Tim’s eyes bulged as he watched Dick speed up to the school’s driveway. He had been expecting Bruce to be the one to pick him up after work, but this was a pleasant enough surprise. It was certainly more exciting for Tim’s friends who were excited at the chance of touching the shiny motorcycle.
Saying a quick goodbye to everyone else, Tim rushed over to Dick and asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I can’t come by to pick up my little brother from his last day of school?”
“You could have told me before.”
“It wouldn’t have been such as a good surprise if I told you beforehand.”
Tim considered what he said for a moment before asking, “Does this mean I’m not getting the new game I asked for?”
Tapping the inside pocket of his jacket, Dick asked, “I guess it depends on how lunch goes doesn’t it?”
Tim dug through where he knew Dick kept his spare helmet and said, “Lunch was hours ago.” Examining it in his hands and wondering how often Dick cleaned it, he added, “We’re closer to dinner than we are dinner.”
“That’s the kind of talking that leads the video game you wanted staying with me.”
“Why are we going out to lunch? I thought Alfred had something planned at home.”
Glancing around to examine the other cars coming up to pick up the remaining kids, Dick said, “We should hurry up. Bruce might not like me stealing you away.”
“You didn’t tell Bruce about this? Why not?”
“Because I knew he wouldn’t like it.”
Pushing his bag into the same compartment he took the helmet out of, Tim asked, “How come all of your surprises usually end up with one or both of us getting in trouble.” There was a list Tim was keeping on his laptop and he planned on presenting them to Dick when he was fifty and still trying to get them to upset Bruce.
“And a lot of good stories.” There was a car that looked a little too familiar and increasingly worried, Dick asked, “Are you ready?”
Throwing his leg across the seat and making sure his helmet was secure once again, Tim asked, “Is it really all that bad if Bruce sees us? It’s just a lunch and we’re going straight home after. Right?”
“Of course we are. But you never really know what to expect from Bruce.”
“I know you always complain about me being to distant with him, but you’re not really any better.”
Not dignifying that with a response, Dick faced forwards and began slowly making his way down the driveway. They were really cutting it close in getting out of here and he didn’t want to waste any more just being gawked at by Tim’s friends. “Keep your mouth closed, Babybird. I don’t need you filling up on bugs.”
Dick straightened up his jacket and tried to smooth out his hair while he waited for Tim to get off the phone. It had only taken Bruce a few minutes before he started blowing up his phone demanding to know where he was going without any warning and just why Tim had given him any warning beforehand. Tim was trying his best to calm him down with the promise that they would be back home in a few hours.
Watching him through the reflection in the glass, Dick frowned at his position. He knew how to read Tim, that the furrowed shoulders and constant running of his hand through his hair meant he was worried and stressed, on edge and afraid of saying the wrong if it meant upsetting Bruce. Dick had seen it enough times when he’d watch over Tim and his father and he was hoping to never have him feel that bad again.
Once the call ended, Tim approached Dick and offered him his phone back. “Like I said, Bruce is upset we didn’t tell him beforehand. I hope the 15 minutes of secrecy we had in getting here was worth it, Dick.”
“It was, Timmy. It didn’t give Bruce a chance to talk us out of it.”
Tim sighed and tried to look on the bright side. “Hopefully this means I can convince Bruce to get me a phone when we get home.”
“You’re eleven, Tim.” Dick said holding out the door. “What do you need a cellphone for?”
“So I can avoid situations like this and absolve myself of any guilt.” As they were ushered to their reserved seats, Tim noted, “Most of the time you end up having to charm the person up front into giving us a good table.”
Dick dropped into his chair and said, “You really shouldn’t be afraid of using your name and good looks, Timmy.”
Cheeks blushing at the comment, he countered, “You don’t. Our name I mean. You don’t use it to get things you want.” Tim knew Dick didn’t like using Bruce’s last name to get better treatment, it made him feel cheap. He added, “It’s not even my name yet.”
