Chapter 1: Greetings
Dick receives his Greetings from Uncle Sam.
“Time comes when a man must do his duty, but he doesn’t have to like it.”
“Growing Up A Man”
February 6, 1952
The sunlight illuminated Dick in ways that left other people untouched. He seemed to soak up the sunlight, almost as if he was Clark.
Dick smiled but Bruce immediately knew something was wrong. “What is it?”
Dick’s smile was affectionate. “You always know, don’t you?” He produced a letter and Bruce took it, ice forming in the pit of his stomach.
“So you got your greetings from Uncle Sam.”
Dick nodded, flopping into the chair in front of Bruce’s desk. “Looks like the war isn’t ending any time soon.”
Bruce stared down at the draft notice. “With your flying skills, you could put in to be a pilot.”
“I’m thinking the infantry.”
Bruce snapped his head up. “Infantry?”
“I have excellent combat skills already, and also good leadership abilities. I could keep a lot of kids alive.”
Bruce bit his lip. Dick was right, but he sill wished that Dick wasn’t about this particular thing. He could save lives in the infantry, but Bruce knew that the foot soldiers took the brunt of any war.
He looked at Dick, who was completely relaxed in the chair, one leg cavalierly draped over a chair arm. His calmness helped settle Bruce’s nerves.
The best decision I ever made was bringing you home.
Dick was a grown man now, but still as vivacious and optimistic as ever. Despite the neverending battle against Gotham’s criminals, he still managed to maintain a positive outlook.
He’s going to need it more than ever now.
Bruce gathered himself. Dick needed him to be strong, not fearful and clinging.
“When do you report?”
“In three days.”
& & & & & &
Dick had redesigned his costume a few years ago, keeping some elements of his Robin outfit and putting in more Bat-touches. Despite it looking at first glance like something slapped together, it worked somehow, just like the bright Robin costume had somehow worked.
The patrol was fast and furious. They used their fists in what some shrink might say was cathartic. The criminals ran fast. By the time the Dynamic Duo returned home, showered, and wrote their reports, finally tumbling into bed, their adrenaline was pointed toward need.
Need to hold on to each other now that their future was uncertain.
Need to make love every night until Dick left.
Need to make memories for the long, lonely nights ahead.
“I love you,” Bruce breathed.
“I love you, too,” Dick said and laughed. It was the kind of joyous laugh that the memory of might break Bruce’s heart in the future. He was certain of it.
He poured his heart into the time they had left.
& & & & & &
They returned home to a Manor suddenly quieter and much emptier. Bruce returned to his study and buried himself in his work, refusing lunch but eating a light supper provided by Alfred before going out on patrol alone.
Coming back to the Manor alone.
Going to bed alone.
& & & & & &
Bruce and Alfred wrote back. Bruce kept his letters free of romantic overtones, just as Dick did. Censors could read them, or nosy barracks buddies. Therefore his letters were full of sports scores, Gotham news, national politics. He wrote between the lines of romance and crimefighting, a combination that was not unusual for Batman and Robin.
Somehow Bruce got through the days, dreading the end of training, but Basic took six weeks and advanced training took months after that. Dick might be shipped out in early ’53, depending on manpower needs. Maybe the war would be over by then.
& & & & & &
April 1, 1952
All too soon Dick had to return for advanced training. He was being assigned to Fort Steadman in North Carolina.
“It couldn’t be Fort Dix?” Bruce lamented. .
“Nope, that would make too much sense to assign me to a fort in New Jersey.”
So Dick was gone below the Mason-Dixon Line and Bruce was back to solitary patrolling. Dick joining him while home had been like Old Home Week: it had felt so natural, so normal, as Robin slid into his seat beside Batman in the shiny Batmobile.
The ol’ Pow! Biff! Zap! worked just fine, and Bruce had felt relaxed for the first time in weeks. Now he was alone again, refusing to think that it might be a permanent condition. Dick was still in the States, not overseas. Alfred had always counseled him not to borrow trouble, which was good advice, if he could only follow it.
& & & & & &
May 16, 1952
It’s very different here in North Carolina. Roy and I were walking through a small town and saw the body of a black man swaying from a lamppost. We stopped and stared because we couldn’t believe our eyes. Some redneck came up to us and said they were leaving his body up awhile ‘to teach the niggers a lesson’. I feel dirty even writing that.
Roy and I wanted to cut the man down, but it was obvious we would’ve ended up in jail or worse. The poor soul was beyond human concern, but we still felt angry.
