Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.
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Note: I know I'm slightly messing with canon about when Dick met Lori Elton, but only by a few weeks or so. Not a big deal.
"Bruce, just so you're aware, there's been another paternity suit filed. I have legal working on it."
Bruce barely looked up from his desk and his reading of Page Six. "Who is it this time? Someone I've met, for a change?"
"It's not one of yours, it's one of Dick's."
That caught the boss's attention. "Oh?" Bruce actually smirked. "I thought I taught him better than that, for goodness' sake!"
Lucius looked at the report in his hand. "A young woman named Janice Harper, currently a sophomore at Hudson. We've checked; she was in two classes with him last year and they have mutual acquaintances. She claims they dated for about a month and the result was born last August. She's demanding a DNA test." He shuffled some papers. "She also sent these." He handed over some photos; they were of a maybe two-month-old infant, black haired and with striking, vivid blue eyes. Wearing a blue onesie, it was probably a boy.
"Has anyone asked Dick about this? It seems to me that he might be able to tell us if he, well—you know—if it's possible." At the very least Bruce expected that the boy would have the sense to be careful about who he was with; he'd grown up seeing how many times Bruce had been threatened with this kind of thing. Whether he was responsible for the baby or not, he'd thought Dick would have more sense than open himself to the obvious. "But I just love babies in blue, don't you, Lucius? They're so darn cute."
"Yes, well. We've been unable to get a hold of Dick so far. I was hoping that you might be able to help so we can put this to bed."
"…As it were."
Bruce closed the newspaper and stood up. "I guess I could try to give him a call, see what he has to say about this." He glanced at his watch. "If that's it, I'm away; my tee time is in forty minutes and you know how they hate it when you're not on time for these things, Lucius—I'll see you tomorrow or sometime, all right?" As soon as he was in the Porsche he pulled out his cell phone and hit number two on the speed dial, not caring if he was interrupting anything.
He spoke without preamble; "I want to know if it's possible that you fathered a child with a girl named Janice Harper while you were up at Hudson."
There was a momentary pause; "It's possible but extremely unlikely. Why?"
"Pictures of your alleged son arrived on my desk today and she's requesting a paternity test. Has she tried to get in touch with you?"
"I don't know, not that I'm aware of but I've been busy with those old friends of mine; we went away for a couple of weeks and I haven't been back to my place yet, just got back this morning."
This was Dick-speak for telling Bruce that he'd probably been off-world with the Titans, someone was listening and he couldn't really talk. From the background noise, he was probably in that damn bar he insisted on working in. "Well, why don't you check what you can from your end then give me a call, okay?"
"Sure, no problem. You don't happen to have a number for her, do you?"
"I don't think that would be a good idea until we know what we're dealing with. Call me later, all right?"
"Fine. I'll call you when I get home." Dick hung up the phone, wondering if this was possible, that he might be in almost the same position as Roy, minus the international terrorist aspect of it or if he was just being set up for blackmail or something along those lines.
A son? Damn—talk about something which wasn't on his current short-list but then, how many guys had said the same thing? Hell, he'd know soon enough; he had no problem taking the test and then he'd figure out his options one way or another.
A son? Damn.
His shift at Hogan's Alley ended; he put on his jacket and was home in five minutes. He checked his mail, a grocery bag full which Clancy had held for him. There were the usual pile of catalogs he didn't want, junk mail, flyers, bills a couple of post cards from friends on vacation and one or two personal letters, but nothing from either Janice or a lawyer. He listened to his answering machine, all twenty-three messages, but while some of them bordered on the obscene and the rest were the expected this and that, there was nothing regarding his possible parenthood.
He hit his own speed dial, "Bruce? Nothing here. But why would they go straight to you? I'm not a minor."
"I have deeper pockets. I'd think that was obvious, wouldn't you?"
"Yes and no. You have a lot more money than I do but, while you're my legal father, like I said—I'm not a minor. I can't think how this would legally involve you."
Bruce sat back in the big leather chair behind the antique desk; the one Queen Victoria gave his great grandfather. "I suspect they're going to try to make a case of my being responsible by setting such a terrible moral example to you while you were growing up or some claptrap like that."
Dick nodded to himself, that would make sense except for the fact that Janice was from a wealthy family herself. Why would she bother to go for the big money? Sure, money was money, but she was worth at least eight figures just by herself. "I think there may be more to it than money."
"Like maybe you're the father?"
Dick exhaled, not liking that possibility. "Maybe. I think the answer, at least for now, is for me to get tested and then we'll take it from there, one way or another."
"I can have Leslie make the arrangements tomorrow."
"Okay but, look—I want to know if I'm responsible for this infant or not. I don't want to wait and the testing will take days, if not weeks; I called Clark, he can use his x-ray vision to check the DNA samples faster than a lab."
