forward, stopping when he was only inches from ‘Bruce.’ “You were in love with
through him… a frozen holographic image.
every muscle in his body rippling. His mind reeled. He glared at the
hologram. He felt anger but didn’t know why. So Bruce had known his
mother… loved his mother. Did that make a difference? He was confused.
He’d always believed it had been fate that had brought Bruce to the circus that
night. That fate had caused their paths to cross but that wasn’t the case.
Bruce had been there to see… watch… his mother. So, what did that mean
exactly? That Bruce had taken him in because…
as all he’d ever believed dissolved. Bruce had taken in the son of the woman
he’d once loved. Dick lowered his chin. Was he just the son of Bruce’s first…
perhaps his only true love? Dick felt winded… and wounded.
“A right to
know,” he whispered. “Not the man I thought you to be... Change my opinion of
you.” All of the statements Bruce had made, now made complete sense. Dick
walked across to the chair at the computer, sank into it and shut his eyes.
He’d always thought... always believed Bruce had taken him in because he’d
recognised a kindred spirit. Others had said it was because Bruce felt sorry
for the ‘poor little circus tramp’, but he’d never believed that. Now... now
it would appear they had basically been right and Bruce had simply felt sorry
for a past love’s child.
Dick raised his
face and stared at the hologram. “Resume.” Even to his own ears, his voice
flickered momentarily and adjusted its perspective so ‘Bruce’ was directly
facing the direction of Dick’s voice.
“When Mary started to fall, I knew I could do nothing. Immediately
I looked up at you. I watched your face and I was taken back to the night my
parents died. I saw every emotion I had felt replayed on your face.
After my parents were murdered I lamented the fact no one had leapt out of the
shadows and saved them like you see in comic books. I trained to be that
someone but with all my training, all the expertise I had gathered, I could do
nothing to prevent another child being orphaned in the same way. My nightmare
had repeated… and someone else was starting a life of living hell. When you
slid down that rope and raced toward your fallen parents I remember leaping to
my feet and vaulting the chairs in front of me to get to you. But the circus performers
had flocked you. You were surrounded by people who cared. It was the best I
could hope for because it allowed me to go in search of justice for you.
I left the tent, suited up and immediately began investigating.
By the time the police arrived, I knew of the protection racket Zucco was
running and that he’d threatened Pop Haly. I knew you were a witness to
Zucco’s threats. At first Jim refused to let me speak to you, stating you were
in shock and that my Batman garb would frighten you. I knew he was right about
the first and entirely wrong on the second point. You had just seen the most
frightening thing in your life. Nothing you would ever see again would compare.”
swallowed. Bruce was right. He had seen the most shocking thing in the world
when he was eight years old... nothing he had seen since came close to the
horror of seeing the looks on this parent’s faces as they fell. He still saw
it in his nightmares. He remembered every moment of that night. Those who
said such memories faded over time were wrong. Everything was crystal clear.
Time had slowed. He remembered seeing the impact as his parents had simultaneously
hit the ground. He remembered his father’s eyes were open. He remembered the
blood trickling from his mother’s mouth.
Dick shook his
head, consciously blocking the images as Bruce had taught him to do and instead
focused on the man who had directed the course of his life following that night.
when Batman had approached him outside the tent. He had been drawn to Batman’s
eyes... the eyes of a human being in pain. A man who had said exactly what he
wanted to hear. “I will get the person or people who did this. Tell
me exactly what you saw and I will make sure your parents get justice. I
swear.” Others had been
saying ridiculous things like, ‘it will be alright’. Batman had said he’d get
the person. Dick had needed to hear that.
“You looked me straight in the face and described what you saw.
I actually felt closer to you than I’d ever felt to anyone. No one else would
understand that, but I know you do.”
Dick nodded. He
did understand. He understood completely. He had felt safe in Batman’s
company that night. His life was totally out of control but the chaos had
paused momentarily when Batman had spoken to him. In those seconds the rest of
the world had ceased to exist and it had only been the two of them. Batman’s
voice had been firm, yet reassuring.
listened intently when he’d described seeing Zucco in the tent and when he’d
asked if his parents were dead, Batman had answered him honestly, unlike others
who had insisted a doctor was coming. ‘They died the
moment they hit the ground. They felt no pain. Death would have been
instantaneous but the last thing they would have been thinking was how much
they loved you and that they wanted you to be strong. You can do that soldier,
“I understood your pain and sensed instinctively you saw beyond
the mask.” Bruce’s voice
jolted Dick back to the present. “I asked Jim if you had any family and when he told
me he didn’t think so, I decided right then I wouldn’t allow them to put you
through what I had. You would have a home with someone who understood. I left
you with Jim momentarily to examine your parents’ bodies and it wasn’t until
they pulled back the blanket I remembered it was Mary.”
