"They're here, Sir," the young secretary announced, via interoffice intercom. Principal Lower rose to his feet. "Please show them in, Penny."
Lower moved around his desk and waited. He had called many parents in for interviews, but in thirty-seven years in Education he had never come across anything quite like this.
The heavy oak doors opened and the two fathers walked in, a third man following. Lower stepped forward and took Brace Wayne's hand. He had met the Gotham socialite on many occasions. Wayne's financial backing had kept the school afloat many times in the past.
Bruce's face was serious, his eyes displaying his concern. "Principal Lower."
"Mr. Wayne." Lower then turned to one of the other men. He and Oliver Queen had exchanged many telephone interviews. Queen's ward had only been a student at Princestone's Boy's College for three weeks. During that time young Roy Harper had broken every rule in the book... and some that weren't.
"Mr. Queen." Lower flicked his eyes back to the gentleman who had moved to the corner.
"You remember my butler, Alfred Pennyworth," Bruce introduced.
"Of course. Gentlemen, please take seats."
Bruce sat down immediately and waited. Ollie did the same but began to fidget. Alfred remained standing.
"You said that this was regarding suspending the boys?" Bruce inquired. It was clear he was stunned. This, the principal could understand.
"What did they do?" Ollie asked, finally settling.
"Well, among other things, they threw books in the library, toppled all of the shelves, hung toilet paper from the lights and lifted their teacher's skirt."
Both Bruce and Ollie's eyes grew wide. "There's no way..." Bruce started.
"I quite agree with you, Mr. Wayne," the Principal interrupted. "After exhaustive talks with Dick's teachers and friends, all agree that this is most out of character." At this point, he flicked his eyes to Oliver Queen. Ollie grinned sheepishly. Unfortunately, even Ollie had to admit that it sounded exactly like Roy. "On the other hand, from what I have learned of young Master Harper in the past three weeks, I am inclined to believe he may well be able to shed some light on all of this."
"Have you spoken to the boys?" Bruce inquired.
"At length. They refuse to say anything. Well, that isn't exactly true. Master Harper insists he knows nothing and young Dick won't even look at me."
"I see." Bruce Wayne's brow furrowed. He had a good idea what was going on. Dick was loyal to a fault. "Principal Lower, may I have a few moments with Dick."
Lower smiled. "That, Mr. Wayne, is why I invited you here. I would like to get to the bottom of this and I need your help." He rose to his feet and led the small party out of the room and down a hall. Princestone's Boy's College had a fine history. Three United State's Presidents were past pupils. Littering the walls of the stately building were photos of some of the most prominent men in the world, Bruce Wayne included.
The group paused outside an ornate oak door bearing the sign "Suspension Room." The Principal opened the door for the trio and closed it behind them before turning and making his way back to his office.
Bruce stared across at the two ten-year-olds seated on chairs against the wall dwarfed by the raised ceilings and huge paintings around the room. Dick's eyes were wide with a mixture of shock, concern and true anxiety. Roy's were coloured in the same way.
"And just what the hell is this about you causing chaos in the library, young man?!" Ollie shouted at Roy.
"It wasn't all that bad and..." Roy argued.
"Wasn't all that bad?! You looked up a teacher's skirt!"
"No, I didn't. All I did..."
"All you did? All you did was cause..." Oliver Queen continued to rant and rave. Bruce stared down at the dark-haired boy who was watching the ranting man with stunned fear creasing his tiny features.
"It wasn't his fault," Dick suddenly cried.
Ollie turned. For several seconds there was silence. "What? You mean, you did those things?"
Dick swallowed and turned his attention to Bruce. Wayne took two long strides forward. "Go on, Dick." His deep voice echoed in the room and resounded in Dick's mind.
The little boy's bottom lip trembled. "It was my fault," he whispered.
Roy turned to his friend and shook his head. "No it wasn't, Dick. I was the one..."
