PERCHANCE TO DREAM
Characters: Batfamily and other members of the DC Universe, playing in my sandbox.
Summary: AU. Death in the Family. There’s dying and then there’s being dead. And then there’s living.
Disclaimer: The characters used are not owned by me. They are owned by DC Comics.
Dick walked out of the apartment building that he stayed in while he was going to school. He was heading to his last class of the day, and week since it was finally Friday. He couldn’t remember being so exhausted in high school, even when his dad insisted on his taking all the advanced placement classes and no extra-curriculars (except for his freshman and sophomore year mathletes competitions). He struggled to get homework in on time, if he even did them at all that was.
The truth was, Dick was extremely lucky that Bruce was busy with Jason instead of asking him about school.
And with these thoughts in mind, when he heard his name, Dick was startled and embarrassed.
Dick turned around and glanced to where he had heard his name. It was a familiar sounding voice, but the family was keeping mostly to themselves these days.
“Clark?” he frowned, spotting the broad shouldered silhouette by a tree.
Clark Kent stepped out from the almost shadows with a smile.
“Hey sport,” he walked over to Dick’s stunned side. “How are you, kid?” Clark asked, patting Dick’s shoulder.
“Fine,” Dick finally replied. “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”
Ever since Jason’s coma, and specifically how Superman had intervened for Batman not to kill Joker, the ‘Bat clan’ had been keeping away from all of the other heroes. In the beginning, Diana or Wally, sometimes even J’onn and Clark, would call and try to get to talk to Bruce. But the Batman was a stubborn force, and he had made up his mind to be done with the Justice League and everyone involved with it. If they weren’t going to stand by him, then they could stay the hell away from him was Bruce’s philosophy.
Normally, Dick would tell his dad that the man was being too anti-social. He would try and get him to relax, maybe get Alfred to help him out. It wouldn’t be the first time that Dick and Alfred had to play peacekeepers between Bruce and someone in the Hero community, but Dick had felt very disappointed in the other heroes. Everyone was looking at Bruce like he had brought Jason’s coma on himself. Like the fact that he had been foolish to have the unstable kid as a partner was asking for a tragedy to happen.
They’d been giving Bruce a hard time ever since he had brought Dick along as the first Robin. And while they had quickly warmed up to Dick, they still looked at Bruce like he was losing it. And that was his dad they were calling crazy.
They started walking.
“Is Jason really awake?” Clark asked. He looked uncomfortable, completely out of place. Clark’s Metropolis was nothing like Gotham. Metropolis basked in the Sun and sparkled under their hero Superman. Gotham walked on clutches through murky waters and sighed relief whenever Batman appeared from the shadows. Unless they were criminals, then they shivered in their boots and went crying all the way to Gotham Penitentiary, or Arkham Asylum for the really bizarre cases.
Dick frowned. Though he knew that Clark Kent was a reporter, and he knew better than most how nosy reporters could get, he couldn’t see how he would have come across information like that. Particularly since Bruce took such great lengths to ensure his sons’ privacy.
“Where’d you hear that?”
Clark sighed. He actually seemed squirmish, and who would have thought that the Man of Steel himself would succumb to such a level. Then again, it could also all just be a rouse, what Bruce called Kent’s Play-Human characteristics, that he had long learned to invoke so as for others not to assume his dual abilities. It was much like when Bruce pretended he was a bumbling idiot or a sex-crazed bachelor, both Kent and Bruce were the furthest from their true identities, and that was the point.
“Allen,” Kent said, glancing around as if to see if anyone was watching them, or seemed like they were listening in.
Heroes were paranoid like that, Dick had long ago learned.
“And how did he,” Dick started to ask, coming to a standstill.
“He works with his local police, who happens to have some kind of relationship with Gotham’s PD and they shared the joyous news in the labs. Allen let the founding members know.”
Dick scoffed. It figured that news would travel fast through the Flash himself. He had rather preferred that than to think that the Daily Planet, which Kent worked for, would have caught wind of the story so fast. It was a tightly guarded secret, and how even Gotham Police Department had found out about it, well Dick had his way of finding things out too.
