Summary: What if Nightwing had been called earlier, and he, not the JLA, went to find Superman in the Fortress of Solitude. . . How would things have turned out differently. . .
A/N: This is my take on the events in Action Comics #829 and Adventures of Superman #642. I'm saying that Dick is still at Wayne Manor after being injured in War Games, before events in the current Nightwing storyline. Also, Redhood, aka Jason Todd, has not yet appeared.
Chapter 1: Father and Son
Nightwing was sitting at the BatCave computer, searching through some files, when the screen came alive with an incoming message.
"Dick, you'd better get up here to the Watchtower," he said in an unusually serious voice. "It's. . .Batman."
A few seconds later Nightwing materialized on the Watchtower teleporter pads. As he stepped away they activated again. This time Robin and Batgirl appeared.
"Where is he?" Dick asked his friend.
"In the medical bay," Wally answered.
Dick ignored his injured leg and took off at a run with Tim and Cassandra right behind him.
But, of course, Flash beat them with time to spare.
"Out of my way," Dick ordered, when he found Wally blocking the door.
"You can't go in there. They're still operating. You'd break the sterile field."
Dick reluctantly stepped back. "How bad?"
"He. . .might not make it."
"What happened?" Robin asked.
"The story I got, I don't believe. Superman brought him up here. . .saying he'd done it. Dick . . . You know what his super strength can do to a person, and he used his heat vision. Even Bat's body armour could only do so much. . ."
"Cla. . .Superman, used his full strength, and his heat vision?" Dick asked in disbelief.
"That's what it looked like," Wally confirmed, wishing he could give his friend better news.
The disbelief was burned away by rage. Dick turned to Tim. "Stay here. Call me if . . .if you hear anything."
"Where are you going?" Tim called after him, but Nightwing was already gone.
Tim and Wally shared uneasy looks. Dck was usually very easy going, but on the rare occasions when he lost his temper. . .they knew to get away to minimum safe distance.
Back in the BatCave Dick raced through the caverns to the lowest, most secure area. Punching in a code he opened what was possibly the most secure vault in the world and pulled out the small item he wanted. Sliding it onto his finger he reclosed the vault and headed back up through the caverns. Adrenaline and anger burned through his veins, giving him energy and killing the pain of his injured leg.
He immediately teleported back to the Watchtower. At the computer he typed in a request.
He typed in code and the screen changed, giving him the information he wanted. Returning to the teleporter he entered a location code.
Wonder Woman walked into the room just in time to see him disappear, and hurried to find out where he'd teleported to.
In his Fortress of Solitude, Superman looked up when he heard the familiar hum of the teleporter. Only four people knew the location code. Himself, Bruce, J'onn and Diana. His eyes widened in shock when he saw Dick storming towards him, the usually laughing blue eyes flashing fire.
"DID. YOU. DO. IT?"
Clark didn't need to ask what Dick meant. "Yes. . .but. . ."
"BUT NOTHING!" Dick said, slamming his fist into Clark's face. The kryptonite ring on his finger did it's work. Weakened by the kryptonite, Clark was no match for Dick's adrenaline fueled attack.
Wally, Tim and Cass looked down the hall as they heard footsteps quickly approaching. "We have a problem," Wonder Woman announced. "Nightwing has teleported to the Fortress of Solitude. He went to The Cave first."
After a stunned moment Tim spoke. "It's probably worse than you think. I'm guessing Dick stopped by The Cave for the kryptonite ring."
"I thought Bruce kept the ring locked up? And how in Hera's name did Dick get the location code to the Fortress?"
"When Bane put Batman in a wheelchair. . . He gave Jean-Paul his cape and cowl. But he gave Dick his codes. All his codes. To the cave, the vault, and the Watchtower. Dick told me about it a while ago." Tim suspected that Bruce doing that had kept the strained relationship from falling apart completely. It had proven to Dick that while Jean-Paul had been chosen to act as Batman, Bruce trusted Dick with Batman's most important secrets.
Before anyone could say anything else J'onn came out of the surgery room.
"He's made it through surgery. At the moment, he seems to be stable, but his condition is still critical. Once he has a bit of his strength back we'll put him under the healing rays."
Back in the Fortress of Solitude a voice came from Dick's communicator.
"Get up here! He's out of surgery!"
"On our way," he replied.
Superman finally found his voice. "Dick. . ."
"Do NOT call me that. You no longer have the right to call me that. I trusted you! He trusted you! And now, thanks to you. . . " Dick couldn't finish. He couldn't say that Batman might die. "You're coming with me. You're going to face him. You're going to see what you've done."
Superman was in shock. As much from Dick's words as from the kryptonite. Dick had always admired and looked up to him. He'd never been anything other than respectful.
A few minutes later Superman and Dick were running along the halls of the Watchtower. Dick had left the ring on, so Clark was unable to fly, as he usually would have.
Dick paused in the doorway, taking in the scene before him. Bruce lay in the bed, his lower half covered by a sheet. His upper body was covered with bandages. He could also see scrapes, burns and bruises that were not severe enough to require bandages. An oxygen mask covered Bruce's mouth and nose.
Selena, Tim and Cassandra were standing together on one side of the bed. J'onn, Diana and Flash stood on the other side. Dick figured that Tim had been the one to call Selena and get her up here.
Hearing a familiar voice behind him, Dick glanced over his shoulder. "Babs," he greeted, moving out of her way, so she could enter the room.
Superman felt a pain that had nothing to do with kryptonite poisoning as he looked at his friend. He didn't think anything could be more painful to him than kryptonite poisoning, but the regret and guilt that ate away at him were far worse. As the full extent of what he'd done to Bruce registered, a sense of self loathing began to fill him.
