Disclaimer: Don't own.
Busy day toady, so I'm posting early. Thanks for the reviews and faves; hope you like this chapter.
Chapter 6: Ceapa Soup for the Soul
It took about twenty minutes for Dick to get all the grime from his stay at Juvenile Hall off of him. They'd had showers there. But two minutes once a day wasn't Dick's idea of sanitary. Especially when they had them before the hour of 'recreation'. He wasn't sure if that was how every cell block did it, but the guard of his block had found it funny for some reason.
Dick felt fresh for the first time in weeks. Clean clothes, wet hair, brushed teeth. He felt like a different person. He really wanted to climb into the bed and try to get a few hours of sleep; but seeing how much he had to tighten his belt to keep his pants from slipping, he decided maybe food wasn't such a bad idea.
The only problem was he knew he'd get lost trying to find the kitchen. This place was so big. For all he knew, there were twelve kitchens. What if he found the wrong one and had to just sit there waiting for someone to find him?
He opened the door and jumped when he saw Alfred standing there waiting for him. "Ah, Master Richard," his face was expressionless but there seemed to be a merry twinkle in his eyes, "I see you did not fall down the drain after all."
Dick's eyebrows scrunched in confusion, "Drain?"
"Yes, young sir," Alfred explained patiently, "The drain is the device which carries away the water once you are done with it. I believe for you it would be called a 'scurgere'."
Now his eyes were wide with surprise, "You speak Romani?"
"Of course. I assumed you would know that after I answered your earlier question about who I was."
"Oh," Dick looked down slightly embarrassed. He wondered if Mr. Wayne spoke it too. If so, then he would have understood what Dick had said in the car. Known he was talking to his dead parents. He could feel his cheeks color.
"No need to give it another thought," Alfred assured him, "Now if you are ready, I have fixed a French onion soup." Dick pursed his lips in thought as Alfred led him down the stairs.
He'd heard the word 'onion' before and he knew it was a food but he just couldn't place it.
Alfred looked down at him as they walked and frowned. It made Dick feel self-conscious. Is it my clothes? He thought tugging on his t shirt. Maybe they weren't dressy enough for him to live in a place like this. He probably should have worn the things Mr. Wayne had said Alfred bought him. He didn't want to do anything that might offend either of them. Whatever he was expected to do here had to be better than that prison.
"Pardon my asking, Master Richard," the older man's voice interrupted his thoughts, "but did they give you any food at that place?"
Not what he was expecting. He didn't answer right away. He was going over the English to make sure he answered the question accurately. Finally he nodded, "Yes, they gave me food."
Alfred studied him thoughtfully and somewhat skeptically. Dick couldn't understand why. He had answered the question honestly. They had given him food. Alfred sighed after a while, "Did you eat all the food they gave you?"
This question was easier, "No."
"May I ask why?"
"I guess so," Dick said slowly. He wondered why Alfred needed permission to ask a question. Whenever he was curious about something he just came right out and said it.
When Dick didn't say anything else, Alfred raised an eyebrow. Then his expression changed to one of amusement and he asked, "Why did you not the food they gave you?"
"Because people…" Dick screwed up his face and looked around trying to find the right word, "They… a luat…" (took) he thought for another moment, "They called it 'stealing' I think."
The amused look was replaced by one of concern, "They took your food?" Dick nodded as they arrived at what must have been the kitchen. He could smell the 'onion' soup through the door and his stomach growled, not for the first time that day.
Alfred opened the door and gently pushed him inside. It was roomy and everything was so clean it seemed to shine. There was one counter in the middle of the kitchen area that was separate from all the others. Dick had never seen anything like it. A table much bigger than the old fold-out one in their trailer sat a short distance from cooking section. There were two places set. Dick wondered if the other was for Alfred or Mr. Wayne.
"You may sit down, Master Richard," Alfred motioned towards the table, "I shall bring you your soup."
He didn't say anything as he climbed into one of the chairs and settled his hands in his lap. Mr. Wayne walked in then and gave him a small smile as he sat down in the other chair. "You seem refreshed," he said awkwardly trying to make conversation.
