"He needs to be in bed by nine," Bruce said in a low growl. "No sweets, he can't watch TV until he finishes all his homework."
"Bats, we've been over this a thou-"
"If he has a nightmare you call me, if I can't be reached you have Alfred's emergency number."
"And don't touch his back and chest. I left pain killers in the Medical Bay, only give him one if needed."
The Dark Knight turned an irritated scowl to almost as equally irritated Flash. The Justice League all stood before Gotham's greatest with very distinguished facial features. Both Flash and Hawkgirl seemed to be aggravated with the billionaires constant reminders for his son. Superman, Wonder Woman and Black Canary were too busy eying said young boy who had successfully cloaked himself from prying eyes in his father's cape. Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter were both busy trying to submit Batman's list to memory while Green Arrow had been sent to prepare the transporter for Batman's departure.
"You have told us multiple times, I think we've taken care of Rob enough times to know your rules." Flash said as he crossed his arms defensively.
Bruce sent his worst batglare towards the speedster, causing the man's defensive resolve to wither away in milliseconds. No one spoke as the World's Greatest Detective looked down with his demeanor changing completely from hostile and threatening to compassionate and caring. The man gently pried the cape from the child's grasp to kneel eye level with the boy.
Robin looked awful. Beneath the domino mask was an obvious scratch running from somewhere near his left eye to his mid cheek. Bandages stuck just above the collar of his shirt and minor scratches covered the visible parts of his tiny arms. Beside him was a small Wonder Woman suitcase (Robin has one thing for each JL member), in his hands was the tiny, worn stuffed elephant his mother had bought before he was born, Peanut.
A small whimper escaped as his father placed one of his large hands on his mop of black hair.
"Robin," Batman almost sighed. "I have to go now."
"No." Robin whimpered again.
Batman winced at the desperate tone and obvious sound of tears. Normally, Batman would never want to leave his son in the hands of these...reckless adults. Alfred was out of town visiting family and would not be home for another week and a half. Robin would be coming with him if it were not for his injuries. The night before Batman and Robin had been on routine patrol when they heard Joker had been spotted at the bank. Upon arrival they had been separated and it had soon been revealed that not only had Joker been there, but Two Face and Penguin as well.
Robin had ended up being pared with Two Face while Batman had taken on Penguin and Joker. Sadly, they had been unprepared. With over thirty men along with them, the duo had been completely out numbered. Two Face had made sure to leave his mark on Robin, leaving the boy with four cracked ribs, a sprained wrist, multiple fractures over his legs and arms, bruises covering his chest, back and shoulders and a long scratch running from the corner of his left eye to the middle of his cheek.
At the first chance he got, Batman gathered up his son and ran as fast as he could. All three criminals had escaped arrest and were now taking their work out of Gotham. Later, Bruce gained knowledge that they had been robbing the bank to obtain money for the expenses they needed to take the trio to Washington, when the senator had announced he would be showing off his highly collectable painting collection. It was strange to see Joker going after art work, but knowing there would be hundreds of wealthy people there to play with, there was no doubt it would turn ugly.
Batman flat out refused to take his son. The night of the fight the child had not gotten a bit of sleep from the nagging nightmares and constant pain.
"It will only be a week at most." Batman informed him softly.
"A whole week?" Robin cried.
Bruce was screaming the same thought in his mind. A whole week? Could he handle one week, let alone one day without his son's company. Without the knowledge of his child's safety.
"Robin," the Dark Knight said sternly. "I need you to stay here. It's too dangerous."
Robin opened his mouth to fight his father's demand, but quickly closed at the sight of his father's "No Buts" look. The boy looked down dejectedly and nodded sadly. Batman stood, eyes never leaving his son until he turned to scowl at the group before him. The heroes all had different reactions, but all read utter terror.
"I'll be calling regularly," Batman growled.
Certainly. Superman thought.
With one last glare directed at the League the Dark Knight knelt down once again to gently kiss his child's forehead and whisper something comforting in his ear. Robin threw his arms around his father despite the shouts of pain ringing through his body. After standing, Batman rushed to the teleporters as fast as he could, afraid he would go running back to his son if he did not leave fast enough.
