Ric has already been in the bar for several hours when the black haired woman walks in and goes straight for the bar: “A shot of Vodka, please.”
Jeff nods at her and turns around to pour the drink.
Ric takes a step closer to the woman: “What’s gotten such a beautiful woman so desperate for a drink?”
She looks at him: “What’s your name?”
“Ric”, he complies.
“Ric, two of my oldest friends died last week. I’m not looking for a hookup, I’m maybe looking for a drinking buddy.”
“That, I can do”, Ric can appreciate honesty. “What’s your name?”
“Donna.” She downs her shot and asks Jeff for another.
“Shouldn’t you be a bit more careful with how much you consume how quickly?” She doesn’t look like someone who drinks a lot and mourning can make people disregard their limits.
Donna throws him a look: “I’m an Amazon.”
Size, muscle mass. It’s not too unlikely and there’s an awful lot of Amazons roaming around outside of Themyscira.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” He says and waves Jeff over when he turns back to them. “She needs some of the strong stuff.”
Jeff looks Donna over: “What are you?”
Ric sees Donna tense a little. Jeff obviously doesn’t or he just doesn’t care.
Jeff looks her over again and then gets out the bottle of the really strong stuff: “There’s sometimes normal people who try to get this. I’d rather no one died on my bar.” He sets both the bottle and a new glass down in front of Donna.
Donna thanks him, pours herself a glass and chugs it with a grimace: “God, this stuff is disgusting. Wish I could get drunk off Mai Tais.”
Ric snorts: “Why exactly did you come here if you didn’t expect you’d manage to get drunk?”
“My apartment was getting unbearable”, she says and there’s something of a shake in her voice. Donna clears her throat: “Wanna play darts?”
She’s good . Like, better than anyone he remembers ever playing against good. Ric probably shouldn’t have agreed to play darts with an Amazon - as far as he knows they’re all trained warriors. Especially not since the reward for each round is basically twenty questions and Ric prefers keeping the little things he knows about himself to himself.
Nevertheless, he wins the first round: “What were your friends names?” He doesn’t actually want to find anything out about her but Donna seems like she could use someone to talk to.
“Roy and Wally”, she says each name with such care. Her tongue curls around them in a way it hasn’t all evening. For a moment, her voice stops being carefully controlled and instead is soft and full of emotion.
They play another round and Donna beats him. He expects her to ask about his scar that is on full display. She doesn’t: “Why are you in a bar by yourself?”
“Aren’t you, too?”
“Well, I told you why. Two of my friends just died and I couldn’t stay in my apartment on my own anymore. So, what’s your reason.”
Donna crosses her arms: “That’s not an answer.”
Ric rolls his eyes: “I don’t know who I am.” He points at his scar and she seems to understand what he means.
He wins the next round: “How did they die?”
“It… There was a mass shooting.” Donna swallows and there’s definitely tears in her eyes. She wipes at them furiously and Ric gets the feeling that he’ll have broken bones if he mentions it. “I knew everyone who was there and no one survived and no one knows who did it, yet. I’ve known Roy and Wally since we were twelve.”
Ric doesn’t say anything in response. There’s nothing he can say. He didn’t know Roy or Wally. There’s no comfort he can give Donna and if she wanted any, she would be with friends or family and not in a seedy bar in Blüdhaven where she doesn’t know anyone.
Donna suddenly clears her throat: “Next game.”
She wins this time. There’s a fury in her throws and the darts go further into the bord than they usually would. The paths they fly on are hardly curved at all.
“What’s your full name?”
“Richard John Grayson, why do you wanna know?”
Donna shrugs: “I heard someone call you Gray earlier and couldn’t place it as a nickname.”
She wins the next game, too.
“What do you remember about your life before the head trauma?”
“Headshot”, he blurts out.
“Hmm?”, Donna asks.
“The head trauma was me being shot in the head.”
“I’m sorry to hear that”, she says and actually does sound sorry. Not in an ‘oh, you poor thing’-way but in a ‘that fucking sucks’-way
“I don’t remember any people.”, he begins and realizes he wants to say more. He’s been keeping everything to himself for the last month but he really needs to get some stuff out and Donna feels so safe. “I remember feelings sometimes. I’ll walk down the street and see something and I’ll get excited or sad or…” He realizes something as he’s talking and stops in the middle of his sentence.
He looks Donna over for what seems like the hundredth time this evening. He feels emotions bubble up inside of himself that don’t make sense. There’s a feeling of safety but they’re in a seedy bar and he doesn’t know Donna. There’s a sadness about her being sad but he doesn’t get sad for every sad person he sees and he doesn’t know her. There’s a joy at seeing her but he doesn’t know her .
“Oh”, he lets out. “I knew you, didn’t I?” A few more wires connect in his mind. “I knew Roy and Wally, too.”
He doesn’t quite know why that makes him sad instead of angry. When Barbara comes to try and convince him to connect to people from his old life, he gets angry. So, why is he suddenly just sad?
He plops down on the closest chair without saying another word and Donna silently sits down across from him. Then, he starts crying. There’s a steady hand on his shoulder - Donna’s he presumes - and his head has sunken into his hands.
