Dick stared into the mirror and tried to think of anything he could do to make himself look more presentable. He wanted to look like he could be Bruce Wayne’s son, but right now all he looked like was a circus boy trying to make himself look fancy enough to attend a gala with Gotham’s elite.
The suit was uncomfortable, too restricting and heavier than the clothes he liked to wear, and his shoes were far more irritable than the sneakers he usually wore, but he hoped he was passable enough that people wouldn’t say anything.
Alfred didn’t seem to have anything to say about how he looked, Dick knew Alfred would never let him walk out the Manor if he thought he wasn’t presentable, so he decided to stand by the front door and wait for Bruce to get ready.
After checking to make sure Dick’s tie was tight enough to not come undone as the night went on, Alfred explained, “Master Bruce should only be a few more minutes Master Dick. He just wanted to get some work done before he had to leave for the night.”
“I understand Alfie. I’m used to this by now.”
Walking out to the kitchen he groaned, “Aren’t we all, Master Dick?” Dick knew he was probably going to finish up on the dinner he and Tim would be having pretty soon and Dick hoped he’d be able to sneak up some leftovers to his room once they came back.
He ended up having to wait for fifteen minutes before he heard Bruce’s footsteps coming down the stairs and rushed out so they could leave as soon as possible. Right now he was in a strange middle ground where he couldn’t do anything interesting because he had no idea how much time he would have and he couldn’t do anything too boring because he ended up just worrying more about how the night would go. Dick just mindlessly watched different things on the tv to keep him from stepping back in front of the mirror and making sure he was presentable.
Following Bruce as he went to the kitchen to say goodbye to Alfred, Dick asked, “Are you ready, B? Anything else we have to do?”
“I’m all set to go. Sorry for the wait, but I wanted to make some progress before we left.”
Smirking, Dick said, “You wanted to get far enough in the case so you had something to distract you when things get boring.” Dick was planning on doing the same with the show he’d been watching.
Grabbing the keys from the countertop Bruce laughed and said, “You know me so well.”
“Isn’t Alfred going to drive?” Dick didn’t really care, but Alfred was usually able to get the night to end earlier than either of them could. None of the other guests were willing to fight with him when he said it was time to go, but when Bruce said anything it was endless begging for him to stay a few minutes longer or go down to an apartment in the city instead of making the trip all the way back to Bristol.
“I don’t want Tim to be here alone. We’re going to get back pretty late and it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave him here by himself.”
Dick hummed his understanding before following Bruce down to his car and asking, “How long do you really think this could last?” Sometimes Bruce would be back from these events after two hours and sometimes it would be five or six hours.
“I wouldn’t expect to be back till at least one in the morning, Dick. Is that going to be a problem?” It was the middle of the summer so there wasn’t much Bruce expected Dick to have to do, definitely nothing to do with his schoolwork.
Secretly wishing for some criminal to come in and crash the event, Dick assured Bruce, “Nah, I’m fine.”
During the ride over he couldn’t do anything but catch glimpses of himself in the side mirror of the car and adjust his hair accordingly. He always joked about how much hair gel some of the kids at school wore, but now he understood. After fifteen years with amazing hair, today had to be the day where it decided to act out and all Dick could do was will it back to its place.
Not at all oblivious to the change in behavior, Bruce asked, “Are you sure you’re fine? You look a little nervous.”
Hoping his deception skills were getting better, Dick said, “It’s the first time I’m going to be at something this important.”
“You’ve been to important events before. It was practically your whole winter break last year.” Bruce could remember him complaining enough.
“I know but it just feels more important.”
Bruce knew he wouldn’t be able to get much more information out of him so he decided to leave him with the assurance that, “You’ve always been amazing at every fundraiser, gala, dinner, party, and event I’ve brought you to, Dick. Everyone has nothing but praise for you.”
Dick hadn’t expected anything else from Bruce, he always said anything he thought could make Dick feel better, so he decided to be a little more discreet with his checks in the mirror. Even then he could see Bruce’s lip thinning every time he adjusted his hair or jacket.
They didn’t say anything about it for the rest of the trip but Bruce made sure to whisper some more assurances into Dick’s ear as they walked up to the ballroom of the governor’s house and through the flashes of the press cordoned off to the front of the building. Dick could see that Bruce wanted to stick close to him and make sure he was feeling well, but soon enough people started to gather around him like vultures hoping to get some private time and there was nothing either of them could do.
Dick looked out into the crowd and spotted a few of his classmates, not really friends but people he had class with, and decided to make his way over. It would be better than having to spend the rest of the night by himself.
One of the boys, Joyce, went with the usual greetings before saying, “We didn’t know you were going to be here, Grayson.”
Dick couldn’t say the same about them, they were the reason he’d been so nervous about the night, but he laughed and said, “I don’t think there was anything I could do to convince Bruce not to bring me along.”
Chris nodded sympathetically and said, “I bet these things are hard for you.”
Dick creased his eyebrows and asked louder than necessary, “Excuse me?” the other boys seemed just as shocked that Chris had said anything and a few heads from nearby also turned to see what this conversation was leading to.
“I’m sorry, Grayson, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“But you did.”
Chris looked around to his friends hoping someone would save him from the awkwardness of the conversation and eventually Joyce broke and said, “It’s just…there were just some jokes going around that Chris took too seriously.”