Remember how I wrote to you that the only music down here is country? That’s not quite true. Rhythm-and-blues, called ‘race music’, is on the dial, but Roy and I have to listen in secret (he hates country and I’m no big fan). White guys aren’t supposed to listen to ‘race music’.
Everything is race down here. Roy and I talked about it even before we saw the lynching victim. He and I have known each other since we were kids, and I know him well. He was really shook up.
During a bivouac last week, a white guy from Massachusetts was paired with a black guy as a tentmate. Some of the good ol’ boys in camp came up to him and told him to request a new tentmate but he refused, and this was after they told him they’d cut his throat if he didn’t make the request. Roy and I kept a close eye on him but he and his tentmate handled things real well. He said he was a ‘Yankee from up North and no rednecks were going to tell me what to do’. He’s actually Irish-American, but Yankee still fits. He’s got a lifelong friend in his tentmate, that’s for sure.
So integration of the Army is not a sure thing, and it could get shaky over in Korea, but Roy and I are hoping for the best.
By the way, Roy and I went out the night we saw the body and cut him down.
& & & & & &
Alfred set the tray down. “He had a fine upbringing by his parents, and you added to it.”
“As did you.”
Alfred acknowledged the compliment with an incline of his head. “He will make us proud.”
“He always has.”
& & & & & &
“Roy is real happy that Dick’s with him. If our boys have to face this, at least it’s together.”
“I agree.” Bruce looked out his study window at the formal gardens. It was peaceful out there. No doubt very different from where Dick was right now.
“Roy says Dick is a natural leader. He’s the squad leader, and Roy’s his second-in-command.”
“I know. I’m pretty proud of our boys.”
“Damn right.” Ollie sighed. “I support the U.N., Bruce, but this war…”
“I know.” Bruce’s fingers gripped the handset tightly. “It’ll be three years this June that the war started.”
“Let’s hope those talks at Panmunjon finally accomplish something.”
“We can only hope.”
& & & & & &
Bruce worried about the long drives, suspecting that Dick and Roy had probably fallen asleep behind the wheel more than once, but they refused private jets and were appalled at the idea of a limousine picking them up outside the fort’s gates.
“We might as well sign up for permanent latrine duty if Sarge sees that,” Roy had cracked.
Bruce put everything he had into the moments he shared with Dick. Summer turned to fall, and Dick was sent to Alaska for further training. Roy went with him, and Bruce hoped that if Dick was sent overseas, that Roy would be with him. The two had worked together as Robin and Speedy many times, and it was vital to have someone watching your back on the battlefield who was trustworthy.
When Dick came home for Thanksgiving, he raved about the beauty of Alaska. “I’m going back on vacation someday.”
Later in the year, Christmas was packed with traditions. Dick soaked up every minute as if it would be his last.
As he and Bruce sipped champagne in bed on Christmas Night, Dick looked like elegance itself as he bent one leg and smiled at Bruce. Bruce’s heart ached but returned the smile. No talk about the future. All that existed was the here and now.
He set aside his champagne flute and kissed Dick, who put his glass on the nightstand and pulled Bruce on top of him.
“Love me,” Dick said.
“Always,” Bruce said.
Chapter 2: Dissolving
Dick is shipped over to Korea.
“War destroys young men’s bodies and minds. It crushes the souls of those left behind.”
General Sam Lane
February 6, 1953 C.E.
February 1, 1953
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.
& & & & & &
“Paratrooper training!” Bruce read, exasperated.
“Master Dick always did like the air, sir,” Alfred said dryly.
Bruce shook his head.
& & & & & &
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 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.”
& & & & & &
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.
& & & & & &
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.
& & & & & &
& & & & & &
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.
& & & & & &
Chapter 3: "We Regret To Inform You..."
Bruce begins a new Mission.
The crushing weight
His breath away.
The one he loves
The Battle of Pork Chop Hill was the last great battle of the war, a huge number of men dying just three weeks before the ceasefire.
The news of the ceasefire was greeted by relief from those with loved ones in the war. Americans were disgruntled by a ‘tie’, but were glad that the war (or ’police action’, as it was officially known) was done. Now they could indulge in postwar consumerism without guilt about soldiers dying in yet another war. After a Great Depression and World War II, people had been ready to spend in 1945, and now they were once again unfettered by a war fought in a place few Americans had ever heard of before the war.
