A/N: Set in the original series... Dick is sixteen, and he was eight when his parents died. I pretty much made a bunch of stuff up, simply to have some sort of plot attached to this. But it's really about dealing, and grieving and some stuff I wanted to get off my own chest and did so through Dick and Bruce. (It's so fun to write fanfic sometimes. You can unload so much angst on them...) And here I apologize for the liberties I have taken. Please forgive me. I'll make sure Dick gets professional therapy to help him deal, okay? (As for why his parents are buried where they are... I dunno. I wanted it that way.) As always, flames will make me smores. And, as always, I apologize for anything out of character. I tried. Written: July 14, 2002 (Yes, that's right- a record four hours! A miracle for me...)
Disclaimer: I own nothing. None of the lyrics (those are Savage Garden's, and I love them, but get nothing for using them), and especially none of the people.
Summary: On the anniversary of his parents' deaths, Dick pays them a visit and has a heart-to-heart with Bruce.
Rated: G/PG... whatever. Angst inside.
Cool breeze and autumn leaves
Slow motion daylight
A lone pair of watchful eyes
Oversee the living
Feel the presence all around
A tortured soul
A wound unhealing
No regrets or promises
The past is gone...
Bruce crossed the lawns towards the family grave site that sat well beyond the Manor on a small hill overlooking the ocean. He turned the collar of his coat up and then returned his hands to the relative warmth of his pockets. It was late—well past one, and he suddenly felt tired. It was actually an early night for him—the streets of Gotham had been quiet and after being on patrol since dusk with no sign of anything amiss, Batman and Robin had returned to the Cave. But now Bruce felt as if they had been out all night long. He had made his way up the small valley that hid the cemetery from his view, and the full moon came out from behind the clouds that were beginning to gather, illuminating the scene before him.
Bruce slowly approached the young man standing tensely before a grave—the newest, in relation to the others—that sat just slightly off from the rest. He stopped a few feet away, not sure what to do now that he had followed Dick out here. "Dick."
Dick didn't answer at first, acknowledging Bruce's presence by glancing briefly over his shoulder at him. He felt like he should be angry with Bruce, but at the moment he couldn't seem to dredge up enough energy for it. "Do you know what today was?"
Bruce hesitated, not sure which answer was worse—to admit he knew, or deny it. Either way, he wasn't going to win. "Yes."
A pause. "I forgot."
Bruce exhaled softly, understanding now why Dick had run off so quickly once they returned. He also understood that Dick was probably feeling more miserable than he had in a long time. "Dick, it's—"
"Don't." Dick glared over his shoulder before turning back to his parents' grave. "Don't tell me it's all right. It's not." He shook his head, feeling his eyes sting and his throat begin to close up. "It's not all right." He made a disgusted noise and shoved his hands deeply into his pockets. "You've never forgotten," he added accusingly.
Bruce moved to stand beside Dick and put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not the end of the world," he said softly.
Dick looked at him, and the same anger and pain was written on his face as had been eight years before. "What would you know about it?" he asked fiercely. "You've never forgotten, Bruce! Never! You..." he stopped himself, and looked away, the muscles in his jaw working as he tried to regain some control. Neither said anything for a few moments and Dick finally moved away, kneeling before the headstone and beginning to vehemently pull up the few weeds growing at its base with shaking hands.
Bruce watched silently, not saying anything more because he knew that Dick didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to intrude on this, knowing all too well what this sort of anniversary felt like, but also wanting to lend whatever support he could.
After what seemed like a long time, Dick finished weeding, and sat back on his heels. He stared at the names before him, as he had so many times before. Finding his voice again, a thought suddenly occurring to him and he said, "You know something? This means that I've lived as long with you as I did with them."
The thought was staggering. Neither said anything for another long, uncomfortable moment. Dick let his shoulders slump forward and suddenly the only emotion he could summon was an overwhelming exhaustion and an ache he didn't know he would survive. "Bruce..."
Bruce quickly knelt next to him, alarmed by how young and vulnerable his voice was. Putting a hand on Dick's shoulder, he could feel him trembling. "It's all right, Dick," he said softly, unsure of how to go about this. Dick was always so... happy. He was cheerful and optimistic to a fault, and he had always been that way. Oftentimes it was that undaunting cheerfulness—and god-awful puns—that kept Bruce from going too far in the opposite direction. Of course, being so upbeat meant that occasionally Dick crashed. And when he did, it was usually without anyone knowing. Bruce never knew when Dick's optimism would fail him and had yet to be able to prevent it from coming to this point. When Dick crashed, he crashed hard. That kind of depression was hard to shake, Bruce knew, but harder when it came less often. When at his worst, Dick could be worse than Bruce. The problem was that even then, he would try to hide it. These dark moods came fairly infrequently—less and less often as the years passed, but they still came.
