Summary: Bruce doesn't remember Dick's one-year anniversary as Robin--the usual angst ensues.
Author's Note: I started this one on the 60th anniversary of Robin's debut, but never got around to finishing it. After reading it through, one is led to believe that perhaps some things would be better left undone.:)
Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC and Time/Warner; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.
Copyright May 2003
By Syl Francis
He padded down the long, ornate staircase, his feet covered in a pair of soft socks. Bruce had gotten home late last night, long after the small boy had dropped off to sleep.
Today was his first anniversary as Robin, and Dick was determined to show his thanks to his mentor in a special way.
Dick listened carefully outside the kitchen door. Everything was quiet. Good! Alfred wasn't up yet. Sneaking into the Englishman's sanctum, Dick quickly scanned it until he found what he was looking for.
Gathering everything he needed, Dick placed a step stool up against the gleaming countertops. Climbing to the top step, he easily balanced himself as he set to work. Concentrating on the job at hand, he counted each scoop with care, ensuring that he followed the directions as stated: one scoop per cup, or to taste.
Studying the measurements along the carafe's side, Dick counted twelve. Plus, Alfred had told him before that if filled to the top, it added two additional cups. Therefore, he thoughtfully measured out two additional scoops of the ground coffee.
Satisfied, Dick pressed the 'brew' button on the coffeemaker and stepped off the step stool. He then pushed it next to the high cabinets where Alfred kept the bed trays; however, even standing on his tiptoes, Dick couldn't quite reach the top shelf. Exasperated, he looked around to double check that no adult eyes might be watching.
Seeing the all clear, Dick leaped straight up and without skipping a beat, reached inside the cabinet, smoothly pulling out one of the trays. Then looking as if he performed such incredible feats everyday, Dick landed easily on the top rung of the step stool, and not pausing, executed a triple somersault, landing easily on his toes.
He next hurried to the refrigerator and took out the milk and eggs. Opening the pantry, he searched for and found the breadbox. Yanking out the loaf, Dick then placed all of his booty on the kitchen island. With everything he needed at hand, Dick proceeded to crack the eggs, mix a little milk with it, and dip bread slices into the mixture.
Within in minutes, Dick was stirring and awkwardly flipping what he hoped would be French toast, like his mother used to make for his daddy and him on special days.
As he worked he thought about his parents and wondered if they would be proud of him. After all, he was no longer carrying on the family business. There had been a Grayson and a Lloyd in the circus for as far back as the families had records.
His mom's side of the family might have left the circus life for a couple of generations, but she told Dick that she'd always had aunts and uncles on the circuit. Which is how she met his dad.
She'd been visiting her circus family one day, when she met the handsome star of the show, John Grayson.
Dick stared pensively at the toast as it cooked on the griddle. Would his parents be upset that he no longer wowed the crowds under the big top? He knew that being the Batman's partner was important and exciting. And that he was helping people. But still. So much of what they did was in the shadows, away from the crowds.
The smell of toast burning brought him back to the present. He quickly flipped the pieces of bread and waited momentarily for them to finish cooking.
Minutes later, Dick was opening Bruce's bedroom door. Carefully balancing the tray, he placed it on Bruce's nightstand. The next instant, he woke his mentor and guardian the way only he could.
Taking a running start, he executed a handspring, which gave him the momentum needed to land--seated--on Bruce's stomach.
"Oof--!" Bruce grunted, instantly grabbing for his unknown attacker. Giggling, Dick easily slipped out of his guardian's reach.
"Happy anniversary!" he greeted cheerily.
Bruce blinked blearily at his ward. Dick's blue eyes were less than inch from his.
"Anniversary?" Bruce racked his brains. Hadn't they just passed the solemn anniversary of the murder of Dick's parents? That hadn't been a time for celebration, of course. So what were they celebrating now?
"I made some French Toast--like mom used to make. Only she didn't used to burn the edges like I did. I hope that's okay. I'll eat the burnt parts, if you want." Dick spoke without pause or taking a breath while he brought the tray over to Bruce.
Bruce took a look at the mess on his tray and almost gagged. He reached for the coffee and took a sip, nearly spewing it. Swallowing carefully, he managed to down the ultra-strong brew.
"You...uh--made breakfast?" he asked. "For me?"
"Uh-huh," Dick replied solemnly. "On account of it's our anniversary."
"Thank you, Dick. I really appreciate this," Bruce said, determinedly chewing and swallowing, forcing an appreciative smile as he ate.
"I've been Robin for a year now, Bruce. Can I start going out with you on weeknights now? I don't need all that sleep anymore. I'm almost eleven now."
Ah. So that was it. Dick's first year anniversary as Robin. Bruce's eyes softened somewhat. Almost eleven. It was hard to believe. His boy was growing up. Pretty soon he'd be driving--going away to college. Moving out. Girls.
