DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the characters. Nightwing and all of his friends belongs to DC comics. I'd be a happy woman if Dick belonged to me...but no such luck. I have not made any profit out of writing this, so please don't sue me. It would not be worth your while.
Author Comment: This was the third Dick Grayson story I ever wrote. Thank you to my wonderful beta, Jean whose comments force me to examine my writing. There are a number of spelling, grammar and punctuation differences between Australia and the USA... please forgive me for writing with an accent. (g)
WARNING: I have nooooo medical knowledge. There are likely to be inaccuracies in this story. I hope you can enjoy it despite this.
Special Thanks: I just want to let the following people know how much I appreciate the support, encouragement and constructive comments you have sent me. I'm in your debt....
Trecebo.... ghostninja85.... Jill.... Becky.... Ivy3.... Jenihenpen.... Fortex.... annie.... Esther-Channah.... Jenn11.... comesan.... AssassinGalaxia.... DCgirl.... Anon.... Richiefic.... Herself.... Njong.... Ivy.... Swiss Army Knife.... Snaggle.... Shaindl.... BBfan.... noname.... JosiahGirl.... aniki19.... Slea.... Bear the Cutie.... naneth.... Eldricht.... Bart.... Bumpkin....
Some of you I have been able to send personal thank yous. Others I haven't because I didn't have an e-mail address. Thank you to each and every one of you for sharing this adventure with me. I hope we can share many more.
Dick felt exhausted. He was no longer moving forward as easily. The current that he had been fighting against felt stronger as it pushed against his weary body trying, not to drag him back, but down. Dick knew that if he stopped fighting now, he would sink to the bottom of the lake and remain there with all of the other lost souls. Blinking, he searched the shoreline. Alfred, Tim and Barbara had returned just as he knew they would. They no longer only had their arms outstretched, they were leaning out over the water trying to reach him.
"I'm trying, guys. I'm trying."
Time stopped having any meaning as Dick dragged his body through the sludge, for it was no longer water. His head was aching and his chest burning, his injuries becoming more prominent the closer he got to his family. The exhausted young man was just starting to consider that maybe he wasn't going to make it, when he caught sight of Bruce's face. The other man's blue eyes captured his attention completely.Hang on, Son. I'm coming!
"You better hurry, Bruce, because I'm getting real tired."
There was a crowd collected around the bottom of the stairs of the hospital. Most were reporters who were being kept at bay by Gordon's finest.
Bruce Wayne leapt from his Jaguar. The men and woman of the press parted as he rocketed through them, the millionaire only barely aware of their flashing cameras and shouted questions.
Dick was only feet from the bank. He'd made it this far. He reached his hand out, his friends leaning as far over the water as they could, but the gap was insurmountable. Exhausted, Dick recognized that he had lost the battle. He was so close, but the throbbing in his head and the burning of his chest made it impossible for him take another stroke. Completely depleted of energy, Dick was forced to give up his fight and unexpectedly he found himself being pulled down into the painless liquid that surrounded him. As he sank, he tried to find Bruce so he could apologize. It was as he was being pulled down that Dick noted Wayne had stepped up to the bank beside the others.
Dick had been placed on full life-support, a pump now forcing his heart to beat. Alfred stood, tears trailing down his cheeks as he watched his grandson's brain activity on the EEG slow and finally stop.
He was gone.
Barbara's heartfelt sob filled the room. Tim dropped his face. Alfred blinked and as he reached out to brush Dick's hair from his brow, Bruce burst through the door. No one looked up.
"He's gone, Bruce," Leslie whispered. "Only seconds ago. I'm sorry." The life-support machines continued to beep and pump, forcing Dick's body to continue functioning, but his brain was no longer functioning.
Wayne glared at the doctor as he strode forward. He wasn't prepared to believe that. He and Dick had a connection... one he'd never realized was there before. One that explained the reason for Batman and Nighwing's extraordinary understanding. Quite simply, their souls were linked. Common tragedies were only part of it. Love was the rest. Bruce stared down at his son's silent face... his son? Yes, his son... and he could still feel the connection. Dick wasn't gone!
