Title: Conundrums and Cake

Author: Charlene Edwards

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Dick's birthday doesn't go as planned, but it's fun in a Bat sort of way.

Disclaimer: DC owns them all.

Thanks go out to Tammy and Logan for beta reading. This was written for the Dick's Birthday contest on the Bludhaven yahoo group hosted by the wonderful Patty :-) It won too, lol. Hope you all enjoy. Char :-)

Conundrums and Cake:

"Any plans for Master Dick's birthday, Master Bruce?" Alfred inquired as he dusted around the Batcomputer.

Batman grunted as he continued his research into the Riddler's current crime spree. "I don't have ... time ... for birthdays."

Tsking, Alfred stopped his dusting and stared at the cowled figure before him. "Master Bruce," he began knowing how the Master did not like being called Bruce while he was in his Batman uniform, but knowing that's when he needed to hear it the most. "Master Dick will be turning twenty-five tomorrow. That is a milestone birthday. Additionally, this is his FIRST birthday since you officially adopted him. You WILL do something special for him."

Batman continued to look at the computer files, as Alfred patiently waited for his reply. The reply that wasn't coming.

"Master Bruce!"

"Alfred, I said I was busy. I don't have time for this birthday nonsense."

"Master Dick will be expecting --"

"He knows me. He won't be expecting anything. Look, send him a card from me. I really am busy with this Riddler case."

"Exactly why did you bother adopting that boy if you don't have time for him?" Alfred asked as he headed upstairs.

Pushing the cowl off, Bruce Wayne watched as Alfred walked away. He hated upsetting the elderly man, but ... sometimes ... certain things couldn't be helped.

_______________________________________________________________________

Dick Grayson was stirred from his slumber by soft silk swaying in his face. He swatted at the material as he tried to turn over. "Babs, I'm still sleepy." Dick's attempts to go back to sleep where thwarted by the sound of a certain fifteen year old boy's hearty laughter. Opening only one eye, Dick looked to see Tim Drake laying on the floor, a silk scarf in his hand, laughing. "What's so funny, squirt?"

"Now I know you're ancient. You'd rather sleep than play with Babs."

"I'm not ancient," Dick said as he sat up and ran his hand through his thick black hair.

Tim sat up on the floor and looked up at his older "brother", "You are SO ancient. You're a quarter of a century! Anyway, let me be the first to say Happy Birthday!"

Dick groaned and then he smiled at the boy, "Quarter of a century? Thanks, squirt, but did ya have to wake me up?"

"Uh-huh, I did. Dude it's afternoon."

Dick shook his head, "You are spending WAY too much time with Roy Harper."

Tim cocked his head to one side, "Roy's cool."

"You have such bad taste," Dick said as he stood up and stretched. Dick headed for his bathroom. He needed a shower.

"Soooo, what're we doing for your birthday?" Tim asked as he jumped on Dick's bed and grabbed the TV remote.

"I dunno," Dick called out. Then he stuck his head around the door, "Shouldn't you be in school, it's Wednesday?"

"I'm playing hooky."

"You're what!" a shirtless Dick Grayson asked as he walked out of the bathroom, a towel around his neck and a toothbrush in hand. "Have you lost your mind? You're suppose to be grounded to school campus. Do you realize how much trouble you're gonna get into?"

"Relax bro. It's a teacher's workday. We don't have class and your girlfriend was kind enough to arrange to spring me for the day."

Dick grinned, "Now that is cool. I don't have to work either."

"I know. So to repeat my question, what're we doing for your birthday?"

Dick shrugged his shoulders, "We'll think of something." Dick turned and started back for the bathroom when the familiar sound of a breaking news bulletin from the TV. He stopped and turned toward the TV.

"This is Summer Gleason reporting for GNN. The costumed criminal known as the Riddler has kidnapped the Greek Ambassador. Riddler has been on a crime spree robbing Gotham banks since his escape from Arkham. The kidnapping goes against his standard -- "

"Well I guess we know what we're doing for my birthday."

"Crap a dog."

