Two tears trickled down Dick's cheeks as he sat in the living room, arms tightly wound around his skinny legs. He buried his face in his knees and shivered. His thin form shook urgently, but it had nothing at all to do with the cold. His diaphragm heaved up and down as he forced his tears back from the place where they had sprung.

"Dick", a voice called, rebounding off the walls almost as if there were ten summons and not just one. "Dick where are you?" Dick, hearing Bruce approaching, raced off and forced himself into the tiny place behind a few boxes in the closet. The dust made him want to sneeze, but he held his breath until the urge passed by. He wiped the tears from his eyes and held his breath.

Bruce cocked his head, listening. "Dick", he called "Are you hiding from me?" He waited in absolute silence for a moment. Dick felt as if he were about to burst with sorrows and let out a small squeak, which the Dark Knight honed in on like a bloodhound to a scent. He opened the closet door slowly, the creaks and groans of it reminding him just how much it needed to be oiled, and crouched down eyes, searching the darkness. "Dickie", he said urgently, "Dick's what's wrong?"

The small boy, unable to hold anything else back, broke into frantic sobs his body heaving with the force of his agony. "Dick", Bruce said, panic rising in his breast "come here." Dick answered the summons like he had been trained to do and crawled out from under the boxes throwing himself into Bruce's embrace and gripping the front of the billionaire's shirt like death itself.

"Dick", Bruce said anxiously, anxiety rising, born of Dick's strange behavior "Dick, are you hurt?" Dick shook his head, tears still streaming. Yet Bruce, ran his hands over him anyway, searching for injuries. Once he was satisfied his ward was free from physical ailment, he simply wound his arms around him tightly, creating a wall between the boy and the outside world, a wall Dick had grown used to hiding behind in the years since he had first come to Bruce. The man rocked him gently, shushing him with small, gently muttered words.

Only after Dick's crying had abated did Bruce get up and put him down on a chair. Then, he pulled another up, straddling it like it was a horse of some kind, and sat with his arms across the top of the back, chin resting atop them and eyes searching the boy's. "Alright", he said, "What's up, what's wrong? Why were you hiding from me?"

"I…I didn't want you to see me", Dick said softly, giving a sniffle.

"Why not?" Bruce asked.

"Because", Dick wailed, "I'm so stupid. I'm useless and I'm stupid and nobody wants me around."

"Now, why would you say something like that?" Bruce asked.

"Because it's true", Dick muttered. "I'm nothing."

"Dick, you're twelve and you're saving people everyday on the streets of Gotham. I'd hardly call that nothing." Dick just averted his eyes. "What happened today?" Bruce asked, "Something happened at school, didn't it?"

"Just some stupid kids", Dick muttered.

"What did they do?" Bruce prompted.

"They won't leave me alone", the boy cried, "they just keep swarming around me, calling me names and making fun of me 'cause I'm from the circus and stuff. They talk about the stuff I wear and the way my hair looks and everything. I don't know why."

"Because they're jealous", Bruce said.

"Jealous, hah, why would they be jealous of me? I'm nothing. Bruce, can I get my hair cut different and get some new clothes. I bet they'd leave me alone if I did that."

"Well", Bruce said, "you can if you'd like, but then you'd end up becoming just like them. You'd lose your "dickiness"." Dick snorted and Bruce turned his chair so he could sit on it a bit more conventionally.

"Maybe that'd be a good thing. It'd be better if I wasn't the way I am."

"You know what Dick", Bruce said, leaning foreward and taking his hands, "Can I tell you a secret?"

"Sure", Dick said, eyes lighting up at the idea of some truth he would be acquiring that no one else knew.

"You're perfect", Bruce whispered.

"Yea right", Dick scoffed.

"I'm serious", Bruce replied, none of the usual lightheartedness in his eyes. "You are absolutely perfect and you are so lucky to be what you are. You're so talented and handsome and intelligent. You are amazing."

"You really think that," Dick asked, "or are you just saying it?"

"I never throw words around I don't mean Dick, you are perfect in every way and everyone knows it. Why do you think they pick on you? It's because of what you are. Otherwise, they'd find something better to make fun of than your hair, which looks stunning today I might add." Dick's tear stained cheeks stretched in a grin.

"You are the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. I'm a billionaire, I could have anything I wanted, go anywhere I chose, be anything I wanted to be, but I picked you. I picked to stick around and raise you, not because I had to, but because you are so incredible and you teach me so much, I didn't want to miss a minute that could have been spent with you."

"Really?" Dick asked, eyes brightening. Bruce nodded.

"You are the most amazing creature that ever lived. You are such an incredible person, I want you to stay little, but I'm so excited to see what kind of adult you're going to become. I mean, what have those other kids got on you anyway. I could have chosen them if I wanted to, but I chose you. I didn't want them.

They're nothing compared to you. In fact, you could make fun of them if you wanted to. But I know you. And I know you're better than they are. You don't have to make fun of people to feel good about yourself. You're so amazing already, you don't need to lord it over anyone. After all, they already know."

Dick gave him a genuine, giant smile and leapt at him. He wrapped his arms around Bruce's neck and nuzzled him. "I love you Bruce."

"I love you too Dickie, and don't ever forget, no matter what anyone says about you, I'll always think the world of you."

"Always?" Dick asked. Bruce nodded.

"Always", he whispered.