Dick sighed heavily, letting Bruce put his arm over his shoulders. "I can't believe I forgot."
Bruce sighed. "You've had a lot on your mind," he suggested, just to say something.
Dick shook his head. "So? You have a lot on your mind," he countered, "And you don't forget."
Bruce sighed again, shaking his head. "Dick, I wish you'd stop that. You're not me." He paused, making sure that Dick was listening. "Everyone grieves differently," he continued softly. "Moving on—forgetting a date—doesn't mean that you're forgetting them. It doesn't mean that your grief is any less than mine. It's just different."
Dick didn't answer right away. "But I am."
Bruce frowned. "What?"
"I am forgetting them," Dick told him, raising a shaking hand to his face. "My mom used to read to me every night. When I was sick, she sang to me. And... I could hear her, you know? If I just... closed my eyes and pretended... She was there. I could see her. Smell her perfume. Feel her. Hear her voice. Anytime I wanted to. Dad, too. I could reach out and he would catch me. Like always. But..." Dick shook his head, choking. "I can barely even see their faces anymore, Bruce. If I close my eyes... All I can see is what I think I remember. From a couple of old pictures and newspaper articles, you know? And I don't remember their voices. At all." He looked at Bruce, his face haunted. "I haven't had a dream about them in years," he admitted, pained. "I hated dreaming about them—because they were always so real, and I always had to wake up. But... I wish I could, now."
They looked at one another for a heartbreaking minute, before Dick turned his head and made to pull away. But Bruce had an arm over Dick's shoulders and tightened his hold, keeping him from running off. Dick tensed briefly before collapsing against Bruce, grasping Bruce's arms and beginning to cry. "It's not fair," he whispered. "Bruce, I don't remember them. I don't remember!"
Bruce held onto Dick, offering him whatever he could as he let the boy cry into his sleeve. His own heart broke with Dick's, knowing all too well what he was going through. He felt horribly helpless, wishing he could take Dick's grief from him. Wishing, not for the first time, that he could have somehow spared Dick the pain and suffering that this life—their life—had and would continue to bring him. For as much good as they did as Batman and Robin, it never seemed to end. There never seemed to be a way out, and while Bruce was beyond wanting a way out, he felt that Dick should not have had to know any of this. There was no reason for them to be sitting on the ground of a cemetery in the middle of a cold night. No reason that Bruce should have been compelled to take in Dick eight years ago. No reason for Dick to have needed him to. There was no reason that they should be connected the way they were- never mind the oddities of their relationship. Their circumstances should never have existed. There was no reason for there to be a Batman or a Robin... And yet, there was every reason.
After what seemed like a long time, Dick managed to pull himself together, but neither seemed inclined to move. He leaned into Bruce's strong grip, his knees beginning to feel damp through his jeans as he knelt on the half-frozen ground. It was early November, and the air was crisp to the point of being painful as he struggled to catch his breath. It seemed as if winter would be coming early this year, if the ring around the moon and the approaching clouds were any indication. Not to mention how cold he suddenly noticed it had grown. A shiver ran through him and Bruce responded by unconsciously tightening his hold. "I'm okay, Bruce," Dick finally said. "Really," he added, half to convince himself. But still neither moved.
Finally, Bruce sighed and said softly, "You know, Dick... If it makes any difference—I don't remember my parents very well either."
Dick shut his eyes and tightened his grip on Bruce's arm minutely. When he found his voice again, he muttered, "Thanks, Bruce."
Bruce nodded against him, and they sat on the cold, hard ground for a few more minutes, and each found themselves looking at the names etched into the headstone before them. And both were aware of another grave nearby that held similar meaning. They sat, united in their grief, as they had always been. Their situations—so different and yet so the same—made it hard for them not to be. Bruce Wayne was the only person who knew what Dick Grayson had felt, watching his parents die before him at the age of eight. And Dick was the only person Bruce had ever come across who knew what he had felt—and continued to feel. Bruce knew all too well what it felt like to realize that you had lived half of your life without the people who gave you that life. He knew what it felt like to realize you had lived without them two, three, four times longer than you had with them.
Dick heaved a great sigh and began to pull away from Bruce. "Bruce..." he began uncertainly. "Do you really think..." He trailed off, not wanting to voice the thought out loud, in irrational fear that saying it would make it real. It scared him—If he couldn't remember his parents, who would? There wasn't anyone who could tell him anything about them. No one who wasn't involved in Haly's Circus, and he hadn't heard from them in years.
Bruce let Dick go, but squeezed his shoulder as he did so. "Dick. You're not failing them. I promise you that," he said, guessing at what Dick hadn't said aloud. "They would be—they are—proud of you."
