I always knew I needed Bruce. That was as clear as day and night. He gave me everything. For 4 years Bruce cared for me and all together loved me. I needed all that.
I needed him to put me through a good school, to provide emotional support, to love me. He took care of all those needs, but he took care of even more basic needs then that.
But for Bruce, I wouldn't eat, feel warm, cool, bathe, have a roof over my head. Everything from the most basic need of mine to the largest was taken care of by him.
This was a source of constant worry to me because it occurred to me one day while I was thinking. What did I do for Bruce? He could do all those things for himself and had for a long time before I came along.
I searched and searched for some reason he had to keep me around. Batman didn't really need a sidekick. I got him into more messes then any one person should possibly be able to get into and saved him from maybe one or two, often times the ones I created for him and I.
Bruce Wayne didn't need a son. I was more stress, more work, and more worry. People were constantly slamming him for taking me in and altogether making life fairly miserable for him. I did too, I'm sure.
It's different when you're their real son. At least if I was Bruce's real son, I could carry on his family name. There was no Wayne to carry on that name. I scared many of those girls off too, I'm sure. I vexed his dating life and killed a lot of his social excursions, so why, logically, did he keep me around.
It scared me, this realization of mine, and I was sure as soon as he figured it out, I would be off to an orphanage or some stinking foster home.
I tried being good for a while, less of a burden, so he would be less likely to realize my lack of purpose, but that didn't last long. It simply wasn't possible for me to be good for very long at all. So, I went through my life with this constant fear that he would one day cease to see my purpose and get rid of me.
Well, one day, I finally found out why he kept me around and I'm rather unhappy about the fact it took something like that to make me figure it all out.
It started as a relatively normal patrol I suppose. I was bouncing and bubbling with excitement, Batman his usual stern and intimidating self. "Settle down Dick", he told me. I nodded and quieted. He gave me a funny look, like he wasn't used to me actually listening, and put a hand on my shoulder.
Then, he pointed to a building to the left of us. I nodded. There was a burglary happening over there and we were going to stop it. I pranced along rather happily, my feet kicking up dust. It was such a sunny day; I couldn't help but feel the elation bubbling up inside of me like a geyser. I stopped quickly however, under his stern gaze, and attempted to calm down a bit.
"You're getting ahead of yourself Grayson", I said to myself, "remember, be good." Easier said then done however. Batman led me over until we were in front of the building, looking down on it.
"Now let's hurry this up", he said quietly, "so we can get home and get dinner before Alfred gets angry." I could tell he was trying to lighten the mood. I gave him a small smile, but attempted to stay on task. Batman was obviously puzzled by this, but didn't look into it very much. We had work to do.
He rounded the corner around the other side of the shopping center where the crooks were stuffing their bags with cash and goods. Batman gave me a few hand signals to relay to me what we were supposed to do, but I didn't get all of them. I was a bit distracted that day, I don't remember from what it was, but whatever it was, it was enough to make me miss a few key things.
I gave no indication of this, however, and nodded like I knew what he was talking about. We spilt down the center of the building, Batman going left and I going right. The plan was such a simple one, looking back I don't see how I could have botched it.
We swung in from both sides like we always did. I took the crooks on the right, he the ones on the left. Bounding like a stag, I danced over their heads, kicking and punching.
Then, I saw a big guy advancing on Batman. The rule was, 'call out but stick with your own crooks.' Getting in your partner's way was bad news from the start, but I had the need to prove to him that I had his back. I flipped over and hit the guy with a smack. He toppled backward into a display of Lego's and flipped over onto his face.
Feeling good, I turned to receive Batman's praise when it happened. The bullet resounded with a sickening crack through the store, loud and piercing. I felt a searing pain in my stomach and doubled over, grasping at it, eyes popping with shock.
I looked down at my gloves and saw them painted red. Toppling to the ground, I leaned foreword on my knees with choked up pain and distress. I could feel that agony unfolding like a flower within me, spreading through my abdomen until it all burned.
The crook was staring at me with something close to shock on his stupid face, but that quickly turned to glee. With a large toothless grin he shrieked happily, "I killed the boy blunder, I killed him."
That was when it hit me, I was on death's doorstep; it was glaring down at me. I was suddenly frightened, this indescribable fear blooming within me like the pain. "Batman", I screamed, because I wanted him to hold on to me, to protect me from this doom like he had protected me from so much else. The lights started to blur together and I saw Batman's face, uncharacteristic fear painted across it.
He grabbed my arms. "Robin", he said, but his voice was oddly distorted. His fear made me even more frightened and tears started to trickle down my face, tears of anguish and terror.
Another crook came up behind Batman, but he let go of me and punched him. Like a whirlwind he cut through them until they ran away yelping, tails between their legs like frightened puppies, all the while me standing by and shrieking with fear at the top of my lungs for him to come and hold me.
I didn't want to be alone if I was going to die, that would have been just too scary. Batman was back soon afterwards, responding to my fear. He grabbed me and held onto me, collecting me in his strong arms to transfer me to a cradle hold. That was easy for him; I had always been small. Compared to Batman, everyone was small.
I could feel the blood leaching from my wound, but he was there to protect me, which meant everything was ok, I was safe. Whatever happened, he was going to be there.
Somehow, even as he picked me up with such obvious fear and even though I knew I was going quickly, I was calm, or calmer then I had been at least. I just wished I hadn't had to go out with a mistake. That's what I would be remembered for, screwing up, the boy blunder forever. The fear returned in waves, the calm being replaced by terror as the sheer force of what was going on attacked me with vengeance. Batman whisked me swiftly over the rooftops and into the nearest doctor's office.
