|Sun, 6 Jun 1999|
(DC) Voices In The Light
Amanda is currently having a small rebellion against the sheer amount of Uni work she has to do and has decided that ficcing is the most effective form of procrastination. So, to enable herself to develop exactly the right amount of panic to finish her numerous assignments, she wrote this. She is also going quite mad, which is why she is writing in the third person.
Disclaimer: DC Comics own them all (except one, who is mine). No profit, no money, no harm intended, no lawsuits please.
Voices In The Light
'I've come to see Dick Grayson. I was told he was brought here.'
The doctor looked at him with tired eyes, a frown pinching his brows together. 'And you are?' he asked.
'I'm Bruce Wayne.'
The frown, if anything, deepened. 'Officer Grayson has just come out of surgery. He's in intensive care at the moment. Only family are allowed to visit.'
'I'm his foster-father,' replied Bruce, distilling a relationship so complex that there were no words able to describe it down to its simplest form. 'His next-of-kin.'
'Oh.' The doctor nodded, his frown smoothing out. 'Then come with me.'
They walked quickly down the corridors of the hospital, impatience to see Dick and fear of what he would see warring in Bruce's mind. 'How is he?' he asked.
The doctor grimaced. 'The surgery was successful,' he said, cautiously. 'We removed all of the bullets. But there was a lot of bleeding into his chest cavity and - other complications. He's unconscious at the moment.'
Bruce steeled himself to ask the next question, terror suddenly looming large in his vision. 'What are his chances?' he asked, his voice soft.
The doctor stopped, forcing Bruce to stop and swing around to face him. 'I won't lie to you, Mr Wayne,' the doctor said gently. 'If I was to be very optimistic, I'd say his chances were fifty-fifty. If I'm being realistic, I'll say twenty-eighty. Quite frankly, I'm astonished Officer Grayson has survived as long as he has. He took five bullets in the chest at virtually point-blank range. He should be dead. I'm sorry to be so blunt,' the doctor continued as he watched the pain flicker across Bruce's face, 'but you need to be prepared for the worst.'
'I've been prepared for the worst for years,' said Bruce in little more than a whisper. 'It doesn't make it any easier.'
The doctor was not a stupid man - he knew that there were layers and innuendos unpeeling directly in front of him - but he was too tired to care. 'He's just down here.' He led Bruce to the door of the room and opened it. The nurse sitting inside the room looked up and half-smiled at Bruce, a gently sympathetic smile, and gestured him to the curtains.
'Don't touch anything,' she said. 'You can sit next to him and talk to him, but don't touch anything.' She turned her attention back to the monitors in front of her that measured Dick's life in lines and beeps and erratic neon pulses.
Bruce turned back to the doctor. 'There'll be another gentleman coming. An elderly gentleman named Alfred - he's my uncle. Please, let him in.'
'Of course,' the doctor replied and withdrew.
With a heavy heart Bruce pulled back the curtain and stepped into the alcove. It was worse than he expected, and his breath was wrenched from him in a sudden groan.
'Oh, God, Dick,' he said, softly and quickly sat in the chair beside the bed before his knees failed him.
He could barely tell it was Dick beneath the heavy mask of the respirator, the tubes and bandages that covered his face. Dick's chest was covered with heavily taped surgical wrap and Bruce dreaded to think what wounds were concealed beneath them.
'Five bullets,' he said. '*Five bullets.* What were you thinking of? What were you doing to get shot at point-blank range? They didn't tell me. They just came up from Bl|dhaven and knocked at my door and told me you'd been shot and I'd been listed as your next-of-kin. I didn't give them the chance to get past the name of the hospital. Oh, God, Dick, my son, don't die on me.' Mindful of the nurse's words, Bruce touched his finger-tips to the cold, white hands of Dick Grayson, hoping for a sudden miracle of waking.
The machines beeped. The respirator rose and fell. Dick stayed locked in his own dark world.
Bruce Wayne lay his head down on the bed and, for the first time in a long, long time, allowed himself to weep.