At the Zeta Tubes affirmation of Batman's departure the Justice League members were suddenly barraged with tears from Robin.
"Robin," Superman said softly as he came to the crying boy and carefully drew him into his arms. "Robin, don't worry. Batman will be back before you know it. He'll catch them in three days tops, I know it."
"B-but, what if-what if he dies?"
The question made all the heroes freeze and stare at the sobbing child.
"Oh Robin," Dinah cooed as she stood next to Superman and ran her fingers through Robin's dark locks. "He won't die, sweetie. He will come back and take you home, you'll see."
But a feeling deep in Robin's stomach stopped him from taking comfort in her words.
That night Richard had gotten even less sleep then the night before. After falling asleep he had been placed in Batman's personal room, but a perplexing nightmare echoing his fears after his father's departure rang loudly in his mind. He had woken in tears and screams singing through the room. Dick had turned to curl into his father's strong, safe chest but only met cold sheets.
That's right. Dick told himself. Bruce isn't here.
Dick was tempted to run to one of the Leaguer's rooms, but decided against it. As much as he loved the heroes, they were no Bruce. So Dick went in and out of nightmares all night.
The morning had been uneventful, with heroes flying in and out of missions and checking on the boy, and Richard just kept to himself. It worried the adults to see the cheerful child so...uncheerful. They all knew of Bruce's personality change when Richard was gone, but they had no idea Dick shared the same problem.
Flash and Superman had taken to playing most of the day with the boy, from video games to reading comics. Anything to keep him distracted. Richard's back pain returned, however and they had given him his medication. The medicine caused the child to drift off to sleep, and thanks to the strong dosage the child slept soundlessly for once.
As Dick slept through the rest of the day, the heroes received a call from Batman later that evening.
"It's about time you called Bats," Flash said. "Rob has been waiting for your call all day."
There was a low growl heard through the communicator and Flash quickly handed it over to Superman.
"Where is he?" Batman asked.
"Sleeping. He was completely exhausted. He was in pain earlier this afternoon so we gave him the pain killers you left. Dianna went to go wake him up."
"If he is sleeping-"
Superman quickly cut his friend off with a harsh tone. "He has been asking for you all day, Bruce. If he hears you called and he didn't get to talk to you he would be crushed."
Everyone waited silently until Dianna came into the room carrying a half awake Richard. She set the boy into Batman's chair in the meeting room and Superman handed the child the communicator.
"Daddy?" Dick's small voice gave away the tears that were ready to spill.
Superman ushered the League from the room so as to allow the boy privacy to talk to his father.
"Yeah Dickey, I'm here."
"When are you coming home?" The child squealed, almost immediately after Bruce's voice affirmed his existence.
"Soon, I promise. I just have to catch the criminals first." Bruce tried to reason.
"Why is it taking so long?"
"It's only been a day, Richard."
It has already been a whole day. They both said in their minds.
Richard sniffed, trying to stop the sob trying to escape. He knew he had to be strong. For his daddy.
"Are you being good?"
"Good." Batman said, relieved. "Are you in much pain? Are you having nightmares?"
Dick bit his lip as he heard his father's last question. "No, I only hurt sometimes. But,..."
"But what, Dick?" Batman's mind jumped to conclusions. Was he alright? Were the League hiding something?
"I had another nightmare last night. And...I didn't tell the League."
Batman mentally sighed. "Richard, you know if you have a nightmare-"
"They aren't you!"
Bruce paused and waited for the boy to continue.
"It isn't the same. They aren't safe. I mean," Dick tried to find the words. "They are safe, but not. Not daddy safe."
Batman's heart burst at his son's sudden confession and a new wave of guilt washed upon the Dark Knight at the knowledge of leaving his child unprotected in a completely different way then he had predicted.
"I know Richard," Bruce said softly. "I promise, I am coming home as soon as I can. But promise me if you have another nightmare you will tell one of the Leaguers. I want you to try and get more rest."
