Well, after a long and extremely busy school year, summer has finally arrived and I have enough time to write again. It's been a while, so I thought I'd start back up with a new story. I haven't updated Side Effects May Occur in a while, and that will happen in due time. But for now, hope you enjoy this one. It features various little moments in Bruce and Dick's lives together, and it will not be in chronological order. There will be some jumping around with Dick's age, but I'll do my best to tell it to you in each chapter. I have no idea how long this story will be, but let's find out!
"—and then Sammy hit the ball and WHOOSH! Right over the fence! That tied up the game so my team really had to do something to—"
Bruce unconsciously placed two fingers to his temple and massaged it as he closed the door leading from the garage. Dick Grayson's high-pitched eight-year-old voice reverberated of the walls of the nearby kitchen and into the utility room where Bruce now stood. After a strenuous day at work battling off an attempted hostile takeover of the R&D department of Wayne Tech, Bruce began to feel hints of a headache coming on that did not quit even with the self-proscribed treatment of riding back from work with the Porsche's top down. Hearing the boy's animated telling of his playground baseball game saga threatened to push the billionaire into dangerous territory with his head pains.
It was not that he did not enjoy Dick's talkative nature. On the contrary, he found it remarkably…refreshing to hear noises in the manor again besides the typical creaking and groaning of and old and empty mansion. It was just that Bruce was only now beginning to understand how open the boy was. How happy he was to regale all who would listen with his numerous daily adventures, his frank opinions and his endless questions ranging from how a person's day was going to the motivations that drive people to commit evil acts. For the first few weeks that the boy lived in Wayne Manor, he scarcely uttered a syllable to Bruce beyond what was absolutely necessary to answer the billionaire's questions and few sad attempts at conversational prompts. Bruce assumed that it was a combination of the twin traumas of losing his family and being forced to fend for himself in a juvenile detention center for two weeks immediately afterwards and Dick's nature. He now understood that Dick's quietness in those first few weeks had absolutely nothing to do with his nature. The boy did not appear to possess a quiet bone in his body save for that which magically appeared during stealth training and then promptly submerged again when he thought of some random question which inevitably led to a veritable perfect storm of more questions.
Bruce's first evidence of Dick's talkative and inquisitive nature came a few weeks after his arrival. When Bruce was out of sight, he would occasionally hear Dick chatting with Alfred as the butler gently encouraged the boy by offering him questions, reactions and sage responses. As soon as Bruce entered the room, however, Dick would immediately cease speaking unless directly addressed, keeping his eyes trained either on the floor or on whatever object he was fiddling with in his hands at the time. This at first perplexed Bruce, then baffled him, then frustrated him.
Over time, Dick's shyness faded as Bruce, using what he felt must surely have been the patience of a thousand dry English butlers, began to break down his walls. The last of the barrier between them was finally removed after Bruce revealed his identity as Batman and allowed Dick the opportunity to take down Zucco himself. After that, Dick began his official tutelage under Bruce. Though he was still in the earliest stages of his training, the boy showed an undeniable amount of promise.
"—so I slid into home just like that and we won the game! But then we had to go to Mrs. Lockley's music class and practice recorders, which I don't like." Dick finished the sentence by scrunching up his face in disgust.
"A riveting tale, Master Dick. Though I do hope that in the future, you show more appreciation for the humanities. I'm afraid Master Bruce never gained an adequate disposition for them, and I do so enjoy discussing Bach over a cup of tea." Alfred called over his shoulder as he washed dishes at the sink.
"I prefer Beethoven, Alfred." Bruce sighed as he entered the kitchen, placing his suit jacket on the table where Dick sat.
"Hey Bruce!" Dick grinned up at his guardian from his seat. "How was work?"
Bruce offered his charge a small smile. "It was work, chum. And school?"
Dick swung his legs beneath his chair as he answered. "It was good. I had cheese sticks and chocolate milk for lunch. The lunch ladies were really surprised that Alfie let me eat the stuff that they cooked today."
"An oversight that I shall attempt to remedy with this kale salad for your dinner, Master Dick."
Dick scrunched up his face again. "Kale is weird."
Bruce nodded discreetly. "Did anything else happen that was noteworthy besides a lunch that was way too cheap for what I pay to that school?" As soon as he said the words, Bruce mentally kicked himself. Dick had still not quite adjusted to living in a household with discretionary income, much less one with one of the largest fortunes in the country.
