AN: This is the final (I'm pretty positive this time, guys) installment of Pipes. It is, as I've said, from Robin's POV. The ending's a bit rushed, largely because I had a lot of trouble with it. ^^, This was supposed to have come out yesterday, but, like I said, the ending was troublesome and I had things to do for the majority of today (eight hours majority GAH).
This might be my last update for my fics in general until around Saturday. Tomorrow, I have more to work on and on Friday, I hope to do something more socially oriented. :) (Which means i want to see Bradley Cooper in his new movie.)
There might be some differences between Robin's POV and Wally's. I didn't think to check myself on the events, and some of the stuff Robin does in Wally's POV might not happen in Robin's POV. Fail on my part? Quite possibly.
Richard 'Dick' Grayson loves his adoptive father. He adores him, idolizes him, and when he was younger he even followed the man around. Bruce Wayne is everything to Dick: his support, his protection, his family.
But Bruce isn't the easiest person to please. Dick, for all his effort and all his love, doesn't always earn the congratulations he wants from Bruce. He does, however, always earn a lecture or a correction. It's a loosing battle for Dick and he wants, more than anything, to do something so great that Bruce can't fault or dismiss it.
Some days, the want is a physical presence in Dick's mind. Some days, Dick needs Bruce to tell him good job, because his training is going so slowly and everything he does seems to be wrong. Some days, the want to do something great is a need rather than a desire.
It's this want, Dick supposes, that leads to the mess.
He and Bruce are fighting, and Dick is mad and frustrated at how little regard Bruce has for him. His words are growing louder, more immature, and the fight is passing into an area of bad that neither he nor Bruce have ever dared go into.
It drags out for another minute, and Dick has no intention of backing down. He's hitting below the belt, snidely bringing up topics that cause Bruce pain. He can see the frustration rising on Bruce's face, and knows Bruce will end the argument soon. He's right.
Annoyed, Bruce finally brings his fist down onto the table and snarls, "Enough!" Dick is sent to his room for the night while Bruce leaves to suit up. Alfred escorts him, and Dick tries to ignore the look of disappointment lining the butler's face.
In his room, Dick throws a tantrum, breaking a lamp, his calculator, and an unfortunate Buzz Lightyear mug. The noise distracts him and the pointless destruction is calming. Eventually, he runs out of things to throw.
Dick turns on his radio to listen to the police reports, mulishly deciding that he could at least listen to the crime Bruce is about to fight. He flips through a few police lines, but nothing interesting catches his attention. Then a report comes on, slightly desperate, announcing that the Joker is running amuck in Gotham while Batman is busy dealing with Poison Ivy.
Lying on his bed, belly down, Dick smirks.
He knows it's stupid. He doesn't really care, not too much. If he can get the Joker, he tells himself, Bruce will have to tell him good job. Bruce will have to acknowledge that Robin is his protégé, his partner, his son.
Robin gathers his utility belt and the keys to his motorcycle. He places his mask on carefully, marking the movement as the beginning of his recognition.
When he's properly suited and equipped, Robin goes to leave, but stops. His body shudders at the thought of facing the Joker alone. Robin tries to ignore it, even takes a step towards the exit, but the fear is too great and he can't bring himself to leave the safety of the cave.
He can't do this alone, even if he wants to. Robin growls to himself, clenching the motorcycle handles in frustration.
Robin needs to do this. He needs to prove to himself and to Bruce that he's worthy. The need's consuming, and Robin won't ignore it any longer. He has to do this, and if he has to do it with help, so be it.
He pulls out a red and yellow communicator with a small lightening bolt striking down its middle.
Wally doesn't want to do it, not at first. Robin talks to him though, pushing his idea without relent. He tells Wally they'll be fine and laughs at the idea of someone hurting children. He tells Wally that they're unstoppable together and brushes off Wally's doubts.
And Wally believes him.
Robin jumps from the roof and moves towards his parked bike while Wally runs down the side of the building to meet him. They smile at each other, almost dizzy from the adrenaline, and head off.
Robin's already located the Joker, and he's not terribly surprised at the fact that the clown is in a warehouse. He pulls up the coordinates while he drives, shouting out the turns to Wally. They get there quickly, and Robin feels a rush of smugness at how efficient he can be without Batman.
He eyes the building as he pulls to a stop, watching for any signs of movement. When he doesn't notice any, Robin jerks his head towards some bushes, and Wally follows him as he hides his bike.
Robin insists they enter through a window. He sees Wally's hesitation and scowls. Wally sighs, but after a good push from Robin, heads towards the window.
The window leads into a second story walkway. There's no place to hide, but Wally and Robin move too quickly for that to be a problem. The goons standing on the walkway are easily beaten, and soon Wally and Robin are peering over the walkway's bars to look for the Joker.
Robin sees him first. He makes a shushing gesture to Wally before he jerks his head in the clown's direction. Wally nods, more to himself than to Robin. He then glances at the Joker and, meeting Robin's eyes, sticks out his tongue. Robin smiles, and assures himself that it's not forced.
