Walking through the large wooden doors and into the foyer all Dick could imagine was swinging from the large chandelier and landing on the second floor balcony. His eyes darted around the room looking for other areas he could apply his acrobatic expertise before landing on a stern looking old man. Out of the corner of his eye he watched his brother impulsively hide behind Bruce’s legs and joined him.
“Welcome home, Master Bruce. It’s good to know that you are indeed capable of finding your way home.”
“It’s good to be home, Alfred.” He wasn’t surprised by the comment, knowing he couldn’t get away with making Alfred worry any more than necessary. “I would like to introduce you to Richard and Timothy Grayson. Boys, this is my butler and long time friend Alfred Pennyworth.”
Dick emerged from behind Bruce and, not really knowing what was proper etiquette, straightened his back and held out his hand “Hello Mr. Pennyworth, sir, you can call me ‘Dick.'”
It was a sad sight. He was obviously afraid of leaving the wrong impression and intimidated by the new man.
Alfred easily came to an understanding of the situation and softened his expression. He was a surprised by the boys’ presence in the manor but knew better than to antagonize Bruce’s lack of prior warning.
Kneeling down to his height, he took Dick’s hand and turned to the shadow he could he behind Bruce. “Hello Master Dick. It is a pleasure to meet you. I assume that the young boy hiding behind Master Bruce is your brother Timothy.”
Hearing his name, Tim peeked out from behind his protection and slowly walk into the open. “Hello sir, you can call me ‘Tim.'”
Alfred shook his hand with a small chuckle, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Tim. Now, I am certain Master Bruce has forgotten to feed you so why don’t we make our way to the kitchen?”
Rushing to Bruce’s defence Dick pressed, “He got us nachos and cotton candy in the circus!”
Bruce shivered under the glare Alfred though his way and feigned ignorance. “I’m afraid that does not count as a meal, Master Dick. As you will see in this house I have a strict control over what the residents take into their body.”
The two boys silently contemplated the extent to which their life would change if even a man as large as Bruce getting a scolding.
With the knowledge that their diet would go through a major transformation, Tim thought of all the food he might not be able to eat anymore. He would surely miss the candy and cookies he saw Dick pack that they would have to throw away now. His mother had always said that sugar was bad for the body, especially for people as athletic as them, but these were empty threats and nothing ever changed. This man was going to be much more strict about healthy eating than she had ever been.
He didn’t notice that he was falling behind the others until two large arms lifted him up. Shocked and confused, he instinctively grasped the dress shirt knowing that his nails would do no real damage to the strong chest behind it. Bruce returned his confusion with tension as he seemed uncomfortable, or at the very least inexperienced, with holding a child.
Dick was uneasy with the scene before him, not knowing how he should feel with a stranger holding onto his little brother. Subconsciously he knew that he could trust Bruce, the police wouldn’t have let him take them in if he was dangerous, but there was still something strange about it.
Instead of trying to figure it out, he just settled for grabbing onto Bruce’s free hand and following Alfred to the kitchen.
After pushing down any of Bruce’s recommendations, Alfred started preparing Dick’s suggestion of spaghetti and meatballs while the others sat in the breakfast nook. They decided against using the dining because of its formality.
The boys started fidgeting in their seats as they smelled the spices, but they tried their hardest to be polite while they waited. The last thing they needed was to be rude on their first day in a new place.
Not used to the silence, they started kicking each other with their feet but the game couldn’t last long as Tim’s leg hardly left the chair. After one giggle too many, they stopped and just started taking in their environment. It was a stark contrast to the action and noise they had grown accustomed to in the circus.
Bruce, not disturbed in the slightest by the silence, started reading the newspaper to get caught up on all the business he had missed. Despite all his worries, it seemed the Wayne Enterprises hadn’t fallen into disarray while he was gone. On the other hand, LexCorp seemed to be doing too well for comfort. He would have to talk to Kent about ways to prevent any expansion on Luther’s part and find a reason to go to Metropolis.
He only looked once he heard Alfred clear his throat and signal towards the nervous boys.
Bruce tried to think of something that would entertain the kids and rose from his seat, “Um, would you like to meet Ace? He’s my great dane and I think he’d love to meet you.”
Dick looked to Tim and tried to gauge how the little one felt. Large animals with the ability to eat his brother were kept away from him in the circus and Bruce didn’t seem like the kind of person to keep a teacup chiwawa.
“Is he mean?”
Bruce was quick to dismiss the possibility of Ace hurting them. “No, not at all. He’s probably the nicest dog you’ll ever find. He is big though, great danes are one of the largest breeds of dogs in the world, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Still unsure, but not wanting to be rude, Dick nodded and rose from his seat and Tim followed.
