Bontoni and Converse

INSPIRATION: This popped up when I remembered a T-shirt I saw in a magazine. You might have seen it too—it says "Fatherhood: The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love" with a picture of a pair of big sneakers next to a pair of little sneakers. As you will see, that picture was what gave birth to this particular plot bunny.

DISCLAIMER: Don't own Converse, don't own Batman, don't own the T-shirt, I stole the credenza from Bonanza so I don't own that, and I sure as heck don't own Bontoni. I'm not even Italian, despite what my old music teacher thought… O.o


It was ten thirty by the time he was ready to head off to work that rainy Monday morning. If he had been anybody besides Bruce Wayne, he probably would have been fired for daring to come to work this late, or at least severely reprimanded. But since he was Bruce Wayne, well... he was Bruce Wayne. He could do that.

As Bruce finished the last of his breakfast, Alfred immediately came by to take the dirty dish away from him.

"Will you be home at the usual time, sir?"

"Yeah, I should be. Hey, where's Dick? He should be up by now…"

"Well, sir, Master Dick woke up on time this morning and ate his breakfast over two hours ago. I suspect he is now practicing his acrobatics in the gym."

Bruce inwardly winced at the subtle rebuke he'd just received. He may have been Bruce Wayne at work, but as far as Alfred was concerned, he was still a teenage troublemaker in need of a good scolding. He would have thought that, with Dick around, Alfred wouldn't have the energy to scold anybody else. Heaven knew Dick caused enough trouble to make Gandhi want to punch him in the face. How come nobody told him that twelve-year-olds were evil before he took the kid in?

By this time, Alfred had returned and was handing Bruce his briefcase. The billionaire accepted it and headed for the foyer to put on his coat and shoes. He really should get to work now, even if he was the boss.

He was interrupted by a clap of thunder from outside, followed by the almost-as-loud slamming of the screen door behind them. Bruce and Alfred stood rooted to the spot as a certain evil twelve-year-old came barreling into the kitchen.

"Wow, did you guys hear that last one?! That was the biggest one yet!"

"Master Dick, you're soaked!"

Bruce hung back and let Alfred go through the mother hen routine, much to Dick's chagrin. The boy most definitely deserved a scolding, however—he was drenched from head to toe and dripping water and mud all over the place. And judging by the sludgy tracks now marring the kitchen floor, he'd forgotten to remove his sneakers as well.

Of course, that was one of the first things Alfred scolded Dick for.

"…Now please remove your shoes and place them in the foyer where they belong."

"Before you go," Bruce interrupted, grabbing the boy's wet sleeve, "what were you doing outside in the first place?"

"Nothin'," Dick muttered, a little too quickly. He suddenly found the gunk on his shoes to be very interesting.

"Nothing?"

"Weeellll…"

"Richard…"

"…I was sledding."

"I beg your pardon?" Alfred practically demanded, as if unable to believe his ears.

"I was sledding," Dick repeated with a lot more enthusiasm. "Remember how you helped me fix up the old toboggan we found in the basement last year?"

"You mean the one that's over sixty years old and belonged to my grandfather?" Bruce answered, sounding less than pleased with where this conversation was going. Dick, of course, didn't notice. Or at least he pretended not to.

"Yeah! That one! Anyway, it's the middle of December and I got tired of waiting for actual snow so when I noticed that the big hill out back was covered in mud, I—"

"I don't want to hear any more. Go put your shoes away."

Dick shrugged complacently and slipped out of his sneakers. As he picked them up and left the room, the boy called over his shoulder, "You know, you oughtta try mud sledding sometime, Bruce. It's fun!"

Bruce turned to give Alfred a look that was halfway between begging and murderous rage.

"Either hold me back or let me kill him."

"Now, now, Master Bruce…"

"I mean it."

"The lad is just experimenting, seeing how things work. The way you taught him, I might add. Now if you'll excuse me, sir, it seems I have yet another mess to clean up."

Picking up his briefcase and heading for the front door, the billionaire grumbled to himself, "He didn't have to experiment with my sled…"

The foyer was pristine as always, thanks to Alfred. The credenza was polished so shiny you could see yourself in it; the carpet was vacuumed clean; the winter coats of the manor's occupants were hanging neatly from their pegs in the wall of the opened closet; and several pairs of boots and shoes were lined up against the wall underneath the coats…

…Until you got to Dick's stuff.

The boy's mud-splattered coat was suspended rather precariously from the hook, looking like it could fall down any second. It was still dripping brownish water onto the pair of Converses that had been haphazardly tossed aside by their careless owner.

Bruce squinted slightly at the soiled sneakers. Hadn't those been blue at one point?

Temporarily forgetting that he was the Dark Knight, impervious to all things disgusting, Bruce wrinkled his nose at the sight and carefully nudged his ward's shoes away from his own pair of spotless black leather Bontoni.

That was just one of many differences between them—Bruce wanted things neat, clean, perfectly organized so everything was easy to find.

Dick… couldn't care less. The kid threw his things around every which way and somehow, it didn't bug him at all.

Bruce enjoyed the finer things in life: good food, the latest electronic gadgets… nice shoes

But Dick? Like most kids his age, he'd be perfectly content living off hot dogs and soda pop. He needed little more than his overactive imagination and, apparently, an old toboggan to keep himself occupied. And he'd much rather wear shoes that were comfortable and durable instead of nice to look at. As was evidenced by the pair of formerly navy blue-and-chestnut Converse in front of him.

