Here we are again with this new chapter.
Now, before you start to read it, we want to say some things:
We hope you'll like it like the rest of the fic. We want to thank everybody that read it and all the reviewers for their support.
This Fic is very important to us, because it was the first multi-part that we did together, and it's done after 5 months. It's been done for a long time now, but we've been smoothing it out for a long time, (We wanted it to be as perfect as possible) and we've been writing more fics too (still in process), so, we didn't have much time for this. It's bitter sweet to see it come to an end. We had a great time (and a lot of sleepless nights too) writing this.
So, this being our first multi-part, it's a huge milestone for us. Like my partner Christine said to me just now: 'I feel like my baby just grew up and moved out of the house to go to college'. LOL.
And, personally, now that I have the chance, I want to say that I'm very proud and so glad to have the partner that I have. Thanks a lot, sister!!! I love you!!!
Again, thank you all for being there with us from the start.
For disclaimer and summary see chapter one.
Now everything seemed so clear, it was as if a switch had been turned on in his mind, just by looking at his son in the hospital bed. So pale and sick-- young and frail.
It all came back to him in a rush, every time his son tried to start a conversation with him, no matter what the topic; tried to get then to spend some time together... and also, every time he rejected his son-- pushed him away.
'Why?' Bruce asked himself. 'Because of pride-- my cold reputation? No, it was more than that.'
Bruce thought for a moment, closing his eyes as he exhaled a shuddering sigh as he forced himself to realize what he'd known all along, 'I was afraid to love him, afraid that if I did, if I allowed myself... something would happened to Dick. It would hurt like nothing else had, as nothing else could. Losing my parent, tore me apart, but to lose a son...'
Rising from his son's bedside, Bruce walked the few steps over to ICU window in Dick's room, looking out to observe the hospital staff as they rushed about, to where-- ever they might be going, 'So, what did I do... I pushed him away, far away from my life, just because of that 'what if', but... in the process of looking out for myself, I ended up hurting my son. Selfish, Wayne, simply and utterly selfish.'
Turning around, Bruce leaned up against the window, expressing another deep sigh, he watched his son sleep, 'No matter how much I tried-- it was simply no use. Since the first time Dick looked at me, after that fatal night, with those blue eyes of his brimmed with tears of pain and grief…since then, I knew he was special.'
'I didn't want to be his father, but, Dick-- his heart, it's just so big-- pure. He opened that heart to me, brought his light into my life; laughter and life. Achieving what no other could since my... since that-- night. Before I knew it, I began to forget just how dark my life had been without Dick and I-- began to think of Dick as a... son.
Bruce walked back over to Dick's bed, checking the iv lines that fed fluids and medicine to his son's body, he placed his head atop the feverish brow, 'When did it happen, Dick?' Bruce began to think to himself again, smoothing back sweat-damp hair, 'When did it all go sour? Hmph...' Bruce admonished himself. 'Stop fooling yourself, nothing's going to change between the two of us if I refuse to see things for what they really were-- and are.'
Bruce rubbed his face vigorously then ran a hand through his raven hair before, once again taking a seat next to his son's bed. Gently taking Dick's hand in his own, Bruce sat still for a moment before unconsciously, he began to stroke his thumb over the knuckles on his son's fingers, 'It was when Dick was older, the fear which had never completely dissipated, began to surface again-- arguments began. Robin was growing into a teen-- long since thinking for himself, he was beginning to see how wrong both Batman and Bruce were about many things.'
'Voicing his opinions upon these discoveries of his, led to heated discussions-- arguments. And... ultimately, due to, too close of a call, my own gutless fear overrode any consideration for Dick as I protected my own heart. I fired him after Joker shot him. I just-- I never realized Robin and Dick were one in the same. But through all this, Dick never truly left me. He was always there for me whenever I needed him; forever loyal.'
Bruce shook his head sadly, looking upon his son's continence, mentally kicking himself, 'Ill, son, you're so damn ill and injured. Why? Why, when you didn't agree with me, with my methods and actions, when I failed to give you the respect you deserved for your opinions, time and time again, why did you stay loyal? Who else would return? Who else would-- would forgive me for all the wrongs that had been done?'
'Because... when it's all said and done, no matter what the circumstances, he's my son. If Batman and Robin, or now, Nightwing, didn't agree or argued-- it didn't matter, because Dick considered himself my son. That's why he's always been so loyal... Nightwing isn't simply being loyal to Batman, he being his son-- a good son.'
