Protection
By DC Lady

DISCLAIMER: No profits are being made from this story.
NOTES: There was no beta for the first section. Quiet Tiger was the beta for all other sections.

An epilogue will follow


Dick opened the door to his favorite restaurant, and with a partial bow and extended arm, gestured for Bruce to enter. The restaurant's ambiance was one of old world charm, and its cuisine boasted as the best Bludhaven had to offer--which probably wasn't much of a boast considering the usual Bludhaven had to offer, but Dick liked the place, and he thought Bruce would like it too. It was a rare occurrence for him and his adoptive father to spend quality time together.

"Nice place." Bruce pulled a chair and sat at the red checker clothed table.

"It's not Gotham's Palace, but it has its charm. The food's pretty good, too." Dick opened his menu and scanned the appetizers. "Wanna split an appetizer before ordering?"

Bruce's eyes never left the menu he held in front of him. "Whatever's good."

"You trust me?" Dick smiled.

Bruce smirked. "I'll take my chances."

The waiter arrived with tall glasses of water and flatware, busying himself with preparing the table. Taking a small pad and pencil out of his white, starched apron, he looked at both Dick and Bruce in anticipation of an order.

"We'll have the Grilled Bruschette and a bottle of your house red to start," Dick said.

"Very good sir. I will return with your wine."

The silence was suddenly awkward.

Bruce cleared his throat. "Alfred sends his regards. He misses you."

"I know. I'm sorry I haven't been home in awhile. Things have been busy here."

Bruce seemed surprised.

"What?" Dick didn't think he'd said anything to spark an argument, but their arguments never needed much of a spark to get heated.

"Nothing. It's just…the last time we spoke you said that you didn't consider Gotham home. That you never did."

Dick sighed. "I was frustrated and angry. I thought you didn't trust me to take care of things in Bludhaven. I'm sorry."

"I want you to know, Dick, that the Manor is your home. Nothing will ever change that."

"I know that. I really do. You and Alfred have always been home. I really didn't mean what I said."

"I'm sorry for making you feel that I didn't trust you. That was never my intent."

"It's not all your fault. I just didn't want to disappoint you."

As he spoke, Dick noticed Bruce's attention shift from him, to the door. He followed his gaze to the three men who entered the restaurant.

Bruce smiled purposefully, and Dick forced himself to relax, not wanting to garner undo suspicion.

"They're carrying," Bruce whispered.

"You sure?"

Bruce looked at Dick with a raised brow, and what might be considered a rolling of the eyes, if Bruce were capable of such a thing.

"Sorry. Of course you're sure," Dick said. "So, what's the plan?"

Before a plan could be discussed, a shot exploded in the air--the bullets impact causing white bits of ceiling to fall to the ground.

Dick and Bruce sprang into action, disarming two thugs almost immediately. But the third thug got lucky, grabbing the waiter, who was too frightened to get out of harms way, and forcing the gun barrel to his temple.

"Stop right there or I'll blow his head off."

"Okay. Okay…just stay calm," Dick said in a soft voice, hoping to instill a sense of calm within this dangerous situation. He held his hands high in surrender, and saw that Bruce was mirroring his actions.

"Move back…slowly," the thug told them. His gaze shifted nervously from Dick to Bruce, and Dick realized that this kid was in over his head.

"Good job, Mac. I'll take it from here," the thug that Dick disarmed said after finding his weapon across the dining room floor. He wiped his bloody nose with his shirt sleeve and winced in pain at the touch.

"Hey Vic, looks like that kid got in a lucky shot, huh?" the third assailant said, laughing. "Your nose is broke for sure."

Vic snarled. "Ned, you and Mac check out the other rooms. Bring everyone in here."

There were two other couples in the restaurant, and Vic quickly gathered them in the center of the room. He then turned his full attention on Dick and Bruce. "You two. Turn around and put your hands on your head, nice n slow like."

Ned laughed as he reentered the room with the cook. He pushed the plump man to the middle of the floor. "I always wanted to say that, just like the cops, but NOT."

Vic laughed as he pointed the gun at Dick's back, shooting twice.


The scene played out in front of Bruce in slow motion. The sound of the bullets as they discharged from the gun. The jerking movements of Dick's body as the bullets hit their intended target. The scream from the woman who was seated at the table across the room. It was all too familiar to his senses, and he reacted instinctively, reaching for Dick as he fell to the ground. But he was greeted with a blow to the head for his effort. He fell heavily to his knees, dazed.

