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Disclaimer: Sadly, Dick Grayson isn't owned by me. DC has that privilege. DC owns most of the characters in this story. All I own is the distinctive way the story unfolds, the specific dialogue and unique situations. (g) No money is being made from this. Please don't sue. It wouldn't be worth your while.

WARNING: There are a number of spelling, grammar and punctuation differences between Australia and the USA... please forgive me for writing with an accent. (g)

A Father’s Day to Remember

Sequel to "Lake of Lost Souls"

Part 3

Bruce’s jaw locked. He wasn’t prepared to accept that.

For five long, tiring days, the Gotham billionaire had been seated in the chair by the bed with his fist tightly curled around his former ward’s hand... anchoring his boy in this world. He had left Dick's side only to use the bathroom. Through each hour, the EEG had continued to beep and flash, something that Bruce had found reassuring for the first twenty-four hours. However, the beeps and flashes were now far and few between. Bruce was well aware of the fact that Dick's brain activity had slowed to practically nothing, but that didn’t mean his boy wasn’t going to wake up.

Bruce squeezed Dick's hand, noting the calluses. Certainly not the hand of a pianist. The strong hand of an acrobat -- the failsafe grip that had saved Batman’s life too many times to count.

Leslie entered the oppressive ward, followed by Alfred, the latter's eyes welled with tears. He had finally accepted what Leslie was saying. Despite Dick’s strength and the efforts of the world‘s expert, they were going to lose the boy. Rather than looking at the frail young man in the bed, Alfred settled his attention on Bruce. Right now, he was Alfred’s priority.

In the past few days, the butler had repeatedly tried to convince his dishevelled charge to go home and get some rest, but Wayne had refused. He would not leave Dick and as a result, his stubbled face had become puffy with weariness and worry, and his eyes more distant with each passing hour.

Leslie moved to the head of the bed, signalled the intensive care nurse to leave them alone and once the woman had exited the room, the doctor turned to face Bruce. "We need to talk."

"I heard what you were saying," Wayne responded stoically.

Leslie licked her lips. She hadn’t anticipated that. "Son, I know that..."

"He'll be okay," Bruce interrupted. The tone was deadpan. A statement of fact and woe betide anyone who argued.

Alfred lowered his face and his heart shattered. From somewhere he needed to find the strength to help Bruce through this, but Alfred was beginning to realize he may not have the strength to get himself through. They were losing Dick and there wasn’t a thing any of them could do to save him.

Leslie crouched so that she was at eye level with Bruce. Usually she didn’t have difficulty informing families that their loved one was nearing the end. It wasn’t pleasant, but Leslie had been a doctor for more years than she cared to remember. The key was compassion and keeping herself emotionally separated from the situation. There lay the problem. Leslie was emotionally involved whether she liked it or not. She’d helped to raise Bruce Wayne and had known and loved Dick all his life. In other words, they were family.

"He isn't okay, Bruce.“ Her voice wavered. Leslie rose and ran her hand through Dick's dark hair which stood out in contrast to his ghostly complexion. Grayson was losing the battle. He had been since the moment he had ‘come back’. There was no doubt that he was fighting. If he wasn’t, he’d have slipped away long before. Dr. Anderson admitted that in all his years, he’d never seen anyone with such a strong will to live. However, there was no way Dick could win this fight. Each passing hour took him closer to the end. The power of love had brought him back once, but it wasn’t going to be enough to save his life.

"He's human. I know we are all used to him performing amazing feats, but he..." Three harsh, determined words cut the doctor off.

"Dick, wake up."

Alfred lifted his tear-streaked face. Leslie turned to Bruce, shocked.

"Dick, wake up," he repeated, staring at pale young man intently.

Leslie's bottom lip began to tremble. Bruce was ordering Dick to live. "It doesn’t work that way, Bruce,” she whispered. “Even with all your skills, you can’t control death. Dick stayed with us longer than anyone else could have. He did that for you, but..."

"Damn it, Dick. Wake up." Bruce’s entire body was rigid, his lips fine and pressed together, the nerve in his left cheek rippling uncontrollably.

Alfred stepped up to the billionaire and started to reach out to him. Bruce rose so abruptly he knocked the chair off its legs. The furniture crashed to the ground in an explosion of sound.

"Nightwing, report in."

Tears spilled down Leslie's face as she watched grief tear apart the strongest man she’d ever known.

Alfred slid his arm around Bruce's back and hugged him in a futile attempt to protect him. Bruce's expression became harder... but then, it was no longer Bruce Wayne.

