The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 8

Dick slowly opened his eyes at the light and noise coming from the foot of his bed and groaned, “What are you doing, Timmy? It’s pretty late. You should be sleeping by now.” In all the years he’d known Tim, Dick had never seen his little brother have trouble falling asleep. Their mom had considered it a miracle after all the trouble Dick had put them through as a toddler.

Not turning away from the tv screen and face level with the controler almost too big for his hands, Tim explained, “No one knows how long we stay up. We don’t ever have to go to sleep.”

Still mostly asleep, Dick took a minute to understand what his brother meant before countering, “You don’t want to be tired later, Tim.”

“I won’t be tired, Dick.” Tim said easily.

“How could you know that?” Dick asked annoyed. “You’ve never stayed up this late before”

“I don’t care, Dick,” Tim said dismissively. “I like this game and I’m going to keep playing.”

Dick knew he wouldn’t be able to get much sleep with the noise and against his better judgement he slid down beside his little brother. He took a minute to watch Tim die a few times before saying, “I’ll go tell, Bruce. He won’t like that you’re still awake.”

Sharply turning to look at Dick, Tim whispered, “You can’t do that, Dick.”

“If you can stay up, I can go across the hall and talk to B,” Dick said smugly. He knew Tim would hate making Bruce angry, especially when they didn’t even know what he was like when he was upset. So far they hadn’t had any trouble and Tim would hate for their relationship to fall apart now. Just to push the point home Dick stood up and added, “He might be a little upset with you ruining his sleep”

“Please don’t tell him, Dick,” Tim begged frantically. He’d lost all focus on the video and instead pressed onto Dick hoping to get some compassion out of his older brother. “I don’t want him to hate me and be upset. Please, Dick, don’t tell him anything. I’ll do anything.”

“Are you sure, Tim?” Dick said just to be contrary. “Maybe he won’t be upset. He’s famous and famous people are always doing something. He probably never goes to sleep.”

“Please don’t say anything, Dick. I promise I’ll do anything.” Tim reiterated, “I promise I’ll do anything.”

A part of Dick felt proud at having his plan work out so perfectly even when he was mostly asleep, but another part felt guilty at making Tim panic. As a solution he offered, “If you go to sleep right now I promise I won’t tell Bruce.”

“No problem, Dick,” Tim said easily. He rushed to the television to turn off the game and as the room was shrouded in darkness Dick just could make out Tim’s figure as he tried to walk to his side of the bed. Dick could imagine that staring at the screen so long meant it would take his eyes some time to adjust and the many times Tim almost fell over in the short walk only made it more obvious. Soon enough Tim was settled in the bed and seeing Dick staring at him he asked, “Is there anything else you want me to do, Dick. I’ll do anything you want if you don’t tell.”

Smiling at the determination, Dick crawled in beside Tim and considered his options. He decided the only thing he cared about right now was knowing, “Why did you really want to stay up? I know it wasn’t because you liked the game, you weren’t even winning.”

Desperately wanting to recant his previous promise, Tim mumbled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You made a promise,” Dick stressed. “If you don’t keep yours I don’t have to keep mine.”

Although he still felt conflicted, Tim knew it was in his best interest to be honest. After all Dick had a particular skill for knowing anytime he was lying. Still he didn’t know how to properly phrase his thoughts and they came out a jumbled mess. “I thought that…You know how when you go to sleep you wake up. Like, as soon as you fall asleep you wake up in the morning and sometimes you have a dream, but most of the time you wake up and it’s so fast. Like you just fell asleep and it’s morning now?” Taking a deep breath as he tried to reorganize his thoughts, Tim said, “I didn’t want that to happen this time too. I didn’t want to go to sleep and then just wake up like ‘oh it’s morning now and we have to do all this stuff.’ I wanted to stay up so it could feel like it’s longer and things aren’t happening so fast.” He didn’t know if anything he said made sense to Dick, he could barely figure it all out himself, but Tim hoped it was a sufficient enough to satisfy Dick.

Dick felt a little bad for not noticing that Tim was feeling so stressed, but he couldn’t think of anything to say that would make him feel better. Tim’s plan made a lot of sense and it almost made Dick wish he could have thought of it himself. Instead, he avoided looking at Dick and said, “We should go to sleep, Tim. We don’t want to be tired in the morning.”

Driving into the BatCave a few minutes before the sun was set to rise, Bruce parked the BatMobile in the garage before making a beeline towards the computer to begin working on his report for the night. He usually left them until after getting some rest, Alfred had convinced him that it would be more efficient to work after sleep instead of lazing around trying to find the right work, but today he needed an immediate distraction. He wasn’t ready to go upstairs and live his real life again. Already expecting him, Alfred was ready as soon as he took his seat before the monitor and offered some cucumber sandwiches to recover from the tougher than average patrol.

Alfred raised an eyebrow when Bruce ignored the plate and said, “It would be good to eat something before going to bed, Master Bruce.”

“I don’t plan on sleeping, Alfred,” Bruce said bluntly. He knew Alfred was waiting for an explanation, but he ignored the old man’s looming figure to focus on the blank document before him.

Alfred sighed as he placed the plate beside Bruce and said, “You want to look well rested throughout the entirety of the day. Masters Dick and Tim would certainly appreciate the consideration.”

“I don’t need sleep to look well rested, Alfred. After all these years I think that’s been proven.” Looking at the time on the clock just to be sure of the time, Bruce added, “I would have to get up in a few hours anyway. A few hours of sleep aren’t going to make a difference.”

“I’m sure you’ll have the same opinion when it’s the young masters asking to stay up past their bedtime,” Alfred scoffed sure there was no way he could convince Bruce now.

Trying to put the image out of his mind Bruce mumbled, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Tim stood on top of the chair and shifted as Bruce tried to tie a proper knot around his small neck. Tim had already made a few attempts to get a perfect knot, but after he almost started choking himself Bruce knew to take over.

He glanced to the other end of Bruce’s room and watched Dick look himself over in the mirror. Tim thought suit looked weird on Dick, he wasn’t used to seeing him in anything other than his acrobatics uniform or regular going about clothes, but the weirdest was the hair. Dick’s hardly ever focused on his hair, it grew out well enough that their mom never had to fuss at him about brushing it, but now it was combed, properly parted, and looked liked something from a magazine. Usually Tim would have given his brother a compliment, but consider how solemn everyone looked he didn’t think it was the proper situation.

Once the tie was in place and Bruce was sure Tim’s jacket fit properly, he looked between the boys and asked, “Is there anything you boys need? Don’t be afraid to ask if you need anything at all.”

When Dick didn’t say anything, Tim took the initiative and asked, “How long is the funeral going to be?”

Bruce assured him, “As long as you want, Tim. If you want to leave soon we can do that and if you want to spend all day outside we can do that too.”

Looking back between his brother and his reflection in the mirror, Dick said quietly, “We should go soon. The others might be here soon.”

“You boys can get settled in the living room,” Bruce said instead. He didn’t know why he felt more nervous about the funeral than the boys, but he needed a moment to catch his breath and offered, “I’ll be finished soon and can walk out with you.”

Not really concerned with what Bruce possibly have to do, Tim stepped off the chair and waited by the door for Dick to follow before asking his brother, “How many people are going to be there? Is it going to be everyone?”

“I don’t know for sure,” Dick said softly, “but I don’t think most everyone from Haley’s are going to be here. They have to move today so they’re probably busy packing everything up.”

“Who are the people outside right now?” Tim followed up. He had caught a glance of a pair of men standing in the back yard in the morning and from what he could tell they weren’t planning on moving anytime soon. “They’ve been here all day and I don’t know who they are.”

“Their job is to work on funerals,” Dick said quickly before changing the direction of the funeral. He knew his brother wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer, but it wasn’t something he wanted to talk about. Instead he said, “We should probably get you something to eat soon in case you have to wait a while later.”

As soon as he couldn’t hear the boys anymore, Bruce walked to the bathroom and splashed water on his face. He didn’t know if it was because of the sleep he had forgone or the intense feeling of anxiety, but he felt horrible. It wasn’t that he had never done this before, he’d had more experiences with funerals than most people his age, but it was the first time he had the responsibility to look after someone else. He tried to think back to the encouragement Alfred and Jim had shown him at his own parents’ funeral but looking at the person he had become he didn’t know if it would be the best idea. The last thing the world needed was two more Bruce Waynes.

A knock from Alfred on the door forced him to get back on track and he quickly followed the boys into the living room. Tim was eating away at a small sandwich, Bruce imagined he still didn’t understand the full implications of the day, while Dick simply stared at the ground with momentary breaks to clean the crumbs off Tim’s cheek. Bruce considered giving them a word of advice, he could sympathize with their situation after all, but he didn’t think it was what the boys wanted right now. It would be best to give them some privacy if they desperately needed it.

Seeing that he was the only one doing something and the others were waiting for him, Tim quickly finished the remainder of the sandwich, stood up, and announced, “We can leave now. I’m ready.”

Dick slowly stood up beside him, but didn’t do anything until Bruce first made the way out of the room. It wasn’t a long trip outside and by now Tim knew enough of the house layout not to get lost, but when Dick reached down to hold his hand and lead him away he allowed it. He knew it was more for his older brother than for himself and after all Dick had done for him Tim didn’t mind.

When the door to the back porch finally opened the cold stopped them in their tracks, Tim huddled closer to Dick for warmth. Bruce contemplated giving Tim his jacket, the four year old looked like he needed it, but he understood the protectiveness in Dick’s stance and thought against it. Even if none of them knew it, this was Dick’s unconscious attempt to make up for not helping his brother the night before.

They walked in silence to through the well manicured lawn until they came to the gravesite and found their seats. Dick and Tim got to sit in the front and Bruce beside Tim as they silently stared in front of them waiting for something to happen.

Tim was still holding on closely to Dick, the perpetual cold weather was not something he was used to just yet, and Dick was glad to have a distraction. He thought he might actually be able to forget the worst parts of the day until Tim asked, “Are they in the boxes? I don’t see them anywhere else. Why are they in the boxes?”

When Dick stiffened up at the question, Bruce took the initiative to explain, “Yes they are, Timothy. They are called casket and it’s where people are laid to rest in. It protects them from the environment around them.”

Only paying attention to the beginning of the response, the four year old tried to sit up straighter and get a better view of the casket as he said, “When Ms. Casent was in her box they had a flap that was open so we could see her. Why don’t they have one?” A sudden realization coming across him, Tim leaned down closer to Bruce and Dick to keep any of the funeral workers from overhearing in case they were in on the conspiracy and asked, “What if it’s not really them and people are lying? What if it’s someone else in the boxes? We should look in and make sure.”

“We can’t look at them, Babybird.” Dick said in a tired voice that confused Tim. “When they fell they got very hurt and they don’t look normal. It wasn’t like when Ms. Casent died. She didn’t get hurt so she didn’t look…bad…when she died.”

Tim’s lip thinned as he considered what his older brother said and decided to stand his ground. “What if it’s not them, Dick? It could be anyone else in the boxes. It could be anything.”

“I’m sure it’s your parents in the casket,” Bruce said softly. “The police officers have been looking over their bodies since they died and they made extra sure not to mess anything up. It’s definitely them in the caskets so you don’t have to worry about that.”

Still not fully comfortable arguing with Bruce, Tim decided it would be best to confirm for himself. “Can I look at them? I could make sure.”

“No,” Dick said sternly. “Tim, you have to stop this. It’s them in the casket and I know you might not like it because you don’t understand them, but you have to believe me, Tim. It’s them.” Forgetting that he’d been spending the last few hours trying to make up for ignoring Tim’s concerns the night before, Dick almost yelled, “What’s your problem, Tim? You’re making this a lot harder than it has to be.”

“Okay,” Tim mumbled quietly before realizing Dick had asked a question and rambling an answer. “It’s just…I…I can’t remember a lot of them, Dick. It’s only been a few days and I…I can’t remember what they look like a lot. I was trying to think about them yesterday when you said we were going to have a funeral and I couldn’t remember who was taller or how long Mom’s hair was or if Dad’s eyes were light blue or dark blue or if his eyebrows are bushy like Bruce’s or what Mom’s perfume smelled like and…I don’t know…I want to see them again.” He was practically out of breath by the time he was finished, the cold might have had something to do with it, but he liked admitting everything to Dick. Staring directly at the caskets as he tried to imagine what his parents must look like in there, Tim whispered, “It hasn’t even been that long, Dick. It’s only been like a few days and I can’t remember anything. What if…maybe…what if I won’t ever remember anything ever again.”

Not sure if he should cling onto Tim or give him some space, Dick decided to keep his arms to himself as he sighed, “I’m sorry, Timbo. I didn’t know you were worried about not remembering Mom and Dad, but you don’t have to worry. I promise I won’t let you forget them, Timmy.” He could tell Tim didn’t believe him, Dick couldn’t blame him all things considered, and through a desperate look in Bruce’s direction for some help.

Bringing Tim’s attention onto himself, Bruce lifted him closer to his lap and asked, “Do you remember that your parents loved you?”

“Yes,” Tim said easily but slightly confused at the question.

“Do you remember how much you love your parents?”

“Yes,” Tim said easily but even more confused than before.

“Then that’s all you need to remember, Tim,” Bruce said calmly. “That’s all they would want you to remember.”

“Is that what you remember about your parents?” Tim asked curiously. He could see that the question confused Bruce and Dick, but considering how they were doing their best to confuse him he thought it was fitting. “That was like a hundred years ago so you must not remember a lot.”

It caught him off guard, but knowing how important it must have been to Tim Bruce answered honestly. “You’re right. I don’t remember a lot about my parents, but I do remember how they look. The painting in the library helps not forget.” At the small smile at the light joke, Bruce went on, “Other than that I have a some pictures that I keep in my bedroom that I look back to when I remember them, but I don’t remember things like how they smelled or a lot of what they liked to do. By now it’s mostly snippets of things we did together when I was older, but I can promise you I’m never going to forget how much we loved each other. That’s just something you don’t forget.”

Seemingly satisfied with the response, Tim settled into his seat and decided he was comfortable quietly waiting for the rest of his friends to show up. Dick stared at Bruce for a few moments until following Tim’s lead leaving Bruce to think over what the look meant. He didn’t look upset at all, Bruce knew what Dick looked like when he was upset, and Bruce wished that he would be brave enough to address it later.

“What happens after?” Dick asked after nothing happened for a while. “Later today what happens?”

Although he definitely understood more about funerals than his younger brother, their argument a few moments ago making it obvious, Dick didn’t have a lot of experience with them. The only funeral he’d ever been to had been for Ms. Casent, a woman he hardly knew and one his parents had forced him to go to, and he’d left before it was even over to get Tim in bed before his bedtime. His knowledge of funerals didn’t go past knowing that the dead body was kept in a casket, a lot of people cried, and from tv he knew the casket was buried in the ground that a tombstone marked a person’s grave. If there was anything else to know, he didn’t want to be caught off guard when it finally happened.

Bruce softly explained, “The funeral’s going to happen here and afterwards the three of us can go home by ourselves or we can have people over. It all depends on what you want.”

“Hmm,” Dick said in acknowledgment. “I think I’d like to be alone after. I don’t want too many people around. What about you, Timmy?”

Considering how hard of a time he was having even without the funeral having started and the cold that was probably going to freeze his ears, Tim decided, “I don’t want people here after. I want to go in after.”

“Okay,” Bruce said easily. “We’ll feed everyone after the burial and then ask them to leave so you two can spend time with yourselves.”

The trio sat in silence once again until they heard the back doors to the Manor open and Alfred lead the crew from the circus through the lawn. The burial site was close enough to the main property that one could see it from the Manor, but it was discrete enough to not impose on the rest of the view. The large number of lawn chairs and group of people made it more distinctive, but most of the performers were still in awe of the large amount of land that made up the Wayne property. They couldn’t hide their amazement as they walked through the lawn, but returned to their solemn expression as they drew closer to the burial sight.

Dick had been right with the whole circus not being here, even with the Flying Graysons being the most popular performers there were some who didn’t know them well and some who just didn’t like them, but the ones closest to the boys made sure to be here.

Dick stood up first and watched as they walked over. He actually wanted to run out to his lifelong friends and leap into their arms, but he knew better and kept his anticipation to himself. Tim wasn’t as concerned with his image and he immediately held up his arms for Sebastian to hug.

Kelly knew Dick would never admit he needed the same kind of support and instead of waiting for the signal she leaned down and held him in a tight embrace. Dick didn’t do a lot to reciprocate, but she’d babysitted him enough to know he was on the verge of tears and she would pull away before they dropped and he felt like he’d embarrassed himself. Instead, she whispered, “Everything’s going to be all right, Dick. You know you can call us for anything and we’ll be back in Gotham the moment you ask.”

Pulling away and looking down at the ground hoping his eyes would dry up on their own, Dick muttered, “Yeah, I know that. Thanks.”

Hands firmly on his shoulder as she forced him to look her in the eyes, Kelly promised, “If you ever need anything we’ll be there for you, Bigbird. Don’t ever forget that.”

“I know, Kelly,” Dick said dismissively as he moved back to his seat. “You’ve told me that a thousand times. I know that by now.”

She took the seat the seat beside him while she watched Sebastian takes Bruce’s and whispered to Tim, “Even if your brother doesn’t call, you will won’t you, Timmy?”

He was a little confused about the change in direction from the conversation he was having with Sebastian, but Tim said, “I don’t know your number. I remember Haley’s number because Dad made me if I ever got lost so I could call him and get him to get you.”

“Sounds like a good plan, Timmy,” Sebastian said encouragingly. “We’ll leave Mr. Wayne our numbers too in case you forget.”

Preening around the crowd to get a better view, Dick asked, “Where’s Bruce? He was here a second ago.”

“He said he had to talk to the those people,” Tim explained pointing to Bruce in deep conversation with the grave diggers. The hole was already dug, but Dick imagined they were going to be the ones who lowered their bodies into the ground and irrationally hated them for it.

Haley came up to them next, giving the same promise Bash and Kelly had given, and many others followed after. They all offered their condolences and promised they’d never forget them or their parents. By the end of the line Dick was sure some of them were reading from a script, some doing pretty poorly considering they couldn’t properly remember their parents’ name, but Tim seemed to appreciate the support. He knew Tim needed it considering just how little he still understood, he seemed to treat the whole situation like it was a vacation in a mansion with someone who’d buy them the world if they asked, but Dick hated the phoniness of most of the people around them. He could see that some of them were paying more attention to Bruce than anything else, but he forced himself to calm when he saw the cautious expression Tim through him. By now the thing he wanted more than anything was for the day to be over and forcing have the guests to leave was only going to draw it out longer. Instead he focused on the people on either side of him, Bash, Kelly, Tim, Haley, and a few others, while they waited for the funeral to get going.

