Summary: Threatened with separation from Bruce and Alfred by Child Protective Services, Dicky wishes that he were Bruce Wayne's real son.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC and Time/Warner; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.
Copyright January 2005
Wish Upon a Star
By Syl Francis
Dicky ran into Pop Haly's open arms.
"Pop!" he shouted gleefully. Haly scooped up the small boy and held him in a tight hug.
"Dicky Grayson," Haly said gruffly. "You are a sight for sore eyes, lad. How we've all missed you." He held Dicky out at arms length. "Here, let me take a look at you." Haly's face took on a feigned look of intense study. "Hmmm...You look a mite thin, lad. Don't they feed you at that fancy-schmancy palace?"
"I say!" A British voice protested.
"Pop's just teasing you, Alfred," Dicky giggled. "Aren't you, Pop?"
"Aye, that I am lad," Haly said with a slight grin. "That I am." He held his hand out. "Alfred, it's good to see again. And you, too, Mr. Wayne." He shook hands with both men and then ruffled Dicky's hair. "Thank you for bringing the lad. It means a lot...to me and to the rest of the company."
"When we heard that Haly's Circus was finally returning to Gotham City, Mr. Haly...Well, we couldn't not come, could we?" Bruce said quietly. "The circus is Dick's home, after all."
Haly smiled his gratitude at the words. Then turning his attention back to Dicky, his expression took on a familiar, impish look. "I happen to have it on good authority, lad, that there's cake and ice cream waiting for you over in The Amazing Henderson's trailer!" Before Pop could finish getting the words out, Dicky had already taken off towards the performers' trailer park.
"Master Richard!" Alfred protested. He gave a long-suffering sigh and took off at a slightly slower pace after his young charge.
"Mr. Haly, is there a place where we could talk in private?" Bruce asked, adding, "And where we'll be undisturbed?"
"This sounds serious, Mr. Wayne," Haly said. "Is there a problem?" Bruce hesitated slightly, before giving a reluctant nod. "Does it concern Dicky?" Bruce nodded again. "I see." Haly gave Bruce a serious look. "We can talk in my trailer. This way."
Alfred stood back and watched Dicky stuff a huge piece of cake into his small mouth. The dignified gentleman rolled his eyes. The young Master was not only ruining his appetite, he was courting the mother of all tummy aches for later that night.
Ah, well, he sighed. At least the young Master's enjoying himself. He looked around. It seemed that the entire complement of circus performers was present at this impromptu 'Welcome Home' party of sorts. Everyone was talking at once and laughing out loud.
And, because this was Dicky's circus family, several were eating their cake and ice cream from (in Alfred's straitlaced opinion) rather precarious positions. Alfred watched a bit awed as the circus' bareback riders, the Donner Twins, calmly ate ice cream while one twin balanced herself perfectly on a golden palomino's bare back, and the other twin balanced herself on her sister's shoulders.
A few feet away, a juggler had several plates filled with cake and ice cream spinning rapidly at the ends of several sticks, while a contortionist casually brought several heaping spoonfuls of the delicious dessert to his eagerly waiting mouth.
Alfred shuddered slightly. This more or less explains Master Richard's table manners, he said to himself.
"Hey, Maggie," a sad-faced clown with a distinctive Texas drawl called out. "What do you suppose is keeping Pop?"
"I don't know, Harry," a large woman who was completely covered in tattoos replied. "Want me to go check?"
"No, Maggie," Dicky piped up. "I'll go! I saw Pop and Bruce heading towards Pop's trailer."
At Dicky's words, Alfred's head shot up. No! He couldn't allow the young Master to go. He might overhear Master Bruce and Pop Haly talking!
"Master Dick!" Alfred called. Too late! The boy was already gone. Worried, Alfred hurried after him.
"But I don't understand, Mr. Wayne," Pop said. "Dicky seems well-adjusted...Much better even than I would've expected so soon after-"
"It's been almost a year, Mr. Haly," Bruce replied. "Kids are resilient. Even after such a terrible tragedy." Bruce looked away, recalling the long, black days following his own parents' murder. It had taken him a long time to finally start living again, he knew.
Alfred and Leslie had been wonderful, helping guide him through the darkest times. This was soon followed by his lifelong quest for justice, a journey that gave his shattered life meaning. However, the single most important reason that had finally helped make Bruce Wayne whole again was a certain 50-pound dynamo that was also the current topic of conversation.
