Disclaimer: I do not own Dick Grayson or any of the other Barbara Gordon, or Kori, or Bruce Wayne. Everything related to Batman belongs to DC comics, I'm just borrowing. This is my homage to what I strongly believe to be the best comic book character ever created, next to Peter Parker.
Dick Grayson: Book One
Chapter One: Vinny's Pizzeria
September 1, 1824 hours
The dreams would return this day, just like they had every day since the "incident." He was out for a stroll by the Gotham First National Bank, when he heard a woman scream. He started and began to assess the situation. He looked in through the window, there were four armed robbers as far as he could tell. He decided to creep around through the back. By the time he got to the back of the bank and picked the lock on the door, it was too late. Gotham's own caped crusader and his plucky sidekick, the girl wonder were already on the job. There had been a small explosion and a bright flash of light and then suddenly they appeared, punching and kicking there way to justice. He had seen the tricks before, knew the tactics, so he turned his head away when the stun grenades were thrown. He knew how long the effect was supposed to last, so when it had passed he dove right into the fray, nearly turning one of the gunmen's heads halfway around with a right cross.
All four bank robbers hit the ground nearly simultaneously. He turned to face the two costumed heroes. A look of recognition on his face, like he was looking at family. Only, the look wasn't reciprocated.
"Bruce...Babs...what's going on here?" He was confused now. Why was Barbara wearing his suite? "Why is she wearing my uniform?"
Neither costumed hero made a move to answer.
"Answer me! Why is she wearing my uniform?!"
"It's not your uniform." Batman's voice was cold and aloof. The tone was expected, however the words were not what he wanted to hear.
"That's not enough!" he shouted. "Explain this...this...whatever is going on." He gestured towards the fiery redhead wearing the Robin uniform, his uniform. A wide grin threatened to split her face, and she began to cackle. A ghastly sound that clashed with her pretty face and big blue eyes.
"It's not your uniform," she hissed.
Batman completed her thought for her between laughs, "You don't exist."
And then in unison, "You don't exist."
"You don't exist."
"You don't exist."
He woke up drenched in a cold sweat. His long silky black hair clung to his face, neck and head. The white t-shirt that he wore was dark with moisture and his rippling stomach muscles shone through. He wasn't in the bank anymore, he was in his dorm room. A square ten by ten room, furnished with one bed, two black leather chairs, a mahogany desk, a mini fridge and a television. There was a white tile floor and the walls were brick, and painted a cotton candy blue. He turned his head to see the alarm clock on the nightstand by his bed. It was 6:24 pm. Nightmares in the daytime was not a good thing. It had been a few weeks now, since he had been effectively fired from his post as sidekick to the Batman, and a few more since he quite the Teen Titans, the superhero team that he himself had started. The second one was a no-brainer actually. He had been fine with only being a Titan and no longer being Batman's sidekick, but shortly after, the Batman came to him and forced him to relinquish the mantle of Robin. So, he had to quite the Titans. After all, how can you be a superhero without a costumed identity? Now, he was just Dick Grayson, college student.
He climbed out of the bed. Though not as comfortable as his bed back at the manor, it was manageable. He arched his back, yawned, and stretched his tired muscles. Oh crap! he thought. Lisa Milano was supposed to take him out to dinner today at her family's restaurant. When he thought about it, he couldn't recall how he had gotten caught up with this girl. However, she was pretty. Long dark hair, peaches and cream complexion, full bee stung lips, and curves that caught the attention of any man in the immediate vicinity. The girl certainly wasn't bad to look at, he just wasn't feeling anything for her, not like the others. Not like Barbara and Kori, or even Donna.
The phone rang. It was his cell phone, but it sounded more like a pay phone. Barbara teased him about it constantly, and he had intended to download some new rings off the internet whenever he could find the time. The only problem was, he could never find the time. He had to find something to do to fill the void left by not being a superhero, and he decided to use his free time and his brilliant mind to help fellow students by starting a tutoring service, as well as help his own pockets. Of course, he was the sole heir to one of the largest fortunes on the planet, but their was always something unsettling to him about living off of someone else, so he chose to work. He would help students with any and every subject that crossed his desk, from Calculus to Sociology to European history, he covered all the bases. If he didn't know something, then he would find out about it. Though his memory wasn't eidetic like Barbara's, it did come close.