It took a few more minutes until Bruce was finished, most people talked among themselves while others looked over the speeches they had prepared, but when he finally did return he found his seat on the other side of Tim occupied by Sebastian. For his part he didn’t seem bothered and he quickly moved to an empty seat directly behind them that Dick had made sure no one took over.

As soon as Bruce took his seat, Haley stood up and walked up behind the podium and prepared to address the crowd before him. As the employer for most everyone in the room and the one who knew John and Mary the best, it seemed logical that he be the first one to speak.

The murmurings around the lawn quickly quieted down as he began to clear his throat and as soon as he had everyone’s attention he began speaking. “Today is a solemn day, one I never imagined having to live through, but it’s heartwarming to see that so many of you were able to come and show your support for the boys. I know they appreciate it and I know John and Mary would too.” Even from feet away Dick could tell Haley’s eyes were starting to glaze over as he said, “I’d known them since they were kids, they grew up in my circus, and I never imagined having to speak at their funeral. It honestly never crossed my mind.” After a short pause to catch his breath Haley smiled as he remembered, “There was nothing like watching them fly. I’d seen them perform separately, but when they decided to perform together there was nothing like it. I can honestly say there was nothing like them and there probably won’t be again.” Looking directly at Dick, he added, “It was just as impressive to see the boys they’d raised. They have the best part of their dad and mom in them, definitely all of their talent, and even though I won’t be here to see it I know they are going to grow into amazing men just like I know their parents are going to watch over them and will love just as much as they did when they were alive.” Glancing down before turning to the caskets to his side, Haley finished, “They died too young. This was a tragedy I couldn’t have imagined in my darkest nightmare, especially not when they were just starting their family, but it won’t change anything now. The only thing we can do now is live the life they would have wanted for us, become the people they would have wanted us to be, and hope we can see them again when it’s our turn.” Haley took a moment not to say anything until finally looking back at the crowd and saying, “Thank you all very much.”

A long clap followed his departure from the podium and there was a pause that followed as the next person in the line up walked up with her speech. Dick looked back around the crowd and finally realized why so many people had papers with them. He quickly turned around to face Bruce and used the few seconds before the next speaker started to explain, “They all shouldn’t get a chance to speak, Bruce. A lot of them didn’t even know them and they’re only here to get closer to you. I don’t want them to all get up.”

That was all he had the time to explain before the second speech started and he had to turn back around and be polite. Bruce hadn’t paid much attention to the crowd around them, he was more focused on the boys and didn’t care too much about the company, but looking around now he could see Dick’s point. More than a few people were entranced with him and seemed to be whispering about him amongst themselves. It wasn’t a new sensation for Bruce, he was used to the treatment at funerals, birthdays, and weddings, but he’d expected the supposed friends of newly orphaned children to have more manners. In the end he remembered his parent’s funeral had been a quiet occasion for just the same reason.

As soon as the woman giving the speech stepped away from the podium, he leaned into Dick ear and asked, “Who else should give a speech? You can give me their names and I’ll finish up from there.”

Taking note of exactly who had speeches and who didn’t, Dick decided, “Peter, Casey, and Sophie should get a chance but no one else. They actually knew them.”

Bruce nodded in acknowledgement and after he had an understanding of the people the names corresponded to he informed all of them of the speaking order. They weren’t too surprised, if anything a little perplexed to be speaking to Bruce Wayne, and within 15 minutes all of the speeches were finished. It seemed to have worked out wonderfully because Tim was getting restless with all of the talking and didn’t look like he could last much longer. To him it was a lot of people repeating the things he already knew, that his parents were great and everyone would miss them.

Before anyone else could approach the podium, Haley walked up again and asked, “Can everyone please stand as we bury John and Mary? Afterwards we can go inside for the wake and get lunch before we leave.”

People tried to stand up and complain about not being given a chance to speak, but once they saw Bruce lead the boys to the casket knew they didn’t have a chance. There was no way he’d allow them to make the day even worse for the boys by putting their own feelings before the boys’.

As they stood over the graves Tim appreciated the tight hold Dick had on his arm. He didn’t want to accidentally fall into the hole, but he wondered just how his brother always knew just what to do. Tim knocked it up to Dick just knowing everything, but quickly turned his attention back to the strangers carefully moving the caskets into the corresponding grave. Dick’s hand on his shoulder only got tighter as they slowly lowered their bodies and Tim had to break out of hold before his entire shoulder was crushed under the tight grip.

When the gravediggers looked up at Bruce and stepped back from the graves, he looked down at Tim and Dick as he pulled something out of his jacket pocket. There was a crinkle of plastic as he unwrapped the delicate flowers and handed them to the boys as he explained, “You can put the flower on our parents.”

Tim didn’t know what the flowers could possibly do, but he decided to follow Bruce’s instruction. He carefully crouched down beside the holes, threw the flowers down before he could accidentally fall in, and rushed back to his position beside Bruce and Dick. Dick did the same, taking his time in placing the flowers and wearing a look Tim didn’t entire understand, before stepping to the side as the gravediggers began moving again.

The gravediggers began starting throwing the extra dirt on the caskets as the crowd silently watched. Tim didn’t want to stay behind and wait for both of the holes to be filled, but with one glance to Dick he knew his older brother wasn’t going to move any time soon. Instead he risked reaching out for Dick’s hand and slowly entwined it with his own hoping it would help his older brother.

They stood still for just under half an hour, long enough that the remainder of the crowd had gone to the main house to get something to eat, and Bruce was willing to stand behind them as long as they needed.

There were more tears from each of the boys, but this time they had the privacy to be as loud as they wanted to be. No strangers were watching them only pretending to care so they could hope to gain more favor with Bruce.

When they were finished, Dick turned to look at the crowd in the Manor and said, “I don’t want to talk to anyone right now. I want to go to bed and just…I don’t want to deal with anyone right now.”

“We can go watch something,” Tim offered in hopes that it would appeal to the optimistic side of Dick. “Or we could play with all of our new toys. A lot of them are still in their boxes.”

Dick didn’t want to start pretending to be happy so soon, but found himself nodding just to make his little brother happy. He went as far as to promise, “We can do whatever you want Babybird.”

Bruce asked, “Do you know how to use the side entrance?” At the nod from the boys he explained, “If you can find your way up to your rooms I’ll have everyone go home. They shouldn’t be too upset considering they’ll be leaving tomorrow and might still have some work to do.”

Nodding at the instruction, Tim realized just how tired he was growing. He found himself leaning into Bruce’s leg hoping he’d pick him up without him having to ask. It took longer than he had expected, Bruce had given Dick a confused look hoping he’d have an explanation, until he finally lifted Tim into his arms and let him get comfortable.

As they made their way through the lawn, Dick found himself smiling as he taunted, “You see, Tim? This is why I’m always right.”

“Dick,” Tim pleaded with a panic Bruce didn’t understand…at first. It didn’t take him long to figure out, it felt fitting considering the argument he’d had with Alfred a few hours ago, but Bruce decided to ignore it. He still didn’t quite know how he was going to deal with the boys acting out and he was fine with not addressing the issue until years from now.

Bruce looked up from the tablet on his lap to stare at the shadows dancing from underneath his door. He could tell there was someone pacing in front of the room, from the relative silence in the steps he assumed it was a kid and that left Dick and Tim. Before he could use his detective skills to narrow down to one kid, Dick slowely opened the door to peek inside and make sure Bruce was still awake.

Remembering back to the last time Dick had come to see him alone and tense, Bruce immediately pushed his work to the side and made room for the eight year old to sit. Bruce could tell Dick had been thinking about the discussion they had had a few nights ago, the furrowed brows and anxious steps made it obvious, and he was hoping Dick had come to a conclusion on what he wanted to do from here on. Just to calm any fears he might have still had, Bruce informed him, “I talked to Haley about what happened that night, Dick.” At the anxious look, Bruce assured Dick, “I didn’t tell him about anything you told me, but I asked him about what he knew and if he was willing to go to the police. What you heard was right. There were two local gang members who had found him before the show and they tried to shake him down for some money, but he refused to give them anything. They were the first people he thought of after the accident too and he’s already talked to the police about what happened.”

“That’s good,” Dick said relieved that this wasn’t entirely his burden to bare. “I guess I don’t have to say anything if Haley already told them, right?”

“That’s not how it works, Dick,” Bruce said sympathetically. “They can’t just go with Haley’s word on it, they need corroborating evidence. They might find some more evidence on sight, but it’s going to be hard to narrow all of their suspects down to two people. It would really help if you could talk to the police too, give them some information Haley might not have been able to.”

Keeping his attention on the bedding to avoid having to look at Bruce, Dick asked, “Do you think I could get in trouble for not telling them before? If I’d told them…I know you said not to think like that, but if I’d told they would still be alive. I just can’t stop thinking about it.”

Bruce promised, “You aren’t going to get into any trouble, Dick. I can personally vouch for Officer Gordon.”

“If you say so,” Dick mumbled. “What happens if I tell?”

Bruce explained, “You’ll have to go to the police station and find the officer in charge of the case, it will Officer Gordon who also worked on my parents’ murder, and get a personal meeting. He’ll lead you to his office where you’ll explain everything that you told me and he’ll probably bring in another officer to make sure there’s a witness. Then they’ll use the information to figure out who it could possibly be. When they figure it out the police will arrest the suspects and go to trial to see if the person is guilty or not.”

“Would I have to go to court with them?” Dick asked cautiously. The little he had seen of courtrooms on tv made it seem like there was a lot of work that and stress went into cases.

“Yes,” Bruce said honestly. “The prosecution would need your eye witness account to as evidence against the suspect. It would make the case against them stronger, especially if you can identify them.”

Dick laid down on the bed beside Bruce in deep contemplation. He knew what he should do, his parents would have wanted him to do the right thing and talk to the police, but Dick didn’t know if he was capable of it. He had barely confessed everything to Bruce, how could he tell a police officer or court room full of people who didn’t know him?

Watching closely to the wave of emotions pass Dick’s easily readable face, Bruce realized, “There’s something else. There’s something you don’t want to tell me.”

Rolling to his side so that his back faced Bruce, Dick tried to figure out just how Bruce was able to tell what he was thinking. Nevertheless, Dick had to admit, “Yeah…I guess so.”

“We can talk about it, Dick. It doesn’t have to leave this room if you don’t want it to.”

It took Dick a few moments to say anything, but with his face buried in in of Bruce’s extra pillows he said, “I don’t want Tim to hate me.”

“What do you mean?” Bruce asked astounded. From what he’d seen over the past week, he didn’t think Tim was capable of hating his older brother.

“I could have stopped it,” Dick explained with labored breaths. “I could have stopped them from dying if I’d told someone about what I’d heard, but I didn’t and they’re dead now. I’d get it if he hated me. I’d understand, but I don’t want to see if he will.”

Although Bruce couldn’t know how the four year old could react, he knew that Dick needed assurance and he was the only one ready to give him some. “Tim is going to love you no matter what, Dick. If you can explain everything to him just like you did to me, there’s no way he’s going to hate you. If anything, he’s going to want to want to help you with this guilt you can’t get rid of just yet.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Dick asked skeptically. “You can’t know for sure. He might never want to talk to me again.”

Bruce knew this was a fragile moment and if he said something that was less than perfect he’d break the boy, possibly beyond repair. He took his time to form his argument and soften his voice as he asked Dick, “Is there anything Tim could do to make you hate him? Can you think of anything that would make you never want to talk to him again?”

“No,” Dick said easily, but upon realizing Bruce’s point he added, “but that’s different.”

“Not to Tim,” Bruce countered. “To him standing beside you is as easy as it is for you to stand beside him.”

“Are you sure?” Dick asked weakly. It felt like his entire life was riding on this. “If I lose Timmy too…I just…”

Dick couldn’t see it, but Bruce debated patting his shoulder before deciding Dick might not appreciate the contact. Bruce certainly didn’t want to force the boy to feel better when he wasn’t ready for it. Instead he moved closer and thought of what might be the most comforting. In the end he decided, “I’d bet my life on it, Dick. Tim might be confused or upset, but there is no doubt in my mind that he’s going to love you just as much as he does now. The boy isn’t capable of hating you yet, Dick, that’ll come when he’s a teenager.”

The joke at the end had been a risky one, but it was worth hearing Dick chuckle slightly after such a hard conversation and an even harder day. “I guess I should tell the police. It could help.”

“I’ll be there with you, Dick. I’ll be your legal guardian now and I’ll be there through everything,” Bruce said with an absolute guarantee. “If you want a lawyer, I have hundreds who can be in the courthouse as soon as I want.”

“Fine…okay. I’ll do it,” Dick said with little to no conviction in his voice.

Leaning closer so Dick could just barely feel him against his back, Bruce promised, “You won’t regret it, Dick. I’ll make sure of it.”

Both of them were quiet for a few minutes, unable to think of anything to say, until Dick asked, “Can I sleep here?” He knew he needed the company and he still felt too guilty to be with Tim. If he wasn’t careful he might accidentally blurt out a confession before he was ready for it.

Bruce debated whether or not to agree, but seeing the desperation in the boy he knew it would be best to help him. Alfred wouldn’t allow for him go on patrol after not sleeping for so long anyway. “You can go get changed and crawl back in as soon as you want, Dick.”

Slowly sitting up and trying to press his hair back in place, Dick felt just how tired he was. The only thing willing him to move was the fact he hadn’t changed out of his suit yet and he knew he’d hate himself if he had to wake up in it. After watching Bruce disappear into his bathroom, Dick cracked the door open to glance out into the hallway and make sure Tim wasn’t near. He wasn’t used to having to sneak behind his brother, but Dick didn’t think he was ready to face him either. The door was closed in Tim’s room, having so privacy and space was new to him so every now and then he liked having some time to himself every now and then, but Dick could tell he was moving around. Every now and then Dick felt like Tim was getting ready to open the door and see what was taking him so long, but great for him as the fact that it never came to be. When he was sure Tim wasn’t by the door, Dick rushed to his own room and swiftly closed the door behind him. Dick felt pathetic waiting behind the door and hoping to hear where or not Tim opened his door out to the hallway to see if he could catch his older brother, but he felt like it was the only thing he could do to keep his sanity. He quickly changed into his pjs, keeping the mess that became of his suit on his chair for him to deal with in the morning, and prepared to sneak back out again.

Sure of the fact Tim wasn’t going to be in the hallway, Dick rushed out to Bruce bedroom this not not as careful to not slam the door behind him. He cringed as he heard Tim open his own door to try and see him, but Dick stood still not wanting to make a sound. He felt he could just barely hear a small sigh, but he was sure Tim didn’t close the door this time. His little brother had probably left it open hoping for Dick to join him that night, Tim probably needed the same contact Dick was finding with Bruce, but all Dick could do was pull the covers to Bruce’s bed and crawl in. He felt frozen in his place until the bed dipped beside him and Bruce took his place. The bed seemed a lot larger without Tim here to share it with them and Dick wondered whether or not he should take up the same position he had the previous time they all slept together. He decided it would have made things too awkward and instead he wrapped his arms around on the many extra pillows on the bed and lulled himself to sleep.


The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 7

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.

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 6

After breakfast, Bruce spent an two hours downtown going through the paperwork Luscious was kind enough to send over. There were some menial tasks of making sure that the summer interns have replacements for when they returned to school and that they get the proper recommendation letters. It was a tradition his father had started when he took over the company many years ago, offering low income and at risk kids the opportunity to work for Wayne Enterprises and maybe take a different direction in their lives.

Bruce also had to make sure that enough money was diverted to Research and Development for any future tools Batman might need. The Batmobile might need an upgrade, she been put to hell for the past few weeks, but he didn’t like anyone other than himself working on her. It wouldn’t be that hard to push for any upgrade he wanted, Luscious had a soft spot for him. The board was still easily impressed with the growing profits so they felt no need to question any of the choices that were making them so much money. It was one of the few moments Bruce was happy that so many affluent people were easily manipulated.

Halfway through his pile, Bruce felt restless from sitting in the same seat far longer than he should have. Even Ace was bored enough to run away from his office to someone free enough to play with him. He was a hit with the interns, everyone of which would stop for a minute and pet him if they had the time. Bruce had no problem thinking that when he returned home the boys were going to pamper the dog enough to become his new favorites and there was nothing he could ever do to change that.

Envying the dog as he roamed the building, Bruce thought about the modifications he could probably get Luscious to agree to. There were some plans for a Batjet and a Batsubmaine that he wanted to show the CEO, but he knew that he would be laughed out of the office. Instead he returned to the pile of paperwork that seemed to grow bigger the longer he didn’t work on it.

Once everything was either signed or pushed off to someone else, Bruce used the quiet to think about a few things while he waited for the great dane to find his way back to him. His mind settled on the two new residents of his home. Overall, he enjoyed having more company in the lonely house, but he was having a hard time gauging how well they would fare with him in their lives. Bruce had absolutely no experience with children or teenagers and had no idea of what they needed to develop into proper adults. They would also have to deal with his emotional absence or regular mood changes and there was no way that was good for development.

By the time he entered the limo back to the manor, it had already been three hours past when he’d promised to be home. Alfred would be mildly upset, but it wasn’t like Bruce was known for being punctual. Ace had come back to him tired and ready to return home and have a proper rest. He crawled into the limo and melted on his owner’s lap for the entirety of the ride. Once they pulled into the driveway, the dog jumped from his place by Bruce and went off to find a place soft enough for him to collapse for hours.

Entering the manor, Bruce dropped off his homework in his office before greeting Alfred and checking in on dinner. He’d already missed lunch, but from the remains of the kitchen he was sure it went well enough. The sink was full of dirty dishes, too big of a mess for three people, two of which were small boys, but Bruce imagined that the little chefs had made quite a mess working on what appeared to be tacos.

Alfred was preparing the kitchen for the final meal of the day and looked up from his work before saying, “Welcome back Master Bruce, how was business?”

Bruce grabbed a glass of water from the fridge and pulled out a chair while replying, “Everything was fine, Alfred. Nothing too extreme happened while I was away, but we will be offering some of the summer interns part time jobs. How are Dick and Tim?”

Alfred smiled at him. “The boys and I went exploring, making sure no one gets lost again. We covered all of the rooms and afterwards we made lunch before they broke off into the library closet to their rooms. If I may say so, sir, it seems to be their favorite to spend time in.”

