Just an explanation for the title's sake: Tornados are storms. Very prominent in Kansas. They aren't appearing in this story, but you could say they're trying to avoid a certain storm. Events in this one are important for a part in Sacrifice, that's all. More build up. Enjoy!
Dick-16 Jason-12 Cass-11 Tim-8 Damian-2
"You're getting quite good at that," Jonathan Kent murmured, looking at the cane head Jason was working on. The near teen grinned at him proudly. He was rather fond of the wooden handle he was whittling: an owl's head, and it was rather detailed. The army knife the Kents gave him last Christmas was much better than the one he snatched when he was on the streets. "You hardly need my help these days."
"Ah come on! I'm not near as good as you Gramps." He pointed to the chair the man was carving out for his wife. Beautiful design, but he was taking his dear sweet time with it too.
"Just time and practice," the old man assured him. "You'll far exceed me one of these days Jason. Though I'm beginning to think your brother should stick with the basics."
"Ow!" Dick nicked his hand for the third time that afternoon, still trying to make a bear out of his block of wood. It looked more like a pig at the moment, and he had been working on it longer than Jay was with his cane. Quickly the cut went into his mouth and he turned towards the others. "How on earth can you do this?!"
"Takes patience," Pa Kent insisted, "and occasional misses."
"And talent." Jason grinned devilishly at him. "Which I happen to have more of this time than you."
The teen glared at his brother for a minute. "You do realize I have a knife in my hand right now."
"So do I."
"I'm a better aim."
"And I say no to both of you." They stopped their banter at Pa's disapproving look. He sighed heavily as they looked away from him. "Seriously, do you two have to argue?"
"Better than being silent." Mentally they both agreed, not wanting to elaborate. After a minute more of trying, Dick gave up, folding his knife away before setting the project aside. "I give. Guess I'll have to think of something else."
"Seriously, what were you trying to do?" The younger teen looked over to the half-done project. It had toppled onto its side, exposing the 'R' in the circle on its base, Dick's 'personal seal of approval'. Jason could probably save it, if Dick let him.
But the guy wouldn't. He just shrugged it away. "Fill in the time. Think I'll go bug Grandma in the kitchen, see if she needs anything."
"More like raid the cookie jar."
His brother didn't even acknowledge that one with an answer; just took his knife and left for the house. Within five minutes he was in the kitchen where Martha Kent was helping Damian with finger paints. Dressed in old shirts, the two of them were covered in colors and making a mess out of some old newspapers. "Wow, that looks like fun."
"Can be." The woman gave him an encouraging smile. "Care to join us?"
"Maybe another time?" He held up his lightly bleeding hands. "Where are the Band-Aids?"
"I think we ran out yesterday," she admitted with a cringe. "When Tim tried to chase down the rooster down the gravel path."
Dick winced at the memory. Genius or no, Tim still wasn't that coordinated yet, and chased chickens. "Right…" He looked past the walls, imagining where the Kent's truck would be. "Hey, mind if I drive into town and get some then? I could also pick up something for you guys while I'm out."
Ma shrugged. "Fine by me, but shouldn't you ask your father?"
He looked at the ground sheepishly. They really couldn't bring the Kents in on this. "I was hoping to use your guys' truck, you know, keep a low profile and all that."
"And skip out on your dad?" This was not someone who could be easily fooled. Something was up if he was asking her and not Bruce.
The teen just cringed at her accusation. "I'll be staying on the grid, and really where would I run off to?" She gave him the doubting mother look which really put him in his place. "Look, I've got cabin fever and I just don't see Bruce letting me have a few hours away right now. If it's an errand from you, he'll be fine with it. Seriously, it's not a big deal."
"Uh huh…" She kept that look on him, skeptic. After a few awkward moments, she relented. "Fine. We need Band-aids, butter, salt, and toilet paper. And if you want a tasty t-r-e-a-t tonight, pick it out. And tell Alfred where you're going at the least. I think I saw him go upstairs."
Dick grinned. "Thanks! Nice picture Dami." And with that he ran out of the room and up the stairs. Martha gave a short sigh, shaking her head at the boy's teenage rebellion. He really was easy to read, and acted so much like Clark sometimes it was scary. It wasn't three minutes later when she heard him racing back down stairs, grabbing the truck's keys. "Catch ya later Grandma Kent!"
