The pitter-patter of the shower sounded like thunder to Dick’s ears. He couldn’t feel the water hitting his skin. He couldn’t tell how long he’d been under the spray.
He’d walked home in the rain too.
Dick felt numb, unbearably so. His thoughts came to the forefront of his mind at the speed of molasses.
He pulled both hands from where they mindlessly massaging his scalp to find his fingers pruney. Disturbingly pruney in fact.
The faucet squeaked as he turned it off, the shower door clinked as it slid shut. The towel was scratchy as it rubbed up and down on Dick’s skin. He hung it up, then slid on his sleep clothes and walked back into the master bedroom.
The lamp was turned off and the room was coated in darkness. On the bed Jason was asleep, his broken arm resting on his chest, rising and falling with each breath he took.
Jason had already been reading in bed when Dick had arrived home from his Batman mandated therapy. Yet again, he was reminded of just how much of a giant hypocrite B could be.
Bruce had forcibly benched him, and found a therapist for him so he could “deal with the trauma” of what had happened.
Bruce’s trauma was multitudes more than Dick’s.
Yet it was Dick who was told he was broken. It was Dick who needed to “seek professional help”. He guessed he should count his blessings that the man didn’t send him to Arkham.
Dick knew he had been injected with fear gas. And Dick had snapped- had lost it, Tim said.
It was like that time with the Joker all over again, except Bruce wasn’t here in time to save this one.
Jason who was alive and breathing in the bed in front of him now had just looked so dead then.
Dick carefully lowered himself into bed beside Jason.
They were in their apartment, far away from the batcave were the autopsy report for that goon was. But Dick could see it. Had memorized it. Dick lay down on his side, facing away from Jason, and brought his knees to his chest.
In his mind's eye he saw everything. Every injury he’d inflicted. “Cause of Death: blunt force trauma” had been a constant scrolling headline across his thoughts since he and Jason had left the cave a week ago.
Dick curled further into himself and let out a dry sob, careful not to wake Jason. Dick didn't deserve to be here in bed with Jason.
With someone who loved him.
He deserved to be behind bars.
For the first time that week the tears started falling. He fell asleep like that, his phantoms chasing after his every thought.
If only they would chase the numbness away too.
The night had been a long one and Nightwing was at the end of his rope. He was supposed to be meeting up with Red Hood for one last investigation into black market fear gas for the night. He should have expected to get hit with it, shouldn't have handed out all his antidote to the first responders he had to ditch to come here.
Hindsight was always 20/20, as they say.
He arrived at the warehouse where Red Hood's message had come from, expecting to see his boyfriend outside ready to charge in.
Jason wasn't there.
So, Dick made the decision to head inside. Jason could have been inside waiting for him. Right?
To his horror, Dick had walked in to find Jason slumped over like a marionette with his strings cut. Unconscious and kneeling in front of one of the many wooden crates that filled the space, seemingly only held up by the fraying rope that was tied to both his wrists and the metal support pole. His breathing was labored and was growing more labored as the pipe hit him again and again.
Dick heard a voice from behind- slimy and opportunistic with a teasing lilt that betrayed just how okay the bastard was with his men beating someone to death.
"Oh, look! The cavalry’s here!" The last word was emphasized with a grunt as a bat connected with the back of Dick’s head. And although he stumbled and his vision blurred Dick stood tall again. Ready to deal with the nuisance who thought a metal bat could actually knock him out with that weak of a hit!
He turned around to face the man.
The man was scrawny and mousey with a nose that wouldn’t look out of place on a wicked witch. Dick growled in his face. The man started whimpering and moving away from Nightwing. Nightwing bashed him over the head with his escrima sticks then drop kicked him across the room.
Dick then felt a prick in the back of his neck- and he was anxious with the walls closing in on him and-
In front of him the goon that was beating on Jason with the rusty metal pipe took another swing and the measly rope holding Jason's limp body up snapped. Jason hit the floor hard and his arm let out a sickening crunch.
