Title: My Richard. Part Fifteen Conclusion
Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.
Feedback: Hell, yes.
Betaboy, aka Jim Greeno, has gone above and beyond on this probably too long series. He kept the thing on track and fed me endless canon facts I know less than nothing about, from current Titan membership to Dick's motorcycle of choice...Good job and well done, Jim!
My RichardPart Fifteen Present Day
"So what did the letters really say? The ones that friend of hers intercepted?"
It was one of those rare days off when the air was clean, crisp, and the sun was bright without being glaring or too hot.
Dick and Bruce were walking one of the paths on the Manor grounds, the one that went to the cliffs overlooking the water. It was unusual lately for them to have time together, let alone the kind of time that would allow for something as normal as a walk. This being them, they were using the chance to discuss an insane stalker. And they were talking together like a normal father and son. Both reveled in the ease of their conversation, long may it last.
"You know how I thought they were about everyone's identities? I was wrong—well, she lied and I was dumb enough to believe her."
"Oh?" Proof enough of Dick's state of mind to believe that kind of lie or exaggeration.
"They just repeated that old crap about us being gay and you taking me in because you liked little boys. You know—same old."
"And even if they had gone out, no one would have printed them without being sued so they probably would have been filed in the garbage." Bruce's lawyers were among the most feared in the business when it came to libel and he didn't hesitate to use them.
"Well, the crap papers would have done something with them, but even they know how you respond to that kind of thing, so they would have stepped lightly."
"Do you think she really suspected our other identities?"
"I know she wondered why I had to spend so much time with you when I was younger, but, no. I think she was jealous and just made a wrong assumption based on the rumors."
They stood on the bluff looking down to the water. Bruce loved it out here and chastised himself for not coming more often. "So she's back in custody after showing up at your apartment?"
"For now. She's being sent back to treatment, but it looks like she's smart enough to scam her doctors and there's no way to really get around that. I can't demand she get a new shrink so, yeah, she'll be out sooner or later."
"You'll be informed when she's released, of course."
"Of course, and I may even be allowed to speak at any hearing she has, but, sure—she'll get out again."
"How are things going with you and Barbara?"
"It's good." That simple sentence told Bruce what he wanted to know. His son was healthy again and he was happily in love. "I'm going over there later." He felt a stab of jealousy at the back of his mind and dismissed it immediately. Dick deserved as much happiness as anyone did, even if Bruce's lot was to be alone.
"Any idea how long Laura will be locked up this time?"
Dick sat down on the bench at the head of the path, now warmed by the sun. "No, I don't. I did hear that her parents have petitioned the court to have her declared incompetent and be named her legal guardians. That may help things."
"I hope so." Bruce sat down beside Dick. A companionable silence was between them, calm. They were, rare for them, relaxed together.
"How are you doing, Bruce? Things okay?"
He nodded. "Things are—coming along."
His face still turned to the water, Dick smiled.
"How was the young Master?"
Bruce had seen Dick off by the garage where he'd pulled in for some gas. The new bike, his new modified Ninja, had just been delivered and while Bruce knew Dick could handle anything on two wheels—or four or eighteen wheels, for that matter—there was a parental part of him that had to restrain himself from telling his son to 'be careful' as he got on and fastened his helmet.
Dick was always careful.
Well, no. That wasn't true. Dick was an adrenalin junkie of the first order.
He was always in control, though, barring something unforeseen...
He'd be fine.
"Dick seems very well. He didn't come in to see you?" Dick knew better than that, he knew Alfred doted on him.
Alfred was putting the roast in the oven, the wine was breathing and the new potatoes had been peeled. A few friends were coming over this evening and the old man liked things to be done just so.
"He did, but seemed in a hurry as young people usually are. I must say how pleased I was to see him walking so well now. That was—worrisome."
Bruce smiled at that. "Yes, it was that." He picked up an apple from a bowl on the counter. "I think he'll be alright."
"Yes, I suspect he'll be just fine." He was arranging canapés on a silver platter. "I'm really quite proud of him, sir." Bruce agreed, but, as was his way, said nothing.
"But she's so much better, Mr. Woodward. I know she's anxious to go home. Surely you can see that she's made tremendous strides while she's been with us here."