Crossing him arms, Dick asked, “What jokes?” He’d heard some things but he wanted them to say it outloud and prove his ideas right or wrong.
Joyce took a deep sigh and admitted, “Some people were just saying you wouldn’t like being stuck in a suit for so long and might break out into some tricks or something. It was nothing serious, but you’re always leaping around in school and people thought you might do something here too.”
“I do acrobatics in gym, Joyce, not in the middle of class,” Dick said exasperated.
“I know, but some of the others got jealous and you’ve always said you love being in the air so the idea kind of stuck. Chris was just being an idiot.”
He didn’t say anything for a few moments as the others around him waited to see how he would react and he only said, “I changed my last name. It’s Wayne now, not Grayson,” before stepping away from the group.
Dick knew none of them wanted to insult Bruce Wayne’s son and were trying to cover their own asses in case this ended up hurting their parents’ relationship with Bruce and his friends and he couldn’t see them saving that conversation anytime soon. Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to make the situation any better he simply decided to spend the rest of his time listening to the ramblings of some of the more senile guests to the party. A few of them were the reason Dick and Tim stopped trying to sneak down to the parties Bruce threw in the manor because they learned way too much about what happened to some people’s feet during World War II.
He was able to spend most of the night sitting down with a few of the elderly as they told him about their business and political endeavours and was able to avoid any hard topics for the most part. By the end of the night he had somehow ended up talking to Mary Crowley, a woman incredibly interested in acrobatics and hoping to get some advice from someone skilled from the day he was born.
As soon as she got him to sit down next to him she said, “I’ve heard that you can do some amazing things in the air.”
Wanting to save some face from the rumor’s he’d heard a few hours ago, Dick tried to convince her, “It’s mostly just rumors, Mrs. Crowley. A lot of exaggeration.” It wasn’t true, but hopefully she would move onto something else.
“Are you sure, Francis?” She didn’t look like she’d believed him and was ready to fight on it. “My daughter had a lot to say about you.”
Laughing and hoping she would drop the subject, he’d long forgotten trying to get her to learn his real name, Dick said, “I’m pretty sure, Mrs. Crowley. A lot people exaggerate the whole thing.”
Mrs. Crowley didn’t believe him and she had no problem looking around the hall and calling out, “Bruce. Bruce. Bruce.,” and motioning for him to come over once she had his attention.
He looked confused about what they could possibly have an issue with, but he dutifully dismissed himself from his conversation and pulled out a seat.
Looking between them, Bruce asked, “Is something the matter?”
Pointing to Dick accusingly and with little regard for the people looking at them, Mary said, “This young man, your son, was just telling me he’s not interested in gymnastics.”
Confused, Bruce turned to him and asked, “What are you talking about, Dick?”
“I wouldn’t call him that, Bruce, but it did shock me and I had to make sure this wasn’t one of those pranks.”
More focused on Dick than anything she was saying, Bruce asked, “Do you not like gymnastics or acrobatics anymore?” He didn’t want to be too overbearing so he was quick to add, “It’s not a problem with me if you have a new hobby, but you didn’t tell me you’d changed your mind.”
There was a smack on his shoulder as Mary chastised, “You should be more involved with his life, Bruce. How can you call yourself his father and not know what he’s interested in?”
It was one of the few times Dick had seen Bruce so confused out in public and the quiet murmuring around them didn’t help. More embarrassed than he’d been in his entire life, Dick asked, “Can we go home?” Most people had either already left or were waiting for the valet to bring their car out front so it wouldn’t be too scandalous for them to leave now.
Bruce nodded and said a quick goodbye to the others at the table before following Dick out and hoping his son was ignoring the whispers that were following him as they exited the building. He gave the valet some money to give them the keys instead of pulling out the car for them and got away from the crowd and press as fast as possible.
As they were on the road and away from anyone who could possibly eavesdrop, Bruce asked, “What happened, Dick? What was all of that about? I know you love acrobatics you were practicing and showing off yesterday.”
Dick knew there was no reason to lie to Bruce and he easily admitted, “I know, B. It wasn’t really true.”
“So why did you say that?”
Although he was frustrated at himself for letting other people’s opinion of him cloud his judgment, Dick tried to explain, “People just think I’m a circus freak. They expect me to go around flying from the chandelier like it’s all I’m able to do.”
Bruce knew he wasn’t very elegant in his speeches but he tried to convince Dick, “This isn’t a reason to change anything about yourself, Dick. If you enjoy it I’d hope you’d stick to it despite what anyone else might say.” It was something he thought Dick needed to hear and he hoped he would take those words to heart.
“I know that, Bruce, but I don’t want anyone to think you’ve raised a weird freak who can’t sit still for five seconds.” The last thing Dick wanted was to ruin Bruce’s reputation.
“You don’t have to change for me, Dick. I don’t want you to ever do that. You’re my son and the only thing that matters is that you’re happy.”
“I’m your son, B, but I’m also Bruce Wayne’s son, the richest man in the world, and a lot of people expect me to be like everyone else at the party.”
“Look at me, Dick.” Once he was sure Dick was paying attention to the determination on the seriousness in his expression, Bruce said, “I don’t want you to ever think like that. What matters is that you’re happy and if that’s acrobatics you have to stick with it. You’re young now, Dick, and I know there’s a lot of pressure on you from outside the family but you’re going to regret making choices based on what anyone else expects from you.”