Disclaimer: All or most of the the charactors belong to DC comics. This piece of fiction was writen for the fun of the work and love of the comic here. Things in this story may not fit into any of the story lines that DC has explored but then none of theirs do either. Thanks go to my Beta reader and if I boobooed in the retyping... I am sorry. That being said I hope you enjoy it.

The Tether
by Cyndi Smith

Part One

Tim really liked visiting his friend, Dick Grayson. He was one of the few adults that didn't treat him like a child. But lately catching Mr. Grayson at home was as easy as keeping the Joker in Arkum. On the other hand it was a pretty sure bet that if Tim couldn't find his friend in the comfort of his little Bludhaven apartment then Robin could find Nightwing somewhere on the roof tops of his own little hell.

Tonight he was easier to find than most. The night sky over the port of Bludhaven was alight with muzzle flash from gunfire. The closer he got to the warehouse the more he was hoping he was wrong. At first he thought it was some sort of gang war going on, gunfire coming from everywhere, but when he got a closer look he realized he was only partly right it was only one gang they seem to be taking target practice. Their target... Nightwing.

Nightwing is good but even Superman has his limits. It was time Robin went in to action. First he planned to take out the perimeter. It was easy enough sneaking into the fray since they weren't expecting him to be there. He managed to take out a couple of the outer goons unnoticed by the others, already. Then again an elephant could sneak up on these guys, the clamor of gunfire was deafening. He saw Nightwing flip off the second story of one building over to another. The man was holding his own for the most part but there were so many of them they were knocking off each other. Robin stopped long enough to try and radio in for back up, but the call never went out.

As Nightwing dodged the ground fire he ran smack into some other punks bullet The impact was so great it picked his friend up and flung him over the side of the building. Robin looked up in time to see the man he considered his brother fall out of view.

"Nightwing!" Robin shouted, bullets whizzed by his head, before he realized what he had just done. "Bad move boy wonder" he growled as he found himself their new target. He flew head first into the fray, sending concussion pellets and smoke bombs flying all directions. Nothing mattered but finding his friend and no one was going to stop him.

The element of surprise was still an advantage it seemed as some of goons were already running but not because completely because of him. "I'm gettin out-a-here..." He heard someone shout, "If the kids here ya know the Bat ain't far behind."

Unfortunately they weren't all that easily fooled. That's when he saw it... Nightwing's car... at least it looked like one of the many chaises he built for his car. He made a jump for it as it whizzed by him.

*Yep, I'm was right* he thought as he clung to the door. *No driver, and that means that Nightwing is alive. He must have activated it after he fell.*

It also meant that Robin would be leading them back to their original target. Before he could react to that thought the vehicle came to a screeching halt, nearly flinging him into a warehouse door. As he struggled to get his footing he found himself mask to mask with Nightwing.

"Uh some party ...." he grimaced as he watched Dick painfully struggle to pull himself up from the damp ground. "Fancy meeting you here.."

"Robin?" The sound of gunfire interrupted his thoughts. Nightwing quickly, but with great effort, pulled the boy behind the protection of the car. "... Parties gotten way out of hand... how 'bout if we...blow this joint and go.... someplace quiet to... talk."

The words were filled with pain and when Tim looked up, he could tell his friend was in trouble. Dick was as pale as a ghost he used the car to keep himself sitting up right. His right arm guarded gingerly his side... and beneath that... Blood.

"...Uuhgg... you can drive." Nightwing winced. Robin looked horrified as noticed the stain soaking through Nightwing's kevlar constructed body armor. Once over the initial shock, he eased his friend over to the car.

"I have to get you to the hospital," Robin announced as he slid over the upholstery still trying to assist the injured man.

"No," he painfully objected "...No... Just take me home" he coughed as he collapsed into the passenger seat of his muscle car.

"To the bat cave Robin..." for a moment Tim, thought he heard a hint of laughter but it was quickly replaced by a cry of pain. Tim had seen Nightwing injured but never had he expressed so much pain.

"Arrrgghh.... Oh God, it's like my back is on fire, Oh God " Dick screamed between his teeth. He was fighting for each breath between each every word."...Computer... 0...3...2... 1... O714...oh G....ODDD..." Dick rasped. He looked Tim in the eyes as if to emphasize what he was about to say. "Just drive... don't stop for anything ... arrgghh ..."