He was on the phone in his study; door closed so Lynn wouldn't overhear and be upset by whatever was coming this time. "Well, yes, I do see that, but we've thought so before and it just wasn't the case. How can we be sure? She has you there to talk with, and support from the rest of the staff. I think that may be the best place for her right now."
"With all respect, I really think that what Laura needs right now is to know that you support her and believe that she'll succeed on the outside in a normal environment. I've been working with her for several months now and she understands that her relationship with this young man is unhealthy for both of them and must be ended."
"That's good, if she's accepting that then..."
"And since she's gotten to this point, I feel strongly that the best thing for her now is to join society and move on. I'm sure she's ready for this."
"But, Doctor, she's been stalking this boy for over seven years now, she's been violent and..."
"Of course, and now she understands how wrong and unacceptable her actions have been. In fact, she's very upset about how she's acted towards this person. She's written him a letter apologizing to him and the young lady he's currently involved with, as well as letters to the man's family. I really think that she's ready to be released."
"Would it be possible for me to speak with my daughter?"
"Of course, she's right here."
"Laura? Are you sure? You really think you're ready to come home now?"
"I am. Dr. Schmidt has been so wonderful that I'm so much better you'll hardly recognize me. Honestly, I feel completely different and all I want to do is come home and maybe finish my schooling and do something useful. God, I feel like I've wasted so much time. Please, Daddy? Please?"
"Honey, put the Doctor back on, will you?...What about Richard Grayson? Doesn't he have the right to speak to the authorities before Laura is considered for release?"
"He has that right, and we're attempting to contact him now. As soon as he has his chance, we'll be able to move this through."
"Are you having a problem getting a hold of him?"
"We've left several messages at his home with no return calls."
"He's on the Bludhaven Police Force, he should be easy enough to get in touch with."
"Yes, we're trying. Now, just so we're clear here, if Laura is released, she'll be able to stay with you and your wife, is that correct?"
"Yes, she can stay here, but Richard has to be notified...are you sure Laura is ready for this?"
"Laura is more than ready and we're taking care of that end of things, Mr. Woodward. I'll call you soon."
I'm so terribly sorry for everything I've put you through the last few years, and I know it's asking too much, but could you possibly forgive me?
I never intended to hurt you or cause you any kind of pain or distress. You know that all I ever really wanted was your friendship.
The doctors are thinking about releasing me and I know you'll want to make sure I'm better before that happens. I don't know how to convince you that I'm alright now other than to just tell you, but it's true.
I am better. I know now that what I was doing and how I was behaving were bad not just for you but for myself as well.
I can see how I've upset you over the years and treated you unfairly—you and other people as well and I will regret that until the day I die.
I did things that I'll never forgive myself for and I can only hope—because you're such a good person, that you'll be able to find it in your heart to let me try to get on with my life, like you're getting on with your own.
The letter, along with others she wrote, were mistakenly put in Laura's file and never mailed. Through an oversight, Dick was never informed of her impending release.
Six weeks later around five in the afternoon, Dick was at work in his new precinct house when one of the men came over to his desk. "Hey, Sarge? A girl outside asked me to make sure you got this, she said she didn't want you going hungry."
It was a bag from a take out place, Chinese, and smelled pretty good.
He'd been with Barbara last night and went to work straight from her place for a double shift—this was the kind of thing she might do if she was out doing errands or something. Well, actually lately he'd been staying with her more than he slept at his own place. "Was she a redhead?"
"The girl? Nah, blonde and real pretty." The new man smiled, "I never figured you for the kind to have something going on the side."
He got up and stared out the window overlooking the street, staying to the side so he wouldn't be seen.
Laura, just the same as always. She had a book and was sitting on the stoop of the brownstone across the street. Jesus. Here we go again and when the hell was this going to frigging end?
Well, fine. Enough. Screw this.
"Tony? Come with me."
They walked out the front door and were half way to her when she looked up, jumped to her feet and threw her arms around him, swinging him around and kissing him as he tried to disengage.
