Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Jean-Paul Belliveau, Anna Hendrikson, Alfred Pennyworth
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): G
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: A series of daring robberies on Gotham City’s Gold Coast catches the attention of the Raven and the Nightingale.
Chapter Summary: Dick gets his first look at downtown Gotham while he arranges for an audition with the Gotham Ballet Company.
Date Of Completion: September 4, 2014
Date Of Posting: June 23, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1365
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Submitted to my 2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
THE BLUE WILLOW PLATE
Lurks the shadows
As the blue willow
With graceful fingers.
Dick observed the carriages jamming the streets. There were broughams, landaus, four-in-hands, and coaches. There was even the occasional automobile, a jarring juxtaposition to the horse-drawn drays and wagons. Here in the downtown area peddlers were scarce on the crowded sidewalks, but an occasional enterprising sort trundled down the street, calling out his wares.
Dick looked up at the tall iron and brick buildings. “You are correct about the Gothic architecture. Flying buttresses and grinning gargoyles seem to be the décor.”
“You should see us at Halloween.”
Dick grinned. “I look forward to my first American Halloween, complete with treating-and-tricking and pumpkin pie.”
Bruce chuckled. “Trick-or-treating.”
The carriage stopped at the Savoy Theater, an ornate building with colorful playbills advertising ballets and plays. Dick alighted with a toss of his yellow scarf as he strutted into the theater. Bruce followed at a more sedate pace.
He was dressed to the nines in black broadcloth with a gold vest, homburg, and shiny boots. He carried an ivory-handled cane in his white-gloved hand.
Dick, of course, was unconventional. He wore his wine-red suit and yellow vest with a green watersilk cravat and sapphire stickpin. As an auditioner for a theatrical position, the more flamboyant, the better.
The foyer was richly-appointed with full-length mirrors, red velvet drapes, crystal chandeliers and marble columns. Bruce and Dick turned at the sound of approaching footsteps, punctuated by a cane.
A distinguished gentleman with gray hair and mustache looked Dick over from head-to-toe, barely glancing at Bruce. His brown pants were baggy and he wore a squash-colored pullover with an old green-and-blue woolen scarf wound around his neck. His feet were shod in worn blue slippers.
“Monsieur</i> Belliveau?” asked Dick.
“That is correct.” Pale blue eyes flicked down to Dick’s outstretched hand. He shook it and said, “Come this way.”
Jean-Paul Belliveau walked with a limp, but he still managed to convey impatience. He led his visitors to the theater proper, a good-sized room with vaulted ceiling and a large stage. There were the requisite rows of seats and private boxes, and Dick wondered if the acoustics were right.
Luckily I’m a dancer not a singer.
Belliveau swept an arm toward the stage. “That will be where you audition. I will see you tomorrow at 1:00.” He started to turn away.
“Thank you, Monsieur Belliveau,” Dick said.
Belliveau sniffed. “Just be here. I do not tolerate tardiness.” He clomped away.
“Rather abrupt, isn’t he?” Bruce asked.
Dick smiled. “Just artistic temperament.” He walked toward the stage and Bruce followed. “That bad leg of his cut his career short, I’d guess. Not being able to dance eats away at him.”
He leaped onto the stage and danced its length, looking out at the imaginary audience. “I really want this job. I don’t want to leave Gotham…and you…for Boston or New York, but I must dance!”
“Of course.” Bruce smiled.
Bruce treated his young lover to luncheon at The Blue Willow Plate, a clean, cheerful restaurant with the emblematic chinaware on shelves around the room. Blue-and-white-checked tablecloths and fresh flowers in milky-white vases completed the décor.
“Ah, Mr. Wayne. Glad to see you back, sir,” said a plump, middle-aged woman with silvery-gray hair and a pleasant smile. “Your usual table?”
“Of course, Mrs. Hendrikson.”
“Come this way, please.”
Bruce and Dick followed Anna Hendrikson as she bustled to a table by the window.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hendrikson,” said Bruce.
She laid out the handwritten menus and went over to another table.
Dick picked up his menu. “Thank you for arranging the audition for me.”
“Glad to do it.”