"It was my fault, Bruce. I didn't mean for it to happen." He looked terrified. Wayne crouched down in front of the child, in two minds. One part of him wanted to throw his arms around the boy and tell him everything was okay. The other part of him insisted that if Dick was in fact responsible for this fiasco then he needed to face up to what he'd done.
"Tell me what happened."
"From the beginning, Master Dick," Alfred encouraged, walking up to stand beside Bruce.
"Well, we've had this substitute teacher for the last few days and she..."
"She's a toad," Roy cried.
"Roy, let Dick tell us and you can have your turn in a minute," Bruce ordered. "Go on, Dick."
The little boy licked his lips. "Well, she picks on Roy. No, I mean it, Bruce. She really picks on him. He can't move and she's yelling at him."
"Any idea why, Roy?" Ollie accused.
"No, I haven't really done anything much," Roy argued. "I mean, I did flick an eraser across the room that hit her on the bum on the first day and I put chalk dust on her chair... oh, and I put a frog in her pencil case. You should have seen her jump," the child giggled.
"Enough!" Oliver cried shaking his head. "You do realize how serious this is?"
"Yes, Sir," Roy acknowledged, quietly. He didn't want to be expelled. He liked going to school with Dick. Dick had quickly become his best friend.
"Dick?" Bruce encouraged. "Tell me why Principal Lower wants to suspend you."
Huge blue eyes that looked directly into Bruce's soul, blinked twice. Bruce reached out his hand and laid it on the boy's shoulder. "Come on."
Dick flicked his eyes to Alfred, who nodded encouragement.
"Miss Wilson, that's the substitute teacher, has set us an assignment. We have to look up information in books and write about it. She took us to the library and..." Dick glanced across at Roy.
"I was sorta bored," the red-headed youth commented, as if that was an explanation.
"What did you do?" Ollie growled.
"Oliver," Bruce chastised. "Let the boys tell us. Go on, Dick."
"I didn't mean for it to happen, Bruce. Really I didn't. You see..."
Dick glanced up from the book he was scanning. Miss Wilson was stomping around the library. She wasn't happy... not after Roy had pretended to vomit and thrown one of those plastic joke vomit things on her desk. Dick had really thought her face was going to explode. He'd never seen anyone's face go that colour.
"She's incredible," Roy mumbled, watching the substitute teacher.
"Shhh," Dick muttered.
"She's telling kids off for talking. She's telling kids off for leaning back on their chairs. She's practically telling kids off for breathing. You name it and she tells people off for it."
"Roy, shhh," Dick appealed, trying to go back to his work. His new best friend was great fun, but he had a knack of getting himself into trouble. Not that Dick believed that it was entirely his fault... bad things just seemed to happen around Roy. Dick also felt a little sorry for him. He was the ward of a friend of Bruce's. Oliver Queen was having some legal issues... whatever that meant, and had had to find somewhere for Roy to stay for a while. Bruce had agreed for the child to come and stay at the Manor, which was why Roy was now attending Princestone's Boy's College.
"I reckon she's wasted as a teacher," Roy grumbled. "Miss Wilson should have been the governor of a high-security prison. That'd be one prison where they wouldn't have to worry about the prisoners talking, leaning back on their chairs or breathing loudly!"
"Roy. You've got to be quiet. I don't want to be thrown out of the library. We have to get this research done."
"So, you reckon it's possible for a person to be invisible?" Dick rolled his eyes. Roy had been talking about becoming invisible since the day he had arrived at the Manor. He was obsessed with finding a way to become invisible. "Psst! Dick. Do you think..."
"Roy! Shhhh. We'll get into trouble if you keep talking."
"Do you reckon if I got a can of spray-paint and painted myself blue and painted my whole room blue and everything in it blue - do you think I'd be invisible then?"
"Well, maybe," Dick whispered, glancing across to check and see where Miss Wilson was. "As long as you stayed in your room. But once you left, you'd be a bit conspicuous."
