Part 10

Jason stared into a window of Wayne Manor. He missed that place and its keeper, ol’stick-in-the mud Alfie. He spent many an hour watching over that old coot. He missed the geezer almost as much as he missed the snickerdoodles that were fresh out of the oven when he had come home from school after Bruce adopted him. Now he was busy making a small banquet for Dick’s homecoming. Dick had been flown to Switzerland for surgery to clear away some of the scar tissue near his spine that was causing a great deal of pain. Jason wondered if it occurred to Dick or Bruce how close Alfie had come to worrying himself into an early grave--again.

“Spying on Bruce again?” asked Joey from behind, who had often caught Jason watching his family through the portals of time and space.

“Hi Joey. Naw, I was just peeking in on Dick,” Jay smiled. “He really got lucky this time, didn’t he?”

“What do you mean?” The curly-haired Titan inquired.

“His tether was broken. Granted I led him to believe he could still get back, but it got real close. Heck, even the doctors said he was a goner.” The young specter recalled, “I lost count of how many times he had almost given up.”

“I’ll give you that it was close,” Joey agreed, “But there is something you have to know about a tether. Maybe if you had known this before you died you would have never died.”

“HUH?” Jason looked wide-eyed at his friend.

“Sometimes the tether that holds your spirit to your body is made stronger by those whom you love and who love you in return.” Joey explained.

“And I didn’t have anyone to love me.” The one-time Robin sighed.

“See, there is one of the places where you screwed up. It’s not that no one loved you; it’s just that when they tried to give you what you needed, you were no longer willing to let them in.” the blond spirit explained.

“So, if you’re so smart how come you’re here?” the younger boy barked, hurt by the reality of Joe’s words. “You had all kinds of people who cared, even after you tried to kill ‘em.”

Joey smiled, trying to hide the tears forming in his eyes at the memories of Dick, his father, mother and all the other who were hurt by his passing. “Sometimes, it’s just your time.”

Joey let Jason stew on his words only a moment before he decided that now was as good a time as any to change the subject.

“So how’s he doing?” The former Titan asked, curiously referring back to the window.

“Dick? He’s doing great. Look.” When he looked into the window, he saw Joey’s former teammate slipping through a beautiful strength routine on the parallel bars that would make Mitch Gaylord jealous. Swinging his legs as hard as possible he swept up through the bars for a wonderful full twist and layout. Baby stuff is what Dick always called it. But this was his third attempt, and, as before, as soon as his feet hit the floor, his knees buckled and he collapsed onto the mat.

“Oops,” Jason winced. “That makes him three for three.”

The duo watched as Barbara joined the young Grayson on the mat. “Richard John Grayson, What do you think you're doing!” she scolded, pretending she had not been watching him in awe for the last ten minutes in the shadows. “I thought the doctors said no stress on your back or legs for another month, minimum. She joined him on the mat using her strong arms to pull the rest of her body to his side.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” he mumbled, as he reluctantly put back on the braces he was to use until his legs and back got stronger. “They also said I was dead. So don’t believe everything you hear.” He had no memory of anything that happened from the day of the incident to the time he awoke with Bruce holding him while his body when through very painful spasms. He had described the painful sensation as a body wide “charley horse.” Although most of the pain had gone, he still had periodic uncontrollable twitching in his limbs. They didn’t happen as often as they had, but once in a while one would sneak up on him. Admittedly, that void in his mind made him angry, but the frustrations of not even being able to hold a cup to drink or stand up on his own really pissed him off. Still, as Alfred was so prone to saying “this too shall pass.” It was only the support of his surrogate family that kept him sane.

“I don’t think that’s funny Boy Wonder,” she griped. “You had Tim scared out of his wits. Bruce so worried that he went without sleep until he collapsed on the lawn. Donna has cried enough tears to flood all of Paradise Island, and Roy thinks he has had an allergic reaction to the hair dye he used while playing Nightwing.”

Dick tried desperately not to laugh at Roy’s plight, but it soon bubbled out and, despite her will to remain straight faced, Barbara joined him. Suddenly Dick caught Barbara’s face in his hands, and planted a full-fledged kiss on her. A third voice came echoing out into the caves.

“Holy lip-lock, Nightwing.” Tim awed.

“Just once,” Dick growled out loud, addressing Barbara, “I would like to kiss you without interruptions.” Then turning his full attention to Tim who looked winded and a bit worried, he continued, “This had better be good short stuff, or I am going to teach you to fly without the use of lines or nets. I thought you were supposed to be keeping an eye on Lian for me.” Dick grumbled finding it hard to keep a serious face as Barbara giggled beneath him.

