A/N: Okay, here it is, the final chapter. I want to thank all of you who have commented or PM'ed me throughout the course of this story. Your wonderful, thoughtful, inspiring comments have been what's kept me going throughout a dreadful year and the response to this story as a whole has just...there are no words. So thank you. I'm sorry about the delay for the last three chapters and promise faithfully to never do that to you wonderful people again. Also, I am working on a way of making it up to you! ;)
Just some announcements to make before I bit adieu to this behemoth of a story!
First: Arrow Comix is working on a comic adaptation of Volatile. And she's doing an awesome job of it! So far she has completed chapter one and is about three pages into chapter two. She's posting the comic to her blog online and I'm going to put the link to that on my profile for those of you who are interested. Even if you didn't read Volatile, you should check out her art because it's just so cool! (Okay, yes, it's also very exciting to me that someone is adapting something I wrote into a comic, but she's also a great artist so check her out!)
Second: I have a lot of stories planned (and even some started) for Young Justice, I am also working on something with another author on this site that I'm very excited about but won't go into any detail at this early stage as I am up to my eyes with final year at University and only very sporadically getting the chance to write, so it will probably be summer before anything is posted.
Finally: Thank you to my wonderful, incredible beta, HaleyKim. I literally do not know what I would do without you, (crash and burn most likely). So thank you.
Until summer you amazing YJ fans! Happy reading!
"There, all done." Bruce finished tying Dick's shoe laces and stood up. He smiled at the boy. "You ready to go home?"
"Am I ever!" Dick hopped off the bed and beamed up at Bruce, practically buzzing with eager anticipation.
Bruce knew how he felt. After five days in the hospital, Dick was finally being discharged, allowing Bruce to do the one thing he had been longing to do for over a month; bring his son home. He slung an arm around Dick's shoulder. "Alright, kiddo, let's go home."
Heading for the door, Bruce was grateful there were no last-minute doctor visits to delay them: Dr. Phillips had been to see Dick that morning, issuing a prescription for painkillers and instructions for Dick to follow over the next few weeks. He was due back at the hospital for a check-up in ten days, but for now the only thing that could potentially delay their journey home was the horde of reporters waiting outside.
Bruce scowled. He had thought the interest in Dick's case would wane once CPS dropped the charges, but to his surprise it had increased. It seemed the story of Bruce losing his son to false accusations of child abuse, only for the boy to be kidnapped, drugged and almost killed while in State care made for a fascinating tale, and all of Gotham was buzzing for a first shot of reunited father and son.
His scowl deepened. He wondered how fascinating they would find it if it happened to their families!
"Bruce, you okay?" Dick's voice interrupted his thoughts and he glanced down at the boy.
"I'm fine. Why do you ask?"
"'Cause you look like you want to hit someone."
Bruce gave a small laugh as they stopped at the elevators and he pressed the button. "You're not wrong, Dick. But it probably wouldn't go down very well on camera, especially given everything that's happened with CPS."
"You mean the reporters?" guessed Dick, the smile sliding off his face as the doors pinged open.
"Yes," Bruce replied with a grimace, stepping in after Dick and pressing the ground floor button. He had warned Dick about the paparazzi presence that morning, but Dick hadn't actually commented on them until now. Bruce had been hoping that it was because he was more comfortable about facing them with his guardian there, but that obviously wasn't the case.
Dick bit his lip. "Are there a lot of them down there?"
He looked nervous and Bruce squeezed his good shoulder to reassure him. "There are. But you're with me and they wouldn't dare overstep while I'm around. Plus, Gordon has sent a few officers to make sure things don't get out of hand. It's not going to be like last time, Dick, I promise."
"How long do you think it'll be before they get tired of this?"
Bruce bit back the 'probably never' that rose to the tip of his tongue. The paparazzi would never stop hounding them, but that wasn't what Dick needed to hear right before they faced a mob of them. "Give them a week and they'll be looking for another story, Dick."
