Title: Been Thinking

Author: Simon

Characters: Dick/Bruce/Alfred

Rating: PG, I guess

Summary: Dick asks Alfred to clear up a question

Warnings: none

Disclaimers: These guys aren't mine, they don't belong to me, worst luck, so don't bother me.

Archive: Fine, but if you want it, please ask first.

Feedback: Hell, yes.

Thanks again to both Syl and Beta for the Beta. Thank you ladies.

Been Thinking

"So, anything new around here?"

Alfred looked over at Dick. They were sitting in the kitchen, the young man having dropped in for one of his unexpected and welcomed visits a little while ago. Every time he walked through the kitchen door, laughing, feet usually muddy and always hungry, Alfred would feel the whole atmosphere of the old house lighten immeasurably and would be unable to restrain the smile he tried to contain most of the time. So, here they were, sitting in the always immaculate kitchen, catching up over tea and homemade scones.

"You know that nothing changes here if we can avoid it." He was talking about the house proper. The cave was always in flux, always upgrading and improving. The house—well, Dick would be hard pressed to name a single piece of furniture that had been shifted so much as a foot since he'd moved in almost fifteen years ago. "All is well with you, I trust, Master Dick?"

"Can't complain." Dick stood up, stretching a little, his back cracking as he twisted back and forth. "Is Bruce supposed to be back anytime soon?"

"I fear not. He's been called to London for the day and may have to stay over." Alfred caught the slight disappointment on the young man's face. He always was as transparent as glass when not on his guard. "I'd enjoy your company for dinner, if you've no pressing engagements. You know how I dislike cooking for just myself."

"If we can eat in here." He meant the kitchen. Master Dick always was one for informality.

"If that would be your pleasure, I suspect it can be arranged." Alfred took the cups and things over to the sink. "I trust that steak and baked potatoes meet your approval?"

"If the steak is medium, it does."

"Also arrangeable." Alfred got the meat out of the refrigerator, and prepared to marinade the thing, while Dick watched, seeming not to know how to say whatever was evidently on his mind. That wasn't like him; the boy never hid behind small talk. Usually, he jumped into any conversation—assuming he hadn't decided to go to earth with whatever was troubling him as the Master did all too often. If Dick had something to say, he'd generally just say it and be done with it. Hemming and beating around the bush were unusual for the young man.

Well, it would come out in good course and in its own time.

"I think I'll go down to the gym and work up an appetite, if that's okay, Alf—dinner in a couple of hours?"

"Of course it's all right, and dinner shall be at its normal time, seven o'clock, just as always." Perhaps after his workout, or after the meal the boy would feel more like talking about whatever was really on his mind.

Dick flashed his smile, the one that caused the eligible young women to pin their hopes on meeting him. "Later, Alf."

Down in the gym and changed into workout clothes, Dick moved directly to his favorite apparatus—the high bar. It was the one thing that came closest to the trap—well, minus the swinging and catching, minus the real flying, that is.

Hey, you do the best you can with what you've got, right?

Dick loved the feeling of spinning around the bar—he'd pull himself up to a handstand position, make himself fall either forward or backwards as the mood struck him, hands feeling the friction and heat of the metal, even with the chalk. He'd give a little push and the momentum would bring him back up to the handstand. Maybe he'd change his grip, maybe execute a flip over the bar at the peak, a release move—he loved the feeling of the jolt with the catch, loved the feel of air moving past him—feeling himself moving through the air, being in the zone.

If he tried just a little, he could almost pretend that he was back at Haley's with his parents, and they could be in a rehearsal, say, where they could joke a little. He'd be on the platform waiting to take off—his father would be on the other swing, his mother on the other platform across the tent. He'd grip the bar, pull back a bit, and push for the take off. Swing. Release. Tuck quickly. Turn one, two, three, four fast sommies. Straighten out—smack his hands into his father's, see his smile and hear, "Good job"! Swing once, maybe twice then back to the platform where he'd started.

Applause.

God, he'd loved doing that.

He missed it when he thought about it, but now he made a point not to think about it all that often; not any more. Sometimes he dreamed about it, though, and he always remembered the dreams in the morning.

