After breakfast, Bruce spent an two hours downtown going through the paperwork Luscious was kind enough to send over. There were some menial tasks of making sure that the summer interns have replacements for when they returned to school and that they get the proper recommendation letters. It was a tradition his father had started when he took over the company many years ago, offering low income and at risk kids the opportunity to work for Wayne Enterprises and maybe take a different direction in their lives.
Bruce also had to make sure that enough money was diverted to Research and Development for any future tools Batman might need. The Batmobile might need an upgrade, she been put to hell for the past few weeks, but he didn’t like anyone other than himself working on her. It wouldn’t be that hard to push for any upgrade he wanted, Luscious had a soft spot for him. The board was still easily impressed with the growing profits so they felt no need to question any of the choices that were making them so much money. It was one of the few moments Bruce was happy that so many affluent people were easily manipulated.
Halfway through his pile, Bruce felt restless from sitting in the same seat far longer than he should have. Even Ace was bored enough to run away from his office to someone free enough to play with him. He was a hit with the interns, everyone of which would stop for a minute and pet him if they had the time. Bruce had no problem thinking that when he returned home the boys were going to pamper the dog enough to become his new favorites and there was nothing he could ever do to change that.
Envying the dog as he roamed the building, Bruce thought about the modifications he could probably get Luscious to agree to. There were some plans for a Batjet and a Batsubmaine that he wanted to show the CEO, but he knew that he would be laughed out of the office. Instead he returned to the pile of paperwork that seemed to grow bigger the longer he didn’t work on it.
Once everything was either signed or pushed off to someone else, Bruce used the quiet to think about a few things while he waited for the great dane to find his way back to him. His mind settled on the two new residents of his home. Overall, he enjoyed having more company in the lonely house, but he was having a hard time gauging how well they would fare with him in their lives. Bruce had absolutely no experience with children or teenagers and had no idea of what they needed to develop into proper adults. They would also have to deal with his emotional absence or regular mood changes and there was no way that was good for development.
By the time he entered the limo back to the manor, it had already been three hours past when he’d promised to be home. Alfred would be mildly upset, but it wasn’t like Bruce was known for being punctual. Ace had come back to him tired and ready to return home and have a proper rest. He crawled into the limo and melted on his owner’s lap for the entirety of the ride. Once they pulled into the driveway, the dog jumped from his place by Bruce and went off to find a place soft enough for him to collapse for hours.
Entering the manor, Bruce dropped off his homework in his office before greeting Alfred and checking in on dinner. He’d already missed lunch, but from the remains of the kitchen he was sure it went well enough. The sink was full of dirty dishes, too big of a mess for three people, two of which were small boys, but Bruce imagined that the little chefs had made quite a mess working on what appeared to be tacos.
Alfred was preparing the kitchen for the final meal of the day and looked up from his work before saying, “Welcome back Master Bruce, how was business?”
Bruce grabbed a glass of water from the fridge and pulled out a chair while replying, “Everything was fine, Alfred. Nothing too extreme happened while I was away, but we will be offering some of the summer interns part time jobs. How are Dick and Tim?”
Alfred smiled at him. “The boys and I went exploring, making sure no one gets lost again. We covered all of the rooms and afterwards we made lunch before they broke off into the library closet to their rooms. If I may say so, sir, it seems to be their favorite to spend time in.”
Bruce nodded along, making a mental note of the things he was learning. “How long until dinner is ready?”
“Master Tim needs a nap soon; I think I will lay him down after finishing up with the preparations and then return to complete dinner by the time he wakes up”
Bruce looked up slightly surprised. “A nap? Isn’t he too old for naps?”
Although he tried to hide the chuckle with a cough, Bruce heard Alfred laugh at his lack of knowledge about children. “Oh no, sir, most children continue napping until they are four or five. If I remember correctly, you continued to take an afternoon nap well past six.”
The man in question wanted to deny the claim but knew that he had no point of reference. “I would prefer it if you didn’t repeat the story to someone else.”
“Of course not, Master Bruce, I would never think of repeating the story to another soul.”
Trusting his friend’s words, Bruce sat in silence before asking, “Come to think of it, do you think we should get them to redecorate their rooms? I could probably find a designer ready to work on short notice and the boys might enjoy it. It will help them adjust quicker to know that they can personalize everything to their likings.”
Alfred offered him a soft smile, “That’s a brilliant idea, Master Bruce, but it will take more to adjust nicely.”
Sighing mostly to himself, Bruce thought about the responsibility that he was taking onto himself. “It’s only been three days hasn’t it? It feels like so much longer.”
