Title: Wings Of Angels Trilogy Book I: Epidemic (8/14)
Pairings/Characters: Bruce/Dick, Clark, Ollie Queen/Dinah Lance, Alfred, Roy Harper, Sarah Dickinson, Dell Rayson
Series Notes: When Gotham falls to an epidemic, Batman and Robin need help to protect the city. All chapters can be found here.
Categories: Drama, Angst
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Summary: Bruce tries to come to terms with his guilt while Clark worries.
Date of Completion: April 17, 2007
Date of Posting: May 4, 2007
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, DC does, more's the pity.
Word Count: 2618
Author's Note: Once in awhile an original character will slip into the group up there in the Pairings/Characters line, so if you don't recognize the name, that' s probably why. :)
RIBBONS OF LIGHT
“You do know that Bruce will have to kill you, right?”
Chuckles. “I know.”
Dick radiated pure joy as they flew, Clark happy to give this gift to his young friend. A dip, a swirl, a spin-around and Dick laughed, the sound a delight to Clark’s ears.
Not a young boy any longer, he was sleek and beautiful and nineteen but still retained a brightness that had somehow survived the gloom of Gotham.
Clark went higher, then swooped down as Dick laughed again, the breath snatched away from him by the wind.
Clouds, fields, hills, an eagle soaring…
Dick began to gasp, his gloved fingers clutching at his collar with frantic motions.
“Dick, what is it?” Clark felt panic rise up in him.
“I…can’t…” Wheezing, harsh cough, more desperation, then, “…tell Bruce…I…love…”
Limp, a graceful burden in his arms, the panic rushing in again…
They’re all so fragile/how can I help them/Rao, give me the strength and knowledge…
& & & & & &
Clark came awake with a cry. Heart pounding, he looked around the room.
Wayne Manor. The guest room. Heart slowly returning to normal, he rubbed his face.
Not a good dream.
He threw off the covers and went into the bathroom, splashing water on his face. After returning to Metropolis to patrol after his Gotham night, he had flown back here to the Manor for a quick few hours’ sleep. Unfortunately, it had ended with the nightmare.
He opened the curtains and looked out over the grounds. It was going to be a beautiful day, the ocean sparkling in the pre-dawn light as the lawn looked bright and green, yellow and red flowers bending gently in the breeze.
How could everything be so beautiful with Dick so ill, possibly dying?
No, I won’t think that! Dick is not dying!
Clark dressed in the civilian clothes he kept in his cape pocket, then went downstairs to breakfast.
Ollie and Dinah were in the kitchen, Dinah helping Alfred while Ollie ‘supervised’ from his chair. Of course, the supervision didn’t last long as Dinah kicked the chair out from under him, but Ollie had quick reflexes and grinned.
“Okay, Pretty Bird, you’ve made your point.”
Clark swallowed. We’re missing our Little Bird. It was a nickname he’d given the child Robin years ago, and still thought of him that way, though he didn’t speak the name aloud much anymore.
“Hey, Clark! Glad to see you up!” Dinah cracked a few eggs over the frying pan. “Up for some eggs this morning?”
He took a seat as Ollie set a place for him. Guiltily he thought maybe he should be helping but he was still rattled from his nightmare.
Ollie sat down after pouring Clark some orange juice. “We haven’t heard anything new.”
“Neither have I.” Clark shifted his napkin from one side of his plate to the other in a nervous gesture. “I want to stop in at the hospital after breakfast. I’ll stay a few hours and then return to Metropolis. Clark Kent has to put in an appearance at The Planet. Can you and Dinah go stay with Bruce after I leave, around 10 o’clock?”
“No problem, big guy. That’s what we’re here for.”
Clark nodded with a faint smile, glad that his friends were here. Bruce was going to need them even more. He glanced up at Alfred, who was imperturbably placing freshly-cooked eggs on the plates that Dinah held for him.
“No need for apologies, Master Clark. It’s not your fault that I can’t be with Master Bruce.”
Clark was more impressed than ever with this man. Despite his fervent desire to be at Dick’s bedside, he had accepted the situation and knew that it couldn’t be helped.
I suppose it’s very British, this stiff upper lip, he thought with a small smile. Ollie noticed and smiled back. Respect was in his green eyes for the Wayne butler who was so much more than a servant.
“Eggs, gentlemen.” Dinah set the plates before the men and a few minutes later, she and Alfred were seated. She would hear none of Alfred waiting until they had finished to eat to partake himself.
“Alfred, could Dinah and I use the computers? We could get some business done while waiting to go to the hospital.”
“Certainly, Master Oliver. I can give you the guest password. If it doesn’t work, I can let you in with mine.”
Ollie nodded in satisfaction.