Bruce waited until he heard his son's promise to do so. Batman stayed on the line as long as he could, but had to leave only five more minutes deeper into the conversation. After exchanging quiet "I love yous" they ended their too short conversation.
When Dick woke again that night from another nightmare, the child was tempted to just stay put and hide under his sheets.
Promise me if you have another nightmare you will tell one of the Leaguers. He promised. He had promised his father he would tell someone if he had another nightmare.
Richard slowly lowered himself from underneath the covers, his bare feet tingling from the sudden cold contact. He clutched Peanut in his arms while he crept quietly down the Watchtower corridors. Dick contemplated going to Dinah or Diana, because he knew better then to wake Shayera. In the end the child ended up in front of Oliver's door. This was the only other Leaguer that had a child! It was the only plausible choice.
Dick gently pushed the door open, the small room was flooded darkness but Richard knew the layout of every members personal room thanks to Hide and Seek. His feet made light pattering noises as he approached the archer's bed. Queen, to everyone's knowledge and irritation, snored. Loudly. Dick stood staring at the blond man for a few moments, almost turning and running back to Bruce's room.
The boy reached over to gently shake the millionaire's shoulder, waiting for the snoring to stop. It took a few turns, but eventually Queen jolted awake.
"Wha-" He looked around until the darkness gave away the faint outline of Dick in his Batman pajamas. "Dick? What are you doing up at...4:13 in the morning?"
Richard looked at his feet and hugged Peanut closer. "I had a nightmare." He whispered.
Oliver turned to look at the boy more fully, finally realizing this wasn't a dream and there really was a child standing in his room.
"Oh, well hey, do you want me to get Supey?"
"Um, no," Dick began doubting if this had been the right decision. "Roy told me that, whenever he had nightmares you would help him," He stole a glance at the man's face. "And stuff."
"Roy said that?" Oliver perked.
Dick nodded his head, but realized he couldn't see him so he let out a soft yes.
"Well," It was true. Roy did have a few nightmares over the years, but it had been a good year or two since then. Then again, if Bruce found out Dick had a nightmare and he had turned him away, Oliver would surely die. "Come on kid, get in here."
Oliver reached over to scoop the child up and place him beside him under the covers. It took Richard an hour before he was able to fall asleep, but only four minutes for Ollie. Not exactly what the child had been hoping for, but all that would probably be offered by these unknowing adults who have never handled a kid before.
When morning finally rolled around Oliver was gone. Dick went to the cafeteria to find Superman and Wonder Woman waiting for him.
"Hey chum," Superman started. "How are you doing?"
"Fine." Richard replied.
"Would you like me to get you something to eat?" Diana asked.
Dick nodded to the amazon. As soon as Wonder Woman disappeared, Superman took a seat beside the child on the table bench. The kid looked exhausted. His eyes were half closed, the light trace of darkness underlining his eyes. The fact that the boy was still in his batman pajamas made him look all the more worn down.
"So," Clark started slowly. "I heard you sneaking into Oliver's room last night."
Dick didn't even try to deny it or show if he was embarrassed. Just nodded his head before placing it over his crossed arms resting on the table.
"Yeah." Richard sighed. "I wasn't going to at first, but...Bruce asked me to."
"Ah." Superman said, but he had already guessed that had been the reason.
They sat in a long, awkward (for one of them) silence before Dick asked, "Do you...Do you think he will be back tomorrow?"
Oh no. There was no nice way to say anything to that. Superman shifted uncomfortably as he hesitantly said, "I don't know, Dick. But he'll be home as soon as he can."
Richard nodded. Clark wanted to say more, but Wonder Woman walked back over to them and set a plate of eggs and bacon in front of the boy.
"Superman," Diana called. "J'onn says we are needed for a mission."
Clark nodded and stood. Both heroes stole a glance at the boy silently eating before they turned and left.
"It's so boring here."
"Sorry dude," Wally said through the communicator. "but I'm still sick and uncle Barry says I can't leave. No matter how bored you are."
