Sorry that took so long. There's really no excuse except that college dragged me into the burning depths of homework and despair (etc. etc.), so. But here it is! After (oh my goodness that's a lot of) years of procrastination, the final chapter. Take it, read it, enjoy it, pass it along.
He was… adrift.
Here in this place where he was warm and safe and blissfully calm, there was nothing that could touch him, for he touched nothing.
Shadows pressed down on him, but he had never feared the dark. The night held, not terrors, but joy, fierce in its heart-pounding presence. A flash of yellow in the corner of an alley, a sweep of cloth as familiar as his own reflection, a rumbling growl calling him home…
Calling him home?
…Was he lost?
A bolt of panic shot through him, effervescent as it bubbled into the comforting black. Something was wrong. Fundamentally. Disastrously.
(He knew at that moment, somewhere in the back of his mind, that there was something wrong with that word. It was too long. Too… singular. Too normal, but he couldn't put his finger on it, so it floated away, far beyond his grasp, and he knew no more for some time.)
There was something on his arm.
It was warm and large, and inexplicably comforting, for all that he couldn't figure out what it was.
Fighting heavy eyelids and hours (days? The thought was unnerving) worth of eye gunk, Dick finally forced his left eye open to peer at his surroundings, though the right remained stubbornly closed.
The first thing he saw was Clark, leaning over him with a warm grin and shimmering eyes behind useless glasses. Dick tried to smile back, but he was sure that the gesture wasn't entirely comforting. He felt like his muscles were fighting him, twitching at odd moments, and sagging in exhausted rebellion when he tried to use them. It was frustrating. And why couldn't things be… trating?
(Mentally shaking his head, he decided he'd never let that one see the light of day.)
Warm fingers gripped his chin in a terribly gentle hold as Clark moved towards the exit, and Dick found his head turning to face his mentor. Bruce, wrapped in his blue bathrobe and sporting some five o'clock shadow on the edge of his jaw, looked haggard, but relief was evident in the curve of his lips and the tilt of his head.
His hand was pressed warmly on Dick's right arm, and the slight pressure felt something like hallelujah.
Dick tried to pull his brows together, tried to ask back from where? but when he finally opened his mouth his lips were met with a straw and all he could think about was water. Cool and refreshing, his parched throat immediately rejoiced in the wet balm, and how sad was it that he didn't even know it had been uncomfortable until it had been soothed?
Feeling his right eye finally pry itself open, Dick met his adoptive father's eyes and croaked, "How-?"
He was met with a small frown and a gruff, "Two days. Leslie had to induce a coma."
"Just as well that she had," quipped a prim British cadence, and Dick fought to turn his head so he could see the beloved butler as he entered the room. "You had two days of uninterrupted rest." A white eyebrow climbed up an aged brow as Alfred asked dryly, "I suppose the rest of your time recovering will be spent trying to convince us all that you are perfectly fine, hmm?"
Sheepish, the corner of Dick's mouth pulled up and he sighed, his actions predicted quite adeptly by the butler. Affection and a quiet joy radiated from blue eyes surrounded by wrinkles, though, and Dick's smile grew when the old man laid a weathered hand on his own where it lay over the blankets.
Surrounded by his family, Dick finally relaxed back into the inclined mattress behind him. Weights pulling his lids over suddenly moist eyes, Dick felt a gentle squeeze on his arm and the affection in his mentor's touch sent him back to the land of dreams.
The television in the cave was on.
Normally that wouldn't bother Wally in the slightest, but the team had only just returned from a recon mission in France, and there shouldn't have been anyone there.
Emerald eyes widening as a goofy smile stretched across his face, Wally kicked his feet into high gear and zipped the last few feet into the living room to find his best friend sitting on the couch and watching a national news channel.
"The culprits behind the bombings in Gotham City were found dead in this East Gotham apartment last night, Carol. Police have identified Eric Hanson, eighteen, Silas Carson, seventeen, and Lane Garner, fourteen as the people behind the terrible attacks. All three attended East Gotham High-"
Rob looked rough. His face was pale and he sat sedately on the cushion instead of lounging on the back like some kind of crazy monkey. A smile tugged at his lips, though, and he wasn't holding himself stiffly, so Wally counted that as a win.
"-Deceased when the police arrived, and it appeared that Mr. Garner, the youngest of the three, shot the other boys and then committed suicide. A note, left behind by Mr. Garner, confessed to all three of the bombs as well as the double murder, and told a story of a lifetime of bullying-"
As Wally gingerly pulled his best friend into a hug, mouth rattling questions and exclamations in turn at super speeds, Superboy stomped into the room, followed by M'gann and Kaldur. The sight of Robin sitting on the couch elicited smiles from all three.
"-Claimed that the bombings were recompense for the abuse of their peers. These new developments have led police to believe that the mall was the original target and the other bombs were secondary thoughts."
When the initial flurry of hugs and tears ended, Megan hovered off the ground and exclaimed in a burst of joy, "This calls for cookies!"
Robin smirked and cut in, "Which I just so happen to have. Agent A sent them over." He glanced knowingly at Wally when the speedster's face morphed into something that looked a little star struck and entirely consumed by excitement.
"Agent A cookies?!" He marveled. At Robin's nod, Wally whooped and darted, a streak of blurred yellow and red, into the kitchen. Laughing at Kid's antics, Robin let Connor pull him off of the couch and the rest of the group filed into the kitchen behind him.
"Among the injured was four-year-old Lacie Nappeli, the younger sister of one of the teens that Garner accused of bullying in that final note. She was med-evaced to New York where her right arm was amputated, but doctors are confident that she will survive, Carol. Back to you."
"Thank you, Raisa. We will continue to update you all on this tragedy as we receive new information. We at A.I.T.D news express our sincerest condolences to the families of those who died in this brutal attack. With the new implementation of anti-bullying policies in schools throughout the nation, the hope is that such attacks will be circumvented in the future."
Well. That happened. Thanks for sticking with it this far. If you did, that's some serious dedication. Props to you. I've got a couple of ideas in the works, but I think I'll start completing things before I put them up, so this doesn't happen again. Ciao a tutti! See you next time!