"Liar," said Dick, quirking his lips in a half-smile.
Bruce sighed heavily as the elevator shuddered to a stop and the doors opened. "Alright. The paparazzi are always going to be around, but I'm looking into a way of protecting you from them, of making it illegal for them to harass you."
They stepped into the lobby and Dick looked up at Bruce quizzically. "How are you going to do that?"
"Kevin is working on helping me with a campaign to induce the Senate to pass a bill protecting the children of public figures. Apparently, several celebrities in the state of California are already campaigning for something similar and are close to having California legislation changed. I'm hoping that will pave the way for us to get a similar bill through faster."
"Do you think it will work?"
"Yes, because I'm going to make sure it does," Bruce replied firmly. He caught sight of the two police officers Gordon had sent to the hospital standing by the front door and sighed again. Damn paparazzi for wasting valuable police time like this.
They joined the officers by the doors and the tallest of them greeted Bruce. "Hello, Mr. Wayne. I'm Jack Freely."
"Officer Freely," said Bruce, shaking his hand. "Thank you for doing this."
The man waved him away. "Just doing our job. Now, the plan for this is that we're going to surround you both until we get you to the car. Your butler has managed to park a few feet from the bottom steps so it shouldn't take long. Once you're in, we'll keep the crowd back until the car can pull away. Commissioner Gordon is sending officers to your house so you can get through there as well."
Bruce nodded. Someone had leaked that Dick was being released today and the gates at Wayne Manor had been a veritable mob scene since early morning. It had taken him and Alfred almost ten minutes to get through, and that had been on the way to the hospital. He could only imagine the frenzy there would be when they knew Dick was in the car.
A roar went up outside and Bruce knew they'd been spotted. The crowd sounded ugly and he hoped Alfred hadn't been too badly harassed when he went to fetch the car. He looked down at Dick, who was staring through the glass doors with undisguised nerves.
"Are you ready, kiddo?"
Dick let out a breath and jutted his chin forward in determination. "Yes."
"Then let's do this." Bruce put his arm around Dick's shoulders and pulled him closer so that his broken arm was sheltered by Bruce's side. "Just keep your head down and follow my feet, okay?"
Dick nodded, and the police offers took up flanking positions before pushing open the doors.
The screams and roars of the waiting media was almost deafening. Bruce felt Dick tense immediately from where he was pressed into his side. Tightening his grip on the boy's shoulders while holding his other arm in front of Dick's lowered head, Bruce moved forward in tandem with the officers.
The paparazzi surged towards them, blinding them with camera flashes, and Bruce fought to keep his face neutral. He had enough experience to know that snarls and scowls were more likely to make some jackass provoke him into reacting. And while Bruce would be only too happy to break some vulture's nose, his aim here was to get Dick in the car as fast as possible. So he chose to keep his eyes fixed in front of him and ignore the wild screams and the camera pops and flashes as they closed in around them.
Fortunately, just as he'd reassured Dick in the elevator, the presence of the police officers and Bruce himself were enough to ensure that the mob maintained a careful distance, shouting questions at them from where they were clustered around them, but never actually touching them.
"Mr. Wayne, Mr. Wayne! What–?"
"How does it feel to have Richard back?"
"Are you going to sue CPS for–?"
"Richard, how does it feel to be going home?"
"How did Richard's kidnappers find him? Was…in CPS?"
"Are CPS…happened to Richard in their care?"
"Mr. Wayne, have you given any thoughts–?"
"Richard, what…kidnappers do to you?"
Most of the questions were indecipherable, tangled up in the howl of noise and confusion, but some of them made Bruce clench his jaw in an effort not to snap and snarl. Don't talk to him, leave him alone.
Only halfway down the steps and it was already taking everything Bruce had not to lash out. He was used to media swarms like this one, but it was only Dick's second time being exposed to such a situation. And after a terrifying first experience, Bruce could feel him shaking with nerves, further inciting his own anger into a buzzing, protective rage.
