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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 9

Wayne Manor-- 5 weeks 3 days earlier

“Hey, will you ease up, Barbara,” Dick complained. The redhead folded her arms across her chest. Dick wriggled to get more comfortable in bed. He’d been sitting up in the one spot for the last hour. “Bruce is just... you know what he’s like.”

“He’s obsessed and that obsession almost got you killed,” she insisted, stabbing a finger at him.

“Whooow,” Dick disagreed, raising his hand. “No, it didn’t. I did that all on my own. I made the decision to leap up onto that stage. I knew what was going to happen.”

“Then why did you do it?!” Her response held so much force that her wheelchair jerked.

Dick blinked. “Did you expect me to just stand there and watch him get shot?”

Silence filled the room.

“No... I...” Barbara bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry. I... I’m sorry. I don’t really have a right to...”

“Right? Please. Now you’re starting to sound like him,” Dick snorted.

Tears welled in Barbara’s eyes. She loved Dick. She hadn’t realized she was in love with him until that single moment at the hospital when she had known with certainty that he was dying. "I thought I was going to lose you,” she choked out.

"By the sound of things, technically you did,” Dick commented as he reached for the glass of water Alfred had left for him.

"Don't be flippant about this," Barbara snapped.

Dick withdrew his arm and studied her face as a tear teetered on her cheek before sliding off. “Hey, relax. I’m okay, pretty lady.” He reached out to her and Barbara took his hand in both of hers. “You have to know by now that you aren’t going to get rid of me that easily.”

“Dick, please,” she whispered.

He frowned. “What? Hey, Babs. Come one. I’m fine.” He squeezed her hand and nodded once in assurance.

Barbara lifted one hand and wiped her eyes, but continued to grip his hand with the other. It was time to tell him. She’d practised and rehearsed this moment for the past six weeks. “Dick, I... “ All the words were gone apart from the three she wanted so desperately to say. “I love you.”

“Yeah, I know,” he stated, easily, bouncing their hands twice. “You and me are like siblings.”

Her face contorted. “Siblings?” she repeated, as if the word were something particularly unpleasant.

“We’ve grown up together. Outside of Alfred, I don’t think anyone knows me as well you.”

Barbara’s lip began to tremble. “I don’t want to be your sister. Dick, when I said I love you, I meant... I...”

He continued to gaze at her and his eyes widened a little as his handsome face creased with surprised understanding. “I’m in love with you too... have been since the day I hit puberty, but I didn’t think... I think we should wait.”

Barbara opened her mouth.

Dick shook his head. “Let me finish. Let’s give ourselves some time. I don’t want this to just be a temporary thing.”

“Temporary?” she asked, confused.

“I don’t want you to be influenced by what’s just happened. We’re all feeling a bit shell shocked at the moment. Let‘s take it slow until...”

Barbara leaned forward and placed her finger on his lips to silence him. “What just happened made me realize that all that I’ve been looking for I’d been taking for granted, Dick. I’m not in love with you because I almost lost you. I’m in love with you because... because I love you.”

“Oh.” He was genuinely surprised... happily taken aback.

She smiled at him. “So, do you still want to take things slow?”

“Hell, no.” She leaned into him and their lips brushed.

“That’s enough, you two.”

The pair sprang apart like two teenagers caught by a parent.

Alfred strode into the room, shaking his greying head. “He doesn’t have the strength for that.”

Dick glanced at Barbara and mouthed, ‘Wanna bet?’ Barbara blushed beautifully.

“Miss Barbara, your father is downstairs ready to take you home.”

“Thanks Alfred.” She leaned forward and kissed Dick on the cheek. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”

“On the cheek? That‘s it?” Dick asked. He squeezed her hand again.

She beamed at him. “Love you.”

Dick grinned and glanced at Alfred. “I’m seeing an older woman.”

Barbara slapped him playfully. Her and Dick’s eyes came together and they shared a look of passion that had Alfred turning away to give them some privacy. When he looked back, they were just pulling apart, Barbara red as beet and Dick’s eyes sparkling.

Alfred clicked his tongue with amusement. “The first time I had to pull you two apart, you were fourteen, Master Dick and you, Miss Barbara, must have been...”