"Be careful," she replied automatically. The door slammed behind him, shaking the pictures on the walls. Again she sighed. Really, what was with teenagers and slamming doors? Then again, Jonathan still did it. The woman went back to helping the toddler with his art project. "How about we put a sun in this corner, okay?"
Five minutes the door jerked open again. "Tim's coming with me! We'll be back in about two hours!"
"What?" The door slammed shut again before her question could be answered. Well it wasn't really a question, but it was enough for someone to try and explain their actions. Really… That boy wasn't this frustrating when they first met. Ma Kent rose from her seat for a moment before giving up. She was too old to go chasing after teenage boys. "Oh dear. This is going to be interesting when your father finds out."
"Look!" Damian pointed to his latest creation, completely ignoring the events surrounding him. "Gween Kitty!"
"Very nice," she encouraged, giving him a smile. "Just don't paint any real cats green, okay? They don't like it."
"Okey." He put the paper back on the table and went back to making a colorful mess. Cassandra came in about ten minutes later, reading one of the Kents' children's books with one hand and going towards the cookie jar with the other. A soft cough from the old woman stopped her in her tracks, made her turn towards her, and gave her a sheepish grin.
"What are you supposed to do before taking cookies?" Ma Kent demanded, nearly folding her arms as she looked at the girl.
"Make sure there aren't any witnesses?" Her answer only made the woman glare. Subtle guilt filled the girl's face.
"You're supposed to ask."
Martha groaned to herself. Of course. These kids made a habit of being sneaky and Cass listened to her brothers when it came to obtaining what they wanted. Cookies and any unhealthy treats were top of the list most days. Alfred had warned her of course to have a jar that made noise, but she didn't think it was necessary, until then. "Jason doesn't rule this kitchen. In this house, you ask first."
"But…" she looked over to Damian who was listening even if he was pretending to only be looking at his paints. The lady had forgotten to spell out the treat around him. The toddler was quite quick to respond to certain words and 'cookie' was among them. Cass bit her lip for a moment before hesitantly asking, "May I have one?"
"One what?" Almost on cue Bruce and Clark entered through the kitchen entrance, wondering what they were talking about. Her father raised an eyebrow at the girl who just inclined her head to the jar. "Oh."
Clark chuckled fondly. "Ma's always been keeping my hand out of that jar, ever since I was able to run."
"Only one," the lady stated flatly, smirking at her son. At her invitation, both the alien and the girl's hands flew to the jar to claim their prizes. Mrs. Kent shook her head in amusement before looking over to the other man. "Dick took Tim to town to pick up a few things for me."
"He what?" Some surprise appeared on his face along with confusion. "Why did he…"
"Said he was getting cabin fever," she explained, shrugging. "I'm guessing Tim just wanted to tag along. Is that a problem?"
Bruce looked away for a moment, thinking about it with some concern. His daughter saw his expression and quickly made her way out of the room with her book. She was not getting in the middle of whatever he was thinking about. Hesitantly he started talking. "No, not a problem… Smallville's a fairly safe place and we're anonyms here… He's gotten better at driving and Tim is big enough…"
"How long has he had his license?" Clark wondered out loud, stopping his vocal train of thought.
"About a month, but he took drivers ed and had top scores. He's actually very responsible behind a wheel. Lead foot, but cautious."
"Then why are you so uneasy?" The Kents kept their eyes on the billionaire. The man looked way, still unsure for some reason. "If Dick's going to be fine…"
"I've… been wanting to talk to you actually," he started, very unsure, "about him."
One thing Dick always wanted to do was all his shopping at a gas station. Now that he had a license, he was planning on doing this more often. He missed the days at the circus when they were on the road and stopped at these small ones around the country. They always had the most interesting tourist displays.
"So Smallville's famous for its… corn?" Tim looked over the refrigerator magnets with some level of distaste. They were ears of corns with the city's name across them. Kinda tacky.
