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Intolerance

Bruce Wayne got out of his shoddily parked Jaguar, a thin oversized book under his arm. Marching across the eight-stall parking lot of the small pre school, he allowed himself one more grimace of displeasure before he had to put on his best 'Brucie' smile and act like he wanted to be here.

He despised Alfred's theories on child-adult relations.

"It would do well for you to attempt to relate to the children as 'Bruce Wayne' instead of 'Batman.'" Alfred had thrust the thin blue book at him, thus putting a hold on any work he planned on getting done in the cave today. "Perhaps he continues to dress up as 'Hamster Boy' because he is attempting to emulate the 'heroic' personalities in his family."

He contemplated the book with the cat on the cover. "The other one doesn't have a problem with Batman."

Alfred made that face. The face that he hated. The one where Alfred made a face without moving a muscle, the one that stated that Bruce had better shape up—or else.

Opening the door of the tiny building, Bruce checked in at the front office. It was a small school, a glorified converted ranch house, really. But it had six classrooms, brightly painted with cartoon characters, containing 68 chirping little jail birds between the ages of three and five years. He'd rather be in prison right now.

Heck, he'd rather be in HELL right now.

The secretary stapled two pink sheets to a form letter, and put it into a manilla folder, not noticing him until she reached for another stack. "Aren't you--"

"Bruce Wayne. I'm here for--" he cleared his throat. "Story time."

"Story time? With the Green class?" She was young and apparently easily excitable.

"James Grayson is my—his father is my adopted son." Could he please just get his visitor badge and get this over-with? The secretary just continued to stare at him, like this was a difficult concept. "His mother was supposed to, but she has a... uh... thing." Actually, one of her operatives was in desperate need of assistance in South America, at the moment, and had attempted to pawn the job off onto Alfred, who, in turn, had pawned it off on to him.

Rescuing Power Girl himself would have just been so much easier than all this.

The girl finally reacted. "You're Jimmy's grandpa!"

The exclamation felt like nails on a chalkboard. "Can I... you know." He pointed down the hall to the classroom with the green door. He waited a second for her star struck brain to catch up, then just walked out and to the classroom.

Jimmy looked around the classroom. Everyone else was putting their crayons and coloring books away, getting ready for story time. As inconspicuously as possible, he took his coloring book over to the box on the window sill, then took his handful of seven crayons over to the bin of colors near the teacher's desk. It used to be kept on the windowsill too, until the first time the heat came on in the fall, and melted a whole bunch of the crayons together. That had been so cool.

"Jimmy, we gave you eight crayons. Where's your black crayon?" His teacher asked.

He pretended like he hadn't heard her, and began walking back to his desk. Before he sat down, he opened the pocket on the chest of his overalls, and spit a slimy mass of ground up and chewed crayon inside.

Sliding into his seat, he folded his hands in front of him, like a model student. "I dunno, Mithes Gerthrude," he said innocently. "Maybe it gotted up and walked away." He smiled, very pleased with his lie. That's what dad always said about pie in the fridge, when he ate it after patrol. He'd tell mom that it musta got up and walked away. Dad was so good.

"JIMMY!" his teacher grabbed a tissue from the box on her desk, and marched over to him, exasperated. "What did we say about eating crayons?" She wiped his mouth and scrubbed at his teeth until he felt like he was going to choke on fluffy white. She only pulled it away when the classroom door opened.

Boy did he hope mom hadn't seen that. Then she'd know he didn't just do it at home.

Wiping his tongue on the sleeve of his green and blue rugby shirt, he looked up and cringed. "What're YOU doing here?" he asked, peeved.

"It's story time," Bruce said cheerfully.

Jimmy shuddered.

"Just so you know, you're not funny, Bruce. I know funny, and you're not funny." Cheerful Batman wasn't funny, it was scary.

As the aids gathered up the students and told them to go over to the reading carpet, Bruce waved the blue book, trying to feign enthusiasm. Barbara owed him. "Cat in the Hat," he announced. As the other kids settled in, he noticed Jimmy getting up and walking to the metal shelves beneath the window sill and removing a different book.

"Jimmy," he teacher said patiently. "It's story time. Now your grandfather is going to read to us..." Why did everyone need to use that word?

The young man marched up and tore the book out of his hand and replaced it with 'Green Eggs and Ham.' "Read this instead," the young man ordered.

"WHY?" Bruce asked a little louder than he intended.

"You'll ruin it. It'll be inthinthere."

"Insincere?" Bruce asked skeptically. How the hell could 'The Cat in the Hat' be insincere?

"Cuz yer not very funny."

Bruce opened the book. "I see."

