Gotham Tales: Celebration of Forgotten Days

By: Christopher W. Blaine


DISCLAIMER: All of the characters contained in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan-related, non-profit entertainment purposes only. This original work of fiction is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in any format, as a whole or in part, without the express permission of the author.

"Happy birthday, handsome," Wonder Girl said as she poked her head into the private room of Robin. They were in the Titans Tower, waiting to hold a general meeting of the membership and Robin was busy reading over the minutes of the last gathering.

Looking up from his notes, he smiled and invited her in. "I appreciate the sentiment, but…"

She held up a hand and sat down next to him on the bed. Though they were roughly the same age, Donna Troy had already blossomed into the very personification of womanhood. The red bodysuit she wore was becoming far too tight around the chest area and he often found himself having to check his gaze.

It was hard to believe that less than four years ago they had first met and she had looked so young, but then again, they all had. He and Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy, and of course Donna. "Let me guess," she said with a grin, "you don't celebrate your birthday."

He looked back down at the notes as he spoke, but there was a light tone to his words. "No, it's just very complicated."

"Seventeen is a magical time for a young man. You know you're getting close to your sexual peak."

Robin raised his eyebrows and his blue eyes sparkled. "Gee, with Trigon, Brother Blood and Deathstroke, I had put that completely out of my mind. Do you think I should hang up my cape and mask and start servicing the ladies of the super-hero sect?"

She reached over and squeezed his thigh. "Wearing those little green boots and short shorts, you look more like you'll be servicing the men."

"Comedy is not your strong point, you know that?"

She leaned in closer to him, giving him a spectacular view of her cleavage. "And what exactly is my strong point…Dick?"

He was almost able to keep a straight face, but it was the overdone lustfulness of her voice that did him in. She sounded more like a Gotham City hooker than a teenage seductress. He started laughing and she immediately joined him.

It was no secret that there was an attraction between the two of them, and there always had been. Of all of the members of the team, they seemed to have the most in common. She enjoyed photography and he enjoyed writing. Both were on the lookout for long term relationships. Both knew that a relationship between the two of them was impossible.

Fear of destroying their friendship kept them apart, despite typical teenage hormones. It was hard for them especially, given how closely they worked with each other. "How did you know it was my birthday anyway?" he asked.

"That would have been me, buddy," Kid Flash said. The yellow and scarlet clad hero was leaning in the doorway. "Hey, Donna, you can bend over in front of me if you want."

"I don't think Raven would appreciate that," Wonder Girl replied, standing up. Raven, the young woman who had helped reform the Teen Titans after the original group had disbanded. She and Kid Flash were now an item, as were Robin and Starfire. "And besides, I hear your heartbeat races enough as it is."

Kid Flash shrugged and sauntered into the room. Robin gave up on his notes, realizing that he was about to become the center of attention. "I am guilty of telling Donna, but I swear I didn't tell anyone else."

A younger man with green skin and hair seemed to enter the doorway as if on cue. "Hey, Rob! Happy b-day, bro!"

Kid Flash looked shocked, his mouth opening and closing, but no words coming out. He played the aghast soul very well, but Robin was not impressed. He stood up, stuffing the notes under his arms. "Thank you, everyone, but I'd prefer to just let the subject drop, okay?"

Wonder Girl was about to protest but then she caught Robin's gaze. Over the years, she had become the team shoulder to cry on and she knew that something was not being said. Asking him here in front of the others would do absolutely no good, and so she was resigned to the fact that whatever it was, it would have to wait.

Clad only in shoes and a pair of shorts, complete with the Superman logo, Dick Grayson completed another set of reps with the free weights. His Robin costume was in the washing machine and he liked to work out while doing his laundry. It was a routine that he welcomed in his chaotic life.

Orphaned while still a child, Dick had been taken in by billionaire Bruce Wayne. Instead of prep schools and polo matches, though, Bruce had introduced Dick to the life of a super-hero. As Batman and Robin, they had kept the streets of Gotham City safe for the honest and hard-working citizens.

And while he knew that what they did served the common good, it wasn't much of a childhood. Those thoughts occupied his mind as he began another round of weight lifting. His young body relished the idea of physical exertion and he decided to push his limits today.

Engrossed in his routine, he didn't hear the door to the gymnasium open. Wonder Girl, dressed in a full body leotard, strolled in whistling a happy tune. She had tried to get more information out of Kid Flash concerning Robin's mood, but that ended up going nowhere.

"He's never really confided in me, and I'm supposed to be his best friend. The only reason I know today is his birthday is because when were thirteen, he invited me to his house for a party," Kid Flash had said when they had spoke earlier. He had been eating hot dogs cooked up by Cyborg. "It was weird because we were the only ones there, literally. Kind of spooky, if you know what I mean."

"Did he ever explain why nobody else had shown up?" she had asked.