'I owe it to him to get my act together and be the father he sees in me, the father that my son deserves... God, please don't let it be too late...'
"Dick, I-I don't know if you can hear me, son, but I'm... sorry," Bruce said, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Bruce continued to study his son's face: pale, yet flushed with fever, his limited-- laboring breaths, more times than not, were interrupted by a hoarse, wheezing cough. Bruce sat, frozen in time aware of these factors-- seemingly mesmerized as he watched Dick's oxygen mask cloud with a slight fog with each exhale, only to disappear upon every inhale, "Son, you have to get well, can you open your eyes and look at me."
Scooting to the edge of his chair, Bruce placed his hand upon Dick's head again, "Dick, open your eyes. You have to wake up and get well. We have a lot of things to catch up on," Bruce pleaded.
Smoothing his hair back, Bruce's breath caught in his throat upon noticing his son's eyes moving under their lids, "Dick?" Bruce asked, giving his hand a gentle squeeze, then smiled with relief when Dick's hand twitched a couple times before responding with a weak squeeze of his own.
Bruce watched Dick's eyes move again and start to open up slowly. "Come on, Dick, I'm here, open your eyes."
Bruce furrowed his brow as Dick continually tried to open his eyes, only to immediately squeeze them shut again, "Dick, what's wrong, where do you hurt," Beginning to grow uneasy upon receiving no response, Bruce stood up and placed a hand on Dick's good shoulder, "Hold tight, I'm going to get a nurse."
"...no...coffcoff," Dick responded in a whisper, weakly holding onto Bruce's hand when he attempted to leave his side, "...bright... it's too... bright-- hurts."
"Okay, just a second," Bruce answered, pressing a button on the control panel on Dick's bed rail, turning off the light over his bed then quickly flipped off the switch at the door, turning off the rest of the lights in the room-- the only source now came by way of the hallway light, filtering in through the window's open blinds.
"Better now?" Bruce asked, slowly reclaiming his seat next to the bed as he took his son's hand in his own again.
"...yeah coffcoff," Dick whispered, struggling against intense fatigue to keep his eyes open.
"How're you feeling?"
"Everything hurts, but... better-- now," Dick swallowed hard a couple times before attempting to clear his throat, "What hap…coff coff...happened?"
"Here, Dick," Bruce offered as he pulled down his son's mask, "Drink some water."
"...t'nks... it's-- broken?" Dick coughed under his breath trying to focus his vision, signaling to the cast on Bruce's arm
"Yes, but otherwise, I'm fine. You just concentrate in getting well."
"I'm so c-cold coff...can I have a blanket, plecoffease?"
"Sorry, kid, no can do, you've got a high fever-- pneumonia. That's why it's still difficult to breathe and why you have the oxygen mask on," Bruce answered, pulling the bed sheet up to his chin.
"...okay," Dick whispered, through a couple slow blinks, "What hap...happened?"
"Oh, Supermen happened," Bruce said, giving him a smile.
"...Super...men?" Dick asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Yep, Alfred and Clark," Bruce told him smiling, "When Clark noticed that we didn't make it to the opening on the news, Alfred must have seen it at the same time because, Clark said that Alfred called him within seconds of it being aired, asked him to find us, to make sure everything was okay. Being Superman, he used his vision and found us in the cabin and brought us here."
"...cabin?" Dick asked in confusion, "...what...coff cab-in?"
"You were so sick and out of it, you probably won't remember, but we were incredibly lucky, in that a local backwoodsman, who will be handsomely rewarded, found us and brought us to his cabin by way of his sled team; probably saved my life."
Bruce paused, looking away from his son's tired eyes to focus on the hand he'd been holding, before continuing in a quiet voice, "He definitely saved yours."
Swiping his thumb over Dick's fingers once, he looked back to face him again, "He knew what to do, your fever, Dick,-- you were so hot. Carlos, he knew..."
Bruce nodded, "That was his name. I can honestly say, except for maybe one or two, he was the most sincere, and genuinely kind person I have ever met. Here we were, two complete strangers-- he took us in, brought us back to his cabin and immediately began to work over you with fervent intensity, trying to bring your fever down, with enough care and determination... as if you were his own son."
Feeling the sting of tears begin to invade his strong front, Bruce stood up and cleared his throat, running a hand through his hair.
Frowning at the inner turmoil his mentor was plagued with, Dick winced as he attempted to force his voice through a swollen and irritated throat, "...'m o-kay, Bruce."
