Info: This is not set on Earth-16 canon verse. It's my own little universe and is the fourth part of what I have called "The Child Series." The other three are named: "Child's Gift," "Child's Mind" & "Child's Play". Please do read those as well.
Note: This story doesn't have a beta and I was exhausted when proofreading, so please, if you find any typos, mistakes, whatever - be free to point them out. I'll edit as soon as possible.
Gotham City, 2004
To be honest, Alfred had suspected this. Ever since they had accepted the boy into their lives, Bruce had not taken lightly to leaving him out of his sight. Well, at least after they formed the bond necessary for them both to deal with the grief that lay within both hearts (this grief Bruce had, naturally, contained a lot longer).
The butler sighed out, his experienced eyes glancing over at Bruce's restless body. The Batman had been pacing around in his cave ever since they'd returned to Gotham City. Now, Alfred had been serving the Wayne Household for a long, long time, but he couldn't recall ever seeing his ward this eager to take on a case.
If there had been a case. The fact that it weren't any seemed to be the problem. Gotham was simply quiet tonight. There were hardly any robberies worth taking a look at. And those who occurred were so harmless that the police would have them handled even before the Batman reached his destination.
Alfred saw no reason for Bruce's anxiety. There were plenty of things the billionaire could do on a quiet day. After all, they were so rare that Bruce surely had a list of what to do when he first got a day off. Then again, Alfred had recalled that he'd mentioned that from now on – every free minute he possessed he would spend with Richard.
It was very… touching to say the least. Sentimentality was, without a doubt, not a regular occurrence when it came to Bruce, the Batman.
Alfred had been very pleased when he heard of Bruce's decision regarding his free time. Yet, he, currently, caught himself thinking that having a list of Things to Do When Dick is Not Present, was not such a bad idea.
It could happen. Especially now since the boy had finally gotten some friends around his own age.
"If I may, Master Bruce," Alfred spoke up, gaining the pacing Batman's attention, if only barely. "Maybe such a time – in which you seem to have been lucky enough to have some spare time on your hands – should be done catching up on some very much required sleep."
The Batman raised an eyebrow at his butler. "Sleep?" he repeated. "Alfred…"
"The Justice League has no serious matter at hand, there is no child to distract you, no attacks on Gotham, Wayne Industries is currently running as smoothly as ever… Master Bruce, you'll soon enough be drowning in work. I see no serious harm in getting some extra hours? You will, doubtlessly, be in use for it later."
As usual, Alfred was full of wisdom. Bruce threw a look at the screen; no Batsignal, no nothing. He supposed that he could be in need of some hours of sleep. Usually, Alfred kept track of his sleepless nights just so he could make sure the Dark Knight never pushed it too far.
Even so, when he stopped up and let his body simply feel… Well, it had been a while since he slept peacefully. And tomorrow there would be no early wake-ups either. Not that he minded to wake up to the wonderful scene that was his young boy tugging on his duvet, but sleeping to past 6 AM was rather tempting.
He had no cases that needed attention, and thus his mind would be less troubled as well.
Yes, maybe he should take an early night.
He sent his butler a look that stated his agreement in the suggestion and then headed off to remove his costume. It had been no purpose in donning it in the first place, but that he could deal with. Undressing from the heavy suit had long since become like second nature to him.
Quickly enough, after a refreshing shower and dressing into his pyjama bottoms, Bruce Wayne sat down onto his king sized bed. The silk felt good as he traced his fingers over it, tempting him more, urging him to just get in already. Even so, he hesitated… He could check on the tracer he had on Dick. Just to make sure he was still where he was supposed to be…
Alfred would disapprove, but…
It wasn't his fault that his thoughts always wandered over to the most unpleasant places whenever he couldn't fully keep track of his adopted child. He was a possessive, protective creature by nature… Of course, only to those he cared for, which weren't too many, but if there was one that came into the category it was Dick Wayne Grayson.
He brought up his pocket-phone, and activated the barely noticeable tracer he knew still hung onto his son's ankle. He didn't know exactly what he'd expected. When the screen lit up, the red dot that showed the position of Dick lay, as suspected, in Central City, the Allen Household.
Grumbling under his breath, the Batman placed his phone away and tried to relax in his bed. Dark eyes glared up at the ceiling as he sighed deeply. Get some sleep, Wayne, he told himself, his eyelids closing. Tomorrow he's coming back.