He flipped open the phone. "Hello? Oh, hi Kori." He would've known that had he looked at the screen. Kori had come to this planet a few years back, and joined up with the Titans. They had been in love at one time, but the recent changes in his life, had made it difficult for him to love anyone right now. Especially when he didn't even know who he was anymore. He had always suspected that she wanted to get back together, and he may have been feeling it to, but...he didn't like to think about his love life. Unlike in his regular life, when it came to problems in his love life, he would rather ignore them. "Me? I'm doing fine, how is everybody?" he said, referring to the rest of the Titans. "Ha! No, I'm fine Kori, but I'm not coming back...at least not yet." He opened his closet to pick out some clothes. He had intended on wearing what he had on, but he had ruined the shirt during his nap and he needed a new one. He imagined how Kori would react if he told her that he had a date. She would flip. She would probably get real sad...at first, then she would want to beat something up. Now, whether it would be him or Lisa was still up in the air. "No, you can't come visit," he said. "Because, Kori, you have orange skin, green pupil-less eyes and waist length orange hair. People know who you are, and if they see us together they might figure out who I am. If they figure out who I am...who knows. And no matter how mad I am at the old man, I would never do that to him. Never." He chose an identical white t-shirt and slipped it on.
There was a knock at the door. "Hold on Kor." He strolled over to the door and pulled it open. "Uh Kor, I'll have to call you back alright?" He flipped off the phone and dropped it into his pocket. There were two large young men standing at his door.
"What up Grayson?" One of the men pushed his way into the room and the other one followed.
"Braylon, JP" Dick said, back peddling. "What can I do for you two?"
Braylon and JP were two football players who lived on the same floor as Dick. Braylon was a Defensive end, roughly 6'5 320 lbs, a real pro prospect. His dark brown scalp reflected the light from the ceiling, and his muscles bulged like they wanted to escape his skin. He had a thin neatly trimmed goatee and one diamond stud in his left ear. JP was a defensive tackle, nearly the same size, but completely different. Dick marveled at how two people could be the same height and the same weight, but have completely different bodies. JP's pale stomach hung over his pants and the tight white tank top he wore was stained with whatever they had for dinner. Freckles covered nearly every visible inch of his upper body, from his hands, all the way up to his fat cheeks. Gray-green eyes and a mass of midnight curls completed the look.
Braylon surveyed the room. "Geeze Grayson you really know how to live it up." The sarcasm in his voice was obvious.
"Cut the crap Braylon. What do you want?" Dick sat down at his desk and began tying his shoe laces. White Nikes, blue jeans, and a white t-shirt. All the money in the world and he still chose to dress like a normal 18 year old kid.
"Um...yeah. Listen, we heard you were some kind of genius...I didn't believe it but, I figure...what the heck, it's worth a shot."
"What's worth a shot?"
JP belched and the sound resounded off the walls. "Professor Pendelton's exam is coming up, and we thought you might help us out."
"What do you mean, 'help us out?'" Dick asked.
"We want you to sit by us so we can copy," Braylon answered.
"Ha! You've got to be kidding me," Dick laughed. "That's not what I do, I tutor people."
JP opened the mini fridge and peered inside. "Well, tutor us then."
"Sorry, I can't."
"What do you mean, you can't?" JP mumbled over a mouth full of chocolate pudding liberated from Dick's fridge.
Dick stood. "I mean I can't. Pendelton's exam has everybody in a panic, I'm tutoring half the class! There's no way, I'm booked for the whole week." He walked over to his door. "Sorry fellas. I would if I could."
JP continued to inhale the chocolate pudding as Braylon slowly stalked towards Dick. "You think it's just that simple don't you? You think you can just say your booked, and send us on our way. Well, I got news for you...DICK, it doesn't work that way. You see, me and JP, we gotta pass this test, so we can play on Saturday."
