Disclaimer: Young Justice and all related characters and story plots belong to DC Comics, Warner Brothers, and the network on which it airs, Cartoon Network. I am making no profit from this story whatsoever.
Author's Note: Okay, so did not expect it to take three weeks to get this posted, but real life got in the way (this IS my busiest time of year). That, and I just got so bummed out about Brazil and Turkey and Portugal getting to see all of the first season episodes first! I mean, come on, CN, how smart was that? NOT VERY! They go by a five day a week schedule, we go by a once a week schedule. The result? THE EPISODES ARE LEAKED ON THE INTERNET AND NOW WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH GOD DAMN SPOILERS!
As you can see, I'm VERY upset about this! The last thing I wanted was to find out the identity of the mole before it was revealed on the show, and now I'm pretty sure I know who it is, which is SO not cool! As a result, I've posted a plea on my profile page, and I'm gonna repeat it now, to NOT spoil it for those who don't all ready know. I know I can't stop you from posting stories about "Unusual Suspects" and "Auld Acquaintance," but PLEASE add on a spoiler warning to the summary so readers know what to expect.
Okay, off to bed so I can get up early in the morning to watch "Performance" live. If you still have a few hours, check out the promos and stills on World's Finest. This is gonna be one killer episode for Robin fans.
The Morning After
SEPTEMBER 10, 08:31 EDT
It was quiet, like it was most mornings before Alfred awoke the other two residents of the house for the day. It would only be once the youngest was fully awake that the silence would end. Somehow, the butler could never bring himself to lament the loss of the quiet.
When Bruce Wayne had lost his parents, Alfred had done everything in his power to ensure that the boy was well cared for. He never forgot about his parents, dwelled on it more times than he didn't, but at least there were times in his life where he was happy. Alfred had seen to that, with the help of Lucius Fox and Dr. Leslie Thompkins. When Bruce returned from the circus that night so many years later and explained his decision to bring the orphaned acrobat into their home, Alfred had instantly agreed. And he encouraged the young billionaire to build a relationship with the boy, knowing that it would help them both. Over the years, Alfred had come to call Bruce and Dick his family, and he hated it when either of them was distressed.
So when he opened the door to the master bedroom and looked around, he was instantly alarmed. Bruce was still in bed, but he was awake. He was looking down at Dick, fast asleep in his arms with his head resting on his adoptive father's shoulder. Alfred approached the bed quietly, not wanting to disturb the young boy.
"Is everything all right, sir?" he asked, fully knowing what the answer would be.
In their line of work, there were many times when Batman and Robin would return to the Batcave with battle wounds, sometimes physically and sometimes emotionally. Dick had always been prone to nightmares, and these close calls affected his ability to get a full night's sleep. The only thing that seemed to help him was knowing that Bruce was alive, so the billionaire had taken to letting the child sleep in his bed with him to provide that reassurance and comfort.
Bruce glanced briefly up at the butler before answering, his full attention once again on the traumatized youth in his arms. "No, Alfred, it's not," he admitted with a sad sigh. "Zucco's returned."
"Oh, my!" whispered Alfred, startled. That certainly explained a lot.
Dick sighed in his sleep, shifting slightly, but he didn't wake. Bruce reached over with his free hand and gently ran his fingers through the child's black hair.
"I assume Master Dick did not take the news very well," stated Alfred in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Clark said he started panicking the moment he saw Zucco's face on the computer screen," Bruce informed the older man.
"I can only imagine what he must have been feeling," Alfred stated.
Neither man spoke again for a long moment, simply watching the young boy who had unexpectedly come into their lives four years ago sleep. Finally, Bruce said the thing that had been on his mind since the previous night.
"I wasn't there, Alfred. He needed me, and I wasn't there."
"You can't blame yourself, Master Bruce," said Alfred firmly. "You are here for him now, and that's what matters."
Bruce knew he was right, just as Clark had been last night (as much as he hated agreeing with anything Mr. Sunshine said). There was no way he could have foreseen Zucco reentering their lives. The most important thing now was that Dick knew he wasn't alone and that Bruce was there for him.
As if there was ever any doubt.
SEPTEMBER 10, 12:56 EDT
Dick awoke still feeling very groggy, though that didn't make any sense. It was daylight, sometime after noon if the position of the sunlight on the carpet was any indication. He must have gotten a full night's sleep. So why did he just want to drop off back to sleep? He felt content and safe at the moment, so maybe that had something to do with it.