Wayne stepped forward, a lump the size of a fist forming in this throat. "You aren't dying on me, Dick. I'm not giving up on you!"
As the Lake of Lost Souls sucked Dick down, the young man spotted Bruce walking toward him - but Bruce didn't stop at the water's edge, he kept walking. Wayne did not fear the loss of his soul and he was more than prepared to sacrifice it and anything else for Dick. Bruce waded down into the lake until the water was above his waist. He reached out for Dick's hand, but the lake recognized the soul that had entered it and began tugging at Wayne. It had once owned this man's soul... some fifteen years earlier... and it would re-claim it.
"Bruce?" Alfred asked. Wayne's breathing had started to become ragged. Clearly, the shock of losing Dick was tearing Bruce apart - yanking the very soul out of him, just as Alfred knew it would. "Bruce?" Alfred reached for his son's shoulder.
Alfred waded out to Bruce and grabbed the back of the tormented man's shirt. Tim followed him and grabbed Alfred. One by one the others entered the Lake of Lost Souls, all of them willing to give up their life and soul for one another. Leslie anchored them on shore, her faith in Dick's ability to do the impossible holding them firmly in place.
Dick Grayson's family had formed a tight chain of defence around their lost member. The atmosphere in the intensive care ward had become thick and passionate.
Shoulders touching, the five tried to draw strength from one another and feed it to Dick.
Bruce's breathing came under control and slowly he reached for Dick's hand.
No longer needing to battle the current thanks to the support and strength given to him by his family, Bruce leant forward, his arm extending toward Dick as his son was dragged below the surface. Bruce and Dick's fingers brushed momentarily.
"He isn't gone," Bruce whispered. "Come back to us, Dick." Bruce's fingers encircled Dick's hand.
As Dick felt himself drawn below the surface, Bruce's hand closed around his fist. The moment the connection was made...
The EEG began beeping again after almost twenty seconds of silence. Tim, Alfred, Leslie and Barbara gasped. As they watched stunned, Dick's chest heaved. His eyes fluttered and then opened a quarter of an inch.
Bruce nodded a greeting to the young man who was staring up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. Unlike the others, who had been willing to accept Dick's passing, Bruce had been certain that Dick's life wasn't gone. Why? He'd just known. Felt it - just as he had sensed that there was something wrong earlier. Bruce Wayne did not believe in anything he couldn't see, but he could not deny the connection he and his son shared.
Bruce squeezed Dick's hand. The slightest trace of a smile appeared on Dick's ashen face. He tried to speak, but the tube down his throat made it almost impossible. Almost, but not quite. The words were weak and virtually unintelligible, but Bruce understood."I made it."
Wayne nodded. "We both did." A lump materialized in Bruce's throat and tears formed, but didn't fall. Dick, I... you mean... you are...
The half smile reappeared. Dick could read the message on Bruce's confused and emotional face. Yeah, I know. The words themselves weren't necessary. Dick understood... he always had.
Around them, Leslie and a team of nurses began to fidget and fiddle. Alfred and the others were ushered out of the room, but Bruce didn't move. Dick's eyes closed, but as they did, Bruce felt his son squeeze his hand.
"I'm right here, Dick. I'm not going anywhere." Dick's headed bobbed ever so slightly and then he slipped back into the world of unconsciousness. Bruce looked across at Leslie, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "He's going to be alright. " It wasn't a question. It was a statement of fact.
Leslie swallowed.. "It's too early to tell. He... I mean... he was gone, Bruce."
Bruce shook his head. "No, he wasn't."
"Bruce, I still don't know if he is going to make it," she warned, not wanting him to get his hopes up.
"I do. He's decided to live. Nothing will take him now," Bruce stated.
Leslie stared at him and gradually her face relaxed. "Perhaps. But if he does make it, it isn't going to be easy. He's been through so much."
"I'll take him home as soon as I can. We'll get him back on his feet, Alfred and I."
Leslie walked across and kissed Bruce on the cheek. "I'm sure you will."
Bruce sat down on the edge of the bed, running his hand through Dick's hair with great affection. He couldn't fathom the distance that had grown between them - a distance that had left him viewing his relationship with Nightwing as more important and substantial than the one between father and son. He had pursued a faceless villain because Nightwing had asked him to, rather than being at his son's side. How could he have allowed his relationship with Dick to be eroded so badly?