"Yes, sir," was all Dick could manage as he stared at the placemat. There was an uneasy silence as Alfred set two bowls down in front of them. He shot Mr. Wayne a disapproving look, but Dick didn't notice. He had picked up the spoon and took a cautious sip.
His eyes widened. He knew what an 'onion' was now. "Salbatice ceapa supa," (Wild onion soup) he said with the tiniest hint of a smile. His mother had made it often, mostly in the fall months.
Alfred smiled and went back into the cooking area and started wiping down the counters. They looked perfectly clean to Dick. "You were saying before, Master Richard," the old man said conversationally, "that someone had been stealing your food at the Juvenile Prison?"
"Yes, sir," Dick answered taking another careful sip of soup. He was afraid if he ate too fast it would all come back up later.
"When did you last eat?" It was the first thing that Mr. Wayne had said without stuttering. Dick was surprised to see the serious look on his frowning face.
Dick tilted his head as he thought. He knew what he wanted to say but the words were so much easier to say in his mind than out loud. He looked at Alfred for help, "Ieri?"
"Yesterday?" Mr. Wayne was the one to answer.
Dick nodded and once again said, "Yes, sir."
"When yesterday?" he asked sounding upset, "What did you eat?"
Dick shrugged looking a bit uncomfortable, "I had an apple… but I don't know when." He couldn't tell if it was him that Mr. Wayne was upset with. Was he too weak? Did Mr. Wayne want someone who could defend themselves?
"And before the apple?" Mr. Wayne pressed, "When and what did you eat?"
Dick looked down and tried not to fidget too much as he thought. "I don't… I can't… uh, amintiti-va." (remember)
Mr. Wayne seemed to be studying him, which just unnerved him even more. "The bruise on your cheek," Mr. Wayne said, "how did you get that?"
"Bruise?" Dick repeated touching his cheek. His thoughts were getting increasingly jumbled as Mr. Wayne was looking more agitated every second.
"Zdrobi," he elaborated.
"The guard?" Dick's voice sounded small and uncertain. Mr. Wayne scowled and slapped his hand down on the table. It wasn't hard or loud but it still startled the boy. He jumped and accidently knocked over his glass of water. Luckily it didn't break, but water and ice was spreading rapidly towards the edge of the table.
"Imi pare rau!" (Sorry) he yelped as he jumped up and tried to stop it with his cloth napkin, "Sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't insemna pentru a." (mean to) He didn't even realize he was switching back and forth between Romani and English as he continued to apologize.
Mr. Wayne and Alfred were too shocked to do anything for a moment. Mr. Wayne was the first to recover though. He tried to take the napkin from the boy, but Dick flinched and shrunk away from his raised hand with eyes squeezed shut. Alfred quickly took control of the situation when he saw Mr. Wayne was only making it worse.
He grabbed a roll of paper towels and had the spill cleaned up in mere seconds, before it even had time to reach the floor. Then he gently pried the napkin from the shivering boy's hand and sat him down in the seat. "Everything is alright, Master Richard," he soothed, "No one here is going to hurt you. You've done nothing wrong, it was simply an accident."
He continued talking softly until Dick calmed down. He shot Mr. Wayne an annoyed look. Looking sheepish and quite flustered the other man excused himself and left the room. "There now," Alfred gave Dick's shoulder a reassuring squeeze, "Master Bruce can be a bit insensitive at times but I can promise that he won't hurt you, Master Richard. No need to fret."
Dick glanced at the door Mr. Wayne had left through, still a bit skeptical. But then again, Dick had already decided he was trustworthy. Trustworthy people didn't hit eight-year-olds, right?
He turned back to Alfred, who looked like he was waiting for some kind of response. Dick slowly nodded and the old man looked relieved.
"Good," he said straightening and moving to throw away the soiled paper towels, "Why don't you finish your soup and then we'll put you to bed?"
"Alright," Dick said softly as he picked his spoon back up. But he didn't eat anything. He was frowning into the bowl with a look of complete concentration on his face. Finally he looked back up and asked, "What is 'fret'?"
Bruce, Bruce, Bruce (shakes head)… props for trying, but he totally screwed up. Looks like Batman took over and scared poor Dick. Things will probably be awkward between those two for a while. But hey, at least Dick likes Alfred. Okay, next chapter there's a surprise in store. (zips lips) No spoilers.