by DC Lady
Author's Notes: This is the concusion of "Lineage". However, this 'Batverse' will continue in "Lineage II", and will answer questions concerning Barbara.
Dick thought he had been prepared for anything Bruce might have to say, but he hadn't expected the depth of Bruce's feelings. Dick could only assume that Bruce had lived this lie for too long and was finally able to say--to feel--the things he'd denied himself all these years. Bruce was his father. Dick had believed it when Bruce had admitted it to him. But now, Dick felt it.
Bruce looked to Dick, no doubt waiting for his response. When one didn't seem forthcoming, he finally broke the silence. "Say something."
Dick contemplated what he would say, then realized there was still one thing he needed to know. "You left her…didn't you?"
Bruce's face darkened and he stood, evidently more comfortable with his back to Dick. "Yes."
"Why? What happened?"
Dick held his tongue, knowing how hard this must be for Bruce. So he waited for Bruce, whttp://groups. group/BLUDHAVEN/ message/73327ho seemed to be summoning the courage to continue.
Bruce and Mary walked down the street Alfred had dubbed Gotham 's restaurant row. And although Alfred wasn't with them, he wasn't very far away, sitting in the car, waiting, watching. Bruce was glad Alfred was there in case this outing wasn't such a good idea after all. Mary had talked him into it, saying the fresh air would do him good. But he was afraid. Afraid his emotions would get the better of him like they usually did on his birthday. But this year was different. This year he had Mary.
The sound of a child's laughter suddenly filled the air, and Bruce looked up to see a family of three walking toward them. The boy giggled furiously as his mom and dad lifted him up by his hands, up and over the cracks that littered the sidewalk.
Bruce stopped walking as a memory seemed to fill every fiber of his being. A memory of his mom and dad lifting him by his hands, up and over cracks on a similar Gotham street.
"Step on a crack, break your mother's back," Bruce had said as his mom and dad lifted him high in the air.
He landed gently on a piece of smooth pavement and heaved a sigh of relieve. "I sure wouldn't want mom to break her back 'cause of me."
"My hero." Bruce's mother had kissed his cheek, and he laughed as he grabbed both of their hands, forcing them to lift him again and again.
Bruce could still hear the sound of their laughter, could still feel his mom's kiss on his cheek. But then he felt a warm hand slip gently in his, and the memory faded.
He looked around, saw that the family had already moved past them. He shook his head. "Nothing."
Mary didn't seem convinced so Bruce grinned and hoped to change the subject. "You hungry?"
She looked wary but didn't press the matter. "Sure. Pizza?"
"Do you ever eat anything else?"
She placed her arm in his as they walked to the pizza parlor a few feet away. "Why bother when you can have everything you like on top of a pizza?"
"Hamburger, green onion, mushroom, and pineapple."
"What topping are you having today?"
She laughed. "All of the above."
Bruce scrunched his nose. "We're not sharing it, are we?"
They stopped at the restaurant and Bruce held the door open for Mary.
"One bite? Please?"
He suddenly wondered if he'd be able to refuse her anything. Bruce smiled, but stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the sound that had haunted his dreams ever since that night: a gunshot.
He watched as Mary fell to the cold pavement, blood already staining her white blouse-- the string of pearls, broken and falling to the ground.
Then everything went black.
"Master Bruce." A firm hand was shaking him. Bruce blinked, could see Alfred's face, the lines of worry that seemed to forever crease his forehead.
Bruce gasped. "Mary?"
"I'm right here, Bruce. Are you all right?" Her voice wavered, and Bruce wondered if she was really fine.
He grabbed her, held her close, but then pushed her away, looked at the blue blouse she wore, not white like he could swear he saw just a moment ago. He looked at the area where he saw her fall.
"What is it?"
"The pearls. Where are they?"
Then he noticed a crumpled form lying on the ground, beaten and whimpering as the police handcuffed him, taking him away. Bruce looked at his fists. They were bruised and stung like he'd just gone a couple of rounds in the ring. Had he beaten that man?
Alfred took him by the shoulders, made him look into his eyes. "It's all right, lad. Everyone is all right."
Bruce shook his head, and Alfred held him close. "He killed them. He killed them, Alfred."
"You were having flashbacks."
"Was a kid robbing the pizza parlor." Bruce sighed. "All I could see was the man who killed my parents. I thought he'd killed Mary, too."
"You caught him?"
"I almost killed him," Bruce whispered harshly.
Dick was beginning to understand, and strongly suspected that his had been a major contributor in Bruce leaving his mother.
Dick watched as Bruce took a breath, and seemed to struggle to continue. "I thought she died because of me. Because I loved her.
"I shut her and everyone else out. That's when Alfred took me on my quest abroad." Bruce turned to look at Dick. "Your mother couldn't have known she was pregnant when I left."
"She could've contacted you when she did know." There was so much he still didn't understand.
"There wasn't much in the way of communication where we stayed. And by the time I got word, she'd already married John Grayson and you were calling him dad."
Bruce had told Dick of his travels. How he'd trained with the best martial arts masters around the world. Many of them living in remote areas that you had to travel on foot to reach.
"She could have waited. From what you told me, she loved you."
"Times were different then. An unwed mother was not looked upon kindly." Bruce swallowed hard. "I'm just grateful John Grayson was a good man who loved you both with all his heart."
Dick stood, tried to hold back the tears but he was failing miserably. "Would it have made a difference if you had known she was pregnant?"
"It would have made all the difference in the world." Bruce placed his hands firmly on Dick's shoulders, tugging him closer, embracing him.
"I'm sorry," Bruce whispered.
"I wasn't strong enough. She'd be alive today, the three of us would be together if…"
Maybe it was all the years that Dick had seen Bruce carry the guilt of things out of his control. Or maybe it was the tone of voice that was filled with self loathing. Or maybe it was just because Dick loved his father and didn't want him to carry this burden anymore, because he wasn't guilty of anything accept being a victim of a violent crime that had changed the course of his entire life. Maybe it was everything combined that made Dick want to scream with rage.
Dick pulled away. "It wasn't your fault!"
"I loved her."
Dick choked back a sob. "I know."
"And I love you." Bruce's voice was raw with emotion.
Dick smiled. "I love you, too…Dad."