Disclaimer: Bruce and Dick are awesome, but I neither own them nor know them personally. DC does. *sigh*
"So the meeting ran late eh?" Dick waited within the gates of Gotham Academy, watching the road for a moment as he talked on his cell. He wanted very much to throw off the jacket and tie but kept them where they were. He was still on campus and had an image to uphold. He saw Artemis get on her bus earlier and smirked when a squad car picked up Barbra. He was still waiting for his late ride, safely within the protection of the school.
Bruce sighed on the other end of the call. "Yes and no. Luthor's representative ambushed me right outside the office, trying to make me reconsider the deal. Talking to the lady took longer than I wanted. I should have just sent Alfred."
"It's alright," Dick countered. He put his back against the fence, feeling the familiar feeling he had since he was eight. Something would always try to get in Bruce's way and ruin the promises he made to Dick. Picking him up to visit Haley's Circus after school was just another thing to add to the list. "I'm used to it."
"You shouldn't be. I didn't like it when my father wasn't there."
"Your dad was a doctor. I think saving lives is a good reason don't you?"
A chuckle escaped Bruce's lips. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Besides, I've got a new app for my phone. I wanna see how long it takes for me to hack it." A grin crossed both their faces.
"Don't break this one. I hate having to replace them each time you decide to have fun." Dick laughed as he heard Bruce open a door to the street. "We'll be there in half an hour. Try not to get kidnapped."
"Ha ha ha." Sarcasm dripped from his lips. "Later Bruce."
Dick ended the call and turned his iPhone to it's side to start tinkering with the new app. First he'd use it the way it should be, then he'd start playing with the program. Waiting for Bruce and Alfred was actually how he got so good with computers. He got bored and started tinkering. It started becoming fun shortly after.
A few minutes passed before Bette Kane came up to him. He tried to act surprised when she spoke but he saw her coming towards him since she spotted him. Bruce's joke about being kidnapped was always in the back of his mind after all. He was always on alert for psychos.
Dick looked up at her then grinned. "Bette! Long time no see! How's the family?"
She gave him a cold glare. Bette didn't like him very much, mostly because of what happened when Bruce met her and tried being social. They learned quickly that the Kanes were Bruce's cousins from his mother's side, making Bette technically Dick's cousin, several times removed. Maybe a third or forth. Dick was sure the girl had a small crush on him until that point.
"The principal wants to see you." Bette kept her voice cold, imitating the debutante she thought herself as. As friendly as she was with Artemis, she wouldn't let her self be associated with Dick.
Dick's grin dropped to pure confusion. "Wants to see me? Why? I didn't do anything, did I?"
"I don't know. He just wants to see you. Right now."
Dick raised an eyebrow then shrugged, standing up and putting away his cell as he did. Then he thought better of it and took it back out. He typed a quick text to Bruce telling him where he'd be then put the phone away as he followed Bette.
The silence between them unsettled Dick. He hated when someone gave him the cold shoulder or didn't like him when he didn't know why. So he started to talk. "So how is your family? I heard your aunt's been active lately."
Bette glared forward. "Which one?"
"Both of them. It really depends on what papers you read."
Bette snapped at him, her calm guise failing. "You leave my family alone you hear me? And don't act so friendly circus brat. You're a freshman, I'm a junior. You stay where you belong and I'll stay where I belong. Got it?"
Dick took a step back, little shocked. What got her goat? "Hey just making conversation. The silence is dissettling."
"UN-settling. Quit butchering the English language already." They arrived right outside the principal's office. "And just so you know, aster is a flower. A daisy."
Dick blinked and turned away sheepishly, rubbing his neck. "Yeah, learned that from Babs. Thanks for the English lesson."
"Just get in there!"
"Okay okay! I'm going. Sheesh…" Dick threw up his hands in defeat and waltzed through the door. "Take a chill pill Bette."
He gave a bitter smirk as he saw Bette turn to leave with a 'humph'. Dick sighed. Really, couldn't they just get along? He shut the door behind him and met the receptionist. "Richard Grayson here to see Principal Stacy."