"Jeez! What the hell you doin'?" Ned paced in circles, gripping his hair in disbelief. "You said nobody was gonna get hurt."

"We were just supposed to lean on the old man, Vic," Mac said.

"What, you guys goin' soft on me?" Vic pointed to Dick on the floor. "Old man Rossetti's gotta pay for not forking out the dough for his protection this month."

Bruce caught Vic's gaze with the Batman's harsh glare, and Vic's eyes shifted. Bruce smirked inwardly at what he considered Vic's uncertainty with this standoff. He now knew the course of action he would take to get them out of this mess. "If he dies, there won't be a hole on God's green earth that will hide you."

Vic's adam's apple jumped unsteadily as he swallowed hard. But then he straightened, his cocky demeanor back in full force. He pointed the gun at Bruce's head. "Then I guess you better see to it that he doesn't die or I'll just have to blow your head clean off."

Bruce moved toward Dick.

"And while you're at it, move him out of sight. I don't want old man Rossetti seeing a bloody heap on his floor. It might scare him off." Vic laughed uneasily, then grabbed the cook by the front of his shirt. "Where's Rossetti?"

"He…he's not here. He went to the bank."

"Good. Maybe he's getting me my money. When's he coming back?"

"He'll be back soon."

Vic released the frightened man then started waving his gun around the room. "Well, everyone, it looks like we'll be here for a little while. So this is what I want you to do. I want you all to sit at your tables like you ain't got a care in the world, while we wait for old man Rossetti to get back. And just remember. You try anything, and I'll shoot you."

As the patrons did what they were told, Bruce carried Dick to the far corner of the dining room. He removed Dick's leather jacket, and tore the t-shire he wore beneath in half. He visibly winced at the wounds on Dick's back, and was relieved that his son couldn't see the expression he failed to hide.

Dick wheezed. "It's that bad huh?"

"What makes you say that?" Bruce tried to stay calm.

"Cause you haven't said anything. If it was just a scratch you would've told me to get off my ass and get back to work." He coughed, and Bruce could see Dick's face tighten in pain.

"Watch out, brat. I'm just letting you catch your breath."

"I always could tell when you were lying. Even when I was a kid." He groaned. "So, what's the plan, Kemosobee?" He was looking to Bruce to save the day, and Bruce wasn't yet sure how he would do that. Not with Dick in this condition. But he knew that he couldn't let him down. He would think of a way out.

He whispered in Dick's ear. "These guys are in over their heads. They're scared."

"What about Vic? He seems unstable." Dick slurred.

"Especially Vic." Bruce grabbed a table cloth, and covered Dick, trying to keep him warm to ward off shock. "Just lie still, I'll be right back." Bruce stood slowly with his hands held high in a non-threatening manner, and moved toward Vic. "He needs medical attention. Let him and the others go. I'll stay as your hostage."

Vic laughed. "Oh, mister. That's a good one. Why would we do that?"

"Because if you don't, he'll die. And if he dies, you and your buddies are facing murder charges." Bruce was in full 'Bat' mode, and his demeanor had a little more than an unnerving effect on all three hoods.

"Hey, wait a minute. We didn't shoot him," Mac said, indicating both he and Ned.

"No, but you're an accessory. And you're prolonging medical attention. If he dies, I'll make sure that all three of you are charged with murder."

"Mister, this is Bludhaven. You can't do a damned thing. We pay the cops to keep out of our business," Vic said.

"I'm not from Bludhaven. And I have the power to get what I want, and people who will make certain that justice is served if anything were to happen to either of us."

"Oh yeah. And just who the hell are you."

"I'm Bruce Wayne. And the man you shot is my son."

Vic visibly paled. Bruce counted on the recognition of his name. He was taking a chance, but he was certain that their reactions would be based on fear, not cognitive thought. He had to show them the consequences of each decision they would make from here on out.

"Vic, we've gotta get out of here," Ned said.

Vic stood silent for a moment, and Bruce moved purposefully closer, intimidating him with his presence. When Bruce spoke, his voice was dangerously low. "I'd listen to your friends, Vic," he rasped. "You're not going to get away with this. I'll make sure of it."

Vic paled even more. Bruce moved closer still. Mac and Ned's guns hung low at their sides, but Vic had yet to lower his weapon. Bruce didn't want to take him down just yet. An innocent might get caught in the crossfire.