Panic seized the youth, never in his whole career as Robin could he remember feeling so helpless. His mind kept replaying the assault on Nightwing. Over and over the impact as the bullet hit him and the fall that ensued after words. It was more vivid now than when it happened.

*Well done Boy Wonder.* His mind screamed. *You claim he is your best friend ... what did you do? Nothing! You stood and watched as they tried to kill him. You blew it, boy blunder, you blew it.* Tim turned his attention to the road. Dick continued to talk. The moments of pause between words seemed like a lifetime, Dick had removed his mask, he appeared to be having difficulty breathing, and his words began to slur. "No matter what, " he continued his voice more like a whisper, now " Don't stop until we're home... Bruce...Tell Bruce.... I had to... t...te..ll ..him I'm..so..rrry..."

"STOP IT!!" Tim screamed, "Stop talking like that." Tim popped off his mask and wiped away the moisture that now blurred his vision. *What the hell is happening?* his mind screamed *Why can't I think? Why does it feel like my chest is going to explode? Panic? Why can't I think, I have got to THINK* He had never felt so helpless before. Even when he thought he had lost both his parents in a plane crash. He didn't feel as completely alone. He remembered the hurt, fear and pain of the loss and the deep grief. But this time, he was there, he should have been able to stop it. What was all the time and training for if he couldn't have protected his friend?

He was fairly sure Dick was no longer coherent. He was now mumbling raspy words between shallow breaths. Something about no choice and if it doesn't work... and a few other words Tim could not make out at all. Then nothing. Dick collapsed over into Tim's shoulder.

"Dick? Dick! ...Come on man... Dick!.. .No! ...Computer take total control of the car... Contact Batman... EMERGENCY ..." When the car acknowledged full control of the vehicle he turned in his seat pushing Dick upright in his. "Man, stay with me..." Robin whispered as he searched desperately for a pulse.

"Dick, Please... Don't do this to me man..." Using the specially designed *R* shaped blade he cut through the Kevlar mesh and protective layer of Nightwing's body armor and laid his head against the older mans chest he prayed for some sign of life... there was none. "Computer bring the vehicle to a stop..." The computer refused.

"Computer release controls to me..." the computer complied... but he car would not break and the vehicle would not go off the road....

"Release all controls."

The computer refused... Robin slammed his fist into the dashboard. The computer did not reply... "DICK... don't do this... I can't do CPR in this car."

Suddenly a familiar face came on screen..."Master Tim.... what are you doing there we just receive an emergency signal from Master Richard's vehicle."

"I know Alfred... Where's Bruce?" I have to talk to Bruce."

Alfred could see the boy was in total dishevelment "Master Bruce is currently trying to get away from the dinner party upstairs... He will be here as soon as possible. Can I help with anything?"

"...Its Dick. He's ...He was shot... there were so many..."

" Are you injured master, Tim..."

"No," Tim growled," don't you understand, they didn't want me... they didn't even know I was there. It was a trap... he didn't stand a chance."

Alfred had pushed a button on the computer panel while still on line with the boy, moments later a second face appeared on the screen. Tim recognized the bathroom lighting and figured he must have been the excuse he used to step away from the guests at dinner.

"Talk to me son," Bruce whispered.

Tim. just stared at his hands "I'm sorry Bruce. I was too late... I tried, but I was too late."

"What are you saying, Tim?"

"It's Dick... He's dead." the look of disbelief in Bruce's eyes only shadowed what he felt in his heart as the boy continued to report "He was bleeding bad, I wanted to get him to the hospital but he wouldn't go," the words were reflecting the night mare the boy was reliving "one minute he was talking, then everything stopped, he stopped talking, he stopped breathing, I can't get a pulse... I'm sorry " Tim looked up in time to see Alfred step away form the computer. Bruce just closed his eyes and listen "...the computer has control of the car" he continued " I can't stop it and I can't perform CPR in here.." his voice was more of a child's than a crime fighter. "At first I thought... he p... passed out, he almost looks so peaceful like he's sleeping...." Tim mumbled, "Oh God, what have I done. What will I do now?"