Diana noticed the ring on Dick's finger. "Give me the ring," she requested.
"No. I'll give it to Bruce when he wakes up. He can decide what to do with it then."
"But that could be days, and. . . what if he doesn't?"
"Then the ring stays on."
"You can't do that."
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I can. Bruce gave me the codes to the vault. If anything happened to him, everything in the vault was mine, to do with as I saw fit. Something's happened to him. . ." Dick paused and turned an arctic cold glare at Clark. "Of course, when he was worried that something would happen, he never imagined that his best friend would be the one to do it," he continued in an acid tone.
"Or maybe he did, this is Bruce we're talking about," Wally said.
Dick shrugged. "Either way. The ring is Bruce's when he wakes up, and mine if he doesn't."
Robin was speechless with shock. . .What was Dick trying to pull? Then Dick met his eyes and he suddenly understood. Of course Dick wouldn't keep the ring on forever. He knew what the ring had done to Lex Luthor. He was just reminding everyone of something they'd all known for years. Nightwing was Batman's heir apparent. With Batman unconscious, Nightwing now held Batman's place and authority.
"I can't believe he trusted you with that ring," Green Lantern muttered as he came in. The door was open and other JLA members stood looking through it.
"I'm his son. He trusts me. He trusts us," he said, in a dangerously low and calm voice. A voice he'd learned from Batman. Sweeping his arm to indicate the rest of the BatClan, he continued. "It's you guys he doesn't trust." His gaze zeroed in on Zatana. "You erase his memories." He then let his arctic cold gaze move to other JLA members. "Then you dare to call him paranoid and say that he should trust you?"
His gaze focused on Wally. "And when you learn about it you don't even tell me."
Feeling the effects of prolonged exposure to the ring, and the shock of what he'd done to his best friend, Superman fell to his knees.
"Get him out of here," Nightwing ordered, in a tone eerily similar to Batman's. A tone that served batter than anything to remind them all that they were dealing with Batman's son and heir.
J'onn and Wonder Woman helped Superman from the room.
Flash looked over at his friend, guilt in his eyes. He'd hated keeping the secret of what the League members had done to Batman from his friend, and didn't blame Dick for being angry at them. Hell, he'd been angry when he'd found out, and Bruce wasn't his father. He also knew his friend's temper. Once he calmed down they could talk and work it out. "We'll take care of Superman. You have my word. You take care of your father."
Barbra moved her chair closer to Dick and put a hand on his arm. "Wally's right. Let the JLA handle Clark. You always tell me how much you hate it when Bruce puts the mission ahead of the people who love him. The people he loves, even if he won't admit it. Don't make the same mistake."
It hadn't taken her Psych 101 class to tell her that Bruce never told anyone they loved them for a very simple reason. He'd told his parent's he's loved then and they'd died. She doubted he'd said the words 'I love you' since their deaths. He would have seen saying the words as giving the person a death sentence.
As always Barbra got through to him, and he forced himself to relax. Thinking over the last half hour he realized how much like Batman he sounded. The thought crossed his mind that there was really no denying he was Batman's son.
"Alright," he agreed, giving her a small, grateful, smile. He then turned to Tim. "Where's Alfred?"
"He's getting Dr. Thompson. They should be here in a few minutes."
Dick nodded. While the Watchtower medical facilities were beyond state of the art, they would all be happy to have a familiar face taking care of Bruce. "As soon as Leslie says he's stable I want to move him home. The medical stuff there is almost as good as what's here, and he'll rest easier back in the Cave."
"I'll go get the stuff set up in the Cave," Cass volunteered, sure that none of the others would be willing to leave their mentor's side. Not that she particularly wanted to leave, but she felt helpless standing around. Cass hated feeling helpless and at least if she was setting up medical equipment she'd be doing something to help.
"What has gotten into Nightwing?" Wonder Woman muttered as they entered the Conference Room.
J'onn answered. "He's scared. Scared his father will die. It's easier for him to deal with his anger than his fear, so we see his anger. He would not be near this angry if it had been his memories erased, or him Clark had attacked."
Clark thought about the times people had tried to hurt his father, usually as a way to get to him, and understood Dick's reaction. And he hadn't exactly been happy to learn that League members had erased Bruce's memory. Dick was right. After that, they had no right to ask Batman, or Nightwing, to trust them. He wasn't even sure he trusted the League anymore. There was no doubt that Batman was paranoid. But maybe that paranoia was somewhat justified, he admitted.
And as much as he worried for his friend, he also worried for Dick. He knew one of Bruce's greatest fears was that Dick would one day become him. Oh, Batman wanted Nightwing to take his place one day. But he'd never wanted his son to be just like him. Bruce had admitted that, as much as it sometimes got on his nerves, he wanted Dick to retain his sense of humor. He was well aware that if he lost that, they would lose him.
And as much as he warned his son not to trust anyone Batman was well aware that Nightwing's ability to trust made him a better leader than he would ever be. Batman was a loner, Nightwing had shown he was more than capable of being a leader. While Batman rarely admitted it, Clark knew he was incredibly proud of that.
Diana's voice cut into his thoughts. "How are you feeling?"
"The kryptonite is wearing off," he answered. But the worse pain, the pain caused by regret and guilt, was only getting worse.
A/N: Next chapter they find out why Superman attacked Bruce, and we get other peoples reactions to what ahs happened to Bruce (Alfred, Selina, etc) as they stand watch, waiting for him to wake up.