Before Bruce could feel satisfied in him plan working, he realized that Ace hadn’t greeted him at the door as he usually did. “Alfred, would you happen to know where Ace is? I didn’t see him when we got back.”
“I recall seeing him in the backyard waiting for his scheduled activities. Might I suggest rewarding him for his patience, Master Bruce?”
He let out a small grunt, embarrassed by his lapse of memory, and lead the way to the back yard after grabbing a bag of dog treats.
Walking through the house, they were stunned by the paintings on the walls depicting the late Wayne ancestors. It was impressive that Bruce knew about most of his family since they came to America, mostly because they didn’t even know much about their grandparents. There was one painting in particular, of a man, woman, and child, that was put above the fireplace in the main library that seemed to be important. As they passed the room Tim saw Bruce avert his eyes to it and made a mental note to ask him about it later.
The backyard itself was just as grand as the rest of the house. There was nothing in sight that wasn’t a part of the estate and the dog could’ve been hiding anywhere. In particular, there were some trees Dick was making eyes with and a garden Tim wanted to explore.
At that moment, afraid of being attacked, Tim grabbed onto his brother’s arm and started walking much more slowly into the open.
Bruce whistled and a few seconds later they heard heavy steps coming their way. The hound coming their way was massive and incredibly happy to finally see his owner.
He didn’t even bother to slow down before leaping onto Bruce and placing his paws on his shoulder before licking his face. Not even forgetting the plans they made seemed to make Ace upset.
Bruce rubbed him behind the ears and kissed him on the nose. This was a strange sight for the two behind him as Bruce was usually stolic, but they enjoyed seeing him welcome Ace. “I’m sorry I made you wait so long, boy.”
Behind him he could hear Dick murmuring that he wasn’t a dog, but a horse instead. Without even turning he knew that Tim would agree with his brother, even more so considering Ace could loomed over him sitting down.
Once Ace was finally done greeting his owner he moved onto investigating the two small boys hiding behind him. Seeing the dog’s attention turn to them, Bruce grabbed him, making sure that he couldn’t get too close to them.
“Ace, sit down and don’t touch them just yet.”
He immediately came to halt by his feet even though he was surprised by the demand. Bruce was never stern with him. To reward him for his patience Bruce gave him a treat, and another few to make up for leaving him in the yard.
Turning to the boys, Bruce knelt down to their height and gave them a direct view of Ace. “Okay boys, how about we try to stick out your hand and slowly let him sniff it?”
Neither of them moved from their place and fidgeted slightly when Ace tried to come closer to all of the action. It wasn’t normal for people to be afraid of him and he was growing restless.
By now Dick was just as afraid of the great dane as Tim, “No, no, no. He’s going to eat it.”
“No, he’s pretty well fed. Watch.” Bruce stuck out his hand and let Ace nuzzle it. He let Ace move so he could lay flat out on the ground and look even less threatening. “Here, just touch his coat and feel him breath. It’s pretty amazing feeling all of internal organs and muscles move when he breathes or moves.”
There were a few minutes of silence where nothing happened. Bruce wasn’t going to force them to do anything they wouldn’t want to do, so he just sat down next to Ace and made sure nothing threatened them.
Dick was the braver of the two and eased closer to Ace, only stopping once when he tried to watch the boy come closer, and felt just how warm the small fur coat was. He opened his full palm and started slowly rubbing a small section of his back. “It’s okay Tim, it’s not that bad. He actually feels soft.”
He made a little room and Tim walked to his side and toked the dog. Once nothing happened, his sat on Dick lap and started petting Ace, giggling when he started wagging his tail.
Ace moved to face them and started smelling around them. He even licked their faces once they didn’t turn away or seem afraid anymore.
Bruce was proud of the progress they had made. “Do you guys want to try playing fetch, it’s one of his favorite games.”
Tim was the most excited at the prospect of the game and tried to catch the tail as Ace tried to keep it out of his reach, “Oh, I want to play catch!”
“Hey Ace, how about you go find your toys and bring them back here. Be quick, we don’t want to be late for Alfred.”
He rushed away from the trio and came back a few minutes later with a plush toy in his mouth. The ball squeaked as he chewed it while he slowed down and dropped it covered in slime on Tim’s lap and waited for someone to throw it.
“Ew, it’s covered in spit.” Tim was disgusted by the ball and wrinkled his nose in repulsion. He wrapped the sleeve of his shirt around his palm and moved the ball away from him and closer to his brother.
Bruce tried to reassure the boy, “It’s not that bad Timothy, saliva it mostly water.”