Bruce felt suddenly sick to his stomach. Girls? He looked at Dick's ingenuous expression and relaxed. Girls might still be a few years away, he thought. Besides, Barbara was thankfully too old for the boy, no matter how many birthdays Dick celebrated. As for moving out...?
"Bruce? Can I? Start going out on weeknights, too?"
Bruce set the half-finished breakfast aside and turned to his ward.
"Dick, we've been over this before. No crimefighting on school nights. Period."
"But Bruce. That's not fair. How am I s'posed to be your partner if I have to stay home and do my homework?"
Bruce didn't turn as he put on his robe. He was afraid that he'd lose the battle against what he knew instinctively was Dick's pleading look. How had his parents ever been able to say 'No' to the boy, he wondered.
"Until you're older, and more experienced, the curfew stands. I'm sorry, Dick, but that's the way it is." He didn't bother to look at Dick. He knew that his words had stung Dick and he couldn't bear to face him.
"Yes, sir," Dick said disappointedly. He was about to clear up the breakfast tray, when Alfred walked in.
"I was about to ask you masters what you would like for breakfast. But I see that I'm too late."
"I'll clean up, Alfred," Dick said quietly. "I made the mess."
"Nonsense, young sir," Alfred said. "You've saved me half my morning duty. I'll take over from here. Master Bruce?"
"Mmmrrph?" Bruce asked. He was brushing his teeth.
"The tickets are on the hallway table, sir."
Bruce spit and gargled, then stuck his head out the bathroom door. "Thanks, Alfred."
Dick stood uncertainly in the middle of the bedroom. Tickets? To what? Probably some dumb show, he grumbled. Bruce probably had another date with that blonde model, Bunny or Buffy or Binky. He sat down suddenly on the massive bed, placing his chin in his small fist. Boy! he sighed disappointedly.
Dick had been hoping they'd celebrate his Robin anniversary by punching out a few crooks tonight.
A sudden came to him. What if they were airline tickets? Was Bruce leaving town? Like a shot, Dick bounded off the bed and headed out the door. He immediately spotted the white envelope on the hallway table and hesitated.
Maybe I shouldn't, he thought. Dick was about to turn away, but stopped. Then again...? Making up his mind, Dick reached for the enveloped and quickly peeked at the contents. "Theater tickets!" he muttered. Feeling hurt and angry, he threw them back on the table. Stomping off, Dick didn't notice that one of the tickets tumbled out of the envelope and lodged itself between the table and the wall.
"Alfred?" Bruce walked in the kitchen. He was freshly showered and casually dressed, and although he'd had less than two hours sleep, he looked refreshed. Alfred raised a questioning eyebrow. "I don't understand. There's only one ticket to the Wayne Foundation Children's Hospital Charity performance here."
Scowling in response, Alfred took the envelope from Bruce's hand. "I can't explain it, sir. There were two tickets in there this morning."
At his words, the two men exchanged identical looks. Alfred shook his head.
"No, sir. Master Dick would never--"
"Alfred, I don't have to be the World's Greatest Detective to add two and two." Before Alfred could reply, Bruce continued, "If you placed an envelope with two tickets on the table and now the envelope has only one ticket in it--and you didn't remove the missing ticket, and I didn't remove it either, that leaves only one logical conclusion--Dick must have removed it." Bruce paused, not liking the superior sound of his own voice. "Of course, if Dick removed the ticket, then he must have had a very good reason, don't you think?" By now, Bruce's voice had lost its earlier confident tone.
Alfred gave him a look of sympathy. "There is only way to find out, sir. Ask him."
Dick flew from one apparatus to the next, his athletic grace and ease of performance taking Bruce's breath away. The boy is definitely gifted, he told himself, and admitted privately that in many ways Dick's acrobatic skills were superior to his. He stood back, watching silently from the shadows, admiring at first and then with growing concern.
He's pushing too hard.
Bruce was about to call out a warning when Dick released the trapeze bar. The child acrobat somersaulted four times--almost faster than the eye could follow--stretched out and caught a safety line that Bruce hadn't seen until just that moment.
The kid's damned good!
Relieved, Bruce took in a deep breath and watched as Dick slid easily and gracefully to the cave floor. To his surprise, Dick wasn't done with his workout. The small boy took a running leap and slammed feet first into the exercise dummy. Shaking his head, Bruce leaned back in the shadows and waited until Dick went through his routine. Again, Dick surprised him.
Bruce clinically observed his junior partner as the young superhero put himself through a series of complicated moves that Bruce hadn't taught him.
Obviously, the boy had been doing some watching of his own. Bruce allowed himself a small smile. What had Dick told him this morning? That it was the anniversary of Robin's debut. It was hard to believe that an entire year had elapsed since Robin had made his first appearance. Apparently, Dick had made effective use of that year: observing, listening, learning.
And growing. Both in mind and body.
He's damned good!
Seeing that Dick was finally starting his cooling down exercises, Bruce stepped out of the shadows.