Alfred pulled out a gallon of milk and poured it into a small cup. He thought for a moment that he would need to get new things for the kids. The only kiddie cups that he knew of where sitting in a box in the attic, put aside once Bruce turned too long for the. “I wouldn’t think too much of it, Master Bruce. Pretty soon it will have been ten or twenty years and you’ll be questioning where all of the time has gone.”
Not thinking too much about the comment, Bruce began, “I don’t know about -”
“Sir, I can assure you that I speak for experience. It doesn’t seem too long ago I was chasing you around the halls and changing your diaper.”
Turning his head slightly so the other couldn’t see the growing blush on his face, Bruce cleared his throat before replying, “Again this is a story I prefer not to be repeated to anyone other than ourselves.” Straightening his back a little bit, Bruce asked wearily, “Do either of them need diapers?”
Alfred almost spilled the milk he was pouring but made sure to comfort Bruce. He was probably thinking about the many times he would have to deal with the diapers if they weren’t properly potty trained. “I can assure you, sir, that Master Tim is potty trained. He still requires some help, the toilet being almost too big for him to sit on, but nothing that can’t be solved with a step stool.”
Bruce didn’t even try to hide the relief from his face, dreading even thinking about needing to learn how to change a diaper. “Is there anything else that happened today?”
Ready to go look for the boys probably playing with some of the toys set out for them in the library, Alfred thought for a moment before remembering, “Office Gordon did leave a message for you.”
“Jim? Did he say what he wanted?”
“I’m afraid not, sir. He said that it would be best if he could speak to you in person, it would be in the young masters’ best interest.”
“So it’s about the boys. Did it sound like it was good news?”
“To be honest, sir, it sounded as if he was tired. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was working as hard as we were to help make sure the boys were adjusting.”
“Yeah that’s probably true. I’ll go call him right now.”
Bruce took precautions to prepare himself for any outcome, positive or negative, that came with Jim’s message. He sat down in his father’s chair and mentally composed himself before pulling out his phone and finding the officer’s number.
Bruce leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. “Hello, Jim. It’s Bruce. Alfred told me that you called.”
“Hey, Bruce. Yeah I called you about an hour ago, but I got Alfred. To be honest, I should have known not to call your home during your business hours, but I’m never sure what days you decided to go to work.”
“I’m sorry about that. Umm…Actually I’ll give you the number to my personal phone.” If there was ever going to be an emergency he wanted Jim to reach him as soon as possible.
“Oh, there’s no ne-”
“I ensits. If there is any problem that involves Dick and Tim I want to be aware immediately. You are welcome to call me whenever you want, business hours or no business hours.”
Bruce could hear the slight smile Jim was kind enough to leave out of his voice. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Now what was it that you called for?”
Jim went straight into business, “Right. So it’s been a few days since the incident and the district attorney called my office wanting to know if there was going to be an investigation and trial. I told her that the investigation was going to follow through and that there would be a trial if and when we found a suspect, but I wanted to call to be sure that the boys were okay with this. I know that they’re young and the whole process might be a little more than they are ready to handle, but I wanted to be sure that they were ready for whatever comes next.”
“I’ll talk to them about everything. Dick’s old enough to understand most of it, but Tim will probably be completely lost on the whole process.”
“How old is the youngest, Tim?”
There was a short pause while Jim considered what he should say next.”He’s not going to remember anything is he?”
“No, I’m afraid kids don’t remember much from before they’re eight.”
“How about the other one, Richard?”
“He’s eight so he’ll remember more about their parents than Tim. It also means that he loves to look after his little brother, he’s incredibly dedicated.”
“That’s great…Now there is one other thing. The prosecutor wants to know if there will be an autopsy.”
Bruce hadn’t been expecting that, it never even crossed his mind. Somewhere in the back of his brain he could imagine some low ranking official wanting to run this trial as long as possible probably for some chance at a promotion. “Autopsy? We already know the cause of death.”
“That’s what I said, but I wanted your opinion. On the same note, we need to talk about their legal guardian.”
“Yeah, you can send over the paperwork for that.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that. Do you want to be their foster parents or adoptive?”
“Is there much of a difference? I know that being a foster parent isn’t as binding as adopting someone, that it’s not as long term and require less legal work from the adults’ part, but I’m not sure about the specifics.”
“That’s pretty much the most of it. If you were to be their adoptive parent, then they are fully your children and will take up your last name. Being fostered isn’t much different, but considering your situation I wouldn’t think that being a foster parent would be the best fit for you. The government usually gives the children a weekly allowance, but the fostering usually stops once the children turn eighteen. Assuming that you want to make the boys legally your son, adopting them into your family would be the best move.”
