Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Bruce/Dick, Alfred Pennyworth, Ed Higgins, Donna Troy, Roy Harper
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
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.A
Chapter Summary: Dick gets Bruce involved with decorating the Manor for Halloween and invites special guests to dinner.
Date Of Completion: October 30, 2014
Date Of Posting: September 8, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2388
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.
WARM APPLE PIE WITH FRENCH VANILLA ICE CREAM
As far as the eye
And the taste
Was as simple
"Field Of Dreams"
The Gotham Ballet Company did, as one critic declared, “a land-office business”. Every performance was sold out and the reviews were glowing. Dick and Selina were the toast of the town, and Bruce carefully maneuvered his lover away from Selina, but it was inevitable that they would sometimes go out together at night in addition to their work. Bruce did not join them on those evenings. He trusted Dick to keep their secret, but he did not trust Selina to keep hers. He preferred not to tempt her by his presence.
“Sir, why not tell Master Dick?” asked Alfred.
“Keeping secrets never works.”
But Bruce felt as if this secret should be kept, at least for now.
“You know Roy, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
Dick and Bruce were sitting out on the small flagstone patio behind the kitchen, affording them a splendid view of the ocean. The weather was crisp on this brilliant fall day, but it was not uncomfortable to sit outside. A small white-painted wrought-iron table was set between them, and Bruce rested an elbow while smoking a cigar. Dick was reading the latest reviews.
“I was thinking about inviting him and Donna here, if that’s all right with you.”
“This is your home, Dick. Invite whomever you like.”
Dick grinned. “Great! I’d like to invite them tomorrow night. We don’t have a performance.”
“All right. I wasn’t planning on staking out any mansions until the weekend.”
“The robberies have died down.”
“Yes, but this burglar isn’t finished yet, mark my words.”
Dick picked up his glass of cranberry juice from the table. “I always mark your words.” Mischief sparkled in his eyes.
Bruce chuckled. “As well you should.” He blew out a ring of smoke. “Make sure to consult with Alfred about dinner.”
“Of course.” Dick drank the juice. The tartness pleased him. “I can’t believe that we’ll be celebrating Halloween again.”
Bruce smiled. “We’ll do it up right, this time with pumpkins instead of turnips.”
“Of course, nothing less.” Dick finished his juice. “Can we start decorating?” he asked eagerly.
Bruce’s smile grew fond. “Surely we can.” He blew out another ring of smoke. “Again, that’s Alfred’s domain.”
“I’ll go ask him right now.”
Bruce felt a sense of peace as Dick hurried inside. He had not felt such a thing for years. Peace had been unattainable after what he had witnessed in Crime Alley.
He flicked the ashes off his cigar. After the death of his parents, everything had been washed-out gray, no matter where he went or what he did. Everything had changed that night in Rome at La Scala when he had first seen his beautiful dancer. Color had come back into his life, reflecting a myriad of emotions.
I won’t let Selina or anybody else destroy that.
A strange calmness settled over him. He would do whatever it took to keep Dick. His eyes glittered through a haze of smoke.
Alfred was game for some early decorating. The next day Dick eagerly persuaded Bruce to come out to a farm that sold a bumper crop of pumpkins. His eyes grew big at the seemingly-endless patch of pumpkins as it stretched out over the field toward the edge of the surrounding woods. He was delighted to see baby pumpkins, medium-sized, large, and giant specimens.
“The shapes are all different: round, oblong, and…what are these shaped like swans?!”
“Gourds.” Bruce picked one up. “These are all different colors: green, red, yellow and orange. The Mother Hubbard squashes are a light-green or even blue.”
Dick roamed up and down the rows of pumpkins. Soon he filled a cart with all different sizes, including gourds. The sizes varied from the latter, too, from small to gigantic. Bruce also chose some specimens, and they filled two carts by the end of their perusal.
“Alfred will be delighted. He always wanted to go all out.” Bruce picked up a gourd and inspected the shape of its swan’s neck. He ran a finger down the elegant curve, reminded strongly of Dick.
“He says he’ll get streamers and we can get started as soon as we get back. We’ll be all set for tonight.”
“Let’s have fun.”
Dick laughed. “Glad to hear you say that.” His eyes softened. “I like that a lot.”
Bruce swallowed. “Yes, well, we’d better get back and start decorating.”
“I’ll have my boy Cyril hitch up the wagons and deliver all this your place, sir,” said Farmer Higgins, a grizzled man in overalls.
