"Mr. Grayson, you planning on joining us this morning or not? I mean, if it's not too much trouble."
Dick looked over at the gym teacher, Jim Wilson. He was a bastard, but he was also standing between Dick and the Honor Roll and if he didn't make Honor Roll this marking period, then Robin was grounded and then his life would suck. He needed at last a B in the class and right now he was cutting it close. Yes, sure, he could do stuff like volleyball in his sleep but something always seemed to happen to throw a monkey wrench and screw things up. Last month he'd been late to school twice after not getting home until after dawn because he was helping the JLA with a case and then he'd missed five days of class when they'd had to go up against Wildebeest again, which gave him zeros for the various track and field tests. The week before that he'd missed class because he had to make up some tests and quizzes from when he'd had to go to Japan with Bruce last month to help fly the Wayne Corp flag. Today he'd forgotten his uniform in the laundry room and he was looking at another zero. Crap.
"No uniform? The maid forget to pack for you this morning, Grayson? That's an F for the day and you have detention the rest of the week. Now get your butt to study hall."
Shaking his head, exhausted from that jewel theft bust at five this morning and no sleep, he picked up his backpack and walked to the auditorium, sitting down in an empty row. He was flat out beat and didn't need this on top of the other stuff he had going on this week—the Titans were supposed to be working on that new problem with Trigon, Bruce wanted him to crack the books for midterms when he wasn't catching robbers and thugs, Wilson was on his back about stupid gym class, Alfred was complaining about his room being a mess and he had an English paper due tomorrow he'd barely had time to even start. Man…Pulling his cell phone from his pocket he took a chance and tried his cousin, Peter. To his surprise, the call was answered and not just dumped into voice mail.
( This OC character was introduced In Man on the Bench and also makes an appearance in Teenagers.)
"Dick? Hey dude, you're sounding kinda down; someone stomp your puppy?"
"Can you talk for a few minutes?" He was trying to speak quietly enough the teacher wouldn't yell at him.
"Sure, no problem; I'm in lunch. So what's going on Cuz, the Rolls have a flat this morning?" Peter was basically okay. In fact, if Dick could afford to let go enough to actually have civilian friends, Peter would fit the bill. Scratch that, they were friends, there were just huge parts of his life he couldn't talk about. At all. Ever.
"Wilson's on my case again 'cause I forgot my gym uniform and I'm probably going to be late with this huge term paper."
"You? You're never late with anything; you're the most organized person I know, f'Christssake. And why didn't you just swipe a uniform from the lost and found; that's what I always do. Something's goin' on, right? Something crawl up 'the Master's' butt?" Ever since that time Peter had invited Dick over for a weekend and was told Alfred would have to ask 'The Master', he'd never referred to Bruce as anything else. Usually it was pretty funny.
"It's not Bruce this time." Dick glanced over to the teacher who was giving him a dirty look, meaning if he weren't quieter he'd be bounced out. He whispered. "You ever feel like no matter how hard you work, you can't keep up with everything?"
"'Runnin' as fast as you can just to stay in place? Sure, sometimes. Everyone does once in a while, I guess. Everyone gets swamped sometimes—hell, I know I do. You deal with it, suck it up, get as much done as you can and keep plugging." Peter paused for a second while he swallowed something. "Is that all that's bothering you dude? This doesn't sound like you—you're usually annoyingly upbeat."
Is that all? He had no idea…and Dick couldn't really explain. "I guess you're right; I just got up on the wrong side of the bed or something. Forget it; look, I've got to hit the library, do some work on that paper."
"What? Wait, call me later, Okay? No—I'll call you tonight."
"Okay, sure. Later." By going into hyper-mode and having Wally do the typing for him, Dick got the ten page paper done after dinner; like he cared anything about the role Thomas Paine's pamphlets played in the lead up to the Revolution. Whatever; it was done and would be handed in on time. He made a point of going down to the laundry room and putting his gym clothes in his backpack before he forgot again and even got in a two hour workout down in the cave before Bruce let him know it was time to hit the roof tops for a few hours. It was a slow night; a couple of break and enters, a car jacking and not much else and Dick was just as pleased for once. It wasn't that he didn't love busting bad guys—he did—it was just that right now he was a little overscheduled and that really bothered him. He was Robin, he was supposed to be able to do all this with his left hand and his eyes closed and usually he could, but the last few weeks he'd somehow slipped back a step or two and was having a little trouble catching up.
Well, screw it. He had the weekend coming up and he'd use it to put paid to everything he had outstanding and then he'd be fine and back to his usual self. He might even sleep in; wouldn't that be a treat?
Except he forgot about the Titan's meeting Friday night and only remembered the appearance he'd promised to the local Ronald McDonald's house at the absolute last minute, skidding into the place at close to a dead run. He'd agreed to throw some basic gymnastic stuff and some martial arts for the kids, followed by a photo and autograph meet and greet (with no publicity, as he'd requested). Then there was the patrol Saturday night and on Sunday Bruce wanted him to attend a brunch with various multi billionaires so he could rub elbows and make himself a presence for when he'd be dealing with them directly for the Foundation… "Hello Mr. Gates, nice to see you again. Mr. Buffet, no one told me you were going to be here…Mr. Trump, how's Melania?"