"Nightwing, report your status," Batman ordered, his hands balling into fists.

Out of the corner of his eye, Alfred spotted something astonishing.

"Bruce..." Leslie got no further, her attention grabbed by the stunned butler, who was pointing a shaky finger at the EEG machine. The beeping and flashing had started to increase. The doctor's eyes grew wide. It wasn't possible.

“I’m waiting, Nightwing. Report your status!”

Dick Grayson's brain activity soared. Leslie dragged her attention from the machine to her patient. Dick's ashen features twitched.

"NIGHTWING, REPORT YOUR STATUS, NOW!"

The moment the roar left Batman’s lips, Dick’s eyes snapped open.

“My God,“ Leslie cried. Instantly, she sprang into action. “Nurse! Nurse!” The intensive care professional reappeared. “Summon Dr. Anderson.” Turning back to Dick, Leslie spoke calmly. “Dick? Dick, look at me.”

"He's awake!" Alfred cried, incredulously. “He’s awake. Master Dick!”

Grayson’s eyelids dropped, but he caught them only millimetres from shutting. They drooped heavily over his dull blue eyes as he struggled to hang on to consciousness.

“Dick. Come on, son. Look at me. I need to know if you understand me.” The danger of brain damage was higher than Leslie had been prepared to admit. “Dick?” She licked her lips, glanced up at Bruce and Alfred and shook her head slowly. He wasn‘t responding.

The euphoria on Alfred’s lined face drained away. “Master Dick?”

No reaction. No sign of any awareness. Just two blank eyes peering out at nothing.

Dr. Anderson rushed into the room, jostled Alfred out of the way, moved up to his patient and flashed a light into Dick’s eyes.

Alfred held his breath.

Batman frowned at the intruder.

“Pupils are responding to light.” Anderson flicked the light from side to side. “Follow the light, Dick.” Grayson’s eyes didn’t move -- staring emptily ahead. Anderson continued his examination for several moments, but Dick failed to show any sign that he was aware of what was going on around him. His haunting blue eyes continued to stare unseeing into space through the slits his eyelids permitted.

“No,” Anderson diagnosed softly. “I’m sorry, Dr. Thompkins. He doesn‘t appear to have any conscious brain activity beyond reflex responses.”

“Which means?” Alfred’s voice reflected his fear.

Dr. Anderson placed his hand on Leslie’s shoulder. “It is too early to tell without proper tests, but I’m afraid my preliminary examination indicates considerable loss of brain dexterity. I‘m sorry.”

Alfred swallowed. “Brain damage?”

“He’s in a vegetative state. I’m sorry.”

Batman eyed the other occupants of the room as if they were all speaking gibberish, leaned over the bed and whispered firmly, "Nightwing, report your status." Grayson’s eyes flicked to the right and his blank expression dissolved as his attention was drawn to the voice he knew better than his own.

Leslie’s hand covered her mouth. Dick was responding to Bruce.

“He heard you,” Alfred gasped.

Dr. Anderson’s jaw dropped.

“Status report,” Batman repeated.

Dick‘s pale lips parted. Two weak words formed around the tube in his throat. "Status... shitty." Dick’s eyes closed immediately, but Batman felt a flutter of pressure in his hand as Dick used the only method he could to let his partner know he was okay.

Batman vanished. Bruce Wayne’s face creased with a smile of relief, triumph and a lot of pride.

“You were saying, Doctor?” Alfred demanded, anger siphoning away the relief. “I thought you were supposed to be some sort of expert.”

Dr. Anderson shook his head. “Incredible. His will to live it amazing. I have never seen anything like this. ”

Leslie smiled. “And you never will again.”

“He answered you. What did he say?” Anderson demanded.

“Enough.” Dick had said enough. Bruce reached out and brushed his boy’s hair off his forehead. Dick hadn’t just made sounds or said words. He’d responded to Bruce‘s request, which had required higher order thinking... not to mention the series of coded squeezes that spelled out the two words, ‘I‘m okay.’

“Welcome back, chum.”

Again, Bruce felt Dick’s hand move in his own... no code this time. Just a reassuring squeeze. Wayne straightened his back, slid his free arm across Alfred’s shoulders and smiled. “See, I told you. Our boy is going to be just fine, Alfred.”

VVV

 

Pine Village, Havico - The present

“Mr. Wayne?”

Bruce blinked.

“Mr. Wayne?”