“So they sent you to fact-check,” Dick said, continuing his march from his class at a higher speed.
Not that he would be able to out walk a man that was faster than a speeding bullet and all of that. Not without risking them both and leaving Clark worse for wear.
“That’s not what this is,” Clark sighed. “You’ve spent awful too long with him.” While Dick could tell that the comment was made in light jest, he didn’t feel at level with Superman to hear what he could so clearly tell was a jib at his father.
“It’d do you wise to remember he’s my father, and if you’re trying to reconcile anything with this family, you will not go talking about him like that.”
“You’re right, Dick,” Clark said, his head lowered and looking every bit a chastised man. How did this guy get a gig in the newspapers to begin with? He was downright sad as Kent.
“What’s it to you?” Dick said, taking serious glances over at the Boy Scout, like Bruce had so often teased the man beside him to be.
“Jason,” Dick said, glaring at the grass underfoot. “And don’t tell me that you care about him,” Dick added as Kent started to open his mouth. “No one at the club ever cared about my father’s kids, Jays especially.”
“That’s absurd. Dick, we care about you de-
“Maybe me, I’ll give you that. But how long did that take? And not just thinking I was some cute kid? No one took me seriously for years, and whenever I did anything worth of anyone’s respect, he was blamed for placing me in such situations.
“When Jason came to us, all the papers were saying that either he needed some more off to the side, or Bruce really had no idea what he was doing. Everyone expected the worst from him, taking a circus rat was one thing, but a street urchin? They thought him insane. And what do they all know, right? But them, you,” Dick shook his head. “You’re supposed to know better. You call yourself his friends, but any little thing, and everyone’s jumping down his neck.
“He’s a great dad, you know. You’ve actually seen it a few times, but you still doubt him.”
“We care about you all, Dick.” Clark slipped his hands into his pockets. He was seemingly taking in Dick’s words, and the young man certainly hoped so. He was often seen as the only person that could completely understand Bruce Wayne and Batman, one of the limited few that had the opportunity to know both, and one of a handful that could actually stand to do so. Bruce out of the persona that the tabloids loved was a completely different, and often difficult, man.
Clark was supposed to be one of the few that could also count himself on that list. And while Bruce would never state it as such, it was plain and clear that they were each other’s best friends.
“We care about all of you, Bruce included. He certainly doesn’t make it easy for anyone, well maybe his sons. Beyond that? The rest of us are running to try and catch up. Often enough it seems like instead of lending out a hand aboard, he’s hopping train carts and jumping choppers, just to get that much more away.
“We’ve tried to get in touch with him before. He usually best at a face to face, direct approach, but after last time-”
“So what would you do with some confirmation?” Dick said, not wanting to delve further into the issue that was his father’s close reserves. “What difference would that make?”
“I would expect he’d be in a good mood,” Clark said, a hint of a smile to his voice. “I certainly would be, if my son was brought back to me. I certainly feel great relief, along with a great regret, when one of our numbers suffers loss or redemption.
“And I would like to be able to be there, for my friend. We would all very much like to offer ourselves up to your family in whatever way possible. I imagine it could be difficult for Jason too, as he recovers. We want to help.”
“You’re trying to approach him on his good side?”
“If he had one, yes,” Clark said, openly sending a smile in Dick’s direction. “And if ever he had one, it would be when he became a father. Trust me, the five years we knew him, without backup he was unbearable, but that first year, without you.” Clark shuddered unnecessary.
“I can’t imagine he’d be that bad,” Dick said. And he found himself easily talking to Clark, like time hadn’t passed and a year’s estrangement between their circles hadn’t occurred. As if the very topic on hand wasn’t to try and get them all on friendly terms again; or talking terms at least.
“You’re his son,” Clark stressed. “His first at that. I wouldn’t imagine you to understand that, but believe me.”
Dick came to the corner of the street, stilling before they were amongst a crowd of other college kids, trying to get on the bus to the low-cost apartments leased out to the school for the students. It certainly didn’t have the amenities of home, but even the Hilton paled in comparison to billionaire Bruce Wayne’s stately manor.