"And Dinah has gotten it into Queen's head that we should go on a family trip." Roy grumbled on the other line. "Who wants to go see some guys faces on a mountain anyway?"
Dick sighed as his friends spoke through the communicator. Richard had hidden himself in the meeting room, securing himself in his father's chair and cuddling deep in his blanket and the smell of the dark vigilante. The rest of the League had all been going in and out of missions all day, once again leaving Dick to find a way to entertain himself. Which basically consisted of calling up his two friends.
"It can't be that bad, right?" Wally asked Dick after a while.
"It's better then sitting in a car with Oliver." Roy grumbled, followed by a loud "Hey!" in the background.
"Trust me," Richard whispered as he sank lower into the chair. "It isn't."
Not only could he not see his friends or his father, but now Queen was gone and no one to go to for nightmares. Not that Dick was planning on going back to the man for help again, anyway.
"Don't worry, Dick. Bruce will be back tomorrow and take you home, you'll see. I mean, he is the Batman after all!" Wally cried followed by a series of hoarse coughs.
"Yeah, but, what if-"
Dick was cut off by screaming coming from both lines. One from Roy yelling at Oliver for getting lost again and the other of Wally going into a full rage of cannon sounding gags. Dick quickly hung up the line and twirled in his chair. Back to boredom.
Dick woke that morning early, but later than any other nightmare had. He could have sworn he could hear Bruce's voice, feel his father's large hands shaking his tiny shoulder. But as soon as he opened his blue eyes all he was met with was cold sheets and an empty, black room. Normally Dick would just curl up to try and catch a few more hours of sleep, but the silence of the usually bustling building disturbed him.
Richard slowly tumbled off the mattress and walked to the door. He crept down the halls, making his way somewhere he hoped other people were. He had a bad feeling in his stomach, one that made him feel completely and utterly alone. Dick stopped in front of the monitor womb, hearing hushed voices.
"This isn't good." Wonder Woman's voice stated. "Someone needs to go and-"
"And what? What can we do?"
"Search! We can search. We can't just leave him."
"Of course not, we'll send a search party and-"
"What's going on?"
Dick's tiny voice rang out in the large room, causing the heroes in the room to turn towards the door where he stood. Dick didn't know if he should stay where he was or march up to Superman and demand to know what was going on.
"Dick, what are you doing up?" Shayera asked.
"What are you guys hiding?" Dick shot back, crossing his arms across his chest. If they won't answer, then it's time to go into Batman mode.
"No," Superman cut off John. "I got this."
The Man of Steel walked up to the child and knelt to eye level. Dick looked into his blue eyes and knew, something was most definitely wrong. And this thing he was about to say, it would be bad.
"Dick," He started slowly. "This morning we got a distress signal from Batman."
Richard's breath caught in his throat, coming out as a gasp. No no no no no no . . . This was not supposed to happen. Bruce was supposed to be home, sooner then later. He said it would only take a week at most, promised he would be home as soon as he could. This was not part of the plan!
"Wha- how?" Was all Dick could manage to get out.
Superman never took his sad, sympathy filled eyes from the boy, not even when he felt the others shift uncomfortably behind him or at the fastened heart beats of all the heroes.
Clark took a deep breath before responding. "When Bruce went to the Senator's art unveiling he met with Joker, Penguin and Two Face as planned. He took out Joker and Penguin, but Two Face escaped and rigged the building with bombs. Bruce managed to get the people out and found Two Face, but both had still been in the house when it blew up."
Superman waited for the information to sink in, continuing in a more hesitant voice. "After the explosion, all contact with Batman we had was cut off. No one has been able to reach him for hours. Last contact was just before he entered the building, giving us his positive location at exactly 11:20 PM. Batman has officially been labeled MIA."
Superman stopped all together and watched as tears fell from the boy's eyes. He was a wreck. Face flushed and hiccups erupting from his throat, Dick's world was falling apart. His father, his daddy was missing. Missing. The word echoed in Richard's mind. Missing was basically a nicer way of saying dead. Dick remembered watching TV with Bruce a few months ago, a story showing up on the news about a boy who had been missing for three years. He had been kidnapped when he was eleven years old. His body was found on the side of the road almost exactly on the third anniversary of his disappearance.