Monday rolled around, then Wednesday and now it was Thursday evening again.
"Hey Bruce? Could I spend the weekend with Peter?" They were eating dinner and Peter had invited him yesterday, but this was the first Dick had seen Bruce since breakfast.
"Joker is out again. We're patrolling." He didn't even look up from whatever financial report he was going over.
"But, maybe Clark or someone, maybe Barry could go with you for a change. Or Ollie."
That got his attention and he gave Dick a stare that would have melted an iceberg. "They're not my partner, you are and Gotham isn't their city; it's ours. Has that become a problem for you?"
"No, no. It's just that I was hoping for some down time to hang with Peter." He paused for a second. "I mean, there's always something going on, there's always some bad guy who needs to be tracked down or something; I'll be back Sunday by dinner. Just this once, please?"
"…You're serious, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am."
Bruce took the linen napkin from his lap, stood up and almost, but not quite, slammed it down on the table. "Be ready to go out in twenty minutes." That was that, he headed down to the cave.
'Out'. On patrol. No weekend off. No Peter. Shit.
"Perhaps if I had a word with him, Master Dick. I'm sure he's just thinking about this evening's outting and if things are explained to him…"
"Thanks, Alf, but I'd rather talk to him myself, okay?" He didn't need Alfred to fight his battles for him, he'd do this himself.
"Yes, sir, as you wish." 'But if you change your mind, let me know' was left unsaid but understood.
The patrol was routine with no sightings of the Joker, which meant he was probably holed up somewhere planning something and getting his ducks in a row about whatever he was about to spring this time. Other than keep their ears to the ground there wasn't all that much they could do for the moment. When he made his move they'd know soon enough, and they knew the maniac well enough to usually be able to deal with him as well as anyone on the planet could—if not better.
Over the next few days Bruce didn't say anything about Dick's requested time off and Dick didn't bring it up again, though he did fudge a few outtings. He called them school related, but well, not so much and they wouldn't stand up to any close inspection.
A few more weeks went by and Dick's report card was, luckily, high enough to not be an issue. Wilson had, by some miracle, seen fit to allow him the B he needed, probably because he'd taken Peter's suggestion about lifting a lost uniform out of the lost and found when he needed to. Maybe, just maybe things were calming down and he could get rid of this feeling that a wave was about to engulf him. Surf, that's what he had to do. Go with the flow and ride with the tide.
It was almost the end of the school year, maybe three weeks or so to go when Bruce brought it up at the breakfast table, catching Dick off-guard. "So what are your plans for the summer?"
"Excuse me?" Sleep in, make busts with the Titans, do the summer reading, hang out.
"Have you looked for a job?"
Like what, mowing lawns? Dick checked to see if Bruce was joking, but then really, what were the odds? "Um, no. Not really. Did you have something in mind?" Of course he did.
"I thought it would be beneficial if you interned at the office, maybe move around to different departments, see how things work." He picked up his coffee and took a sip. "How does that sound?"
"Yeah, well, I was sort of thinking that I'd spend the summer working on gymnastics and getting a jump on next year's school stuff." That sounded pretty good for off the top of his head. Maybe Bruce would buy it. Maybe… "And Peter asked if I could go to the Grand Canyon with his family. I was going to ask you about that."
Bruce regarded him over the newspaper. "When would that be?"
Hope lit up a bit in the back of Dick's brain. "I think he said July sometime."
"That won't work; you'll be interning at the office then. I believe the session runs from the end of June through the middle of August and possibly right up to Labor Day."
"But, what about everything I wanted to do? I mean, what about the Titans and having some time off?"
Bruce was not accepting delivery about this at all. "You work with the Titans now with no problems and I can't believe you actually want to just sit around all summer, do you?" He waited a moment but Dick was speechless. "I thought so. I'll speak to Lucius today and arrange things." He looked at his watch. "I'll see you later and we'll finalize this."
Dick found his voice before Bruce could leave the room. "I'd rather not."
"Rather not what?"
"Intern. I just said that I already have plans and I don't want to change them." Bruce looked at him as if he was having trouble comprehending what he'd just heard. "I want to spend some time with Peter and the rest of them and I want to spend more time with the Titans and I think this is a good time to bring my gymnastics up a few notches, too."
"Are you refusing to do as I've asked?"
"But you didn't ask, Bruce, you issued another decree."
The hall clock struck seven-thirty. "We'll finish this discussion this evening." It was a cross between a promise and a threat.
Suddenly the entire situation hit Dick and, like an epiphany, he saw the humor in the whole mess—his anger, the misunderstandings, the assumptions on both sides as well as the selfishness from both of them. It was silly, stupid and he started smiling, the smile growing until he was laughing. "Oh, Bruce; lighten up!" Shaking his head, Dick gently moved past Bruce on his way out to his car to drive himself to school. Grabbing his backpack from the hall table, he turned, still smiling and said, "Tell you what, I'll do the internship after I get back from the Grand Canyon, okay? Compromise—it's a beautiful thing. Simple. Later."
The storm was over, peace was returned and calm reigned.
Bruce watched Dick's car leave in a cloud of dust as he headed out. "Alfred, what just happened?"
"I believe we were both shown up by a seventeen year old demonstrating more common sense than the two of us put together."
There was a slightly too long stunned silence then, "Damn."