Title: What Lies Ahead: I

Author: DC Luder

Rating: T

Summary: The Family stands by as Bruce undergoes surgery.

Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.

Author's Note: The medical info for this chapter was blessedly provided by Dr. Todd. The "Where's the Any Key?" comment is from the Simpsons.

^V^

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"

Elbert Hubbard

^V^

The very second the alarm sounded at six-thirty, I was ready and waiting to slap the snooze button. I let out a long yawn as I stretched out to take up most of the empty bed. Bruce had slipped out not twenty minutes earlier, doing his best not to wake me. I had to give him credit for gently untangling my arms from around him, sliding out from under the covers and making his way across the room in near complete darkness. He even shut the door before turning on the bathroom light.

Had I been truly asleep, I wouldn't have had the slightest clue he had left.

At six-forty, I heard the shower shut off and decided to get moving myself. After rising out of bed, I made my way towards Mattie's room. Despite the fact that we had actually made it to bed at a reasonable hour, I felt exhausted. I could recall waking a dozen times through the night, looking at the clock to see some ungodly hour before looking over to see Bruce sound asleep. And to think not three weeks earlier I was the one snoring while he stayed up all night…

Mattie was still in bed, the smile on her face telling me that she was awake but pretending to sleep. I sat next to her and set my hand on her shoulder, watching as she struggled to keep still. After I leaned over, I kissed her cheek softly as my hand moved up to tickle her neck.

"Stop, Mom, that tickles…" she sat up and leaned against her pillows, "Is Dad up yet?"

I nodded, "He's getting dressed… and so should you." As I got up and headed for the door, I reminded her, "Make sure you bring your backpack downstairs."

She rolled off of her bed, "Kay."

The surgery had originally been scheduled for a Saturday but had unexpectedly been pushed back to the following Monday. Thus, Mattie was missing school for the day. We had packed her bag the night before with reading and coloring books, CDs, puzzles and a small pillow and blanket. She had adamantly declared she wasn't going to sleep at all until her father was awake and well but I was certain the sheer boredom of waiting in his room would eventually win.

Bruce was at the bathroom counter when I returned, a forest green towel wrapped around his waist. He looked over at me and smirked slightly, "Morning."

"Good morning," I said before kissing his cheek. As a second thought, I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips, smiling as I felt the shock wash over him. He stepped forward, pushing me against the sink before his arms snaked around my waist. I accidentally grazed his lower leg with mine and laughed out loud, breaking the kiss.

"What?" he asked genuinely confused.

"I forgot…" I managed through the giggles, "I forgot you had to shave your legs for the..." I pulled at the towel to reveal part of a smooth thigh before he smacked at my hand.

"Very funny," he growled, "Is Mattie up?"

"Yeah, I just checked on her," I answered as I moved away from him and towards the shower.

"We should leave in fifteen minutes."

I looked at his reflection in the mirror, "Thirty," I countered as I dropped my pajama bottoms.

His brow twitched as he lathered his jaw line, "Eighteen."

I removed my pajama top and threw it at him, "Thirty, Bruce."

He looked at my reflection and smirked, "Thirty it is."

By the time I had showered and dressed, he and Mattie had already headed downstairs for breakfast. Bruce had been on a strict fast since midnight and had been off of his daily aspirin for nearly a week, both on doctor's orders. It was amazing that even in seven days how much the pain had escalated from simply being a few stiff steps first thing in the morning to taking nearly five minutes to walk out of it. He was a master at controlling his own body but even he couldn't hide his inflexibility under that much pressure.

When I found them in the nook, Mattie was working on a plate of scrambled eggs, sliced apricot and toast while Bruce read the newspaper. I took a seat in the chair that was between them as Alfred appeared with a cup of coffee. I begged off breakfast even though I knew it would be last chance for a real meal for a while. With Bruce being hospitalized for at least three days after the surgery, I was already dreading living off of takeout food.

As soon as Mattie was done eating, I took her plate and silverware into the kitchen and quickly washed them before Alfred could even begin to protest. Trying to keep the upper hand, he announced that he was going to ready the car and would be waiting out front. Before he exited through the service entrance door, I suggested he bring out the Lincoln because that was the one Bruce had put our bags in the night before.

The drive from Bristol to the orthopedic practice that Dr. Reynolds worked out of took nearly fifty-minutes in the early commuter traffic. Bruce and I sat in the backseat with Mattie between us. He alternated between looking out the window to glancing over at me and down at his daughter. I reached behind Mattie and set my hand on his shoulder, smiling when his eyes locked with mine.

The in-patient parking area was situated in a small lot to the left of the four-story building that Bruce would call home for the next few days. Barbara had researched the place inside and out and had found nothing but solid patient recommendations and perfect staff histories. And since it had been Leslie who had recommended the facility in the first place, I was pretty sure we had made the right choice.

Dr. Reynolds was a quiet, tall man with thinning gray hair that contradicted his fit physique. His office walls housed numerous plaques declaring him the winner of marathons up and down the east coast. Although he was four years Bruce's junior, he had already undergone a left knee replacement and performed single and double joint replacements by the hundreds every year. The expertise had been one of the benefits of going to a private practice. That and we could avoid the press sneaking into the public atmosphere of a hospital and snapping off shots of a bed-ridden Bruce.

Arriving that early in the morning left plenty of empty spaces and Alfred pulled into the closest one next to the entrance. On the other side of the building was the employee lot and I counted nearly a dozen vehicles, ranging from BMW's to mini-vans. As I stepped out, I held the door for Mattie but wasn't surprised to see that she had gotten out on Bruce's side, her hand clamped onto his. As Alfred walked towards the opened trunk door, Bruce moved in and grabbed the overnight bag that had our clothes in it. I half-expected Alfred to shut the trunk door on Bruce's hand just to get him to let go of it.

Although the surgery was scheduled for half past nine, Bruce had told the others that it wasn't until ten, hoping to sway them from showing up too early. When I had found out about his lie, I had promptly called everyone and told them to be there at nine sharp. Bruce was upset with me for a total of thirty minutes, complaining that he didn't want too many people around when things went underway. Naturally, he didn't want to make a big deal out of the fact that he was undergoing massive orthopedic surgery.

The lobby housed a small refreshment area and lounge as well as the in-patient registration desk. Alfred, Mattie and I stayed back a bit while Bruce went about the formalities of signing in. It was freakishly like a hotel, but instead of wake-up calls, they had an anesthesiology service. Thinking this, I could barely keep myself from laughing when the receptionist said for Bruce to head up to the third floor and to enjoy his stay.