Where did we go wrong with that kid? Bruce wondered to himself. He pulled the leather shoes closer so he could put them on, still wondering how the heck Dick had ended up this way. The boy had been living here for four years now, and he didn't seem to have changed at all, except for the physical differences.

Dick was wild and free-spirited, often beyond the point of recklessness. He loved life with a passion and never wasted one precious second, cramming his time full of everything and anything that even remotely looked like fun. As a result, the worn Converses that Dick had owned for less than a year already bore the scars of the boy's many adventures—

The scuff marks and the faint smell of salt water from when he'd accepted a bet from Roy while at the beach and, after a long running start, taken a flying leap off one of the nearby cliffs into the dark ocean water below. He probably would have been killed if not for his Robin training, and he and Roy were both duly punished when they got home.

The bits of shredded canvas on the inner portions of both shoes from that summer when Dick had tried to climb every tree on Wayne property. He eventually ended up falling out of one and breaking his arm, thus putting an end to that mission.

The fading pink splotches still remaining from when the shoes were dunked in tomato sauce after Dick's run-in with an irate skunk while visiting Clark and Martha Kent in Smallville last fall.

And, of course, the caked-on mud that was rapidly drying since returning indoors from this morning's excursion.

Bruce looked back at his own shoes. They seemed equally reflective of their owner's personality—

Bruce's shoes were spotless without a single sign of wear and tear. Even the cleanest of shoes usually had some kind of soft scuff mark on them to betray their age, but his didn't, mostly because he owned so many pairs that he had yet to create any kind of impression on any of them. So, just like the façade he used to fool people into believing he was the ditzy playboy they expected, his shoes were flawless, never betraying their secrets. They were as much a mask as the cowl he wore every night.

Bruce's shoes were serious. All business. No nonsense. Dark. Just like him. They easily commanded respect, no matter how superficial some of that respect may be. They also indicated power strong enough to intimidate most everyone around him.

Bruce's shoes… were really, really boring.

The billionaire glanced back at the smaller but more interesting pair of shoes in the foyer, still lying propped against each other by the wall.

When had he forgotten how to have fun, Bruce wondered? When had he stopped being himself and started wearing stuffy, expressionless shoes like these?

Maybe he was the one who had turned out badly. Maybe Dick was perfect the way he was.

After standing there for another minute, Bruce nudged the leather shoes back into place. He stepped away from the shoes, put his briefcase on the credenza, closed the closet door and headed straight for the kitchen. He found Alfred scrubbing the floor and muttering to himself about something Bruce couldn't quite make out, though he did have a good general idea.

"Alfred?"

"Sir?" the major-domo replied, doing a perfect job of not betraying his surprise.

"Call the office and tell them I won't be coming in today. I've got more important things to do."

And then he left before Alfred could say anything other than a befuddled "Right away, sir…"

Bruce took the stairs two at a time, his impatience growing even as he got ever nearer to his destination. Finally, he arrived at Dick's bedroom door. He could hear the shower going from the boy's private bathroom, so he went straight into the bedroom without knocking, knowing that the running water would prevent Dick from hearing any outside noise.

Bruce tapped his socked foot against the floor, waiting for Dick to finish. What was taking the kid so long?

A very long two minutes later, Dick emerged from the bathroom in a clean shirt, jeans and a slightly damp towel around his shoulders to catch the water dripping from his uncombed hair and prevent it from ruining the dry clothes.

"Bruce," the boy said dumbly, obviously confused. "I thought you'd left for work…"

"I'm not going in today."

"…Oh. Um, Bruce… if this is about the…"

"I was downstairs thinking," Bruce interrupted. Dick listened with unusual attentiveness as his mentor went on, "It stopped raining and I… well, it's been a while since I went outside right after a good rainstorm."

Dick blinked as the beginnings of a grin slowly made their way across his pinkish face.

"You mean you wanna, like, jump in mud puddles or something?"

"That's kid stuff. I've got two Harleys in the garage, never used. Bought them last weekend while you were on that class trip. You don't have a license, but you do know how to operate them, so…"

"You're gonna let me ride a Harley in the mud?" Dick recapped, eyes practically glowing with excitement. And if Bruce actually ended up saying yes to this, surely he must have died and gone to heaven!

Unfortunately, Bruce's next word was a straight-faced "No."

Rats.

Then…

"We are going to ride—"

"YES!!"

Dick was down the stairs before Bruce could finish the sentence. Shaking his head slightly in amusement, the billionaire followed his ward at a slower pace. He arrived back in the foyer in time to see his boy slipping easily into the muddy Converses and racing out the door. Poor Alfred was probably going to have a heart attack when he found out about this…

Before following Dick's lead, Bruce paused in the foyer to spare his Bontonis one more glance.

Ah, heck.

Bending down, Bruce grabbed his shoes, put them on and stepped out into the yard.

The End


LOL, about halfway through this fic, I started thinking 'wow, I had no idea shoes could tell you so much about a person!' XP

Now if you'll excuse me, the Cartwrights just found out about the credenza I took and are trying to shoot down my front door, so um… I've gotta go run for my life now. Please leave a review on your way out and I'll give you a Bat-shaped virtual cookie!