Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Alfred, Steve/Diana (Diana does not appear in this chapter), Ollie/Dinah (Dinah does not appear in this chapter)
Fandoms: DC Comics, MASH (Chapter 3)
Genres: Angst, AU, Challenge, Historical, Drama
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Claim: For my 2017 Bruce/Dick Bingo Card.
Prompt: AU Retcon
Pattern: Row A (Straight/Vertical Line Bingo) (3/3)
Prompt Count: (8/9)
Warnings: Author Chooses Not To Warn
General Summary: Dick is drafted into the Army during the Korean War, and he and Bruce must adjust to that hard fact of the Cold War.
Chapter Summary: Dick is shipped over to Korea.
Date Of Completion: June 20, 2017
Date Of Posting: October 15, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 1338
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: This AU is set in the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth-2. The Golden Age heroes lived on that Earth, and that included the Dynamic Duo. Earth-2’s Dick Grayson never split from Bruce, but he gradually made a life for himself away from Gotham. The retcon part comes as he winds up getting his Greetings from Uncle Sam.
Note: The incident in Dick's letter happened to my father. Pretty shocking for a 17-year-old from Massachusetts training for combat in Korea. Also the training camo scene. The Irish-American was my father. Welcome to the South!
All chapters can be found here.
General Sam Lane
February 6, 1953 C.E.
Dick finally got his orders to ship out on February 1, 1953. Roy would be with him as the entire squad was kept together. They were members of the 7th Infantry Division, with many layers between squad and division.
Bruce had followed the progress of the war, particularly after Dick had been drafted, and now read every newspaper article he could and watched every newscast, though news programs of the day were only fifteen minutes long, and you could see more footage in movie theaters than on TV. He went to a lot of movies.
Dick began sending letters home, written on Victory paper and giving Alfred and Bruce a good picture of what South Korea was like these days. He wrote to each man, who often shared parts with the other.
February 16, 1953
Korea is a very exotic country. I love the architecture in cities like Seoul, though a lot of it’s destroyed by now. The people have been suffering since June of 1950, and it shows. Seoul has seesawed back and forth between North Korea and U.N. forces. There’s sewage running in the streets and hordes of orphaned children scavenging for food, often fighting homeless adults.
The countryside is little better. Most of the farmers’ huts and villages have been burned, but some still stand. These who don’t go to the cities are living in caves and deep in the mountains. Hunger is everywhere, as the crops can’t be planted or harvested.
We got a couple of veterans mixed in with us, ‘veterans’ being guys our age having been here about six months ahead of us. Vic Stone is one of those guys, and gave us the rundown about the countryside, though we saw a lot for ourselves, even just ten days in-country.
I’m afraid that we’ll have to rebuild this country from the ground up. There’s barely anything left. The Koreans suffered under the Japanese for years, and now this war. Hopefully it will end soon.
Dick was a good correspondent, so the letters kept coming on a fairly regular basis. He proclaimed a desire to undergo paratrooper training after his combat duty.
“Paratrooper training!” Bruce read, exasperated.
“Master Dick always did like the air, sir,” Alfred said dryly.
Bruce shook his head.
It was March when the letters stopped coming. Bruce and Alfred read in the newspaper about the Battle of Old Baldy. It was a godforsaken hill in a godforsaken war, and Bruce hardly slept. He haunted the library by the fire when he wasn’t out patrolling, and the criminals of Gotham wondered if Robin’s disappearance had anything to do with the rage of the Bat these days.
Bruce shivered by the fire every night, rereading Dick’s letters and hardly daring to pray. The fire crackled and Bruce felt ice-cold, his fingers stiff and clumsy as he handled the precious letters. Alfred would sometimes bring him tea when he wasn’t trying to sleep, and a few times sat with him, saying nothing, but his presence was a comfort.
They finally received a letter from Dick a week after the battle.
April 1, 1953
Well, we had our first major battle, and Roy and I survived. Sorry I can’t give details. The censors would chop up this letter.
