Shooting the grappling hook over the side of the gargoyle, Batman flew behind the scene of the mugging and with a tap to the shoulder he kicked the knife out of his hand and cuffed him to one of the pipes out the side of the building. Before the victim could run out of the scene, a hand to his shoulder stopped him and Batman explained, “It would be best if you could stay behind and explain the situation to the police. They’re on their way right now.”
The victim seemed conflicted, not wanting to be anywhere near the person who had a few minutes ago tried to mug him, but he agreed to the suggestion and took a seat on the other side of the alley waiting for the police. Batman scanned his gauntlet to determine the closest officer and called her over. They always responded faster when he was the one on the line, but he had no problem using it to his advantage.
Bruce repeated pattern a few more times, same situations with different people with different stories, before he saw his signal in the direction of the police station. He made his way to Gordon and found the officer looking over the railing at the lights of the city. His stance wasn’t too different from the one Bruce seeing when he was stole glances at the officer from the staircase to eavesdrop on everything he knew.
Clearing his throat, Batman emerged from the shadows and carried his iconic scowl over to his close friend waiting to know what the problem was. His reading of the BatComputer a few hours ago had shown that all the major criminals were away right now, either in jail or hanging low, but you could never be sure with Gotham.
Not turning around, Gordon explained, “There was a situation a few days ago, you might’ve heard about it. Two acrobats died in the middle of a performance. They were a married couple and they left behind two small kids, neither of them in double digits. It looks like everything was planned, the cords were cut beforehand, but others in the station want to label this as an accident. Bruce Wayne has gotten involved, wanting to take the boys in, and it looks like there isn’t much more I can do to help. People much more powerful than me want to write this off and close the investigation so I’m going to need your help.”
With knuckles going white with his hold on the side of the building, Gordon spat out his conclusion, “I want you to find out what happened and help those boys. Something happened and I’m at wit’s end with the situation and I hate this city every second I spend in it, but they deserve the help.”
“I’ve been looking into it, you know my relationship with Mr. Wayne, and it looks like there could be have been money involved. Some gangsters came onto the fairground looking for a bribe and when they couldn’t find it they took retaliation. I’ll look farther into it, but it looks like this was the cause.”
“Do you have any leads?”
Bruce had been thinking about it for a while, ever since Dick confessed to him a few hours ago, and had come to a few certain conclusions. “None of the major gangs would need to go to such lengths for money, they’re already pretty well funded, so it would have to be one of the smaller ones.”
“Maybe someone who wants to get into the game?”
“I don’t think so. If they wanted to get involved with the gang scene, they wouldn’t want something this public as their first act. It makes them look sloppy. It’s probably someone who’s been trying to grow for a while, but couldn’t find any other way of making money. The publicity makes it look like they’re still one of the big players and they’ll be able to use this as leverage for anyone else they think they can get money out of.”
Gordon turned to face him, nodded his understanding, and with the utmost sincerity he repeated, “Is there any way I can help?”
Conflicted about whether or not Dick would want to confront Gordon with the situation, Bruce decided to leave the decision up to him. “There might be someone, a witness, who wants to confess what he or she saw leading up to the deaths, and all I would ask is that you to help him or her along.”
At first Gordon was ready to accept the evidence, but an idea came to his mind and he would have a hard time rationalizing it. Jim didn’t even try to hide the malice in his voice when he asked, “Is the witness a member of the gang? Someone who was actively involved with the decision to orphan the boys? I can’t help someone like that, Batman, I just can’t.”
Bruce was quick to defend Dick and explained, “No, nothing to do with the gang, just someone who saw much more than any person should. Don’t worry Gordon, it’s nothing like what you’re imagining. I can personally vouch for him or her.”
Accepting the defense, Gordon agreed. “I’ll help anyway I can, but I’m assuming the person is a little scared of coming to the police.”
“You’re not wrong, but it’s mostly the feeling of guilt for not jumping in sooner.”
Even though it was just for a moment, Bruce could see a sardonic smile that passed through Gordon’s face before he said, “I have some experience with that. Yeah. Okay. Get your witness to contact me as soon as possible and I’ll see what I can do.”
Before Batman leaped off the side of the building to return to his patrol, he said something he rarely meant. “Thank you, Officer.”
Walking through the gates Bruce recognized immediately that the environment of the circus was much lighter than when he had left. There were performers and animals walking around the grounds excited for the show later in the day, wanting to move past the events of the last few nights.
Looking around and feeling relaxed at once, the boys were shaking with anticipation at the chance of reunited with their friends. Although most of the people working were much older than them, Dick and Tim had always been some of the most popular people in the circus and those baby blues didn’t hurt.
First, was the matter of getting everything they would need from their room. Leading the way back to their trailer, Dick assured Bruce that he would get a full tour of the fairgrounds afterwards. With a wide smile on his face and a spring in his step, he promised, “I want to show you everything you could ever want to know. It’s perfect and you’re going to love it.”
Tim trailed behind them slightly, more interested in taking in the sight than keeping up with them, so Bruce eventually had to take him into his arms and carry him for the remainder of the walk. Not at all disturbed, Tim took it as an opportunity to scout a much greater distance with the increased height. Once he noticed that they were going in the opposite direction of the excitement, he struggled against Bruce’s hold and demanded to know, “Why are we going back? I want to go where everyone else is.”
Bruce adjusted the three year old to make sure he didn’t accidentally fall out and explained, “We’ll go there soon enough, but first I want to get everything else you two need so we can load the car. It won’t take longer than a few minutes and after, we can do whatever you want.”
Tim let his body fall limp in show of his agreement, but he did perk up once their old home came into his eye-line. Dick opened the door to their trailer and Bruce dropped Tim onto a chair and found a bottle of water for both of them to drink. He dug out some sippie cups for Tim and once it was given a thorough rinse he poured the water much to Tim’s refreshment.
In much lighter spirits than last time, Dick roamed their place collecting the things he wanted to bring with them to the Manor and placed them on the table next to Tim. Motioning for Bruce to take the seat next to him, Tim began to explain what everything was and its importance to them. Looking around, Bruce couldn’t help but notice that the poster that they had made the trip to retrieve was nowhere in sight.
Once Dick sat down beside the two of them and went through the find with Tim, Bruce decided to voice his confusion. “The poster that the two of you mentioned last night, I don’t see it. Do you want to grab it before we go to load the car?”
Tim stood up on the chair and glanced towards where the poster usually rested beside the wall and turned to his older brother when he didn’t find it. Thinking about where it could possibly be, Dick glanced over to his parent’s trailer. Bruce couldn’t miss how his face paled when he ducked his head and refused to meet his brother’s gaze. Tim was a little disturbed by his brother’s reaction and crawled across the table to see if he could do anything to help. He sat directly on the table in front of him and tried to get his older brother’s attention.
Bruce took some initiative and offered, “I can go and find it while you two pack everything in the bag if it’s better for you. Would that help?”
It might have been that Dick was a little embarrassed or that Tim wanted to be the one looking out for his brother, but Tim nodded the affirmative to Bruce and moved off of the table to sit on Dick’s lap. Bruce stood up and ruffled his hair before making his way to the unoccupied trailer.
He immediately felt like a stranger impeding on a sacred scene. As soon as he opened the door he could recognize the vanilla scent that he smelled on Dick when he held him next to his parents’ dead bodies. Bruce breathed it in for a moment before taking a note to find the source of the sweet smell for the boys.
Looking around the slightly larger room, he caught sight of the poster that had demanded the boys’ affection. The framed poster was balanced against the wall and Bruce analyzed the figures. It was a beautiful construction; three silhouettes of varying size and build were soaring in the air, arms held out in a perfect arc with the title of Flying Graysons. Bruce reached for it to place it on the table, but as soon as he moved it he saw another one behind it. The second one was slightly different, four figures instead of three with one half the size of the others, but it was made with the same design format and the same Flying Grayson title running under-head.