“A little older,” Barbara jumped in.

“Quite so,” Alfred agreed. “This time there is a difference, though. This time, I approve.”

“Since when did we need your approval, Alfred?” Dick chuckled.

Alfred shot the young man an ‘unimpressed’ look which left Dick laughing.

“Tomorrow,” Barbara said as she pulled her chair away from the bed and headed out the door. “I’ll ring you tonight.”

“I’ll be waiting, pretty lady.”

“I will be out in a moment to assist you down the stairs,” Alfred called after her and then he turned back to Dick.

“She loves me, Al.”

Alfred nodded, genuinely happy for Dick. “I don’t believe there has ever been any doubt.”

Dick leant back against the pillow and rubbed the back of his hand across his weary face. He got so tired so quickly. It was frustrating.

“I’ve just had another phone call and orders to ‘check’ on you.” Dick rolled his eyes. “I know, I know. He’s smothering you.”

“He's treating me like I'm eight again,” Dick complained, reaching for the glass of water and sipping from it.

"He wants to show you how much he loves you, but the only experience he has in showing any emotion to anyone, was that period of time when you were young and so he's drawing on that. Be patient with him,” Alfred encouraged, taking the glass from Dick.

“Alfred, I'm not a kid any more.”

“No, you aren’t... despite how you often act.“ The pair exchanged a wry grin. “He has never known how to deal with the fact that you grew up. He was able to handle you becoming Nightwing because...”

"Because Nightwing is part of his team and he's the boss. He gets to make all of the decisions," Dick grumbled.

Alfred nodded. "He can't do that with an adult Dick Grayson."

"He's a control freak."

"Yes,” Alfred agreed, love shinning from his face. “But he's our control freak."

Dick shook his head, but he was smiling too. “True. You know, I'd go crazy if it weren't for you, Al."

Alfred removed the second pillow from behind Dick and helped to ease him back down into the bed. "And I would be relatively sane, if it weren't for you,” he whispered, sweeping Dick’s hair of his forehead. “And now, it is time for you rest... and if I come back in here and find you are sneaking girlfriends into your room, I‘ll tan your hide."

Dick burst out laughing.

“She loves you, young man. You are very lucky indeed... and so is she.”

 

VV

Pine Village, Havico - The present

Just thinking about Barbara lifted Dick’s heart. Barbara loved him... not as a brother, but as a lover. All of which left only his relationship with Bruce to sort out. That was far more complicated because it involved the adoption, Nightwing, Batman, Bruce… and more.

Dick didn’t know where to start. Up until this point, he’d only been focusing on helping Bruce through all that had happened. The changes he’d seen in the other man were positive, but Dick knew he was avoiding thinking beyond that. He wanted to return to Bluhaven after this weekend, but there was so much uncertainty in his life at the moment... and yet, at the same time, everything felt right. He and Bruce were close again. He’d been making a difference in Bludhaven, as evidenced by the chaos that had broken out when he’d been injured. He and Tim were having fun and Barbara loved him.

Dick found himself more than tempted to stay at the Manor longer, for fear of upsetting the utopia he was enjoying. However, burying his head in the sand wasn’t his style. He needed to start sorting out his emotions and getting his life back to normal -- well, as normal as his life had ever been. To do that, he needed to fly without his safety net and that meant a return to Bludhaven.

Dick shoved his freezing hands into his pockets. He and Bruce had forgotten to pack gloves. There were only two things Alfred had left for them to pack themselves - gloves and toothbrushes. Needless to say, buying toothbrushes was high on their list of priorities today.

As Dick continued down the street, he noted that the buildings were becoming less pristine. Ahead, he spotted a large worn sign that displayed the words, “Deer Head Tavern”. Dick frowned. The roof looked as if it was about to collapse under the snow and the flaking brown paint and two boarded up windows weren’t exactly inviting. Why would some high profile lawyer have suggested this place? Dick had a vague memory of Bruce receiving a message from MacIntosh’s secretary changing the time and date of the meeting. The hair prickled on the back of the young man’s neck. Something didn‘t feel right.

Grayson entered the Tavern, the door swinging closed behind him automatically. His body shuddered, reacting to the dramatic change in temperature. Dick unzipped his coat as he walked toward the bar. Those seated looked him up and down with interest.