Bruce appreciated the consideration and help Jim was giving the boys. No matter how much he loved Gotham, there were very few officials in the city who would put genuine effort into improving the lives of others. “Thank’s for the recommendation. Do you know how long the process is going to take?”
“Honestly, considering your last name, it’ll probably be finished much sooner than for most people. If everything goes as planned, everything should be finished in about a year.”
“I would like to get on top everything as soon as possible. Can I get my lawyer to start as soon as tomorrow?”
“Yeah I can send him the contact information to a couple of adoption agencies right away. Thanks for the call back, Bruce.”
“No, thank you, Jim. I don’t know where I’d be if you weren’t such a big help.”
“It’s no problem, Bruce. I just want to make sure the boys have a good life now on. They don’t deserve to go through anything like that again.”
“Of course, I’ll do my best.”
“Have a good day, Bruce.”
“You too, Jim.”
Alfred walked into the library to see Tim and Dick whispering to each other while they sat on the floor and built towers out of Bruce’s old blocks. Earlier in the day, Alfred had made a short trip to the attic and digged out the remnants of Bruce’s childhood. Stored away behind the out of date furniture and files of saved documents that were too important to throw away were bins of the toys that he thought he would never see again. Alfred took a moment to reminisce on the memory of Bruce needing his stuffed dog to fall asleep. He could remember Master Thomas brining him the present to pacify Bruce’s constant begging for a pet. Surprisingly, the dog was kept in good condition, the only damage having come from Bruce’s adventures with him and his demands that ‘Ruffy’ not go into the wash and drown.
Alfred’s grabbed what he was sure to entertain Dick and Tim, some figures and simple games and clothing that might fit them. Soon he would need to go shopping with the boys and find them cloths of there own, but right now he was enjoying seeing life in the things packed away.
Looking at them now the two seemed comfortable but not sure of how to pass their time. In the circus there were surely dozens of people to help them pass their time and find some way to entertain them, but Gotham was to be a massive change. There were few people that either of the two adults would trust to look after them, and far fewer that they would give any semblance of the responsibility to. They were sitting in an arm chair with a small town built before them, but instead Dick was reading to Tim. A collection of Calvin and Hobbes books were balanced on the arm of the chair and Tim sat half on Dick’s lap and half against the back of the chair. Bruce’s old animal was stuffed between the two of them, listening along to the stories. Looking closely, it was evident that Tim was being slowly lulled to sleep. Every now and then he would yawn and shift his body until he felt warmer, but his older brother wasn’t deterred.
Making his presence clear, Alfred cleared his throat and asked, “Are you two enjoying yourselves?”
“Oh, hello Alfred. Yeah, but I think Timmy is a little tired.” Dick found it hilarious that his little brother couldn’t keep himself awake for long. Like the good older brother he was, Dick never missed an opportunity to make fun of him for it.
Tim tried to defend himself, although he failed miserably.”Imnottired.”
“Don’t lie, Babybird, you’re almost asleep by now.”
Every other word was punctuated with a small yawn and a subconscious rubbing of his hard against’ his brother’s chest. Even then, Tim was adamant about the fact that he was not tired in any way. “NoI’mnot. I’mawakerightnow.”
Alfred tried to appease the small boy, “I believe you, Master Tim, but would you please do me the favor of drinking some milk?”
Tim considered his options with a muddled brain and a general lack of motivation. Convincing himself that he was in fact thirsty, Tim answered, “Yes, please.”
Alfred maneuvered himself around the city growing out of the carpet and placed the warm glass into the young master’s hands. Next to him, Dick helped Tim with the milk, making sure that he didn’t spill any onto himself or drink too much too fast.
Tim chugged it all down, feeling his eyelashes getting heavier the more he drank. Once he was done, there wasn’t much keeping him awake, his body having melt against his older brother half way through the glass.
After he finished the glass and Dick placed it on the floor, Tim rested his head on his older brother’s shoulder, knowing that everyone in the room was waiting for him to fall asleep. “Dickie?”
Every word was mumbled, not liking that he had to admit defeat. “I think I might be a little tired.”
Not wanting to argue, Tim easily admitted, “Okay, a lot.”
Alfred decided to break into the moment and get Tim the rest he needed. “Would you like to return to your room for a nap, Master Tim?”
Looking up at his current chair, Tim didn’t want to leave Dick alone. Not including the few moments he was lost in the morning, he had always been right next to Dick. Tim knew that Dick needed the company as much as he did. “What is big brother going to do if I go to sleep?”
