Part 9

Bruce felt less rested when he awoke than when he fell asleep. He wasn’t sure how long he had been in bed or even how he got there, nor did he care. He had only one thing on his mind and that was to find out if his worst nightmare had come true. He stood on unsteady legs--in fact his whole body felt like a rubber band. He tried to take a step, and the attempt landed him on his hands and knees. His world spun in a totally new direction. Leslie heard the racket and burst through the doors, nearly taking his head off. Luckily the world took that moment to change directions again, and he slumped over on his side, away from the solid wood entry.

“Bruce Wayne, what in heaven’s name are you doing up? The sedative I gave you would have kept an elephant unconscious for an hour or so more.”

“Sedative? That would explain a few things,” he moaned, “Leslie, Dick, is he…”

“No, he’s still hanging on.” She shook her head unbelievably. “Almost twenty-four hours after we took him off the machine, and he’s still here. Anyone else in his condition would have died within an hour.”

Bruce turned away from her, dazed as if he could see through the walls. “Tim was right. I shouldn’t have taken the doctor’s word for it.”

“Bruce, stop it! Stop punishing yourself.” She hated this part of the man she had come to know as a son. “Doctor Newman is the best in his field. If he thought there was even a chance to save him he would have tried it. I know this is not easy to hear, dear, no more than it is to say, but I think, it is time for you to let him go.” She could tell by his hard expression that he wasn’t ready to hear that.

He tried to stand once more, only to find himself on his hands and knees on the floor.

“Damn! What the hell did you give me,” he growled. She tried to help him up only to find him giving her that glare--the one she was sure stopped the criminal element because it sure scared the hell out of her. But unlike the cowards in the street she wasn’t going to let him make her run. Instead she stood in defiant of his gaze and answered.

“What did I give you? Let’s see, I gave you love, understanding and a chance. But despite everything I did, I was unable to change what you are. Sound familiar?” she chastised him, “I gave you everything in my power I had to give… just like you did a little boy who was abandoned by the fates to a cruel world. Can you honestly say you regret what you did? I can’t.”

In this emotional frame of mind she wasn’t sure she knew what his answer would be, so she didn’t give him a chance to give one. “No one asked you to interfere with the outcome of that child’s life. Seems to me the biggest surprise that came from that whole circus disaster was that you, Bruce Wayne, showed an interest in the orphaned kid at all. It could have very easily ended when the Dark Knight left the room. Instead you knocked down a good portion of your personality camouflage to gain custody of a little boy you knew nothing about.

“As far as this Robin/Nightwing thing, I talked to Mr. Haly one day after you decided to try and get custody of him. Did you know he was walking a high wire without a net at four? He was suppose to asleep in the trailer and everyone was involved in the raising of the tents. Mr. Haly said that one of the circus elephants went nuts, and they thought they were going to have to shoot it when it came to a dead stop at the practice grounds. She plucked him off the ten-foot practice wire. He told me Dick’s dad didn’t know whether to hug him or hit him, and with Elinore the Elephant around, the latter would not have been a good idea.” She paused, “The point of this is that whether or not you became involved in his life, he would still be doing things that are dangerous. Even you told me of when he escaped JDC and you found him looking for the man who killed his parents.”

“And found them,” Bruce whispered.

“I couldn’t prevent the Batman any more than you could have prevented Dick’s other persona, but what you did was teach him what he needed to know to stay on the side of good. Can you imagine what you would be up against if he had chosen the other road?” She knew she had his attention, and whether or not he believed what she was saying, at least he was listening.

“I would give anything to have had the power to change things that have happened in your life--to keep you from harm. For God’s sake, Bruce, I am a doctor; making things better is what I am suppose to do…” She started to sob, “Obviously it wasn’t enough. I was not your mother, but you were the closet thing I have to a son, and I’ve failed you. Every time you came in with an injury, I prayed to God that it would stop, that the violence and hate and everything you go out and face everyday would stop. But it didn’t. And because it didn’t, you had to go on. And because you had to go on, so did I... And so did Dick.”

