Dick was beside himself. With shaking hands, he pulled the cape away from Clark’s torso and swallowed as he saw the green glow emanating from the ugly, jagged cut in his ribs.
He’d yanked off his gloves, needing to touch more precisely. He had to figure out a way to get that Kryptonite bullet out of his friend, or Clark was in big trouble.
He ignored his own pain. The slice to his arm wasn’t life-threatening, though it hurt badly. It was his leg that was worse. The bullet had gone through his calf cleanly. He knew what a bullet still inside him would feel like.
He scrubbed his eyes, tears falling down his cheeks. He had to keep it together! He faced the Joker and the other Gotham crazies on a regular basis. He could protect Clark and get them out of this mess, just like he did with Bruce.
He didn’t understand where those thugs had gotten Kryptonite bullets. That was usually Lex Luthor’s thing, not the Joker. They must have teamed up. Would Luthor had known that Superman was coming to Gotham to help with the latest crazy Joker scheme? Or just a lucky guess?
Dick remembered the wild battle with the Joker’s thugs…
& & & & & &
The Clown Prince cackled madly as he shot his gun, Robin dodging the bullets and Superman not heeding them as they bounced off his body harmlessly. Then one of the gang got off a lucky shot, taking Robin down as the bullet plowed through his leg, and then a knife sliced his arm, his cries of pain easily heard by Superman, who started toward him.
That was when the Joker had changed his gun. Firing with wild laughter, the Kryptonite bullets mostly missed Superman…but one found its target. Staggering, Superman clutched his ribs and Robin managed to knock the gun out of the Joker’s hand. The clown merely laughed, melting back into the shadows of the Gotham night as more thugs advanced.
Robin fought like a tiger, protecting Superman, who had fallen to his knees. Despite his own pain he managed to drive the thugs back, but more came in another wave, Robin despairing that he could take them all in his weakened condition.
Suddenly strong arms swept him up and they were up, up, and away! Robin’s delight soon turned to worry as Superman wobbled, his chest heaving. They made it to the outskirts of the city and Superman barely managed a semi-soft landing before he collapsed on the ground, Robin grunting in pain as they hit the ground.
Bruce was probably frantic. When they’d split up, he’d indulged Dick’s request to work with Clark.
Dick looked with dismay at his damaged two-way radio. The belt buckle had taken a bullet and was useless now. He had to take care of Clark himself.
“Clark, it’ll be all right. I’ll take care of you, just like pals should. You’re one of my best pals, you know that?” Dick gritted his teeth against his own pain as he studied Clark’s wound. “Bruce is very important to me, you know that, and Alfred, and I have friends in the Titans, especially Roy, but you…you’re special. You and I connected from the very first minute. And it wasn’t because of…of tragedy, like Bruce and me. It was because of joy…joy from me meeting you for the first time, and the same for you, I hope.”
Dick took out the medical instrument he needed from his utility belt. He’d had to use it to dig a bullet out of Bruce before. Looks like he would have to do the same for Clark.
His hand trembled as he held the instrument above Clark’s ribs. In the moonlight, the Kryptonian looked unnaturally pale, his face contorting in pain as he tried to breathe, each intake of air laced with pain.
“Are we…safe now?”
“Yes,” Dick said quickly. “No one’s here. You got us away.”
Clark opened his eyes and looked at the boy whose presence was a comfort. He’d snapped the white lenses of his domino mask back to reveal his eyes. Good. Clark had never liked those opaque lenses.
“I…don’t know. Somewhere outside the city. Man, Bruce is going to have me studying maps of the countryside from now until I graduate from college.”
Clark smiled faintly. “You’ll get us…home.” He frowned. “Took a…Kryptonite…bullet…”
Dick nodded. “I’ve got to get it out.”
“Go ahead.” Clark’s trust shone in his eyes.
Dick felt a rush of emotions. He’d never seen…this was Superman! He shouldn’t be hurt! Sure, he and Batman got hurt a lot, but Superman never should be. It just wasn’t right.
“You shouldn’t be hurt.”
“No one…should…” Clark touched a trembling finger to Dick’s arm. “You’re…hurt.”
Dick bit his lip. Clark must have forgotten about his injured leg in his haze. Good. He didn’t want more worry for his friend.
His hand shook again. He couldn’t do this! It was going to hurt so badly…! Tears prickled his eyes and he ducked his head.
Dick scrubbed his eyes fiercely. “Bruce says…”
“It’s Bruce’s way…not yours.”
“You’re like…Bruce…some ways…not in others.” At Dick’s look of shame, Clark added, “Not a…bad thing…Bruce needs your light…and joy…you’re the best thing…that’s happened to him…”
Now Dick did cry, the fear and pain of the night overwhelming him. He put his head on Clark’s chest while Clark put his arm around him and patted his hair gently.
After a few minutes, Dick lifted his head, his eyes red but determined. “I’m going to get that bullet out, Clark.”
Clark nodded. He steeled himself for a world of hurt.
Dick tore off strips of his tunic and set them aside. The instrument had been sterilized but he couldn’t do it again out here in the woods. He just hoped that Clark’s healing powers would prevent infection.
He took a deep breath. “Here goes.”
Clark moved his head slightly in a nod. He took a sharp breath as Dick began to probe, grabbing a stick from the ground to squeeze.
Dick was very careful. Alfred had taught him the art of removing bullets, and he was good at it. He focused on the wound, the smell of blood (probably both his and Clark’s) mingling in the fresh night air, so clean and different from Gotham. He ignored his own pain, aware of Clark’s little gasps, tearing his heart out, but he continued. It had to be done. If Bruce had taught him anything at all, it was doing what needed to be done.