_______________________________________________________________________

Dick and Tim entered the Manor tussling with each other as they did. They were so engrossed in their playful games that they didn't notice the elderly gentleman standing in the entryway until they heard a stern, "Ahem."

Sheepishly, the two young men turned to face Alfred. "Uh, hi," Dick said with a smile as he walked over and hugged the elderly man.

"Happy Birthday Master Dick. What brings you home?"

"Thought we'd help the big guy with the Riddler case. Oh, and I was hoping that there might be a small piece of chocolate cake waiting for me," Dick replied with a twinkle in his eyes.

"I believe there is an entire cake for you, of course you should share with Master Timothy who is salivating behind you."

"Share with him? Do I have'ta?" Dick asked with a grin.

"Yes!" Tim yelled as they headed toward the kitchen, "Where's Bruce?"

"Downstairs," Alfred responded.

"We'll take him some cake and --" Dick started.

"Master Dick, he doesn't need any cake. And I would take it as a personal favor if you two would not mention your birthday to Master Bruce."

Tim and Dick looked at each other quizzically. Shrugging their shoulders, they agreed and followed Alfred for cake.

_______________________________________________________________________



Batman sat alone at his computer reading over the latest string of riddles, Edward Nygma had sent to Gotham's finest. The answers to the riddles themselves were simple enough. The answers were a clue in themselves. There was an obvious pattern -- well, he knew it should be obvious. He just had to find it. Dick was always better at riddles than he was. Dick enjoyed the game of it, enjoyed games. That's where he and his son differed. He hadn't played games as a child -- at least -- not after that night.

So deep was he in pondering the riddles before him that he almost didn't hear the youngsters approach. His mouth twitched upward at the sound of their playful bickering as they came down the stairs. Quickly, he pulled his mouth back into a tight firm line. "What brings you?"

"Saw the news, thought we'd see if you needed some help," Dick replied as he moved closer to the massive cray.

"Actually, you could look at these riddles," Batman began as he stood from his chair.

Dick quickly sat in the chair with a wide grin rubbing his hands together wickedly. He always loved it when he got to sit in the big chair, he always had. Dick started reading the riddles that were visible on the screen. Dick read the first one aloud, "At night they come without being fetched, And by day they are lost without being stolen. They belong to the night." He smiled, "Well that's easy, stars."

Tim leaned over Dick's shoulder, "Born at the same time as the world, destined to live as long as the world, and yet never five weeks old. What is it? I dunno, what is it?"

"The moon. The moon was created at the same time as the earth and exists in five week cycles from new moon to full moon," Batman answered.

"Oh," Tim said as he turned back to the riddles. "What can be swallowed, but can also swallow you? I can get that one, water."

Dick smiled, "Yep, you two are learning." Dick laughed as he continued studying the conundrums before him. "Stars, moon, water. What do they have in common? And what do they have to do with the Greek ambassador?"

"That's what I've been trying to figure out. Kidnapping isn't Riddler's standard M.O.," Batman stated as he watched his two boys with pride, careful not to show it however.

Silently, Dick sat there studying the first three answers. Stars, moon, water. Stars, moon, water. "I've got it!" Dick exclaimed with delight, "The Observatory by Gotham Harbor."

Batman nodded in agreement.

"So now what?" Tim asked.

Rolling his eyes, Dick turned toward his little brother, "Do I have to explain everything?"

With twinkling mischievous eyes, Tim answered, "Yes oh old, ANCIENT and not so sage one."

"We suit up and go to the observatory," Dick said standing and heading toward the uniform vault.

Tim started to follow only t be stopped by the deep voice of Batman. "Robin will patrol with Batgirl. Nightwing and I will go to the Observatory."

"But -- " Tim started to protest. He was silenced by Batman's glare. He turned and entered the vault grumbling to himself.

_______________________________________________________________________

As the men who's partnership garnered the name The Dynamic Duo speed toward the Gotham Observatory in the Batmobile, Oracle's familiar beep sounded. Nightwing lightly tapped the comm link and Barbara Gordon's face came on screen. She smiled and winked at Nightwing, "Won't he let you drive?"

