Dick’s morning routine consists of this: open his eyes as soon as his alarm goes off. Stay in bed for 10 more minutes, knowing that he set his alarm 10 minutes early last night just for this purpose.
Then, roll out of bed. Go to the bathroom. Brush his teeth, shower, apply the moisturiser that Kori bought him, get dressed. Go to the kitchen. Find breakfast of some sort—usually a piece of fruit or some muesli and yoghurt—then fill up his water bottle. Take a drink from said water bottle.
Walk around his apartment to check in with all his plants. Water them with said water bottle. Go back to the kitchen. Fill it up again.
Put it in his bag. Grab his keys, check his pockets for his wallet, plug in his earbuds and fish his bus pass out from his jacket pocket. Leave.
Lock the door behind him.
(Go back, unlock the door, and open the curtains so his plants can get enough sunshine. Then, leave for real this time.)
(Lock the door behind him.)
The moment that Dick decides, very abruptly, that he wants to get plants, he’s standing in an open-air market in Metropolis.
It’s Sunday, his designated day off—even if he’s pretty bad at adhering to that rule—and he’d caught the bus out to the nearby city this morning. Armed with only his phone, his earbuds and his backpack, it’s not the best time for him to go on a plant shopping spree, but he finds himself possessed with the sudden need for change. Something about the sun in the air and the people in the streets; he thinks about his quiet and sparse apartment in New York and vehemently decides he hates it. He needs enrichment. He needs life.
There’s an entire stretch of this market dedicated to plants of all types, as well as any relevant accessories that one might need to raise them. It’s labelled The Flower Path, and he gravitates towards it. He gets handed a flower to tuck behind his ear by the person at the first stall: a florist. It might be nice to come back here one day, grab some flowers for Roy. Roy would love that.
Dick continues walking. Although he’s possessed with purpose, he keeps his pace slow. There’s a few other people milling around, but it’s one of the quieter hours for the market, this early in the morning, so he can undertake his journey mostly alone.
His eye catches on a row of cacti topped with the most brilliantly red and poofy flowers. He bites down on his lip, but the laugh slips out anyway.
The person minding the stall laughs back at him.
“Gorgeous, aren’t they?” they comment, smiling fondly down at their produce. They even brush their finger against one of the flowers with a care that speaks of years of experience. Dick can tell that they’re a professional already. He comes to these markets often, and he knows what to look for. Some of the stalls in this market are just side-ventures, for people who want to sell off some old stuff lying around or try their hand out at vending, but it’s easy to see that this is their living. Raising plants.
Sounds kinda nice, if Dick is being honest.
He steps closer to the stall. “They are,” he agrees, tentatively reaching out a finger as well. His hands are steady and his movements sure, so when he touches against one of the spines, it’s only enough to tickle. He smiles. “Did you grow all of these?”
He looks around the stall. It’s not particularly large, but there’s plenty of selection, and they all seem to have been grown with care.
The shopkeep follow his movement and look around too, the pride obvious in their face. “Me and my partner,” they reply, gesturing to a van connected to the back of the stall that their partner must be in. “We’ve been working at this bunch for a while now. This is our first time selling at a market, actually. Usually we just do deliveries and one-on-one orders. It’s… kinda surreal,”
They finish with a sheepish but effusive smile.
“That’s amazing,” Dick says. “You must be so proud,”
He feels briefly embarrassed for talking about the plants like they’re children or something, but when he sees the storekeep’s entire demeanour brighten, all of that is washed away.
“I really am,” they giggle, fiddling with the strings on their apron. “Like, I know it’s corny and silly, but sometimes it feels like this… this entire place—the store and the plants and the business—is like, my baby or something, you know? I just… I love it.”
Dick shakes his head. “Nah,” he says, “that’s not corny or silly at all. I get you completely. It seems incredibly rewarding, and you must’ve worked hard,”
They smile again: the kind that you almost have to look away from, it’s so bright. “Thank you,” they say, reaching out a hand. “I’m Marnie. It’s great to meet you,”
“Great to meet you, Marnie,” Dick replies, shaking their hand. “I’m Dick. So, what can you tell me about these red flower guys?”
By the end of the day, Dick has gone to several other stalls, conducted long conversations with each vendor, and bought himself six new plants. He also picks up some gardening tools, a green thumb’s manual and some indoor potting mix, because he’s been taught that if he’s going to do something, he better do it right.
As he stands at his bus stop with his haul, however, he’s forced to acknowledge that he may have been a little over-ambitious with this one.