“You’ve got the wrong end of town, kid. The tourist strip is the other end,” the barkeep offered. “Visitors to the island don’t come in here.”

“I’m looking for someone. A stranger to these parts. About 6’2, dark hair, would have come in here about fifteen minutes ago.”

The barkeep flicked his attention to two drinkers and all grinned. “Yeah, he was in here.”

“Why so funny?” Dick asked, frowning.

“He was off his face. High on drugs by the look of it. Sat there talking real loud to himself.”

“Not the person I’m looking for,” Dick dismissed, turning and scanning the room. “The man I’m after was coming here to meet a lawyer. Were there any other strangers in here today?”

“Only the ‘high’ fella and the guy with him. I see everyone who comes in. This person you’re looking for, was he wearing an orange parka?”

Dick turned and studied the other man carefully. “Yes.”

The barkeep inclined his head to the table closest to the door. “He sat there for about ten minutes talking and twitching and then his friend came back, helped him up and they went down the hall.”

Dick nodded his thanks and briskly set off in the direction indicated. His earlier curiosity had become confusion with the slightest prickling of concern. Grayson entered the dimly lit corridor and paused noting the doors lining it. Each was signed – kitchen, office, staff toilets. At the very end and on the left, the door was ajar. Dick jogged down to the room and looked inside. It was empty.

Grayson’s heart rate increased. He wasn’t worried yet, but he certainly had a number of questions. Had Bruce and the lawyer come here and then, deciding it didn’t suit their purposes, gone else where? Why had Bruce been acting drunk or drugged?

As Dick turned to leave, something caught his eye. He squinted at the shiny object resting on the carpet under a chair. Immediately, Dick knew what it was. Crouching, he picked up the pen and his jaw tightened. The inscription… ‘Happy Birthday, Bruce’ glared back at him. Now, Dick was worried. There were only two reasons why the pen was on the floor – because Bruce had deliberately left it as a marker for Dick or because… “Damn.”

Dick shoved the pen into his pocket and dashed out into the hall. Time was now a factor. He needed to find Bruce quickly. Whatever had happened, Bruce was leaving a trail for him.

Grayson looked right toward the bar, but knew the barkeep would have seen Bruce leave if he’d gone that way, so Dick turned to the fire exit and forced the heavy doors open. The exit opened onto an ‘L’ shaped parking area that snugly contoured to the shape of the dull brown building. Dick looked down. The fresh footprints in the snow told a very specific story -- five people, one being dragged.

A burning shot of adrenaline released into Dick’s system. Bruce was in trouble. Whether that meant Bruce was just playing the part of a kidnapee, hoping Dick would find him so he didn’t have to reveal who he was, or whether Bruce was really in trouble, wasn’t relevant at this stage.

The trail of footprints extended out directly in front of the young man, clinging closely to the Tavern wall before disappearing around the side of the building.

The blare of the generator rang in Dick’s ears, neutralizing that sense. His vision, too, was obscured by the falling snow, but Dick didn’t have time to contemplate such things. He raced to the end of the building where the trail turned, and he peered around the corner. The scene that greeted him was the one he was half expecting. Three men were wrestling to get Bruce into the back of a large canvas-backed truck. One other was watching, impatiently. Bruce’s attempts to free himself were more than feeble… they were real, not an act. The barkeep’s words echoed in Dick’s mind. ‘High on drugs by the look of it.’ The man’s choice of words had been closer to the truth than Dick had realized.

Grayson sized up the situation. There were four of them and Bruce wasn’t going to be any help. Normally, such odds wouldn’t have been a problem, but Dick knew he wasn’t as fit has he could be. No one would hear his cries for help and if he went to collect help…

“Let him go!” Dick shouted over the thundering of the generator as he stepped out from the cover of the building. Startled by his sudden appearance, Bruce’s attackers spun toward him.

“Stay out of this,” one shouted. “This isn’t any of your business.”

Dick advanced. “I said, let him go. Now!”

VV

“Dick?” Bruce murmured. He hadn’t heard his partner. It was more a feeling. Wayne continued to order his arms to fight, but his limbs had become largely unresponsive and darkness kept encroaching at the edges of his vision. He had to free himself. He didn’t want Dick to get caught up in this… whatever this was.

