The Show Must Go On.
By Cyndi Smith
This story is dedicated to Patty for all the great things she has done for me. I give it to her freely and give her my permission to Archive it where ever she would like to.
The lone man looked up from his dust rag to see the look of horror blaring back at him from his youngest charge. "You are not hearing me," the young boy whined. "He wants me to do it solo!"
"Yes, Master Dick I heard you just fine." He replied calmly; he had been listening to the young masters complaint for the last hour. "It is quite difficult not to hear you. And since you insist on a reply, I can say in all honesty I can't think of anyone better suited for such a challenge."
"Can't you just call him up and tell him I have laryngitis or something?"
"I most certainly will not!"
"Why?" the young acrobat insisted. "You do it for Bruce all the time."
"Master Dick, You are fully aware of the reason I make excuse for Master Bruce and it is most certainly not so he can get out of singing in the end of the year Charity Concert by the Gotham's boy choir and Orchestra. "
"You don't understand," the 11year old boy huffed.
"Master Richard, I can honestly say I have never been more disappointed in you, a tantrum at your age. It is not like last year when everybody in the school had to be in the play with no choice. You were given the choice of the boys Choir or the Orchestra. You made your decision: I think it would behoove you to abide by it."
"That was no choice! The closest thing I got to an instrument before I came here was Mr. Donaldson's antique calliope that Eleanor pulled behind her in the parades, and Old Mr. Donaldson wouldn't let anyone near it." He debated, "Besides I thought there would be 25 other kids in the classroom to drown me out."
"Hey chum, what is all this noise all about?" Bruce walked down the stair well with the afternoons mail in his hand.
"Maybe Bruce will understand," he mumbled under his breath.
"Alfred, I stopped and picked up the mail," the large man announced as he handed the bundle to the butler.
"Bruce I don't suppose you've gotten any covert information about a major break out in Arkham tomorrow?" Dick inquired.
"No, but I did get a call from Mr. Cofax about the Charity Concert the school is putting on. He spent an hour bragging about how well you sing. But he said you suddenly don't want to do it. Can you explain why?"
"I can't, don't you understand?"
"No, I don't and if you can't give me a good explanation then I will expect you to go out there and give them your best. If I can't expect the best from you in school, I can't expect it from Robin in the streets."
Stunned, Dick took two steps back, looking as if he had been hit in the gut, then ran up the stairs.
Leaving the CEO of Wayne tech industries dumfounded.
"Ok, now what did I say".
"It's not you, Master Bruce; at first I though young Master Dick was experiencing a bad case of stage fright," he said as he stared down as an open piece of mail.
Bruce let the closest thing to a laugh slip as he stared back at his gentleman's gentleman.
"Dick? Our Dick? Dick Grayson, aka Robin… the child other hero's call 'the boy wonder'? Our Dick of the Flying Graysons, the youngest performer to ever perform the quadruple flip and, might I remind you, performed it to packed houses all over the world. Is that the same Dick Grayson you want me to believe is afraid of performing in front of people?"
"Sir by any chance have you used that keen sense of observation to take notice of the new invitation amongst the mail?"
He held the invitation so that Bruce could read it. "Take notice where the concert was being held?"
"Gotham's preparatory school's Boys Choir and Orchestra Proudly Presents Sounds of Broadway Blah Blah Blah because of the wonderful turn out the Concert has been moved to the Newton Fair Ground just out side Gotham…"
"Oh God; the same place where his parents died!"
"I guess I really blew it this time."
"I fear that you are not alone; still it may be far worse that you know."
"What do you mean?"
"The song he is expected to sing is Memories from the Broadway play 'Cats,'" he announced. "He has been practicing it almost every night for the last six months."
Bruce groaned as he looked up at the empty stairwell.
"This explains why the nightmares have returned regularly. Alfred call Leslie, tell her I am going to need help on this one."
"Yes sir. I truly understand how difficult it will be to remove ones foot from ones mouth without medical assistance."
Leslie reached the Wayne manor, in record time, but by then Dick had cried himself to sleep on the bench in the garden just outside the den. After a few failed attempts at getting him to go to his room they opted to let him lay there until Leslie could check him out. They both knew he would go if they ordered him to but both were afraid it would only add stress to an already strained evening, so Alfred protected him from the damp air with a small woven afghan that usually adorn the back of the over stuffed chair by the fireplace.
