It's Dickie Greyson month (because little dickie first showed up in detective comics April edition) and in honor of this happy occasion here we have Dickie, at the beginning. Enjoy
I sat curled up on the bench, gazing blankly out into space. I was shivering, it was drafty in that big building. It was scary too. I think the correct term for the state I was in was probably shock, but that's not what I was thinking about then. I clutched my bag to my chest, bringing my body in as tightly as I could. My name is Richard John Grayson and at this point in my life, my parents had just died.
It was the day afterwards in fact and every time I closed my eyes, I saw them. I watched them die over and over again, each tiny detail revisited. My mother's eyes filled with a fear I had never seen as she glided just out of my reach, her skirt flaring a bit as it filled with air. I remembered screaming and reaching for her hand. Her fingertips touched mine, just barely grazing them, and then she was gone, like a wave on the ocean shore.
My father was beneath her. He had been trying to stay beneath her so that he might perhaps at least break her fall so that she might live. He was so unselfish. Even facing certain death, he was thinking of her, and ultimately, me. It was in vain however. They both died.
They hit the ground with a loud smack and lay like broken toys, rag dolls with limbs at odd angles. I shuddered and looked around, desperately searching for something to draw my attention away from seeing them again in my head. In a police station, that should have been easy, but it wasn't. There were plenty of things to see, but nothing fetching enough to capture my attention.
I listened to them talking. They said it had been a murder that the wires the Flying Greysons used to soar had been sabotaged, but I was numb to that fact now. I just tried my best to relax and not think about anything.
A policeman came over and sat down next to me. I didn't look at him. "Here kid", he said gently, handing me a cup of hot chocolate. I looked up at him, surprised he had shown me this small kindness. No one had paid very much attention to me at all since I had shown up. I took the cup gratefully and murmured a thank you in a low, almost unintelligible voice. The man seemed to understand anyway and patted my shoulder. Then, he got up and walked off.
I had almost hoped he might stay, but he didn't. It might have been nice to have some company, at least another person. I wanted someone to put their arms around me, to tell me everything was going to be ok even if it wasn't. I felt like I was the last person left on earth.
I took a tentative sip of the chocolate and scalded my tongue. After that, I simply gazed down into that white foam cup, watching the pallid marshmallow clouds swirl in seashell patterns over the warm brown chocolate. I took another sip and wished the pain would keep me from thinking of them. It didn't.
He was the biggest man I had ever seen. I had always thought my dad was huge, but he was almost minute compared to this man. The man was tall with gelled, black hair and dark eyes. He had on an expensive looking suit, under which hard muscles flexed. Even though he was big, he walked with a kind of fluid grace and dignity, like he ruled the world but didn't need to remind you.
He frightened me, from the first time I saw him, he frightened me. Mom had always told me to stay away from people I didn't feel comfortable with, not to talk to strangers and all that jazz, and this time I was definitely going to listen.
He glanced over at me and met my gaze. There was a strange sadness in his eyes, like he almost understood my pain. I broke that gaze quickly though, it was so intense, so regal and hard, I couldn't hold it. I gazed down at my shoes.
He was talking to the social worker that had taken me to this place, the woman who said she was going to take care of me. I didn't like her though. She didn't seem to understand what I was going through at all.
She just talked to me in a happy peppy voice like she was trying to convince me that everything was all just sunshine and rainbows and that I shouldn't be too sad because I would have another family soon and that I should forget about my old one, that everything was all happy and the world was bright. The world was not bright though. It was black and nothing some naïve woman who had obviously never known loss said could convince me otherwise.
They seemed to be having an argument, the man and my social worker (I had forgotten her name, it was Kathy or something like that I thought). By the frequency of their glances in my direction and their general hand motions, I surmised that they were probably talking about me. This worried me a bit because I wondered why that big man was thinking about me at all.
I thought perhaps he was a CIA or FBI agent coming to interrogate me about my parent's death or something else. Perhaps Kathy or whatever her name was was trying to keep him away. Perhaps she was an undercover Spy or something working for some evil guy. Maybe the evil guy had killed my parents because they were also CIA or FBI. Perhaps Kathy was an alien.
I entertained myself with these thoughts for a few minutes, despite my sadness. I was so wrapped up in the suspiciousness of that mole on Kathy's neck, I didn't notice when the two adults came and knelt in front of me. "Hello Richie" (she called me Richie, which I hated), Kathy said brightly. I glanced at her and then returned my gaze to my shoes. There was a beetle crawling over one and I watched it pointedly.
"Well Richie, I'll leave you with him so you two can get to know each other." She didn't seem quite as happy when she said this last part, like leaving me with this large man was the last thing she wanted to do, but she got up and left anyway. I was glad she was gone. She scared me.
"Hello Richard", the man said. He had a deep, gentle voice that reminded me of the ocean. It was oddly soothing, like my father's voice.
"Hello", I mumbled.
"You'll be coming with me now", the man said.
I was startled by this, so much so that I blurted out, "Why?"
"I'm going to take care of you", the man said smoothly, "you'll be coming to live with me." I was shocked, but this time I managed not to cry out so. But what about my friends from the circus, I wanted to say, I want to live with them. But, I knew I had no choice in the matter. Things were going to be the way they were going to be and there was nothing I could do about it.
I just nodded silently and tried not to start crying again. I couldn't believe that right after losing my parents, I was going to lose my circus friends, especially my friend Marcus. Marcus was my best friend from the circus and I couldn't bear to think about not seeing him again. I hadn't even gotten to say goodbye.
"Come along", the man said, "Time to go." I followed him silently out of the police station, my eyes downcast.
"Good luck kid", the policeman who had given me the drink called. I looked up and nodded silently to him. Then, I looked back down at the ground, still trying not to cry.
When we got out to the street, I was surprised to see a large black limousine. There was a man standing by the door, holding it open. I looked up quizzically at the big man, who gave me an encouraging nod. I got in and slid down to the other side. The seats were comfortable and roomy.
The man with the door gave me a small, encouraging sort of smile. I just nodded. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to smile again. The big man got into the car next to me. I watched as the doorman began to load my meager luggage into the trunk of the limo.
So I was really was going to stay with this man. I was scared, scared that I was going some place scary or dark. I had been through enough already, I thought, why did I have to go with someone I didn't even know now as well. I looked out the window as the car started and watched the people walk through the city streets.
"Richard", the man said softly, and I looked over at him. I was getting annoyed with all this Richard business. I just wanted people to call me Dick, like everyone in the circus did, but I couldn't tell them that. I was still too intimidated, still too alone. "My name is Bruce Wayne", the man continued, "and I'll be your guardian, at least for the time being. You'll be living with me." I nodded my head and we drove the rest of the way in silence.
I sat on my bed cross-legged in my striped pajamas. The room I had was a huge one, but there was barely anything in it. It had a large window where I could see over the whole grounds of Wayne Manor. The manor was enormous and so were the grounds. I was not admiring the grounds now though, I was looking down at the little book on my lap.
It was a scrapbook made for me by all my circus friends at a going away party two years prior. My mom had gotten injured in an accident and it was unsure if she would ever fly on the trapeze again. Because things were potentially going to become dangerous for her, my dad made the decision to give up his highflying circus life for her sake. We were thrown a going away party in which I was given this scrapbook.
But, my mom had made a full recovery and even though my father told her he was ready to leave this life if she was too scared to continue, we didn't. She loved the circus as much as he did so we stayed the Flying Greysons. I asked afterwards if I should give the scrapbook back, but my friends told me to keep it, it was a gift after all. Now, I was glad to have it, so I wouldn't forget them.
I heard a sound at the door and hastily stowed the scrapbook under my bed. I was afraid that if that man saw it, he might take it from me. I was afraid he was going to be like Kathy, and want me to forget all about my parents and the circus and my old life. Mr. Wayne came in. "Ready for bed Richard?" he asked me. I nodded and climbed into my bed. He gave a short nod and turned to leave.
So, I thought bitterly, that was going to be the way things were. He didn't even tell me good night. I mentally braced myself for a life I was sure would be devoid of any sort of love or affection. It frightened me, but I knew there was nothing I could do about it.
