Outside, sirens screamed as rescue personnel and police arrived on the scene. The street was littered with evacuated patients on stretchers, and medical staff dashing about like ants.
Among the traumatised were Alfred and Barbara. Alfred raced to one of the groups of firemen alighting from their vehicle. "There are two people in there. You must go in after them."
A fireman patted his arm. "Calm down. Where?"
"There!" Alfred cried, pointing to the centre of the inferno. Flames were shooting tens of feet into the air. The Wayne Wing, alone, was ablaze. The rest of the hospital was free of fire. Bruce had been the target, Alfred realized. Somehow the assassin had found out that Dick had been moved to the Wayne Wing and that was the most likely spot Bruce would be.
Alfred stood helplessly watching smoke billow from some of the shattered windows of the new structure. “Don't just stand there! Do something?” he pleaded.
It was clear to all those who had paused to stare at the elderly man that no one would be able to get into that section of the building.
"We'll do what we can, Sir," the fireman assured, but Alfred could tell by the young man’s sympathetic expression that there was very little anyone could do.
Everything Alfred cared about was in that building and unlike so many times in the past when he had known ’his boys’ were up against impossible odds, this time it wasn’t Batman and Nightwing in there... it was Bruce and Dick.
Barbara tore her gaze from Alfred and through her tears she stared up at the firestorm. Bruce should have been out by now. He was taking too long. At that moment, there was a booming sound from within the building.
For a split second, all movement outside paused. The fireman nearest Alfred turned to him. “The internal roofs are caving in. I… I’m sorry.” Rescue of any occupants was now out of the question. The structure was unsound and the chances of anyone still being alive had just been reduced to nil.
"No.” Alfred’s knees buckled and he crashed onto them. “Please, don't take them like this!" A nurse rushed to his aid, but he didn’t register her touches of comfort.
Barbara’s jaw began to tremble as the full weight of was what had happened hit her. This wasn’t right. Bruce and Dick always made it out. No matter what the odds, they always made it. As the trembling spread through her body, Barbara’s attention was drawn to movement up on the fire escape on the second floor. “LOOK!” she screamed. A figure materialized through the smoke.
“There’s someone up there!“ another voice shrieked.
Alfred’s eyes grew wide. He’d know that outline anywhere. “Master Bruce!“
Bruce Wayne was making way along the fire escape -- and he wasn’t alone. He had Dick in his arms.
"Get some water on them!" a fireman called as others rushed across and started to climb up the external stairs to provide assistance.
Bruce continued to the end of the landing, stopped as he reached the stairs and swung Dick up onto his strong shoulder. Rescue workers met him half way up and tried to take Dick from him, but Wayne had no intention of giving up the precious bundle he was hauling.
He carried Dick to the safety of the street with the aid of two firemen. Coughing uncontrollably, Bruce lowered his boy to the ground. Dick was absolutely silent. No longer were there any reassuring coughs or any other movement from the young man.
“Dick,” Bruce gasped. Nurses and doctors rushed toward them, among them, Leslie.
"Someone get me two oxygen masks," Thompkins yelled dropping beside the pair. "I want a stretcher. NOW!" While Leslie grabbed for Dick's neck, trying to establish if there was a pulse, another doctor began expired air resuscitation.
Alfred crouched beside Bruce. “He’ll be alright,” the elderly man assured, his voice quaking with a mixture of relief and worry.
Bruce was staring at Dick’s soot covered face with strangely calm eyes. He had a feeling... he knew. “Dick?” he panted, reaching out and picking up the silent man’s hand. The doctor blew another breath into Dick’s still lungs.
Dick’s chest rose and then his body was raked with coughing. Cries of relief and some cheering echoed out of those crowded around. Bruce collapsed back against the car behind him as he desperately sought oxygen himself. Dick was alive.
An oxygen mask was placed over his face and as Bruce breathed deeply, unconsciousness took him without his consent. The last thing he heard was Alfred’s voice. “Relax, my boy. You saved him.”
When Bruce awoke forty minutes later, Alfred was hovering over him.
"Dick?" Wayne demanded, removing the oxygen mask.
"No, leave it," Alfred insisted, trying to put it back in place. Bruce brushed it aside. "Dick?" He turned his head and spotted Grayson on a stretcher beside him. “Is he...?”
“Amazing me,” Leslie stated, turning and smiling. “Why that surprises me, I don’t know.“ The media frenzy had prompted her to shift her patients into the back of an ambulance and away from prying eyes.
Outside, the fire was under control. The Wayne Wing was smouldering in ruins, but the rest of the hospital had been saved and more than 80% of the patients were back in their beds. Leslie had refrained from shifting Dick and Bruce into the main part of the hospital. Barbara pointed out that they couldn’t be sure if there was still an assassin out there. Right now, hidden in an ambulance was the safest place for them to be.
Grayson coughed and Barbara, who was seated on the floor of the vehicle holding his hand, bent down and spoke softly to him.
Bruce sat with Alfred's help. “Sir, you should remain still.”
Bruce shifted across to Dick. Leslie and Barbara parted to allow him access. Dick’s eyes were closed and the oxygen mask covered most of his face, but the black ash had been cleaned away to reveal pale and unburned skin.
“He’s doing okay, Bruce. His lung appears to be holding its own. He’s suffering a little smoke inhalation, but otherwise...“ Dick started coughing again. “Lift him up,” Leslie ordered. “It’ll help him to breathe.”
