Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Alfred Pennyworth, Elliot Robbins, William/Emily (Emily does not appear in this chapter)
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): G
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: A series of daring robberies on Gotham City’s Gold Coast catches the attention of the Raven and the Nightingale.
Chapter Summary: Bruce and Alfred search for Dick.
Date Of Completion: March 9, 2015
Date Of Posting: November 16, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1466
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Submitted to my 2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
October 26, 1907
Into the dark
From my soul.
Edgar Allendale Poirot
"The Tell-Tale Blood"
Bruce closed his book and stretched. He had enjoyed a very relaxing afternoon and was looking forward to an equally relaxing evening. He rose from his chair and stretched again with a yawn. He had fallen asleep for an hour after listening to the rain. Working the kinks out, he wandered out to the kitchen.
“Have you seen Dick?” he asked Alfred.
“Not for several hours.”
“He must be exploring,” Bruce said fondly. “I’ll see if I can find him.”
“Good luck, sir.”
Bruce smirked at Alfred’s dry tone. He was well aware of Dick’s ability to stay one step ahead of him, but Bruce knew this house far better than his lover did.
He hurried up the staircase and checked the bedrooms. All were empty. He went up the stairs to the third floor but every room was empty, too, including his old playroom. He paused inside the room and gazed at the rocking horse. Memories flooded him, as always bittersweet for what he had lost. He smiled gently at the teddy bear in the rocking chair and quietly closed the door.
“Where is that tease?” he muttered.
Bruce even checked the attic but only breathed in dust, resulting in sneezes and a few curses. He went downstairs and met Alfred coming out of the kitchen.
“Could Dick have gone down to the stables?” Bruce asked.
“Possibly, but the horses are in the capable care of Mr. Regan.”
“Yes, I know.” Bruce rubbed his chin. “Would you check the rooms on this floor? I’m going to check the bedroom again.”
“Very good, sir.”
Alfred set aside the potatoes he had been peeling and went to the study. Empty.
His next stop was the library. At first glance he saw nothing amiss, and made a quick round of the room. Something was off.
That was when he saw the grandfather clock slightly ajar. Frowning, he went to investigate.
“What?” He felt a cold rush of air before he saw the aperture. “Master Dick?”
It was too dark to see anything. He would need a lantern.
Alfred hurried out to the foyer. “Master Bruce!”
Bruce appeared on the landing. “What is it?”
“Come to the library.”
Bruce quickly followed Alfred to the library. His jaw dropped as Alfred asked, “Were you aware of this opening, sir?”
“No. What is all this?”
“It appears that it is a series of stone steps.” Alfred grasped Bruce’s arm. “Wait until I get some lanterns, sir.”
“But what if Dick is down there?”
“You will not see him in that darkness unless you have eyes like a cat.”
Alfred swiftly went to fetch the lanterns.
Bruce waited impatiently, but Alfred was right. It was too dark to see anything.
His voice echoed and he strained to hear anything, but except for the faint drip-drip-drip of water, nothing reached his ears.
Alfred came back in record time with the lanterns. He lit both and they began their descent on the stone steps. Bruce touched damp stone as he carefully went down the steps, shivering a little at the cold air. It reminded him of the Cave of the Winds in Niagara Falls. As he and Alfred got lower, he could hear a strange squeaking.
Gradually a panorama opened up before the explorers: a huge cave with the rushing sound of water off in the distance.
“Master Bruce, over there!”
Bruce followed Alfred’s pointing finger and saw the crumpled body a few feet away. Gasping, Bruce ran over.
“Dick! Dick! Are you all right?”
A foolish question, Bruce thought distractedly, but he was desperate to find out the answer. He touched the younger man’s shoulder.
Dick groaned, moving slightly. “Ow!”
“What hurts? Anything broken?” Bruce asked anxiously.
“Umm…” Dick appeared to be taking inventory. “No, no shooting pains. Just a lot of scrapes and a headache.”
“Before you sit up, young sir, can you move your legs?” Alfred asked.
Dick concentrated and for a chilling moment, he was motionless, then his legs moved. Both Bruce and Alfred exhaled in relief. Bruce helped Dick sit up.
“Are you all right?”