It didn’t take long for Bruce to realize what he had come across, Jonathan and Mary were going to surprise Tim with a role in their act, but he was conflicted with his role in the matter. He could pretend to not have noticed the differences between the two posters, but that would be a morally grey area while not telling them of the poster would be entirely wrong. It wasn’t his place, but if he was going to be the role model they needed he was going to have to get used to awkward situations.
In the end he decided to explain his findings, no matter how much he felt like he was overstepping his bounds. Lifting the two full length posters, Bruce made his way out of the trailer and closed the door behind him. Before he could make his way to the boys, he heard their voices coming in through the window and recognized it as a conversation he had no part in. Instead, he sat down on the steps leading up to the door and laid out his jacket to prevent the posters from getting dirty.
Bruce knew he had no proper right to listen in, but he had never been one to hold in his curiosity and this was no exception.
He could clearly hear Tim’s soft voice rambling, “Dickie? You look upset. Can I help? What happened? Are you alright? Bigbird? Do you need something? Can I help? Are you okay? Dick?”
The kiss that he could picture Dick leaving on Tim’s forehead was just loud enough for him to hear, but his answer to the series of questions was perfectly clear. “I’m fine Timmy, I was just thinking about what it would be like if we have to look through all their things. It’s just a little sad to think about…I’ll be fine though, especially if you’re the one looking after me.” He gave his brother a sad little smile that almost broke Tim’s heart and confused him about what would be best.
It took him a moment but eventually Tim asked, “Do you think we should go in with Boose? Just to see?”
Dick countered with, “Do you want to?”
Not wanting to push his brother out of his comfort zone, Tim assured him, “Only if you do, if it makes you feel better.”
Dick thought about it before deciding, “Yeah, I think it would be a good idea. It would be good for us to get some closure.”
Having never heard the word before, Tim questioned, “Closure?” Bruce could imagine him tilting his head to the side the same way Ace did anytime he was confused and couldn’t help but smile at the image. He wasn’t wrong and Dick took advantage of it to appreciate just how cute his little brother was.
Always loving the way that Tim had a hard time pronouncing words properly, Dick gave him a small smile and explained, “It means not letting it be the only thing we think about…I…Look…Timmy, I know that you cry when we’re in bed together. I know that you cried yourself to sleep the first night with Bruce and I know that this is hard. Closure means…Closure means that you don’t have to cry anymore, Tim, and I want that more than anything.”
Still securely seated on Dick’s lap, Tim had a hard time looking his brother in the eye. Instead, he put his head on his shoulder before saying, “I didn’t know that you knew that.”
Running his hand through his little brother’s hair, Dick promised him, “I know. I felt horrible not trying to make you feel better but I didn’t know if you needed me or not. You’re my little brother, Tim, the most important person in my life, and I never want you to hide how you’re feeling from me.”
Tightening his grip on Dick’s shirt, Tim promised, “I won’t do it again. I just…I thought you were sleeping and didn’t want to wake you up.”
“Babybird, you can wake me up anytime you want, I don’t care. You’d want me to come to you too, right?”
Conflicted, Tim argued, “Yeah, but you didn’t. You were with Boose last night and I could tell that you were upset.”
Moving his brother off of his chest to make sure he looked him in the eyes, Dick stressed, “That was a different, Timmy. I’ll tell you someday, but I can’t right now and I need to know that you believe me.”
Tim didn’t want to, but he had to admit, “Yes, I believe you.” Sticking out his pinkie finger, Tim asked, “Promise you’ll tell me later?”
Curling his own finger around the small digit Tim was offering him, Dick replied, “I promise that I will tell you later.”
“Okay, now should we go and find Boose. He still hasn’t come back.”
Looking out of the window, Dick chuckled before saying, “I think he’s waiting for us to finish our talk. We should probably go out and meet him so we can go meet everyone sooner.”
Tim jumped off of his brother’s lap and rushed out of the room to go and see Bruce unmoved from his seat on the outdoor steps. Dick wasn’t far behind, reaching them and looking down at the poster safely secured in Bruce’s jacket.
When he found the second, he knitted his brow in confusion having never seen it before. Coming to the same conclusion as Bruce, he held it up and displayed it to show Tim. Pointing out the smallest silhouette on the poster, he said “That’s you Timmy, right next to me.”
Taking a moment to think about the finding, Tim jumped up in excitement. “Oh, I can put this in my room! This is perfect!”
Tim admired the poster, imagining just how great it would fit in his room. After he was done, Bruce returned the posters to their place and followed the two into their parent’s trailer. As soon as he made his way into the trailer, Dick took in the same smell that had enamored Bruce before taking a look around. Tim was on his tail before choosing to sit on the only bed in the room.
Dick shifted through the wardrobe, trying to find the box that he knew his Dad used to store his important possessions. He pulled it out of the shoe box it was hidden in and placed it beside his brother. Right after, he crawled underneath to find his mother’s similar collection. He’d been shown the large jewelry box a few years ago when he’d been playing hide and seek and she’d sat him down to explain the sentimentality of everything in it. Even though there were some rings, the majority of the space had been taken up by photos and mementos. He wanted to lay out everything on the bed, but decided to wait until they were…home?
He shook off the doubt and looked around the room thinking if there was anything else he was missing. Dick carried out a suitcase and opened it in the center of the room to load everything in. Tim picked out his two favorite sweatshirts from his dad to wrap around the boxes and placed them in the center of the suitcase. While Dick tried to organize the suitcase, Tim threw in everything that caught his eye. Dick wanted to be supportive of his little brother’s choices, he couldn’t help but think that they wouldn’t have any need for his mother’s socks.
Bruce was sitting in Tim’s place on the bed, not wanting to be rude and search through the room as his instincts entailed. Trying to inconspicuous, he asked, “You are probably going to want to bring your paperwork.” At the confused look shot his way, he explained, “Your birth certificate and social security card are important papers you don’t want to lose. Do you know where your parents kept them?”
Dick stopped his organization to think hard for a moment and offered, “Dad keeps some papers in his briefcase. He said they were important. Do you think they’re in there?”
He got up to reach between the bed and the wall to pull out a dark leather briefcase. He placed it next to Bruce and tried to remember the combination his father had made him memorize. He tried 0-7-1-1, July and November for the months had been born, and failed to get it to open. He reversed the order, 1-1-0-7, and silently praised himself for his good memory and turned the case over to Bruce to examine. He found the papers he had been looking for, the birth certificates and social security numbers, along with every other form he could possibly need in raising the boys. Unconsciously he ruffled Dick’s hair knowing he was proud of himself, he said, “Looking at this, you were 9 pounds and 23 inches when you were born, Dick.”
Although he didn’t know if this was good news or not, Dick puffed out his chest a little and smiled up at Bruce. He crawled onto the bed to see if he could find out anymore information, but Tim beat him to it. His Babybird asked, “What about me? How big was I?”
Shuffling through the papers to find Tim’s stack, Bruce read for a moment before answering, “You were 6 and a half pounds and 18 inches when you were born, Tim. You were just a little smaller than Dick.”
“You still are now.” Dick knew his pride was completely misplaced, neither of them had any control over their dimensions from when they were born, but he would be failing at his job of older brother if he let this opportunity out of his grasp.
Tim wasn’t impressed and asked Bruce with a feigned innocence, “Was Dick a fat baby?”
Bruce let himself chuckle while ignoring Dick’s glare but answered, “No, you were both very healthy babies.”
Already edging away, Tim practically shouted, “Then why is he so fat now?” before jumping away from where he knew Dick would try to pounce on him. Giggling, he scurried out of his older brother’s reach before crawling off of the bed. Dick took his predatory stance before trying to leap onto Tim only to be caught midair by Bruce. While he was feigning disappointment at their action, Bruce missed Tim sticking out his tongue before he took refuge at his side with a large grin.
