TITLE: Most Important Meal
CATEGORY: Gen/Drama/Fluff/Whatnot
CONTINUITY: Very early in Dick's career as Robin.
NOTES: For Fanfic100 #56, Breakfast and Psych30 #23, Vicarious. This is a thank you to Cereta for assistance with my food needs. It was fun to write because I love writing Wee!Robin and...well, you'll see.
The night was perfect for patrolling, Bruce thought: Not too hot, not too cold, no rain or fog to obscure their view through mask or binoculars.

And Dick was shaping up very well as a partner. Bruce glanced at the boy who crouched beside him on the rooftop, bouncing slightly on his toes. He'd only been allowed out on patrol a few times, but he'd proved his worth in several fights and as a backup.

If nothing else, Bruce thought with some amusement, it was nice to have someone literally watching his back. Dick had dropped a goon earlier in the evening who'd otherwise have stood an excellent chance of getting Bruce in the kidneys.

"It's time to get back to the Cave," Bruce said, doing a last scan of the docks with his binoculars.

"Awww!" It wasn't quite a whine, as Dick wasn't a whiner, but it came close. "C'mon, can't we fly just a little longer?"

"Robin, we're working, not flying." Bruce turned to look at him.

"We're doing both." Dick shrugged, his dark hair moving in the breeze drifting over the roof. Even standing still, he looked like he was in motion.

"In any case," Bruce said, pulling out his line launcher, "you'll be tired enough if you don't get any sleep."

Dick was obviously thinking fast. "But tomorrow is Saturday and I can sleep in."

"Robin."

"If we can't fly, let's go get something to eat! There was a diner six blocks back that's open all night. I'm a growing boy and I need to eat." He tilted his nose in an excellent Alfred imitation.

Bruce stared at Dick until the boy fidgeted. "You're not seriously suggesting that Batman and Robin stroll into a diner and order eggs benedict."

Dick stared back, jaw tight. "No, I'm suggesting we switch to one of the ten disguises you have tucked away in the suit and order waffles or pancakes. With fruit. And whipped cream. And bacon on the side."

Before he could help it, Bruce shuddered. Breakfast was a nutritionally fortified protein shake. If he couldn't avoid company at breakfast, he ate eggs and tomatoes. He'd never...he couldn't possibly have ever eaten something like what Dick was describing. Alfred couldn't be feeding Dick things like that, could he?

Dick, with the mind reading ability that made him such an excellent Robin, piped up. "C'mon, I eat healthy most of the time. It's not like I won't work off any extra calories. Pleeeeaase?"

Bruce took a moment to be glad that no League members were witnessing this and another moment to plan for the possibility that Superman might happen to be listening. He was going to say no. The idea was utterly ridiculous, when Alfred was capable of making whatever food they needed.

Dick was watching him intently and could tell when the decision was made. His whole body drooped like a kicked puppy. "Never mind," he said.

Closing his eyes, Bruce sighed. "Fine," he said. "We can go."

"Hooray!" Dick leaped straight up in the air and came down already bouncing in the direction of the diner.

Bruce sighed again, even harder, and began assembling two disguises. The only thing that would make this ordeal worse was if a tabloid found Bruce Wayne and his ward eating at a diner in the middle of the night in a moderately bad part of town.

Fifteen minutes later, Dick--still bouncing--shot through the door of the diner, startling the waitress, short-order cook, and three half-asleep patrons. The television in the corner was showing a rerun of "I Love Lucy" but thankfully the jukebox was silent. A quick scan showed nothing dangerous in the room except possibly the grease in the fryer.

"Yo, Junior!" Matches Malone hollered around the match in his mouth. "Siddown. You're makin' me tired just watchin' you."

Dick grinned at him and then up at the waitress, who was instantly charmed. "Pick a seat, dear," she said. "You've got your choice." When Dick slid into a booth and smiled expectantly, she looked like she wanted to ruffle his hair.

Matches slouched by and the waitress--Ruby, her nametag said--gave him a look. He shrugged. "My sister's kid. He's gotta eat and I ain't cooking."

She gave him another look, but handed them menus. Bruce tried to find something inoffensive to order, but it was difficult.

Dick glanced at the menu then up at the waitress. "We'll both have the strawberry pancakes with extra whipped cream. And a side of bacon."

Bruce shook his head slightly and Matches said, "I'll just have coffee. Black."

Dick drooped again. "But uncle Matches, I want you to try it. Just once?"

The members of the Justice League wouldn't believe it, even if they were there, Bruce decided. "Fine," Matches said, slumping back against the naugahyde and awaiting his doom.

They exchanged some desultory conversation suitable for Matches Malone and nephew, which seemed to amuse Dick. Then the plates arrived.

Bruce stared in utter dismay at the...concoction facing him. People ate this? Well, he supposed they did, since he'd seen things just as bad at charity functions. But that ordinary people would choose it seemed absurd.

Dick grabbed his knife and fork and dove in. The first bite was halfway to his mouth when he froze, eyes going wide.

Bruce's entire body tensed as he waited for a signal as to which supervillain had entered the diner. When Dick continued to stare at his food, Bruce relaxed from fighting mode, but he began to worry.

"Junior?" Matches asked.

Dick slowly looked up, no longer playing any undercover role, just a young boy who was very sad. His lip almost quivered under the strain.

"What's wrong?" Bruce asked softly.

"I..." Dick put down the fork and knife. "I didn't remember."

Out of the corner of his eye, Bruce saw the waitress looking worried. He had to figure out what was going on before she came over to see what was wrong. "Remember what?"

"This is what my dad sometimes bought me as a special treat after a good show or when I learned a really hard new move."

Bruce closed his eyes for a second, knowing there was nothing he could say that would help. Except... "Tell me?"

Dick knew what he meant. "My mom complained that he shouldn't use food as a reward, but he laughed and said I was a growing boy. They pretended to fight about it, but she wasn't really mad. It was sort of a habit."

Bruce nearly smiled, but remembered in time that Matches probably wouldn't find his nephew that amusing.

Dick poked at a fluff of cream with his finger, licking it off while his attention was elsewhere. "What Dad didn't tell her was that he ate it too. It was our secret."

"Sounds like fun," Bruce said.

Dick nodded. "Mmm-hmm."

"Do you want to go home?"

Dick stared at his plate, obviously thinking hard, then looked up. His smile lit the entire room, from the dingy framed photographs of bygone movie stars to the speckled white and gold Formica counter. "You're just trying to get out of eating it, aren't you?"

Matches shook his head in disgust and dropped his ubiquitous match onto a napkin. Bruce picked up his fork and knife and started cutting off bits of pancake, surreptitiously scraping off as much topping as he could. The strawberry was sticky and the whipped cream overly sweet, but it wasn't as bad as it looked at first.

Dick watched him eat a few bites, then dove in, shoveling forkfuls of the mess into his mouth with glee. Within moments, he had whipped cream on his nose and strawberry sauce on his chin.

Maybe this pancake breakfast thing wasn't all that bad, Bruce thought, hiding a grin.

--end--