Finishing his third wiener, Kid Flash swallowed and wiped his mouth. "C'mon, Donna; he was raised by Batman for God's sake. You think he had any friends to invite?"

Donna had not bothered to answer, but instead excused herself and checked around to see where Robin had gone off. A check of the security monitors showed him hitting the weights in the gym and she decided that it was a good as place as any to talk.

She stepped up to him and he caught wind of her perfume. "Wearing the cheap stuff today?"

"I think you got it for me for Christmas last year," she joked. "Can we talk?"

He pushed the bar back up and let it set on the stand. "Sure," he said sitting up.

"I wanted to talk to you away from the others, especially Kory," she said, referring to his girlfriend. "As I understand it, she's trying to cook you dinner up in the kitchen."

He shook visibly. "Have you ever had Tamarian spice loaf? God, I wish she would just make me a hamburger." He smiled and looked up at her. "She wants to celebrate my birthday."

"I think all of would have liked to, Dick. We're your family…"

His face visibly darkened. "No, you're not, Donna. You guys are my friends and some of you," he looked away briefly, "some of you are more than that. But, you aren't my family."

She bit her bottom lip, realizing that she had stepped on some thin ice with her statement. It was a clue and so she decided to probe a little more. "I'm sure that the Batman…"

He stood up and grabbed a towel. Donna had to catch her breath as he did so. She was used to being ogled, but it was something else to be the one doing it. She wondered why all men couldn't be built like that. "Bruce doesn't celebrate birthdays; he hasn't since he took me in."

"Doesn't like kids parties?'

He laughed a gentle laugh and started moving towards the laundry room. Donna fell in step next to him. "No, it goes a lot a deeper than that. I'm not sure I want to talk about it."

"Too bad, little man, you opened the door," she said, giving him a light punch in the shoulder.

"Actually, didn't Wally open his mouth first?" he asked.

Donna sighed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah…listen, I can tell there's something more going on here. Whenever one of us celebrates a special day, you always make sure there is some sort of celebration. I know you divert some of your own money into the general spending account so everyone can buy a present for everyone else. Who is it that goes out and gets the Christmas tree every year? Who passes out the candy on Halloween?"

He held up a finger. "Ah, but I'm hoping to trap unwary super-villains with the candy."

"Uh-huh," Donna replied, unconvinced. "What is this I hear about you inviting Wally to a birthday party with nobody there?"

"Oh, that," he said, reaching into the washer and pulling out his uniform. Donna opened up the dryer for him. "Yeah, well that was a mistake. I wanted to try and have a new birthday."

Grabbing a dryer sheet, she added it to the load. "A new birthday?"

He shrugged. "I figured if I got a new birthday, maybe Bruce would like to celebrate it."

She didn't know why, but she felt her heart breaking as she listened. Was she really the surrogate mother to the boys on the team? There were times she wished Speedy were still here, because all he ever wanted was sex and right now, that seemed a lot less demanding than trying to take on so many emotional burdens. Besides, Raven was the empathy, Wonder Girl was supposed to be tough. "It sounds to me like you and Bruce need to sit down and talk about this. You have to remember that fatherhood was sort of forced onto him by circumstances. Most men wouldn't have done what he did."

Dick took in a deep breath and got a look in his face that made Dona think he was about to pass out. "It wasn't Bruce, it was me. When he took me in, I asked that we didn't celebrate my birthday. I was young and full of pain and anger. When I got a little older, I realized I might have made a mistake but I didn't know how to approach him about the subject."

She closed the dryer and set it on low heat. After turning it on, they walked back out into the gym proper and headed over to the boxing ring. He suggested they go a few rounds and she agreed. She was his favorite opponent because of her enhanced abilities, he would not have to hold back. "So, today really isn't your birthday?"

He pulled on the gloves, which automatically sealed to his wrists. They had been a gift from Superman, who had them developed at S.T.A.R. labs. "No, it's not, but it is the day I choose to celebrate it. Even went so far as to get my birth certificate changed."

She stepped into the ring and started hopping around, getting her rhythm. "Watch the fists," she joked. "How on Earth do you get a birth certificate changed?"

"Work for the Batman and you learn how to change the Declaration of Independence." He finished his warm-up and began to circle her. "It was a dumb idea, like I said."

Wonder Girl dodged a short jab and gave him one in return. "That doesn't explain why you don't like to celebrate your real birthday. In fact, it sounds to me like you were trying to create someone new when you went to live with Bruce."

He swung hard at her, catching her on the shoulder and sending her back slightly. There was no real damage, but it had caught her off-guard. "That's not it," he replied, catching her high in the chest. "It was something else."

She punched low, catching his stomach. "Are you going to tell me?" Another punch to the ribs with a right cross sent him sprawling and she was afraid that she had not held back enough. Her strength was well above that of a normal human and breaking bones was relatively easy for her.

