DISCLAIMER: Batman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. This fanfic is in many ways an adaption of Frank Miller's All-Star Batman And Robin. I own precisely zilch in this story.

Dick tried his best not to hyperventilate. Still, it was hard. What was supposed to be one of the best nights of his life was now turning into the emotional roller coaster straight to Hell. For the average person his age, seeing one's parents die before their eyes might seem like the thing that would cap off one's night. Instead, he was nearly killed by a group of corrupt cops, and he was currently sitting in the passenger seat of the Batman's car. Up until tonight, he had no idea Batman even existed, much less had a car.

The 12-year-old boy looked over at the Dark Knight as he steered the vehicle through the streets of Gotham City. He'd been relatively quiet for the past few minutes since they got in the car, and even though he was wearing a mask, Dick could tell he looked a bit uncomfortable himself, like he wasn't sure what to do, or that what he was about to do was the right move. It was a strange thing to see out of someone considered by many to be some kind of superhero.

Dick looked down, fidgeting with his seat belt slightly as the car started to enter a more dimly lit area. He was still wearing his Flying Graysons costume. He looked like a neon sign next to the dark and grim Batman. For a split second, he wondered if this made him look overly ridiculous, but that thought was buried under the next, when he realized this would probably be the last time he would ever wear it.

Mom...Dad... Dick thought, grabbing a handful of his tights and gripping hard. Why did you have to die? Who killed you? And why did those men try to shut me up?

Finally, Dick could keep silent no longer, and asked a simple question: "...Back there. Were those really cops?"

Batman's eyes narrowed under the lens of his cowl. "...Hanson, right? Sergeant Hanson?"

"I think they called him Hanson, yeah," Dick responded.

"He's crooked," the Caped Crusader explained. "Him and his team. They work under Comissioner Loeb. He has ties to most of the major crime families in Gotham."

Dick blinked in astonishment. "S-So, the Gotham police are all-?"

"Not all," Batman interjected. "Some are decent and hard-working men and women who do their jobs. But yes, there're just enough bad cops to make a corrupt city worse."

Dick nodded, satisfied with the answers he got...although, one other thing was nagging at him. "...So, um...Never knew the Batman had a Batmobile."

The Dark Knight cocked an eyebrow, looking at the boy like he'd grown a second and third head. "...The 'Batmobile'?"

"O-Okay, what would YOU call it?" Dick defended, despite realizing how stupid a name that sounded. "The Batcrawler? The Tumbler? The Batman's Goddamn Pimp Hand?"

"Watch your mouth, kid," Batman admonished, getting slightly annoyed. "A kid your age shouldn't pick up those kinds of habits. Also, I would NEVER use the term 'pimp hand'. I HATE pimps."

Dick winced slightly, looking away. "Sorry, just...It's been kind of a night..."

Batman sighed, dropping the aggravation. "...That it has. You don't have any other family, do you?"

Dick shook his head sadly. "No. I mean, I have an aunt that lives in Saskatchewan, but...well, I think the last time I saw her was before I started home schooling."

The Dark Knight nodded, refocusing on the road. It was just like he'd suspected: No immediate family beyond his parents, and no relatives to speak of that lived even remotely close by or that he had contact with. Considering the situation, that left him with one option...that he knew, far ahead of time, he was going to regret.

"...So, where are we going?" Dick asked, seeing them start to enter what looked to be a small forest with a dirt road.

"Home," Batman answered.

Before Dick could ask for any sort of elaboration, the car suddenly took a sharp turn left, straight toward a stone hillside. However, instead of hitting said stone and smashing apart, the hill seemed to open for them, revealing a hidden passage. It took them further down through a tunnel before eventually coming to a far more open cavern. The car finally came to a halt, the canopy opening for the occupants.

Dick looked around in amazement as he slowly got up out of his seat. Based on a few of the leather-winged occupants he could see in the rafters, it was clear this was some sort of bat cave. However, there were steel floors all about, leading to various sub-chambers of the cave. Among other things, there was a room full of Bat costumes and bodysuits, a room with walls lined with various forms of gadgetry, a sort of crude-looking medical bay of some kind, a computer room with insane levels of tech and multiple monitors everywhere, and even some kind of trophy room with stuff like a giant penny and a statue of a T-Rex.

"...This is where you live?" Dick asked, unable to hide his wonder as the two climbed out of the car.