Refusing to say anything, mostly because he didn’t know what was the proper response to play-fighting, Bruce stood up while balancing Dick on his shoulder as he collected all of the documents into the briefcase and made his way out. Too stunned by his action, the boys didn’t question the irregularity of the action and Tim only thought of how strong Bruce was.
Quickly placing the suitcase and briefcase outside while he collected everything that remained in the boys’ own trailer, Bruce wasn’t sure if the silence was comfortable or strained. While he shifted Dick to sit on his neck, Bruce entrusted the posters to Tim and began making his way to his car.
He was aware of the glances thrown their way while they made the short trip, but he was distracted by the string of giggles that came from the boy riding on him. Although he couldn’t see him, Bruce was sure he was bragging about his free ride to his little brother who was having some trouble keeping up.
As soon as he was near his car Dick leaped off and flipped onto the top of the skyline and Bruce was sure this was the closest he had ever come to a heart attack. Dick didn’t seem bothered, and Tim carefully placed his cargo on the ground to applaud the show and cheer his support, and Bruce realized he would have to deal with these show of acrobatic ability, maybe even for the rest of his life.
All of a sudden, a deep voice cut through. “Yeah, he does that every now and then. It takes some getting used to.” He was wearing a messy white t shirt, jeans, graying hair, and could lose a few pounds, but he was obviously someone who worked in the circus. Giving him a quick look-over, the detective thought he looked harmless enough.
Despite this, Bruce scolded himself for not hearing the man sneak up behind him and tried to put some distance between him and the boys. Before he knew it, they were at the man’s leg greeting him as if they hadn’t seen each other in years. Dick made another leap off the car and landed beside the group while Tim rushed over with his arms in the air until the man reached down and carried him up.
Clearing his throat to hide his surprise and slight annoyance, Bruce offered a hand and greeted the stranger. “Hello, my name is Bruce Wayne.”
Balancing Tim into a position Bruce thought slightly risky, the older man returned the shake and replied with, “Nice to meet you. I’m Haley, the owner of this fine establishment. You must be the man taking these little birds in.”
“Yes, I’m going to adopt them.”
Haley gave him a close examination, not trying to hide his intention even slightly, and looked unimpressed.
Before he could respond, Dick explained, “His house is amazing. It’s bigger than anything I’ve seen before.”
Tugging his hair for attention, Tim added, “He has a huge dog too, he could be a horse. We went there and he licked my hand, and he was very soft, Haley, even though he didn’t have any hair.”
“Alfred, his butler, is amazing. He can cook better than anyone in the world and-”
“He let me help!”
Most importantly, “He knows Batman. We could meet Batman, Haley. How amazing is that!”
Not surprised by their energy, Haley smiled down to them and asked, “I’m sure it’s great, but how about he go see everyone? They’ve been wantin’ to see y’all for a while.”
Haley lead them to a restricted part of the circus where most of the performers were getting ready for the final performance in Gotham.
Dick rushed over to greet the crew and Tim jumped out of Haley’s arm to follow his tracks. Bruce took a place to the side, watching the boys reunite with their friends while making sure they didn’t get hurt.
It wasn’t too bad, the two seemed to enjoy being the center of attention, but there were a few people side eyeing Bruce. He tried to ignore them and simply lean against a pillar but eventually their curious glances evolved into unsure steps towards his direction. The reservedness of the steps might have had to do with the fact that he was the richest man in the world or the fact that he refused to show much emotion, but nevertheless two carnies made their way over and introduced themselves.
They were two young adults, no more than 25 years old, and the boy offered his hand to introduce them as, “Hi. I’m Sebastian and this my sister Kelly.”
He tried his hardest to be welcoming, but his sister was much more assertive as she explained, “We didn’t want to bring this up around the boys, they seem to be enjoying themselves, but we were wondering if you could tell us when the funeral is going to be. Everyone here is interested in going and it would be great if it could happen before Sunday, that’s the day we’re leaving.”
Bruce was caught off guard, he had expected some comment on his ability to look afters two small boys, but he offered, “The bodies are still under the eye of the police, but I can see how long it will take for them to gather all the information they need. I’ll contact some people and see what I can do, but it will probably be planned for Friday. I’ll have someone send Haley the information if you like.”
“Thank you, sir, that would be great.”
Sebastian was ready to accept the information and turn back, but Kelly added, “One other thing, are you really planning on adopting Dick and Tim?”
“Yes, I want to adopt them as my sons as soon as possible.” Uncertainty ran through her face and he couldn’t help but ask, “Is there an issue?”
Speaking up for his sister, Sebastian used a soft voice to explain, “It’s just…We all know who you are, Mr. Wayne. We’ve seen you on the tv many times and on the cover of magazines. You’re incredibly rich but that’s not going to be enough for them. You just don’t look like someone who’s ready to raise a kid.”
“I appreciate the concern, but I can assure you that they will be cared for. If I’m not, there are people whose profession is to make sure that they are put into a better suited home.”
Kelly tried to be as clear as possible as she explained, “That’s just the thing, they need something constant and always moving from one home to the next isn’t the best kind of environment to grow up in.”
Bruce considered this for a moment before responding, “I understand that and you should know that I don’t have much experience with children.”
“Then why are you trying to take them in?”
“I don’t know if you know this, but my parents died when i was Dick’s age. They were murdered. I know how hard it is to move on from that, to move on from seeing their bodies every time you close your eyes, and I want to help them through this.”
There wasn’t much to argue with that, but Sebastian couldn’t help but repeat, “They just…they deserve a lot, you know? They deserve to have everything they could ever want.”
“And I’m going to do my best to make sure they find it.”
Looking back at the boys, Bruce could see the two of them riding on top of a small elephant that looked just as excited as they were. The trio couldn’t help but recognize how important the two were and how they all wanted what was best for them.
Dick was starting to grow curious about the conversation between the three and decided to investigate. As soon as he was sure Tim was entertaining himself on Zitka, he made his way over to the three adults and tried to listen into whatever was so important.
Trying to be inconspicuous, he hid behind some of the nearby pillars, but it didn’t take long for Bruce to notice him. He tried to let him feel proud for a moment before lifting him out of his hiding spot to pretend to be angry.
Not even trying to look guilty as he was hanging off of Bruce, Dick asked, “What were you guys talking about?”
Kelly smiled and said,”We were just talking about you and your brother.”
Sebastian added, “We were also talking about the funeral, Dick.”
Dick deflated immediately and said, “I hadn’t thought about that at all.”
Bruce was quick to follow up with, “And you won’t need to, I’ll make sure that you don’t have to stress about anything, Dick. Don’t worry.”
Dick shook off whatever he was feeling and diverted the conversation away from such a depressing subject. “Okay. But right now I want to show you something I’ve been practicing.”
After their conversation, Dick wanted an opportunity to show off his skills to Bruce. He leapt around the room displaying his extreme levels of flexibility, even going as far as to show off his signature quadruple backflip, and he finished with a formal bow to the cheers of his little brother. Despite not being old enough to follow through with everything his brother could do, Timothy enjoyed watching him perform and couldn’t wait until he would be skilled enough to join him. Bruce could only think about how amazing the display had been, there had to be very few people anywhere near Dick’s age who could pull off something like that, but that was for a later time. Right now they were running behind schedule and he didn’t need any reason to make Alfred upset.
Getting a signal from Bruce that it was time for lunch, the duo said their goodbyes to their animals friends and joined the group for lunch in the food court.
As they made their way into the center of the fairground and found small restaurants opening up for their final night in town, Sebastian ran off to retrieve a high chair. He sat it down between to Bruce and Haley and Tim easily slipped into it ready for something to eat. It had been a long time since breakfast and he had wasted too much energy already.
