'If I could compensate for mass vs. Endurance... maybe I need to be in continuous motion and put less strain on the wire then...'
"Wayne! Get the lead out!" the coach yelled snapping him out of his musing and back to earth where he was supposed to be climbing a rope during P.E.
"Yes, Coach!" he called back and got back to climbing.
But when he got back down the coach looked displeased with his performance.
"Listen here, Wayne. I have an eye for athletes and by the looks of you, you're holding back. What're you afraid of, you 'll stand out?"
"Something like that
"Well tough, I want new blood on my football team and you're trying out tomorrow or else," the man said walking away.
Seeing how Wayde was one of the players on the team, Bruce was reluctant to show up for tryouts. By lunch time the next day he was still trying to figure out how to get out of it without upsetting a guy like the sports teacher. But when he walked in the cafeteria he saw that the two large boys were already picking on his new friends and Jay was already on the floor holding his stomach, right beside Harvey. They had probably tried to intervene.
"Hey, lay off!" Bruce demanded and made every head in the cafeteria turn his way.
"Or what, rich boy? You'll fire me?" Wayde replied and dropped the tray of food he was holding out of Oswald's reach, on top of him.
"You call this being cool or clever, picking on people just because you're stronger?" Bruce said and the other students started to murmur.
"No, we call this the survival of the fittest," the other boy answered. "Those superior will always dominate those that are inferior to them. You of all people should know this for a fact. "
"You know, for a smart guy, you're just a bully, and so is he," Bruce argued.
"I'm going to enjoy messing up that face of yours," Wayde said walking his way.
"Being violent again, Mr. Jones?" a stout man with receding hair and eye glasses asked. "I have asked you before that when you feel your violent urges appear to come to me and not take care of them in your own brutish style."
Wayde frowned but did not press further and simply walked away, soon followed by his partner who waited to give Bruce a final glance.
"Mr. Wayne, is it?" the man asked.
"Um, yes, that's me."
"Dr Strange, school counsellor," he introduced himself. "I see you are adapting to school quite well."
"Yes, thank you."
"However, I must insist on a meeting with you in my office, after classes are over. It is only a formality but I do need to give you an evaluation, school rules request it."
"Alright, I'll be there," Bruce said, relieved to have a solid excuse to not show up for tryouts.
After the counsellor left, Bruce hurried to his friends.
"You guys alright?"
"A little worse for wear, perhaps, but this sort of undignified treatment is something we have grudgingly grown accustomed to," Oswald answered. "But your concern is appreciated."
"Thanks for sticking up for us too," Edward added.
"You should do that too, all of you," Bruce said as they all sat down.
"Noble sentiments Bruce, but that's easier said than done," Victor argued.
"No, he's absolutely right," Harvey said hitting the table with his fists. "If we all stood up against them together then
"We'd all get the quack beaten out of us at the same time," Jay interrupted. "Face it you mooks, those guys could take on the whole school if they wanted."
"So you're saying you'll do nothing?" Bruce asked.
"Heh, you should know me better than that, Brucey boy," the other said grinning.
As soon as classes were over, Bruce was standing outside the counselor's office, a bit reluctant to go in then finally knocked.
"Enter!" the doctor replied.
"Ah, young Mr. Wayne, come in, come in. Sit down please," he invited and gestured to an armchair. "School going smoothly so far?"
"Yes. I kind of like it here."
"Excellent. You've already made friends, I trust?"
"Yes, and some of my old friends already went here. Barbara and Jay."
"Yes, yes, friendship is very important. Now, down to the more serious issues. How are you dealing with your parents' death?"
He knew that was coming but the very mention of it made him gloomy and he lowered his eyes. "I miss them, every day. But I try to think of the great times we had. Homework with my mother, playing with my father, family picnics, that sort of thing."
"Ah yes, focusing on the good memories so that when you are reminded of them you remember the good and not the bad. That is a good way to deal with things, Mr. Wayne but you're only dealing with it. You have to confront it. To face your fears."
Leaving the office he was left with a lot to think about and he realised the doctor was right. All that time he had dreaded to even go into his parents' room or to look at their pictures for too long. Even when he visited the movie theatre to leave roses, he did not stay longer than necessary.
"Bruce!" Harvey called. "Come quick!"
They went to the nurse's office where Hay was lying in bed with several bruises on his body. A blonde girl with her hair tied in pony tails, wearing a white top and red overalls was sitting at his bedside with tears in her eyes.
"Hang in there, puddin'," she said holding his hand.
"What happened?" Bruce asked.
"The mad fool tried to get revenge on those two... with creampuffs stuffed with rocks," Oswald informed him.
"Told you I'd get'm," Jay muttered. "Knocked a few of his teeth out too, heh."
"My quarterback's," the coach said entering the room. "Principal had me suspend him too. Which means I need a back-up and you're it, Wayne, got it?"
"Yes coach," Bruce said determined and the man walked out content.
"You're joining that band of hooligans?" Harvey asked surprised.
"To keep an eye on him and maybe next time he messes up, he'll get more than a suspension," Bruce answered.
"That's ma boy," Jay said smiling.
Walking to the car, Bruce was so angry and distracted Barbara had to grab him by the shoulder to get his attention.
"Bruce, you ok? I heard about Jay, how is he?"
"He'll probably have to stay home a few days, but he doesn't have any broken bones..."
"That's good... say, you want to come over to my place for dinner?"
"Not today, Barb, I have something to take care of at home," Bruce replied then hurried off. "Rain check?" he called after Alfred closed the door.
"Sure, any time!" she yelled back just before they drove off then added, mostly to herself: "Any time..."
Back home, Bruce had been standing in the middle of his parents' bedroom, looking at one of their last portraits they had hung on the wall for half an hour when Alfred discovered him.
"Something wrong, master Bruce?"
"Alfred, do we have any rope?"
"Rope...? Well, there is the late master Jonathan's rock climbing equipment..."
"Could you get it for me? There's something I need to do."