Bruce nodded along, making a mental note of the things he was learning. “How long until dinner is ready?”

“Master Tim needs a nap soon; I think I will lay him down after finishing up with the preparations and then return to complete dinner by the time he wakes up”

Bruce looked up slightly surprised. “A nap? Isn’t he too old for naps?”

Although he tried to hide the chuckle with a cough, Bruce heard Alfred laugh at his lack of knowledge about children. “Oh no, sir, most children continue napping until they are four or five. If I remember correctly, you continued to take an afternoon nap well past six.”

The man in question wanted to deny the claim but knew that he had no point of reference. “I would prefer it if you didn’t repeat the story to someone else.”

“Of course not, Master Bruce, I would never think of repeating the story to another soul.”

Trusting his friend’s words, Bruce sat in silence before asking, “Come to think of it, do you think we should get them to redecorate their rooms? I could probably find a designer ready to work on short notice and the boys might enjoy it. It will help them adjust quicker to know that they can personalize everything to their likings.”

Alfred offered him a soft smile, “That’s a brilliant idea, Master Bruce, but it will take more to adjust nicely.”

Sighing mostly to himself, Bruce thought about the responsibility that he was taking onto himself. “It’s only been three days hasn’t it? It feels like so much longer.”

Alfred pulled out a gallon of milk and poured it into a small cup. He thought for a moment that he would need to get new things for the kids. The only kiddie cups that he knew of where sitting in a box in the attic, put aside once Bruce turned too long for the. “I wouldn’t think too much of it, Master Bruce. Pretty soon it will have been ten or twenty years and you’ll be questioning where all of the time has gone.”

Not thinking too much about the comment, Bruce began, “I don’t know about -”

“Sir, I can assure you that I speak for experience. It doesn’t seem too long ago I was chasing you around the halls and changing your diaper.”

Turning his head slightly so the other couldn’t see the growing blush on his face, Bruce cleared his throat before replying, “Again this is a story I prefer not to be repeated to anyone other than ourselves.” Straightening his back a little bit, Bruce asked wearily, “Do either of them need diapers?”

Alfred almost spilled the milk he was pouring but made sure to comfort Bruce. He was probably thinking about the many times he would have to deal with the diapers if they weren’t properly potty trained. “I can assure you, sir, that Master Tim is potty trained. He still requires some help, the toilet being almost too big for him to sit on, but nothing that can’t be solved with a step stool.”

Bruce didn’t even try to hide the relief from his face, dreading even thinking about needing to learn how to change a diaper. “Is there anything else that happened today?”

Ready to go look for the boys probably playing with some of the toys set out for them in the library, Alfred thought for a moment before remembering, “Office Gordon did leave a message for you.”

“Jim? Did he say what he wanted?”

“I’m afraid not, sir. He said that it would be best if he could speak to you in person, it would be in the young masters’ best interest.”

“So it’s about the boys. Did it sound like it was good news?”

“To be honest, sir, it sounded as if he was tired. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was working as hard as we were to help make sure the boys were adjusting.”

“Yeah that’s probably true. I’ll go call him right now.”

Bruce took precautions to prepare himself for any outcome, positive or negative, that came with Jim’s message. He sat down in his father’s chair and mentally composed himself before pulling out his phone and finding the officer’s number.

Bruce leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. “Hello, Jim. It’s Bruce. Alfred told me that you called.”

“Hey, Bruce. Yeah I called you about an hour ago, but I got Alfred. To be honest, I should have known not to call your home during your business hours, but I’m never sure what days you decided to go to work.”

“I’m sorry about that. Umm…Actually I’ll give you the number to my personal phone.” If there was ever going to be an emergency he wanted Jim to reach him as soon as possible.

“Oh, there’s no ne-”

“I ensits. If there is any problem that involves Dick and Tim I want to be aware immediately. You are welcome to call me whenever you want, business hours or no business hours.”

Bruce could hear the slight smile Jim was kind enough to leave out of his voice. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Now what was it that you called for?”

Jim went straight into business, “Right. So it’s been a few days since the incident and the district attorney called my office wanting to know if there was going to be an investigation and trial. I told her that the investigation was going to follow through and that there would be a trial if and when we found a suspect, but I wanted to call to be sure that the boys were okay with this. I know that they’re young and the whole process might be a little more than they are ready to handle, but I wanted to be sure that they were ready for whatever comes next.”

“I’ll talk to them about everything. Dick’s old enough to understand most of it, but Tim will probably be completely lost on the whole process.”

“How old is the youngest, Tim?”

“He’s four.”

There was a short pause while Jim considered what he should say next.”He’s not going to remember anything is he?”

“No, I’m afraid kids don’t remember much from before they’re eight.”

“How about the other one, Richard?”

“He’s eight so he’ll remember more about their parents than Tim. It also means that he loves to look after his little brother, he’s incredibly dedicated.”

“That’s great…Now there is one other thing. The prosecutor wants to know if there will be an autopsy.”

Bruce hadn’t been expecting that, it never even crossed his mind. Somewhere in the back of his brain he could imagine some low ranking official wanting to run this trial as long as possible probably for some chance at a promotion. “Autopsy? We already know the cause of death.”

“That’s what I said, but I wanted your opinion. On the same note, we need to talk about their legal guardian.”

“Yeah, you can send over the paperwork for that.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that. Do you want to be their foster parents or adoptive?”

“Is there much of a difference? I know that being a foster parent isn’t as binding as adopting someone, that it’s not as long term and require less legal work from the adults’ part, but I’m not sure about the specifics.”

“That’s pretty much the most of it. If you were to be their adoptive parent, then they are fully your children and will take up your last name. Being fostered isn’t much different, but considering your situation I wouldn’t think that being a foster parent would be the best fit for you. The government usually gives the children a weekly allowance, but the fostering usually stops once the children turn eighteen. Assuming that you want to make the boys legally your son, adopting them into your family would be the best move.”

Bruce appreciated the consideration and help Jim was giving the boys. No matter how much he loved Gotham, there were very few officials in the city who would put genuine effort into improving the lives of others. “Thank’s for the recommendation. Do you know how long the process is going to take?”

“Honestly, considering your last name, it’ll probably be finished much sooner than for most people. If everything goes as planned, everything should be finished in about a year.”

“I would like to get on top everything as soon as possible. Can I get my lawyer to start as soon as tomorrow?”

“Yeah I can send him the contact information to a couple of adoption agencies right away. Thanks for the call back, Bruce.”

“No, thank you, Jim. I don’t know where I’d be if you weren’t such a big help.”

“It’s no problem, Bruce. I just want to make sure the boys have a good life now on. They don’t deserve to go through anything like that again.”

“Of course, I’ll do my best.”

“Have a good day, Bruce.”

“You too, Jim.”

Alfred walked into the library to see Tim and Dick whispering to each other while they sat on the floor and built towers out of Bruce’s old blocks. Earlier in the day, Alfred had made a short trip to the attic and digged out the remnants of Bruce’s childhood. Stored away behind the out of date furniture and files of saved documents that were too important to throw away were bins of the toys that he thought he would never see again. Alfred took a moment to reminisce on the memory of Bruce needing his stuffed dog to fall asleep. He could remember Master Thomas brining him the present to pacify Bruce’s constant begging for a pet. Surprisingly, the dog was kept in good condition, the only damage having come from Bruce’s adventures with him and his demands that ‘Ruffy’ not go into the wash and drown.

Alfred’s grabbed what he was sure to entertain Dick and Tim, some figures and simple games and clothing that might fit them. Soon he would need to go shopping with the boys and find them cloths of there own, but right now he was enjoying seeing life in the things packed away.

Looking at them now the two seemed comfortable but not sure of how to pass their time. In the circus there were surely dozens of people to help them pass their time and find some way to entertain them, but Gotham was to be a massive change. There were few people that either of the two adults would trust to look after them, and far fewer that they would give any semblance of the responsibility to. They were sitting in an arm chair with a small town built before them, but instead Dick was reading to Tim. A collection of Calvin and Hobbes books were balanced on the arm of the chair and Tim sat half on Dick’s lap and half against the back of the chair. Bruce’s old animal was stuffed between the two of them, listening along to the stories. Looking closely, it was evident that Tim was being slowly lulled to sleep. Every now and then he would yawn and shift his body until he felt warmer, but his older brother wasn’t deterred.

Making his presence clear, Alfred cleared his throat and asked, “Are you two enjoying yourselves?”

“Oh, hello Alfred. Yeah, but I think Timmy is a little tired.” Dick found it hilarious that his little brother couldn’t keep himself awake for long. Like the good older brother he was, Dick never missed an opportunity to make fun of him for it.

Tim tried to defend himself, although he failed miserably.”Imnottired.”

“Don’t lie, Babybird, you’re almost asleep by now.”

Every other word was punctuated with a small yawn and a subconscious rubbing of his hard against’ his brother’s chest. Even then, Tim was adamant about the fact that he was not tired in any way. “NoI’mnot. I’mawakerightnow.”

Alfred tried to appease the small boy, “I believe you, Master Tim, but would you please do me the favor of drinking some milk?”

Tim considered his options with a muddled brain and a general lack of motivation. Convincing himself that he was in fact thirsty, Tim answered, “Yes, please.”

Alfred maneuvered himself around the city growing out of the carpet and placed the warm glass into the young master’s hands. Next to him, Dick helped Tim with the milk, making sure that he didn’t spill any onto himself or drink too much too fast.

Tim chugged it all down, feeling his eyelashes getting heavier the more he drank. Once he was done, there wasn’t much keeping him awake, his body having melt against his older brother half way through the glass.

After he finished the glass and Dick placed it on the floor, Tim rested his head on his older brother’s shoulder, knowing that everyone in the room was waiting for him to fall asleep. “Dickie?”

“Yes, Tim.”

Every word was mumbled, not liking that he had to admit defeat. “I think I might be a little tired.”

“A little?”

Not wanting to argue, Tim easily admitted, “Okay, a lot.”

Alfred decided to break into the moment and get Tim the rest he needed. “Would you like to return to your room for a nap, Master Tim?”

Looking up at his current chair, Tim didn’t want to leave Dick alone. Not including the few moments he was lost in the morning, he had always been right next to Dick. Tim knew that Dick needed the company as much as he did. “What is big brother going to do if I go to sleep?”

Rubbing his brother’s head, Dick couldn’t help but smile at how much he tried to take care of him. “It’s okay Timmy. I’m pretty sure I’ll think of something. I might just finish reading. If Bruce is back, then Ace can come by and give me some company while you take a nap.”

Not really trusting him, Tim looked around the room and settled his eyes on the long sofa a few feet away. “Ummm…no. I’m going to sleep on the couch.”

Alfred didn’t like the idea of Tim sleeping on the couch, his bed would be much more safe and comfortable, but he could respect his need to look after his older brother. “Are you sure, Master Tim? The bed is much more comfortable.”

Tim tried to explain his logic, as much as an explanation can be if it’s voiced into the shirt of the person he’s resting on. “If I sleep here, then I can come back sooner.”

“If you’re sure, Master Tim. I’ll go find you a pillow and blanket for your nap. If you’re going to stay in the library, then I have to insist that you keep yourself warm.”

Listing to the silence in the room, Dick took that chance to hear how Tim felt about the move. He knew his little brother was falling asleep, but right now he was too tired to lie to him or come up with some half lie to make him feel better. Right before his daily nap was generally the best time to ask Tim a question. “What do you think, Timmy?”


Dick explained, “Bruce. Alfred. Living here. The whole situation. How does it make you feel”

Tim considered his options for a moment, before replying, “I don’t know, it’s cleaner than Haley’s, but I still miss Mama and Daddy.”

Dick could help but pull him a little closer. “Yeah me too, baby bro. Do you like living here?”

“It’s fun, but I don’t know, it’s different.”

“Good different or bad different?”

Tim decided to turn the interrogation back to Dick, not liking having to answer important questions while he waited for a blanket and pillow. He would much rather sit here and pet Ruffy in silence. “I don’t know, how do you feel?”

“I think it could be cool living here, Bruce and Alfred seem like nice people. I don’t know, Timmy, I think we would be fine here.”

Not wanting to interrupt the conversation, Alfred waited until Tim didn’t respond to walk in carrying a blanket and pillow for the young master. Tucking him into the sofa, he asked one last time, “How do you feel, Master Tim.”

Tim shuffled around for a moment, feeling around to see if he could find his new favorite toy. “IwantRuffy.”

Dick came back from the armchair with the stuffed dog in his hands. It seemed that Tim wasn’t awake enough to hold onto him for the short trip to the sofa. He helped Tim get settled with Ruffy between his arms. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep, the dimmed light and comfortable setting did it’s work. Alfred noticed the name tag, written in a child’s hurried handwriting, and enjoyed the sight before him.

After he was certain that Tim was comfortable and sound asleep, Alfred moved to another part of the manor, finishing up on dinner and some menial cleaning up that needed to be done before everyone turned in. Dick stayed behind with his brother, resting his head on Ace and waiting for Tim to finish his nap. The dog had found his way to them, a little disappointed that Tim was asleep but happy nonetheless. There were enough books to keep him busy, so he didn’t notice time going on slowly.

Bruce quickly went to the bathroom to freshen up. He splashed water on his face and tried to think how to initiate was was sure to be an awkward conversation. Three days, it had only been three days. Three months, even three weeks, seem like they would last forever. There was no way he could take on the challenge by himself, this wasn’t the first time he thought about just how big of a help Alfred was. Without his oldest friend, there was no telling where he would be right now, probably six feet under.

Walking into the library that Alfred informed him was their current location, he almost turned around seeing the lack of light and sound. Just as he was about to turn around, he spotted a mop of black hair resting on top of Ace with a book before it. Walking in, he realized that Dick was reading a book in front of the fireplace while Tim slept nearby on the day couch. Not wanting to ruin the silence of the moment he crept towards the older boy and the dog supporting his head.

Finding a seat next to him, Bruce asked, “How are you boys doing?”

A little surprised, Dick whispered back, “Oh, hi! Timmy’s sleeping.”

“I can see that. How are you doing, Dick?”

“Umm…I think I’m waiting for Tim to wake up.”

Getting comfortable, and knowing that Dick would wait as long as he need to for his little brother, Bruce asked “How long does it usually take for Tim to take a nap?”

“He usually naps for two hours. He’ll be done in 30 minutes at the most.”

“We can sit here and read until then.” Looking down at the hound sitting next to them on the ground, Bruce chuckled before admitting, “I think Ace enjoys the silence and peace.”

Dick curled into Bruce and continued reading his book. Bruce decided to try out the old books from his childhood. He could remember reading the stories to his mom and trying his luck with the larger words. Looking through the pile of toys that the boys had spent their time entertaining themselves with. Slowly, memories came back to him from decades ago. He remembered getting the gifts for Christmas and birthdays from people he never saw again after his parents died.

Every now and then Dick would tug on his sleeve and pull him out from his memories to check the meanings of certain words. They made sure to keep their voices low enough that Tim wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise. Before they knew it, the 30 minutes had passed and the youngest among them was slowly waking himself up from his nap. Every couple of minutes Tim would make a low groan that drowned out the silence in the three others took to watching him as he went through his regular process. Ace tried to take the initiative of licking Tim’s face until he woke up, but Bruce didn’t think a face full of doggy drool would be a good thing for him to wake up to. He should now, he’d been in the same position many times over the past.

The spectacle lasted for a couple of minutes, Tim rubbing his head against his pillow trying to get more comfortable or groaning at how tired his body felt. He squinted his eyes until he adjusted to the relatively dark room, and laid his sight on the other three in the room. They were smiling at him, enjoying the sight and urging him to come join the, Noticing them staring at him, Tim crawled out of him couch and made his way towards his older brother. His steps were slow and disoriented until collapsed into his lap, still very much tired and groggy.

Bruce noticed the small stuffed animal that Tim stuck onto. He felt as if he remembered it, but couldn’t quite think of why. Sitting between the him and the great dane, the boys were petting the dog and showing him off. It seemed that his name was ‘Ruffy’ and he was going to join their little family, but Bruce made a mental note to ask Alfred about it the next time he got him alone.

“Boose, what is that?”

It took him a moment to get over Tim’s pronunciation of him name. He didn’t know if it was his regular voice or just how he said it tired, but he wanted to hear that voice more. “I’m sorry?”

Dick tried to explain it a little more, pointing to the portrait hanging above the mantle. “The picture on the fireplace, what is it?”

“It’s my mom and dad, Martha and Thomas Wayne.”

There was a short period of silence in the room, not really awkward but comfortable while the boys tried to reconcile the image of the small boy between the two adults in the painting and the one beside them right now.

Tim didn’t decide to hide his excitement, proudly proclaiming, “Wow, you used to be small.”

Thinking back, it must have been decades ago. “I was about Dick’s age when the painting was made, maybe a year or two younger.”

Not knowing what to do with this new information, Tim imagined how everyone else would look like in the years to come. Surely as some point they could all be as big as Bruce. “Does that mean Dick’s going to be as big as you someday?”

“Who knows, he might even be bigger than me.”

“Yeah, but Timmy’s always going to be this small.”

“It’s hard to tell, Tim might end up being the biggest out of all of us.”

Dick stood up and found the book from where he had tossed it aside to help his brother fall asleep. They settled on a page and Bruce offered to read to both of them. First, he made the executive decision to move everyone to the chair not wanting to sit on the ground much longer. With someone sitting on each of his knees and Ace in front of his legs on the floor, Bruce began reading aloud. Once both of the boys began begging, he changed his voice to fit the characters. It was the most embarassing to voice out the young female characters, but the boys were adamant about him getting the voice exactly right.

“Can we read another one?”

Setting the book aside, Bruce tried to divert the conversation to something more serious, the reason he’d found the boys in the first place. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about something. I just got off of the phone with Officer Gordon.” Bruce felt Dick stiffen up against him, Tim was a little clueless about what was going on, but his older brother went silent.

“The police from the other night?”

“One of them, yes.”

Dick’s cold voice was a surprise for Tim, he’d never heard his brother sound almost angry. “What did he want?”

“He had a couple of questions. How would you two feel about the police investigating your parent’s death?”

“Investigating? You mean trying to find out if someone killed Mom and Dad?”

By this time the boys were getting a little uncomfortable, not liking the direction their time reading books had taken. Bruce knew it would be a difficult conversation to have, but he couldn’t put it off much longer. Even then, it was hard trying to explain the details to someone as young as Tim. “What? Why would someone Mommy and Daddy?”