All that was left was the rubble, of a country and of people. There was the dead, the maimed, the dispossessed. It would take years for North and South Korea to rebuild. Families would never reunite. American soldiers would come home and spend the rest of their lives in decaying V.A. hospitals.
& & & & & &
& & & & & &
He picked up the phone.
& & & & & &
It was just as Dick had described: devastated countryside, ruined fields, and an eerie silence.
Then there was Seoul.
Buildings were pockmarked by bullets and shell holes. Alleys were garbage-strewn, and rats rustled in the shadows. Refugees dressed in rags shuffled along broken sidewalks while stick-thin children begged for food.
Steve Trevor met Bruce outside the U.S. Embassy, shaking his hand. “We’ve got a room for you. You can put your luggage away and we can meet Wonder Woman outside the city.”
Steve had signed out an Army car and drove them out to where Pork Chop Hill loomed up over the valley. It looked ordinary, but there were trenches and command posts visible to the naked eye.
“The last place Dick’s squad was seen here,” Steve said as he shut the car engine off and pointed to a section of the hill. “Their shelter was there with the C.P. at the ridge over there.”
Bruce was out of the jeep quickly, making a note to dress more appropriately in the future as his dress shoes slid on the rocky incline. Steve followed him, and he watched as Bruce began searching the area.
“What do you expect to find?”
“To be honest?” Bruce shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I’ll help you look.”
Despite a thorough combing of the hillside, they turned up nothing except some spent shells. There were gouges in the ground, the earth churned up by large shells. It was obvious that a battle had been fought here, but there was no evidence of the missing squad.
Bruce did not bother to hide his discouragement. Steve smiled sympathetically as he clapped a hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “We have to meet Diana. C’mon.”
Bruce looked stubborn for a minute, then nodded and climbed back into the car.
& & & & & &
The car topped a rise and a small settlement of tents appeared. A sign read, 4077th M*A*S*H* with arrows underneath painted with the names of American cities and towns and the number of miles to get there. Steve drove in and parked in front of a tent with Command written in chalk on a board over the entrance.
“Come with me,” Steve said.
They entered the tent, the canvas effectively trapping the hellacious heat. A thin, swarthy man with dark hair and a prominent nose was sitting at a desk next to radio equipment.
“Hi, Klinger,” said Steve.
“Hey, Major Trevor. What’s up?”
“Has my Angel arrived yet?”
“Yep, she’s in the medical tent.”
“Great, thanks. Colonel Potter in?”
“No, but he’ll be back soon.”
“Okay, I’ll stop by again. Corporal Max Klinger, this is Bruce Wayne.”
“The Bruce Wayne?”
“’Fraid so,” Bruce said lightly.
Sympathy crossed Klinger’s face. “I read about your ward. I’m sorry.”
“Well, um, do you want to wait here?” Klinger fanned himself with a Superman comic, to Bruce’s chagrin. Steve’s eyes sparkled in amusement.
“No, we’ll go see Wonder Woman,” Steve said.
Bruce followed Steve to the large medical tent. Upon entering, they were greeted by the sight of every patient watching Wonder Woman raptly as she visited each bed.
She made every man feel special as she talked with them. Bruce glanced at Steve and saw the total adoration there. He smiled slightly.
Wonder Woman saw them but continued her rounds. A doctor with kind eyes and a mustache was smiling as he watched the Amazon with his patients. He saw the newcomers and crossed the tent, indicating the next room.
Bruce and Steve complied and shook hands with Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt, who asked pleasantly, “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”
“We’re here to see Wonder Woman,” Steve said.
“Well, no surprise there,” B.J. said with a smile. “She’ll be glad to see you.”
“I hope so.”
They all laughed, and Steve introduced Bruce to B.J.
B.J.’s blue eyes widened slightly. “You’re searching for your ward?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any information for you.”
“You might without even knowing it. Can we talk?”
“Sure.” B.J. waved the hand holding a clipboard. “Ah, just the man I want to see.”
A balding man in a white coat spoke with a distinctive Boston accent as he entered the tent. “What now, Hunnicutt?”
“Passing on ward duty, Doctor. Come on, gentlemen, the Swamp’s free.”
The Bostonian rolled his eyes and pushed open the ward door. “Oh, I see we have a star-spangled guest.”
“He sounds a little put out,” said Steve in amusement.
“Charles lives to grump his way through life,” said B.J. cheerfully.
Bruce found himself approving of the good doctor.
B.J. led them to a tent a short distance away. “Home sweet home, gentlemen.”
Bruce could smell a lingering scent of booze and saw the still located between two cots.