The boy frowned. "I can go to a cheaper school, Bruce. Or maybe Alfie can just homeschool me like my parents did!"
Bruce waved his hand. "It's fine, Dick. It was just an off the cuff remark. I didn't mean anything by it. The money that goes to Gotham Academy for your education is well-spent. Is there anything else you want to tell me about your day?" The billionaire doubted it would be so, but he hoped the question would be enough to divert the boy's attention from the idea of homeschool.
Dick paused for a moment in thought. His face then lit up. "Oh! Right, I have something I'm supposed to give to you." He leaped off the chair and scurried over to the utility room's coat rack, which currently held his backpack. Returning to the table, he unzipped the bag and removed from it a single large white envelope with the words "CLASS PORTRAITS" flourished across the bottom in blue ink. He handed the envelope to Bruce. "My teacher told me to let you look at these. They're from that weird photo shoot thingy we did at the beginning of the school year."
Bruce hesitated for a moment, and then took the envelope. Dick, having been homeschooled until this school year, had never had the experience of taking school pictures. Bruce, however, remembered with a slight sense of dread the agony that Alfred put him through on the mornings of a class picture day. The cycle was repeated a few weeks ago, when the butler attacked his youngest charge with a wet comb in an attempt to tame the boy's mop of black hair.
Despite Alfred's valiant attempts, Bruce's class pictures were ruined every year by his abject refusal to replace his scowl with anything that would pass for a smile. For this reason, Bruce expected little when he removed the 8"x10" picture from the envelope. He turned it over to look and paused for a moment.
Dick was…absolutely adorable. He appeared to be looking over his shoulder slightly while standing in a grassy area. The camera had zoomed in on his face, which was dominated two clear, bright blue eyes which indicated the boy was laughing at the time the picture was taken. His wide smile revealed a perfectly white set of teeth save for a gap in the lower right corner where he lost a baby tooth. His black hair fell across his forehead to just above his eyes as he beamed up at the camera. The academy permitted parents to request that their children be allowed to take school pictures in street clothes instead of their uniforms; Dick then begged Alfred to secure permission for him. As such, the boy was wearing jeans and a bright red shirt, a far more fitting look for a child that spent the bulk of his after-school hours looking for trees to climb. And rocks. And gymnastics equipment. And chandeliers. Anything, really.
"How are they, Master Bruce?" Alfred walked over to the table and peered over Bruce's shoulder.
Dick looked at the ground and dug the toes of one of his feet into the floor. "They're just some dumb school pictures. Our school wants us to buy them, but I don't think we have to. I saw the prices, and they're really expensive. I don't even know why. All they did was point a camera at me and press a button." He grumbled and looked at the two men across the table from him.
Bruce gave another small smile. "They're fine, Dick. Why don't you go upstairs and get washed up before dinner?"
Dick grinned at his guardian. "Yeah, I'm starving!" He hopped off his chair and ran out of the kitchen, the sound of his pitter-pattering footsteps echoing long after he had gone out of sight.
Alfred looked at Bruce. "Do you intend to purchase any of these, Master Bruce? I must say, the young master looks rather dashing in them."
Bruce nodded. "They look good, don't they?" He proceeded to pull out the rest of the photos, which appeared to be of varying sizes and several different poses. In each one, Dick's wide smile beamed up at the pair. The billionaire silently considered each one before organizing them back into a stack and handing the order form to Alfred. "I'll buy them all."
He stole one last glance at the 8"x10", pausing to consider it for a few more moments. "And can you order four or five of this one?"
The butler raised his eyebrow. "Four or five? Why so many? I would like to have one for my study of course, to match your own portrait—though Master Dick's fortunes with the camera far exceed what you had at his age—but where else would you like them?"
"Well…it's such a great picture…I was thinking I could put one in my study too. And on that table in the foyer."
Alfred seemed slightly startled at this revelation. "The table with the photograph of your parents?"
"Well, yeah, is there something wrong with that?"
"No, not at all…I shall place the order tomorrow and visit Huntington's to buy some frames for them." Alfred could not hide the ghost of a smile as he returned to the sink.
"Good. When you have them framed, just give a few to me." I have another place in mind too, Bruce thought.