“Thanks. We need it right away.” Bruce produced a crisp, twenty-dollar bill. He had already paid for the pumpkins and gourds and this was in addition to that amount. He knew that money talked.
Higgins took the money. “Right away, Mr. Wayne.”
While waiting for the delivery, Bruce and Dick helped Alfred decorate the foyer with orange-and-black streamers, fake cobwebs and some broomsticks. They put a few orange and black candles in each room and Dick whimsically taped a large black paper cut-out of a bat over the mantel in the front parlor.
“Doesn’t that look positively Gothic?” he asked with a theatrical sweep of his hand.
“More like Poe,” Bruce drawled.
“Hmm, yes.” Dick rushed out of the room. At Bruce’s puzzled look, Alfred shook his head.
Fifteen minutes later, Dick returned with another black paper cut-out and put this one on the wall between the windows.
“A raven?” Bruce crossed his arms.
Dick grinned. “Nevermore, my love.”
The Manor was ablaze with light as Donna and Roy alighted from the hansom cab. He paid the driver and they ascended the steps.
“Look at all these Jack O’Lanterns. Nice painted faces,” Donna said.
“Probably figured it was too early for carving.” Roy used the doorknocker.
“And gourds shaped like swans! Oh, I love those.” Donna bent for a closer look, tapping one on its ‘beak’.
The door opened after a few minutes and Alfred said, “Welcome, Miss Troy and Mr. Harper. Please come in.”
Alfred took their outer garments and placed them in the foyer closet. He then led his guests to the front parlor and departed.
Donna laughed as she saw the bat over the fireplace. “I call shenanigans with the name of Dick Grayson.”
“I’d say you’re right.” Roy pointed to the raven. “Very Poe-tic.”
Donna groaned. “You’ve been hanging around Dick too much.”
Roy laughed. “He’s the worst when it comes to puns.”
“I’d say the best!”
The visitors turned and smiled as Dick walked in. He hugged them both.
“You look great.” He admired Roy’s dark-green suit and pale green vest with matching cravat and Donna’s rich burgundy dress with a ruby necklace. It was a fake borrowed from the company’s props but a very good imitation, along with matching earrings. Her hair was set in a fashionable pompadour.
Donna looked admiringly at Dick. He was wearing a pale pink suit with a scarlet vest and cravat. A ruby stickpin sparkled on his lapel. It was outré even for him, but he could pull it off.
Funny how the King of Savile Row, Bruce Wayne, is such close friends with someone with Dick’s fashion sense.
It amused her, though. She wasn’t sure if Dick was genuinely oblivious or just didn’t care. Either way it was charming.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” Roy said with a smile. “Though I admit I’ve never seen a suit that color before.”
Dick grinned and pirouetted. “It’s one-of-a-kind.”
Alfred came in with a tray of root beer. “Master Dick informed me of your fondness for this drink.”
“Thank you, Alfred.” Donna took a frosty mug. “He was correct.”
“Dinner in fifteen minutes, sir.”
“Thank you, Alfred.” Dick drank from his mug.
“Not the usual before-dinner drinks, I’d bet.” Roy took a long sip, looking at the mug appreciatively.
“Well, you know me, Roy, always unconventional.”
“And dazzling while he does it.” Bruce stood at the entrance to the parlor. “Welcome to my home, Miss Troy. Nice to see you again, Roy.”
“A pleasure, Mr. Wayne,” Roy greeted.
“I echo that sentiment.” Donna was impressed with Bruce Wayne up close. Effortlessly elegant, he was dressed in a black suit with white vest threaded with silver. He wore a white silk cravat with a diamond stickpin. “Thank you for inviting us.”
“Dick was most interested in your presence tonight.”
They chatted until Alfred appeared. “Dinner is served, sir.”
“Then let us go to the dining room. Miss Troy.” Bruce offered his arm. Donna happily took it, followed by Dick and Roy.
Donna and Roy were impressed by the magnificence of the dining room with its crystal chandelier and mahogany furniture. The ‘company’ china was set out, and fresh flowers smelled sweet in the center of the table, flanked by white candles in silver candlesticks. The flowers were pink and white, fresh from the estate greenhouse.
The first course was turtle soup and French bread. Donna buttered a slice of bread and asked, “I read about your Grand Tour, Mr. Wayne. It must have been quite enlightening.”
“Oh, it was.” Bruce added salt to his soup. “I learned a great deal over there. The cultures are fascinating. Their art is incredible.”
“Italy is jam-packed with great art.” Donna caressed her wineglass filled with red wine. “Did you see Michelangelo’s David?”