“It will be in a few days, right? That’s what Alfred told me the last time we talked.” There hadn’t been a lot of talk between them, everyone knew that Tim liked to keep some parts of his life private, but they kept themselves updated on his state just in case.
Tim stared blankly at the menu in his hands as he waited for the waitress to leave before asking, “Do you think Bruce wants me to take his name? I know it means a lot to him.”
“What? Why would you need to ask that?”
Playing with the corners of the menu, Tim admitted, “It’s just…I don’t really know.” Shaking his head, he tried to get their conversation back on track. “This isn’t why you brought me out here. What’s the surprise anyway?”
Dick frowned. “Tim, I think this is a little more important.” When Tim only shook his head and pretended to be entranced in the menu, Dick tried again. “If this has anything to do with your family…Bruce loves you, Tim. He wants a chance to be your father and changing your name is only a small part of that. If you don’t want to, it’s not that big of a deal and I’m sure he wouldn’t be offended.”
Tim was quick to assure him, “I know that, Dick. Believe me. I know he loves me, but I don’t know…”
Looking around to make sure no one was close enough to eavesdrop on them, Dick sighed and said, “Bruce isn’t anything like your parents, Tim. He’s nothing like that and he won’t ever be.”
When Tim didn’t say anything in response, Dick asked, “Can you give me some more details, Babybird? I’d like to help.” He hated himself for not seeing the trouble Tim was in, but he wanted to make as much progress as he could before things got even worst. “Are you having panic attacks again?”
Tim shook his head. “Leslie gave me some medicine the first time I saw her, but she said it’s risky to stay on them for too long. I’ve stopped taking them a week ago I think. It’s just been a little hard to adjust and I’ve been feeling a little more anxious than usual.”
Dick knew Tim had a pattern of underplaying his own feelings, but he also knew Tim wouldn’t appreciate him being forced into a conversation he wasn’t ready for or comfortable with. “So that surprise I mentioned, are you ready for it?”
“I’m taking up a new job. I’m going to become a police officer. I start at the academy in a few weeks, but you and I know I’m going to breeze through everything they throw at me so it’s almost as good as done.”
There was a quiet moment between the two of them while they waited for the other to do something, but eventually Tim had to ask, “Does this mean…your night job? What happens with that?”
“Don’t worry about that, Tim. I’m not giving up on that.”
“Are you sure about this? It’s probably going to be a lot of work hiding your secret.” Tim knew the Dick would have to spend at work would be taken out of the time they usually spent together. “Gordon’s going to work you thin.”
Dick very evenly said, “I’m not planning on working for the GCPD.”
“What? They’re the only police in Gotham, right?” Tim didn’t know a lot about criminal justice, his family went a different route, but he was mostly sure he had that part right.
“I’m thinking about moving to Blüdhaven, Tim. They need help a lot more there.” While he was preparing for the conversation Dick had memorized a few crime statistics to use as weight on his side, but it didn’t feel like Tim needed them right now.
Doing the math in his head, Tim asked, “You’re not even going to patrol in Gotham are you? That would mean having to drive like 2 hours every time just with the commute. You wouldn’t have a lot of time for the patrol and if it’s a rough night you wouldn’t be in any state to drive for an hour.” He looked Dick in the eye and asked, “You’re still going to drop by every now and then right? Just to drop by, no business.”
“Of course, Tim. I couldn’t stand it if I didn’t get to see you.”
Considering they had already made so much emotional progress, Tim decided to ask a risky question. “This doesn’t have anything to do with me taking over the mantel right?”
“Of course not, Babybird. I can’t wait to see you take over as…you know. I just need some space and a chance to build my own identity. I think Blüdhaven would be good for that.”
They didn’t talk about the move as they ordered their food, but once they had some privacy Tim asked, “Have you already picked out an apartment?”
“An apartment,” Tim repeated. Squinting his eyes, he explained, “You know, a building where many people live in their own sections. A lot like a house, but without as much responsibility.”