His voice, that was the only resemblance he had to my dad. I remembered my dad, so clearly now in the darkness. I remembered how, in a new place, even though I was already nine and really big, he would read me a story, him and mom. They knew it helped, the first night sleeping in a new area and all. We slept in new places so often though, I eventually got used to it, but I still wanted that story, because it was soothing to have them near and know that we were a family and nothing was going to happen to any of us.
He would read and mom would sit next to me. Sometimes they would take turns and if I knew the story well enough, I might chip in once or twice. Then, after it was done, sometimes he would yawn real big and say, "Hmm, I think it's time for me to go to sleep and he would lie down on top of me." I would giggle and squirm and push on him and yell at him to get up while he made fake snoring noises and things like that.
Then, he would get up and look down at me all confused and say, "Dickie, why what are you doing down there? I wondered why my bed was so bony all of the sudden (He always made fun of me for being skinny)."
And I would wiggle and say, "It's not your bed," and he would tickle me and mom would cuddle me and I would be all ready to go to sleep. I missed all that. But, I didn't think that any time in the near future I would be cuddled or tickled or read a story too. Perhaps I would never have any of those things done for me ever again.
I gave a sigh and rolled over on my side, clutching the elephant they'd given me for my ninth birthday. Why had someone chosen to take them from me, what quarrel had they had with them? What had they done to deserve this terrible fate that had been handed to them, to me.
Suddenly, my heart burned with a terrible rage, a need to get vengeance for their deaths. I poured over it in my mind over and over again, trying desperately to think of a way to figure out who had done it. These thoughts surged through me with so much force, they exhausted me. I soon closed my eyes and fell asleep.
That next week, I learned a little about the Mr. Wayne I was staying with now. For one thing, he was rich and I mean filthy rich. He was rich like nothing else. The smallest vase in that house was worth more then my mom and dad's circus trailer. I also learned that he was a playboy. He had girls over rather often, with high pitched voices and even higher heels.
They wore next to nothing and passed through so quickly, I barely remembered them. They were all bottle blonds, built like skinny little sticks and more makeup on their faces then the clown that used to share a table with me and my family. They always squealed over me, calling me a little man, a tiny Bruce, and other such things. I hated them, everything about them. They scared me. Mr. Wayne did his best to keep them away from me, but I still saw more of them then I would have liked.
Of course, Mr. Wayne was gone most of the time anyway. I had no idea where he went or what he did. When I asked Alfred, the butler, he usually replied that Mr. Wayne had some business to attend to, things at work. He was a big CEO, so that wasn't all that hard to believe. Still though, I pictured CEO's having more then two or three minutes at home in between taking girls out and going to his mysterious work.
That week was also rather hard on me. Nobody in that house paid all that much attention to me. The food was great, the manor was amazing and the grounds were beautiful, but I was miserable. I was board too. It was as if Alfred and Mr. Wayne had completely forgotten what it was like to be a kid.
I wasn't allowed to touch almost anything in the house because it was all expensive and delicate. I wasn't allowed to play out on the grounds because the gardener said no one on the grass. All I could do was explore, which would have been fun maybe if I had someone else to explore with me.
But, I was all alone. I had some of my toys (I had been unable to take all of them), but they got boring after a while. The rage was bad too. It followed me everywhere I went, staying with me whatever I did. I felt so desperate to avenge them, but I had no way to do so. I almost felt like I was going to explode.
I dreaded the nights the most though. I had grown rather frightened of the room I slept in because of the dreams I had there. Every night when I fell asleep I saw them lying there in the ring, blood trickling from between my mother's lips, slightly parted in a silent scream. My father's legs twisted awkwardly beneath him with bones sticking out through the flesh. Their eyes open wide, glassy and glazed with fear trapped in them.
My last view of them had been so horrific, I couldn't get it out of my head. I felt so broken, so alone. I would wake up panting and sweating and cry myself to sleep, softly, so that no one else heard.
Finally one night, I couldn't take it any more. I left the bedroom, deciding I was going to sleep on the couch. I could always get up early and go back to bed. Then, no one would know. I padded quietly down the stairs and climbed up onto the couch. I wiggled a little to get myself comfortable and was about to close my eyes when I heard a sound.
I was immediately alert. Someone was in the house. I wondered if it was perhaps a robber and peered over the armrest. Standing there in the darkness was the Batman. But, the real shock came when he pulled his mask off. Under that mask was Bruce Wayne!
I was so shocked, I couldn't move. He glanced over in my direction and I quickly pulled my head down so that he couldn't see me. I cowered behind the armrest, afraid he might hurt me. After all, I had learned this secret about him, one no one was supposed to know. I didn't hear any more footsteps so I thought it might be safe and maybe he didn't see me.
I slowly sat up and saw a large black shape looming over me. I felt my heart freeze with fear and slowly craned my neck to look up. There he was, standing over me with a frown on his face. I was so scared, I toppled backwards and scooted to the other side of the couch. There I sat, trembling violently.
"It's alright Richard", he said, "I won't hurt you." He walked over and turned on the lights. Then, he sat on the other side of the couch, across from me. "I should have known you would discover my secret soon enough, I knew you were smart." I should have been pleased with this small complement, considering I had gotten little feedback from him since I had shown up, but I was too scared to feel happy.
"What…what're you gona do with me?" I asked softly.
"Well, nothing", Batman said, "What did you think I was going to do. I don't execute people for discovering my secret identity. But, you must promise never to reveal my secret to anyone. If you were to reveal my secret and certain people found out, they would try to kill you and me and I don't want that to happen. Do you understand?"
"Yes", I replied softly.
"Good", he said, smiling at me, "I knew I could trust you." But, as he was smiling gently, an idea started to form in my mind. It was kind of crazy, but I thought it could work.
"If you're the Batman", I prompted softly, "then you could help me find the man that killed my parents." Immediately, Batman's demeanor changed. He seemed slightly more hostile, but I was too hopeful that I might be able to find that killer I wasn't scared.
"I will find your parents killer Richard, but I don't want you going out looking for him yourself." I was shocked.
"What", I said angrily, "but I have to, I have to be the one to avenge them, that man, whoever he was, stole them from me and I want to get him back."
"And that's exactly why you can't go", Batman said, "you have too much rage. Believe me, killing that man isn't going to make you feel any better. It will probably even make you feel worse." I thought about this for a moment, wanting to argue that I would feel great once the deed was done, but knowing I was fighting a losing battle. I just needed to persuade him to let me go after this man, whomever he was. Vengeance could wait, for now.
"I just want to see him brought to justice through the law", I said, hoping I sounded convincing.
"A noble cause", Batman replied, "but you're too young. You could get hurt and then what would I do, hmm?"
"No", I said, "don't try and make my age bar me. I've done things in nine years grown men wouldn't dream of doing, couldn't do if they tried."
"I don't deny that", Batman said, "but you still don't have any fighting skills."
"Then teach me", I pleaded, "I can learn, I promise, and then I can find that man." Batman gave a furious sigh. He seemed to be debating with himself. Truthfully, I was confused. If it had been any other adult, no would have been no and there would have been no chance at me doing anything of the sort. Why was this man even considering what I was saying?
"Fine", he said after several long minutes. I was so excited, I almost squealed, but I held it together. I needed to act like an adult now, so he wouldn't change his mind. I nodded my head slightly, like a businessman whose proposal had just been accepted. This seemed to amuse him and his mouth tweaked a little in what seemed to be the makings of a smile. I was hopeful.
"But", he confused, this will be a trial only, understand? I'll see what you can do tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, if you impress me, which is highly unlikely, you can come with me to track Zucco."
"Zucco?" I asked.
"Tony Zucco", Batman replied, "the man responsible for the death of your parents." My blood ran cold. I had a name now. This faceless, shapeless man now had a name. I surpassed a shiver. "Now", Batman said in a matter of fact voice, "off to bed, we have to make an early start in the morning." I nodded and walked up the stairs.
"Just a little longer mom and dad", I murmured softly under my breath, "just a little longer and you'll be at peace."
"Ohh, and Richard", Batman called after me. I turned to look at him. "No more night wandering, or the deal's off." I nodded my head and continued up the stairs.