Bruce didn’t know how to explain the situation to Tim, he was far younger than he had been. “Right now one knows what happened right now. It could have been an accident, but there’s a chance that it was intended.”

“It wasn’t an accident!” Dick surprised even himself with his outburst, but he wasn’t able to reign it in. “They did the same act hundreds of times, they never mess up…messed up.”

Bruce rubbed small circles onto his back, wanting to give him some form of comfort. “The police are looking into it, and they will do everything they can to find out who was at fault. Jim just wants to make sure that you two are okay with it. Don’t worry, you can trust him.”

Tim mumbled into Bruce’s nest, his voice almost breaking as he asked, “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. He was there when I was Dick’s age, he helped me when my parents died and he made sure to do everything in his power to find out whose fault it was.”

Under normal circumstances Dick would never have been this forward but he couldn’t help it. “Did he? Did he find out who killed your parents?”

“Yes. It took some time, but Jim made sure that that the man responsible was being bars.”

“Is he there now? In jail?”

“Yes he’s in jail and he will be for a long time.”

Dick was fast to come up with a discussion. Bruce wouldn’t have been surprised if it was something he’d been thinking about for a long time. “Okay, then I want him to find the person who killed Mom and Dad.”

One down and one to go. Bruce didn’t know the best way to bring up the topic, but after letting the two soak in the conversation he dropped the question on them. “There’s one more thing. How would you two feel about being adopted?”

Tim looked up at him wanting to be absolutely sure, “By you?”

“Yeah you’d stay and live with me and Alfred.”

His eyes were laced over, mostly with worry, as he asked, “Forever?”

“For as long as you want to live here. No is ever going to make you leave, unless you decide to when you grow up.”

Tim looked unsure of his question, but asked anyway, “Does this mean you become our new Daddy?”

Dick tensed at the question, but was curious about Bruce’s response. Honestly, there was no way he could imagine Bruce replacing his dad but he wanted to know how he felt about that. “By law, yes I would be your father. I’d be the person incharge of you two responsible for everything that happens. Other than that, I don’t want to replace your parents.”

Not knowing how to respond, Tim turned to his older brother looking for guidance. “Dick?”

Wanting to know all of his options before he made any decisions for him and his brother, Dick asked, “What would happen if you didn’t adopt us? If we went somewhere else?”

Bruce tried to keep his explanation neutral. He knew that it was an important decision for them to take and he could understand why they might not want to spend the rest of their lives with a someone who would need to divide his time between WE, Batman, and the Justice League. “Well, if you don’t want to stay with me, then you two would go into foster care until you’re eighteen. While you’re there someone else might decide to adopt you, or you would live in a foster house with other people.”

“Would me and Tim stay together?”

He sighed, not wanting to scare them but knowing it was important to be completely honest. “There’s a chance you won’t. Most times people only adopt one person, but they might have a hard time separating brother. I can’t promise it going either way, but there is a possibility that someone might want to adopt one of you and not the other.”

Tim started to grow distressing with Bruce’s explanation, not wanting to imagine losing his older brother on top of his parents. “No, no, no. I want to stay here, Dick. I want to stay here.”

“Same here. I want to stay with you, Bruce.”

Bruce gave them a small smile to the boys, appreciating that they wanted to stay with him. Rubbing Tim’s back he tried to comfort the boy and offer him some security. Looking at them from the floor, Ace seemed to want to offer his own support to the obviously upset boys. He rested his paws on the arm of the chair closest to Dick and nuzzled his face until he saw a smile. Between Dick’s giggles he would try to kiss Tim and Bruce, but apparently his drool wasn’t as appreciated.

Looking in from the doorway, Alfred smiled at the sight, reminding himself to buy a camera now that the boys were going to be staying here permanently. “Master Bruce, dinner’s ready.”

“We’ll be right there, Alfred, just give us a second.”

Dinner went well enough. Although a little silent, it wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward. Instead, everyone was a little lost in their heads, thinking about how the next few years were going to look like. Tim imagined not how it would feel to live in the same place for over a month. It would definitely give him more time to find Batman. Dick thought about what a real school would be like. Supposedly, Bruce would want them to go to school everyday, but it would be very different from homeschooling. Maybe he’d make some new friends and even find a girlfriend. Bruce wondered how long he could hide his night job from them. He wanted to keep them away from any danger as long as he could, but at one point they were sure to notice his disappearances most weeknight. Alfred, thinking much more immediately than the other as the table. Considering that there were more people living here, he could definitely allot everyone chores and make the cleaning much more productive. He would also need to start a new album, and find a way to hide it from Bruce so he couldn’t complain about it. Tim would need a high chair, they couldn’t use large dictionaries forever.

As soon as dinner was rounding down and most of the plates empty, Bruce thought about the conversation that heid had with Alfred earlier in the day, “Would you like to redecorate your rooms? I know that right now they look a little impersonal, but if you want we can change some things.”

Dick smiled at his brother and thought about he might miss from back at Haley’s. “There’s a poster in the circus, one with me, Mom, and Dad on it. Do you think I could put it in my room?”

Tim added, “When we go to get the poster, could we go back to the circus and say goodbye to everyone?”

“Of course, and we’ll make sure to bring some boxes so that you can move everything you want. I think we’ll also need to get some paperwork so we should probably get there as soon as possible. Do we have anything planned tomorrow, Alfred?”

“You do have something scheduled with Mr. Kent later in the day, but everything before dinner tomorrow is open. We could make a day of it.”

Looking at the excitement on the boy’s faces at the prospect of meeting everyone one last time, Bruce couldn’t imagine saying no. “Okay then it’s settled. Tomorrow around 1 we’ll go out to the circus and spend the day there. But right now, if you two are done, it’s time for a bath.”

Throwing his spoon down in disbelief, Tim asked, “Another one? We just took one yesterday!”

“These are a daily occurrence, Master Tim.”

“On the bright side, the quicker we’re finished with the bath, the more time you have before you have to go to sleep.”

In the bath, there was less to clean up compared to last time so Bruce was able to finish with extra time. The boys were also less hyperactive, playing with some of the toys but not feeling up to make things out of the bubbles. Ruffy almost joined the bath, but not before Alfred reminded everyone that there were much more efficient ways of cleaning the animal that would not ruin his threading. Instead they were content to act out the stories from their books with the many ducks and pretending that Bruce was a villain trying to kill everything living in the ocean with poisonous soap.

After everyone was dried of, including Bruce once the boys learned that the ducks were capable of squirting water out of their mouths, the boys settled into Dick’s bed while watching some shows on Bruce’s iPad. Alfred brought both of them a glass of milk and a pitcher of water for the night, knowing it would help them fall asleep sooner.

In his own room, Bruce was looking through his computer, emailing Kent that he would be at the Watchtower for his watch tomorrow. He was sure that some of the league would have questions, but it was nothing that couldn’t be lied about. Looking through some of the tabloid news, there was nothing about his decision to take care of Dick and Tim. He wanted to keep everything as secret as possible, knowing that a media circus was no where near as exciting as the actual one.

He looked up hearing Dick’s footsteps making their way to his room. He was walking slowly meaning that it wasn’t an emergency, but once Bruce caught sight of him in his doorway he looked unsure of himself. Bruce closed his laptop and moved it to the side and offered Dick a seat on his bed. Dick walked even slower, looking mostly on the floor as he made his way to the bed.

Helping him on the bed, Bruce asked, “Is everything alright? I was on my way to your room after I finished some work, but considering the look on your face this is important.”

Dick kept his voice low, explaining, “I know that you were about to come by, but I didn’t want Timmy to hear. I think it would upset him.”

Growing more worried at the defeated sound of the boy’s voice, Bruce asked again, “Is everything alright? Is this about what we talked about in the library?”

“A little. It’s about something that you said about the police, them investigating what happened.”

“I know that you think it wasn’t an accident, Dick, but the police need to take everything into consideration.”

Still not looking into Bruce’s face, Dick was quick to correct him, “No, it’s not that. It’s actually the opposite.”

Bruce kept silent, not wanting to interrupt Dick’s explanation.

“I heard some people talking to Haley, the man who owns the circus, the day before mom and dad died. He wanted him to give them some money, they said it was for security or something. I was hiding behind some boxes so I couldn’t hear everything but I know that Haley told them no. That he didn’t have the money and even if he did he wouldn’t give it to them. They other guys were very angry at him for it and they said that they were going to get back at him for it.”

Hearing Dick level off, Bruce filled in the rest. “You think these are the same people who killed your parents?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t see them after that, but it could be them. Do you think I should tell the police about it?”

Bruce lifted Dick into his arms, rubbing his back for comfort. “I think you should tell them, your story would probably give credibility to what Haley probably told them. It couldn’t hurt to tell them, and I can be there with you if you want, if it makes it easier for you.”

Dick mumbled a thanks, but the world’s greatest detective could tell there was more. “I just think…that maybe…if I’d told someone…then.”

The sentence leveled off, Dick hoping that Bruce was able to understand what he meant. Bruce understood far too well, knowing exactly how he felt, having gone through the exact same thing. “You feel guilty, that maybe if you’d told someone then your parents would still be here today.” Dick let out a desperate sob into Bruce’s chest, hiding his face between his shoulder and neck. “You can’t think like that, Dick, it’s not your fault.”

“But maybe-”

“No, no maybes. You’re eight, Dick, it’s not your responsibility. If anything, Haley should have notified the police, maybe had some extra security, but that might not have changed anything even then. Look, when I was eight my parents took me to go see a play, ‘The Mask of Zorro.’ I was entirely different back then, and something the play scared me. So I whispered to my father that I wanted to go home, and he lead us through the to back. We couldn’t go through the front because it was something like the opening of the theatre and it would be bad press if someone saw us leaving. So we go through the back door instead, going through the alley and then someone stopped us. He was a mugger, and he pulled out a gun and pointed it to my father, asking him for his wallet and my mom’s pearl necklace. Before he left, for whatever reason, he fired at my parents and they died right there, in some dirty alley behind the theatre. I spent dozens of years going over everything that happened, thinking about how I might just have been a little more brave and they would still be here today.”

Feeling much calmer having heard Bruce’s explanation, Dick laid on his chest, feeling incredibly tired and somewhat at peace. Even then, he couldn’t help but ask, “How did you get over it? Over seeing them dying again and again and feeling like it was your fault.”

“It doesn’t completely go away. But at some point you do move on, you have to.” Bruce knew he wasn’t completely honest, he wouldn’t be Batman if he was at peace, but that wasn’t what Dick needed to hear right now. He needed some comfort, the one thing that brought Bruce through the roughest period of his life. “Slowly, you stop seeing them every time you close your eyes, you stop hearing them walking through the halls or coming into your room to say goodnight. You never stop missing them, you never stop wanting them to come back, but you move on. You spend your days trying to stop thinking about it every single second of the day, and every now and then there’s something else there. Maybe you find a stray dog, a great dane who needs a home with no one to go to. Maybe you get some friends that you never meant to, people who just force their way into you life. Maybe you find two small boys who remind you a little about yourself and you decide to help them, just like you had someone to help you and you know that it makes the world of difference.”

Bruce looked down to see two bright blue eyes staring back at him. Dick held onto every word that come out of his mouth, desperate to find some comfort. Neither of them could tell how much time had passed, how long they’d spent just lying on the large bed together.

They looked up hearing footsteps coming their way. They knew they belonged to Tim, they were too small to be Alfred’s and Ace had four feet. He peeked into the room, looking quizzically at the sight before him. Dick still looked upset, not as much as when he’d been sobbing into Bruce’s chest, but enough to worry his younger brother. Tim pulled up next to both of them, no where near tall or strong enough to pull himself onto his bed, but observing his older brother, wanting to help him with whatever gave him that look on his face.

“Boose, I need help. I can’t get up there.” Tim was desperate, doing his absolute best to find his way onto the bed. Bruce maneuvered Dick to a side and lifted the youngest boy onto his chest beside his brother. He say the streaks the tears had left on Dick’s face and placed his hands on either cheek, looking to see if he was hurt. Not finding anything, he decided to be forward, “Dick, are you okay? You look upset, and you didn’t come back.”

Dick gave his brother a smile, appreciating the effort that he made to help. “Thanks babybird, but it’s nothing, I just had a really bad thought. I was just talking to Bruce and I feel much better now.”

Tim didn’t know if he should believe his brother, but he’d always trusted him and he decided it would be best to do the same now. Looking at Bruce and how comfortable his brother seemed, he didn’t feel like making his way back to his room. “Okay, but are we going to sleep here today?”

“Can we, Bruce?”

Bruce thought about how he wanted to go down to the cave and work on cases that were piling up. He could just get into bed with them and run off once they’d fallen asleep, but he didn’t want them to wake up to him missing. At the very least they would roam the halls looking for him and at the worst he might lose their trust. Thinking about how he would need to be secretive in the future, he decided that some honesty wouldn’t be entirely unwarranted. “I’m sorry boys, I have to finish up on some work and I don’t want you to stay awake waiting for me. I can stay until you fall asleep and maybe be here when you wake up, but I can’t stay the night.”

Considering their options, they boys went with what they were given. Dick shimmied over to the side of the bed enough for Bruce to lift the blanket and pull everyone underneath. Laying on his back, Bruce had someone sleeping on either side of his chest, the strongest source of warmth in the room. It didn’t take long for both of them to fall asleep, it was getting late, but by then Bruce was also debating if going out would be worth it. He decided that his vacation had lasted long enough and it was time for Batman to return to Gotham.

Working one side at a time, he lifted Dick off from his chest, extra careful not to wake him up and disrupt his needed sleep. He heard a small groan of protest, but nothing that didn’t fade once Dick’s head rested on the pillow. Tim was next. His hands were woven into his shirt, not letting him out of his grip. Bruce had to force each individual finger open until his shirt was free, with some growing respect for the boy’s strong grip. With one arm hold onto Tim, he used another to open Dick’s arms and slowly set the boy down between them.

Sitting before the batcomputer, Bruce pulled up a map of Gotham, looking to see the places most in need of his help. It felt good to be Batman again.

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 5

The following morning, Bruce woke up many hours past his regular time. Seeing the sunlight breaking through to his room was a new experience for him, almost a blinding sight since the night had become much more comfortable for him. Over the past years, he made it a point to be working the cave before the sun came up, especially after the nights he didn’t spend jumping from rooftops around Gotham.

Considering that he didn’t spend any time sleeping in the circus and most of the previous night was spent wondering how the boys were getting on next door, Bruce felt not at all relaxed.. Although he wanted to stay in bed and make up for the lost sleep, he knew better than to assume that Gotham would take kindly to the rest.

Feeling the weight of all the work he had put off, Bruce decided to get a slow start to his day by catching up on the things that had been pushed to the side. Reaching over to the nightstand and grabbing his cell phone, Bruce scrolled through all of his messages. Lucious was livid that he’d missed three meetings, Clark was wondering why he hadn’t shown up at the Watchtower last night, and Gordon wanted a meeting sometime later in the week. The JL was qualified enough to handle themselves for a few more days, although there was no telling how much trouble some of the board members of WE could get into unsupervised.

Bruce rose from his bed and made his way towards a quick shower, groaning at how busy his day was going to be trying to catch up. He would need to find time to contact everyone he had avoided over the past two days and make an appearance at both the Wayne Enterprise building and the Watchtower, but right now he was preoccupied by a need to shave the stubble that occupied most of his chin. Somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered what he would look like with a full grown beard but dismissed the thought when he imagined himself in a batsuit. Not feeling the energy to find a proper suit, he dressed in lounging clothes and made his way to the kitchen.

Alfred greeted the man as soon as he walked into the room. He was standing beside Dick on the table, helping the boy draw a picture on his napkin while they waited for the other residents to make their way to breakfast. Dick still seemed tired, especially with his messy hair, but he was fully immersed in the drawing before him, lifting his head only to say hello to Bruce.

“Good morning, Master Bruce.”

“Good morning, Bruce.”

Bruce pulled out the chair beside Dick and opened the paper waiting for him beside his morning coffee. Usually his meals were waiting for him when he was ready, but he couldn’t see anything cooking on the stove and his plate was empty. “Good morning. What’s for breakfast?”

“Pancakes, sir, but we are waiting for Master Tim to join us before we begin the cooking.”

Bruce was somewhat startled by the change in their regular schedule. He was prepared to eat quickly and then make his way to the office. Still, he was sure to not come off as rude when he asked, “It’s not ready yet?”

“No, sir. The boys mentioned last night they wanted to be involved in the process and Master Tim should be here in a moment. I have all of the ingredients ready and set out so it shouldn’t take much time.”

Dick decided to offer up some insight on his little brother, “Yeah, it’s hard to make Tim wake up. He falls asleep where ever he feels tired and only wakes up when he feels hungry.”

Alfred offered a smile down to the boy before asking, “One to the topic of breakfast, what kind of pancakes would you like to make, Master Dick?”

It didn’t take him long to come up with an answer. “Chocolate chip, definitely chocolate chip.”

Silently Bruce wondered how big of a change Alfred’s health requirements were going to be for the boys. From what he observed in the few hours he was in the circus, sweets and starchy foods were a large part of their diets. “While we are here, is there anything that we should know about your eating habits, Dick? Anything that you hate or love?”

This took much more consideration on Dick’s part. He sat in deep thought for a few seconds before responding, “I love cereal and hate broccoli. Tim loves to eat anything that’s red, but he doesn’t like spicy food. They make his tummy hurt. My favorite color food is blue, but I don’t like the blue ice cream that has the little nuts in it. Oh, we both don’t like nuts. I don’t like hot things, other than some soup, but I don’t like the chicken soup that I have to eat when I feel sick because it doesn’t taste like anything. I really like the soup that comes on the rice, but Timmy doesn’t like the big turkey. He like how they taste but he doesn’t like looking at it because it makes him feel a little sad for the turkey. Ummm…Timmy really like mashed potatoes, but I like sweet potatoes more. Tim won’t eat anything if you try to make him eat it, but he’ll eat anything if it’s on his plate. Sometimes it’s hard for him to eat hard things and I don’t like things that smell bad.”

While Dick thought about his brother’s eating habits, said brother walked in with Ace in tow. The great dane walked him to his seat beside his owner before turning to lay on his feet under the table, waiting to see if there would be an encore of last night’s feast. Absent mindedly the other three men at the table greeted the dog with a pat on the head and Dick was glad to have something to heat his cold feet. The younger boy, on the other hand, had much less energy and took a seat next to Bruce before laying his head down on the table. He didn’t bother talking to anyone while he waited to see what happens next. For everyone else, it was a funny sight of Tim’s head not reaching past the table when he sat properly, so he needed to rise to his knees instead.

