"What did you get on your 16th birthday, Dick?"
The question comes out of nowhere. We are all back in the Cave - Bruce, Tim, myself - even Alfred with a plate of sandwiches. Showered and in sweats and just coming down from patrol. It's been a good night. Nothing major. No Joker or Two-Face. Just enough former muggers and no-longer thieves to give us all a good workout and a good feeling. Which is why the question sideswipes me a bit.
"Really, Dick, what was it?" Tim is looking serious, which the topic does not merit. I don’t think.
"A car", Bruce interjects firmly.
"A yeh, that's right, a car." Well, it's the truth. Or at least that the only part I'm going to talk about with 'kid brother' in the room. "Green Ferrari up in the garage. You've seen it." Which is an answer apropos of nothing, but until I know the question?
"Car." Tim repeats the word like it's somehow significant. I don't get it.
“Sorta traditional.” I stop by the exercise mat. Rings are looking good, but if the kid wants to talk? “You already have your license, and I suppose your Dad's car is yours if it's any bodies. Or is Dana taking over that?" Tim never complains about her, but so what? "Is that it? Are you having problems with the 'wicked stepmother?"
"No. Nothing with her. She's fine and all." Except that Tim doesn't sound so fine.
"Then what's the problem?" I punch Tim's shoulder and he looks up. "Give - you know you can trust us.”
"No problem, it's just?" He shrugs. "Somehow it ought to be a bigger thing."
"A birthday. A sixteenth birthday, at any rate. I mean, all the kids at school carry on like it's this big thing. Maybe it is - to them. But for me? What's it going to change?"
Oh, right. Tim's turning sixteen in? I think a minute - two days. I had almost missed it. Ouch!
"What do you want it to change?" I remember all to clearly what I wanted it to change. That was then, and now I'm praying Tim is *not* thinking along the same lines.
"Nothing, I guess. It's not like there's anything wrong the way things are. It's just that - well - there ought to be a change."
"For Robin, or for Tim Drake?"
"Both. Either." He fidgets, uncertain. "Tim Drake, I guess. He's the one with the birthday. I mean, Robin doesn't really have an age, does he? Robin's more like this ongoing thing and I'm part of it as much as it's part of me. I wasn't the first, and I don't have to be the last. But I ought to be something. Do something. Make a difference somehow."
Tim thinks he doesn't make a difference? Was this some sort of teen-angst thing? You would think I would be better at that with all I went through. Not a chance. We all suffer, but adolescence still manages to blind-side us.
"Tim, you make a hell of a difference to us." Which sounds stupid, even as it is true.
"Thanks, Dick." He smiles but does not convince.
"Tim!" I give him 'the voice'. "Listen to your big brother! I mean this!"
"Yeh, I know. And I love you guys too. It's not that. Guess it's just the funks or something. Wish you could come to my birthday or something, but Dana's got this idea about cake and the creeps from school…”
"Bummer." I mean it. At sixteen cake and ice cream is beyond lame. It borders on mental cruelty. "Think of it as endurance training." That's what Bruce used to tell me when I had to attend another society gala. Back then I thought he was joking. He wasn't.
"Well, gotta go." He kicks his bike into action.
"Give me a call when the torture is over. We'll go pound someone."
That earns a grin. Two spins of the wheel and he's down the ramp and gone.
"Bruce" I assume he's overheard every word. "Sixteen is important. We've got to do something."
"The last time you said that…" Bruce looks grim, but I know his humor.
"Touche', But that wasn't what I had in mind."
"No?" Amazing the meaning Bruce can get into one word.
"Touché' again. Let's just say, not for baby bird. Besides, I think he's warm on Arrowette."
"A bit beyond my comfort range. Also, I doubt her mother would approve." And that lady hasn't lost her aim, his tone adds.
"Arrowette was not what I had in mind." Not that a girl wouldn't make a nice gift for some teenage boys, I mentally concede, but not for Tim. Tim takes things seriously. Which can be a rough road at sixteen. I mean, that much I *do* remember. "Tim can get his own girls." Which is true. He's got the looks and the tactics. "But we should get him something."
Bruce gives me the *smile* - which is frankly spookier then the glare, and a lot rarer. OK, so I had stepped in it.
"I had planned it as a surprise." One swift nod had me following Bruce into a side garage. Not one we normally use. The machines go out to Earl's for major repairs. Just a minor back-up garage. Usually empty. Now home to a large canvas bump. I glance at Bruce, and watch the smile get even larger. What, I wondered, had he pulled off now? Nothing for it but to roll back the canvas and see. One quick flip and… I'm actually speechless all the way to the back of my brain.
"Holy... Bruce. It's.... perfect."