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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

Part 3

Donna gripped the tissue tightly and dabbed her red, swollen eyes. Starfire slid her arm across her friend’s shoulders and then turned the page of the huge photo album that was laying across their legs.

Both women smiled down at the pictures. The first was of Roy and Dick wrestling on the floor of Wally’s apartment. The second was of Dick holding Roy in a headlock and smiling widely at the camera. The third was of Dick flying though the air and Roy laughing.

Donna sighed. “That was Wally’s birthday last year,” she explained.

Kory nodded, her attention focused on Dick’s face. She had loved him - almost married him. Fate had been against them, but that didn’t change how much she cared. She had fallen for him the first moment she’d laid eyes on him. She’d never stopped loving him.

Donna’s feelings for Dick were different. He was her brother... it was as simple as that. Blood didn’t play a part; it didn’t need to. Whenever she had needed him, he’d been there. He’d given her away at her wedding. He’d stood with her when Terry had taken custody of their child. He’d turned up on the doorstep when she and Roy had broken up. Of course, she’d always been there for him too. Their friendship had been so easy. Neither had made demands on the other. Neither had had any expectations. They had simply loved each other for who they were... and now, he was gone. The one person she had always been able to turn to when there was no one else, swept away while she had been saving the lives of millions of faceless strangers.

Donna’s tears began to fall again, finally turning into heart-wrenching sobs. Kory picked up the photo album and placed it on the coffee table in front of them and then wrapped her arms around Donna and held her. Together they cried, morning the loss of someone who had meant so much to both of them.

“Oracle? Are you there?” Tim’s voice echoed in the silent, pitched black bunker. This particular room hadn’t been silent or dark for years. The state of the art computer and satellite equipment that littered one wall were ominously blank.

“Oracle? Come on, Barbara, please. I need help. I’m on my own out here... well, expect for Huntress and I’ve got to say, I’m not sure if she’s a help or a hindrance,” Tim stated, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

Barbara Gordon kept her eyes closed, kneading her laced fingers lying in her lap. She could hear the desperation in Robin’s voice but she just couldn’t bring herself to ‘get back on the horse’. What was the purpose? What had any of it achieved? The loss of her legs. The death of Dick. None of it made sense.

“Oracle?... Oracle? Look, I can understand that you miss him. God, I do too, but you can’t give up. He wouldn’t have. He didn’t, Barbara.”

Tears began to stream from the emerald eyes of the former Batgirl. The agony she felt was the worst she could ever remember. She had actually believed that the pain of losing the use of her legs could not be surpassed, but she’d been wrong. That had been self-pity and physical pain - this was altogether different. This was bewilderment and disbelief amalgamated into a torture she couldn’t describe.

“Oracle, he died trying to save this city. If we don’t do something, it will all be for nothing,” Tim spat. The anger in his voice was palpable. “We can’t let that happen. We just can’t!”

The words entered Barbara’s mind and bounced around for a few seconds. She raised her tear-stained face and wheeled herself across to the computer. For several moments she stared at her own reflection in the dark monitor. Then, she hit a single key and the entire work station sprang to life. Her fingers came to rest on the keyboard and with a few touches, Robin’s distressed face appeared in front of her. His eyes grew wide and then a smile of sheer relief blanketed his tired features.

“Hey, Oracle.”

“What do you need, Robin?”

“I need a list of Arkham residents that haven’t been recaptured. I need to know the areas that the police are struggling to maintain control of and I need some physical help. I don’t know who to call? Azrael has fallen off the face of the Earth and everyone else is busy helping out elsewhere.”

“Arsenal is still in town,” Barbara informed him, her fingers dancing across the keyboard. “List of those still loose from Arkham. “Pamela Isley, Jonathon Crane, Edward Nygma, Roman Sionis and The Joker.”

“Great. So, Roy is still here? Where do I find him?”

“I don’t know. I’m tapping into the Titans’ computer to see if he is wearing a homer.”