A few paparazzi ducked down to try and take a shot of Dick's face, lowered and hidden behind his guardian's arm. Bruce snarled furiously at the brazen action. If his arms hadn't been preoccupied with sheltering Dick, those men would have found themselves with their fucking cameras smashed back into their fucking noses!
Finally, they reached the bottom of the steps and the car came into view. Bruce felt the officers pack closer around them as the crowd tightened and quickened his step. "Almost there, Dick," he called to the boy.
Dick didn't respond, and Bruce guessed he either didn't hear him or was concentrating on following Bruce's footsteps.
The police officers pushed and shoved the last few feet to the car, clearing a path to the back door as they did so. One of them knocked on Alfred's window to alert him to their presence and Bruce heard the central locking whir into action. One of the officers opened the back door and Bruce hustled Dick towards it, sheltering him protectively while he climbed in.
"Thank you!" Bruce yelled at the nearest officer, before clambering in after Dick. Someone slammed the door shut behind him and he once more heard the click of the central locking.
And not a moment too soon. The handle on Dick's side of the car jiggled when someone tried to open it from the outside, causing Dick to jerk reflexively. Bruce growled low in his throat. "Let's get out of here, Alfred."
"At once, sir," Alfred responded, and the car rolled slowly forward.
Bruce could see the police officers herding the mob back from the car so it could pull away from the curb. Their job was made easier by the fact that the paparazzi could no longer get a shot of Bruce or Dick, and were breaking up quickly. Thank God for tinted windows.
He turned back to Dick, who was trying to buckle his seatbelt with somewhat shaky fingers.
"Are you alright?" Bruce asked, finishing the task for him.
Dick nodded before smiling up at him. "I can't believe I'm really going home, Bruce."
"Me either, kiddo," Bruce whispered, pulling him into a tight hug. "Me either."
Getting through the gates at Wayne Manor was easier than Bruce had anticipated. The officers that Gordon had dispatched to contain the mob did an excellent job of crowd control. It only took the car minutes to roll smoothly through the throng.
When the gates closed behind them, Dick heaved a sigh of relief and slumped back in his seat. "I'm not leaving the house for a week," he declared. "Those reporters are nuts!"
No one disagreed with him.
The car cruised up the drive, and before it had even pulled into the garage, Dick had his seatbelt undone and one hand on the door handle. "I'm home, I'm home," he mumbled gleefully, half to himself and half to Bruce.
Bruce laughed. "And home isn't going anywhere. Give Alfred a chance to park the car, Dick."
"I second that suggestion," Alfred spoke up, guiding the car into the extensive garage adjoining the manor. "Opening the door before the vehicle has come to a complete stop is certain to incur injury and I would hate for your homecoming to be spoiled by something as dreadful as that, wouldn't you, Master Dick?"
"Sorry, Alfred," said Dick sheepishly. But the gentle rebuke did nothing to curb his enthusiasm because the instant Alfred turned the engine off, Dick was out of the car like a shot and heading for the house.
"Careful on the stairs, Dick!" Bruce called after him, climbing out of the car.
The boy shouted a response that Bruce couldn't hear before he disappeared from view, clattering up the steps to the manor.
"He needs to slow down and be more careful," Bruce stated, as Alfred climbed out of the car. "We can't afford any more injuries after this mess with CPS. What?" he added, seeing something in the older man's expression.
"I was simply wondering if you plan on wrapping him in cotton wool for the duration of his recovery only, or can we expect such caution indefinitely, sir?"
Bruce scowled at Alfred's mild expression. "I'm serious, Alfred."
"So am I," replied Alfred, removing Dick's bag from the trunk of the car. "Master Dick is by nature an active and extroverted boy. Smothering him with overprotection will only be met with resistance, and it will create problems between you, sir."
