Title: Far From The Tree Ch Nicole Giddings Normal Nicole Giddings 3 874 2001-10-09T08:13:00Z 2001-10-22T07:30:00Z 7 2466 14061 117 28 17267 9.2720

Title:  Far From The Tree Ch. 4/?

Author:  Maven Cree mavencree@hotmail.com

Rating:  PG

Disclaimer:  Any characters previously mentioned in a DC comic, I do not own.  DC does.  I'm not making money off of this. With Arms Wide Open belongs to Creed.

Continuity: Comic book.

Warnings:  Angst and tension.

©October 2001

***********************************************************************************************

"With arms wide open,

Under the sunlight,

Welcome to this place, I'll show you everything

With arms wide open,

Now everything has changed,

I'll show you love,

I'll show you everything,

With arms wide open….."

Bruce paused his fist in mid-air and leaned his ear closer to the door.  Since the building re-fit, Dick's apartment had been partially sound guarded, lest any passing neighbours pick up the strains of a *business* conversation.  At present he could hear loud music as well as Dick's voice, faintly behind the solid material, which meant both had to be very loud.

His mouth quirked into a momentary smile.  He shook his head and knocked.

The singing continued.

He knocked harder.

Dick hit the bridge.

Bruce sighed and in seconds had unlocked and entered the apartment.

He had to fight to keep a straight face at the sight of his son singing into an iron with his eyes shut.  He closed the door a little harder than he had to.

Dick jumped slightly and stopped his performance.  He turned around.  Bruce knew his start wasn't out of surprise, but embarrassment.  There weren't many who could sneak up on this young man.

Dick put the iron down turned off the stereo.

"I knocked." Bruce said with a slight shrug.

Dick let a grin slip onto his face.

"I was, uh… just ironing my uniform." He said awkwardly pointing towards his standard police shirt, which was partially pressed on the board.

"I heard.  Afternoon shift?"

"Nah.  Morning.  Just don't want to bother with it when I come back from patrol."

Bruce acknowledged him with a slight nod.  There was a small silence.

"Um… is, there a… Um." Dick scratched his head.

"I believe this belongs to you."

Bruce handed Dick a small familiar envelope.  Dick removed the ultra-sound photograph and smiled down at it.

"I, uh… I was paid an unexpected visit a few days ago." He said, not looking up.  "Helena showed up at my precinct."

"Really."

"Yeah.  Surprised the helloutta of me."

"...Dick, I…"

"No, don't... don't..." He said waving his hand.  "If you'd said something to me first, I would've just blown it off.  It's—It's not easy for me to admit that... that... well... I mean, here I am, I got my own job, my own place, my own city to look after and... no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, that shadow of yours still reaches me.  Your opinion means a lot to me, Bruce.  A lot more than I'd like to admit sometimes."

And yours means everything to me, Bruce wanted to say, but he couldn't.  Instead he moved the conversation onto less dangerous (i.e. emotional) grounds.

"I take it from your performance that things with Helena are going well."

"Yeah, we're working things out."

"Good."

Another silence.

"Have you... told anyone else?"

"Uh, just Tim and, um, Barbara.  And the OT." He said referring to the original Titans.  They were Dick's closest friends.  He couldn't help his mind travelling back to their reaction when he'd told them two days ago.

**********

"What?!"

"I'm going to be a father."

"I repeat: What?!"

"Wally."

"No, don't 'Wally' me, Donna.  This is big!"

Dick sighed.  Donna rolled her eyes.

"I guess that answers the question about how things are going between you and Babs." Roy said.

"It's not Barbara." Dick said and took a sip of his coffee.

He put the cup back down and looking up was met with dead silence and wide-eyed stares.

"It's not." He repeated, because they looked like hadn't heard him right.

"But… I thought, you and Barbara were becoming an item?" Donna said first.

"We are… we were… we… {SIGH}…this… baby thing has kinda put a rather large dent in our relationship."

