Karen Featherstone likes her job. She likes the kids, she likes coming up with projects that will interest them, she likes watching them grow and learn and change. Since the guy who owns WI adopted a kid and started caring about schools in this city, she even likes her pay. But her absolute favourite thing is opening her classroom door on parent-teacher evenings and seeing grown-ass adults sitting awkwardly on tiny plastic chairs intended for the under 12s. In her professional opinion, there is literally nothing funnier than that sight.
“Grayson?” she calls, doing her best not to laugh at a woman who has opted for the ‘one chair per butt-cheek’ technique, and is just now realising that that means that the slightly raised edges of the seats are going to give her the wedgie from hell, but still retains enough dignity that she’s determined to own her terrible decision.
Watching Dick’s 6ft something built like an action hero foster-dad unfold himself from a particularly small chair she’d borrowed from the 1st graders just for the hell of it is an experience she will never forget. Especially since the dude’s face is that special kind of blank that means he’s 100% aware she’s laughing at him and there’s nothing he can do to stop her.
The whole thing is made better by the fact that he is wearing an honest-to-god Tuxedo.
“Present,” he says, like she’s taking roll. “I mean, I am Dick’s guardian.”
“Good for you,” she says, stepping back to let him pass and closing the door behind her. “Dick’s a great kid.”
His face just lights up at that. “He really is.”
“Is it really true that he used to be in the circus?”
“Does that mean he doesn’t cartwheel everywhere at school? Yes, he was in the circus. His parents were trapeze artists, and so was he.”
“That probably explains how he got onto the roof last week at least,” Karen says, sitting down at her desk and watching Wayne contemplate the tiny chairs.
In the end he braves it, folding himself down like a deckchair, so that his knees are roughly level with his shoulders.
“I have given up trying to keep him off the Manor roof,” he says. “If anyone’s going to be safe up there it’s probably him.”
Manor… as in Wayne Manor?! Dick Grayson is the kid Bruce Wayne randomly adopted last year?! She can’t remember if she’s ever seen a picture of Bruce Wayne - she doesn’t bother with the society pages or the gossip columns, but she knows he’s considered to be handsome, and this man is certainly that.
That probably explains the Tux. “You going somewhere nice after this?”
“I mean… is that why you’re all dressed up?”
He looks down at himself like he honestly hadn’t noticed what he was wearing, and when he meets her eyes again, his expression is faintly embarrassed. “No.”
It occurs to her that maybe billionaire socialite Bruce Wayne is used to always wearing a Tux to any evening functions, and just thought it was the appropriate clothing choice for meeting her. Which is kind of adorable.
“Well you look very nice,” she says, and then blushes as she realises she’d said that in her ‘talking to needy seven year olds’ voice.
Bruce Wayne just nods.
“Well you’ll be pleased to know Dick is fitting in well,” she says, to cover the awkwardness. “He’s very popular, and while he struggled academically to begin with, he’s catching up quickly. He said you’ve been helping him with his math homework?”
“I have a degree in chemistry. Degrees. One of them is chemistry. There’s a lot of adding up involved. In chemistry.”
Brucie Wayne may actually be the single most awkward human being Karen has ever had the pleasure of interacting with, and it’s making her want to keep Dick in her class forever just so she can repeat this every semester for the rest of her life.
“Well it’s definitely working - he’s one of the top in his class at math now. He could probably use some support in English though. He’s still struggling.”
“Oh. But my butler is teaching him to read Shakespeare.”
“My butler. He used to be in the Royal Shakespeare Company. After he was in the army. He’s been teaching Dick Shakespeare.” He looks confused by her confusion. “He’s memorised nearly all of Ariel’s lines. He performed the ‘full fathoms five’ speech over breakfast last week. It was very good.”
“Well, it’s good that he has hobbies. But we don’t usually do much Shakespeare with the pre-teens. I was talking more about, you know, grammar and composition. Verbs, adjectives, that sort of thing.”
“Oh.” Wayne is starting to look a little hunted. “I tried to get him to read Austen, but he didn’t like it.”
“Not many 12 year old boys would.”
“I did.” Somehow that’s not even surprising at this point. “Does he need a tutor?”
“Oh no, he’s getting on fine, but maybe a bit more support from you with his homework.”
“I… did mention my degree is in chemistry? One of my degrees.”
“You did. But if you were reading Shakespeare and Jane Austen for fun at that age, I’m sure 7th grade English homework won’t be that challenging for you. Or your… butler, if you don’t feel confident with it.”
“I’ll ask him.”
She smiles encouragingly. “That’s good. It’s very important for children Dick’s age to get support from their parents. Especially if they have come from… difficult backgrounds.”
“He did get schooling in the Circus,” Wayne says earnestly. “One of the clowns taught the children.”
“He… went to clown school.”
“A school run by clowns. Not a school for clowns. Although he did learn a lot from all the other performers. He can juggle knives you know.”
“I didn’t know that.” She’d have been happier not knowing that. “I’m sure that is a skill which will come in useful in later life.”
Wayne just fucking nods, like that’s complete reasonable and likely, and Karen has to get him out of her classroom before she gives into the temptation to keep him here all night asking him inane questions just to see what crazy answers he comes up with.
“I think that’s everything I wanted to discuss. It’s been very nice to meet you,” she says, holding out her hand to him. She’d been intending to shake hands with him, but instead unfolds himself from his tiny chair and bows over her hand and fucking kisses it, like she’s the pope or something. This fucking guy.
“I’m sure we’ll see you again soon. The PTA is holding a bake sale after school next week to raise money for the new science building.”
“I can’t bake,” he says. “But my butler makes very good rock cakes.”
Karen has no idea what a rock cake is, so she smiles and says, “That’s fine, just bring an appetite and your wallet.”
“I can do that.”
“And maybe don’t wear a tux.”
He looks down at himself like he’d honestly forgotten what he was wearing. “A lounge suit then?”
Half the parents will probably turn up in tracksuits, but she can’t imagine him owning anything that might be considered casual wear. “You know what? That sounds perfect.”