"You're not just talking about me yelling at him for running on the stairs, are you?"
"Master Bruce, it didn't work before and it won't work now."
"You don't know that," Bruce argued. It stung that Alfred was so against Robin's retirement when he had once been so against his existence.
"Unfortunately, I do, " the older man retorted. "Sir, you must reconsider-"
"Hey, c'mon, what's taking so long?" Dick's voice interrupted suddenly, and he appeared on the steps again, his head cocked to one side and his expression a mixture of excitement, longing and impatience.
He mustn't have his key, Bruce realized.
"Master Dick, what have I told you about impatience?" Alfred reprimanded lightly.
"Sorry, Alfred. It's just, I haven't seen home in over a month!"
"Then a few minutes more shan't make much of a difference, shall they, young sir?"
They walked towards him and Bruce hid a small smile of amusement to see Dick jittering impatiently on the stairs. It reminded him of a Christmas morning when Dick was eleven and kept trying to get Bruce out of bed after a late patrol. He'd been too excited about giving Bruce his present to wait.
Something cold slithered through his stomach when he thought of how many Christmas Eves he had spent on patrol instead of at home with his son. And he'd very nearly been robbed of the chance to ever do so again. Bruce really wondered about his own priorities sometimes.
He and Alfred climbed the stairs to join Dick, and Bruce unlocked the door that led into the front hall of Wayne Manor. As they crossed the threshold into the house, Dick released a breath and stared happily around him, clearly drinking in the view.
Bruce exchanged a smile with Alfred. Seeing Dick standing there made Wayne Manor feel like home again. The house had been far too quiet and empty without him for the last few weeks. Stepping up beside the boy, he put one hand on Dick's uninjured shoulder. "Welcome home, kiddo."
Dick, looking indescribably happy, beamed up at him, and it was the first time in weeks that Bruce felt himself truly relax. "So," he said, ruffling the boy's hair, "what do you want to do first?"
"Um..." Dick shot a sheepish, almost hopeful glance at Alfred, "I am a little hungry..."
The butler gave the tiniest of smiles. "I can prepare you a light snack if you wish, but try not to ruin your appetite; I'm cooking crab-stuffed mushrooms for dinner this evening."
Dick cheered and tackled the older man with a one-armed hug, making him drop the bag he was holding. "Alfred, you're the greatest!"
"You flatter me, Master Dick," Alfred said fondly, smoothing one hand over the back of Dick's head. "But surely you knew I was going to make your favourite dish in celebration of your homecoming?"
"I didn't think about it," Dick admitted. "I was too excited about coming home."
Alfred nodded sagely. "Naturally."
"If we're having crab-stuffed mushrooms, then maybe- maybe I should just have a few cookies instead of something more filling. You know, so I don't ruin my appetite for dinner?" Dick suggested, looking up at Alfred with a deceptively innocent gaze that Bruce knew was anything but.
He coughed to cover his laughter while Alfred's lips twitched. "I think we can break the no-cookies-before-dinner rule in honour of the occasion. Would you like milk or hot chocolate with them? "
"Hot chocolate, please," Dick replied, squeezing him tightly one more time before letting go.
"Very good, Master Dick. Coffee for you, sir?" Alfred turned to Bruce.
"Please, Alfred, thank you."
"Excellent. I shall bring them into the den shortly." Picking up Dick's bag, Alfred gave the boy another smile before climbing the stairs.
"Smooth move, kiddo," Bruce congratulated Dick once the older man was out of earshot.
"No idea what you're talking about," Dick replied airily, but there was a wide grin on his face.
Bruce chuckled. "Of course you don't."
They headed into the den. The fire was set in the grate and Bruce put a match to it. Within minutes, flames were dancing merrily, making the room seem cosier than it had in weeks. Bruce gave a sigh of satisfaction and sat into an easy chair by the fireplace, directly opposite the one Dick had thrown himself into. Reclining comfortably in the chair, he smiled at Dick and asked, "So, how does it feel to be home?"