“Have a seat.” B.J. waved toward the cot opposite his. He filled two plastic champagne glasses from the still and poured one for himself. He plopped down on his cot. “Drink up.”
Steve and Bruce drank and immediately coughed.
“Wow, that’s…” Steve rasped.
“Machine oil?” B.J. supplied.
“Something like that.”
Bruce coughed again. “Did anyone from my ward’s squad come through here?” He named the number and gave more details about Pork Chop Hill.
B.J. rubbed his eyes. “Mr. Wayne, we had the most casualties in months during that battle. We were swamped while short-handed.”
B.J. shrugged. “Situation normal. Thank God the shooting’s stopped.”
“Do you think it’ll stick?” Steve asked.
“Maybe, but we’ve had ceasefires before.” B.J. took a long sip. “I hope so.”
Bruce felt a headache starting. The thought of the war starting up again unnerved him. If Dick was still alive…
“We’ve got some dogtags brought in by one of the field medics. Father Mulcahy has them.”
“Thank you, I’d like to look at them.” Bruce set aside his glass.
“Four tents to your right.”
& & & & & &
Steve drained his glass. “He may have a butler who brings him tea and scones, but Bruce is as tough as they come.”
B.J. looked skeptical but smiled as Steve held out his glass. B.J. filled it and leaned on his elbow after Steve took the glass.
“I hate to see a guy living a delusion.”
“Do you really think so?”
“’Missing in action’ usually means dead.”
“There have been missing soldiers who have been found.”
“Steve, you know how this goes: a direct hit obliterating a body; body parts scattered; soldiers executed by the North Koreans or Chinese and buried; captured and never released, and no one even knows they’re POWs. That’s just some of the scenarios."
Steve nearly gulped the booze. “Bruce won’t give up.”
B.M. suddenly looked exhausted. “Good luck to him.” He held out his glass and Steve clinked it with his own.
& & & & & &
“Yes?” A bespectacled man with gray hair looked up though he appeared youngish, maybe thirty.
“Sorry to disturb you. I knocked and didn’t hear anything, but the door was ajar.”
“Ah, yes, I was absorbed in my Bible study. What can I do for you?” Mulcahy gestured for Bruce to sit on his cot.
“I’d like to see those dogtags that were recently brought in.”
“Certainly.” Mulcahy rose and went to a plastic bowl on top of his nightstand. He handed the bowl to Bruce. “When the courier arrives, they’ll be shipped to Headquarters for processing.”
Bruce dumped the bowl’s contents onto the cot and quickly sifted through the shining metal, his movements desperate. His shoulders slumped as he looked at the last tag.
“Your loved one’s tag isn’t there?” the priest asked softly.
Bruce shook his head. Neither Dick nor Roy’s tags were there.
Bruce smiled wryly. “Disappointment is routine on this journey.”
Mulcahy nodded, his blue eyes understanding. Bruce felt comfortable in his presence.
A good skill for a priest to have.
“So you’re searching for your brother? A nephew?”
“My ward, Dick Grayson.”
“Also, his friend Roy Harper. They were in the same squad. I’m friends with his guardian, Oliver Queen.”
The priest looked genuinely interested. “So you’re both unmarried?”
Bruce nodded. “Ollie has a girlfriend, though. I expect marriage is in the cards for them.”
Father Mulcahy smiled. “Good. Now, tell me the details of your case.”
So Bruce did, pouring out his grief with the facts, startled by his own openness.
The father is really good.
When he was finished, he felt a little less exhausted.
“I’ll say a prayer for your boys.”
“Thanks, Father.” Bruce scooped the dogtags back into the bowl.
“I’ll be heading to the orphanage soon but I can talk awhile more if you need me.”
“No, I’m fine. I have to speak with Wonder Woman.”
“Ah, a fine woman.”
“She certainly is.” Bruce took out his wallet and handed Father Mulcahy a $50 bill. “Just a little something for the kids, Father. I‘ll send a real donation when I get back to the States if you’ll give me the address.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wayne.”
& & & & & &
“I’m sorry,” she whispered in his ear.
They talked about the search and Diana said, “Keep your faith, Bruce.”
She squeezed his shoulder. “War is never easy."
They walked around the camp and spoke about Justice Society business, a short respite from the war.
Diana eventually took her leave. The last stop for Bruce was Colonel Potter’s office. Steve kissed Diana, promised to meet her back in Seoul, and accompanied Bruce to meet with Potter.
