A tiny excited nine-year-old boy was jumping around the Batcave, dressed in dark Batman PJs with little yellow bats printed on them. They had been a gift from Clark and Bruce hadn’t had the heart to deny them Dick after the child had accepted them so cheerfully.
Much the same, Bruce now didn’t have the heart to use his short-term memory eraser on his young ward. Dick hadn’t cried much after his parents’ death and, unlike Bruce had been after the loss of his parents, he was a rather happy child given the circumstances. Nevertheless, Bruce wanted Dick to smile as many of those genuinely cheerful smiles as possible, and let him make a lot of good memories.
Discovering the Cave below the manor was most certainly a glorious memory for Dick, and Bruce didn’t want to take it away. Certainly, he could be convinced to keep it all a secret? Dick was smart, he knew when something was important.
Once he had made up his mind, Bruce stepped out of the shadows. The Batsuit was already back in its case, so he was sporting sweat pants and a comfortable hoodie. They didn’t heat the Cave and for all the hours Bruce spent sitting in front of the computer, a tank top didn’t suffice according to Alfred.
“Bruce!” Dick shouted when he finally spotted Bruce. “Look! This has to be the Batcave! Can you believe it? Did you know it was right here under the manor all this time? Have you met Batman…”
Dick trailed off and studied Bruce cautiously. His gaze lingered on Bruce’s neck, where this night’s fights had resulted in a small bruise and the coffee mug in Bruce’s hands.
“Look, Dick, I know this is a lot to take in-“ Bruce began to speak, but Dick interrupted him.
“You’re dating Batman!” he exclaimed.
That wasn’t the conclusion he had expected Dick to reach. Before he could set the boy on the right path, Dick was already talking again.
“Of course! It makes so much sense! That’s why he immediately knew who I was and found me so fast when I was trying to find Zucco. You sent him after me, right? Can I meet him again? Please, please, please, I haven’t thanked him properly yet, and Alfred said it’s important to do that always.”
Dick jumped up and down, vibrating with energy. Behind him, Alfred stood with another tray of treats for Bruce and for once he looked about as caught off-guard as Bruce felt.
Bruce shared a look with Alfred, but he just shrugged in turn and indicated with a hand wave that Bruce should reply to his still rambling ward.
Looking back at Dick, Bruce could see him smiling brightly. He should correct Dick’s thoughts, but then again, it would be a good cover.
If anybody ever got too close to the truth and Dick accidentally talked – not that Bruce assumed he would, but he didn’t earn his title as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective and Most Paranoid Bastard’ by being unprepared – Batman’s identity would be safe still. Once Dick got older, Bruce could tell him the truth. For now, though...
“It’s a secret,” Bruce said seriously. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t!” Dick promised eagerly.
“You have to swear an oath.”
Bruce had loved swearing oaths as a kid. Nowadays, he knew that they had just been his parents’ convenient way of getting him to avoid telling Alfred about how many sweets he’d already eaten before dinner, but they had been fun regardless.
“Say, does that mean I can accompany Batman in the future?”
“Bruce said I could join you on patrol.”
Bruce, dressed as Batman, nearly burned his tongue on his coffee. Dick’s expression was utterly innocent like he wasn’t lying directly to his face. Lately, he’s been spending a lot of time in the newly christened Batcave. Whenever Bruce was supposed to be sleeping or out in the city working for Wayne Enterprises, Dick went down to the Cave.
Sometimes Bruce thought that Dick had finally figured it out and was trying to prank him by feigning ignorance, but then he’d paraphrase something to Batman or Bruce that neither had said, and Bruce would know Dick was still in the dark.
“He did not.”
Bruce enjoyed Sunday mornings. They all slept in and ate breakfast together. He didn’t have to go to WE, Alfred allowed himself to relax for once, and Dick didn’t have school.
The manor had always been a quiet place after his parents’ passing, but it had never been calm. And even though Dick’s gleeful shrieks were echoing through the halls, Bruce felt at peace.
“Batman said I’d be safe in the city patrolling with-“
Bruce opened his eyes, staring directly into Dick’s blue ones. He had wondered about the sudden weight on his chest.
“Awww, come on, B!”
Dick kept on asking, Bruce kept on protesting, and somehow it ended with Robin following Batman on the streets. Bruce still couldn’t believe he had let a child, practically a baby, talk him into taking him out to fight crime.
Not that Dick was doing any of that until he was at least thirteen. For now, Batman would make his rounds first, then take Dick out for an hour to accompany teenagers and women home in the dark, carry food to homeless people and track down lost pets.