"The Batmobile? Never! That one time when I was sixteen was the LAST time he let me drive the Batmobile. Got anything for us?" Nightwing asked. He glanced at Batman as he spoke and caught the lines of his mouth quivering. Nightwing grinned. He almost had him. He would have him smiling before the night was over. That was Nightwing's mission. That and rescuing the Greek ambassador.

"Seems the GCPD found two additional riddles at Ambassador Demitriades' penthouse at the Ritz-Martlon that they didn't release earlier."

Nightwing shook his head, "I still don't understand why the Riddler kidnapped him. We're missing something."

"Perhaps these riddles will help fill in the blanks," Batman added. "Oracle, recite the riddles?"

"They're both short. They seem to be letter riddles -- 'What letter is like noon?' and 'What letter is always the center of mirth?'"

"Like noon?" Nightwing mused aloud as he thought. "Noon. Midday. A. The answers A -- A's in the middle of day."

"Now I know why they called you the boy wonder," Babs lightly teased.

"Oh I thought you called me that for some other reason," Nightwing teased back.

"Ahem," Batman cleared his throat. His ahem was almost as good as Alfred's. Almost.

"Ok, ok, back to work. we've got an A, now what's the center of mirth? Mirth -- fun -- U. So we've got A and U."

"A.U.," Batman added, "astronomical unit. The mean earth-sun distance, equal to 1.496E+13 centimeters or 214.94 solar radii."

Nightwing stared at Batman who calmly drove the Batmobile toward the Observatory. "You can really be a scary dude, you know that. That just randomly came outta your mouth didn't it?"

Barbara Gordon giggled. "Ok batboys, you're on your own for the rest of the night. I've got plans and will be radio silent from here on out -- IF you think you won't need me boss?"

Batman glanced at her and nodded. "Take care of what you need to. We'll be fine."

The connection closed before Nightwing could ask the hundred questions that were rolling through his mind. He just stared at Batman with his mouth gaping open. Finally he found his voice, "What was that about?"

"She has a date," Batman replied flatly enjoying Nightwing's animated reactions to that.

_______________________________________________________________________

Alfred stepped out of Barbara Gordon's humvee and quickly walked around the vehicle to open the door for Barbara and Leslie Thompkins. "Miss Barbara, why did you insist that we come with you to Knights Stadium?"

"Oh a big bat wanted us here," she replied as she waved at Tim and Cassandra who advanced toward them from the parking deck.

"What are you three doing here?" Tim Drake shouted. "Cass said we had to do an undercover stake out! There will be drug dealers here any minute."

Barbara rolled her eyes, "Relax CBW, Cass is in on this."

Tim turned from the former to the current Batgirl and back. "In on what?" he asked petulantly.

Barbara led the group to the stadium gates. "We're with the Wayne party," she explained to the guard who opened the gates to the Stadium that shouldn't open for another month and a half. Barbara smiled as she entered the stadium, smiled as she watched Alfred and Tim's surprised faces.

Where normally hung Gotham Knights memorabilia, a large banner reading "Happy Birthday Dick!" greeted them as they entered. Members of the Titans, Justice League and even Young Justice filled the halls.

"My word," Alfred said as he looked around at all the festive birthday decorations. Turning toward Barbara he asked, "You assisted Master Bruce with all this?"

Barbara smiled, "I coordinated the guest list, Bruce did everything else -- caterers, decorators, arranging to have the Knights play the Metropolis Meteors in a special out of season game for a certain fan's birthday, keeping you and Tim in the dark."

"To think, I wouldn't give him any cake," Alfred said as Leslie rolled her eyes at him.

Roy and Dinah approached the newly entered party-goers. Dinah bent down and hugged Barbara, "Where's the Birthday Boy?"

"The boss is keeping the Birthday Boy busy with the Riddler, but I'm sure they'll be here before the first ball is pitched."

Roy put his arm around Tim's shoulder, "Kiddo, how you be? Did you know about this?"

Tim shook his head as he continued looking around totally in awe.