Bruce didn't like involving anyone not in the 'family' but he could understand Dick's anxiety. The fact that he'd called in Clark spoke volumes about how much of a possibility this was. Damnit. "Fine. I assume you'll ask him to keep this to himself."
"C'mon, Bruce; this is Clark we're talking about."
Two minutes later Dick had Clark on the secure line to the JLA monitor room. "Hi, Clark? I need a favor…"
Three minutes after that Superman was standing in his living room, taking a small blood sample for comparison with the baby's. "I'll get a hair sample without anyone knowing and let you know as soon as I have an answer—sometime in the next hour or so."
"I appreciate this."
"Not a problem Dick. You know that; I'll be back soon." That was Clark; no value judgement, no lecture, no moralizing, just help when it was asked for. No muss, no fuss.
Dick opened the bottom drawer of his bureau and took out a stack of snapshots, ones he'd never bothered to put in an album, still in their processing envelope. They were from that day in late fall he and Janice had gone to the school carnival with some friends—in fact, that was when he'd met Lori Elton and was the beginning of the end for him and Janice. At the time it wasn't a big deal; they hadn't found true love or anything close to it, just friendship and mutual movie buds and little else. They'd both moved on to other people without bad feelings or argument. They hadn't stayed in touch and he wasn't even sure if he'd told her that he was dropping out.
And now this.
But why hadn't she contacted him before this? It wasn't like he was that hard to track down or incommunicado or anything. She had to have known that he'd have helped her with whatever she'd wanted—obviously she decided to have it, but he would have done what he could to back her up and make it easier for her if he'd known. Even if she was determined to have the baby on her own, or was afraid to tell her parents or something, if she really believed he was the father, he had a right to know, didn't he?
He stopped; realizing that he was actually pacing and laughed at himself—he was a cliché, walking the floor waiting to see if he was a father or not, like back when the dad's weren't allowed into the delivery room and had to wait outside. In fact the baby was here, but he was on hold until Clark got back or called or something.
Jesus, an hour was a long time.
He started thinking about what he'd do, what would happen if it turned out to be his. Okay, he thought that was a long shot since he'd used condoms every time they'd been together but it wasn't impossible and he knew that. So, if he won the lottery, well then…
He was a father and, in an extended way Bruce was a grandfather and Alfred was like a great grandfather. No that was a weird thought. His mind started wandering into Twilight Zone territory to where he started picturing the nursery they could set up in one of the spare bedrooms for when he (it was a 'he', right?) came to visit. They could get one of those nice wood swing sets/jungle gyms for the grounds and he could teach the kid to swim in one of the pools—or maybe Garth would be better at that. He could teach the kid tumbling and gymnastics. Bruce would insist on a Trust fund, of course and probably pull strings to get him into the best schools on the East Coast.
'The kid.' 'He.' What was its name? Had Janice named it after her own father or that brother of hers who died young from leukemia? Maybe she just picked something she liked. Well, that was okay—it was just a name but he would have liked some input…
What the hell was he doing?
He was looking at being father to an infant he only had reason to know existed a few hours ago. And here he was romanticizing the whole mess before he knew anything concrete about any of this.
He didn't even know why Janice was filing a suit. Did she need the money? Was she trying to trap him into marriage? Was someone else involved who was putting her up to this for some reason?
He could just picture Bruce's reaction if his turned out to be true. He'd flail him to within an inch of his life and never let him forget getting caught in the oldest game in the world. Like Roy. If that's the way the results fell then he'd be as blindsided as anyone and he was supposed to be better at things like this.
He was supposed to always be prepared, be ready to zig when everyone was expecting a zag.
He actually jumped when the phone rang, annoyed at himself. "Yes?"
"Excuse me? Grayson—you receiving visitors? I'm here and I have beer."
Roy. Now? Crap. But on the other hand…"Sure c'mon up."
Five long minutes later Roy was putting the two six packs in the fridge and going through the take out menus in the drawer to see what they'd order for dinner. It looked like they were settling in for a long night.
"So, where's Lian?"
"Does he like little kids or did Dinah make him?"
"Nah, he really likes her, even calls himself 'Grandpa Ollie' around her. It's a little weird but it's working for him and, man, I didn't think he had it in him."
They settled on the couch, Dick too jumpy to sit for long, which Roy either ignored or didn't notice. "That's a surprise."
"No shit, but he's really getting into the whole grandparent thing so long as he knows it's only a couple of hours or something."
Dick glanced at the clock; Clark had been gone for almost forty minutes so far. "…How are you doing with the whole thing? You really okay with taking care of a three year old?"
Roy looked at the beer can in his hand as if it held the secrets of the universe and didn't answer.
He drained his drink and went to get another before he said anything. "If anyone had asked me that before I knew I had Lian, I would have laughed in their face. I mean, c'mon—me a father? It's like a bad joke, right?" He stopped speaking again, this time looking out the window at the vacant lot next door.