"Then who…?"

"Her name is Helena.  She's a friend of mine."

"Why don't *I* have friends like that?"

"Quiet, Roy." Garth said.  "Are you in love with this woman, Dick?"

Dick paused.  "I care about her.  I guess you could say that I love her.  But I'm not *in* love with her."  He shook his head.  "This just all sorta happened.  It wasn't expected, but…" he waved his hands absently. "Here we are."

The four original Titans stared wide-eyed and slack jawed at their leader again.

"..."

"Well, *somebody* say something!" Dick implored.

"...We're sorry, Dick." Donna started.  "It's just that... well… you're usually just so..."

"Responsible." Dick finished looking down at the table.  "Yeah, I know.  Told myself that a thousand times already."

He looked back up at them.  "I'm not perfect.  I make mistakes… but I can't truly say this is one I'm regretting all that much."

Roy, who was sitting to his left, clapped his long time friend on the shoulder, a wide grin taking over his face.

"In that case, congrats pal!  Welcome to the club!"

"Thanks, Roy."

"Imagine!  For once, *you* will be coming to *me* for advice.  And you will, Robbie!  First time this kid won't stop crying or has a smell you can't identify, you'll be callin' ole Uncle Roy!"

"Sure.  If great grandpa Alfred has amnesia." Dick said with a grin.

The Titan's shared a laugh and Dick realized, all joking aside, just how much he would need these people in the coming months and years.  And he was just as sure that they would be there without question, whenever he needed them.

'Friend' had to be one of the greatest words in the English language.

**********

"You've got a lot of good friends." Bruce said, brining Dick back.

"So do you." he nodded. "You just have a tendency to piss them off quite a bit."

"Gotta be me."

Dick smiled.  "So... Grandpa... had breakfast yet?"

"No, and if you call me that again..."

Dick's laughter cut off the rest of that threat.  He placed his shirt on a hanger and hung it on the windowsill.

"Come on.  I'll make us something."

"Eggs."

"You want eggs?"

"Not really, but as I recall, that was the only thing you knew how to cook.  The only thing edible anyway."

"This from a man who burns water!"

"You can't burn water."

"I'm sure you'd find a way."

"Is that anyway to speak to your father?"

Dick grinned and clapped a hand on Bruce's shoulder.  "Bruce, with you, it's the *only* way."

**********

Winter in Gotham.

…Yuck.

Winter in Gotham when you're pregnant…

…Unmentionable.

And I'm showing.

I hate life.

And one of my seventeen-year-old students is in love with me.

Perfect.

Is this that hormone thing kicking in?

If not, I may just have to check myself into Arkham by the time I go into labour.

Hey you down there!  Are you worth all of this?

…Course you are.

Helena smiled despite her rather gloomy mood.  The February blahs.

She was lying on her bed, absently staring up at the ceiling, musing over the last few months.

To say that Dick had been surprised to see her was a bit of an understatement.  For a few moments she'd feared that he really *didn't* want anything to do with her.  That his allegiance to the Bat *wasn't* the reason he'd left.  He'd seemed more shocked at Batman's action, than by her actual presence.

"You're sure it was him?" he asked.  They were walking to Dick's car.  "Big guy, cowl, pointy ears…?"

"Do you think it's possible to mistake him for someone else?"

"Guess not." He said with a smile.  He shook his head.

"Your upset." She said.  Best to be out with it, she thought.  Get it over with.

Dick looked surprised (again).  "No!" he said.  "I'm, I'm… relieved… happy that he… I mean, well, you know.  It's just… I can't believe he…" Dick shook his head once more.

"Yeah.  He's never been one to freely donate information, has he?"

"To say the least.  But, it's part of his way of protecting people.  Knowledge is power and all that."

"Guess he must really care about you then."

"…"

Dick's only response was to blush slightly and lower his head.

Officer Grayson took her back to his apartment and cooked dinner for.  They talked for hours and he drove her home.