Not that he missed Dick or anything.
Central City, 2004
The rain had started out of nowhere. It was unusual for it to occur so abruptly in Central City and a bit unexpected too since snow had roamed the sky for an entire week. Most citizens were, however, asleep when the forceful droplets made its appearance from the sky.
Atop the Allen House the rain drummed against the roof, making it sound throughout the entire household. It was because of this Dick Wayne Grayson slowly awoke from his peaceful sleep. The young boy blinked for a minute, before he rose from his comfortable spot on the bed. Dark blue eyes looked dazed around in the bedroom, only partly registering where he was.
The brunet quickly came to realise that this was not his own bed, nor his own room. Also, that he wasn't alone. Dick quickly glanced over at Wally. The eight-year-old was hugging what looked like a white plush-rabbit. It had a red t-shirt on, and the Flash symbol adorned it. He looked peaceful and content.
Dick grabbed hold of his own stuffed animal, which he couldn't remember being there before. Uncle Barry had probably handed both the rabbit and Jet the Bat to them when he and Wally had fallen asleep. It was comforting, sure, but Dick found himself waking up with a feeling he hated.
The feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, the five-year-old would wake up with the pain clawing at his chest; he felt isolated and scared without an apparent reason. Bruce had told him it was normal; people who had witnessed what they had, who had experienced the feeling of complete and utter lonesomeness, could wake up like that without a nightmare being involved.
Dick, young as he was, found it very unfair. Why should he have to wake up with this horrible feeling inside of him even when he didn't have nightmares? And, especially, so when Bruce was out of reach. In fact, his Daddy was hundreds of miles, and many, many, many hours away from him.
It made Dick feel nauseous just thinking about it. He let out a whimper and pulled his legs toward himself, trapping his stuffed animal to his chest. He sniffled, closed his eyes and buried his nose into the softness. He was such a wimp. Daddy would be disappointed. How could he be Robin; someday the great sidekick to Batman if he was acting like a baby? He would soon be six.
The young boy whimpered again, a tear escaping from behind his eyelids. He felt ashamed for letting them drop, but he felt so… so… alone. Even if Wally was sleeping beside him. He felt as if the darkness surrounding him wanted to engulf and eat him – he hated this. He was so young that trying to understand why he felt this way became nearly impossible.
He was just a frightened, little kid; concerned that what his adoptive father – who was the Caped Crusader for God's sake – would think if he ever found out how much of a coward he was. Dick's tears fell faster now, since he couldn't stop thinking of Bruce's disappointed look. Did Daddy think that of him when he woke him up in the middle of the night and crept into his bed, which he probably would have done now if it weren't for the fact that Bruce was miles away?
His dad certainly hadn't acted as if it bothered him before… But Bruce was so kind and… a hero. Of course, he would be nice, even if he found him… disappointing and… wimpy.
Dick hadn't realised he was actually crying a lot before he felt a hand against his shoulder. He instantly looked up, blue eyes meeting Wally's green ones. The freckled boy was blinking confused. "Robbie, what's wrong?" he asked, his own rabbit tucked under his arm. "Why are you crying? Do you have a stomach-ache?"
"N-no," Dick murmured, sniffing as he bought his sleeve up, lightly wiping his tears. "Just… sad."
"Why?" Wally cocked his head to the side, feeling helpless as he watched his best friend try to hide the teardrops. He quickly pulled Dick into a hug, and let the younger boy rest his head on his shoulder. It used to help him whenever he was sad and it was his Daddy who hugged him like this.
"I-I miss my mommy and daddy," murmured the young boy and sniffled once more. Again, he felt so weak. Wally never cried. He just got mad at anyone who tried to push him around. So did Conner… and Roy… And Kaldur was very grown-up; he could handle himself no matter what. Why couldn't he be like them? Why did he have to be the youngest?
"I didn't know Batman had a wife!" Wally blinked. "Whose your mommy?"
The acrobat bit his lip and then more tears came rolling. Confused and at loss of what to do, Wally withdrew and quickly said: "I can get Dad real quick and he can call Batman so he can come pick you up and you can go home to your-"
Quickly, Dick reached out and grabbed Wally by the arm to make sure he didn't move. Sometimes the speedster tended to run off before he finished his sentences and Dick didn't want him to leave. "Don't, Wally," he said, hugging the redhead. "Don't go."