Bruce, felt suddenly hollow as though what was left of his soul was ripped away from him and it was obvious the boy was taking it hard. Yet something in what Tim said triggered a memory, one of earlier and less confusing times between Dick and himself and with it a brief twinge of hope. But then he knew better than to let himself or anyone else depend on that hope, and he was not sure he knew how to pray. What were the chances... his thought was right...or that Dick might have recalled the incident. He could vary easily be wrong. Bruce knew how much the boy worshiped Dick Grayson as a man as well as a hero he dare not give him even a thread to hang on to because if he is wrong, it could vary easily destroy the boy as well.

"Tim. Listen to me... it's not your fault son, you've done all you can do... just bring him home..."

Bruce, still clad in his black tux pants and shirt, ran across the natural bridge as soon as Nightwing's car came to a stop. He quickly pulled his son from the vehicle not even acknowledging the young man behind the wheel. Tim watched as he cradled Dick's body as if he was child of five asleep in his arms, as he carefully carried him back to the cave's medlab Tim just watched as they disappeared around the corner and then laying his head on the steering wheel, he let his mind fill with memories of the man who had become his mentor, his friend ...his brother... and he cried.

Tim wasn't sure how long he'd been in the car; he must have fallen asleep because he awoke to a gentle tapping on windshield and Alfred staring at him with staunch concern. "Master Timothy, I have your room ready for you up stairs I'm sure it will be much more to your liking, sir."

It took a moment for the cobwebs of sleep to clear but when they did he remembered all to well where he was and what had happen. He found himself unable to look the man in the face. He stared instead at the bloodstain that had dried into the upholstery of the car. Then another voice pulled him from the darkness.

"Tim," Bruce whispered, "Come with me, son."

Tim followed. He didn't know why, but he followed, oblivious to everyone and everything around him, he didn't even notice Bruce had stopped walking until he ran into the man. When he stepped back to apologize, he became aware the steady hissing and beeping of the med-labs equipment and when he looked up, he saw shadow of a form beneath the tubes and wires. It was Dick. And if he read the med board correctly he was still alive.

"Oh God, ...I... thought," was all the boy was able to say before he collapsed. Bruce managed to catch the stunned youth and lower him to the ground. He realized that the experienced left the kid both emotionally and physically drained.

"I have never been so glad to be wrong," he choked as the tears began to return. Doctor Leslie Thomkins, who had been standing over Dick monitoring a board that looked like something out of an old Star Trek movie, rushed over to Tim's side taking him in her arms. He began rocking himself back and forth, mumbling over and over *he was wrong.*

Leslie had become like a surrogate mother to Bruce after the death of his parents and Richard's friend and physician after Bruce took him in. She was one of the few persons who knew about Bruce and the Bat Cave. It had been a fluke or a miracle that the benefit dinner party was for her small clinic on Crime Ally in Gotham. Tim grabbed on to her for dear life as she tried to quiet his fears.

"Tim, it's true, Dick is alive. But I won't lie to you hon. You were not wrong in your diagnosis. Even with my stethoscope I couldn't pick up a heartbeat, but the one thing I have learned in my many years of treating these two is things aren't always the way they appear. So based on the readings of the med bed, Alfred and I did surgery. I wish I could give you something to cling to, but for now-I'm sorry son-he's not out of the woods yet."

Being held in Leslie's arms, Tim suddenly looked to be a child, confused and uncertain. Bruce had forgotten that it was only a few short years ago that Tim had joined his "Bat-family" and although he had been through some personal losses in his life, unlike both Bruce and Dick who were with their parents when they were murdered, his parents were believed killed in a plane crash. As devastating as that experience was, it wasn't the same as being there, watching it happen and being unable to do anything to prevent it. Both he and Dick relived that helplessness everyday.

"I don't understand, if I was right... he was dead then... How did you bring him back?" the boy whispered finally gaining a sibilance of control over his emotions.

"Maybe I can explain that." Bruce interrupted. "You know the Tibetan practice we use to control breath, relax our minds and body and control our tolerance of pain?"