“How can I help you, Mr. Wayne?” asked the gray-haired surgeon after they settled into his office.
Bruce told his story while Potter listened carefully. At the conclusion of the tale the older man said, “I’m sorry you and your friend Mr. Queen are stuck in this limbo. It’s rough, as you well know. But I’ll inform my staff to keep an eye out.”
“Won’t you be going home soon?” asked Bruce.
Potter sighed. “Not for awhile. The Army is not too certain of this ceasefire, and I can’t blame them. Oh, in public they’ll trumpet it, but negotiations have crashed too many times before. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Commies do pull a fast one.” He shrugged.
Bruce realized that the colonel could be right. The peace talks had stalled over and over again. Who was to say this latest truce would stick?
“I appreciate your help.” Bruce could see the weariness of the colonel. How long had he served here? He noticed the pictures on the wall behind Potter’s desk and realized that the man was a lifer. He had served in World War I, according to a few pictures, and in World War II. He had probably seen enough of war the third time around.
“Glad to do it. The boys in the med tent right now are too sick to move, unless bombs begin raining down on their heads. Once the last one goes, we’ll probably be able to fold up our tents and head to Toyko, then home if this armistice sticks.”
After the meeting was over, Steve escorted Bruce to the car. “Hopefully they’ll all get to go home.”
“Is Dr. Pierce on leave? I’d heard a lot about him, but no one said a word about him.”
Steve looked uncomfortable. “This is on the Q-T, Bruce. Hawkeye Pierce was shipped home early.” He sighed. “He cracked up.”
Bruce felt ice form in the pit of his stomach. “I’m sorry.”
“He was a brilliant surgeon. Hopefully he’ll recover.”
Bruce hoped so, too. The war had caused enough damage.
Chapter 4: Homecoming
I wanted to make sure to post this today. Prayers and gratitude to all our veterans still with us, and those who are not.
February 6, 1998
The clergyman spoke his piece, then Ollie stepped up. He took a deep breath, aware of the irony of this speech being difficult for him. Usually he could talk a blue streak, but this hurt.
“We’re here to finally lay Dick Grayson to rest.” He looked out at the gathering of friends and family. “Six months ago North Korea delivered the remains of several American soldiers. DNA testing proved that Roy Harper was among them.” Dinah gently touched his arm. “Six months later, more remains were released, and now we gather to pay our respects to Dick.”
Ollie remembered the funeral they had held for Roy, burying him in the Queen family plot. He and Dinah had achieved some level of peace with that burial, but he still wasn’t sure about his feelings. Anger, regret, sorrow…so much mixed up in a jumbled heap, but maybe he was finally getting past all that.
“Sadly, Dick’s mentor Bruce didn’t live to see this day, passing away in ’93, and Alfred three years after that, but now they are all together in this quiet plot overlooking the sea.”
There was the somber lowering of heads and some tears shed. Ollie was uncertain about an afterlife, but if there was one, he was sure Dick, Alfred and Bruce were all together now. Maybe Roy was waiting for him and Dinah. He’d like to think so.
“The work continues. The Grayson-Harper Foundation For Korean War Veterans will help to ensure that the loved ones of this war will never be forgotten.”
The minister took over once again and said the closing prayer. Ollie listened while also listening to the sounds of the nearby ocean. The eternal rhythm soothed him, and he slid his hand over Dinah’s and held on tight.
It was a beautiful day of sunshine, somehow fitting for Dick Grayson’s funeral. Roy had said once that he’d never known anyone so genuinely cheerful. Dick could be serious and even grim if the situation called for it, but bright and optimistic was his default.
The minister finished his prayer and the honor guard fired off several volleys, the shots echoing in the clear winter air. Yellow roses were thrown onto the casket as the mourners drifted away from the cemetery. Ollie and Dinah were the last ones left standing by the grave.
“Rest easy, Dick,” Dinah said softly.
& & & & & &
“Really fine artist,” Steve said as he approached, sipping a cup of punch.
“Bruce always hired the best.”
Steve looked around the gardens. “How many visitors come here?”
“I’d have to consult the figures, but Shayera says it’s a good number.”
“Handy to know museum curators like her and Carter.”
“They run both branches. We’ve got the same set-up at Queens’ Castle.”
“This is a wonderful foundation, providing help to Korean War veterans.”
“If they insist on forgetting the veterans of this war, we’ll be there to make sure they remember.”