When Leslie finally got there, she gave him a quick look over and a mild sedative. Then told Bruce to carry the child to his room; he would probably sleep through the night. Bruce found Alfred set a nice tea up in the den by the time he returned.
"Unfortunately Doctor Thomkins," Alfred explained as he poured the tea, "both Master Bruce and I had stated our depth of disappointment at his attempt to get out of the program before we were aware of what the problem was."
"So now even if we give him an out…"Bruce tried to continue.
"He might think you believe he is a coward," she finished for them. "Still there may be away out."
"At this point I am open to anything."
"Tomorrow you and I go to see Mr. Cofax, Explain to him the problem, and ask him to cut the song. I am sure he will understand the situation…
Bruce pondered it for a short period of time then rejected it. "No, I am going to let him stay at home. Even if we did explain it to the instructor he would still have to face the other students," he surmised, "I'll just have to make him understand I was the one who screwed up."
Dick was up showered and dressed for school even before Batman had returned from his night's escapades. Bruce found him alone at the kitchen table. Dark circles under his eyes seem to hollow his youthful features.
"Good morning chum," Bruce smiled hoping the false look of inner calm would hided his fears. "It's 4:30 am son, what are you doing dressed you're not even due in the gym for another two hours."
"Hi Bruce," the boy yawned, "I did the morning work out about an hour ago." Dick returned, "I guess I wasn't paying attention to the time."
"That would be an understatement, buddy. You look as tired as I feel. "Look, I think you going to stay home today…"
The young man's reaction stunned his mentor. "Dick listen, when I said those things I didn't understand that they moved the concert to the fairgrounds Alfred found the revised invitation in yesterdays mail that I brought to him."
The boy fought back the tears. "He told us they had moved it a week ago because of lack of space. They just didn't say where." The tears started streaming down the boys face. "… until yesterday."
"Dick, did it not bother you to sing the song you had been practicing all year round?"
Dick wiped his face with his sleeve as he thought about it. "Naw, I didn't figure anyone would even notice me. Tommy Uhn is a really awesome piano player; he can play anything all you have to do is ask. All I had to do was step out, sing, walk off stage and go home. No one would even notice me; kinda like the broccoli in Alfred's chicken cordon bleu, the chicken is so good you forget your eating broccoli." Bruce smirked at the face the boy made every time he even said broccoli, but quickly pulled him back to the topic of the conversation.
"But the words didn't bother you?"
"Not really, before they were just a bunch a words sung by a cat in a play. Like Oklahoma was a song about a state and What do the simple folks do was in a play about King Author. All of them were just words."
"Words that have bought back the nightmares so often that you're not sleeping again?"
"Alfred told me," he answered, "We thought maybe you were working too hard."
"That would explain all the times you haven't been taking me with you at nights," he growled. "This stinks."
"Look chum," Bruce interjected. "I'm not here to fight. I just want you to go back to bed. Lets both get some sleep and discuss it in the afternoon."
"NO! I gotta go to school; I have a test in Algebra 2nd period and a report due in fourth, then we set up at the fairgrounds after school."
"Dick you know you don't have to go, I'll call in and explain…"
"EXPLAIN WHAT? That I'm a coward that I can face the Joker on any given night but I can't face a useless piece of ground! You can't expect me to do my best in school how can I be expected to do my best on the streets. Isn't that what you said?"
Dick ran out of the kitchen before Bruce could reply, nearly knocking down Leslie and Alfred. He stopped to apologize but ran off instead; he had already lost the battle with his tears.
Alfred walked into the kitchen to find the closest thing he has to a son, sitting alone at the breakfast bar with his head in his hands.
"I take it things didn't go well, during your talk with the young master?" He stated calmly as he placed a hot cup of coffee down in front of him.
"Give me a confrontation with all of Arkham anytime," he grumbled, clasping his cup tightly in his hands. "He wants to go to school, I don't like it but I can't stop him. He threw my words right back into my face; I don't know, maybe this will help him find some closure."
"You mean like your annual trips to crime ally?"
The comeback only got a glare in return.
