffed, and just burrowed his face further into Jason’s chest. Jason kept his eyes closed and let out a deep sigh, like it was the first breath he’d had in hours.
Dick just squeezed them both.
It was a start. And right now, in the dark, a start was good enough for him.