He put his head back against a corner post and laughed. She was relieved to see that he was undamaged. "You know my parents were killed when I was still pretty young…"

It was more of a statement of fact then a question. Those closest to him knew that John and Mary Grayson, two-thirds of the Flying Graysons, had been murdered as part of a plot to extort money from the Haly Circus. That had left young Richard an orphan who would eventually be taken in by another orphan, Bruce Wayne.

She walked over and extended a hand to him to help him up. "Yes," she said as she pulled. The statement had not immediately caught her attention, not that she was cold or uncaring, only that he had mentioned it in passing it seemed. Focusing on it, though, she realized that for all intents and purposes, it really did not belong in there conversation.


"Oh my God, Dick…they weren't killed on your…?"

He shook his head. "No, it was a month before. The thing was that after I moved into Wayne Manor, the circus sent over my parents possessions to me and I found several wrapped birthday presents."

Donna slowly nodded. "And it must have hurt to open them, didn't it?"

He shrugged and began pulling off his gloves, signaling that there would be no sparring match today. "I wouldn't know because I never opened them." He pulled the gloves off and then began helping her with the pair she had on. As he tugged, he explained in more detail. "In my mind, it was like if I never opened them, then they couldn't actually be dead because they still had to give me my presents. The I figured, if I never celebrated my birthday, then I would never have a reason to open them."

She saw the logic and realized that it made perfect sense if you looked at it from the perspective of a child who had watched his parents murdered. Again, she felt a lump in her throat as she tried to comprehend the personal pain that her friend must constantly endure. It was no wonder that he and the Batman had made such a perfect team. "But you missed being able to celebrate one like a normal child, didn't you?"

He nodded and wiped his eye, saying something about sweat in it. "It didn't work, though. Wally must have thought I was a moron or something and I was too embarrassed to try and explain it. Bruce tried to talk to me about it, as did Alfred, but I just shut them out. I only gave the date I made up to Kory so she wouldn't think I was trying to keep her out of my life."

"So, those presents are still unopened?"

Her climbed out of the ring and waited for her to join him. "Under my bed at Wayne Manor, collecting dust."

"Well, I think you're a pig-headed little snot," she said matter-of-factly. His expression conveyed his shock and she continued without giving him time to react. "Your parents wanted you to have those presents, not use them as some macabre remembrance! Birthdays are meant to be a celebration of life, and you mock your parents by not enjoying yours!"

"Now just hold the hell on for a minute, sister," he said, waving a finger at her. His face was flush with hot blood.

She poked a finger into his chest. "No, you hold on! You're alive, Dick; don't you think that your parents, wherever they are, are happy about that? Your birthday celebrates the ultimate expression of their love for each other and when you ignore it, you ignore the passions that brought them together. How many times have you told me that you believe in Heaven, Dick? Are there tears being shed there now because you want to be ungrateful?"

"I am not ungrateful!" he bellowed, tears now in his eyes.

Wonder Girl found that she was tearing up as well, despite herself. "What about Bruce? Don't you think he would like to celebrate your birthday? Birthdays are not about presents or about getting older, Dick; it's a time for people to get together and show their joy for someone just being there. Your parents are dead, Dick, and its okay to mourn them. Don't waste any part of the life they gave you wallowing in self-pity. Would they want that? Would any parent want that?"

He was visibly trembling, his mouth open and the tears flowing like small rivers. Instinctively, she reached out for him and he fell into her arms. She held him there as he cried, cried over things that had been and things that would never be. It was no surprise to her that she was also doing the same thing, holding him close and smoothing his hair, trying to sooth the anger and hurt that was pouring from him.

A floodgate had been opened and the emotions poured forth unabated, threatening to overwhelm her. They were like a physical flood, something tangible that had to grasped and pulled in close to understand. Deep in her heart, she wanted to do more than just hold him, she wanted to make the pain go away.

There was a spark of envy towards Kory, his girlfriend, because she knew that it would be with her that he would work out his pain. Their friendship would only endure if the walls they had put up were allowed to stand.

Sobbing, he choked out one statement. "I love you, Donna."

She held her friend tightly. "I know. I love you too."

Dick Grayson set his overnight bag down and fished for the keys to the front door to Wayne Manor. Alfred, the loyal butler, was away on a holiday and he figured Bruce was asleep somewhere, either in his bed or down in the bowels of the Batcave. Closing the door, he started walking through the stately mansion, seeing if anything had changed.

He was spending more and more of his time away from his home, as his need and desire for independence overwhelmed his obligations to Gotham City. He sometimes wondered if it were some sort of precursor to things to come, but today he decided mot to dwell on it. As he passed the library, he stopped short and turned to walk back in.