"I apologize sir it was totally uncalled for. I only meant…."
"I know what you meant and maybe you're right, closure is a long way away."
He sat down the untouched drink and pushed him self from the bar. "I'm going down stairs," he announced sound defeated. " Call me if you need me."
Leslie gently knocked on the door and stepped in. She found the little boy sitting on his window ceil starring out in the distance, as if with no more than his will he could force the sun to awaken and start this day. He had gotten control of his tears, but the sorrow was weighing the small child down.
"Dicky are you okay, hon?"
"Yea. I'm sorry for what happen downstairs," the boy mumbled.
"Baby, you need to get some sleep. I gave you a sedative last night that should have let you sleep through the night. How long have you been awake anyway?"
"About an hour or more, I don't know. I'm not tired," he whispered still looking out on the horizon.
"Baby, I really wish you would come away from that window."
"I'm ok, Doc Leslie, really "
"I know sweetheart but you really make me nervous knowing you still have that medication in you." She sat down on his large bed and gently patted the pillow as if she were fluffing them up. "Maybe you should go back to bed."
"NO, I am going to school."
"Shhhhh, I understand what your going through and I will back you up but there is at least three hours before you even have to leave. Could you maybe come and lay down for a while if I promise to wake you in time for school?"
"I'm not tired."
"I know dear, just come lay down and rest."
He looked at her and the bed as if he was thinking about it.
"I will stay right here I promise," she encouraged.
"Ok, I'll lay down but I ain't gonna sleep. I ain't tired."
"Understood," she smiled.
He sat on the bed and lay his head on the pillow staring blankly out the window, before she knew it he had fallen asleep. She gently brushed a lock of hair from his face, and whispered, "Like father like son."
Alfred and Leslie showed up at the boy's school only two hours after dropping Dick off that morning. They had received a call that Dick became violently ill during his second period class, and then became belligerent when he was told his guardian had been called.
After being escorted to the councilors office, they found themselves seated in a room with the school's president, as well as the schools nurse.
"Mr. Pennyworth," Dr. Marshal Acknowledged.
"Yes sir, and this is Master Richards physician, Doctor Leslie Thomkins." Leslie extended her hand to the school administrators.
"Mr. Wayne is in route home, he should be back sometime this afternoon, he had an important meeting in Metropolis but he had it postponed as soon as you called."
"I am sorry, I know he's a busy man. It's just that I have never seen Richard react so harshly before."
"As understand it Dr. Torch was giving an end of term exam when Richard left class in a hurry. He sent Mr. Marcos, the gym instructor, to find out where he went. He found him in the bathroom getting sick and was worried enough that he called Mr. Lowe and myself. I was in contact with Mr. Wayne when he was brought to the office. When he realized whom I was talking to he became very verbal about his dismay. In fact it took Mr. Wayne to calm him down."
"Where is Dick now?" Leslie inquired.
"He in the infirmary resting; Mr. Davis his councilor is with him. Mr. Lowe will take you to him if you would like."
"Mr. Wayne explained to us what might be the problem. Such an unfortunate set of circumstances. I assure you if we had realized this would happen we wouldn't have accepted Mrs. Newton's generous offer to use the fair grounds when our concert out grew the auditorium and Banquet room of the Gotham Grand Hotel. Of course this happened after we invited the Metropolis Boys Choir and the Keystone Military Academy Choir to join us. It is really such a shame. Richard sang such a wonderful rendition of Memories."
"That he did, Dr. Marshall," Alfred agreed. "All the children worked hard on this, I was lucky enough to catch the end of a couple of rehearsals."
Leslie came in with a very pale Dick Grayson in tow. "Mr. Pennyworth, I think we need to get this young man home and to bed."
"Right away Doctor." The older gentleman acknowledged with a nod, as she turned the boy around and led him out. "Well if you will excuse us…"
"Of course," the schools head agreed. "Let Mr. Grayson know he will be missed tonight, Mr. Wayne as well."
"I will see that Master Richard has your well wishes, but Mr. Wayne will be there tonight."
"Wonderful, than I will speak to him tonight."
Bruce got home only minutes after Alfred and Dick had return. Leslie told him the boy was asleep, cutting him off at the door way as he wandered to the child's room. She turned him around and headed him back down the stairs.