Without Dick, Bruce knew that he would have allowed himself to embrace the darkest recesses of his soul and never emerged back out into the light.
"I'll admit that it hasn't been easy," Bruce continued. He looked up at Haly. "Dick still suffers from nightmares, but not as much as before. I believe that he's really found a home at Wayne Manor."
"I tend to agree with you, Mr. Wayne," Haly said, looking confused. "So, then why?"
"Why is Child Protective Services threatening to remove Dick from the only stable home he's known since his parents' deaths?" Bruce gave Haly a brooding look. "Because according to Dr. Cunningham, his case worker, Wayne Manor was always only intended to be a temporary placement...until C.P.S. found a more suitable home."
Haly shook his head at the vagaries of government agencies. A more vindictive, hard-hearted man would have been gleeful at the sudden negative turn of events against Bruce. After all, hadn't Child Protective Services taken Dicky away from the circus, the only home that Dicky had ever known at the time?
Not to mention, that the same Cunningham woman had practically torn Dicky from Haly's arms-an act that he had at first arbitrarily blamed on Bruce. He still felt bitter that C.P.S. had given no consideration to the fact that he was Dicky's godfather. Practically his grandfather, Haly amended silently.
And now they wanted to turn the boy's life topsy-turvy yet again. He studied Bruce for a long moment. However Haly might have felt at first about Dicky not being allowed to stay with the circus, it was obvious to anyone that the boy was happy at Wayne Manor. Dicky clearly loved Bruce, and from where Haly was standing, he could see that Bruce returned the feeling in kind.
"I don't know of what help I can be, Mr. Wayne," Haly said quietly. "But whatever I can do...you've got it."
"Thank you...Pop," Bruce said gratefully. "And please...since we're practically related, call me Bruce."
Dicky stumbled backwards, just managing to right himself as he fell off the trailer's small back porch.
"No..." he whispered, fighting back tears. "No...! Not again!" Dicky started running, blinded by the tears that refused to hold back. He had overheard most of the conversation between Pop and Bruce. "No! They can't take me away again! They can't!" Sobbing raggedly, the small boy ran, stumbling along the uneven grounds. That mean ol' Dr. Cunningham wants to put me back in juvie, he thought. "I won't go back," he vowed. "I won't!"
After a few minutes of running recklessly, Dicky found himself in an unfamiliar area. A little nervously, he looked around the strange, new surroundings. Relieved, he spotted a sign letting him know that he had entered the carny sideshow tent area.
A sudden, chill wind blew in from the north. Shivering, Dicky looked up at the sky. Was there a storm coming, he wondered? Studying the clear sky, he shook his head. "Guess not," he murmured with a slight shrug. Noting that the sun was beginning to set, casting long shadows along the vast circus grounds, Dicky thought about going back. It would be night soon.
Bruce will never let them take me away, Dicky thought with false bravado. He'll think of something. But even as he formed the thoughts, Dicky knew that it was only wishful thinking. The Family Court Judge hadn't allowed Bruce to adopt Dicky because he was a bachelor. She said that it was one thing to let Dicky live with Bruce, but it was another to let Bruce adopt him.
Dicky again felt the tears begin to fall. If only his parents hadn't been killed, he'd still be happy, living here in the circus. But his parents had died, and now he had no one. No one, that is, except Bruce and Alfred. Dick loved them both, as much as he'd loved his own mom and dad. Feeling guilty at what he deemed disloyalty toward his parents, Dicky thought about how quickly he'd grown to love Bruce like a father.
Although his guardian wasn't the most overtly demonstrative of people, Dicky knew that Bruce loved him, as much if not more than he loved Bruce. He thought of his parents. When they'd died, Dicky felt as if they'd left a gaping hole in his heart that would never heal. But that proved to be untrue, or at least, Bruce made it so that it didn't hurt as much. Dicky would always love his mom and dad, but Bruce was his dad now.
Even if that mean ol' judge wouldn't let Bruce adopt me, he thought darkly. "I wish Bruce was my real dad," Dicky whispered fervently. As soon as he let the words out, Dicky felt instantly guilty. How would his mom and dad feel if they'd heard him say such a hurtful thing? "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean it-honest." But that wasn't true. He had meant it.