"What's so funny?" Bruce asked as we walked into the elevator.

"Nothing, my love," I replied while checking my watch.

The elevator doors opened up to the third floor waiting area. Standing at the receptionist desk was none other than Dr. Reynolds, chatting with what appeared to be his younger protégé. The young intern that the orthopedic surgeon had mentioned at our last visit would be sitting in to observe the surgery. Bruce's brow had twitched at that and Reynolds had promised that he would be the only one hacking and sawing on Bruce.

Dr. Reynolds looked up as we approached and smiled while he closed the distance, "Bruce, Selina. And this young lady must be Mattie." He paused and crouched to her height; "Your Mom and Dad have told me a lot about you."

Never being the shy one, Mattie didn't hesitate to ask, "You're my Dad's doctor?"

"Yes I am."

"And you're going to make him feel better, right?"

"You bet. After this surgery your dad will be feeling a whole lot better. Are you going to stay here with your mom?"

Mattie nodded, "Yep. Do you have a TV?"

"In the waiting room and there will be one in your dad's room."

"Good, because he likes to watch the news. And I like to watch cartoons."

Dr. Reynolds stood, still smiling, "Who doesn't?" then he looked at Bruce, "Well, if you're ready, we can get you set up so when Dr. Pierde arrives we can get started… Teri, can you show Mr. Wayne to his room, please, and let's get him started on a saline IV. I'll be over in just a few."

Teri was a pink smocked woman who had been reading a chart at the desk. She signed off on something, set it in a tray and then walked over with a pleasant smile on her face. She led us to a comfortable recovery room that had a large window overlooking the courtyard across the street. It looked to be furnished in expectance of the many guests that would no doubt drop by in the next few days. I spotted the bed for Bruce, three padded chairs on the near side of the bed, four folding chairs in the narrow closet space in addition two collapsible cots with clean bedding on one of the shelves.

Mattie, backpack in tow, skipped around the room as she investigated. Teri said she would be back in ten minutes to set up his IV. Before leaving, she selected a blue hospital gown from the closet and set it out on the edge of the bed.

"I want to wear one too," Mattie said as she picked up the material.

Before Bruce could say anything, his cell phone chirped from his pocket. He answered, spoke quietly before handing it over to Alfred, "It's Leslie."

As Alfred stepped out into the hall with the phone, Bruce took the gown into the bathroom and changed while I unpacked our belongings. Mattie sat on the bed, swinging her legs slowly as she looked about the room.

"This is nice, isn't it?"

She took a while to respond, "Yeah… Mom, what's an IV?"

"It's a needle they'll put in Dad's arm, to give him medicine."

"Will it hurt him?"

I shook my head, "No, it will be a little prick, just like when you get a shot."

Bruce emerged a moment later, adjusting the flimsy gown as much as he could as it barely went to the middle of his thighs. Mattie looked over and laughed at him, "Dad that looks like a dress."

I smiled as well, thinking that it was almost as good as him wearing his old tights.

^V^

My sleep-depraved brain deciphered someone calling my name.

Then that same someone hitting me in the head with a pillow.

"Dick, it's almost eight-thirty."

"Ten more minutes, Alfred…"

A much harder swat with the pillow, "Excuse me?"

I sat up in bed suddenly and looked over to see Barbara, showered and dressed, sitting beside me, the offensive pillow clenched in her right hand. She threw the pillow at me again and surprisingly, I caught it before it made impact with my head. After rubbing my face in hopes to wipe away the fogginess, I slowly made it to my feet tossing the pillow towards the end of the bed.

"You have ten minutes. Then we're leaving without you."

"Leaving to go where?" I mumbled as I shuffled to the bathroom door.

Barbara asked, "Are you kidding?" When I looked over my shoulder and winked at her, she grabbed the pillow once more and threw it from across the room.

I showered and shaved in record time before changing into a worn pair of jeans and a wrinkled white button down shirt over a navy tee that declared I was "Bringing Sassy Back". Comfortable casual for a long day of sitting and waiting. With a minute to spare, I met Barbara and Cass at the front door with a grin on my face. The elevator ride down to the ground floor was filled with silence that I decided to break up with off-key humming.

When Barbara pinched my side, I decided that silence wasn't so bad.

The twenty-minute drive to the private clinic was a little rough with traffic, but with Barbara behind the wheel, we managed to pull into the parking lot just as the clock read five after nine. As I stepped out of the car and went to offer help for Barbara, I asked, "So when is Tim coming?"

"He said he would be here by quarter after," Cass answered, "Had an exam at eight."

Belongings in tow, we made our way to the lobby and approached the registration desk. I leaned against the counter and asked, "Excuse me, can you tell me what room my father is in?"

The headset wearing tween behind the desk smiled and replied. "Certainly. His name?"

"Bruce Wayne."

She paused for a moment before saying, "Mr. Wayne has given us a strict list of visitors. I'll have to know all of your names."

"Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain. Tim Drake will be here shortly."

She scanned the computer screen before nodding and telling us he was in room three-ten. Interesting, I thought, She didn't ask for ID. Ought to tell Bruce, make him tighten this place up…

The elevator ride up to the third floor was a fraction of the ride down in the Clocktower. Down a wide hallway to the left of the waiting area, I spotted Alfred, Selina and Mattie standing outside of what I assumed was Bruce's room. When they saw us, each smiled slightly, but Mattie was the only one to offer a verbal greeting.

"Dick!" she giggled before trotting over.

I read the shocked look on her mother's face and crouched before her, "Shh, Mattie you can't yell and run here, okay? People need to get their rest so they can get better."

Mattie stopped in her tracks, "Like Dad?" she asked before she walked over to me.

"Exactly."

I picked her up and hugged her, her tiny arms wrapping around my neck. We closed the distance between the two groups, "So what are you, protesting?"

Selina opened her mouth to answer but Mattie beat her to it, "They're putting a catheter in so we had to come out here."

"Oh..." I replied while letting Mattie back to the floor. "When are they going to take him?"

I watched as Selina bit her lip before glancing at her watch, "The anesthesiologist will be here shortly. And then a few minutes after that."

I heard Cass from behind me, "What if Tim's late?"

I glanced over my shoulder at her with a slight smile, "Then he can be the first to say hello when Bruce wakes up."

After Bruce's door opened, a nurse and young woman in a short white coat stepped out. I let everyone file in before me. For some reason, my mind flashed back to that fateful night that he had been shot by Pasqualle and how a similar procession of people had walked by the recovery room at the Free Clinic. Although this time Bruce was lying in bed, awake and well, as I looked over at him all I could see was the comatose and bandaged body from seven years earlier.