Dick smiled. “You really are too good to me.”
“Nonsense! You deserve only the best.”
Dick kept his eyes on the menu but a smile remained on his lips. When Anna came over, he ordered chicken on a wheat roll with lettuce, tomato, red onions and mustard, adding tomato barley soup.
“I can recommend the hand-cut potato fries,” Bruce said.
“I’ll take that recommendation.”
Bruce ordered vegetable soup and a turkey on wheat with the same ingredients that Dick had ordered. They both decided on iced tea.
Anna left with their orders and Dick looked down at the busy street through the plate-glass window. The restaurant was located on the second floor and offered an interesting view of downtown Gotham.
“Is this city like New York and Chicago?”
“Somewhat.” Bruce shook out his linen napkin and placed it on his lap. “Some of the architecture is the same, though we really go in for gargoyles.”
Dick snickered. “Gothic has its uses.” He lowered his voice. “Little wonder Poe’s Raven appeals to you.”
Other diners began trickling in. Bruce and Dick had been early for luncheon.
“I suppose you’re right.”
“Will we continue?”
Bruce smiled. “Perhaps.”
Dick seemed satisfied with his answer. Bruce was happy about that, since he was uncertain. He liked the idea of the clandestine operation. It was thrilling to steal away into the night behind cape and mask and seek justice.
“I said I’d like to check out the park after lunch.”
“Of course, whatever you like.”
Anna arrived with their soup. Dick thanked her with a dazzling smile. He opened the package of oyster crackers and sprinkled them into the tomato barley soup.
“I have a routine worked out.”
“You do?” Bruce put his crackers in his soup, too.
“Yes, I’m going to do a piece from Swan Lake.” He stirred the ice in his tea with a long-handled spoon. “It’s easy enough. I’ve danced it a thousand times.”
“And it’s always as fresh as the first time.”
“Flatterer.” Dick was careful with the soup. It was piping-hot. “How long do you think Dinah and Ollie will stay on the Continent?”
“Oh, I expect for awhile. Dinah really needs to rest her vocal cords.”
“I’m not surprised. They say her Canary Cry can shatter glass.” Dick leaned forward conspiratorially. “I heard that theaters have to remove the chandeliers to prevent falling shards of crystal.”
Bruce laughed. “People do love to tell stories.”
Dick leaned back. “The theater is full of stories, my friend.”
After luncheon they walked briskly to Wayne Park, Bruce pointing out special views, statues and fountains.
“It’s all so beautiful. I like open space in the middle of a city.” Dick’s eyes sparkled as he breathed in the fresh air.
“Autumn weather is the best.”
“I noticed some of the trees are starting to turn.”
“A handful will, but you’ll really see a show by the end of the month.”
“I look forward to it.”
Bruce had some plans in mind for later in the season, but for now simply enjoyed Dick’s sparkling presence by his side.
“I sure hope I get the job, Bruce.” Dick squeezed his lover’s hand. They were temporarily alone on the footpath. “I want to see America, but not by myself. I don’t want to leave Gotham in search of work.”
Bruce wanted to say that Dick did not have to work. He would take care of everything, but he knew that Dick would never accept such an arrangement. He had to dance. It was in his blood.
“You’ll do just fine,” Bruce assured him, and squeezed his hand back.
Back at the Manor, Dick practiced his routine in the ballroom while Bruce wandered into the kitchen. Alfred was making preparations for dinner.
“Did you have a good time in town, sir?”
“Very satisfactory, Alfred.”
“Excellent.” The butler efficiently chopped scallions on the cutting board. “Will you be accompanying Master Dick to his audition?”
“No, it’s not necessary.”
Alfred paused, the knife poised over the board. “Not necessary, sir?”
“Yes.” Bruce picked up a walnut from the bowl on the table and applied the nutcracker. He picked the meat out of the shell and ate it.
Alfred resumed chopping very slowly. “Sir, did you…arrange…for master Dick to already get this job?”
Bruce cracked another walnut. “He needn’t ever know.”
“Let us hope so, sir.”
The sounds of chopping and cracking sounded loud in the silent kitchen.