Rubbing his brother’s head, Dick couldn’t help but smile at how much he tried to take care of him. “It’s okay Timmy. I’m pretty sure I’ll think of something. I might just finish reading. If Bruce is back, then Ace can come by and give me some company while you take a nap.”
Not really trusting him, Tim looked around the room and settled his eyes on the long sofa a few feet away. “Ummm…no. I’m going to sleep on the couch.”
Alfred didn’t like the idea of Tim sleeping on the couch, his bed would be much more safe and comfortable, but he could respect his need to look after his older brother. “Are you sure, Master Tim? The bed is much more comfortable.”
Tim tried to explain his logic, as much as an explanation can be if it’s voiced into the shirt of the person he’s resting on. “If I sleep here, then I can come back sooner.”
“If you’re sure, Master Tim. I’ll go find you a pillow and blanket for your nap. If you’re going to stay in the library, then I have to insist that you keep yourself warm.”
Listing to the silence in the room, Dick took that chance to hear how Tim felt about the move. He knew his little brother was falling asleep, but right now he was too tired to lie to him or come up with some half lie to make him feel better. Right before his daily nap was generally the best time to ask Tim a question. “What do you think, Timmy?”
Dick explained, “Bruce. Alfred. Living here. The whole situation. How does it make you feel”
Tim considered his options for a moment, before replying, “I don’t know, it’s cleaner than Haley’s, but I still miss Mama and Daddy.”
Dick could help but pull him a little closer. “Yeah me too, baby bro. Do you like living here?”
“It’s fun, but I don’t know, it’s different.”
“Good different or bad different?”
Tim decided to turn the interrogation back to Dick, not liking having to answer important questions while he waited for a blanket and pillow. He would much rather sit here and pet Ruffy in silence. “I don’t know, how do you feel?”
“I think it could be cool living here, Bruce and Alfred seem like nice people. I don’t know, Timmy, I think we would be fine here.”
Not wanting to interrupt the conversation, Alfred waited until Tim didn’t respond to walk in carrying a blanket and pillow for the young master. Tucking him into the sofa, he asked one last time, “How do you feel, Master Tim.”
Tim shuffled around for a moment, feeling around to see if he could find his new favorite toy. “IwantRuffy.”
Dick came back from the armchair with the stuffed dog in his hands. It seemed that Tim wasn’t awake enough to hold onto him for the short trip to the sofa. He helped Tim get settled with Ruffy between his arms. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep, the dimmed light and comfortable setting did it’s work. Alfred noticed the name tag, written in a child’s hurried handwriting, and enjoyed the sight before him.
After he was certain that Tim was comfortable and sound asleep, Alfred moved to another part of the manor, finishing up on dinner and some menial cleaning up that needed to be done before everyone turned in. Dick stayed behind with his brother, resting his head on Ace and waiting for Tim to finish his nap. The dog had found his way to them, a little disappointed that Tim was asleep but happy nonetheless. There were enough books to keep him busy, so he didn’t notice time going on slowly.
Bruce quickly went to the bathroom to freshen up. He splashed water on his face and tried to think how to initiate was was sure to be an awkward conversation. Three days, it had only been three days. Three months, even three weeks, seem like they would last forever. There was no way he could take on the challenge by himself, this wasn’t the first time he thought about just how big of a help Alfred was. Without his oldest friend, there was no telling where he would be right now, probably six feet under.
Walking into the library that Alfred informed him was their current location, he almost turned around seeing the lack of light and sound. Just as he was about to turn around, he spotted a mop of black hair resting on top of Ace with a book before it. Walking in, he realized that Dick was reading a book in front of the fireplace while Tim slept nearby on the day couch. Not wanting to ruin the silence of the moment he crept towards the older boy and the dog supporting his head.
Finding a seat next to him, Bruce asked, “How are you boys doing?”
A little surprised, Dick whispered back, “Oh, hi! Timmy’s sleeping.”
“I can see that. How are you doing, Dick?”
“Umm…I think I’m waiting for Tim to wake up.”
Getting comfortable, and knowing that Dick would wait as long as he need to for his little brother, Bruce asked “How long does it usually take for Tim to take a nap?”
“He usually naps for two hours. He’ll be done in 30 minutes at the most.”
“We can sit here and read until then.” Looking down at the hound sitting next to them on the ground, Bruce chuckled before admitting, “I think Ace enjoys the silence and peace.”
Dick curled into Bruce and continued reading his book. Bruce decided to try out the old books from his childhood. He could remember reading the stories to his mom and trying his luck with the larger words. Looking through the pile of toys that the boys had spent their time entertaining themselves with. Slowly, memories came back to him from decades ago. He remembered getting the gifts for Christmas and birthdays from people he never saw again after his parents died.