“Yes, I did.” Bruce’s gaze flicked over to Dick. “Magnificent piece of sculpture.”
“Its pictures don’t do it justice, I bet.” Roy took a spoonful of soup.
Donna stared down at her soup bowl. She had seen the look Bruce had given Dick: swift as it was, she had caught it.
Everyone thought that Bruce Wayne was following that ballet troupe because of Natasha Romanoff, its prima ballerina, but what if he was following Delectable Dick? Romances between men were not shocking to her. After life in the theater, one knew about such things. True, it was only a brief glance, but in connection with Michelangelo’s David…
Alfred removed the soup bowls and returned with crystal bowls of crisp salad with shredded carrots, grape tomatoes and cucumber slices. A light Italian dressing was drizzled over the lettuce.
“Delicious,” Donna said.
“Yes, I agree.” Roy ate a bite of salad.
Bruce talked about Italy, describing the magnificence of the Colisseum. “Remember, Dick?”
“I sure do.” Dick picked up his wineglass. “It was amazing. Imagine being there two thousand years ago!” His eyes glowed. “Living history is exciting.”
After salad the main course was brought in: roast beef, caramelized onions, roasted Maine potatoes, green beans almondine and wild rice. Donna was very impressed.
“This is the best food I’ve tasted in ages.” She cut a piece of roast beef. “Your man Alfred is a treasure.”
“He certainly is.” Bruce drank some wine. “I would say he rivals Europe’s best.”
“I’d second that,” Dick agreed. “I wasn’t sure what to expect about the cuisine here in America.”
“Did they say we ate nothing but steak and potatoes?” asked Donna in amusement.
“Pretty much,” Dick laughed. He cut a piece of beef. “They said with so much cattle here, people ate beef like Europeans ate pork or chicken: it was cheap and plentiful.”
“It’s plentiful, but unfortunately not cheap, at least the finer cuts.”
“Yes, like in all things, money talks.” Dick speared a piece of potato. “Though many peasants in Europe believe the streets are paved with gold.”
“And here we have places like the East End in Gotham or the Glades in Star City,” Roy said as he stabbed a potato with his fork.
“The overcrowded tenements of New York’s Lower East Side were exposed by the reporting and photographs of Jacob Riis in the 1890s,” Bruce said. “There was outrage for awhile, but it all died down.”
“No reforms were enacted?” Dick asked, his knife and fork poised over his meat.
“Some were, but the tenements are still overcrowded.”
“But the Progressives are fighting hard,” Donna objected. “Look at the food safety laws once Upton Sinclair exposed the meatpacking plants and their horrendous conditions last year. It caused quite an uproar while you were away, Mr. Wayne. They’re pushing for shorter hours and better pay for workers, and more protection for women and children.”
“As workers?” Dick asked, shaking pepper over his rice.
“Yes. It’s a disgrace that little children work in factories for a dozen hours or more in dangerous conditions. Women are suffering, too, and the men aren’t much better.”
“Wayne Enterprises doesn’t allow such terrible conditions,” Bruce said firmly.
Dick smiled. “Good.”
Donna wondered if her host was telling the truth. Rich men like Bruce Wayne who had inherited their money had often been the recipient of fortunes made on the backs of workers. It was easy to accumulate millions if you paid your workers only a few cents an hour for fourteen-hour days. She hoped that Dick would not be disappointed.
Or maybe disillusioned would be a better word.
“You don’t keep valuables here at the Manor, Mr. Wayne?” asked Roy. “That Gold Coast Burglar is doing quite a business: first jewels from the Winchesters and the Faberge egg from the Collinses. What’s next?”
“Nothing here. We’ve got some objets d’art but hardly on the level of what was stolen.”
Donna was skeptical about Bruce’s statement but she politely hid her feelings.
“I wonder who will be hit next?” Roy asked again, finishing his green beans.
“There are possibilities.” Dick put his knife and fork down. “The mansions here are veritable treasure troves. They should really upgrade their security.”
“I think the First Families of Gotham will take care of it.” Bruce finished his wine.
After the dishes were cleared away, Alfred served dessert.
“Apple pie! My favorite,” Donna said happily. “And French vanilla ice cream to go with it.”
“Simple but delicious,” Bruce said with a smile.
“Mmm,” Donna said as she took her first bite. “Dusted with cinnamon and warm.”
“Correct,” said Alfred as he poured coffee.
“Thank you, Miss Troy.”
“I think the greatest treasure here on the Gold Coast is Alfred.”
Alfred smiled as Dick and Roy applauded and Bruce nodded.