Bruce eased the young man upright. “Easy, chum. Easy.” Wayne grimaced with each cough and wheezing breath Dick took. There was so much pain etched into his young features as the cut and torn muscles in his chest were forced into use. "Breathe slowly."
After a few moments, Dick's coughing abated and he focused his bloodshot eyes on his rescuer. “Bruce?” His voice was stronger than Wayne expected.
"Don't speak, yet" Leslie ordered. “Just concentrate on breathing steadily.” Noting that Bruce was still wheezing a little himself, she ordered, "Bruce put your mask back on.”
The pain around Dick’s eyes eased a little. “What happened to your head?“ he asked, curiously.
Bruce reached up and felt the bandage. “The ceiling caved in on us.“
“Is that a metaphor?“ Dick smirked.
Relief overwhelmed Bruce. Dick was alright. Better than just alright. The last time Bruce had seen him, Dick had been laying in a bed, so weak that he was barely able to speak. Wayne shut his eyes and drew his son into his chest as Alfred draped a blanket around them. The butler crouched beside his boys and wrapped them both in a hug. "Thank, God."
“Ohhh, man. It’s a Kodak moment,” Dick chuckled. Both Bruce and Alfred exploded with unrestrained laughter.
Leslie winked at Barbara. "Men!” Alright, Alfred. Out of the way. And Bruce, you can put him down now. I need to...” She was interrupted when the back of the ambulance was wrenched open to reveal a frantic Tim.
“There you are!” he cried. “I’ve been looking everywhere. No one knew if...” he swallowed and smiled. Bruce was holding Dick again. “Well, it looks like everything’s fine here.”
As Alfred stepped back, Bruce’s eyes moved past Tim, zeroing in on one face amongst the curious onlookers and press being held back some fifty feet away.
“What?“ Tim asked.
Wayne’s body stiffened. REDLAND! The bomber had returned to see if he had fulfilled his contract. Rage rippled through each and every muscle in Bruce’s body. That man had almost taken Dick from him.
Batman started to rise. Dick moaned involuntarily as his chest was jostled by Bruce’s movement. This brought on coughing. Bruce froze. He had a choice. Apprehend Redland and throttle the shit out of him, or hold Dick? Redland or Dick? There was no choice to make.
Bruce dropped his eyes to his son and eased him closer. He would not let go... he'd never allow distance between them again. “Easy, Chum. Just relax.”
“Bruce?” Tim asked, peering back over his shoulder along the line of his mentor’s earlier gaze. He knew Bruce had seen something.
"Redland," Bruce growled, inclining his head. Tim’s and the assassin’s eyes made contact.
Drake's face grew harsh and he snarled, “He’s mine.”
Realizing he had been spotted, Redland attempted to make a run for it, but he didn't get far. Tim weaved his way through the crowd and took bomber down in a flying tackle. It took six people to pull the teenager off the man who had endangered the lives of those he loved. Tim shoved Redland toward some uniformed police shouting, “Here’s your bomber!”
An hour later, Dick was resting in a hospital bed. Alfred had spoken to the press and promised that if they gave the family some privacy, Bruce would provide them with daily statements. He'd added that failure to do so would bring out the full legal force of Wayne Enterprises which would be most unpleasant.
Leslie placed a stethoscope on Dick's bandaged chest.
"My lung seems to be holding its own," Dick offered, echoing Leslie's earlier diagnosis with a smirk. Despite the trauma he'd been through, he was surprisingly robust and the lines of pain around his eyes had faded as the painkillers took effect.
"I suppose you think you're funny," Leslie muttered, but her eyes sparkled destroying her apparent annoyance. She winked at him and he nodded.
Dick sighed and rolled his head across to the man who had not left his side since dragging him from the burning building. Bruce had saved his life... again. Wayne smiled down at him. “Thanks,” Dick whispered.
Bruce simply squeezed his hand. Dick felt close to Bruce... closer at that moment than he could remember for a long time.
Grayson flicked his eyes to Alfred and then dropped his voice. "Do you reckon we could keep what happened in fire between us?"
"Why?" Bruce asked curiously, instinctively lowering his own voice to match Dick’s.
Grayson's brilliant blue eyes lit with mischief. "Because Attila the Butler told me he'd horse whip me if I left the bed. Do me a favour and tell him you found me in the bed, not on the floor."
Bruce smiled and ran his hand through Dick's hair. "Deal."
Dick winked at Alfred who was beaming back at the cheeky grin he'd feared he’d never see again.
Leslie removed the stethoscope. “It’s sounding good.” She knew Dick was in some pain. Following the explosions, he’d dragged himself out of the bed and then coughed for an hour – giving his chest muscles a work out they weren’t yet ready for, but she had increased the pain killers he was taking intravenously. All in all, Dick had come through the ordeal unscathed.
Dick turned back to Bruce and his face became serious. "You got him." It was a statement, not a question.
Wayne nodded. Two Face was back behind bars and the two assassins he'd hired had been dealt with. “It’s all over, Dick. It’s finished. All we have to do is focus on getting you back on your feet.”
“I’ll be tap dancing in no time,” Grayson chuckled, his eyes blinking steadily as sleep took him.
“I’ll hold you to that,” Bruce whispered.