Focusing his full attention back on what he was doing, Dick swung around the high bar, faster, faster, winding up for the dismount. Wait for the timing, wait for the apogee for the height—release. Tuck. Turn. Spin, once, twice, three and the final—open out, feet together, knees slightly bent to absorb the impact of the landing. Plant. Stick. Arms up.

Applause.

Well, applause in his mind's ear, anyway.

Back up on the bar and do it again.

And again.

And again.

Repeating the practiced movements over and over until the minor and imagined flaws were worked out, corrected to the standards that both of his fathers had drilled into him; a leg straighter, an turn sharper and tighter, a dismount slightly more controlled, his posture just a little more erect.

Dick glanced up at the clock, it was quarter to seven and he had to shower before he could join Alfred. Even eating in the kitchen after a workout, he knew that there were standards that would never be relaxed.

Two minutes before seven and with his hair still dripping, Dick walked into the kitchen wearing a clean pair of jeans and a new Haley Circus tee Pop has sent him just this week. He could smell the broiling steak a hundred feet before he got to the doorway. He never knew what exactly Alfred did to a piece of cow, but no one anywhere ever made a simple piece of meat taste as good.

Halfway through his seconds and after another fifteen minutes of small talk about how maybe they could all go somewhere this summer, and how Bruce was thinking about trying to brighten up the Manor a little with lighter color paint in the rooms that weren't paneled and new carpets, Dick decided that it was time to cut to the chase.

"So, Alfred? Do you happen to know if there's a copy of my parents' insurance policy anywhere?"

Good Lord, what on earth brought that up? Of course, it was probably the reason he was here today—something had made him wonder about that and when he was suspicious, he could be worse than Bruce. Alfred knew when Dick walked through the kitchen door a couple of hours ago that he hadn't just 'dropped in'. He knew there was some reason for the lad to appear the way he had, but what the devil would bring something like that up now after all this time? "I'm not really sure, certainly the insurance company would have a record, I would think."

"I checked last week. The company doesn't. In fact, I checked with every insurance company I could think of and none of them had any records of my parents ever buying a policy with them." He was trying to hide the intensity of his question behind casually buttering another piece of homemade bread.

"Really?" He had told the Master that his ruse wouldn't hold up forever. The youngster was simply too bright to have the wool pulled over his eyes for long.

"Uh-huh, really." Dick drank an inch of his beer. "Did you ever see the thing, Alf?"

"Well, no. I can't say that I ever have. What makes you ask?"

"Because it doesn't make sense."

Alfred got up, started to clear the table. "What is it you're having trouble with, Master Dick? It's not like you to talk around a subject."

Dick leaned back in his chair, relaxed but focused. "My parents didn't have any money to leave me when they died—none to speak of, anyway. Haley was starting to hit hard times and there had been some pay cuts across the board, even for the headliners. Mom and Dad didn't have more than a couple of thousand dollars in the bank—if they even had that much."

Alfred wasn't going to let the boy bait him into saying anything. There was no need; it was clear that he'd already figured it out on his own.

"And there wasn't any insurance policy because circus aerialists can't get insurance—especially ones who work without a net at forty or fifty feet. And even if they could have gotten insurance, there was no way they could have afforded the premiums when they were killed."

"Go on."

"So Bruce donated the seed money Lucius grew into what's now 'my' money, didn't he?"

Of course he had.

"No comment, Alfred? Okay, so when does Bruce get back?" He got up, started to pull his jacket off the back of the chair.

"Sit down and listen to me. Evidently you know perfectly well what happened and you also know exactly why it was done. Master Bruce augmented your parents legacy to you with a bit of his own money so that you would always be taken care of, just as your parents would have wanted and with which the Master heartily concurred. It was originally intended as a college fund—don't waste your time giving me one of your looks, young man—I've been glared at by the best."

"Added to it? How much?" Dick was angry and hurt; not by the money itself or even that Bruce had been the source, but by the secrecy. "Bruce started a college fund? C'mon, Alfred, he can take tuition out of pocket change if he wants to."