As one of his attackers released him, Bruce caught sight of Dick… advancing. His partner’s words, strong and clear rose over the generator and echoed in the parking lot. “Release him and back away.” Bruce stopped thrashing, his blurred vision on Dick. The ball was in his partner’s court. Two of the thugs started toward Grayson.

Movement behind Dick caught Bruce’s attention. “No!” he screamed.

Dick didn’t hear the shout, but read the warning on Bruce’s face and spun… too late. A snowmobile, masked by the sound of the generator, had rushed up behind him. Before Dick could respond, it smashed into him, the bone shattering impact sending him spinning into the air. Bruce tried to follow the arc of his partner’s body, watching for the tell-tale signs of grace and control, but one of the thugs obscured his vision. Bruce tried to shove the man out of his way, but the drug surging though him stole his coordination. Wayne knew Dick’s body hadn’t been taut and controlled and as it normally would be. He knew his boy hadn’t had time to react and had taken the full impact on his legs, abdomen and chest.

At the last moment, the thug moved and Bruce witnessed Dick’s descent. Grayson didn’t ‘land’. Rather, he crumpled into a heap ten feet from the collision. “Dick!” but the word was lost in the drone of the tavern generator.

Wayne was dragged up into the back of the truck, still struggling. In his mind’s eyes, he could see Dick falling… falling…

 

Wayne Manor-- 3 weeks 6 days earlier

Bruce lunged up the last two steps, catching Dick as his legs buckled and he started falling backwards.

“What the hell are you doing?” Wayne roared as he tried to keep his own feet under himself on the stairs. Grayson slumped against him, and so Bruce lifted, cradling the frail young man in his arms. “You’re pushing yourself too hard.”

“No one asked you,” Dick panted. Leslie had said that he could get out of bed for periods of ten minutes at a time and so Dick had planned out his own ‘gentle exercise régime.’ He needed to get back on his feet so he could return to Bludhaven.

Grayson had walked up and down the landing a dozen times, attempted two push ups and then had descended the long staircase with only minor discomfort. Unfortunately, by that time he was exhausted and ascending had drained the final ebbs of his energy. He’d gotten a third of the way back to the top before his legs had gone to water and he’d suddenly found himself falling.

“Put me down. I can do it,” Dick insisted, trying to free himself from Bruce’s strong grip.

Wayne started back up the stairs. “You’re too weak yet. What the hell did you think you were doing attempting the stairs? If I hadn’t come along we’d have found in a heap at the bottom. You could have broken every bone in your body and given Alfred a heart attack. Leslie said walking to the bathroom and back, not this!”

“Put me down, damn it.”

Bruce ignored him and continued up the stairs, showing little evidence of the strain of carrying the other man. “Stop moving or I’ll drop you.”

“Bruce! I’m not asking. Put me down. I need to do it myself.”

“Not yet.”

"This isn’t your decision. Let me down!” When it became clear that Bruce had no intention of listening, Dick became still. “Damn you, Bruce."

"More than likely," the older man chuckled.

“You think this is funny?” Dick snarled, once again trying to free himself.

Bruce sighed. “No,” he whispered as he stopped. No, he didn’t think it was funny. As a matter of fact, despite how child-like, futile and ridiculous Dick’s struggle may appear to an observer, Bruce understood the frustration and Dick’s need to prove to himself that he was on the mend.

Grayson had lost considerable weight in the past weeks and his muscle tone was gone. The pajamas, which had once fit him snugly, now hung on him like a sack. He had stopped taking the painkillers because they made him groggy… something Bruce had done in the same situation two years earlier. Dick’s frustration at his lack of progress was something Bruce truly understood and he wasn’t surprised that it had come to this.

Wayne lowered Dick’s slipperless feet to the stairs. “All right.” Carefully, he laid his son’s hand on the banister, waiting until Dick’s fingers circled around it. Only once he was certain that Dick was capable of holding his own weight, did he release him. The older man hovered close by, ready to catch his boy should he fall.

