Batman/Bruce Wayne, Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Alfred, Kathy Kane, James Gordon, and Anthony Zucco belong to DC Comics/Time Warner.
Any others you don't recognize are mine.
I am using them without permission, however I have not and don't expect to make money from this.

Rated PG : language; violence.

Everyone knows the original Robin's origin: his parents were murdered during their circus act by a criminal named 'Boss' Zucco. Dick Grayson overheard Zucco's gang threatening the circus owner; Bruce Wayne, who happened to be in the audience, took him in and helped him get revenge. But what if Bruce hadn't been there? Would Batman have taken such an interest in Zucco at that time if it hadn't been personal? What would the adult Dick Grayson be like, without Batman's help and influence?

Based on the comics of the 40's and 50's, with some elements from the present-day version. The other Robins, Batgirls; all other costumed members of the Bat-family have been omitted, mostly to keep this pure and simple. The original Batwoman has been included only in her civilian identity of Kathy Kane. Alfred includes some aspects of his original incarnation as a Cockney ex-music hall actor and aspiring detective.

Reviews are greatly appreciated, please take a moment to leave one.

Birds of a Feather

For Want of a Nail

His workout was done. His shower taken. No real need to go out tonight, as Batman. Bruce Wayne sat down behind the large desk in his study and pulled the newspaper over, quickly scanning the headlines, then the lesser stories on the following pages. Nothing to interest him... He spent a few more minutes leafing through it, his mind already drifting.

Haly Circus presents... That caught his eye. A circus. A small one, but he vaguely remembered seeing the name. As an accomplished amateur acrobat, he tended to keep track of such things, alongside the many miscellaneous items Batman kept track of. And there was another interesting tidbit in the advertisement he had turned to. The Flying Graysons... With the only ten-year-old in the world who could perform the triple somersault, or so it said.

His lips turned in a smile. It was undoubtedly an exaggeration; the boy was probably more like twelve, or older. Still, it was an accomplishment for any acrobat at any age, and worth seeing. If it was true. His eye dropped to the location. Newton. Not quite a suburb of Gotham, but not a forbidding distance away. Still, it had been a long day, he was tired, and he had to be up fairly early in the morning.

Even as he put the paper down, Bruce hesitated. When was the last time he had done something just for fun? When was the last time he had gotten out of town? In his years of training, and especially since first taking up the identity of the Batman only a year ago, he never seemed to find the time for anything relaxing, anything that wasn't strictly necessary. Even the parties and other social functions he attended were just a part of his cover, a part of his identity as Bruce Wayne. He didn't even enjoy them, not really; hours spent with people who didn't have a serious thought in their empty heads -- people who might as well be Martians for all he had in common with them. Sometimes he could almost see the barrier between himself and them... it occurred to him briefly that he was lonely, but the thought was of no use, and he discarded it.

Tonight -- it would make more sense to get some extra sleep -- but his natural restlessness argued for a night out, for the bright lights, the noise, the garish showmanship of the circus; the clowns, tumblers, acrobats, the pretty women in tight and skimpy costumes... To lose himself in that artificial world, a creation made only for entertainment, but perhaps more real than the world he lived in -- divided between night and day -- between the dark, grimy alleyways Batman lived in and the glittering, rarefied social atmosphere of Bruce Wayne.

But even as he tried to estimate exactly how long it would take to drive to Newton and back, a yawn took him unawares, stretching his jaws. Maybe sleep should come first, after all. With a decisive gesture, he closed and folded the paper. Maybe some other time. The circus would have to do without Bruce Wayne tonight. It wasn't like it was important, after all... not like it would make any real difference in his life, or anyone else's...

Nine years later:

He could hear them, when it was too late. Coming up behind him. As he turned, there they were, spreading out to cut off any path of escape. Batman backed off, instinctively sizing up the situation. A blind alley, a wall behind his back, the only illumination coming from the moon and a couple of lights out on the street. A garbage can and bags in a cluster about ten feet away. And six hard-faced and determined-looking men advancing on him. He was outnumbered, certainly. But he'd been in considerably worse situations.

Batman let the light fall on his face as he smiled, just a little, seeing them blink, perhaps starting to wonder if this was such a good idea after all. He waited, watching; no guns, not yet. They probably had instructions to eliminate him quietly, no witnesses, no noise to attract passersby or the police. Instead, reflections glinted off the knives the six of them were carrying. They were welcome to try -- but they'd have to be fast, and skillful, before any of those blades would sink home.