The receptionist nodded. "Go right on in. They're expecting you."
Dick gave an inquiring look, really curious what he did this time. He was about to go in when the receptionist stopped him. "Leave your cell phone here."
Dick sighed, reached into his pocket and took it out. He hated leaving one anywhere but the principal knew kids would completely ignore him if they had their phones with them. Grudgingly he put into the basket on the receptionist's desk and knocked politely on the principal's door.
Dick did just that and took in the room with a glance. Besides the aging Principal Stacy, there was a school guidance councilor (Becka Milliard if he remembered right), the school nurse (Mr. Frank Jeffreys), and some other man in a suit Dick didn't' recognize. Before them were photographs and reports, all of them on Dick. The photos were modified close ups on different scrapes and bruises he had over the years.
He closed his eyes and breathed in slowly. 'Great' he thought, 'here we go again.'
Quickly Dick put on a grin. "Hey Principal Stacy! Been a bit. How's the wife?"
"Mr. Grayson, please take a seat." Stacy waved over to a chair in front of the desk.
Dick slowly moved to it and sat as ordered, still trying to change the mood of the room. "Take it you slept on the couch last night. You really should apologize to her you know. A friend of mine's uncle said the husband's usually wrong, so just apologize and everything will be fine." He leaned back grinning. "Course if you really want good marital advice, I'd say talk to one of these people here. Why the audience?"
"Richard," Councilor Millard started, trying to be kind and motherly, "is there anything happening at home you want to tell us about?"
He faked a thought for a moment. "Yeah actually. Alfred's been on this seafood cooking kick lately. Know any way to get rid of all the octopus in Gotham so he'll stop trying to make it taste good? It's just too chewy for me."
"We meant in reference to Mr. Wayne," she persisted. "Anything going on with him?"
"Bruce? Well Lex Luthor's kinda stalking him. Just a few minutes ago the two of us were talking and he told me the reason he's late picking me up was because of another of his stupid representatives. You have any idea how annoying that is? We were gonna go see my old circus friends too. Looks like our visit's gonna be cut short."
"I mean," the councilor tried again, this piece of private conversation obviously not giving her any ideas, "between you and Mr. Wayne."
"I just told you. We're going to see my friends at the circus today. He's running late but he should be here in about..." Dick looked at the clock behind him. "Twenty minutes. Can we make this quick? It's nearly an hour drive to the site."
"Richard we're worried for you." The school nurse pointed out the bruise on Dick's jaw. "Your gym teacher reported seeing several bruises and scabs on you last week, and you've come in for fresh bandages several times in the past few weeks."
"I get hurt, so what?" Dick shrugged but took a mental note not to go into the nurse's office again for anything but cough drops or school injuries.
"These aren't typical teenage boy injuries Richard," the nurse insisted.
"Well I'm not your typical teenage boy." Dick grinned. His circus past came in handy in these arguments.
"Richard," the councilor started again, trying a different route. "It's alright to tell us the truth. If Mr. Wayne is hurting you—"
"Is this what you're talking about? You think Bruce is beating me?" Dick jumped to his feet indignant. "He's never laid a hand on me!"
"You don't have to lie about this Grayson," the principal finally piped in calmly. "We're only here to help."
"That's all Bruce ever did for me! He helps me, not hit me! Never once!" Course if he counted the sparing and training, it'd be a lie, but never out of anger. Bruce merely raised or lowered his voice when he was mad at Dick. He'd never hit him.
"We understand you feel indebted to him Grayson after he took you in," the principal continued, "but if he's hurting you—"
"He doesn't hurt me! How many times do I have to explain this to you people?" It was like this nearly once every year. Someone would claim he was being beaten by Bruce, and every time Dick would fight them. The first time he tried to tell them off, he started to cry.
"But your bruises, your scars, they all indicate—"
Dick cut off the nurse and reached for the photographs, remembering each story he came up with for his injuries. Angrily he tossed each one back to the desk as he told the stories again.
