"Will you shut that boy up?" A man growled from the corner of the room. Dick Grayson was terrified, needed changing and wanted a bottle and bed but none of that was available from the gang of mobsters he was currently enslaved with. His cries were drowning and he could almost taste his own tears as they pooled in the corner of his lips.
"Zucco!" The man growled again and threw a paperback book at his head narrowly missing by inches.
"I dunno what's up with it you sought him out!"
"Who do you think you're talking to Tony?" The man stood up and slammed his knife into the wooden crate in the warehouse they were currently in.
"I'm busy counting YOUR cash or do you think your business runs itself? Anyway where's the broad? They like babies!" Zucco spat back.
"Tish!" The man shouted over the talk of the other two men he was sat drinking whiskey with. A woman with fiery red hair and a very slim figure came through from the back room and looked at him. "What's up doll face?"
He pointed across the room at the baby wailing its arms in the air and kicking his tiny legs, to the touch he was freezing cold and the woman didn't have the faintest clue what to do with him. "What do I look like? Your slave? Do it yourself!" She was about to walk back into the other room when he grabbed her arm and slung her back towards the baby. "Remove it from here and make it stop crying or you BOTH will be on the streets!"
She begrudgingly picked the baby up and held him at arms length as she took him into the next room, another couple of men and women were there and each rolled their eyes as they watched her come in with the wailing baby.
An older woman came over by the name of Mother Mex and she took the baby from the younger and put him on the crate. "Just watch and learn." She moaned. "I ain't doing this again."
She took off the soiled diaper and changed it, but only put his little vest back on, then took a bottle from the bag of loot that Tony had snubbed earlier and shoved it in the little babes' mouth instructing the other woman to hold it till he was done. She got bored half way through and tried to make him do it himself, when he wouldn't she put the bottle on the side and walked away. This did little to comfort the tiny tyke and whilst he was okay for the moment that moment wouldn't last.
Merely half an hour later he was crying again and this time they were getting annoyed. "Tony that baby wants to be worth something!"
"He is trust me when I put in the claim on his life insurance you'll see, a nice and tidy loot they said."
"Come on Honey lets go outside." Tish said to the older man now sat on the old worn down sofa. This in turn led everyone to slowly retreat outside and turn the music up so as to drown out the cries of baby Grayson.
Bruce tossed and turned in bed and tried not to think about Dick he was now gone and out of his life, sure he'd have some explaining to do to Commissioner Gordon but this was all above board and legal…Wasn't it?
Bruce couldn't sleep and he knew it, as much as he wanted to just roll over and forget about it all the thought that something was wrong with Dick was playing on his mind, that little boy had only been with him for two days but that was enough to melt his heart and make him yearn for him to return. Now Alfred was leaving at dawn too and that would kill him and what would he say to Auntie Harriet?
There were so many questions and he wanted to answer them right now with the answers that made sense. But how could he make sense of this whole mess? Even if he went and retrieved the little lad what good would it do? He needed a home and love and care and attention and a proper upbringing…Did he have time for that? What would happen if he died during his crime fights? Could he put Dick through that again?
Then again he supposed life in general was one almighty risk and that you risked your life just crossing the street these days.
Sitting up in bed with his back against the headboard Bruce stared out into nothingness for a moment. Before he was about to turn the light off he noticed something on the copied documents that Zucco threw at him that he hadn't noticed before or even thought of… Pushing away his covers he sat up more fully and took another look at the papers to make sure he was thinking correctly, standing he quickly moved over to the large bookshelves across the room that contained his fathers' old law books.
He thumbed through them one at a time till he came to the one he wanted, flipping the pages he kept going and going until he landed on a particular page and mouthed the words over and over.
"Alfred!" He shouted again and again. Alfred was just packing the last of his things when he heard Bruce shouting his name like a mad man and came running into his bedroom.
"What is it Master Bruce? What's all the hullabaloo about?!"
"It's fake." He handed the papers to him with an almighty smile. "And the law stipulates that I can have legal right to adopt the baby if he or she is left orphaned."
"But Sir…How do you know?"