The hospital scene dissolved, replaced by the interior of the Deer Head Tavern. “Sorry.”

“Are you okay?” MacIntosh inquired, his eyebrows drawing down with curiosity.

“Yes. Sorry. I’m just a little distracted.”

“Understandable. It’s a lot of money, but I think you will find the island worth it. If you just wait here, I’ll get the key to the conference room.” Bruce frowned. “Relax, Mr. Wayne. Don Sutton, the owner of the tavern, talks and talks and talks, if you know what I mean? If he realizes who you are, we’ll get caught with him. So, if you just take a seat here, I’ll get the key and be back as soon as I can.”

“Alright,” Bruce agreed. “Mr. MacIntosh, please don’t think me rude, but I’m in something of a hurry.“

MacIntosh looked a little surprised. “Of course, Mr. Wayne. I won’t be long.“ The lawyer made his way across the dimly lit room and disappeared.

Wayne murmured under his breath. What he had just done was a cardinal sin in the business world. He was about to sign a billion dollar contract and he was giving the impression he had more important things to do. The problem was, he did have more important things to do and for the first time, it didn’t involve pulling on the cowl. For one thing, he didn’t like Dick being unsupervised in case he had another seizure. Dick may have dismissed the possibility, insisting that it had been almost two months since his last one, but Leslie hadn’t been able to explain the cause and that worried Bruce.

Reaching up to his temples, Bruce massaged them gingerly as he took a seat at the closest table. His head was pounding and his stomach churning. Glancing down at his watch, he muttered with annoyance. He needed to get this out of the way so he and Dick could talk. The problem was, he wasn’t sure what he should say. He could say ‘sorry‘, but he honestly wasn’t certain what he’d be apologising for. Dick was sensitive about money, that much he had fathomed. The billionaire made a mental note not to make the mistake of offering money again.

Wayne looked over at the bar where several customers were already set for the day, despite the early hour. Bruce’s right leg began to bounce.

“Come on, come on,” he murmured, checking the door MacIntosh had disappeared through. Shaking his head, he took his pen out of his pocket. He’d scan the document, sign it and then track Dick down. The engraving on the cheap gold pen caught his eye. Dick had given it to him for his birthday so many years past that Bruce couldn’t remember which one, but he always carried it with him. As his thoughts moved to Dick, he found himself swallowed again by the memories with him day and night…

VVV

Gotham General Hospital -- 11 weeks 1 day earlier

 

“There are a couple of things we should discuss before I bring him around," Leslie informed Bruce and Alfred, who were on either side of the bed. Impatiently filling the doorway were Barbara and Tim.

“First, we can’t take anything for granted. He’s been through major surgery again and is considered critical. Our biggest concern though, is the brain seizure.” Following Dick’s brief conscious moment the day before, all of his vitals had started to strengthen. However, over night, he’d taken a fit. The brain seizure had come from nowhere and neither Leslie nor Dr. Anderson had an explanation for it. During the fit, his injured lung had collapsed and filled with blood. Now, Dick was back on a respirator and Leslie couldn’t be sure if the seizure had caused any permanent brain injury.

Following lengthy consultation with doctors from around the world, Dr. Thompkins had been advised to intentionally bring her patient around to check the extent of any damage.

“My other concern is the risk of infection. He doesn’t have a lot in reserve to fight it. I’ve got him on the strongest antibiotics I can,” she added, inclining her head to the I.V. “At the moment, they’re working.”

“But that could change?” Alfred asked, his voice thin with weariness and worry. The dark bags under his eyes had become the most prominent feature of his lined face.

“It could change in a split second. We’re on knife edge at the moment. I honestly don’t know what caused the seizure. It may be a one-off thing. Then again… it may not.”

The statement left Alfred reeling. He was on an emotional roller coaster. One minute his emotions were soaring with unrestrained jubilation and then they were crashing again as the reality of the situation penetrated his world. ‘Improving’ and ’stronger’ didn’t equate with Dick actually pulling through, as last night had so brutally shown. Even Bruce didn’t seem so certain now.

“He is capable of breathing unassisted, but we need to build up his strength so his body can take over the functions the machines are performing for him at the moment.”

Bruce, who was sitting on the edge of the chair by the bed, shook his head. His boy had been on the mend and then… Wayne would never forget trying to hold Dick down on the stretcher as Leslie raced his convulsing body to the operating theatre.

It shouldn’t have been Dick. Dick hadn’t been the target of the sniper.