"There are no words for how awesome it feels."
They passed a peaceful afternoon, talking by the fire. Or rather, Dick talked and Bruce listened, which was how things usually went between them. Several times, Dick mentioned Robin, the team and Mount Justice, but Bruce managed to divert him from those topics with a few well-placed questions or non-committal "mmmmms." He didn't want to tell Dick about Robin until the boy had had more time to recover, and he certainly didn't want to ruin the boy's homecoming by giving him news that he knew would result in a fight. Besides, Bruce admitted to himself, he still had some doubts about Robin's retirement and he wanted the chance to consider those first.
Unfortunately for Bruce, he lost that chance after dinner. Lounging in his easy chair in the den, enjoying his coffee and aiming for a bit of a snooze before he went out as Batman, he was shaken out of his pleasant mood when Dick suddenly said, "You're not taking Robin away from me, Bruce."
He frowned, because how could Dick know? "Who said anything about taking Robin away from you?"
"No one. They didn't need to. You've had this look on your face for days, and it's the same look that you had after Two-Face. Not to mention that you change the subject every time I mention Robin."
Bruce's frown deepened. Dick hadn't been talking about Robin that afternoon because he missed being Robin, Dick had been talking about Robin to suss him out. When had the boy gotten so good at reading him? "Okay, you've got me," he conceded. "But surely you can understand why we have to do this, Dick, after everything that's happened with CPS."
"Actually, no, I don't, because I don't see how it's still an issue if everything has been sorted with CPS."
Bruce sighed. "It has been sorted, Dick, but that doesn't mean another injury won't get them involved again. If anything, it's more likely since your old injuries are now on their radar."
"Old injuries that were accounted for," Dick reminded him.
"That doesn't mean they can't create problems. Dick, I am not taking the chance that CPS will take you away from me again!"
"That isn't the only option, Bruce!" Dick fired back. "We can do more training to make sure I don't get hurt again, redesign my costume so that it's stronger, like yours-"
"My suit has more Kevlar than yours because I fight at close quarters! The whole point of yours being lighter is so you can use your acrobatics to keep you out of the fight!"
Dick gave a small grin of triumph. "Exactly, Bruce, I stay out of the fighting. I hadn't been hurt as Robin since I was eleven until what happened with Mammoth. I've gotten better the more I've trained and-"
"Two years without injury is not something to be pleased about. You should never have been injured in the first place. Not to mention that I've been doing this for years longer than you have, and I still get hurt."
"But you said it yourself, you fight at close quarters so of course you're going to get hurt," Dick persisted.
"And just because you've been trained not to engage doesn't mean you can't get hurt. What happened with Mammoth proves that."
"That happened because the rest of the team weren't paying attention to what was happening with Mammoth and Superboy. I'm not saying it was their fault," Dick added hurriedly, "but it's something that can be fixed with training."
"But all of that still doesn't guarantee that you won't get hurt!"
"And not being Robin doesn't mean I'll never get hurt! I mean, my head injury happened at school and then what the kidnappers did..."
Dick's voice tailed off and Bruce softened his own tone before replying. "But that's just it, Dick, it's so easy to get hurt. Don't you see, we need to lessen the chances of that so CPS can't take you away again. It's for the best, kiddo-"
"It's for your best," Dick interrupted, "not mine! Bruce, I know you don't like seeing me injured, but it's not fair to hurt me by taking Robin away so that you don't have to deal with it! How would you feel if you couldn't be Batman anymore?"
Bruce didn't answer. Much as he hated that there was a need for Batman, it was also the one thing that eased the awful grief of his parents' murder, that stopped him from slipping into total darkness. Batman had healed him. Not necessarily in healthy ways, but it had healed him nonetheless. He studied the flushed face of the boy in front of him. It hadn't even been five years since Dick's parents were murdered; his wounds were still far rawer than Bruce's own. Dick was still healing which meant that he needed Robin even more than Bruce needed Batman.
