Disclaimer: DC owns them. No copyright infringement is meant, nor is any offence intended.
Title: 13 Hours: Awakening
Status: Work in progress
Series: The "13 Hours" series. (Yes, there will be more.)
Rating: PG-13 (or that annoying new one – 12A)
Warnings: Some bad language.
Summary: Fifteen- year- old Dick wakes up to a mystery…
Thirteen Hours: Awakening
"Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot."
Children's oral traditional.
"Oh, thank God!"
The words pulled him out of the darkness. He was aware of his head aching long before he was awake. It pounded in time with his heartbeat and the rush of blood through his veins. The light hurt his eyes when he opened them and he found he could only focus on the ceiling – his ceiling - far above him.
Dick moved his head in response, letting out a soft moan at the crest of pain behind his eyes. He saw the beige blur in front of him clear until it formed into a familiar face. "Alfie?" He heard his own voice croak.
The butler carefully tucked the bedcovers around Dick, making work for himself, trying not to show how relieved he was.
Dick frowned. "Are you OK?"
A rare smile appeared. "I believe I should be asking that of you."
"What do you mean?"
"You had an accident, lad. You've been unconscious for last seven hours."
"Wha-" But the door opened at that moment, cutting off his immediate question. A woman entered. Dr Leslie Thomkins looked tired and harassed, but she still found a smile for Dick as she sat down on the bed beside the boy.
She took his wrist and felt for his pulse. "How are you feeling?"
At the question, Dick took notice of the many aches in his body that he'd previously been trying to ignore. From the fierce ache in his head down the pain spectrum to the dull throbbing in his shoulders and he replied succinctly. "Like I've been hit by a truck."
The doctor smiled. "No, just a tree."
"You ran your bike into a tree."
Dick just gapped.
"The two hundred year old yew to the west of the property," Alfred supplied. "The damage is quite irreparable."
"You're fortunate that the cycle has as many safety features as it has, or I would be saying the same thing about you." She added with a smile.
Dick swallowed. "I don't remember…"
Dr Leslie pulled out a light pen. "That's perfectly natural after an accident, Dick." She said. "Just look straight ahead."
Dick flinched at the brightness as the doctor checked his pupil responses.
"What is the last thing you do remember?" Alfred asked. Despite the distraction of Leslie's examination, Dick couldn't fail to hear the catch in his voice.
"My homework…" He said, thinking back. There was no discernible cut-off in his memory, no sudden blackness. "Going to the library downtown…" He frowned, remembering waiting at the curb and pulling up at the Manor, but not much in between or after. "Guess I, um… I'm kinda hazy on how I got home."
"It's nothing to worry about." The doctor assured him. "A large percentage of accidents involving head injuries results in memory loss of the actual trauma and in some cases, anything up to a day before."
"13 hours." The voice had a distinct soft/hard timber that Dick knew so well. "Based on time between Dick's visit to the library yesterday and the accident."
"Bruce!" He knew he should be used to this by now. He hadn't had any idea Bruce was in the room. Hell, he didn't even know Bruce was in Gotham City. His guardian had been in New York all week.
But didn't it make sense he'd come home if Dick were injured?
Dick sighed inwardly. No, this was Bruce…
Bruce stepped out of the shadows and into Dick's line of sight. He gave no greeting to the startled boy. "Will he recover the memories?"
"Unlikely." The doctor answered. "Even given Dick's…abilities and training."
Dick flopped back on the bed, suddenly overwhelmed with tiredness. Leslie turned back to him. "You've been very lucky, Dick. You escaped with only cuts, bruises and a concussion. I want you to get plenty of rest. No acrobatics and no…" Her eyes fixed on Bruce's. "…No late night activities."
Dick closed his eyes a moment, but the pounding in his head crested at even that small movement.
"Would you like something for the pain?" She asked gently, seeing him wince.
He nodded his assent and she quickly reached in her bag for a hypodermic. She found a vein and injected him. "That'll take the edge off. I'll write you out a prescription."
Standing, she declined Bruce's offer to show her out with a rueful 'I know the way.' Dick watched her leave; feeling another wave of exhaustion hit him. "13 hours…" he whispered. "Could be worse." Silence greeted him and he rolled onto his side. "I guess I'm not gonna miss them. I mean, what coulda happened in 13 hours..?"
Bruce's voice drifted back as his guardian left the room. "More than you could ever imagine…"
"What did he mean?" Dick asked when Bruce had left. The butler sighed and straightened the bedclothes.
"Nothing, lad." Alfred assured him, getting up. "You should get some rest. I'll bring you a light supper some time after six."
