Dick froze, the scone still in his mouth. Swallowing the bite, Dick brought up his eyes to meet Alfred's sheepishly.
"Oh, hey Alfred,"
In his youth, Dick had developed the rather annoying habit of sneaking into the pantry in the quiet hours of the night. It was an activity that all the bats had indulged in at one time or another – even Bruce. Although, Alfred couldn't be certain about that as he did have yet to catch him in the act. Alfred brought his attention back to Dick – who to his annoyance had decided to push his luck reaching for another scone. Alfred sighed.
"One would think," Alfred shot Dick a stern look. "That you would be able to procure a snack from your own home."
Dick merely grinned, fixing an especially charming smile on his face. "What can I say Alfred? Your food will always beat anything I've got at home."
Alfred raised a brow. "Only because you have nothing at home. When is the last time you went grocery shopping?"
"That's beside the point." Dick said, waving the question away.
Alfred's eyes flickered to the heavens.
"While you're here, you may be of some use, Master Dick." Alfred pushed a bowl of scones into Dick's arms. He looked at the butler with a confused frown. "For Master Timothy," Alfred elaborated. "The poor boy is slaving away on some school project and he does neglect to eat."
"Ah, don't worry Alfred," Dick was already heading out of the kitchen. "You can count on Nightwing!"
The corner of Alfred's mouth twitched upward as he watched the young man leave. Sometimes, it was as if the boy had barely aged at all.
"Oh, and Alfred?" Dick called, popping his head back into the kitchen. He took a scone out of the bowl, giving it an exaggerated kiss before taking a hearty bite. "These really are the best scones."
Alfred inclined his head, a fond smile on his face. "Thank you, Master Dick."
"Tim," Dick called, knocking relentlessly on the boy's door. Receiving no response, Dick tried another tactic. "I have food."
Dick heard Tim's scrambling before the door opened in front of him.
Tim's eyes immediately fell on the scones. He eagerly accepted the bowl from Dick.
"These smell great,"
He finally looked up at Dick, gesturing for him to enter. Dick carefully picked his way through the mess in Tim's room, before settling himself on the edge of the bed. He eyed the strewn clothes and scattered reports.
"Geez Tim, how does your room look like a nuclear disaster - when you have Alfred around?"
Tim took a bite of a scone and turned to face Dick.
"What do you mean?" He asked through his mouthful. "Alfred came in this morning."
Dick gave him an incredulous look.
"And he was fine with it?"
"Admittedly… it did look better then." Tim said, surveying his room sheepishly.
Dick balked at him. "You managed to make this whole mess - in one afternoon?"
"Like you can talk, Dick - I've been to your apartment."
Dick smiled. "Tim, I'm pretty sure my apartment could survive a nuclear strike and still manage to look better than this."
Tim huffed. "Everyone's a critic."
Taking another bite of his scone, Tim looked up at Dick again. "So, what brings you here in the middle of the night anyway?"
"Looking for a quality midnight snack isn't a worthy excuse?"
"Of course, it is - but that's not why you're here." Tim paused briefly, savoring the scone – It really was good. "At least, it's not the only reason."
Dick carefully avoided the scrutinising gaze that Tim fixed on him. Opting instead to scan the room's surroundings.
"Wait," Tim began, the realisation hitting him. "You ran into Jason again - didn't you?"
Slumping his shoulders, Dick sighed.
"And… how'd it go?"
Dick groaned. "About as well as you'd expect."
Tim nodded, he'd expected as much. Placing the scone on his desk, he moved to sit beside his brother.
"Maybe," Tim started, "You should stop trying."
"No - I mean," He tried rephrasing, " You should give Jason some space,"
Dick looked down, clasping his hands together – tight. A small frown touched Tim's face as he saw Dick's knuckles start to whiten. Tim was not used to seeing Dick so uneasy. Quickly calming his features, Tim reached for his brother's shoulder.
"It's just…" Dick sighed heavily. "I wasn't - I didn't do very good job of being there for him."
Tim's eyebrows drew together in a confused frown "Dick I'm sure you-"
"No, Tim, you don't get it - I was distant. Being replaced…"
Tim gently squeezed Dick's shoulder.
Dick's eyes hardened. "It wasn't Jason I blamed." Swallowing, he continued. "But even when I had gotten used to it. I let my issues with Bruce stop me from making sure Jason was alright. Growing up with Bruce - only Bruce – well, sometimes it can be..." Dick trailed off again, his gaze drifting to the floor.
"Yeah, I understand." Tim agreed softly as his own eyes found their way to the floor.