Dick took a seat next to his brother and waited patiently until the others gathered enough food for all of them. He knew that it wasn’t a good idea to eat too much junk food when he was supposed to be taking care of his body
Setting out the boys’ favorite choices of junk food, Margret, one of the main caretakers for the animals, asked, “So, Dick, how is it adjusting to life in Gotham?”
Between his large bites, he answered, “It’s a lot of fun. Bruce has a giant dog and the biggest yard ever.”
Tim added in, “Boose is going to adopt us Margret. We’re going to live with him now.”
She tried not to show just how much it hurt knowing that the two boys were going to be so far away from them and kept her voice free of any cracks as she asked, “Yeah I heard. But you are going to miss us right?”
Tim, not seeing any reason he should miss them, tried to argue, “We can see you all the time. Boose can drive us here whenever we want!”
The adults stopped eating for a moment, all waiting for someone else to take over, and Haley eventually explained, “I’m sorry Timmy, but that’s not how things are going to work. We have to keep on moving like always.”
Not liking the change in atmosphere, Tim tried again. “But we can visit right?”
“Tim, they have to keep on going to different cities.”
“But I’m going to miss them, Dick.” That’s what mattered to him. There was no reason he should lose all of his friends after losing his parents too. It just wasn’t fair.
“I know buddy, but we can still visit them.” Turning to Bruce, he asked, “We can visit them right?”
“Of course. Anytime they’re in the area we can come to the show.”
Following the conversation, the adults decided to talk about happier topics. Haley told them, for the thousandths time, how had learned that Jonathan and Mary were going to be having a kid and the look on Mary’s face the first time John had tried to teach Dick how to do a flip. Sebastian and Kelly brought up how much fun they had babysitting for them when they were younger and how for the first couple of months Dick didn’t want anyone going anywhere near his baby brother. It was a half hour filled with embarrassing stories the boys were too young to remember and the carnies were never going to forget.
After a quick stop to the restroom to clean up after their meal, Bruce loaded them into his car and scolded himself for still not having a car seat. Once he was sure they were secure, he looked back at the crowd and remembered the conversation he and Dick had had the night before.
Bruce pulled Haley aside to explain the situation, not going into too much detail because he knew that Dick wouldn’t like it, and asked him to go to the police if only to corroborate Dick’s story.
Once he pulled into the driver’s seat and turned on the engine, the boys turned around and waved off a final goodbye. There was a crowd seeing them off, everyone feeling a little emotional seeing those little boys leaving, but they refused to show any tears until they were sure the boys couldn’t see.
As they walked through the doors, the boys started to feel just how tired they were from their day. They were even able to convince Bruce to carry the both of them to Dick’s room to wait while he brought in their bags.
Standing on the foot of the bed, Bruce feigned a struggle as he threw them onto the sheets and let them untangle themselves before choosing to rest while they waited for someone else to finish all the hard labor.
Alfred came in and left them some juice for refreshment before returning downstairs to help Bruce with anything he might need.
They set the bags down by the legs of the bed and stood to the side as Dick opened the largest bag and started handing Tim the insides to lay out on his bed. They didn’t bother organizing anything but considered for a long moment what they were going to do with everything. They would need to find the proper place to make sure everything is safe.
Once everything was set out, Dick made a pile out of Tim’s cloths and said, “Come on Timmy, we’re going to go set up your room.”
With a little help from Bruce, Tim made his way off of the bed and followed his older brother out to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes.
This was a first for Tim, he had never had his own room before, and he had no idea how he was supposed to organize everything. There were so many options, the closet, the dresser, and the two nightstands that he stood in the middle of the room trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with this excess space. Watching the youngest of them look for guidance, Bruce asked, “What do you think? Where do you want to put your cloths?”
“I don’t know. Where do you put everything?”
For Bruce this was an important time to realize he had very little idea exactly where everything in his room was. This was usually Alfred’s expertise.
Speaking of the magical butler, “Don’t worry, Master Tim. It is actually very simple.”
He laid out the cloths on the bed and showed Dick and Tim how to separate the cloths. First by type: shirts, pants, and undergarments. Second by use: casual, lounge, and pjs. The pjs and lounge cloths were the ones that he would be wearing around the house and Alfred helped Tim designate a special drawer just for his shirts and another one for his pants and undergarment. Tim was a little confused as to why his socks and briefs were put together, but he didn’t want to question it.
In the end he didn’t get to make many, or any, decisions, but he did feel strangely satisfied knowing that more of his old home was in his new room.
The same method was repeated in Dick’s room as all of his clothes were put away and the bags were left mostly empty.
Bruce explained how he would need to take the papers to show the lawyers and social workers and the two seemed to accept his explanation, mostly because they had no idea what most of his words meant.
The two boxes from their parents were safely put away in Dick’s closet. Bruce was also given the task of putting away the suitcases in the attic, mostly because he hadn’t helped at all with the organization, while the other three tried to figure out where in the room the posters should be hanged.
Dick decided it would be best to hang the poster across from the bed and on the wall he shared with Tim’s room. They tried to make sure that Tim’s poster was put on the exact same spot on his side of the wall and were satisfied with knowing that the two rooms were almost perfectly symmetrical, spare Ruffy sleeping on his bed.
Bruce came in to see them admiring their work and commented, “You did a great job.”
Alfred cut into their celebration with, “There’s still some more work to be done, Master Bruce. We will probably not be done until later tonight.”
“What are we doing?”
“We are going shopping, Master Dick. There are many things that we are in need of.”
That was the last thing Bruce wanted to be doing right now. “Can it wait until later?”
“I’m afraid not, Master Bruce, especially when we consider that young children are in need of car seats.” It always came right back to the car seat.
“We are going shopping?”
“Yes, Master Tim, and I want it to be clear that if either of you find something you find appealing, inform Master Bruce and myself.” He knew it would feel intimidating for the boys when they realized just how much money Bruce had and the last thing Alfred wanted was for them to feel like they didn’t belong in their family.
“We can get anything?” Tim had only been in the mall a few times, but he knew just how large they were. He was sure someone could find anything in there.
Bruce was happy with his surprise and ruffled his hair. “Of course, Tim. Anything you want.”
Not wanting to explain Bruce’s status as a celebrity, one of the most famous in the entire world, just yet and why being seen with him in public would mean being plastered across the front pages of magazines, Alfred found some sunglasses small enough to not look ridiculous on their faces and loaded them into the car.
Their destination was a small store located not too far from Bristol where Bruce could remember his mother bringing him to buy a treat for excellent grades. It felt like lifetimes ago that he would run through the halls of the store looking for a new toy to bring home and trying to ignore the judgemental glances from customers who thought that they were paying too much to be annoyed by the excitement of a child. Soon enough they would see him returning to his mother with the chosen prize and quickly shift to pretending that Bruce was their favorite nephew in the world and ‘how much have you grown in the past few months, I almost didn’t recognize you from the little boy we met at our wedding.’
In all those years the owner of the shop hadn’t changed. David Brouwer’s grandfather, Robert, had started the business after his daughter had been born and he hadn’t been able to afford the proper gifts that a young girl should have. He built the dolls and houses himself, using his attention to detail and artistic talent that were of no use while he was laying down the tracks for what would become Gotham Central.
It didn’t take long for others to recognize his skills as a toymaker and after he sprained his knee bad enough to be removed from his job and forced into unemployment he began to sell his creations, first to family, then friends, and soon anyone who passed through the windows of the 10th street store he based his business out of. Even when he was given opportunities to expand the business outside of the humble store he’d maintained for 15 long years, Brouwer refused to compromise the toys he was creating because even when his daughter was too old to enjoy them and he was no longer the person building them, there was a small part of his soul in each of the toys he sold.