“Why the fuck did you come here?”, he asks when he can manage it.
“They were your best friends, too. I couldn’t stand you not knowing they’re dead.” There’s such a genuine pain in her voice.
Ric wants to scream at her or punch her or run away but he doesn’t. Instead he looks up and sees the tears that are running down Donna’s face and the way she’s looking at him with a desperate need.
“Fuck you”, he says instead. It sounds so voiceless. Even to his own ears.
“Ric, I love you so much”, Donna answers after a moment. “I know it’s weird to have people you don’t even know care about you so deeply. But I’m not willing to lose you. I was willing to give you time but that was before…” Her voice breaks and she clears her throat. “If you run away, I will find you. I have full access to the JLA’s ressources. I will find you.
“You have five younger siblings. They’re all worried about you. They just want to know that you’re doing alright. They also aren’t very good at giving others privacy. You know the other cab driver, the Hispanic one, you sometimes talk to? That’s Jason. Your oldest younger brother.”
There’s a weird feeling bubbling up inside of him, a kind of ‘Oh, that’s something Jason would do’. Even though he doesn’t know any Jasons. He knows a Todd Peters. He lets out a laugh.
Donna looks like she doesn’t quite know what to interpret his laugh as.
“I’m okay with calling you whatever the fuck you want to be called. I’ll call Ric, Gray or even Bob if you want me, too. I’m ready to get to know a new you. Just please let me know you.” She sounds so desperate. Something about it causes a pain inside of Ric’s stomach.
He makes a split second decision: “I go here nearly every evening.”
She stares at him incredulously and then throws her arms around him in a tight hug. Ric feels himself tending up completely and Donna quickly let’s go of him.
“I’ll see you around, then.”
Surprisingly, Ric doesn’t hate that prospect.
Donna comes back two times in the next week before she steps into the bar with a girl in tow, who has taken Ric’s cab at least ten times.
“Hey!”, Donna says. “This is Cass. She’s your only sister and the person in your family who is most respectful of other people’s privacy.”
Ric actually breaks out into loud laughter. A few of the bar’s other patrons look at him, some out of confusion others annoyance.
Donna looks at Cass in a condemning manner.
“ I’m sorry ”, Cass signs.
Donna rolls her eyes: “Most respectful doesn’t mean much in your family.” She looks way more apologetic than Cass.
The next person who accompanies Donna is a guy with longer black hair and two scars across his left eye. His eyes are bright purple and he smells of a trip to the beach.
“Hello, I’m Garth.”
Ric knows that name. He’s just heard it somewhere: “Oh, wait. You’re the Atlantean ambassador to the UN!”
Garth and Donna exchange a look and Ric is pretty sure there’s a silent conversation going on there.
Garth seems much more guarded than Donna and Cass were. Ric doesn’t know whether he’s just a more quiet person or he’s actually more apprehensive of meeting Ric. After about three hours and multiple glasses of the strong stuff, however, Garth starts to open up a little.
“I’m sorry but your harbour is disgusting. I can barely breathe in there and my hair always gets a really weird gloss for a week.”
Ric can’t keep himself from bursting into laughter: “Why the fuck would you go in there? I’m pretty sure the water classifies as a bio-weapon.”
Both of their faces fall.
“Roy always used to say that”, Donna explains after they’ve both stared into nothingness for a while.
A terrible sadness spreads throughout Ric. It’s like a part of his brain went: ‘Yeah, that’s not my joke.’
Ric doesn’t quite know why he gets an apartment. It’s a small, shitty studio apartment with one small window that opens to a fire escape, a tiny desk and an incredibly rusty metal bed. The kitchen is made up of a sink and two cooktops that basically have the options ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’.
There’s a small package with food on the fire escape the day after he moves in and a pot with a variety of herbs the day after that. The next day it’s an array of cereal boxes plus there’s milk in his fridge.
Half of his brain is freaking out about it, wants to change the locks and never talk to Donna or Cass or Garth or ‘Todd’ ever again. And then there’s this warm feeling spreading throughout him and his brain is screaming at him to hug someone. He ends up punching the wall. He doesn’t leave his apartment for the next three days - he can’t drive right now anyway.
In the third night someone bangs on his door loud enough that he wakes up. Ric opens the door to reveal a black girl with blonde hair who is at least a head smaller and about ten years younger than him.
She looks at him in his pyjamas and starts into a rant: “I’m sorry but Cass is getting annoyingly worried and Jason nearly shot Tim tonight and Tim has a really weird look on his face and Damian is, well… Damian but in a non-Damian way and if I need to carry you to that stupid fucking bar tomorrow night I will.” She stops to take a breath. “I’m Steph, by the way.”
Ric hasn’t quite processed any of the information he was just punched in the face with, when Steph pushes past him. He automatically closes the door behind her and turns around.
“Ah”, Steph looks around the room. “Have you watered the herbs?”
Ric stares at her as she starts making his bed and sorting the few things he owns.
She nods and looks around the room once more, searching for more things that she apparently thinks need to be organized: “So, who freaked you out?”
“Hmm?”, he asks slightly confused.