Even adults went missing. All the time, but how many times are those adults or children found? Dick had no idea but he knew the odds were low. Very low.
"Dickey," Flash whispered, speeding to the child's side. "There is no conformation that he is, um...gone. Police and Firemen are still searching the ruble. We are sending a team to look as well. We will find him."
Dick heard Barry's words, but his mind couldn't quite process what he was saying. All he understood was Bruce was gone. Gone. He was alone.
Nothing had been found on Batman. Superman, Wonder Woman and J'onn had went to D.C. To help the search, but so far there had been no sign of the Dark Knight.
Dick sat in his room, wrapped in the blankets that smelled of Bruce and hidden deep in the darkness of the suddenly very large bedroom.
That morning Alfred had arrived back to the mansion and called the League immediately. He had requested Richard come back home, but the child had cried that he needed to stay in Watch Tower. Information from the three heroes progress came straight to the monitor womb and he wanted to be there when they finally had something useful.
The butler had been reluctant, but agreed. Only if the boy returned long enough for a fully cooked meal and new clothes, along with a much needed bath.
The mansion seemed much more quiet and scarier with no Bruce there to fill it with his safe, comforting presence. The whole house seemed to creek under Dick's small footsteps. After his bath and a newly washed pair of batman pajamas, Richard went to sit at the kitchen table where his grilled cheese had been placed for him.
Dick sat staring at the food for a moment before Alfred called out, "Master Richard, staring at your food will not make it disappear. You need to eat."
He said nothing as he took small bites of the sandwich. Half an hour later, Alfred had the child transported back to the Justice League head quarters where no information had arrived.
Dick sat up, surrounded by the fluffy comforter. He had barley slept at all with nightmares and worry plaguing his young mind. Peanut sat in his lap, his hands absently playing with his worn purple ear. Dick's eyes drooped and his head slowly drifted to the plush pillow calling for him.
Daddy can stay up for hours, days. I can too. I don't need sleep. I need information. Information. Infor...
The thoughts slipped away along with all hesitation for rest. As soon as his body hit the mattress he was out cold. Warmly wrapped in blankets and the smell of Bruce still lingering, it was as if his father was right beside him, sleeping peacefully.
"This is impossible."
"No, John, this is not the time." The speedster slowly paced around the monitor womb, circling the large computers that were brightly lit and standing before them.
"He's the Batman. The freaking Batman. Hot can he be missing?"
Green Lantern sighed from his seat. He was facing his red clad friend, specifically turning away from the things that were being useless in their search for the vigilante.
"You know how these things work out, Barry." He reminded Flash. "Anything can happen in a mission. Superhero or not. It is especially so for someone without powers."
"Yeah, well, that shouldn't matter! Powers or no powers, he is the Batman! He would never go missing, and especially wouldn't leave that poor kid all alone!"
John pinched the bridge of his nose, the headache he thought he lost an hour ago slowly creeping back. "Barry, you are leaving many variables out of context."
"Well for starters-"
"Recognize, Batman. 02."
"Recognize, Wonder Woman. 03."
"Recognize, Superman. 01."
"Recognize, Martian Manhunter. 05."
Both heroes ceased their pointless, stress induced argument to turn towards the transporter. As the blue light dissipated, there stood the four people they thought would never come. Superman and Wonder Woman both had Batman's arms around their shoulders, effectively carrying the injured hero. J'onn quickly flew in the direction of the medical bay.
"Oh my gosh, Bats!"
Flash zoomed to the side of his friends, earning himself a strained but effective glare from the assumed unconscious Dark Knight. J'onn emerged again as Superman lowered Bruce into one of the chairs before the computer consoles.
"What happened?" Barry impatiently asked as Bruce pulled off his cowl so J'onn could tend to the cut donning his forehead.