The Boy Wonder moves carefully down the walkway, keeping away from the patches of light. He sees the easiest way to get to the first floor and heads towards it. Robin hears Wally following him, and makes sure to stay in the other's line of sight.
When he jumps down, Robin heads straight towards a pile of boxes he'd seen while on the walkway. Wally, after managing to get down himself, jets over to Robin's side. Without hesitating, Wally peers around boxes, staring at the Joker.
Robin leans over Wally to look around the boxes. He can see the familiar figure of the Joker standing, hunched over, in the middle of the floor. There's something odd about him, but Robin reasons it away as nervous thoughts. He's gotten here, he's gotten past the Joker— he will not ruin this moment with pointless worrying.
We're invincible. Robin smiles to himself. I'm invincible.
The thought flees when he hears the Joker licking his lips. It's a wet sound, sloppy and slurping. Robin's heard it before, but it's different this time because there's no Batman standing between him and the sound's source.
But he doesn't need Batman… right?
Robin's elbow hits Wally's side, and he takes comfort in the knowledge that whatever he's facing, he's not facing alone. He can't bring himself to think about what it is they're facing, because there's something terrifying in the wonderment and he can't afford to panic.
He feels Wally nudge him. 'What is that?' his friend mouths. Robin shakes his head, not wanting to answer. His face is tingling right now, and Robin knows it's pale and pasty because he knows he's scared.
The slurping stops. His body's trembling now, and he wants to stop it, but he can't. The Joker's laughing, and Robin realizes for the first time that night that Batman really isn't here.
"The Boy Blunder arrives!" Robin tenses at the words. "But— what's this? There's no Batman here with him!" He knows that Batman's not there. The thought is horrible, and Robin wonders what he's going to do now.
But there's something else wrong with this, and it takes Robin a moment to figure it out. "His voice is muffled," he hisses to Wally. "Why is it muffled?"
Why is it muffled? Something's covering the Joker's mouth. What is it?
Robin can see small plumes of gas rising around the Joker, blurring the edges of his body. He hears Wally start to laugh. Panic seizes, and Robin curses without realizing it. His hands dart down to his utility belt as he reaches for his gas mask.
Masks muffle voices, you idiot. Masks protect against gas.
His hands slip when they touch the mask. He curses again, but the sound is muffled by Wally's rapidly increasing laughter. Robin looks down and sees his friend curled up on the floor. "Kid Flash," he demands, kneeling beside the other boy. Wally snorts and starts to laugh harder. "Hold your breath, KF." Wally's already taken in too much gas, though, and Robin wonders how long they've been exposed to it because he was careless and he didn't notice.
Robin realizes that he should take his own advice. He can see the gas clearly now, small green clouds floating around the warehouse and how did he not notice them earlier? Robin reaches for his gas mask again, knowing that if he could just get it on, he might be able to handle this.
Oh, but who's he kidding? He can't handle this! He's nothing more than a little boy dressed in tights and a cape and that's funny—
Robin bites back giggles. He's breathed in some of the gas. His hands are shaking again, and he hears a clatter as the mask drops onto the tiled floor of the warehouse. And oh God, what now and Robin's giggling at the sheer terror he feels.
"Oh!" The Joker's skipping over to them. It should be ridiculous, but it's not, it's terrifying and horrible and why is he laughing? "There's two of you!"
Of course the Joker's wearing a gas mask, Robin thinks. He's not going to risk dying, not when there's Wally and Robin (Dick) around to kill and, oh God, he's giggling again and he can't stop.
There's a pipe in the man's hands. It's as big as Wally's wrist and a sort of shiny metallic and there's something funny about the fact that Robin knows that it's going to kill him, to kill Wally.
Wally's laughing beside him. Robin wants to tell him to stop, that this isn't funny, but he can't bring himself to say it, and, really, he know it's a lie—
It's not funny, it's not funny.
"Robin has a friend!"
No he doesn't, please, no, he doesn't.
"Your first play date! Isn't that adorable?"
Robin shakes his head. It's hard to move his head. He's laughing so hard his stomach hurts and moving hurts and thinking hurts and he hurts. It won't stop, the laughter won't stop, and what's he laughing at?
There's gas clouding his vision now. The Joker's becoming an undefined figure in it. It reminds Robin of the slasher movies he watches when Bruce is out, and he lets out a cackle because everyone knows what happens to the victims, and how are he and Wally any different?
The Joker's moving towards Wally. Robin lets out a nasal giggle and covers his mouth. He watches as the Joker raises up his pipe. He bites his lip, laughing and crying, as the Joker brings the pipe down. There's a crunch and Robin knows it's from Wally's head.
And it's his fault. They're invincible? Robin wants to sob, but all that comes out is a wailing cackle. There're tears running down his face. Are they from the gas? Is he crying?
Wally's still laughing when the Joker hits him the second time. It's pained and scared and reminds Robin of a little animal— in pain and not sure why. Robin lets out a giggle and he wants, more than anything, for the laughter to go away, for his stomach to stop aching, for Wally to be okay.