The owner of the fourth stall he visited, an old man named Katsuya, had been kind enough to lend him a cardboard box to put all of his plants in. The rest of his stuff he’s alternated between shoving in his backpack and carrying in a grocery bag that the lovely woman from stall #7 had given him. With his skill in balancing things and his above-average muscle mass, he’s able to at least carry everything, but there’s still a bigger, more pressing problem..
His apartment in New York, being all the way in New York, isn’t exactly… easily accessible. The bus ride in the morning had been nice when all he had was an empty backpack, but with his cardboard box full of delicate plants, his grocery bag, and his now over-filled backpack, it’s not looking too appealing. He’s sure as hell not about to get a taxi or anything either, so his options are looking slim.
Dick makes a decision. He calls in backup.
Wally arrives minutes later, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed, some shirt buttons still undone.
Dick maybe considers the fact that calling in a code orange had been pretty dramatic of him. He offers Wally a smile.
Wally stares back. He takes in the situation. He crosses his arms.
“I’m going home,” he says, making to turn around.
“No,” Dick calls out, laughing, “I’m sorry! I needed your help!”
Wally turns back. It’s obvious that he’s only pretending to be pissed, but he does do a pretty good job of it. Dick’s almost convinced. Solid 7/10 performance, and that’s coming from somebody with a trained eye for acting. “I can’t believe you, abusing the powers of the sacred code orange! I thought it was life or death, Dick! Life or death!”
“I’m pretty sure life or death is code red,” Dick replies, grinning.
Wally huffs. "Whatever," he mutters. With one last scowl, he moves closer to Dick to inspect his bounty.
Because he’s Wally, he pokes his hand at one of the cacti and gets pricked for his trouble. The little stab wound heals in an instant, but it’s enough for Wally to grimace and Dick to snort-laugh.
“Do I even want to know?” Wally asks, crossing his arms.
Dick thinks that over. In honesty, he doesn’t really want to explain it—wouldn’t even know where to begin—so he just shrugs and replies, “Nah. I just need your help getting everything back to my place,”
Wally rolls his eyes. “What’s in it for me?” he asks, but he takes the box of plants from Dick’s arms regardless. Dick grins. He has the best friends.
“I’ll let you name one of the plants?” Dick offers.
Wally narrows his eyes at Dick. Then, he stares down contemplatively at the plants.
“Deal,” he says. He pokes at that red cacti, the very first one that had caught Dick’s eye. He meet’s Dick’s eyes, and grins. “This one is Jason.”
They manage a good ten seconds of silence, and then they both burst into giggles.
The roll call for Dick’s little garden is extensive, ridiculous and only grows—literally, hah —by the day, but the first six start off with fairly humble origins. There’s that little red cacti Jason, named by Wally who sits on his coffee table. Em and Jay, two heartleaf philodendrons that Dick named himself, hang next to his doorway and greet him every time he puts away his keys and hangs up his jacket.
The other three were free game: named by anybody who came passing by his apartment. After Wally, Donna is the first to lay claim; she names his orchid plant Winnifred and buys him a mister for it. Winnifred lives on Dick’s desk inside his room, and Donna demands picture updates of it every day.
Lian very aptly names his house holly-fern, which at the time had been dealing with a case of spot fungus, Mr. Freckles. Mr. Freckles lives next to the kitchen counter, as does Reina, the dragon’s tail plant that Damian had named. They keep him company as he eats breakfast, and tend to be the first to get watered.
Even with just the six, although that feels like a bigger number than it is, Dick finds that his apartment feels a little less lonely and cold. They’re just plants, but he gets inordinate amounts of pleasure from greeting them every morning, and the routine that they add to his life is genuinely grounding. Water them in the mornings, mist them all in the evenings before he leaves, rinse and repeat, without the sense of monotony, but with the pleasure of knowing you’re making something grow.
“How are your children?” Roy asks as Dick passes him a plate. They—Dick, Donna, Wally and Roy, without Garth because he’s doing some Atlantis stuff—are having a little dinner gath at Roy’s place, and they’re now participating in the cleanup with the teamwork befitting of former Titans.
In other words: Donna washing the dishes, because none of the others can be trusted to not start water fights, Dick drying because he’s least likely to drop one, Roy putting away because he knows where everything is, and Wally wiping down the counters. Not quite a seamless transition, not quite a perfect machine, but something that gets the job done perfectly regardless.
Dick snorts, catching a cup after it slides out of Donna’s hands.
“Thanks,” she murmurs.
“No problemo,” he replies. After drying the cup, he passes it along to Roy and says, “The children?”
Roy nods, smirking.
Dick grins. “Well, Tim’s fine, Jay’s fine, Damian’s fine, Bruce I assume is fine since I haven’t had anybody call me crying to come deal with him yet, but I can’t say for sure…”
The whole kitchen breaks out into laughter.
