Dark And Stormy Day

I watched as Batman walked away. I felt something inside me snap, irritation at the casual way he'd disregarded my suggestion. Anger at the way he didn't even look back to see if I was following, hurt at the way he didn't ask if I was ok. He'd told me not to come, and I had been in worse scrapes before. But it would have been nice to receive *some* indication that he knew I was still breathing -- and cared.

He was intent on finding Harvey, I knew that. Harvey had been an old, and dear friend. Bruce felt responsible for making sure Harvey was taken care of, had every chance to get rid of the second face of his insanity. I knew all that. That was why I stayed quiet. It didn't change how I felt.

I waited until Batman had almost disappeared from view, then I made my way to the rooftops and followed. It wasn't hard keeping Batman in sight, and after a few blocks I figured out where we were headed. The club Bruce and Harvey had frequented, once upon a time. I found a place to settle in, where I could watch the events unfold. And waited.

I saw as Batman confronted Two-Face. I watched, fists clenched, as they trussed Batman up and hung him beneath the wrecking ball, explosives armed and counting down. I watched as Two-Face flipped his coin, and inexplicably it landed on edge. As he chased it, flipping it again, I made my move.

Two-Face's henchmen were about to shoot Bruce. I swung in and knocked them down just in time. Batman got himself intangled with Two-Face, I hand my hands and feet full with four gorillas. I was able to put them away, though, and looked over to see how Bruce was doing.

He and Two-Face were still at it, Two-Face chasing his stupid coin and Bruce trying to reason with him. I sighed, and began dragging the unconscious bodies of the four men into the elevator. The explosives were going to go off soon, and I didn't want any deaths on my hands. I sent a batarang zooming into the elevator, bouncing it off to ricochet into the 'G' button for ground floor. I gave myself a small grin at my aim, and turned to see if Bruce was finally finished with Two-Face.

I saw Two-Face hanging from the ledge. I moved forward just as Batman leaned down to grab at his wrist. They hung there, motionless, for a second, and I crossed half of the distance to Batman to help him drag Two-Face back up. I saw, as if in stop-motion film, Two-Face bring his other hand up, grab Bruce, then they both fell over the side.

I leapt forward, seeing through the breaks in the floor that Batman was in control of the fall, getting his cable and grappling hook out from his belt.

Then the explosives went off. I saw myself falling, the building crumbling below me, girders and masonry collapsing beside me. I felt the stomach-wrenching thrill of free-fall, swept up in the adrenalin of the fear at where I might land. I looked around me, searching for something to send my own hook out to, to pull myself out of this.

All I saw as I fell was an image of Batman, making sure Two-Face was safely ensconced in his grip, heading down safely to the ground. Then steel beams and bricks and dust blocked my view. Something very heavy and hard slammed into me, and I lost whatever air was in my lungs. I frantically tried to breathe again, then everything around me was rushing in, surrounding me and pulling me down.

I don't know whether I blacked out, or closed my eyes for a few seconds before opening them to find myself trapped among crumbled concrete and steel. I craned my head around, looking for any sign of an opening or any sign of which way was up. Fortunately I had some room to move, so I took a piece of rock and dropped it. I was lying on my back, facing the sky. Well, facing unknown amounts of demolished building parts which were between me and the sky.

I triggered the beacon on my watch so Bruce could home in on me... then I realised my watch had been smashed rather thoroughly. Ok, so that would make it a little harder to find me. Perhaps I could help, though. I dug around at my belt, and found the penlaser I had tucked at my side -- the only place that apparently had gone undamaged. Moving had told me that not only my watch had gotten smashed. Several loose pieces of equipment were laying around my waist, as if they had once been crimefighter's tools. Several pieces of loose bone told me my ribs were going to complain vociferously if I moved.

I didn't have much choice, though, if I wanted to be sure they found me before my air ran out. I flicked the pen on, and began cutting small hunks out of the debris above me, and sifting it to rest beneath me. This way I could, slowly, work my way to the top.

It would have been nice to know how far I was. I had no way of knowing, so I put it out of my mind and continued cutting. My knee started yelling at me whenever I moved. I clenched my teeth and kept working. I listened carefully for any sounds of rescue workers, or Batman, or both. I didn't hear anything. I must have been farther down than I thought.

After what felt like a day or two I saw a stream of light. Probably only an hour, though. It was definitely light, indicating that there was still a world outside of my tiny dirt dungeon. I had never been claustrophobic before, but I could understand the inclination. I might even indulge, later, in a few rounds of it. Not now, though. I didn't have time.

I kept cutting and sifting, ignoring as much as I could the flares of pain in my ribs and knee. They kept me from shouting when my hand broke free to touch real open air. I'd made it! I wanted to yell, and promised myself to yell loudly after my ribs had been taped. I began pushing larger pieces of debris out of the way, waiting to see some relieved faces and helping hands appear.

I had gotten myself entirely free of the demolished building when I realised there was no one here. No one searching for me... no one knew I had been down there. I was intensly glad I'd had the penlaser, and had used it instead of waiting for the rescuers.