"I have powerful friends, Vic. Believe me when I say, you don't want to make them angry," Bruce said. "And I don't think the Bludhaven police will cover for you this time."

"Oh no. And why's that? You got friends in Bludhaven, too?"

"I don't, but my son does. He's a cop, Vic. I don't think even the Bludhaven police will take kindly to you shooting one of their own."

Vic's hands shook. "I don't believe you. You're lying."

Bruce held his hands up once again, and turned around, walking back to Dick. He picked up Dick's jacket and brought it back to Vic. But rather than throw it at the tense and trigger-happy gunman, he threw it to Mac instead.

"Look in the side pocket," Bruce said.

Mac dug into the pocket, pulled out Dick's wallet, and opened it to reveal his police badge. "Vic, he is a cop. We gotta get out of here. Now."


"No. No… Let me think," Vic said.

Dick shivered, rubbed his eyes, tried to concentrate. From his corner of the room, he couldn't see the altercation between Bruce and Vic, but he could hear the agitation in Vic's voice. He was unstable and Bruce was purposefully pushing him. It was a technique used to disorient an opponent in order to strike hard and fast at the first sign of distraction.

"There's no time to think, Vic. He's dying," Bruce said, and Dick thought he heard the hint of something in his voice—sadness, regret…fear?

He tried to sit up but a wave of vertigo washed over him.

"Shut up!"

Bruce could handle these thugs with minimal effort, but there were others in close proximity. Innocent men and women who could get hurt, or even killed, by a stray bullet. Dick knew what he had to do.

"Just shut up!" Vic shouted at the top of his lungs.

Dick surveyed his surroundings and looked for anything that could be used to create a diversion, then squeezed his eyes shut against the clouds that threatened his consciousness. He had to stay alert, Batman needed him to watch his back, and he'd be damned if he would fail him.

A large object sat on the table across from him, he blinked until his vision sharpened, then grinned. A bussing tub filled with plates and glasses sat just within his reach. It would make a fantastic crashing sound if thrown on the floor.

He sat up, forced down the nausea that pushed its way up his throat, and grabbed a nearby chair for support.

He stood.

A groan rose from his belly but he clamped his mouth shut before it could escape his lips, and took another step. Then another. A sharp pain shot up his back and he breathed in short, rapid bursts. The pain left as quickly as it appeared, but it left him drained, exhausted, and he wondered if he was strong enough to shove the tub of dishes onto the floor.

Then he saw Vic holding a gun to Bruce's head, and in that moment, adrenaline rushed through his veins. He lifted the tub with little effort and threw it onto the floor.


Bruce heard the crash and realized what Dick had done. Dick always seemed to know exactly what was needed in any given situation. Their partnership was forged with such perceptive intuition all those years ago. As Batman and Robin they worked as one, reading each other's thoughts and movements in effortless repose. It was comforting to realize that some things hadn't changed. If only they could be so at ease with each other as Bruce and Dick. He hoped it wasn't too late to correct the mistakes of the past, but pushed such thoughts out of his mind. He had to diffuse this situation before anyone else could get hurt--before he could make sure that Dick was all right.

As Vic turned toward the sound of the noise, Bruce grabbed the hand that held the gun and cracked it upon his knee. It flew from Vic's grasp, sliding under a corner booth. A roundhouse kick and corresponding jabs made certain that Mac and Ned were also disarmed and napping peacefully under the bar.

Vic turned for the door, but Bruce grabbed him and forced his arm behind his back.

"Where do you think you're going, Vic?" Bruce's voice was hard and cold.

Vic winced, his teeth clenched in defiance.

"I'll tell you where you're going, Vic. You're going to jail." Bruce pushed him into the wall. "What's the matter, Vic? Not such a big man without a gun, huh?" Bruce grabbed him again and pulled back his fist to strike, but he froze as the weakened voice of his son reached his ears.

"Bruce."

Turning toward the sound of his name, he found Dick on the floor among the broken and scattered dishes, then turned back to Vic. He released his fist with controlled fury and Vic crumbled to the floor.

Bruce rushed to Dick's side, pulled him into his arms. "Call an ambulance," Bruce yelled to anyone and everyone in the room. "And the police."

"Its okay, Dick. Help is on the way."

"Did we get the bad guys?" Dick asked with noticeable effort.

"That we did, partner."

"Bruce?"

"Yeah."

"Next time, we have dinner at the Manor. 'Kay?"

Bruce smiled. "You got it, partner."