Dick couldn’t find it in himself to agree with the statement and tried to reason with Bruce, “Water doesn’t smell bad like spit and it’s gross.” He based this on the drool he found on his pillow in the morning while trying to keep the ball away from him.
“Here, a little spit on the ball doesn’t change anything,” He picked the ball up from Tim’s feet and rolled it off on the ground, cleaning it in the process and presented it to the boys. “Is this better now?”
Before he could accept the ball back, Tim inspected it to make sure that it met his standards. He nodded once he couldn’t see anything and stood up, ready to throw the ball as far as he could. Ace helped him rise to his feet, making sure the small boy didn’t fall over, and turned to the direction he had come from, ready to chase the ball wherever it went.
Tim took a stance, wanting to impress everyone watching him and tried to propel the ball as far as he could. Despite his best efforts, his throw was lackluster and the ball didn’t go farther than a few yards. Ace didn’t even bother trying to chase it and instead turned to the group confused.
Dick started laughing under his breath as Tim huffed, upset that he couldn’t hurl it far enough to interest the dog. He tried a second time, but the pitch wasn’t any bit more impressive and he dropped to the ground upset. Ace tried to comfort the boy, but he could hear his brother chuckling louder and Bruce trying to hide his own amusment under the guise of a cough.
When he didn’t go for the ball again, Dick took up the role of playmate and threw the ball a good distance. It wasn’t anywhere near as extraordinary as Bruce’s, but Ace did trot over and return it. By his face and the fact his tail was motionless Dick assumed he was still waiting for something more exciting.
He dropped the ball by Bruce, asking for more and expecting a better throw from him. He threw it past the garden bed, and the two by his feet were in awe of how far the ball went and how fast the k-nine went after it.
Taking the opportunity to teach the boys something about biology, Bruce said, “You see, great danes have big hind legs, the legs that they sit on, so they can run pretty fast when they want to. Most of the time, though, Ace is too lazy to do anything other than lay by the fireplace.”
“Does he not play outside much?” If it were the case, Dick was more than willing to take on the job of playing with him while Bruce was at work or away.
“He doesn’t look like it, but he’s pretty young so he loves to chase anything that moves. Right now, I think he’s trying to show off infront of you.”
Watching the dog come back and stand ready for more, Dick replied, “He’s doing a good job.”
They were outside for over an hour, Bruce teaching Tim how to throw and improving Dick’s until Ace was too tired to chase anymore. He trotted back and layed on the grass, resting and expecting someone to return petting him now that the game was over. Sometimes even more than catch, being pampered was his favorite activity. Alfred came by warning them of how much time had passed and that the food was going to go cold soon. At the reminder of the meal they realized just how hungry they were and quickly made the way back to the manor.
Back inside the kitchen the table was set with the spaghetti and Ace krept under the table, waiting for the scraps that fell from the table. Seeing as Tim was having trouble holding his fork, more ended on the ground than in his mouth. He wasn’t even worried about the mess he was making and tried to watch the other two until Bruce spun the noodles around for him. After some time Bruce even stopped giving him the fork and fed the boy directly.
Even with the help Tim and Dick made a large mess, both on the table and themselves. Neither cared much with how good it tasted and there was more than enough to keep them satisfied. Dick had the sauce all along his mouth and on his nose and Tim seemed to be Ace’s new favorite member of the family with how he tried to feed the dog when no one was looking.
Bruce was far too distracted by the display to worry about his own food, even giving some over to them when their own bowls ran out. Alfred seemed to agree and he watched from the kitchen, a little flattered by how much they enjoyed the food and a little distressed with how much cleaning he would have to do.
Once they were done with all the food, Bruce took the plates to the sink and chuckled with Alfred as the two boys slowly became aware of how much food they were wearing.
Turning to the younger man with a sincere smile Alfred murmured, “Master Bruce, I think the young ones are due for a bath.”
He nodded along and whispered, “Definitely,” making sure their guests couldn’t hear the conversation.
“I wish you the best, sir.”
Bruce was startled by the statement, not at all confident in his ability to care for the boys, “What? Shouldn’t you be the one to do it? You have much more experience considering you did the same with me.”
“Master Bruce, that was well over two decades ago I see this as an experience you will need if you want to raise the-”
The lighthearted tone of the conversation switched to a one more serious. Bruce was stunned by the accusation that he wanted to raise the kids and tried to remove the possibility from his friend’s mind, “I never said that. I never said I wanted to raise them. I just want to help them.”
Alfred looked at him in the eye and tried to convey his interpretation of the situation, “Master Bruce, look at them. Richard is the same age as you were when you went through the same tragedy. The only time he is at ease in when his brother is smiling.”
