After no response from Robin, Batman carried his fallen partner to the batplane to return to Gotham City. He would never forget the sad look on Superman's face.
"I will come by later and help you with the batcave, getting it rearranged and back to its present configuration."
Batman nodded his approval.
Wonder Woman was near tears when she tried to approach him, but Batman turned away. He didn't want to confront her now.
Flash turned away so Batman wouldn't see his stricken face, but he hoped that he understood. No one wanted to be reminded of another time, five years ago as Batman carried Robin to the batplane. Even so, they could not help be reminded of what Batman had lost before, but back then, he had been carrying the battered and bloodied body of Jason Todd. Batman entered the plane and lay Robin down in one of the secure sleeping cots. He added them when the plane would have to travel overseas and the trip was going to take at least a full day. After securing his partner, Batman moved to the cockpit and plugged in the coordinates to the Batcave's hidden hanger. He allowed the plane to take off on its own while he went back to sit with Robin. He removed Robin's mask and then removed his cape. Those he folded and placed them in a secure locker. Dick Grayson lay oblivious to Batman's ministrations.
As the batplane soar on, Batman checked its course to see that everything was spot on. He made sure that there were no other aircraft within his vicinity and instructed the plane to avoid all air traffic just in case. He wanted to give himself time to get Dick Grayson undressed from his Robin uniform and back into his own clothes. If he did come to . . . No . . . When he came to from the coma-like state, and if those words worked to release the rest of the locks on his memory, Dick would wonder what had happened. And he might think it strange that he was dressed in his old Robin uniform. There was also something else he needed to do.
"Alfred pick Tim and Damian up from Dick's apartment," Bruce said.
"Yes, Sir," Alfred replied, picking up something in Bruce's voice though he knew Bruce tried to hide it. "Master Bruce, is anything wrong?"
"You might say that," Bruce said, 'Good old Alfred, leave it to him to know that something was wrong.' Bruce changed the subject before his emotions would betray him further. "Call Leslie. Have her meet me in the batcave and prepare for surgery."
"Surgery? For whom, Sir?"
"I think we both know."
"How? What happened?" There was alarm in Alfred's voice.
"Let's just say we missed something and leave it at that."
"I shall call her right away, Master Bruce."
Bruce removed his cowl as he signed off. He moved back to sit with Dick, once again placing his right hand on his son's chest, feeling his heartbeat.
"It's been a long time since you and I have been in this position," he said. "You and I have been through so much. You've given me total trust and have always told me the truth, even when it hurt. Why haven't I been able to do the same? Maybe I've seen too much corruption, too much hate in this world. 'Trust me, your secret is safe with me,' you said, soon after I revealed the man behind the mask. You knew what I meant, and I didn't just mean that Bruce Wayne was the Batman. Bruce Wayne also had a mask. You knew, because you saw far deeper than the rest. And you took that secret with you, and I never really appreciated that. I'm proud of you. Please, come back. I need you. I seemed to have lost myself. I went through hell and back. Hell I went through time, seeing just how evil forms and corrupts. You and I have been in this position so many times of late, testing, posturing, and in the end it comes down to having faith. You were right even then, when I gave you the mantle the first time. I didn't have faith. Faith implies giving up something. And I wasn't willing to do that. It's not that I didn't have faith in you, I didn't trust myself in making the right decision. I was second guessing myself rather than just trusting. I thought Gotham needed someone . . . I should have realized there was someone, someone who put total trust in me. You said you'd die for me. I just hope you will live for me. I don't know if I can raise Damian alone. You've become my conscience. When does the son become wiser than the father? Without you . . . I don't know if . . ." Bruce couldn't finish. He allowed his emotions to surface . . . to take over . . . letting the tears fall while the batplane flew home.
Arriving back at the batcave, his composure once again under control, Batman was met by Alfred and Leslie. They tried not to show their concern as they saw Bruce carrying Dick close to his chest. He also carried an envelope in one of his hands. Bruce moved to the medical bay and placed Dick on a gurney. Without another word he approached Leslie and handed her the envelope that contained the X-rays. He then moved over to the computer without saying another word.
After looking over the X-ray, Leslie moved over to Bruce. "What made you suspect that something else was going on?"
"He was having headaches. Clark said the injury looked superficial, but the headaches were getting worse. I took a chance."
"Bruce, I deeply apologize,' Leslie stated. "If I had known something like this was going on, I would have pulled him in."
"There's no need, just do what you can."
Bruce watched as Leslie prepped Dick Grayson for surgery. Alfred assisted. The wound to Dick's head wasn't that severe, but the hairline fracture still needed repair and any swelling was going to take time to go down. The surgery only took an hour.
"I would like to talk to you about that surgical sealant you developed," Leslie stated. "Most surgical sealants are for tissue. This glue that you developed seemed to be filling the crack in bone."
