The tether part 4
by Cyndi Smith

Finally finding a moment for himself Alfred sits alone in his room. The only source of light coming from a small computer-like devise sitting on his large desk in front of him. After many minutes of contemplation he straightens himself at the desk and Alfred writes:

It has been nearly four days since Master Dick was brought home. I am taking a moment to write in this electronic journal he gave me for Christmas last year, in hopes it would assist me in relieving myself of some of the stress that has befallen this household since his illness. Perhaps though, it is because I am afraid he may die and I will not have used it. I pleasantly recall him informing me it was his attempt to bring me out of the 19th century. Nineteenth century indeed. I was using the Bat computer before he was using the bathroom. I use a quill when I write because I choose to.

The house is ungodly quiet. I have neglected many of my chores so as to keep a watchful eye for Master Dick as well as for his friends. Master Bruce has been watching over both Gotham and Bludhaven, with the help of one of the young master's comrades from the Titans.The one they call Arsenal. He is donning the costume of Nightwing while he is working in Bludhaven. Since he arrived here after his first night out as Master Richard's alter ego, I have endeavored to secure for him a costume that fits. It is a wonder that he didn't rip a seam in the other one. His chest is a bit broader than the young master's. But that is the only flaw in his deception that I have seen. He has even dyed his copper red hair to Master Richard's jet black. Master Dick is giving us quite a scare. I remember the look on Master Timothy's face when he told us that the young sir was dead. It was as if someone had ripped the soul from that child, and then came and stole mine as well. I thought that, after all these years, I would be ready for this possibility. I had spent a long time agonizing myself to prepare. Then, after young Master Jason was laid to rest, I prayed I would never have to face a day like that one again, although I know I handled myself with dignity and decorum. I had to. Master Bruce had taken leave of his senses; unable to cope with his loss, he had buried himself deep into his work. For a short period of time afterwards, he had become so violent I was often too busy trying to keep him alive to do anything else.

Until the day Master Timothy filled that gaping wound.

Then came that night in which I feared we would have to relive that terrible tragedy; when Master Bruce received the news of young Dick's demise. I had feared that his pain would get the best of him again. He had run downstairs with poor Doctor Leslie in tow while shouting orders to prepare the medical lab, and to make sure that the special equipment was up and working. We were still bringing it up when the vehicle Master Dick had dubbed the Nightbird pulled in to the cave.

Bruce had carried him from the car and had lain him on the medical bed while I was still struggling to bring the equipment up. I could tell by the look on poor Leslie's face that she was about to pronounce him dead when the machinery came up. The colors lit up the board showing a steady flow of oxygen and blood circulating through his body. I have thanked God every minute since we discovered that Master Richard still lives. It seems he had invoked some kind of trance so deep that even to the normal monitors it appeared he had died. Luckily the special bed, designed with the help of the members of the Justice League, was able to pick up the quiet flow of his life's blood and the inaudible wisp of breath that kept him alive.

Doctor Thompkins and I had performed emergency surgery in unfathomable conditions, repairing what damage we could find and praying that we had found all of Master Dick's injuries, for, without the normal readings, we had no clue as to whether or not he was mending, or even if he would. There was nothing left to do but wait and pray. It had been nearly two hours later when I discovered Master Timothy still in the automobile asleep. I can only imagine the pain the poor child was feeling. And the confusion that he must have felt when he found out that Master Richard lived. He had collapsed to the floor in an uncontrolled outpouring of tears. I was actually grateful he gave in to his emotions, for that doesn't happen very often in this place.

Later that night, I was directed to give a sedative to young Master Timothy, and he slept all of the night and most of the afternoon. I found out later that he had awoken to a nightmare screaming that Master Richard was in trouble. Although he claims to have no lasting memory of the dream itself, I believe it was a Godsend, for his fears had brought Master Bruce and Miss Leslie downstairs at the most opportune time. Master Richard had been experiencing a seizure and had gone into cardiac arrest directly afterwards. I truly believe that it was because they got there so quickly that Master Richard still lives.