But Bruce needed Dick too. He couldn't bear to think of anything happening to the boy, and that chance increased tenfold whenever he went out as Robin.
"It's not fair to take Robin away from me just because it's easier for you, Bruce," Dick whispered, as if hearing his thoughts.
Bruce rubbed tiredly at his eyes. "Dick, this isn't just about me. CPS-"
"CPS won't be a problem if we're more careful in future," Dick replied desperately. "I'll train harder than ever! And I promise to be more careful, a hundred times more careful! Bruce, please... "
His blue eyes were wide and pleading as they stared at Bruce, and the billionaire pursed his lips. If he took Robin away now, it would make Dick utterly miserable, and possibly damage their relationship. But if he didn't and Dick was injured again...
Bruce gave a frustrated sigh and ran both hands through his hair. It was the same dilemma he'd been battling for the last few weeks; should he keep Dick happy or should he keep Dick safe? He wanted both for Dick, they were the two things he wanted most for him, but which one was more important? And why the hell couldn't they have both?! There was something just not fair about the fact that they couldn't.
"Bruce," said Dick, after several minutes of silence, "I- I don't want to fight with you but...you can't stop me from being Robin."
"Dick, I'm your guardian. Your welfare falls to me," Bruce reminded him quietly.
"And the decision of whether or not I'm Robin falls to me," Dick replied, his voice also quiet. "Robin is part of who I am, Bruce, you can't take that away from me. You tried before and it didn't work."
Bruce winced at hearing Alfred's words from earlier. He had retired Robin after what happened with Two-Face, and that had been an utter disaster that had nearly cost him the boy. Even worse was that it was a harsh reminder of the fact that Dick was so determined to be Robin that he would do it without Batman. And a Robin without Batman would be far more likely to get hurt than a Robin with Batman.
"Retiring Robin can't always be your first solution when things get hard, Bruce," Dick pointed out softly. "You always taught me that I can't run from my problems."
Instead of replying, Bruce studied him. Dick's flushed face, wide eyes and trembling hands showed just how nervous and upset this conversation was making him, but his whole argument with Bruce had been reasonably calm. In fact, it had been more of a heated discussion than an argument. Bruce had been expecting a full scale screaming match once Dick found out about his plans for Robin, but instead the boy had restrained himself with a level of control Bruce couldn't help but be impressed by. It proved that Dick was growing up.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Bruce ground out, "Alright, fine."
Bruce opened his eyes. "I won't retire Robin. BUT," he added loudly, before Dick could let out the yell he knew was on the tip of the boy's tongue, "once you're fully healed, your training will intensify. We're going to spend more time on evasive and defensive manoeuvres, as well as increasing your tactics training."
"Yes! Thank you, Bruce! I promise I'll work twice as hard!"
"The team are also going to have considerably more training in stealth, tactics and awareness of their surroundings," Bruce continued. "You are also going to tell them why that is."
"You mean...about not being aware of what was happening with Mammoth and Superboy?"
"And the fact that it led to you getting injured because you should never have had to engage with Mammoth."
"They need to take this seriously, Dick. You don't have powers like they do and the team need to be far more aware of that."
"Artemis doesn't have powers either," Dick pointed out.
"All the more reason for the team to increase their training."
"Those are my terms for you staying Robin, Dick, take it or leave it."
Looking slightly unhappy, Dick sighed. "Alright, fine. I agree."
"Good." Bruce softened his tone. "Dick, I'm not trying to make your team see you as weak. I'm just trying to make sure you stay safe when you're in the field. You're important to me, kiddo, and I need to know that you'll be okay. You can soften the blow by telling the team that we're going to be focusing on each individual team member's weakness so that you'll all be better equipped to handle it."
"You mean like how Kryptonite affects Superboy?"
