It had been a long night.
Much to long for a nine year old boy, but Dick had stayed awake for all of the events during the long day. There had been a Wayne Foundation benefit, doubled with a breakout from Arkham. Bruce and Dick had spent the first part of the night putting on plastic smiles for the snobs that attended the charity ball, and the second part as Batman and Robin, decripting the Riddler's clues.
Finally after all was done and they had arrived in the Batcave, safe and sound, Bruce noticed the half asleep acrobat by his side. They had changed out of their vigilante costumes and were back to being just Bruce and Dick.
Dick wiped his eyes sleepily and Bruce couldn't help but give a small parental smile at the nine year old. He shook his head, as he watched the boy, who was seemingly determined to look like he was mostly awake.
"Come on Dickie, I'll carry you to bed," Bruce offered as he held out his arms. Dick quickly obliged by resting his head on the older man's chest and wrapping his small arms around his neck. A contented smile was present on both faces as Bruce carried the small bundle out of the Batcave. As he exited, he very nearly ran into Alfred, who must've been coming down to meet them in the Cave.
"My apologizes, Sir. I was just getting worried. It is late," Alfred's voice started off at a normal volume, but dropped considerably when he noticed what, or rather, who, Bruce was carrying, and saw that the boy had fallen asleep. The corners of his mouth turned up fondly at the sight of the two, and he gave a slight nod in goodnight.
"Goodnight, Master Bruce," he whispered.
"Goodnight, Alfred," Bruce whispered back.
Bruce continued walking and started up the stairs, trying his best not to wake Dick. Unknown to Bruce, the boy had been quietly dreaming, but was stirred slightly as they ascended the stairs. The boy's first thought was that his father was carrying him up the stairs, his father John Grayson.
Dick opened his eyes slowly, the serene smile did not leave his face, although he knew something was different than what he was used to, before he could see much his heavy eyelids closed again. His half-awake mind scrambled to find answers, something was off. As they reached the top of the stairs, he started to piece things together.
I'm being carried by Dad... He scrunched up his mouth in confusion, but could not find the strength to fully open his eyes. But, he thought, the last time his father carried him to bed was after a show, when he was to tired to make it back to their trailer, but today they were indoors. And this man was taller than his father. He opened his eyes halfway, and saw the man who was carrying him. Bruce.
The memories finally reached his blurry mind and he pieced everything together. His eyes slid shut again. Not Dad. Dick scrunched his mouth slightly once more in concentration as he struggled to form thoughts in his sleepy mind. But Bruce... he... is my dad. At this final thought, the small frown turned into a contented smile, and he allowed himself to drift off to sleep once more.
Dick was unaware that he had said Bruce's name quietly out loud, but Bruce had heard. He put his hand on the back of the little acrobat's head to calm him back to sleep, unaware of the conclusion the boy had reached in his head.
They were nearing Dick's room, and Bruce was dreading the moment he would have to let go of the little bundle in his arms. Bruce used his free hand to slowly open Dick's bedroom door, and walked inside with the little boy in his arms. As he bent to put Dick onto the bed, he heard another mumble.
Sadness jumped to Bruce's heart at the word. He's remembering his father.
The thought that Dick was calling him 'Dad' did not occur to Bruce.
"It's okay Dickie. Go to sleep," he soothed the boy. He layed the boy down and pulled the covers up to Dick's chin. He then stroked the raven colored hair above his forehead.
"Bruce, do I have school tomarrow?" Dick asked sleepily, without opening his eyes.
"Tomarrow's a Sunday," Bruce whispered back.
"Okay. G'night, Dad," Dick whispered the words almost inaudibly as he drifted to sleep.
It took a moment for the Billionaire to realise what the words meant. But afterwards he bit his lip in happiness, and warmth spread through his heart. He looked down at the sleeping form a final time, and whispered a goodnight.
He left a small kiss on Dick's forehead and stood to leave, happy memories of his own parents flooding through his mind.
If Bruce had been paying attention to anything other than his memories, he would've noticed the small boy's breath hitch. He would've been able to see the acrobat's eyelids drawing tight to keep the joyful tears from falling out. He would've noticed that Dick was not fully asleep.
After Bruce drew the door closed after him, Dick gave a broad smile to the memory. For all that he had been exhausted moments earlier, his heart was now filled with unparalleled joy, and he found himself unable to close his eyes again.