Bruce continued to face the window and closed his eyes at the weak, raspy words, "I know, because of Carlos, he knew what you..."
"No, Bruce, you..."
Bruce turned quickly, hearing Dick take a sharp gasp of air, to see him leaning forward with his good hand clutching his injured shoulder, "Hey, hey... what are you doing?" Bruce snapped, quickly moving back to his son's bed to gently lower him back down against the pillows before moving the oxygen mask from where it dangled, around Dick's neck, back up to his face, "Easy, Dick... breathe easy..."
"...nnngh," Dick grunted once he had caught his breath, "...son of a bitch, that smarts."
Bruce cocked an eyebrow, "And this surprises you? Your shoulder has suffered through a lot of trauma, and you just had surgery a little more than 24 hours ago. They don't have your arm immobilized in a super-sling, just for the hell of it," Bruce admonished, finishing with a sigh, "What did you need?"
"Nothcoff... nothing, just wanted to... sit up coff more," Dick answered, his eyes closed tight.
"Hrn," Bruce grunted, "Next time I advise you to use the bed controls, that's what they're there for."
Dick cracked opened an eyelid, to give his mentor a one-eyed glare, "...you have an uncanny... ability for stating the obvious, you...know that?"
"Well, it matches your uncanny ability for ignoring the obvious. I assume that makes us even; do you still want to sit up?"
Dick swallowed hard and winced, "...coffcoff no, I think I'm just going to concentrate on not moving for a while."
Noting the beads of a cold sweat that now glistened across his son's brow, Bruce leaned across the bed and gently removed Dick's hand from his shoulder, inspecting the sterile-white bandages, to make sure there were no signs of blood or seepage by way of pulled stitches.
Taking note of Dick's breathing and expressions, Bruce could tell that he was in a great deal of pain, "Dick... they've got you on a self-medicating morphine drip here-- do you want a hit?"
Dick weakly shook his head, "..n-no... not right...now, just-- look at me, Bruce."
Taking his attention away from Dick's shoulder, Bruce stepped back and looked into Dick's eyes, normally radiant blue, were now dulled by pain, "...you, Bruce... you are the reason I'm alive... hey, don't turn away from me."
Bruce sighed then sat back down in the chair he'd occupied for the past five hours, while waiting for his son to wake.
Dick waited for Bruce to look at him again before continuing, "...you are the reason I'm alive. If it weren't for you... Carlos would have never met me... and you know that's true."
"Maybe so, but you would have never needed to meet him if I didn't make you come out here in the first place."
"Bruce, knock it off, already, I'm a coffcoff a big boy now. I can...decide if I want to go somewhere... or not."
"You say that, but you don't really feel that way, Dick and I know this. I didn't exactly give you much of a choice..."
"...Bruce," Dick began.
"No, Dick," Bruce said, holding his hand up, "Just, let me say this."
Dick looked at his mentor with concern for a moment before giving him a slow nod and waited for him to continue.
Bruce looked away, "How do I do this? I've got to tell him how I feel, but how?"
Bruce was beginning to think he wouldn't be able to express himself, when Clark's words came back to him, '...don't think about it, don't try so hard. All you have to do is listen to what your heart is saying, then simply echo it.'
Taking a deep breath, Bruce prepared to take the plunge and allowed his heart to open up enough to hear what it was saying, what it's been trying to tell him for the past thirteen years, "Dick, I just…I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry," Bruce admitted.
"…coff It wasn't your…fault.."
"I'm not talking about this trip. Well, this trip too, but, what I mean, is just that…"
"No, Dick, I've never told you. After all that happened in this trip-- all that you said out there…"
"I'm that. I-I don't remember…a lot, but coff It wasn't me talking,..really coff coff I … I'm so…sorry, I cuuuuff coff coff" Dick tried to reassure Bruce when his body was overcome by violent coughing, leaving him fighting for his breath. Dick clutched at his chest as the ache he had felt with each inhale turned into an angry stabbing sensation as his lungs convulsed uncontrollably; only to move it a moment later to his shoulder, bracing it against his body's involuntary jarring, causing his injury to come alive with a vengeance.
In two quick strides, Bruce was back at Dick's side; immediately realizing this attack was far beyond their to ability to control, he pressed the call button, "Hang on, Dick," said Bruce, as he began to rub his son's sternum in a circular motion, helping his lungs to expulse the offensive junk the pneumonia had forced upon his body, "Come on, concentrate on breathing, just like you did out there-- easy...easy."