He dug deeper. He saw the welling of blood and how rigid Clark’s body went, but he continued probing. He could have nightmares about this later. Right now, if he didn’t get this bullet out, Clark was going to die of Kryptonite poisoning. Already the skin around the wound was taking on a greenish tinge. Clark could have survived the bullet itself. It was the blood poisoning that would finish him off.
“Once I get this out, we’ll get back to the Manor and Alfred will have you all warm and snug in a bed and bandaged up and get some hot soup into you.”
Dick inched around, certain that the bullet had taken a path he was following from the angle of the entrance wound. A shame it hadn’t gone clean through like his bullet had. Damn, his leg throbbed!
“Bruce puts up a fuss but he really likes Alfred taking care of him.”
Amusement was faint in Clark’s weak voice. “Oh?”
Dick wiped his sweaty brow with his free hand, pushing further. The stick snapped. He kept a steady hand, feeling flushed. He wondered if he was running a fever.
“Yeah. Bruce likes to be all independent ‘n’ snarky, but he likes it when Alfred takes care of him. Alfred’s not just the butler or our friend but he’s like Bruce’s father.” He chuckled a little. “He knows everything. If Bruce thinks he can put one over on Alfred, forget it.”
A cool breeze caressed his face, the branches moving around them as the stars twinkled high in the sky. The smell of blood was cloyingly-sweet, and the iron scent was strong. So Kryptonians had iron-based blood, too? Or maybe it was his own.
Big Dan in Gotham chimed the hour of midnight. The Witching Hour. He could use some Zatanna-style magic.
Clark gasped again. There! He’d found it!
“Hold on, Clark, almost got it.”
Dick dug deeper, the instrument clamping down on the bullet and he pulled it out of ragged flesh, Clark moaning. Dick held it up to the moonlight. It looked like it was in one piece. Relieved that he wouldn’t have to go fishing around for fragments, he threw the bullet as far away as he could. He wished it was high noon so that Clark could soak up the sun.
“Knew…you could do it.”
Dick smiled down at Clark. “Thanks. I’ll bind you up…” A sudden wave of dizziness hit him.
“Yeah, just adrenaline leaving me.” And his own wounds were making their presence known. Painfully. “I…”
“Put your head down on me.”
Dick obeyed, afraid he was going to pass out. He tried to steady his own breathing, Clark’s arms around him again. He felt as safe with Clark as he did with Bruce.
“Not lost,” Clark breathed.
“Right where…we should be.” He squeezed Dick gently. “Always there…for your friends.”
Dick felt warmth spread through him at the praise.
There was a rustling in the bushes and Dick immediately sprang up, wincing as he tried to stand on his injured leg. If there were more goons coming, he would protect Clark!
He nearly fainted with relief when he saw that it was Batman.
“Dick! Are you all right? How’s Clark?”
Dick could hear the frantic undertone in Bruce’s voice. “I’m good, Bruce. Clark’s going to be better.”
“He took…the bullet…out of me,” Clark said.
Bruce knelt by Clark, checking the wound, and then looked up at his young partner. He saw the blood running down Dick’s arm and leg.
“Sit down. I’ll carry Clark to the Batmobile, then I’ll be back for you.”
Dick obeyed. He was about to fall down, anyway.
Bruce lifted Clark up, murmuring a few words of comfort, and disappeared into the woods.
Dick smiled as he rested against a huge tree trunk. The city glittered below him. Clark was going to be all right.
Bruce was back quickly. He lifted Dick into his arms, the boy too tired to protest, and rested his head against Bruce’s chest, glad for the steady heartbeat as he began to drift away…
Bruce and Alfred watched off to the side, even Bruce impressed. Clark was wearing his Superman suit and lifted off into the sky, disappearing into the clouds. Dick ached to be with him, flying as free as a bird.
He backed away from the window and limped back to bed. He’d be out of commission for awhile, but he wouldn’t be for long. No way was he going to let Bruce be out there alone on patrol!
His door was open, and he could hear Alfred and Bruce enter the kitchen. He’d get blueberry pancakes for breakfast. That was something to look forward to.
Suddenly Clark was in the doorway, dressed in civilian clothes and his glasses. He smiled. “How are you doing?”
“Looking forward to Alfred’s blueberry pancakes, I bet.”
Dick laughed. “You read my mind.”
Clark sat down on the edge of the bed. “Thanks, Dick. You saved my life.”
Dick beamed. “You’re welcome!”
Clark smiled. “You’ve a cool head out there. Bruce is lucky to have you.”
“He’s lucky to have you, too! He was all suspicious of you at first. I never was. I knew you couldn’t hurt anybody.”
Clark’s eyes misted behind the glasses. “Thanks for having such faith in me.”
“I could see it in you, Clark. You’ve got too much light in you.” Dick leaned forward, touching Clark’s arm. “If you were going to take over the world, you could do it before breakfast, but you never would. I know that Bruce thinks I trust too easily, but I knew it about you when I first saw your picture, and when I met you…well, it just made me believe it all the more.”
Clark’s smile was gentle. “Told you, you’ve got a lot of Bruce’s good qualities, but you have your own, too. You read people well, Dick. Don’t lose your optimism. I know that in Gotham it’s tough to stay optimistic, but someone has to.”
Dick laughed. “No kidding!”
“So, the patient sounds in good spirits,” Bruce observed from the doorway.
He walked behind Alfred as the butler carried in a tray laden with the aforementioned blueberry pancakes, cranberry juice, toast, and a jar of maple syrup.
“Thanks, Alfred!” Dick frowned. “The bread isn’t toasted.”
“I asked him to hold off on that.” Clark picked up the two pieces of bread, his heat vision toasting them in seconds. He handed the toast to a delighted Dick.
“That is so awesome!”
Bruce rolled his eyes while Clark and Alfred laughed, Dick taking a big bite of Superman specialty toast.