It took him a few minutes to realize that he had been staring at was Bruce's bedroom carpet, which could only mean he was in his father's bed. At the same time, he realized that his head was resting on Bruce's leg, one arm curled by the man's knee while he lay on his side. The blankets were still draped over him to provide warmth. Now that he knew he was no longer alone, he could feel Bruce's hand stroking his head gently, brushing locks of ebony hair off his forehead.
Dick sighed softly, turning his head to meet Bruce's gaze, dark blue eyes meeting dark brown ones.
"Good morning," Bruce said quietly.
"Morning," responded Dick, mimicking his tone.
Bruce kept up the motion of combing his fingers through the boy's hair, experience having taught him that it would help to keep Dick calm. "How do you feel?" he asked gently, not wanting to push too much just yet.
Dick considered his answer carefully before he responded. "Fine. Still a little tired, though," he said honestly.
Bruce nodded. He had been expecting that.
The two sat in silence after that, which gave Dick some time to think. He didn't remember the ride home from the Cave, or falling asleep. He couldn't even remember being debriefed after the mission. A concussion would explain the missing memories, but he had all his memories of the mission, and he knew that there had been no injuries. He even had the memory of convincing Clark to hang around the Cave until Bruce arrived. In fact, the last memory he had of the night was…
Bruce's hand froze on his head. "Dick?" he asked.
"Zucco!" Dick shot upright, twisting his body around so he sat facing the Dark Knight. "He's here, in Gotham! He's the one who caused all those accidents! And he hired those saboteurs last night! It was him!"
"I know, Dick, I know," said the older man, placing a hand on the boy's shoulder in a light grip. "It's gonna be okay."
"How, Bruce? How is it gonna be okay? He killed my parents, and he never had to pay for it!" Dick exclaimed.
"Not yet, but he will," Bruce swore. "I'm not going to let him get away this time, I promise."
Dick took a deep breath before nodding his head. Having Batman on his side made him feel better. This time, justice would be served.
There was a soft knock on the door. "Come in," called Bruce as he turned towards it.
The door opened, allowing Alfred entry. "I apologize for the intrusion, sir, but there is a visitor downstairs. She's insisted on seeing both you and Master Dick."
The Dynamic Duo shared a look of confusion before they went to quickly change. It was at least fifteen minutes before they were both presentable. By the time they got downstairs, Alfred had brought their guest into the living room.
"Diana. What a pleasant surprise," said Bruce with a warm smile.
"Hello Bruce, Dick," greeted the Amazon princess, returning the smile as she approached them.
"Hi, Diana," said Dick, though his tone wasn't as welcoming as his father's had been. He moved closer to Bruce, positioning himself right next to him so that there was no distance between them.
Naturally, this didn't go unnoticed by all the adults in the room. Bruce gave the Amazon an apologetic look. Diana responded with a nod of her head. She knew that Dick had a tendency to be possessive of the Dark Knight. From what she had heard about the World of Man, it was common amongst single parent family situations. And lately, Dick's possessive streak had expanded beyond the various women that the playboy billionaire dated and was now threatening to affect his relationship the Team, specifically Kaldur.
"I heard about what happened, and I just wanted to see for myself that you were all right," Diana explained.
"That was very nice of you, wasn't it, Dick?" asked Bruce, placing a hand on his son's shoulder.
"Yeah," agreed Dick grudgingly. He hated to admit it, but Diana was one of the nicer women Bruce had shown any interest in. She genuinely cared about both of them.
But that didn't mean she could date his dad.
"If you'll excuse me, sir, I think I shall prepare lunch. Master Dick, why don't you come with me and we'll let the adults talk," said Alfred subtly, making his way towards the kitchen. Dick followed, but not before sending a final glare Diana's way.
Bruce shook his head. "I'm sorry about that," he said.
"It's all right," Diana replied. "He's going through a lot right now, especially with Tony Zucco back in Gotham."
"Let me guess, Clark called an emergency meeting last night?" asked Bruce. It would be just like him to involve the rest of the League in something that wasn't his business.
"Barry, actually. Kid Flash told him about what happened." Diana paused for a moment, wondering if she should continue. "Bruce. You should know… Kid Flash – "
"Knows our secret identities."
Diana's eyes widened. "How did you – ?" She cut herself off when she saw the smirk that came to Bruce's face. She chuckled. "Never mind. You're not called the World's Greatest Detective for nothing," she commented.
"I like to think it's more a father's intuition," shrugged Bruce. "I knew Dick would tell Wally eventually. He thought I would get mad at him for disobeying me, so he begged Wally not to say anything."
"And you haven't confronted either of them about it?" asked Diana curiously.
"No need. If Dick trusts Wally with our secret, then that's that. I trust his judgment," Bruce explained.