The radio was on, the volume at a low level but even people without super-hearing could hear, “The epidemic in Gotham has reached alarming proportions. The mayor has ordered all businesses except those considered essential such as supermarkets and pharmacies to be closed in addition to the already-shuttered schools, restaurants, and recreational places. He has urged citizens to stay close to home and to minimize their contact with the outside world. Masks should be worn starting today…”
Clark remembered the pictures he had seen of the masks people had worn during the 1918 influenza epidemic. While World War I still raged on, more people succumbed to the flu than to the bullet or mustard gas.
Fear cramped his stomach.
& & & & & &
Ribbons of light trailed out behind Robin, his graceful moves those of a dancer as he flew the rooftops in the gathering dusk.
“C’mon, Batman, step out of the shadows! Live in the sunlight!”
Batman smiled, his heart’s burden becoming lighter as he followed the enticing siren up and over the roofs of Gotham, the city humming below them as they flew above it, like angels...
Robin smiled as he leaped a tall building in a single bound, flying up, up, and away, away from him…
“Robin!” Batman cried, stretching out his hand as he vainly tried to grab onto the vision of light and laughter, but the golden motes slipped through his gloved fingers, shimmering with red, green, and yellow striations as Robin suddenly began to fall, crying out his name, then slumping limp as a rag doll, plummeting into the dark abyss of a stricken city…
Batman’s wings fanned out.
Angel of Death.
& & & & & &
Bruce jerked awake, heart pounding and the scream still in his throat. Gasping, he clutched at his throat as his eyes wildly looked around, finally focusing on the bed and the red-clad figure beside it.
Flame hair and brightness.
“I’m here, Robbie. Sorry it took me so long to get here. Donna will be by. We convinced the rest of the troops to wait ‘til you got home before trekking over to visit you. We figured give the Bat a break.”
Bruce slumped bonelessly against the wall. He was in shadows, unnoticed by Speedy. He must have fallen asleep standing up! Confused, he rubbed tired eyes and tried to shake off the feeling of dread. Slowly, he melted out of the darkness.
Roy turned to look at him. He hadn’t been startled. Good nerves.
“I’m so sorry, Bruce.”
Bruce hoped that his jittery nerves were not on display as he moved closer to the bed. Roy’s gloved hand was resting on Dick’s bare arm. He checked the monitors. No change.
“Thank you.” He cleared his throat, his voice sounding raspy. “Did you just get in?”
Roy nodded. “The Titans’ mission wrapped up. Donna’s in charge.” He didn’t say because of Dick’s absence. Dick was the leader of the Titans and had been since its founding. Bruce felt pride in that fact.
“You should check in at the Manor. Ollie and Dinah are there. Clark, too.”
“Wow, a regular house party, Robbie! Or maybe I should call it a superhero circus, huh?” Roy winked at the still figure in the bed, hiding his own sorrow, but Bruce saw it in the tension in the way he stood. His eyes probably would have been a dead giveaway, but he used the white lenses that shielded them from view.
Green eyes. He has green eyes, Bruce remembered. The red-and-yellow costume and the green eyes was a color scheme that hurt right now.
“I need to stretch my muscles for a few minutes.”
“I’ll be here,” Roy said.
Bruce nodded, then went over to the window, opened it, and slipped out.
& & & & & &
This time Roy was startled.
Wow, most guys would just walk out into the hall. But what am I thinking? This is the Batman!
Amused, he spoke his thoughts aloud for his friend, whose only response was the hiss and click of the ventilator.
Roy removed his glove, taking Dick’s hand. He felt a great sadness well up in him as he said softly, “Well, Short Pants, looks like you’ve got a battle ahead of you. Don’t worry, the Bat’s wings are all around you, and so are a lot of other people’s.” He smiled. “Do you know how well-loved you are? Probably not. You just go on with your life, doing all the things you need to do, like going to school and running around this crazy city at night, and keeping the Bat sane.” His smile faltered. “You do, you know. He’d go right over the edge without you, so don’t go anywhere, okay? Bad enough you’d be leaving old friends likes Supes and my crazy mentor and the Pretty Bird and Alfred, not to mention your team and your best bud.” He blinked back tears as he squeezed the too-warm hand. He knew about Dick and Bruce, having guessed it after close observation and gotten confirmation from his friend. He was the only one of the Titans who knew, though he suspected that Donna had guessed as well. “I know you wouldn’t mind seeing your parents again and letting Bruce’s know how much he misses them, but please, wait a little while longer before you become the star attraction of Heaven’s circus, okay?” He said the last with a teasing tone, otherwise he might go Bat-mad himself.
Sighing, Roy pulled up a chair and sat down.