"Then what do you want? You're crying."
Dick pulled a bit away and started fumbling with Jet the Bat. Wally's eyes drifted off to his own stuffed animal. He bit his lip, before he quietly said: "Do you think it's weird I have Flash Bunny now that I'm eight?"
"No. Why would that be weird?"
"Because I'm too old?"
"You're not too old to have a friend in your bed," Dick said confidently, his tears becoming fewer by the minute. He inhaled through his nose to prevent the snot from dripping. He then glanced down at his bat plush in his lap and stroked it. "It makes you feel… better, right?"
Wally nodded. His previous worry about what Dick would think of his stuffed animal lay long forgotten. Instead, he studied his smaller best friend's teary face. This wasn't how he'd thought they'd wake up, but he did as he'd been taught. He comforted and continued to let Dick rest against him. It felt warmer and safer for the both of them, actually.
"You… you wanna know why I miss my mommy and daddy?" the Gothamite asked after a long time. Or at least it felt like that for the young speedster.
Wally nodded, frowning concerned. "Yeah."
"Because… they died… I said before I had two daddies and one mommy, remember?"
Now that he mentioned it, Wally did remember. Dick had said so, like he had said, himself, that he had two mommies and two daddies. They never got into detail about it because they were very easily distracted and usually Dick was never sad when he thought of his biological parents in the speedster's presence.
At this moment, however, Wally knew that his given birth name was Richard Grayson. He knew and because of that Dick didn't feel uncomfortable about telling him the truth. The little five-year-old simply said: "Mommy and Daddy worked at the circus. They trained me to be an acrobat, but one day… a bad, bad man he… he cut into the trapeze when they were practicing. He did it when the Joker had started a fire so it would look like an accident."
Wally's eyes were wide as he looked at Dick. The boy sounded very mature as he talked about this, probably because the Batman had involved him quite a lot in this case. Anything else would have been unexpected considering that Dick was indeed their son.
"So he killed your mommy and daddy?" Wally said quietly; he looked mad; downright angry that anyone could do that to his best pal. "But Batman took him right? Right?"
Dick nodded. "Yeah. Batman took him and he's never coming out of prison. At least that's what Daddy says when I… think about it." He felt a bit warmer and better now that he'd spoken to Wally. Especially so when the older boy hugged him. He really was the bestest friend ever.
"My first parents are dead too," Wally murmured finally. "But they're okay. I'm lucky that I have two moms and dads, right?"
"Yeah," Dick smiled a bit forcefully. "I got lucky and got a new Daddy too."
"And he's Batman. He took the bad man who killed your parents, and now you're going to be a hero too," Wally said; as usual the redhead's voice was eager, but at a more quiet level than usually. He grinned and held up his fist. He had taught Dick how this gesture worked a long time ago, so the younger of the two quickly put his own fist to his. "So, don't be sad, okay?"
"I'm not anymore," Dick responded with a smile. He yawned a bit and then lay down, Wally following him. They pulled their stuffed animals close and Dick reached out his hand. Wally grasped it and they smiled. "You're like my big brother, Wally."
"I always wanted a brother."
They grinned at each other, snuggling a bit closer to the warmth. Dick had never had someone at his own age that treated him like this. It felt nice. And, since he was pretty sure that it was possible to make your own family instead of having to be related, the five-year-old Richard Wayne Grayson decided Wally West-Allen would be his big brother. Now and forever.
"G'night, Dick…" Kid Flash bit his lip. "Do you want to borrow Flash Bunny?"
"It's okay; he's yours."
"I don't mind sharing."
Dick smiled. "Nah, it's okay."
Despite hearing this, Wally subtly pushed the bunny to right below Dick's chin. The younger boy giggled at his best friend's stubbornness. He then opened his arms and accepted the stuffed animal. "Thank you," he whispered quietly. He sniffled once more, wiped the last bit of tears, and didn't protest when Wally pulled the duvet over them both.
He was lucky. Now, he had a big brother, uncles and aunts, a Daddy, and a grandfather. Even when he'd lost his parents they would be happy to see how he had so many people in his life that cared and loved him.
"See ya tomorrow, Dickie," Wally whispered. He then yawned and the boys fell asleep.