"As I said, he augmented the money your parents left you, but not with as much as you seem to think. I believe that he merely doubled it to make up what was still not an enormous sum; it was quite modest, in fact. You may credit Mr. Fox with your current net worth as he's the one who invested it so well." Alfred came back to stand next to where Dick had moved closer to the door, motorcycle helmet in hand. "And you also know the master firmly believes that one must make his own way in the world. That was the quite simple reason he chose not to inform you of the eventual size of the account until you were more than well enough grounded to not be foolish with it."

The young man, looking suddenly much older than twenty-three, barely managed not to be overtly rude. "I know—I used to work with him, remember?"

"And you understand the reason for what he did then, as well."

"The end justifies the means?"

Alfred was surprised to see that Dick still seemed angry at the thought that the Master had kept something he obviously considered important from him. He'd always reacted poorly to being deceived, of course, but that wasn't really the case here. Not really, not about the money and not about Bruce wanting to keep him as safe as was possible. Of course, it had all backfired when the boy—the young man, went off to his own city and decided to work alone with no immediate back up available should he need it. Bruce had forced Dick from the frying pan directly into the fire. "You do know that you should ask Master Bruce this question, don't you?"

"Yes, I do know that, but I also don't think he'd tell me the truth now anymore than he did two years ago when I was told about the money."

Alfred heard the pain and the anger, the sense of being betrayed and knew he had to stop it. This couldn't fester any longer, the strain between the Bruce and Dick was already too ingrained.

"He only took what your parents left you and added a bit to it. He did this in order so that you would be financially secure—surely you realize that. He never wanted you to feel dependant on him should you fall on hard times."

"Yeah, I get that…so why didn't he just come out and tell me? What was the problem?"

Alfred just looked at the young man, so angry and so righteous. "You know how he is, Master Dick." He put his hand on Dick's arm. "And you know that he won't change. Accept him as he is or not—that's your choice, but don't resent him for attempting to look after you the only way he knew how."

A beat and his demeanor changed as though a switch had been thrown. His face brightened, though it seemed to have been a conscious effort rather than spontaneous, and his body language became less guarded, more relaxed. "Tell you what, Alf. When he gets back, I'll give him a call and we'll straighten this out, okay?"

"That would be a good idea, if my opinion means anything around here, Master Dick."

Dick laughed, seemingly happy again. "You know you run this place, Alf. Hell, I knew it the minute I walked in when I was eight years old."

Dick had dropped by the manor unexpectedly mid-afternoon and Alfred had been pleasantly surprised to see him. It had been too long, almost three months since he'd been by, and the old man felt his absence more than he'd have thought possible when the traumatized boy he used to be first moved in all those years ago. Hearing the whining, demanding roar of his motorcycle coming up the long driveway—that wretched machine—had been a balm after too long without it.

When Dick had first arrived all those years ago, well, even before he'd been delivered to the house by Commissioner Gordon, Alfred had seriously questioned the wisdom of taking in a child with so many needs, so many ghosts to lay to rest, and the thought of going through it all again had seemed the last thing on earth he wanted.

He'd talked to Bruce until he was blue in the face, to no avail. He'd brought up all the problems, all the upset to the household. The fact that he wasn't a young man any longer and to ask him to care for an eight year old was simply too much; it wasn't fair to any of them. He couldn't, wouldn't take this on…He didn't want to cope with this again, not after having been through it not so many years before with Master Bruce and this time the child was a total stranger to them. He wouldn't fit in, there were too may secrets, and how would the boy adjust after the life he'd been living? To come from his background and be thrust into life in a mansion, on top of dealing with the loss of his parents was more than should be asked of anyone, let alone a small boy.

He'd been wrong.

Yes, at first it had been as bad as Alfred had anticipated. Worse, in fact. Dick woke almost every night screaming with nightmares—often two or three times in a single night. It got to the point where the child was afraid to go to sleep. Leslie had helped. She had talked to him, given him sleeping pills and sedatives when things were at their worst and sat with him as long as it took for him to get the rest that he needed. Eventually, Bruce had taken over the watch and slowly the bad dreams lessened as Dick became more comfortable in his new home. As his confidence increased and his feelings of being safe started to return, he began to sleep without the pills, and the first morning the two of them came down to breakfast having slept through the night had been a momentous day, indeed.

