Dark Dreams

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Dark Dreams
Date of Cutscene: 16 September 2020
Location: Bludhaven
Synopsis: Nightwing is having a familiar dream with some new twists.
Cast of Characters: Nightwing

"How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep." -- JRR Tolkein.

He's happy. He's always happy when it starts. They are going to perform, and to the little boy that is Dick Grayson this is the only life he knows. He is a prodigy and seems to have been born to work the high wire and the trapeze. Haley's Circus is the only life he has ever known, and at this tender age the only life he wants to know. He doesn't understand that he lives out of foot lockers and he doesn't appreciate money or the lack of it. All he knows is the warm love of his parents and the adoration of the crowds. His school house is the kitchen table. His friends are the other performers. He is sustained and buoyed by the love of others. They are a family of choice and this is the only world he knows.

It ends that night. When a cable gives. When they drop. Oh God, they drop. He is standing there, powerless, aghast, and utterly alone. They hang there, reaching for each other even as they fall. They fall so far. They hang in the air so long. The crowd is shrieking in alarm and fear. They are as helpless as he is. They are transfixed as the little boy is as he watches his world end.

He heard it. He swears he heard bones snap and break. The psychologist said he couldn't have. That it was in his head. He was a little boy and they are full of imagination. She was a well-meaning woman, but standing on the platform as his innocence was forever lost and his world ended, Dick heard them die. He heard the bones snap. He saw his mother bounce. Daddy broke his neck. Mommy lingered a few minutes. He just watched. He did nothing. He was too scared. Too sad. Everything changed in that moment. It was just a few seconds, if that, but in this dream, like all the others, it lasts what seems like an hour.

The dream is so vivid. He can smell the sawdust. He can hear the crowds. He tastes the bile in his mouth. He can feel his little heart racing so hard it hurts. He can feel the confusion. The shock. The horror.

Usually the dream ends with the looming shadow of the Bat coming to comfort him. Not tonight. Tonight Barbara and Tim are falling now. Contorting. Writhing. Screaming in fear, pain, and crying out for him to help them. He does nothing. He is locked in place. He isn't a full grown man, he is a small boy. Helpless. Unmoving. Lost.

He watches them die. He hears their bones snap and hears Barbara demand "You said you would never let me fall."

The Bat appears, but he is not there to comfort him. He is all rage and roiling darkness as he looms over the little boy. "This is your fault. Failure. You are my greatest disappointment. A waste of training and talent. Coward. Fool." The last words sting the deepest. "My greatest mistake was pitying you."

Dick awakens in a cold sweat. It is far better than when he was young and he would wet the bed. Alfred would get so cross at him when he would find Dick in the laundry room washing his own sheets, alone and ashamed. Oddly, it is that little kindness that endeared the old man to him most. His patience with Dick and how he never demeaned the little boy when his dreams terrified him so much he wet the bed were keystones in kindness that helped lead to some healing.

Soothing Barbara's forehead once, Dick slips from the bed and walks into the other room. He knows where the box is. Dusty, old, bedraggled and slightly crushed from numerous moves, the box is unlabeled. Dick hefts it over to the table and settles in. He removes the dusty lid and pulls out its contents. Three old folders rest atop a couple of schedule books and desk calendars. One is full of the drawings his therapist made him do. They start off being about dead parents and move into revenge fantasies, then turn into Dick being a monster who kills the man who killed his parents. The last one features Dick in a yellow cape standing heroically with the bad man in jail. Dick's shadow is very long, and the shadow's head has twin points atop it. The second folder has his therapist's notes. One of the first things young Robin did was break into her office and steal everything that had to do with him. He also infected her computer with a virus that removed all his files. There is no record of Dick having been there. There can't be.

His hands place the two folders full of his therapy history and drawings aside. One hand lingers on the drawings. Alone, here in the dark he can be thankful for Bruce. Weaponizing childhood was his only chance. Some injuries cry out for Justice. Bruce saved Dick. Dick allows himself to remember that for a moment. He was given focus. He was given fortitude and strength.

Dick's left hand settles on the thickest folder. Bedraggled. Dog-eared. Bookmarked. Held together with thick rubber bands. A single word is written on the tab in clear block letters in the hand of an angry orphaned boy. 'Zucco'.

He opens the folder, the newspaper headline of that day stares at him, and Dick starts to reread everything, even if it is burned into his head. He might have missed something. He might have forgotten something.