"Jumped from the banister to the chandelier then to the couch. Grounded for a week and did dishes for Alfred. Slid down the banister and didn't jump off soon enough to avoid the knob at the end of the rail. Fell out of a tree. Fell out of a tree. Fell from a tree. Tree, tree. Gotta stop climbing trees. No safety net and always scraping against the bark trying to find something to catch you. Ruined a few pots and pans playing Gladiator with Wally. Grounded for a week and ended up repainting the tool shed. Tree. Fell off my bike. Fell off a skateboard. Skates. Hit my head on my open locker. Tree. Gym locker. Slipped on the parallel bars and landed on the weights. We moved those afterwards. Tree. Skateboard. Motorcycle."
"Motorcycle!" The unknown man finally spoke, shouting exactly what the others were thinking.
Dick grinned impishly, glad he could expand on this story. He really did fall off his motorcycle that time and got nasty road-rash. Thing was, he was Robin at the time and with his team. "I wanted to see what it was like riding one. So while Bruce was out, I took one of his motorcycles and gave it a spin. Lot harder than it looks, and could barely reach the pedals. Lost control of it but managed to jump off in time. Bruce found out and grounded me for a month. Took all my games away. Even locked down my phone so I couldn't play games on it."
He tossed the photo on the desk and continued, sensing the councilor and nurse looking at each other in amazed doubt. Something was finally getting through to them. "Tree. Several trees. Never try to be a squirrel. It always hurts. Fell off a wall showing off to Barbra. Oh," he stopped on a picture of his wrists with rope burns. "This was right after I was kidnapped, again. Batman saved me. I think it was organized by Penguin. Bit hazy, chloroform and all that."
Dick smirked a little as he spotted the principal's eyes widened suddenly. Things were sinking in. He tossed the photo on the desk and continued.
"Skateboard. Rock climbing. Slipped while climbing the roof. Grounded for two weeks and waxed every one of Bruce's cars. Tree. Tree. Ran off one night and picked a fight 'cause I was mad. What was the reason again?" He tapped his chin playfully. This photo was of him nearly beaten to a pulp, but still grinning. No accident would work with that one. "Can't remember why, bet it was stupid. Bruce ended up running in frantic, pulled me out and ran for the car. Leslie has the medical report on file I'm sure. Couldn't move for two days. Grounded for a month, but he didn't take my games that time. More for my safety now that I think about it. Bruce can be really protective."
He tossed the photo down and kept going, his point almost completely made to the school staff. "Tree. Slipped on the bars again. Landed badly in a flip. Tree. Showing off to Wally in the garden. Roses really have sharp thorns. Alfred had me fix them afterwards. Slipped on diving board. Tree. Made fun of someone's glasses, not doing that again. Slipped doing flip. Skates. Tree. Locker. Tree. Have I made my point yet?"
"Why do you do all those dangerous things?" the nurse demanded.
Dick looked at his flabbergasted face, grinning once again. "I spent my childhood in the circus, the circus I should be going to see right now. We were trapeze artists. Bruce encourages me keeping up my skills so I remember my parents better, but I always loved the thrill from flying through the air. Can't be in the air all the time so I've been trying new things. Alfred and Leslie both say I get hurt more now than before because I'm growing a lot and my body is awkwardly trying to adjust itself."
"That… makes sense…" The councilor was almost convinced, her expression changing from concern to confusion. It'd only take a few more drops of information to convince her. "You're a thrill seeker."
Dick shrugged in mock embarrassment, grinning. "Just a bit."
"But your academic standing is phenomenal." Dick looked over to the principal who also was nearly convinced. Just a little more…
"Bruce actually encourages that more than acrobatics. He and Alfred take turns helping me with my homework and studying, and they're always trying to make it more interesting. Alfie even taught me cooking so I could get fractions easier."
"You're really just growing? And klutzy?" The nurse was about to join the realm of believers and Dick's smile widened.