Dicky looked up at the ink black, velvety sky. A few clouds had moved in, but for the most part it was clear. A single, bright star twinkled in crystal purity, reminding him of his mother's diamond earrings. Dicky didn't want to betray his beloved parents' memory, but he was so lonely and yearned so much for normalcy, for a place where he would belong that he figured, just this once, his mom and dad would understand.
Gazing up at the single, gem-like star, Dicky whispered what was in his heart. "More than anything in the whole world, I wish that Bruce was my real father." That way no one would ever be able to take me away again.
"I wish...I wish..."
Not paying attention to where he was going, Dicky suddenly tripped over the exposed guy ropes of a carny tent. Pausing outside the tent he checked himself for any cuts or bruises. That's when he noticed a dim light coming from within. Curious, he pulled the tent flap back and stepped in.
Funny...? The inside looked awfully big, much more spacious than the outside would've indicated. It was ostentatiously furnished, with a rather medieval touch. There was a man-sized suit of armor off to his left. Tapestries hung along two of the walls. One detailed a hunting scene while the other that of household servants going about their daily work.
Next to the fireplace (A fireplace in a tent? Dicky thought disbelievingly.) stood a beautiful, jeweled sword that was somehow jammed into a large block of stone. As his eyes fell on it, Dicky felt a momentary touch of vertigo. Unbidden, a battle scene filled with men on horses galloping madly across a grassy vale towards an approaching army flashed before his eyes.
Triumphant battle cries-"For England!"-rang in his head, but were soon replaced with the pitiful cries of the wounded. As suddenly as the vision had appeared, it vanished. Dicky's eyes snapped open, and he just managed to keep himself from falling headlong onto an ornate sofa table.
Re-gaining his balance, Dicky shakily held on to the table a moment longer. Looking around the strange surroundings, he noted that heavy veils curtained off what appeared to be additional rooms towards the back. Again, impossible, he objected.
Curious, Dicky stepped outside the tent and took another, measuring look at it. Walking inside again, he shook his head. Impossible. The outside was smaller than his room, yet the inside looked almost as impressive in size as the manor's grand ballroom. How'd they do that, he wondered?
"Magic, of course."
Dicky jumped, startled by the unexpected voice. "What?"
"You asked how the inside seems so much larger than the outside," a disembodied voice replied. "The answer...magic, of course."
Dicky stared in the direction of the voice. It was coming from beyond the curtain of veils. "Hey!" he protested. "I didn't say anything!" At least, I don't think I did, he added. How did he know what I was thinking?
"Like I said," the voice said cheerfully, "magic!" At his words, an elderly gentleman suddenly appeared in the midst of the mysterious veiled entrance. He wore a flowing gown that in Dicky's mind shone with an inner glow. Oddly, when Dicky looked away, it appeared that the glow came from a constellation of stars imbedded onto the gown itself. However, when he looked directly at the robe, the star field disappeared and was replaced with that strange afterglow. Long white hair coupled with an elegant beard and well-worn staff completed the picture, giving the new arrival a wizened if eccentric touch.
"Who are you?" Dicky asked.
The stooped old man beamed a bright smile that immediately turned pensive. "Who am I?" he asked softly, almost as if speaking to him. "Who am I?" He repeated, giving Dicky a serious look. "Well, Dicky...May I call you Dicky?" At Dicky's nod, he continued, "That's a very serious question. I go by many names." He looked away momentarily. "Let's see...some have called me 'Gododdin.' That idiot Geoffrey of Monmouth referred to me as 'Myrddin.' Still others have called me Llallogan." He smiled at Dicky. "But, to be truthful, I've always preferred 'Emrys'."
"It was the name my mother gave me."
"Oh." Pause. "How come you know my name?" Dicky asked.
"I know many things, Dicky. Many things. But enough about me. What about you? Why do you have so many names?"
Dicky shrugged. "Mommy said I was named 'Richard' after my grandfather and 'John' after my dad."
"Yes...I see. I see." As he spoke, Emrys sat down his expression thoughtful. "Your mother and father were very wise, Dicky. Carrying on the family name is a great responsibility. Did you know that?"
