Author Note: Thank you to all those who have sent comments and support. Every comment is very much appreciated. I apologise for the delay in posting this. Queensland is in the grips of dreadful floods.
Special thanks to Beth for betaing and to Teri H. for the push she gave me to keep writing.
Please note: I have used a different font to show when the hologram is 'speaking' but it doesn't show up here.
Good Enough for Me
Dick stopped breathing.
The words, 'I'm your father' echoed in the cavern.
Bruce's eyes became moist and his voice shook as he repeated in a hushed and strained voice, "I'm your father, Dick. You have no idea how long I've wanted to say that aloud."
Dick's entire world shifted to the right. He couldn't breathe... couldn't think. "My... father." He gulped air, hyperventilating. His legs became weak and he allowed them to buckle, dropping slowly and smoothly to his knees. "Bruce," Dick whispered, his face now ashen. "Why didn't you tell me?"
The only response was resounding silence.
Abruptly, Dick was bombarded with a plethora of conflicting emotions struggling for supremacy, but one climbed above all others. "Alfred knows," Dick realized. "That's why he said I had a right to know," his volume grew with each syllable he uttered. "Of course I had a right to know." He was on his feet again and marching forward. "Damn you, Bruce. You had no right to keep this from me!"
Bruce's image remained motionless, his face blanketed with regret.
As quickly as the anger rose, it dissipated, leaving Dick feeling emotionally exhausted. Standing suddenly became demanding as the weight of the past week's events tumbled upon him.
Batman had been killed.
The body had been positively identified.
Bruce was dead.
Bruce was his father. Not like a father... actually his father.
And Bruce had known.
Why hadn't Bruce told him?
What possible reason could he have to keep this a secret? "Resume."
"A premature birth. As simple as that. You were born three months premature. I didn't know what to think at first, but I felt... good, really good about it. I got confirmation during your sixteenth birthday party. I was going to tell you the moment the guests left, but you made a speech that night and spoke so passionately about your parents. I realized I couldn't take them away from you."
"Take them away? I don't understand. Resume."
"All you had left of them were your memories. Those memories are as dear to you as mine are to me. I wouldn't let anyone tarnish them, not even me."
Dick shut his eyes. Damn Bruce. Damn Batlogic for that is what that was. Dick had never understood it. Never.
"Besides, knowing you are my son didn't change anything. It didn't change the way I felt about you so telling you for my benefit achieved nothing. I loved you as a son before I did the DNA test and loved you no more or less after getting the DNA results back... and I didn't think knowing would make any difference to the way you felt about me."
Dick swallowed as raw emotions began to bubble and rise again.
"Your memory of your parents was important and you deserved to remember them as they were."
Dick spun away from Bruce. If Bruce had been standing there he'd have swung at him. "Of course it was important, but..." Dick ground his jaw. "You've known since I was sixteen. I can't believe you didn't tell me!"
Dick turned back to the impassive hologram. "You didn't tell me because you didn't think you could handle my reaction. You selfish self-centred bastard!" Dick glared.
"Yes, in some ways he was." Despite Alfred's soft tone, the declaration filled the enormous cave.
Dick turned to his right startled. "Alfred. How long have you been standing there?"
Dick's anger burst. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Don't think it didn't cross my mind a thousand times over the years," Alfred admitted stopping in front of Dick. "But this was something that had to come from him."
"HIM! What about my right to know who my father was?"
"And now you know," Alfred stated simply.
Dick blinked, stunned by Alfred's reaction. "You're going to defend him, aren't you?"
Alfred's expression softened. "Master Dick, there are times when he is indefensible but this isn't one of them."
Dick shook his head not wanting to listen to Alfred's explanation. He sighted a spot over Alfred's shoulder.
"You should know that I've never seen him so happy about anything in his life than that day when he discovered you were his son." Dick swallowed, and returned his gaze to meet Alfred's. "The moment he got the results he wanted to race upstairs and tell you but I convinced him to wait until the end of the party."
"That doesn't sound like Bruce."
"No, it doesn't, but that's what happened. And then you made that speech. It was a beautiful speech about your parents, about Bruce and about me. But in Bruce's mind you'd made it very clear that you saw him as your mentor and your guardian, but not your father. You even thanked him for not trying to be your father because you already had one."
Dick licked his lips. "I..."
"How could he possibly walk up to you then and say, 'By the way, there's been a mistake. I'm really your father and John Grayson was just the man your mother married?"
"Hang on a minute..."
"Exactly," Alfred cut him off. "Bruce knew John Grayson was more than that. John Grayson had to have known you weren't his, but he clearly loved you as his own. And you adored him as every child should adore his father. Would you have continued to adore him if you discovered he wasn't your father?"
Dick opened his mouth to respond but paused.