“Cute. I haven’t picked out anything, but there are some I’m interested in.” He honestly didn’t know what to look for in a place. In Gotham he knew the best parts of the city and where to avoid but now he was going off of information online and word of mouth.
Tim thought about his schedule and said, “I can’t come this weekend, I have a lot to catch up on tomorrow, but next weekend I’m free.”
“Free for what?”
“To look at apartments, Dick. Keep up.”
“Really?” The conversation really wasn’t going as Dick had planned, but he was happy Tim was taking it so well. “You want to come with?”
“Let’s be honest, Dick. I can’t expect you to be the one to always making the trip. I’ll drop by just as often as you do in Gotham. Plus you have questionable decision making skills.”
“I seemed to have picked out a pretty good little brother.” A little more serious he added, “Our movie nights will have to end. We probably won’t be able to see each other once a week.”
“Haven’t you heard of Netflix and Skype old man? The only difference will be the size of the mess you leave behind.”
Leaning back in his chair, Dick countered, “How are you planning on making it to Blüdhaven in the first place, little boy?”
Walking up the steps to the manor, Dick asked, “What are planning on doing over the summer? Anything special planned?”
“I mean, if you’re as good as you think at picking out gifts then I’m going to be playing a video game all summer?”
Stopping in front of the door, Dick pulled the neatly wrapped package and said, “You can go up to your room and thank me later. Just remember how good I am at gifts when you’re looking for something for my birthday.”
“My birthday’s before yours.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. I know you have a good memory.”
Considering the gift in his hands, Tim asked, “Don’t you want to come up with me? We could start playing together.” He stopped for a moment before making sure, “This game does have multiplayer, right?”
“Yes and I’d love to. I have to take care of some things before I’ll join you upstairs.”
Repeating his thanks for the present, Tim ran up to his room while Dick hunted down Bruce. He really did want to be done with this as soon as possible.
Once he found Bruce in his office looking at some business on his laptop, Dick immediately took the seat across from him and apologized. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you any warning on taking Tim out for lunch.”
Bruce didn’t look up, but he said, “I had my own surprise planned, Dick. I was going to take him to a animal shelter and have him pick out a puppy. He’s been asking for one for awhile and I thought he deserved it.”
Dick felt a little guilty about ruining Bruce’s plan, but he asked, “You’ll be able to do it tomorrow, right?”
“Probably, but I don’t like it when things are sprung up on me without any warning, Dick.” At the stiffening of Dick’s shoulders, he realized, “I’m not going to like what you have to say, am I?”
“I’m taking up a new job.” Bruce didn’t look upset, just surprised at the idea of Dick working while in school, but Dick was sure he heard a part of the desk splinter when he added, “I’m going to be a cop in Blüdhaven. The academy starts in a few weeks and I’m going to be in the next class.”
Bruce demanded to know, “Are you serious?”
“Why wouldn’t I be serious?”
“The fact that you’ve never had a real job, Dick. Any work you’ve done has had to do with being a hero and you’re learning to take over the business. What’s going to happen with college?”
Dick knew the hardest part would be convincing Bruce about the next part. “There’s no reason for me to stay in college. Tim can take over the business, he’s a lot better suited for it than I am, and I really think I could do a lot of good as a cop.”
“You plan on having me pay for everything until then right? Your apartment, your food, gas. I’ll have to pay for it while you go through the academy and in a few months you’re going to come back and say you don’t think being a cop is for you and you need me to pay for law school.”
Holding himself back from saying something too insulting, Dick said, “Don’t do that, Bruce. Don’t make me feel bad about changing my mind.”
“Why a cop?” Bruce asked. “Why not something else?”
“It gives me more of an opportunity to help people.”
“We do that on patrol.”
“I know, but…I need a chance to do this, Bruce.” Dick knew he wasn’t being very articulate, but he hoped his resolution would be enough to convince Bruce of his decision.