"Why do you gotta punch 'em in the head?" Jimmy swung his legs back and forth. He sat on the top of dad's work bench in the Night-Cave (Jimmy came up with the best names for everything, he thought). He was fiddling with a screwdriver and a tazer while dad cleaned some of his equipment. Dad had been like totally muddy last night when he came in, and now all his stuff was crusty and nasty.

"You can't zap everybody, buddy," dad said, taking the tazer off of him just as he began sticking out his tongue, preparing to lick the tazer.

"But it's good. They go like this." He started shaking his body, then went limp. "That's so cool."

"You'll understand when you're older," Dick promised. "But I think we should talk about story time today."

"I knew I wuz gunna get radded out."

"Grandpa didn't rat you out, buddy. Alfie did." Dick wiped his hands with a rag, then hopped up onto the bench beside his son. "You gotta be nice to Grandpa, Sport. We talked about that. He's trying really hard."

Jimmy rubbed his forehead. "He's just not funny. And Alfie's ebil. I don't tell anybuddy when he grinds up brustle sprats and puts 'em in the chili."

"Alfred IS evil, but that's not the point. What'd we say about being friends with Grandpa?" Couldn't they all just get along?

Jimmy rolled his eyes. "I WAS bein' nice. I didn't let him 'milliate hisself."

"By telling him that reading the Cat in the Hat would be 'insincere?'" Dick tried not to roll his eyes when Jimmy started nodding vigorously. "I KNOW he's not funny. But that doesn't mean you can torture him."

"What CAN I do?"

"Buddy, come on. We know Grandpa Bruce isn't... real good with people. So we have to give him some room when he tries real hard. And he's not evil, and he's not mean, he's just inept, right? So that means YOU have to be the bigger party. It's like... being the grownup."

The next day, the worst thing happened. After preschool, instead of going out into the itty bitty parking lot and finding mommy in her Mommymobile (see, he really did have the best names for stuff), it was Bruce. In the stupid Jaguar. He leaned across the passenger's side seat and opened the door.

"Get in," he was ordered.

Jimmy thought about it for a minute. He might be in real, serious serious trouble. The kind where Batman ate little kids kind of trouble. "I'm not allowed ta get pickt up by anyone 'sides mommy and dad." Moma'd be real ticked if she knew Batman was kidnapping him.

"We are going for ice cream," Bruce said all authoritatively.

"You're not funny," Jimmy responded with equal seriousness. "I know funny. You're not funny."

"Your mother is busy. Alfred is... otherwise engaged, and there's a Sundae Palace on the next block. You can either wait here indefinitely for your father, or you can eat ice cream." Bruce frowned, like he was about to scold someone, then looked back at Jimmy. "I mean, if you'd like to get in the car, we can have some ice cream," this time his voice was much more pleasant.

Jimmy got in the car, pretty sure it was curtains for him.

"How was your day at school?" Bruce pulled out of the lot and turned to go down the block.

"Mitter Styx kikt the bucket. That sucked. Megan sez she'll sleep over my house if mommy says OK, but I think Mara's gunna be stupid and dumb so I don't wanna do it. And I eated really gewd wood glue." Jimmy licked the roof of his mouth. It was way better than paste and crayons. He'd haveta remember that.

"Was it Elmers?" Bruce did that creepy thing where he never looked at you. Dad must have had a really sucky time being Robin and being in the car with him all the time.

"It had a cow on it."

"Good. It's water soluble. You won't die."

Momma would have just paddled him with the wooden spoon again. Which mom did when he did stuff that could get him dead. That would have been way more fun than Bruce being all happy that he wasn't going to die. "You're still not funny."

"Noted." Bruce pulled into a parking spot in front of the Sundae Palace then got out.

Jimmy opened his door and slid off the seat, making a creepy squeaking sound with his backpack and the leather interior. Before he got completely out of the car, he backed up a little to make the squeaking sound again. "It'd make really gewd noise if it was PVC."

"Noted." Bruce dropped a quarter into the meter and locked the car doors.

Jimmy hated Bruce, but he liked ice cream, and ran up to the counter the second he got in the door. Usually he did this with dad, or better yet, Uncle Clark. There wasn't any parking and beeping with the car and stuff, because if you were really good, Uncle Clark would fly you. Batman couldn't fly, and Batman wasn't funny.

"What can I get for the little man?" the teenager behind the counter asked. He had a greasy face, and his hair was slimy too. Timmy needed to take more baths too.

But he was the keeper of the ice cream. So Jimmy grinned. "The Sooper Dooper. With dark choklit chunks, light choklit chunks, hot fudge an' marshmellins, five cherries and cookie crumbs. One scoop of choklit, one scoop of peanut butter, and two scoops of coffee. No whippt cream."