& & & & & &
Sarah and Dell trudged back to the hospital from their breakfast. They were lucky to get the time. Both had grown weary of the cafeteria food and had eaten at Sarah's apartment, which was nearby.
They grimaced as they passed the gaggle of reporters and photographers camped outside the hospital. Ever since the news of Robin being admitted as a patient had hit the airwaves, they had converged here like vultures over a fresh carcass, fitting, Dell supposed, considering the death that hung over the city. In the great American tradition, despite death and pestilence all around them, the media was concerned with a celebrity.
Not that Robin wasn’t worth the attention, but somehow Dell knew that the bright young man who had come into her emergency room not so long ago would be appalled at the spotlight on him this time. He never shunned it and seemed to enjoy it, but he would be far more concerned with the people so sick and vulnerable in Gotham.
“…and there is no change for our intrepid Teen Wonder,” said Aaron Steadman, Channel 3 newsman. “Now, Miss, can you tell us your story?”
“Yes,” piped up a young woman of about twenty, “I saw Robin come into the Emergency Room a few nights ago with an older lady. He was so cute! He made everyone feel better, somehow.”
Dell refrained from rolling her eyes, and Sarah exchanged a smirk with her. The empty-headed young lady had started out as a typical airhead, but she had hit on something of substance: Robin had made everyone feel better in that Emergency Room.
An older woman spoke up next. “He was so good with a little girl whose mother was worried sick over her father. Gotham is so lucky to have people like him and Batman!”
The crowd gathered around the reporters murmured their assent.
Just before they reached the entrance, Sarah looked up as something caught her eye. “Well, I’ll be…” She shaded her eyes. “Is that the fuckin’ Batman?”
Dell looked up. A long, black cape fluttered out as a figure crouched very far up on the roof. “It is.” Her eyes spotted another cape. “And look, up in the sky…”
“…it’s a bird! It’s a plane!” they chorused in unison, smiling like schoolgirls at each other.
& & & & & &
Clark was startled to see the black cape billowing out in the wind on the roof of Gotham City Hospital. Fear tore through him. Had Dick…?
He flew down, grabbing Bruce’s shoulders. “Bruce, is Dick all right?”
Bruce looked at him from his crouching position. “No change.” He covered one of Clark’s hands with his own. “I just needed some air.”
Relieved, Clark sat down beside his friend as their hands disentangled. They watched as the sky streaked pink and gold and orange, the sun coming up over the rooftops. Down below, cameras clicked and reporters and civilians buzzed at the presence of both heroes on the roof of the hospital.
They remained silent, then Bruce said, “It’s my fault.”
“What is?” Clark was puzzled.
“Dick nearly falling to his death.”
“Bruce, you can’t control this flu…”
“We were pursuing the Joker. He called out my name. I didn’t register it consciously at the time. I was so intent…obsessed…with capturing that psycho that I ignored him.” A gloved fist clenched. “I never even looked back. He was trying to tell me that he wasn’t feeling right. We had stressed that we weren’t going to keep any possible symptoms from each other. It was too risky, with the speed of which this flu hit people.”
Clark carefully put a hand on Bruce’s shoulder. It was rigid with tension.
“You said it yourself. The Joker is a psycho. You couldn’t afford to let him get away.”
“But Dick needed me.” The words were rasped out, nearly ending in a sob.
“And what could you have done?” Clark asked softly. “Even if you had looked back and realized that Dick felt woozy, all you could have done in the end was take him to the hospital because he was going to fall ill no matter what.”
“How many times have I failed him because of this obsession of mine?”
Clark squeezed his shoulder. “Bruce, Dick understands about your need to be this...” He picked up a fold of the black cape and held it tightly. “He joined you in that Mission. He’s been helping you in your crusade against crime and in staying connected to the rest of us. He probably understands you better than anyone, and remember this…when he called you and you went after the Joker, he continued to pursue him, too. He could have just sat down on that rooftop and let you and Barbara handle it. The Mission burns in him, too.”
“Not the way it does in me.” Bruce’s clenched fist was trembling. “He doesn’t neglect the ones he loves while he pursues it.”
Clark laid his other hand over that shaking fist. “He loves you, Bruce. You’re worthy of that love. Your friends think so, too.”
Bruce looked around, meeting Clark’s eyes with his own hidden ones. He unclenched his fist.
“Now,” Clark said with a little smile, “Alfred sent me with some toiletries and clean underwear for you since you’ll be staying here for the foreseeable future.” He squeezed Bruce’s hand. “When you’re ready, I’ll be in Dick’s room.”
Clark flew down and through the window, a delighted yelp from Roy reaching Bruce’s ears.
He stared at the sunrise for several more minutes, then slid down the roof.