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Autophobia is the Fear of Being Alone, or Being Unloved

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Today was his twenty fifth birthday, and not a single member of his family had wished him a happy birthday.

Because they had forgotten.

Well, actually, that wasn’t fair. Cass was in Japan and had messaged him to wish him a happy birthday, Alfred was in England and had left a birthday card in his apartment (which he still didn’t understand when his Grandfather figure had had time to do that), and Jason didn’t have a choice; he was off-planet until the next week- radio silent.

But all the same, Dick spent his birthday with only Ace for comfort.

He opened his cards from his friends and tried not the get upset that not even Babs had sent him a card, but Superman and even Tiger had sent him a birthday card.

At first, he tried to forget about it; he’s walked Ace, been to Gotham’s main gym, made himself pancakes with chocolate spread on top, but… nothing seemed to work. He kept checking his phone to see if he’d received any messages from Tim, or Damian, or Bruce, or Babs, but… nothing. Dick checked the security cameras around the Manor to check nothing had happened, but he just saw them eating lunch around the table like any normal Saturday.

Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes.

Ace whined and licked delicately at his face, sensing his sadness, and Dick laughed, albeit slightly broken sounding. He played fetch with Ace’s favourite ball while washing up and tidying up his apartment.

What really did it was the card that was given to him by his next-door neighbour.

Dick’s neighbour was a sweet, middle-aged lady who was deaf. She loved Dick because he knew sign language, so he was able to communicate with her flawlessly. She pressed his doorbell and waited patiently for him to open the door. He smiled when he saw her. She smiled back and handed him two cards, a box of chocolates and a small package, wrapped in brown paper.

When he took everything, she began to sign to him.

‘These arrived just after you left for the gym earlier. One of the cards, and the chocolates, are from me. Have you had a nice birthday so far?’

Dick nodded and pressed one hand to his lips, then bringing his hand so it was in line with his chest. ‘Thank you.’

‘No problem’

Intrigued who had sent him a gift, Dick fell onto the sofa and opened the package. He gasped quietly at watch he saw. Inside, was a pair of knives, intricately hand-crafted; they had tiny designs carved into the blade, ranging from swirls to lettering in different languages to tiny feathered wings. “Oh wow…” he breathed, running his finger along the edge of the knife, making blood bead on his finger.
He picked up the card that came with it and used the knife to open the paper. The card itself was blank except for a small message inside.

‘Had these made especially for you Grayson. Happy Birthday, Little Bird. -Slade.’

He sobbed. It was an overload of emotion that crashed down on him; tears flowed freely down his cheeks because fucking Slade Wilson had remembered his birthday, but his family couldn’t?

Dick pressed his face into Ace’s fur. The German Shepard curled around him, protecting him. Dick didn’t move from his position on the couch for a good few hours; when he did, it was to stagger to bed, Ace pressed next to him the entire time.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

When Jason was zeta-d to the Batcave, only a day after Dick’s birthday, he was exhausted. He staggered into the dark cave and placed his belongings away in their places and made his way upstairs. He had rushed the mission along as much as possible, which meant less sleep, but it was worth it; Jason could spend as much time with Dick as possible, to make up for missing his birthday.

He got up the stairs and stretched, opening the clock to get out of the cave. He made his way to the den, where he was met with Tim on his laptop, Damian watching a movie, and Bruce and Barbara going over some paperwork. He looked around but frowned when he realised Dick wasn’t here.

“Where’s Dick?” he asked.

Everyone looked up at him in surprise. “Jason,” Bruce said, “you’re back early- how did the mission go?”

Jason nodded and perched on the edge of Tim’s seat. “It went alright, but you didn’t answer my question. Where’s Dick?”

Damian frowned at him. “Grayson is at his Gotham apartment, Todd. Why would he be here?”

The Red Hood looked at them, confused. “Did you guys have a fight or something, because Dick always spends a week in Wayne Manor after his birthday, always. Why wouldn’t he be here?”

“…birthday?” Tim asked, slowly closing his laptop and placing it on the floor.

Jason huffed, getting more impatient. “Yes, birthday. Dick’s birthday was Saturday, now it is Monday.” He saw the slowly paling faces of his family and his jaw dropped. “You forgot.”

It wasn’t a question.

Damian opened his mouth to speak but closed it quickly and looked around at his other family members.

Jason’s anger rushed to the surface. “You forgot? What his the matter with you all? He has never once forgotten one of your birthdays, yet you forget his? I cannot believe this. I’m going to go and see Dick, hopefully he has fed himself after he realised that none of you gave a damn about him.”

He stormed out the door and took off on his motorbike, present for Dick safely in his pocket. Tiredness forgotten, he pushed his bike to its limits to get to Dick as fast as possible, not wanting to be too late of anything happened.

When he pulled up the Dick’s apartment building, he shot into the building and up the stairs, seeing the elevators full. On the way up, he passed a woman of about thirty. She placed her hand on his arm and began to type something out on her phone. It read:

‘Are you going up to see Richard Grayson? You’re his boyfriend aren’t you?’ She looked concerned, and Jason’s stomach dropped.