Bruce knew that ninety percent of it was his fault. Dick had tried so many times, he realized now, looking back. It was time he and his son repaired their relationship. It wasn't going to be easy. They had a lot to overcome... a long way to go, but the barrier was gone; obliterated by the realization that they needed each other. Bruce slid his arm under his son and scooped him into his arms.
Two nurses darted forward, but Leslie held them back, tears of joy washing down her cheeks.
Bruce held his boy tightly but with great care. He'd almost lost him. He'd almost let him slip away. Silently, Bruce Wayne made a pledge - he was determined to make things work between them.
The bitterness and confusion that had littered Bruce's world for so long vanished in that single moment.
Dick found himself standing on the bank being flanked by his family. Out of the mist appeared the oarsman in his small wooden boat. The old man was smiling.
"Congratulations. You were right. You do have something to live for." The old man glanced at Dick's companions. "I stand corrected. Not some thing, someone. Five someones."
The oarsman became serious. "You had great faith in him. You knew that he wouldn't let you drown - that he would enter the Lake to save you even if it meant losing his own soul in the process."
"How did you know?"
"I would have done the same for him."
The elderly man nodded. "Two souls connected by a single binding force. Such loyalty and love is rare."
"Until we meet again, Dick. Your parents send their love and the Waynes send their thanks."
Dick grinned. "Thank you."
"You won't remember any of this when you wake. May God bless you."
Dick glanced at Bruce, who was standing beside him, and then at the others who were collected together, a half a pace back. "He already has."
An hour later, Leslie appeared in the waiting room and informed the rest of Dick's family that his condition was still serious, but that he was stable, off life support and that she was fairly confident that he was out of danger. The relief was palpable. Tim grabbed Barbara and spun her around.
"Do you mind?!" Oracle snapped, but she was laughing.
Leslie smiled at Alfred and invited him to go back into Dick's room. Once they reached the intensive care ward, Alfred followed the inclination of the doctor's head. He stared at Bruce who held Dick in his arms. All that the elderly man had prayed for over the past eight years had just been granted.
"For the last hour," Leslie informed the butler. For the last hour, Bruce had supported his son. He wanted Dick to know he was there... that he would always be there.
Leslie and Alfred stood silently, not wanting to interrupt the private moment. Out of nowhere, Tim appeared.
"Bruce, I've just heard on the radio that Two-Face..."
"Stuff Two-Face," Bruce interrupted.
"Huh?" Tim stuttered, his eyes literally popping at the response.
"I said, stuff Two-Face. I'm needed here."
Tim glanced at Alfred and then back to Bruce. "Oooookkkaaaayyyyyy. I'll... yeah. Well... okay." Stunned, he backed out of the room.
Bruce sighed, lowered Dick back onto the pillow and took a seat on the chair beside the bed. Alfred walked across and slipped his arm across Bruce's shoulders.
"He's going to be alright, Alfred."
Alfred Pennyworth nodded. In Bruce's face he could see the distinct change. The distance between Alfred's charges was gone. Bruce had finally realized that in pushing Dick away he had abandoned his soul in an abyss of emptiness, but The Lake of Lost Souls would never claim Bruce Wayne again because from now on he wouldn't allow anything to come between him and his boy.
Alfred patted Bruce's back as Wayne repeated, "Everything is going to fine, Alfred."
A smile from Alfred's soul lit up the entire room. "I do believe you are right, son. I do believe you are right."
In a very distant place, on the shores of the Lake of Lost Souls, two sets of parents smiled.
Stay tuned for the sequel...Dick's recovery; Bruce's determination to repair his relationship with his son; Barbara faces her realization... and Two-Face tries again!
© June 2004 Aussie Nightwriter. : This relates only to the creative property in this story. The distinctive way the story unfolds, the specific dialogue and unique situations are mine. I acknowledge that some of the characters and settings belong to DC comics. (g) No infrigement of copyright was intended and no profit has been made from this story... so, please don't sue me. It wouldn't be worth your while.