“Why, Dick?” Crossing his hands on the table, he demanded, “Convince me that you aren’t ruining your life on a whim.”
“You know what, I don’t think I’ll be able to.” Dick exclaimed, “This is something I came up with on my own and you hate that.”
“You love being in charge of my life, of everyone’s lives. You hate the fact I came up with this on my own because this just proves you can’t control us forever.”
“I’m responsible for you, Dick. That means I have to tell you when you screw up too.”
Dick sarcastically laughed and said, “Just because I’m moving off of the carrier path you set out for me doesn’t mean I’m screwing up my life.”
Bruce stood up and stormed around the office before asking, “Why not a doctor? They help people too.” Before Dick could come up with an answer, Bruce said, “Never mind. I already know. It’s too much of a dedication, right?”
Dick stood up almost eye level to him and countered, “What’s wrong with being a cop, Bruce? It’s what I want to do.”
“You and I both know most of the cops in this city are crooked. Blüdhaven even more so.”
“This is my opportunity to change it,” Dick said resolutely. He had made up his mind weeks in advance and he wasn’t letting Bruce convince him otherwise, but did want to know, “What is your problem, Bruce? What’s the problem with me being a cop?”
“You’re going to fail at this, Dick.”
Before Dick could think of something to say to that, they both heard something hit the floor outside the office. Neither of them knew what to expect, but once Dick thought back to the conversation he had with Tim at the restaurant he ran out without any explanation. He found Tim on the ground, head between his knees as he tried to drown out the shouting from inside the office.
When Bruce caught sight of him in the distressed state he asked, “Are you okay, Tim? What’s wrong?”
Knowing Tim was nowhere in the state to respond, Dick answered for him. “He’s been having a hard time recently.” He quickly instructed, “Go find Alfred. He has some experience with panic attacks and he’ll probably help him feel better than we could.”
As Bruce ran out to find him, Dick sat down against the wall and gave Tim a quiet moment to catch his breath. He knew it had been the arguing that had pushed him over the edge and this was a chance for him to enjoy the silence.
It only took Tim a few seconds to calm himself down, he did have some experience with the matter, and when he peeked up to look at him Dick asked, “How are you feeling?”
“A little better.”
Dick sighed at his defeated voice and said, “I’m sorry about that, Timmy. I didn’t mean for it to get that bad. It just got out of hand.”
Not wanting to talk about that anymore, Tim asked, “Can you help me-” Grabbing onto Dick’s shirt, Tim said, “I was going to ask you to help me up, not carry me to my room.”
Dick admitted, “I know, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.”
As soon as he didn’t find the two in the hallway, Bruce rushed to Tim’s room and asked, “Are you feeling okay? Dick mentioned something about a panic attack. I thought those stopped months ago.”
Tim was quick to assure him, “Yeah, I’m fine. I just needed a second to cool down.”
Not believing him, Bruce said, “Alfred’s going to look over you while I run out and get your medicine. It might have been a little too early to take you off.”
“I don’t need them, Bruce. I promise I’ll look after myself better.”
“Master Tim, I must insist that at least I do an examination.” Alfred knew the compromise would be enough to satisfy them. The very last thing he wanted was for any serious signs to pass with anyone noticing.
Tim thought for a moment before agreeing that it was probably the best plan available.
Bruce patted Dick on back and motioned for him to meet him in the hallway. “We can talk about this later, Dick. Right now I’m going to need you to go and pull out the car while I grab something from my office.”
“Are you sure we should be leaving right now? Tim probably wants the company right now.”
“Trust me, Dick.”
Looking around the room, Dick moaned, “You can’t expect me to pick, Bruce. I just don’t have it in me.”
“Why not? Just find the one Tim would like the most.” He’d pick by himself, but Bruce didn’t think he would be able to gauge what Tim was interested in. In many ways Dick was a lot like a ten year old.
Dick let a dog lick his finger through the cage and decided, “Tim would be having just as much trouble picking out a dog.”