After his retirement his daughter took over the business and Brouwer enjoyed the role of shopkeeper, greeting the young children as they scanned the aisles and showing them just why he designed the toys exactly as he had. Over the years their customers became more elite as prices rose to compete with the other toymakers and stores that littered what was to become an iconic part of Gotham, but to him there was no difference when he showed the kids some of the models yet to be released and allowed them to take off the packaging while they waited for their parents to finish other business.
By now the old man was long dead and his grandson was the one maintaining the store, but walking in and smelling the faint caramel that he was never able to find the source of. Bruce was ambushed with the memories he had long forgotten.
Years ago he would go with his mother to greet his father at his office at the end of a long day of work and on their way would grab a treat from a bakery to celebrate their good day. Walking through the giant skyscrapers of Gotham City, they would pass Bruce’s favorite toy shop and greet the aging toymaker. Sometimes Bruce would even be allowed to stay back for an hour or two while his parents had an imparto coffee date as they strolled around the city. He wouldn’t mind, sitting next to Rob and playing with one of the original doll houses he had made was one of his favorite places in the world and image ingrained in his mind while he watched from a roof across the street as passersby left notes and flowers in front of the store on the night of Rob’s funeral.
The store had changed in the years from his absence, there was a much larger selection and more electronics on the shelves, but he could immediately recognize David as the teenager who would sometimes play with him when he was home from college. He looked a little shocked to be seeing Bruce Wayne in his store again but he finished helping a customer and made his way to the group of four to greet them.
Instead of the regular handshake, David went for a hug as he greeted him. “Bruce, it’s been ages since I’ve seen you walk through those doors.”
“Well considering I haven’t needed a replacement for a car I drove off the balcony in ages, I would think so.”
With a tap to his shoulder, David joked, “Just as charming as ever, Before he turned to Alfred and said, “It’s great to see you too, Alfred.” Looking down he didn’t recognize Dick or Tim, especially when they tried to hide behind the others. “Hello boys, my name is David Brouwer. I own this little store.”
Tim murmured his hello into the side of Bruce’s leg while Dick held onto his hand. The two were surprised by just how nervous they were to be met by this kind stranger, but they opened up when they noticed just how Bruce was comfortable around him.
Bruce explained, “David, I’m taking these two boys in and I figured it would be good for them to find some toys before we have to go looking for the more boring things.”
“Oh, well you’re in luck. We just got a new shipment into a few hours ago so anything you two want, you can find.”
The prospect of looking at the large selection in the store was thrilling, they had never seen so many toys in the same place before, but they waited for Bruce’s assurance before they followed David down the aisles.
He showed them some of their newest models of toy cars and it was easy to see that the kids were excited, Dick even got the opportunity to drive Tim around the store in a small car, but Bruce immediately recognized that they were afraid of asking for too much. Even with Alfred’s promise that money was no object, Dick didn’t want to be rude and ask for too much.
Instead, Bruce and David watched as the two played with the various toys that came to their eye and took note of the ones they particularly like. After a few minutes the boys grew more comfortable and made their job easier and by the end of the second hour Bruce had made a page long list of everything to buy.
David enjoyed playing with the boys, showing them exactly how to use the controls and how he’d used his wife as a model for one of dolls. Somewhere deep in the crevices of his mind Bruce wondered if this was how his parents felt watching him run around the shop with Sophie and Robert in the years before his death and he tried to explain to himself that this was different. He had only known the boys for a little over a week, there was no way he could understand what his parents felt, but there was a strange sense of joy at seeing Dick and Tim so happy and knowing it was because of him.
Nearing the end of their trip around the shop, the group followed the boys into an aisle full of pink toys and another customer browsing through. It seemed that Timmy was drawn to a bright, fluffy tutu. He was too small to reach up to it, but Bruce removed it from the hook and held it out for him to feel. Tim touched the material and noticed the little pieces of glitter on the top layer of fringe.
Bruce was surprised by his selection, but he tried to keep the chuckle out of his voice as he asked, “Do you like this, Tim?”
“It’s very sparkly. What does it do?”
Dick explained, “You wear it, Babybird. It’s sort of like the skirts Kelly used to dress us up in when she babysat.”
The stranger further down the aisle, a middle aged woman looking for a gift for her daughter, gave the two an obvious glare and a loud groan. Tim was a little surprised by her outburst, not knowing what it meant, but Dick turned his attention back to the tutu when he explained, “We should probably make sure it fits. It looks like you’re a little too small for it.”
David showed Tim how to pull the tutu over his pants and place it on his hip, but once it slipped right to the ground he found one in a smaller size that fit perfectly. Tim was incredibly excited when he realized how the material bounced around when he did but stopped when he noticed that the lady was angry again.
He looked up at his brother for an explanation who promptly turned to Bruce who gave her a leveled glare before asking, “Is there a problem?”
“Yes there is. You shouldn’t be letting your boy jump around in such a ridiculous outfit.”
Tim looked hurt at those words and quickly flattened himself against Bruce’s leg to try and hide away from the insult. Bruce was visibly upset at the fact that she would say something so hurtful and then not have the decency to look apologetic when she saw just how they hurt a small boy. He loudly declared, “If he wants it he can have it. You can just look away if it bothers you so much, especially when his cloths don’t compare to how ridiculous you look right now.”
She hadn’t been expecting Bruce to insult her, she thought he would recognize her from some of the charity events they had both attended and not risk hurting her feelings, but she returned the doll in her hand to it’s place on the shelf before making her way out the store. At his knees, could feel Tim shaking and he lifted him up to comfort him but he found him trying to hide his giggles. His older brother was in no better state.
Bruce tried to ask if Tim felt okay, but it was clear that they found his rebuttal much more interesting than her insult and Tim returned to admiring his tutu.
David was surprised by the argument and even more so with how quickly the two forgot about it, but he decided to make the best of the moment. “Timothy, if you want I can show you some of the other colors we have.”
After getting a nod from Bruce that it would be okay, Tim nodded his head and the group followed the two to a display that paralleled a rainbow of tutus. It didn’t take long for Tim’s eyes to fall on the bright red one and once someone was able to find one in his size he immediately dropped his old pink tutu for his new one. Testing to make sure the material bounced just as well as the old one, Tim jumped around a couple of times before he was satisfied.
Dick was incredibly happy to see his little brother so excited about something as simple as a tutu, but he wasn’t too sure when Tim purposed, “Dick, you should get one too. Look, they even have one in your favorite color.”
He was right of course, there were two blue colors and considering Dick had never been able to say no to his little brother, he found one in the midnight blue shade and in his size and pulled it over his pants. It took a little prodding from Tim to turn around and spin along with him, but he submitted to those big blue eyes and danced with him for a moment before it was too much for him.
Bruce didn’t try to hide his laugh and Alfred took photos on his phone while none of them were looking, but Dick decided he could easily get back at them. “Babybird, do you think that we should get some for Bruce and Alfie?”
Tim was excited at the prospect but grew worried when he looked at their waist and realized just how large they were. “David! David! Do you have some big enough for them? They should look just like the one me and Dick are wearing.”
“I’m sorry Timmy. I don’t have anything big enough for them, but I can order some. I can have them sent to your house in a few days.” He would never forget that little twitch in Bruce’s left eye when he annoyed him.
This was when Bruce knew it was time to end their visit. He let the boys give the shop a final goodbye while he took David aside to talk about their plan. “Dave, here’s a list of everything the boys liked. Do you think we could come back in a few hours and you can have everything ready? I want to take back everything as soon as possible.”
“It’s no problem, Bruce. If you’re back before closing, I’ll have everything ready.”
Alfred turned back to the boys and asked, “Okay young sirs, is there anything else you need?”
Tim wasn’t ready to drop the subject just yet. “You and Boose still need to pick out your colors. Do you know which ones you want?”