Just letting you know I’m fine. So is Roy. If I never hear a Chinese bugle again, it’ll be too soon.
The Battle of Pork Chop Hill was next. Bruce learned through contacts at the Defense Department that the 7th Infantry was involved.
“The Chinese are making a huge push,” said Steve Trevor over the phone.
Bruce’s heart sank. “How big a push?”
“One of the major pushes of the war.”
“Sir.” Alfred stood in the doorway of the study. He looked bone-white and his hand was trembling. He held a piece of paper. “Telegram, sir.”
Bruce felt his blood run cold. He accepted the telegram. “Thank you, Alfred.” He was surprised that his voice was steady as his hand was shaking.
The words We regret to inform you swam before his eyes. He tried to read the rest.
“He’s M.I.A., sir.”
Missing in action. No body. There was still hope.
He got on the phone to Steve again, who promised to do what he could to find out information.
The grandfather clock in the next room sounded loud in the sepulchral quiet of the Manor. Bruce stared out at the gardens, the day overcast in the way of early April. He allowed himself to imagine Dick in the gardens, smiling and laughing and enjoying the flowers that he helped Alfred maintain.
Beauty surrounded by beauty.
Hours crawled by, and then the phone rang, loud and jarring. Bruce snatched up the handset.
Empathy flooded Bruce. “What, Ollie?”
Bruce closed his eyes for a moment. “So’s Dick.”
A sad sound drifted over the phone. “I’m sorry.”
Bruce opened wet eyes. “Me, too.”
“I was going to call Steve, but I suppose you have already?”
“Okay.” A pause. “Dinah’s really broken up. How’s Alfred?”
“Oh, you know, stiff upper lip.” While his heart’s breaking.
“Yeah.” Ollie sighed. “Keep me in the loop, okay?”
After he hung up, Bruce stared out the window.
“Diana’s on the ground in Korea. She’s busy on Pork Chop Hill, but promised to search for Dick and Roy and their missing squad when she gets the chance.”
Steve’s call had been yesterday. He promised to call Bruce and Ollie the minute he heard from Diana.
Bruce went through his paperwork by rote. Patrol was the same way. He was hollow inside, desperate to keep a spark of hope alive.
He heard from Steve three days later, but Diana had found no trace of the squad.
Bruce drifted through the days, keeping Gotham safe while his heart ached. He drove himself relentlessly until he tumbled into bed one night, exhausted.
He awoke, the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall matching the rhythm of the ocean’s waves. He sat up, the space beside him in bed empty. He rolled out of bed, dressing in jeans, a Harvard sweatshirt, and sneakers. He glided down the shadowed hall, down the staircase, and out into the cool spring night.
He walked down the path to the beach, his way illuminated by bright moonlight. A light winked in the lighthouse as the waves lapped against the shore.
He saw Dick skipping stones across the water. He walked toward him with his hands in his jeans pockets. Dick turned and smiled.
“Hey, yourself. What’s up?”
“Oh, just enjoying the night. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Dick kicked off his sneakers and waded into the surf. He was wearing jeans and a bright, yellow T-shirt.
“Come on in, the water’s fine.”
Bruce took off his sneakers and followed Dick. The water felt cool on his skin.
Dick dove and broke the surface, diamonds cascading down his hair and T-shirt. He broke Bruce’s heart.
“I love you,” Bruce said.
“I love you, too.” Dick’s smile was impish, though a little sad.
“Why are you sad?”
“Because I can’t stay.”
“I don’t know.” Dick flashed a smile and touched Bruce’s shoulder. “It’s just a dream. Nothing to worry about.”
“Is this just a dream?”
“I think so.” Dick began to backstroke. “What are you doing on the 4th of July?”
Bruce swam aimlessly. “Probably a barbecue in the backyard. Not interested in going to the city. We can see the fireworks from here.”
Dick drifted away with a sad smile, dissolving into the moonlight.
He should be in sunlight.
“Dick, wait! Don’t leave me!”
Bruce lunged for his lover, but Dick was already gone, leaving behind only a trail of sparkles on the water.
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