The first few days were the worst. The confusion, fear, and contempt were enough to make Bruce go crazy.
He knew the first 24 hours were the most important in any kidnapping. There were very few cases where people were found afterwards and Bruce would do everything in his power to make sure his sons were one of those people. It was what he owed them. It was what they deserved.
The London police were competent, a welcome change when compared to the GCPD, but unable to help or give any input Bruce didn’t already have. Every time he had a meeting with the police chief and learned that there had been no progress there was glass broken and dents in the wall once Bruce had to realize just how much time he had wasted in getting there and listening to people tell him they didn’t have any way to get his sons back.
The League tried too hard to be sensitive. This was one case where they were emotionally invested in the victims, both Bruce and the boys, and it made them want to work all the more harder. It also made every dead end feel all the more painful.
Clark was probably the most hurt. He spent hours trying to pick up any faint sound of their heartbeat or screams, but nothing came up.
Bruce had called in a few favors, set up a temporary base in London, and began working as the world’s greatest detective.
There hadn’t been any cameras capturing the action outside of the hotel window, but some fabric did get caught in the broken window. It was silk, high quality meaning whoever took the boys had to be well equipped and capable of spending excess money on a minute improvement to protection. Bruce wasn’t really sure if silk would be effective in any form of armor, so it might have been a decorational piece, something for aesthetics and easily replaceable. He wouldn’t rule anything out.
Bruce immediately brought the fabric to his lab and examined it under the microscope. If he could figure out the specifics of the material, the residue embedded in the fine threads, and the maker, then he could figure out who had bought it and get one step closer to finding his boys.
Absentmindedly, Bruce brought the material up to his nose and let out a gasp. Bruce would recognize the scent anywhere, it was Dick’s shampoo and looking at it again he could recognize it as the collar of the shirt he had decided to wear to bed the day he went missing.
After a few days Bruce had to go back to Gotham. He tried to convince himself this wasn’t a sign of him giving up, that he was going to lose faith in his boys, but this was him going back home to work much more efficiently in his own workspace. It felt like betrayal and no matter how much he tried to think otherwise Bruce was leaving the last place he had seen his boys.
In his cave he went into autopilot and began going through evidence another time.
He missed when Alfred left for a few days to get Ace back from the Kent farm. The Great Dane returned excited and promptly made an exploratory patrol around the Manor to make sure nothing had changed and that everything was in place. The first thing he did was go into the boys bedrooms to see if they were ready to greet him, but he was disappointed to find that they were empty.
After convincing Alfred to let him into the cave, Ace looked around to see if his youngest masters were inside helping Bruce with some of his work. He found Bruce alone in his chair smelling particularly bad and the cave without any other occupants. After a few hours Ace got tired of watching Bruce do absolutely nothing on the computer except watch the same tapes over and over again so he made his way back into the Manor to wait until the two boys decided to come back.
Later that night Bruce found Ace looking through Tim’s toys while he tried to find something that smelled like the both of them. Maybe if he got a strong hint of their smell he could find them himself.
Looking at him messing up the room, Bruce immediately saw red and yelled out, “What are you doing?”
Ace dropped the bear and looked over to him confused. Bruce wasn’t finished and he pulled the dog out while screaming, “Get the hell out of his room. You can’t go in there, understand? I don’t want you messing with any of Tim’s things.”
Once Ace was circling around the hall confused, Bruce closed the door and looked into the Great Dane’s innocent eyes. As soon as he let go of the handle, Bruce dropped to his knees and pulled Ace towards him and admitted, “I don’t know what to do Ace. I don’t know where they are or if they’re okay and I don’t know what to do.”
Three weeks…three weeks was a long time.
He hadn’t showered in three weeks. Bruce considered it a betrayal to his sons to not focus his every thought on getting them back and he could shower after he got a chance to hold them in his arms again.
The only food he had eaten had been forced into him by Alfred. He told Bruce that he would be able to think more clearly with a full stomach, but it was the promise of coffee and supplements that made him give in.
But this was his limit.
While rewatching the tapes from the hotel room for the thousandth time, Bruce rose to look at the forensic report to make sure he had memorized everything correctly. As soon as he stood up, Bruce began to feel light a rush of pain in his head and reached out to the arm of the chair to prevent himself from collapsing on the ground.
Falling back into his seat, Bruce pulled the scrap of Dick’s shirt out of his pocket and pulled it up to his nose to feel some comfort before he fell unconscious.