"Yeah, yeah, okay, I heard you, but I can't help you." Dick opened the door a little, before Braylon's massive hand impacted the wooden door and slammed it shut. The story of my life, Dick thought to himself. From this distance he could easily determine what the big man had for dinner. His breath reeked of garlic, and judging by the stains on JP's shirt, it had probably been some kind of pasta or even pizza. "Look, we don't need to go here." That's right Dick, play it cool, offer him a way out.
Braylon moved his hand. "You're right Grayson." Dick didn't know why, but football players always insisted on calling each other by their last names, perhaps it was because that's what they were accustomed to seeing on the backs of their jerseys so they just stuck with it. Who knows, all Dick knew was that it was contagious. "What is it, is it the money? Because, we got cash bro, don't worry about it."
"No, fellas, it's not about the money. I don't have the time. I'm sorry." He tried to put on his most apologetic face. "I hope--"
There was a knock at the door.
"Excuse me." Dick pulled open the door and in strode the lovely miss Lisa Milano. At 5'3" she was pretty short compared to all the other women in Dick's life. She flashed that big, disarming smile of hers and the mood of the room completely changed. That's probably how Dick got caught up with her. One day outside of one of his classes, she flashed him that big grin, and his heart melted. Well, maybe not his heart, but certain spots on his body definitely heated up.
She stepped into the room and looked around at all the occupants. "If I'd known you were having a party, I'd have worn a different outfit," she joked. She had on a pair of blue jeans, a yellow halter top that revealed almost more than it should have, and white tennis shoes.
"You look fine to me." Braylon shifted his body closer to hers, but before he got too close, JP's hand firmly gripped his shoulder.
"No, bro. Don't," JP suggested. "Let's just get out of here, alright. He said he didn't wanna help us, so let's go."
Dick started like he had seen a ghost. Why in the world would JP act like that, just when Braylon was about to get up close and personal with the petite miss Milano? Could it be he was in love? Who knows, anything is possible. Dick decided to make a mental note.
The two athletes decided to make an exit at the insistence of JP. Braylon eyed Lisa like a lion would eye a gazelle the whole way out.
"What was that about?" she asked Dick.
"Just some guys who wanted me to tutor them. I had to turn 'em down, I'm too busy."
"Well, I hope your not too busy to eat."
He tied his hair back into a pony tail, giving her a clear view of his sparkling azure eyes, and wide, inviting smile. "Never," he said, then he picked up the two motorcycle helmets and tossed her one. "Let's go."
The 786 cc engine was all business, and it only took them four and a half minutes to reach the parking lot of the restaurant. It was a nice mom and pop place, nothing too fancy, yet the parking lot was near capacity. Vinny's Pizzeria was in bold lettering on the front window. He remembered Lisa telling him that her family owned the place, so he assumed that Vinny was her father's name. Wait, Vinny Milano...Vincent Milano, where had he heard that name? Think Dick, think. He would have rapped the side of his head with his knuckles, but that might've ruined his image.
"Richard...hello?" she waved her hands in front of his face. "Snap out of it. You have to be prepared when you go in here." They continued their stroll towards the entrance.
"Why, is there going to be a test?"
Oh boy Dick, what have you gotten yourself into this time? "What kind of test?"
She sighed. "My family is very protective of me, and they'll probably be looking to find out if--"
"Heyyy, itsa Lisa!" The front door swung wide open, and a boisterous Italian man greeted the two companions. He was a short man with thick eyebrows and a mustache to match. He had broad shoulders and a broad barrel chest. His voice was throaty and warm, and he spoke with a rhythm that belied his heritage. His eyes beamed brighter than an afternoon sun, he was definitely happy to see her. "Lisa, Lisa come in, who's your friend."
She flashed the man a wide smile and gave him a hug. He kissed both of her cheeks, then she pointed at Dick. "This is Richard. Richard this is my uncle Michael."