Keeping his voice steady, Alfred asked, “Master Tim, how was your sleep?”

Tim lifted his head and sighed, “It was good, but I didn’t like waking up. Dick wasn’t there and I didn’t know how to come downstairs.”

The brother in question was humored at the thought of Tim roaming the halls confused but knew better than to let it show and insult the slightly frustrated little boys. “Did you get lost, Timbo?”

“Yeah, but that was when Ace found me and brought me to everyone.” Underneath the table, Ace barked at the mention of his name and rested his head beside Tim. He patted the dog on head in thanks, not wanting to think about how much time he might have spent roaming the halls if the dog hadn’t found him. Even with both of them on the chair, there was a lot of empty room and Bruce could not remember interacting with someone as small as the Tim for this long before.

“I’m sorry, Timmy. I didn’t want to wake you up because you looked like you needed the extra sleep.”

Knowing that his brother felt bad about the situation, Tim replied, “I got confused about how to go to the kitchen and how to go outside.”

Bruce offered, “After breakfast I’ll give you a full tour. We wouldn’t want you to get lost in the halls everyday. Honestly, there are a few people my age who are still unable to find their way around.”

Tim felt the need to make up for his mistakes, especially considering his older brother found his way here without a problem. He didn’t want everyone to know that he was not capable of taking care of himself. “I know how to get hewe now. I’ll find my way tomorrow.”

“I’m sure you do, but there are three other wings to the manor that you haven’t seen and I don’t want either of you to get lost.”

“What does manor mean? Is it like a castle?” Dick had heard the word a few times, but never understood what it meant. This was the perfect opportunity to clear it up.

Instead, Tim was the one to answer the question in a matter-of-fact tone unimpressed by the fact that his brother didn’t know the one thing that made castles so special. “Castles have to have ghosts in them, Dick.”

Dick wasn’t satisfied with his brother’s answer but Alfred cut in, knowing that everyone on the table was waiting for a large meal. “All of the ingredients for our breakfast are set out on the counter, Master Tim. Would you also like chocolate chips in your pancakes?”

The mention of food was enough to improve the boy’s mood and he no longer cared about the his struggles through the morning. “Yes please. Can I help you make them?”

Alfred smiled at the offer, pleased that their new residents were excited about some menial chores that he usually completed by himself. “I would appreciate the extra hand.”

“I wanna help!”

Tim jumped out of his chair, making sure to avoid the dog also occupying his seat. Before turning away, he promised Ace the scraps and leftovers from his own breakfast as a reward low enough that no one could hear him. Tim followed the butler to the stove and sighed contentedly at the smell coming from the food already set out. Because he couldn’t see past the counter, Alfred lifted him up next to the ingredients so he could watch over everything that went into making the meal while at the same time helping with some of easier tasks.

Looking over to his younger brother, Dick giggled before turning to Bruce and whispering, “You see, he only wakes up when he feels hungry.”

Bruce looked up from his paper to see the young boy eating some of the stray pieces of chocolate when Alfred wasn’t looking before asking, “What about you, are you a light sleeper?”

Dick wasn’t very sure what it took to wake himself up, but he responded thinking about how many times he woke up to Tim talking in his sleep or hogging their blanket. “Yeah, I can wake up pretty easily. Sometimes when Timmy has a bad sleep, I make sure he doesn’t feel scared so I make sure I can hear how he’s sleeping. When he sleeps by himself, I usually wake up hearing him looking for something to eat.”

Bruce was surprised by the respect he felt for such a little boy; there were few people he knew to care for their family as much as Dick did, especially after such a hard time. He responded with honest praise. “You’re a dedicated older brother. Tim’s incredibly lucky to have you looking out for him”

Dick tried to hide his blush by looking down at the table and playing around with his drawing again. “Thank you. It’s not that hard to look after Tim and it’s just what a good brother would do.” He looked up a little curious but not sure if asking the question would be considered rude, “Do you have a little brother?”

He hadn’t thought about having a younger sibling in many years. Sure there were some younger league members that he was close to, not that he would ever admit to loving them like family, but there was always a massive distance between them. Many of their interactions did center around the possibility that the world might end, but he was always glad to have them in his corner and knew that feeling was well returned. “No, I was an only child. I’ve always wanted a younger sibling, though, I begged my parents for one. Growing up here was a little strange, there is far too much room for so few people, but Alfred made it easy.” He could see his friend trying to act as if he hadn’t heard the praise, but the world’s greatest detective didn’t miss the slight red tint that took over Alfred’s ears.

In return Dick proudly, and quite innocently, assured him that his family was growing. “Oh…well now you can have two little brothers.”

Bruce was stunned, shocked by what Dick said. He didn’t know how to respond to the comment and Dick didn’t seem to think too much of it as he returned to the picture he was doodling on the napkin. He didn’t need to see to know that Alfred was smiling, but it was still not the kind of assurance he expected when he woke up this morning.

After a short and comfortable silence, Bruce tried to hide a small smile and explained, “A manor is a large country house with a large estate. There is a different history to the word considering the different areas that the house is in, but manors are generally old. As a matter of fact, the official title of this house is ‘Wayne Manor.'”

Curious, Dick asked, “How old is your house?”

“It was built in the late 1700s. I think it was 1796, not long after the American Revolution.”

Dick considered this for a moment before his mind turned back to what his brother had said. “Are there ghosts in here?”

Bruce erupted in laughter. He had dismissed the possibility many years after Alfred caught him searching through empty room no one used after a particularly scary movie but the idea always seemed to come with every new guest. Dick hadn’t expected this reaction, but he welcomed the smile on his face. “I spent many years of my childhood looking, and I can assure you there are no ghosts in the manor. I looked through most of the empty rooms looking for any sight of something paranormal, but there was never anything around.”

“I don’t know what I’d do if I saw a ghost, you can’t really fight them.”

Before Bruce could explain an experience he’d had with the long dead, Tim called them over to help with breakfast. Bruce watched as Tim uncapped the milk and helped him pour it into the batter while Dick mixed everything together. Alfred dealt with everything involving the stove knowing that none of them had any experiance with it.

For the most part, Bruce was the heavy muscle Alfred ordered around while Tim and Dick watched and taste tested to make sure everything was in order. They couldn’t find anything to complain about, but more chocolate was always appreciated and they tried to sneak some past the adults to no avail. Not wanting them near and flames, Alfred also asked the two boys to set up the table and gather the glasses. Because neither of them were tall enough to reach anything, Bruce handed Dick and Tim glasses from the cabinets so they could get their seats ready.

Once all the prep was finished and Alfred wanted to finish the meal by himself, the trio took their seats at the table and patiently waited for their breakfast. Bruce told them a few stories about visitors that also got lost after spending a night over, especially the ones involving Hal and Oliver. If the boys ever met the two, he wanted them to think of them as the idiots who locked themselves in the pool house after breaking into the manor to enjoy a swim. Some of the minor points might have been exaggerated, Bruce couldn’t know if they did contemplate calling Batman for help, but it was all worth it if Dick and Tim kept their distance.

Alfred brought a pitcher of orange juice for the boys and a second serving of coffee for Bruce before some toast and jam to start off. The much awaited pancakes came last, after Alfred made sure everyone ate some fruit and meat before the pancakes that were stuffed with too much chocolate. Smelling that breakfast was underway, Ace rose from his place next to Tim and ignored the dog food set out in his bowl for a chance to clean out the batter used to cook the pancakes.

The maple syrup was a new treat for the boys, something they weren’t used to and were cautious of using. To stay safe, the boys each took a piece off of Bruce and Alfred’s plate to test out the condiment before adding it their own stacks. Although helped make the pancakes easier to cut through, Dick went a little overboard until everything on his plate was floating on a sea of syrup and he needed extra flapjacks to clean it up. Still needing help from the adults to get pieces small enough to fit in his mouth, Tim was also given a plastic fork so he couldn’t accidentally poke himself trying to aim for his mouth.

After letting Bruce take over, Tim quietly claimed, “Uh-oh, it’s sticky.”

Dick looked up curious about why his brother was having trouble with his meal. He knew that at some point Tim wouldn’t need his help anymore, so he loved these small moments where he could take in just how small he was. “Why? What happened?”

Tim wasn’t ashamed, he showed his hands and how he’d lost the ability to move his fingers independently from each other. “It’s on my hands. I can’t move my fingers.”

He wanted to offer his hands to Ace, but Bruce didn’t feel like a dog qualified a proper clean up, especially in a household run by Alfred. Instead he lifted the boy from his chair and carried him towards the sink so he could run water over the mess. Not wanting him to get Tim’s hands on anything and spread the mess, Bruce held between the counter and his chest before taking the small hands into his own. He only needed one hand to hold both of Tim’s and scrubbed them thoroughly with what he learned was too much soap. Tim enjoyed the bubbles, but between maneuvering the boy enough to reach faucet and making sure he was free of any residue, the surrounding area was left a mess. Bruce rubbed a quick paper towel through the mess before grabbing drying off Tim’s hands with a proper towel.

Once the meal was finished, the boys helped Alfred clean the table off, sneaking some scraps for Ace while the adults pretended not to notice. Bruce ended up spending much longer than he’d ever imagined on such a simple meal, but he left the kitchen ready to get back to work.

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 4

Walking through the large wooden doors and into the foyer all Dick could imagine was swinging from the large chandelier and landing on the second floor balcony. His eyes darted around the room looking for other areas he could apply his acrobatic expertise before landing on a stern looking old man. Out of the corner of his eye he watched his brother impulsively hide behind Bruce’s legs and joined him.

“Welcome home, Master Bruce. It’s good to know that you are indeed capable of finding your way home.”

“It’s good to be home, Alfred.” He wasn’t surprised by the comment, knowing he couldn’t get away with making Alfred worry any more than necessary. “I would like to introduce you to Richard and Timothy Grayson. Boys, this is my butler and long time friend Alfred Pennyworth.”

Dick emerged from behind Bruce and, not really knowing what was proper etiquette, straightened his back and held out his hand “Hello Mr. Pennyworth, sir, you can call me ‘Dick.'”

It was a sad sight. He was obviously afraid of leaving the wrong impression and intimidated by the new man.

Alfred easily came to an understanding of the situation and softened his expression. He was a surprised by the boys’ presence in the manor but knew better than to antagonize Bruce’s lack of prior warning.

Kneeling down to his height, he took Dick’s hand and turned to the shadow he could he behind Bruce. “Hello Master Dick. It is a pleasure to meet you. I assume that the young boy hiding behind Master Bruce is your brother Timothy.”

Hearing his name, Tim peeked out from behind his protection and slowly walk into the open. “Hello sir, you can call me ‘Tim.'”

Alfred shook his hand with a small chuckle, “It’s a pleasure to meet you Tim. Now, I am certain Master Bruce has forgotten to feed you so why don’t we make our way to the kitchen?”

Rushing to Bruce’s defence Dick pressed, “He got us nachos and cotton candy in the circus!”

Bruce shivered under the glare Alfred though his way and feigned ignorance. “I’m afraid that does not count as a meal, Master Dick. As you will see in this house I have a strict control over what the residents take into their body.”

The two boys silently contemplated the extent to which their life would change if even a man as large as Bruce getting a scolding.

With the knowledge that their diet would go through a major transformation, Tim thought of all the food he might not be able to eat anymore. He would surely miss the candy and cookies he saw Dick pack that they would have to throw away now. His mother had always said that sugar was bad for the body, especially for people as athletic as them, but these were empty threats and nothing ever changed. This man was going to be much more strict about healthy eating than she had ever been.

He didn’t notice that he was falling behind the others until two large arms lifted him up. Shocked and confused, he instinctively grasped the dress shirt knowing that his nails would do no real damage to the strong chest behind it. Bruce returned his confusion with tension as he seemed uncomfortable, or at the very least inexperienced, with holding a child.

Dick was uneasy with the scene before him, not knowing how he should feel with a stranger holding onto his little brother. Subconsciously he knew that he could trust Bruce, the police wouldn’t have let him take them in if he was dangerous, but there was still something strange about it.

Instead of trying to figure it out, he just settled for grabbing onto Bruce’s free hand and following Alfred to the kitchen.

After pushing down any of Bruce’s recommendations, Alfred started preparing Dick’s suggestion of spaghetti and meatballs while the others sat in the breakfast nook. They decided against using the dining because of its formality.

The boys started fidgeting in their seats as they smelled the spices, but they tried their hardest to be polite while they waited. The last thing they needed was to be rude on their first day in a new place.

Not used to the silence, they started kicking each other with their feet but the game couldn’t last long as Tim’s leg hardly left the chair. After one giggle too many, they stopped and just started taking in their environment. It was a stark contrast to the action and noise they had grown accustomed to in the circus.

Bruce, not disturbed in the slightest by the silence, started reading the newspaper to get caught up on all the business he had missed. Despite all his worries, it seemed the Wayne Enterprises hadn’t fallen into disarray while he was gone. On the other hand, LexCorp seemed to be doing too well for comfort. He would have to talk to Kent about ways to prevent any expansion on Luther’s part and find a reason to go to Metropolis.

He only looked once he heard Alfred clear his throat and signal towards the nervous boys.

Bruce tried to think of something that would entertain the kids and rose from his seat, “Um, would you like to meet Ace? He’s my great dane and I think he’d love to meet you.”

Dick looked to Tim and tried to gauge how the little one felt. Large animals with the ability to eat his brother were kept away from him in the circus and Bruce didn’t seem like the kind of person to keep a teacup chiwawa.

“Is he mean?”

Bruce was quick to dismiss the possibility of Ace hurting them. “No, not at all. He’s probably the nicest dog you’ll ever find. He is big though, great danes are one of the largest breeds of dogs in the world, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Still unsure, but not wanting to be rude, Dick nodded and rose from his seat and Tim followed.

Before Bruce could feel satisfied in him plan working, he realized that Ace hadn’t greeted him at the door as he usually did. “Alfred, would you happen to know where Ace is? I didn’t see him when we got back.”

“I recall seeing him in the backyard waiting for his scheduled activities. Might I suggest rewarding him for his patience, Master Bruce?”

He let out a small grunt, embarrassed by his lapse of memory, and lead the way to the back yard after grabbing a bag of dog treats.

Walking through the house, they were stunned by the paintings on the walls depicting the late Wayne ancestors. It was impressive that Bruce knew about most of his family since they came to America, mostly because they didn’t even know much about their grandparents. There was one painting in particular, of a man, woman, and child, that was put above the fireplace in the main library that seemed to be important. As they passed the room Tim saw Bruce avert his eyes to it and made a mental note to ask him about it later.

The backyard itself was just as grand as the rest of the house. There was nothing in sight that wasn’t a part of the estate and the dog could’ve been hiding anywhere. In particular, there were some trees Dick was making eyes with and a garden Tim wanted to explore.

At that moment, afraid of being attacked, Tim grabbed onto his brother’s arm and started walking much more slowly into the open.

Bruce whistled and a few seconds later they heard heavy steps coming their way. The hound coming their way was massive and incredibly happy to finally see his owner.

He didn’t even bother to slow down before leaping onto Bruce and placing his paws on his shoulder before licking his face. Not even forgetting the plans they made seemed to make Ace upset.

Bruce rubbed him behind the ears and kissed him on the nose. This was a strange sight for the two behind him as Bruce was usually stolic, but they enjoyed seeing him welcome Ace. “I’m sorry I made you wait so long, boy.”

Behind him he could hear Dick murmuring that he wasn’t a dog, but a horse instead. Without even turning he knew that Tim would agree with his brother, even more so considering Ace could loomed over him sitting down.

Once Ace was finally done greeting his owner he moved onto investigating the two small boys hiding behind him. Seeing the dog’s attention turn to them, Bruce grabbed him, making sure that he couldn’t get too close to them.

“Ace, sit down and don’t touch them just yet.”

He immediately came to halt by his feet even though he was surprised by the demand. Bruce was never stern with him. To reward him for his patience Bruce gave him a treat, and another few to make up for leaving him in the yard.

Turning to the boys, Bruce knelt down to their height and gave them a direct view of Ace. “Okay boys, how about we try to stick out your hand and slowly let him sniff it?”

Neither of them moved from their place and fidgeted slightly when Ace tried to come closer to all of the action. It wasn’t normal for people to be afraid of him and he was growing restless.

By now Dick was just as afraid of the great dane as Tim, “No, no, no. He’s going to eat it.”

“No, he’s pretty well fed. Watch.” Bruce stuck out his hand and let Ace nuzzle it. He let Ace move so he could lay flat out on the ground and look even less threatening. “Here, just touch his coat and feel him breath. It’s pretty amazing feeling all of internal organs and muscles move when he breathes or moves.”

There were a few minutes of silence where nothing happened. Bruce wasn’t going to force them to do anything they wouldn’t want to do, so he just sat down next to Ace and made sure nothing threatened them.

Dick was the braver of the two and eased closer to Ace, only stopping once when he tried to watch the boy come closer, and felt just how warm the small fur coat was. He opened his full palm and started slowly rubbing a small section of his back. “It’s okay Tim, it’s not that bad. He actually feels soft.”

He made a little room and Tim walked to his side and toked the dog. Once nothing happened, his sat on Dick lap and started petting Ace, giggling when he started wagging his tail.

Ace moved to face them and started smelling around them. He even licked their faces once they didn’t turn away or seem afraid anymore.

Bruce was proud of the progress they had made. “Do you guys want to try playing fetch, it’s one of his favorite games.”

Tim was the most excited at the prospect of the game and tried to catch the tail as Ace tried to keep it out of his reach, “Oh, I want to play catch!”

“Hey Ace, how about you go find your toys and bring them back here. Be quick, we don’t want to be late for Alfred.”

He rushed away from the trio and came back a few minutes later with a plush toy in his mouth. The ball squeaked as he chewed it while he slowed down and dropped it covered in slime on Tim’s lap and waited for someone to throw it.

“Ew, it’s covered in spit.” Tim was disgusted by the ball and wrinkled his nose in repulsion. He wrapped the sleeve of his shirt around his palm and moved the ball away from him and closer to his brother.

Bruce tried to reassure the boy, “It’s not that bad Timothy, saliva it mostly water.”

Dick couldn’t find it in himself to agree with the statement and tried to reason with Bruce, “Water doesn’t smell bad like spit and it’s gross.” He based this on the drool he found on his pillow in the morning while trying to keep the ball away from him.