Although none of them liked to admit it, Bruce wasn't perfect. When it came to parenting - to expressing love - he found it more difficult than most. That was not to say that Bruce hadn't gotten better over the years. The boys had wonderful memories with Bruce and they loved him fiercely. Yet, Tim had to admit, he was grateful that he could talk to Dick when things didn't go as smoothly with the man. Although, Alfred's services had been invaluable as well.
"You know…" Dick began again, breaking the silence they had settled into. " When Jason," he paused. "When he died. I blamed Bruce a lot - I was furious with him."
Tim brought his eyes back to dick, whose gaze was fixed intently on the floor.
"But Tim, I was furious with myself too - If I had been there, been more attentive, focused less on my anger…" His eyes locked with Tim's. "I might have saved him."
Tim's eyes widened. "Dick, you can't -"
"God, Tim - I wasn't even at his funeral!"
"But Dick, you were off world!" Tim protested.
" I know!"
Tim recoiled at the sharp tone. Dick saw the movement and softened his eyes, apologetic.
"I know," Dick said, gently this time. "It's just that - at every opportunity, I've failed to be there."
Abruptly, Tim wrapped his arms around Dick's torso, pressing his face into his older brother's chest. Dick started at the sudden movement before wrapping his own arms around Tim.
"Dick, you've made it right since then." Tim insisted. "You were always there for me - even for the demon brat - who knows how you managed it with him. But Dick, you have been there for us."
Tim's grip on Dick was beginning to tighten. Dick almost made a move to protest, but he didn't have the heart to tell Tim to loosen it. Besides, he didn't want to let go just yet.
"And maybe," Tim continued. " maybe you weren't there for Jason. But you're trying to be now. That counts for a lot you know." Tim finally looked up at Dick " You're an amazing big brother."
Dick tightened his own arms around Tim, fiercely returning his hug.
They stayed like that for a while, drawing strength from their embrace. Eventually, the tight hug was bordering on bone crushing and Dick had to pull away slightly.
"So," Dick started, opening his eyes. "Think you can keep the run ins with Jason to yourself, for your amazing big brother? - that is assuming you can," Dick grinned.
Tim pulled back, "Is that a challenge?"
Dick gave him a long look.
"Hey, I am capable of lying to the Batman you know!" Tim protested indignantly.
"Oh, is that so?" a new voice interrupted them.
The boys whipped their heads to face the doorway. Seeing Bruce walking up, their eyes widened. Dick recovered from his shock first.
"Hey Bruce!" he squeaked - so maybe he hadn't recovered entirely "I was actually just about to leave."
Bruce's face sported a puzzled frown as Dick got off the bed and headed to the window.
"Bye Tim! - and it was nice seeing you too Bruce!" he said hastily, opening the window now.
With an abrupt wave at them both, Dick grappled out of the window. He was suddenly very glad that he had his own apartment to retreat too. Bruce watched Dick's exit open mouthed. Oddly enough, that hadn't been the strangest behaviour he'd witnessed from his sons. Bruce met Tim's sheepish gaze.
"I meant – in a hypothetical situation." Tim defended weakly.
Jason struggled against his binds, he couldn't move. He was frozen somehow – immobilised. He had control of the muscles above his neck at least. Not much, but it was something. Jason surveyed the room. Odd – it looked like the interior of the Gotham Hunters' hideout. Looking down, he saw that he was tied to a chair. It was a strangely familiar situation. Attempting to strain against the rope again, Jason cursed. If only his god damn muscles would move – maybe he was drugged.
Jason felt a sharp crack on the back of his skull. He gritted his teeth as his head throbbed. That was annoying.
"Look at me, boy!"
The man in the lab coat. He knew he should've finished him when he had the chance. Turning his head, Jason decided to give him a piece of his mind.
"Funny, where was this attitude when I was kicking –"
The words died on his tongue. His eyes locked with the maniacal gaze of the Joker. Jason's eyes widened, the colour draining from his face. Not this again. The Joker's deranged grin split wider.
"Ahh, Boy Blunder," he cooed, "I have missed you!"
The Joker brought up his crowbar, grinning savagely as he –
Jason bolted up on his bed, breathing rapidly. He idly rubbed the back of his head as he took in his surroundings once more. As the images of his dream faded, Jason recognised the familiar walls of his apartment. Inhaling a shaky breath, Jason lifted the covers off himself. He thought he'd gotten over those damn nightmares.
Jason reached for his phone, ignoring the missed calls from Roy. 3:36 am. He groaned. There was no going back to sleep now. The memories of the dream were still a haze over his mind as he lifted himself off the bed.
The Gotham Hunters unnerved him in a way other gangs did not. He clenched his fists. They unearthed unwanted memories. Jason reached for the punching bag under his bed. It served him well enough as therapy in times like this.
Hanging the bag up, he rolled his shoulders. They were unbearably tense. He wasn't finished with the Hunters. Not by a long shot.