Dick extended his hand, but the man ignored it, and reached for Dick with both arms, embracing him in the same exact way he just did with Lisa. "No, no. Any friend of Lisa's is a friend of the family's," he said, kissing Dick on both cheeks.
Dick had been apart of an affectionate family before he had come to live with Bruce and Alfred, but the flying Graysons were nothing like this. The man finally backed away from them and headed for the counter. "I'ma gonna make you your favorite," he called. Lisa just continued to smile, leading Dick by the hand, deeper into the restaurant introducing him to everybody along the way.
As he continued to greet everybody in the room he began to think, what's the big deal, hug a few uncles, schmooze with a few cousins, this isn't so bad. Then, they reached a group of young men, who didn't look quite as inviting as uncle Mike. She squeezed Dick's hand and steered him off to the right, towards an empty booth.
One of the men approached. "Hey, Lisa what's the big hurry, you aint gonna introduce us to your little friend here?" The other three guys eased in behind their leader.
Lisa nervously looked at the man, and then back at Dick. She fumbled with her hands while the man eyed Dick with a predatory grin. "Um...Richard, this is...Alberto, that's Yuri, Brazilian Bob, and Alexander. They're uh...friends of the family."
Alberto was the only one to smile, the other three looked away disinterestedly. "Richard huh?" he eyed Dick from head to toe. "I think we'll just call you Dick! Is that alright?"
Dick knew it wasn't really a question, but he'd rather be called Dick anyway. "Everyone does."
"Okay, you've met, now that's enough," Lisa interjected.
"Now, wait a minute Lisa, young Dick doesn't have a problem with talking to us, does he?"
Hmm, Alberto, Yuri, Brazilian Bob, and Alexander, they didn't look like any 'friends of the family' Dick had ever known. He had started fighting crime before he had started puberty so he knew a criminal when he saw one. Alfred was a friend of the family, these four were cold hearted killers. He could see it in their eyes, like sharks they were. All of them different, yet all of them the same. Brazilian Bob with his bronzed skin and gray eyes. Yuri, with his broad back and dark eyes. Alexander, well he couldn't see much of Alexander's face because he wore his hat so low on his head, but he could make out a pair of cold black eyes. Then there was Alberto, perhaps the most dangerous of them all, because he didn't care about keeping up appearances. Dick could easily make out the shoulder rig underneath his jacket and the butt of a pistol. He even caught a glimpse of it when the man strode over to greet them. Taught by the very best to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, he assumed that all four men were armed, and made a mental note.
Dick glanced down at Lisa before returning his gaze to meet the eyes of the man across from him. "No, there's no problem."
Alberto smiled, then began to stroll confidently around Dick, sizing him up. "So this is what you like, Lisa?" Dick could here traces of that Italian accent, but not nearly as thick as uncle Mike's. "This pretty boy, with his long hair, and his...motorcycle?"
Dick slowly rotated in place, to keep one eye on the roaming Alberto, and his other on the trio of companions. Dick could feel the tension in the room. It was thick like London fog, you could almost reach out and grab it. Yet, it wasn't his tension he was feeling. He wasn't afraid, though fear wasn't a bad thing, it was simply your body's way of telling you to be careful, he simply had faced death far too many times, to worry about a scorned ex-boyfriend of a girl he wasn't even really dating.
"He looks kind of frail to me. I don't know Lisa, I think your papa would rather you be with someone who can protect you." Alberto continued to glare at Dick. "Can you protect her...Dick."
"Stop it, okay! Just stop it!" Lisa shouted. Her eyes were dark with anger and she spun around to look at something in the back of the restaurant.
Dick didn't have time to worry about Lisa's hysterics, he had to be ready for what he knew was about to happen. No 360s, no butterfly kicks, no double or triple anything, just stick to the basics Dick, don't let them see too much, , he told himself. Though he was no longer a costumed vigilante and he didn't have a secret identity to protect, you never knew who might be watching, and trying to put two and two together. It was better to not take any chances.