And Dick was back there again.
Dick fell to his knees as he re-lived gazing upon their broken bodies and remembered how he'd shrieked and shrieked. He was silent - shell shocked - but it was Jason in their place.
Jason who'd already been through so much and somehow came out alive. Jason who was almost like a mother hen towards the kids who came to him for help. Jason who loved to cook and bake and wore all the cheesy aprons Dick bought him. Jason who'd insisted on wining and dining instead of just going to a club or watching Netflix. Jason.
Jason was lying on the floor blood coming out of- somewhere. And he was dead.
Later Dick would swear his entire world went red as he narrowed in on the two remaining goons - the one who'd beaten Jason to death and the one armed with the darts. The one who had killed Jason was cowering before Dick, but his friend tried to be brave.
The goon who'd shot him pulled a gun out and probably was trying to aim at Nightwing's head, but his hands shook so much that the man missed by about a foot. Dick charged and brought his escrimas down together on the man, knocking him off balance, followed by a kick that had the man falling forward. Dick struck him on the back of the head with both escrimas, ensuring he would remain unconscious.
Dick turned on his heel from the disappointment of a fight and stalked towards the last goon in the warehouse. Jason's killer- the guy was actually whimpering now.
Dick leered down at him as the goon got on his knees to beg and grovel for mercy. He gave the display no response. Only grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, rough and angry. But the shirt ripped before Dick had even lifted the guy off the ground, so Dick wrapped his hand around the pathetic man's neck and hefted him up that way.
The man clawed at Nightwing's hand, so Nightwing bashed him in the side with his electrified escrima stick, and once he flinched and let go of Dick's hand Dick tossed him on the ground. The man yelped and looked up at Dick- terrified. Which he should be, because Dick was about to seriously hurt the person who had killed his boyfriend.
Dick hit the goon with both his escrimas, now electrified, and the sound of their impact mixed with the sound of them tasing him was like music to Dick's ears.
"You-" The escrima stick connected with flesh.
"Killed-" The sound of cracking bone rang in Dick’s ears.
"Him-" Then a hit sounded wet and Dick relished it.
"You motherfucking monster!" Both of the escrima together again on each of the man's elbows, taser buzzing and the goon screaming in agony. The man started weeping and Dick just kept hitting him. And hitting him. And-
"Nightwing! Are you-" There was a voice from behind him, but he could barely hear it. The voice didn't matter-
"Oh my God- Jason!" There were frantic footsteps and Dick momentarily stopped his assault on the goon’s already unconscious body.
"He's dead." The sound of Jason's body being rolled over and moved was deafening.
"What- no, Dick-"
"This motherfucker killed him!" Dick roared turning around to see- Tim? The voice was Tim.
"Dick," Tim's voice was shaking as he walked over and put a hand on Dick's shoulder. "Jason's alive. Look." Right as Dick turned around there was an almost unnoticeable prick in his neck. He paid it no mind, whirling around and fully abandoning the goon he'd been beating up.
Rushing past Tim to Jason's cor- body. Jason's body. Dick’s vision cleared, and in an instant, he was by Jason's side. Jason, whose chest was moving up and down.
Whose ribs were rattling with each breath.
Who was alive.
He scooped Jason into his arms again. There was a sinking feeling building in his gut as he felt another faint prick, and his world faded to black.
Dick woke up to find himself in the batcave.
He was restrained to a chair next to Jason's bed, in cuffs.
Listening to Jason's heart monitor steadily beeping.
Bruce was in front of the Batcomputer, looking at an injury report and an autopsy report. Refusing to meet his eye or answer him.
No understanding could be found in that man.
He woke up to someone shaking his shoulder, and Jason's voice somewhere near.
"Dick, wake up." The hand shaking his shoulder moved to caress the side of Dick's face. Dick cracked his eyes open as he leaned into Jason's touch.