“Thanks, Oracle. I... I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

Barbara swallowed and blinked, a single tear rolling down her cheek. That was the purpose... her reason for going on. She could still make a difference. From now on, she would make a difference for Dick as well. “Thanks, Tim. I... Okay, I’ve got a location on Arsenal.”

“Give it to me.”

Back in Scumville....

“So where are you from?” a scruffy looking man asked as he dealt the cards in the seedy back room of the drinking house.

Roy glanced up at the speaker and snapped irritably, “Does it matter?”

“Just making conversation, friend.”

“Sorry. Haven’t been myself lately. At present, I am staying in Gotham.”

“Shit hole, isn’t it? Did you hear that Batman’s disappeared? Hope the bastard’s dead.“

Roy nodded. “Yeah.“ His mind wandered. For the life of him he couldn’t understand Dick’s continued loyalty to Batman. Roy knew what it was like to be a man’s ward and junior partner, but Ollie hadn’t been anything like Bruce Wayne. Ollie hadn’t sacked him and replaced him with someone else. Ollie hadn’t shut him out of his life. Sure, Ollie had been far from perfect and they’d had their problems, but Ollie had never put him through the sort of emotional hell Bruce had put Dick though. Ollie knew he’d made mistakes and admitted them. Bruce Wayne was such a self-righteous bastard. Everything for the greater good and nothing for Dick.

Roy’s anger began to boil again. Someone needed to tell Bruce Wayne what a mongrel he was. The idea took root. For Dick, Roy would do so. He would go and stand toe to toe with Batman and tell him what a sorry excuse for a human being he was. He would tell him how much pain and anguish he had put Dick through and then he would slam his fist into the middle of the sanctimonious bastard’s face. Quite suddenly, Roy felt a certain amount of clarity... something he had been struggling to find.

“Mister? Hey, mister.”

“Sorry,” Roy apologised. He stared down at his cards and turned them over. He had something he needed to do.

“Leaving so soon?”

“Yeah,” Roy muttered, rising to his feet.

“Hey, I heard one of them bat-heroes drowned in the floods. The fool jumped into...”

Roy dived at the speaker, his hands encircling the other’s throat before he knew what he was doing. His rage exploded as he bellowed, “That fool gave his life for a child!”

“Hey, settle down,” one of the other men cried.

“I’m sorry,” Roy’s victim squeaked. “Let go!”

“Roy!” a voice thundered from across the room.

Harper didn’t turn. He continued to glared into the face of the man who had insulted Dick. “That fool,” Roy whispered emotionally, “was one of my best friends.”

“Roy,” Tim repeated, darting across the room and laying his hand on the enraged man’s arm. With great effort, Harper dragged his eyes from the squirming idiot who’s face was gradually going blue. “Roy,” Tim repeated with an encouraging nod.

Harper stared at the boy and then shoved the other man away. His victim crashed down into his seat and began greedily dragging oxygen into his lungs.

“What are you doing here, Kid?” Roy demanded, stepping away from the table.

“I need your help.”

Harper shook his head. “Sorry, Kid. I’ve got something I need to do.” Something he should have done a long time ago.

“Dick told me that if I ever got into trouble and I couldn’t find him, I should call you. He said I could depend on you.”

“That’s nice, Tim,” Roy dismissed sarcastically, “but like I said, I’ve got something I have to do.” Roy Harper started for the door.

“Gold pen call,” Tim called after him.

Roy froze, every muscle in his body seizing up. For several seconds he didn’t move. Tim licked his lips, unsure of what he had unleashed. Gradually Roy turned, his face ruddy with surprise. “What did you say?” he whispered, his eyes wide with shock.

Tim swallowed and walked toward him. “Gold pen call. Dick told me if I was really in trouble and I needed your or Wally’s help, all I had to say was ‘Gold pen call‘, and you’d come immediately.”