Dick glared at Bruce for several seconds and then, leaning heavily on the railing, he stepped up one stair. His single-minded objective pushed all else aside. His breathing immediately increased and his free hand clutched at his tender chest.

Bruce grimaced, but suppressed the urge to ‘do something’.

Alfred appeared below, but Bruce held up his hand to silence him. Dick needed to do this… if for no other reasons then to learn that he wasn’t yet ready for such stunts.

Grayson paused for a moment and then took another step. Perspiration beaded on his forehead. His muscles protested. Pain leached from each pore of his skin. He gritted his teeth. He could do it. There were only four stairs to the top. Dick focused on the landing. “Just four,” he muttered. He lifted his foot and the leg holding him began to tremble. He started to wobble.

Alfred held his breath. Bruce’s face creased with frustration.

Dick’s foot made it to the step and he lifted… lifted with all his might, but his body didn’t move. A string of curses echoed out of him and with cry of determination he dragged his body upwards. It was simply too much and he lost his balance. Bruce’s hand darted out to the middle of his back and supported him as he righted himself.

Wayne muttered under his breath, moved up beside Dick and threaded his arm around Grayson’s waist. “Together,” he offered.

Dick swallowed and turned to the other man in clear distress. “This… is… ridiculous.” He was wheezing from the effort, his lips thin and paled from the pain.

“No, it isn’t,” Bruce soothed. “You have to give your body time.”

“It’s… been… weeks.”

“I know. I remember what it’s like. Give it time.”

Dick sighed loudly and the fight left him. Bruce strengthened his grip but didn’t try to pick him up. Instead, he waited.

Grayson slid his arm across Bruce’s shoulders. “Okay. Together. The dynamic duo,” Dick finished, forcing a grin.

Bruce smiled. “Always.”…

Pine Village, Havico - The present

 

The hallucinogenic memory faded and for a split second, Bruce caught a glimpse of his partner lying in the snow. “Dick!” but the word was slurred and didn’t form properly. Among the darkening images and fog that was rolling in over his mind, Bruce’s helplessness swelled. He could do nothing. In the past, even when he’d come ‘too late’ to stop injury, he’d always been able to go to Dick and ultimately… save him.

The canvas flap on the back of the truck was wrenched down, physically cutting Bruce off from Dick. With determination, Bruce renewed his struggles, but it was futile. He roared in anguish, only to have a huge hand clamped over his mouth. He was Batman and he couldn’t help his own… his… partner.

VVVVVVVV

Wayne Manor - The present

 

“Yes, I heard from them last night when they arrived. I wonder how the weekend is going?” Alfred mused.

“I’m sure they have everything under control,” Barbara laughed.

Alfred polished the phone as he listened to Barbara and a smile of contentment spread across his face. Barbara had always been a part of ‘the family’ but if things developed as he predicted, she might well become a member of the family in name also. While that might be a little premature, Alfred was quietly confident. He’d been the first to know of their feelings for each other at the inappropriate ages of 14 and 19.

“When do you expect them home?”

“Not until Monday,” Alfred answered, rubbing a persistent grease mark with some vigor.

“Father’s Day away?” Barbara sounded surprised. Dick had told her he was going away for a few days with Bruce, but it hadn’t occurred to her until now that it would include Father’s Day.

“I’m afraid so. Not the wisest of the master’s decisions.”

“Oh? Dick was…” Barbara fished.

“Master Dick was reservedly happy… my English teacher would have a field day with the word reservedly.”

Barbara chuckled. “You are one of a kind, Alfred.” Silence fell uncomfortably between them. “So, Bruce is watching Dick in case…”

“I think I can say with some assurance that Master Dick will be lucky if Master Bruce allows him to use the bathroom unsupervised… at least, those were my instructions.”

Barbara laughed again, but the mirth wasn’t real. The dreaded word ‘epilepsy’ pounded in her head. She’d been doing some research and while the condition could usually be controlled with medication, Dick’s was something of a mystery. None of the doctors could really explain what had happened or why. What it meant for the man she loved was yet to be seen, but she was prepared to admit, she was worried.

“I hope everything is going as Bruce planned.”

“I have a feeling that may be a little optimistic,” Alfred murmured. “I’m afraid this isn’t something we can help them with. They are on their own.”

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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