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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.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: The young man I have used to represent Dick is an actor named Eric Close. This photo is from the 1990s. You may recognise him from the hit show "Without A Trace". He played Martin.
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)
When Heroes Grieve
Grief. A faceless entity. An invisible and insidious assault on the very soul of a man. Each must find his own path back from the abyss. Some, however, are forever lost.
Bruce stared down at the wooden cross in front of him. Not much to show for a life. Certainly not enough for a free spirit like... Wayne swallowed.
The wind picked up around him as winter announced itself without mercy. One of the shutters on the small shed behind him began to bang against the wall - a pounding emptiness that echoed the meaninglessness of the figure’s own existence.
The horses in the distant stables shifted restlessly, sensing the approach of a frosty evening. Bruce shivered, though made he no attempt to pull his jumper around himself. Such an action required unconscious thought... and Wayne wasn’t even capable of that. The anger, disbelief and refusal to accept what others proclaimed had all been replaced by an emotion this man knew only too well. The most debilitating state of mind and heart known to humanity had risen up and consumed him.
Wayne lifted his eyes to the long drive way that snaked its way up to the property. He longed to see the approach of... but he never would again. The millionaire re-focused his attention on the impassive stake that represented everything that had meant anything to him.
“Master Bruce.” Wayne didn’t move. Alfred wasn’t sure if his charge had heard him. The elderly man didn’t want to interrupt, but he knew he needed to get Bruce indoors before the grieving man caught pneumonia. Alfred approached his companion and stopped beside him. For a long time he said nothing, staring himself at the plain wooden cross inscribed with a name. Bruce had refused to create a memorial of marble. Nor had he acknowledged the service held at the cemetery. Rather, he had come here... here to a spot that meant something to him... that had meant something to both of them.
The wind lashed the pair as they stood motionless, one drowning in his own numbness, the other searching for some way to help this man he thought of as a son to deal with his grief.
“It’s getting dark. Let’s go inside,” Alfred coaxed, turning. Wayne didn’t move - tragically frozen in the shadow of the cross. “Bruce,” Alfred encouraged, taking the silent figure’s arm. For the first time since Alfred had arrived some twenty minutes earlier, Wayne acknowledged his presence with a nod. Together the two men walked toward the looming mansion some two hundred feet away.
They walked in silence, Alfred's heart as lost as Bruce's, but he had found the strength he needed to go on in the fact that Bruce needed him - needed him like he'd never needed him before.
When they reached the house, Alfred unlocked the door. “You go on in. I’ve got to get some things from the car.”
Wayne made no indication that he'd heard. Alfred watched the once proud man climb the stairs, his face dropped and his arms hanging uselessly at his sides. Alfred Pennyworth shut his eyes and tried to maintain control of his emotions. He just couldn’t handle seeing Bruce like this. Happiness had literally slipped through Wayne’s fingers.
“Why don’t you get a fire started while I unpack these groceries,” the butler suggested, entering the huge open lounge room. Wayne didn’t move. He was sitting on the edge of one of the leather chairs, his elbows on his knees, hands clasped in front of him and eyes directed at the floor with intense concentration. “Master Bruce?” Wayne raised his face. “Come on, son. You get a fire started. It’s going be cold tonight.”
Rising to his feet, Bruce headed for the door. “I’ll get some firewood.” Words! Finally, Alfred had been able to get a response out of Bruce. Almost two weeks without a single sound had been wearing at the butler’s resolve. After all, he too was grieving.
Fuelled with renewed hope, Alfred headed into the kitchen, unpacked the groceries and spread the contents on the polished bench. Gifts had been rolling in almost hourly and considering the crisis, it was quite remarkable. Some beef from James Gordon. Some homemade bread from the Selina. An apple pie from Cassandra. Fruit from Tim‘s parents. Everyone had offered something. They all felt Bruce and Alfred's loss.
Grabbing some plates, Alfred began to slice the beef and share it out. Tonight he was determined to see Bruce eat something. Since the tragedy, Wayne hadn’t eaten anything except the broth Leslie had managed to force into his mouth in hospital, but that was almost a week ago. Over the twelve days since the tragedy, Bruce had lost a considerable amount of weight. The fever had knocked him around originally, but the millionaire had lost interest in food since - lost interest in everything. His face was pale and gaunt. His actions were listless, almost tragic. Once Leslie had released him from hospital, Bruce had come home to the Manor. He hadn’t been seen in Gotham since... and neither had Batman, which was becoming an issue.