“So why wake him at this stage at all?” the emotionally exhausted man asked. Confusion and anguish flowed with the words and were highlighted in Bruce’s hollow eyes.

Leslie wrapped her arms across herself. Thirty-six hours without sleep was beginning to catch up with her. “Because it is the only way we will be able to tell if there has been brain damage following last night‘s seizure.” The statement echoed in the room.

Brain damage. The term pounded in Bruce’s mind and he squeezed his eyes shut. Anything but that. Releasing a jagged breath and blinking his eyes open, Bruce rubbed his hand over his four day stubble. “How much will you be able to tell today?”

“Yesterday, he answered Master Bruce,” Alfred pointed out, clutching at the only positive he could see. “It was my understanding that that showed complex thinking.”

“It did, but last night everything changed. The seizure wasn’t a small one. However, it may not have harmed him, apart from making him very weak.”

“Or?” Alfred asked.

“Or it could have… “ Leslie swallowed. She was struggling. She felt so helpless. Dealing with an unknown factor was always difficult, but when the life involved was someone she loved dearly, maintaining her professional impartiality was impossible.

“I’ve reduced the drugs I’m giving him so I can bring him around. I don’t know how aware he'll be, though. He may have some short term memory loss. That’s normal. We should be able to tell fairly quickly if the seizure has caused any impairment. If everything is okay, we must impress upon Dick that his recovery will be slow and lengthy -- two words he will fail to understand or choose to ignore. I don’t want any pressure put on his organs, especially his lungs, so we need to keep him calm. No stress. He has been through…”

“We understand, Leslie. He isn’t to be upset and I will personally ensure he understands that he will be tied to the bed if he even looks like getting out of it,” Alfred stated seriously, walking over and sliding his arm around the doctor's back.

Dr. Thompkins forced a smile. “Good. From here on, the motto is slow and easy. Two steps forward, one step back. He isn’t going to bounce back overnight, like he has in the past. The road to recovery is going to be slow, bumpy and uncertain. We came this close” she explained, raising her fingers and parting them half an inch, “to losing him. Both his body and his cerebrum have been through great trauma. There are no guarantees. Dr. Anderson has grave concerns. Speaking of Dr. Anderson, he’s going to devote an entire chapter of his new book to Dick,” Leslie finished, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

“He’s writing a book,” Alfred scoffed, releasing the woman. “What is it called? ‘Thoughts of an Incompetent’?”

Leslie patted his arm. “Don’t judge him too harshly.”

“He wrote Master Dick off from day one.”

“He thought he was dealing with an ‘ordinary’ person.”

Alfred’s lips pursed. “I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than to be classified ‘ordinary.’

Leslie laughed, though the artificial mirth masked her anxiety. What she was about to do had associated risks. Dick’s return to consciousness the day before had been brief, but miraculous... there was no other way to describe it. Medically, there was no explanation. A return to consciousness with the amount of drugs in his system, let alone the lack of brain activity he was demonstrating, should have been impossible. Yet, he had woken up. ’How’ was a question Leslie had long ago learned not to ask in association with both Bruce and Dick. ‘How’ required a medical solution and she didn’t have one. ‘Why‘ on the other hand, intrigued her. Why had Dick awoken at the sound of Bruce’s voice? Because Bruce had somehow reached him in a way that was beyond scientific understanding? Leslie had seen these two men do some amazing things over the years, but the past few days had left everything else in its wake.

“Okay, here we go.“ Carefully, she inserted a needle into Dick’s I.V. The drug would temporarily counter the one she was using to keep him under.

Dick’s heavily bandaged chest rose and fell rhythmically as the doctor removed the respirator and waited to see if Dick’s injured lung would be able to take up the work load.

“So far so good,” she muttered. She only required a few minutes to obtain the answers she needed before placing Dick back on the breathing apparatus. However, she would have to monitor both his lung and brain activity very carefully.

Next, Leslie removed the tube from Dick’s throat. As she did so, the pale young man moaned.

“He’s waking up,” Tim cried from the doorway.

“Shhh. Just let him come out of this on his own,” Leslie ordered, raising the bed with the remote control.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10



© January 2006 Aussie Nightwriter : This relates only to the creative property in this story. The distinctive way the story unfolds, the specific dialogue and unique situations are mine. I acknowledge that some of the characters and settings belong to DC comics and thank them sincerely for turning a blind eye so I can borrow them. (g) No infrigement of copyright was intended and no profit has been made from this story... so, please don't sue me. It wouldn't be worth your while.

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