" I think sleep is the best thing for him right now. "
"So what happened?"
"He's a little boy with the weight of the world and the responsibilities of an adult resting on his small shoulders. Now everything he has worked so hard to forget has come back to haunt him."
"Bruce do you remember the day I took you back to where your mom and dad died? Do you remember what happen?"
Bruce didn't reply; instead, he looked back at the large wooden door that separated him and the boy whom he had grown to care about.
"Yes, I am sure you do. When you, Alfred, and I walk down that alleyway in broad daylight you broke down. The reality is that for you it was a break through. You had not cried, I mean, really cried before that. And to be honest I am not sure if you have really cried since. But all those feelings are bubbling up in that little boy. Whether or not he wanted to go on stage he would have done it. Because he believes you would have been disappointed."
"I didn't know…."
"Of course you didn't dear, but to him that would not have mattered, that was evident from your conversation this morning. Subconsciously his body made the decision for him. Can you imagine what could have happened if he had to perform on the same spot of his last performance with his parents?"
"I still have to go tonight, unfortunately no one else from Wayne Industries will be available."
"Why not get that young girl he has eyes for to watch him?"
"Huh? No, Alfred can stay. I will drive myself." Bruce winced.
"Bruce, honey you and Alfred right now are part of the stress; maybe someone like that little girl, what's her name? Ummm, Barbie or something."
"You mean BARBARA GORDON?"
"Red hair bright green eyes, who causes your little acrobat to trip over his own two feet every time she walks into the room." She described as she watched him nod his head.
"Yea? Than that would be her."
"Right now what he needs is a friend, closer to his age, someone who might be able to get him to open up. Then, in a couple of days it might be a good idea to take him out to the fairgrounds."
"And if he still doesn't want to face those demons?"
"Then it is a good thing you're already used to late nights, 'cause I foresee quite a few of them in the near future. While he engages his nightmares."
Barbara gladly accepted the charge, but by the time she got there Dick was already deep in an unrestfull sleep. She sat on the large chair at the side of his bed. A book huddled in her hands had been totally ignored while she watched him toss and turn, obviously lost in darkness of his dream.
Dick never recalled falling asleep nor did he remember awaking he just suddenly became aware that he was wandering aimlessly through a fog. He didn't know where he was and had no clue how he got there he just keep walking till he finally saw something he recognized. The large bat computer blinked and tweaked brighter and brighter as he got closer.
Alfred sat in the chair before the large mechanized miracle. He looked some how sad, something must be wrong.
"Alfred what's wrong?"
"I believed in you. YOU FAILED ME!"
"No, I…I ..uh I'm sorry."
"It doesn't matter, someone will do it, someone with courage, after all the show must go on."
"But I can't."
Dick jumped when he heard the voice behind him. When he turned to face it he was not longer in the Batcave, instead he was in his family's trailer. His father looked like he was going to strangle him. He had never seen his dad angry … at least not at him.
"Graysons don't say can't, dear." His mom smiled and gently touched his face
He wanted to believe his eyes, he wanted to grab her and never let her go but he was so frightened he couldn't move.
His father stepped up and took his mothers hand. "Graysons are performers from a long line of performers. If you wish to break this tradition then don't get dressed and don't be out center stage when they call your name." The powerful man turned away from his son, and walked away.
"Mom, Dad, don't go. Please."
"Honey we have to. After all, the show must go on."
As the walked away into the mist he could hear the circus band playing in the distance but they where not playing the normal music; they were playing that damned song from CATS.
***Not a sound from the pavement **
The mist began to rise around him.
**Has the moon lost its memory **
**She is smiling alone**
The moonlight shining through the barred windows of his room at JDC. The room echoes of the bigger kids teasing him and threatening him.
**In the lamp light the withered leaves collect at her feet and the wind begins to moan**
~~ Flash ~~
He stood above the world as he looked down upon the circus goers waiting for him to move. He jumps; his world spins as he releases the bar. And the music continues to play.
*****Memory all alone in the moonlight *****
*****I can dream of the old days life was beautiful then*****
He is standing alone in the middle of the ring: the broken trapeze high above him and nothing but blood at his feet.
"NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!! MOM DAD, come back, I will do it, I promise. Please come back!"
The music stopped as he continued to scream but when the fog cleared it wasn't his mom and dad standing, there it wasn't even Bruce or Alfred. It was Barbara Gordon, the's lieutenants daughter.
"Shhh, it's ok big guy. You're ok really."
"Barb…?" Dick whispered as he pulled away and continued to stare at the empty doorway. "A dream, it was a dream, where is Bruce I gotta talk to him."
"Hey kiddo it's just you and me tonight, Chinese sound good to you, it should be here in about 5 minutes?" From the look on Dick's face you would have thought he was just slapped. "What time is it?"
"Little past six,"
"NO, I gotta go." He flung himself out of bed and ran to the closet.
"Hey half pint, your in for the night. Doctors orders."
"Please, Barbara I have too! If I don't go on then I fail them, the show must go on." He flung his school blazer shirt and tie, and ran in to the bathroom caring his pants and undershirt. "Look, I am going weather or not you let me."
"OH no your not. I can get the whole Gotham PD here to back me up if that is what it takes. Bruce said that Doctor Leslie said you need to get your rest and eat something when you get up. I ordered dinner about an hour ago barring any trouble in Gotham, Dad will be getting here any minute with it."
"Good you won't have to eat alone. I gotta go." He announced as he quickly threw on his shirt, picked up his blazer and ran down hallway.
" No, you don't, Dick, it's ok really Bruce explained everything. I lost my parents too so I understand a little more then most kids, but everyone understands why you can't go back there."
At first the young man just ignored her has he looked up a phone number in the book. He dialed it and gave the person on the other end his address and the address of the place he needed to go before she hung up on him. "Hey!"
"You are not going anywhere! Especially by taxi." When Dick looked up she didn't see anger she saw fear. Tears already welling in his eyes and his whole body seem to shiver.
"I have too," he whispered.
"You have to what?" Both kids turned to find the man Dick knew as both a police Lieutenant and Barbara's father standing over his shoulder, holding two boxes from a local restaurant in his hands.
Dick looked up at the adult who stood in front of them, believing like every other adult in his life Jim Gordon wouldn't understand. So instead of explaining he flung the phone across the room and ran up the stairs.
Jim looked down to his recently adopted daughter, who looked as if she might break down in tears. "Barbara, do you want to explain?"
"I don't know if I can," she pouted. "Mr. Wayne said that the stress of a concert that he was suppose to sing at on the fairgrounds has made him kind-of sick and edgy. All I have seen was the edgy part. He had a nightmare; just before he woke up screaming for his mom and dad to come back, saying something about he would do it, he promised. I don't know what it was he was suppose to do but as soon as he realized that it was six o'clock and Bruce and Alfred went to the concert without him, he freaked and started getting dressed and calling a taxi, saying that the show must go on, or he failed them."
"Ahhhh, ok, I think I understand." The officer scratched his chin as he looked up to the top of the stairs. "Barbara, I think I explained to you how Dick lost his parents, right?"
"Well, you also know that the circus was performing at the fairgrounds when it happened."
Again she nodded
"I was the officer who had to take the report. Dick was born in the circus, he lived his whole life in the circus he was a performer from the get-go. You know the motto of the police department is 'to protect and serve' Do you know what the motto of the performer is?"
She thought about it for a moment, then announced, "The show must go on."
"That's right! I am guessing now, but I think that the instinct of the performer is a bit stronger than the scared little boy who doesn't want to go back to the last place he saw his parents."
"I'm guessing your right…" Barbara returned, "…cause there he goes." She pointed out passed the front door to see Dick running down the driveway.
Jim ran to his car and keyed the microphone just as the boy disappeared from view. "Mr. Grayson running away is unnecessary; please return to the manor, I will take you to your concert."
Barbara quickly jumped in as her father started the car. He only moved a short distance before Dick came out of the shadows. He pulled his car next to the young man who looked both embarrassed and relieved but still uncertain.
"Son, you have to learn to trust someone. You could have saved everyone a little time by just explaining to us why you had to do this. I think both Barbara and myself would have understood."
" I'm sorry sir, I thought Bruce would have understood too. Fact is till now no one seemed to understand." He looked at his feet for a moment. "Including myself."
