Stepping out of the car, Tim grabbed a hold of Bruce’s leg and started to feel nervous. On the ride to the studio Tim had been impatient, urging Bruce to go as fast as possible so they could get there early and meet his new classmates, but standing in front of the large doors he only felt scared. Tim wished Dick could have been here, he’d know just what to say to calm him down, but he was in his own practice. Dick’s practice had started a few hours ago and would end soon, but it wouldn’t be soon enough for Tim to have a chance to see his older brother before going in the studio.
This was the same studio that Dick had practiced out of when he was Tim’s age, the one where he had spent most of his weekends and started competing against other kids in tournaments. Everyone here knew that Dick was the best, they had said as much when Tim and Bruce would come to watch him practice and perform, and now they were going to know Tim too.
It suddenly struck Tim that he probably won’t be as good as Dick, that they might not like him, and it made him lose most of his ambition. He stayed in quick pursuit of Bruce hoping that maybe no one would talk to him if he hide well enough.
As they walked through the door, Tim ignored everyone they met. He simply stared at the ground, pretended not to hear any of the remarks sent his way, and tried to keep up with Bruce’s large strides as they made their way to the boys studio.
When they finally came to a stop in front of what Tim assumed was his classroom, Bruce asked, “Do you want me to go in with you?” He had been planning on simply sitting among the other spectating parents, but he could see that some were with their children as they introduced themselves to their instructor.
Tim considered what it would look like for him to walk in with his father, but as he saw others take their parents in with him he decided it wouldn’t look too bad on his part. “Okay, you can come.”
To make up for having his father with him, Tim decided he’d be the one to lead them into the room. They stood in a line waiting to meet the instructor and as they reached the front Tim began nervously fiddling with his hands. Bruce tried to think of ways to turn his attention to anything else, the weather, his new gym shorts, or the tricks Tim wanted to learn, but it didn’t seem to work. By the time they were at the front of the line Tim was standing between Bruce’s leg and hoping even his instructor wouldn’t notice him.
Having seen the same behavior in many other boys, the instructor knew to first addressed the parent until the children were comfortable enough to open up on their own. “Mr. Wayne, it’s nice to see you again.”
Giving him a kind smile, Bruce returned the greeting. “It’s nice to see you too, Derek.” Looking around he remarked, “It doesn’t look like much has changed around here.”
“There’s not much improvements to make when you’re the best, Mr. Wayne,” Derek joked before asking sincerely, “How’s Dick doing? I haven’t been able to catch up with him since the world championships last month.”
Bruce felt Tim move out from behind him at the mention of his older brother and hoped he was feeling a little better knowing Derek was a good friend of Dick’s. “He’s going to come by in a few minutes to watch Tim’s first practice.”
Looking down at at Tim, Derek asked, “I’m assuming this is him? Dick’s younger brother?”
Tim decided he would be okay to introduce himself to his new teacher if Dick liked him so much. Holding out his hand, he said, “I’m Tim and I’m starting practice today.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Tim, I’m Derek.” He pointed to a corner of the room where many other students were huddled together changing in the proper gear and said, “Go ahead and join the other boys right now. We’ll start in a few minutes after I finish saying hello to everyone.”
Tim nodded and quickly made his way over only stopping when he realized Bruce wasn’t following him. Instead, he was walking towards the door and it took all of five seconds to catch up. “Are you sure you have to go? I’d rather you stayed here with me.”
Concerned by the unusual show of nervousness, Bruce reminded him, “Yes, Tim. I have to sit with the other parents outside, remember?”
“But what if I need your help?”
Bruce knew that squatting down to Tim’s eye level would look condescending, so he simply put a hand on his shoulder for comfort and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll won’t be far. If you need anything I’ll just be a few feet away.”
It seemed to be enough as Tim stepped back and watched Bruce exited the room. Tim remembered sitting in on Dick’s practices and watching from a one sided window and felt assured that Bruce would be just as attentive as they had been watching Dick. Tim cautiously made his way over the other boys and found a spot far enough from everyone else that they wouldn’t bother him.
He set his bag against the wall and sat down beside it as he began untying his shoes.
Inside his bag he found the proper shoes for gymnastics, the ones he had picked out with Alfred a few days ago. They didn’t look very comfortable, but Tim watched the other boys to figure out how to put them on properly. Once he thought they were secure enough, he hopped up and tried to walk around and get used to them.