"I wouldn't say klutzy. Just not as careful as everyone would like." He stepped round the chair he was supposed to be sitting in and leaned on the back of it. He nearly had them. "Bruce hates it when I get hurt, but he tries to keep his cool about it. Like my parents did."
That pretty much cinched it for the school workers. Abuse was nearly out of their minds, but glutton-for-punishment wasn't. Dick really was, but so was Bruce. They'd have to be to run around on rooftops in Gotham. The only one who wasn't convinced was the man in the corner.
'He must have started this,' Dick thought with a twitch of rage. Who was this guy anyway? He only spoke once. Was he supposed to be a silent accuser? 'He must be after Bruce for something.'
"So Mr. Wayne isn't hurting you?" The principal asked in clarification.
Dick shook his head. "Nope. Never. Well, is having to go to high class functions considered abuse? 'Cause if it is, I'd have to say yes."
This won him a few relieved chuckles. Finally, three people convinced. Dick's temper cooled to a simmer and he cracked jokes to keep everyone else from objecting anymore.
"What about Mr. Wayne's notorious temper?"
Dick eyed the man in the corner, gripping the chair tighter than he should have. "Temper? Are you talking about how his voice lowers when he's holding back a lecture for doing something stupid, or when we're in private and he chews me out for ruining the furniture?"
"I mean is dangerous side where he threatens to beat people within an inch of their lives."
He raised himself to his full height and glared at the man. Bruce Wayne didn't do that. Batman didn't threaten either. The bad guys just knew it was going to happen. "Oh? And just who did he 'threaten'? What was it about? Are you sure you got your information right? Because all I hear about him outside of the home is how he flirts endlessly with a girl then forgets her number. That's as cruel as he can get."
"Heard about that," the councilor muttered.
"He has been known to treat people badly," the man continued, pressing the issue. "He's a large muscular man after all. He probably bullied you and others to say and do what he wants."
"He doesn't bully me." Dick gripped the chair tighter, controlling himself. "I just told you how I got hurt all those times. Bruce had nothing to do with any of it. On the major things, he grounded me."
"But what does he really do behind closed doors?" The man approached Dick, determined to press the matter. He gestured at the pictures. "There's no way all of those injuries came from trees and falling from random places. I swear I see fingerprints in some of those bruises."
"Your eyes are deceiving you." Dick backed away slightly, glaring at the man. Why did he insist Bruce was abusing him? "You want to see Bruce as a bad guy so you're imagining it."
"He is a bad guy." The man gave Dick a determined stare. "I just need you to be honest and prove it."
The school staff members started to get up in protest but Dick didn't hear it. All he heard was the blood in his ears pumping as he threw a punch into this man's face. Everyone was on their feet now, upset and getting around to break them apart if necessary. The chair was still between them and Dick kept it there to protect himself. Still he shook with rage as he shouted.
"DON'T YOU DARE INSULT BRUCE LIKE THAT AGAIN! HE'S DONE EVERYTHING HE CAN FOR ME! FOR EVERYONE! YOU CAN'T EVEN IMAGIN WHAT HE'S GONE THROUGH! HE'S ONE OF THE BEST MEN YOU'D EVER MEET! DON'T YOU EVER—"
"Grayson! Calm down!" The principal somehow made it to Dick's side and gripped his shoulders to get him under control. Dick stopped shouting instantly and realized his eyes were beginning to water and he was shaking. He didn't realize how much it upset him when someone insulted Bruce. He was used to people badmouthing Batman, but people trying to hurt the man behind the bat wasn't near as common. Playboy, lazy, flake he was used to. But to be convinced Bruce was evil was just…
"Grayson." Dick looked up at the principal, his mind coming fully to the present. Suddenly he realized how much trouble he was now in, and all the color drained from his face.
'Nice going Dick.'
Principal Stacy gave Dick a stern look once he was sure he had the kid's attention. "As much as Mr. Wallace deserved that, what you did was out of line. You shouldn't go around punching people for insulting your father."
