The value of you
I will hold higher than that of me
Jim walked as fast as he could without running. Several uniformed officers jumped out of his way as he entered through the large wooden door. The marbled floor echoed as the soles of his shoes slapped the ground. Despite the large number of officers present the manor seemed silent, as if waiting for something.
Well then they were weren't they?
Jim had been to the Wayne estate more times in the past year then he could count. Barbara needed dropping off, or picking up camping escapades-- that were done all on the Wayne's own property-- movie nights, and a myriad of other activities. Jim picked her up from here after school more times than the actual school itself, so he didn’t need to ask where Bruce’s study was. His feet simply carried him there.
The sight that met him was equally terrifying as it was unnerving. Jim had seen a lot of things that made him sick. He had seen a lot of things that made him scared, but this feeling was new. This gut twisting was a sensation that he had either never felt before, or just never registered.
Bruce Wayne was in a state of pure panic . There was no other way for Jim to describe what he saw. This out of character panic wasn’t what had Jim questioning his confusing state of emotions though.
It was the anger that was radiating off the man. Bruce was standing still, watching the police connecting his phone to a recorder and tracing technology. His gaze was heavy and accusatory. The men were eyeing Bruce nervously, as if one slip up and the man would jump them. His whole body was tensed and coiled. Jim thought he looked like a predator ready to pounce. He looked nothing like the calm and slightly shy man that Jim had come to enjoy seeing from time to time.
While Jim had never really believed that ‘Brucie’ Wayne was an accurate depiction of the man he had thought there was some kernel of truth to the media’s tale.
Dick had perhaps tamed him slightly. The boy had given him a sense of responsibility in Bruce’s personal life that made partying and going out less appealing. At least that was what Jim had assumed . Now he wondered if their had ever been any truth to the portrayal the media gave of him
For the man across from him radiated a danger. Jim had known dangerous men his whole life. But he had never seen someone hide it so well. It was disconcerting to realize the bumbling man who he had known for years contained such rage. Of course Jim, should have known. He could after all remember Bruce when he was still in high school. He had been worried that he would end up in jail.
The years of traveling had-- Jim had hoped-- done him some good. He returned more-- not happy-- Jim would never use that word to describe the man, but settled. And Jim didn’t mean in his playboy persona, but the lack of untamed anger that had clung to the man in his youth.
Now though Jim could see, the anger hadn’t left. Bruce had simply learned to hide it. He hid it so well that Jim was shocked at its reappearance.
While from the time he had received the call, Jim had expected some level of fear and upset, he had not expected… rage. The reason that Bruce panicked and short tempered was reasonable-- what parent wouldn’t?
Jim pushed down his new sense of wariness of the man. For there was a reason Jim was there, and it certainly wasn’t to judge Bruce’s reaction to the situation. It was also the reason Barbara was crying softly while sitting with a cup of tea. Jim made a mental note to thank Mr. Pennyworth personally, for looking after Barbara while Jim worked. As much as he wanted to take off his police hat and simply be her Dad at the moment he couldn’t.
No, the reason for Bruce’s mood, for Jim’s presence and Barbara’s tears was the notable absence of a certain nine year old.
“Bruce,” Jim kept his voice even-- professional. It didn’t matter that this was his daughter’s best friend. It didn’t matter that Dick had spent enough time at Jim's apartment that Jim considered him part of the family. No, right now he was a police officer and he needed to do his job. “I need you to walk me through what happened.”
Bruce’s eyes remained trained on officer Blake as he attached cords to the manor’s landline. “We were in the front garden. I was near the house and Dick and Barbara were playing on the driveway. Dick went to get a basketball that went over the gate. Two cars-- black sedans with no plates-- pulled up. Two men jumped out of the first car. Both had ski masks and hand guns. One was a Beretta --the other I didn’t get a good look at. I ran and grabbed Barbara, and got her behind the oak tree out front and went to go after Dick, but they grabbed him and drove off.” Bruce spoke through a clenched jaw.
“Can you remember anything else?” Jim was surprised that he had gotten even that much. Most witnesses didn’t know gun models or think about license plates until it was too late to get the details.
“It’s on camera. I didn’t see at the time, but the footage shows them injecting Dick with something.”
Jim glanced at his daughter. At Bruce’s words she seemed to have broken out of whatever shocked stupor she had been in. She was now looking at Bruce, her lip trembling. Her eyelashes were clumped together slightly from crying. Jim owed Bruce a lot. Bruce had lost his own child while protecting Jim’s. No, not lost. Jim thought quickly.
“Yes, I’ve seen it. Did they say anything?”
Bruce shook his head. “Not that I could hear. I wasn’t near the gate. I was washing the car by the house.” Bruce said bitterly.
“They said something funny.” Barbara offered quietly. “I don’t think it was English.”