He was still in the same position, although his tears had dried away to nothingness, when Alfred's hand gently touched his back.
'Master Bruce,' said Alfred softly.
Bruce looked up at him. 'Uncle Alfred,' he said, his voice just a shade too loud. Alfred's eyebrows shot up at his words. 'Uncle Alfred,' repeated Bruce. 'I'm so glad you're here. They're only letting family in to visit.'
'Ah,' replied Alfred delicately, understanding. 'Then we need to start informing them.' He looked down at Dick's quiet, still body and his face paled. 'They need to be here with him,' he whispered. 'I'll go and start telephoning them.'
'No.' Bruce's grip was like a vice around Alfred's wrist and he had to make a conscious effort to loosen his grip. 'I'll tell them.'
'Are you sure?' replied Alfred.
'Yes,' said Bruce, and agony laced his voice. 'I can't - I can't stay here with him like this, Alfred. I need - I need to find the person who did this. Stay with him for me. I'll tell the others. I need to go.' His eyes pleaded with Alfred.
Alfred's long years with the man who was technically his employer but who would more appropriately be called his beloved son had left him able to gauge Bruce's motives in an instant. So he nodded gravely and said, 'As you wish, Master Bruce,' and didn't allow his gaze to flinch at all from Bruce's hotly enquiring glance. Satisfied, Bruce nodded and left the room quickly.
Alfred sighed and turned back to the bed. 'Master Richard,' he said, softly and sat down in the chair. 'All these years and he thinks I can't see how terrified he is for you, how revenge burns in his heart. You think he would know, don't you?' He reached out and gently soothed back Dick's hair. 'Don't die on us,' he whispered. 'Whatever you do, don't die on us.'
~The problem with wheelchairs,~ thought Barbara Gordon, savagely, ~is that you're always too *damned* short.~
No matter how she manoeuvred she couldn't get high enough or close enough to see Dick's face. All that she could see was the steady movements of the respirator and a fall of dark hair.
'Damn, damn, damn,' she muttered to herself and then clenched her teeth tight over her words. 'Shut up, Oracle,' she said. 'You'll get yourself thrown out.' Giving up on trying to see Dick's face she parked herself in beside the bed and contented herself with gripping his fingertips.
'Okay, Dick,' she said, sententiously. 'This is Barbara here. Barbara "been there, done that" Gordon. And I'm here to tell you, right now, that you are not allowed to die. Do you understand me? You are not going to die on me, short-pants.'
Surprisingly, there was no response.
'C'mon, Dick, that's not good enough,' she said. 'I need an answer here. I need to know you're listening. Blink, smile, nod, open your eyes, whatever. I just need to know you're in there.'
She could feel the panic rising in her throat and strangled it back sharply. 'I'll do whatever it takes to keep you here, Dick. You want me to tell you I love you? I love you. There, see, you've forced it out of me. Do you want me to say it again? I love you. I've always loved you. I'll never stop loving you. C'mon Dick, I'm channelling Days Of Our Lives here. Wake up, talk to me or it'll just get worse.'
A machine beeped quietly at her.
'That hardly counts, Dick,' she said. 'A machine beeping at me is not good enough. Do you want me to try emotional blackmail? I'm not too proud, you know,' she threatened.
When he obstinately refused to regain consciousness, Barbara gripped his hand tightly. 'You're not allowed to die on me, Dick,' she whispered. 'I need you - I need you in my life.' She felt her eyes fill with tears that over-spilled onto her cheeks, but she didn't try to stop them. 'You remember me, Dick, you remember when I could walk, when I wasn't stuck in this *damned* chair, when I was young and strong and beautiful. There aren't many people that remember that any more. I'm just Barbara, or Oracle, poor helpless little crippled Barbara. But you remember when I danced on rooftops, when I tumbled through the sky, when I could fly. If you die, there'll be one less person who remembers.'
Silence ticked away between them.