Roy continued to stare at the dark-haired teenager as he tried to assimilate the information. Haltingly, he nodded. “Gold pen,” he muttered. He blinked several times. Strangely, his face gradually relaxed and he smiled at Tim, repeating with great affection, “Gold pen call. Well what do you know?” Roy reached out and laid his hand on the teenager’s shoulder. “Okay, Kid, I’m all yours. Looks like that other business will have to wait if this is a gold pen call.” This time he chuckled. “I’ve got my costume and gear at my hotel. We’ll need to swing by there so I can change... you can change there as well, unless Robin is patrolling in jeans and t-shirt these days.”

Tim’s face flooded with relief. “Thanks, Roy.”

Harper smiled. “Gold pen call,” he muttered, emotionally.

“You okay?”

Roy blinked, nodded, winked at Tim and together they headed for the door.

 

Alfred stood at the door of the mansion gazing across at Wayne. The other man had literally sat in the one spot all day. Alfred had taken food out to him, but he could see that it was still on the ground where he’d placed it.

Pennyworth shook his head with growing concern and headed toward the garage. Bruce had to start eating. It was no longer a simple matter of him not wanting to. He would make himself ill if this continued any longer. Alfred set his shoulders and promised himself that Bruce would eat a meal tonight... even if Alfred had to force-feed it to him!

The butler had some errands to run and despite not wanting to leave Bruce, he had no choice. Life needed to go on and bills needed to be paid.

Bruce noted the Rolls driving toward the gate. As he watched it disappear, the mist that had been clouding his usually alert mind lifted. He stared around himself and sighed. Where had the day gone? Stiffly he pulled himself to his feet, his legs aching from inactivity. In the back of his mind, he catalogued the fact that he needed to thank Slade Wilson... not for saving his life, but for reminding him of just what he’d had... and lost.

Bruce walked across to the cross and focused on it. His heart felt so dreadfully heavy. “I made a mess of it all, Dick. I’m sorry.“ He would give anything to have five minutes with his son. Just five minutes. Hell, one minute. One minute to tell his boy what he should have told him a hundred times before... before it was too late.

The chill on the air cut through the flimsy shirt Bruce wore. Realizing he needed to chop more wood for the night, Bruce moved toward the woodpile. He lifted the axe and let it slam into a crude log. The action was slow and lethargic, more automatic than anything else. The millionaire flexed his shoulders uncomfortably. Chips of wood spat out at him as he chopped, cutting his bare feet. His filthy shirt and matted hair clung to his body. His huge hands, which had failed him, felt useless. Nothing felt as it should.

The sun began to set on the day, casting long shadows across the stables. The horses, which had been corralled all day for the first time ever, began to move restlessly and call for their evening meal. Alfred had told the stable hand to take a few days off. Bruce knew it was because his old friend didn’t want others to see him in this state. Bruce, however, didn’t care. Nothing mattered any more. He wanted it to, but he couldn’t lie to himself. Life itself had lost its meaning.

Wayne paused and wiped his hands of the perspiration that was making the axe slippery. As he did so, he despondently scanned the uneven area leading back to Gotham.

“What the...” Wayne’s eyes narrowed. Just for a split second he thought he’d seen movement out there. The millionaire blinked, his brow furrowing as he strained to focus on the approximate area. There! The top of a man’s head. The head flashed above the grass briefly. Bruce felt his chest tighten. It wasn’t. It couldn’t be... could it? His heart began to pound. Bruce dropped the axe and walked in the direction of the image he was sure he’d seen.

The top of the head appeared and disappeared again among the shadows of sunset.

Bruce increased his pace, staring frantically at the place where he was certain the man would rematerialize. Long seconds passed. His soul screamed. Bruce waited, his strides shortening. There was no sign of the person. Come on! Come on!! Please!

Nothing.

Wayne stopped walking. The pain he felt was worse than any physical injury he had ever sustained. For a split second all he had ever wanted had been presented and then stolen again mercilessly. There hadn’t been anyone, he decided. It was just his mind casting the image he so desperately wanted - needed to see. Dick was gone. Just like his parents were gone... and Bruce was alone again. The claustrophobic realization was unbearable. His very soul felt like it was being torn from him... and perhaps that was exactly what had happened when Dick had been wrenched from his fingers.

