Dick sat pensively in his window one sunny morning in early June and tried to work out a question that had been bothering him for several weeks. The problem he was facing had never stood before him in years past, and while its sudden appearance now made sense he still found it troubling. He had options, but they were impossible to choose between, and every time he mused on them for too long it made his head hurt. Indeed, the dull ache behind his eyes was already starting again, and he'd only been staring at the lawn for five minutes.
What, he frowned ferociously at his reflection, was a person with two dads, one living, one dead, supposed to do for Father's Day?
If only the upcoming holiday was going to be as simple to figure out as Mother's Day had been. A few Sundays prior Alfred had let him and Bruce sleep in unusually late, only rousing them when it was nearly noon. After breakfast the billionaire had asked him gently if he knew what day it was, which he had. Once that was settled and he'd told the man that all they had ever done for Mother's Day in the past was try to cover all of the chores his mom usually did so that she could have a day off, things had been easy.
Bruce, it turned out, had an entire ritual he followed on the second Sunday in May. Martha Wayne's favorite foods were served for meals, classical music played at low volume in several rooms, and at least a few hours were spent thumbing through the long-dead woman's books in the library. Late in the afternoon a trip was made to the cemetery so that a wreath could be laid against her side of the headstone she shared with her husband.
Dick had been told that he was welcome to join in or to suggest something special to commemorate his own mother, but he'd been content to simply follow the old traditions of the house. After all, Mary Grayson had been an avid reader who had loved nothing more than to see her husband and son with their bellies full, and she hadn't minded nature walks, either; the things that were done to commemorate Martha had seemed an ideal fit for her, too. When they'd gone out to the cemetery there had been a pretty flower arrangement for him to give her, and that had been enough.
The problem was that his father had been a much more active person than his mother. A day spent sitting around reading would have bored him, as would a nature walk that didn't include exploring off the beaten path. The only gifts he ever asked for were to see his wife and child perform together just for him and a new pair of work gloves for the coming year's labor. He was an impossible man to create a ritual for outside of the milieu of the circus, and Dick couldn't imagine how the celebration of Thomas Wayne's life could possibly sync up with his remembrances of his own father.
Sighing, he slithered down and padded across his room. After checking to make sure that he had put Elinor in her safe place amongst the pillows, he headed for the door. A minute later he was down the stairs, across the foyer, and in the kitchen, where he found Alfred. The sight of the butler made him stop and wrinkle his nose. "...Alfred? What're you doing?"
"Hmm?" He looked up from where he sat at the breakfast bar with a laptop, a heavy-looking ledger book, and a stack of paperwork spread before him. "Ah, Master Dick. I apologize that I didn't hear you come in. I'm just working on the bills for this month, that's all."
"...Am I bugging you? I could go."
"Not at all. In fact, I could use a bit of a break." He paused, and Dick felt himself being scrutinized. "I don't suppose you'd like to have a cup of tea? You look troubled about something."
"Um..." Maybe Alfred could help him, he thought. If nothing else, there was no one better equipped to tell him what he could expect on Father's Day than the person who'd been orchestrating the event three times longer than Dick had even been alive. "Okay. Tea sounds good."
"Excellent. Here, have a seat so we can talk while I get things started."
The boy obeyed, climbing up onto the chair beside the one that had just been vacated. For a moment neither of them said anything, Alfred occupied with filling the kettle, Dick trying to keep his gaze from flickering onto the invoices at his elbow. It's none of my business, he told himself sternly. Those aren't my papers, and I shouldn't look at them. Still, he'd been invited to sit right next to them, and Bruce probably had far more interesting expenses than his parents ever had...
His curiosity got the best of him just as the pot landed atop the stove. It didn't take him long to gather the gist of the top sheet of paper, and he gave an involuntary gasp.
"Master Dick? Are you alright?"
"I..." His eyes were wide as he turned to answer for his transgression. "I know I shouldn't have looked," he apologized, "but...did the lawyer really cost that much money?" There had been six digits to the left of the decimal on the grand total line, he knew, but he couldn't make his mind accept what it had seen. It just wasn't possible...