'You remember,' Barbara said quietly. 'But you're not like the others who remember. They look at me in sorrow, thinking what I was like. You don't, Dick. You're the only one who doesn't. When you look at me, you see me as I should be. In your eyes I'm still young and strong and beautiful. Only your eyes, Dick. And when I see it in your eyes I know that it's still true.'
She leaned her cheek against his cold hand and felt her tears run over it.
'Don't leave me, Dick,' she said. 'If you leave me, then I truly will be crippled.'
'What should I do?' asked Debenham.
'Talk to him,' said the nurse.
'Can he hear me?' he asked.
She smiled at the body on the bed, the body she monitored so carefully. 'He's in there,' she said. 'He's in there, fighting. I think he can hear you. I think it helps.' She shrugged slightly. 'Besides, what harm can it do?'
Debenham nodded. 'You're right,' he said and went and sat down next to the bed.
'Hey, partner,' he said, softly. 'It's me, Tony Debenham. I've come to see you, make sure you get better. I'd've been here sooner, but they wouldn't let anyone but family in before today.'
The silence sucked heavily at Debenham.
He forced himself to continue speaking. 'We know who shot you. Guess that's a great comfort to you. Stupid little punk - Adam Carroll's his name. The whole force is out lookin' for him. The fucker had an arrest warrant out for robbery. Must have decided you were going to take him in when we stopped his car. Can't think of any other reason why he would've shot you like that.'
Dick lay there.
'C'mon, partner, you can't die on me,' said Debenham. 'How's that going to look on my record, huh? Gettin' my rookie partner shot after two months on the beat isn't exactly going to look the best. Specially at a routine traffic stop. You're not allowed to die, Dick. You're a good cop. There aren't many good cops in Bl|dhaven. We need all the ones we can get. Tell me you're not going to die.' The note of pleading was strong in Debenham's voice.
Dick failed to tell him anything.
'Nurse says I've got to keep talking to you,' continued Debenham. 'Give you something to hold on to, I suppose. I figure you want to know how much everyone is missing you. They're missing you, buddy. You've got to come back.' Debenham leaned onto the bed. 'You wouldn't believe what the Sarge has done . . .'
'C'mon, Dick, you can't die. You're not a sidekick any more. Only sidekicks are allowed to die, remember. You're the hero now. Heroes never die.' Tim Drake clutched tightly at Dick's hand. 'Besides, if you die, who's going to teach me how to be Robin?'
There was no answer. Dick's chest rose and fell gently beneath its covering of bandages, drawing Tim's fascinated eyes.
'I need you there, Dick,' he said. 'Bruce is - Bruce is great at being Batman. He's not much good at the other stuff, though. He's not exactly the big brother type. I need a big brother, Dick, and I've nominated you. I need someone to talk to about the Robin stuff. The sidekick stuff. What you need to do when Bruce has gone mad. He's gone mad at the moment, you know. I haven't seen him in days. He's out looking for the bastard who shot you.' Tim shook his head. 'I really wouldn't want to be in his shoes when Bruce catches up with him.'
Dick offered no opinion on the subject.
'You were being a sidekick, weren't you?' said Tim, softly. 'Being rookie cop, being the second-in-command. Sidekicks are allowed to die. Everyone knows that. Why couldn't you have been happy just being Nightwing? Why do you have to be - everything? Why couldn't you just be the hero? Heroes never die. Remember that, Dick.'
'Heroes never die.'
'It would never have worked between us,' said Kory, looking down at the figure on the bed. Her normal kittenish sensuality was lost, her face haggard with the twin pressures of grief and hope. 'We did the right thing calling off the wedding.'
'But it doesn't mean I don't love you.'
She sat down in the chair next to the bed and covered Dick's hand with her own.
'I never stopped loving you, you know,' she said softly. 'Even when I left you, I never stopped loving you. There'll always be a corner of my heart that is exclusively Dick Grayson's. I've lost too much, Dick. Parents, planets, lovers. Too much of my heart is empty now. Don't make that little corner empty, too. I don't think I could stand it.'
