Alfred pulled the bedcovers down and waited for the small boy who was cleaning his teeth in the bathroom across the hall. The elderly man shook his head. Not for the first time he asked himself at what point he had become a nursemaid. He had argued against Bruce adopting the child and yet, something quite nebulous was taking place in front of his eyes. Bruce Wayne was the most distant person Alfred had ever known. The butler, come Jack of all trades, was incredibly fond of his employer, but Bruce hadn't truly allowed them to get close. Bruce hadn’t allowed anyone past the shield he had erected after the death of his parents. The pain of loss was one he had promised himself he would never feel again, and so he had shut the world out and his emotions in.
In the last few months, that had changed. Bruce was learning to open up thanks largely to an eight year old child with huge blue eyes and a wicked sense of humour. It had been gradual at first, but over the past few weeks the change was being noticed by others, too. Even Commissioner Gordon had commented on it when he had visited a week earlier.
Dick sprinted across the hall, took a flying leap when he reached the door, soared through the air and landed in the middle of the bed with a squeal of delight.
"Young Master Grayson, beds are not for jumping on," Alfred stated, firmly. The little boy stared up at him, his face clouding with uncertainty.
Alfred smiled. "Unless absolutely necessary."
Dick grinned. He liked Alfred. Alfred was a little stern at times, but Dick had very quickly learned that Alfred was the soft touch around the place. If he really wanted something, Alfred could easily be persuaded... twisted around his little finger.
"Alright, young man. Time to tuck you in."
"I have to say my prayers first," the child argued, climbing off the bed and kneeling down. "Father God, please say hello to my Mum and Dad and tell them I miss them real bad. Tell them that Bruce and Alfred are looking after me real well. Oh, and I really would like a motorbike for my birthday."
Alfred Pennyworth grinned.
"Thank you for making the Judge let me live with Bruce and thank you for Alfred. He makes the best apple pie I've ever tasted. I'll be talking to you soon, Peter. Amen."
Alfred eyed the little boy curiously as he rose to his feet. "Who is Peter?"
Dick climbed into bed and answered simply, "God."
Dick nodded. "Yeah, don't you go to church?"
Alfred nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yes, though I must admit, I have been rather lax in my attendance of late. And you are saying that God is Peter?"
Dick rolled his eyes. "Yeah. That's his name. Everyone knows that."
"Who told you that God's name was Peter?" Alfred persisted.
Dick sighed and snuggled down under the blankets as Alfred tucked them around him. "All the older people call him Peter. I've heard them. If I'm talking to him, I call him Peter too. I reckon he'd call me by my name. Kinda be rude if I didn't use his name."
"Good night, Alfred."
Alfred reached down and patted the little boys' head with great affection. Bruce was not the only person whose defences the child had obliterated. Dick sat up and without warning, hugged the older man. Alfred held the boy briefly and then tucked him in again.
"If you need anything in the night, just call out. I'll hear you."
"Yep, I will." Alfred crossed the room and switched off the light but left on the small lamp in the corner. Dick had been suffering from nightmares since the death of his parents. Thankfully, they hadn’t been as severe or as frequent in the last month.
"Good night, young Master."
"Night, night, Alfred."
It was close to 4:00 am when Batman arrived home. Bruce immediately changed and went to Dick's room to check on him. The child had given him a reason to come home. Before Dick had stepped into his life, Batman had ruled his every thought. He had nothing outside of the drive to seek justice nightly. Now, at the end of his evening’s work, he looked forward to removing the cowl.
Bruce peered into the dimly lit room. The little boy was sleeping soundly. Alfred strode up to stand next to him.
"Any nightmares tonight?" Bruce whispered.
Bruce sighed long and deep. He knew Dick's pain. He'd lived it. With all his being he wanted to shield the youngster from the demons that plagued his dreams - the same demons that still plagued Wayne's own.
"I believe it is time we attended church again," Alfred commented.
Bruce raised his left eyebrow curiously. "Oh?"
"Yes. We need to reacquaint ourselves with 'Peter'."
"Peter? Who's Peter?"
"According to Master Dick, that is God's name and it appears he and God are on a first name basis."
"You've lost me," Bruce murmured smiling.
"That, Master Bruce, makes two of us."
After dropping Dick at Sunday School, Alfred and Bruce slipped into the back of the church and took seats in the last pew. On the way to church Bruce had asked the child about God’s name and again, Dick had been adamant that The Lord's name was Peter and that this was a well known fact because he’d heard lots of people calling God Peter.
As the service commenced, the minister gave his sermon and then led the prayers, explaining the responses required.
Bruce and Alfred glanced at each other wide eyed, both realizing at the same moment. For a handful of heartbeats they stared at each other and then both burst out laughing. Not chuckles; full throated, echoing laugher that filled the silent room and bounced off the walls with resounding brilliance. The rest of the congregation turned around to stare at them stunned.
“Please excuse us,“ Bruce stated, quickly. “And that goes for you too, Peter,“ he whispered, glancing heavenwards.
“Thanks Peter God,“ Alfred muttered smiling, a vision of Dick’s innocent face as he had explained how he and God were on a first name basis.
Bruce patted Alfred‘s shoulder. “Thanks Peter God.“ Or perhaps, thank be to God.