"Come here often?" Bruce asked, taking out his credit card.

Jimmy took his tray over to a table, being very very VERY careful not to spill. Like that last time. If Uncle Clark wasn't so fast, it woulda been curtains for the ice cream, and that would have made him really sad.

Bruce was drinking coffee. Why did Bruce have to be so grown-up about it? "Uncle Clark always shares my ice cream."

"I'm not Uncle Clark," Bruce pointed out.

"I know. He's lots funnier."

Bruce drank his coffee and Jimmy picked at his heap of toppings and frozen dessert. Bruce was kind of happy that his mouth was engaged in something besides talking. The other one didn't seem to be nearly as maladjusted. The child had eaten wood glue. If that wasn't a sign of something being wrong, then what was?

Jimmy stuck his finger in his mouth to pick the chocolate out of his molars. Sucking on his index finger, he seemed to have an idea. "You should just be less dumb." He licked his spoon, and tried to think of a way to say what he meant. His dad told him how to behave all the time, and he was supposed to be the grown-up, right?

"First you gots to learn to be funny. Maybe you can't. I dunno. But you should try. Like Johnny Carson. He's funny. An' the Cat n' the Hat. He's funny too. You're grumpy like the guy dat won't eat the green eggs. Timmy says it's a stick up your pooper. I just think yer ebil. And dats a problim. Less ebil, more ice cream. But if you have a stick up yer pooper, you gotta get it out." Jimmy knew about that. Mom wouldn't let him stick anything up his pooper since that one time when Doc Leslie had to come over and help get the little green soldier out. "It's just not healfy. And it's not funny either." A spanking with a wooden spoon not funny.

"I'll keep that in mind," Bruce said quietly.

Jimmy always felt like Bruce was just saying stuff. Not really listening to him, or not really saying what he was really thinking, or something. "You also gotta wear bright colors. Like red and blue and yellow. And be happy and stuff. Oh yeah. And you need to fly."

Bruce's lips pressed together. Hah, at least the old guy was listening.

"First step is you haveta eat the ice cream." Jimmy handed him a long metal spoon. "Next step is to stop being ebil. And if ya can do that, and all the other stuff, THEN I'll letcha read Cat In The Hat."

Jimmy was sitting on Dick's work bench when he got home from work. He'd attached several pieces of wire to a tazer, and was attaching a bigger battery.

"I hope you're not planning on using that on your sister, Sport." Dick tore off his tie and threw it near the pile of dirty laundry.

He noticed that Jimmy was still wearing his jacket and back pack. "Nope. I'm gunna blow up Batman." He sounded very calm. TOO calm.

Sitting on the work bench, Dick unbuttoned "What happened when you went for ice cream today?"

"I thought we was pals," Jimmy said, never taking his eyes off his work. "Pals don't set up pals."

"I just thought you guys were SO close to getting along. I wanted to help that. Now dad's your pal. Tell me what happened today." Dick took the monstrosity out of his son's hands so that he could get his whole attention. "Come on, kiddo. What happened at the Sundae Palace?"

Jimmy rubbed his nose. "He's real dumb, ya see? I did what you said. I was the growed up. The growed ups always say how to fix the problems, so I was saying how to not be ebil. I gived him a good plan. He hadta do all kinds of good stuff like watch funny people and stuff. But he wouldn't do the first thing I said to do."

"What's the first thing you said to do?"

"We couldn't eben get to the good stuff like watching Johnny Carson, or hangin' out with Uncle Roy. Cuz he wouldn't eat the ice cream." Jimmy started trying to reach around dad to get his toys back.

Dick held the screw driver and tazer just out of reach. "I NEVER got Bruce to eat ice cream. And there's a really good reason."

"Because he's ebil. Ice cream is gewd and it fixes all my stuff." He crawled onto dad's lap and grabbed his arm.

"Nooo, little Buddy. You don't get this back. It's not because Grandpa's evil. He just can't eat ice cream. It makes him sick."

"Because he's EBIL." Jimmy climbed onto his dad's arm. He hung on, trying to reach for the tazer, but he couldn't figure out how to grab it and not let go. Dad was dumb too. "Superman's gewd. Superman eats ice cream and Timmy eats ice cream. And he needs a baf and stuff, but he's gewd. But Batman's ebil."

Dick grabbed Jimmy by his shirt and put him down on the floor. "He's not evil, Jimmy. He's just lactose intolerant."

Jimmy folded his arms over his chest. "I don't know what that is, but it sounds ebil."

THE END