"Come on", Batman snapped at me, "fists higher." Wham. I was on the ground for the third time in the last five minutes. "Get up", he said coldly, "and try again." I nodded my head and got up slowly, wincing. He had been working me hard for more then four hours and I would not have been able to do it had it not been for my drive to avenge them. Whenever I got discouraged, I pictured them as I saw them last, twisted and drowning in their own blood. That kept me working.
But, gone was the gentle Mr. Wayne. Here was only Batman, cold, calculating, emotionless Batman. Now, most kids dream is to train with the Batman, but for me, it was practically a nightmare. I was on my back for three quarters of the training session and he would loom over me menacingly and tell me all the things I did wrong. I wished he'd lighten up a bit, I was only nine after all, but I didn't dare ask him, for fear he might think I couldn't handle what he dished out.
I pushed myself up off the ground and lifted my fists again. He came at me, and I dodged. But, confronted now with his broad back, I got a sudden stroke of brilliance. Instead of darting around to face him again like I had done the past seventy three times, I leapt through the air and landed on his back.
Almost as soon as my feet touched his back, they were off again and I was somersaulting through the air to land neatly in front of him. Already off balance from my dodging, he toppled and fell flat on his chest. I didn't have time to get excited though, because his hand shot out to grab my ankle. I danced lightly away and came at him again when he was just getting up.
Around and around I buffeted him with blows. I was starting to feel good now. This was something I could do. I could dart and tease and attack and retreat in almost a wolf like fashion quite easily. Perhaps it was me getting cocky that caused me my blunder. I leapt at him, preparing to hit him with a spinning kick, when he grabbed my leg. That was when I knew I was dead.
He spun me through the air like I was nothing at all and slammed me down onto the ground. I lay there groaning, the wind knocked out of me. I dug down to the depths of my stores of willpower, to heave myself back up and continue the battle, but I found I had none left. I remained on the ground, unable to get up.
Batman loomed over me, but this time, the expression on his face was not one of shrewd calculation, but one of thoughtfulness. He seemed to take no notice of me on the ground, but gazed around, as if formulating a plan in his quicksilver brain. "Hmm", he said after a few long moments, "perhaps I should focus your training on your natural agility. You would never survive a frontal assault anyway, you're too small. I think maybe we can develop some of your maneuvering and flexibility into a less crude fighting style. Well, I'll tackle this problem later. Lets take a short break, then we can continue."
I gave an enormous groan and remained where I was. I was just fine with taking my break on the mat.
The night air chilled me to the bone, but I was too excited to care. It ruffled my black hair and pushed it backwards with an intensity that felt almost as if I were being scalped. I had never been on top of such a large building in my life. I was feeling slightly acrophobic up there, so high off the ground, but I forced myself to look out ahead at the cityscape, and not down below me at the sidewalk.
Batman stood beside me, silent as a tomb. One pointed ear was cocked slightly in my direction as he listed to his comlink, scanning police frequencies. I couldn't believe I was here, here atop this enormous building, standing beside the one and only Batman. Sure, he hardly ever said a word to me, but I didn't care. I got to work with him and that was all that mattered.
Over the past week, he had trained and trained me, almost without stop. We had started to work on my natural ability to do acrobatics and building on this foundation, I had progressed quickly. Batman wasn't going to allow me to actually fight in any battles, but I was permitted to accompany him. If I was attacked or if he asked me, I could fight, but not any other time.
That didn't matter to me though. I was out, on patrol, with the Batman. I even had a costume, and a name. I ran my fingers over the white R stitched neatly on the left side of my chest. "Robin", I breathed softly. To go along with Batman's motif, I had to be a winged creature. I had been wondering when he would give me another name, because I couldn't just go out as Dick Greyson.
I had been hoping that perhaps, he might call me swift. My dad had called me a swift before, commenting on the ease with which I flew through the air on the trapeze. But, he had come out with the name Robin. I didn't know where it came from and I didn't ask.
My new costume was interesting too. The design was much brighter and happier then I would have attributed to Batman's available color scheme. I had always assumed his mind worked in blacks and grays but all of the sudden, he pulls out this bright array of reds and yellows and greens. I liked the costume and he seemed almost nostalgic when he looked at it, but I didn't press that either. I simply felt lucky to be out that night.
"Lets move', he said suddenly, and shot a cable out. It flew through the air and landed on a building nearby. I shot my cable and flew over neatly beside him. Most kids would have been scared, flying through the air on a stringy little rope like that, but it was just like walking to me. No, I had been doing that probably longer then walking.
Reminiscence surged though me suddenly when I thought about my old life, and a wistfulness I had come to be accustomed to. It had taken up residence in my heart and I wasn't sure if it would ever leave. But, I pushed those heavy feelings away and followed Batman as we darted over the rooftops. I didn't ask where we were going, I just trusted it was important. I soon found out though.
We stopped and I chanced a glance down. We weren't quite as high up as we had been before so I felt it safe to do so. I saw a jewelry store with a broken window and two men rushing out with diamonds and pearls falling out of their pockets. I looked over to where Batman had been standing beside me and found him absent.
I looked down again at the scene of the crime and saw him milling among the crooks. One pulled a gun on him and I gasped, ready to swoop down to his aid. He obviously didn't need me though. He roundhouse kicked the gun out of the man's hand and whirled around to face another. He was moving so fast, he was almost a blur. I was in awe at his fighting prowess. I had never seen someone moving with such fluidity. He hadn't really fought like that when fighting me, I had been too easy to take down.
I was just starting to enjoy myself, watching him battle, when I noticed a man coming up behind him. He was so focused with the crooks in front of him, he didn't notice the other guy. The man was raising his gun to bring it down hard on Batman's head. Now was as good a time as any to intervene, I decided, and I swung down. The gun was a centimeter from Batman's skull when I hit the man hard on the chest.
I didn't stay there though. I simply jumped up and landed atop the next roof, which sloped low enough for me to scramble again to safety. Batman heard the thump and whirled around just in time to see the man smack the ground hard and get knocked out. He looked up at where I was and continued fighting. He soon had all the crooks tied neatly to a lamppost.
I hopped down, about to talk to him excitedly about what had happened, when he turned on me. "I told you not to engage Robin", he snapped angrily, "if you can't follow rules then maybe I shouldn't bring you." I was so bewildered, I took a step back.
"But I was helping you", I said, "he was going to hit you."
"Then you should have called out", he replied sharply.
"I wasn't in any danger", I said defensively, "I hopped away so fast, he barely saw me." He seized me by the front of my collar and hauled me up to eyelevel.
"And what if he had grabbed you, what then?" he hissed. I was riveted by his hard gaze, and didn't answer. "He would have killed you", he said in a soft, deadly voice, answering his own question, "or held you hostage and forced me to stop fighting. Follow my instructions or you'll get yourself killed out here."
He lowered me to the ground and I stood in front of him, unable to think of a retort. Suddenly, the lights of a police car lite up the alleyway, blinding me. Batman was gone in an instant, the spot he had filled by my side empty as if he had never been there. I, too, darted away. As I tried my best to follow him, running as he was, I could tell this was going to be a long night and an even longer apprenticeship.
Needless to say, I got better. My skill as a fighter grew almost as quickly as did my acceptance of my fate. That first week, I had all the time expected to be whisked away, back to the circus or be found by some long lost relative who would love me. I had now come to the conclusion that it was never going to happen and it was best if I just moved on.
I focused on my fighting. It was my outlet for my frustration and my loneliness. I enjoyed those nights out and time with Batman grew more bearable. He still was silent around me and cold as ice, but he allowed me to take part in a fight now and again, be it a small part. This was mostly because the crooks had started to expect me and took to looking for me when Batman showed up. Apparently, there was nothing wrong with the crime grapevine.
My fame grew and I even saw my picture in the newspaper. It made me feel proud and I started loving my nights even more then my days. Tony Zucco, it should be noted, also gained a face that week, one I saw in my nightmares every night after I first glimpsed it. I was glad for those patrols I had with Batman, because often I was so exhausted coming back from them, they kept the dreams away, for a while at least.
Still though, I didn't know all that much about Batman's life, other then those nightly excursions. I wondered how well he knew those other heroes, because I knew he was in the Justice League. Little did I know, my questions would be answered soon enough.
One day, I came up the stairs, drenched in sweat after having worked out in the batcave and ready for a shower and a long nap. I was just making my way to my room when I heard a loud voice in Mr. Wayne's study. Wondering who could possibly be there, I crept up to the door and peeked through the crack where it had been left slightly open.