That was the beginning of the healing.

It seemed, when Alfred thought back, that after a dark period, the smiling, happy child under whose spell they both fell suddenly arrived. When he became more himself, when he started to feel a bit less awkward and more secure in his new home, Dick showed his true colors.

He was happy, funny, always finding something to laugh about—and given to painfully awful jokes and puns. With him running through the corridors and hallways, his jacket tossed wherever it fell and shoes scuffing the polished floors, he brought warmth to the cold rooms simply by being there.

And he was intelligent.

That was one of the things that was sometimes overlooked about Dick. He was just so smart. 'Bright as a penny', Alfred's mother would have said. 'Shape as a tack' would have been old Dr. Wayne's assessment. 'A darling' was what Martha Wayne would have thought of him, and they all would have been right.

Dick, Master Dick, was special, extraordinary and he had saved Bruce and likely Alfred himself every bit as much as they had helped him.

Smart and funny, yes, of course, but he was more than that. He was gifted, driven, focused and determined to do well whether it be in his schoolwork or down in the cave. And he somehow managed it while keeping a lightness about him Master Bruce had lost years ago.

He'd brought joy back to the Master, and Bruce's happiness was Alfred's own.

Then one day he'd overheard Dick talking to a school friend who'd come over for the first time, asking whom 'the old guy' was. "He's my grandfather." Dick's answer had sealed whatever reservations Alfred may have still had and put them to permanent rest.

If only the Master could simply tell the young man his true feelings, if only he was capable of just sitting down with Dick and telling him how he felt about the changes he'd brought into the old house. Yes, certainly Bruce showed Dick constantly with his confidence in the boy's abilities and the unprecedented trust he'd placed in him, but so far as Alfred knew, Bruce had never been able to simply tell Dick he loved him. Surely Dick knew, but he needed to hear it, and when the Master had formally adopted Jason, Dick had taken it as a slap in the face that had hurt him more than he would let on.

Oh Lord, it was never easy with these two.

"Master Dick, would you care to sleep in your old room tonight? It is getting late, you know."

"It's only midnight, Alf—the night is young." Alfred said nothing about the fact that Dick had been yawning for an hour.

"Perhaps for you, but at my age it's time to retire. Will you be staying over?"

"When is Bruce expected—tomorrow?"

"He should be here in time for a late breakfast." Alfred watched Dick pause for a moment, weighing his options. "And you two might be able to have that talk you came here for."

"Yeah, hey, maybe I will. Besides, I could use a full night's sleep—it's been a while."

"Working too hard will take a toll."

"Who said I was working?" The old cheeky grin, a hand on Alfred's shoulder and, "I'll see you in the morning, Alf—thanks."

Around four that morning Alfred thought he heard something, walking through the house to see Dick half sitting, half lying on the chesterfield sofa in the entertainment room, TV on without sound and talking to someone on his cell phone. "I know…I'll try to ask him later when he gets here—I mean if he's in a mood where he'll listen to anything I have to say…because if I don't bring it up then it will just be out there, that's why. I'll resent it even more than I do now and—screw it, maybe he has an explanation which will make sense…Well, maybe you'd understand why it bothers me so much if you…" Saying nothing, Alfred left him alone and went back to his own bed without letting Dick know he'd been there.

Hours later, at a few minutes past eleven that morning, Bruce was eating a late breakfast when he looked to his right to see Dick walk through the dining room door, smile in place.

"Hey, Bruce—there anymore of that out in the kitchen, y'think?"

"I suspect there may be. Alfred?"

With his usual ability at mind reading, Alfred appeared with a full plate, depositing it in front of Dick. "If there's anything you don't see there…"

"I know, ask."

"…There's a diner down the road."

Dick smiled. Alfred knew him too well. The breakfast was fine, and Alf left to finish whatever he was doing elsewhere. Dick turned to Bruce who was reading the Wall Street Journal. "How was London?"