Dick shrugged. "I think Clark mentioned something about a corn festival once. Dunno if they're famous for it but…"
The two exchanged creeped out looks before going to other displays to fool around. One of the local boys was filling up the truck's tank so the two of them were allowed to wander for a while. So far they'd played with the markers, the postcards, cups, magnets, and now split up to play with hats and key chains right next to each other. It really bugged the other guy manning the counter.
"Hey look!" Tim took off several different key chains with their names on it. They all looked like Kansas corn. "They have everyone but Damian here! And two for me!"
"Really?" The teenager tilted the cowboy hat on his head in slight curiosity. Looking over them, he had to admit he was right. "Wait… Where's Bruce?"
"That's not here, but Dad is." He showed his brother the small collection he put together, including one with Clark's name on it. Alfred was even in the collection. "Selina's not here either."
"Looking for souvenirs?" Dick plopped the cowboy hat on the kid's head before taking a trucker's hat with a fake ferret on it.
"No, just looking for names."
"Your truck's ready." The guy about Dick's age who was filling up the tank came back inside, eyeing the two of them with distaste. It was so obvious they weren't locals."
"Thanks!" The older boy looked at his kid brother and took the hat away. "Come on. We need to pick up those things and pay, got it? I'll take the food stuff and you take care of the other things, 'kay?"
Tim pouted slightly. He was having fun. Giving in with a sigh, "Fine. But I want to pick the ice cream flavor."
"Cookies and Cream?" The kid's instant smile was all he needed to confirm. He ruffled the boy's hair and immediately the two went to work. Within five minutes the two were at the front counter with their items, including some soda for the trip home. They never could get away with this when Alfred or Bruce took them on outings. Laughing at each other's sugary selection, they took their purchases to the truck without a second thought. Though Dick had left a substantial tip for the guy who took care of the Kents' truck.
The man who had watched them parading around the place like casual tourists glared at their backs. He now had to fix the mess they made while they were there. "Messy little brats."
"Honestly," Jonathan Kent admitted, "we were relieved Clark was dating at all."
"Pa!" Said man gave his dad an incredulous look, turning red slightly.
They spent the majority of the time the teen was gone talking about the arguments Dick and Bruce had over dating and teenage independence. They gave the billionaire a lot to think about. He heard several stories about his friend's childhood from the parents' perspective along with his. Very enlightening, but it still didn't lighten the hesitant feelings over the matter. He was still unsure if he did the right thing or if all he was doing was pushing his son away from him.
The old man shrugged, grinning slightly. "Well really, think about it Clark. You were always so worried you'd hurt the cows with your super strength. And then when May Fielding had her baby, you were so scared you were going to hurt her with your hands you nearly dropped her."
"We were scared you'd never want anything more than a friendship with a girl," his mother piped in, smirking slightly. "When you told us you were going to prom with Lana, well… we thought we were the ones flying. Such a relief."
"Course that was after he stopped breaking eggs on accident," his dad admitted. "How many did we lose before you could win an egg toss blindfolded?"
"The important thing is Bruce," Martha butted in as Clark groaned at the memory, putting the topic back on track, "is to give him some leeway. He's a teenager isn't he? And one more year of school left."
"Don't remind me," the man nearly groaned. He did not want to think about the kid's senior year coming up shortly.
"Well you're just going to have to accept he's growing up. Kids grow up and leave the nest." She smirked slightly, looking over to her son for a moment fondly. "We had to accept it too. Some always come home like Clark does, but I have friends who's kids only visit once in a long while, never call, never write, and are in general forgotten by their kids. Others have very hard feelings between them. Is that what you want between you and Dick?"
Bruce looked away, troubled. One thing he couldn't take was Dick being mad at him. Lately they hadn't been talking, really talking, like they used to. The two of them were very close right after they took down Zucco. Even when the others came into their lives, they were close. Maybe closer because Dick loved being a good big brother and helping out.
And yet lately… They couldn't banter, their inside jokes weren't coming out, and Dick was still mad at him for forbidding him to date whomever he pleased. The man even enforced a curfew for him now, setting limitations on when he could go out and how late could be. Dick purposely avoided him on some occasions, at least avoided being alone together. And he was always trying to one-up him or prove he was older than he looked. Always a 'see? I can do this fine without you'.
