The nightmare always begins the same.
Me. On my knees, in dad's blood. Trying desperately to take this thing from his chest—trying desperately to salvage what can't be salvaged. The last shred of Tim Drake, and I try to get rid of it.
"Dad, I have to go."
Batgirl—Barbara—back when she was Batgirl…she always used to say the most thrilling part of the job was swinging from roof to roof. Throwing out the de-cel line and watching it connect to the Gargoyle atop the old Davenport building off Englehart Drive. Diving off the roof, feeling the rush of wind in your face as you saw the ground rush up to meet you. Flexing your arms at just the right moment and pulling taught the line in the hope of swinging from one urban castle to the next. Like characters in one of Bart's video games.
It's a move that Nightwing and Bruce have long since perfected; it still gets me every time. The exhilaration of letting go. The strength I feel in grabbing the line and pulling it tight. And the landing's even better. I was always dramatic. Always landing perfectly in a crouch, on the balls of my feet, my ape draped eerily over me. Occasionally slipping into triple lockdown rooms undetected; waiting in the shadows like Bruce would to reveal myself.
I loved that rush. The thrill of flight, Kon used to call it. The exhilaration of letting go. I loved it. The element of free-flight and escapism. It was almost enough to make me just want to swing around the city from roof to roof every night. But I couldn't. Not when men like the Joker and women like Poison Ivy ar eout there breaking the law and doing wrong. Someone had to stop them.
Its why Bruce does what he does. It's why I made my case to become the next Robin. To fix the wrong. I wanted to help Batman. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference...for the better.
It was for show, mainly. For some reason, back when I first told Bruce that he needed me—needed a Robin—to balance his life, I couldn't help feeling that I was doing it for my own reasons. I needed balance as much as Bruce Wayne did. We…needed each other.
"I've got you Tim."
The nightmare always begins the same. Me, on my knees, in dad's blood. Helpless.
"You should go. Definitely go," my father says to me as he stares affectionately at the circular R emblem on my uniform. There's a terrible sense of finality to it. I can see the look in his eyes; I didn't train to become Robin for nothing. I didn't learn a dozen martial arts from one of the world's greatest killers-Lady Shivafor nothing. I can read a person's emotions like a doctor reads an x-ray. I knew the look in my father's eye that night. It wasn't verbal. But it was a good-bye jsut the same. And an "I love you."
Too many loved ones had already died or been caught in the middle. Sue Dibny, Jean Loring. A death threat to Lois Lane. The disabling of the Justice League at the hands of Deathstroke and Dr. Light It was too much. Too many people had stumbled into the crosshairs. A few months after I became Robin, I lost my mother to a voodoo psychotic. I didn't even get to say goodbye to her. There was only one way of stopping it. Everyone knew it. We had to get out there and catch the responsible party. I didn't know it was going to cost so much.
Before I drop into the night, I stare into my father's eyes.
"I'm proud of you son."
Bruce tells me how it happened, based on his reconstruction of the crime scene. When some people show up asking access to the scene, Detective Kitch shows them the door.
Captain Boomerang—George Harkness—bursts through the doorway to my home. Hunched over slightly, his beady brown eyes staring menacingly around the living room—like a lion looking for a gazelle, an easy pick from the back of the herd; his fingers wrap themselves around a golden boomerang. He grins darkly, and sickly, baring his yellowed teeth.
In a flash, it happens. Dad lunges forward, squeezing off three shots—they all catch Boomerang square in the chest and send him to the ground. With his last breath, Boomerang releases a razor boomerang which goes straight through dad's chest, dissecting his heart and spilling out his blood through the exit wound by his shoulder blade.
I run. Upstairs. I tear off my uniform for reasons I couldn't begin to explain. Yes, officer, I was asleep when I heard gunshots. I ran in to see my dad lying in a pool of his own blood. Dead at my feet. Yeah, that's the excuse I would have fed Allen or Montoya or whoever they had on beat that night. Part of me wonders if Gordon would have understood.
I step over Boomerang's body, not even bothering with his fat, bloated corpse and start prying the boomerang out of dad's chest. It's not budging. Not an inch. My vision starts to blur as the tears swell.
"Get it out…" I manage weakly, my voice barely a crackle against the hushed silence of my house.
A warm hand on my shoulder, and I turn to see Bruce. He may have the cowl on, but I can still see his face. The face of an eight-year old boy. On his knees. In his parent's blood.
"I've got you."
The nightmare always begins the same. Me. Orphaned. Alone. Helpless…with Batman's shadow over me.