“Here, a little spit on the ball doesn’t change anything,” He picked the ball up from Tim’s feet and rolled it off on the ground, cleaning it in the process and presented it to the boys. “Is this better now?”

Before he could accept the ball back, Tim inspected it to make sure that it met his standards. He nodded once he couldn’t see anything and stood up, ready to throw the ball as far as he could. Ace helped him rise to his feet, making sure the small boy didn’t fall over, and turned to the direction he had come from, ready to chase the ball wherever it went.

Tim took a stance, wanting to impress everyone watching him and tried to propel the ball as far as he could. Despite his best efforts, his throw was lackluster and the ball didn’t go farther than a few yards. Ace didn’t even bother trying to chase it and instead turned to the group confused.

Dick started laughing under his breath as Tim huffed, upset that he couldn’t hurl it far enough to interest the dog. He tried a second time, but the pitch wasn’t any bit more impressive and he dropped to the ground upset. Ace tried to comfort the boy, but he could hear his brother chuckling louder and Bruce trying to hide his own amusment under the guise of a cough.

When he didn’t go for the ball again, Dick took up the role of playmate and threw the ball a good distance. It wasn’t anywhere near as extraordinary as Bruce’s, but Ace did trot over and return it. By his face and the fact his tail was motionless Dick assumed he was still waiting for something more exciting.

He dropped the ball by Bruce, asking for more and expecting a better throw from him. He threw it past the garden bed, and the two by his feet were in awe of how far the ball went and how fast the k-nine went after it.

Taking the opportunity to teach the boys something about biology, Bruce said, “You see, great danes have big hind legs, the legs that they sit on, so they can run pretty fast when they want to. Most of the time, though, Ace is too lazy to do anything other than lay by the fireplace.”

“Does he not play outside much?” If it were the case, Dick was more than willing to take on the job of playing with him while Bruce was at work or away.

“He doesn’t look like it, but he’s pretty young so he loves to chase anything that moves. Right now, I think he’s trying to show off infront of you.”

Watching the dog come back and stand ready for more, Dick replied, “He’s doing a good job.”

They were outside for over an hour, Bruce teaching Tim how to throw and improving Dick’s until Ace was too tired to chase anymore. He trotted back and layed on the grass, resting and expecting someone to return petting him now that the game was over. Sometimes even more than catch, being pampered was his favorite activity. Alfred came by warning them of how much time had passed and that the food was going to go cold soon. At the reminder of the meal they realized just how hungry they were and quickly made the way back to the manor.

Back inside the kitchen the table was set with the spaghetti and Ace krept under the table, waiting for the scraps that fell from the table. Seeing as Tim was having trouble holding his fork, more ended on the ground than in his mouth. He wasn’t even worried about the mess he was making and tried to watch the other two until Bruce spun the noodles around for him. After some time Bruce even stopped giving him the fork and fed the boy directly.

Even with the help Tim and Dick made a large mess, both on the table and themselves. Neither cared much with how good it tasted and there was more than enough to keep them satisfied. Dick had the sauce all along his mouth and on his nose and Tim seemed to be Ace’s new favorite member of the family with how he tried to feed the dog when no one was looking.

Bruce was far too distracted by the display to worry about his own food, even giving some over to them when their own bowls ran out. Alfred seemed to agree and he watched from the kitchen, a little flattered by how much they enjoyed the food and a little distressed with how much cleaning he would have to do.

Once they were done with all the food, Bruce took the plates to the sink and chuckled with Alfred as the two boys slowly became aware of how much food they were wearing.

Turning to the younger man with a sincere smile Alfred murmured, “Master Bruce, I think the young ones are due for a bath.”

He nodded along and whispered, “Definitely,” making sure their guests couldn’t hear the conversation.

“I wish you the best, sir.”

Bruce was startled by the statement, not at all confident in his ability to care for the boys, “What? Shouldn’t you be the one to do it? You have much more experience considering you did the same with me.”

“Master Bruce, that was well over two decades ago I see this as an experience you will need if you want to raise the-”

The lighthearted tone of the conversation switched to a one more serious. Bruce was stunned by the accusation that he wanted to raise the kids and tried to remove the possibility from his friend’s mind, “I never said that. I never said I wanted to raise them. I just want to help them.”

Alfred looked at him in the eye and tried to convey his interpretation of the situation, “Master Bruce, look at them. Richard is the same age as you were when you went through the same tragedy. The only time he is at ease in when his brother is smiling.”

Bruce’s nodded along, watching Dick clean some noodles off of his brother’s arm, daring him to eat it. “It’s nice to see them happy.”

“Timothy is far too young to remember anything of his parents and Richard will forget most of it in the next few years. They are going to need much more than a stranger in the only home they will remember.”

He turned back to the butler and didn’t try to hide anything knowing the older one of them was capable of seeing past it. “I want to help them, Alfred, I really do, but I can’t be their father. I don’t know how and I’m not ready for that responsibility.”

Alfred immediately disregarded the argument, slightly frustrated in his surrogate son. “My god sir, you take on many responsibilities when you go out in night and excel at them. I fear you are underestimating how large of an impact you can have on their lives.”

“These are two completely different things.”

“Very much so, but I am certain you the ability to be great at both.”

He dropped his head and gripped the edge of the counter and stayed silent for a moment. When he did speak, his voice was laced with worry, something he hadn’t heard in years. “Do you really think I can be their father?”

“Yes.” Alfred was adamant in his response, leaving no room for argument.

Bruce sighed and turned away, not seeing the sad smile on Alfred’s face as he walked over to the boys. Their conversation weighed on his mind as tried to gather them up for the much needed baths. By now Dick had tried to clean up their faces with a napkin, but the sauce had dried and Tim kept edging just out of his reach, not wanting to be cleaned.

“I think that after a quick bath it’s time for your naptime.”

At the mention of sleep they both let out a long yawn, remembering just how much energy they had spent and how full they were. All of a sudden their eyes were much more droopy and they had lost all the energy they would need to make it through the bath.

Soon they were trying to find ways to avoid cleaning up and pleaded for a nap first. Dick rationalized that if they got some sleep before the bath, they would be more awake to clean off.

“Come on, it’s not that bad. A nice quick bath right before bed feels great, I promise.”

Defeated, Timothy stuck his arms out, waiting for Bruce to lift him up. If he was going to have to take a bath, then someone would have to carry him the way there and Bruce didn’t try arguing, he was just happy they agreed. Dick followed suit and soon both were hanging onto either side of him as he carried them to the rooms he knew Alfred had prepared.

The rooms were close to his own, both right across the hall. He wouldn’t be surprised if Alfred planned it this way so either of them could find him if they needed his help.

Bruce entered one and dropped them on the countertop in the bathroom. They were laying ontop of eachother, half asleep as if their bones had just turned to jelly.

Rummaging through the bathroom, Bruce tried to finding anything they could need, not really sure how to give babies a bath. In the back of his mind he remembered picture of babies in sinks, but he was sure both of his boys were far past that age.

After starting the water in the tub, he put in some bubble soap. At the very least it would keep them interested in staying awake and the bubbles would clean off most of the dirt and sauce. He found some rubber toys in a bin underneath the sink and a stool for them to sit on and put them in the water, in the back of his mind thinking that Alfred was far too prepared for a young child in the manor.

Cloths were removed and Dick and Tim were much more excited once they saw the bubbles rising from the water and the colorful objects floating in it. Bruce helped them both in and Tim took his place on the stool, waiting for the water to get high enough for him to splash with his arms.

Dick had already started accumulating as many bubbles as he could and started blowing them in Tim’s face and building a beard on his own.

From the sidelines Bruce took note of which toys they found interesting and which were ignored. The ship was a favorite as it sailed through the bubbles and sank with their waves but the cartoon characters weren’t touched. In particular, most of the animals were forming families while the ship carried them to different parts of their tub

After a few minutes Bruce tried to break through the playing but settled for shampooing their hair while they watched the duck carry around her ducklings. Somehow they had been able to get sauce and dirt in their and Bruce could see them getting more relaxed with the feel of warm water and soap. He used a little spray can toy to wash the soap out of their hair and let them stay in a little longer until the water grew cold

He moved fast, knowing they would feel cold as soon as they got out of the tub, and dried them off before helping them into their new cloths. The easy task was made much harder once they stopped helping him along and it became his job to make sure each arm made it into the right sleeve.

They fell into the bed and were asleep before Bruce could even wish them goodnight. Dick was wrapped around Tim once again, a mook of how they had slept the night before in the trailer, waiting for the blankets to carry them off to sleep. He just stood by the bed before tucking them in and returning to clean the bathroom.

After the bath and having to clean the room, he was just as soaked as they had been and used it as an excuse to avoid taking a shower before he went to bed. Instead, he lazed around his room, getting into his own pjs and crawling into bed, feeling much too tired for a vigilante.

He zoned off just in time to see Alfred make a round through the rooms, making sure nothing had gone wrong while Bruce was given some fatherly responsibilities.

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 3

The police only really cared about talking to Bruce Wayne. The fact that there were two recently orphaned boys was only a distraction from the opportunity to get invited to a party, sleep with him, or have a chance at going out drinking and meeting some influential socialites. Most of them were opportunistic and corrupt, a perfect embodiment of Gotham. If Bruce hadn’t spent most of his nights dressed as a giant bat and dealing with them, he might actually have been surprised.

Gordon was the only one who seemed to have any interest in the case and the wellbeing of the boys, reviewing every piece of information that they were able to find. Bruce knew it was going to astound some people just how quickly he would become Commissioner in a few years, especially considering how young he still was, but right now he was just another detective trying to do his job and the only one doing it well.

Scanning the clipboard that had been passed around, Gordon voiced to Bruce, “We talked to a few of the forensics and they couldn’t come up with much, but it looks like the lines were cut beforehand. Right now some of the others are going around interviewing the circus members to see if money might have been a motivation.” Taking his eyes away from the page, he bluntly stated, “As of right now, it looks like this was a homicide.”

One of the officers barely listening in followed with what was meant to be joke. “Where’s the big ol’ bat when you need him? He should’ve been able to get things done in a few minutes.”

He could act as strong as he wanted, but Bruce knew Joey would be scared out of his mind if Batman showed up. He knew Batman was still watching to see if he would take bribes from the gangs and murderers as he was known to do in the past. The only reason he wasn’t behind bars was because Joey could be a good cop if he had the right motivation and Bruce was doing a good job keeping him clean.

Another one of the officers was adamantly against the idea. “Why you don’t think we could handle this on our own? We don’t need him.”

As if they would get anything important done without his help. Most of the cases were solved by Batman and he did a better job than anyone else in watching over the police and politicians.

In the end everyone knew the city now trusted him more than they did their own police force.

The argument went on for a while, but once it looked as if they had finally begun to question him listening in on their conversation. They didn’t care enough to remove him from the scene, but they did seem dubious about him staying around this far after the actual incident. More than anything, they questioned why he was still around to check on the state of two boys he didn’t even know.

A new officer risked resting her arm around Bruce’s own before trying to lead him away. More than being unprofessional, the situation became awkward when Bruce refused to move from his place and the officer was forced to try to play off her hurt ego. “Mr. Wayne, if you need a patrol car to take you home mine’s always free.”

What exactly did she expect to happen in the few minutes it would take him to get home? Did she expect for him to ask her inside or give an invite to the next gala?

Joey tried his own luck at getting some alone time with Bruce, “No way man, you need to take those two kids to the station. I’ll drive the man to his castle instead.”

By now these cops had no more information to give him, and as such there was no reason for Bruce to give them any more of his time.

Refusing to give them any of his attention, Bruce turned to Gordon and acted as if he was the only one worth talking to. “Actually, I brought my car which is more than enough to take the three of us home.”

This was his way of informing him that he would in fact be taking Dick and Tim home with him, but he know that it would be difficult to convince him.


Bruce tried to play of the announcement by acting as if there was nothing to be worried about, but he knew it wouldn’t work too well on someone like Gordon. “Yes. I’m going to take the two home with me. They don’t need to go relive everything at the station and I have the room. It’s really no trouble.”

There was no way in hell he would let them take Dick and Tim away from him. In the few hours he had spent watching them sleep he had seemingly grown attached and he knew Alfred was never going to let him forget how quickly he had decided to let them move into the manor.

“Honestly, Mr. Wayne, there’s no need. We have a place ready to take them in.”

Bruce hid his glare as he imagined Dick and Tim all alone again and he focused his anger on the uninterested officer willing to label the whole incident an accident just to avoid the extra work. “No I insist. I’ve already talked to them and they said they’d like to move in with me.”

That was enough to shock everyone, especially Gordon, but another cop beat him to argue, “Move in? Sir, that’s really not how these things work. We’re supposed to take them to a foster place until someone adopts them. I know the situation’s not great, but it’s how it goes.”

At least he had the grace to feel some sympathy now.

Consciously making his voice softer and trying to appeal to the sympathetic side he had just awakened, Bruce argued, “Both of them? How likely is it that they’ll find someone to adopt both of the boys?”

Even if they weren’t taking into consideration the age difference between the two, it would be incredibly difficult finding someone willing to take in one of them, much less both.

“Come on-”

With a little more weight to his voice, Bruce stressed one more time, “How likely?” It might have surprised them how adamant he was about the whole ordeal, but to him it was the best thing to do. There was no way he could live with himself if they were left on their own to deal with the lack of competence in the Gotham adoptive services. Once no one tried to question him again, Bruce asked, “How old are they?” He knew there was a significant difference between the two, but he was curious about just how large it was. At the moment the only information he had on the two was their orphanage and names.

Another officer took out a tablet with some basic information on the whole family. After a quick sweep he answered, “It says here that the oldest, Richard, is 8 and Timothy is almost 4.”

He knew that in a few years he’d be thankful he’d had a little practice before he had a teenager, much less two, on his hands.

With a voice leaving no room for defection, Bruce asked, “May I see that?” Once the officer handed the papers over and Bruce read through everything. Any information would be great if it made the move to Bristol easier.

No allergies, good. Moved around a lot, but that’s a given in the circus. No emergency contacts, Dick was right about that.

Nothing significant, but he’d want it around just in case. He removed the papers and put them in his pocket before handing the clipboard back to the officer. Any reservations they had about handing victim information over to a stranger was disregarded by the sheer fact that this was Bruce Wayne. Instead, Gordon took him aside to ask some questions in private.

“Bruce, what are you thinking?” The weight in his voice made it obvious just how tired he was. It didn’t surprise Bruce that Jim had stayed up all night just as he had, he had a surprising dedication to lonely boys. To be fair they both must have a soft spot for orphaned young boys.

Keeping him in his eyeline, Bruce answered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just want to help them out.” Bruce tried to keep some of the emotion out of his voice; he was resolute about bringing them to the manor but he didn’t want to freak anyone out, especially if he had the power to take them away.

Running his hand through his hair and turning his back, Gordon tried to break whatever idea and gotten into his mind. “Legally, you can have guardianship signed over, but it is a long process. It might take days even weeks and I don’t know just how interested you’ll be by then.”

The doubt was welcomed. If the GCPD was willing to be bribed this easily it would surely be depressing but of course that would never happen while Gordon had any say and Batman was looking over them.

In the end Bruce wasn’t willing to be deterred and he argued, “You know what the fosters houses in this city are like. Do you really trust them? After everything you’ve seen you can’t tell me you trust them.” Bruce didn’t try to hide the pleading in his voice because he knew it was sad the condition the orphanages in the city were in. Everyone tried their best, but progress was slow and Bruce wanted to save them from the ordeal. He wanted to save everyone, but this was the opportunity before him and he couldn’t let that go.

“They’re not all that bad. Some of these people really want to help the kids and-”

“I’m one of them.”

“You’re not certified. You can’t just…Look, there is a lot of work involved in getting officially registered as a foster house. Those two are going to need something much more stable before then.” The legality of the issue didn’t concern him. He spent his free time in a modified spanks and kevlar suit fighting crime, getting a few lawyers to file some papers was no trouble.

“I have a very good team of lawyers.” If he didn’t know any better he’d think he almost saw a smile Jim’s face and he knew he was well on his to winning him over.

“Why do you want to do this, Bruce?” Jim asked with a sigh. “I don’t see how this is something you could want to involve yourself with.” That was the cue to drop any formality or pretense in their discussion and proceed with full honesty.

It was no secret that Jim was good at reading people, it’s one of the reasons the police had become somewhat cleaner once he’d joined the precinct, and Bruce knew that lying now wouldn’t help his case.

“When I was in their place I had Alfred. I don’t think I could have made it this far if it wasn’t for him. Right now there is an opportunity to help someone in my shoes and I don’t think I can turn my back on them. I have to help them, Jim.”

Gordon ran his hand through his hair and turned his back on Bruce while he tried to process the information. Bruce knew that his own situation was a soft spot for the police officer, and that he knew he would try his hardest to keep the boys safe.

Giving him a deep sigh, Gordon dropped a small smiled and said, “I’ll see what I can do. I can’t promise anything and it will be a long process, but I’ll have someone get into contact with your attorney.”

“Thank you. I’ll have them gather some of their things so they can get settled into the manor.”

Before anything else happened, Gordon grabbed onto Bruce’s arm to make sure he didn’t forget anything coming out of his mouth. “I’m doing you a favor and I trust you, but if I have any suspicions I will follow up on them.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less, Officer.”

There wasn’t much to pack into their bags. Their semi nomadic lifestyles meant that they only kept the things they absolutely needed and Dick was able to put most of their cloths into one large backpack. Dick was still sure to include their favorite snacks in case Bruce didn’t have them in his house, but he still didn’t see the need to have so many socks.

After that, Dick wasn’t too sure about what he needed to bring and just went with whatever would fit in the bag. A second pair of shoes, a couple stray toys Timmy would appreciate once he was in a better state, the only blanket he could sleep with, Tim’s favorite books, and their photo album.

That was all Dick could think to pack, but he was sure Bruce would let them return if he happened to forget something. Once he was finished and it was just a matter of waiting for Bruce to come back he unconsciously started rearranging the room, moving random things around and not really caring where anything was.

Tim, still lost in his own mind, sat on the bunk and watched as Dick moved around the room. His eyes weren’t focusing on anything in particular, but he pretended to pay some attention to the jokes coming out of his brother. Dick tried his hardest to get his younger brother to show some emotion, but there was no indication that he even understood anything.