"It's similar to the epoxy used for medical devices, but it's been adapted for bone," Bruce stated. "With the number of broken bones I've received over the years, and the time I've lost in recovery, I thought it best that something of this nature was developed."
"Bruce, are you telling me that I have just used an experimental treatment on your son? That is unethical. What if something goes wrong?"
Bruce didn't say anything, but handed Leslie a stack of papers he had prepared. He waited until she looked them over.
"I don't understand."
"Human trials were last year. Not a single patient suffered from side effects or rejection. And that's due to the fact that a component of the glue is the chemical make-up of bone itself. It is being released for wide distribution this year."
"Why didn't you tell me this?" Leslie questioned.
Bruce gave a sideways smirk, "You haven't been coming to the Board meetings, either at Wayne Enterprises or the Medical Review Board at Gotham General."
"How long before Dick will be able to resume his normal activities?"
"Two weeks," Leslie stated. "Stress to him that he will not be allowed to jump off buildings and he must wear a helmet at all times."
"I will do my best, but you know how he is,' Bruce said.
"Yes, like father like son," Leslie observed. "And if he doesn't I'll sedate him for at least a week. Now what about his memories returning?"
"We were making progress until this . . ."
Leslie could see the stress in Bruce's face. "Keep me informed."
"I shall take Leslie home," Alfred stated. "I've moved Master Richard up to his room."
"Thanks, Alfred. I'll check on him in a moment," Bruce said then went to shower and remove the rest of his uniform. After changing Bruce moved up the Dick's room to keep watch. His mind kept working on the problem at hand. He kept returning to the unanswered questions as to who had done this and how did Dick escape if he had been shackled, his memories blocked. And had he been right when he whispered those eight little words that Dick has spoken not only to him, but to Clark Kent and to whomever Dick knew. A noise out in the hall caught his attention.
"I did not, Drake," Damian argued. "It was your own stupidity . . ."
"Enough Damian," Tim growled back. "I'm too tired to argue."
"Boys," Bruce said, forcefully without raising his voice.
"Bruce, how's Dick?"
"Has he remembered . . ." Tim didn't finish the statement, his growing fear evident on his face.
"Not yet," Bruce said looking back into Dick's room.
"Bruce, something's wrong. Please tell us."
Bruce remained silent surprised that Tim could read him, though he was reminded that Dick could also read him like a book, and knew more about the man's emotional state than . . .
Damian surprised Bruce by placing a hand on his father's arm, a gentle gesture of reassurance that seemed out of character and yet was not lost on Bruce.
'Dick probably taught him that,' Bruce thought. The thought of Dick not being around to help him with Damian nearly caused Bruce to break a second time. 'No. Dick's got to remember.'
Bruce gave out a resigned sigh. "Dick has a hairline fracture on the left side of his skull. It's been repaired . . ."
"NOO!" Dick cried out at that moment.
Bruce raced into his eldest son's room to see him thrashing about.
"I WILL NOT! LET ME GO!" Dick's voice was filled with rage. He was fighting something in his dreams, a nightmare.
"Dick!" Bruce grabbed Dick's arms to try to restrain him.
Dick lashed out, socking Bruce in the jaw, thinking he was fighting the enemy in his dreams. The force of Dick's punch was nearly as powerful as Bruce's, which surprised even him. Bruce had never been on the receiving end of one of his sons' punches, not since they were younger and when they were in training. Damian and Tim rushed in, each grabbing an arm to assist in restraining their brother.
"Let me go! I won't be your Talon!"
"Talon?" Damian questioned. "What does he mean?"
Tim's eyes went wide. He knew, but was afraid to even speak about it out loud.
Bruce moved in at that moment to place a hand on Dick's cheek. "Dick, Dick. Snap out of it. Your home."
Dick's eyes snapped open then focused on the face that was right in front of him. "Bruce?" His eyes narrowed. "How . . . what?"
"What do you remember?" Bruce asked.
Dick hesitated for a moment, thinking. "Everything," he answered.
"I guess those eight little words worked," Bruce said quietly with relief.
Then all hell broke loose as the doors to Dick's private balcony shattered as something large came through. It knocked Bruce aside where he flew across the room, falling against a bookcase. Tim and Damian both launched themselves at the large imposing figure, but it brushed them aside like paper. Dick's eyes became wide and filled with terror as he tried to scramble out of the way, but in his weakened state from being tortured and starved he wasn't fast enough. The large figure grabbed him, pulling Dick into his arms then launching itself out the broken balcony doors and into the night.
"NO!" Bruce scrambled up from the floor, rushing toward the balcony and watched helpless as his son was taken from him for the second time.
In the course of the struggle, when Bruce fell against the bookcase, a small leather bound book was dislodged off the top, hidden from view. It was covered in dust. It fell open to a page that had been constantly turned to at one time. Tim saw the book fall and his eyes fell on the passage and he could not help but shudder when he read it.
"Beware The Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they'll send The Talon for your head."
To Be Continued with
Where Does Loyalty Lie