"Morning Mindy!" Lucius Fox called to the CEO's receptionist as he entered the waiting room outside of Bruce Wayne's office.
She looked up and smiled. "Hello, Mr. Fox. What can I do for you today?"
Lucius walked up to her desk. "I was wondering if Mr. Wayne had time for a quick unscheduled appointment. Shouldn't take more than five minutes, I just need to grab a couple papers that he's already signed for me."
She frowned and turned to her computer to pull up a master schedule. "Mr. Wayne is in a meeting with Malcolm from R&D until noon. After that, he takes his lunch. Is this something I could help you with?"
Lucius shook his head. "No, but fortunately I have a key to Mr. Wayne's office. I'll just sneak in there and grab the papers from his desk and leave him a note. Just let him know when he gets back that I stopped by."
With that, Lucius turned, walked to the heavy oak door and unlocked it. Humming a light tune as he entered the office, he walked to the desk and picked up a small stack of papers, rifling through them briefly. Suddenly, he looked up and froze.
"Mindy!" He yelled hoarsely. "Mindy come here! Quick!"
Alarmed, the receptionist hurried through the doorway. "What is it Mr. Fox?! What's—"
She was abruptly cut off by the CFO pointing to a single object on the expansive desk. Mindy looked at it, and then her jaw dropped. "Is that what I think it is?" She asked as she approached the desk.
"Yep." Lucius nodded incredulously. The pair stared in awe at the object: an 8"x10" silver frame which contained the picture of an impossibly cute little boy.
Lucius and Mindy had reason to be shocked. When Bruce first assumed the role of CEO at Wayne Tech, the pair ardently tried to give the office some sort of personal touch primarily through introducing pictures to the area. On Bruce's first day, a small picture of his father shaking hands with President Carter greeted him on his new desk. Bruce removed the picture from his desk and took it to Wayne Manor, coldly informing Lucius that his office was a work space and clutter in an area for such a purpose was unacceptable. Mindy later tried to add an even smaller picture of Bruce's mother during a visit to the United Nations; it also disappeared less than an hour later. Over the next few years, Lucius and Mindy periodically tried to surprise their employer with pictures of his parents, of himself doing an activity, hell, even of sailboats and sports cars which provided zero indication of emotional attachment to any living thing. Each picture disappeared without a trace soon after discovery and was never seen or heard from again. Eventually, the pair gave up and accepted that their employer would always have a coldly functional desk.
But this…this was not just a picture but a full-sized picture of a person.
Recovering from the shock, Lucius grinned. "He really is a cute kid."
Mindy returned the smile and nodded. "He lights up a room."
"What are you two doing here?" They looked up to see Bruce standing in the doorway, a suspicious look on his face.
"I came in here to grab those papers I gave you earlier and I, uh, stopped to admire this picture." Lucius gestured towards the frame. "Is it new?"
Bruce crossed the space from the doorway to his desk. "Yes, it is. Dick had school pictures taken a few weeks ago. They turned out very well, wouldn't you agree?" The CEO looked down at the picture with a trace of fondness on his face.
"Yeah, it looks great but…what is this?" Lucius inquired.
"A…picture of my son?" Bruce replied, looking at his employees in confusion.
Mindy covered her mouth, stifling a laugh and she shook her head and returned to her desk. Lucius and Bruce turned to watch her go before Lucius spoke up again. "You've always kept your desk so clear. What made you decide to add a picture to it?"
Bruce looked at Lucius with a mixture of disbelief and impatience. "Have you seen this picture, Lucius? Does it really look like my desk stood a chance from the second I saw it? School gets him seven hours a day. I should get something of his back from school."
Lucius stole one more glance at the picture before smiling and looking back at his employer. "This boy is good for you, Bruce."
Bruce nodded. "Yes, I…I think I'm beginning to see that." He sat down at his desk and readjusted the frame to face more towards him. "Besides, it's not like I've ever been completely opposed to pictures on my desk."
With that, the smile was wiped from Lucius's face and replaced with a look of outrage. "Yes you have!"
"Um, no, no I haven't."
"Yes you HAVE! Mindy and I put probably dozens of pictures on your desk when you were starting out here and you got rid of every single one of them!"
"I did not do that."
"Yes you did!"
"Lucius, I have no recollection of you ever putting any pictures on my desk. I never removed anything."
"You—YES YOU DID!"
"Get out of my office."