“But what do I do when he’s gone?” Bruce asked.

“You hurt, you hate, you try to hide, and you cry, then you go on. One day you will find that all those memories you were hiding from are still there, and you’ll go on. Then, totally by accident, you’ll yourself laughing because some crazy incident makes you remember one of Dick’s horrible jokes. Or you’ll happen to see a group of children playing on the monkey bars in the park, and you’ll wonder if they ever thought of doing a quadruple flip. You’ll spot one of the old faded circus signs on a light pole in the bad side of town, and you’ll remember a little blue-eyed boy whom you love and miss, and the feelings of dread will finally give way to the memories of the happier times. Maybe it doesn’t make sense at the moment, but in spite of everything you feel right now, life will go on. And because you love him and he loved you, he will never really be gone, Bruce. No more than your mother and father have gone from your heart.”

She gently touched his chest, and the gentle thumping of his heart turned in to the trembling of his body as he finally broke down and cried. His tears were not long lasting, but she knew it wasn’t because he stopped hurting, but because he had pushed the hurt deeper inside him. He would find a place and time to grieve, but he would not let it be now.

She helped him up when he finally felt strong enough to stand. He had barely gotten to his feet when the whole house filled with what might have been the most unholy sound Bruce had ever heard. He was struggling to regain his balance by propping himself against the walls as the strange echoes were drowned out by another unusual sound--Alfred yelling at the top of his lungs.

Bruce wasn’t sure whether it was the medication or the shock of everything that was going on, but his legs locked, never in his whole life did could he recall hearing Alfred scream or even speak loudly. Nothing over a quiet voice.

Then when he came out of Dick’s bedroom calling for Leslie to ‘come quick,’ Bruce was really scared. Alfred grabbed her; dragging her back to the room muttering a lot of words that didn’t make sense to Bruce. Something about hell rising, and a dark shadow, and something being thrown out of bed. Maybe it was the fear, or maybe it was the drugs, but the hallway seemed to be getting longer. The more he worked to get there, the further away it seem to become. Finally he did reach the room right after Leslie and, stunned, he stood in the doorway. Dick was on the ground, his teeth grimaced in pain. Leslie hollered for her medical bag and Alfred ran by Bruce as if he weren’t even there.

“Dick is alive,” Bruce whispered unbelievably. He closed his eyes, afraid to opened them again for fear that he was dreaming. If it was a dream, he didn’t want to wake.

“Bruce?” Leslie called out frantically, “Bruce! Help me!”

It wasn’t a dream. When he opened his eyes. Dick was writhing in pain on the floor, while Leslie was struggling to hold him still. He wasn’t sure how he got from the door to where they were in the room, for the next thing he remembered was having Dick in his arms staring up at him in pain and confusion, and Alfred handing a filled syringe to Leslie.

“What’s wrong with him?” he heard himself say as he felt his son’s body relax in his arms.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know. Dick can you hear me?” she asked gently.

“H..urts...” was the only answer he could give.

“I know it does, honey, let the medication start to work.” she replied softly, setting his hand to the side of his face.

“What did you give him? A muscle relaxer?” Bruce whispered as felt the muscles of his son contract and relax individually under his own strong arms.

“No, oh no, his heart is too weak right now. It’s a pain killer, and a very weak one at that.”

“Hurts..” The boy winced, and his body seemed to convulse only for a moment. Then Dick completely relaxed, going limp in Bruce’s arms, but after a glance to his son’s expression, Bruce noted that Dick was still conscious.

“We need to get him to the bed.” She ordered as Bruce lifted him with ease. As he did so, Bruce sent Alfred to put in an emergency call to Dr. Newman and to send the Wayne helicopter to get him. He turned his attention back to Leslie as she said, “And I want to keep him awake for as long as possible.”

“Les…?” Dick’s words were drawn out and weak, but they were the most beautiful sounds she had ever heard.

“Honey, I need you to conserve your strength. But try to stay awake, ok?” she added. She was called away by the phone that Alfred handed her.

“Wha.. hap.. en..?”