One more hit and Wally goes silent. Robin can hear him wheezing.
There's the sound of feet moving. In a moment of weakness, Robin feels himself give into the fear. He tries to scoot away from the sound, knowing he has nowhere to go, but he can't move because he's laughing so hard and so much.
His laughter sounds like sobbing, and Robin feels this is appropriate.
The Joker is standing right beside him. Robin can see the red of his mouth through the gas and the mask, and he's scared. The pipe is above the Joker's head.
Robin closes his eyes.
It hurts to wake up. His body throbs and aches, and there's a small urge to laugh that's lying in the back of his throat, waiting.
"What were you thinking?"
He knows who spoke, eyes open or not. "You didn't let me come with you," he rasps in response. Speaking makes things hurt more.
"So you do this? How stupid are you, Richard?"
Dick wants to shrug, but decides against it. Bruce is angry right now, and he's not stupid enough to further galvanize the man's bad mood with passive aggressive tactics.
Bruce doesn't seem to mind the lack of response. "I should take the position of Robin away from you," he hisses.
Dick winces and squeezes his eyes tighter together. He just wants to sleep.
"Tonight has, if anything, shown that you can't handle it."
Dick tries to turn his head away from Bruce's voice. He doesn't want to listen to Bruce. He just wants to go back to sleep.
"Not only did you put yourself in danger, you also put West in danger as well. Look at me, Richard."
Reluctantly, Dick forces his eyes open and faces the livid face of his guardian. Why can't he just go back to sleep?
"Do you realize how much damage West suffered from? He heals immediately, Dick, but that doesn't mean his bones can set themselves. Do you understand what that means, Dick? It means I had to break West's bones again so they could grow correctly."
Dick bites his tongue. The image of Wally, lying on the ground and laughing pops up in his mind. It won't go away.
"Is he okay?" Dick asks softly.
Bruce pauses. "He's recovering." The man sighs and rubs his forehead. "Your friend might be an idiot, Dick, but he's nothing if not loyal." It comes out as a compliment, surprising Dick.
There's a lot unsaid in that statement, Dick realizes. Loyalty isn't something Bruce holds in the highest regard; it is, the man asserts, idiot prone. Dick wonders at the hidden implications.
For a minute, he can't say anything in response.
"Why didn't the Joker kill me?" he finally whispers. It's been nagging at him. His body feels half dead right now, and Dick can't imagine he was in better health at the warehouse. Why didn't the Joker finish him?
Bruce is silent. His eyes meet Dick's and the realization hits so hard Dick's left reeling.
Idiot, loyal. Dick's eyes start to water. He knows now. Bruce's grudging regard and hidden gratitude—they're because Wally didn't let the Joker kill Dick. He closes his eyes and wonders how Wally managed it. If he thinks hard enough, Dick can see Wally's form, limp but shaking, lying on the warehouse floor. How did Wally even manage to move?
You needed him more than he needed you, a voice jeers.
Almost on cue, a pitiful whimper sounds from the other side of the room. Dick turns, startled, to find an unconscious Wally on the bed next to his. Wally had been there during the entire discussion, Dick realizes. How had he not known? His brow furrows. Why wouldn't Bruce have said anything?
An answer comes to Dick, but it's too un-Bruce to be believable.
"Flash will be here to pick up West." Bruce starts to stand up. "Go back to sleep, Dick. We can finish our discussion after he's gone."
"Wait!" Dick cries, reaching out to grasp Bruce's still armored wrist. The man hasn't changed out of his Batman suit yet. Bruce raises an eyebrow at him, and Dick has to force himself to keep his hold. "Wally should know," he says hoarsely. "He deserves to."
Bruce knew Wally was in the room when he referred to Robin as Dick. It's subtle, but Dick recognizes the carelessness as a gesture of trust.
"No," Bruce replies.
But Dick can see the softness in Bruce's eyes and knows his father well enough to see the grudging like he has for Wally. So he pushes some more, asking again if he can tell Wally.
"No," Bruce replies, firmer this time.
Dick squeezes Bruce's wrist in annoyance. "Please," he whispers. "He saved my life, Bruce. I trust him with this."
Bruce scowls at him. Dick can see the indecision on the other's face, and knows it's born from habit rather than distrust. "He's a child, Dick," Bruce says. "He can't be trusted with this kind of information."
"You trusted me," Dick mutters softly.
They stare at each other. Both know that Dick's already won and that any argument Bruce provides from this point on is superfluous. But Bruce hates loosing his arguments, especially one centered around something as important as this. Finally, Bruce lets out an aggravated grunt and nods.
"Fine." He turns to go, but hesitates.
With a small sigh, Bruce faces Dick. He reaches out and places a hand on Dick's shoulder. "Don't do this again, Richard." The hand squeezes, and Dick feels himself relax. "I thought I'd lost you." It's a whispered statement, so soft Dick thinks he imagined it. Before the last word is out, Bruce is already headed towards the door.
When Dick closes his eyes, he has a small smile on his face.
AN: Thanks to everyone for reading! :)