Every now and then Dick would tug on his sleeve and pull him out from his memories to check the meanings of certain words. They made sure to keep their voices low enough that Tim wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise. Before they knew it, the 30 minutes had passed and the youngest among them was slowly waking himself up from his nap. Every couple of minutes Tim would make a low groan that drowned out the silence in the three others took to watching him as he went through his regular process. Ace tried to take the initiative of licking Tim’s face until he woke up, but Bruce didn’t think a face full of doggy drool would be a good thing for him to wake up to. He should now, he’d been in the same position many times over the past.
The spectacle lasted for a couple of minutes, Tim rubbing his head against his pillow trying to get more comfortable or groaning at how tired his body felt. He squinted his eyes until he adjusted to the relatively dark room, and laid his sight on the other three in the room. They were smiling at him, enjoying the sight and urging him to come join the, Noticing them staring at him, Tim crawled out of him couch and made his way towards his older brother. His steps were slow and disoriented until collapsed into his lap, still very much tired and groggy.
Bruce noticed the small stuffed animal that Tim stuck onto. He felt as if he remembered it, but couldn’t quite think of why. Sitting between the him and the great dane, the boys were petting the dog and showing him off. It seemed that his name was ‘Ruffy’ and he was going to join their little family, but Bruce made a mental note to ask Alfred about it the next time he got him alone.
“Boose, what is that?”
It took him a moment to get over Tim’s pronunciation of him name. He didn’t know if it was his regular voice or just how he said it tired, but he wanted to hear that voice more. “I’m sorry?”
Dick tried to explain it a little more, pointing to the portrait hanging above the mantle. “The picture on the fireplace, what is it?”
“It’s my mom and dad, Martha and Thomas Wayne.”
There was a short period of silence in the room, not really awkward but comfortable while the boys tried to reconcile the image of the small boy between the two adults in the painting and the one beside them right now.
Tim didn’t decide to hide his excitement, proudly proclaiming, “Wow, you used to be small.”
Thinking back, it must have been decades ago. “I was about Dick’s age when the painting was made, maybe a year or two younger.”
Not knowing what to do with this new information, Tim imagined how everyone else would look like in the years to come. Surely as some point they could all be as big as Bruce. “Does that mean Dick’s going to be as big as you someday?”
“Who knows, he might even be bigger than me.”
“Yeah, but Timmy’s always going to be this small.”
“It’s hard to tell, Tim might end up being the biggest out of all of us.”
Dick stood up and found the book from where he had tossed it aside to help his brother fall asleep. They settled on a page and Bruce offered to read to both of them. First, he made the executive decision to move everyone to the chair not wanting to sit on the ground much longer. With someone sitting on each of his knees and Ace in front of his legs on the floor, Bruce began reading aloud. Once both of the boys began begging, he changed his voice to fit the characters. It was the most embarassing to voice out the young female characters, but the boys were adamant about him getting the voice exactly right.
“Can we read another one?”
Setting the book aside, Bruce tried to divert the conversation to something more serious, the reason he’d found the boys in the first place. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something. I just got off of the phone with Officer Gordon.” Bruce felt Dick stiffen up against him, Tim was a little clueless about what was going on, but his older brother went silent.
“The police from the other night?”
“One of them, yes.”
Dick’s cold voice was a surprise for Tim, he’d never heard his brother sound almost angry. “What did he want?”
“He had a couple of questions. How would you two feel about the police investigating your parent’s death?”
“Investigating? You mean trying to find out if someone killed Mom and Dad?”
By this time the boys were getting a little uncomfortable, not liking the direction their time reading books had taken. Bruce knew it would be a difficult conversation to have, but he couldn’t put it off much longer. Even then, it was hard trying to explain the details to someone as young as Tim. “What? Why would someone Mommy and Daddy?”
Bruce didn’t know how to explain the situation to Tim, he was far younger than he had been. “Right now one knows what happened right now. It could have been an accident, but there’s a chance that it was intended.”
“It wasn’t an accident!” Dick surprised even himself with his outburst, but he wasn’t able to reign it in. “They did the same act hundreds of times, they never mess up…messed up.”
Bruce rubbed small circles onto his back, wanting to give him some form of comfort. “The police are looking into it, and they will do everything they can to find out who was at fault. Jim just wants to make sure that you two are okay with it. Don’t worry, you can trust him.”
