Pairings/Characters: Alfred, Bruce, Wee!Dick
Summary: Laughter returns to Wayne Manor after a long absence.
Date Of Completion: March 9, 2009
Date Of Posting: March 10, 2009
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 672
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: When I requested Bruce and Wee!Dick prompts, saavikam77 asked for "Laughter". Hope you like it, Saavi! :)
Alfred had missed the laughter most of all.
He missed many things in what he had privately come to refer to as the Before Time, before the deaths of Master Thomas and Mistress Martha, but laughter was at the top of the list.
The Waynes had enjoyed jokes and good fun, and their quiet boy was a bit shy but always appreciated the absurdities of life.
There was the laughter of socialites at glittering parties, laughter among more intimate gatherings of good friends, and laughter within the little family that Alfred had grown to love, of a child delighted by spring’s first butterfly alighting on his hand or a robin bouncing on freshly-mowed grass.
Of course that had all changed after Crime Alley, leaving a shell-shocked little boy who would never genuinely laugh again.
As a teenager, Master Bruce would laugh sardonically or contemptuously, never with joy. He saw the world through the eyes of rage and cynicism, and as the Manor grew silent and gloomy, laughter was the first to die.
For Alfred, who appreciated raucous, slightly ribald guffaws in a good old-fashioned English pub, or admired Americans’ enjoyment of sophisticated barbs as they drifted out from telly, it had been a hard thing.
Sometimes echoes of the old laughter could be heard down silent halls, as if ghosts haunted the Manor. At first it had been…unsettling…but then Alfred had realized, what place was more suited to ghosts than the Manor, and thereafter allowed himself to enjoy the sounds rather than fear them.
The young Master was away at college and then wandered the world, soaking up the knowledge and training needed for his Mission. When he returned, he was grimness itself, obsessed with that Mission, Alfred helping him set up the Cave and all the rest of it.
The only laughter was pure artifice, the brittle, false laughter of airhead Brucie, which was more like fingers scraping down a chalkboard than real mirth. Alfred preferred the grimness to that caricature of joy.
The career of the Batman was successful in the first year, and Master Bruce was subsuming himself into the darkness of the Bat.
And then one night he had persuaded his young Master to attend the circus in an effort to allow him some normal pleasures of life.
Alas, tragedy had struck, an eerie replay of a night so long ago, and young Dick Grayson came home with Master Bruce that awful night, clutching his yellow cape around small shoulders as he still wore his red-green-and-yellow circus costume, eyes reddened and grief clinging to him, raw and fresh. Bruce’s hand was on his shoulder, trembling slightly, eyes haunted.
This boy was in desperate need of protection and a home, and Alfred and Bruce did their best to provide it.
Eventually the grief lessened, and Dick’s naturally-sunny personality began to emerge.
That was when the laughter returned to Wayne Manor.
Dick’s laughter filled the old rooms and halls, chasing away the ghosts, or perhaps merely making them happy, and it sparkled down to the Batcave, the bats growing accustomed to it and not disturbed at all.
Dick was brightness and sunshine, always ready with a cheerful quip or bad pun. His laughter was always sparkling-golden, genuine and full of joy. There was the pixie-ish laughter of Robin at his dark mentor’s side; the sheer, unadulterated spill of joy on the trapeze; the quick-witted exchange of quips with Alfred, sometimes incredibly dry; the sly teasing of Master Bruce, who would roll his eyes but smile.
This boy loved his career as Robin.
He loved Bruce, and a proper old butler, yes.
As they loved him.
The child who had never laughed again now laughed as a man with the child he had brought home, dispelling the gloom of the After Time.
At the kitchen window, Alfred serenely washed the bowls and utensils used to make the cinnamon-dusted apple pie baking in the oven, a warm spring breeze carrying the sound of playful laughter from the backyard pool through the screen.
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