“I’m afraid I’m too old for such things, Master Tim, but I’m sure Master Bruce would appreciate a black one.”
Bruce groaned as David made a note of the color on the list he had been given and roughly measured the size of his waist. As soon as they were done, he asked Tim and Dick to take off their tutus so David could put them with everything else and lead them out of the store before they decided they needed anything else that could humiliate him.
With sunglasses back on, they waved goodbye and made their way down the street to find other shops.
Just as Bruce had feared, a photographer jumped out from behind on of the cars and frightened the boys enough that they almost screamed.
She started taking their photo and asked, “Come one Brucie, who are boys? Are they your kids? Are you watching them while their mom is away? Anything you want to say?”
She tried to get him to talk to her about the kids, but Bruce lifted them into his arms and hurried off into a children’s store David had recommended. Alfred held the door open and rushed them inside before going off to find a security guard to make sure none of the other paparazzi definitely on their way got inside. In his experience, one meant that more were on their way.
Once they were in, Bruce found a small sitting area away from the giant glass doors to drop the boys. They were a little scared about what had happened and looked at him with curious glances as soon as they were able to take their glasses of.
He explained, “You know how Alfred and I explained that I’m rich, that I have a lot of money? Well, that means that a lot of people want to talk about me, on magazines or tv, they want to write about me. When that girl saw you two, she wanted to know who you were so she could make some more money.”
“Are we famous now to?”
Bruce was adamant when he said, “No. I am going to do everything I can to make sure you two don’t have to deal with these kinds of things. You are far too young and your privacy is far too important to me.”
Not seeing why he would be so worried, Tim tried to argue, “I wanna be famous, Boose. I wanna be on tv! Can I?”
Bruce was definitely going to wait until he could properly pronounce his name and he tried to explain, “I know sounds nice right now, Timmy, but I have to say no. Maybe in a couple of years, but right now you don’t need people jumping out at you every time you leave the house.”
Tim was still sure Bruce was overreacting, but he agreed to those terms.
Alfred joined the group and said, “Don’t worry lads, I talked to the security and they promised that none of those photographers will be allowed in.”
“Thank you, Alfred.”
“It’s no problem, Master Bruce. Now we should go find everything we came in for.”
He lead them up to the top level of the store first, the area designated to everything other than clothing. Alfred wanted to make sure he found the necessities first.
Bruce was once again given the responsibility of taking care of all the manual labor. He pulled off a car seat and placed it on the ground for Timothy to sit in. After he was strapped down, Bruce tested the seat by lifting him up and making sure he fit properly when he was shaken around.
Dick was to large for some of the smaller seats and wasn’t at as much of a risk as his brother, but none the less they found one he fit safely in.
Afterward the group went around finding anything that caught the boys’ eyes. There were some sippie cups for Timothy and a larger water bottle for Dick to carry around with him. In terms of cutlery, they found some designed specifically for small hands and Alfred chose some sturdier plates and bowls for when they were eventually dropped on the ground. Tim tested out a couple of stools that were meant to help him better reach everything he was too small for and Bruce found them shampoo, soap, and lotion that reminded him of the one that he smelled in their parent’s trailer. At the very least the smell could ask as a soothing reminder of their parents.
Unlike the wide variety they found in David’s store, the toy selection was pretty small and centered mostly on bath toys with which Bruce tried to veto anything that involved shooting water but Alfred picked out anyway behind his back.
After everything was picked out, Bruce found an employee to take everything off his hands before they went to pick out clothes.
Dick immediately knew what he wanted, there was a portion of store dedicated to the Justice League, and he ran out as quickly as he could. There were some parents in the store who sent them an occasional glare, but that was before they recognized Bruce. Every now and then some of them would try to make their way over to Bruce but an employee always ushered them away and made sure it was hard for them to get a proper picture, especially of the young boys.
Picking out clothes was much easier, there was a general style each of the boys liked and picked out first. Outside of the regular t-shirts and sweats worn around the house, Dick liked to find clothes that allowed him to spring out into acrobatics as often as he wanted.
Tim liked clothes that he thought he looked handsome in. If he got a compliment for a shirt, he was much more inclined to pick it out and this meant a lot of his clothes were a shade of blue that made his eyes look even more powerful. Dick thought it was a genetic miracle, that he got to dress his brother in his favorite color because it matched his eyes.
In terms of the superhero collection in the store, Dick immediately picked out two Superman t-shirts for both of them, but Tim sheepishly asked for a third in the smallest size they offered. It confused the others, there was no way it could possibly fit him, but he looked sincere enough that they agreed. Dick also chose the matching Batman shirts that calmed down the growing jealousy that grew knowing that Superman was their first choice, but he was pleased to know that they were still interested in his alter ego.
Dick even explained, “We’re in his city now, Timmy. He’s going to be our hero and this means that we should show that we like him.”
Bruce had no idea what to say to his words and Tim nodding that he completely agreed so instead he left Alfred break the silence with, “I’m sure he appreciates your support, Master Dick.”
Nodding that he understood, Dick handed Bruce the shirts and lead Tim to another rack where they found some designs from their favorite shows and books.
It took them half an hour before Alfred was satisfied with their supply and they made their way over to the same employee who had been helping them all day. He took the remaining clothes and left them with pile that had been growing.
Dick was surprised that they weren’t paying for the shirts and that they weren’t taking everything with them, but Alfred explained that they needed to see a tailor while they priced everything through.
The employee, Lance, assured the two youngest that, “It doesn’t take too long, they only need to get the measurements for your pants. You two are going to grow pretty quickly so it wouldn’t be worth it to custom tailor them and helming pants doesn’t take a lot of time.”
He lead them to the back of the store and signaled just where they needed to stand and explained the situation to the tailors.
It was a lot less stressful than either of them imagined, they just had to stand still while the lengths of their leg, one for the outside and one for the inseam, and their waist was written down and the ladies were able to readjust the pants.
The process didn’t take longer than fifteen minutes and pretty soon they had everything in bags ready to be loaded in the car. Bruce recognized a logistical issue in their plan, there was no way they would have enough room for everything they just bought. Especially with all the toys the boys had picked out with David and the play sets that Bruce decided to get the complete set of, they would need help. By now, more paparazzi were stationed outside of the store waiting for the group to come outside and there was no way they could avoid making a scene.
Thinking deeply, Bruce called out for an uber to stop by David’s store where everything was ready to be taken home. Sam even ran out to help them load everything into the uber and called for a second one when it reached capacity. Then they called a third and fourth to fill everything in. No one questioned the scene, imagining it was just some rich parent overcompensating for not being home enough.
Once everything was settled with the toys, Sam gave David one of Bruce’s credit cards and promptly made his way back to the group. They promptly followed the process again, calling in another uber to load the second round into. Once everything was packed in, Bruce gave the drivers his address and left Sam with a very generous tip for all his help.
Sunglasses back on their faces, Dick and Tim were ready to go back out. They stole glances of the photographers out the door before Bruce repositioned them so that they couldn’t be seen. Once he was sure that the ubers were on their way, he reminded Tim and Dick to keep their faces hidden and made sure Alfred was ready for them. He had left a few minutes earlier to set up the car seats. If they were going to go out in this mess it would be best that there be no reason for people to complain about him not caring about the boys’ safety.
Getting word that Alfred was ready, Bruce made his way out of the store and was promptly bombarded.
“Wow, are the kids, Bruce?”
“Are they yours?”
“Mr. Wayne, do you have anything to say to people speculating that the boys are a charity case?”
“Where’s the mom? Did she leave?”
“Are you in a relationship, Bruce?”
“How long have you been with her?”