As Pennyworth passed the window, his attention was drawn outside. Bruce had returned to the cross. Once again, the millionaire stood motionless - just staring at it. Alfred could feel the tears welling in his eyes. “Come on, my boy. Don’t do this,” the elderly man muttered to himself. He made his way to the door and shouted above the wind, “So, how’s that firewood coming?”
Wayne remained still and silent for several more seconds and then continued on his path to the wood pile. Some moments later, he re-entered the enormous, empty house and dumped the logs next to the hearth. Without a word, the millionaire began to stack the fire. Halfway through, his hands stilled and his head dropped. Across the room, Alfred sensed the cessation of movement. The butler glanced over his shoulder. Wayne drew in a juddering breath and began to shake his head.
Alfred lowered the tray of food to the coffee table and walked up behind his companion. It was time for him to say something. This couldn‘t continue. “Master Bruce, it’s been two weeks. You’ve got to let go.”
“That’s exactly what I did, Alfred. I let him go.” Bruce stared down at his own hands. His mind was accosted with an image of Dick’s face. The shock, the realization, the acceptance of his fate and finally a private message communicated via his eyes, before he was wrenched from his partner’s grasp.
“Bruce, don’t. You didn’t let him go. No man could have held on any longer.”
“Maybe. Maybe if it had been Clark... “
“Bruce, you can’t do this to yourself! Dick wouldn’t want this for you.” Alfred forced a smile. “If I know that boy, he’s probably watching you right now cursing you. I can just imagine what he’d be saying. Something like...”
“DON‘T!” Bruce yelled, leaping to his feet.
Alfred swallowed, his face shadowing with despair. “I don’t know what to do for you, Master Bruce,” the old man whispered, his voice laced with the deep anguish he felt. Old man. Alfred felt incredibly old tonight. He had aged considerably in the last two weeks. “I just...” He looked away.
Wayne’s anger left him quickly. The grieving man walked past his friend, patting Alfred’s arm as he went by.
Pennyworth collected himself and set about changing the subject. “Miss Cassandra sent you an apple pie. I thought I might help you eat it.” There was no response. “Master Tim dropped in today. While the National Guard has been able to get essential services working, morale is very low and Arkham is still missing a number of its key residents. Apparently, things are quite out of control. I think young Master Tim could use a hand.” Alfred waited. Would Bruce consider the proposal? Would he once again pull on the cape and cowl?
“No, Alfred. I’ve got things I need to do here.”
Alfred suppressed the urge to ask what. Gotham was desperately trying to survive one of the greatest almost-natural disasters it had ever seen. The disaster was natural only in so far as the destruction had been the result of nature, but nature had not acted of her own accord. Nature wasn't that precise. At exactly the same moment, cities all over the world were hit by differing tragedies. Tornadoes, cyclones, blizzards and fires ravaged the Earth at the beckoning of a faceless foe. The planet’s protectors could not face the cause on a united front, each racing to their home base to do what they could to protect innocent people from the result of the merciless attack. Metropolis was assaulted by blizzards. Keystone, fires. For Gotham it was a typhoon - a typhoon in the middle of winter. Like the disasters assailing other cities, the typhoon had hit with little warning. The heavy rain caused local flooding within minutes, but the drenching had continued for three days. Gotham City was swamped by driving walls of water. In those seventy-two hours, a decade's worth of rain fell. The devastation was immense. Half the city went under water. More than twenty thousand people had drowned - so quickly had the water risen. There were half a million people missing or displaced in Gotham.
When the typhoon had hit, Batman had sent an emergency request to his team. All had responded immediately and together they had battled the elements to save their city... but not all had survived the war. The casualties had been high - too high. Since Bruce had recovered from the ravages that had afflicted him, he hadn’t pulled on the costume... he couldn't pull on the costume.
“How about I help you with whatever it is you need to do and then we can go and give Master Timothy a hand?” Bruce glanced at his friend and Alfred could see it was time to stop pushing. “Alright, son.” Bruce wasn’t ready yet, but Alfred suspected that Wayne may never be ready. Bruce had created Batman as his way of preventing the world from suffering his own tragedy. It wasn’t just a nightly chance for seeking revenge for the death of his parents, though Alfred knew that was part of it... had been all of it until Dick had come into their lives. The night Bruce had brought the terrified child home, Batman’s crusade changed. From then on, he pulled on the cowl to protect others. “Batman failed,” Bruce had whispered to Alfred in hospital. “How can Batman protect others when he couldn’t even protect his own...?” He couldn’t say the word. He hadn't used it enough at the time when he could and now... now his 'son' was gone.