Being the last one through, I closed the door behind me. I was surprised how even the number of people in the room did little to fill it. Mattie had already hopped onto the bed beside her father. With him going into surgery for most of the day, I wondered how well she would fair without being able to see him. Selina and Alfred had taken two of the chairs next to the bed and I expected Cass to make a move for the third but instead she stood to my right, shifting her gaze from the door to Bruce. Barbara remained at my left, but her eyes were on Bruce alone.

I was exhausted after a long night of patrols, I had yet to have breakfast let alone my morning coffee and there was an empty chair. Taking it instead of Cass meant an angry look from Alfred and probably a lecture later that day on how to be a proper gentleman. Not taking the chair and standing surely meant a pleased Alfred but my feet would never talk to me again.

Bruce gazed over his new visitors with a quiet look on his face. I had dropped by a few nights earlier to have dinner at the Manor and had stayed after to talk with him about the surgery as well as life in general. As we had sat on the ground floor terrace, I had done my best to keep from laughing as Bruce worked on glass of scotch while I had a glass of plain old apple cider.

"What's so funny?" he had asked after noticing my smirk.

"You," I had replied, finally letting out a slight laugh, "Golfing, dining out, finally making use of the liquor cabinet. You're turning into a regular old billionaire, Bruce."

"Watch it," he had growled. But even though he had put the glass to his lips, I had still spotted his lips twitch upwards.

I was just about to ask Cass if she intended on sitting down when there was a sudden knock on the door. Everyone turned their heads in time to see the same nurse that had just left carrying a small silver tray, but this time her partner was a tall, gray haired woman in a long white coat over dark blue scrubs.

She spoke with a soft accent of which I couldn't place right away, "Hello, I'm Dr. Pierde, I'll be your… Oh, my."

As she looked over the group that was assembled in the room, I finally placed it as being southern France. Thanks Bruce for making me listen to all of those tapes of European accents…

Before anyone could say anything, the nurse cleared her throat, "I'm afraid I'll have to ask those who aren't immediate family to leave…"

There was a moment of silence before Bruce sat up in bed and replied, "They are my immediate family."

Didn't expect that coming from him and when I glanced over at Barbara and the look on her face said that she was surprised as well.

"I see…" Pierde sighed quietly, "Well, that's fine but I hope no one is afraid of needles." She and the nurse walked between Cass and I and made their way to Bruce's bedside. Perhaps it was policy that the staff not piss off the patients before invasive surgery.

She introduced herself again to Bruce, shook hands and then added that she was the anesthesiologist. Mattie's eyes widened at the title and when she asked what that meant, Pierde offered a soft smile and an explanation, "My job is to help your dad go to sleep so he can have his surgery. That way, he won't feel anything."

"You have to give him a shot?" she asked, still sitting next to Bruce.

"One for right now. It will make him a little sleepy."

"Can I watch?" Mattie questioned, her eyes never leaving the tray.

Selina spoke, "Yes, but why don't you sit on my lap, Mattie."

When the child looked at Bruce for confirmation he nodded, "Go on, kitten, sit with Mom." A sigh and hop off of the bed later, Mattie was crawling up onto Selina's lap, her eyes glued to the tray in the nurse's hands.

Cass suddenly stepped towards the door. When I looked over at her she whispered, "Going to go wait for Tim."

"Okay."

After she slipped out of the room I heard Pierde's soft voice, "The medical history Dr. Reynolds took said that your system was a bit resistant to Valium so we're going to use a 4 milligram per milliliter solution of Lorazepam."

"Sounds good to me," Bruce replied, not an ounce of humor in his voice.

I watched as Pierde withdrew the clear liquid into a syringe and then tapped out a few tiny bubbles before inserting it into the IV catheter on Bruce's right hand. She withdrew it after depressing the plunger and then spoke as she capped the needle, "You should start to feel a bit drowsy shortly. Once the surgery suite is ready, we'll take you up… And if there aren't any last questions…?"

Bruce shook his head.

"Very well, we'll see you in few minutes." I stepped aside and watched as the nurse and

Pierde filed back out into the hallway. As the door closed behind them, the room became eerily silent.

I let out a yawn, "Should have asked her to hook me up with some of that." Of all the people to react, I was surprised to see Bruce smirk slightly. I smiled back at him, wondering if it was genuine humor or if the drugs were already kicking in.

Mattie slipped off of her mother's lap and proceeded to lean against the bed, "Are you scared, Dad?"

Bruce let his head turn to face her and reached slowly for her hand, "No. Are you?"

She shrugged, "Maybe."

He squeezed her tiny hand, "It's okay to be scared…"

Damn right it was okay to be scared. I never liked hospitals but the more I thought about it, Mattie had too many reasons to hate them. Being born at home, her first experience of the antiseptic smelling, bright-lit hell of a medical haven was when she was diagnosed with asthma as an infant. Then not much later, when Bruce and Selina were in the car accident. Add that to the respiratory therapy she had to undergo a few times every year, probably for the rest of her life…

A little too much for someone that young.

I just hoped that this was something that couldn't be added to her list of bad experiences.

Not five minutes later, Bruce's eyes began to droop slightly and not too long after, Dr. Reynolds and a pair of nurses arrived to take him up. I had decided the night before that I would go with Bruce and would wait outside the operating room until the procedure was done. Thinking this, I decided to step towards the door, letting everyone else have a quick moment with Bruce.

I watched as Alfred stood, rubbing his hands together in that way he often did when something was bothering him. He then approached the bed and rested one palm on Bruce's arm; spoke quietly before stepping back and standing beside the window. Barbara then moved closer, squeezed Bruce's hand and said, "Break a leg."

Bruce blinked slowly and managed a slight smile.

Selina stood, leaned over and kissed him on the lips. If it had been a different situation I might of cracked off a joke about the public display of affection. She gripped his hand as she stood upright and he did his best to squeeze back. Mattie kissed him as well and said she would be waiting right there for him to come back. He whispered something to her that made her giggle slightly.

I blamed it on my lack of sleep, but I couldn't help think back once more to when Mattie had been diagnosed with asthma. How despite everything else, Bruce had still made her feel safe with a few soft words and a touch of his hand.

Seemed like a lifetime ago, but the gesture still did wonders for my little sister.