He looked up at the butler. "Alfred…"
The man waited patiently, the consummate professional. Dick slumped back onto the pillows. Sometimes Alfred had a better poker face than Bruce. "It's OK, I get it. Him first, then me."
"I'm afraid I don't take your meaning, sir."
"Loyalty. But it's OK, I understand."
A raised eyebrow was the only response to the youngster's teenage sulk. "Not at all." He said eventually.
"Then tell me what Bruce meant."
"There is very little for me to tell."
"That's not what Bruce thinks."
A flash of sadness pasted through Alfred's eyes. "Master Bruce understands, as I do, that some things are better off left buried."
Dick's stomach churned sickly at his words. "You don't really believe that."
Alfred didn't answer. "Rest, Master Richard." He said instead, before quietly leaving Dick alone.
Dick lay awake after Alfred had left, feeling the painkiller Dr Leslie had given him begin to fade the many aches in his body. His eyelids became heavier and heavier and a deep well of warmth inside his mind was calling to him. He tried to fight it, tired to concentrate on this morning…no, yesterday's events. He remembered waking, having breakfast in the kitchen with Alfred. He often did when Bruce was away. Afterwards, he had head into town to do some research at the library with his study partner, Claudia. He smiled at the memory of the kiss goodbye she'd given him.
He yawned and lay back. He'd just rest his eyes a minute. If he gave himself a minute, he'd be fine.
He opened his eyes to bright yellow evening sunshine. He blinked blearily at the man standing beside his bed holding a tray.
"Good afternoon, sir." Alfred said.
He sat up, feeling the sharp protest of his limbs at the movement. The painkiller Dr Leslie had given him had obviously begun to wear off while he was asleep. He swallowed back a moan.
Alfred immediately produced a bottle of white pills and a glass of water.
Dick smiled. "Thanks." He said, taking two tablets out. They lay, white and accusing, in his palm. He didn't like drugs, even prescribed, anymore than Bruce did. But he threw them to the back of his throat anyway and swallowed. His arm hurt at the movement and he noticed a large blue bruise on his right wrist.
Alfred placed the tray across Dick's lap. Dick peered at the covered plate. "Pancakes?" He asked hopefully.
"Ordinarily, sir. However, after conferring with Dr Thomkins, I decided something more substantial and nutritious was required." He put down the tray and lifted the lid. "Kedgeree, sir, served with toast, orange juice and a pot of tea."
He picked up a fork and pushed the rice mix around. It didn't look as enticing as a pile of pancakes might have, but Dick found he was hungry enough not to care. He scooped up a fork full and popped it in his mouth.
As he ate, Alfred fussed with the pillows and changed the comforter. When he finished, while sipping a cup of tea, he looked at Alfred.
"Alfred, what…what hap…?" But at the butler's formal straightening, he changed tactics. "Erm…I…um…I mean, how did it happen? The accident, I mean?"
The older man narrowed his eyes fractionally. He knew Dick had learned his lessons well. The boy was almost as good a detective as his mentor.
"You had taken the vintage Harley Davidson out to the west of the property. I believe your primary motive for this was to impress a young lady."
Claudia…? The image of his friend waving through the car window as the vehicle drove away flicked in his mind. Dick frowned, unsure of the memory. His arm throbbed, reminding him of the presence of the bruise on his wrist. He looked down at the mark, so unlike what he would expect from an impact trauma.
"Sometime after seven, the computers…downstairs…registered a massive impact to the front half of the bike." Alfred continued. "When Master Bruce failed to raise you, he followed the onboard tracking device until he found you. Dr Thomkins was summoned, but fortunately you did not require hospital treatment."
Dick frowned. "Bruce…I don't remember him coming home."
Alfred flinched. Just a fraction of a fraction, but he flinched. Anyone other than himself or Bruce would have missed that. "He arrived shortly after you had departed for the library, Master Richard. Apparently the merger went ahead smoothly and Master Bruce was able to return home earlier than he had anticipated."
"Did we have…business in the evening?"
The butler's eyes narrowed even more. "Nothing beyond routine surveillance, I believe."
"And…and that's all?"
Dick's appetite failed and he began toying with the remains of his meal. "Is Bruce home?"
Alfred's mouth softened into an almost smile. "Not at the moment."
The answer hurt him more than it ought too. He felt…punished, accept he hadn't done anything wrong. Or maybe that should be, he didn't remember what he'd done wrong. Sighing, Dick rubbed at his chaffed wrist, drawing the elderly man's attention to it. The bruise hurt worse than the stiffness in his neck and the dull ache behind his eyes. Dick realised Alfred was looking at him regretfully, or more precisely, at the ugly marks on his arm.