At this time he still lies in a coma. There has been no positive change since the seizure, and per the doctor's request we have moved him to the Manor. A world-renown neuro-surgeon, Dr. Newman, as well as five other specialists in the medical field are currently examining him. The prognosis is not looking good. At this time, they say that unless Richard awakens in the next forty-eight hours it is possible that he will not awaken at all. Since Master Bruce has requested that no one be told of the true cause of the young master's injuries, the doctors are being told it was a mugging in the streets of Gotham. The official story is that he had driven himself home and had been treated here until the doctor could be called. Commissioner Gordon came to the manor and handled the paper work himself. He said he understood why we wanted to keep the story under wraps, but he was angry at the fact that Master Bruce requested that the case be closed and nothing be done to find this mugger. "I will not have my son's name dragged through the mud like those wolves do to mine," he had said. I don't believe I have ever heard Master Bruce admit his paternal feelings towards Master Dick to anyone before. It most definitely stunned the Commissioner. He informed us that in fact he could not close the case and should young Master Richard die it can remain open forever. Still Master Bruce was unwavering and thankfully for now the commissioner let the subject drop.

Mistress Barbara had been sleeping when her father had been called. We explained to the commissioner that we had to sedate her after the young master's brush with death. The commissioner was told that Richard had been on his way here to meet her for a date, and that Doctor Thompkins felt it necessary to sedate her when she began to come apart emotionally. Bruce told him he was welcome to come and go as he pleased while she was here, and asked me to set up a room next to hers. He declined, stating that he knew she was in good hands, and that he would come back in the morning and check on her. Which he did.

Leslie had to leave shortly after we moved Master Richard his room. Doctor Newman and some of his medical staff were flown in, so that we were not long without a doctor in the house. Ms. Donna Troy has also joined us. Mr. Harper had been given permission by Master Bruce to call her before for he had taken on his role as Nightwing. She was the only one Bruce would allow to be told of the incident. Before giving his permission, Master Bruce had called me to ask my opinion; I told him that I felt it was a very good idea, not only for Master Richard but for Miss Barbara as well. I imagine that the situation is stressful enough without being the only young lady in the house. Misses Barbara and Donna have been talking pretty much since Miss Barbara woke up. Currently, they are sitting in the kitchen waiting for the report from the doctor. Speaking of the kitchen, I should be getting dinner ready, so I will give myself leave of this entry.

Alfred closed the top on the small keyboard and headed for the door. But he didn't get out the door before he returned, reopened the cover, and pressed the delete button. "If only all our anguishes were that effortlessly erased," he spoke softly to himself.

With no way of knowing how much time had passed, it began to feel like; well for lack of a better description; a lifetime. Alfred could hear the winds outside and they sounded as though they were growing cold and stale. The only source of illumination was strangely ambient, adding to the coldness that he was beginning to feel in his soul. He was tired and alarmingly found the thought of giving up a viable option.

He found it curious that this world he lived in now resembled the one he grew up in; war torn, dark and seemingly soulless. He studied his senses' reports as he made the dark trek to the kitchen. The stench of death hung over the cheerless hallway like an eerie morning fog. Its dark crevasses were endless. As he made the long-ago memorized journey, he found himself in the same familiar dark passages.

The winds created excruciating howls and cries of sorrow, and the shadows began to close in on him. Memories, horrible memories, seemed to attack his very being. Faces of the innocent that he was unable to save attacked his mind. He was cornered with nowhere to run, and for some reason he couldn't fly or even change into Nightwing. Whatever he was going to face, he would face as Dick Grayson. He wasn't sure it would matter now anyway. His mind was becoming muddled; his thoughts were drifting, scattered as if tossed to the winds and lost. He had failed. He was lost; mind, body, and now soul. It was time to give up. He couldn't even remember what he had been fighting for.

He could feel death's cold hands reach out of the shadows pulling at him in all directions. Hands reached from the ground pulling at his ankles, and bodiless arms grabbed at his shirtsleeves from out of the shadows. He struggled but to no avail. Stumbling to the ground, he found himself too tired to fight any longer. Then a voice echoed in his head--a strange but somehow familiar melodic voice spoke to him, ~Give up now and you lose everything you fought so hard to keep.~ It was as the words were pushing away the feelings of defeat; as if some stronger being was pushing at him from inside.