"This is where I WORK," Batman corrected, leading Dick toward the computer room. "Although, I DO tend to think of this place as a home away from home."

"SOME people might consider working out of a place with a bit less dust and occasional guano to clean," a British voice declared as an elderly fellow in sharp dress clothes walked up to the two, having been using the computer beforehand. "...I take it we'll be having some additional company for a while?"

"Dick Grayson, Alfred Pennyworth," Batman introduced, leading to the boy shaking the man's hand. "Alfred is...my assistant, I suppose."

"I wasn't aware we were adopting, sir," Alfred remarked, looking to Batman rather sternly.

"Loeb's men tried to silence him about his parents' murders," the Dark Knight explained. "I couldn't risk leaving him at Haley's, and he could be tracked back to an orphanage."

Alfred sighed and nodded hesitantly. "Of course, sir. In the meantime, I'm trying to identify the man you tussled with earlier, but without direct access to the National Criminal database..."

Dick blinked, suddenly getting what Batman meant by bringing him here. "...A-Am I going to have to LIVE here?"

"For a little while," Batman explained, kneeling down to look Dick in the eye. "...I'm sorry, but as soon as whoever is responsible for your loss is behind bars, I'll find you a better home. You have my word."

Dick looked down, unsure as his eyes welled up slightly with tears, but he felt Gotham's masked vigilante place a hand on his shoulder. "I know what you're going through, Dick...I had to watch my parents be killed by a criminal, too."

The young boy's eyes widened in surprise, looking back to Batman's. "Really?"

Batman gave a sad smile. "I know these next few days won't be easy, but I need you to be brave for me, okay?"

Dick's hand trembled slightly as he brought it up to rub his face, but he nonetheless tried to look as stern as he could. "...Yes, sir. I'll be brave."

The Dark Knight nodded and patted Dick on the head before standing back up and looking to his assistant. "Alfred, see about getting our new guest something to eat. Maybe even some warmer clothes?"

"I believe I just might have something in his size, sir," Alfred replied, scratching his chin.

"A-Are you leaving?" Dick guessed.

"Just for a bit," Batman reassured the boy as he headed back toward and climbed into the car. "There's someone I need to speak with, immediately. I won't be gone long."

Without giving anyone a chance to question him any more about this, Batman pressed a button on the car's controls and closed the canopy. Suddenly, the floor that the car was parked on began to turn, facing said vehicle back toward the way out. The engine roared to life before it sped out, back into the night air of Gotham.

Dick looked to Alfred, a bit nervous. "...So, what exactly does he define as 'being gone long'?"

"...Thank Heavens, there's finally someone else in this cave that has a sense of humour," Alfred muttered, sounding rather joyous at this revelation, causing Dick to smile a little in spite of the night's events.

To say that Lieutenant James Gordon, or Jim as he preferred to be called, was having a terrible day, would be an understatement. Really, nowadays, it felt like he was having a terrible life, as if someone upstairs decided he was the person they would pick on on a regular basis. His marriage was all but over, albeit that was his own fault, as he himself would admit to. He was working under a corrupt police commissioner, trying desperately to be a good cop for the people of Gotham. And now, he'd just gotten word of the events that had gone down at Amusement Mile, or at least one man's version of events. He knew well enough that he'd be getting the other side soon enough.

"Hey, Dad!" a young, enthusiastic voice called.

Jim looked up from the table to the front door to see his daughter, Barbara, come in, wearing a rather wet-looking raincoat. "Started raining again?"

"Go figure, huh?" Barbara, or Babs as she insisted her friends and loved ones called her, replied. "What IS it about this city and its constant rainfall? It's a wonder it doesn't just float away."

"That'd probably be an improvement," Jim half-snarked. "How was school?"

"Boring," Babs admitted, taking her coat off. "Except I've apparently been approached to help tutor an exchange student, Cassandra something. How about you? Anything interesting happen tonight?"

Jim sighed, wishing that, for once, his daughter wouldn't take an interest in his work. "...There was an accident at Amusement Mile. A pair of trapeze artists were in the middle of a show with their son, and their line snapped."

Barbara's eyes immediately widened, coming to sit down. "...And we're SURE this was an accident?"