Dick had been right, he should have practiced at home to make sure it wouldn’t feel weird using them today. It seemed like some other boys were having the same trouble and they walked around until the shoes loosened up enough for them to be somewhat comfortable.
When they heard the last parent leave the room and the door close behind her, the boys looked up to their instructor expectantly.
“Hello everyone. My name is Derek Keller and I’m going to be your instructor. Because today is going to be our first time meeting, it’s going to be pretty relaxed and simple. I want you guys to show me how much you can do right now.”
From the back someone asked, “What if we don’t know anything? This is my first time.”
Derek easily answered, “Then your right where you need to be. This will just be a few tests to see how flexible you guys are and how easily you can move.” Motioning for the boys to stand up, he instructed, “I’m going to need you guys to sit in alphabetical order and in specific spots.” Picking up a clipboard from his chair and walking to the middle of the room, he added, “When you hear your name walk up to where I am and sit down. This is going to be where you will sit for the next few practices but after I learn everyone’s name you can sit wherever you want.”
Tim desperately wished they could sit in alphabetical order forever. He didn’t want to imagine what it would be like to have to sit by himself if none of the other boys wanted to be his friends.
Around him, the group of boys quickly began to dissipate until it was just him a few others. While he walked over to the last spot, Tim convinced himself that having the last name was a good thing. It meant that he would be able to watch everyone and none of the other boys could see any of the mistakes he made.
Derek stood at the front of the group and instructed, “Stretch out your legs and reach out with your arms as far as they can go. Try to reach your toes with your hands and keep your legs flat on the ground.” Just to make sure there was no confusion, Derek showed them the proper form before letting them try themselves.
It didn’t take long for Tim to get into position and soon his hands were folded around his toes. He looked around the room to see how everyone else was doing. There were only a handful of people anywhere near as flexible as him and no one who could get reach his toes. Tim felt a surge of excitement with the smile Derek gave him as he walked around taking down a few notes on his clipboards but quickly looked forward to keep in proper position.
“Now make a V with your legs and try to reach out as far as possible.”
There was no way of knowing when to finish, but Tim still felt good knowing he could bend his body enough to reach well past the other boys.
There were a few other tests Derek had them do from their positions and soon after a few tests of their agility. They had to sprint from one end of the room to the other, jump as high as possible, and try to do a splits. Some of the other boys were impressive, but Tim still thought he had performed the best. A few of the others even told him so.
Derek took a moment to write down a few numbers before he said, “We’re going to see if any of you know tricks now. Can anyone do a cartwheel?”
Tim looked around to see if anyone else had his hand in the air and when he saw two he added his own. Derek motioned for them to step up to the mat and stepped back to give them the room they needed.
No one wanted to be the one to go first and they simply looked at each other before Tim positioned himself at one end of the mat and took a deep breath. He hoped Bruce was paying attention as he threw his arms in the arm and kicked his feet off the ground. Before he knew it, he was on the other side having done three cartwheels and there was a light clap around the room as he stepped off the mat.
Neither of the other boys were as good as Tim, one not able to land properly and the other with a far from perfect form, and he suddenly became all too aware of how everyone was looking at him. Derek didn’t act any differently, he had spent enough time around Dick to expect as much from Tim, but the others weren’t as subtle. As soon as he took his place against the wall waiting for some clue as to what he should do next, the others began crowding around him.
One of them stepped up and asked, “What’s your name?”
“I’m Tim.” Remembering his manners, Tim asked, “What’s your name?”
Tim didn’t know where the conversation was supposed to go next, so he was glad when the others began introducing themselves too. The names almost came too quickly for him to remember their owners, John, Cameron, Lucas, Scott, Keith, Trevor, Brandon, and Peter, but he had a good memory.
When all of the introductions were said and an awkward silence fell over them, Tim smiled hoping someone would know what to say. He wasn’t always the best when it came to social situations.
“Are you related to Dick Wayne? My mom said his little brother would be in this class and you look a lot like him.”
He had been hoping the topic wouldn’t come up, but he answered, “Yeah, he’s my big brother.”
“Are you as good as him? Everyone says he’s the best.”
“Yeah that’s why my parents chose to come here.”
There was a quiet murmuring around the group as they discussed everything they had heard about Dick. Tim sighed and admitted, “No, I don’t think so. He’s the best.” He didn’t think anyone could be as good as Dick.
“Does he practice with you?”
Tim didn’t like these questions, but he answered, “Sometimes. More now that I’m getting older, but most of the time he practices by himself or with our dad.”