Walking through the crowd it seemed endless. Not only protecting their identity, the sunglasses also helped their eyes with the repeated flashes of the cameras. Tim was trying his hardest to hide away into Bruce’s neck and Dick was on his other side gripping his hand like it was his lifeline. He hide his face in the side of Bruce’s leg while he completely ignored the growing audience.
Bruce had never hated the paparazzi more than when he looked back to see Dick unclip himself from his seat to comfort his little brother who was hiding his face between his knees and covering his ears to try to drown out the sound of the crowd.
“It’s okay, Timmy. They can’t really do anything.”
It was one of the few times Bruce had seen Alfred have a complete disregard for the law as he tried to get them home as soon as possible.
Turning into their driveway, Bruce found the drivers waiting for them and rushed the boys into Tim’s room. He tucked them into his bed and promised to leave them alone while he unloaded the cars and paid the drivers.
With all of their help, he loaded the bags and boxes into the foyer before leaving the drivers with a pretty large tip. On top of everything today, he didn’t need hear about how he was a cheap tipper in the news tomorrow.
While Alfred unpacked everything that belonged in the kitchen and bathroom, Bruce brought the toys into an empty room near the boys bedroom. He would have unloaded everything in the boys’ own rooms, but he didn’t want to disturb them. Instead, he found them peeking out into the hall to see what all of the noise was about before rushing out to help him.
The room they were moving the toys into didn’t have a lot of furniture and looked too serious than a play room should ever be so Bruce decided to leave everything in it’s bag while they moved some things around.
The paint on the wall could be dealt with later, it wasn’t too off putting, but he would need to find a new rug and modern furniture if he wanted the room to be perfect. Bruce pushed the couch to one side of the room and rolled up the rug beside. He let the boys feel like they were help even when their combined strength didn’t do much, but was left on his own when it came to sweeping up a little. The room had been out of use for some time, but like everything else in the Manor it was kept in exceptional condition because Alfred’s hard work.
Satisfied with his progress, Bruce turned to the boys who were sitting with Ace on the couch watching him work and said, “I think we should probably get some dinner. Alfred’s been waiting for us for a while.”
Realizing just how hungry they were, the boys followed him downstairs and quickly took their respective seats at Bruce’s side with Ace scurrying under the table for any scraps. Dinner was already set out and this time Tim had his special bowl and spoon so he wouldn’t need much help.
The boys talked about everything they wanted to play with, not really knowing which ones Bruce had bought or that he had bought everything, but Bruce wanted to talk about something more serious. He knew that he was taking care of the boys, but he wasn’t too sure of how they felt about their transition.
Bruce cleared his throat to get their attention and tried to keep his voice light as he asked, “How are you two feeling?”
They looked confused at his question, not knowing what he was asking or what he meant, and kept quiet as they waited for him to explain some more.
Bruce explained, “You’ve been here over a week now. I know that’s not very long, honestly it’s nothing, but I want to know how you two feel so far, if there’s anything you would like to change.”
Tim still wasn’t sure what Bruce was asking and he turned to Dick to see him a little deflated. He tried to think about everything that had been going on for the last few days, everything he’d felt.
He didn’t know how to tell him what he’d been thinking and he decided to sum everything up with, “It’s been perfect, Bruce. Living here has been perfect. When Mom and Dad died I had no idea what was going to happen to me and Timmy, but you’ve taken care of us when you had no reason to. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Tim thought about what his brother said and decided to add bluntly, “I don’t like the flashes. They hurt and the people are mean.”
Dick couldn’t agree more. “Yeah the photographers were a definite bust. Does that happen a lot?”
Bruce sighed and looked to the ground as he said,”Unfortunately, yes.”
Between clearing up the table and putting the dishes in the sink, Alfred added, “I just realized that the young sirs know next to nothing about you, Master Bruce. Maybe it would be a good idea to inform them about your life after dinner.”
Although his tone was light, Bruce had lived with him long enough to know that there was no room for discussion and he lead the trio into Dick’s room to get ready for bed.
“How about we get you two into a bath first and then we can crawl into bed.”
Tim looked up to him with his puppy dog eyes and pleaded, “This time will you sleep with us?”
Bruce didn’t have another shift as Batman tonight, Katherine was going to be on call for the next few days having just gotten back from a trip abroad, and he could only think of one problem, “I have to meet someone first, but I could probably join you for bed.”
Dick offered up, “Maybe we can take our bath first and then read a book while you meet this person so we can get into bed together?”
“I see no problem with that.”
Clark was a little surprised to see Bruce’s message on his phone. He knew that they’d planned a meeting for later in the night, but he had thought Bruce would want him to fly up to his office window or go down to the cave like he usually did. Instead, he was standing at the front door ringing the doorbell and waiting for Alfred to welcome him in.
Now, he didn’t usually use his powers when in private company, Ma and Pa had raised him better than to be rude, but he was sure he heard laughter and that was always a cause for worry when in the company of Batman. It usually had something to do with Joker. He tried to not to think too much of it as Alfred opened the door and lead the way.
Clark had been in the Manor enough times to know where most everything was and at this point it wasn’t the extravagance that through him off, it was the chorus of giggles coming from the private wing. He wanted to break away and investigate, Bruce’s detective tendencies rubbing off on him, but soon enough Alfred was opening the door to Bruce’s office and offering him a seat, “Master Bruce will be here in just a moment, Master Clark. Until then, is there anything you would like any refreshments?”
Although Alfred’s cooking was appealing, Clark replied, “It’s no problem, Alfred.”
Knowing he was only trying to not be rude, Alfred asked again. “Are you sure, Master Clark? I am preparing to make some cookies.”
That was all it took for Clark to break. “In that case I’ll make sure to run by the kitchen when I’m done with Bruce, Alfred. You know I can never turn your cookies down.”
“Very good, Master Clark.”
Pretty soon he heard Bruce’s powerful footsteps coming his way and Clark greeted his best friend as if he hadn’t seen him in months. To be fair, it might as well have been with how little contact Batman had with the League this past week.
“How are you doing, Bruce? You haven’t been in touch as much.”
Bruce closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair before saying, “We can talk about that at the end. Right now just catch me up on everything I’ve missed.”
Clark knew better than to counter him and went into a detailed explanation. He touched up on how Oliver might be needing more help in Star City with the development of Star Labs and how Barry was helping Hal out for the next few days because he’d had a rough trip with the lanterns. In Metropolis, Luther hadn’t been acting up, but that probably meant he was working on something large enough to take up all of his attention. In general matters, the UN had asked for their help in promoting some new green initiative, but Diana looked into it and it didn’t look promising.
Bruce nodded along, not bothering to take notes but stopping him every few minutes to ask a question and clear up on a few points.
The meeting didn’t last more than half an hour, but before Clark could finish explaining why the recreational room in the Watchtower might need some fixing up, they heard the door knob start rattling.
Whoever it was, he was having trouble and Clark could hear the muted sigh before someone else got the door open and peaked in.
The two little boys didn’t run into the room, they were somewhat suspicious of this man in their home, but the larger one informed them, “Alfie says the cookies are almost ready and if you want them while they’re warm you should be down soon.”
“Don’t worry, we’re almost done. We shouldn’t take more than five minutes.”
They accepted his promise, but not before Tim would remind him with a stern voice, “Don’t forget Boose. You promised.”
“If we run out of time we can move to your room and eat there.”
The look the boys gave him was easy enough for Clark to read, they were going to hold Bruce to his promise. At least he knew what the source of all that laughing was.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Clark turned around to face Bruce and say, “Boose? You want to explain?”
Bruce cleared his throat and refused to look him in the eye when he said, “Their parents were murdered and I’m going to look after them. I’m actually going to adopt them, but we can talk about that later. You were explaining something about the Watchtower?”
He didn’t go into too much detail about what exactly happened, didn’t need to when Bruce would just look over the security footage when he had the time, and soon Bruce was leading him down to the kitchen to get something to eat before he left.