When Barry Allen awoke the next morning he had not expected to find two small boys curled up against his chest, nor to find the TV in their bedroom on, playing Spiderman as high as ever. The fact that his own wife seemed to be absent was just as unexpected actually. Well, up until the moment he saw a note hanging on his lamp. He blinked at it, threw a look down at his sleeping boy, which he made sure to pull a bit closer to himself with a soft smile, and then grabbed the note.
He read it over, before sighing deeply. Apparently, Iris had been called in for work and had to leave. The boys had been up so she had put the TV on, but, apparently, they had fallen asleep again seeing as they were snuggling close to his sides, both having stuffed animals tucked underneath their armpits.
The Scarlet Speedster yawned tiredly, his eyes now directing themselves at the clock. 8 AM, and on his day off? Yeah, he was definitely going to sleep a bit longer. Especially so when the boys resting so quietly. He made himself more uncomfortable against the cushions, smiled and then pulled the sleeping Dick and Wally closer, making sure the duvet covered them both.
Although he was rather tired, Barry Allen found himself studying the two sleeping children. They looked so peaceful, and, frankly, adorable. He wondered if maybe this was the kind of situation he should take pictures? You know, so he could use them to embarrass them both once they reached the teenage years and would, most likely, rebel.
If that was the case, Bruce would probably want some too.
Chuckling, Barry shook his head. Wally was still eight. He had plenty of time for blackmail pictures. Iris had, most likely, a great deal of them in Wally's album already. He felt bad he hadn't exactly looked at that yet though… He would do it later. Just so he could clarify if it really was valid to say that he had blackmail material to use against his son once he reached a rebellious stage.
He had no idea how long he'd slept, but it didn't feel like much when he was abruptly startled awake later on. A chocolate chip cookie was the first thing that met him, blocking the view of anything else. "Hey, Daddy!" Wally's cheery voice sounded. Berry glanced to his side, met his son's happy-face and then sighed.
"You're not going to let me sleep, are you, buddy?" the Scarlet Speedster murmured, forcing a small, tired smile. He needed coffee.
"Didn't think so." He propped himself up on his elbows to get a better overview of his bedroom. Dick was seated on the foot of the bed, a cookie jar in one hand and Jet the Bat in the other. "You guys hungry?"
"We have cookies," Dick said, turning his head to look at his uncle-figure with a big grin.
"So I can see," chuckled the Flash as he stretched his arms up in the air. He felt stiff, probably because he'd been sleeping beside the boys up until the moment they had started watching TV. "But they aren't pancakes!"
"Pancakes!" the redheaded boy cheered.
Dick just beamed as Barry got out of bed and said: "So, who wants to ride the Flash express?"
"Oh, no, run!" Wally yelled. He then grabbed his younger best friend by the arm and spurted downstairs.
They believed that one tour with the Flash express has been more than enough, while Barry could only snicker. At least he knew exactly what to say to get them to move. He would be sure to remember that for future use.
Deciding not to bother changing clothes, Barry speeded downstairs, quickly making coffee while the kids jumped into the chairs by the table. "Hey, Wally, will you lay the table?" Barry asked, throwing a look over his shoulder as he found the ingredients needed for the pancakes.
All he received was a giant grin from his young son. Dick could only watch amazed as the speedsters worked. Although Barry could not exactly speed up the process of making pancakes after the mix was done it still went far quicker than the acrobat was used to. His blue eyes blinked once and already Wally was done with the most of the table.
Seconds later, plates, glasses, milk, juice, batter, syrup, everything was in place. It sure was an efficient way of having breakfast. For a five-year-old it was very amusing watching everything happen so fast; it certainly was quite a contrast to Alfred's proper, more time-consuming work in the kitchen.
Soon enough, the Flash served homemade pancakes to the youngsters who cheered with glee. Just as Barry put syrup on his own breakfast, the door opened and Iris's voice sounded through the house. "Boooys, I'm home!"
"In the kitchen!" Barry answered, sending the boys an amused look. Half their faces were sticky by now.
"Hi, Aunt Iris!"
"Hello, sweeties!" Iris poked her head inside, and then smiled warmly at the view. She wasn't sure how much she appreciated the sticky, syrup-covered faces of her son and, sort-of-like-nephew possessed, but she could deal. Chuckling, she shook her head and grabbed a couple of napkins. "Barry, I hope you know how to clean their faces and that this is a result of boredom if anything."