"Litigation isn't cheap, I'm afraid, young sir. You needn't fret about it, though. There will be no problem paying it – that is, in fact, the 'paid' pile – and even if there were you aren't a house or an automobile. No one could come in and repossess you if Master Wayne failed to make good on his contract with the attorneys."
It was clear that the man was trying to lighten the mood, but Dick was still stuck on that grotesque figure highlighted in bold at the bottom of the invoice. He could deal with big numbers just fine when they were abstract, but hundreds of thousands of dollars, real, spendable dollars, was an incalculable sum. When he considered that it had all been spent on him, his brain refused to compute. "But...that's...why?" he stuttered.
"Well, attorneys are highly educated and hold positions of great responsibility. They demand payment accordingly. Sometimes they demand much more than they're worth, but in this case I thought their sum was right where it ought to be."
"I...I'm not worth that much," he whispered numbly.
A finger landed on his lips. "Shh, shhshhshh. Don't say such things, Master Dick," Alfred leaned across the counter to order gently. "Don't even think them. Above all, do not believe them. The amount you see there isn't even a calculable fraction of what Master Wayne would gladly pay in order to keep you at his side. Your health and happiness are priceless, child; no amount is too much. Do you understand?"
Humbled, he nodded. "...Yes. But...it's so much. How...how am I ever going to repay that?" What Pop Haly gave me isn't even enough to break into the thousands spot, he gulped. And Bruce probably wouldn't take it anyway...
"By being a good boy and growing up into the same sort of joyful, exuberant person that you are already, young sir. It's that simple." The butler squinted at him and seemed to sense that something more concrete was needed. "If you'd like to begin chipping away at it now, you might tell me what had you so dreamy-eyed when you came in."
"Well..." It was perfect, he realized; he would get Alfred to help him figure out what to do for both dad and Bruce next Sunday. A good Father's Day present wouldn't even qualify as a drop in the bucket when compared to the money the billionaire had already spent on him, but at least it would be something. As serious as John Grayson had always been about paying his debts, doing something special for Bruce would almost be an homage to him. "...It's next weekend," he confessed. "Can...can you help me? I don't know what to do about it."
"Do you mean Father's Day?"
"Yeah. I know things went okay on Mother's Day, but...this is different."
"Quite. I'll be happy to lend you what assistance I can. Would you mind sharing what you had in mind?"
"I don't really have anything in mind, I'm just...I'm nervous about what Bruce does for his dad. His mom and mine seemed to like some of the same stuff, so that was easy, but...his dad was a doctor. How much could he have in common with a circus aerialist?"
"I daresay that the most important thing they had in common was that they were both fathers who loved their respective sons a very great deal," Alfred remarked. "But that's not a terribly practical answer, is it?"
"...What's interesting to me about this, Master Dick, is that you and Master Wayne seem to have the exact same problem."
He started. "Huh?!"
"You do," the butler verified. "You remember what all was done on Mother's Day, yes?"
"Yes. It was nice. I liked it."
"I'm glad. Now, all of those little traditions were instigated by Master Wayne himself. The food, the music, the reading, the wreath...he asked for all of those things many, many years ago, and we have done them on Mother's Day ever since. Father's Day," Alfred shifted back to the stove to pour the hot water into a teapot, "has always been a very different affair."
"...Oh. Well, what's different?"
"Frankly, it's easier to tell you what's the same. A wreath is laid, and a bit of time spent at the cemetery, as is done in May for his mother. But that is where the similarities end." The wrinkles at the corners of the butler's eyes deepened as he turned to the breakfast bar once more. "...There are no other rituals for Father's Day in this house, at least not that I am aware of."
"Wooow..." Part of him was relieved that there wouldn't be a disconnect between him and Bruce when the fated day arrived, but another part of him was sad that there wasn't something in place for him to try and work off of in order to honor his own forebear. "How come?"
"To be honest I think it may be because he doesn't know what to do. He saw his father but rarely, at least in comparison to the many hours he spent with his mother, and much of the time they were together was spent in the mundane activities of everyday life, eating, preparing for bed, et cetera. He's never been the sort to ask for suggestions about something so personal as his father's character, so instead of partaking in commemorative habits he spends Father's Day poking his head in and out of the kitchen and loafing about with an uncomfortable expression on his face."