^V^

After pouting for the first few minutes, Miss Mattie had unpacked a coloring book and began furiously filling in pages of outlined horse drawings. She declared that she was going to finish the entire book before her father returned. Pending any major disaster, this was to be the only day she missed school for, even though Master Bruce would be hospitalized for several days.

The night before, after the child had gone to bed, Ms. Selina and Master Bruce had been lounging in the den, talking about plans for the week, mostly those revolving around their daughter. From what I overheard, their major concern was getting her back home for a good night's sleep and to keep things as normal as possible in her schedule. And sleeping in Bruce's recovery room was not normal. I gracefully interrupted and offered to spend the night with her at the Manor and to arrange for transportation to and from school. Ms. Selina offered to come home at night as well, despite her voice lacking any conviction. I knew she had all intentions of staying with her husband until he returned home, so I had informed her it would be no trouble to watch over their daughter.

Not ten minutes after Master Dick accompanied Master Bruce and Dr. Reynolds to surgery, there was a slight knock at the door just before it opened. I had been looking out the window, watching as the city was coming to life and when I glanced towards the door, I saw Master Tim and Miss Cassandra enter.

As their eyes scanned the near empty room, Master Tim frowned, "I guess we missed him."

"You guessed correctly, sir," I commented.

I had actually been surprised that Master Tim made an appearance at all, simply because of his hectic schedule. Although he had only a handful of classes to take in order to complete his business degree, he had decided to forge ahead and work on a minor in information technology, thus requiring a semester beyond the one he was currently enrolled in.

Aside from his school activities, he had taken a part-time position at the First National Bank as a computer system consultant. He had said it was tedious work, but simple to do as long as those working at the bank didn't bother him too much. "I get about seventy-five percent of everything done within the first half-hour," he told me after his first day, "Then I got to spend some quality time playing Sims Online."

The most demanding burden of Master Tim's life had been his stepping up to take Master Bruce's place. It had been nearly a month since he had officially become the Dark Knight and already he had faced off with a serial rapist that had attacked nearly a dozen women at near random times and locations within the city. Unfortunately, while he had attempted to apprehend the perpetrator, a special task force of police officers was also making its move. The suspect was killed in a rain of bullets after he had opened fire with a nail gun on the officers. Those involved were awarded for their bravery and the families of the victims couldn't have been happier.

The Batman was infuriated.

He had consoled in me about his anger towards the new commissioner and how the police department was slowly changing. I wondered how much of it reflected his envy that the previous police commissioner and Batman had such a strong rapport while the current one had only used the Bat-signal once, and that was to ream him out. I reminded him that when Master Bruce had first started, and even years after, he faced constant pressure from the police department, including the faceoff in the Chelsea Hotel. He then smirked, saying how he would have much rather butted horns with Gordon than with Kelsey.

Despite the extra burdens from school and work, he and Miss Cassandra had surprisingly been able to find a great deal of time to spend with one another. I mused how Master Bruce had been adamant when he started out as Batman that he had no time for a social life. Master Dick said their work at night was still flawless, of which Master Bruce was impressed by. After all, there had been countless attractive heroines and even villains that had posed as a fatal distraction for him over the years. One, however, had posed as the biggest threat…

As for the original Batgirl and Robin, news of their impromptu engagement had spread like fire and by nightfall of the day of the picnic proposal, the word had not only ran through his the Family, but to the Justice League and the Teen Titans. No true plans had been arranged but Ms. Selina and Ms. Barbara had already met for lunch nearly a dozen times to start getting things in order.

"What time were the expecting the surgery to be done with?" Master Tim glanced at his wristwatch.

Ms. Selina looked over her shoulder as, "He'll be in surgery until two… and then in recovery until four-thirty, maybe even five o clock tonight."

The young man's brow creased slightly and before I could ask what was wrong, Miss Cassandra spoke up, "What?"

He sighed quietly; "I have class until three and then work until six-thirty… And then…" he paused when he looked over at Miss Mattie, who was lost in her coloring.

"He'll understand, Tim," Ms. Selina smiled, "Actually, with all the drugs he'll be on, I don't think he'll even notice if anyone is here, let alone if anyone is missing."

He bit his lower lip quickly before nodding, "You're right. Maybe I'll be able to drop by quick later tonight… I better get back to campus, have a tutoring orientation thing to go to. If I don't get to see him later, give him my best."

"Of course," Ms. Selina nodded.

He looked over at me briefly before turning towards Miss Cassandra, "I'll see you later."

"Bye," she smiled and watched him exit into the corridor.

Two weeks earlier, Master Bruce had offered the townhouse in Bryanttown to Master Tim, including an extended offer to have it renovated. And not a week after that, Ms. Barbara informed me that he had in turn offered Miss Cassandra the option of living with him. I had yet to speak with him on the subject, but I had my own ideas as to why he made such a bold move. First, with Master Dick and Ms. Barbara to be wed, it would be a chance for Miss Cassandra to get out on her own. Secondly, it would be nice to have company in his first year living in his own home. And last but certainly not least; it would enable them to strengthen their relationship, as it were.

After all the trials they had faced, individually and together, it was a well-deserved relationship at that.

Not long after Master Tim left, Miss Cassandra said she was going to get something from the bakery down the street and offered to get refreshments for all of us. I told her I was content for the time being and Ms. Selina said the same. Ms. Gordon, who had been skimming through a magazine, asked for a frappuccino. The crayon-bearing youngster, on the other hand, said she would love chocolate milk.

"Please," her mother reminded her.

Mattie looked up from her drawing, "Can I have chocolate milk, please, Cassie?"

The older girl nodded, "I'll be right back," and then slipped out the door.

I let a few moments of silence pass before approaching Ms. Selina, "If you wouldn't mind, I thought I might venture upstairs to speak with Master Dick."

"And to snoop around…" she interrupted, "That's all right. I'm sure us girls can entertain ourselves for the time being."

Just as I turned towards the door, Miss Mattie looked up once more from her coloring, "I want to go see Dad, too."

Her mother commented, "No, Alfred's just going upstairs to check on a few things. No one can see Dad until this afternoon."

The child fought frustration with a pout and then sighed reluctantly before returning to her artwork. I feared what a week of intermittent time with her father would do for her. The after-effects of the surgery and the heavy medication he would be under would impinge upon any time she would be able to spend with him. The last time she had been in such a situation, she had been an infant and had little practical recollection of him being laid up.

For which I was thankful for.

Opting for the elevator, I made my way up to the next floor, of which housed several surgical suites and the post-operative recovery rooms. My mind couldn't help but to drift towards my morning conversation with Leslie. She had all intentions of being there for Master Bruce's surgery, but a small fire had broken out at a local school and many of the injured students had been sent her way. I did my best to console her and to assure her that everything was under control.