"Oh," Roy murmured.
Dick returned to reading about the Grizzly Bear.
"What?!" Dick asked, finally becoming impatient.
"What does conspicuous mean?"
"It means you stand out like a pimple on a pumpkin. Now, would you shut up and do some work - and stop interrupting me."
"Yeah, sorry Dick... But honestly, do you reckon it would work?"
Dick rolled his eyes and grinned. "Roy... please."
Roy smiled. "So you reckon it would?"
Dick ignored the question and glanced up at the clock. It was still another twenty minutes until lunch and he was starving. He flicked his eyes to Miss Wilson and noting that her back was to him, he reached into his pencil case for a candy. Well, they were supposed to be candies. They were really just little multi-coloured balls with no taste. Nobody liked them, except three-year-olds - and Dick was sure that was only because they didn't know any better. He was only eating them because they were a present from Pop Haley. It would have been rude to throw them away.
Dick slipped one out and crunched it between his teeth.
Roy spotted the tube of candies. "What are those?" he asked.
Suddenly an outstandingly brilliant idea struck Dick. A way to shut Roy up. Miss Wilson was up at the loans counter speaking to the librarian so that would give him a few minutes.
"Roy, what would you say if I had a way of really making you invisible?"
"How?" Roy asked eagerly.
Dick fished into his pencil case and took out the small tube of lollies. "I was waiting for your birthday next month, but since you want to be invisible so badly, you might as well have them now."
"What are they?" Roy asked, staring at the small round candies.
"They're invisipills. They make you invisible."
Roy stared at his best friend. Dick's face was serious. "For real?"
"Where'd you get them?" Roy asked suspiciously.
"I made them in the..." Dick lowered his voice. "...in the Batcave. Batman had the recipe on the computer."
Roy hit his head with his hand. "Oh, man! Why didn't I think of that? Of course. I remember Ollie saying the JLA had come up against some guy who could make himself invisible. So Batman found out how and kept the recipe?" Roy was an intelligent boy and this was a reasonable and believable turn of events. As Ollie's ward he had seen things that other people only saw in their nightmares. Invisipills was certainly something that the JLA would be able to create.
"Keep your voice down," Dick ordered, glancing around nervously.
"Have you tried them?" Roy asked.
"Yep." Dick was enjoying this now. He had his friend hook, line and sinker.
"They're pretty amazing. One pill will make you completely invisible for about half an hour."
"Wow! How come you didn't tell me?" Roy demanded, drawing the tube close to his left eye so he could study them closely.
"Like I said, I was keeping it as a surprise for your birthday."
"Can I try one?" Roy's face was lit with excitement and anticipation.
"Sure. Just one, though. They're pretty powerful. And you've got to promise me one thing."
"Sure. Anything," Roy responded, opening the top of the tube.
"Once you've had one, you'll go outside and let me work."
"No problem," Roy stated, taking one of the small candies from the tube and holding it like it was radioactive. With wide eyes he put the small round 'pill' in his mouth and swallowed.
"Well? Am I invisible?"
"Not yet," Dick giggled. "It will take a few minutes."
Roy held his hand out in front of him, fingers outstretched. "Have I faded even a little bit?"
Dick screwed up his eyes, pretending to study him. "Yes, definitely. No doubt about it."
"Cool!" Roy exclaimed.
Dick glanced across at the loans counter. Miss Wilson had finished chatting to the librarian and was prowling the library again. "You're fading fast. I can hardly see you," the boy stated quickly.
Roy frowned. "No I'm not. I can still see me as clear as anything."
"Yeah, you're meant to. That's the way the pills are designed. You can see yourself, but nobody can see you. If you couldn't see yourself, you wouldn't know where you were and you'd get lost."
"Ohhhh," Roy agreed. "So am I invisible yet?"
"Where are you?" Dick asked, scanning the area around where Roy was sitting.
"I'm right here!"
"Where? I can't see you. Your chair is empty."
