Title: A Promise is a Promise
Author: DC Luder
Rating: T for suggested violence and dismal brooding
Summary: Dick takes a moment to reflect before donning the cowl.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: After losing my grandmother suddenly last weekend, I found it therapeutic to write this one-shot, especially considering how fond she was of reading my "little hero stories". That and lots of Tanqueray Rangpur gin.
My debut as Robin included defending the Bat-Cave from being infiltrated by Two-Face, the Joker, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. In less than fifteen seconds, I had personally taken out the frozen and floral threats before Batman arrived through the secret tunnel to help take out the remaining lunatics.
Not bad for a rookie.
It was more than a decade ago but I can still hear the Joker's laugh echoing in the Cave, the rattle of gun fire as bullets flew in my direction and the sick thunks as Batman drove his fists into Two-Face. In the end, Joker had actually saved us by shooting his dissociated identity stricken friend but it was only seconds before he aimed the gun back at us.
Before his skinny, gloved fingers could pull the trigger one last time, I had knocked him unconscious with one of the training bo staffs.
Three out of four, not bad at all.
That had been the night the dynamic duo had been born.
Technically speaking, I hadn't been Robin that night, just a boy doing what he could to protect his new home and his new family from campy horror movie rejects. After Batman had bound and returned the foursome back to Gotham, I had expected him to return furious at my actions, for risking my life.
Instead, he had simply said, "Come with me."
Still wearing my new domino mask and my old cicrus outfit, I had followed Batman deep into the recesses of the Cave, squeezing through a narrow passage before finding myself in a dark chamber. Without saying a word, he had lit a match, striking it against the rough surface of his gloved palm. After a deep breath he had asked if I was willing to reconsider the path I had chosen.
The cocky little kids that I had been, I had declared, "No way."
He had then suggested I may need a different uniform, seeing how the yellow cape was practically a target.
Again, in the dark, creepy cavern, I had showed no fear and responded that the colors I wore were those of my parents.
He had then asked what I wanted to call myself.
He had made me promise loyalty.
And above all else, courage.
As a boy, I had looked up at the cowl every night, knowing it's true power. It concealed the identity of the world's greatest detective. Communication and optical devices connected him to the world and allowed him to see well beyond the obvious. But it's most important function was to invoke fear into those who preyed on the innocent.
Only Batman's silhouette would send grown men running, screaming for their mothers.
Back then, when I was alone in the costume vault I had tried the cowl, making scary faces in the lone mirror before moving on to goofy grins and tongue twisting antics. The last face I always made was the look, the scowl of resent and hatred off all things criminal. By the time I was twelve, I had perfected it and once I was a teenager it didn't seem that fun anymore.
The next time I wore it, I had been asked to. Bruce was preparing to return to the mantle after a vicious fight with Azrael, who in his time in the cowl had defied it beyond recognition. Initially, when Bane had nearly killed him, Bruce had intentionally hid his injuries from myself as well as a majority of his allies, save for Alfred, Tim and Jean Paul. Seeing how Tim was still a young, impressionable lad and Alfred didn't enjoy swinging on grapple lines, Bruce had asked Jean Paul to take the cowl until he recovered.
I always blamed Bruce's momentary lapse of judgment on the fact that nearly every bone in his body was broken.
After being relinquished of duty, I had gladly returned to my own guise, free from the pressures of having to be the boogeyman's boogeyman. Although brief, the time I had spent as Batman would have lasted me a lifetime, even though it gave me some nice fist time with Two-Face to settle some old scores. At the core it, I supposed I didn't want to think of a time when Bruce wasn't the one behind the mask.
Even still, if Bruce ever asked me to step in again for him I would have done so in a half of a lub-dubb.
Then the clock struck midnight and Bruce had turned out to be human, after all.
In his holographic will, he had asked me not to take up the mantle, urging me from the grave that Nightwing and Robin can take care of Gotham on their own.
The first month without him had proved otherwise.
Gotham needs Batman
Batman needs Robin.
Damn you, Bruce.
The struggle to fill the void of power had nearly killed all of us, allies and enemies alike. Without Batman to take control, the city would fall to pieces, just as it had in NML. Gotham needed her guardian, there was no questioning a concept that had been followed for decades.
"I'm sorry, Bruce" I whispered to the cold ground below me, "But I have to break a promise I made you…"
An unmarked grave. It still haunted me nearly every waking moment that the man who had raised me, the man who had saved the world ten times over and had sacrificed his life in order to do so one final time was put to rest as if he had been a nobody. At Tim's persistence, his own way of coping, we had decided not to declare Bruce's death publicly.
Thus fueling Tim's global manhunt for a ghost., which was nearly as logical as a one man's war on crime. It was difficult to argue with DNA, but Tim had found a way, assuring all of us that Bruce was alive and well somewhere.
I wish I had such blind faith, but…
With the sun nearly set, I knelt beside final plot to be filled in the Wayne family cemetery, "I promised you loyalty… but I this is one request I can't honor… They need him now, more than ever, Bruce…" The slight breeze that had been stirring that afternoon finally shifted into a steady wind, causing the long black cape hanging from my shoulders to rise, coming back to life.
Quenching a need to touch the cold, dead earth, I instead sent a shaky hand through my short hair, "But I will make this vow to you… I will carry on your war, Bruce… And I will see to it that there are those ready to step up when I can no longer do so. I vow that no innocent suffers injustice under my watch, nor will they face the tragedies that we endured… and I promise… To…"
I have to.
"I promise to uphold this mantle. To honor it as you once did… To use it to strike fear into the heart of evil…"
My fingers steadied as they grasped the Kevlar lined cowl as it hung between my shoulders. Upon pulling it into place, I finished in a low gravelly whisper, "A promise is a promise."