"Can you even protect yourself?" Alberto pushed Dick with the tips of his fingers. Dick didn't budge an inch. "Oh look, we got ourselves a tough guy," Alberto laughed. Yuri, Bob, and Alex all chuckled, and Dick noticed that the laughs came from different places around him. They had managed to surround him without him noticing. Not a good sign.
"You wanna find out," Dick answered, in a combative tone. Right, Dick, antagonize them.
"Yeah, I think I do." Alberto stepped up toe to toe with Dick. Actually, Alberto was a couple of inches taller than Dick, and probably twenty pounds heavier. But, what was he gonna do, back down? Never. So, he stood his ground, chest stuck out like the proud Robin that he used to be.
Since Alberto was so close to Dick, his movements were very quick. His hand disappeared into his pocket. When he brought it out, it held a firm grip on a switchblade. Their was a swooshing sound from the blade cutting the air and Dick hopped backwards and away from the first swing. If you want her that bad, you can have her, he wanted to say, but where was the fun in that. He stepped back and squared up, keeping the other three in his sights. They had yet to jump in, but Dick didn't trust them to stay on the sidelines. Alberto came in with his arm bent preparing a backhand strike. Dick shifted off-line and deflected the blow with both hands. Then, he jerked Alberto's arm forward, pulling the man off balance, as well as propelling himself forward. There was an audible crunch and a spray of scarlet and mucus as Dick's elbow smashed into Alberto's face. Still holding onto Alberto's arm, he twisted at the wrist, ducked under, and pulled, sending Alberto flying. The man crashed into an old wooden table completely destroying it. Chunks of wood flew in all directions, along with plastic cups, paper plates, and a half eaten pizza that landed on his head.
Dick turned to face the other three, who looked like they were deciding what to do. Dick thought he saw anger and rage in the eyes of Yuri and Alexander, but the one they called Brazilian Bob was completely devoid of emotion. That's the one who Dick considered the real threat. Bob stood there while the other two removed their jackets to reveal matching shoulder rigs. In no time at all they had their hands on the pistols, anxious to draw and take aim.
However, before it got too hectic, a powerful voice shouted from the back of the room. "Stop!" And, like soldiers commanded by a superior they ceased all aggressive action and slid their jackets back on like nothing had even happened. Dick turned to see where the voice had come from. Lisa was in the back seated next to another dark haired, dark eyed young man. He was smiling. It was a big, wide, grin, inviting and vaguely familiar. "Come, come," the man called out to him.
Dick exhaled in relief, part of him thankful that a shootout didn't start, and the other part of him was still weary. "Sorry about that, I'll pay for the table."
The man laughed, "Will you look at this kid." He brought both hands up to Dick's face and gave him a big kiss on his left cheek. "Mwa! He'll pay for the table. I love this guy! Sit down, sit down."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"Listen. What I say goes around here, if I tell those guys it's over, than it's over. Bada boom, bada bing. You know what I mean? You'll be alright."
Dick didn't look convinced, but sat anyway. At least nobody could sneak up on him from where he sat.
"My name is Vinny, I'm Lisa's big brother."
Vinny? That meant that he owned the restaurant, but he didn't look a day older than Lisa. "Dick Grayson."
"Well, Dick Grayson, those were some nice moves, how'd you learn all that stuff?"
"Tae-bo, he says. I love this guy. Lisa, how come I never met him before?"
Lisa's cheeks flared a rosy pink.
"Look, my sister Sofia's getting married in a couple days, Lisa already invited you, right?"
"Now, I'm inviting you, so you gotta come. And uh, I'll send a limo so you don't got my sister riding along on that death trap you call a bike. Now let's eat." Uncle Mike carefully sat the large pizza down on the table. Pepperoni and olive. "I can't wait for my father to meet you kid."
ARE...YOU...KIDDING...ME? Dick thought. We're not even together and I'm already playing meet the parents. Great! Superman can leap tall buildings in a single bound, Green Lantern can wield the most powerful weapon in the Universe, and I can stir up more drama than a Jerry Springer casting call. Sounds real fair.