Wayne squeezed his eyes shut tightly and fought to regain control of his faculties. Was he going out of his mind? Perhaps this was his punishment. A punishment he agreed he deserved. He had let Dick down... not just by his failure to pull his son to safety. He had let him down on a number of other levels too.

Taking a long, deep shaking breath, Bruce opened his eyes... and gasped! There was a man walking toward him some one hundred feet away. The millionaire couldn’t make out the other’s face at the distance and he didn’t recognize the clothes, but Bruce Wayne would know that gait anywhere!

“Dick?” A hoarse whisper. Before Wayne knew it, he was moving. Walking swiftly... jogging... running! The cloaked figure continued to walk - forcing one foot in front of the other with conscious effort.

As the distance between them diminished, the visitor’s face came into focus.

It is Dick! God, it’s him! He’s alive!

Grayson’s eyes were down, concentrating on each footfall. When the two men were ten feet apart, Dick’s head came up. He froze. Bruce, too, came to an abrupt halt. The pair stared at each other equally shocked.

“Dick?” Logic told Bruce that he couldn’t possibly be seeing what he thought he was. The fading sun gave Dick an unearthly appearance and left Bruce questioning his senses.

Gradually, a relieved, lop-sided grin appeared on Grayson’s exhausted face. “Howdy, Bruce. Just happened to be passin‘.”

The words catapulted Wayne back to awareness. He leapt forward and grabbed each of younger man’s shoulders. “YOU‘RE ALIVE!” Bruce’s body began trembling uncontrollably as a multitude of emotions fought for supremacy.

“If this is alive, I’d gladly trade if for something else.”

Wayne didn’t hear the strained and hushed words. He was drowning in his ability to comprehend what he was seeing, hearing and feeling. His hands squeezed each of Dick’s shoulders firmly as he tried to confirm that this wasn’t some sort of trick. “You’re alive!” Bruce grabbed his boy and wrapped him up in his arms, oblivious to the cry of pain that came from Grayson. “My God, you’re alive. Thank God!“

Dick said nothing. He just stood there dazed, his arms hanging at his sides. Wayne pushed the younger man away. “Christ, Dick! Where have you been?! What happened?!”

Grayson blinked and stared at Wayne in confusion. “Bruce, I...” It was then that Bruce actually saw his son. Dick reached up to rub his dull blue eyes, grimacing as his hand briefly connected with the dreadful purple and green bruising covering the left side of his face. The ugly bags under his eyes were of Grand Canyon proportion and stood out in stark contract to the horrible grey of his skin tone. “I... Bruce?” Dick muttered bewildered as he reached out and grabbed Wayne‘s arm to confirm he wasn’t looking at a mirage. As he did so, the brown cloak that had been covering the clothes that were hanging on him like a sack, dropped from his shoulder, dragging the shirt with it. The kaleidoscope of cruel bruising that was revealed caused Bruce to draw breath sharply.

“My God.“ Concern pushed the shock aside. Wayne automatically fell into that timeworn pattern of removing himself from the situation. Just the facts. No emotion. He wouldn’t be able to function if he allowed one percent of what he was feeling at the moment to dictate his actions. “Let’s get you inside.”

“Bruce... I... I haven’t slept in days,” the exhausted young man slurred. His body shuddered. Dick realized he shouldn’t have stopped walking. Now, he would never convince his legs to move again.

“You look terrible,” Bruce commented, raising his hand to test Dick’s brow for fever.

“Was just thinkin’ the same thing about you,” the younger man muttered.

Dick felt clammy to touch and his dazed expression advertised that he was only half aware of what was happening.

“Come on,” Bruce urged. The pair turned and shoulder to shoulder strode toward the house. Dick stumbled, struggling to maintain his footing as his body set about shutting down. Without a word, Bruce put his hand around his companion’s back and threaded Dick’s arm over his shoulder. A low moan echoed from Dick and he winced, so Bruce readjusted his hold to make it more comfortable.