"There's an exaggerated lever on the leg of the 'Y' at the end of the Child Social Services name. Last week when I was helping hand out gift to the needy I watched her sign a petition form and her signature has barely the same strokes as that penmanship. Also the seal isn't made of wax and I bet you if we took this down to the Bat-cave the Bat-Computer would tell me this paper is fake too."
"You tested it?"
"No but I can just feel it. Alfred go down to the Bat-cave and warm up the Bat-mobile I've got to pay a little visit to Commissioner Gordon."
"Three million smackers boss." Zucco said as he un-folded the last note down of the money he'd looted during today's adventures.
"Good, go put in the…"He paused as the dark figure of a Bat stood upon the next building along. Its dark knight figurine almost led them believe it was a giant bat but it was only when it started to swing down to the ground before slowly standing up straight did they all realise this man was most definitively not a giant bat but a Batman.
"Bruce Wayne sent me to collect his son." Batman said simply.
"Bruce Wayne has no legal rights!" Zucco growled and stepped up the plate.
"On the contrary Mr. Zucco Bruce Wayne is now the legal guardian of Dick Grayson."
"What! How?" He took out the papers that he'd been given the Grayson's. "I have it all right here!"
"They're fake Zucco intentionally made to look better than fakes for the intention that you'd never notice the casual line added on here or there or the exaggerated leg, no only a master in penmanship such as Bruce Wayne could ever see a detail like that. They had no intention of handing you their son for good Mr. Zucco they went to a master of the penmanship and asked them to intentionally fake these documents – with of course permission from the law. You see I paid a visit to Commissioner Gordon and whilst at first we didn't understand your plot it all came together in the end. You wanted to kill them and claim the money they'd set aside for their son – quite a hefty sum I'm told. But to do that you'd need to be his legal guardian and that would never work without getting them to officially hand him to you. But you see they foiled your plan by assisting the secretive help of police Chief O'Hara who was sworn under oath to secrecy until such a time as their death and at Dick's official request written in their will." He moved a little closer. "When you confronted them at the Circus you already knew about all of this didn't you Zucco, someone had told you they'd gone to the law and since it wasn't O'Hara or Gordon it could only have been one other person… "Patricia 'Tish' Laceford, Commissioner Gordon's – at the time – Chief Secretary."
"I wasn't aware of all this…" Commissioner Gordon's voice came in on top of the boat cabin he was standing on, where a handful of police officers with guns suddenly appeared too as well as Chief O'Hara. "Until I began going back through my old criminal files and happened upon a file of Mrs Laceford who I remarked to Batman looked strangely familiar."
"I then contacted Bruce Wayne and shared this information, he remembered seeing a red tishen haired wench at the Circus that day, standing next to Zucco and the Grayson's." Tish started to sulk into the background and began to run but was foiled by waiting police arms, Zucco stood amazed along with the others at what he was hearing.
"When you confronted them I can only imagine they begged for their sons' life, tried to shield him away from you and tried to offer you the only money they had – the roll of notes in the plastic wallet. But that wasn't enough, you fought with Mr Grayson and when he went down Mrs Laceford struck Mrs Grayson unknowing of the bundle in her arms and then you threw down a blazing flame in front of them all and most likely walked away proud of your accomplishment."
"So how'd you find us then Batman?!" Tish asked.
"The tracking device I planted I Dicks clothing was activated most probably by mistake when Dick was being changed."
"Run!" Zucco said almost so powerfully that he could feel his own voice vibrating off the walls of the building either side of him, they were by the harbour and he was almost tempted to dive into the sea but Zucco was looking after number one now and so were the others, they wouldn't help him escape.
Of course Batman had only one criminal in mind and his eyes never left that man as he darted around the others being rounded up but Zucco outwitting the cops. His cape draped over his shoulders and his eyes almost sunk into the dark black cowl. "Give it up Zucco…" Batman managed to get in as thunder rumbled high in the skies above them and spits and spots of rain tumbled down around their feet. "There's nowhere to run."
"Oh contraire Batman Tony Zucco never…" He side stepped left… "Gets…" He grabbed a barrel and tossed it at Batman. "Caught!" He took off running at top speed around Batman but diverted into the nearest factory when he noticed the river was guarded by police. His feet slipped and slid on the now wet dock as the thunder and lightning and rain began to drown out their footsteps, making everywhere dark and making the wooden docks slippy to the feet.