Dick looked at their names before him, then glanced back at Bruce. "You think so?" he asked in a low tone.
"I know," Bruce said, "because I'm proud of you."
Dick blinked at him in surprise. A small smile crept onto his face. "Thanks, Bruce."
Bruce smiled back, then pushed himself up off of the ground, stretching as he did so. "What do you say? Should we see if Alfred's up to making some hot chocolate?"
Dick nodded. "Yeah. In a sec, okay?" Bruce nodded and moved away, giving Dick a moment of privacy. Dick watched him walk away, then turned back to the headstone. Reaching out, he gently traced the names before him. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to forget. Really. I hope you know that." He glanced after Bruce, who had reached the edge of the cemetery. "I think you do." He placed his hands flat over their names, as if by doing so he could reach them, touch them in a better way. "I miss you. But I can't..." He stopped, feeling sick and just plain tired now. "I'll never forget you, you know that, right? But... I am forgetting. Little stuff." He shook his head. "That doesn't make much sense, I know, but... I'll always love you, Mom. And Dad. And I'll always miss you."
Dick sat back on his heels, turning his face upward and shutting his eyes, composing himself before looking back and continuing. "I didn't think I'd ever actually get here, you know? I mean, I always used to think about it. That eventually I'd have lived without you longer than I did with you. I mean... Look at Bruce." He shrugged. "But I never thought about what would happen... when it happened. And it doesn't feel as weird as I think it should. You know? I mean... I know that I was just eight... I'm sixteen now. But you knew that." Dick smiled slightly. "Bruce got me a car for my birthday. It's nice. Don't worry, Mom, I'm careful. He even let me drive the car. That was cool." He let his hands drop, and looked at them as they rested in his lap. When he continued, it was in a softer tone. "You know... For the longest time, I thought that it would be awful. If I lived longer with Bruce than with you. It just seems... so weird, really. But it's not. It just seems wrong, somehow. I think we're doing okay though. Bruce and Alfred and me. Working together, right? Isn't that what you always said, Dad—that we had to be a team and work together if we were going to accomplish anything?"
He sighed again, feeling his eyes start to sting again. "I'm so, so sorry I forgot. I didn't mean it. I didn't want to. And I know I'm repeating myself. You know.... I was thinking about you the other day, Dad. I was... I was trying to remember something—I thought I remembered something. I remembered... I was sick. Chicken pox or something. And I had a fever, and I couldn't sleep and I woke up... And you were right there, sitting next to me. Taking care of me. And you played cards with me, since I couldn't sleep. Even though it was really late. But then... when I really thought about it... It wasn't you I remembered, Dad. Not then, anyway. I remember other stuff with you. But that... With the chicken pox—that was Bruce. Wasn't it?" Dick shook his head. "Sometimes I get you two confused... which is funny, because you are nothing alike. But just little stuff, you know. It's weird." He laughed, shaking his head. "He is so not like you, Dad. But I still will think I remember you and actually it's him. Or the other way around. Or it's Alfred, and neither of you that I remember. It doesn't mean anything, though," he added quickly, feeling slightly guilty. "It just means... I dunno what it means. Except that now... I guess this means I grew up with all of you. It should have been you, Dad—and Mom. But it wasn't. It was Bruce and Alfred, too. And I guess that means they're part of me like you are, huh?... Huh."
He sat there for a moment, thinking. He looked to where Bruce was walking back toward the manor. "You're always going to be my mom and dad. And I'm always going to miss you. But I'll try not to forget again. I promise." He touched the names again, before standing. "I love you, Mom. Dad. I'm sorry, and I hope you know how much I miss you. All the time. And I hope Bruce is right. I'm trying... Please be proud of me," he added in a whisper. Running a finger over the top of the headstone, he smiled. "I'm going inside now. It's kind of cold out here, and I think Alfred is gonna make hot chocolate, if Bruce can convince him. Which I don't think will be too hard. Anyway..." He kissed his fingers, then touched them to the stone. "Night. I love you." And with that, he turned and made his way back to Wayne Manor- back to his other family, leaving behind the one he'd lost half a lifetime before.
...Time now to spread your wings
To take to flight
The life endeavor
Aim for the burning sun
You're trapped inside
But you can still be free
If time will set you free
But it's a long, long way to go...
"You Can Still Be Free"; Savage Garden; "Affirmation"
(As a post author's note... It's fairly impossible to 'forget' an anniversary of this kind, at least for everyone I know. I know I will always hate the end of October because that's when my father died, and I recently hit the â…"s mark, like Dick reached the ½ mark here. But I took creative license. So bear with me.)