Tim mumbled into Bruce’s nest, his voice almost breaking as he asked, “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. He was there when I was Dick’s age, he helped me when my parents died and he made sure to do everything in his power to find out whose fault it was.”
Under normal circumstances Dick would never have been this forward but he couldn’t help it. “Did he? Did he find out who killed your parents?”
“Yes. It took some time, but Jim made sure that that the man responsible was being bars.”
“Is he there now? In jail?”
“Yes he’s in jail and he will be for a long time.”
Dick was fast to come up with a discussion. Bruce wouldn’t have been surprised if it was something he’d been thinking about for a long time. “Okay, then I want him to find the person who killed Mom and Dad.”
One down and one to go. Bruce didn’t know the best way to bring up the topic, but after letting the two soak in the conversation he dropped the question on them. “There’s one more thing. How would you two feel about being adopted?”
Tim looked up at him wanting to be absolutely sure, “By you?”
“Yeah you’d stay and live with me and Alfred.”
His eyes were laced over, mostly with worry, as he asked, “Forever?”
“For as long as you want to live here. No is ever going to make you leave, unless you decide to when you grow up.”
Tim looked unsure of his question, but asked anyway, “Does this mean you become our new Daddy?”
Dick tensed at the question, but was curious about Bruce’s response. Honestly, there was no way he could imagine Bruce replacing his dad but he wanted to know how he felt about that. “By law, yes I would be your father. I’d be the person incharge of you two responsible for everything that happens. Other than that, I don’t want to replace your parents.”
Not knowing how to respond, Tim turned to his older brother looking for guidance. “Dick?”
Wanting to know all of his options before he made any decisions for him and his brother, Dick asked, “What would happen if you didn’t adopt us? If we went somewhere else?”
Bruce tried to keep his explanation neutral. He knew that it was an important decision for them to take and he could understand why they might not want to spend the rest of their lives with a someone who would need to divide his time between WE, Batman, and the Justice League. “Well, if you don’t want to stay with me, then you two would go into foster care until you’re eighteen. While you’re there someone else might decide to adopt you, or you would live in a foster house with other people.”
“Would me and Tim stay together?”
He sighed, not wanting to scare them but knowing it was important to be completely honest. “There’s a chance you won’t. Most times people only adopt one person, but they might have a hard time separating brother. I can’t promise it going either way, but there is a possibility that someone might want to adopt one of you and not the other.”
Tim started to grow distressing with Bruce’s explanation, not wanting to imagine losing his older brother on top of his parents. “No, no, no. I want to stay here, Dick. I want to stay here.”
“Same here. I want to stay with you, Bruce.”
Bruce gave them a small smile to the boys, appreciating that they wanted to stay with him. Rubbing Tim’s back he tried to comfort the boy and offer him some security. Looking at them from the floor, Ace seemed to want to offer his own support to the obviously upset boys. He rested his paws on the arm of the chair closest to Dick and nuzzled his face until he saw a smile. Between Dick’s giggles he would try to kiss Tim and Bruce, but apparently his drool wasn’t as appreciated.
Looking in from the doorway, Alfred smiled at the sight, reminding himself to buy a camera now that the boys were going to be staying here permanently. “Master Bruce, dinner’s ready.”
“We’ll be right there, Alfred, just give us a second.”
Dinner went well enough. Although a little silent, it wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward. Instead, everyone was a little lost in their heads, thinking about how the next few years were going to look like. Tim imagined not how it would feel to live in the same place for over a month. It would definitely give him more time to find Batman. Dick thought about what a real school would be like. Supposedly, Bruce would want them to go to school everyday, but it would be very different from homeschooling. Maybe he’d make some new friends and even find a girlfriend. Bruce wondered how long he could hide his night job from them. He wanted to keep them away from any danger as long as he could, but at one point they were sure to notice his disappearances most weeknight. Alfred, thinking much more immediately than the other as the table. Considering that there were more people living here, he could definitely allot everyone chores and make the cleaning much more productive. He would also need to start a new album, and find a way to hide it from Bruce so he couldn’t complain about it. Tim would need a high chair, they couldn’t use large dictionaries forever.
As soon as dinner was rounding down and most of the plates empty, Bruce thought about the conversation that heid had with Alfred earlier in the day, “Would you like to redecorate your rooms? I know that right now they look a little impersonal, but if you want we can change some things.”
Dick smiled at his brother and thought about he might miss from back at Haley’s. “There’s a poster in the circus, one with me, Mom, and Dad on it. Do you think I could put it in my room?”
Tim added, “When we go to get the poster, could we go back to the circus and say goodbye to everyone?”