"There you are." He opened his eyes to see Jason leaning over his side of the bed, neon red cast at his side.
"Jay?" Dick blearily blinked, eyes searching for the clock. It was 3am. Lovely. He looked back to Jason who was looking at him expectantly. Dick sat up on the bed and looked to his left as Jason sat down next to him. He wrapped an arm around Dick's waist.
"Is something wrong?"
"Yeah," Jason looked directly in his eyes, worry clouding his eyes. "You were crying in your sleep."
Dick averted his gaze. Jason sighed.
"You want to talk about it?" How did Dick ever manage to earn the love of Jason Todd?
"No" He didn't deserve him.
"If it was about the incident-" The incident. That new night of terror burned into Dick's mind. The incident.
"Dick?" Jerked out of his self-loathing Dick looked back to his partner's face.
"Since you don't look like you heard a word I just said - I'm not Bruce." Jason took a breath in through his nose, exhaled out his mouth and stared at his feet.
"And I'm not going to force you to retire or become some sort of pariah because you did something under the influence of a drug you were unwillingly subjected to." Jason squeezed his waist.
"Okay?" Jason looked at him hopefully. Dick just fell into the man beside him, letting their shoulders brush.
"No Jay, he is right." Dick took a shaky breath. Feeling every bit of defeat he'd been shoving to the back of his mind since he woke up in the cave one week ago.
"I should have been able to control it." Jason's arm moved from his waist to wrap around his shoulders and pulled Dick closer.
"B said you should be able to control yourself, but when has he ever been able to control himself when under fear gas?" Jason pressed a kiss to Dick's forehead.
"Never." Jason seemed upset, the same way he got when he dealt with dirty cops or entitled mob kids. Not so much of a 'Die, you child-murdering fuckwad' as a 'You really must be delusional if you think you can treat people this way'.
"Bruce has never been able to do what he's suddenly expecting of you Dick. So fuck him."
And Dick just couldn't help the laughter at the rare crassness as he wiped away the stray tears that had started falling during Jason's little speech. He turned to face Jason on the bed and hugged him. Jason hugged him back, falling backwards so that Jason's injured arm was held above his head and Dick was resting on Jason's chest. Listening to his beating heart, losing track of seconds and minutes, but always knowing that time was moving forward and he was spending it with Jason.
"What did I ever do to deserve you, Jay?"
"You were yourself."
Dick nuzzled into Jason's chest more and felt a smile creep onto his face as Jason’s good hand stroked his back.
"That's not special Jay."
"Well, you have a nice ass and-" Dick pinched him viciously in the side. "-hey, alright alright."
"Be serious, Jay."
"You loved me and cared about me- and didn't kick me to the curb the second your ex came back like I thought you would." Wait-
Dick reached above his head and caught Jason's hand just as it was about to make it's next pass, lacing their fingers together. He brought himself up onto his elbows, facing Jason.
"Jason, I would never, why-"
"Because why else? Why would the perfect golden child that everyone adores date the local fuck-up?" Jason was looking into Dick's eyes and Dick couldn't help but kiss him. It started with a forehead peck but then Dick set Jason's hand free. He closed his eyes and kissed Jason on the lips and let his fingers thread into the slightly curly mop that was Jason's hair. Let his thumb caress the white forelock. Jason moaned into the kiss and when they broke for air Dick got to see that gorgeous dazed and languid look on Jason's face.
If he could see that look every day, he’d be in heaven. Dick couldn't help himself as he laid kiss after kiss all over Jason's face. Along his jaw and his neck. Dick laid a simple kiss on each of Jason's cheeks and then peppered them up to his forehead, and Jason started laughing, and it was the most beautiful thing Dick had ever heard. He couldn't help but smile.
"I love you, Jason Todd. Never doubt that."
They weren't perfect, or fully functional by any means.
"Love you too, Dick."
But they'd be alright.