Bruce considered their options for a moment before asking, “Which one looks the happiest? It’s job is basically to make Tim happy, so I guess that’s something we can go off on.”
Looking back to the puppy whose tail hadn’t stopped bouncing since they walked into the kennel, Dick picked it up and asked the attendant, “How big is he going to get?” He knew Tim wanted a large dog he’d be able to play rough with in the backyard.
“He’s a samoyed so he’s going to grow to about two feet tall.” She held her hand up to just below her waistline, but Dick was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.
Laughing as he tried to keep the puppy away from his mouth, Dick asked, “Are they always this excited? It doesn’t look like he’s ever going to calm down.”
“They’re pretty much always like this. They’re always smiling.”
Dick gave the dog a chance to get to know Bruce and asked, “What do you think? Would Tim like him?”
“I think so.” Not wanting to waste any more time, Bruce asked for the adoption forms while Dick tried to tire the pup enough for it to sit still long enough for the ride home.
Only when they walked into the manor did Bruce realize he had forgotten to run the idea by Alfred. Dick was able to hold back on commenting on the irony as he tried to keep the pup from leaping out of his arms every time they walked into a new room.
The two of them shared a nod before Bruce knocked on Tim’s door and waited for a sign to go in. He left the door open just enough for Dick to hear their conversation before taking a seat on the couch. “How are you doing, sport? Feeling better?”
Looking back from the video game he was playing on his television, Tim said, “Yeah, I feel a lot better, Bruce. It really wasn’t that big of a deal and I know how to calm myself down afterwards.”
“That’s good. What game is this?”
“It’s something new Dick game me. It was my present for the last day of school.”
Feigning embarrassment, Bruce said, “I’m sorry, Tim. I forgot to get you something. I didn’t realize your first day of the summer was so tomorrow.”
“That’s okay, Bruce.” The last thing Tim wanted was for Bruce to feel bad about forgetting to get him a present. Considering everything that had happened today that was the least of their worries.
“Could you turn off the game for a second, Tim?” Patting a spot beside him on bed he said solemnly, “I’d like to talk to you about something and I need your full attention.”
As Tim turned away from the wall facing the door and put his full attention on Bruce, Dick slowly walked into the room. The puppy had long since stopped trying to fit out of Dick’s arms and he stayed silent as he tried to locate the newest scent in the room. Dick softly set the puppy behind Tim on the bed and walked out of the room before he could notice him. Deciding he really liked the newest scent, the dog began poking at Tim with his nose.
Shocked by the feeling, Tim jumped off the bed fast enough to scare the puppy in return. He decided against jumping off the bed onto the ground and instead walked over to Tim’s pillows.
Looking between Bruce and the dog, Tim asked, “What’s going on? Is this real?”
Bruce softly explained, “I had been planning on taking you to the shelter to pick out a dog for yourself, but Dick found you first.” A little more serious, he added, “I’m sorry you had to hear that, Tim, and I’m sorry I didn’t notice that things were starting to get bad.”
Tim didn’t say anything as he walked back to the bed and tried to get the dog’s attention, but when he sat down and had the puppy crawling all over him he as an excuse not to look at Bruce Tim said, “I don’t really know what came over me. It just felt a lot like my parents.” He quickly added, “I know you aren’t anything like them, but it just felt a lot like it.”
Moving closer to the two, Bruce stressed, “I don’t want you to ever feel like that again, Tim. If it ever gets hard for you I need you to come and find me as soon as possible.” Looking down at the puppy biting at Tim’s fingers Bruce realized he had the perfect metaphor. “You’d want your puppy to find you if he was ever hurt, right?”
Feigning curiosity, Tim asked, “Remember when you told Alfred you wanted to be Batman, was he as upset as you were today?”
It wasn’t hard for Bruce to see what he was doing. Instead of giving Bruce a chance to come up with an answer, Tim assured him, “It’s okay, Dick doesn’t have to know I’m your favorite.”