"Can you still hear me?" Roy asked with excitement.
"Yes. Now, go outside. Remember our deal?"
"Sure, Dick. No problemo. I'm out of here." Roy rose to his feet and walked off. Dick sighed relief and grinned. He really liked Roy but Roy and work simply didn't go together. At least now he would be able to get some research done.
Dick went back to work. Miss Wilson slowly made her way across the library. As the teacher walked passed Dick, there was an enormous belch. It was so loud that it rocked the foundations of the library. For a moment, Dick thought it was Miss Wilson, but he quickly realized that it could be none other than Roy.
The child glanced to his right and sure enough, Roy was standing in an aisle killing himself laughing.
Miss Wilson stopped and glared down at Dick. "Excuse me. Was that you?"
"No, Ma'am," Dick answered quickly.
"Then, who was it, pray tell? A ghost?" Roy's eyes flashed with triumph. No one could see him. He shot off down the aisle.
A few of Dick's classmates began chuckling.
"It... it wasn't me, Miss Wilson."
The woman's eyes narrowed as they zeroed in on something on the child's desk. "And what are those?" Dick glanced sideways and spotted the candies that Roy had so 'thoughtfully' left sitting in plain view.
"Umm, candies, Miss Wilson."
"I presume you know the rule about eating in the library?"
Dick swallowed. His world was slowly crashing around him. "Yes, Miss Wilson. I'll get rid of them."
"No you won't. I will," she snapped, snatching them up. She shook her head and then walked up the aisle without another word. Dick started breathing again. He searched for Roy praying his friend had gone outside.
Without warning, a book landed on the carpet next to Dick's desk. Grayson glanced up in no doubt of who had thrown it. Another book sailed over the top of the shelves and landed on Dick's desk. Another hit the top edge and bounced off onto the student in front.
"Ouch!" the boy yelled turning around. "Quit it, Grayson."
Dick shrugged. "It wasn't me." Unfortunately the books kept coming... and so did Miss Wilson.
"Stand up!" she cried. Dick leapt to his feet, his young eyes wide with terror. "Would you mind telling me what's going on here?"
"Somebody is throwing books," the boy in front of Dick stated. Dick swallowed. He couldn't finger Roy. That wouldn't be right. They were friends.
Wilson turned her eyes to Dick. "Who?" she demanded.
"I... I don't know," the child lied. His face went scarlet. Miss Wilson strode off to check the aisles. Dick held his breath thinking, run, Roy. Run!
Moments later, Miss Wilson returned. "I can't see anyone. Perhaps you should stay back at lunchtime and tell me just how this happened."
Dick swallowed and nodded. He had no idea of what he was going to say. Just as he was about to sit down the little boy spotted his best friend skipping across the library tossing toilet paper around. All eyes were drawn to him but no one said anything. Everyone was too stunned. Jaws were literally hanging open as Roy Harper skipped and twirled, draping toilet paper everywhere.
Roy giggled noting the looks of shock. His audience was watching toilet paper leaping about the room of its own accord. They couldn't see him he believed with certainty. Again, he darted off into the aisles.
Miss Wilson turned to Dick, stunned. The boy swallowed. Abruptly, Roy reappeared and crept up behind the teacher.
"NO!" Dick yelled. Before Dick could stop him, Roy began dancing in circles around the teacher, pulling faces. Unfortunately, his wrist watch snagged on Miss Wilson's skirt and as Roy lifted his arm, the corner of Miss Wilson's dress rose revealing her Wonder Woman underwear. The class burst out laughing.
Dick froze, his mouth open. What had he done? He hadn't realized that Roy would believe him so completely. As Miss Wilson turned, Roy darted off again.
To his horror, Dick spotted the A-G fiction shelf rocking back and forward.
"Look! The book shelves are moving!" a boy called.
Roy laughed. Yep, moving all on their own, he chuckled to himself, the other child's statement confirming in Roy's mind that he was indeed invisible. "The library's haunted," he called. “Ooooohhh” he cried in a ghostly voice.