"Oh, God, I missed you so much! Did you miss me? Did you? I know you did. I just know it! I was going to write you or call you, but then I thought it would be fun to surprise you and so—you are surprised, aren't you? Happy surprise? Good surprise?"
He managed to pry her arms from around his neck, his stance was angry and his face was as dark as she'd ever seen him.
"Oh, God—you're not happy. I knew it; I shouldn't have bothered you at work. I know how much you hate that. I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. Can you forgive me? Can you? Don't be angry with me? Richard? You're not mad are you? Please, Richard, please?"
"Tony, this woman is in violation of a restraining order I have against her and which I have a copy of in my desk. Please arrest her."
A Nightwing look from Dick and Laura was in a holding cell, yet again.
Dick ran a quick check. Laura had been released four weeks ago to her parents' care. He found their Chicago number.
"This is Di—shit, Richard Grayson. Are you aware that Laura is in Bludhaven?"
"You're mistaken, Richard. Laura was at school all day and is at her job now."
"She's in a holding cell two floors below me. She's being booked and then I'm pressing charges against her for violation—again—of the restraining order.
"But—she's—no, that's not possible...can I call you right back? Ten minutes, tops."
Five minutes later John Woodward was back on the line. He'd checked, Laura hadn't shown up either at class or at her job. "She must have taken a bus or cab to the airport—Jesus, Richard, I had no idea she'd do something like this. I swear. I'll be on the next plane. I'll take care of her."
"She'll be here."
The next day John showed up to see his daughter. She had a hearing a week or so later—the wheels being greased since it involved a cop—and was told to serve a week for violation of the order and after that time was up, she was told that any further infraction would result in her being remanded back to a treatment facility. She was ordered to stay at least one hundred yards away from Richard Grayson, or his residence or workplace, at all times and was prohibited from attempting to contact him in any way.
She was subdued and said she understood what she was being told.
Her father would be back to get her in a week.
Dick was furious at the breakdown in the system, but not surprised. He called the psychiatric hospital where she'd last been treated and spoke to her psychologist who, citing patient/doctor confidentiality, refused to discuss the case with him other than to offer her sympathies about what a difficult ordeal he must have been through.
He called his lawyer, one of the top people on Bruce's legal team and demanded to know what, if anything, could be done to prevent this from happening again. The bottom line? Unless she committed another actual crime, blew up another van or burned down another house—frankly not much.
The lawyer called John Woodward and told him, both as lawyer-to-lawyer and father-to-father, that this was the end of this, that this wouldn't be tolerated and this was the end of the line as far as they were concerned. Both Mr. Grayson and Mr. Wayne were extremely upset by this latest problem and it wasn't to happen again.
Was that clear? This was it. The next step would be to take legal action against the Woodward's as Laura's legal guardians. They would be sued for emotional distress and failure to fulfill their obligations regarding their daughter. There would be consequences, serious ones. This stopped now. Period.
Barbara was as close to distraught as Dick had seen her when she found out and Dick was about as upset as he ever got to see her in tears. Barbara wasn't the weepy type and this was more than he could deal with.
Roy went ballistic when he heard about Laura's appearance at the precinct house and told Dick in twelve different ways that he was a fucking idiot and the bitch should be locked up either in jail in a nut house, he didn't care which.
Garth offered Dick and Barbara a few weeks, a month, whatever they wanted, on his island in the South Pacific so they could get away and Dick was about to accept when he was informed by the Captain that he had used his vacation time and could suck it up.
Finally the week of Laura's incarceration was up and her father came to get her. She had been held at a different facility than a local precinct house and Dick didn't see her leave, though he was copied on the release orders.
The Woodward's took the next flight back to O'Hare and Dick was told—though he was dubious—that this was the end of the problem.
The first few weeks after she left he found himself hesitant about looking through his mail, both at home and at work. He would look up suddenly when he saw a slight blonde woman go by on the street or in a store or a restaurant and he became even more protective of Barbara. He stopped by every night at her place, even if he couldn't stay, to make sure that all the locks were set and that all the alarms were armed. Against his base beliefs and over Barb's objections, he bought her a handgun and made her practice with it. She kept it in a pocket of her chair and hated it.
He was waiting for the shoe to drop and the suspense built.