“You apparently haven’t left your apartment in the last few days. Three, I think? If Tim’s infos are correct, which they usually are.” Steph seems to catch herself before she starts to ramble again. “You had a rhythm for life and I don’t think you suddenly changed it for no reason. Your siblings all sometimes have problems foreseeing emotional reactions to what they do.”
“Maybe my brain damage has given me epilepsy and I had a seizure”, he says, somehow unwilling to let her know that her conclusions are completely correct.
Her head swivels around quickly and her face has fallen completely, leaving behind a deep worry. 50% of headshot survivors have epilepsy. It’s downright nasty to imply that he does.
“Did you?”, Steph asks carefully.
She basically falls into a chair and stares at Ric like she suddenly can’t recognize him: “Fuck you.” She takes a deep breath. “Why would you ever say something like that?”
Something inside of him snaps: “Why do all of you keep intruding into my life? Why do you always go a step further than I’m comfortable with? Why do you run through my door when I open it a little bit?”
“I…”, Steph starts.
“Leave”, Ric hears himself whisper.
Steph stops talking and stares at him.
Ric clears his throat: “Leave. I don’t want you here.”
He moves back into his car the next day. He doesn’t go to the bar. He’s sitting with his legs pulled up and his head on his knees, when someone knocks on his window. It scares the shit out of him.
It’s Donna. She’s smiling at him through the window even though her hair looks like it’s dripping wet. Ric slowly pulls a couple of towels from the back and spreads one over the passenger seat. Then, he opens the door.
“Hey, Ric, long time no see”, Donna says as she sits down, closes the door and grabs the towel still in Dick’s hands. “I hear you met Steph yesterday.”
“How do I even know Steph? She’s like ten years younger than me.”
“She used to date Tim, your third youngest brother.”
Ric sighs: “How was your day?”
“Terrible. I was stabbed by a Minotaur”, Donna replies in a strangely happy tone of voice. “How was yours?”
“Jason wasn’t at the usual place.”
“Yeah, that’s on you.” Donna’s voice has suddenly lost all joy. “What I really don’t understand about you, Ric ”, she puts a strange sort of emphasis on his name, “is why you keep punishing people for caring about you. Newsflash: That’s usually a good thing.”
Ric doesn’t know how to react to that. Donna has never been anything but friendly to him. She’s complained about other things, even yelled at someone who was making unwanted advances on a girl in the bar but she has never directed anger at him.
She seems to realize that, too, because she’s staring at him like she’s scared that he’ll push her back out into the rain. He’s not completely sure why that isn’t an option for him but it definitely isn’t. He needs Donna. The only thing that came close to getting Ric out of his apartment these last few days, were the evenings at the bar with Donna.
“I could use a drink”, Ric says hesitantly.
“Ric, I need to talk to you about something”, Donna says about a month after they’ve first met.
“You’re already talking to me.”
Donna sends him a look.
Ric rolls his eyes: “What I was trying to say is ‘shoot’.”
“Before I say anything about the actual thing, I just want you to know that this is completely your decision and no one is going to force you to do it.” She takes a deep breath. Ric is pretty sure he knows where this is going. “There might be a way to heal the damage done to your brain. A combination of surgery and magic. It’s not without risks, of course, but…”
“I’ll do it.”
Donna stares at him: “What?”
“I’m… There’s a part of me that hurts when you mention Wally and Roy. A part that gets excited when I see Jason or Cass. A part that never knows whether to be angry or soft when Bruce is mentioned. I can’t… I had a panic attack last week and I still don’t know why. It’s like there’s a wall in my brain that only lets emotions through but it’s without any context. I don’t want that. It fucking sucks.” There’s tears welling up in his eyes and Ric looks away from Donna to wipe them away.
He’s quickly wrapped up in a hug: “I love you, Richard Grayson, no matter who you are exactly. I love you and Garth loves you and your entire family loves you, too.”
It’s weird to open his eyes after the surgery because it feels like there’s two people in his head. His memories of the last two months are like those of a completely different person except for the fact that Dick can recognise himself in Ric’s thoughts and actions. He looks at Donna reading in a chair next to his bed and he sees one of his closest friends but he also sees the woman he’s been hanging out in a bar with for the last two months.
It’s probably all going to smooth over in a while. His brain will sort through his memories and find a way to classify them. He shifts slightly to properly look around the room. It’s the Watchtower’s infirmary, her realizes.
“You’re awake”, Donna’s voice is full of relief.
Dick looks over at her and feels a lump in his throat: “Wally and Roy, they’re…” He can’t bring himself to say it.
“Yeah”, Donna says. “I’m sorry.”
Dick starts shaking before he’s actually sobbing. This time Donna doesn’t hug him because he’s not actually supposed to move too much, yet. She does, however, hold his hand and he knows she’s crying, too, even if she’s doing so quietly.
“Everything was going so well”, Dick forces out.
“And then there were those two weeks when everything went to absolute shit”, Donna agrees with a shaking voice.
She’s holding his hand so tightly that it hurts a little. He doesn’t tell her, though. He doesn’t want her to let go. He needs to feel her right now. Just like he needed her when he was Ric, even though he didn’t know it at the time.