Tim swallowed momentarily forgetting why he had come down.

“Tim?” Dick asked, starting to get concerned.

“Actually she was out with Bruce and Alfie all morning,” Tim confessed. Dick glared at him suspiciously. “Honest, they just got back about a half hour ago. That’s what I have been trying to tell you. You gotta see this.” The teen wonder declared as he watched the lovebirds sit up. “You gotta come upstairs you won’t believe what’s happening.”

Dick rolled up onto his shoulders and then into a handstand, slowly lowering his braced legs to the mat. While normally he would have done such a move for fun and perhaps to show off, now with the braces, it was actually easier to stand like that. “Is everything ok?”

“Lets just say it’s not that what is happening is wrong, it’s just not normal.”

“Describe normal,” Dick rebutted, slowly bending to lift Barbara.

“No, Dick,” she objected, “You’re not suppose to be lifting.”

“It’s not like you weigh anything,” Dick rebutted.

“I’ll get her. If you guys don’t stop arguing and get upstairs you’ll miss it. And I will never get anyone to believe this happened.”

He snatched Barbara up and dropped her in her chair practically dragging her to the elevator, and Dick had to make an effort to keep up. As they stepped out of the elevator into a secret room, they heard it; music. The beautiful sound of the grand piano was coming out of the ballroom.

There seemed to be a roadblock in the doorway, as Garth, Donna, and the once again redheaded Roy Harper stood there with their mouths gaping open. As Barbara rolled up, Garth and Donna moved out of the way, but Roy still stood motionless in total shock. Sitting before them masterfully playing the piano was Bruce, and on his lap was Roy’s little girl Lian. She was turning the sheet music for him as he played a wonderful rendition of Harbor Lights.

Dick noticed Alfred and Doc Leslie sitting together on the love seat.

“When did he learn to play the piano?” Dick whispered.

“Don’t ask me. he's your father… I think.” Roy replied.

As the melody ended, the room filled with an eerie silence. Then Dick began to clap as one-by-one the others did the same. Lian whispered something in Bruce’s ear. He responded by smiling, and then, being very much the gentleman, he lifted her from the bench and put her on the ground. Then, stepping from behind the large instrument and taking her hand in his, they both bowed, and he spun the happy little girl to the opposite side, and they bowed again. That’s when Dick finally noticed what Bruce was wearing. Both he and Lian were in blue jeans! Granted they were the most expensive money could buy, but they were still blue jeans. Dick had seen Matches Malone in jeans, but never Bruce. Never Bruce. Talk about out of character. Then if that wasn’t strange enough, they had matching black T-shirts. And not just any black T-shirt, but a novelty shirt Dick remembered seeing in a discount store.

Roy was knocked out of his stupor when his beautiful little girl jumped into his arms. “Daddy, Daddy, see our new shirts? Mr. Wayne had ‘em made at da store. See it has the Bat-signal on it.” She held out her shirt so Roy could see.

Roy stared in total disbelief, and then, catching himself, gave Lian a hug smile and a hug to match. He lowered her to the ground as he said, “Had em made, did he?”

“Actually just hers,” Bruce clarified. “Alfred reminded me that hers would not be appropriate for little girls to wear.” Not having noticed a difference before, Roy looked again at Bruce’s shirt which said, ‘Where the hell is Gotham?’ and then to his daughter’s which had been edited to ask, ‘Where the heaven is Gotham?’ In response, he laughed appreciatively.

Alfred excused himself to retreat to the kitchen to the last steps of the planned welcome-back dinner for Dick. “Since your friends are already beginning to arrive,” he noted. “Feel free to enjoy the scones and tea, I will bring out some other hors d'oeuvre in just a moment.”

Dick looked at Bruce, then back at Alfred and Leslie, and then the rest of his friends who had gathered at Wayne Manor at the request of a man whom Dick had never seen like this before. Did anyone else notice the change here? The jeans, the shirt, the music… the unnecessary party made up of Dick’s closest friends. And that smile that was across his face as he wrestled with Lian on the floor of the mansion. Not a fake smile. Not just his half smile, but a real honest-to-goodness ear-to-ear grin. He was... happy.

What does this mean?

Maybe this was the sign of change for Bruce Wayne. Maybe he was going through his mid-life crisis, or perhaps coming out of one. Maybe Dick had died and actually made to heaven, or maybe this whole thing was a dream made up by some fan fiction writer on the Internet. He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. What ever it was, he liked it, and if it made Bruce happy, then it made him happy too.

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