Bruce’s nodded along, watching Dick clean some noodles off of his brother’s arm, daring him to eat it. “It’s nice to see them happy.”
“Timothy is far too young to remember anything of his parents and Richard will forget most of it in the next few years. They are going to need much more than a stranger in the only home they will remember.”
He turned back to the butler and didn’t try to hide anything knowing the older one of them was capable of seeing past it. “I want to help them, Alfred, I really do, but I can’t be their father. I don’t know how and I’m not ready for that responsibility.”
Alfred immediately disregarded the argument, slightly frustrated in his surrogate son. “My god sir, you take on many responsibilities when you go out in night and excel at them. I fear you are underestimating how large of an impact you can have on their lives.”
“These are two completely different things.”
“Very much so, but I am certain you the ability to be great at both.”
He dropped his head and gripped the edge of the counter and stayed silent for a moment. When he did speak, his voice was laced with worry, something he hadn’t heard in years. “Do you really think I can be their father?”
“Yes.” Alfred was adamant in his response, leaving no room for argument.
Bruce sighed and turned away, not seeing the sad smile on Alfred’s face as he walked over to the boys. Their conversation weighed on his mind as tried to gather them up for the much needed baths. By now Dick had tried to clean up their faces with a napkin, but the sauce had dried and Tim kept edging just out of his reach, not wanting to be cleaned.
“I think that after a quick bath it’s time for your naptime.”
At the mention of sleep they both let out a long yawn, remembering just how much energy they had spent and how full they were. All of a sudden their eyes were much more droopy and they had lost all the energy they would need to make it through the bath.
Soon they were trying to find ways to avoid cleaning up and pleaded for a nap first. Dick rationalized that if they got some sleep before the bath, they would be more awake to clean off.
“Come on, it’s not that bad. A nice quick bath right before bed feels great, I promise.”
Defeated, Timothy stuck his arms out, waiting for Bruce to lift him up. If he was going to have to take a bath, then someone would have to carry him the way there and Bruce didn’t try arguing, he was just happy they agreed. Dick followed suit and soon both were hanging onto either side of him as he carried them to the rooms he knew Alfred had prepared.
The rooms were close to his own, both right across the hall. He wouldn’t be surprised if Alfred planned it this way so either of them could find him if they needed his help.
Bruce entered one and dropped them on the countertop in the bathroom. They were laying ontop of eachother, half asleep as if their bones had just turned to jelly.
Rummaging through the bathroom, Bruce tried to finding anything they could need, not really sure how to give babies a bath. In the back of his mind he remembered picture of babies in sinks, but he was sure both of his boys were far past that age.
After starting the water in the tub, he put in some bubble soap. At the very least it would keep them interested in staying awake and the bubbles would clean off most of the dirt and sauce. He found some rubber toys in a bin underneath the sink and a stool for them to sit on and put them in the water, in the back of his mind thinking that Alfred was far too prepared for a young child in the manor.
Cloths were removed and Dick and Tim were much more excited once they saw the bubbles rising from the water and the colorful objects floating in it. Bruce helped them both in and Tim took his place on the stool, waiting for the water to get high enough for him to splash with his arms.
Dick had already started accumulating as many bubbles as he could and started blowing them in Tim’s face and building a beard on his own.
From the sidelines Bruce took note of which toys they found interesting and which were ignored. The ship was a favorite as it sailed through the bubbles and sank with their waves but the cartoon characters weren’t touched. In particular, most of the animals were forming families while the ship carried them to different parts of their tub
After a few minutes Bruce tried to break through the playing but settled for shampooing their hair while they watched the duck carry around her ducklings. Somehow they had been able to get sauce and dirt in their and Bruce could see them getting more relaxed with the feel of warm water and soap. He used a little spray can toy to wash the soap out of their hair and let them stay in a little longer until the water grew cold
He moved fast, knowing they would feel cold as soon as they got out of the tub, and dried them off before helping them into their new cloths. The easy task was made much harder once they stopped helping him along and it became his job to make sure each arm made it into the right sleeve.
They fell into the bed and were asleep before Bruce could even wish them goodnight. Dick was wrapped around Tim once again, a mook of how they had slept the night before in the trailer, waiting for the blankets to carry them off to sleep. He just stood by the bed before tucking them in and returning to clean the bathroom.
After the bath and having to clean the room, he was just as soaked as they had been and used it as an excuse to avoid taking a shower before he went to bed. Instead, he lazed around his room, getting into his own pjs and crawling into bed, feeling much too tired for a vigilante.
He zoned off just in time to see Alfred make a round through the rooms, making sure nothing had gone wrong while Bruce was given some fatherly responsibilities.