Disclaimer: Batman and related characters belong to DC Comics, not me.
Author's note: This fic takes place roughly in Frank Miller's Dark Knight and Dark Knight 2 future. If you've never read either series, the main thing (as it affects this story) is that Dick Grayson appears in neither and no explanation is given for his nonappearance. If you have read the series and any details don't fit precisely ... well, Frank hasn't appeared to worry too much about continuity either. My thanks to Katie, Kim, and Sarah for their beta-work. Warning: This is not a happy fic. Major tissue warning.
The Dark Knight sat staring at the computer display, but he was not paying much attention to what it said. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Catgirl performing her daily exercise routine. Everything was as it should be, but he just felt ... off for some reason ever since he had noticed the date: March 20th. Watching her only intensified the feeling. There was something about that date...
It wasn't anything to do with his parents - not an anniversary, or birthday. Birthday ... No, it wasn't Alfred's birthday or even Jason's. Poor Jason. The feeling of wrongness grew steadily as he glanced over at the Robin costume in the display case.
"It was quite a kick for me to learn about the new Robin in the newspapers!" yelled a voice in his head suddenly.
Jason? No, not Jason.
"I thought there was one guy who'd have faith in me. But when it comes down to the test you picked somebody else to succeed you. A stranger."
A vision appeared in his mind of a handsome young man wearing Batman's costume with the cowl pushed back.
"I'd die for you, Bruce!"
Images began cascading through his memories in a flood: a bright-eyed child sliding down the banisters; a serious-faced boy meeting the Justice League for the first time; Robin being shot by the Joker; a man wearing a strangely-familiar looking costume of black and blue flying through the night alongside him; a wedding?
The flood subsided; the memories flowed to a trickle. Of course, he remembered Dick Grayson! How could he have forgotten the first Robin who later became Nightwing? He remembered everything now! Including...
Bruce felt his eyes suddenly fill with tears. Thomas John Grayson - Dick's miracle baby. Miracle, because Barbara had not even known she could conceive, and miracle, because that baby proved to be the final impetus that convinced Barbara to marry Dick. For three years, Dick, Barbara, and Tommy were the perfect happy family. The little boy captivated everyone, even Bruce.
Then ... leukemia.
All of Bruce's money, all of Barbara's research, all of their friends' knowledge and technology - nothing could save that dear little boy. Tommy died at the age of five, the same way he had lived: cheerfully, courageously, and honestly.
The loss ripped Dick and Barbara apart. Dick could not cope with what he saw as his failure to protect his son, and Barbara felt that she had failed since she could not find a solution to the problem. They tried to help each other, but both were hurting too badly.
He remembered Dick and Barbara were meeting with the Martian Manhunter, and ... that's all. The memories stopped. It didn't feel like the block from before - it was as if there was just nothing further. How odd. He turned back to the computer, and completely ignoring the research he had spent the better part of the morning collecting, he started a new search: Richard John Grayson. As soon as he entered the parameters, though, a document popped up on his screen.
"Hi, Bruce," it read.
I never had quite the faith in J'onn's mental barriers that he did. I figured at some point, you would remember me, and the first thing you would do would be to attempt to find me. Well, here I am.
Fathers should not outlive their sons, Bruce. It's as simple as that. Especially fathers who fail their sons the way I failed Tommy. Something in the part of me that became Tommy didn't work right, and he died. It may not be logical, but it's true. I know Babs blames herself the same illogical way. Attempting to save our marriage, J'onn brought us together mind-to-mind so we could no longer lie to ourselves and each other. Babs knows I don't blame her, just as I know she doesn't blame me. And that's the problem.
I survived the death of my parents because I found a new focus - Robin. Barbara survived being shot by the Joker because she found a new focus - Oracle. We can't find a new focus anymore, Bruce. What's the point of being a crime fighter if you can't even save your own son? What's the point of being an all-knowing Oracle if you can't find a solution to the disease that's killing your baby?
The funny thing is that while we were tearing at each other and sniping at each other, we each felt more of a reason to keep going than we do now that we know the truth. In recovering our love for each other, we've reinforced our longing to be with our son. We've been strong for Tommy, for you, and for each other. We're tired of being strong. J'onn blames himself, but it's not his fault. I think we've finally convinced him this is what we truly want.
As I said, fathers should not outlive their sons, but I don't want my death to cause you any more pain. So I've asked J'onn to put a block on yours and Alfred's memories of us. Babs has removed all mention of us from your system except for this note. I've designated Roy Harper as my executor - he can tell you anything else you need to know. Thank you for all you've meant in my life. I'm just sorry it had to come to this.
The dreaded "L" word,
Dick and Barbara Grayson
The Dark Knight turned around to see that Green Arrow had come up behind him and was staring at him quizzically.
"Ollie, what's Harper up to these days?" Bruce rasped out.
The archer was startled but answered, "He's in Paris, at the moment. Um, hang on ... Here's his number." He searched through his wallet and handed a small slip of paper to Bruce. Bruce pulled back the cowl and made the connection.
"Yo!" said the cheerful man with graying red hair who showed up on his screen. Then he saw who was calling and abruptly became serious. "Hi, Bruce. Dick said you'd be calling one of these days."
"You know what today is, don't you?"
"Yeah. You want to know what happened?"
"The details aren't important, but they died peacefully and together. That's what they wanted."
"But how could you let them..."
"Kill themselves?" Roy filled in quietly. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done. All of us Titans talked until we were hoarse, and Dick and Barbara just sat there. Finally Dick looked at me and asked me to imagine Lian's dying the way Tommy had. I think he knew why we were talking so much. To stall them as long as we could." He took a deep, unsteady breath. "Dick was the brother I always wanted. I owe him for so many, many thing, including getting me custody of my daughter. In all that time, he had never really asked anything of me, and now he was." Roy sighed. "Dick didn't ask us for help in dying; he asked us to let him and Barbara go."
"And to keep it a secret."
"And to keep their secret," Roy agreed.
"Their ... graves?"
Tears started falling down Roy's face. "Check behind Jason's crypt. That's where ... Tommy was buried, and that's where they insisted that we ... bury them. They're in one mass grave." His voice broke.
"Thank you, Roy," he said and cut the connection.
He leapt from his chair, ignoring the outbursts from Catgirl and the others and ran out onto the grounds. In spite of all of the changes to the estate over the years, the family cemetery had remained a small island of tranquility. He ran past the familiar crypt of his parents, the more recent grave of Alfred, and came to the elaborate crypt he had built for Jason. That had always been his usual stopping place, but now he went farther. Circling around behind the monument, he saw a simple gravestone that was placed in the ground:
Richard, Barbara, and Thomas Grayson
~~ Always Together ~~
He knelt down next to the stone.
"Happy birthday, son."
*** The End ***
Note: I absolutely do not advocate suicide as a solution to problems, and I'm not quite sure why the story took this direction. Right up until I actually started writing, I thought I could keep Dick alive somewhere, but the fictives just wouldn't cooperate. By the way, the first quote is from Batman 416 and the last two are from Robin 13.