There was man in there, but what struck me about him was how big he was. He was absolutely enormous, bigger then Mr. Wayne even, with black hair and glasses, behind which sharp blue eyes stared angrily at my mentor. If I had been under such a gaze, I would have wilted, so I had to give Mr. Wayne credit for holding it so coolly.
"It's my decision", he said softly, "this doesn't concern you."
"Bruce", the man said, sounding exasperated. "This is child endangerment, people are talking about you and the League. They want us to put a stop to it. What am I supposed to tell them?"
"Well if I were you", Bruce said smoothly, "I would tell them to mind their own business. That's what I'm telling you to do now."
"Bruce, that's no answer at all", the man snapped, "I swear, sometimes I feel like burning a hole through you." Bruce raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. "Who is this boy anyway", the man asked. Mr. Wayne shrugged.
"How is that any concern of yours?" That big man looked around at the walls, almost as if he was looking through them, and fixed suddenly on my position.
"Is that the kid?" he asked, indicating me. I felt cold fear washing over me. How did he know I was here?
"Richard", Mr. Wayne snapped like an army general, "get in here." I crept in cautiously, like a puppy with his tail between his legs.
"This is the boy", the man asked incredulously. Mr. Wayne said nothing. "Dear god Bruce", the man said, "he looks even smaller in person."
"Go to your room", Mr. Wayne said frostily to me. I immediately rushed away, knowing it was probably best not to disobey a direct order.
"Bruce", I heard the man say, "this conversation is not over. I will put a stop to this." It sounded so much like a threat, it frightened me. That man was frightening. Mr. Wayne walked out a little while later to find me standing rooted in place.
"Who was that?" I asked softly.
"You didn't recognize him", Mr. Wayne asked. I shook my head. "That was Superman", he replied, and turned to walk out the door. I trembled in place for a moment. Great, I thought to myself, it wasn't enough that Batman hated me, now I had Superman on my bad side too. I wondered why I had this death wish, and where it came from in the first place.
I was beginning to believe that we might never find Tony Zucco. We searched and we searched but still we could find no trace. Batman stayed up late into the night, mulling over the facts he had and the leads and often we would traipse over the rooftops for hours, following what seemed to be nothing at all.
All this waiting had not just the effect of frustration on me. It had yet another adverse effect. I had, up until this point, blamed exclusively Tony Zucco for the death of my parents. Now however, I was beginning to rethink that which I had taken for granted mere days prior. Now it seemed that perhaps, this ghost Zucco had merely been in pawn in a plot more sinister.
It seemed to me that perhaps, my parents had left on purpose, abandoned me to the fate of living with this pachydermatous man who paid me no mind at all. I wondered why they would do this too me and came to the conclusion that it was because I was not good enough for them. The more I mulled over this in my long hours of lonely inactivity, the more I became assured that this was the problem. I became bitter and angry with them. How dare they leave me all alone?
Once, I had gone with them into a large supermarket to buy some food for the long drive to Oregon where were would be doing our next show. I had gotten separated from them and was absolutely distraught with fear.
I had utterly no idea where they could be and was sure I would spend the rest of my days trapped in that supermarket (seven year olds can sometimes be over dramatic). Finally, my dad found me, curled up in a corner and crying.
As soon as I saw him, I rushed to him and started bawling about how scared I had been. He scooped me up and held me gently at eye level. "Don't worry Dickie", he had said, "I'll never leave you. I'll always be here."
"Promise?" I asked, wiping tears from my eyes.
"Promise", he had replied, and gave me a lollipop. I was appeased. He had lied though, he had broken that promise and now I hated him for it.
Without this need for vengeance burning up inside of me, I grew sloppy in my fighting style and Batman grew more and more short tempered with me. Just a week prior, we had been just starting to get along and now it was as if we couldn't stand to be anywhere near each other.
I would have completely given up the whole idea of fighting at all but it gave me an outlet for the frustration and the pain. If I could feel someone else's bones breaking, I could drown out the breaking of my heart. I grew more distant and volatile and I could feel the darkness permeating me, swift and deadly like a bird of prey. But of course, this was all to change quite soon, with the discovery of Tony Zucco.
I chanced upon the information by accident. I was down in the cave, beating the pulp out of a punching bag when I saw Batman coming down. He seemed agitated and didn't even notice that I was there.
Not really knowing where the urge came from, I decided to hide and see what he did if he didn't believe I was anywhere near. I crouched behind the punching bag and watching him. He paced for what seemed like an eternity with a file in his hand, every once in a while stopping to gaze at its contents. I had never seen him so upset before, and I was curious as to what he was doing.
He finally slapped the file down on a table and stalked out grumbling. As soon as I was sure he was gone, I crept over to the table and opened its contents. The first words I saw were plastered large and across the top. TONY ZUCCO. I gazed at the contents almost hungrily.
There were pictures and records and other things, but nothing that would disturb Batman the way he had been. Finally, I got to the last page and saw a map. It was in gray and it looked to me like Gotham river district. Circled large and in red was a single warehouse by the river. My heart skipped a beat and I delved eagerly into the writing on the page. TONY ZUCCO LOCATION: KNOWN.
I was speechless. Batman had found him, he had finally found him. I was so excited I could barely stay still. I quickly donned my mask and cape (I never wore them to work out) and tossed a couple of Batman's little toys into my belt. The thought of having Batman go with me crossed my mind once, but I dismissed it quickly. He just wouldn't understand anyway, what did he know about loss? I needed to do this on my own.
I didn't quite understand why I had to find Zucco so badly that moment, only that I did. Somehow, someway, I wanted to see something in him that made him the sole player in this game I had been forced into. I wanted to see in him, full responsibility for my parents' deaths so perhaps, I wouldn't have to blame them all day for leaving me and in the darkest of nights, blame myself for not being deserving of them, not being good enough.
I grabbed the map out of the file and darted to doorway out of the cave. I was almost out when another thought occurred to me. How was I going to get to the river district? It was a long ways away from where I was. I looked over at the vehicles Batman had stowed the cave. The only thing I could see that I might even have a prayer of riding was maybe the Batcycle.
I had driven a motorcycle before so this wouldn't be the most foreign thing I had ever done, but never had I driven one through a densely populated city. I stood for a moment, indecision creeping in. Finally, I made my choice, hopped on the bike, and drove out into the night.
I arrived at the warehouse after a little while. I had used mostly back roads so I could stay away from dense traffic. I didn't want to get pulled over by a cop or anything like that, even if I was Batman's sidekick.
Rain had started to drizzle lazily and I shivered, once again wavering in indecisiveness. But, I steeled myself and stalked quietly towards the warehouse. It was dark inside, but once my eyes adjusted, I could maneuver fairly well, if slowly. I still, however, had found neither hide nor hair of Zucco.
It occurred to me that Batman might have made a mistake and I was about to return to the cave when I heard a sound. It was a low grunt, like a man who had just gotten up from a long sit in a chair or something. I crept towards the door adjacent to the room I was in.
The warehouse creaked and groaned beneath me, putting me on edge, but the man in the room, whomever he was, must have been used to the noises because he didn't acknowledge me. I peered in through a slight crack and found it even darker in the room then it was in the rest of the warehouse. Suddenly though, a light flickered into existence, like a candle being lite.
The first thing I saw, illuminated by that candle, was a face I had seen more often in my nightmares then any other in the past couple weeks. There, standing with that candle, was Tony Zucco. I lost my nerve, right there seeing him in the flesh. I pictured myself on the ground like my parents, all twisted up and bleeding.
He was obviously cold as he circled the candle, rubbing his hands and muttering under his breath. He had newspapers strewn over the table on which the candle stood and these he slowly started to burn, as if desperate for some more warmth.
Then, he lifted a clipping I recognized so well, I had almost memorized its words. Flying Grayson's dead, Tony Zucco suspect. That made me so angry, I didn't think. I saw red before my eyes and I flew at Zucco in a flurry of rage.
I slammed into him and had him on the ground in an instant, punching him as I sat on top of him. I didn't think as my blows fell, only that I was releasing tension I had held now for over a month. Somehow, in my rage, I didn't expect him to lash back, but while I was slowly going mad, he kept his head.