'The Titans are all missing you, Dick. We need you back. Wally's good, but he's not as good as you. We'll fall apart without you, you know. You're the heart of us. The keystone in the arch. Without you - we can't go on without you.' Kory gently smoothed her hand over Dick's brow.
'Come back to us, Dick.'
'You're the best tenant I ever had, you know,' said Clancy, matter-of-factly. 'Clean, quiet, conscientious, never late with the rent, maker of great popcorn, giggler at trashy movies, capable of keeping my feet warm under a fluffy blanket on the lounge while watching said trashy movies.'
'But, boy, do you go a long way to get out of a date.'
She waggled a finger at Dick's still face. 'Look, I know you've run out on at least,' she counted rapidly on her fingers, 'four attempted dates. I know we had another scheduled for last weekend. But was it really necessary to get yourself shot to get out of it? Honestly, I'd've accepted another one of your inane excuses about suddenly remembering you had to wash your hair. Great hair, too, by the way - thick and dark and wavy.' Clancy's brogue softened suddenly. 'I always wondered what it'd look like spread over my pillow in the morning. I'd better get the chance to see that, Dick.'
'You'd better not die, Dick Grayson. Remember, you're one week behind on your rent.'
'Master Richard,' said Alfred. 'We're starting to worry, you know. It's been a fortnight now. A fortnight since you decided to end up here.' He sighed. 'A fortnight since I've seen Master Bruce. He's gone looking for the man who shot you, you know. Gone for vengeance. I wish - I wish I knew what was happening with him. I wish he was here. He's not been the same since you got shot. If you die - he'll never be the same again.'
Alfred sighed and shifted in the chair. 'Nothing will be the same,' he amended. 'You need to come back to us, Dick. We love you. We all love you. You are - you are like a grandson to me. I know that there has always been the possibility of you dying - of any of you dying - you will, after all, insist on this heroing business. But Jason was enough surely. I could accept one Robin dying. But not two. Not you, Master Dick. You can't die like this. Not so senselessly.'
'If you die,' said Alfred, gently, 'I will be old. You have kept me young for a long time, Master Dick, watching you grow into a man whom any grandfather would be proud of. But if you die - I will be old.'
'We'll all be old,' said the voice behind Alfred, who turned in startlement.
'Master Bruce,' he said.
'How is he?' asked Bruce, shucking off his coat.
'Still unconscious. Still teetering,' shrugged Alfred. 'The doctors are no more hopeful than they were when you last saw him.'
'I've seen him every night,' said Bruce, quietly. 'I am the Bat, Alfred. I can get in here after visitor's hours. I just - the others needed their time to see him. I needed my time.'
Alfred winced slightly at the gentle reproof in Bruce's voice. 'I'll go and wait in the cafeteria,' he said, and was gone before Bruce could stop him.
Bruce sighed and sat down in the chair next to the bed. 'It's just you and me, Dick,' he said. 'Isn't this the way it always ends up? Bruce is brooding, they say, and run away. You never ran away. You always stayed. You always tried to make it better.'
He reached out and clasped Dick's hand in his. 'Did I tell you that you made it better? Did I tell you that often enough? Did I tell you that at all? You made it better, Dick. You made me human. You kept me human - through everything.'
'I found the man who shot you.' Bruce ran his fingers through his hair. 'I wanted to kill him, Dick. Wanted to kill him so badly in burned in me, raged in me. He was such a - such a coward. A mealy-mouthed, shitting-himself, cowering little punk. And yet he nearly took you away from me. God, I wanted to kill him. But I knew you wouldn't have approved. You never liked the idea of killing anyone before - I can't imagine your reaction now you're a sworn police officer. So the little - ' Bruce searched for a word but couldn't find one that summed up his feelings, 'jerk is now in police custody. Though the way they looked at him when I gave him up - he may wish I'd killed him.'