Despite the dire purpose of the floor, it was decorated brightly, with off-white tiled floors, pastel accents and pleasant watercolors hanging on the walls. I suddenly wondered how the operating rooms were painted…

Master Dick was standing passed the nursing and reception desk, staring at the window that took up most of the wall. I approached quietly, glancing through as well. Opened Venetian blinds did little to conceal the happenings in the room. Master Bruce's form was draped with sterile blue sheets with his left leg wrapped in the same material aside from the knee area, of which was exposed and tinged orange from the betadine scrub. It had been propped up, keeping the knee bent at a ninety-degree angle.

They had not wasted any time in getting started, as Dr. Reynolds and his assistants had already made the necessary incisions around the knee capsule and had pulled back muscle and connective tissues as well as the patella. My eyes ventured to Master Bruce's face. They had intubated him in light of the length of the surgery and it was easy to spot the blue, ribbed tubing that was attached to an in-wall oxygen outlet.

Master Dick sighed, "I've had three nurses already offer me coffee, another two even said they would show me to the waiting area… I had to use my Bat-glare to scare them away."

"Perhaps they are not accustomed to those determined enough to stand for five hours, watching a loved one's surgery from start to finish."

"Perhaps."

We watched on in silence as the surgeon consulted the radiographs before he went about removing several bones spurs on the base of the femur and the remains of the destroyed meniscus with a rongeur, a large, scissor like tool. As an assistant prepared a large drill, Master Dick shook his head; "I watched this exact same surgery yesterday on the Learning Channel. Still doesn't make it any easier when they start pulling out the power tools."

As Dr. Reynolds pressed the drill bit against the center of the base of the femur, I nodded in agreement.

I stood beside him in silence for another hour, watching on as they reshaped the bones, drilled in holes for the prosthetic components. By then, I was absolutely certain that nothing short of a miracle would convince Master Dick to leave his post outside of his father's operating room.

And I was also certain that nothing short of a miracle that would convince me to leave my post outside of my son's operating room.

^V^

"Why don't we go out, get some lunch?"

I was reading in a chair I had dragged over to the window after Alfred had left earlier. When I looked up at Mom, I was just finishing the third chapter. It was a book I found in my parents room, The BFG by Roald Dahl. Dad said it was an important book to him but he said I could read it as long as I took good care of it.

We hadn't really eaten anything since breakfast aside from the box of fresh muffins and bagels that Cassie had brought back with her. And when lunchtime had come, no one had been really hungry. I looked at my wristwatch; one Leslie had given me for my birthday, and saw it was nearly two.

"Can't we eat here?" I asked, putting my bookmark in.

Barbara, who had been playing on the laptop she brought, said, "There's a nice little restaurant a few blocks from here."

Cass smirked from her seat near the door, "Soup of the day?"

"Broccoli and Cheddar," Barbara answered.

Mom stood and walked over to me, "What do you think, kiddo? Get some real food, maybe some ice cream?"

"But… Isn't Dad coming back soon?"

She knelt in front of me, "No, he'll be getting out of surgery soon, but he won't be coming back here, to his room, until later."

"Can we see him when he gets out? Of the surgery?"

"No, sweetie, he's going to stay upstairs so that Dr. Reynolds can make sure he's all better."

I didn't want to leave until Dad was back, until I could see him for myself. Mom and Dad had explained things to me a few times about how he wasn't going to be himself for a while. How he'll be a little sleepy and maybe even sick after the surgery and how he would have to use a walker to get around for a few weeks. I tried not to be scared but I couldn't help it. A friend at school said her uncle had stomach surgery and he had died. When I told my parents about it, they said the surgery Dad was having was much safer.

Even still…

Thinking that, I asked, "What if something happens? What if he's not all better?"

Mom smiled softly at me before setting a hand on my knee, "Mattie, Dad will fine. And besides, Dick and Alfred will be here and if anything did happen, they would call us. So, what do you say?" I was about to say I wasn't hungry, a lie but I wanted to stay. But before I could, my stomach growled. Mom laughed and tickled my stomach a bit, "I take that as a yes?"

I nodded.

Mom stood, "All right. I'm going to run up and see if I can get them anything to eat and then we can go."

I hopped off of the chair, my book still in my hand, "I want to go. Please?"

She looked down at me, and then over at Cass and Barbara, both of which shrugged at her. "All right."

"Yay!" I cried out before tackling her legs with a hug.

We took the elevator up to the next floor, of which looked pretty much just like the one where Dad's room was. There was a waiting area with couches and a desk with some people working at computers and two hallways that went in opposite directions. I was about to ask which way we should go when I heard Dick's voice from the left, "And what are you doing up here?"

I turned and almost ran towards him but then remembered what he said earlier, how it wasn't good to run around and be loud. Instead, I smiled and walked as fast as I could towards him and Alfred. He reached out and grabbed me, lifting me up into his arms.

I kissed his cheek, "We're going to get lunch. Mom and I came up to see if you want lunch too."

He nodded, "I could use some grub."

As Mom approached, she greeted Alfred by squeezing his hand and then reached over to touch Dick's shoulder. I turned my head to face her to tell her that Dick was hungry too when I noticed that the wall we were standing next to was actually a window. Through it, I saw people in blue smocks and gowns were walking around, carrying trays and tools. I looked to the center of the room, where a bed like Dad's was sitting with several lights and machines towards the top of it. A woman in purple smocks pulled back the blue sheet that was covering the bed to reveal Dad, laid out, his legs an odd orange color. There were bandages around his knees and small tubes sticking out.

Mom caught me looking and sighed.

Dick rubbed my back, "See, Mattie, they're all done. Now they're going to let him sleep for a while and later tonight he'll be back downstairs."

"Is that what they did to his legs? Made them orange?"

Dick smiled, "No, that's from the medicine they washed his legs with to make them clean. Kind of like super soap. It will wash off."

"Looks silly."

He nodded, "Yeah it does."

We stayed for a little bit longer, and I barely heard Mom asking Alfred and Dick what they wanted to eat. I was too busy watching as the people inside slowly left through a back door. Two of them pushed the bed Dad was on out the door while another followed, writing on a clipboard. I recognized him as Dr. Reynolds.

"All right, Mattie, let's get going."

"… Okay."

Dick set me down on the floor and squeezed my hand before letting go. In my other hand, I was still holding onto the book. I bit my lip before giving it to him. "What's this for?"