Diana appeared, wearing her Prince glasses and a modest blue dress with a smart hat to match. No longer immortal since leaving Paradise Island, she was aging slower than Steve but had a streak of gray in her hair. She still looked stunning.
“Well, how are you, Mrs. Trevor?” Ollie asked with a smile.
“Splendid, Mr. Queen.” Her smile faded. “Though it is a solemn occasion.”
Ollie nodded, suddenly feeling the weight of his years. “I guess we’ll never find out what really happened to our boys’ squad.” Haunted by not knowing, Bruce’s new Mission had driven him to his grave.
“Perhaps not.” Diana sipped her punch. “Some things are simply never learned, or meant to be known.”
Ollie’s instinct was to fight against acceptance, but what did it matter now? Roy and Dick had been gone for 45 years. If there was an afterlife, they were both happy together now.
“You and Bruce and Dinah have left a legacy that help people, Ollie,” said Steve. “You support orphanages in South Korea, helped rebuild after the war, keep the focus on our veterans…you have a lot to be proud of.”
“The veterans deserve it. The orphans, too.”
“My Ollie, all flustered covering up a marshmallow,” said Dinah as she walked up to the group.
Diana and Steve smiled as Dinah patted her husband’s shoulder.
“It’s a good thing I love you, Pretty Bird.”
“Never doubted it, Emerald Archer.”
Ollie felt a warmth spread through him and he kissed Dinah’s hand.
& & & & & &
He walked through the exhibit hall, converted from the ballroom. Carter and Shayera had set things up beautifully, allowing the exhibits to be informative as well as compelling.
He paused before a photograph taken by Marguerite Higgins. She was a pioneering female war correspondent, snapping fantastic pictures and writing copy right on the front lines. The Foundation had some of her best, stark photographs that showed the face of this particularly brutish war. He was always struck by the photograph that showed a weary soldier cradling a wounded buddy and hoped that Dick and Roy had been able to be there for each other at the end.
He passed the photographs and glass cases containing donated objects from the war and homefront. There were gleaming knives, guns, and helmets, and photographs of factory workers making planes and tanks for the war, just a fraction of the items displayed. His steps echoed in the vast ballroom. The floor-length mirrors at the west end had once reflected Dick going through ballet exercises, one of the ways he kept limber.
Did Bruce and Dick dance with each other here?
Ollie passed the dining room, which held the buffet, several people chatting while they ate. The next room was the living room, still preserved as if Alfred was still presiding over the Manor. There was a coffee mug on the table next to Bruce’s favorite chair and a book set aside as if the reader had just left for a moment. A vintage Coke bottle was set on a coaster on the coffee table, and a Batman & Robin comic book was open to a page filled with quips, puns, and flashing fists.
He went through the front door, craving a cigarette. He’d quit years ago but the urge could still catch him unawares.
Not many people knew about the true nature of the Dynamic Duo’s relationship. It was a small group of heroes: Dinah, Diana, Steve, and Clark. If anybody else knew, they were keeping it to themselves.
As Ollie walked slowly, he remembered his surprise (shock) when he had learned the truth. It had made him uncomfortable until Dinah had pointed out that he and Bruce were so similar that maybe Ollie had something to tell her?
He chuckled as he walked with his cane. No, nothing of that sort to tell her, but he did recognize his ties with Bruce. He and Bruce shared wealthy backgrounds with lost parents at young ages, and dedication to a dangerous profession without superpowers. The Arrows and the Bats lived by their wits.
He found himself at the entrance to the cemetery. He walked through the open front gates.
The coffin had been lowered into the ground and the earth tamped over it. Fortunately, the ground had not been frozen as a thaw had sprung up, so interment took place right away. He stood before the headstone that reflected the carved names of the Waynes: Martha, Thomas, Bruce, Alfred, and now Dick. The shiny obsidian marble showed scudding clouds behind Ollie’s reflection.
I’m sorry he never came home to you, Bruce, but he’s home now.
After a few minutes of silence, broken only by the call of birds, Ollie turned and went back to the Manor.
% % % % % %
Never let it be forgot
In a time
A war was fought,
In a country obscure
To Western eyes,
Families torn apart,
Shiny U.N. troops
Against vast numbers.
And they came,
And still they came,
On frozen ground,
Led by bugles clear,
And still they came,
In stifling heat,
On nameless hills,
On bitter ground,
Souls are lost
And never found.
Never let it be forgot.
Robert G. O’Reilly
Korean War Veteran
“Never Let It Be Forgot
& Other Poems Of Korea”