Bruce nodded. "And how heat can affect Miss Martian and Aqualad. Or how Kid Flash's metabolism means he can weaken very quickly if he doesn't get enough food."
"So...it's to protect all of us?" Dick asked carefully.
"Yes, Dick, it's to protect all of you." But you most of all. Bruce didn't voice his last thought since he suspected that would bruise the boy's ego. But he just could not take the chance that what happened with CPS would happen again. Aside from being unable to stomach the idea of losing his son again, Bruce was afraid of what might happen to Dick; he'd almost been killed in foster care once already. The ruthlessness of kidnappers made them dangerous. Speaking of which...
"Dick, there's something else we need to do."
"There is?" Dick raised a questioning eyebrow.
"We need to put out the word that Dick Grayson is taking self-defence lessons so that you'll have a reasonable excuse to defend yourself if you're ever threatened again. I'll pretend that I'm having a private tutor come to the manor since you don't actually need lessons, I just want you to be able to use those skills."
"But...I thought you were afraid of people making the connection between me and Robin?"
"You've been kidnapped and almost killed twice in less than a year, Dick," Bruce pointed out, shuddering. "No one in Gotham would question you learning self-defence after that. Besides, as far as Gotham are concerned, your skills would strictly be at the self-defence level, nothing like what you can do as Robin." Bruce scowled. And I hope to Christ you never have to use them.
"Oh. Okay." Dick smiled. "I like that idea, Bruce. I hate having to pretend I'm defenceless."
"I hate it too, that's why we're not doing it anymore." Bruce wasn't letting Dick fall into such a vulnerable position ever again.
"You know, people thinking I'm doing self-defence might also come in handy for if I'm ever injured as Robin again," said Dick thoughtfully, before adding hurriedly, "Not that I plan on ever getting hurt again! But you know, let's say if I got a black eye or something, self-defence lessons would give us an excuse for CPS."
"No more injuries!" said Bruce vehemently. "I don't care if you can give a viable excuse, there will be no more injuries. You've promised me you will work twice as hard to ensure that and I plan on holding you to it."
"Okay, Bruce, okay."
They looked at each other for a moment before Dick gave Bruce a megawatt grin.
"What?" demanded Bruce, because that grin looked way too smug.
"I've just realized, this is the first time I've ever won an argument with you."
Bruce couldn't help but laugh, and the last of the tension drained from the room. "I wouldn't get too used to it if I were you."
"Because I'm the master negotiator in this house, kiddo."
"Oh, yeah? Ever won a negotiation with Alfred?"
Dick burst into laughter.
"Alfred doesn't count," Bruce reminded him, a large grin now tugging at his own face. "No one has ever won a negotiation with Alfred."
"You think anyone ever will?"
"Not in this lifetime."
"Heh. Not unless Alfred's been bodysnatched."
Bruce arched an eyebrow. "Bodysnatched?"
"What? It could happen!"
"You and Wally watch too many movies."
"So," said Bruce, changing pace. "What are your plans for the rest of your first evening at home?"
"Um...actually, I kinda thought maybe- maybe we could watch a movie together?" Dick looked hopefully at him.
"A movie?" Bruce repeated, surprised. They rarely did that, mainly because their taste in movies was so different.
"Yeah. Un-unless you've got to go out," Dick added, his face falling a little.
Bruce glanced at the clock. It was past nine pm; time for Batman to be heading out. Even though it was Dick's first night home, Bruce had intended on going out as Batman. He'd missed patrol several times over the last few weeks while working on Dick's case or spending time with him in the hospital, and crime was up a little.
But then he looked back at where Dick was trying to hide his disappointed expression, and felt something tug inside of him. He'd only just gotten his son back after a nightmarish few weeks, not to mention what Dick had suffered. Bruce had put Gotham first many times before, too many times before. It was his son's turn.
Bruce shook his head, making Dick's whole face light up. "No, kiddo. The only place I have to be tonight is right here at home with you."