"Dad. It's his favorite. If you get to see him before we get back, can you give it to him?"

He looked at the cover and smiled, "Of course."

Mom and I left for the elevator and met Barbara and Cass at Dad's room before heading out. Since Alfred had the keys to the car we took from home, Barbara drove us to the restaurant in her car. It only took a few minutes to get there, but on the way, Barbara and Mom, who sat in the front, talked the entire time. I tried to listen but the radio was just loud enough that it mixed in with their words. I did hear Dad's name a few times though.

The restaurant was about half-full, which made sense since most people didn't eat lunch that late. We had a table near a window and I spent most of the time staring out it, thinking about looking through the window at Dad. Because I wasn't paying attention, Mom had ordered for me, so when the food arrived, I was surprised to see that I had a chicken Caesar pita and French fries.

I ate fairly slowly considering how hungry I was and listened to the others talking. The conversation pretty much revolved around Barbara and Dick's wedding. I was going to be the flower girl, just like I was at Mom and Dad's wedding. From the sounds of it, the wedding was going to be pretty much the same as my parents', even though I didn't really remember much from it.

From there, the talk turned to Tim and Cass's new house. I had been to Tim's apartment and thought it was cool how he had movie posters on the wall. I thought there was more than enough room there for them to live together but I guess a house to themselves would be better. A few days ago, I had gone with Dad to visit their new house and was confused because it didn't look like anything I would want to live in. On the outside it was pretty good, with brick walls and big windows, but on the inside it looked like it was ready to fall apart. Missing walls, dirt and dust everywhere and cracks in the ceilings. They were going to start renovating soon, which was good, because it was pretty bad.

Mom asked if I wanted dessert but after eating everything off of my plate, I wasn't really all that hungry.

Even for ice cream.

All I wanted was to get back as soon as we could, to sneak upstairs and to sit with Dad until he woke up. Then I could read to him and he could help me with the big words like he did at night when we read before going to sleep.

Then everything would be all right.

^V^

My assumptions throughout the entire day were off.

I had assumed that Bruce would still be in his room when I got there that morning. I assumed I didn't have an essay due in Business Research Methods and I assumed that I would be able to get out of work early.

There was a thirty-three minute gap between getting out of work and when I planned on working out before patrols that I assumed would be the perfect time to visit Bruce. Barbara, Dick and Cass would have left by then and surely Mattie would be exhausted and fast asleep on a cot or in a chair and Selina and Alfred would no doubt be sitting at his bedside, too tired and too worried to sleep. That's why when I walked into his room to see it filled with the people I had expected to be long gone, I couldn't help but think of my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Truman, and how many times he had lectured us on how assuming things made "an ass out of you and me!"

Jim Gordon had been the first to spot me, offering a slight smile and a handshake. I hadn't seen much of him in the last month, and that had only been as Tim Drake, not Batman.

With his attention towards me, Cass and Barbara looked as well. Cass stepped closer to me and asked how work was and when I rolled my eyes she laughed softly, "That bad?"

"Let's just say that I told the new teller to press any key to start the program, he asked 'Where's the Any Key?'."

I looked passed her to see Dick sitting next to Barbara and Selina sitting on the other side of him. Alfred was standing by the windows, the same spot he had been that morning, reviewing Bruce's medical chart. That left…

Mattie sat beside Bruce on the gurney, the top elevated slightly to put him in a near sitting position. She was showing him all of the drawings and pictures she had colored that day and from the look on his face, he was doing everything he could from falling asleep. He had an oxygen cannula under his nose and still had the IV in his hand. His eyelids were heavy and his breaths came slow and deep. I couldn't blame him, especially after spending most of the day under general anesthesia.

As Mattie showed him the last picture she had done, Bruce looked over her head and spotted me. He managed a slight nod and I smirked back.

I watched as he drew a long breath before asking, "What time is it?" his voice quiet and slow. With everyone's attention diverted, he winced as he shifted his leg slightly. He noticed me looking and I simply winked at him.

Mattie was the first to reply, "Seven."

"In the morning?" he asked.

She laughed, "No, at night, Dad."

He nodded, feigning innocence as she looked at his face, "Well, then it's time… for you to get going... have a bath… before bed."

"Can't I stay a little longer?"

He shook his head as Selina stood, "Mattie we talked about this earlier. We're going to go home and you're going to stay with Alfred so you can rest up for school tomorrow."

She pouted, something that made her seem even cuter than she already was, "But I want to stay with Dad."

He raised his hand and rubbed her back gently, of which seemed to take a great effort, "Kitten, you'll be back tomorrow… afternoon."

"I don't want to leave you, I want to stay, Dad, please?" her voice was faltering as the beginnings of tears welled in her eyes. She turned, wrapping her arms around his neck, her foot gently touching his thigh as she did so. He winced again, this time in plain sight.

Selina touched Mattie's back, "I know you want to stay. But tomorrow Dad will be feeling better. Right now he needs his rest. So do you."

I watched on as she hugged Bruce a bit more, before kissing his cheek and letting go of him. She had put on a brave front, biting her lower lip and wiping her eyes before her tears could fall. I suddenly wondered what it had been like all day, with her separated from even seeing Bruce, her imagination running wild…

"Say good night to everyone, Mattie," Selina said as she gathered her daughter's belongings and put them into her backpack.

The child offered half-hearted hugs and whispered words as she toured the room. After Selina gave her the backpack, Mattie searched it quickly before pulling out a paperback book. She then put it on the small table next the bed and told her father they could finish it the next day.

"Sounds good to me… Good night, kitten."

"Night, Dad."

Not a moment after Selina, Mattie and Alfred had left, Jim said he had to get back to take Frank for a walk. He moved over to Bruce, shook his hand and said he would drop by in the morning with coffee. Bruce smirked and reminded him to tell the nurses if they asked that it was decaf. As he made his way to the door, Jim kissed Barbara's cheek and then told the rest of us to be safe that night. Dick laughed slightly, "Where's the fun in that?"

With a chair emptied, I walked over and gratefully plopped down in it. Bruce cleared his throat and asked, "Long day?"

"I suppose. Nowhere near as fun as yours though."

"I would hope not," Barbara joked.

I leaned back in the chair and asked how everything had gone. Bruce shrugged slightly, "Good I guess. I get to try… walking tomorrow."

"They say how long you have to stay here?"

"At least three days… if not more. It depends on when I can pass the test."

"The test?" I asked.

Barbara nodded, "The rites of passage for knee replacements. He has to be able get in and out of bed, walk up and down the hall out there and go to the bathroom by himself."