"Of course" Tim responded "It's part of our every day training. But Dick was in so much pain, I don't think he was able to do that."

"The injury may have prevented him from thinking pass the pain." Bruce confirmed. "But what ever I tried to teach, Dick, he always seemed able to take things one step further." Tim swallowed the anger he was beginning to feel. "I don't understand."

"Dick always had a knack for the more difficult techniques. When I started training him, I made the mistake of telling him a story my sensei told me, about how his master. The master, who was very old, would often meditate in the garden no matter the weather, and always at the same time. One day he didn't awaken for dinner. My sensei found him, and at first he thought his teacher had fallen asleep he looked so peaceful but then he realized the man was not breathing and his heart was no longer detectable. The monks convinced the old man had died in his sleep, began the ritual for the dead. He lay in state for three days, the other monks were about to prepare his body, for a ritual burial when he awoke just moments before they lay him on the funeral pyre."

Bruce almost laughed at the reaction he got as he told the story. "Even I found the story hard to believe and I had never known my sensei to lie. I just left well enough alone and continued my studies. But deep in the back of my mind every time my skills where put to the test I would recall the story and try that much harder.

"Originally I believed like me, Dick took the story as a wives' tale. But he was less and less apprehensive about taking the water tests, and that was all I cared about."

"Man, I remember taking my first water test I thought you were trying to drown me." Tim interjected. "It wasn't long before I could stay down for nearly five minutes. But when I asked what the record was, and you said I didn't need to go around comparing my self with anyone and that five minutes was more than adequate".

"The very first time I tested his ability underwater," Bruce confirmed pointing to the figure that lay in the bed. "After I told him the story ...he remained submerged for nearly five minutes. The second time, eight minutes and seventeen seconds. Because I panicked and pulled him up."

"Panicked? You?"

"He was still very young and so small. It might not have been the right thing, but after the second time, I asked him not to use that technique for extended periods of time unless absolutely necessary. Even though my sensei insisted that his master was fine and showed no signs of brain damage. In my mind it wasn't logical and underwater? It was not as if he could pull air out of the water molecules," Bruce insisted, still staring down the looks of disbelief on both Tim's face and Leslie's. "He tried to tell me he was always aware of what was going on. He even said that he could feel the pressure build in his lungs but he was positive that he could have stayed down longer. Still he was my responsibility, and I was not going to let him drown himself because of a wives' tale."

It was a couple of years before it came up again. He had established himself as my partner as well as the leader of the Teen Titans. They had built a saltwater pool inside the Titan Tower so the young Atlantian known then as Aqualad, could hydrate if needed. But most of the time it was used as an indoor swimming pool.

On this day I don't even think he realized what he was doing they had all been playing tag under water the only two left in the water were Garth and Richard. The others were standing around mumbling when I got there to pick him up. The day had been filled with workouts and simulations nothing really strenuous, but they decided this was a great way of cooling down. And still get some water workout in. He'd been chasing Garth for nearly eight minutes without coming up for air and still going strong according to his friends. They couldn't believe their eyes. When Donna told me how long he had been under water chasing the Aquarian I lost my cool. I stopped the game by tossing a weight belt. Just passed Aqualad's head.

When Dick surfaced his face was as red as mine. Mine was from anger; his was from lack of oxygen, and quickly turning blue. I can only assume that it contributed to what happened next. Just as he popped up out of the water his eyes rolled back in his head and he passed out. He had in fact stopped breathing. He had a large bruise on his back where Wonder Girl had hit him really hard. Like most injuries he ignored it, and no one thought twice about it until Garth dragged him from the water and we attempted to resuscitate him. But it wasn't doing much good. A rib had broken and been pushed through one of his lungs. The other lung we were told later may have collapsed from the lack of use and the water pressure. I couldn't get air in by normal means, so we I ended up inflating them the hard way...with a chest tube. Luckily the lung opened completely up. We had him transported to Star Labs, he was bedridden for two weeks under Alfred's watchful eyes. After getting a clean bill of health.