“Of course, and we’ll make sure to bring some boxes so that you can move everything you want. I think we’ll also need to get some paperwork so we should probably get there as soon as possible. Do we have anything planned tomorrow, Alfred?”
“You do have something scheduled with Mr. Kent later in the day, but everything before dinner tomorrow is open. We could make a day of it.”
Looking at the excitement on the boy’s faces at the prospect of meeting everyone one last time, Bruce couldn’t imagine saying no. “Okay then it’s settled. Tomorrow around 1 we’ll go out to the circus and spend the day there. But right now, if you two are done, it’s time for a bath.”
Throwing his spoon down in disbelief, Tim asked, “Another one? We just took one yesterday!”
“These are a daily occurrence, Master Tim.”
“On the bright side, the quicker we’re finished with the bath, the more time you have before you have to go to sleep.”
In the bath, there was less to clean up compared to last time so Bruce was able to finish with extra time. The boys were also less hyperactive, playing with some of the toys but not feeling up to make things out of the bubbles. Ruffy almost joined the bath, but not before Alfred reminded everyone that there were much more efficient ways of cleaning the animal that would not ruin his threading. Instead they were content to act out the stories from their books with the many ducks and pretending that Bruce was a villain trying to kill everything living in the ocean with poisonous soap.
After everyone was dried of, including Bruce once the boys learned that the ducks were capable of squirting water out of their mouths, the boys settled into Dick’s bed while watching some shows on Bruce’s iPad. Alfred brought both of them a glass of milk and a pitcher of water for the night, knowing it would help them fall asleep sooner.
In his own room, Bruce was looking through his computer, emailing Kent that he would be at the Watchtower for his watch tomorrow. He was sure that some of the league would have questions, but it was nothing that couldn’t be lied about. Looking through some of the tabloid news, there was nothing about his decision to take care of Dick and Tim. He wanted to keep everything as secret as possible, knowing that a media circus was no where near as exciting as the actual one.
He looked up hearing Dick’s footsteps making their way to his room. He was walking slowly meaning that it wasn’t an emergency, but once Bruce caught sight of him in his doorway he looked unsure of himself. Bruce closed his laptop and moved it to the side and offered Dick a seat on his bed. Dick walked even slower, looking mostly on the floor as he made his way to the bed.
Helping him on the bed, Bruce asked, “Is everything alright? I was on my way to your room after I finished some work, but considering the look on your face this is important.”
Dick kept his voice low, explaining, “I know that you were about to come by, but I didn’t want Timmy to hear. I think it would upset him.”
Growing more worried at the defeated sound of the boy’s voice, Bruce asked again, “Is everything alright? Is this about what we talked about in the library?”
“A little. It’s about something that you said about the police, them investigating what happened.”
“I know that you think it wasn’t an accident, Dick, but the police need to take everything into consideration.”
Still not looking into Bruce’s face, Dick was quick to correct him, “No, it’s not that. It’s actually the opposite.”
Bruce kept silent, not wanting to interrupt Dick’s explanation.
“I heard some people talking to Haley, the man who owns the circus, the day before mom and dad died. He wanted him to give them some money, they said it was for security or something. I was hiding behind some boxes so I couldn’t hear everything but I know that Haley told them no. That he didn’t have the money and even if he did he wouldn’t give it to them. They other guys were very angry at him for it and they said that they were going to get back at him for it.”
Hearing Dick level off, Bruce filled in the rest. “You think these are the same people who killed your parents?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t see them after that, but it could be them. Do you think I should tell the police about it?”
Bruce lifted Dick into his arms, rubbing his back for comfort. “I think you should tell them, your story would probably give credibility to what Haley probably told them. It couldn’t hurt to tell them, and I can be there with you if you want, if it makes it easier for you.”
Dick mumbled a thanks, but the world’s greatest detective could tell there was more. “I just think…that maybe…if I’d told someone…then.”
The sentence leveled off, Dick hoping that Bruce was able to understand what he meant. Bruce understood far too well, knowing exactly how he felt, having gone through the exact same thing. “You feel guilty, that maybe if you’d told someone then your parents would still be here today.” Dick let out a desperate sob into Bruce’s chest, hiding his face between his shoulder and neck. “You can’t think like that, Dick, it’s not your fault.”