"Fine. 'Didn't see much of it, just a conference room and the airport." He turned a page, his attention on the newsprint. "What brings you here?"

Dick took a beat. He knew better than to be surprised, Bruce was as matter of fact as ever, no 'How's it going?' no 'Good to see you.' "I was hoping you could answer a question for me."

Mild interest. Very mild. "Yes?"

"Why didn't you let me know you'd essentially funded that trust Lucius built up for me? Why did you let me think it was seeded with my parents' money?"

"It was seeded with their money. I just augmented it a little. And what difference does it make, anyway?"

"The difference is that instead of having a legacy from my family, I have another handout from you."

"That's not really the case. In fact, the money, the initial money was from them, I simply wanted to make sure that…"

"That if I messed up, if I failed, if I couldn't cut it on my own I'd have this Wayne-sized nest egg to fall back on—the implication being that I'd probably need a huge pile of money or you'd have left the original amount stand on its own."

Bruce looked at Dick as though he were speaking Urdu. "Dick, that's not what my reasons were. I just didn't want you to ever be in the position of having to ask if something unexpected came up."

Dick gave him an incredulous look. "Did you really think the time might come when I wouldn't even be able to make enough to pay the rent or feed myself? Did you really think I'd need over seventy million in fallback funds?"

"Lucius did very well by the trust, I have to admit." Bruce put down the paper, took up the Spode cup and sipped his imported coffee. "Why are you upset about being wealthy?"

As usual, he didn't get it. "I'm upset that you misled me—when I finally found out that my parents had left me some money, information which you kept from me for a decade, you lied and said it was from them."

"A good part of it was."

"And you doubled, tripled the original amount because you felt it wasn't enough—my parents hadn't done well enough by me. What they had done wasn't good enough and you had to come riding in on your damned white horse—excuse me, you're damned black bat, and right another wrong. You had to make sure the orphaned circus rat wouldn't end up on welfare."

"Dick, that's unfair and you know it. I was concerned and had the means to provide for your future security as my son."

"Because my parents couldn't and then you lied about it."

This had never, in all these years, occurred to Bruce as a possible interpretation of what he'd done. Not once. He'd only wanted to make sure Dick would always have the means to live his life however he wanted to live it without having to ask anyone, without ever being dependant on someone else. He'd just wanted to make sure Dick would always be able to make his own choices and do what he wanted without having to count nickels and dimes. That was all. "That was never my intent. Come on, you know me better than that. When the trust was set up you were nine years old, I couldn't very well discuss it with you then and when you were older, frankly, Lucius would report to me about it and it was fine—it simply didn't seem like something we needed to talk about."

"And when it was turned over to me a couple of years ago?"

"By then what difference did it make? I hadn't kicked in all that much money anyway and the basic seed, the reason why the trust came into being at all was because of your parents. It wasn't important."

Dick got up, his meal only half eaten. "You're right. The money doesn't matter. What matters is that you thought I needed your handout, that what my parents had wasn't good enough. What matters is that you thought I'd need it because I might screw up and need this to fall back on."

"Son…"

"I'm not your son. You made that clear when you decided to adopt Jason."

Bruce sat back in his chair. Dick—always so intent on not letting anyone know when something was eating at him had let his true feelings out. Bruce had taught him too well as far as that went. "You're my son in every way that matters, you have to know that, Dick." It was time, past time, to close this open wound. "Please come with me."

Reluctantly and still angry, Dick followed him into the study. Bruce went behind the large desk, opening the top center drawer and pulling out some kind of contract. "I should have done this years ago—I wanted to, but you wouldn't have allowed it then. You were having such a difficult time accepting your parents' deaths for so long that—well, I know I may have waited too long, but if you're willing, I'd like to have these filed." He pushed it across the desk to Dick who scanned the opening couple of lines.

Petition for Adoption

State of Gotham, County of Gotham, City of Gotham.