A tall man wearing a knit cap took the lead, approaching slowly, tossing his knife from hand to hand a couple of times; a showy move that might have been impressive to a less experienced fighter. Batman waited for him, the wall protecting his back but not close enough to interfere when he had to move. Two others, one with dirty blond hair and one with long black hair in a ponytail, took up positions on either side of Knit Cap. They paused, obviously gathering themselves for the attack. And then it began.

Knit Cap lunged suddenly, but his eyes had given him away; Batman pivoted, blocked his arm, grabbed his wrist, kicked his feet out from under him and let the motion carry him into the wall head-first with a crack. A quick spin, a side-kick, and Blond Man was watching his knife sail into the air. Batman ducked under Ponytail's attempt to slash him and drove a fist into his stomach, doubling him over.

Then two long running steps to the garbage pile, the other three right behind him. Batman grabbed the lid off the can, twisted, and threw it in a spinning backhand, to catch one across the chest, sending him reeling. With a kick he sent the can itself rolling and bouncing, driving the other two back. They retreated a few steps, but one of them reversed his knife, raising it by the blade, then his arm snapping forward.

It was close; the thrown knife would have hit him in the throat; the guy was good... Batman dodged and ducked, escaping injury, but the move threw him off balance, to fall to one knee. When he looked up again, he faced the barrels of two guns. Apparently they were more afraid of him than of attracting the attention of the police. He crouched, watching fingers tightening on trigger fingers, his own fingers reaching for a batarang and ready to move when the moment came, hoping he'd be fast enough, and that his luck would not run out tonight in this dirty alleyway, so like that other...

But then something unexpected happened, a small disk barely visible in the semi-darkness seemed to fly out of nowhere, striking the gun hand of the man nearest him, bringing a cry of pain. Even before the pistol hit the ground, another small missile streaked into the other gunman's hand. And another, hitting Blond Man in the forearm as he turned back to the fight after picking up his knife. A fourth lodged in Ponytail's shoulder as he started to straighten up.

"Let's get out of here!" With that shout, the four of them turned and ran. In seconds they were gone, leaving Knit Cap and the man who had been hit by the garbage can lid lying on the dirty concrete, unconscious.

Batman stood, for an instant tempted to go after them, but then he turned. Those had been some kind of throwing stars, and they had come from above him. As he looked up at the roof of the one-story building behind him, a dark form appeared, barely visible as it stood at the edge, outlined in the silvery glimmer of moonlight. A man, dressed in form-fitting black except for a dark blue 'V' across his chest, the stripe of color continuing down the outsides of his arms to the fingertips of his gloves. Thick cuffs circled his forearms and the tops of his boots. Otherwise the costume was unadorned. A black mask covered his eyes, his hair was dark and short. They stared at each other for a few silent moments, until the man stepped back and disappeared.

"The same man we've heard rumours of, sir?" Alfred's voice was as cool and dignified as usual, his cultured British accent almost hiding the traces of Cockney that were the only signs left of his relatively humble origins.

"I'm sure of it. Fits the description of the costume. And that picture." Bruce frowned. Only one picture had been taken of the mysterious new crimefighter in town, a blurry and indistinct snapshot of what appeared to be a man in black and midnight blue, leaping spectacularly from one rooftop to another.

"The papers reported he told his name to some criminal he encountered."

"Yes. Nightwing." Bruce looked down at the object he was absently turning between his fingers. One of the modified throwing stars his rescuer had used, shaped into what might be a stylized bat. "I remember."

"Obviously he's patterned himself after you, sir."

Bruce frowned. "The last thing I need is someone getting himself killed trying to copy me."

"He appears to have handled himself quite well so far."

Bruce sighed. True enough, his imitator had done well, popping out of the shadows a few times to rescue mugging victims and the like. He seemed able to fight, and to use a simple weapon like these 'stars'. And he seemed at home on a rooftop. But if anyone knew the dangers involved in this line of work, it was Bruce. Too dangerous for just anyone, too dangerous to even consider unless you were fully prepared to die doing it. Sometimes Bruce was frankly amazed he had survived over ten years of it.