After Dick was willing to accept the silence, Tim spoke out, “How long are we going to stay there?” It came out murmured and if Dick hadn’t been focusing on him, he might have missed it. Off handedly he thought about how it always upset him when Tim was shy around him, he preferred the smiling version of his brother, but he’d try his hardest to get him back to his normal state.

He sat down next to his brother and pulled him into a tight hold. Dick rested his chin on Tim’s hair and just breathed in the faint smell of their shampoo. “I don’t know buddy, but we can’t stay here. There’s no one here to take care of us.”

This would be a massive change for Tim, he’d never had to spend time out of the circus except for a few trips to major cities, and it didn’t surprise Dick that he’d try to fight it with, “You take care of me all the time.”

“I know that, but I’m still just your brother.”

Tim nodded his understanding, but he still wasn’t all that interested in leaving the circus. He gave Dick a soft hug before getting up, moving to the other side of the bed, and grabbing the stuffed bird that had fallen off the night before. Holding it to his chest he returned to his place next to Dick and started talking about what Bruce’s house would look like. After saying goodbye to some of the other carnies and mentioning that Bruce was taking them in, the two had discovered that Bruce was the richest man in the world and lived in a haunted castle in the middle of the woods where no one bothered him. The quiet would be new, it was something no one in the circus had any experience with, but it would be good to have a change in scene.

Over time, their mood slowly improved as they thought about something other than the tragedy of the previous night. This was going to be a new chapter in their lives and if thinking about the lives of people who spent all their time in one place, so be it. That was the reason Bruce walked into the two giggling about how many ghosts they could catch in the haunted castle and possibility that he was a runaway prince who lost his memory and decided to stay in Gotham because he didn’t know how to get home.

Seeing their new guardian, Tim suddenly noticed just how much hunger he’d been ignoring while he was watching his brother move around. Jumping off from his bed, Tim gathered what he deemed to be his responsibility to carry and tugged onto Bruce’s pant leg to ask, “Can we have lunch in the food court? I’m really hungry.” Looking at the little boy with a small smile on his face and a far too big bag on his face, there was no way Bruce could even think of saying no.

Dick nodded along, probably feeling the hunger in himself as well, and turned to Bruce with, “Sure, why not. We can get something to eat right, Bruce?”

With a hand to their backs, Bruce let them lead the way out of the trailer and agreed, “Definitely. I’m going to have to count on your recommendation though, I don’t know what’s good around here.”

Bruce tried not to notice that the boys followed him every turn he made. Even when he’d asked Dick to get a seat for them while he put their things into the trunk of his car, the eight year old grabbed his brother’s hand and followed Bruce out to the parking lot to load their bags.

Bruce made a mental note to remember just how Tim’s eyes bugged out when he saw how shiny and slick the car was. He immediately dropped his brother’s hold and went to touch the car and feel how clean and smooth it was.

His hand traced over the sharp edges on the body as he looked over his shoulder to exclaim, “Look! Look! Look! I can see myself in the car! My face even gets all bendy when I move!” Tim lead his brother’s hands to feel just how smooth and shiny the car was while making sure to not leave any prints on the perfect gloss of the car.

Dick stayed behind him and looked over Tim’s shoulder to see just what made his brother so excited. Being the taller of the two, he was able to see the chic interior of the car and there was no chance he wouldn’t load this over his Timmy. “That’s really cool Babybird. If only you were a little taller you could see your reflection in the window?”

“Really? I wanna see.” He tried to stand on his tippy toes and see what he was missing out on but he was nowhere near tall enough.

Ruffling Tim’s hair to show just how small he was, Dick promised him, “Maybe in a couple of years baby bro, until then you’re just going to have to take my word for it.”

Tim gave him a half hearted glare before ignoring him to get a full view of the car. Dick made a scene of being able to see much more than Tim could, especially the interior of the car and the how everything inside was completely black and how the polished wood on the dashboard matched everything. Bruce decided to move them along before they asked to drive the car and the best thing he could think of was to remind them just how hungry they were. This tactic worked on people much older than them, Bruce had confirmed it multiple times.

“Ok boys, how about we get something to eat. Afterwards I promise that I’ll show you everything the car can do.” He could see that the two were slightly torn on the issue, but once a decision was made they were sure to move things along as fast as they could.

The boys, mostly Tim, dragged him to the food court and showed him just which options were the best, but even after Bruce got some nachos and cotton candy for lunch they were still talking about the car. They only stopped to notice that Bruce had to let Tim sit on his lap so he could see over the table and that was for the little choir of giggles. He had no interest in the unhealthy circus food and only focused on making sure Tim didn’t fall off while he was having an animated discussion with his older brother that seemed to need his whole body to stress how important everything was.

He was still half interested when he dug out some wet wipes to clean off the sticky hands and smudged faces, but it was a slight change in topic eventually grabbed Bruce’s interest.

“What about Batman’s car?” Dick apparently recalled a video he had seen on the news which involved Batman speeding through Gotham trying to catch come C-list villain. Right now he was using pieces of fries, chips, and their soft drinks to be pedestrians, villains and Gotham’s skyscrapers and Tim was soaking in everything.

Interested in knowing what they thought about his night job, Bruce decided to channel his investigative side and asked, “What about it? What makes his car so special?”

Dick was appalled that he would even need to ask such a simple question. Slamming both of his hands flat on the table, Dick made sure all of Bruce’s attention was focused on him before he explained, “It can do everything, and I really mean everything! The police have never caught up to him. I remember watching Batman drive it up a tower, completely straight up, and not fall off.” Actually, that was mostly the job of a pulley attached to the top of Wayne tower, but they didn’t need to know that.

Although he appreciated the bragging, Bruce decided to use the situation to assess how they felt about Batman and vigilantism as a whole. He knew he would need to keep them removed from his night time job for safety reason, but there was no reason to not gauge their feelings about him.

Adjusting Tim’s position on his lap as a diversion, Bruce made sure to be nonchalant when he asked, “Since you are going to be living in Gotham, what do the two of you think about Batman?”

“He’s so cool!”

“He can do anything!”

“Do you think we can meet him?”

“Do you know him?”

“Is he really a vampire?”

“Can he fly?”

Bruce let them tire themselves out with all their questions and just smiled as they finally came to a pause and waited for his answer. Knowing they held him in such high regard was flattering to an immeasurable degree and he definitely welcomed their praise.

“I actually have met him before. He usually comes around the Wayne Enterprise building looking for money. As far as I know he is human, but he is incredibly handsome…and taller than Superman.” The heavy pride in his voice was completely surprising for the boys and they didn’t expect for him to know as much about their favorite hero as he did. This revelation opened up many exciting possibilities and Dick voiced the question that was going through both of their minds.

“Can? We? Meet? Him?”

Bruce let out a small sigh, weighing the pros and cons of introducing them to his alternate life. Seeing no possibility where they wouldn’t start asking the wrong kind of questions he made sure to respond carefully, “I’m not so sure boys, he only comes out at night and that is definitely long past your bedtime.”

Although they were a little deflated and unsatisfied with Bruce’s explanation, the ability to live in Batman’s city was enough to keep them excited. At the very least they were in a much better mood then they had been earlier in the day and Bruce was very pleased to see this new side of them.

After they finished eating all of the junk food he dragged them into the bathroom so they could wash their sticky faces and hands properly. The wipes had taken care of most of the problem, but it would never be enough to satisfy Alfred. Bruce was only able to get them to agree to the additional cleaning when he convinced them that they didn’t want to get stuck to the car and never be be removed, but Tim did seem slightly pleased with the possibility.

Once everyone was settled into the car and seatbelts were on, Bruce made a show of the convertible version of the roof. Giggles erupted once the wind started pushing their hair back and they couldn’t keep their eyes open. Bruce gave both of them a pair of sunglasses he had stored in the glove box, but they didn’t last long as they didn’t fit on their faces and only Dick was fast enough to catch his.

After assuring Tim that the loss of sunglasses were not his fault, Bruce decided to take the long way home and show them what downtown Gotham looked like. Even though the 5 o’clock traffic was still around at 6, the boys were amazed by the tall buildings made entirely of glass. The Wayne Enterprise building was a personal favorite and he made a promise to give them a tour sometime soon. Dick loved it because it was the highest point in the city and somewhere in the back of his mind he wanted to see just what the city looked like from that height. He’d never voice his ideas out loud because he knew that the image of him flying through the city might be a little too much for his Timbo to bare but he couldn’t help, but imagine how it would feel to leap off of the tip of the WE building.

As it started to get darker and the two wanted to spot Batman, Bruce decided it was time to head home. Through the half hearted protests, he put the roof back up to keep them safe from the mosquitoes and insects that came out at night. As soon as they entered Bristol, the two were amazed at the giant houses with estates larger than the circus grounds, but Bruce saved what he knew to be the best for the last.

Wayne Manor was the most impressive of all of them. As he pulled into the driveway, Bruce could hear them fidgeting in the back, excitement about what they would see once they got past those giant doors.

After helping the two out of their seats and grabbing their bags from the back, Bruce opened the door for them while the two stared at him ready to go inside. Tim had immediately grabbed Dick’s hand as he lead them up the steps and Bruce saw them straighten themselves out before Bruce opened the door and let them in.

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 2

Dick stayed in bed for half an hour, just breathing slowly and trying to rationalize everything he remembered from the previous night. He couldn’t comprehend what had happened last night or imagine what he was going to do from now on, especially in terms of his little brother. There was just too much he didn’t know for sure about their future, too much that could go wrong. He had always thought that the both of them would spend the rest of their lives in the circus, learning everything they could from their parents and performing for large crowds every night, but he knew it would be impossible now. The only thing he could be sure of was his main priority: to look after Timmy. Right now this would mean making sure he understood their situation. He almost envied his little brother for not knowing that their parents were dead, but he knew that Tim’s ignorance wouldn’t last for long. Soon he’d have to tell Tim about the fall and he was willing to prolong the inevitable conversation as long as he needed to, knowing that he wasn’t ready for the many questions Tim would have for him.

Bruce had left a few minutes ago to talk to the police officers leaving Dick some time to himself. He felt like this was the silence before the storm, the silence before everything went to hell, and he’d have to make sure Tim didn’t react too badly. He appreciated the fact that Bruce had asked if it would be okay to leave, but Dick regretted not telling the truth. He wanted to have some support around and if Tim woke while he was away Dick had no idea how to even talk to him.

As it turned out, Tim was just excited to find his older brother in his bed, something that happened occasionally but never frequently enough to please both of them. Once Dick was deemed old enough to perform, he went out with their parents any time he could and usually brought Tim with him. He was too small to perform with his family, Dick wasn’t even sure if they made outfits in his size, but he did spend his evenings training with them. Last night though, Tim had been coming off of a cold and needed some more rest. He denied feeling ill, he always did when he was sick, but their mother saw through the act and made him promise to stay in until the show ended and they could check if he was recovering properly. Dick had promised to come back before the end of the performance and help him get to sleep, but he was probably out soon after Mom had given him his medicine. His deep sleep was probably why he didn’t hear the noise Bruce and Dick were making, but it also meant that he was well rested in the morning.

Dick decided to divert away from any hard topics until Bruce came back concluding that to have the discussion properly he would need the support. He chose to greet Tim as he alway did, with a smile on his face and a squeeze to his chest. Looking down on the raven hair bouncing around as he tried to make himself comfortable, Dick sighed, “Hey, Timbo. How’d you sleep?”

He tried to keep the smile on his face genuine, like nothing was wrong. Like their whole world hadn’t shifted and he had no idea how to fix it. Like they were going to be on their own from now on. The last thing he needed was to make Tim as afraid as he was.

Tim, on the other hand, was still a little drowsy and rubbing all the sleep from his eyes. He moved off of his brother’s chest and stretching out the tension in his muscles with a sincere smile on his face. His hair was messy, probably from Dick subconsciously messing with it while he waited for him to wake up, and he moved it out of his eyes to get a proper look on Dick. He assured his brother, “Fine. I feel better now, I can breath without making any noise. Thanks though, you really helped.”

A little surprised by the thanks, Dick asked, “For what? What did I do?”

“It’s lots easier to sleep with you. You’re like a giant heater,” Tim giggled as he stretched out his arms waiting for his bother to move so they could get out of bed. He didn’t notice that Dick didn’t really laugh as he usually did, but it did come as a shock when Dick pulled him back on the bed and stopped him from moving. Not understanding the concern emanating from his brother, Tim conceded to Dick’s hug as he always did and laid in his hold waiting for him to feel content. This behavior was a little abnormal but not completely unheard of as Dick had always needed more human contact than anyone else Tim had come across and Tim was happy to indulge him. It had been a part of his fate ever since he was born.

After a few minutes of Tim slowly being lulled back to sleep, they heard the screen door open and Bruce surprised at finding the smallest among them awake. Knowing that Dick would have a hard time explaining the situation to his little brother, Bruce had made sure to hurry back as soon as he could, but judging by the lack of distress or tears on the younger boy, he was still unaware. Dick let out a sigh of relief at his return, but soon realized he had been hoping for the quiet moment between him and Tim earlier in the morning to last forever.

Tim, even though he had never seen the man before, assumed that he was one of the many people who worked for the circus. He peered over his brother’s body to look at the stranger, studying him, before concluding that he wasn’t a risk and asking, “Do you wanna talk to Mamma and Daddy? I can show you where they are.”

A pregnant silence fell over the room as Dick buried his head in Tim’s small chest, smelling the fruity soap their dad had used to clean him of the dirt that came with running through the animal enclosure because it was Tim’s favorite and reminded him of their mother, and Bruce lowered his head confusing the youngest even more. Tim didn’t know how to read the shift in the environment and only pushed further.

He tried to free his arm out from beneath his brother and point to the trailer next to the one they were in, but he meet too much resistance. Instead he elected to use his head to point before explaining, “Do you need to talk to them? They’re in the trailer wight next to us. I can help you get there if you’re lost.”

Refusing to remove his face from where it rested, Dick just pleaded, “Stop Timmy…Please. Don’t talk about them.”

Feeling the weight on his older brother shoulders and the strain in his voice, Tim immediately recognized that something was out of place. Although he would never be able to imagine what happened last night, he knew that Dick was hiding something and that the tired man at their door had something to do with it. He felt worried by the way they had reacted to him mentioning their parents, the tension and inability to look him in the eyes, but for the life of him couldn’t figure out why his brother sounded so sad. With a worried look on his face, one that Dick wanted to avoid at all costs, he asked, “What’s wrong, Dick? You sound sad.”

Bruce decided to chime in, not wanting to intrude in on the conversation and make them any more uncomfortable than they already were. “Dick, do you want me to wait outside?”

“No!” Dick shot out from the position he had been in for the better part of an hour and pleaded with Bruce, “Please, I don’t know how to tell him. I…I don’t know what to do. Please.”

Bruce knew his heart was going to break when the young boy buried his head in his hands and murmured with a completely defeated voice, “Please help.”

He let out a heavy sigh, not really sure of his place but assuring Dick that he would stay and support him. “Okay. Okay, I’m not going to leave.”

“What’s going on? Did something happen.” By now Tim was frightened about what had scared his brother and the large man in their trailer. His breathing was growing more panicked and he decided to turn to something he could never question, “I want Mamma and Daddy! Dick what’s going on.” He was frantic, not knowing what to imagine but he did try to fight his way out of his brother’s hold and run off to their parents.

Bruce made his way to the bed and sat in the chair he had gotten acquainted with over the past night. Dick cemented his place next to his brother and kept his hold, unsure of how to act and placing his trust in his instinct to hold Tim.

Bruce let out another sigh and began his practiced speech. Taking the smallest hands he had ever seen into his own, he made Tim look him in the eye before explaining, “Tim, last night there was an accident at the show where your parents were performing…They fell, it looks like the ropes snapped, and there was no net to catch them…I’m sorry, but they didn’t make it…They’re dead.”

Once again a silence swept the room as Bruce and Dick waited to see how Tim would react to the information.

He squinted his eyes, unable to process what he’d just learned, and asked, “What does that mean? ‘Dead.’ What does it mean? Are they hurt? Do we need to get a doctor?”

Any planning on Bruce’s part had left him as he hung his head and tried to think about a way to explain the situation to someone who couldn’t even comprehend what death meant. The boy had no idea how absolute his separation from his parents was and it was up to Bruce to explain it to him, it was a position he had never been in before and one he would never wish upon his worst enemy.

Dick looked just as surprised as he was, but he also looked completely lost. It shouldn’t have surprised him that his little brother wouldn’t be able to comprehend something as ugly as death, but it would have made the situation easier, and he almost envied his ignorance.

Thinking back, Dick turned Tim to face him and refused to break eye contact as he asked, “Timmy, remember when Mrs. Casent was feeling sick and we never say her again? When she couldn’t stop coughing and Dad had to go look after her, but then she stopped feeling sick? We never saw her after she was sick. That’s what dead means, we don’t get to see them again.” Begging his brother to understand, he slowly finished, “We don’t get to see Mom and Dad again.”

Starting to shake from what his brother was trying to explain, Tim argued, “No, we did see her again. We saw her, a few days after she stopped being sick.”

Shocked and utterly confused, Dick asked, “What?”

Holding onto his brother’s arm, Tim argued, “Remember. We went to the thing where Mamma said we had to wear black and we saw her sleeping?”

Realization swept through him and after finally breaking his eye contact with Tim, Dick shook his head and whispered, “Who told you she was sleeping?”

Unsure of whether or not he was winning the argument, Tim tried to rationalize, “I don’t know… She just looked like she was sleeping.”

Bruce decided to take over control of the situation; Tim didn’t need to be lost in this delusion forever and Dick was looking to him for direction. Once Tim’s attention was once again on him, he gave the boy a moment to collect himself before explaining in a soft voice, “Tim, it’s a lot like sleeping but she didn’t wake up. She’s going to sleep forever. It’s the same way with your parents. They’re going to be sleeping forever.”

With shivers and breathing growing more frantic, Tim grabbed onto Bruce and asked with a small voice, “Mamma and Daddy aren’t going to wake up?”

Holding him to his chest was the best way Bruce could think to calm him down. Tim sat on his lap with his head buried in his shirt, trying to avoid looking at anything in particular as he tried to finding something to hold onto. Bruce ran his hand through Tim’s soft hair as he said, “Yes. I’m sorry, but they aren’t going to wake up.”

Not wanting to accept anything that had been thrown at him, Tim still pleaded with Bruce to reconsider. “Did you try hard? Did you scream? Can I try? That always wakes them up when I try.”

With his other palm to his back, Bruce rubbed in circles to try and calm him down. “I’m sorry, Tim, I’m very sorry. There’s nothing anyone can do.”