"I'll bring you some more painkillers." The man said, breaking his gaze so quickly that Dick wondered it he'd imagined it.
The young man shook his head. "No."
"It doesn't hurt that bad." He lied. And I need my head clear… He added silently.
Dick's bladder made its presence felt and the young man sighed as he slipped from his bed. He padded through to the bathroom, closing the door behind him. The sudden privacy came as a relief. He used the toilet and went to wash his hands. His reflection faced him from the bathroom mirror and he drew a sharp breath. His eyes were deeply shadowed, and red-rimmed, as if he hadn't slept at all and his cheek was vividly bruised. A brief flash of déjà vu hit him as he stared at this damaged face. He lifted his hand to touch the discoloured skin. In the mirror, he watched as he brought his marked wrist up. The colour matched exactly.
Same timeframe… But Alfred's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"If you'll excuse me, Master Richard, I have to prepare for tonight's activities."
Activities you won't be part off… He thought bitterly, but his voice managed to sound level and calm. "Sure."
He listened for his bedroom door to close as he returned to studying his image. Alfred, of course, barely made a sound as he left. Dick pulled up his pyjama top and studied the red scrapes on his left side. The marks were redder than those on his wrist and face. Newer, fresher… Bruce had taught him well.
Some things are better off left buried… Alfred's words echoed through his mind.
He met his own eyes in the mirror. "What happened to me?" He asked aloud.
But his reflection held no answers.
Moonlight lit the bedroom, casting everything into shadow. Dick stared at the ceiling, bored. He wasn't used to being in bed much before 1am. How did ordinary folk cope with having so many hours to sleep in?
Frustrated, he pulled back the covers and headed out of the room. The old house grew cold at night, when most of the power was diverted downstairs. He shivered in his underwear as he wandered down the stairs. The ground level was dark except for a line of light coming from the edge of Bruce's study door.
He padded over and gave a quick knock. He didn't wait for a response and entered. Bruce looked up from his desk, the skin around his eyes tightening when he saw who it was. His jaw was red and swollen, a souvenir from a successful night as Batman. Dick had lost count of the number of times he'd gone to school sporting a black eye or some other bruise. One of his tutors had even been so concerned at this that he'd taken Dick aside one day and asked him point-blank if his father's 'discipline' was a little on the harsh side. Dick had laughed this off, but Alfred had always been careful to apply concealing make-up on the next few times it happened.
"Dick?" Bruce said. "You should be asleep."
"I tried." He told him. "Guess I'm not used to being in bed this early."
"Try again." His guardian's tone was sharp.
They stared at each other for a long moment, until Dick broke the contact with a sigh. He turned to leave. Then stopped and turned around. "Bruce, what happened?"
"I put Two-Face back behind bars."
"No, I mean, in the 13 hours." But Dick knew Bruce had deliberately misunderstood. He knew he wasn't going to get an answer. That didn't stop him asking the question though.
"Nothing. Forget it."
"I did, Bruce, that's the whole point!" He strode over his mentor, getting angrier with each step. His temper had been getting shorter these last few months. "If nothing happened how come everyone avoids the question when I ask? Why not just say 'you went shopping, Dick. You hung out at the mall, Dick?'"
Bruce didn't answer.
"Did I screw up as Robin? Is that it?"
"What then? What happened that was so fucking bad no-one wants to tell me?"
"Do not use language like that in my house!" Bruce closed the gap between them, eyes aflame. "I have had enough of your teenaged tantrums. You're acting like you're-" His words snapped off.
"Like I'm fifteen?" Dick completed.
Silence, then… "Go back to bed."
Still angry, the boy turned and began walking away. At the door, he turned to face his guardian. "Alfred says there are things that are better left buried."
Bruce met his eyes.
"Is he right?"
Sighing, he opened the door and went to leave. He paused in the doorway and once again, looked back at Bruce. "I'm sorry." He said, quietly. "For whatever I did, I'm sorry."
He had only taken two steps when he heard his name.
He turned, saw Bruce approach. His mentor came to a halt in front of him, his face shadowed in the darkened house. That must surely have been the reason for Dick imagining a look of…uncertainty?…on Bruce's face.
His guardian reached out to touch him, stopping his hand before he made contact. "I am too." He said softly. Then he was Bruce again, closed off, and closed down. "Get to bed. It's late."
But his thoughts kept him awake long past dawn.
Continued in "Thirteen Hours: Déjà vu?"