He grabbed my fists and tossed me aside as if I were a rag doll. "So", he hissed in my face, pinning me to the wall, "Batman's little brat's come to call. Better give him a proper welcome then." His breath smelled horribly like liquor and his hands felt coarse and rough. His clothes were shabby and his face seemed oddly misshapen from where I had punched him so many times.
The most frightening things about him, however, were his eyes. They had a mad glint in them, like an animal hunted. I was suddenly struck with terror of this man. I wiggled out of his grasp and raced away horrified.
I was surprised how fast he could pursue me, in the horrible condition that he was in. I raced up the stairs and through the top door. That was a mistake. I found myself trapped on the roof. I turned and saw Zucco coming through the door, his eyes gazing hungrily at me. I didn't know what he wanted and I didn't really care. All I cared about was getting away from him.
He darted towards me and though I tried to evade, he grabbed me by the ankle and dragged me back to him. "Come here little birdie", he said in morbid singsong voice. I screamed in protest and tried desperately to get away, but he had me fast, had me cornered. He grabbed me and slammed me up against the brick wall of the chimney. He dragged me over the bricks, up to eyelevel and breathed heavily my face.
I trembled with fear. I heard they call you Robin, he said huskily, his eyes narrowing to sinister slits, like a little bird. He started to stroke my cheek with one dirty finger. "Nice little birdie" he said to me, "such a pretty little birdie. You'll make such a good snack."
He started tugging at my clothes slowly, as if drawing out a pleasurable moment. I was so terrified, I could do nothing but tremble. My vision blurred as I seemed to lose touch with reality.
Then, Zucco was gone. It was so sudden, I almost couldn't acknowledge it, but he was no longer there. I dropped to the roof and curled up reflexively. My eyes lost that strange glaze and I saw through the rain, which was now pouring heavily, Batman.
Zucco was on the ground and Batman's fists were flying, swiftly now and without holding back. I just sat where I was and trembled. Zucco gave a final yelp of pain and fell unconscious. Only then did Batman stop his barrage of blows. He kicked Zucco's body with a disgusted snort and suddenly turned on me in a sudden ire.
I cowered up against the wall. "How dare you go out alone like that, he roared, how dare you steal my bike and go out alone? Do you know what almost happened here?" I just flattened myself against the wall, eyes widened with terror. Batman hauled me up by my shirt collar and pulled me foreward until me eyes were mere centimeters from his.
"You'll never do something like this again", he hissed, "I'll make sure of that." Then, he hit me. He hit me hard across the face, so hard, I went flying out of his hand. I lay on the ground, crying. "Get up", he roared at me.
I slowly got up and no sooner had I gained my feet then he knocked me down again with stinging blow across my torso. I was on the ground again, but he wasn't going to let me stay there. "Get up", he said to me again, and I raised my self off the ground. I was up again and he kicked my feet out from under me. "Get up", he said.
"No", I sobbed, "leave me here."
"You'll get up when I tell you to", he yelled at me, hauling me up to my feet. He kicked me in the chest and I was down again. We continued like this for what seemed like an eternity. He would hit me and I would topple to the ground. Then, he would order me to get up and knock me down again.
Finally, he stopped and I lay on the roof, sobbing, my tears mingling with the rain. "Are you ever going to pull something like that again?" he asked me in a soft, deadly voice. I didn't answer so he roared at me, "Are you?"
"No", I wailed.
"Good", he said, "now go. You're done." I didn't need to be told twice. I raced back through the warehouse, stiff and hurting as I was, and leapt onto the bike. As quickly as I could, I drove away.
As soon as I made it home, I stowed the bike in the cave and raced up the stairs. Without even changing out of my costume, I fell upon my bed and buried my head in my arms, hysterical with sorrow. But, it was not only because of the pain of the beating, but because that night I had realized something.
My last hope of redemption was gone. I could shuffle the blame to no one else. Batman hated me and my parents had hated me. I came to the conclusion, that night while driving home through the rain, that I was unlovable. No one would ever love me, because no one ever could. I cried myself to sleep that night and it seemed as if the sky too, cried with me.
"Jump higher", Batman snapped at me. I tried my best to do what he asked, despite being sore and exhausted from the previous day. I was also feeling slightly feverish due to spending so much time out in the rain.
All in all, I was in rather poor condition, but Batman didn't seem to be noticing. He simply pushed me harder and harder. I tried my best to be obedient, but it was so hard. I was tired and hurt and racked with chills. I had gotten no sleep the previous night because everywhere I turned, Zucco was jumping out at me.
In all the shadows he hid, leaping towards me when I had my back turned. I was so grateful when the sun came up because I knew I was safe then. I had never been so frightened in my life. I had also been rather shocked by that beating.
When my dad got mad at me, he just put me in time out or forbade me from performing that night, which usually made me feel considerably more repentant. Never, however, had I experienced physical punishment. I'm gotten hurt before, every little kid does, but no one had ever struck me in anger.
I had heard of such things occurring and I had done my fair share of hitting as a little kid, but never had I been on the receiving end of something such as what he had done to me the previous night. There were so many things I didn't understand about that night, and the beating was one of them. I used to have a friend whose dad beat him. He was miserable all the time and shied like a whipped puppy every time someone lifted his arm.
Seeing what happened to him, I had been convinced that physical punishment went along with absolute hatred of a child. So, my outlook on Batman was obviously bleak at this point. "Come on", Batman said, "don't get distracted, keep working."
Batman had devoted the last four hours to teaching me a new and extremely complicated move I could not seem to get right. "Again", Batman said, "you have to get this right by tonight." Again, I lifted myself off the ground and tried to twist my body in the way he was asking.
On a regular day, I might have been able to perform something like that after a few tries, but in the condition I was in, there wasn't a chance. I almost made it full spin, but suddenly, gravity triumphed and I toppled to the ground, landing heavily on my side. If there hadn't been a mat beneath me, I might have cracked a couple ribs. Thanks to the mat, I was pretty sure they were only severely bruised, which was bad because if I had cracked something, perhaps he would have let me stop.
"Try again", Batman growled at me and I was about to get up and try yet again when a thought occurred to me. What was the point? Why did I have to get up and keep beating myself into the ground? I no longer had any drive what so ever, only a desperate wish to stay on the ground. I didn't care about being Robin, I didn't care about anything. "Get up", he said to me again.
"No", I whimpered, "I'm not getting up."
"Get up", he hissed at me, "didn't I teach you to obey last night?" I flinched when he mentioned the previous night, but I didn't move.
"Why," I asked, "Why do I have to get up? Why do I have to master this move, why do I have to do anything for anyone anymore?" Batman was silent at this. I guess perhaps I stumped him. "No one cares about me", I continued.
"Don't start with that sob story", Batman snapped.
"It's true", I wailed, shocked that he thought I was kidding, "no one cares about me at all. I'm all alone, I have no one. I'm unlovable."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself", Batman barked.
"It's true", I screamed at him, suddenly overcome by waves of emotional solitude. I was swiftly losing control of myself, going into hysterics, but I didn't care. I was going to tell him the way I felt, whatever he did to me.
"My parents were supposed to love me, but they left me, they left me all alone. They promised they would never leave me but they did. And now you hit me and people only hit kids when they hate them. Everyone hates me, I'm unlovable." I curled up into a ball on the ground, crying my eyes out.
"Richard", he said softly, in a questioning voice. I ignored him. "Richard", he asked again. I looked up at him and saw him kneeling next to me. Now, I guess, he could tell I was serious. "It… it's ok Richard", he said to me. He sounded so hesitant, so confused. He gently put a hand on my shoulder, but I pushed it off.
"Get away from me", I shrieked, and I pulled away, "you don't care about me. You never cared about me. It's just, jump higher Robin, get down lower Robin, get up Robin so I can just push you down again. That's all I get." I looked at him, tears rushing in cascades down my face.
"Richard", he said softly, "I'm…I'm sorry." I stared at him angrily. "I'm sorry again", he said. "Please…please forgive me…this is all my fault. I should have never treated you the way I did; I don't know what came over me. I know how you feel and I'm so sorry."
"How could you possibly know how I feel?" I hissed, "no one understands."