“Just banged up.” Dick looked around in awe. “It’s a cave! An honest-to-goodness cave!”
“And it sounds like a waterfall nearby,” Alfred observed.
“Why is there an entrance down to a cave from your library?” Dick asked Bruce.
“I don’t know. Unless…”
The rustling of wings caught their attention. All three looked up.
“Bats!” Dick’s tone was astonished.
What appeared to be a dozen bats flew from the heights of the cave ceiling and disappeared into a dark tunnel.
“Let’s go explore!” Dick started to get up.
“Whoa, hold on there, buddy.” Bruce helped Dick stand up with Alfred’s capable assistance. “You’re going to bed for the rest of the day.”
“You were out cold from a knock on the head. In fact, I’m calling Dr. Robbins.”
“I’m perfectly fine,” Dick protested.
“I must concur with Master Bruce, young sir. We should get you checked out,” Alfred said.
Dick sighed. “All right, I can’t fight both of you.”
The progress up the steps was careful, and once they reached the library, Bruce firmly pushed the clock shut. “We don’t want any bats up here,” he joked.
They managed to get Dick into bed and comfortable. Alfred propped double pillows up against the headboard while Bruce went down and called the doctor.
When he returned to the bedroom, Alfred left to brew some tea. Bruce fussed with the pillows until Dick clutched his arm and said in exasperation, “I’m fine.”
“You have a headache.” Bruce was implacable.
Dick sighed again, obviously aware that he was outmatched this time. He leaned back against the pillows.
Alfred brought up the tea and Dr. Elliot Robbins arrived soon after. White-haired and wearing pince-nez, the doctor examined Dick, clucking his tongue and admonishing his patient.
“No more falling down the stairs, young man.”
Dick laughed. “I’ll do my best, Doc.”
By mutual agreement, the cave discovery was not mentioned. The elderly doctor put away his stethoscope in his black bag.
“Here’s a powder for your headache.” He handed the packet to Alfred. “You should stay awake the rest of the day. No falling asleep!”
Robbins closed his bag. “If the headache persists into tomorrow, give me a call.”
“We will,” Bruce assured him. He held out his hand. “Thank you for coming by, Doctor.”
“You know I would, Bruce. I’ve been your family doctor for years.” Robbins smiled.
“This way, Doctor,” Alfred said.
Alfred escorted Dr. Robbins out. Dick thumped the blanket with his fist in frustration.
“Calm down,” Bruce said placidly.
“I am going to be bored.”
“Maybe.” Bruce’s smile was unsympathetic.
Dick huffed. “Before the bats appeared, you sounded like you had an idea about that cave.”
“I did.” Bruce looked thoughtful. “I think it might’ve been a hiding place on the Underground Railroad.”
Dick’s eyes widened. “What? How?”
“My parents told me some stories about it. Grandfather William and Grandmother Emily were part of it.”
“Yes, they were grand people.” Bruce fussed with the blanket. “They were leaders in the Gotham City Abolitionist Society. They were instrumental in raising funds and such.”
“I like the ‘and such’.”
“Yes.” Bruce brushed the hair out of his lover’s eyes. “The cave would have been a perfect hiding place in those antebellum days.” He smiled fondly at Dick. “And you want to explore it right away.”
Bruce laughed. “Tomorrow. For now, let me get the cards and help you stay awake.”
Alfred brought fresh tea and Dick and Bruce played cards for the rest of the day. When Dick was finally allowed to get some sleep, Bruce went downstairs to the library. He stood in front of the bookcase and pondered.
He began searching through the books and found a slender, black-bound volume with the title stamped in gold: MY JOURNAL. He carefully leafed through the pages, their brittle, yellowing leaves filled with fading blue ink in an elegant hand. He began to read:
September 27, 1859
Our latest group of runaways arrived this evening. We have provided them with blankets, hot food, and thick pallets on which to sleep, well away from any inquisitive persons.
This is necessary. Slavery is a blight on our country. I fear the righteous wrath to come for this unpardonable sin.
Bruce closed the journal. Written by his grandfather with passages also by his grandmother, it promised to be an amazing journey. He placed it back in the bookcase.
Dick and I will read it together.
Satisfied, Bruce left the library, thinking of a busy day ahead tomorrow.