Bruce gave a slight wince before replying, "After the explosion, Two face and I were trapped underneath the ruble. I was unconscious until I woke to find myself in the forest behind the Senator's house. Two Face had escaped before me and had called his goons to retrieve me. While I tried to escape, Superman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter found and assisted me. We gave him to police then came back here. There, now you are up to date. Happy?"
The last part came out as a low, sarcastically cynical sounding growl.
"Geez, Bats. Someone in a bad mood?" Flash grimaced.
Bruce turned to give him his sharpest and darkest batglare. Barry shook as Bruce said in a low rumble, "I have been beaten, exploded and thrown through glass countless times this week. I am so sorry if I can't use a more chipper tone for you."
Before anyone could say more, Bruce stood, making J'onn to stop his treatment and take a step back. Without a second glance he stalked towards the door.
"Where are you going?" Clark called after the millionaire.
Bruce paused only for a second to say, "To see my son who has been through hell. Where do you think?"
When Bruce finally opened the door to his private room his heart practically shattered right there. Dick was curled tightly into himself, with the comforter almost hiding him from sight. The boy looked completely exhausted, with light circles under his eyes and low breaths echoing in the room.
Bruce slowly walked towards the bed, removing his gloves. The need to feel his son's dark hair too much to handle. He had missed this small confirmation of his son's safety for almost a week and he needed to ease the pain he felt aching in his chest.
Bruce gently sat on the edge of the bed, placing his large hand on the boy's head and brushing back his ebony bangs. At this slight contact Richard began to stir.
Bruce felt the urge to pull his baby bird to his chest and hold him for the rest of his life. He never wanted to leave him again. Just to keep him locked in the mansion and keep him with him forever. But Bruce kept himself sitting over the child, his hand still brushing back his hair.
"Yeah, it's me chum. I'm here." Bruce whispered as blue eyes looked up at him warily.
Those eyes suddenly filled with tears that spilled over his round cheeks almost as soon as they came. Dick shot up to wrap his small arms around his father's neck and bury his face deep into his large shoulder. Bruce quickly returned the embrace, rocking his son as sobs erupted from his tiny bundle.
"Sh, sh. It's okay, Dickey. I'm here, I'm here. I'm not going anywhere, I'm never going to leave you. I promise."
Bruce spoke comforting words into Richard's hair, sobs turning into wails as the tears refused to stop. He had been so scared. So scared he had lost his daddy forever.
It took what seemed like hours for Dick's cries to quiet, small hiccups the only thing coming from the child. Bruce continued to gently rock him, rubbing soothing circles across Dick's back.
"I thought you were gone." Dick sobbed into Bruce's kevlar chest. "Daddy, I thought you had d-died."
As small sobs over took the boy again, Bruce whispered into his black hair as he moved to sit back against the head board. He winced as his back met the hard, cold wood but ignored it, choosing to bring the child closer to his body.
"I know Dickey, and I am so sorry you had to go through that again." Bruce placed a kiss on Dick's forehead. "I promise, I'm never leaving you."
Dick said nothing, just scooting closer into his father's embrace and bringing the dark cape around his small body.
"Daddy?" Richard's small voice called tiredly a few minutes later.
"I love you."
Bruce smiled, those three simple words and the name daddy bringing so much joy coursing through his blood.
I love you too, micul meu pasăre."
Sorry I haven't updated sooner, I just got back from a trip to Colorado yesterday. I wrote about half of it there and then the rest tonight. Yay summer! Anywho, here is the second chapter. Hope you enjoy it. I know this is a common story plot and all, but I just couldn't help myself. A friend told me I should write one like this so...I did. Go me! More will come soon, promise. Needa think of a plot so if anyone wants to give me any ideas I am all for it. I'm open to any suggestions :)
Now, if you will excuse me. Imma read some of my new book Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. Looks so good! Girly squeal. Can't wait. It's about Robin Hood, and I can not resist historical fiction and historical fiction characters (along with some romance of course 3) example, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, ect.
PS, micul meu pasăre means "My little bird". Just in case you were wonderin'