Bruce paused. “I had loved your
mother and she was the reason I was in the audience that night, but don’t for a
moment think your being Mary’s son influenced me. Dick, we share a common
tragedy and as a result, I felt a unique connection to you. That, and that
alone, is the reason I took you into my life.”
Dick took a
slightly deeper breath to centre himself. All he had always believed and more
had just been restored and confirmed.
“I wanted to make a difference for you so you didn’t end up like
“There are worse things than turning out like you, Bruce... Resume.”
“I wanted you to have someone to go to who would understand the
anger, the grief, the sense of helplessness... the nightmares. I should have
told you I that I had once loved your mother, but I didn’t want you to think
the reason I opened my life to you was because of her. It was never about her.
I admit that as you got older you looked more like her. And I won’t lie you.
There are times when I do see her when I look at you. But she had, and has,
nothing to do with how I feel about you. She was not the motivation for
me making you my ward. She is a faded memory.”
his jaw. Only Bruce could say something that tactless.
“The only reason I remember her at all is because she’s your
mother... not because you’re her son. I hope I’m making sense.”
“You are... and
I believe you.” Bruce had been a lot of things, but he’d never lied to Dick.
He’d withheld things, shared things on a need-to-know basis which Dick had
found infuriating, allowed Dick to believe things that weren’t necessarily so
because apparently it was for his own good, but Bruce had never lied to his
face - Dick was certain of that. When others had questioned, Dick would ask
and once Bruce gave his answer, Dick had no doubt in Bruce’s word. Of course, as
a teenager he’d questioned everything Bruce said... but then, that was what
teenagers did. Yes, he’d questioned, but he’d never had doubt.
Dick ran his
hand through his hair, trying to picture a seventeen year old Bruce in love. It
wasn’t easy to see. By the time Dick had come into Bruce’s life, Bruce was
filtering his emotions but by the sound of it, that wasn’t the man Dick’s mother
His mother and
Bruce and his
Dick snorted. Considering
what Bruce had just said, Dick had every right to suspect any affection the
other man had showed him was because when he looked at him all he saw was his
mother, but Bruce was adamant that wasn’t so… and Dick accepted that.
why this had played on Bruce’s mind and why the older man had made the decision
not to say anything. In his own rather strange way, Bruce had been trying to
protect Dick. Over the years he had realized that protecting him had been one
of Bruce’s strongest motivators.
Dick rose to
his feet and studied the frozen hologram. He had the compulsion to walk up and
hug Bruce... to thank him... to...
mentioned the bond they’d shared. Dick had always sensed it too. Their common
tragedy linked them in a way others could never begin to understand.
No one else
really ‘knew’ Bruce. No one else truly understood Bruce the way he did, not
even Alfred. The little boy who had stood staring at his murdered parents was
forever alive in Bruce and at times crippled him emotionally. While an
identical tragedy was a part of who Dick was, Bruce had been there to ensure
the same hadn’t happened to him.
For everything,” Dick whispered. He was who he was because of Bruce. His
parents had played a part, but through no fault of their own it had been a
small part. They had laid the foundation, but it had been Bruce and Alfred...
and to a lesser extent Barbara, Roy, Donna, Garth and Wally, who had built on
the foundation and shaped him into the person he’d become. All in all, he’d
been extremely fortunate Bruce had known his mother and therefore had been in
the audience that night. “Resume.”
“So I simply didn’t tell you I knew your mother. There didn’t
seem to be any reason to... but everything changed in the week before your
Dick frowned. Had
someone found out? Threatened to tell Dick? Dick’s breathing quickened. If
that was the case, Bruce would have reacted badly.
and shook his head slowly.
Dick waited but
nothing further was forthcoming.
hologram froze. Dick cursed softly. It was so easy to forget it wasn’t
actually Bruce standing there. “Resume.”
image started again, but Bruce said nothing. He blinked several times indicating
the programme was still running.