"There you are, chum," Bruce called. "I've been looking everywhere for you." Dick didn't bother looking up. Bruce hesitated, unsure of how to continue. "You were looking pretty good there. I see you've even picked up a few new moves." At Bruce's rare words of praise, Dick looked up pleased. However, the next instant he scowled, dampening the light in his eyes.
"Yeah...I guess so." Dick shrugged, and then arched backwards until his hands were touching the floor behind him. Without effort, he walked his hands inwardly until they touched his heels. So far, he hadn't done anything that Bruce himself couldn't do; however, he went one better.
Dick continued to walk his hands through until first his arms, then his shoulders, and finally his head had passed between his legs.
"You look like a pretzel," Bruce growled.
"Mom used to do it all the time," Dick replied. "It's no big deal."
"Yeah? Well, don't blame me if you get stuck like that. You explain it to Doc Leslie when she tries to untie you." At his words, Bruce detected the definite sound of a suppressed giggle from Dick and at last felt like the world was once again set straight on its axis.
For his part Dick had untangled and was now sitting, his legs stretched out in a scissors split.
"I know it was lousy of me to forget your anniversary, Dick. I hope you can forgive me."
Dick paused without looking up, and shrugging mumbled, "It's okay, Bruce. I understand."
"No, Dick...it's not okay." Kicking off his shoes, Bruce stepped onto the practice mat and sat down cross-legged next to Dick, forcing the boy to look up at him. Dick's expression was guarded when his eyes met Bruce. "You heard me right, son. I said that it's not okay. Tonight was a very important occasion for you, and I thoughtlessly forgot all about it."
"But you have a lot on your mind, Bruce!" Dick interrupted, coming to his defense. "I mean, you're Batman! You've gotta worry about Gotham City and everything!" At Dick's earnest sincerity, Bruce felt his throat constrict. He reached over and gently cupped the boy's chin.
"You're pretty great, you know that?" Bruce asked. Blushing, Dick looked down quickly. "And thanks for trying to get me off the hook. But I was still wrong." Dick was about to protest, when Bruce held up his finger to stop him. "Dick, Batman may have to 'worry about Gotham City and everything' as you put it--but I have you, too. And you're more important than anything else in my life. I want you to know that."
"I am?" Dick gave him a look of wonderment. "Me?" Bruce nodded solemnly.
"Yes, you--Dick Grayson." Bruce's eyes took on a faraway look. After a few seconds, his normally serious face softened into a wistful smile. "I guess I never thought about Robin's debut, because although I've only had you by my side for one year, it seems as if you've always been a part of my life." His eyes held Dick's. "It's hard to remember beginnings when you've forgotten that life wasn't always this way."
Not bothering to reply, Dick rose on his knees and threw his arms around Bruce's neck. He spoke quietly and fervently, spewing forth all the words and feelings that had been building inside him during the past months.
"I miss Mom and Dad, Bruce. And I miss the circus. But it doesn't hurt as much anymore. And sometimes...when it's just you and me like right now--or when we're Batman and Robin and punching out crooks--everything feels right. And I know Mom and Dad are happy."
"I know, son...I know," Bruce whispered.
A throat being cleared discreetly brought them back. "Excuse me for interrupting, Master Bruce. But Miss Gotham Gertie--" His droll inflection revealed just what he thought of Gotham's local gossip columnist. "--is on the line for you. She wishes to know whom you are escorting to the charity ball tonight."
The tickets! Bruce had forgotten about them! He'd come downstairs to ask Dick what he'd done with them and it had completely slipped his mind. Before answering, Bruce turned to Dick and was about to ask about them, when he stopped. The boy was looking at him, his expression valiantly fighting to keep from showing his disappointment.
Feeling a smile threaten to break, Bruce reached over and grabbed Dick, unexpectedly wrestling him to floor and tickling him. Dick shrieked in boyish delight, attempting to fend off the surprise attack.
"Tell Miss Gotham Gertie--" Bruce said, shouting over Dick's helpless giggles. "--that Mr. Bruce Wayne will not make an appearance tonight due to previous family commitments."
"But Bruce...You know I hate these things!" Lucius Fox protested.
"We must all make sacrifices for the good of others at times, Lucius," Bruce replied blandly. "And this is the time. Besides, didn't you tell me yesterday that your wife is always complaining that you never take her anywhere?"
"It'll do you good to get out into society, Lucius," Bruce said. "And now that you're the President of Wayne Enterprises you're going to have to attend more of these glittery functions." Bruce waved off Dick's impatient arm gestures. "Besides, I went to the last one."
"Bruce, I don't even own a tuxedo--"
"Oh, didn't I tell you? I took the liberty of having Alfred order one for you. It should be delivered within the hour. Oh, and Lucius...have fun!" As soon as he hung up, grim lines instantly replaced Bruce Wayne's vacuous smile. Pulling the cowl down over his head, he completed the transformation.
"Let's go, Robin," Batman growled.
"To the Batmobile!" Robin piped up.
"Can I drive?"
"When your feet can reach the pedals."