Weeks went by then a month, then two months and he heard nothing.
There were no letters, no calls, no presents. Nothing.
His friends received no threats and Bruce's mail was free of anything as well.
He was still convinced that it was just a waiting game, almost a chess match and he caught himself looking over his shoulder as he walked down the street or got on his bike and tensing when he checked his phone messages—but there was still nothing. Barbara's van was replaced and he made sure that it was locked up in a secure garage when it wasn't in actual use.
He had all the locks and phone numbers changed.
The spring ended and for the first time in seven years or more, there was no birthday present or card from Laura. Summer was quiet and he took Barbara up to Bruce's place on the Maine shore for an idyllic two weeks.
Fall started early and crime went down when the weather turned really cold for a few nights. The homeless numbers were growing and the shelters were overcrowded.
Still there was no word and Dick started, slowly, to relax. He no longer thought about Laura every day, though it was uncommon for more than two or three to go by without her crossing his mind.
He spent Christmas back at the Manor with Bruce and Alfred. Barbara was with him and they shared his old room with no raised eyebrows. Tim was there and Jim Gordon came by several times for dinner.
He thought seriously about asking Barbara to marry him, but somehow wasn't sure if it was the right time and so held off. They were good together as they were, no sense rocking the boat. Dick told Roy about his thinking about getting married and, expecting a smart-ass remark, was genuinely pleased when he just said, "She's alright, Dick. You're good for each other and you'll be happy with her—you deserve it, man." Soon. Not quite yet.
About a month after the holidays he was late from work. A pileup on the interstate caused delays and there had been a lot of injuries and detours had to be set up and worked. He let himself into the Clocktower around two in the morning, too tired to go out as Nightwing and knowing it was too cold for most criminals anyway.
She had left a counter light on for him in the kitchen like she usually did, knowing how often he came by.
He stopped in to get a quick something, a cookie or a piece of cheese and saw the newspaper obviously left out for him and folded to the right page. It was a copy of the Chicago Sun Times, dated last spring, almost ten months earlier. The story was minor and buried on page twenty-seven.
"The body of a young woman was recovered early this morning from the tracks of the switching station on the North side. In what authorities are terming an apparent suicide, Laura Woodward, 23, of Joliet, was struck and killed late last night..."
He turned out the light and instead of going straight in to the darkened bedroom, found himself sitting on the living room couch, one knee drawn up, thinking about the wasted life and it's violent end. It was almost inevitable, really, and he had half expected that something like this would happen sooner or later—but it was still a shock.
He thought about what she had put him through over the last seven, almost eight years and was surprised that he didn't hate her.
The only thing he felt was tremendous sadness for her and what she might have done or been if her life hadn't taken the wrong turn it had. He was past the anger. It was pointless now.
She tried to kill two women he loved, both Kory and Barbara; she burned down one of his homes—short lived though it was. She almost killed him and caused him what could have been a permanent injury. She followed him, harassed him, ruined more dinners and trips and simple evenings at home than he could count. He couldn't remember the last time he looked through his mail and not dreaded the possibility of finding another pink envelope from her in the stack. She upset his family and his friends, as well as her own and all because she thought she was in love with him.
He wondered—he'd wondered on and off for years—if there was more he could have done to help her, to get her more or better treatment or could have somehow made her understand enough to leave him alone, to build her own life without him.
Maybe there was more he could have done but—and this was the thing—he was the victim here. She was sick, of course she was, but he paid almost as much because of her illness as she had. The difference being that he was strong enough to deal with what she put him through and she never could.
Maybe if her parent's had seen her more clearly sooner, maybe if they hadn't made excuses or misplaced blame...
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
He'd call her parents' or write them, tell them how genuinely sorry he was about the way things had turned out. He wasn't sure if they would want to hear from him, but perhaps they would. He'd make the effort in a day or so. Not now. He'd want to think about what he'd write to them because right now he had no idea.
Barbara wheeled herself over to the couch and brushed the hair away from his eyes, turning the familiar gesture into a caress. He hadn't even heard her, wrapped up in his own thoughts.
"Are you alright?"
He nodded, took her hand and stood then pushed her back to their bedroom.
It was over.