"What do you know." Dick shouted over the screaming in his head, as he struggled to get his footing. "What do you know?"

"~ I know that you don't give up. Not on anything, not on anyone. Not when there was so much to lose.~"

The words seem to explode in his mind. He fought against the confusion. Bracing his head in his hands as if he thought he might be able to contain the last fleeting memories by doing so, he cried out, "And how can you know, what I will or will not do when I don't even know myself?" He cried out, feeling painfully empty once more, "How do you know what I will or will not give up on? I can't even remember."

"I know because--because you never gave up on me," the spirit announced, "It is not in you to give up, Richard."

The spirit stepped out of shadows. The figure was that of a friend he did recall, as memories of a different time and place flooded back in his mind. He recognized everything from the locks of curls that adorn his head like a golden crown and the piercing eyes of blue to the costume not unlike that of a 14th century nobleman's tunic and mantle. In another life he knew this man as both friend and enemy, in another life this man was Joseph Wilson the titan known as Jericho.

"Joey?" he whispered, as tears seem to fall unceremoniously to the ground.

Joe Wilson was a comrade in arms and a good friend. That was until the souls of Azareth, which had possessed his body, had finally taken over his mind. He could remember that time as if it were yesterday. Yet he couldn't remember why he was here or even where here was.He remembered the first time he was told how Joey had became a mute at the hands of his father's enemies, and he remembered the first time he had heard him talk. That had been the only positive thing that had happened that night. Before then, he had been his friend, and, in a way, his confidant. There are just some things you can't keep from a guy who can phase from his body into yours.

Richard's thoughts began to erupt in to painful memories. In his heart he knew it wasn't Joey, but the tainted souls inside the boy that did the things that haunted his mind, but it didn't stop him from jumping away when the spirit stepped closer. Fear invaded again.

~You have nothing to fear from me Dick I will not harm you, I only wish to help.~

"I know, Joey," he whispered, feeling somewhat childish for stumbling away from a man he once considered friend. "It's just... just..." Turning away from the specter, he closed his eyes as if it would hide his embarrassment, "I don't know what it is."

~"That's okay, I know what it is."~ Joey smiled sheepishly sitting on a box that Richard didn't remember being there earlier. ~"The last time you saw me, I roughed you up."~ His voice came sorrowful and weak. ~"I hurt you physically and mentally, as well as my other friends."~ he admitted, ~"I am sorry. I am so sorry."~ Richard watched as tears silently streamed down his face too. ~"You were my best friends... and I nearly killed you all."~ He whispered.

"No, what happened wasn't your fault," Dick interrupted. "If anyone was at fault it was me. I should have seen it, I should have known something was wrong."

~"Known what Dick? That I wasn't alone in my body?"~ Joey laughed eerily, ~"I didn't even know. And what would you have done? Kill me?"~

"NO!" Dick protested.

~"It was the only way to free me."~ Joey stated.

"No! There had to be another way. I just... I just... I just couldn't..."

~"Is that why you attacked my father, because you felt there was another way? Or was it because in your heart you knew there was no other way to help me and it wasn't in you to do it?"~

"I... I... Oh God." Dick collapsed at feet of his friend, suddenly feeling empty and more frightened than he had felt in years. "You were my friend, I should have been able to think...."

~"You are human, more so than any other hero... including your mentor."~ Joe sat next to his friend, and lifted Richard's chin so that he see into his eyes. Dick's eyes clouded with such undeserved pain. ~"Why is it that you can't seem to accept your humanity as anything but a fault? "~ Joe stopped him before he could object.

~"You forget I have quite literally walked in your shoes. I know your feelings."~ He laughed, ~"You have found it in your heart to forgive everyone, everyone that is but yourself. If you are to leave this realm you are going to have to find that same strength that forgave me for what I did to you."~ Joey started to fade ~"and forgive yourself."~

"JOEY!" He screamed out as his friend's last words echoed off the barren walls of the alley.

~"The demons of this realm are nothing compared to the one you fight within."~

Joey faded from sight, leaving Dick to dwell on his words.

Continue To Part Five

Back To The Main Story Page