It was the best *date* she'd ever had.

Two weeks later Helena received her first taste of high society since she was a little girl.  Dick had to attend a fundraiser at the Wayne Foundation and had asked her to accompany him.

She was thrilled.

Until she remembered who *else* would be there.

She'd seriously considered backing out, but knew that she'd eventually have to face him.

Dick hadn't missed her nervousness when he picked her up.  He told her that she had nothing to worry about.  And his friendly smile assured her of that.

Until she saw him.

As they entered the grand ballroom, He was speaking with the Mayor and so Dick steered her in the direction of someone he'd known in high school.  And although she was courteous and attentive to the corporate lawyer, her eyes kept wandering across the room.  How different he was in this atmosphere.  Light, happy… he was *smiling*!  She didn't think he had the facial muscles required for smiling.  Carefree and somewhat vapid… Her mind was rallying against her.

*This* was the Dark Knight?!

A man who Dick introduced as Lucius Fox asked if he could speak with Dick alone for a moment.  Something about his finances.  So Helena found herself standing by herself at the hors d'oeuvre table with her glass of sparkling cider and looking for...

...He was gone.

How did he move away so fast?

…Duh.

"Lovely evening."

Helena jumped out of her skin. (Though she tried her best to hide it.)  How he'd come to be standing beside her without her seeing his approach…  She looked up to see the side of his mouth quirked up in a sort of half smile.  Not the light-hearted grin she'd seen a few minutes earlier, but still more than she was use to in ole Grim 'n Gruesome. 

He took a sip of the champagne and matched her position of facing the room.

"I… didn't think you drank." She said quietly.  It was a place to start.

Bruce looked down at her then tapped his champagne flute against her own.

"Probably came from the same bottle." He said.

She nodded. "Oh."

There was an uncomfortable silence.

"Are you… I mean…" She could see he was struggling with his words. "Do you… need… anything?"

She smiled.  "No… No, I'm fine."

He nodded and Helena looked at her shoes.

More silence.

"You… must be pretty pissed off at me."

Bruce gave her a questioning glance.  She met his gaze.

"Here I am all these years trying to work my way into this… family, against your vehement objection, and here I go and sneak in via the back door.  I mean, it's not like I planned this or anything, but—"

"Helena," he cut her off, glancing about the room.  "You've always been part of the *family*.

"Right."

"I'm not known for lying."

"Well you never appeared to accept me.  You didn't want me anywhere near Dick or your cause.  Is that family?"

Bruce looked at her in all seriousness and then leaned forward to plant a quick peck on the top of her head.

"Every family needs a Black Sheep." He said and walked away before she could respond.

A Black Sheep.  Well, she supposed that in a family of people who dressed up in spandex and went diving off of rooftops, there were worst things she could have been called.

She hadn't seen Bruce... Mr. Wayne... Bruce... *Bats* since that night.

She *had* gotten to spend more time with young Mr. Grayson.  They were getting to know each other as friends, something both of them felt was important if they were going to be raising a child.  She was pleased to find that he was very much the same person he was when wearing the mask.  True, he didn't go banging the heads of criminals against the walls, (except for when he was on duty) as Dick Grayson, but he was still the kind, funny, caring person that had attracted her to him in the first place.

The thought of *attraction* caused her to sit up on her bed, bringing her mind to a more immediate problem in her life.  Surprisingly it had nothing to do with her life as the Huntress, but with her life as Helena Bertinelli, high school teacher.

Alex Conrad.  Just shy of his seventeenth birthday, the boy had become a rather nagging problem for Helena.  It began with his report a few months back, an intimately erotic letter, which Helena had hoped the boy had merely mixed up with his homework papers.  The teacher in her thought he should consider a career in writing.  Content not withstanding, the boy was talented.  She'd hoped to approach him with this as a means of softening any embarrassment he might feel when she discussed his assignment with him.

