A/N: This continues Dick's Perspectives, but adds Bruce. Christmas in the Wayne home isn't all that rosy right now.
First Christmas Perspectives: Bruce and Dick Part 1
Dick woke up in his own bed feeling miserable. His throat was sore. He hadn't expected to be wondering around Gotham City in the state that he was in, but at the time, he hadn't wanted to go straight home, and now he was paying for it. He curled up on his side still feeling hurt and betrayed.
Bruce came in at that moment to find Dick curled on his right side. Soft sobs were coming from him. "Dick? Are you all right?"
Dick turned his back, away from Bruce, not wanting him to see that he was upset.
"Dick, why did you run away?"
"I . . . I didn't . . . run . . . away," Dick stated, his voice rough. "I . . . why didn't you . . . tell me that . . . Haly's Circus was . . . coming to Gotham City?"
"Where did you hear that?" Bruce asked.
"At school. Everyone was talking . . . about the Christmas Gala . . . . Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to surprise you," Bruce said, his eyes down cast. "You've been moping around here I thought maybe . . ."
Dick coughed, feeling the rawness in his throat. "I'm sorry, Bruce. It's the first Christmas without my parents . . ."
"Believe me Dick, I know how you feel. I didn't tell you for other reasons."
"What reasons?" Dick asked.
" . . . Haly has a new aerial act," Bruce said quietly.
Dick was stunned. Pop Haly replaced his parents? How . . . how . . . could he . . .
Bruce became alarmed when he saw the color drain from Dick's face. "Dick? Breath, Dick." He didn't dare tell him the second reason, that he didn't really know how Dick would feel once he would find out about the first, but Dick seemed to recover and then he asked, "When will the circus be arriving?"
"Christmas Eve," Bruce answered. "They will be here until New Year's Day. They will be performing for charity."
Dick swallowed hard. His throat was hurting. Bruce noticed Dick's distress and he frowned. He brushed his hand across Dick's forehead. It felt warmer than normal. Alfred came in at that moment carrying a tray with a hot cup of tea. He also brought a thermometer.
"I thought the young man might require this. Open your mouth," Alfred instructed and he placed the thermometer into Dick's mouth. Four minutes later, he checked it. "You are running a low temperature. So, tomorrow at least, you will remain in bed and rest. Now, drink all of the tea. That will soothe your throat. I will bring you some water and some children's Ibuprofen for the temperature and sore throat."
After Alfred left, Bruce continued his inquiry. "Dick, you seemed shocked that they would get another act. Were you having second thoughts about . . . "
'I . . . don't know. Maybe," Dick said, his eyes downcast. "I mean I do miss everyone . . ."
"I know the past three months have not been easy. I am going to repeat what I said after we took down Tony Zucco. I hadn't intended for you to continue your Robin career. The look in your eyes was the same look I had when my parents were killed. And though I was reluctant at first, I could see how important it was for you to hunt down your parents' murderer. You did just that. And that murderer paid the price. You at least have closure."
"Bruce, I . . ."
"Please, here me out. With the winter break from school, this is the perfect time for you to make a decision."
"What kind of decision," Dick asked.
Bruce turned so Dick could only see part of his face. "With the circus here, you can decide what it is you truly want," Bruce's words were soft and Dick almost didn't hear them. "I will abide by your decision. This will always be your home." Bruce got up to leave, and Dick could see that something in Bruce's demeanor had changed. Something dark had slipped between them. Before Bruce's back would be straight and he would hold himself with pride. Now his shoulders were slightly slumped and his head was down.
What was Bruce saying? That if he really wanted to he could go back to the circus instead of . . . But Pop Haly had a new act. Still, the circus had been his home. And the thought of not being there . . . not performing . . . And the past three months had been . . . But what would that mean for . . . Dick watched as Bruce left him alone in his room. The room felt colder somehow. Less friendly. Something tightened in Dick's chest at seeing the way Bruce looked and his eyes began to water. A tear slipped down him cheek.
'But I'm his ward. Doesn't he want me any more?"
That night, Dick's temperature rose to over 102. He tossed and turned in his sleep, throwing off the covers. Alfred came in and checked his temperature again. This time he grabbed a washcloth and started bathing the boy to bring down his temperature. As Alfred bathed Dick, the flier was muttering in his sleep.
"No, don't leave me, Bruce. Poppy, don't you want me? No, don't leave me alone. Mom, Dad, please why did you leave me. Everyone, please come back."
"Shhhhh. No one is going to leave you Master Richard."
The dream that he was having filled Alfred with dread and an annoyed look came over the butler's face. Bruce was nowhere to be found. He would usually be here helping to take care of the boy through the worst of his fevers, but it was as if Bruce was avoiding Dick for some unknown reason.
'Master Bruce, whatever you said to the boy, you better have an explanation.'
Dick didn't start to feel better until Christmas Eve. He stayed out of the way since Bruce was having a small party for the Wayne Foundation and he didn't feel in a party mood. Though he didn't feel like mingling, he couldn't help spying on the festivities just the same.