Everyone listened intently, wanting to know as much as they could about Tim’s family.
Having had all of his questions answered, someone remarked, “My mom says he’s so good because your dad can pay for it.”
The comment confused Tim, throwing him off for a second as he tried to understand what it meant. It didn’t sound like the boy was trying to make him upset, maybe he was just trying to make conversation, but Tim didn’t know what he was supposed to say. In the end he admitted, “I don’t really know.”
Another boy, Tim thought his name was Joey, added, “My dad says he takes a lot of drugs. That your dad makes a lot of secret medicines that makes your brother do gymnastics better than everyone else.”
Tim considered about the possibility, but quickly dismissed it. “Dad says we’re not allowed to do drugs, that they’re illegal and bad for you.”
“Not even the good kind? The ones that make you feel better?” Ricky asked.
Realizing his mistake, Tim added, “Only when the doctor or Alfred says we have to.”
Tim happily answered, “He’s our butler and he looks after us when we’re sick.”
“Your dad doesn’t look after you?”
Tim shook his head. This conversation was tiring.”He looks after us, but he doesn’t know everything. Alfred knows everything.”
Keith countered, “My dad says Bruce Wayne is the smartest person in Gotham.”
Tim didn’t understand why they all talked about his family so much, but he promised, “He’s not as smart as Alfred. Alfred’s the smartest person in the world. Dad says so all the time.”
There was a lull in the conversation until someone asked, “What does a butler do?”
“He looks after our house and makes us food and stuff like that. Mostly he cleans and tells us we’re not allowed to eat too much candy because we’ll get fat.”
There was a little laugh around the group, until someone asked, “Is Bruce Wayne you’re real dad? I heard that he made you and your brother in a lab and that you’re really part robot and that’s why your brother is so good.”
Tim flinched back at the question. He tried not to sound mean as he said, “Yes, he’s our real dad and we’re real too.” Mostly to himself, Tim murmured, “I’m not a robot either.”
Before anyone could saying anything more, Derek spoke up from across the room. “Anyone have anything else they want to demonstrate? Handstands, vaults, flips? If there’s anything you want to show you can.” When no one came forward, he added, “It would be great to see just how experienced all of you are so we can better teach you to your skill level.”
There was a lot more Tim could do, Dick had taught him as much as he could, but he was all too aware of the eyes on him. The last thing he wanted to do was draw more attention to himself, especially when the last time hadn’t turned out so well.
Tim wondered what Bruce was thinking right now. He knew just how well Tim could perform and he would want to know why Tim was staying back. At the very least Tim hoped Bruce couldn’t hear anything that the others had said. He would probably be very upset to know that’s what everyone thought of him and maybe it would be best if Tim didn’t come here anymore.
Derek didn’t look perplexed, but he was confused when Tim didn’t step up. Dick always loved to show off just how flexible and athletic he was and he had assumed some of that would have rubbed of on Tim.
“Okay, then we only have one more thing to do before the day ends. I just need to take your measurements so we can get your uniforms and everything.”
There was a whine across the room as they asked, “We have to wear uniforms?”
“Not everyday. Most practices will be a little like today and you can wear proper gymnastics clothing. Basically if you wear the right shoes, and everyone today is, and clothing that doesn’t restrict movements or your figure it’ll be fine. At competitions and events you’ll be wearing a team uniform so that’s basically what we need your measurements for. Also, it’s easy to track how you guys grow just so we can see how your progress goes.” He motioned towards a corner of the room where there were rulers along the wall and a scale. “It’ll only take a minute and when we’re done we’ll have a closing discussion and you can go out and meet your parents.”
Glancing over at the clock while he waited for his turn, Tim realized they had spent over an hour here. Now he got why Dick spent so much time practicing, time really did fly by. He also wondered if Dick was here already, if he was with Bruce watching in on what he was doing. Dick might even have been here to hear what everyone had been saying about him a few minutes ago.
When Derek called his name, Tim stepped up against the ruler and stood still as as Derek wrote down some numbers. Then he held out his arms and tried not to move as Derek used a tape measure to measure his wingspan and waist size and a few other things. It reminded him a lot of the times he had to go with Bruce to get a suit tailored for a special party.
As soon as he got finished, Tim walked back to the crowd of boys and hoped that they were talking about something else. He didn’t want to hear what other rumors they had heard about his family.
Tim sat down just in time to hear Trevor say, “I don’t know. I think they have a chance of winning.”
Keith was exaggerate as he shook his head. “Nope. No way they beat the Knights.”