“I was not talking about those children,” Roy says through chuckles. “Trust me, the less I know about them, the better,”
Wally nods. “I dream about day I’ll be free of knowing about any Bat-business,”
“Bat-business,” Donna snorts, “That’s awful,”
“It’s his whole schtick! What else am I supposed to call it?”
They all descend into giggles again. It’s ridiculous, and fun, and warm; Dick feels comfortable like he rarely ever does.
They continue laughing for a while, and by the time they’ve all calmed down enough to resume cleaning, Dick’s face aches a little. Again, it’s a good one: ridiculous and fun and warm, a feeling he associates with all the best moments in his life.
“Seriously, though,” Donna says, nudging Dick. “How are the plants? I’m very attached to them, you know,”
Roy and Wally both nod, to Dick’s delight.
“She’s right,” Wally says. “As the guy who was there from day one, I’m very invested,”
Roy grins. “I just want to know if you’ve killed one yet,”
Dick rolls his eyes and elbows Roy in the side. “They’re fine,” he says pointedly. Then, he relaxes his tone with a smile. “I’m having a lot of fun with them. I’m a little worried about winter, though, so I might buy one of those plant lights to help them through the darker months,”
“Of course you’ve found a way to spoil your plants,” Roy teases. “Can’t just water them every second day and hope for the best like the rest of us, huh?”
Wally snickers. “I bet he buys high-end fertilizer from those fancy specialty stores,”
“For your information,” Dick says with a grin, reaching into the sink and flicking some water at Wally before Donna can stop him, “I make my own fertilizer.”
He’s met with chuckles all around.
“My bad,” Wally says, retaliating by throwing his cloth at Dick, “I should’ve known. Homemade fertilizer,”
Dick goes to dip his hand in the water again when he’s stopped by Donna grabbing his wrist.
“Seriously,” she says, rolling her eyes, “you guys are going to wreck Roy’s kitchen.”
“Nothing they haven’t done before,” Roy says, rolling his eyes in turn. “I don’t know why I let them into here,”
Dick and Wally look at each other. They turn to look at Roy.
“Because you love us!” Dick and Wally chime together.
Donna breaks into laughter. Roy groans. Wally grins.
Dick feels almost foolish in how happy he is.
Dick acquires his seventh plant on one random day when Damian comes over. They haven’t seen each other in a while, so even though Dick’s a little dubious about Damian travelling all this way by himself, he’s happy to see his little brother.
“Hello, Richard,” Damian greets as he walks through the door. He takes his shoes off, and deposits his house keys into the bowl. He nods at the two plants hanging by the door. “Em, Jay.”
Dick grins. “Hey, Damian. Good to see you.” He reaches out and pats Damian on the head.
Damian scrunches up his face under the touch, but doesn’t move away. He must’ve really missed Dick.
Dick makes a mental note to drop in at the Manor more. Maybe bring a plant cutting over for Damian’s room.
“How is Reina?” Damian asks as they head into the living room. “Still in the kitchen?”
Dick nods. “Still in the kitchen, yeah, and doing wonderful. She’s really starting to grow, now.”
Damian pokes his head into the kitchen to check, and comes back with a pleased smile. “She is,” he says happily. “She befits her name,”
“Sure does, Damian,” Dick says with a smile. “Whoever named her was on the ball,”
Damian huffs. “Naturally.”
Dick can’t help it; he ruffles up Damian’s hair, just to hear him squawk in protest.
After an impromptu wresting match, they both sit down on Dick’s sofa, breathing hard. They both take a moment to recover—Dick’s more winded than he expected, Damian must be training very hard—and then Damian sits up with a start and pulls his bag towards him.
“I have something for you,” he says, opening up his backpack. Dick raises his eyebrows. From inside, Damian pulls out a little pot with two bamboo shoots sticking out of it.
The pot is black, except somebody’s carefully painted a pair of Robins onto it, wings stretched out in flight. Dick feels his throat dry up.
Damian doesn’t look Dick in the eyes. “My class went to a market a few days ago for an excursion,” he says, hands carefully placed around the pot. “I saw this and thought that you would like it. It’s lucky bamboo.”
Slowly, a grin spreads across Dick’s face. “Did you paint the pot?”
Damian nods. He offers the pot to Dick.
Dick takes it, gentle, careful, and holds it up to eye level. The painting is intricately done, and looks so natural that Dick feels like the two birds could take flight at any moment and soar off into the sky.
“I used the paint set you purchased for me last year,” Damian says.
“It’s beautiful,” Dick says emphatically. “Thank you so much, Damian.”