“Easy,” he encouraged. Wayne could hear the wheezing of Dick’s lungs and the quiet grunts of discomfort forced from him with each step. The closer to the house they got, the more Bruce found himself supporting his charge.

“How sick are you?” Wayne demanded.

“Huh? Sick? No, I‘m okay.“ Dick glanced at Bruce and noting the look of disbelief, added “Really, I’m okay. I was... sick, but... I’m okay... now. Just tired. Haven’t slept... in three days.” Whatever energy he had was rapidly deserting him. His need to push himself on was gone. Dick began blinking. His body was shutting down. Sleep deprivation and exposure were pooling and making it impossible for him to think straight. But none of that changed the fact that... “I made it,” he whispered.

“You made it,” Bruce confirmed as they entered the house. For a split second, Wayne contemplated taking Dick to the lounge room but he decided to get him upstairs to bed. “Up the stairs.”

Dick eyed the staircase and a broad grin spread across his weary face. “You’ve got to be kiddin’.”

“Come on,” Bruce ordered. They got about halfway before Dick’s legs inevitably buckled under him. Bruce caught him and steadied him, the action evoking a cry of pain from the injured man. “Sorry, Dick. Just a few more steps. Come on, Kid. We can do it.”

Dick consciously gathered his energy into his legs and pushed on. By the time the pair reached the top, Bruce was all but carrying Dick. He guided the precious bundle in his arms toward a bedroom and assisted Dick to sit down, before crouching in front of the panting man.

Dick blinked and swallowed. “Bruce, I...”

“Don’t talk. I’m going to call Leslie. Is there anything she needs to know? You need to tell me what you know about your condition.“

“Ummm... I... huh?“ He looked so confused... and so ill.

Bruce squeezed Dick’s shoulder. “It’s okay.” Silently, he berated himself. What the hell was he thinking? Dick was barely conscious and he was asking for a condition report! “You need to rest.”

“Thanks. I haven‘t ... slept in... three days.” Dick bent to remove his boots, but the effort caused him to lose his balance. Wayne grabbed and righted him and then crouched and dragged the worn old boots off. “Thanks, Bruce. I haven’t slept in... ages.”

Bruce glanced up into Dick’s dazed eyes. He truly wasn’t aware of what he was saying. “Come on. Lay back,” Bruce coaxed gently.

Dick nodded. “Real tired, Bruce. Sorry. Tell you... everything... later. Haven’t slept for...”

“Don’t try to speak. Just lay back and go to sleep.”

Dick literally fell backwards onto the pillow. Bruce caught him and lowered him the final few inches. Spotting Bruce hovering above him, Dick mumbled, “Bruce... so I made it?”

“Yeah, you made it,” Bruce assured the exhausted man as he began to make him more comfortable. He pulled the cloak free and began to unbutton Dick’s shirt. As he pulled it apart, Bruce’s battle to remain separated from the situation shattered. The injuries that greeted him were horrific. There was a puncture wound high in his chest that had been crudely stitched. The wound itself was probably a result of a rib that had broken and torn through the skin. Dick looked like he’d been beaten within an inch of his life, his skin a patchwork of purple, green and blue.

“God, Dick.”

“Are Robin and the others okay?” Grayson asked, as Bruce lifted him so he could remove the old shirt. Carefully Wayne peeled it off, his face revealing how appalled he was by the boy’s condition. “They’re okay?” Dick repeated.

“We’re all fine.” As Bruce gently laid Dick down, he again checked the injured man’s temperature. He was warm. Clearly the exertion was bringing on a fever.

Dick’s heavy-lidded eyes opened fully. “The little girl! I left her!”

Bruce sat on the edge of the bed and patted his agitated son’s arm in an effort to calm him. “She’s fine. Cassie went out there and got her. We saved them all.” Wayne plucked his cell phone from his pocket and punched in Leslie’s number.

Dick started blinking again as he desperately fought against his body’s insistent demands to shut down.