“You were just beginning to rebel. Not badly… not compared to
other teenagers.” Bruce
smirked affectionately. “Alfred assured me I was lucky but I still wanted to
kill you every time you questioned my instructions.”
give instructions, Bruce. You gave orders and disobeying them was akin to
treason.” Dick sighed. He’d resented it so much once. Now he’d give his
right arm to have Bruce give one of his royal decrees… as Alfred had dubbed them.
turned to the elderly man who was the glue that held their unusual family
together. As an eighteen year old, Bruce had employed Alfred as a butler. It
was his first act as an adult… no longer a ward of the state. Alfred loved to
tell the story of how he had retired from MI6 deciding to return to his
original professional as a butler because he looking for a less ‘exciting’
life. It hadn’t quite worked out that way. “Resume.”
“A few days before your birthday party - a party you insisted
you didn’t want, but appearances dictated it was a requirement.”
damned” Dick growled. “All those stuck-up people from the society pages
coming along to celebrate the birthday of Bruce Wayne’s major charity case.
That’s why I didn’t want it, Bruce… Resume.”
“We both simply had to play our part and once it was over we
could do whatever you wanted. It is the price we pay for doing our job. We had
a hell of an argument over it. You just wanted a quiet night at the manor with
a few close friends but… actually, I wish we could have done that.” Dick could tell the comment was genuine. “A few days
before your birthday we had the official photos taken.”
hologram responded. Dick glanced to the right where a framed photo rested.
It was a 10 by 12 photograph of him from the photo session Bruce had just
referred to. This was one of the rejects… one most people would have deleted
because it captured Dick preparing for the official image. He was getting
settled and only just beginning to turn on his ‘photo’ smile. Others from the
shoot decorated the walls upstairs but this one had slipped through the
elimination process and Alfred had placed it down here. For some reason, this
one had always been Alfred’s favourite. Dick had no idea why.
It was then
Dick remembered something. Alfred had become ill that afternoon. Actually,
it was the only time Dick ever remembered Alfred being ill.
across and picked up the walnut frame, other memories of that day returning.
He and Bruce had argued before the team of photographers arrived. Hell, they’d
argued after the horde left as well, but they’d played happy family while the
photographic team had been present. Bruce just didn’t seem to understand that
Dick had wanted ‘Bruce’ at his party… not the brainless socialite Bruce
insisted on the world seeing and if it was a large public party then the
brainless socialite was a must. With a long sigh, Dick replaced the frame. “Resume.”
The hologram flickered
once and readjusted its perspective to face Dick.
“I don’t know if you remember, but Alfred retired to his room
that day unwell. He had received a shock. You see, he discovered…” Bruce’s mouth continued moving but no words
discovered that you had known my mother,” Dick guessed. “And he wanted you to
tell me before someone else did. So how did Alfred find out? Resume.”
a photograph and held it up. It appeared to be the one Dick had just been
examining. The frame was different – gold - but it looked like the same photo of
him sitting in the chair ‘almost’ smiling.
“Alfred was given
the job of going through the digital proofs and deleting the ones we didn’t
want. As he was scanning he saw this.”
a second photograph, this one clearly the one from the cave. Dick scrutinized
the two photos and his eyes widened. The photo in the walnut frame was of Dick,
but to his surprise, he realized the one in the gold frame wasn’t. Dick
remembered seeing the gold frame once on Alfred’s bedside table. A photo
Alfred had found in a box when he’d first moved into the manor. A photo of...
Dick’s mind churned, suddenly moving in a vacuum.
“Never once did it enter my mind. It should have. I should have
checked. The moment I saw that baby in Mary’s arms I should have demanded a
“I don’t... are
you saying...” Dick stuttered. All at once he felt like he was drowning. Did Bruce
mean... Dick shook his head in an attempt to clear it. How could... Dick’s
gaze was drawn to the visual evidence Bruce held. As a boy, Bruce had never
truly smiled… and the photo of Dick captured him beginning to smile. The two
photos were very similar, not identical but the resemblance was uncanny. The
evidence seemed to point to Bruce being... Bruce would have checked! “DNA.
Did you check the DNA? DID YOU... RESUME.”
“For years others had been saying how much you looked like me
Bruce. Get to the point! Resume, damn you. Resume!”
“...dismissed that as ignorant people seeing what they expected
to see before finding out you were my ward.”
forward, unable to control the adrenaline flashing through his system.
Instantly, the hologram froze. “RESUME!”
“Dick, I simply didn’t consider you could be my son. The
numbers didn’t add up. It wasn’t until I saw that photo I started thinking
outside the box... something I prided myself on doing automatically. I made
the elementary mistake of accepting things at face value. It took sixteen
years, but I finally did the paternity test I should have done all those years
ago.” Bruce swallowed. “It came back
positive, Dick. I’m your father.”