"I do Richard", he said, "because…because when I was a little younger then you, I lost my parents too." I was so shocked by this, I stared at him but he was no longer looking at me. He was now staring at the ground, as if lost in a memory.
"We went out to a movie, just the three of us. I was an only child you see, and used to having them all to myself. We came out of the movie and walked down a back alley. It was really dark so we only saw him as a shadow, but we heard his voice loud and clear. It carried so well through the cold night air.
He wanted our money. My dad, he was a sensible sort of guy and he told the mugger just to calm down, that he would give him all the money he had. As soon as he had emptied his wallet, he told the man to go, but he didn't go. He demanded the pearls around my mom's neck. She really liked those pearls. They had been her mother's.
The man stepped foreward to rip them off her neck, but my dad stepped between him and her. The man was startled by him, so he shot him. Then, he grabbed my mom's pearls. She was screaming when my father fell so he shot her too. She fell back and the necklace broke. The pearls went flying all over the place and the man ran off.
I was left alone in that alley with them, their blood all over me and those pearls rolling around." He started shaking at this point and I saw a single tear fall from his eye. He was crying now too, wrapped up in his memories. I suddenly felt sorry for him, shaking there all alone on the ground in front of me. He looked as lost and alone as I felt.
"So you see", he continued, looking up at me, "I know exactly how you feel. That's why I took you in, because I thought perhaps you might need me. After all, I understood you and was sure you would understand me, but I messed everything up. Please forgive me."
He opened his arms in a pleading gesture, but I did something I don't think he expected. I rushed into his open arms, burying myself in his warmth. Then, I sobbed against him. I could feel him sobbing too, his chest racked with spasms and his tears trickling into my hair. He held onto me tightly, like I was the only thing left in the world. I grasped at his shirt, curling my fists around it. Then, my exhaustion set in and I sagged against him, falling asleep.
When I woke up, I noticed that I was lying on something comfortable. I looked around, bleary eyed and found myself gazing up at Mr. Wayne. I was on his lap. He had a hand on my side and was gazing off at some far off point in the cave, deep in thought it seemed.
Then, he looked down and saw me. He smiled at me gently. You were really tired, he commented. I nodded and slowly sat up. I liked sitting on his lap. It was nice. I lay my head against his stomach with a sigh. He patted my back. "Do you still want to be Robin, Richard?" Mr. Wayne asked me.
I gazed up at him with a grin and said "Yes, but call me Dick."
"Then you can call me Bruce, Dick", he said. I was so happy at that moment, him calling me Dick, that I stood up on his lap and embraced him, wrapping my arms around his neck. And I held him tightly, promising myself silently that I would never let him go.
The next week, I followed him around like a lost puppy. I was his constant shadow, every second he was home. It gave me something to do anyway, being as board as I was. Every time he sat down, I clambered up onto his lap, just to be near him. When we went out on patrol as Batman and Robin, I would press myself against his leg as often as I could.
The nights now held a kind of fear for me, because of what had happened with Zucco, but being near him helped. It wasn't so much that he was Bruce Wayne the person as he was Bruce Wayne, a placeholder for my father. He was someone I could hold onto. I was so frightened I would lose him if I even blinked I stayed close to him at all times.
He seemed confused by my advances, like he didn't quite understand what I was doing. He was patient though. He let me sit on his lap whenever I wanted and let me follow him and though it was probably annoying having a little dark headed shadow everywhere he went, he never told me to go away.
I was so frightened during that time that he might hit me or worse, reject me that I would have done anything he asked. The way he acted towards me though, was not exactly affectionate. When I sat on his lap, he barely acknowledged my presence. When I followed him, he barely gave me a second glance. This perhaps would have bothered me before, but I was just so happy to have someone to follow, I didn't care.
I heard him talking to Alfred once about me. "Do you think it's healthy Alfred, that he shadows me so much?" Alfred shrugged (I was spying from inside the cupboard). "I think he's probably just settling in is all," he replied sagely, "he should come out of it soon enough. Why, does it bother you?" Suddenly, my blood ran cold. Did I bother him with the way I acted? I was so worried all of the sudden, I barely registered his next statement.
"Not really, it's kind of interesting I suppose. Never had anyone like me quite that much", Bruce said sort of offhandedly. It should be noted that the cupboard I had forced myself into for the purpose of spying had other things in it too so when I shifted my weight, I was suddenly forced out of it. I toppled out with a yelp and landed hard on the ground.
"Ohh Dick", Bruce said through a laugh, "I guess that's what you get for eavesdropping. Are you ok?" He came over and gently pulled me to my feet. His manner towards me had grown much more gentle. Perhaps it was because I had dropped my façade of strength and showed the vulnerability that came with childhood.
"You're not angry with me, are you?" I asked frightenedly. "You aren't going to hit me?" Immediately, Bruce looked sad.
"I should have never hurt you like that Dick and I'm really sorry that I did. I promise, I won't ever do something like that to you again."
I could see the sincerity shinning in his eyes and I welled up with love for him. I leapt up and put my arms around his neck. I was both surprised and pleased to feel his hands stroking my back tentatively.
I grew to love him as a person soon enough, more then just what he was but who he was. He won me over with his gentleness and his generosity. He was more understanding then I had thought as well because one day, he caught me looking at my scrapbook.
"Hey", he asked, walking into my room, "What's that?"
"Nothing", I said quickly, hiding it.
"Come on", he said, "let me see." I was on my bed, so he came over and sat next to me. I reluctantly handed him my prized possession.
"You're not going to take it from me, are you?" I asked.
"No of course not," Bruce replied, "Why would you think that?"
"Kathy took all the pictures of my parents", I said, "so I thought…" My words faded out into a question so he answered it.
"Well, I would never do something like that. I don't mind you remembering." He started looking through the pictures.
"Those are my parents", I said, pointing to a picture of us all in costume. I felt really sad all of the sudden when I saw them and I leaned against him. He put his arm around me gently.
"Would you like to see my parents?" he asked me suddenly. I nodded and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small picture. It was of two adults and a little boy.
"Is that you?" I asked incredulously (I couldn't believe he could ever be that small, if you told me he had just been born an adult, I probably would have believed you).
Bruce grinned and said, "Yup, that's me, when I was just a little younger then you. I wasn't as nice as you though, I was a little spoiled." I looked at the other two people in the picture, his parents.
"They look nice", I murmured. He smiled at me.
"They were very nice", he said.
"Do you think they would have liked my parents?" I asked.
"Ohh yes", Bruce replied, "I think they would have gotten along great with your parents. Good parents usually get along well with each other."
"Do you think they would have liked me?"
"Definitely", Bruce said.
"How about you", I asked, "do you like me?"
"Very much so", he said, rubbing my arm, "very much so." We talked often after that, for a long time, just learning about each other. I think I taught him to love me too. After a while, when I climbed up on his lap, he would rub my back or stroke me gently and his face broke into a joyful smile whenever he saw me.
I stopped following him around so much after a while and was content to let him out of my sight. I was still afraid I might lose him, but I was more at ease. He almost made me stop fighting as Robin though.
I got pretty banged up after sparring with some thugs and he took me back to the cave partially unconscious. As soon as I woke up, he gave me the news. "I've decided you're not going to be Robin anymore", he said after he had cleaned me up a bit.
"What", I said angrily, "why?"
"Because I can't stand to see you get hurt", Batman said. I could tell he had never felt this way about anyone.
"But I really want to", I whimpered, please, "I'll train more and work harder. Then, I won't get hurt so much."
He smirked and asked, "Are you sure you don't mind getting hurt like this?"
"Of course", I replied, "I'm brave."
"Of course you are", he said, and he tickled me. I squealed and wiggled happily on his lap.
The nightmares persisted, despite everything, and I kept him up long nights. He would slowly talk me back into sleeping. Finally, one night I came into his room and asked perhaps if I might sleep with him, just for that one night. He shook his head. I whimpered, "why".
"Because it would make people say bad things about us", he replied.
"I don't care what people say", I said softly. He looked at me for a moment, like he didn't quite believe what I was saying. I silently pleaded with him, sticking my bottom lip out. He rolled his eyes.