Alfred smiled with understanding. "Bruce loved you enough to ensure you didn't have to face that situation. He cared enough to preserve your childhood memory of the man you adored. At sixteen you were still a child. Should Bruce have told you once you were an adult? Yes, of course he should have. I can't profess to understand his reasoning for not doing so, but let me make one thing very clear, young man. Your father's love for you was stronger than his need to have the title of 'father'. So, yes. Master Bruce was selfish and self-centred, but not when it came to you. At least give him a chance to explain."
Alfred turned and strode away, his footsteps disappearing, but his pearls of wisdom hanging in the air like shining beacons of sanity.
Dick's arms hang by his sides. He felt like he'd just been sucker-punched. 'Your father's love for you was stronger than his need to have the title of father.'
Dick returned his gaze to the holographic image. He was still angry, but confused as well. Alfred was right. Bruce deserved the chance to explain. "Resume."
"I realize now I was wrong about one thing. Things did change after that night. Not because you are my biological son, but because I consciously became aware of how much I had. I had grown up alone in the world with nothing but memories of those I loved, but that was no longer the case. I had both a son and a father who meant the world to me. It changed my thinking and rightly or wrongly, I started trying to protect you. I hadn't been able to protect my parents but by God was I was going to protect the two of you. It drove Alfred mad and drove you away."
"That's why," Dick muttered. It had never made sense. Almost overnight, Bruce had become obsessive about Dick not taking risks, about him leaving the Teen Titans, about him focusing solely on his academic studies and reducing his Robin patrols. "Resume."
"The night you were shot I admit I handled everything badly, as I usually do when it comes to my family. When you walked out..."
"Walked out?" Dick exploded. He heard the volume of his voice and immediately lowered it. "Bruce, you basically threw me out. Resume."
"...I knew I'd acted foolishly on so many levels but I couldn't tell you why and there was no way I was going to apologise for trying to protect you... though, I concede it was an overreaction on my part."
"Ya think! Resume."
"Thankfully, over time, you forgave my idiocy and I accepted that both you and Alfred could more than look after yourselves. Everything went back to normal... until Damian appeared out of nowhere. All of the sudden your paternity was an issue… Alfred insisted it was wrong for you not to know the truth, but I couldn't bring myself to tell you. Every time I considered it, I thought back to what you'd said at your sixteen birthday. You deserved to keep that memory."
Dick exhaled deeply. "But Bruce, you didn't give me a chance to... you based your entire decision on the words of a sixteen year old boy who was angry with you that night... and..." and who felt confused and guilty because he loved his guardian as much as he loved his father. Dick dropped his chin to stare at his boots. Bruce's earlier statement about knowing the truth not changing the way Dick felt about him now hurt like hell. "I didn't just think of you as my mentor and my guardian, Bruce." Dick lifted his gaze. "You must have known that. Resume."
"So, I created this holographic message so you'd learn the truth from me. I gave it to Alfred with strict instructions it was only to be given to you once I'd passed away. Now John Grayson and I are on equal footing... both memories. I hope you can now remember us both as fathers."
Dick drew his breath sharply in an attempt to maintain control of the emotions threatening to consume him, but it was rapidly becoming a losing battle.
"If you want to take a swing at me, go ahead. I had no right to keep this from you, but believe me, nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to tell you face to face. Fate saw that I was there the night Mary and John Grayson died so I could make my own son my ward. I know you must be asking why I adopted you when you were in your twenties. I did it because... to be honest, my emotions got the better of me. I wanted to be your father without hurting you."
Dick blinked clearing the single tear that had broken through his defences and was obscuring his vision.
"So, that's it. Of all the secrets I carry, this is the one I've guarded the fiercest and the one that weighed the heaviest. You had a right to know, Dick. I wanted to tell you but I made a judgement call and I stand by it. I honestly thought it best you didn't know so you could cherish your memory of John Grayson. I wanted to protect you from the pain you may feel in discovering John Grayson wasn't your biological father."
"Bruce," Dick murmured, shaking his head. Everything always came back to Bruce tying to protect him. "Resume."
" So, tell everyone... or no one. It is your choice. Look after your brothers. They both need you."
His brothers. Tim would be elated for him and Damian... Dick wasn't sure how Damian would react when told. Dick would do it gently. They had a right to know. There was no doubt the information would inflame the antagonism between Damian and Tim. Damian would likely make a point of highlighting the fact Tim wasn't Bruce's 'real' son. Bruce had never seen it that way. Dick didn't either. Tim was as much his brother as Damian, probably more so. 'Blood a family does not make'... another profound Alfredism.
"Your grandfather needs you as well. Alfred is astute at hiding how he feels, but my death will affect him deeply. He spends his life looking after us... we should spend more time looking after him." Bruce paused and stood up straighter. His tone changed. Instinctively Dick's back straightened. "You are head of the family now... and of the Bat Team. It is a huge responsibility, but I know you will lead them well and protect them all."