The two men retired to the table to eat their meal. The flickering of the fire that had always seemed so warm and comforting did nothing but cast shadows over Wayne’s heart.
Bruce sat in silence as Alfred continued to make conversation. Over the course of ten minutes, the butler noted that Wayne hadn’t touched his plate of food.
“Bruce, you have to eat.”
“I’m not hungry, Alfred.”
“Bruce, you haven’t eaten anything in days.”
“More coffee?” Wayne asked, standing and moving off to the kitchen.
“Damn it, son. Don’t brush me aside.”
“I’m not... I am... I’m sorry.” The words were so soft.
Alfred put his knife and fork down. It was like Bruce had given up on life. This was so much worse than the last time Wayne had lost someone he cared about. After Jason’s death, Bruce had turned into an aggressive sonofabitch who sought refuge in pounding the life out of every miscreant that crossed his path. At least it had allowed Alfred to be angry with him. The anger had actually assisted Alfred with his own grief. It had given him something to focus on. This time, however, Wayne hadn’t even looked at seeking solace through others. Bruce had been angry at first but then he had just given up - stopped caring. The millionaire was simply existing... no longer living. Of course, if he didn’t start eating, the former would cease also. Perhaps unconsciously, that was what Bruce wanted.
Wayne stared out into the darkness beyond the window. The moon lit the small white cross. “I had him, Alfred.” Bruce glanced down at his open hands for what was the millionth time in the dozen days since Dick had been stolen from him. “I had him but... the water was just too strong.” The tough man’s voice broke with emotion. He would never forget the look on Dick’s face, nor the events that had led to the loss of the best man he had ever known...
The world had exploded, or so it seemed. Batman stared at the skyline beyond Gotham City. It was breathing with life. Raven in colour and moving with an intensity that echoed authority, day was turning into night. Batman could do nothing but stare at the enormity of nature. He could defend his city against madmen like the Joker and drug lords like the Bostilli family, but how in God’s name did they fight something like that?!
What he was looking at was not a tangible entity, nor was it the sky. It was a cloud, but this cloud extended as far as the eye could see and it was moving toward Gotham City at visible speed. The billowing mass was as high as a mountain and as ominous as the devil’s soul. The sinister cloud belittled all before it, exuding a power humanity could never have. The land below it was shuddering in expectation, the living and non-living bowing before it as it continued on its path toward Gotham City.
On the streets below Batman, yelps and gasps echoed out of the town’s citizens. Panic and hysteria was setting in as people raced out of buildings and then into others, adding their own cries of disbelief and terror and yet, there was an unreal stillness about the air. Without warning, the wind began to pick up. A wind of ice... and then the rain started - though this wasn't rain. This was Mother Nature spewing forth her dissatisfaction at being woken without her consent.
Batman shouted instructions to those below, but it was impossible. They couldn't hear him above the roaring winds and pelting rain.
"Nightwing?" Batman barked into his communicator, clinging to the side of the building as he was buffeted by the fervent elements.
"Holy Mother of God, help us," Dick responded. "Bruce, what the hell are we going to do?" Batman heard fear in his partner's voice. He hadn't heard that since Dick was a child. For the first time, Nightwing had used Bruce's first name over the communicator.
"Help as many as you can and be careful."
"Got it... and you too."
In only minutes, the flooding started. Police and emergency services were swamped. Robin, Batgirl, Huntress and even Catwoman had responded to Bruce's call for assistance, but there was little they could do but watch and try to help as many people survive as possible. The minutes quickly became hours, but the storm showed no sign of weakening.
“Batman, what the hell is causing this?” Robin shouted. He was becoming weary and needed to steal a few moments' rest. Standing in an alcove on top of a building, Robin squinted out through the driving rain. His partners were out there somewhere, each of them doing an impossible job in an impossible situation.
“I'm guessing The Weather Wizard is responsible,” Batman responded, from across the city.
“But he’s never had the strength to co-ordinate such an attack before,” Huntress pointed out as she, too, stopped for a few seconds' rest.
“His wand's power has been magnified,” Nightwing cried, overhearing the conversation via the small earphone in his mask. "It's okay, Ma'am. I've got you."
"Magnified?" Batgirl asked, securing a rail that had been about to fall on a group of people huddled together.