Dicky nodded at first, then his expression became unsure and he shrugged his shoulders, but then nodded once more. "I suppose-"
"You're called 'Robin' aren't you?" Emrys asked. Ignoring Dicky's look obvious shock, he continued, "You were born on the first day of spring, bringing new life and hope to a man and woman who had all but given up such hope." He tsked, shaking his head. "Oh, but no...no, that's how it happened in the other timeline. No, here you were born to the high wire, to a family of aerialists. While there...no, it's better this way. There you would have to face him yet again-"
"What do you mean?" Dicky asked, not having a clue as to what Emrys was talking about.
Emrys started at Dicky's question as if awakening from a dream. He gave the boy a penetrating look, and instead of answering him, said, "You remind me of another little boy I once knew. Always asking questions, that one. I used to call him 'Wart'-"
"Wart?" Dicky scoffed. "That's a silly name."
"A name given in affection to another is never silly, my dear boy," Emrys chastised.
"Sorry," Dicky mumbled. Then as way of covering up his discomfiture, he asked, "What was Wart like?"
"He was very bright," Emrys said, his eyes looking back. "A happy child, he had no idea what the Fates had in store for him. He grew up to be a great man-very brave and very just."
"He sounds like Bruce," Dick said, "my guardian." Emrys smiled down at him.
"Yes, very much like your guardian. And you're very much like him, too." Studying the boy closely, he said. "You look like your guardian, Dicky. Did you know that?" Dicky nodded.
"Yeah...a lot of people have told us." He paused, then added in disgust, "Mostly grown-up girls, though. And then they always giggle, like this." Dicky covered his mouth and mimicked the high, mocking laughter of some of the women who'd commented on his resemblance to Bruce. "Really silly."
"In another time and place," Emrys intoned softly, "Bruce Wayne might have been your father. Did you know that?" His eyes wide, Dicky shook his head. Leaning on his staff for support, Emrys stood. To Dicky's eyes, he seemed to have grown several feet. In fact, his considerable breadth seemed to be almost covering the vast interior of the tent.
Or had Dicky shrunk in size? He felt confused, woozy. The air inside the tent had grown heavy, close. The universe seemed to be spinning madly. Nothing appeared as it should be.
"Hear me, Richard John Grayson. You are a brave and noble soul, one reborn countless times through the ages. I knew you once as Wart. Others called you Arthur. Many called you Majesty. You have been a soldier, a scholar, an artist, and philosopher. In other lifetimes, you have discovered the cures for various diseases, fought for the poor and helpless in times of strife, and led a revolt against a tyrannical despot.
"In all of your incarnations, you have never asked for anything of yourself, save now." He gazed down from his vast height upon the small boy.
Dicky blinked, suddenly brought back to earth. He looked around. What had just happened? While Emrys had been speaking, it seemed to Dicky that he had been transported to some place else-many other places, in fact. Places he'd never seen before in his life but that were strangely familiar to him.
"Not what, Dicky," Emrys said gently. "Where. Where were you just now? Do you know?" Dicky shook his head, confused. "Where do you want to be?" Emrys asked. He gazed intently into Dicky's eyes, seemingly holding him frozen in place. "Where do you wish to be?"
Dicky experienced a twinge of momentary panic. He didn't understand anything that the magician or sorcerer, because that's what Dicky had decided that Emrys must be, meant. He shook his head. What had Emrys asked him? Where did he want to be?
"I don't understand-" Dicky stammered.
"My dear boy," Emrys said solemnly. "The universe is offering you a great gift. But in order to choose wisely, you must know what it is you really want. Do you want this safe existence that the Fates have chosen for you? Or do you wish to explore your true path...the path you were meant to follow?"
"I-I don't know what? I?" Dicky felt a rising panic as he stumbled for his words. What did he want? What had Emrys meant? He didn't know. All he knew was that deep in his heart he wanted to stay with Bruce. "I want...I wish..." He stopped suddenly. Emrys had laid his hand on Dicky's shoulder in warning.
"Dicky, before you say anything else, I must warn you that the path you seek is fraught with dangers. The Fates have you offered you this existence for your own protection. To change what is...to ask for what you want in your heart may not be what-"
"I wish that Bruce Wayne was my real father!"
As soon as he uttered the words, the universe around Dicky-as well as time itself-seemed to bend, twist, and turn in on themselves.
End of Part 1