“He is,” Dick said, turning to glance up at Clark in the eye, through his non-prescript glasses of course. “And while I kind of welcome the thought of you guys talking again, I would chat up Alf first. And I would leave things be as they are for today. He’s certainly happier than he’s been in ages,” Dick said, a soft smile gracing his lips. “But he’s exhausted too.”
Clark Kent nodded, and just like that, Dick turned and headed over to the fast approaching bus.
Who was that?
An old friend of the family.
Some rich guy, huh.
Not everyone I know is rich, Lyle.
Well, I’m certainly not, and you know me.
When Dick Grayson arrived at the hospital, he was surprised to not only see Alfred there, but also Bruce and Tim. He wasn’t surprised to see them there, actually. He’d seen Tom, their driver, downstairs, but Tom hadn’t known why they were there.
Dick feared something had happened with Jason.
“What do you mean he’s coming home?” Dick frowned over at his brother’s words, glancing in his father’s direction.
“It’s not safe here,” Bruce said, not looking away from the closed door leading to Jason’s room.
They were standing by the big bay window in the reception of the ward, doctors were looking Jason over. Neurologists, cardiologists, psychologists and probably any other ‘ologist’ that Bruce could find.
“But isn’t it too soon to move him?” Dick glanced from the door towards Alfred. While Bruce was a smart man, the smartest man in the world quite possibly, Dick often found himself turning to the older Englishman for reason.
“That’s what we’re waiting to see,” Bruce said.
Alfred gave him a glance that said he clearly didn’t like the idea, but Alfred was the strictest rule follower of them all. He believed it was his job to assist the master of the house, and very rarely did he judge Bruce’s actions. More often, he spoke out for the boys, but whenever he couldn’t see complete fault in certain things, he instead chose to gather his words for safe keeping and instill a watchful eye instead.
“Someone leaked,” Tim said. The youngest present was glaring at the ward in general. He was the only one of the four that wasn’t intent on Jason’s door, and it showed that he was more bothered by the thought of the privacy invasion than he did about Jason’s coming home.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Jason to come home. Except for the fact that he didn’t know about Tim or Damian, it was his home. He would feel safe there, and after the trauma of his last coherent moments, he needed peace.
“Who else knows?” Dick frowned. It was one thing for Clark Kent to approach with that knowledge, but if someone else knew.
Then again, he had said that both the Gotham and Keystone City police departments were in the loop.
“Gordon called me, so it’s safe to assume that the whole of the GCPD knows,” Bruce was saying, his voice growing deep with anger.
“And we all know how reliable they are,” Timmy muttered, glaring at a passing nurse.
“If not today, then tomorrow,” Bruce continued. “But Jason’s not spending any more time here.”
Dick worried his lip for a moment, until he spotted Alfred looking at him. The man had a way at looking at them all, Bruce included, that they would just spill out whatever was on their minds.
“They’ll be checking on him for quite a while yet,” Alfred started. “Master Dick, accompany me to gather some light lunch.”
Dick nodded and followed Alfred from the lounge, leaving his bag beside Tim, but keeping his jacket (which held a few trinkets) with him.
Walking with Alfred was always insightful. Often times, the man would let Dick – or whichever boy he was currently with – do the talking. It wasn’t until the very end of the walk that Alfred would spring out his insightful wisdom on them. Mostly, the talks revolved around Bruce, the man’s lack of time for his son(s) and his seemingly increasing cause.
Dick was getting to when he could spot an Alfred-talk a ways away, and if he was any kind of detective, he could tell that this was where their current food run was headed. What the topic was, however, he couldn’t be certain.
“Kind of weird, thinking about Jason being home.”
“Long overdue,” Alfred nodded. “Under different circumstances, it would certainly be a cause for celebration.”
“Right,” Dick stepped into the elevator. There was only one other person on it, a nurse from an upper level, either heading out to a late break or heading home. Alfred and Dick said their pleasantries to her, but refrained from talking until they had passed the ground floor, where she had gotten off, and into the cafeteria basement. “It certainly will be nice to see him again.”
“Most pleasant,” agreed Alfred, leading the way towards the cafeteria.
“I wonder how different he’ll be.”