Maybe he was over reacting, a little. He certainly didn't want to drive the kid away from him. But he wasn't about to let the boy make any huge mistakes if he could help it. "Of course not. I just…"
The front door was yanked open. "We're back!"
Bruce winced, looking over to where the toddler was napping just a second ago. Dick and Tim's arrival though ended that. The Kents were all caught between wincing and laughing to themselves. Within seconds Damian was up and whining loudly at being disturbed. "Dick…"
The two arrivals just entered the kitchen carrying their bags and barely heard the youngest start crying, along with the exclamation. Confused, the teen cocked his head at them. "What?"
Bruce settled on the porch steps with a case of beer nearby. He anticipated company soon, but it was sometimes nice to just think and look at the stars alone too. He really had a lot to think about. Different members of the League were restless and he had to figure out how to keep them all in harmony so all they built didn't fall apart. Roland Dagget had tried to take over the east side of Gotham and he needed to make sure he couldn't attempt it a second time; Leslie was counting on him for that one. Someone had hacked into the electronic versions of his children's adoption papers and deceased parents' wills; this time no damage was done, but another time had to be prevented. And then there was his ever present unease between himself and his eldest son. That one really took over his mind the most, the other problems simple in compare.
'He's sixteen.' The thought almost overwhelmed him. It felt like yesterday he was helping the eight year old walk away from the scene of his parents' murder. That yesterday they had taken down a crime lord together. Yesterday when he swore to protect and raise him over being the dark knight of Gotham City. Had eight years really gone by that fast? So much had happened and yet it was like nothing he ever knew. One more year and he'd be done with high school. Two more and…
"Penny for your thoughts?" Clark stood just over his shoulder, smiling pleasantly.
Bruce grunted. "I don't think you could afford them." He took a bottle out of his case and opened it, not sure if he'd drink or not.
His friend sat down on the other end of the steps, leaning against the support beam as he took a bottle for himself. "Try me." The mortal kept silent, looking forward into nothing. The alien watched him for a moment before making his own assumptions. "You know, ignoring it isn't going to make time stand still. Dick's going to grow up whether you like it or not. They all are."
"I know." Grimly he took a sip from his bottle, really not wanting to think about it. Yet his mind wouldn't let him.
"Sure don't act it." The reporter smirked to himself. "I've heard it straight from him. Curfews, fuel restrictions, forbidding him to date, even a good friend you've known longer than him—"
"Barbara is not the problem," he snapped, glaring slightly at the alien. "It's the fact she's eighteen and he's not—"
"Everyone blossoms at their own rate Bruce. Some earlier than others." Clark smirked at him. "Alfred told me your first date was at twenty-two. Really?"
Bruce rolled his eyes, looking forward once again so he didn't have to see the man's smug face. "I was preoccupied."
"Well Dick isn't. And whose fault is that?" That one struck home, making the CEO lower his bottle. Maybe if he had remained Batman and made Dick his… sidekick… things wouldn't have turned out this way. Being preoccupied with crime fighting may have overcome teenage hormones. "He just happens to be an early bloomer.
"And you should be proud of him," the farm boy continued. "He hasn't done anything extreme against you and is taking everything very responsibly. I'm not saying stepping in between him and an eighteen year old wasn't the right course of action, but come on Bruce, let him live a little! I made a lot of mistakes here growing up. Sometimes it's the only way to learn, and one day you really have to cut the umbilical cord."
"You don't know him like I do Kent," he retorted sharply, trying to ignore the truth in those words. "You haven't heard him cry himself to sleep at night. He still pulls childish pranks whenever it suits him. He carelessly parades around town where anyone could shoot him."
"He also comforts his siblings when you aren't around," Clark started, glaring lightly at the man. "He'll be driving them to school soon too. He took charge after Jason was hurt: taking after his siblings, organizing Joker's capture while you were emotionally compromised, and making sure you didn't do something you'd regret the next day. I was there to see how he pulled everyone together then. Dick's actually a very resourceful and responsible leader. You shouldn't be putting him down like this."
"I'm not…" Bruce found he couldn't complete that statement. Was he putting his son down? He ran a hand through his hair. "I just… I don't want him to get hurt."
"No one ever does. But that's part of growing up." He cocked his head to the side, looking him over. "He's turned out quite well. You really should be proud of him."