The room was Bruce's favorite, as it not only contained a collection of books and manuscripts that rivaled any of the finest libraries in the world, but it was also here that he put the photographs and paintings of the Wayne family. There were portraits going back almost three hundred years, all preserved in mint condition and lovingly kept museum-clean by Alfred. Those nights when the Batman preferred not to prowl the streets of Gotham City, or was unable to as he recuperated from the previous night's injuries, he would sit in here, reading next to the fire, regardless of the time of year.

In this room, Bruce Wayne would sip at a brandy, the only time he would consume alcohol, while wearing his father's smoking jacket. Bruce had yet to take up the pipe that his father had loved so much.

Bruce did not celebrate his birthday, though he would always grudgingly accept any gift or well-wishes from those who would offer them. It wasn't anything as deep or emotional as Dick's reasons, it was simply that Bruce hated the thought of getting older. "I certainly don't need a bunch of people pointing out to me that I'm another day closer to the point where I can't do what I want," he would often times grumble.

Nodding, Dick turned and ran to the stairs, taking them three at a time and running through the upper hallway until he reached his room. Flinging the door open and throwing his bag on his bed, he looked under his bed and pulled out a large cardboard box. Just before he could open it, a voice caused him to jump. "I thought I told you no running," Bruce said.

Dick smiled and turned to see him in his monogram pajamas, hair messed up and indicating that Dick must have woke him up. "Sorry about that, but I was in a hurry."

Bruce looked down at the box. "So I see. Let me guess, West told everyone it was your birthday."

Dick nodded. "Yeah, something like that. I had a long talk with Donna, too."

Bruce pursed his lips and shuffled over to the bed to sit down. There was a popping sound as he did so, but Dick refrained from making an "old man" joke. "I figure you would talk to Kory." It was a surprising statement, especially given Bruce's feelings about Dick's relationship with the alien princess.

"I don't think I'm ready to share everything with her just yet," Dick replied, nervously fingering the cardboard box.

"Open it," Bruce said, nodding at the box.

Slowly, he obeyed, saying a silent prayer of thanks to his parents and to God. Inside were three wrapped presents. He picked up the smallest and shook it, but there was no sound. He looked at Bruce, who had a slight twinkle in his eye. It was a look that Dick only saw at Christmas. Peeling back the paper, Dick was excited to find a book inside.

"The True Story of Superman, by Warner Books!" he exclaimed. "I remember how bad I wanted this…"

Bruce rolled his eyes. "It's just tabloid newspaper reprints," he said with disgust. Bruce did not care very much for Superman, while Dick practically worshipped him. "Parents shouldn't encourage such things."

"Ha! You're just jealous that nobody wants to write about the Batman!"

Bruce feigned boredom. "Open the rest before I ground you for a week."

Dick grabbed another present and noted that it felt soft. He ripped it open to find several pairs of underwear. He shook his head and Bruce snickered. "Aw, it's even got your initials on them. I'm sure Alfred will find them most presentable for a young ward."

"Ha, ha, ha…I'll bet you anything my mother picked these out. Dad picked out the book…"

"So that would lead you to conclude that the third is from the both of them. Maybe it's a book about underwear."

Dick looked and was surprised to see a genuine smile on Bruce's face and he realized that Donna had been right all along. Bruce Wayne never had to take him in after his parents had been killed, but he had anyway. He had risen to a challenge that most men would have walked away from. But Dick's grief had forced him to put limits on how close he and Bruce could become. The older man, no stranger to pain, accepted the limits and conditions without protest. There was something noble to that thinking, but also an underlying sadness as well.

Opening the last present, Dick's eyes began to tear up. He held up the picture to Bruce, who saw that it was a family portrait, taken not too long before the tragic death of Dick's parents. "I forgot all about this… I was so excited because it would have been the first picture we took as a family in regular clothes. Dad called them his 'mass clothes'. God, they were so young…"

Bruce held out his hand and Dick handed over the picture. He could see so much of John Grayson is Dick, but there was the softness of Mary there as well. "It's quite a picture," he said standing up. Dick reached for it, but Bruce pulled it away. "Follow me," he said, leaving the room.

They eventually ended up in the library, where Bruce went over and carefully removed a picture of Colonel Thaddeus Wayne from the wall. In its place, he hung Dick's picture. Dick was surprised and wanted to say something, but Bruce cut him off. "You are part of my family, Dick, and that means that your ancestors belong in this room just as much as mine. This picture would bring honor to this room and this house. One day, God willing, this will all be yours…son."

Dick nodded and accepted a hug from Bruce. When it was over, the man shuffled out of the room, claiming that some people had work to do that night. Dick smiled as he left and turned to observe the photograph, enjoying the warm feelings as he remembered so many wonderful times with his parents.

"Oh, Dick," Bruce said, poking his head back into the library. "Happy birthday."

And for once, Dick thought, it finally was.