“It is not Master Jason who has changed, Master Richard. But his surroundings have certainly altered without him.”
Dick frowned. It was true. To Jason, when he finally did wake up, it would feel like little time since the last time he was awake. He might think it days, at most. Jason would be the last to think that he had been in a coma for over a year. The teen always saw himself as so much smarter and faster than everyone else. He wouldn’t think that it would take himself that long to get better. It would be more than just a blow to his self-esteem. Dick knew he had changed, he wasn’t as carefree – either of his personal life or his private one. Jason had no knowledge of Tim or Damian. That there was a new Robin in Gotham, or how distanced the family had become from the others in their selective arena.
The whole of the world had gone on without Jason, eighteen months had passed and the teen would be none the wiser until someone broke the news to him.
And that someone would have to be Bruce.
“We’ll help him adjust,” Dick said, feeling a confidence he didn’t know he had. A month ago, he would have been chary at the thought of Jason awakening. It had been months since the press had tried to hound one of them in questions about their ‘lost son/brother’. Just after the first year mark. Bruce’s PR had taken quit a hit since the Europe trip. Wayne Manor had less parties, fundraisers were none existent and there was still great speculation about Damian’s parentage that Bruce could care less about addressing. He only gave statements through the Wayne Enterprise Public Relations office, and even then it was only ever business related.
Alfred and Dick reached the salad bar, each grabbed at one of the plastic containers provided. Dick started to fill his with tomatoes, but Alfred remained still.
“What ails you, Master Dick?”
Dick frowned over at Alfred. He hadn’t expected that they man would be so blunt about asking him, and he hadn’t expected that he had shown any outward concern.
“I’m worried about Jason,” Dick said, continuing his quest for tomatoes.
“I believe we are both quite aware that I wasn’t pertaining towards Master Jason.”
Dick smiled slightly down at his hands. It was quite difficult to get one over on Bruce Wayne, World’s Greatest Detective, but it was impossible to get something past Alfred Pennyworth.
“An old friend of ours talked to me today,” Dick said, knowing that Alfred would pick up on the indication.
“I see,” was all Alfred related back, as he started loading his container with cabbage and pickles.
“He heard about,” Dick stopped himself. While he had no qualms speaking to Alfred, they weren’t exactly in a privacy entitled location. “Well, let’s just say, there were leaks there too.”
“I see,” Alfred repeated, this time with slight more interest.
“I told him it was safer to talk with you first,” Dick continued, closing the container and placing it on a tray. He picked up another one and began filling it with lettuce. “Don’t think Dad will be too open to them as of yet.”
“Perhaps soon,” Alfred nodded, filling his second container as well, this time with chicken strips. He cringed at them slightly, as they were not up to the Pennyworth standard, but clearly they would do.
“Yeah, that’s what I told him. But, I don’t know. Dad was pretty serious about them staying away from us.”
When Jason had almost died, it took all Alfred and Dick had to keep the man going. Dick wasn’t the best of help, but looking back and had he been, Timmy never would have emerged himself as a Robin and joined them. A slight glimmer to their darkest of times.
But the worst had come when Joker had brashly announced that he was now Ambassador, and immune to any punitive damages that might arise therein. Even if he had wanted to, and Bruce had wanted to, Batman couldn’t do a thing to Joker. Not even for sentencing his son to the bed he was still in, or murdering his birthmother. To pour salt where the burn was still ignited, the Justice League was called in to get Batman off of his chase for Joker. Superman himself had taken to physically hold the Dark Knight away from where the Joker was just feet away.
When the League had recanted, after Joker again showed his true colors and was demoted from representative, it was too late. Bruce Wayne had made up his mind, and the Bat clan no longer flew with the so called Earth Heroes.
It had been hard on Dick, losing not only the men and women he considered his aunts and uncles, but the fellow young Leaguers, who were like cousins and siblings to him. At a time when he had most needed a shoulder to steady him, someone to grieve Jason with and talk about Bruce’s decline into seeming madness, he had no one.
“Perhaps,” Alfred said, moving towards the cheeses. “It has gone on long enough.”
Dick could only hope that Alfred was right.