Diana nodded. Barry'll be happy to hear that, she thought. The speedster had been worried that the Bat was gonna kill his nephew just for knowing too much.
The billionaire and the princess turned their heads as Dick came running back into the room, making a beeline for his adoptive father and latching onto his arm.
"Bruce, lunch is ready. Come and eat!" he pleaded, giving his father his famous puppy-dog eyes and pout.
The Dark Knight melted under the look, smiling warmly and placing a gentle hand on his son's head.
"All right, I'll be right there," he said.
"I should probably be getting back, anyway," said Diana, taking the hint. She walked over to the Dynamic Duo. "I'm glad to see you're doing better, Dick."
"Thanks," said Dick. Bruce nudged him slightly in the arm, making him internally cringe, but he obeyed the silent order and put on as sincere a grin as he could muster. "And thanks for coming to check on me."
"Of course, any time," responded Diana with a bright smile of her own before turning to Bruce. "I'll see you soon?"
"Count on it," said Bruce, flashing his playboy smile at her.
Diana laughed, leaning over to kiss him swiftly on the cheek.
The Boy Wonder's eyes narrowed as he watched the exchange. There was no way he was going to let Diana anywhere near his Bruce outside of Justice League business. He'd found ways to interrupt Bruce's dates before. Looked like he was just gonna have to do it again.
MARCH 10, 21:04 EDT
Bruce changed as quickly as possible into the Batsuit. He had been planning to head out on patrol earlier (all the better to start tracking down Zucco), but Dick had barely left his side the entire day. Bruce had expected him to be clingy, of course, between the shock of Zucco's return and his obvious jealousy of Diana. Finally, Alfred had managed to distract Dick with the prospect of baking his favorite cookies, which allowed him to head down to the Batcave and slip on the cowl.
"Bruce? Are you down here?"
Bruce turned his head towards his protégé as he came down the stairs, fighting the urge to sigh. He knew that Dick would figure out where he'd gone. He just hoped that he'd be halfway across Gotham by then.
When Dick first noticed that Bruce wasn't around, he assumed that he was in the Batcave. He didn't expect to see Batman standing near the Batmobile, though. "Why didn't you tell me it was time for patrol? Hold on, I'll go get changed!" he said, crossing over to where he kept his costume.
"You're not coming, Dick."
Dick stopped short, turning his stunned eyes towards the Dark Knight. "What? No! Why can't I go with you?" he demanded.
"I'm working alone tonight. You're still exhausted from what happened last night," explained Bruce.
"Oh, come on! I've been resting all day!" Dick groaned. "Was there another breakout at Arkham? Who was it? Joker, Two-Face, Quilt?"
"It's none of your business," Batman growled.
"None of my business? I'm your partner!" exclaimed Dick.
"This is something I have to do alone," said Batman firmly, narrowing his eyes into the Batglare.
Too bad Dick was one of the two people it didn't affect.
"So that's it? No explanation. You were just gonna leave me here, wondering where you went," he said angrily.
"You know the rules. There are times when I can't explain my actions, even to you," Batman reminded him. He started towards the Batmobile once more.
"You're going after Zucco, aren't you?"
Dick's accusing words again stopped the Dark Knight in his place, but the man didn't turn back this time. He didn't have to. He could feel the Boy Wonder's angry glare without having to see it.
"No, not without me. I want to make sure he gets what's coming to him," he insisted.
"Dick," Bruce stated warningly.
"It's not fair!" Dick was shouting now. "You can't take Zucco away from me! I won't let you!"
"You don't have a say in the matter," said Batman, turning back to his partner.
"I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS! YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! ZUCCO'S MINE!" Dick screamed furiously.
Bruce remained silent for a moment, waiting to see if Dick would continue. When it was obvious that the tantrum was done, he spoke calmly. "We will discuss this in the morning. It's late. I want you in bed by ten o'clock." With that, the Dark Knight turned and headed towards the Batmobile one final time, leaving a glaring Dick Grayson behind him.
Dick knew it would do him no good to argue the point further. Once Batman had made up his mind, there was no changing it. Still… it wouldn't be the first time Robin had disobeyed the man…
"Late for Bruce Wayne, early for the Batman."
So, that's it for this chapter. The action's gonna start back up in the next chapter as we come to the first part of the showdown between Batman and Tony Zucco.
Only one decision leaves me puzzled, and I'm hoping you can all help me figure out what to do. Wally is going to make another appearance, but I'm unsure as to when. So it's reader's choice. Do you want Wally to call Dick once the nightmare's over in the final chapter, or would you rather I put Kid Flash in the action going down in Gotham City? You decide!