With one last attempt at changing their minds, Tim asked, “Did you let Dick try? They always wake up when he jumps on their bed. Did you try that?”

A voice too stern and completely out of character cut through, “Timmy, there’s nothing that’s going to wake Mom and Dad up.”

Dick regretted his tone immediately after when he saw his brother go still at his words; he had made his little brother feel even worse and hearing the little whimper come out after hearing those sharp words made him feel like he was the worst brother to ever exist.

Refusing to look at Dick, Tim simply acknowledged him with a choked, “Oh.”

Looking down at him, Bruce realized that he was in shock, unable to process the information that they had just dropped on him. Even at this point he didn’t understand just how absolute the situation was, that he would never get the opportunity to interact with his parents again.

Letting him process everything for a few minutes, Bruce couldn’t help but think that no one his age was ever this still. The little contact he’d had with kids had shown him that they were the embodiment of hyperactivity and even though these were exceptional circumstances he couldn’t help but think about how he wanted to see what they would look happier. It would take a while, definitely more than a few hours, but he wanted to be there when they did eventually smile. The one thing that he knew was that he was that it would take dedication on his part and he knew he was ready to give them anything they needed. Resting his chin on the boy’s head and squeezing him close, he assured, “I…Tim…I know that I can never replace your parents, and I would never want to, but I want to help. I lost my own parents when I was a little older than your age, and I know how hard this is for you. Anything you need, you or you brother, I’m going to help you, okay?”

Once the tears started to fall and Tim started to shake, Dick took the initiative to move him a chair next to the two and take Tim into his lap. He began to rock his brother knowing that neither of them were okay and antagonizing the issue wouldn’t be productive. He hoped that his brother would understand his silent apology. This was the absolute worst situation to be upset with the most important person in his world, certainly the person who depended on him the most. He could tell that his apology had been accepted once he felt Tim’s hands dig into his shirt and his head find his favorite place on his chest.

They stayed like that for a while, embracing the silence as Tim nearly cried himself back to sleep. He held onto his brother, not letting him move from their position and risk separating them. When he did start to feel drowsy, Dick carried him off to his bed and positioned themselves as they had woken up as to lull his brother to sleep. It didn’t come without the assurance that he would in fact wake up from his nap and that both of them would be there alive and well.

Both of them probably needed the rest, Dick more so than Tim, but Bruce knew that he would stay awake much longer than just to ensure their safety. He also knew that Dick felt it his role to protect his little brother and Bruce understood his motivation. Alfred had stayed beside his bed for days when he went through his own tragedy, and he understood just how much he understood the need for the assurance that they would be fine.

Before anyone actually went to sleep, Bryce was able to convince Tim to eat a small breakfast and made sure Dick had enough to keep his energy up while he took up Bruce’s spot on the chair, leaving his brother to rest by himself. At first Dick had been a little stubborn about needing to eat something, but after seeing that there was no room for argument he poured himself some cereal and took up his post. Once everything had been settled, Tim asleep and Dick sitting beside him and his hand running through his hair, Bruce felt it a perfect time to finally talk to Gordon.

Putting on his jacket and gathering his phone, Bruce whispered to Dick, “I’m going to go talk to the police, okay? It won’t be as long as last time, I’ll make sure of that.”

Refusing to look Bruce in the eye and show his worries about him leaving again, Dick tried, “Do you really need to go again? You just came back.” Dick knew it wasn’t true, they had been talking for hours, but it just didn’t feel right to have Bruce leave so soon.

Straightening up and giving the boy a sympathetic look even if he couldn’t see it, Bruce explained, “I’m sorry, but we need to make sure everything’s in order for you two.” A question came to his mind just as he finished the sentence and he had to ask, “Before I go, I need to know something: Do you two have a legal guardian your parents wanted to look after you? An emergency contact? Understandably, you never answered me the last time I asked.”

Taking a moment to properly think about the answer, Dick rambled, “Nope. A lot of the people in the circus aren’t really good at taking care of themselves and they wouldn’t do a good job with kids. Their nice and all, but they’re not good enough to look after Tim. Sometimes people get angry very fast or they say mean things and they scare him. It’s the worst when they’ve been drinking. They’re nice most of the time and they’re our friends, but I don’t think Mom and Dad never liked having them look out after us.” With a sad little smile down to his brother, Dick concluded, “I don’t like it when Timmy’s scared and he doesn’t like it when people are angry.”

It would makes sense for someone Tim’s size to be afraid of drunk adults and Bruce admired the dedication in Dick, but he found himself asking, “Is he sensitive?” It was an honest question, he would need to make sure that he didn’t accidentally scar the boy, but judging from the grimace on Dick’s face he seemed to find it insulting.

With a cold voice meant to show Bruce just how he’d messed up, Dick said, “No, he’s not sensitive, he’s gentle, and I make sure that nothing hurts him.” It was obvious Dick took pride in his role as a big brother and saw it as his responsibility to protect Tim and he didn’t take that post lightly.

They must’ve had great parents.

Forcing himself to remember the mistake he’d made, Bruce simply apologize with, “I understand.” He looked at his watch and estimated that it wouldn’t take too long to talk with the police and finalize the boys’ arrangements. Right before he left, an idea came to his head that he realized their fates weren’t up to him at all. He couldn’t force these kids to do anything and he didn’t want to start off their relationship, whatever it might be, with an act of force.

Standing in the middle of the door, in the awkward zone between the warmth of the trailer and the chill outside, Bruce asked, “If it does turn out that there is no one responsible to look after you, would you like to move into my house? I know I’m a stranger and that you don’t know me real well, but I think-”

Seemingly having forgiven Bruce for his small mistake earlier, he finally looked at him and begged, “Yes! Please, that would be great! You…You did a cool job of taking care of the two of us, especially me right after…after, yeah, I think it would be cool if you took care of us. I don’t know exactly why, but I trust you. You’re the only person to talk to us and help us and we are going to need it. Thank you.”

Bruce didn’t know what to say to that so instead he walked back beside the small boy and place a small kiss on his head before making his way out and saying, “I’m going to take care of you two, Dick. I promise.”

The Makings of a Nest: Chapter 1

Before he heard the collective gasps and the coming screams, there was a moment of eerie silence.

Bruce didn’t know if it was because of the similarities between this tragedy and the one he experienced many years ago, but the strained quiet before the gunshot rang through his ears as he saw the two figures fall to the ground. He couldn’t help but cringe at the sound of bones breaking at the moment of impact and he tried to wake himself up from what was definitely a nightmare.

Everything was moving in slow motion as the crowd ran out from their seats in panic, trying to hide the scene from the children and avoiding the sight themselves. Parents covered the eyes and ears of the screaming kids and Bruce envied the children for having parents to comfort them. Closing his eyes he imagined his parents there to convince him everything was going to be okay. He wanted reassurance that he knew would never come and for a split second he felt like a ten year old again: scared and unable to look away from the bodies laid out in ways that shouldn’t have been possible.

Once the world started to move again he found his gaze fall on the only person still in the tent, a small boy slowly making his way towards the two dead acrobats. Bruce had seen him with the performers before the event laughing about something together and he could see a family resemblance, the same dark hair and tan skin.

His legs seemed to be moving without the direction of his brain but Bruce slowly rose from his seat and made his way towards the boy. If there was one thing he knew, it was how much children needed someone to depend on after a tragedy. This wasn’t Batman, he would have been examining the bodies and chasing after anyone responsible, it was entirely Bruce. He didn’t know how to feel about that.

Once he was in the center of the arena he could see that the boy was holding onto the hand of the woman and slowly massaging the man’s hair, moving it out of the way from two lifeless blue eyes. He ignored the puddle of blood growing out from beneath the bodies and seeping into his clothes while he practically collapsed on top of the two bodies. Silent sobs shook the boy’s frame. After a few moments Bruce could tell the boy’s throat was sore from crying and he awkwardly crouched down next to him. Resting his hand on the boy’s back, Bruce warned him of his presence before removing it unsure of how the boy would react. The boy had been alone for the hardest moment of his life so far and Bruce couldn’t leave him alone with good conscious, but if he chose to ignore the help of a stranger there was nothing Bruce could do to stop him. That would be his indication that the boy need Batman more than Bruce Wayne.

Fear ran through the boy’s body as he jumped at the feeling of someone touching him and he tried to put distance between him and the stranger disturbing his mourning. It took him a second to realize that Bruce was there with no ill intentions but he was still ignorant of his offer of support.

Bruce didn’t move until the boy made his choice; the last thing he wanted was to frighten him anymore than he currently was. He held his pose and made sure to look at the newly orphaned boy straight in the eyes, trying to convince him that he was there for to help him. Once he saw him he saw confusion replace fear, Bruce opened his arms and let him crawl into his embrace.

At first he was slow, his limbs probably feeling like lead, but after gaining his footing he threw himself into Bruce’s chest. Bruce was a little shocked and somewhat impressed with the boy’s strength, he hadn’t expected the boy to be as powerful as he was, but Bruce returned the embrace with a tight one of his own and listened while tears turned his eyes red and sobs continued to irritate his throat. The boy refused to look up at him and instead squeezed his body into Bruce’s torso, hoping that Bruce would somehow swallow him up and he wouldn’t have to feel all this grief anymore, but in the end it was a much needed distraction from the bodies to his side. Somewhere in the back of his mind Bruce was aware that his suit was ruined from the blood still on the boy, but he couldn’t bring himself to care in the slightest. It was much more productive to rub small circles in the kid’s back and try to coax him into some feeling of security.

They stayed in that position for what felt like hours before Bruce felt the boy loosen his grip. He pushed his way out of the hold and dried off his eyes on his sleeves before trying to think through the clouds in his head. Dick was a little embarrassed from his reaction, he definitely wanted to show this stranger how strong he could be, but it was too much nuance for either one of them to deal with. He didn’t move out of Bruce’s reach, but he did avoid returning Bruce’s gaze finding the floor more interesting.

Bruce’s decided to take the initiative and cleared his throat before formally introducing himself. “My name is Bruce Wayne and I want help you.”

Even though he still refused to look at Bruce, the expression on the boy’s face made it clear that he didn’t trust him and Bruce couldn’t fault him for that. There was absolutely no reason he should chose to turn to Bruce after his parent’s death it would take much more convincing on Bruce’s part before the kid left with him. Running a hand through his hair, Bruce tried to show his sincerity as he continued, “I lost my own parents when I was ten years old and I want you to know that I will do everything in my power to help you.”

If he was being honest with himself, he had no idea what would help the young boy. he couldn’t remember anything helping all those years ago either, but Bruce also knew something would be better than nothing. It had to be.

Looking up from the ground the boy returned the greeting. “I’m Dick…Richard, but everyone calls me Dick.”

His voice was hoarse from crying and the words were murmured, but Bruce considered it an improvement from the silence. For a moment he found himself distracted by the piercing blue eyes that resembled those of the dead man, but he was pulled back into the conversation when he heard, “Thank you for that…I needed it.”

Bruce gave Dick a soft and sympathetic smile before assuring him, “It’s no problem. I know that it helps to have someone there for comfort.”

He regretted his forced optimism when Dick tried to return the smile with one of his own but he couldn’t hide the way it didn’t reach his eyes. No matter how much he tried, they gave him away and even when he turned away from Bruce to take in the empty tent Bruce could tell Dick was on the edge of panicking.

Bruce decided it would be best to find out more information on Dick’s situation and he softly asked, “Dick, do you have any family? Someone to take-”

The words stopped halfway out of his mouth and he couldn’t help but feel as if he’d turned the conversation into an interrogation. Even when he tried to keep his voice as soft as possible, not wanting to threaten or force the boy into a situation where he felt uncomfortable, his inner bat was leaking through.

More surprising was the sudden shock that replaced the tension in Dick’s eyes as he rose from his spot next to his parents and made his way out of the tent as quickly as possible. There was a moment his balanced wavered, he was still regaining some feeling in his legs, but he ignored it to rush to whatever he had just remembered. It must have been something important to make the boy move so quickly and Bruce wasn’t far behind.

Making his way into the open air, Dick ran past the few remaining attendees outside of the big tent but as far as Bruce could tell they didn’t seem concerned. Most people had already left to resign themselves for their own mourning and the few remaining were either trying to avoid any conversation or talking to the police about everything they knew. Going past he could see a look of understanding on their faces as they watched him make his way to the edge of the property and Bruce started to feel more curious than concerned. Taking a moment to look around he noticed that the lights from the too bright signs and decorations covered in neon colors seemed out of place. The air around the circus has changed drastically from the few hours since the beginning of the performance, but that was to be expected.

None of this seemed to phase Dick. He ignored the knowing look on the faces of the other members of the and made his way to the trailers stationed far from the action.

All this time Bruce followed not knowing what he was doing, he didn’t know if Dick was running away from him or to something, but he refused to leave until he had good reason to do so.

Dick reached a pair of trailers and stopped in his tracks. Two trailers were parked close to each other, one slightly smaller and newer than the other, but it was obvious they were for the same family. Looking around Bruce noticed that there were cloths on the line and toys in the mud. Someone hadn’t picked up the paper, probably in a rush to get to somewhere, and the dim lights showed a trampoline resting not too far away. It was their home and Bruce knew there was no chance of saving it.

Bruce wondered if this was what Dick was thinking: how absolute the events of today were, how his life was never going to be the same again.

After staring at the sight for a few more moments, Dick opened the door to the smaller trailer and made his way in. His movements were slower than before, losing all sense of urgency and carrying much more weight with each step. Dick made sure to make as little noise as possible and Bruce considered the door he left open behind him as an invitation to follow.

Inside, Bruce found another boy fast asleep without a care in the world. He was in the lower bunk of two beds attached to the wall with the soft hum of music spewing from headphones no longer in place in his ears. His body was in an uncomfortable position with a leg hanging off the floor while the blanket rested on the ground. He looked a little paler than than Dick, but Bruce could see the resemblance in their shared jet black hair and could only imagine how those blue eyes would look on him when he woke up. Bruce could also tell he hadn’t meant to fall asleep, probably wanting to wait until his family made it back but unable to do so, and couldn’t help but feel thankful as the difficult conversation they would have to have with the boy would wait till the morning.

For a few minutes all they could do was watch the boy sleep and Bruce could see why Dick would want to rush over to him, they were the only thing either of them had left.

Dick turned off the music and placed it on the table before repositioning the boy into a more comfortable position. The younger boy seemed to appreciate the consideration and he hummed his praise before falling deeper into a peaceful sleep. Dick picked up the blanket and after waving it in the air a few times to clean off he crawled into the bed with his brother. He chose to lay down on the side of the bed facing the room, probably wanting to make sure the boy didn’t fall off onto the floor.

He was on autopilot as he tucked the two of them into the bed and Bruce could tell he was repeating a routine he had become accustomed to over the years. Dick held the smaller boy in a tight embrace for a long time, long enough for the boy to roll over and nuzzle into his older brother’s chest. Out of respect Bruce gave the two brothers some space, choosing to pull out a seat and plan out the best course of action for them in the future. He only turned to face the two when he felt Dick open his eyes and place his attention on Bruce. There was a protectiveness Bruce didn’t ever want to challenge.

With a low voice, Dick explained, “This is Tim. He’s my little brother. If you’re going to help me you have to promise to help him too.” Although he was trying his hardest to hide it, there was still some panic in his voice, his fear of what would happen in the future if they were left to their own devices. Dick had no idea what would be best for his baby brother but he knew he couldn’t take care of both of them; the circus just wasn’t the kind of place for two kids to raise each other. The other performs were nice and they cared about the two, but they were too busy to actually do much good. Bruce was their best option.

Bruce nodded his agreement to those terms and felt unsure about his presence in the room for the first time. He didn’t know what he wanted to do here but he didn’t feel like Dick wanted him to leave so he chose to offer some kind reassurance. “You have my word. I’ll keep the both of you safe and take care of you from now on.”

Dick returned a weak nod before returning to his brother. He was tired and feeling the whole weight of the situation at once but he needed the rest. Bruce could tell he wanted to stay awake and hold Tim, maybe wanting to make sure he didn’t die on him too, but this was what Bruce was there for.

“How about you change out of the costume and into some pjs and I’ll watch over you two while you sleep? It’ll be more comfortable and you’ll sleep better.”

For the longest moment Dick didn’t do anything. He just held his brother and avoiding the world around him. With a murmur just loud enough for Bruce to hear, he asked, “How do I tell him? He’s going to be so scared.”

They both decided not to mention how he was almost squeezing Tim or that he was just as scared as his brother.

Taking in a deep sigh, Bruce tried to think of the best solution, one where everyone felt safest. He concluded that there was no benefit in waking him up to give the bad news. There was no problem in waiting for the morning, they would need the rest if they wanted to face tomorrow. He advised, “We can explain everything to him in the morning but right now the two of you need the rest. It won’t feel any better tomorrow, but you will be better equipped to handle his reaction.” Somewhere in the back of his mind he was thinking about his inability to talk to kids but he knew better than to focus on it when the situation in front of him was much more important.

That was how he found himself making a call to Alfred explaining that he wouldn’t be home tonight while Dick changed into more comfortable cloths in the trailer. The uniform would probably have given him chaffing that made waking up even worse. Looking around the grounds, he saw the other performers diverting reporters and photographers from the area before he heard the screen door open and welcome him back in. Bruce noticed that the performance cloths Dick had been wearing were put in a plastic bag beside the trashcan and he remembered that it was still caked in blood. Dick followed his gaze and cringed at the thought of having to clean or wear it ever again. Just looking at it reminded him of his parents in a watching set dead on the ground. Seeing his shoulders deflate again, Bruce decided to take the initiative for the rest of the night.

Bruce felt proud for getting Dick to drink some water before helping him into bed, it hadn’t been that hard considering the boy was half asleep already. At the very least the cold liquid would help his sore throat and at the best it would help him fall asleep faster. Bruce didn’t even try to help him into the upper bunk and watching Dick slowly crawl into the same bed as his little brother and retake his place Bruce knew he might never be able to separate them. Even though he was still asleep, Tim enjoyed that his brother had returned and moved half of his body onto his brother’s chest.

Once everyone settled and the breathing evened, Bruce sat in a chair and watched the boys sleep for hours.

He forced the police away and put the blanket back on the boys after Tim kicked it off again. He ignored the calls from meetings he was missing and watched the sunrise silently because he knew what came next. He knew what happened when you woke up and he knew they weren’t all that different once he saw Dick’s defeated face as he saw Bruce and knew it hadn’t been a nightmare.