About three months later, I took him to the JLA satellite and we placed him on a med bed; even Star Labs equipment couldn't compare to its apparatus. He was hooked to every type of recording devise known to medical science, alien and human alike. I even requested that Superman stay with him in the room. It took him a while to relax, but eventually, one by one the machines flat-lined. When the last one went down after an hour, I wanted to wake him, but Superman said he could still hear a heart rhythm and a steady intake of air. The one thing that stuck out the most was how peaceful he looked. He appeared to be sleeping..."

"Like in the car!" Tim interrupted, finally showing signs of understanding.

"That's right. Like in the car.... and stayed in that pattern for nearly an hour and a half. Then something happened. He began to seizure and then blood and froth came out of his mouth. He gave me quite as scare. We still are not sure what happen, suddenly all the machinery started back up and his eyes opened, At first there was a look of horror that crossed his face, then he fell asleep. When he awoke he said he had no memory of what happen. Superman confirmed the he was stable and the blood had completely expelled it self from his lungs, so, except for some bruising, which we believed was caused by the seizure, he was going to be fine. I made him promise never to attempt that again, I had the med equipment adjusted just in case. As far as I know he's never even attempted it... until now.

Alfred gently laid his hand on the boys shoulder, but Bruce waved him off. "Tim, I know you're tired but I need to know what happened out there."

"I don't know. I came in late," he recalled. "I went to Dick's place, but he wasn't home, so I changed clothes and went looking for Nightwing," Tim related, his head dropped in to his hands in an attempt get back some semblance of control. "I found him; oh man did I find him. The whole port was lit up in gunfire. It looked like a carnival shooting gallery, and they were all after the same duck. Bruce I swear, every man with a gun was there. It was insane. They were killing each other trying to catch Nightwing. I don't even know how long he had been fighting them off. I just know that I no sooner reached the pier than he was hit. It knocked him off the warehouse; I realized he was still alive when the car was activated. I hitched a ride when the it sped by me." The boy paused to swallow the bile that was building in his throat. "He was hurt bad, Bruce. We got to the car just as it rained bullets again. He was in so much pain. He told me to drive then he activated the computer. He gave it some code...03...21...something."

"07...14." Bruce completed.

"Yeah that's it," Tim continued. "Tthen he told me to take him home... here... and do not stop for anything But when he... I tried to stop the car but..."

"Tim you did all you could ... the code is a destination coordinate lock ... the Batmobile and the Redbird both have one... remember."

Tim lowered his head. Dick hadn't been talking to him he was talking to the computer. He allowed the situation to over shadow his ability to think. It was a big mistake. Alfred whispered to Bruce before he insisted Tim go with him.

"Come, Master Tim, you need to get some rest."

At first it looked as though he might object, but Bruce countered it before he could voice his thoughts.

"Its ok, Tim. I'm gonna need you well rested for tomorrow."

Tim slowly picked himself up from the floor, his eyes never left the bed while Alfred led him up the stairs. It was going to be a long night, for everyone.

Bruce walked over to the Massive structure known as the Bat Computer. With a quick shuffle of his fingers across the keyboard the chaotic flashing alert icon was replaced by the one time Batgirl. Barbara Gordon appeared.

"Oracle?" he quietly acknowledged.

"Bruce," she returned trying desperately not to look panicked. "Have you heard from Dick? I think he's in trouble..."

"Barbara," Bruce calmly cut her off. To a normal person the look on Bruce's face wouldn't reveal anything but Oracle was once Batgirl, trained by the Batman himself to read faces. And his face said *there was something wrong*.

"Barbara, Dick is here..." the words were hard to get out of his throat. "He was shot... It's not good."

All the color drained from the girls face as he continued." I think if you can get away you should come here. I will send Alfred for you. Bring a change of clothes. You can stay at the manor."

Barbara nodded as tears streamed down her face.

"One more thing... Barbara. You can't tell anyone." Suddenly she realized it was not longer Bruce Wayne that was talking but Batman. "ANYONE, do you understand." The look on her face must have made him realize how harsh he was sounding, Bruce cleared his throat and with a little less force he whispered "...please, for him."

All she could do was nod; tears falling uncontrollably down her face as she signed off. Bruce turned his chair back to the med lab. Leslie was just settling herself down in a nearby chair for a moment's rest in what would prove to be a long night.

Continue To Part Two

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