"At first, when I first found out about her and that I was going to be the primary parent—crap, it was a real kick in the teeth, y'know? I was in a panic, looked everywhere for someone decent to take care of her."
"You were scared?" Dick had suspected this, but Roy had never admitted it before.
"Shitless. I mean, here was this infant, completely dependant on me—or someone—for everything; food, clothing, diapers, and later education, play-dates, school…you name it. I was ready to run, put her up for adoption—even went so far as to call a couple of agencies to see what the deal was, what safeguards they had in place to make sure she ended up with someone decent."
Dick was relating. "So what happened, what changed your mind?"
"One night, around three AM she started crying. I was whipped, exhausted and I didn't want to move, but she wouldn't stop and it sort of came to me in this flash—I was lying there being pissed because she needed changing and a bottle and she didn't ask to be there. Y'know? And I hadn't asked her to be there, either—if it had been up to me she probably wouldn't have even been born but she was there and I was half the reason. Whether I liked it or not—and right then I sure as hell didn't—she was there because of me and was my responsibility. "
"That was it, you had an epiphany?"
"Not quite. I went into her room and picked her up and held her. Then the damnedest thing happened; she stopped crying and in about three seconds she fell asleep on my shoulder. She wasn't really hungry or anything, she just wanted to be held and that did it. From that moment on, I was a goner. She had me hook, line and sinker."
Dick watched Roy as he spoke and his face had that soft look that talking about his daughter brought on. After a few moments he returned Dick's stare. "Why the questions, or is it what I think it is?"
Roy didn't make any bad jokes nor do anything stupid, he'd been there and knew better. "And? Or would you rather not get into it?"
Dick gave an almost shrug. "Not much to tell, really. There was girl I took out a few times up at Hudson and a few days ago she filed a paternity suit against me."
"This was the first you knew about it? But—you were at Hudson last fall, that's over a year…"
"The baby is about three months old, maybe two; something like that. Yeah." He took a long swallow of beer. "Lucius has the lawyers over at Wayne working on it and so far she hasn't made any demands other than that I take a test."
"So there's a chance that it's not yours."
"Yeah, but there's also a chance that it is. I…" He paused, embarrassed to admit anything like this to even Roy. "I asked Clark to run the check himself and let me know, I don't think I could stand waiting however long the DNA thing takes."
"And I'm waiting for him to call me or show up; it should be any time now." He glanced at the clock again, an hour and a half. C'mon, Clark.
"You want me to leave?"
Dick opened his third beer. "No, stay. Tell me more about being a father."
Roy leaned back against the couch. "It's amazing. It's like you look at your kid and all of a sudden you fall more completely in love than you've ever been in your life—like you know you'd do anything, kill anyone to make sure your kid is okay and happy. Nothing else matters as much to you and you know nothing else ever will. No woman, no thing, no amount of money—nothing else matters as much." He opened his own third beer. "And when you see your kid cry it's like someone cut your heart out and stomped on it but then when they smile or laugh, it's like everything is okay and nothing bad in your life matters." He drained half the can. "That's what it's like to be a father."
Dick was watching Roy's face as he spoke. "It sounds like it's okay." He had a small smile just barely touching his mouth.
"It is." Roy's expression mirrored Dick's. "You'll be good at it, you're a natural. We'll set up play-dates."
Before Dick could answer Clark appeared through the window. "Well?"
Clark shook his head. "You don't match. I'm a little longer than I said because I tracked down the real father, a student still at Hudson, a young man named Dave Corby."
He felt like all the air had gone out of him but covered the as well as he could. "Corby? That's the best she could do?"
Clark laughed, "You're in the clear, do you need anything else this evening?"
"I'd say you've done enough. Thanks. Clark, I appreciate it; you know that."
He nodded at the two young men and left, probably off to fight for truth and justice.
Roy turned to Dick. "So."
"So." He was still in a slight state of shock, or so he felt, anyway.
"You look disappointed; don't be. You'll get there and you'll do it the right way for you—probably married to some woman you want to spend your life with and all that picket fence and roses crap. I know you, Grayson."
Dick smiled, yes, Roy might be right but a small part of him was a little sorry. This was the wrong time for him and this wasn't the way he would want to do it, but still, it was something he wanted in his life.
Roy caught a look at his watch. "You okay alone for now?"
"I'm good, thanks and thanks for the beer, too."
"You going to call Bruce?"
He laughed. "I think I'll let him wait till the test results come back in a couple of weeks."
They walked over to the door, standing for a second. "Seriously, when it happens to you, Dick? You're gonna knock it out of the park. You're a natural. You need anything; call me." They hugged goodbye; sharing yet another major life-moment.
Dick closed the door. Part of him was relieved and part of him wished this had turned out differently. When the real results came back and this was diffused, maybe he'd call Janice and see if she was all right.
But one of these days…