"That's what the official report says," Jim replied, his tone of voice making it clear he didn't believe it. "Hanson says they were taking the boy someplace safe for the night, but they were...intercepted. Says the boy was kidnapped by Gotham's masked vigilante."

"The Batman?" Babs asked. "Why would he kidnap a child?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," Jim lied, patting his shirt pocket. "I, uh...I need to get some air. You have homework?"

Barbara's eyes narrowed, her voice turning deadpan. "...Oh yeah, tons. If you don't see me tonight, it's because I've had to barricade my door and shut off everything electronic in my room so I can't be distracted from the MOUNTAINS of homework those sadistic teachers piled onto me."

Jim rolled his eyes, getting up from the table and giving his daughter a quick kiss on the forehead before heading out to the back porch. She was so much like her mother, and yet so different. Both could be energetic and multiple steps ahead of everyone else in the room when they wanted to be, and sometimes even by accident, and yet it seemed like Babs was more stubborn, sarcastic, had an awareness of the world around her, what was real and what wasn't, and possessing that feeling of wanting to show the world what it COULD be, what it SHOULD be. He couldn't help but wonder where she got that from.

Closing the door behind him, Jim stood out on the porch, sheltered by the upstairs porch from the rain. He took out a cigarette and lit it up, taking a puff from it. He knew if his soon-to-be-ex-wife saw him doing this, he'd get a good smack, and he knew it was bad for him, but right now, he needed it. Badly. Just something, anything, to cope. Really, the only reason he didn't go to a bar was because even he wasn't THAT dumb as to not know how that could end badly for him in a city like Gotham.

Hearing a small rustling sound just a few feet behind him, he let out a long sigh, leaning his elbows on the wooden frame before him. "...Cold, rainy night. Gotta be the seventh or eighth one in a row. But then, you've probably seen more than I have."

"You heard what happened?" the Dark Knight asked, cutting to the chase as he emerged from the shadows.

"Amusement Mile," Jim replied. "The trapeze artists. Dick Grayson, age 12. I got the cliff-notes, or at least Hanson's version. It wasn't an accident, was it?"

"I intercepted the killer on his way out," Batman explained. "I had an anonymous call sent to the GCPD to have him picked up, but...Well, we'll see."

"And the boy?" James inquired.

"Hanson and his men were going to try to keep him quiet about what he saw," Batman went on. "He knew the lines were snapped via some kind of acid. I've already been back to the scene of the crime and taken a sample of the substance. Should have results soon."

"...I meant, where did you take him?" Jim asked, sounding slightly annoyed. "I'm not an idiot, y'know."

The Caped Crusader didn't answer at first, making Jim wonder what the problem was for a moment before he finally said, "Protective custody. I can't risk taking him to an orphanage, and he said he didn't have any other family he could stay with."

"You realize this is technically kidnapping, right?" James pointed out, albeit making it clear he wasn't trying to be accusatory.

"I won't let anything happen to the boy, Jim," Batman promised. "...I can't. He's been through enough."

"Something you identify with," Jim noted, getting a surprised glance from the Dark Knight. "...It doesn't take a genius to know you must be inspired to do what you do by some past trauma. Again, not an idiot, I just know well enough not to ask."

Batman nodded slowly. "...I need to know if there have been any arrests tonight since the murder."

"I'll check in with Montoya, see what I can find out," Jim replied, glancing down as he dug into his pants pocket to get his cell phone. "I assume that line of yours is still-"

Jim stopped and sighed as he looked back up, seeing himself alone on the porch. "...secure. Right."

Meanwhile, just upstairs from him, Babs, having overheard everything, immediately locked her door and went to her computer. She quickly pulled up a screen with a green mask on it and put a headset on, knowing full well that this was going to be a long night as she began the process of hacking into the National Criminal database.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Yeah, not a lot going on here, except to establish more of the supporting cast, and their character traits within this story. Like I said, I'm trying to make these characters a bit closer to how they're actually supposed to be. Y'know, LIKABLE. lol Also, as you can probably tell from that last paragraph, I've kinda made an important change to Barbara, namely how her career and association with Batman started. Readers of the comics probably know that Babs started as Batgirl, but then became Oracle, a super-awesome computer hacker, after she was put in a wheelchair. Here, though, I decided to have her start off as Oracle instead.

Anyway, not much else to say except to assure you that more important stuff will happen next chapter, I promise. lol Ja né!