"That kind of leads to my next thing," Dick shared as a cup of medium-brown liquid was placed in front of him. "Thanks. That smells good. Anyway...I don't want him to do that this year, Alfred. I don't want him to mope around because he doesn't know what to do for his dad. I...I want him to have a good day. But I don't know what to do, and it's not like there's anything I can buy him, you know?"
"...You wish to give Master Wayne something for Father's Day?"
He hesitated at the tone of surprise that had underlined the question. "Well...yeah. I...I do. I mean..." A sentiment sat tangled on the tip of his tongue, but it felt wrong to speak it aloud. "Is that okay?" he improvised. "It's...it's not weird, is it? I don't want him to think I'm being weird."
"He won't think that at all, dear boy, I assure you," came back quickly. "Far from it. I think he'll be overjoyed, in fact. Simply...overjoyed."
There was a wistful note in the butler's voice that made Dick tilt his head to one side. He tucked the half-dozen inquiries that it inspired away, though, wanting to finish sorting out Bruce's Father's Day before he worried about Alfred. "Okay. That's good, because I really want to do something special. But I still don't know what," he huffed, glaring at the wisps of steam curling off of his tea. "Maybe...could you tell me what you do for your dad? That might help."
"I wish I could, young sir."
Dick blushed at having asked something that was apparently awkward, but he couldn't leave things at a standstill. "Oh...I'm sorry. Is...is your dad...you know...like ours our?"
"First of all, Master Dick, there's no reason for you to be embarrassed about your question. It was a perfectly natural one, and it didn't hurt my feelings in the least. Second, and to answer your question, yes, he is deceased. Not through any violent method, mind. It was an automobile accident, and it was more than fifteen years ago."
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "Even if it was a long time ago, I'm sorry."
"Such things happen. That's not to say that I don't still miss him acutely on occasion, of course, but you know that. As for what we once did for Father's Day, I can certainly tell you, but I would like to make a proposition first."
"Okay. What is it?"
"It is something that I believe will solve both your problem of what to do for Master Wayne next Sunday while also helping him to solve his problem of what to do in memory of his father. In short, young sir, we shall solve his problem for him."
Dick turned that over for a long moment. "...Alfred, I don't understand," he admitted eventually.
"Forgive me. I have the bad habit of speaking in half-riddles when I believe I've struck upon a fine idea. What I meant to suggest was that you and I work together to present Master Wayne with a ritual like the one he has for Mother's Day, only for his father. Does that make more sense?"
"So...you mean since he won't ask you about the things his dad liked, but I totally would, we come up with, like, his favorite foods and music and stuff, then do it all with Bruce?"
"That's precisely what I mean, Master Dick."
"That's perfect!" he cheered, bouncing in his seat. Not only would creating a Father's Day schedule from scratch take care of Bruce's present, he would have the chance to see if there were similarities between their fathers in the way there had been with their mothers. "Unless...you know it's probably going to make him cry, right?"
"It may very well, yes, but you'd have to work quite hard to convince me that that would be a bad thing."
"...Yeah. You're right. Besides, I'm probably going to...to cry that day too, so...I guess he and I can cry together." He shrugged. "We're good at that."
"So I've learned, young sir." The butler blinked rapidly for a moment, then cleared his throat. "We've plenty of time to get started, if you'd like."
"Yes! That would be great! But I should probably take notes. I don't want to forget anything." If they were going to do this, he wanted it to be perfect.
"Very good idea." Reaching over, Alfred lifted his ledger and turned to the back page. "...You didn't see me do this, mind," he warned, and tore the sheet out. "There. Take up that pen there, and we can begin."
"Great! Let's start with the food..." He wrote down 'breakfast,' then looked up. "What did he like to start the day with?"
"Ah, well, Master Dick," the man chuckled and refilled both of their cups, "that's a story in and of itself..."
Author's Note: We'll get to see Bruce's reaction to his gift next Sunday, on Father's Day.
In the meantime, I failed to mention that the idea of Dick getting hurt on his new bike originally came from ZeldaIsis. My apologies, and thanks for the great prompt!
I will try to post something tomorrow, but I can't guarantee that I'll be able to with everything going on for the event I'm participating in this weekend. If I don't post something new tomorrow, I plan to begin posting 'Tectonic Doom' on Monday.