Bats in the Belle: Free!
* Author's Note: This is my (hopefully passable) attempt at a sequel to Miranda Spark's wonderful tale, "Robin: The Girl Wonder". I just hope I can do it justice. *
Rory looked in the mirror with disgust evident on her brow. Bruce was due back any minute, and Alfred had suggested- gently, that she be "properly attired" to meet Master Bruce. That meant, of course, en homme- Dick Grayson's presence was required, not Rory's. Gone was the finery of days ago, when the stirrings first began in her- the makeup had been washed clean, the dangly hoop earrings were no longer clipped firmly to her earlobes, the bangles and bracelets long since put away (hopefully not forever), as was the short, brunette, pageboy-styled wig. The brown mules were stowed in a secret compartment underneath the young ward's bed, as was the rest of her school uniform, as she feared she would no longer be needing it.
The undercover assignment had ended way too soon for Rory's liking, and she heaved a heavy sigh as the life- and lifestyle- she had known for the last few months quickly vanished, for what (she assumed) would be forever out of her life. Rory shed a quick tear as she realized that the last few months had been the happiest she could recall since leaving her acrobatic troupe oh so many years ago and becoming Bruce's ever-faithful ward and sidekick. Soon, those all too precious moments would become just faded memories, forever tainted by the gruff reality of being a young, MALE crime fighter in Gotham's seedier underbelly. Refined ladies like Rory simply did not run around the city's darker side in spandex and tights at midnight...
Bruce parked his XJ-6 convertible at the door to the immense manse and pushed the button to summon his faithful manservant, Alfred. The trip had been eventful, and Ra's al Ghul had proven as formidable as always. Bruce detested the genocidal ways of his ersatz father-in-law, but the wounds he incurred during the latest Arkham uprising necessitated his return to the Lazarus Pits for a much-needed rejuvenation.
"Ah. Master Bruce. Welcome back, Sir," the ever-faithful manservant greeted. "I trust things went well? How is Talia and young Damian?"
"Quite well, actually. Thanks for asking. Talia's raising him to respect law and order, much to her father's chagrin. In his case, hopefully, the apple will fall far from the tree. He's really a good kid, Alfred."
"Excellent, Sir. Shall I get your bags?"
"They'll keep- for awhile. I've been away too long, I fear, and I've missed some of the creature comforts stately Wayne Manor affords me. Besides, I need to check on Dick and find out how the Easterham case went."
"You'll find Master Grayson in the study. You should really talk to her, Bruce. She needs guidance right now, and you're the closest thing to a real parent that she has. Besides, I can only do so much, and raising a brooding teenager is NOT my forte, as you will, no doubt, recall."
Alfred's use of feminine pronouns when referring to his young ward didn't go unnoticed by Bruce. Alfred DID NOT make those kinds of mistakes. Hmmm... I wonder...
"Don't be so hard on yourself, old friend. You did quite well raising me, and I turned out just fine."
"Says the man in the bat costume fighting crime in a city that no longer gives a damn," Alfred commented, almost unheard.
"Beg pardon?" Bruce commented.
"Forgive me, Sir," Alfred apologized. "Just thinking..." perhaps a little TOO loudly... went forever unsaid.
"I'll be in the study with Dick, Alfred. We'll just dine there this evening."
"As you wish, Master Bruce. Dinner will be at seven sharp."
As Bruce walked into the study, he couldn't help but notice the melancholy atmosphere of the room, nor the downcast and utterly downtrodden look on the face of his young ward.
"Good evening, Bruce," Dick greeted flatly, never once lifting his head to look at his mentor and benefactor.
"Dick. How'd things go at Easterham?"
"Fine. Case closed, crooks captured. Same old, same old," Dick replied, less than enthusiastically.
"Something wrong? You know you can tell me anything, chum."
"Really?" Dick questioned. "Anything?" he emphasized quite slowly. Dick, for the first time since meeting the wealthy socialite, was unsure- of him- no HER- self, and of their relationship. If I do tell him EVERYTHING, then what will happen to me? Will he hate me? Kick me to the curb? I can't- no, I WON'T- go back to that life again...
"Have I ever given you reason NOT to trust me? I promise I'll listen, no matter what the problem is."
"Well...," Dick began, slowly, "I enjoyed my time at Easterham. Perhaps a little too much."
"I see..." Bruce began.
"For only the third time in my life, I actually belonged. I was someone, and I liked being that someone. I didn't want Rory to leave. Ever. I still don't, Bruce."
An uneasy silence hung in the room like a herd of white elephants on safari. Slowly, Bruce made his way to where Dick sat on the chaise lounger.
"It's OK, Son... or should that be DAUGHTER now?" Bruce asked, smiling, as he reached to comfort his young ward.
"You... you... you... understand???" Dick managed to choke out.
"Let's just say you're not the first ward I've had that had... questions... about gender. Barbara (Gordon) wasn't always BatGIRL you know. We'll work through this. Together. And if you DO decide you want to be..."
"Rory," Dick interrupted, sobbing.
"Rory, yes. Then we, together- you, me, and Alfred- will make you the best Rory you can be. Promise..."
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