Petition for the Adoption of

Richard John Grayson

To the Justices of the Probate and Family Court:

Respectfully represents:

Bruce Thomas Wayne

1 Crest Hill

Bristol, Gotham State

He is desirous of adopting the following child:

Richard John Grayson

Dick's eyes stayed on the sheaf of papers. "What's this about?"

"I think it's past due—I mean—" and here he hesitated, one of the few times Dick had ever seen him unsure. "If this is what you want." The pause became strained as Dick stared at the forms in his hand. "If you're uncomfortable with this, I'll forget it. You know you're my heir, anyway. I just thought—after Jason I realized you were—you have been and you are—more of a son than he ever would have been even if he hadn't…" He trailed off, feeling like he was babbling and that was something he never did.

"How long did you have these drawn up?"

"Six years—yes, before I adopted Jason. You were still a minor then, but things were sort of rocky between us—I didn't know how to ask you and then things became more awkward and I didn't know how you'd feel about it, so I let it ride."

"But you kept the petition?" Dick looked up, across the desk, meeting Bruce's eyes and seeing the uncertainty there.

"I didn't see any reason to throw it away. I though—you know."

"You thought that maybe things would magically work out between us somehow." Dick paused to draw a long breath, stalling for time, collecting his thoughts. "Why would this change anything? It's like getting married, y'know? Why would a piece of paper make a difference? The basic problems haven't been addressed.

"You think we may end up getting divorced?" It was as close to a joke as Bruce was capable.

"Maybe a trial separation, anyway." Something in his face changed, a decision had been made, a conclusion arrived at. "You're as much my father as Dad was, Bruce. You have been—longer than my real father. If you hadn't taken me in…" He trailed off. They'd never really talked about this, neither one of them the sort to engage in the self-indulgence of 'what if'. Dick had thought about it often, and though he didn't know it so had Bruce. "If you hadn't taken me in, I don't know where I'd have ended up, especially after being dumped in Juvie. If I'd been forced to stay there…"

"You'd have ended up all right, it just would have taken longer." Bruce ventured a half smile. "Your parents gave you the basics, I just helped them develop—you did most of it yourself."

He used to brood about it a lot, but now he just accepted that when his life had been destroyed, Bruce had picked up the pieces and held him together long enough to mend; he left it at that. "Um, look, why don't you have Lucius file the papers in the morning—if you still want to, I mean. It's not like I'm still a minor or anything."

"Are you sure that's what you want? You don't have to do this for me, Dick."

"I know that. It's just that I think you're right—it's past time to make it official."

"I was afraid you'd think I was trying to usurp your real parents." They still had the large desk between them. They always seemed to have something between them, they always had. "You know, I promised you that I'd never do that."

"I know and I wouldn't think that. But one thing—if we do go through with this—I expect you to talk to me about things that affect me. Adoption or not, I'm not a child, and I expect you to treat me as an adult. In fact, it has to be one of the ground rules. You okay with that?"

"I can work on it. It may take a while." He was serious; this was breaking new ground for him. There weren't many people he treated as equals, but Dick… he was different. The pupil was surpassing the teacher and in another couple of years, well…

"I know. Deal with it or forget about it." Dick leaned his forearms on the back of one of the chairs facing the desk, waiting. This was non-negotiable and they both knew it. "I won't play games with this, Bruce. I—you know that."

He nodded at the petition. "You're all right with this? No questions, no qualms? You know this will open you to more publicity and all of that claptrap."

"Like I've never dealt with the press before, right? I think I can handle it." Another question, "Bruce, did Alfred know about this?

"It was his idea more than a decade ago and we talked about it then, but he didn't know I'd had legal draw the petition up." He knew where this was coming from. "He didn't keep anything from you."

Dick nodded. Maybe, but he'd let it go.

"This doesn't really change anything, not in a practical sense. You always were my heir, it just clears up any questions, but it doesn't really matter if you're not sure."

"Bruce—it matters." The small smile.

"Not too little, too late?"

"Maybe not. Probably not. Almost, but not quite." Dick turned to go. "Why don't we call Lucius, get that paperwork started this afternoon?"

Nodding, Bruce returned the small smile. "Yes, let's do that."

5/18/05

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