Luckily Batman was wearing his anti skid Bat-shoes so for him it was all a matter of keeping balance and control. Zucco ran into the abandoned old run down factory and across the boards of wood and strewn old machines left behind from days gone by. Batman ran after him almost following with ease as his well trained eyes never left that of Zucco…That was until they got up to the second level and for a split second as Zucco left the last step and he perused, he went out of sight.
The ground was quiet and their wasn't a hefty breath of air in hearing shot. Batman could feel him though and whilst he wanted to resist the temptation to speak he couldn't. The memory of his own parent's deaths lived long in his heart and he spoke words for Dick that he'd wished he could have spoken a long time ago.
"You murderer." He spat evilly lashing off the end of his tongue. "You murdered them in cold blood, you knew they wouldn't survive…But you did it anyway all for money." Batman shimmied around a beam and looked around not knowing Zucco was only beams away. "You criminals are all the same you're all selfish broken people who come from broken homes and dropped out of high school for your sheer lack of interest. Look where it's gotten you…" He shimmied around another corner all the while looming to see where this Zucco was.
Zucco cringed as he too attempted to remain as still as he could, only moving tiny steps at the clash of thunder and the flash of lightning allowing him to pick up a wooden beam off the floor and grip it tight in his hands. "You'll have to live with this for the rest of your life Zucco, justice will win out eventually…If not today then every day wondering over the shoulder when it's going to come, when will I see your face next time, what corner you will round and I'll be waiting there."
Not gonna happen buddy!" He swung as hard he could and managed a hard snap at Batman's back, the cowl ripped a little on the neck from the nail that had drawn a cut across his neck as it slapped. He called out in agony but he turned and flipped a kick into the man's stomach. He recoiled and dropped the wooden bat before taking off again, this time up two levels to the roof. He hid behind the grate of the air conditioning unit and waited, trying to catch his breath as the rain pelted down.
"You may have wounded me Zucco but that's only half of what I'm going to do to you."
"You'll never take me alive Batman!" Zucco shouted as he ran for the ledge.
Batman ran at full pelt and grabbed him only just by the left ankle. He hauled him with ease back up over the side and tossed him down managing to get a few knocks in.
Zucco fought back though and threw him off of his torso and into the wall so his shoulder grinded and his breath was caught momentarily with pain. "Zucco!" Batman stood and ran around the corner after the maniac but his feet skidded to a stop on the loose wet gravel as he watched him stood there on the lisps of the edge of the building holding out the baby to the river that swept down into the sea away from the dock. He wasn't sure how the baby had got up here but since he was Zucco was going to take great advantage of this situation.
"Zucco NO!" Batman tried but Zucco jumped with baby in tow. There was a gasp from below and a breath left Batman as he threw himself off that building following Dick Grayson.
In a way he was lucky with his landing, he went in feet first and was immediately in the right position to search for Dick, Dick was in the clutches of the mad man Tony Zucco and whilst he wanted nothing more than to get him away he was glad that Zucco had protected him from the impact with the water. Kicking up his might he swam to Zucco's side and underwater punched his face a couple of times, the impact was bare as he fought the grip of the man to get the baby air.
'If Zucco couldn't have him then nobody could' Zucco thought as he wrestled Batman. Unluckily for him though he lost his grip on the baby when he collided with a jagged rock in the water and the baby was set free straight into the arms of Batman and the cape he wrapped around him as he swam up and thrust his head into the air. Thankfully after a second or two and a pat on the back there was an immediate out spell of water followed by a loud cry almost like being born twice.
Batman held him over the waters edge momentarily as he quickly took a peak underwater to see if he could see Zucco…But alas he was gone…Dead or not Batman didn't know as he raised himself water level wanting to get somewhere on deck away from everyone else.
"Hold on little chum…" Batman whispered. "I'm here Dick…I'm here."
He pushed the baby onto the deck the farthest away from the crowd he could and in the interim he checked the freezing baby over even if his shoulder felt torn apart.
"It's okay Dick…Its okay I'm here now you're safe." He momentarily pulled up his cowl to show his face to him and this eased the boys' fears of the big masked crusader. "Bruce is here son." He bent down and kissed the baby boys tears before bringing him up to his shoulder – his good one – and pulling his cowl to cover his eyes. Before everyone arrived with blankets, clothing, food, hot coffee and god knows what.