"Relax, honey; it's not like they're going to stay clean for long." The Flash grinned at her and Iris could merely roll her eyes. However, there was a lot of truth in Barry Allen's words. She studied the boys' faces and then handed them a napkin each.
"Doesn't mean they can't keep it in check as we go."
Barry could only smile.
"They're out in the garden."
Bruce Wayne merely glanced up, his dark eyes looking over Barry Allen's beaming face. The blond man looked relaxed enough, indicating that the boys hadn't done any permanent, upsetting damage. He supposed that was a relief, though his hope of Dick scaring Barry to the point where the Flash would never let him close to his house again was deeply crushed.
Sighing, he walked inside, following Barry's lead to the back of the house. There they stepped out on the porch. Across the lawn, the boys were playing around whilst throwing a ball at one another and occasionally a wrestling match would occur. They were both dressed in raincoats since small droplets would still slip down from the sky and since the lawn was moist and soft.
As Bruce watched them play silently, Barry went inside to fetch them some coffee. Sometimes, the billionaire found it a bit unbelievable how normal it seemed. He supposed this was how regular parents did this. They let their kids sleep over, and when they fetched them shared a cup of coffee while chatting. Of course, the Batman didn't chat with the Flash. Oh no.
League business was in order.
"So, Bats why-"
"There was a break-in."
Flash's expression abruptly changed and he tilted his head to the side. He leaned his back over the railing, taking a sip of his coffee cup. "In Gotham?" he questioned slowly, starting to wonder if this was about Bruce being a bit later than first intended. After all, it was noon and he had expected the Bat to be present early in the morning.
"No." Bruce's lips pursed. "At the kindergarten."
Barry's body froze as he turned to look at Bruce. "A break-in? But… that's impossible. The day-care is one of the safest place in the world, Bruce. We made sure of that. I was there. No one can get past those force fields, not after you, J'onn, Tornado… well, everyone who knows how to work them helped putting it up." When all Flash received was an angry frown, he added: "Wow… it really did happen?"
"Do you really think I would have mentioned it if it didn't?" Now, Flash couldn't argue with that logic. He ran a hand through his blond hair, casting a glance over at Wally and Dick, before turning to look at Batman again. "But it's weekend… why would someone – if they could – break in when there was no one there?"
"That's the thing, Allen," Bruce murmured. "They didn't take anything. The security cameras were turned off, the shield gone… Nothing was out of place other than that. And…" Batman's eyes narrowed further. "Our system is down."
"No. Just all data obtainable from the small computer stored in the day-care."
"That… doesn't make any sense at all."
"You're right; it doesn't. Whoever did this wasn't even a skilled hacker, nor had any clear motive. Being on that computer could easily have given him or her access to the Watchtower. Even so, that isn't the case."
Barry understood now why Bruce's was stiffer than usual, and why he hadn't made his presence known for his son. He was caught in thoughts, most likely trying his best to figure out why anyone would complete such an extraordinary feat and yet not use the knowledge one could gain for any use.
It was troubling to say the least.
Both Leaguers fell silent as they studied the boys playing around. They stayed like this for a long time, only watching them and were fascinated over how lost Wally and Dick were in what they were doing.
Then, suddenly, two pair of eyes found them in a brief moment. It certainly caught the youngest boy's attention. "Daddy!" he uttered gleefully, dashing over the lawn with his hands stretched out.
The Flash found himself witnessing a very… special moment. It wasn't often one saw Batman's brooding, thoughtful look go to soft and caring. In fact, one didn't see Batman soft and caring at all. Most of the time. After their sons had interacted it turned out it wasn't as downright shocking and special anymore.
Nevertheless, Barry always watched intensely.
"Daddy! Daddy! It was awesome! Wally and I ate cookies, and watched TV, and Uncle Barry made pancakes like, super fast, and it was so much fun!"
Dick abruptly inhaled, his hands clutching the billionaire's pant-leg. Bruce put his finger to his lips. "All right, son, breathe." He then crouched down and took the eager child into his arms. This instantly caused the boy to embrace the billionaire around his neck, smiling happily.