“I spoke to Oracle. She's traced all of this back to the wand and calculates that its energy has been increased by up to 200%,“Nightwing replied, safely depositing the woman he had snatched from the water. “Psimon is responsible.”
"How do you know?" Batman demanded, rescuing a family from their flooding apartment.
"I don't," Nightwing admitted, pausing to catch his breath. "However, Psimon disappeared a few months ago. He'd have the ability to magnify the Weather Wizard's wand. It's the only explanation I can think of."
"You could be right," Batman agreed, his mind zapping at a million miles an hour. The only way to stop the disasters attacking the world was by hunting down those responsible, but that would mean abandoning the people of Gotham. Whoever was behind the attack was using Earth’s heroes' own loyalty and compassion against them. All were too busy protecting innocent people to mount an assault on the perpetrator.
"How did he get his hands on this wand?" Catwoman snarled, as she strained to pull a man three times her own weight to safety.
"Don't ask me. I'm not his secretary," Nightwing snapped. "It's still just a guess."
"It's a good one," Batman commended.
"I’ve got the Titans working on it.”
“The Titans?” Batman cried, hesitating. Nightwing had sent his team into battle without him?
“They can handle it. Troia's leading them and she's in constant contact with Oracle. Oracle knows what she's doing. She'll co-ordinate everything. You needed me here," Dick added, reading his mentor's mind.
"Back to work, people," Batman ordered.
As the water rose, Gotham drowned. Batman watched in despair. Never had he felt so useless or so helpless.
"I need some help. I've got a bus stranded on... oh, shit, the bridge is going!" Nightwing shouted into his communicator.
"Give your position!" Batman cried.
"Everyone converge on that spot. Now." Batman's powerlessness to stop the chaos threatened to consume him. As he swung across his city to join his team, he watched as cars were swept away. Human bodies were floating down there. Bodies of people who had trusted him to protect them. Hell had arrived on Earth and Batman hadn't been able to stop it.
Batman had thought the Earthquake had been bad, but that had happened quickly. This was long, drawn out agony.
“Come on!” Nightwing shouted, spotting the arrival of Robin.
As the boy approached, he took the scene in. Nelson Bridge was an old structure spanning a narrow section of the Gotham River. The water had swelled and was lapping over the bridge, but so strong was the river that the bridge was literally being pulled apart. The mooring on one side was being held by a thread. A huge section in the centre had buckled and about halfway across was a small bus. As Robin watched, the bus tipped onto its side and slid from the bridge.
"Nooo!" the teenager screamed. He and Nightwing watched as the vehicle was swept away by the tremendous current. A huge escarpment of rocks, known as Pirate's Stake rose up directly in the path of the bus. The flimsy vehicle dwarfed by nature crashed into the rocks and stopped moving. The screams of a man, a woman and several children echoed over the sound of the rushing white water.
Nightwing raced down stream. “I need another rope!” he yelled as Huntress, Catwoman and Batgirl arrived.
“Hang on!!” Huntress bellowed to the stranded family. “We’re coming for you.” Those trapped began yelling and waving frantically. “Try to stay calm. We’re coming!”
Robin rushed over to Nightwing and handed him his high tensile rope. “What do you need me to do?” The boy was at a loss. There was no way to swing out there. What the hell was Nightwing going to do?
“Tie it to that tree!” the older man snapped, thrusting the end of Robin's coil back at the teenager and pointing to a tree further up stream. Nightwing turned and handed the other end of the cord to Selina. Catwoman understood and threaded the rope around the young man and began to tie it securely. Nightwing then tied his own coil around himself. “Feed the rope out as I go across. Don’t let it all out at once, or I’ll get caught in it.”
Behind them, Batman appeared. He assessed the situation, instantly. "No, I'll go."
"We need your strength this side to pull them across," Nightwing argued. Batman and Nighwing's eye met and the senior nodded. “Nightwing...” Be careful.
Grayson nodded and then rushed up the bank past the tree to which Robin had secured his end of the rope.
“Nightwing, the river's too strong. You’ll never get across there.”
“Current will bring me down to them.” He continued to move upstream from the bus. “You get ready to haul each of them back.”
“We’ve got another rope. I’ll go out there with you,” Robin suggested.
“Can’t. The ropes could get tangled.” With a wink of reassurance, Nightwing hurled himself into the surging white cauldron without any hesitation. His partners watched with bated breath as he resurfaced and was tossed downstream, but as Dick had stated, he was sent directly toward the stranded bus. Moments later, Nightwing reached the listing vehicle and climbed up onto it. For a second he paused to catch his breath. Grayson was strong swimmer, but the river was monstrous, the swirling water tugging and drawing everything down. The winds, too, were picking up and lashing him without mercy.