"Legal guardian," Dick muttered lowly, almost out of habit. Bruce wasn't his dad after all.
The principal sighed and let Dick go, sensing the teen wouldn't do anything irrational now. "I'm afraid I have to write a formal reprimand for this Grayson."
"Formal reprimand?" Wallace angrily pointed at Dick, ready to go for a second round. "That kid just hit me it the face! He's as bad as his old man! He should be going to Juvie!"
"Rules are: first offence, written reprimand unless the second party is sent to the hospital," the principal stated. The nurse shook his head at the man, since all he got was a swollen eye. The councilor kept the man back from Dick as well.
Dick shrunk back slightly as the principal wrote on a piece of paper. Bruce wasn't going to like this. They might not go the circus after all, then he'd be stuck in his room that night.
The principal then took the sheet of paper and handed it over to Dick. He took one look at it and grinned.
Sorry for the mix up.
Nice right hook.
Don't do it again.
"Get the message?"
Dick looked up at the principal grinning wider. "Loud and clear sir."
"What's loud and clear?"
Everyone turned with a jolt towards the door. Bruce Wayne had one hand on the door handle and the other on Dick's phone. His curious expression browsed the room, particularly over Wallace getting off the ground glaring at them. Dick quickly put the paper away and tried to put his usual smile on.
"Mr. Wayne," the principal started.
"I thought I heard shouting. Is everything alright in here?" Bruce looked directly at Dick, then to his hand. Dick hid it behind his back.
"Uh huh." Bruce's doubt was very evident. "Did he fall as well?"
"Into your fist?"
"More or less."
"Right." He looked over the adults in the room, assessing the situation once again. He gave a small sigh. "You're going to the charity ball."
"What?" Dick gaped at him exasperated. The school staff couldn't help but suppress snickers. "But you said I could—"
"That was before this. Ready to go? The traffic isn't looking much better." Dick nodded and walked to the door, little upset that his punishment was going to be another lesson in social self control. As Bruce stepped to the side to let Dick exit, he looked back to Wallace. "You look a little familiar. Aren't you one of Luthor's Lawyers?"
The school staff looked at Mr. Wallace realizing the truth in an instant. The lawyer paled quickly, his identity exposed. Bruce casually laughed it off. "Oh I'm so bad with names and faces. Is everything really alright in here?"
The principal nodded, his expression clouding in thought. "Yes, everything is just fine. We just wanted to talk to your… ward about a few things. That's all."
Bruce nodded again and smiled disarmingly. "Alright then. Good day." He shut the door and handed Dick his cell as they briskly walked out the office. Once out of the office's earshot Bruce looked back to Dick. "What was that really about?"
"That guy wanted to give you a bad rep via me. Epic fail."
"Hm." Bruce said nothing for a moment and Dick tried not to look up and stare at him. After a moment he spoke again. "You're still going to that ball."
"Ah come on! I'll miss out on the movie Wally wanted to show us!"
"Wally's movie or visiting the circus. Pick one. Either way, punching lawyers to get them to shut up isn't acceptable." Dick pouted a little as he entered the car. Bruce looked over to Dick expectantly as they buckled up. "Well?"
"Can we watch the show tonight too?" Bruce took out some tickets, a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. Dick grinned. "I'll see the guys next weekend."
A/N: I read a few shorts of Dick getting called in to school offices because people suspected he was abused, but none of them really satisfied me. This is just my take on it.
From the one bit with Bette in YJ, I got the impression she didn't care for Dick much, and this is also my idea as to why. Bruce's mom was a Kane and Bette would be something like a distant cousin. And even though Bruce is pretty much Dick's dad, he's technically not until he officially adopts him. Hence the title 'ward'. Just being real here.
I liked how Dick could come up with a million excuses as to why he's always black, blue and red all over. Just saying he's an acrobat wouldn't cut it in my opinion. And really, when a person's growing, they do become klutzy.