“Well that’s some--”
The ring of the phone seemed to echo through the manor’s still too quiet long, winding halls, and everyone present collectively held their breath.
Bruce lunged for the phone.
Dick shivered and curled his toes in the icy puddle of water. The cellar smelled like mold and water ran down from a yellowing crack by the tiny window. The puddle that formed next to the floor drain felt like ice on his feet. He wished he had his shoes. The tennis shoes might not have been very comfortable, but they would have been better than nothing.
Alfred and him were meant to pick up a new pair tomorrow, but somehow Dick felt that that trip would be put off. Which was really too bad as his were much too small. He had kicked them off after only two minutes outside, his toes needed freedom.
The room was silent apart from the steady dripping of water. Dick had given up trying to dislodge the tape from his mouth. He couldn’t even hum to any effect with the wadded up cloth wedged over his tongue. The most he could do was make odd -- and slightly embarrassing-- gagging sounds.
Dick had been left alone for a total of fifteen minutes. He counted. It had been a thirty minute car ride, there had been four left turns and six right. The men hadn’t spoken to him. They had pushed, pulled and shoved. They had smacked and sneered, but they hadn’t spoken since they grabbed him. And even that hadn’t given him more information other than they spoke Portuguese. There were a total of five men. In the room with him were two cameras and one microphone. He was held down with approximately 30 feet of duct tape. The room had one window that was three by one foot. Dick knew all this.
But it was completely useless information. Because he couldn’t escape. He was taped too tightly to work his hands free, they were in truth, feeling a little numb from lack of circulation. That in itself wasn’t the problem, though it would have made it more difficult. He couldn’t escape, because despite knowing where he was and how long it would take to get to safety, despite knowing that he could easily shimmy out of the window and up to the world above he wasn’t Robin. Dick Grayson couldn’t escape.
It was this thought more than anything that was terrifying. Robin had been drilled and tested. Robin had protocols for this. Robin had multiple stashes throughout Gotham that would act as a safe harbor until Batman could come for him. Dick Grayson, had never even thought to ask and Bruce had never said. In hindsight the lack of planning on their part was a major slip up.
So Dick waited in the cold silence not knowing what he’s supposed to do.
It took a total of three hours and 42 minutes for one of the masked men to come back. Some part of Dick’s mind supplied that the mask is good. The mask means they mean to let him go, eventually, which didn’t actually give him much comfort.
The man’s shoes fell heavily in the water as he stomped over to him. the water splashed on his pant leg. Dick wanted to sigh, they had only just begun to dry from his last attempt to pull his duct taped legs away from the chair, but he didn’t. The tape over his mouth was roughly pulled away, by the man now towering over him. Dick spat out the cloth quickly. His mouth’s never felt so dry.
“You will only read the cards.” Grumpy mask says. “If you try and say anything else you will be hurt. If you try and give any message you will be hurt. If you try to--”
“I’ll get hurt.” Dick finished sourly.
“It won’t be live, so don’t think you can be smart with us. Do you understand?” The man sounded board, practically mechanical.
Dick nodded and studied him thoughtfully. So he couldn’t say anything but Robin could still get a message, he could blink it out or lick his lips maybe. Yeah that would be less suspicious. His mouth was dry after all. He could even really sell it if he asked for water after.
“Okay.” Suddenly the man was turning away.
For a moment Dick thought he was going to leave him again. Instead he ushered in another man holding a camera and paper cue cards tucked under his arm.
Dick froze, so he really had no time to think of a message. Okay. Think Robin. Think. It needed to be short, or it would be too suspicious. Dick decided his best bet was to spell his closest guess as to the location.
Well that would be easy he was somewhere in the Bay Side neighborhood, but that was still too broad a location. If his mental map was correct he was on Wick street. It was the best he could do on such short notice.
By the time Dick had decided his plan, the men had set up the camera and were ready for action.
“Okay, just the cards kid.” the first man said.
Dick nodded once and waited for the green light. “Hi Bruce. I’m okay.” Dick read slowly, he quickly licked his lip and pressed them together twice after. He tried to look as nervous as possible. “They want you to wire--” Dick did a double take, the Morse code quickly left his mind. Two million dollars. Dick didn’t even know Bruce had that much money.
The man behind the camera cleared his throat and Dick shook himself out of his stupor. “Two million Dollars,” Dick licked his lips twice quickly. “You will wire it to A47C 5896--” Dick pressed his lips together and narrowed his eyes as if he was having a hard time reading. Lick, press, lick. “CYT47.”
The man switched the cards.
“When the transfer is complete you will be called again.” Dick frowned. Again ? Had they already called Bruce? He pressed his lips again. He was on the last letter, he could do this. Lick, press. “And you will be told a location to pick me up.”
The camera man pressed the stop button and the green light turned red.