“How many of you are there?” Nightwing shouted, leaning in through the door of the tilted bus.
“Five. Me, my wife and our three little ones. The bus driver... he... was swept away when we fell from the bridge.”
Dick cursed. The bus jolted. The woman and her children screamed. Nightwing could see that the vehicle wasn’t going to hold together for long. The force of the current was buckling and bending the flimsy bus. The only thing saving it from filling with water and sinking was the fact that it was snagged on the rocks.
“Each of us is going to have to take a child back with us. You go first.”
“But my wife.”
“Don’t argue!” Quickly, Nightwing jumped down into the bus, untied the rope from around himself and began to fasten it around the man. He then took the second coil of rope and firmly fixed it to the bus before tying it around the man also. By having rope secured on the bank and the bus and by keeping both ropes taut, he and his partners should be able to haul the man across in a straight line.
Dick grabbed the largest child, a boy about ten, and thrust him into his father’s arms. “Now you hang on real tight to your dad, understand?”
Dick patted the boy on the head. “You’ll be fine son." Nightwing climbed back up on top of the vehicle and hauled the pair out so that the three of them were balanced on the outside of the vehicle. “My partners will pull you back," he shouted over the driving wind and rain and the roaring of the river around them. "Try to keep your back upstream, there’s a lot of rubbish in the water and if it hits you, it’ll be better from the back. Hold onto your boy real tight.”
“Thank you,” the man stated, sincerely. He reached for Nightwing's hand. Grayson took it, nodded and then assisted the man over the side. For a second he and his son disappeared and then they resurfaced. On the bank, Batman and his team began to haul the pair across. Carefully, Nightwing fed out his end of the rope.
It seemed to take an eternity, but finally the man and his child were pulled safely onto the bank. Quickly, Batman released the two pieces of rope and tied the ends together. He waved to Nightwing who began to pull the ropes back across.
A wind gust hit the bus, sweeping Dick's feet out from under him. As he fell, he grabbed ahold of the side of the bus. The entire vehicle lurched but remained wedged on the rocks. Nightwing dragged himself back up to the top, signalled his team that he was okay and then disappeared back down into the bus' interior.
“Alright, Ma’am, you’re next.” The woman was large and strong. Clearly, she had seen hard work in her life. She was going to need every bit of that strength today. Hastily, Dick tied both pieces of rope around her. “Don’t panic if you go under a few times. Batman will get you to the side.” She nodded. In her arms, she held a three year old who was sobbing softly. “You’re going have to hold onto him tight. The water is fierce.”
“I understand.” Her eyes flicked to her seven-year-old daughter huddled against a seat, her face stained with tears, her eyes wide with terror. “You wait with this man. He’ll bring you over.”
“Come on, Ma’am. We don’t have time to waste.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Nightwing nodded and then after hauling her up out of the bus, he took her arm and assisted her over the edge. Like her husband, she disappeared under the water for several seconds. When she resurfaced, she surfaced alone and screaming. She had lost hold of her baby!
Nightwing spotted the darkened patch and without a moment’s hesitation, leaped into the swirling torrent.
“Nightwing!” five voices thundered as one. Batman let go of the rope knowing the others would secure the rescue of the woman. He raced along the bank; his eyes squinted as he frantically scanned the surface of the water. Nightwing's head hadn’t surfaced. Come on, Dick! Each second that passed was like a drill driving into Batman's heart.
Finally, Nightwing broke the water and in his strong arms he had the child. Batman's mind zapped at the speed of light. How the hell was he going to get Dick to safety? His partner went under again. “Nightwing!”
Ahead, Batman spotted a five hundred year old tree that had come down in the deluge. The long trunk extended a third of the way across the raging river. Nightwing resurfaced. “Nightwing, head for the tree!” Batman couldn’t be sure if his partner had heard him, but the younger man seemed to be trying to fight his way across. When Batman reached the log, he began to claw his way along it. Nightwing’s arm snaked out and latched onto a flimsy branch.
“Hang on, Nightwing! I’m coming!” As Batman inched his way closer, the tree began to creak. The smaller, end branches would not hold his weight. Batman reached out. Nightwing had the child in one arm and was clinging to the branch with the other. Bludhaven's hero was coughing violently, trying to expel the water that had entered his lungs. His suit was torn... shredded by the debris that had pummelled him in the swirling waters.