Through the commotion, no one had noticed Dick’s two friends that stood in the doorway. Donna could no longer hold in her joy, and quite literally flew to Dick’s bedside with Barbara in her arm. “Praise Hera, it’s true.”

Donna lay Barbara next to Dick, and Barbara took his hand, asking softly, “Dick, can you hear me, hon?”

“Babs..? Donna..?” Dick managed. Both women’s faces were flush and wet with tears. They had been in the garden just outside the den when Alfred hurried in to announce that Dick had awoken before he went to make the calls he was asked to make. As Donna had headed for the door, Barbara had asked her to take her upstairs with her. It had been the first time she had asked for help in a long while, and after being rewarded with Dick’s deep blue eyes which she never though she’d see again, she didn’t care.

“Don’t you ever give us a scare like that again, short pants,” she growled in her best Batgirl imitation. Confused, he looked at her and tried to lift his hand her face, but wasn’t strong enough. Barbara gently took his hand within hers and carefully wiped away her tears with it.

“Ok?” She asked him with a soft smile.

Before he answered, his arm began to twitch in a short burst of convulsions pulling it from her gentle grasp.

“Sorry,” he gritted. Both Donna and Barbara looked up at Bruce hoping for some explanations. This time he didn’t have one.

Alfred, who had come in with the oxygen machine and the monitors from the medical room, began to set them up. “Doctor Leslie should be returning any moment with some answers, and she requested that I get this equipment set up, so perhaps you three should go to the den. I have left tea and cakes for you, and I might suggest that it is a good time for someone to call Master Timothy and Mr. Harper and tell them the good news.”

The echoes of hollers and whoops could be heard throughout the den where Barbara had set up a laptop computer with a connection to the cave’s computer. She had video network links open to both Roy and Tim, and, looking over Babs’ shoulder, Donna could see each in his own window. Donna didn’t know who was yelling louder--Tim or Roy. Both Donna and Barbara, who was again in her wheelchair, couldn’t help but laugh.

“We’re on our way home, wonder chicks, and we love you! Whaaaaa hoooo!!” Roy announced jovially.

“Roy. There is something else.” Both men heard the caution in Donna’s voice, and the whooping came to an abrupt halt.

“What’s wrong? His legs or something? We’ll help him with that…” Roy started.

“No,” she interrupted, “At least we don’t know anything right now on that. The doctors are on their way back here now.” She paused, “I meant there was something Alfred said he saw just before Dick woke up,” sshe hesitated, “He said the room grew dark, and a great shadow shaped like a great black bird emerged out of Dick. He said it was majestic, as if it was spreading its dark wings for the first time...” She trailed off, knowing that was enough for her friend to catch on.

“RAVEN!” Roy exclaimed. Barbara noticed the concerned expression that spread across Tim’s face, and she knew he was thinking the same thing she was. They both knew that the Titans’ former teammate had some pretty serious entanglements with the Titans, the least of which was to disrupt Dick’s wedding to Kory, although Barbara admitted to herself that she didn’t think that was such a bad thing.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” Donna said matter-of-factly. “Alfred said it vanished out the balcony almost as quickly as it appeared. He said he wasn’t really paying much attention because Dick started seizing and was thrown from the bed because of it.”

“But I thought she couldn’t return without a body?” Roy questioned. “Do you think she found another body? Are we sure she hasn’t taken up house in Dick?” He knew that wouldn’t go over well.

“ROY!” Donna exclaimed, shocked. “She brought him back! She wouldn’t hurt him again. She’s changed. I think she went to find another body. I want to go find her.” Everyone who was listening heard the definitive tone in Donna’s voice. She sealed the announcement with, “I’m leaving right away.”

“That’s cool. Just don’t over do it,” Roy cautioned. “If she has changed for the better, she may come looking for us. But she may have just stuck around long enough to bring him back.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t know why, but I think she may be back to stay.” Donna said.

“Just be careful, Wonder Chick.” He whispered as softly as he could through the connection. “I’ve enough stress for a while.”

“Me too,” Donna returned.

Continue To Part Ten

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