Grayson's eyes grew wide. Roy had gone crazy. The excitement of thinking he was invisible had gone to his head and now he seemed to think he was invincible. Dick knew he had to stop his friend before he went too far.
"Excuse me, Miss Wilson," Dick cried, darting around her and disappearing down between some bookshelves.
"Where are you going? Master Grayson?!"
Dick rounded the corner and grabbed Roy's arm, but he was running so fast he didn't pull up in time and crashed into Roy... who crashed into the bookshelf. The shelf tilted further to the right. All of the books fell onto the carpet and then the piece of furniture itself toppled, smacking into the next shelf. The force of the bookshelf striking the next one pushed it over and the combined weight of these two pushed the third shelf over... and the fourth... and the fifth... just like a row of dominoes. Except heavier... and louder.
Once the noise echoed out, there was absolute silence. Nobody could believe what they'd just witnessed. Slowly, Dick turned around. Miss Wilson, for the first time in her life, was speechless. She was opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish.
Dick stood petrified. Everyone was staring at him. Slowly, Miss Wilson turned to Roy who was standing wide-eyed. "Ooops," he muttered. He hadn't meant for the shelf to fall. "Oh, well. They can't pin it on me."
Miss Wilson's face had gone that peculiar colour again. "What do you think you are doing, Master Harper?" she screamed at Roy.
"Who?" Roy asked, the smile slipping from his face. "But you can't see me. I'm invisible....
Dick swallowed. "So you see, Bruce. It was my fault. I told him he was invisible." Tears of distress brimmed in the little boy's blue eyes.
Bruce blinked. "You told Roy that he was invisible?" Bruce repeated, keeping his voice level. Dick nodded, the tears falling onto his cheeks.
Ollie stared down at Roy with the same stunned expression. "And you believed him?"
Roy nodded. "Well, he said and I knew that you'd come across an invisible person and I thought that maybe Batman had kept the formula and..." Roy swallowed. "I was just having some fun."
Bruce rose to his feet. Dick stared up at him unable to read his guardian's expression.
"I'm sorry, Bruce."
Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen exchanged a glance and then erupted into loud, booming laughter. It resonated in the room, both men unable to control it.
Dick and Roy looked at each other with wide eyes. They hadn't expected this.
"Invisipills," Bruce cackled.
Alfred stepped between the two rollicking adults and shook his head with disgust. Clearly, it had fallen to him yet again to point out how serious this actually was. "You two young man realize that this is not a laughing matter," he stated firmly to Roy and Dick. The two boys nodded, but were still staring at their laughing guardians.
Alfred spun around and glared at the two men, stealing the very laughter from their lips. Both Ollie and Bruce attempted to compose themselves. "Master Bruce and Master Oliver. Clearly some form of punishment will need to be enforced."
"Of course," Bruce muttered, wiping tears from his eyes.
"May I suggest that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid go to the Principal and the teacher concerned and apologise."
"Good idea, Alfred," Ollie agreed. "All right you two. Come on."
Roy and Dick's shoulders slumped as they were marched back to Principal Lower's office. Alfred, Bruce and Ollie retreated into the waiting room when Miss Wilson arrived. Ollie moved the door and opened it a crack, Bruce joining him. Together they watched as their boys explained and apologised.
Oliver Queen smiled. Love shone from his face. Roy was a high-spirited kid who seemed to find trouble at every turn. However, Ollie loved him all the more for it. "That's my boy, in there, Bruce."
Bruce clapped Ollie's shoulder, his eyes on Dick, his own pride and love clearly displayed on his face. "And that's mine."
Alfred studied the two men and he sighed. He remembered both before the boys had come into their lives. Dick and Roy had given these two hard, aloof men a reason to laugh.
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," Ollie chuckled.
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," Bruce agreed.
"Long may they ride," Alfred whispered.