“Go to sleep,” Bruce coaxed, picking up Dick’s hand. He held it firmly, his emotions building. Grayson gripped the hand and his dazed eyes shifted to Wayne’s face. “It’s okay. It’s going to be fine, son.”

“Bruce... I’m sorry.”

“Don’t talk,” Wayne ordered again. He squeezed the hand he held and nodded encouragement. “Close your eyes and rest. I‘m calling Leslie.” As he said the words, he was diverted to Leslie’s answering machine. “Damn,” he snapped, thrusting the phone back into his pocket.

“Huh?”

Bruce patted his boy’s arm. “It‘ll be okay,” he whispered. Their eyes locked together and Bruce again nodded. “It’s okay.”

“I’m so tired,” Dick mumbled.

Wayne’s lips creased with a half grin as he allowed some of the emotion he felt to surface. “Yeah, I noticed, chum.”

“Chum?” Dick sat bolt upright, crying out in pain and reaching for his ribs as he did so. “Bruce, I made it home!”

Bruce gripped Dick’s shoulder and carefully eased him back. “Easy, son. Easy.“ Grayson began to struggle trying to get up. Bruce held him firmly. “Dick, look at me.” Dazed blue eyes met bright focussed ones. “You made it home and everyone’s safe. You need to rest.”

Grayson allowed Bruce to lay him back. He reached a trembling hand up and placed it on his former guardian’s arm looking at him as if noticing him for the first time. Bruce, you okay? Despite the fatigue that masked his face, his concern for the man who had raised him shone like a beacon.

“I’m fine. Close your eyes.”

“You diveinafterme?” The words tumbled into each other and it took a while for Bruce to decipher the question.

“Started to, but Catwoman pulled me back.”

“Knew you would.” Dick blinked and his face twisted with anxiety. “You... look like hell, Bruce.”

“Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black.“ Bruce forced a grin, but his worry was rising. Dick wasn‘t coherent. His thoughts were almost random. Wayne couldn’t be sure if it was a result of fatigue or brain injury.

Grayson grinned. He could read Bruce like a book despite not being fully lucid. “I’m okay. I was sick. Hell spat me back. The devil himself wasn’t prepared to take on your wrath.”

Bruce swallowed. “Thank, God,“ he whispered. The need to hold his son overwhelmed him. “Dick...“

Grayson sighed deeply and smiled wearily. Bruce returned his boy’s smile. His heart was galloping - a combination of concern and relief.

“Wasn’t sure... if I would... make it,“ Dick attempted to explain.

“Enough.”

Dick swallowed and nodded. Again, he began blinking. “Gotta sleep, Bruce. Tell you... later. Can’t... think straight...” Dick’s eyelids crashed, his body shuddered and his arm slipped from Bruce’s arm. In that instant, he was sound asleep. His chest began to rise and fall evenly.

Wayne stared at his boy. He was alive! He was in a hell of a state, but he was alive. Gently, Wayne reached for Dick’s arm and placed it on the bed. He had asked for one minute - by some miracle he had been given a second chance. “Dick, I...” A lump the size of a fist formed in his throat. Again he was overcome with the need to hold his son; however, that wasn’t what Dick needed. His boy needed a doctor. Bruce pulled his phone out again and this time rang the hospital. As he did so, he considered an ambulance, but there would be too many questions and at the moment Bruce didn’t have any answers. Dick Grayson and Nightwing could not reappear at the same time.

As the thought crossed his mind, Bruce began to reprimand himself again. Was his secret identity more important than Dick’s health? No, it wasn’t. It was the first time Bruce had ever thought of it in those terms. Protecting Batman and all he stood for had been more significant than any one individual in Bruce’s mind… until now. The last ten days had shown him in no uncertain terms that he could survive without Batman… and that Gotham could survive without the Dark Knight, but Bruce Wayne had realized that life was all but unbearable without his family. Over the years he and Dick had drifted apart, argued and even come to blows, but none of that changed the fact that Bruce loved his son.

The phone rang in Wayne’s ear. When it was answered, Bruce first asked if Dr. Leslie Thompkins was in attendance.