"Well, I will take you to the fairgrounds son, but if at anytime you want to come home don't hesitate to tell me and don't feel that you have let anyone down. Cause just being willing to go back there shows a lot more than even most adults have been known to show."
Barbara moved to the back seat of her father's unmarked car. Dick climbed in to the front.
"Are you sure you don't want to eat something first, son?"
"No, sir I am fine." He replied as he stared blankly out the window as if he could see the fairgrounds through the trees on the Manor grounds.
Jim wasn't sure what he was doing would was the right thing but it really was the only thing he could think of short of hand cuffs to keep the kid from doing something stupid. "Ok, son."
The half hour trip actually seemed longer than most shifts. The boy's view never left the window and his daughter never left the boy. No one said a word through the whole trip, that may be why when his daughter yelled out "DADDY stop the car!" he nearly drove into the ditch to get the car off the road. Suddenly the boy was outside the car on the ground empting his stomach acids to the ground.
"That's it son, I'm taking you back home and have someone go get Mr. Wayne."
"No!… Please Mr. Gordon. I'm ok … really. I just didn't expect…" he said as he got off the ground shaking. "I'm sorry." Tears ran down the boy's cheeks.
Jim, looking quite confused, turned to his little girl who gently nodded her head in the direction of the trees that graced the sides of the road. Above the treetop further down the road he saw the towering flags that stood atop what appeared to be a large circus tent.
"Dear God." Jim looked back at the small child who looked like he either about to hyperventilating or doing the kind of breathing exercises he was taught in the academy for overcoming what they called 'rookie panic'. "Son I don't kn…"
"But I do," the boy demanded. "I'm a Grayson, I was born under one of those tents, I'm not going to let it scare me away. And you can't make me! You said you understood! But you lied just like everyone else!"
Dick hadn't realized how that sounded until he saw the look of total shock on Babs face. He quickly diverted his tear filled eyes to the ground. " I am sorry Babs, Mr. Gordon. I just …"
"It's OK son, it's obvious you are hell bent on doing this so if you got control of your stomach lets get going. If I use the lights I can maybe get you there before they are too far in to the program."
"Yes sir, Thank you sir." The boy gave an uncomfortable smile and got back into the car.
It took only ten minutes for the car to make it to the fair grounds; Dick and Babs both jumped out of it at the entrance and ran inside while he parked the car. The concert had started and the keystone Military Academy choir where singing Oklahoma. It was about the third song on the list. Dicks solo was next; he ran to the back of the choir stands and stood quietly in the shadows; there was a strange familiarity to what he was doing. As his choir director headed to the microphone he walked up from behind the stands.
"Ladies and Gentlemen: as I mentioned early in the program Dick Gray…"
His speech was drowned out by the sound of Dick Grayson's name coming up from behind him, followed by the boy himself. Mr. Cofax bent down to the boy.
"Master Grayson, how are you feeling son?"
"I am better. I wanna sing."
"Are you sure?"
"Uh, yea, kinda … I mean, do you mind if I sing something else; I know the words and I am sure Tommy can play the music … and Alfred said it was from his favorite play."
"Well, son, I don't know… "
"Please sir, I have the words here," he pulled a paper from his pocket. "I wanna do my part I just don't think I can do the song we practice. Please. I have to do this."
As he looked at the words a slight smile crossed his face. "Well, we have to do something, ok. Go see if Tommy can do this." The man came back up with the mic and waited for the audience to calm a bit when he announced.
"Ladies and Gentlemen: I apologies for the delay but as I was saying there will be a bit of a change in the schedule. Without further ado I give you Master Richard Grayson."
Tommy played a short introduction to the song Dick had given him. As Dick took the microphone he smiled more politely than confidently, then closed his eyes.
Bruce stood up, when (he recognized the young boy on the stage, he was lowered back to his seat by a gentle pair of hands.
"Alfred, he looks like he is going faint," Bruce whispered, trying desperately not to sound as panicked as he felt.
"He got this far; give the young man a chance."
"And that's another thing; how did he…"
He didn't finish his words when Jim Gordon slipped into the empty seat next to him.
"Sorry, Bruce but it was bring him or cuff him to the bed post."