Damian looks up at him, smiling shyly. “It was nothing,” he says with a shrug.
Dick leans over and presses a quick kiss to the side of his head. Again, Damian scrunches up his face, but doesn’t protest anymore than that. God, Dick loves him.
He stands up, surveying the apartment with the plant in hand. Maybe he’ll put it in his room; he might be able to make the space on his bedside table. He nods his head towards Damian and starts walking to his bedroom; Damian soon follows.
“Have you named it?” he asks Damian, as they walk.
Damian shakes his head. “Not yet,” he says. “I wanted to let you,”
Dick grins at him and wraps an arm around his shoulder. Damian rolls his eyes, but leans into the touch anyway. Dick really really needs to check up on him in Gotham more.
“Give me some time to think,” he says. They enter his room, and Dick moves the three empty cups off of his bedside table to set the plant down. Damian snorts at the sight.
“Lazy,” he comments. Dick chuckles.
“Like your room is any better,” Dick retorts. It’s technically true; Damian’s room is much neater, and has much less in the way of clutter, but to make up for it there’s not a single thing in there that hasn’t been paint-splattered or charcoal-smudged.
Damian huffs. “Whatever,” he replies. Dick notices that one of the sleeves of his uniform has a suspicious blue mark on it. He bites down on his smile.
“Do you have any name ideas?” he asks. Now that he’s looking, he can see at least three other spots on Damian’s clothing that have fallen victim to his painting phase.
Damian crosses his arms and thinks. “Something strong,” he says, tilting his head. “And fierce.”
Dick raises his eyebrows. “For the… bamboo?”
“Obviously,” Damian replies. “Bamboo is one of the most fearsome plants.”
Dick’s eyebrows go up higher. “Is that so?”
Damian nods decisively. “In the olden days, they used to tie people above bamboo sprouts as a form of torture. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it would grow through the victim in a few days, and eventually kill them.”
Dick’s eyebrows go to hitherto unexplored areas of his face. “Wow,” he says, blinking rapidly. “Do I even want to know how you know that?”
He’s pretty sure the answer starts with T, and ends with -he-forever-pain-in-my-ass-and-plague-upon-my-life-Talia-Al-Ghul, but he doesn’t want to say it outright. In the name of civility and such.
Damian grins, like he knows what Dick must be thinking. “I saw it on an episode of MythBusters,”
They hold eye-contact for a few seconds. Dick bursts into laughter. Damian grins wider.
“Of course you watch MythBusters,” Dick giggles.
With a prim little shrug, Damian says, “It’s a very informative and well-executed show.”
“Have you watched the one about dog myths?” Dick asks, grinning.
Damian rolls his eyes. “Of course I did,” he replies. “Who do you think I am?”
The answer to that is long and saccharine, ranging from things like my wonderful little brother to an incorrigible brat to one of the most thoughtful people I know to a mean ass-kicking superhero-ing machine, but in the end, the one Dick settles on is, “Somebody who’s staying for dinner?”
Damian looks up at Dick, smiling. “Only if you let me help you with cooking.”
“Deal,” Dick says, reaching out a fist. Damian bumps it with his own. Dick remembers when he had to teach Damian how to do that.
It’s a strange and wonderful thing, thinking about how far the two of them have come. Even more so thinking about how far they’ll go.
“Come on,” Dick says, smiling without any particular reason. “I’m pretty sure I might have one of the seasons of MythBusters on DVD.”
“You do?” Damian says. Dick can practically see the sparkles in his eyes.
“Course I do, Damian,” Dick says, holding out an arm. Damian obligingly fits himself to Dick’s side, and they start to head back into the lounge. “Who do you think I am?”
Damian snickers, and Dick feels at home.
+++ bonus 🌱
"Yeah," Dick sighs, "I'm going to be stuck at the Manor for a while for recovery."
Over the phone, Donna tuts in sympathy. "Poor baby, what will you ever do, living in your huge manor with your butler and your family around you,"
Dick laughs, and then immediately winces when it pulls at his injury. "Oh, shut up," he responds.
Donna laughs as well. "Do you need me to bring you anything from your apartment?"
"Nah," Dick says. "I'm good. If you could drop by and water the kids, though, that would be good."
"Sure, sure," Donna replies. "Anything else?"
"There's a bottle of Jason's food in the laundry," Dick says. "If you could give some to him tomorrow, that would be great. Maybe move him into the sun as well, if you can. He's looking a little pale."
Somebody in the room makes a confused noise.
Dick looks over to where Tim and Jason, once going over mission plans to get back at the guys who got the drop on Dick, are now staring at him.
Brow creased in confusion, Jason asks, "Did I... miss something?"