“Their new draft pick might make up for it. Reaper was like the best out of everyone this year.”
Keith was still adamant it wouldn’t change anything. “It’s not going to make up for having LJ, Owens, and Miller on the same team.”
Tim vaguely understood that they were talking about football by piecing together everything he had heard Dick and Bruce arguing over. Cautiously, he asked, “Do you think the Knights could be undefeated this year? A lot of people call them the dream team.” A lot of people meant Dick and Bruce.
The boys thought deeply before coming similar conclusions.
“It wouldn’t be heard for them to win every match.”
“I think this season is going to be pretty boring. It’ll be too easy.”
“If they don’t win every one it’ll be pretty sad.”
Tim smiled at the easy conversation and took a mental note to pay more attention to Dick and Bruce when they talked about football. He didn’t want fall behind when they met up with each other again. It wasn’t that he hated the game, but he liked to play it online more.
Derek asked them to sit back in their assigned seats before starting. “Ok boys, we’re officially done for the day. I hope you had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see you in a few days. Your parents should be outside the door waiting for you and you can go out to see them as soon as you change back into your normal cloths. I’ll see you later.”
In the sea of goodbyes, Tim rose up from his seat and quickly made his way out. There were a few boys talking to each other as they left the room, but Tim simply tried to search out Bruce. He didn’t want to look too anxious to leave, but he was.
There were a lot of parents crowded around the room, but it wasn’t hard for him to spot Bruce sitting on a chair on the side. Tim quickly found his way through the adults and saw that Dick was standing beside him and glancing around the crowd to find Tim.
Dick was careful to not crush Tim in an embarrassing hug and asked, “How’d it go, Tim? You looked like you were having fun.”
“It was a lot of fun.” Leaning in closer to make sure no one would overhear, Tim added, “I think I did the best out of everyone.”
“You were the best, Tim,” Dick assured before asking, “But how come you only did one cartwheel. Why did you stopped there?”
Tim didn’t say anything for a moment, but he eventually admitted, “The others were saying some stuff.”
Concerned, Bruce asked, “What were they saying? Should I talk to Derek and their parents about it?”
Shaking his head, Tim explained, “They said that we took drugs and that Dad made us in a lab and we’re actually robots. It was weird and I didn’t want them to talk about it any more so I decided not to do anything else.”
Despite his better senses, Bruce had always hoped his sons wouldn’t have to grow up with the same stress he had. Dick hadn’t had as much trouble, there wasn’t anyone to compare him to, and he imagined it would be harder for Tim. “Don’t think about it too much. It’s going to happen a lot as you grow older, Tim. People are going to make a lot of assumptions about you and us because we live a different lifestyle from everyone else.”
Still frustrated, Tim asked, “Why do they talk about us? They don’t have to.”
Dick scoffed and explained, “Some people just like gossip, Timmy. You’ll get used to it.”
“Is everyone in the class going to be talking about me?”
Dick thought back to his own first class and promised, “They’ll get used to you in a few days. Right now they just don’t like the fact you’re better than them.”
“How long does it take?”
“I’m not sure, Babybird. It depends on a lot of stuff, but it shouldn’t be longer than a few practices.”
As always, Tim decided to put his faith in Dick and Bruce . “Okay, but can we go home now? I’m tired.”
Dick laughed and told him, “You’ll feel like that a lot at first, but you get used to it after a few months.”
Tim didn’t really think he’d ever get used to it, but he nodded and waited until Bruce carried him out to the car. He didn’t even have enough energy to fight Bruce as he fit him into his car seat. Usually he had a lot to say about not needing it anymore because Dick didn’t either, but now it didn’t seem worth it.
As they watched Bruce turn his attention to the road, Dick turned to Tim and said, “You know, you really are going to like gymnastics.”
“I like it more when it’s just you and me.” When it was just the two of them they could go at their own pace and not worry about being judged.
“Your teammates will get nicer, Timmy,” Dick assured him. “They are probably just as nervous as you are.”
Tim shook his head. “It’s not that. It’s just…everyone always talks about how good you are and…”
“They always compare you to me?”
Dick didn’t really know just what to say, but he knew he had to comfort his little brother. “They…they just haven’t seen how good you are yet. Once they see just how good you are, they’ll stop comparing us.”
Turning as much as he could in his chair, Tim asked, “Really? Are you sure?”
Happy that Tim was feeling better, Dick added, “Yeah. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even start comparing me to you.”