Dick decided to ham it up. “Umm could I have some water?” He licked his lips again for effect. The two men looked at one another before the first man nodded. The second man left with the camera and cards.
Dick hoped he was coming back with his water. He really was thirsty. It seemed like ages since he had had anything.
The other man looked at him for a moment longer before leaving. The way his eyes narrowed at Dick made him shiver. Whoever he was, he was not someone Dick wanted to ever see again.
When the camera man returned he was sporting a sealed plastic water bottle.
Good . Dick thought. He didn’t want to have to deal with being drugged again. The first time was hard enough to fight through. He had pretended to be unconscious the whole trip but had really been fighting to count turns and keep track of his surroundings.
“Here, Kid.” The man unscrewed the cap and put the bottle to his lips. “Don’t worry. He’ll pay up. You should have heard him on the phone. Just two mill and you’ll be home.”
Dick wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be reassuring. It was certainly confusing. Was Bruce angry? Was he disappointed? Maybe Dick should have tried to escape. After all they were asking him for two million dollars. Dick wasn’t sure how much that really was, but it sounded like a lot. It was certainly more than he’d ever been worth before anyway. His life had always been a quantifiable figure. A ticket to see him and his family perform was 10 dollars on top of the circus cover charge. The lives of his whole family had been 12000 dollars-- 12000 dollars Haly had refused to pay.
Even then his whole life he had only been a sixth of that. 12000 dollars for 6 flying Graysons' lives. It was a fluke he lived at all. Dick’s whole life was worth a total of 200 dollars. But two million , Dick wasn’t worth that. No, no matter how renowned an acrobat, no matter how rich his guardian.
The water settled uncomfortably in his stomach.
Jim watched Bruce nervously. The man had been stone faced through both phone calls. During the video message Jim had thought he would smash the screen. Now he tapped his fingers against the armrest of his chair as they waited. Convincing the man to wait had been another feet in itself. Bruce had been adamant for the better part of an hour that the police leave the manor. Which Jim of course refused. Bruce finally relented and turned to Alfred who simply nodded.
“The wire is ready sir.”
Jim wondered how much Bruce had stowed away for such a rainy day. Perhaps it was best not to know.
Now they sat in Jim's old car at the edge of Somerset
“He’ll be okay.”
Bruce grunted but didn’t look at Jim. His eyes were scanning the street for any sign of a small barefoot child.
“He didn’t look hurt in the video, at least.” Jim said for the fifth time that afternoon.
“He better not be.” Bruce all but growled into the window. After a moment he added, “he looked cold.”
Jim winced. He had looked cold. He had been shaking. Jim bit back a sigh and went back to watching the clock. Two more minutes and they would move.
The location was perfect. Jim hated to admit even with all the patrols in the area it was unlikely that they would find the men who did this, once they had Dick back. Somerset had a total of twelve bridges to other parts of the city and then there was the docs. If the men decided to leave the island at all. They could just hunker down and wait for it all to blow over.
Bruce was suddenly flinging himself out of the car.
“Wait!” Jim fumbled with the handle of the door.
But Bruce didn’t seem to hear him. He was running flat out. A small figure was in the distance. Jim could make out an unkempt mop of black hair on a boy at the far end of the street.
Jim watched as Bruce collided with the child and picked him up. Jim panted as he raced after the man. Dick was clinging to his guardian fiercely. Jim frowned looking at the boy’s bare feet. They were wet and bracken was sticking to them from the street.
“I got you, Chum.” Bruce was murmuring into Dick’s hair as he held him.
“I wasn’t sure you were coming.” Dick whispered into Bruce’s shoulder, his fingers clinging to the fabric of Bruce’s sweeter.
Jim realized this wasn’t for him to see and tactfully busied himself with his radio. “Cancel the Amber Alert. Dick Grayson has been returned. I repeat cancel the Amber Alert. BOLO is still active.” Jim turned back after he received a confirmation. “Let’s get you to the paramedics.”
Dick had dried whatever tears he had shed on Bruce’s shirt. Bruce didn’t seem to mind the snot and tears that now stained his sweeter in the least. In fact Jim wondered if he would ever let Dick walk again. The way the man clung to him, Jim didn’t think it would be anytime soon.
“I’m okay.” Dick sniffed.
“You’re getting checked out.” Bruce said firmly. He seemed to be doing his own inventory of the boy even as he carried him.
Jim ushered them back to his car. The ambulance that had been lurking nearby-- but out of sight-- pulled up and two paramedics jumped out.
Jim watched the whirlwind of action. Dick had blood drawn and his irritated skin-- duct tape, Jim was told-- slathered in a solution. He feet were quickly wiped down and covered with thick socks. Other than that there was nothing to do.
Jim needed a cigarette. And Barbara. He was ready to take off his police hat and just be her Dad. He would take the rest of the day off and get ice cream. Yeah, they would watch movies and eat ice cream for lunch and dinner.