Roy smiled, "Who knew -- he DOES have a soul! He's not just a heartless, blood sucking vampire."

_______________________________________________________________________

Nightwing paced impatiently around the locked vault like a caged tiger. His muscles rippling under his skin tight black and blue uniform. "I can't believe we walked into this trap. How could we have walked into this trap?" he repeated for what Batman was sure was the hundredth time.

Batman sighed as he studied the combination lock before him. "Could you just help me concentrate on this?"

Nightwing whirled around, "There are about 400 combinations -- numbers or letters or both, we'll never get outta here. And Oracle decides to go on a 'date'. If she's with Blue Beetle, I swear I'm gonna -- "

"Nightwing! Concentrate!"

"Sorry," he said sheepishly as he moved closer to Batman. "Maybe the new riddles we found outside play a part in the combination," he mused. Nightwing thought of the clues they had discovered throughout the observatory. Clues that had led them into the vault below the main telescope. The first was an enigma "What is special about this sequence: 8 5 4 9 1 7 6 10 3 2 0?" They had tried it as the combination to the vault, had tried variations of the numbers. Nothing worked. Perhaps there was a combination with the answers to the other clues. Nightwing repeated the riddle aloud in the hopes of solving the puzzle. "I never was, am always to be, No one ever saw me, nor ever will, And yet I am the confidence of all To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball."

Batman started looking through his utility belt. Perhaps a few pellet grenades.

Nightwing responded to Batman's unspoken thoughts, "There's not enough room in here. We'll figure it out. Geez you act like you've got someplace to be."

"I have ... an ... engagement."

"Don't tell me you also have a date?"

"Not exactly. Although this is NOT how I planned to spend your birthday."

Nightwing stopped his pacing and stared at his father. "You remember it was my birthday? You planned something for my birthday? That is so cool!" Nightwing smiled widely as he looked at Batman who had turned toward him.

"Of course I remembered it. It's not everyday one's son turns twenty-five. Why that's 'ancient'."

"Of very funny. I know I'm old -- quarter of a century -- the brat reminded me."

"You are not old. If you're ancient what would I be?"

"Jurassic."

Batman glared at him. That glare froze criminals in their tracks and made them cry for their mothers. It only made Nightwing laugh. Batman enjoyed hearing the hearty laughter of his son.

"So, you gonna tell me what you had planned?"

"No. We have work to do."

"Please!"

"I'm not telling. Think about the riddles. That last one is complicated."

"Oh it's easy. It's Tomorrow. But I wanna know what you planned for my birthday. You gotta tell me."

"No,' Batman replied as he continued to fidget with the lock. Maybe the batlaser?

"Come on," Nightwing whined, "what if we die? Then I die and you didn't tell me. Just tell me."

"We're not going to die, Nightwing," Batman replied flatly.

"But ... WHAT IF we do?" Nightwing was trying to guilt his father into telling him.

"I'll tell you in the afterlife."

"Ok, what if we get outta the death trap? Then will you tell me?"

"If we get out in time I'll show you," he sighed as he realized the batlaser wasn't cutting through the vault fast enough.

"Ooooh goodie, its a time-sensitive present!" Nightwing said with glee as he spun around. Batman's mouth quirked upward slightly. The boy always did get excited about presents.

"You are NOT getting any clues from me."

"Does Robin know what it is? Does Oracle know what it is? Is it round? Does it need to be refrigerated?"

"I'm not telling. Shouldn't you be concentrating on getting us out of this trap?"

"Alphabetical!" Nightwing said as if a light had been turned on inside his head.

"What?" Batman asked.

"The numbers, they're in alphabetical order. Try this combination : E F F N O S S T T T O."

_______________________________________________________________________

Barbara was officially worrying now. The game was in it's fifth inning, but the spectators where more concerned with where the host and honored guest were.

"Should I fly around the city and search for them?" Clark asked Barbara as she was setting up her laptop in the owners box of the stadium.