"Ohh, alright." That was the first night, but it was not to be the last. Bruce was firm about me not making a habit of it, but he permitted me every so often to crawl in with him. I always slept better when I was close to him. I slept like a baby in his presence, because he made me feel safe.
I would curl up against his chest and listen to his steady heartbeat, moved ever so slightly by his smooth chest going up and down in fluid motions, the feel of his breath tickling my hair and the light stubble on his chin rubbing against my forehead. It was those times with him that I cherished.
I still had very little to do around the house usually, but we solved that problem on patrol one night. He was gazing over the city while I crouched by his feet, playing with a bug. "Hey Robin", he said to me. I looked up at him questioningly.
"Yes", I asked.
"Are you board?"
"No", I replied, "I have this little beetle, his name is Carl."
"No", Batman said, "I mean, around the house when I'm gone, are you board?"
"Well", I said slowly (I still didn't feel comfortable asking very much of him), "I guess a little sometimes maybe. But, I'm ok, really I am."
"You don't like playing outside?" he asked.
"I do", I replied, "but the gardener, well, I guess he's kinda fond of his grass and all."
"Chased you inside, did he?" Batman mused quietly. I shrugged.
"Would you like some toys?" he asked me. I looked up at him, surprised. He looked down at me.
"I guess", I said hesitantly, "but you don't have to buy anything for me."
"It's alright", he said, "I want to. We'll go after patrol." I was so happy, I broke one of his cardinal patrol rules, no hugging while out as Batman and Robin. He didn't seem to care that night though, because he patted my back affectionately.
He played with me sometimes after that as well. He spent less time at work and more time with me and even made the gardener let me play outside, which I liked. I was so happy, I felt as if my whole world was bright again and the weeks slipped into months.
We talked of school and Bruce said had enrolled me for the following month. I was less then thrilled about this, but he asked so little of me, I would have felt guilty putting up too big of a fuss, so I prepared to go willingly. However, our happy solitude was not to last because in this big game we were all playing, we had forgotten one key contestant, Kathy, and she was about to throw us for a spin.
The day that I happened, I was playing with Bruce. He took more time to play with me these days and I liked it, a lot. He was a pretty good person to play with, even though I had to teach him how a little. After that, he was great. Anyway, we were playing trucks (I was a big fan of cars), and he was lying on his belly next to me.
"Alright Dick, I bet you three chocolate chip cookies my truck can beat your truck down that stretch."
"Deal", I said and put my tongue between my teeth.
"Alright", said Bruce, "one, two, three, go!" The two trucks zoomed down the stretch, neck and neck, but my banged up against the bedpost first.
"Alright", I screamed, and Bruce groaned. "You owe me three cookies", I said.
"Naw", said Bruce, "because it was a snail race and in snail races, the slowest wins."
"No", I said, "it was a real race."
"No", he insisted, "a snail race."
"No", I yelped and jumped on top of him. He flipped over and squished me and then got up and started to tickle me. I was shrieking for mercy when we heard the doorbell ring.
Bruce started to get up, but I jumped on his shoulders and said, "Ride me there (which was my nine year old way of saying get on your knees and carry me)." Bruce obliged, making fairly realistic horse sounds and crawling swiftly towards the door. At one point, he reared up and I almost fell off, but I'm proud to say I should probably be a professional bronco rider because I clung on. He made it to the door and opened it.
Then, we both found ourselves gazing up (Bruce was still on his knees) at a professional looking man in a black suit and dark sunglasses. I gulped and flattened myself over Bruce's back. The man just lowered his glasses, as if to get a better look at us, and cleared his throat. "If you'll get off your knees Mr. Wayne", he said, "there're some things we need to discuss."
I found about five minutes later that the man was one of Bruce's lawyers, a Mr. Giggles (although he didn't look like he had even smiled in at least a few years) so I didn't need to intimidated by him, which was good because I was in much to much of a good mood to be intimidated that particular day.
I crawled around on the couch, using Bruce as a truck obstacle course while he talked to the uppity guy in the suit. "There's a problem with you and the boy", the man said.
"What is it?" Bruce asked, "Did some family member come to claim him? I didn't think anyone was coming. After all, it's been four months since I got him."
"No", said the man, 'nothing like that. Kathy Macpickle, the boy's social worker, doesn't consider this place a suitable home for the boy." I was at this point on the back of the couch, pretending Bruce's thick black hair was a jungle, which my car was going to get lost in. He gave a start and lurched, sending me sprawling over the back of the couch and onto the ground.
"Ouch", I whimpered, and started to cry, but just a little, because after all, I was a big boy.
"Dick", Bruce sighed and leaned over to pick me up, "settle down, would you, I'm trying to talk here." He put me on his lap and looked back at the Mr. Giggles. "Why doesn't Mrs. Macpickle consider this a suitable home for Dick? I can assure you, I have never hurt him in any way, never would."
I felt him give a little gulp and I guessed he was thinking about the beating he had given me before, but that had been so long ago and I had forgiven him for that. Now, I had started to listen because while he was talking, he was tightening his arm protectively over me, as if he was afraid Mr. Giggles would snatch me away. I looked intently at Mr. Giggles, watching his every move like a mouse watches a snake.
"It's because you're a bachelor Mr. Wayne", Mr. Giggles said, "and Mrs. Macpickle seems to think the boy needs a real family. She's planning on taking you to court over him if you refuse to relinquish him."
"So, why doesn't she come over here and see that he's being well taken care of," Bruce asked, exasperated, "She has no proof that I've done anything wrong." Again, I felt him shudder slightly, but I squeezed his hand. I wanted him to know that was nothing now. All we had was the future. He didn't look at me. His eyes were locked on Mr. Giggles.
"I can try to get her down here Mr. Wayne", Mr. Giggles said, 'but even if I do, you'll probably still be taken to court over this." Bruce nodded. "But", Mr. Giggles continued, "if I state our case right, you should be awarded the child in the end. Good day to you."
"Good day", Bruce said, and saw the man out. I was still sitting on the couch when he came back.
"They're not gona take me away, are they?" I asked softly.
"No, of course not", Bruce said, squeezing my shoulder. But, I could see the tension in his eyes, like the words were meant to console himself as much as they were for me.
I was sitting in a suit and tie with shiny black shoes on the couch. I tugged at my collar and scowled up at Bruce. "Why do I gotta wear all this junk?" I asked angrily.
"Because you have to look your best Dick", Bruce said to me, but he too tugged at his collar and he sounded stressed. I didn't like it when he was worried because that was a time for me to be worried as well.
"Now remember", he said, kneeling down in front of me, "don't talk about being Robin or the batcave or the fact that I let you stay up late and fight dangerous super criminals, ok."
"Alright", I said, rolling my eyes. We had been through so many times.
"And don't talk about…" but I cut him off.
"The cookies you let me eat or the fact that sometimes I sleep with you or that time you forgot me in the car. I'm just supposed to say that I'm happy here and that you discipline me when you need to but you don't often need to because I'm such a good kid, blah, blah, blah. I know all this Bruce, you've said it all a hundred times."
"I know", said Bruce, "you're such a good boy Dickie." He hugged me.
"I know, I know", I said, "I'm an angel, remember." I was trying to lighten the mood and I think I succeeded because he grinned wolfishly at me.
"Ohh no", he said, "you're a nightmare, a little devil sent from hell to torture me for all the bad things I've done in the past." I squealed and jumped on him, wrapping my arms around his neck. Then, the doorbell rang. "Ohh", he said, "that's them, I'd better go." I released him and he rushed to the door. There was Kathy alright. She shouldered her way past Bruce and rushed straight towards me.
"Richie", she said happily, and hugged me tightly. I grimaced. She smelt like nasty perfume and it was so strong, I almost choked.
"Hi", I said, trying my best to sound thrilled. She smiled at me.
"I brought you a surprise", she said. I brightened up at the sound of that, because I liked surprises. She went back over to the doorway, where Bruce was standing and looking annoyed because he had been ignored. "Richie", she said excitedly, "meet Mr. and Mrs. Crusty." I looked at the two people smiling in front of me. I immediately felt wary.
"I thought just you were coming", I said.
"Ohh, well, I decided to bring them to meet you. After all, they are thinking of perhaps adopting you." Immediately, I started to silently panic. Only Bruce picked up on it and rushed over to sit next to me, pulling me tightly to his side while he said in a strained sounding voice,
"Won't you sit down?" Kathy and the Crusty's sat down. "Would you like something to drink", Bruce asked, "tea, wine, beer?"
