Title: Happy Birthday, Bruce
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Dick thinks back on how he first celebrated Bruce's birthday while he faces the first one without him.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: Seeing how this is the birthday I have always observed in my fic writing, I couldn't possibly pass up this challenge! PS Uber cuteness then uber sadness….
My first February the nineteenth at Wayne Manor, I had missed his birthday.
There had been no cake, no presents, no party. Not even a mentioning of it.
The second February the nineteenth, I had been scanning through the newspaper, looking for a mention of Batman and Robin and spotted an article in the society pages about it. I had promptly dropped my fork on m plate of eggs and looked up at Alfred, "It's Bruce's birthday?"
"That it is, sir," he had replied.
"Wait… we didn't do anything last February."
"No, sir… Master Bruce isn't one to celebrate his birthday. At least not in the usual sense."
"What do you mean, we had cake on my birthday?" I had asked, still a confused shock.
I remember he had sighed before taking a seat at the kitchen nook table, his hands busy folding, unfolding and refolding a washcloth. When he had finally looked up to me, he had explained, "Master Bruce is more than willing to celebrate the lives of others, sir, in fact I feel he relies on… moments of normalcy that his life does not afford him. The thought that others are happy, that others are carrying on despite the tragedies of the world or even of their lives… it fuels him. His war on crime."
"That doesn't make sense, Alfred… He should be happy… and normal, too."
"I am well aware of it, sir, but it is how Master Bruce has lived for many, many years and it is how he will live for the rest of his life, no doubt."
When Bruce had come downstairs for his breakfast, which had always been black coffee and a double portion of what I had been eating, I had wished him a happy birthday.
He had looked ot me oddly before, "Thanks, Dick."
"Don't thank me yet… you just wait for your birthday surprise."
"Dick you don't have to--," he had tried to say.
I had shaken my head, "Nope, you're getting a surprise," I had looked to Alfred and winked before finishing, "Whether you want one or not."
I had spent the entire day at school trying to figure out what the surprise would be. What do you get the guy who has everything and wants nothing? I was yelled at once in math classes for doodling ideas instead of working on the in-class assignment. Sitting upright in the hard desk had sparked an idea.
While Bruce was still at the office, I had raced down to the Cave with arms full of equipment from the garage. It took the better part of two hours but when Bruce had walked down the granite steps into the Cave, he had smiled to see the Batmobile was glossy and spotless.
"Now this is certainly a surprise," he had commented while inspecting exterior of the vehicle. I had directed him to look inside. He opened the door and peered in, the smirk growing.
After a long night of patrols, I had always noticed he never seemed comfortable in his seat. They were meant for safety, not comfort, but there was no reason to suffer. I had found an unused set of seat padding covers in the garage a few weeks back. After showing them to Alfred, he had said that they had been too big for the seats in any of the sports cars.
Except the coolest one.
Bruce, still in civilian clothes, had hopped in, patting the seat next to him. After I had joined him, he had gripped the steering wheel with both hands, pushing his shoulders back into the seat.
"Well?" I had asked.
"Perfect. Thank you, Dick," he had replied, looking down at me.
As odd as it had been to see him in a suit and tie in the Batmobile, it was stranger still to see him smiling.
"Dick… I've always celebrated my birthday one way… and it's always been just me. But tonight, I want you to join me."
"Really?" I had asked, already dreaming of a secret mission.
At ten-forty that evening, we had been standing in the dark, frozen Crime Alley underneath a street lap that was flickering on and off. Not exactly the best place for a birthday celebration. But it was Batman. I watched on, doing my best not to shiver as he knelt on the sidewalk, retrieving two roses from under his cape. After he set them down on the dirty patch of cement, he rose to his feet, eyes still locked onto the roses.
Then it had hit me, harder than any of the Penguin's thugs.
This is where they had died.
After the going to the movies.
On his birthday…
Every year afterwards, I had made sure that he had some sort of surprise to brighten the day he had once abhorred. And although we had our fun at the Manor or even out on patrols, we still retreated to Crime Alley together to lay the roses for Thomas and Martha Wayne. As I had grown older and physically and emotionally further from Bruce, the tradition had stopped and he was once more alone. I would send a gift or a card, or if we had been on good terms, I would have even dropped by the Manor for dinner or caught him on patrols.
I should have never left him…
The thought echoed my mind as I set three red roses on the dirty sidewalk where Thomas and Martha had taken their last breaths.
Looking down at them, I couldn't help but think back to that first night. Seeing the eerie glow of the streetlight wash over the cowl and his pained face. No doubt I looked just as mournful, wearing his guise and his burdens.
Dropping the growl from my voice, I continued, "We had red velvet cake with dinner tonight… you would have loved it, Damien must have had three pieces, turned his teeth and tongue red… No doubt he's on a frenzied sugar high, busting heads in Arcade Alley. I… I almost brought him but… maybe next years. Maybe, like you did… I just needed to do this one by myself. Just us."
For once, Crime Alley was silent.
"I'm doing my best, you know… not just as Batman but in raising him… You were right, he does want to be a good kid, he just has had a bad start… He's always picking on me and Alfred but… he… every once in a while, I see you in him. Gives me some hope, you know."
I drew in a shaky breath before proceeding, "I… I don't know where Tim is… he just… he couldn't accept you were gone… I mean I still can't but I know it…" I felt my eyes growing hot and I exhale forcibly, "I know you're gone. And I know… you're finally with them. And that maybe you're happy… I don't---."
A tear slipped over my masked cheek and I let it fall from my chin.
"I hope you're happy. If anyone deserves to rest in peace, it's you."
I closed my eyes, picturing the smile he had on his face on that first birthday we celebrated.
"Happy birthday, Bruce."