Realising she was deaf, he began to sign to her. ‘Yes, I am. Is he here? Is something wrong?’

She nodded and signed back. ‘I do not know for sure, but I felt something was wrong since his birthday, and when I rang the doorbell, he didn’t answer. He always answers when I ring- I don’t know what’s happened, but…”

Jason placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘I will check on him now. I’m sure he’s fine, but I’ll let you know.’ He carried on his assent up the stairs until he reached the top floor, where Dick’s apartment was. He knocked on the door three times, hard.

Nothing.

Anxiety building, he knocked again, calling out. “Dick! Dick, its Jason, I’m letting myself in, okay?”

He slid the key in the lock and unlocked the door, pushing himself into their apartment. The first thing that came to mind was that there was no Ace. Ace always came to the door to check who was coming in every single time someone unlocked the door, just to be safe.

The second thing that he noticed was that he couldn’t hear Dick. At all. He placed his keys on the side, along with his coat, and slowly made his way into the apartment. He saw scattered wrapping on the floor, along with cards strewn everywhere. His eyes caught on a pair of incredible knives in the window. He marvelled at the beauty of them for a few seconds before hearing shuffling from the bedroom.

He twisted around, only to see Ace sticking his nose into the living area that Jason was in. When he saw Jason, he barked and ran over to him; but instead of jumping up like he normally did, Ace took hold of Jason’s leather jacket and tugged him towards the bedroom, whining. Jason let himself be dragged into the dark room, aware that he needed to be quiet if he was going to get Dick out of the room. He knew Dick hadn’t eaten anything in the past couple of days because of the severe lack of bowls in the sink. Dick only every did washing up on a Saturday.

When he pushed the door open, his heart squeezed painfully in his chest.

Dick lay on their bed, staring at the wall. He hugged Jason’s pillow, and his phone lay in shattered pieces in a hole in the wall.

“Oh Dickie…” Jason breathed. He knelt down next to his boyfriend and was alarmed to see how dull Dick’s eyes had gone.

He slowly lifted Dick so he was sitting up, but Dick remained silent, staring at nothing. Panic building, Jason took hold of the sides of Dick’s face. “Dick. Hey, Dickie? I’m right here, okay? I need you to wake up for me. Alright? Just… please wake up…”

But Dick didn’t seem to notice him, much less hear him. Jason ran a hand through hair and lifted Dick up bridal-style into the living room, Ace following him. He placed Dick on the sofa and filled up Ace’s bowls, which weren’t yet empty; it seemed as if Ace had prioritised Dick over himself. Jason smiled sadly at the German Shepard, who licked Dick’s cheek and whined, ears dropping at the lack of a response.

Jason and Ace spent the rest of the day trying to coax Dick out of his own mind, and Jason knew that they needed to get Dick back as soon as possible or there would be some really big repercussions in the future concerning Dick’s mental health.

It had been about seven and a half hours since Jason had first come into the apartment when he got a reaction from Dick. “Jay-son? Jay? Why are you… here?”

Jason fell to his knees in front of Dick, who was looking around confused. “Hey Dickie, I’m back from my mission, can you sit up?” Seeing the nod from Dick, he got up and watched as his boyfriend struggled to sit straight, and clenched his fists.

“Jason, why… why are you with me?” he sounded so lost and resigned.

Jason looked at Dick. “Why wouldn’t I? You’re my boyfriend, and I have the right to look after you when you do dumb shit like don’t feed yourself for three days.”

Dick’s head ducked sadly. “I’m not worth it Jay… not worth anything…”

His eyes began to glaze over again and Ace barked in alarm. Jason grabbed Dick’s shoulders and shook his softly. “Dick. You are worth my time okay? It is not your fault that they forgot your birthday, I can see other people remembered your birthday… and so did I.” He reached over and took out the little present from his coat pocket. “I got you this. Go on, open it.”

It took Dick a few minutes to register what Jason had said, and his red-rimmed, dull blue eyes focussed on the package. With shaking hands, he took the present and opened it up to see a pair of porcelain elephants with their trunks curled around each other’s. The elephants sat on the edge of a cliff and the plaque on the side read: ‘Through thick and thin, I am with you always’.

Dick stared at the gift in his hands and Jason shifted from side to side, biting his lip. “Do… do you like it?” he asked tentatively.

Dick looked at him and tears formed in his eyes. He closed his eyes, but one tear still made its way down his cheek. Jason carefully wiped it away and was beyond relieved when Dick leaned into the touch. “Thank you Jason…” he breathed, still not opening his eyes. His shoulders began to shake once again from the force of his sobs, but Jason pulled him into his chest as Dick cried.

He would rage and yell at the other Bats when he saw them next, but for now, he had to take care of Dick. He was Jason’s priority.

He sat with Dick , Ace sat at his feet, until Dick passed out. He carried his boyfriend to bed and lay next to him until nightmares made him scream. Dick shot up in bed and panicked, thinking he was alone again, but Jason just pulled him back into bed, whispering softly into his hair, planting kissed at every available patch of skin.

"It's okay, I'm right here. Your not alone Dickie- It'll be okay."

God, he loved his boyfriend.