"Maybe," he answered finally. "But he probably has no idea of what he's gotten himself into. If only I could talk some sense into him..."

"He seems to have interested himself in the same case you're working on now. I read that he's also interfered with some of Zucco's operations."

"Mmm. Yes, and those were Zucco's men tonight. I guess I've become an inconvenience to Anthony Zucco. One too many times I've interrupted his boys while they were leaning on some shopkeeper for protection money. He tried to get rid of me."

"Perhaps one of the men you captured will roll on him."

Bruce smiled. It always sounded strange when Alfred used the slang he picked up from cop shows, and from Bruce himself. "Perhaps. But they're probably much too afraid of him." He stood up and stretched. "Been a long day. And night. Anything around to eat?"

"Of course, sir." Alfred sounded faintly scandalized at the idea that there might not be a meal waiting at any time it was wanted.

"Great. You coming up?"

"As soon as I clear up down here."


Bruce climbed the stairs to the door leading into the house, concealed on the other side by a Grandfather clock in his study, the stray thought crossing his mind once again of what his society friends might make of his 'hobby'. On the other side, he paused to flip on the lights, his gaze rising automatically to the portrait hanging over the fireplace in the small room. A good-looking young couple, the woman's smile sparkling with humor; the man's more serious; his gray eyes, so like Bruce's, seeming to stare back. The picture was there as a reminder, there for him to see every time he came up from the Batcave, in case his purpose ever wavered... He looked for only a moment, before heading for the kitchen, but as always he carried the image in his mind.

Nightwing. Imitating him... Bruce frowned as he bent to look inside the refrigerator and found the inevitable plate of sandwiches Alfred had left for him, neatly covered to keep them fresh. He set it on the table and crossed to the counter where the coffeepot was also prepared and waiting for him to turn it on, then returned to take his seat and pick up a sandwich.

Somehow the possibility had never occurred to him. The idea that someone else might want to take on the sort of life he led seemed so absurd, he had trouble believing it even now, when he had seen the evidence with his own eyes. The hard work, the danger... Would it seem glamorous to someone who saw only the costume, the fancy car, the newspaper stories? Someone who didn't count on the late nights, the frustration, the boredom and detail that was a large part of any detective work. The danger, the terrifyingly close encounters with death; the times he had limped home, bruised and bleeding. The guilt when someone else got hurt -- or killed -- despite his best efforts.

Footsteps announced Alfred's arrival. They went to the counter and paused, then came to his side. A hand lowered a cup of coffee to the table. "I don't see how you ever sleep, with all the coffee you pour into yourself," the butler murmured. "Not to mention the possible health effects."

Bruce smiled absently. They went through the same ritual most nights, the same gentle criticism. Alfred was such a mother hen, it was a shame he didn't have children. "Everyone's got to have at least one bad habit," he answered.

"Hmm." The sound clearly expressed disapproval. Then, "How is the case coming? Any leads?"

"Not much so far. A few hints that something's up, but nothing definite."

"Unfortunate... What are you going to do?" Alfred was still standing over him -- when the subject had come up in the past he had announced in a coolly superior tone that it wasn't 'fitting' for him to sit at table with his employer, and Bruce had long ago given up on changing his mind -- but his voice was lively with interest.

"Keep digging, of course. Start spending some time as Matches, for a start." Bruce glanced up at his butler's face with hidden amusement. Alfred was considerably more colorful than he at first appeared; besides a distant past as a stage actor, he had ambitions of being a detective. Ambitions that were currently channeled into an enthusiastic interest in Batman's activities.

"Zucco has a nasty habit of causing accidents, as I recall, just to prove he means business."

"Yes. A very nasty habit. Especially when he doesn't particularly care who gets hurt." Bruce took another sip of coffee. Zucco was quickly becoming his prime target. The protection racket he ran had already left a trail of bodies behind him, stretching back to the small town north of the city where he had started out about ten years ago. Now that he was firmly established in Gotham City itself, he seemed to be slowly expanding his operations. "He's a slippery bastard. I'd love to nail him," he muttered.

"Perhaps you'll have better luck tomorrow, sir."

"Perhaps." Bruce got up. "Goodnight, Alfred." He headed through the kitchen door, his mind already on plans for the next day, barely hearing Alfred say goodnight in return.