"I know it hurts like hell, Dick, but try not to move around, your shoulder's got to stay still," Bruce coaxed, trying to still his son's movements as best he could his other hand as Dick brought his knees up, beginning to squirm from the blinding pain surging throughout his upper body.
"Breathe, Dick. Slowly, don't attempt to take in big breaths. Relax a little, come on, I'm here with you, breathe, damn it," Bruce urged, his concern doubling by the second as sweat began raining down the sides of Dick's face, already a shade of deep crimson.
Bruce was just about to open the door and yank in the nearest staff member when the doctor entered and took a couple jogging-steps toward the side of the bed, opposite Bruce, "I'm doctor, Littrell. I'll be his doctor for the night," she stated, while immediately injecting an amber-colored substance into Dick's iv line.
"What's that?" Bruce asked as he continued to rub his son's chest.
"Pneumotussin," the doctor answered without looking up as she placed her stethoscope to Dick's chest, listening to his lungs, "it's a combination expectorant/narcotic cough suppressant-- honey, I'm going to have to ask you to lean forward for me, I need to listen to your lungs from your back," Dr. Littrell explained as she placed a hand to Dick's injured arm, firmly holding it in place as she helped him to sit forward.
"I know that hurts, give just me a second," the doctor soothed as Dick groaned between coughs from the pain the new position added to his already raging shoulder.
"Okay, all done," Littrell said, easing him back down to the pillows.
Frowning at his oxygen saturation levels, the doctor lightly placed her hand to the o2 mask on Dick's face while taking his pulse, "The medicine should be kicking in any second now. I know it seems almost impossible, but, I need you to concentrate on taking nice-- slow, small breaths."
"You're doing good, Dick, slow it down-- breathe...breathe," Bruce coached, leaning over his son, making strong eye contact with him the few times he'd open his eyes.
"When's the last time you took a dose of the morphine?" the doctor asked noting how her patient continued to hold his shoulder.
"Dun-- coff dunno...four hours... maybe," Dick whispered, between jagged intakes of oxygen.
"No," Bruce answered matter-of-factly, "It's been much longer than that. I've been here over five and you were sleeping long before that. It must have been the last time one of your staff administered it."
Littrell nodded as she thumbed through Dick's chart, "Well, according to your chart, it's been just under eight hours-- you're definitely due," she said, shutting the manilla folder before picking up the drip controller currently hanging from the bed rail, "You know you're in charge of this, right? When the pain becomes intense enough to where it begins to disrupt your sleep and ability to rest, I want you to take a dose-- It's not just for the comfort, Dick," the doctor explained, up receiving a look of displeasure from her patient, "It is also to allow your body to heal. The more relaxed you are, the less stress it puts on your body, which in turn, allows the healing process to take the front seat."
"...just...coffcoff...just give me...a minute-- can-- can't just yet... promise, coff five minutes, k?" Dick tried to bargain only to be answered by his mentor.
"No way, kid. You are going to take a dose and that's final," Bruce said, a touch of the Bat evident to his tone.
"It's…not that. Just--coff coff wait a …little-- five minutes…don't cuuuff coff coff don't wanna----fall asleep… now. Just five.." Dick tried to explain between gasps of air.
Bruce sighed and looked at the doctor. "He doesn't want to because..,"
"I'm sorry," the physician said, taking her turn to interrupt, "he can't be in that much pain and expect to…"
"No…just-- what pain medication?" Dick asked, cutting off the doctor again.
"Morphine," the doctor said kindly, knowing the pain and fever had her patient confused.
"No…can't, not…coff coff..." Dick started to say before closing his eyes, shaking his head weakly when his voice gave out on him.
"Ok, ok" Bruce reassured him with a sigh and placed his good hand to his son's shoulder, knowing the reason why Dick didn't want the drugs to take control over his last bit of drive to stay awake, "Just allow him five minutes-- then I'll personally guarantee that he'll take a dose," Bruce said, flashing a no-nonsense expression to his son.
After looking her patient in the eye for a moment she sighed a deep sigh of defeat then turned to Bruce, "I'm putting you in charge. Five minutes-- he gets a dose; then sleep. I'll be back in ten," Littrell stated, which came across as more of a threat, as she flashed a respectable glare before leaving the room.
"You should take the medication and sleep, Dick." Bruce said gently as he wiped down his son's face with a dry cloth.