Bruce sighed, "Even if I can do all of it… by tomorrow night, I still have to stay."

"Forced imprisonment… young nurses catering to your every need… sponge baths… How barbaric," Dick snickered.

Barbara slapped his arm, "Careful, or you'll be in a gurney too."

"Is that a threat or a promise, pumpkin?" he asked. She threw an icy glare in his direction and his shoulder slumped. And he said Bruce was whipped. Dick stood suddenly and said, "Well, we better get going. Long night of being safe ahead of me." He took a step towards Bruce's bed and shook his hand, "Don't let Selina keep you up too late."

A slight smirk formed on Bruce's lips.

Then another wince.

Cass and Barbara both wished him a good night; Cass touched his arm gently while Barbara had kissed his hand. When I remained seated, I said I would see them later.

Fifteen minutes and we were finally alone.

I broke the silence by pointing to a small machine attached to the IV stand, "Is that one of those Pain Control Units?"

He nodded, "Analgesic relief at the press of a button... Haven't tried it out yet."

"Tempted?"

He smirked again. For having undergone invasive orthopedic surgery all day, he was sure in a good mood. For having been retired from the life he cherished for a month he was in a good mood…

Although we hadn't seen much of each other lately, the time we spent with one another was less awkward than I would have imagined. For instance, when he had told me about the townhouse in Bryanttown, we had been sharing lunch in the breakfast nook at Wayne Manor, talking about the rape case I had just closed. There was a moment of silence before he asked how the satellite cave was working for me. I had said it was great, especially since most nights I couldn't get to the Cave without delaying patrols. He paused again, sipped his coffee, and then asked how I felt about having to deal with the distance between the location of the satellite cave and my home. Being truthful, I told him it added a bit of time to my night, having to go back and forth to change and handle logs, but that it wasn't too bad.

Another pause followed before he mentioned the townhouse.

I hadn't been too surprised, seeing how under one name or company, Bruce had a great deal of real estate throughout the city. The house was under the dummy name of Fletcher and Associates and hadn't held any residents for decades, long before he bought it. That afternoon, we went down to check it out and as he opened the front door, he had brought up that he would cover any renovations needed to the place. I had figured it would be dusty, maybe some carpets needed to be replaced. What I hadn't figured was that the place would be in shambles.

I had joked as we toured the empty two-story house that it was no wonder he didn't want the Wayne name on the place.

Bruce cleared his throat again, interrupting my thoughts. It had been the third time he had done so since I had arrived. "Want some water?" I offered.

"No, it's okay."

"Come on, least I can do is get you a cup of water." I stood and entered the surprisingly spacious bathroom, poured cool water from the tap into a plastic cup and then returned to his bedside. He took the cup from me slowly, his hand quivering just enough to make the water quake in the glass. "You all right?" I asked, doing my best to hide my concern.

He sipped the water, slowly emptying the cup. I took it from him as he replied, "Side effects from the anesthesia… It's been on and off all afternoon."

After setting the cup on the table beside us, I sat back down, "So three days in this place? Not too shabby. I was expecting a cell with bars on the windows to keep you in."

Bruce looked around the room, "It's nice. Better than a hospital."

"Was Selina coming back tonight? She said something about Alfred staying with Mattie."

He nodded, "We figured it would be best for Mattie to sleep at home… With the nurses coming and going through the night… she wouldn't be able to sleep well. That and she can get back to school tomorrow. Not that she wants to."

I watched as Bruce fought a yawn. I glanced at my watch to see it was almost quarter of eight. A few weeks ago, his night would just be getting started, not ending.

"How's the job going?" he asked suddenly.

We talked for a while and I stayed well past the thirty-three minutes I had intended. Selina walked through the door a little before nine and said, "Shh." I had been talking about the plans for the townhouse and paused mid-sentence to look at her. She pointed over to Bruce and when I turned my head, I smiled to see he was sound asleep.

As Selina approached me, I stood quietly and stared down at him for a full minute. She set a hand on my shoulder and whispered, "Thanks for coming, Tim."

"No problem. I'll try and drop by during the day tomorrow. When he's a little less drugged."

She smiled, leaned forwards and kissed my cheek, "Go on, save some damsels in distress."

I walked towards the door, opening it silently. Before closing it, I looked over to see Selina sit on the edge of Bruce's bed, her hand gently holding onto his. Such love in her eyes.

As I stepped into the hallway, I was all the more grateful that I knew that same love.

^V^

I woke at eleven-thirty that night with a roaring wave of nausea.

I woke at three-thirty in the morning with a vicious cramp in my left thigh.

I woke again at five-fifteen with a bloody nose.

Then I gave up on sleep and contented myself with staring at the ceiling.

Although they had provided cots and bedding and had even gone as far as offering another gurney for Selina to sleep on, she had politely refused. Instead, she sat in the chair beside me, her hand locked onto mine while she dozed lightly. When I woke the first time, my insides wanting to come outside via my mouth, she woke with a start, practically jumping out of her chair.

I had told her I was fine but it did little to convince her. She felt my forehead, asking what was wrong. I explained it was nothing more than some queasiness and that it would subside on its own. When I was about to tell her she should really get some sleep on the cot or to have the nurses bring in the gurney, my stomach decided a bought of heaves were needed first.

Fortunately I hadn't ingested solid foods in nearly twenty-four hours, so nothing came up but water and bile.

Unfortunately, it came up all over the blanket covering my lap.

With nothing left to expel, I fought dry heaves for a few moments before sitting back, sweaty and angry. I had spent my life learning to control my body and its every function. Alfred had always done his best to comfort me when I was ill, or injured enough so that I couldn't handle basic daily tasks on my own. Deep down I knew his intentions were good but that still never stopped me from being cruel to him.

Selina had pressed the call button on the wall above the gurney and then touched my hand, "Are you okay." I ignored her and went about pushing the blankets off of me. She took them into the bathroom and put them into a plastic clothes hamper. When she returned, she had a cup of water with her, "Here."

I took it without looking at her and downed it, slightly rinsing the foul taste from my palate. As I was about to ask her for a toothbrush, the door opened to reveal the night shift nurse, Angie Taylor. She had introduced herself shortly before Tim had arrived. She seemed knowledgeable enough but had been skeptical when I refused the regular dosage of morphine and the Lorazepam to help me sleep. The pain wasn't that bad, actually it had been far less than I what I prepared for, so I felt it was unnecessary to push the drugs.

Even later with my legs on fire and my guts in knots, I felt it was unnecessary.

