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to love is not to leave

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The click of the door being unlocked is enough to wake him. Dick is still on the couch, he realizes, something Alfred will surely disapprove of.

Except, those footsteps don’t belong to Alfred, they belong to—

“Bruce?” Dick calls, sitting up completely and sending a wave of dizziness crashing into him so hard that he actually sways where he’s sitting. “What are you doing here?”

Last night he’d called Alfred for a medical consult. It’s not uncommon for Alfred to pop in the next morning to check in, but he’s never sent Bruce before. Dick had gotten the impression that Alfred never even mentioned his visits, something Dick appreciates.

“Alfred said you were injured and drugged last night,” Bruce explains. “He asked me to check in on you.”

“Where’s Alfred?”

“Stomach flu.”

Dick winces in sympathy, part of him wondering if Alfred had been ill last night and Dick had just been too out of it to notice. The dizziness is getting worse, though, so he let’s go of the thought and leans back against the pillows.

Bruce looks him over, frowning as he takes in the brace and melted ice pack covering his left knee, the empty IV bag still attached to his arm, and the bandage on his forehead that’s covering new stitches. The frown deepens. 

“Where is your blood test from this morning?” Bruce finally asks. 

“Didn’t do it yet,” Dick explains, pressing the heel of his hand into his eye. “Just woke up.”

“Hnn.” Bruce moves around the apartment, surely looking for his medical supplies. He finds it and returns, and Dick straightens out his arm without being prompted. “What was in the IV?”

Dick looks up at it as Bruce ties a band around Dick’s upper arm and sticks him with a clean needle. “Fluids,” Dick muses.

“An antidote wasn’t required?”

Dick shakes his head. “I went over symptoms and blood results with Alfred. He said I’d be okay with fluids and bed rest.” 

Bruce’s eyebrows come closer together, the corner of his mouth twitching once. “And yet you’re on a couch.”

Dick sighs, running his free hand through his hair. “Don’t do that.” Bruce’s tone is the problem, Dick thinks. In another life, maybe it would sound like concern, but now it’s criticism. Now it’s Bruce being too literal and too nit-picky. It’s the first step of an argument Dick is too tired to handle. 

Bruce is done with the blood; he didn’t take that much, but the dizziness is worse all the same.

“Did Alfred check you for a concussion?” Bruce asks after a moment.

“All clear, just needed a few stitches.”

Bruce hums and leaves Dick’s line of vision, probably to start running the blood. When he comes back, he’s holding a new bag of saline and a fresh ice pack.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re dehydrated, not to mention trying to flush poison from your system.” Bruce attaches the new bag and then starts to take off Dick’s knee brace, saying, “Tell me about your knee.”

“It’s just sprained. I put on a brace because it’s being dramatic.” Dick grins a little, but Bruce just stares at his knee with a guilty expression. Dick sighs, then in a sing-song voice repeats a phrase he’s been saying for years: “It’s not your fault my left knee sucks, B.” It started bothering him a few years ago, probably from injuries and overuse. It flares up occasionally and seems to be more prone to injury, especially when someone kicks it directly. Like Dick said, dramatic.

“I—” Bruce cuts himself off. He finishes the examination in silence and puts the brace back carefully. Then, “Let me help you to bed.”

“Sure.” Dick raises his arm and lets Bruce place it across his shoulder, pulling him up. They walk to his room and Bruce places him gently on the bed. He places a few pillows under Dick’s knee, then places the icepack on top and sets the IV on the hook over his nightstand.

Bruce disappears again, this time returning with some over the counter painkillers and a glass of water.

Dick takes them without hesitation.

“Have you eaten anything?” Bruce asks.

Dick shakes his head, draping his arm over his eyes. The world is still spinning, his punishment for moving. 

“I’ll fix you something.”

“Bruce,” Dick nearly whines. “Just leave it. I’ll eat later. You should go check on Alfred.”

Bruce doesn’t move.

Dick sighs and pulls his arm down, looking at Bruce. “What?”

“You were poisoned last night.”

“It’s not a big deal, I feel fine.” Well, relatively. 

Bruce sets his jaw. “You didn’t call me.”

“You don’t call me when you get poisoned,” Dick points out to hide his surprise at hearing that Bruce wants Dick to call him. The silence stretches, making Dick uncomfortable. “I’ll call if anything changes, okay? But I’m fine. Go home.”

Hurt flashes across Bruce’s face in a brief moment of honesty, making Dick realize his misstep. 

Bruce’s face goes back to its neutral expression. “You shouldn’t be alone. You are fighting off the effects of an unknown substance and require monitoring. If your mental status changes and your symptoms worsen as a result of the poison, someone else needs to be here. We were lucky nothing happened last night, but someone should have stayed with you—I should have stayed with you. And I want to be here now, if you’ll let me.”

“Okay.” Dick swallows, nodding once. “Okay, B. You can stay.”

Bruce nods, then leaves for the kitchen.

Dick spends most of the day sleeping, taking the occasional break to eat or play a round of cards with Bruce. It reminds Dick of when he was little, and he wonders if there’s still a deck of cards hidden away in the medical bay. 

It’s getting late, late enough that Dick thinks Bruce is going to sleep on his couch instead of heading back to Gotham for patrol. It’s been nice, having him here. It’s been a while since he’s seen Bruce, longer since he’s enjoyed seeing Bruce.

“I’m fine, you know,” Dick says offhandedly as Bruce checks him for signs of upcoming death. 


Dick grabs Bruce’s hand where it’s checking his pulse, squeezing it once. “I’m glad you came.”

Bruce squeezes back, face softening. “So am I.”