"Oh that's just what Bruce wants -- you flying in to rescue him," she replied as the computer was going on line. In a few seconds her system would connect with her satellites -- well actually they were owned by the United States government, but she liked to consider them hers -- and she would check on their GPS tracers. "I knew going off-line without them here was a bad idea."

Donna and Roy stood beside Tim and Cassandra at the back of the room. Their nervous energy forcing them to feel the need to join a search party.

"Got 'em," Barbara said as everyone crowded around her to watch the screen. Two blips were moving from the waterfront toward the downtown area. "Oracle to Batman and Nightwing," she called into the communicator.

"Hiya red, do you know what my present is," Dick's voice came over the laptop's speakers.

Barbara smiled. He sounded fine. If he were hurt, he would have told her. At least, he had better.

Tim's voice sounded in the Batmobile's systems, "What's going on? Do you need assistance?"

Batman replied, "Negative. We're headed to the museum of history. Nightwing finally figured out what the Riddler was up too."

"Yeah once we got out of the vault, it was easy," Nightwing added.

Clark bent lower to the laptop, "Museum? Would you like our assistance? We could handle the Riddler while the two of you came and enjoyed the rest of the game."

"That's ok," Dick's voice called out cheerfully, "I don't know how I could be having a better time than I am right now. We'll should be there before the end of the game and we'll tell you all about it."

"But honey, you're missing your birthday," Donna called out.

"Nah, this is the best birthday I've had in years," Dick replied.

"Why're you going to the museum?" Tim asked. "I thought the clues sent you to the observatory?"

"They did. But that was only to get more clues. The observatory was having a exhibit about the stars of the zodiac. Riddler left a clue about the word tomorrow. Well, the zodiac sign of Aries the Ram starts tomorrow. We were thinking A.U. was an astronomical unit but it was the periodic table symbol for gold. Anything ringing a bell, Babs?"

Barbara smiled. "The Golden Fleece exhibit at the Museum. We're suppose to go this weekend."

"Yup," he replied.

"But why take the Greek ambassador?"

"Riddler is a lot of things, but fluent in Greek isn't one of them," Batman coolly stated.

"The powers of the Fleece would only be activated if someone said the proper spells in the correct dialect," Donna added.

Batman grunted. He didn't particularly believe in magic and mysticism, but he remembered the time the Greek gods or whatever those beings really were came to Gotham. Even he had been possessed by one of them. He wasn't about to let this power, if it existed, be released into the hands of the Riddler.

"Why the Greek ambassador. Why not someone from a Greek restaurant or something?" Roy asked.

Nightwing responded, "Gotham criminals can't do simple. They have to showboat." He closed the connection and looked at Batman who drove the Batmobile toward the museum. "Can I drive to the stadium?"

"No."

"But it's my birthday."

"No."

"Please," Nightwing whined.

"Concentrate. I want to see Clark's face when the Knights crush the Meteors."

"Oh yeah, now that would be a present." Nightwing said with a laugh as the Batmobile speed into the Gotham night.

_______________________________________________________________________

The game was still tied in the eleventh inning when the Knights star hitter batted what was a sure home run.

Dick Grayson dropped his piece of birthday cake in Roy Harper's lap as he jumped up and started running through the mostly empty stadium seats.

"Dude, what're ya doing?" Roy called out wiping chocolate cake from his tan cargo pants. Tim, Wally and Donna erupted with laughter.

Clark screamed in anguish as the Meteors lost to the Knights. Bruce smiled as he took a few photographs to immortalize the moment.

With a few quick jumps and flips, Dick maneuvered himself just right and caught the ball. Barbara smiled as she watched him do a victory dance in the stands.

Happily, Dick Grayson clutched the ball to his chest. He knew he would have to fend off Tim's attempts to steal the ball. He smiled as he thought about the day. The original Dynamic Duo had saved the ambassador and foiled the Riddler, and the Knights had finally won a game. He moved into the box of seats Bruce and Clark were occupying. He took the camera from Bruce and tossed it toward Clark. "Take a picture of us," he said with a wide grin.

Bruce smiled at his son as they posed for the picture.

"Gotcha! Knew I could make you smile. Mission accomplished."



THE END