Where the hell was Bruce? I looked around for signs, but he and Two-Face were gone. Vanished. I'd been abandoned.... The surge of anger helped me crawl down the mound of debris towards the street. It masked the pain I felt at moving so swiftly, and spurred me to disregard whose bike I was stealing, when I hotwired a motor.

I couldn't hold myself up, though, so I reached into my pouch and found something else which had survived the crash. The first aid kit. I took out the painkiller and gave myself a healthy dose. In seconds I was feeling great... angry as hell, but great. I got on the bike and gunned it, held it steady the entire drive home.

I parked it in the front and hopped inside, holding on tightly to the wall which, to be fair, was moving ever so slightly. I would have laughed at it, but instead I yelled that it had no right to be moving on me. I continued another few feet when hands came up beside me and began holding me up. I looked over at Al, and grinned.

"Crazy man. How about some hot cocoa?"

"You're injured, Master Dick. Let me get you to the infirmary."

"Way cool, man. Sounds great. What a big house." I looked around as he helped me navigate through the house to the upper-most part of the Batcave, the only part closely connected to the house. The infirmary was well-stocked, and Al was well-trained. He had me on a table, costume off, and was wrapping me up before I knew it. Then again, I may have been delirious.

I fell asleep on the table.

When I woke up, the look on Bruce's face told me that not only was he feeling guilty enough for me to get whatever I wanted for the next three weeks, but that Al had chewed him out enough that something like this would probably never happen again. I yawned.

"How do you feel, Dick?" He sounded concerned, tinged with guilt. He had left me, he knew that. So wrapped up in his concern for Harvey he hadn't even noticed me. I was in enough pain -- both physical and emotional, that I was willing to be vindictive.

"Go away, Bruce." I rolled my head away, closing my eyes to go back to sleep. I had sounded down-right casual, like he was some pest I didn't want to deal with.

I didn't hear anything until the soft whisper of his shoes on the floor as he left. The flash of triumph faded too fast, though, and I was left with a hollow ache. I wanted him to respect me, appreciate me. Acting like a spoiled brat wouldn't do that.

I decided to apologise. Later. Right now I wanted sleep, and more painkillers. Al came in silently, gave me something, and soon I had my wish. At least, that's what it felt like.

This time I woke up in my bed. Someone -- must have been Bruce -- had carried me up here. I took a moment to evaluate the bandages on me. My knee was taped and braced, my ribs were taped tightly, and various small bandages marked the rest of my body. I didn't look too bad... until I realise what a knee injury meant. Could mean. Probably meant. I began praying it didn't mean that, and turned my energies on promising to behave during my convalescence so I wouldn't damage my chances at full recovery. To hell with getting even with Bruce. I wanted to be able to regain full mobilty in my knee.

I heard a soft knock, and called for them to enter. Bruce stuck his head in, loooking hesitant. He looked ashamed, guilty, and afraid that I would yell at him again. I was struck by how often in his life he must have felt like this. I forgave him and apologised swiftly, so I could ask the frightening question.

"Bruce I'm sorry I didn't mean it it wasn't your fault is my knee going to be ok?" My voice was shaking and I must have sounded like a little kid.

Bruce moved over, obviously not sure he had truly been forgiven -- at least not by himself. He sat down on the edge of my bed. "It looks like it will be fine. You'll have to stay in bed, then go through several weeks of physical therapy. But it looks like you'll be fine." He tried to look reassuring, but he looked miserable.

I reached out and took his hand. "Bruce, I'm really sorry. I was just mad at you for worring so much about Tw- Harvey. I was... I was acting like a selfish kid, wanting you to always notice me. I didn't think about how much you needed to try and reach your friend. Is he ok?"

Bruce stared at me for a long, silent time. His face was blank and his body tense, then slowly he began to relax. "Harvey is in the hospital for the criminally insane. The doctors are going to take good care of him. He... might recover."

I reached out and squeezed Bruce's hand. "I hope so. It's obvious you care a lot for him. You must have been great friends."

Bruce nodded. "We were. Which makes me realise how unfair I've been to you. I *have* been ignoring you, and taking you for granted. You're always there for me, helping me, saving my life, taking on whatever problems I have with the world... and I never give anything back. I never ask if there's something you need, a problem you want help with. Never tell you... how much I appreciate your being here, being my partner. And I do. If you weren't so good at it, I wouldn't be able to... forget how much you help me." Bruce half smiled, I returned it. He relaxed more, and continued. "I want to tell you thanks, Dick. For everything. And I am so sorry I left you there, under that building...."

He looked away, obviously unable to say 'sorry for almost letting you die because I was busy'. I understood, but I wasn't angry anymore. I tugged at his hand and he glanced over. "Bruce... It's all right. Because I doubt it's going to happen again." I grinned. "And because the way you're going to be waiting on me for the next couple weeks will more than make up for it."

For a moment he simply stared. Then he laughed. I placed my first order for him, for dinner. He graciously stood and said 'right away'; he even managed to sound just like Al. I stretched and smiled, after he left, knowing I would take full advantage of this while I could -- because I knew, from experience, that in three days I would be so totally stir-crazy no one could stand being near me.