A lump swelled in Dick's throat. "I will. I give you my word... Resume."
"The full report of my investigation is on the end of the disc if you want to read it." Bruce's expression softened and he smiled... genuinely smiled. "I love you, Dick - not because you share my DNA but because you are, and always have been, my son... and the person I've always felt closest to."
The hologram flickered and then dissolved leaving Dick standing in the middle of the cave alone in the echoing silence.
Dick rubbed his hot, puffy eyes. He had lost the battle and succumbed to his grief.
In the twenty minutes since the holographic message had ended, Dick had skimmed through Bruce's investigation. It had been thorough, but that was no surprise. What was a starling was the fact that Dick's birth had been deliberately induced three months early. Officially because his mother had been experiencing pain - unofficially because apparently the circus had been losing money without its trapeze act - though, the most likely reason why a mother would consent to deliberately inducing the birth of her child was to protect the baby. That had been Batman's conclusion.
Mary Grayson had to have known if she'd showed up in Gotham with a three month old baby Bruce would have recognized the truth and contested custody. She wouldn't have had a chance against the team of lawyers the Wayne billions would have bought. Backed into a corner, Mary Grayson had done what she had to, to keep her child. Dick understood her motivation but also appreciated how betrayed Bruce must have felt. Perhaps that's why she was a faded memory.
Dick's thoughts returned to Bruce.
"My father." Dick had repeated those two words over and over and every time he said it, it felt right... but then, why wouldn't it? It appeared the instant connection Dick had felt to Bruce had been a result of much more than sharing a common tragedy. It had been an extension of the natural and innate bond between father and son. They just hadn't known it.
Dick's eyes drifted to the Batsuit. He was still incredibly angry at Bruce and yet, he respected the man more than ever. Bruce had been a flawed individual... an emotionally constipated dictator for want of a better description... but every decision he ever made had taken one primary fact into consideration - protecting those he cared about. How could Dick be angry at him for that? After all, it was a father's prerogative to protect his child - a family's responsibility to protect each other.
Dick stared down at the disc in his hand. "A right to know," he murmured. For the hundredth time he shook his head. The hardest thing was being unsure if Bruce realized Dick had thought of his as a father and not just a guardian and mentor. He had to believe Bruce knew.
Movement at the top of the stairs drew his attention. Tim paused, instinctively waiting to be invited.
Dick nodded and his brother continued toward him.
Tim's expression was one of deep concern. "Are you okay?"
Dick rose to his feet and nodded slowly. "Yeah. "
"You don't look it. You look a mess."
Dick returned his attention to the CD in his hand. He'd made his decision... two important decisions. "I need to get the team together and clarify a few things."
Tim didn't attempt to disguise his relief. "You're going to take over as Batman."
"I honestly don't know yet. But I want to make it clear who's calling the shots."
Dick gave his brother a wan smile.
"I still say it's essential that you..."
"Maybe. I need to think about it." Dick's attention was drawn back to the disc.
"Okay, I'll stop pushing as long as I know you're considering it." Tim licked his lips. Dick sensed his brother's discomfort. "And the information on the disc?" Tim asked carefully. "If it's important, I should be told."
So often in the past Dick had been standing in Tim's shoes facing the big black Bat demanding to be informed. Batman had seen all knowledge on a scale of need-to-know and very rarely did Bruce feel Dick needed to know.
Dick lifted his gaze to meet Tim's.
Tim's expression hardened, clearly ready to argue his case.
Without a word, Dick handed Tim the CD.
Tim tilted his head to the side, studying his brother intently.
"I had a right to know. But Bruce was right... about a lot of things it would seem. The information doesn't change anything. Not a single thing. He was my father." Dick smiled at Tim. "You're my brother. And whether we like it or not, the midget assassin with the endearing personality is family... and our responsibility. Out there, the war continues and we have to fight it because that's his legacy. To be 'the someone' who leaps from the shadows when innocent people are threatened. That's why he did it, Tim. It was always about protection."
"I know. But what was on the disc? What was the information?"
Dick exhaled slowly. "The information on that disc is important, very important as a matter of fact, but I'm making a judgement call."
"No one but me needs to know at this point." It would only inflame the situation between his brothers. When things settled down between them, Dick would tell them both. "But I understand if you want to watch it. I mean that."
Tim bit his bottom lip, his brow furrowing deeply.
Dick turned toward the stairs. "I'm going to check on the others."
Dick glanced back.
Tim held the CD out, returning it, his blue eyes reflecting total trust. "You've made a judgement call, Dick. That's good enough for me."
So ends this tale. Another has just begun.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.