"It's ok Jim, I just hope he's ok."
"Well if it is any consolation, there is nothing in his poor stomach to loose."
The room quieted as the young pianist played as beautiful introduction of Dick's music
Then the boy opened eyes as the words came rolling out of his mouth.
To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
He sang the words with the power of a true artist, but the tears could not be hidden. His eyes seemed to lock on Bruce, as if he trying to draw on his strength.
This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...
His voice seemed to shutter but he still continued. Jim leaned closer to Bruce and muttered, "I could be wrong about him not being able to get sick," as the boy continued to loose the color in his face.
And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...
The end of the song was followed by a long musical interlude as the lights went down. When they came up, everyone in the audience, as well as the orchestra were standing and applauding. Mr. Cofax seemed to be holding him in place. Dick was trying to smile as per Mr. Cofax he took a bow, and then Tommy came up and took a bow with him. Then as the lights faded again and came back up Dick had vanished. Bruce immediately broke for the exit with Jim and Alfred in tow.
They found Barbara standing over the young man who was knelt curled into a ball, clutching the dirt at the base of a small sapling repeating, " I did it… I did it."
Bruce knelt down next to him "Yes son, you did. Lets take you home." He picked the young man up and carried him to the car that Alfred brought to him. After putting him in the vehicle he turned to the lieutenant and his daughter. "I really do appreciate your help Barbara," as he handed her a hundred dollar bill.
"Uh, that's not necessary; its not like we were at the manor long. That's like 20 dollars a minute."
"Consider it a tip, go to the mall or put it in your college fund, you deserve it."
"Thank you Bruce, that is very generous. …Uh Bruce?" Jim gently pulled the larger man over to the young tree were Dick had been crying. "I thought you said this was the first time Dick had returned to the fairgrounds since…. correct me if I'm wrong but… This is it! Isn't it?" Bruce followed Jim as he looked around the dirt parking lot. "These trees are planted in the exact spot where... Uh…this is where the center ring would have been."
Bruce said nothing but nodded and then returned to the vehicle. He stepped into the door of his Limo and they headed home.
Bruce sat at the breakfast nook in his kitchen: a hot plate of eggs and a large glass of orange juice at the ready when he emerged from the doorway
"Good morning Alfred. How is Dick doing this morning?"
"The young master has slept quite fit, Sir,… all thing considered. Per your instructions, I contacted Doctor Thomkins; she said she would come by on her way to the clinic to check on him, but she insists that we let him sleep as long as he needs to," he reported as he shuffled the a few dishes around then handed Bruce the morning paper.
"I took the opportunity to peruse today's new paper, I thought you would find today's lead story quite interesting."
Headline in the Gotham Gazette read:
The little boy who could.
If you were unable to make it to the fairgrounds last night for the Gotham's preparatory school's Charity Concert, you missed what might have proven to be the biggest social event of the year. Gotham Preps Boys Choir and Orchestra along with Keystone Military Academy's Choir and Metropolis Boys Choir, Sounds of Broadway brought the music of the Great White Way to our quaint little city in true Broadway fashion. The music ranged from the renown songs of Gershwin, Webber and Rice, to the Beat of then streets that has become the all the craze in show such as RENT. But what really sold the show was the heart; these boys sang each song with the souls of artist and it was never so clear as when Gotham Preps Choir member Dick Grayson took the floor.
A bit more than three years ago the social world was privy to one of the most heinous crimes of the planet, a murder that happened during a Circus Spectacular. Sadly enough it too was a charity event. While the world and their little boy watched, two of the performers were killed when they fell to their deaths before us. It was not till later that we were told that the ropes had been severed by a mad man. It was this action that caused two of the three aerialists known as the Flying Graysons, Mary and John Grayson, to fall to their death, leaving behind the third member, Richard, their nine-year-old son.
Richard was taken in by socialite Bruce Wayne, who many years earlier had also been orphaned in a similar crime. I have been lucky enough to meet this young man on several occasions during many of the charity events given by Wayne Industries. He was shy and polite. He didn't talk much and unlike his guardian who could party all night and half the day, he would disappear about bedtime and not be heard from again until the next event.