"I'm glad you had a good time," the Bat murmured into Dick's ear, causing the young boy to smile. Although it had been fantastic to attend his very first sleepover, Dick had missed his adoptive father. It felt good being reunited again and he couldn't wait to tell Alfred all about what he and Wally had been doing. "Now, it's time to go home!"
The adults shooed the kids inside, Bruce telling Dick to fetch his stuff. Barry had hoped for some more information about the break-in, but all he received was silence. Bruce was back to thinking. His softer composure would, without a doubt, not come through until Dick returned.
"Hi, Daddy, can you hold Jet?" Richard asked he came carrying his stuff. Barry couldn't help but chuckle at Dick's poor attempt to pack his own stuff. The backpack was stuffed to its breaking point; nothing was folded at all, and it looked like it was going to burst any minute.
Bruce shook his head and accepted the stuffed animal. He then crouched down and took Dick's bag from him. He brought the content up and folded it, hiding a small smile by his son's sheepish look. Once done, he zipped the backpack shut and handed it to Dick. "There."
"Thanks!" Robin beamed.
"Say goodbye to Wally, Dick, and thank Flash for having you over."
"Okay." Dick turned and quickly hugged Barry around the legs. The Scarlet Speedster grinned down at him. "Thank you for having me over, Uncle Barry! I'll see you soon!"
"Sure thing, kiddo," answered the speedster, before reaching down to ruffle the dark hair.
The young brunet then turned his attention to his best friend, and instantly they were in each other's faces again. Their never-ending need to talk and be close continued to baffle Bruce. It was a strong friendship they shared; especially so considering their age. It was… different. Interesting.
"For the time being the incident will be put on ice. We will discuss it further on our next meeting," Bruce murmured as the boys bid their goodbyes. Barry didn't have to ask which incident he was referring to.
"Is it safe though, Bats?" Worry shone in the speedster's green eyes. "I mean, if they know how to do it once…"
"That was their mistake, Flash. We are prepared; M'onna and Tantella have been ordered to contact the League if they notice the smallest of interference and Red Tornado has also volunteered to check in on a daily basis, even in the weekends. We have the situation covered."
The Flash nodded, looking less concerned now. He then put on a smile and turned to the boys. "Okay, kiddos; time for Dick to go home."
Wally pouted noticeably, and then gave his best bud one final hug out of many. Dick giggled and they fist-bumped, the younger smiling from ear to ear. "Next time, you can come to my house!"
Bruce was not sure if he liked that idea, but didn't object. He would let them live in oblivious bliss for the time being. He shook Barry's hand, albeit a bit awkwardly, and then brought Dick outside. The speedsters watched them exit, Wally still pouting. Barry simply crouched down by his level and engulfed his son into his arms. They exchanged smiles.
Meanwhile, Bruce had taken his to-be sidekick outside. There Dick skipped ahead, swirling around on his toes as they headed for the zeta beam. Although his mind was clearly occupied by the latest incident handled by the Justice League, his dark eyes never left Dick's bouncing body.
It was funny how that child somehow made him put away his work to an extent that made him… relax.
Everything had changed. And Bruce was so happy it had.
"Hey, Daddy!" Dick turned and Bruce caught up to him, looking down at the smiling child. "I told Wally what happened to my first Daddy and my Mommy, because…" Suddenly, the kid blushed. "Because I woke up and felt lonely."
Hearing this, Batman frowned and crouched by his son, but didn't say anything. Dick looked at his feet and then up again, before saying. "Bruce… is it okay that Wally is my big brother even when Uncle Barry is his dad and you're mine?"
A ghost of a smile crept over Bruce's lips. "Sure, Dick. As I've told you many times; family doesn't necessarily mean you have to be related by blood. If you and Wally want to be brothers… I see no reason why you should be denied it."
Grinning, the brunet reached up his arms. "Carry me?"
Bruce chuckled. "Sure."
AN: So, I'm sure the term foreshadowing is not entirely greek for you guys, right? ;) Let's just say I didn't put in that league discussion between Flash and Bats just so they should have something to talk about.
Meaning, yes, the Child Series will, most likely, have a chapter fic that stretches out to a wider plot. I don't know when it will be up, but it will. I'm having too much fun with these young sidekicks :3
Please review and tell me what you think; it would be very much appreciated! And, if you have any wishes about future one-shots in the Child Series, you are more than welcome to mention them!