Things had not gone as she had hoped.  Keeping him after class, Alex informed her that there was no mistake.  That what he had written had been intended for her.  He wanted to tell her for some time, but until the assignment didn't know how.

She'd told him outright, that while she was flattered, there was no way they could ever have a relationship besides that of teacher and student.  She stayed off saying 'friend' as to avoid any inappropriate inferences.

He'd merely smiled and said that he'd see her around.

She had hoped, rather than believed it to be over.

In the weeks that followed, she'd received flowers and candy, both at home and at school.  Unsigned but it was obvious from the glances he gave her that they were from him.

When her normally perfect form started to change, rumours of a bun in the oven began to run rampant about *Miss* Bertinelli. To the faculty and to a few of the more open girls who would often ask her for advice about clothes or boys, she told them that she had been artificially inseminated.  Saying she was accidentally knocked up by a casual acquaintance, wouldn't have gone well, for her image as teacher and role model.  Doing it this way, she was an independent woman taking control of her life. And her students were happy for her.

For Alex, however, it was another means for him to make advances.  The child needed a father, the difficulty of raising a child alone, a strong male role model... all were in his arsenal of reasons that they were meant for each other.

This past Monday, when she found him waiting outside of her apartment one morning, wanting to escort her to school, she drew the line and contacted his parents.

They didn't care.  They weren't concerned.

"Boys will be boys." Was more along the lines of what they'd said.  They'd told her it was just a harmless crush.  Alex got them all the time.  She'd just have to wait it out.

She didn't want to wait it out.

She wanted to smack that sultry grin off of his face.

**********

"Who is it?" Dick asked, knowing full well who that signature knock belonged to.

"Uncle Tim.  Let me in.  I come bearing gifts!"

Dick snorted and opened the door.  "You really like that title, don't you?" He asked.

Tim pushed past him, a large box and equal grin on his face.  "You better believe it." He replied.  "Oh, Hey, Helena!"  He said, noticing the woman sitting on the couch.  "Glad you're here.  This is for you too." 

She smiled.  It hadn't taken much for Helena to figure out who Robin was.  On one of her previous visits to Bludhaven, the young man in Dick's apartment had introduced himself as Alvin Draper.  She knew immediately that he was Robin.  She also knowingly mentioned that he looked pretty damn close to that Tim Drake kid who was stuck in No Man's Land.  Tim had just rolled his eyes and muttered that the NML incident was going to haunt him forever. "What have you got there?" she asked eyeing the flat bowed box.

Tim placed the box on the kitchen table as his two friends joined him.  "Well," he started.  "I just wanted to be the first person to give you guys a baby gift.  I got this idea a couple of days ago and well... here it is."

"Timbo, you didn't have to do this."  Dick said, clapping the young man on the shoulder.  Helena was pulling the ribbon.

"I wanted to." He grinned as the lid came off. "Made it myself."

Inside was a long piece of curved wood.  At one end were five smaller wooden sticks crossed over each other in a star pattern.  Fine string was attached to each of these sticks and the strings were littered with strange little black shapes.

Helena picked up the object.

"It's for the baby's crib." Tim explained. "You can hang it over him or her."

"A mobile?"  Helena asked.  Tim nodded.

"What are these little black things?" Dick asked examining one of them.  The realization came as Tim answered.

"Bats." He said simply, a mischievous grin creeping up on his face.  He waited patiently for what he knew was coming next.

".……A *BAT*-*MOBILE*???!!!  You made a *BAT*-*MOBILE*???!!!"

Helena broke loose into peels of laughter at Dick's exclamation and look of horror on his face.

"Well…"

"I don't believe this!"

"Heh!"

"This is really sick, bro."

"So you're saying you likes?"

Dick shook his head and laughed.  "I definitely likes."

He grabbed Tim in a playful headlock.

"But get one thing straight... you might be the current boy-wonder, but those kind of puns belong to *me*!  Got it?!"

**********

TBC...