“No, no maybes. You’re eight, Dick, it’s not your responsibility. If anything, Haley should have notified the police, maybe had some extra security, but that might not have changed anything even then. Look, when I was eight my parents took me to go see a play, ‘The Mask of Zorro.’ I was entirely different back then, and something the play scared me. So I whispered to my father that I wanted to go home, and he lead us through the to back. We couldn’t go through the front because it was something like the opening of the theatre and it would be bad press if someone saw us leaving. So we go through the back door instead, going through the alley and then someone stopped us. He was a mugger, and he pulled out a gun and pointed it to my father, asking him for his wallet and my mom’s pearl necklace. Before he left, for whatever reason, he fired at my parents and they died right there, in some dirty alley behind the theatre. I spent dozens of years going over everything that happened, thinking about how I might just have been a little more brave and they would still be here today.”
Feeling much calmer having heard Bruce’s explanation, Dick laid on his chest, feeling incredibly tired and somewhat at peace. Even then, he couldn’t help but ask, “How did you get over it? Over seeing them dying again and again and feeling like it was your fault.”
“It doesn’t completely go away. But at some point you do move on, you have to.” Bruce knew he wasn’t completely honest, he wouldn’t be Batman if he was at peace, but that wasn’t what Dick needed to hear right now. He needed some comfort, the one thing that brought Bruce through the roughest period of his life. “Slowly, you stop seeing them every time you close your eyes, you stop hearing them walking through the halls or coming into your room to say goodnight. You never stop missing them, you never stop wanting them to come back, but you move on. You spend your days trying to stop thinking about it every single second of the day, and every now and then there’s something else there. Maybe you find a stray dog, a great dane who needs a home with no one to go to. Maybe you get some friends that you never meant to, people who just force their way into you life. Maybe you find two small boys who remind you a little about yourself and you decide to help them, just like you had someone to help you and you know that it makes the world of difference.”
Bruce looked down to see two bright blue eyes staring back at him. Dick held onto every word that come out of his mouth, desperate to find some comfort. Neither of them could tell how much time had passed, how long they’d spent just lying on the large bed together.
They looked up hearing footsteps coming their way. They knew they belonged to Tim, they were too small to be Alfred’s and Ace had four feet. He peeked into the room, looking quizzically at the sight before him. Dick still looked upset, not as much as when he’d been sobbing into Bruce’s chest, but enough to worry his younger brother. Tim pulled up next to both of them, no where near tall or strong enough to pull himself onto his bed, but observing his older brother, wanting to help him with whatever gave him that look on his face.
“Boose, I need help. I can’t get up there.” Tim was desperate, doing his absolute best to find his way onto the bed. Bruce maneuvered Dick to a side and lifted the youngest boy onto his chest beside his brother. He say the streaks the tears had left on Dick’s face and placed his hands on either cheek, looking to see if he was hurt. Not finding anything, he decided to be forward, “Dick, are you okay? You look upset, and you didn’t come back.”
Dick gave his brother a smile, appreciating the effort that he made to help. “Thanks babybird, but it’s nothing, I just had a really bad thought. I was just talking to Bruce and I feel much better now.”
Tim didn’t know if he should believe his brother, but he’d always trusted him and he decided it would be best to do the same now. Looking at Bruce and how comfortable his brother seemed, he didn’t feel like making his way back to his room. “Okay, but are we going to sleep here today?”
“Can we, Bruce?”
Bruce thought about how he wanted to go down to the cave and work on cases that were piling up. He could just get into bed with them and run off once they’d fallen asleep, but he didn’t want them to wake up to him missing. At the very least they would roam the halls looking for him and at the worst he might lose their trust. Thinking about how he would need to be secretive in the future, he decided that some honesty wouldn’t be entirely unwarranted. “I’m sorry boys, I have to finish up on some work and I don’t want you to stay awake waiting for me. I can stay until you fall asleep and maybe be here when you wake up, but I can’t stay the night.”
Considering their options, they boys went with what they were given. Dick shimmied over to the side of the bed enough for Bruce to lift the blanket and pull everyone underneath. Laying on his back, Bruce had someone sleeping on either side of his chest, the strongest source of warmth in the room. It didn’t take long for both of them to fall asleep, it was getting late, but by then Bruce was also debating if going out would be worth it. He decided that his vacation had lasted long enough and it was time for Batman to return to Gotham.
Working one side at a time, he lifted Dick off from his chest, extra careful not to wake him up and disrupt his needed sleep. He heard a small groan of protest, but nothing that didn’t fade once Dick’s head rested on the pillow. Tim was next. His hands were woven into his shirt, not letting him out of his grip. Bruce had to force each individual finger open until his shirt was free, with some growing respect for the boy’s strong grip. With one arm hold onto Tim, he used another to open Dick’s arms and slowly set the boy down between them.
Sitting before the batcomputer, Bruce pulled up a map of Gotham, looking to see the places most in need of his help. It felt good to be Batman again.