“Take him!” Nightwing managed to get out. He was exhausted. His arms were going numb from the cold, the kelvar suit was in tatters... unable to withstand the assault from nature itself. Nightwing knew he couldn’t support the toddler much longer. Batman stretched out further, but the distance was insurmountable.
“I’ve got you, Batman. Lean out there!” Catwoman thundered as she grabbed onto Batman's belt. Selina's reach gave her partner the extra foot he needed. His fingers closed around the screaming child’s shoulder.
“I’ve got him!” Nightwing released the boy and Batman dragged the terrified toddler to safety. After handing him back to Catwoman, Batman reached out to his flagging partner. He could see that Nightwing's strength was at its end. “Give me your hand.”
Nightwing released his right hand and leaned out to Batman. The Dark Knight's fist clamped around Nightwing's proffered arm. Abruptly, the branch that Nightwing had been clinging to snapped. His body jerked away. Batman held onto him, gritting his teeth against the force of the water that was trying to suck the weary man down and whisk him off downstream. “Nightwing!” Batman could feel his partner slipping. Grayson’s eyes captured Wayne’s. He looked shocked and then his tired face calmed. Bruce.
“Nightwing!” The exhausted man’s fingers slid further. “Nightwing!” Batman strained. Grayson’s blue eyes sent a message of thanks to the man who had raised him - heartfelt gratitude for everything they had shared, then a look of farewell and finally a message of love. Bruce willed Dick to pull himself in, but the enervated young man was ripped from his hand by a surge of water. “NOOOOO!” Nightwing went under. “Dick!” Bruce dived into the roaring river, but Catwoman had anticipated the move, her whip encircling Batman’s chest and together she and Robin held him back.
“No! Where is he?!” Batman shouted.
“There!” Robin cried. The boy was running along the bank, level with his friend. Nightwing resurfaced but went under again almost immediately. Catwoman, Robin and Batman began to make their way back along the log, Selina still cradling the screaming three-year-old close to her chest.
“There!” Catwoman screamed, but once again the water claimed Bludhaven‘s champion. Nightwing’s partners continued to follow the river bank.
“Where’d he go?!” Robin demanded, staring through the lashing rain and wind.
Catwoman and Robin searched the expanse in front of them with desperate eyes. The boiling white water continued to churn and race away, but there was no sign of their companion.
“Catwoman? Batman, where is he?” Robin shrieked as helplessness murdered his control.
“He’s gone,” Catwoman whispered, her voice so choked with emotion that it was barely recognizable. Batman passed the pair. His wild eyes searched not the water, but the bank. “Find him!” he shouted to the others. “He’s a strong swimmer. He would have made it to the bank!”
Catwoman glanced at the man she loved and felt her own heart break. Nightwing had been a strong swimmer alright. It was the only reason he had been able to get out to the bus and stay afloat long enough to rescue the child. But Nightwing was only human. No one could have fought the current for as long as he had and survived.
An hour later, Batgirl and Huntress escorted the family of five to one of the dozens of shelters that had been set up around the city. All were safe and outside of being cold and a little bruised, were healthy. Batman, Robin and Catwoman continued to search the river bank for signs of their missing friend.
Three very long days later, Batman collapsed. He hadn’t slept... hadn’t eaten... had done anything but search. His kelvar suit was ripped and torn, water seeping though it. He was drenched to the skin and chilled to the bone. Hypothermia claimed him without his consent and so his friends rushed him to hospital praying that Leslie could prevent their team from losing another of its members. Bruce survived, but he developed a raging fever that saw Dr. Thompkins spend the entire night battling to save his life.
Catwoman, Huntress, Batgirl and Robin continued the search for another two days. By the end of that time, they were resigned to the fact that Dick hadn’t made it to shore as they had hoped, but rather had been claimed by the river.
“In a couple of weeks, when the water level goes down, we’ll probably... “ Selina couldn’t say it, but they all understood. Once the water level fell, they would probably find their companion’s body wedged under a log or rock with so many others who had been claimed by the water.
Three days after collapsing... six days after Dick had been washed away, Bruce returned to his senses and Alfred was forced to explain to his surrogate son they had lost Dick. Wayne flatly refused to believe it and insisted his team head out and continue to search. He couldn’t believe they had given up!
Alfred shook his head, the tears that he had been able to control until this point, now cascading down his cheeks. “He’s gone, my boy. I’m sorry. I‘m so sorry.”
© May 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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