By that time, I was so delirious, I had no idea what was happening, but I felt myself leave his arms. I started to scream again, exerting what little energy I had left. He was by my side again in an instant, hands on my chest, trying desperately to calm me.
"It's ok Robin", he said gently, his strong voice inspiring a kind of composure in me, "it's alright, it's gona be ok, the doctors are gona take care of you and I'll be right here." I relaxed after that. They put an IV in me; a quick prick and I could feel the icy cold anesthetic seething through my veins before I went out.
I don't remember exactly when I woke; I just know I was feeling horrible. I felt like I wanted to puke. I didn't though, so I had that to be grateful for. The pain was still there, ripping its tiny claws into the flesh within my abdomen.
I blinked once or twice and moved my head with a little groan. I was in a hospital gown in one of those beds. I was still hooked up to an IV; the poll was close by. There was an oxygen mask over my face. The pure oxygen dried my throat and made me thirsty, but I didn't have any water to cool it and I could barely move my arms. I felt so weak.
The room was pale and frightening, like many hospital rooms are. My crippled imagination could already envision all sorts of terrible things that could have happened within these white washed walls and I knew right then I did not want to be here. I was about to call out for Batman to come and take me away when I saw him.
He was on the other side of the room, talking to a doctor. I strained my ears to hear what they were saying. It wasn't too hard; Batman always talks loud when he's under stress. "But he has to be ok, he just has to."
"No guarantees Batman", the doctor said sadly, "he might not make it. He is a strong kid, I will admit that, the strongest kid I've ever seen, but he's been hurt bad. We haven't quite managed to stop the bleeding and we're a small operation. I don't know if we can get more blood in time."
"I can give some", Batman said.
"I already told you Batman", the doctor said, "You're the wrong blood type. It would only put him in more jeopardy if we gave him your blood, it would even kill him." Batman pounded his fist angrily against the wall.
"But I need him doctor, you've got to pull him through, I need him too much to let him go." I could feel myself start to drop back into unconsciousness. Just the strain of staying awake was too much for me in my weakened state, but before I did fall I remember feeling confused.
What did he mean he needed me? How did the Batman need Robin? Before I could contemplate it anymore, I was asleep.
When I woke up the next time, I felt a hand on my forehead. That was the first sense that came back to me, my sense of touch. I slowly opened my eyes. The oxygen mask was still on my face so I couldn't really speak, but I could make a few sounds.
The first one that pealed from my lips was a groan. Then, I saw Batman. He was sitting beside me, real close on a chair. It was his hand I felt, going gently though my hair. His other hand was holding mine. That felt good. It made me feel more secure to have that hand tethering me to life.
Batman immediately searched my face when he heard me. I was able to move a little more now. I lifted my hand up to touch his face, to make absolutely sure it was really he. I found that familiar scar on his chin and I knew. I gave him a weak smile and he gave me a relived one back.
"Thank God Dick", Batman said, "they said you might not wake up." He lifted the hand that had been stroking my hair and grasped my small one in his. I relaxed. "The doctor said if you regained consciousness, you'd live." I felt happiness seep though me. I was going to live, that was good. Batman gently removed the oxygen mask. It felt good to take in real air.
"Water", I croaked softly.
"Not yet", Batman soothed, "the doctor says not yet." I nodded. I trusted his judgment. I started to get up, wanted suddenly to stretch. "No, no Dick", Batman said, "rest now, just rest." I gave a sigh and lay back down. "How do you feel?" Batman asked me.
"Like crap", I mumbled. That brought a smile to his face. Then, I frowned. I remembered what had been bothering me earlier.
"What is it Dick?" Batman asked, concerned something might be really wrong.
"Just something you were saying earlier to the doctor", I replied, "I guess I just didn't understand."
"What is it?" he asked.
"When you were talking, you said that you needed me, why's that?" Now, Batman looked confused.
"What do you mean Dick?"
"I mean, you said you needed me, but you don't really. I need you, I know that, but do you really need me?"
"Of course I do Dick", Batman said, "what ever would give you the silly idea that I don't? I love you."
"Why", I persisted, determined to get a straight answer from him before I lost consciousness again, "Why do you need me?"
"Because you keep me sane Dick", Batman said, "If I didn't have you, why, who would make me laugh, who would keep me from destroying myself in my brooding? Who would prance around in that ridiculous costume and help me battle crime? Who would love me like you do? Everyone needs someone to love him or her.
Why, the way I see it, I need you more then you could ever need me. You're easy to love, but it takes a very special person to love someone like me. You keep me sane Dick, you keep all those people of Gotham safe by keeping the Batman from becoming the very thing he fights every day. You're very important to me, that's why I need you." I gazed up at him serenely.
"Really", I asked.
"Of course son", Batman said softly, "now get some rest so we can get you out of here." I gave a whistling sigh and closed my eyes, the feel of his cool hands on my skin and his love in my heart. I was finally satisfied. So running at the heels of Batman did not only good for me, but good for Gotham, good for Batman, and catastrophic for the villains.
It was good to be Robin and spread my wings, reaching for the sky with their tips because I did the one thing no one else could do, I kept Batman on the ground, sticking with life. I almost smiled in my sleep. It was so simple, why hadn't I seen it before. Because it took a shot to break my day and school me on the one thing that had bothered me longer then the Joker's laugh and the Riddler's nearly impossible enigmas. Funny how life works out, huh?