Dick opened his eyes and looked up at him through a couple long blinks; cheeks red from fever and exertion, "I will…just…coff coff Bruce, I---didn't mean---what coff what I said – in the…forest. It…it wasn't me talking." Dick tried to stress through labored breaths.
Bruce closed his eyes and shook his head vehemently, "No Dick, it was you. You were right, time and time again, I've hurt you; pushed you out of my life and turned my back on you. I replaced you, Dick. You were Robin, and I gave that name-- your name, to another."
"After everything that's happened between us, you've always come back, every time I needed your help-- even when I didn't ask for it, you saw through my pride and were good enough to stay-- to help, knowing no matter what I said... you knew what I needed."
Bruce paused to take a deep breath, suddenly aware that he held his son's hand in his own again. "Dick, I-I just wanted to say that I'm-- sorry, for all of it. I didn't…"
"Bruce, I know..."
"Would'ya let me finish?" Bruce stated firmly.
Dick blinked a couple times before giving his mentor a cockeyed grin, "...o-kay."
"I didn't want you to come and help because I was afraid-- afraid that something would happen to you. That's why I fired you. When Joker shot you, and you fell, you-- we were lucky enough in that you caught a ledge on the way down. I cold have lost you, Dick and that would have been more than I could bear. That's why I fired you, why I wanted you to quit this life. I didn't want to see you hurt."
"What I failed to see, however, was that you were already hurting, emotionally and I was the cause of that hurt. By pushing you out and not letting you help me, you kept on with this life and you're going keep doing it even if I say the contrary. You're on your own out there, you don't have a partner to look out for you-- like I've had for so long now. In my attempts to keep you safe, you've moved onto a different city, fighting crime on your own."
"Bruce, this…life…I can't just let coffcoff see people get hurt and-- do nothing about it."
"I know you won't."
Silence settled within the room for a couple seconds before Dick spoke up, "So..., you disapprove of what I'm doing coff again," he said, looking down at his hand, resting in the sling.
"No, that's not what I'm saying," Bruce paused, and rubbed his brow a couple times, "Although I don't want you taking these risks, you-- you're doing good work out there, Dick-- and I'm…very proud of you. The pupil has surpassed the teacher," Bruce said looking at his eyes.
Bruce saw a sarcastic smile flash across Dick face for a fraction of a second as he kept his focus down to his hand.
'Damn, I didn't mean to say just that.' Bruce thought to himself with a sigh before trying again, "And..." he paused to take hold of Dick's chin and raising his head to look him in the eye, "and-- nothing makes a father more proud, than realizing son has done better than him."
Dick gave a small smile as his throat began to constrict with emotion, "That's what I realized, you always came back-- always helped me. Out of respect, but... not respect for your mentor. I wasn't your mentor anymore. Respect for me, for-- your father."
Dick tried, in vain, to halt the tears welling in his eyes. He didn't know what to say, he was confused, his head was swimming from pain and fatigue. He desperately needed to sleep, but, he couldn't-- not now. He'd been waiting so many years to hear these words from Bruce, and didn't think he'd ever hear all this again. It had always been so hard for Bruce to express his feelings. This moment was too important and he wasn't about to miss it.
"I'm also...sorry for the way that I acted in this trip. I didn't get my priorities correctly and look what happened. And also, for how I acted in the Jeep. You were right, if I paid a little more attention-- it should have been obvious to me that you were coming down with something. If I noticed that, then this whole damn..."
"Stop it," Dick cut him off, as tears spilled down his face.
Bruce sat back a little, shocked at Dick's sudden tone.
"You don't need to explain…not anymore, not... to me. We've come a long way, you and me-- Dad," Dick said, choking back a sob.
Bruce leaned forward and placed his hand palm against the side of Dick's face, "Son, I-- I..."
"I... coffcoff...I-- love you...too," Dick whispered with a sleepy smile.
Bruce nodded with a straight smile, "No more out of you," he said as he reached over his son to activate the drip, "Time to rest. The more you rest, the sooner can get you out of here and back home."
"...'k," Dick said before forcing his eyes open one last time, "You'll stay?"
"You can count on it," answered Bruce, steel blue eyes making direct contact that conveyed the deep-rooted promise on their own just before his son slipped into the warm, safe state of deep sleep.
His hand still to the side of Dick's face, Bruce stroked his thumb over a flushed cheek once before sitting back against the chair. Watching his son sleeping soundly, he began to contemplate the last few minutes and the things he was finally able to express, things Dick was finally able to hear, 'It's been a long rough road, this trip of ours, but in the end, a road well worth taking.'