'You don't really want to know this, do you?' asked Bruce of Dick's still form. 'I can't imagine it helps you in fighting to stay alive. What does help I wonder? I've listened to the others - heard what they said to you. They keep telling you they love you. Have I told you that I love you? Probably not. We don't talk about these things, do we? Not love. We don't ever mention love. I love you, Dick. You are my son, my brother, my crime-fighting partner, my sidekick, my protege. I'm sure you would have told me sometime, but I don't exactly make it easy on you, do I? Good old impassive, emotionally tortured Bruce Wayne, incapable of reaching out, but damn good at brooding.'
'How did you turn out so well?' Bruce looked sideways at Dick's face. 'With me bringing you up, how the hell did you turn out so well? I've got all the emotional approachability of a rock and yet you are so well-balanced. I wish I knew how you did it. I wish I knew how to - let go. Let go of the past, let go of the pain. I wish - I had let myself laugh with you more. You deserved that - to know that you made me laugh. Even if you did come up with the worst puns in the known universe.'
'I promise you, Dick, if you stay alive, I'll laugh with you. I'll tell you I love you. You deserve it.'
Bruce grimaced slightly. 'This doesn't help you either, does it? I've listened to what we say to you to try and bring you back, to help you hold on. We're selfish, you know. We keep wanting you to come back because we love you and that's the most selfish reason of all. Don't leave us, Dick, because if you die then *we* will suffer.'
'If you're in there, Dick,' said Bruce, unaware of the tears that streamed down his face, 'if you are making a choice about whether to go on, then all I can ask is this. Don't come back for justice, don't come back for love, don't come back because of us. Come back because - when you are here, the world is a better place. Not because you're a hero, not because you stop criminals or save lives. The world is a better place because you shine within it, because your smile lights the way for those of us lost in the darkness, reminds us that there is a *reason* why we are fighting against it, shows us that we can find a time and a place for happiness and laughter and love. If you go on, Dick, if we never see your smile again, then the world will be a darker place. Come back to me, my son.'
Bruce bowed his head and closed his eyes, holding tight against the sobs that tried to rise in his throat. He couldn't lose Dick. He *couldn't*.
'Bruce?' asked a voice.
'Yes?' he replied.
'Why are you crying?'
Bruce knew then, knew that voice, the inflections and nuances that were part of his world-view. He looked up into the bright blue, puzzled eyes of Dick Grayson.
'I'm crying because I thought I was going to lose you,' he said, his voice almost unnaturally even.
'Oh,' replied Dick, his face locked into the careful frown of the heavily sedated. 'I don't think I've seen you cry before,' he pronounced.
'I don't do it very often,' said Bruce. 'Only when I think I'm going to lose someone I love,' he whispered. 'I love you, Dick. I couldn't stand it if I lost you.'
'I love you, too,' said Dick, his facial expression making it quite clear that he thought Bruce should have known this. 'Why would you lose me?' he asked, almost conspirationally.
'Because you were shot,' replied Bruce. 'Because I thought you were going to die.'
'Oh.' A light went on behind Dick's eyes, some of the fog lifting from his mind. 'I remember,' he said. 'I think - I wanted to die.' His words were carefully considered. 'I wanted to let it all go. But there were all these voices in my head. They wouldn't let me go into the dark. They kept holding me here.'
'I'm so glad,' said Bruce and clutched Dick's fingertips tightly. 'I have to get a doctor,' he said. 'I'll be back.'
'Good,' said Dick and then had closed his eyes again, although this time Bruce could tell it was sleep and not unconsciousness.
His steps buoyant, Bruce went to get the doctor - and to let the voices know that they had done their work well.
Bruce walked out into the light.
Comments: Kind of a strange one I know, but quite frankly to prevent myself being a slavering fan-girl writer I have to have Nightwing unconscious in hospital for a story to prevent random acts of nakedness (on Nightwing's part, not mine - it's winter here and too cold for such things). I also wanted to explore a bit of the character's reactions to Dick because I'm trying to get him right in my head so I can actually write some stuff where he turns up for more than a couple of sentences - one day that Nightwing/Huntress fic will come (actually that one probably will involve nakedness, but it will be entirely plot-driven and nothing to do with me <g>).