Now two years later the young performer as gone from aerialist to artist as made an appearance in the lime light once again on the same grounds that claimed the life of his parents. This reporter found out after the show, that the young man had been ill earlier in the day and they had planned to cut his solo from the show. But in the tradition of his heritage he found the strength to not only show up and perform but also reach within himself and bring out one of the best performances of the evening. Along with the most talented young musician that has graced a stage, Tommy Uhn, a thirteen year old protégé' who's ability with the piano can only be described as awe inspiring. Yes it was truly and night to be remembered …
The story continued on about the success of the concert in general. He folded it unread and sat it across the bar from his plate. Bruce's face showed no reaction but then when did it ever? After a couple of minute of playing with his food he pushed away from his plate and headed up stairs to bed.
That night on the roof tops of Gotham Batman and his young protégé' Robin stood tall against the gentle sea breeze atop the old Gotham Theater in what was known as crime alley. Robin had slept most of the day away and when he did finally awake he found Bruce and Alfred downstairs the length of the conversation between him and Bruce was when Bruce told him if he felt up to it, to suit up; they had someplace to be. The quiet was finally broken by Bruce, not Batman, who was staring at the ally way just north of the theater.
"Do you recognize this place?
The youth nodded but said nothing,
"It's seem like forever since my parents where killed and yet it still feels like yesterday," Bruce whispered; it stunned Robin because Batman never allowed his voice to change under the cowl and neither of them were free with their feelings. "It scares me sometimes to come here, it took me nearly a year to bring myself to back here. I felt vulnerable; the moment I hit the corner the whole thing replayed in my mind," he squatted down in front of the boy who stood quietly, unsure what to say.
"I fell to my knees and cried, Robin, I couldn't stop the tears and I couldn't run, I couldn't move." Robin, still unsettled by the sudden forwardness of his mentor, couldn't think of anyway to respond so he just gently place his hand on Batman's arm. Bruce responded by allowing that quirk of a smile to slip from beneath his hood and then knelt down bringing himself to eyelevel with the lad.
"Alfred and Leslie took me home that night, and I have not cried or even talked to another person, save Alfred, about that night since. As a child I became a bit of a recluse, never allowing anyone close enough to break my shield. I made a promise that I would never be controlled by my emotions again. And yet in a way I guess that is exactly what happened. God, I sound like I'm ranting. Son, I am not good with words, but there are a few I think you should hear. I have never known pride like what I felt when you stepped out on the stage. You stood before a crowd of hundreds and showed the world that you were still very much a part of it. I know it couldn't have been easy for you."
"Ya got that right," the boy frowned. "I really didn't want to… I thought I was going to take out the whole front row, with a mega barf. But I had to go on," the boy whispered almost lost in thought. "I had a commitment, I guess since my birth…the show must go on. That meant I did too."
"And so you did". Batman smiled. How strange it was to see it, a true smile seldom crossed Bruce's face yet alone the Batman's. "So tell me, why did you change songs?"
"That's easy. You were right I had never listen to the words I had been singing and now that I knew them, I knew I would have never make it through 'Memories', I still can't believe I sang it as long as I did without realizing that it hurt so much."
"That seems logical enough, but I still don't understand why you chose the song you did. So why did you chose 'The Quest'?"
"Because it wasn't about the past, but the future. It was one of the first songs I heard Alfred play on the piano. He told me it was about a man who believed in right even when everyone else gave up. He gave me a copy of the words the night you tested me to become Robin. It's about you and me now. Don Quixote and Sancho. Batman and Robin."
Bruce's gaze fell upon the streets below him. For what seem like forever no words were spoken. Then a bright light broke across the black sky, and a bat was reflected off the sheet of darkness. Time to let go of the past time, to renew the future. The city was calling. He looked down at his young partner, filled with a new deeper sense of pride, and smiled. "So are you ready to tilt at windmills?"
As they leaped from the roof top the wind seem to carry the sound of music being softly played at a grand piano in a lone room miles away and where a man who served his master with great pride sat alone awaiting the return of his two charges. He played with the vigor of a man whose soul was being tapped out in each key. Then when the strange symbol graced the skyline. The word became so real.
"And the world would be better for this, that one man scorned and cover is scares still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach… The unreachable stars."