"Where's Zucco Batman?" Commissioner Gordon asked as the last of the prisoners were loaded up.
"Swept out to sea Commissioner…I saw him strike his head on a rock moments before though so I presume he's dead but until a body is found…"
"We may never know." The Commissioner replied briefly. "Shall I take him to Bruce for you?"
Bruce didn't want to let go but he needed to so he could continue preserving his identity. "Of course Commissioner…" He handed the baby to him "He'll be checked over before being handed to Bruce. How about that huh Batman? Sure as heck got that Millionaires heart wrapped up in cotton there huh?"
"I believe so Commissioner, Bruce Wayne isn't one to fall easily for children."
"Its about time that millionaire playboy sat down and had a family…Maybe this will kick start those emotions in him?"
Batman stood and shook his head with a slight laugh "You never know…You never know."
Batman slowly removed the cowl sticky with blood from the blows to the shoulder from his head as Alfred tut-tut-ted and snickered. "Alfred you do make the most annoying sounds…" Bruce cringed as he removed the cape and felt it peel away.
"It's a good god you took a universal Bat-pill after getting out of that Dock Bruce otherwise I'd be inserting a very long and painful needle into that wound right now."
"I agree Alfred…Alfred I'm glad you stayed."
"Thank you Sir I am too." Alfred smirked thinking about the little tyke coming home.
"Auntie Harriet?" He asked knowing immediately Alfred would pick up on it.
"Making some tea in the kitchen and wondering where Bruce has gotten to."
"My excuse this time?"
"The only thing I could think of Sir was fishing."
"But I hate fishing…"
"You've taken up a new sport then."
"Of course where else have you been all day?"
"So fishing then." Bruce laughed and Alfred followed as Alfred sowed the final stitch in the gash of Bruce's shoulder.
"I would recommend a sling but it might be a little obvious."
"Agreed I'll persevere." Bruce walked across the Bat-cave and jumped up against the Bat-pole. "I'll see you shortly and Alfred…I may not say this often enough but…Thank you."
"Quite welcome Sir." He smiled as he put all the dreads of Bat-clothes to one side for now before turning off the lights and heading to the service elevator.
Things had taken a little longer than expected down at the hospital as all the papers got signed and handed over and Bruce had all the papers to sign and adhere to. But as he sat there and contemplated what he was about to do his mind turned back to the thoughts of his parents and what they would say, would they tell him this was the right thing to do? Adopt him change his name from Grayson to Wayne? Somehow it was like the little lad didn't have a choice he was being adopted and that was that.
Bruce didn't want it that way although he absolutely adored this little boy he wanted Dick to tell him what he wanted. But he was far too young and he was in desperate need of a home now more than anything.
Picking the papers up he slid them into the top draw of his desk and locked it, putting the key back in its hiding place before leaving his study, his mind was made up but not because he didn't want Dick to be his son but because he wanted to wait till Dick was older before he made his choice in the end he'd sort it out with the social services so that Dick could be his ward until such a time as he chose to be adopted by Bruce.
There were plentiful people buzzing around the room and whilst at first making the announcement wasn't easy watching the guests leave at his request was even harder, he wanted sometime alone with Dick and the whole hustle and bustle after the baby's traumatic events might have made him a bit recluse to attention at the moment.
Bruce dismissed Alfred for the night who proceeded to take Mrs Cooper to a show on in Gotham central, followed by a late dinner and a weekend at the finest hotel in GothamCity. Bruce was thankful to them both for this time alone, this time to be with the boy just the two of them, after everything they'd been through he needed that bond back, he wanted to build that bond and make it a trust.
The doorbell rang and Police Chief O'Hara came in first with the babe still in the van. "I wanted to make sure all was clear before I brought him in, ah he's a sweet lad, talking to me the whole way here." He joked.
"I'm sure he was Chief." Bruce said a little dumb founded as he stood anxiously by the door he hadn't seen Dick since handing him to the Commissioner at the dockside. "I'll get him do you have everything you need or do you need me to get anything Mr. Wayne?"