She had quickly crossed the room, checked over my vitals just as another nurse entered with clean sheets and a blanket. Changing the bed meant I had to get up. Getting up no doubt meant extreme pain on my very much drug-free body.

Not wanting the nurses hands on me, I allowed Selina to help me out of bed. She carefully shifted my legs so than hung from the edge and then helped me inch off of the gurney and onto my feet, baring most of my weight on the walker. Even still, I felt the hot flashes of pain shooting up and down my legs and it took what little control I had left to keep from grimacing. With the bed changed, I was able to sit back once more, not surprised when the pain didn't immediately vanish.

Angie then reached into her smock pocket and revealed a small bottle and a packaged sterile syringe. While Selina helped me lay back down, I watched as she drew out two cc's of the fluid before tapping out the tiny air bubbles. "What's that?" I managed.

"Droperidol. It will alleviate the nausea and help you get back to sleep."

She retrieved another syringe and drew from another and much larger bottle. "And that?"

"Saline to flush out the IV catheter." She inserted it and cleaned out the IV before she injected the second needle into the IV line in my hand and depressed the plunger. "It will take a few minutes to kick in. Are you sure you don't want anything for the pain, Mr. Wayne?"

Selina smiled and I was quick to realize it was because of the incidental rhyme the nurse had said. I shook my head, "I'll be all right. Thank you."

"We're just down the hall if you need anything. Good night."

"Good night," Selina replied. Alone once more, she turned back to me, "I know what will make you feel better?"

"Oh?"

She nodded before turning off the overhead light. I felt her sit on the bed before reclining beside me. She took my arm and draped it over her side. After a moment, she whispered, "We should have asked for a king-sized gurney."

"I'll remember that for next time," I whispered as I tried to move over. I had an appointment with Dr. Reynolds at ten in the morning to take my first walk and I couldn't even stand moving my legs let alone walking on them.

Somehow, we both managed to fall asleep fairly quickly. I was lost in the fog of a dream when I woke the second time, with tightness in my leg. Half awake, I decided it was nothing and closed my eyes once more. But the tightness became over-whelming, causing the muscles of my thigh to clench unmercifully. I tried to massage it gently but the act caused only more pain.

My breathing hitched and I couldn't help but grimace. Selina mumbled in her sleep and as much as I wanted to wake her, I didn't. I tried a few breathing exercises and did my best to meditate. Eventually, I was able to focus my thoughts elsewhere and the pain subsided on its own.

The third time I woke, I sharp throbbing had settled in my head. I sat up slowly as to not wake Selina and reached a hand to my brow. Unfortunately as I sat up, blood that had been collecting slipped down the back of my throat, causing me to gag.

I pinched my nose shut and leaned forward, cursing softly. Selina mumbled as she rolled onto her back, "Bruce?"

"I'm fine."

She yawned before sitting up as well, her hand making its way to my shoulder, "What's wrong?"

Keeping my face turned away from her, I said, "Nothing. Go back to sleep."

"Bruce, nothing with you always means something," she sighed as she leaned back to turn on the light. She then gasped, no doubt at the blood that stained the pillow I had been sleeping on. Without hesitating, she slipped off of the bed and looked at my face, "Damnit, Bruce…"

"It'll stop, just give it a minute," I growled harder than I had intended.

After stepping into the bathroom momentarily, she returned with a wad of sterile gauze and then moved my hand away. She then pressed the material to my nose and pinched it into place, no doubt harder than necessary but clearly intended.

We waited in silence until the nosebleed stopped, our eyes locked on one another. I tried a few icy glares but none of them fazed her. She threw the soiled gauze away and wet a washcloth and gave it to me while she removed the pillowcase. After I washed my face and hands, she took and threw it in the bathroom.

The look on her face suggested that she was not about to get back into bed with me, so I reclined, taking the second pillow for my own.

"Excuse me?"

"What?"

"That's my pillow. And move over."

"… Yes, dear."

We shared the single pillow and this time she slipped under the covers, careful not to touch my legs. After a while, she spoke, "They always say the first night is the hardest."

"I suppose they are right," I replied, carefully placing my hand on her side.

"What lies ahead can't nearly be as bad as this. I know I'm beautiful, but even I need beauty sleep."

The nurse was scheduled to come in at seven to check the IV and to give me the various antibiotics I had been prescribed. As I glanced at the clock on the wall, I saw that it would be a little less than two hours of sleep, most of it restless, therefore pointless. As I listened to Selina's breathing become regular, I thought of how she had been the first thing I had seen when waking in recovery. She had brought Dick and Alfred's lunches to them and met up with Dr. Reynolds to talk with him. And being the persuasive woman she was, she convinced him to let her sit with me for a while.

She had a worried look on her face that she had tried to hide with a smile. My throat sore from being intubated, I managed a weak croak that had sounded nothing like her name. She told me to shut up and leaned forward to kiss me. I asked her how Mattie was and she had told me that she had spent most of the day keeping busy but seemed worried that something would happen. I had sighed; thinking that with my infamous luck, I had been a bit worried myself.

Two hours later, Dr. Reynolds cleared me to go back downstairs. Still a bit groggy, I was amazed at how little pain there was considering the nature of the procedure. Then again, as the drugs wore off, no doubt I would be able to reinvent my understanding of the word agony.

Mattie had been napping in one of the chairs but as soon as I was moved into the room, she stirred and woke. As much as I wanted to hug and hold her, I simply didn't have the energy. She crawled up onto the bed with me and locked her arms around my neck, whispering into my ear how much she loved me and how she had missed me.

Then she said she was going to read to me.

I had dozed on and off for most of the afternoon, unaware of time or pretty much anything else. As night came, I had been able to recognize the voices in the room although it took a bit of effort to keep up with the conversations. Dr. Reynolds dropped in before he left for the night and reminded me of our appointment. As if I was going anywhere anytime soon…

As the beginnings of dawn seeped through the curtains, I thought, One day down. Three to go.

Three days until I could sleep in my own bed and be woken in the morning by Mattie's kisses and the cats clawing at my feet.

Three more days until I could have a real meal, no doubt engineered by Alfred to help boost my immune system.

Three days until the real fun began.

Considering my good condition prior to the surgery, Dr. Reynolds predicted that recovery would be around six weeks barring and unpredicted infections or mishaps. As long as I followed my doctor and physical therapist's orders, I would be fine. I had no other choice with Alfred, Leslie and Selina there to keep me in line.

And of course the future Dr. Mattie Elizabeth Wayne.

^V^