Jim pulled his phone out to call Mr. Pennyworth who was still watching her.
Dick sat on the uncomfortable hospital bed and fiddled with his bandages. He really didn’t need them. He hadn’t even bled, but every time he went to pull them off Bruce would give him the look . More than anything Dick wanted to go home, but they were stuck waiting for the blood test to come back from the lab. Dick tried to reason with Bruce, they could just run the test themselves from home. Bruce was having none of it.
“I don’t care. We’re staying until they say you’re fine.” Bruce shot back, while still clinging to Dick’s hand.
When all the nurses left Dick expected Bruce to let it go. He didn’t. Instead he climbed on to the bed and sat next to him. Dick blinked. Bruce didn’t normally cuddle with him unless he asked him to.
“You really scared me, Chum” Bruce said looking at the door.
Dick leaned into him slightly, “Sorry. I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do.”
Bruce hummed. Maybe he didn’t know either, Dick decided.
“Yeah?” Bruce began straightening his blankets again.
Dick hesitated for a moment, not sure if he wanted the answer. “Did you not get my message?”
“No, I did.” Bruce sounded completed pained by the admission.
Dick stiffened slightly.
Bruce pulled him closer. “That was brilliant. I just couldn’t get away from Gordon to come and get you.”
“Oh.” Dick relaxed again. He couldn’t come, even though he wanted to. “I didn’t think of that.”
Bruce hummed softly.
Dick closed his eyes and just let the feeling of Bruce’s arm, the smell of Alfred’s laundry soap, and the soft humming of the unfamiliar song wash over him. He, in his heart, had known that it was unlikely that Bruce would rescue him. He had been with Barbara after all. But that wasn’t what was really bothering him. What was bothering him was the large sum of money that Bruce had paid for his return.
Bruce continued to hum, his whole chest vibrated as he did.
“Will you be able to get the money back?” Dick asked tentatively.
Bruce snorted. “Yeah. I’m not too worried about the money, Chum. I designed a program several years ago to make it look like I’d transferred money into an account without doing it. I’ve never had to use it though.”
Dick pulled away slightly. “So it was fake money?”
Dick hurried to control his expression, but it was too late Bruce had already seen.
“I would never be able to get that much together so quickly.” Bruce said slowly. “Two million is a lot of money.”
Dick turned slightly red. “Yeah, of course. I know.”
Dick did his best to ignore the sinking feeling that had settled in his gut. Dick hadn’t been worth anything after all.
“Dick?” Bruce pulled his shoulders around so that they were facing each other. “I would have paid. I didn’t have time to get the real stuff.” Bruce was looking at his eyes wide and steely. “I would have preferred to pay, I would have never forgiven myself if the program didn’t work.”
Dick blinked. “It’s okay, Bruce. You don’t have to say that--”
“Dick.” Bruce put up a hand to silence him. “I don’t care about money. I was out of my mind. I’d have given the company, the manor, anything. You’re priceless .” Bruce’s voice dropped to a whisper.
Dick leaned forward, all but crawling onto Bruce’s lap. He didn’t know what to say. But with Bruce he didn’t really have to say anything. Bruce spoke silence fluently.
“Can we go home now?” Dick asked.
“Nice try, Kiddo. When the test comes back.” Bruce pulled Dick into a more comfortable position on his lap and began running his fingers through his hair.
Dick huffed slightly. But closed his eyes as Bruce’s fingers combed through his hair. It was nice. Dick wished Bruce would do it more often. But then he didn’t really want Bruce to worry either.
“When we do get home, we’re writing a contingency plan.” Bruce said somewhat stiffly.
Dick laughed. “Yeah it was a bit silly of us not to have one in the first place.”
“Silly isn’t the word I would use.” Bruce’s words sounded dark.
Dick cracked an eyelid open and regarded the bottom half of his mentor’s face for a moment. So he had been worried. That wasn’t good. “That’s a quarter into Alf’s Jar.”
“Thinking it doesn’t count.”
“Of course it does. Intentions matter.” Dick smirked into Bruce’s chest.
Bruce snorted but reached into his pocket all the same. “Here. How about you get the thoughts and Alfred gets the words.”
“I guess I can live with that.” Bruce still felt tense. “Bruce, it wasn’t your fault.”
“Yes it was.” Bruce spoke through clenched teeth. “Keeping you safe is my job.”
“B.” Dick said sharply. “We keep each other safe. But, I can take care of myself. Barbara was priority one.”
Bruce was silent for a long time. “Dick, I understand what you’re saying. But you will always be my first priority. In the field or off.”
Dick’s eyes flew open. He sat up slightly to look at Bruce’s face fully. His eyes were stormy, his expression set. “Back at you big guy.”
Bruce’s mouth quirked into a small smile. They stayed like that until a nurse came back with the results.