Clark didn’t try hiding his excitement at getting to get to know the kids Bruce was going to take in and they seemed just as interested in learning about Bruce’s friend.
The only thing Bruce had to do was introduce them. “Clark, this is Dick and Tim. Boys, this is my friend Clark.”
They sat around the table while Alfred finished baking and promptly ignored Bruce’s presence.
Clark started with, “How old are you two?”
“I’m eight but Tim’s only 3.”
The three year old found a need to clear somethings up. “Almost four, Dick. I’m almost 4, Mr. Clark.”
He was promptly dismissed with, “Almost, but not yet.”
Finding this to be the perfect opportunity to learn more about Bruce, Clark asked, “What’s it like living with Bruce? I know he can be a little mean sometimes.”
“Boose isn’t mean, but sometimes he does get grumpy in the morning.”
“He gets grumpy at work too.”
This time it was Dick’s turn to ask some questions. “What do you do?”
“I’m a reporter in Metropolis. I write for a newspaper and sometimes use Bruce when I need an idea for a story.”
“You live in Metropolis?”
“Yeah, I moved there after college. I was born in a small town in Kansas.”
There was something much more important here and Tim got straight to the point. “Do you know Superman?”
Liking the way that Bruce’s eyebrow twitched at the mention of his alter ego, Clark practically gloated, “Yeah he and I are very close.”
At that moment Tim leaped out of his seat and scurried out of the room. Everyone was surprised but they didn’t chase after him. Clark looked back at them worried that he’d done something wrong, but Dick assured them there was no need to worry.
“I think I know what he’s doing and if I’m right you’ll like it a lot, Mr. Clark.”
Hating how formal that sounded, Clark assured the boy, “There’s no reason to call me ‘mister.’ If you want, you can just call me ‘Clark.'”
It wasn’t too long before they could hear Tim coming down the stairs again. He ran over to Clark with something behind his back that he refused to show and a slight blush on his cheeks.
He was dripping with excitement as he rocked back and forth on his feet and explained, “Today we went to the store and they had a lot of shirts and I found one that was very very small and and look,” before he showed them his stuffed dog wearing a Superman shirt meant for a baby. “This is Superdog”
Taking it into his hands, Clark admired the work. “Wow, Tim, this is amazing. I’m sure Superman would love it.”
“Really? Do you really think so? I love him too.”
Taking it one step further, Clark said, “You know, I could introduce you to him.”
Dick’s mouth was thrown open before he turned to Bruce with wide eyes and pleaded, “Could we, Bruce? Could we really meet him?”
Alfred and Clark were the only ones who could hear the strain in his voice as he said, “Sure, I don’t see why not.”
Bruce wasn’t willing to risk losing more ground with the boys and told them to get ready for bed as soon as they finished the cookies and milk. After they were gone, Bruce wanted to ask Clark what he thought he was doing by showing off his relationship with Superman, but he knew he would just get a feigned surprised look accompanied by an assurance that he didn’t mean anything by it.
Opening the door to let him out, Bruce said, “Have a good night, Clark.”
“You too Bruce. You know, they look like good boys.”
With a raised eyebrow Bruce promised, “They are and their favorite superhero just happens to be Batman,” before closing the door a little louder than would have been considered proper.
He could hear the laughter on the other side of the door and walking back to meet the boys in Dick’s room he couldn’t help but think that it could have been worse. Bruce didn’t want to imagine what it would be like to introduce the boys to Hal or Oliver.
Bruce found the boys entertaining themselves on Dick’s bed while they waited for him. They were leaning against the headboard with Superdog between them and Dick reading a book. Ace was at the end of the bed listening in and giving his own input every now and then. Bruce tried not to feel slightly betrayed seeing his favorite toy wearing Clark’s insignia but he put it aside to join the boys. Having not taken his daily nap and staying up a little longer than usual, Tim looked as if he was ready to go to sleep.
Crawling onto the bed, Bruce maneuvered around all the limbs to find his way in the middle and a small boy on either side. Ace moved to cover his legs with his body and Bruce realized he wasn’t going to be moving any time soon.
Dick started up first. “Okay, Bruce, we have a lot of questions about your life.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Why were all those people taking our picture today?”
Bruce sighed before he explained, “After my parents died, I inherited my father’s company. This made me one of the richest people in the world when I was your age. Ever since then, a lot of people have been trying to get close to me so that they could maybe get some money. Sometimes women try to get me to marry them so that they can get my money. Now a lot of people want to know how I live and when they saw you two they thought I had been hiding some kids from the public. They want to know who you are and why you’re so close to me.”
Tim didn’t like just how serious this was and asked, “How old is Ace?”
“He’s five years old. I found him when he was a puppy and lost in an alley near my office and he’s been my best friend ever since.”
On the note of lifelong companions, “How long have you known Alfred?”
“He was my butler even since I was a kid. After my parents passed away he looked after me and sort of became my father.”
“So he’s your version of what you are to us?”
“Yeah I guess you could say so.”
Bruce smiled at the thought but Tim took the lull of the conversation as an opportunity to express some of his confusion, most of which had to do with his feelings.
“Boose, I’m going to miss everyone.”
Bruce had a not too different conversation with Alfred when he was child and he tried to think about what Alfred would do. “I know it can be hard, Tim. Goodbyes are very hard, but much isn’t going to change. They’ll love you just as much if they can’t see you everyday.”
“I still didn’t like saying goodbye.”
“Saying goodbye is never going to be easy. It’s going to be just as bad when you’re my age, but it’s very important.”
Looking up at Bruce, Tim asked, “Are we going to say goodbye to Mamma and Daddy?”
Bruce sighed and decided to clear up a few things. “Do you know what a funeral is?”
Thinking about the discussion they’d all had when he’d learned that their parents were dead, Tim asked, “It’s that thing where Mrs. Casent wasn’t weally sleeping?”
“Yeah that’s called a funeral. You say goodbye to the person who died and let them rest.”
“Mommy and Daddy are going to have a funeral?”
Bruce took Tim’s face into his hand and promised, “Of course they are. In a few days and it’s going to be very hard, one of the hardest things you ever have to do, but your brother and I are going to be there with you throughout all of it.”
Dick took this opportunity to make his own promise. “Timmy, you’re never going to have so say goodbye to me. I’m going to be here for you forever.”
With that settled, Tim crawled on top of Bruce and feeling all the more tired. He snuggled up to his chest and rested his tired eyes while Bruce rubbed circles into his back and turned to his brother.
“So what do you think?”
“I’m very glad you’re the one who’s going to take care of us.”
“I do have a question for you though.”
“What is it?”
“You call your brother ‘Babybird’ a lot. Where did it come from?”
Bruce wasn’t prepared for the large smile that took over his face, but he welcomed it as Dick took his place in Bruce’s arm and started explaining.
“Sometimes acrobatics is called flying and because I was so good at it as a kid Mom and Dad started calling me a bird. Mom even started calling me ‘Robin’ because they’re my favorite. When Timmy was a lot smaller he used to run around all the time and you know how hummingbirds flap their wings very quickly, he reminded me of them so now he’s Hummingbird and Babybird. He doesn’t really know how to fly right now, he’s too small, but I’m going to teach him. That’s why I’m his Bigbird”
“Birds are very important to you two.” To be fair, bats weren’t to different.
“Yeah. When you’re that high up it feels just like you’re flying. It’s the greatest thing in the world.”
Bruce knew exactly what he was talking about. It was hard not to feel like a bat when he spent his nights leaping off of roofs.
Watching him fall asleep on his other side, Bruce couldn’t help but think that he always wanted to see them that happy. He could imagine that the smile on his face was from some recollection he had about his time in the air and Bruce knew that he’d do everything he could to make Dick as happy as he could be.