Disclaimer: I wish I could make money off of this, but that would be stealing.
Early Christmas Present
"Bruce, will you please just think about it?" Dick asked as he leaned over the arm of the computer's chair; his tone a breath away from begging.
Bruce sighed and tried to keep his mind on the analysis he was running on Joker's new gas. He was afraid if he had to look at those big pleading blue eyes one more time he would lose it.
Ever since the night they'd caught Zucco, some two months ago, Dick had become more comfortable around both Bruce and Alfred. It was a relief to see that he was moving on with his life. Adjusting to the loss, smiling, laughing, giving random hugs whenever the urge struck him. Bruce had never been able to do that and he was always amazed by the genuine happiness he found in the boy's eyes.
The only down-side to this new ease was that Dick wasn't afraid to use his 'kicked puppy' look to its full extent. Bruce doubted he did it on purpose, it just wasn't his character, but that didn't make it any easier to say 'no'. And the only thing he had asked for wasn't a decision to be made without serious thought.
Every day since Zucco's arrest Dick had approached him with the same request. He wanted to help the secret vigilante with his 'night work'. Bruce hadn't given him a definite answer, but he had continued training the young acrobat in an attempt to stall or distract him.
It wasn't working very well.
Bruce was beginning to get worried that Dick would get tired of his silence and sneak out to fight crime on his own. He was a good kid and did what he was told for the most part. But he'd gotten into his head that he wanted to help people the same way his guardian did, and it was obvious to the man and his butler that he wouldn't just let this go.
This was the closest the boy had come to outright begging and it was enough to worry Bruce into action.
He took his time finishing the analysis in an attempt to avoid Dick's gaze for as long as possible. Five minutes later when it was finished he exited out of every program, saved and organized his new files alphabetically, and hit a few keys until the screen flashed up a bat symbol before going black.
Bruce finally looked down at Dick, who was still hanging onto his chair tracing his finger along the arm patiently. The billionaire sighed again wishing there was some way around this conversation.
"Dick…" he started only to trail off when sparkling blue eyes looked up expectantly. He pursed his lips and wondered how he could fight psychopaths on a nightly basis, sort out business transactions in a matter of hours… and yet he was nervous about having a conversation with an eight-year-old child.
"Dick," he tried again, "I think it's time that you and I had a talk."
Dick's face fell a little but he tried not to let his disappointment show too much. Bruce's tone hadn't been encouraging. But as the billionaire stood up and held out his hand, Dick obediently took it and allowed himself to be led upstairs to the study.
Bruce sat down on the couch in front of the empty fireplace and gestured to the spot beside him. Dick looked at him nervously after he was comfortable. Bruce just stared at the fireplace for a moment, as though it would help him know what to say.
Finally he got a thoughtful expression on his face and looked down at his young charge. "Dick, why is it so important for you that I let you come with me?"
Dick frowned, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "Because you need my help," he said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Even with his years of experience in keeping a straight face Bruce couldn't hide his surprise at those words. "I… need your help?" he asked as though he hadn't heard right. Dick nodded and Bruce raised an eyebrow, "You know I've been doing this for quite some time by myself. And I'm still right here." He didn't want to add the 'why do I need you' his statement implied. It didn't seem appropriate and he didn't want to hurt the boy's feelings.
"I know," Dick said, "But that doesn't mean you don't need help." Bruce started to say something but Dick wanted to explain his reasoning fully before being told his assistance wasn't necessary.
"I already told you, Bruce," Dick reminded him, "Sometimes the people you save need help that Batman can't give without ruining his image. I could help with that. Mom always said I was good at making her smile when she was scared or sad." He looked down, remembering the small smile she'd given him when she told him that. The way she'd ran her fingers through his hair and gently kissed his forehead even as she was wiping away tears after his father had been injured.
"Besides," Dick continued after a moment, "even Batman has his limits. You almost missed Zucco because you were busy fighting his men and you were too tired to finish them quicker. I'm getting better at combat. I could take down some of the easier ones so you could focus on the major bad guys."
Bruce tried to find something wrong with his logic, but it was pretty sound. He honestly expected nothing less but…
He was eight.
What kind of guardian would he be if he willingly let a kid, not even in the double digits, go out at night to fight crime in arguably the most crime-ridden city in the world? Or at least the United States.
He was trying to find a way to explain his feelings on the matter as gently as possible when he met Dick's gaze. It was the same look he'd had when he asked Bruce to train him. Hopeful, pleading, determined… and completely unwavering. Bruce sighed and gave the only answer he could.
"I'll think about it."
Dick's whole expression lit up and it looked like a delighted cry was mere seconds from escaping his throat. But before he could attack his guardian with a hug and bounce around the study like a kangaroo on steroids, Alfred knocked on the open door.
"Master Richard," he said as both heads swiveled to look at him, "I have just received a package bearing your name." The butler entered the room and handed his younger charge a brown cardboard box with no return address.
It wasn't large, about the size of the breadbox in the kitchen downstairs. Dick studied it curiously and tilted his head. The only people he knew that might have sent it were…
His eyes widened and he quickly, but carefully tore through the tape that sealed it shut. The first thing he saw when he opened it up was a carefully folded piece of paper. He picked it up and a small photo fell out into his hand. A small smile bloomed on his face when he got a good look at it.
It was a picture of his circus family. Every last one of them, including the animals, lined up with warm smiles on their faces. The note that came with it had been written by Pop Haley and signed by everyone else. It wasn't very long for the need to fit all the names. But it made his smile brighten when Pop told how much Zitka and the crew missed having him around.
It just isn't the same without our bright-eyed little bird, it read.
Pop also mentioned that the box was his early Christmas gift from his 'extended family'. And that in true circus fashion nothing in it was new.
Dick felt his breath catch in his throat as he set the note aside and dug through the box, wondering what they could have sent. Hoping that maybe...
He felt tears sting his eyes when he saw his parents' things; the things he had wanted so badly, but hadn't been able to take with him when he left. There was his mother's mirror and brush passed down from her grandmother's grandmother. His father's red and yellow scarf that Dick had made for him with Mary's help. The old, Russian music box that had been a wedding gift from the lion tamer, they'd always played it to help Dick fall asleep. The crystal bird that had sat in their tiny window for as long as he could remember.
And underneath it all, Dick saw a silky red ribbon peeking out. This he had never seen before. His eyebrows furrowed slightly as he tried to remember if it had been tied around something in their trailer. Or maybe it had belonged to someone else in the crew.
But what was the purpose of sending him a ribbon?
Unless it was some kind of reminder to never forget them. Didn't people tie ribbons around their fingers when they wanted to remember something important?
He frowned when he noticed the small knot that bound the ends together in a circle. Was there something attached to it? Like a charm or pendant?
He carefully slipped a finger through the loop it formed and dislodged it from where it lay trapped beneath the mirror.
He swallowed hard when he saw what it held, far more precious than any carving or gem, and he felt a few grateful tears escape his eyes. Bruce wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled the young acrobat close.
Dick gently closed his hand around his mother and father's wedding rings and held them close to his heart. He couldn't really explain the sense of warmth, of calmness, having these things brought to him. But as he leaned his head against his guardian's chest, he realized this was the first time he had cried for his parents without feeling grief. They were tears of contentment for the memory of them.
This was the first time he could honestly think to himself, I'm going to be okay.
(sniffle) I hope no one choked on the fluff… And yes I know it was kind of short. But the next one will be longer, I promise.