"Where is that ward of yours, I've been wanting to meet him."
"He's been sick the last few days," Bruce answered.
"Oh that's too bad. I hope he feels better."
"It's a shame being sick on Christmas."
"I'm sure he'll feel better by tomorrow."
"Master Richard, you should not be sitting on the stairs in this drafty hallway. Get back up to your room at once."
"Yes, Alfred," Dick meekly obeyed. What he really wanted to do was spy on Bruce, to know what it was he was feeling, but a shadow seemed to have fallen over him, and any emotion he might have felt from Bruce seemed to have been swallowed up in that shadow. Dick never felt so much alone as he did in that moment.
The next day was Christmas, but Dick didn't feel much like celebrating. Even though he was certain there were gifts waiting for him under the tree, he didn't feel like opening them. Even so, his stomach was what made the decision for him. So, Dick put on his robe and headed downstairs hoping to find some breakfast.
That sounded like a crowd. Dick turned toward the living room and couldn't believe what he was seeing. Pop Haly, Sampson the strong man, Gunther the lion tamer, all the clowns, and Sasha the fortuneteller, they were all there. There were a couple of new faces he didn't recognize. He was just wondering whom they were when Pop Haly suddenly rushed up and grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up.
"Dickie Bird, how have you been? Let me look at you," Pop Haly held him at arms length to get a good look at him. "There's something different about you. You've grown a bit and you feel just as strong as your father had been."
Dick's head lowered becoming a bit shy and subdued.
Bruce was standing off to the side, watching the proceedings, his face a stone mask. His eyes were the only things that gave any hint at what he was feeling. He noticed that something was wrong. Usually the boy was boisterous and lively, even around guests he first met. Dick knew Haly. Why was Dick being subdued? Bruce surprised himself at just how well he seemed to know the pre-teen's moods in such a short time. He was about to give his ward a slight nudge when Haly saved him the trouble.
"You know, I was really worried when you disappeared the night your parents were killed. As you know Newtown was the first stop on our tour. Everyone was expecting to see the Flying Graysons. Um I mean, we were really worried when you were missing. We thought you ran away."
"I . . . uhm . . . " Dick didn't know what to say. He didn't expect to hear that his circus family had been worried about him, but how could he tell Pop Haly that he had overheard what Zucco's men had said? And that Batman had taken him to safety, to train him.
"Well, enough of that. I'm just glad you found a good home. Though you know the circus will always be your home if you ever want to return. I helped bring you into this world and I am also your godfather . . . if you wish to . . . " Haly didn't say anything more, not wanting to insult their host.
Dick hadn't known that Pop Haly was his godfather, so why hadn't Pop Haly become his guardian? Was it fear of retribution from Zucco? He recalled the fear in Haly's voice. He didn't want to recall those moments. His face must have revealed what he was feeling.
"Oh Dickie, my boy. I'm sorry. I shouldn't be talking about sad times when today is supposed to be about joy. I did bring you something I think will please you. It's outside, but first I want you to meet someone." Haly waved the couple over. They had been hiding on the fringe of the large group.
Dick observed that they actually appeared nervous.
"Dick, I'd like you to meet James and Amanda Tabares."
"How . . . how do you do?" Dick said stretching out his had in greeting. The two, however seemed to be in awe of him and didn't shake his hand.
"Are you really Richard Grayson of the Flying Graysons?"
"Uh, yeah," Dick responded.
'Oh my, Mandy. The Graysons were legendary. To think we're meeting the youngest performer ever to do the quadruple flip."
Dick found his voice at that moment and asked, "How long have you two been working the traps?"
"Four years," James Tabares said. "I started late. Took over for my brother when he was injured. Amanda is my sister."
"Oh look at the time," Haly said. "We've got to rehearse for tonight. I better get this trouped back to the arena." There were some disappointed moans at having to leave. "Mr. Wayne, you must bring Dick and not just to see the show. The reason not only for our visit is to ask if you would allow Dick to perform with us."
Bruce looked over at his ward. The look on Dick's face told it all.
"That will be up to Dick."
"You haven't been on a trapeze since . . ." Haly started to say.
". . . I can do it," Dick said. "I better get dressed."
Dick raced up the stairs and quickly changed. He was going with Pop Haly to the arena . . . he hesitated at that moment. What about Bruce? 'He said it was up to me . . . '
"Hurry up Dickie Bird, if you're coming with us, you have to hurry. Rehearsals will begin in less than two hours."
"Coming Poppy." Dick raced down the stairs and stopped at the front door. He turned to see Bruce standing between the entrance to the living room and the study. His face was unreadable.
Alfred came in at that moment. "Master Richard, where are you going?"
"Let him go, Alfred."
"I don't understand. It's Christmas. We haven't even opened our gifts."
"I don't feel much like celebrating."
"It's the time to spend with family," Alfred argued.
Bruce did not respond, but kept his eyes on the door. It would seem Dick had made his decision, and now he would have to live with it. Or had he?
Continues with Part 2