Dick didn’t complain about it at all but poured all his energy into his task. He knew his job was serious and that the goal was to help people. If Dick dedicated about as much motivation to his homework, he could skip several grades. Honestly, it was like Dick simply enjoyed spending time with Batman, which was weird to say the least.
Bruce didn’t think he acted all that different around Dick as the Bat. He certainly got more careless about his posture as well, the more often they patrolled together.
And then, one night, after an actually fun patrol, he took off the cowl. It would be better if Dick knew the truth, even if he hadn’t deduced it himself. After all, his detection skills were something they were still working on.
“Bruce!” Dick gasped. “You were fighting with me tonight?”
“Of course. It’s always been-“
Dick rushed over to Bruce’s side, worry written all over his face.
“Is Batman alright?! Has he gotten hurt? He should have told me, I’d have been fine without going on patrol, and you shouldn’t endanger yourself. You’re already doing enough for Gotham during the day. Can I see him? Do you always jump in for him when he can’t fight? Has he gotten hurt often?”
Bruce took a deep breath and pinched his nose.
Maybe it was too early still.
“Sure,” he said, unknowing that this would be the beginning of a life-long commitment to self-love. “I stand in for Batman when he can’t patrol Gotham. What’s the purpose of funding all of this, if I don’t contribute?”
Dick nodded, though Bruce could tell he wasn’t satisfied with his answer. Maybe he would try again in another six months.
“Do you think Dad’s worried about us when we’re out on patrol?”
Batman very nearly crashed into the next building. Only his iron grip on his grappling hook and his years of training made his landing on the next roof look as professional as always.
Robin settled on the gargoyle next to him, still deep in thought.
“I mean, we don’t come back hurt often, but he always makes sure to check me for injuries again after you’ve done it. He is worrying, isn’t he?”
Batman was still stuck on Robin’s first sentence.
“… Dad?” He questioned.
Robin looked up at him in confusion before promptly blushing red.
“Don’t tell Bruce I call him that! I’m practicing it still ‘cause it sounds weird, and the first time I say it to his face needs to be perfect. I know I told him I don’t want a new father, and I don’t, I love my Papa. But he could be another dad, you know? Like, everyone has two sets of grandparents as well and I know that’s not the same, and I know he hasn’t adopted me, but I’m pretty sure he does love me like a son, he has called me that before. I know he didn’t do it consciously or whatever, and Grayson-Wayne would be like super duper long, and all teachers would hate it but-“
His ward, his son, stopped talking, nervously looking down at his gloved hands.
“I’m sure Bruce will be absolutely happy to hear that and call you his son. You just have to tell him.”
Okay, so maybe this whole ‘Batman wasn’t Bruce’ thing did have some positive sides.
Dick grew with every month that passed. He got stronger and taller and Bruce trusted him with more and more responsibilities. He even took Dick to the Watchtower and it was a delight to see him collect clues about everyone’s identity, remembering even small details like Green Arrow’s preferred coffee brand, and inform Bruce of everyone’s identity within a week.
At thirteen, however, Dick still hadn’t figured out who Bruce was.
It was a little frustrating. Nothing seemed to shake Dick’s belief that they were two separate people.
“Robin,” Bruce growled in his Batman voice, before switching to his actually softer and more melodic tone. “I’m Batman.”
Dick stared at Bruce, cowl-less and serious, before being overtaken with laughter.
“Oh, jeez, B- you- Holy hell-“
“That was perfect. Exactly how Batman would say it!”
The direct approach really wasn’t working out for Bruce.
Even worse, Dick didn’t even seem interested in who Batman was. As long as he was kind to Dick, spend enough time with him and “treated Bruce right”, he didn’t care whatsoever about who was behind the mask.
“The Bat’s the Bat,” he had heard Dick tell Barbara once like that was a proper explanation for anything.
Barbara Gordon was a menace. An intelligent, blackmailing, smart, and confident menace hell-bent on putting herself in danger.
Bruce could go to her father, he really should, but Barbara hadn’t even been fazed by the threat.
“I know you’re just trying to look out for us, Mr. Wayne, but I promise you, we’ll be safe with Batman. I just need him to teach me some more kick-ass moves. Training with Dick is good, but he’s only learning himself still.”
Bruce didn’t even know where to start with that line of argumentation. He most certainly could keep track of two children at night, but he didn’t want to.
Yet, somehow, he found himself keeping watch over a little bird and a bat during nighttime, and playing Mario Kart with his son and his best friend during the day time.