“Yes, sir, she is, but she is in surgery at the moment. May I take a message?”

Bruce frowned. “I need to speak to her immediately.”

“That isn’t possible. We have several doctors here who...”

“NO! I must speak with Leslie!” The volume of his voice caused Dick to stir. Bruce reached out to his boy and patted his arm. “Easy, son.”

Grayson muttered something but didn’t truly wake. Bruce returned to his call. “Look, it is absolutely essential that I speak with Dr. Thompkins. Please...” Wayne continued to plead his case, his temper gradually rising.

 

Bruce shifted a heater into Dick‘s room. The air was gradually cooling with the coming of evening. He glanced up at the clock. It was only one minute after the last time he had looked. Time had a habit of passing slowly when one was in a rush and quickly when one needed more time. Wayne had convinced the nurse at the hospital to speak to Leslie the moment she came out of surgery. The woman had assured him it would be no more than fifteen minutes and Bruce had agreed. Dick was resting comfortably, so the extra minutes shouldn‘t threaten the injured man’s condition.

Dick. Wayne turned and stared. Where the hell had Dick been for the last ten days? Sick obviously. Really sick, by the look of him. Bruce waited for Dick’s chest to rise and fall. There was no movement. Wayne's eyes narrowed. In two steps he made it to the bed. Relieved, he noted Dick's ribcage rise. The injured man's breathing was slow and even, though there was a wheezing sound coming from Dick’s lungs, remnants of whatever illness he had suffered.

Am I just dreaming all of this? Overcome with terror, Bruce crouched down beside the bed and tentatively reached for Dick’s clenched fingers. The millionaire’s large hand encircled Grayson’s calloused fist. Dick stirred. His eyelids flickered and parted a quarter of an inch.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. Go back to sleep.”

“Bruce?”

“Shh.”

“I made it?” he asked dazed.

“Yeah, you made it.”

“The others okay?” Dick began blinking as fatigue urged him back to oblivion.

“Everyone’s fine.”

Grayson’s eyes shot open. “The little girl?!”

Bruce reached for his shoulder. “Settle down. She’s safe.”

“I left her.”

“Cassie got her.”

“Thank, God... are you okay? You... look like... shit.”

“Look in a mirror lately?”

Dick sighed and grinned. “I’ve got an excuse. I haven't slept... for days.”

“How do you feel?”

“’About as... good as... you look.” He was losing the battle to stay awake.

“Don‘t fight it, son. Are you thirsty?”

Dick shook his head. “No. Could use... a drink, though.” Wayne grinned as relief swept over him. It wasn‘t brain injury he decided. Complete exhaustion was stealing Dick's ability to fully comprehend what was being said to him.

Bruce released his boy’s hand and moved off to collect a glass of water. By the time he returned, Dick was sound asleep. Bruce placed the glass on the small table and then sat down in the chair beside the bed. He felt at ease.... worried on one level for it was clear his boy had been through a lot... but also at ease. He didn’t know what had happened to Dick, but that wasn‘t important. Dick was home. That was all that mattered. For the first time in days, Bruce felt certain that everything was going to be alright. He'd sent a text message to Robin. "Come to Manor, now. Need your help." Hugo Strange may decide to make a return visit and while Strange alone wasn’t a concern, Bruce couldn’t be certain that he wouldn‘t hire some help. Wayne had no intention of taking any risks with Dick’s life. An over-reaction it may be, but Bruce was beyond thinking of anything but his injured son.

Wayne’s stomach rumbled. He felt hungry - famished, in fact. When was the last time he had eaten? Days ago. Cassie had sent some apple pie, hadn’t she? Bruce patted Dick’s arm and rose to his feet, his eyes flicking to the clock. The nurse had another seven minutes before Bruce Wayne went on the warpath.

“Dick, I want to start the fire downstairs.” The fire would help to warm the air in the chilly house. Dick couldn’t afford to be cold. “I won’t be a minute.” Wayne was fairly certain that Dick couldn’t hear him but he didn’t want to take any chances.

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



© 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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