"No I'm fine I'm prepared this time." Bruce joked a little and waited as O'Hara picked up the bundle who'd put some weight on in the past few days and brought him wrapped up in a little Batman jacket to Bruce Wayne's arms, ready and waiting.
"Oh... my what…an adorable outfit…" He commented trying to look not so shocked and give the game away.
"Isn't it? I'd hoped Batman would have been here to see it but…Ah well there's always a next time."
"As soon as I get some free time I'll call him Chief O'Hara I promise."
"Ah you will, you're very lucky Bruce he's a fine lad and strong willed too the nurses thought he wasn't gonna make it but the little Robin pulled through alright."
'Robin?' Bruce thought as he closed the door behind the chief after thanking him one more time. "I quite like that name but you know you already have a name." Bruce smiled as he locked the door and took baby steps to the sofa where he laid the wee baby down and stared down at him, touching his cold cheek before softly removing his arms from his Bat-jacket and picking him up in his pyjamas to his sore shoulder…A constant reminder of what happened that night.
"Its okay Dick I'm here." He shushed as the little one softly cried once again took from comfortable surroundings and placed back in some strangers home. "Your home now Dick and all your troubles…Have gone away…For now."
"Hey how about I give you a little tour of your new home huh? Since you never got to see it properly the first time?" Bruce jokingly moved through the kitchen the hallway and some of the upstairs bedrooms before finally his study and the ever so hidden Bat-poles. "Just one but who knows… maybe one day there will be two?" Bruce commented with a smirk. Before they went downstairs to the Bat-cave he took off his jacket and tie and got a little more comfortable with Dick on his shoulder.
"And finally the piece de resistance, the Bat-cave!" He softly baby stepped into the Bat-cave and turned the minor lights on so as not to waste electricity. He couldn't help but smile down at Dick as Dick silenced. His age meant he probably couldn't make things out yet but he definitely saw something that was for sure.
"I worked very hard to build up this entire place Dick I started from the ground and went right up it took many years to complete and whilst I can't pretend it wasn't hard I can't pretend it was easy either." Bruce moved around the room and sat down in the chair next to the Bat-computer. Dick was happily nestled in his shoulder for the next half an hour as Bruce explained more and more to Dick and also took a few minutes to catch up with a few things he'd neglected.
He felt Dick shiver a little and noted it was time to go to bed, they were both extremely tired and Dick could barely keep his tiny eyes open. Thankfully he was all ready for bed so Bruce put him in his cot in Bruce's bedroom and went to the bathroom quickly changing and brushing his teeth before he hit the sack.
He barely touched head to pillow before his eyes shut and he was out.
Mere hours later around 2am Bruce stirred to the sound of a baby crying it almost fooled him for a few moments as he learned to adjust to Dick crying in the middle of the night, getting up was no small task though, for some reason he didn't want to get up, his body point blank refused to comply.
Dick was becoming impatient he wanted attention and he wanted it now more than ever. Finally Bruce gave in and sat up walking across to the cot and resting his head on his arms as he looked down at him, softly rubbing his hand over his belly in smooth circular motions to calm him down and reassure him he was there.
"I'm here its okay…" He whispered and turned the Bat-mobile on over his head smirking softly at Alfred's type of amusing joke.
It seemed to lull him temporarily and Bruce tiptoed back to bed his feet were barely under the covers when Dick cried out once more. "Oh boy this is going to be tough." He got out of bed and again soothed him, turned the mobile to the beginning and crept to bed…This proceeded to happen three more times before Bruce gave in and picked him up, trying him with the bottle – he refused, checking his diaper – clean.
Sitting down on the bed the little boy almost snuggled into his bare chest once again and closed his eyes. "Ah I see…" Bruce smiled lovingly at him as he lay back against the huge pillows pulling up the blankets around them.
"You know I won't allow this every night." He paused to kiss the baby's soft mound of fluff on his head. "But I'll let you off tonight…" His eyes gazed at the youngster as he rested shut his own eyes and cuddled gently the baby once again to his bare chest. "I love you…" He whispered with one more small butterfly kiss to his forehead before they both drifted into an almost endless sleep Bruce safe in the knowledge that his family was now complete…
Tune in next time for:
"Batman & Robin: The Toddler Years."
Same Bat-time, Same Bat-Channel!