"I am." He lifted his beer to his lips. "I just think it's too soon for him to grow up."
"You want him to be a kid forever?"
"That's not what I meant."
"Uh huh." Clark shook his head, smirking slightly as he rolled his eyes. Bruce really did not want to let—He stopped and looked at one part of the ceiling, confused. "Huh?"
Bruce noticed his pause and looked up as well, seeing only the wood above him. But that was also just below the boys' temporary room. He heard something shifting above them. One conclusion.
"For the record," the teenager's voice came from above them, "I was here first."
"What are you doing up there?" The alien could not fathom why the guy would be laying on top of the porch's awning above them, especially after everyone else was supposedly in bed.
"Well honestly," Dick started, peeking his head down over the ledge above them, "I was watching the stars come out. It gets a little crowded in there sometimes so I came outside to cool off for a bit. Too many bugs for all night, and then there's the birds who might think I'm tasty. I was going to go back in but then you two started talking and…" He gave a sheepish grin. "Couldn't resist."
"Get down from there before you break something," Bruce ordered, slightly annoyed. The teen rolled his eyes, then back flipped off of the roof to the ground below. Had the elderly Kents seen it, they would have been upset. But both Bruce and Clark were used to his antics, not bothering to berate him for this. "Eavesdropping isn't a good habit."
Dick shrugged. "Only if I get caught. Is that beer?"
"Uh… Yeah…" Clark twisted his lips looking at their drink of choice.
"Can I have some?"
"Not in your life." His old man gave a chiding look before snatching the bottle's cap and putting back on his drink.
"Ah come on!" The teen whined. "Other kids' parents—"
"This time around I have to agree with Bruce." The reporter replaced his cap as well, feeling sheepish. "You're sixteen, not twenty-one. Laws are laws."
"It's a bad habit to have," Bruce added, staying firm. "It only leads to addiction, rehab, and DUIs, if you're lucky."
"You're drinking," Dick pointed out.
"One bottle, if that." He pointed to the case. "The rest is for Clark or his father when we leave. The only kind of beer you're getting until you're of age has 'Root' in its name. It's late. You need to get to bed."
"Only if you come too." The acrobat stubbornly folded his arms, glaring like Alfred would on occasion. "We've got an early day tomorrow and they don't have your favorite coffee here."
Clark choked back a laugh at the two's staring match. For some reason it wasn't as serious as other ones he had seen in the past. After a minute, Bruce relented, setting his half empty bottle next to the case. "Fine. But my bed here's far too small to share with anyone."
"Who said I wanted to join you?" While their audience tried to smother his laughter, the two of them made their way back into the building towards the rooms they were borrowing. About half way there, Dick slid his arms around Bruce's back, stopping him with his hesitant hug. "Um… thanks. You know… for…."
His father stood there stunned for a moment before letting it sink in. He placed his large hands over the teen's smaller ones, smiling slightly. He gave it a moment before he turned around and gave his own hug to the first one to light up his life once more. No words had to be said. They still didn't agree on certain things, but that didn't stop them from caring and trying to see things from the other's perspective. They were still close, despite arguments. And they wouldn't have it any other way.
A/N: For the first part, I kinda think Jason's better with carving and handling knives than Dick, who's just really good at throwing them. My siblings used to threaten us all the time when we bugged them while they were cooking. So whenever we were mad and had a weapon in our hands, we'd mention it so they'd or we'd shut up. Didn't always work. And whenever we wanted to go out for no real reason, we'd have to ask for some kind of pointless errand. I know, silly, but it's how we were. Second, on long road trips my siblings and I would mess around in gas stations, mostly the tourists displays. I pity those who dealt with the aftermath. Don't think I have to explain the third part. Bruce just knows he's having a hard time letting go. I really wanted the scene where Bruce and Clark are having their 'buddy time' kinda interrupted by Dick who was on the roof first.
So things are kinda fixed between Bruce and Dick, kinda. It's not the argument, but one of many after all. Part of the build up, and they aren't about to let things stay bad between them are they? =] Been working on this one for over a week and I'm still not 100% happy with it. Still would love to know how to drag GA into this world but I'm beginning to remember an old idea too. Anywho, until later.