"Hmm, alcohol in the house", Kathy sniffed, "not a good thing with a child around."
"Umm, just water for us", Mr. Crusty said, though he sounded as if he wanted a beer (I knew that sound, Bruce's friends used it often enough when they came over). Bruce nodded and called Alfred to get the drinks. Alfred gave my hair a comforting ruffle and went off.
"So Richie", Kathy said, "how do you feel about going to a new family? Are you excited?"
"Why do I have to go to a new family?" I asked, "I like it here."
"Well because dearest", Kathy said, "this isn't a good place for you."
"Why not?" I asked defensively. I was starting to get angry. Bruce cleared his throat and looked down at me. Cool it, his eyes said. I did my best to relax, but it was difficult. I was terribly uneasy.
"Well", said Kathy, seemingly at a loss for words, "you do want to have a mother and father don't you?"
"I have Bruce", I replied, gazing up at him adoringly. He smiled at me.
"But Mr. Wayne isn't a suitable father for you darling", Kathy said, "he's too young."
"So", I asked, "I'm young." I was starting to get angry again. No one insulted Bruce, not while I was around.
"Well, for one thing, he could hurt you."
"Bruce wouldn't do that", I said angrily. I pulled myself away from him and stood up. Bruce was starting to get a little worried because although the others in the room didn't pick up on it, I was flashing some warning signs.
"He's a young man living alone with a young boy. He's bound to eventually do something he shouldn't." I didn't really know what she meant by that, but I could tell it was an insult and I was getting really angry now. "Anyway", Kathy said, "you'll be living with the Crusty's now so it won't matter."
'I don't want to leave, I want to stay with Bruce", I yelled, "I don't want to be Dick Crusty." Kathy was getting red in the face, like things weren't quite going the way she planned.
"You are going to live with the Crusty's and that's final", she yelled at me, "Mr. Wayne hurts you, I'm sure of it."
"No", I screamed, "he doesn't hurt me, he only beat me once and that was a long time ago." Immediately, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. I could see the light of triumph in Kathy's eyes.
"Aha", she said, "I knew it. I knew he hurt you. Ohh, I'm going to win this lawsuit so easily."
"No", I said, "no wait, I didn't mean…" But she cut me off.
"Ohh you don't have to say another word darling, don't you worry, I'll get you out of here as soon as I can." I looked around aghast at what I had done. There were the Crusty's, looking at me with a mixture of horror and pity for what they perceived to be my plight, Bruce looking as if the world was ending and Kathy, her wretched, twittering laugh and exultant stance.
I tried again to take back what I had said, but Kathy just batted my words away like flies. I couldn't believe she wasn't listening. Then, I felt boiling anger surge through me and my vision went red. Before I even thought about what I was doing, I dove at Kathy, the creature I perceived to be the greatest threat in the room, and kicked her hard. She fell to the ground with a shriek and I sat on top of her, punching her like I had Tony Zucco so many months before.
Kathy was screaming at the top of her lungs and trying to get away from my flying fists and the Crusty's were screeching in fear. Bruce seemed to be the only one who kept his head. He grabbed me around the middle and dragged me off of the woman. I struggled to get out of his grasp, desperately trying to get back and continue my brutal onslaught. "Let me go", I wailed angrily.
"Richard", Bruce yelled angrily at me, "No, Stop!" The commanding tone in his voice was one I had heard many times when he was Batman, but never when he was Bruce. Regardless, I had been well conditioned to respond instantly to any order given in that tone of voice and I stopped struggling immediately.
I was gasping for air in his arms now, exhausted after my effort. Alfred was helping Kathy up. She turned in rage towards Bruce and said, "How dare you coach this child to behave this way? How dare you emotionally traumatize him enough to act that way?"
"It's nothing Mrs. Macpickle", Bruce said, "he's just upset is all. Wait for him to calm down a little; the Crusty's coming here was a bit of a shock." I could hear the strain in his voice, even more pronounced then before.
"No", Kathy said, "I'm not staying in this dreadful place another minute, I'm leaving right now and I'm taking Mr. Greyson with me." She moved foreward as if to take me from Bruce, but I wound my arms tightly around his neck and clung on as if for dear life. Kathy grabbed me around the middle and tried to pry me off.
"No", I shrieked hysterically, "let go of me, leave me alone." The situation was rapidly deteriorating so Bruce took over.
"Look", said Bruce, "just leave him with me for now, alright, he's upset and it would only distress him more if you took him now. You can come and get him later."
"I can assure you", Kathy said, gathering herself up with all the dignity she had left, "that I will." She flounced out the door, the Crusty's coming swiftly in her wake. As soon as the door had slammed behind her, Bruce put me down on the couch and glared angrily at me.
"Richard John Greyson, I gave you those skills so you could fight crime, not beat up on civilians. I am very ashamed of you." I was miserable that he was so humiliated by me, but I wasn't sorry for what I had done to that woman and I decided to say so.
"But she deserved it Bruce", I said angrily, "she said those things about you. Everything she said was a lie." Bruce suddenly looked miserable.
"But don't you see Dick?" he said softly, "Now they're going to take you away and then I'll never see you again." And my blood ran cold.
All the rest of that day, I walked around the house in a haunted state, appalled at myself at what I had done. After he had rebuked me for attacking Kathy, Bruce had gone off to be by himself for a while. He had not blamed me for what had happened after his initial anger, but he needn't have. I blamed myself.
Lying in bed late that night, I made the decision to go up and see him, to apologize, and make things right. I crept down the dark hallways, out of my room, and into Bruce's. He was sitting up, working on something, when I quietly pushed open the door to get in. "Bruce", I said softly. He looked up at me. I was shocked at how haggard and exhausted he looked. "I'm sorry", I said.
He heaved a sigh and said, "Dick, come here." I padded over to the bed in my footsie pajamas, barely making a sound, and climbed up, into his lap. He put his arms around me.
"Bruce", I said, almost starting to cry, "I don't wanna leave you. I love you."
"I love you too kid", he said softly to me, "but I don't think there's much we can do about it."
"It's all my fault", I sobbed, burying my head in his chest. He gently stroked my back.
"Shh", he said softly, "shh, shh, It's ok son, don't cry, it's not your fault. If anything, it's mine. I should never have hit you like that in the first place. I was cruel and I was abusive and who's to say I won't do it again. Maybe it's better if you do go to another family."
"No", I said. I couldn't stand to have him give up too, "It was a long time ago and you love me now, don't you?"
I looked up at him expectantly and he answered, "Yes son, yes, with all my heart I love you."
"So then you wouldn't do something like that again. That was before you loved me, but you love me now."
"I like your logic", Bruce said to me, gently cradling me in his arms, "but I don't think the judge will see it that way."
"Why does that mean old judge get to decided anyway?" I asked angrily, even through tears, "I just lost my parents, I can't lose you too. I'd die."
"Believe me kiddo", Bruce sighed, "I don't wanna lose you either. I'd give anything if we could stay together."
"But", I said softly, "if I did go, you wouldn't have another partner, would you?"
"No, no", he replied, "never. You're the only sidekick for me." I lay against him, enjoying the feel of his bare chest against my cheek. I couldn't bear to lose this. What would I do without him? He meant so much to me.
"Can I sleep with you tonight?" I asked, "please." Bruce nodded.
"Sure kid", he said, "might be our last night together anyway." I lay down next to him and closed my eyes. I felt as if my whole world was crashing down again, like it had at my parent's deaths.
I woke up late that night. The moon shone like a large bright orb hanging low in the sky. I guessed it was about two in the morning. Bruce was lying next to me. He was breathing in deeply, obviously asleep. I sat up and gazed over the room, bathed in moonlight. I couldn't stand it.
I knew Kathy was coming to get me the next day, I was sure of it, but I didn't know what to do about it. How would I escape what was going to occur? The more I thought about it, the more my plan of action became solid. I was going to run away, go back to the circus, anything to avoid spending the rest of my life with the Crusty's.
I looked down at Bruce, sleeping so peacefully, and felt so sad, I almost cried. I would miss him so much, but once the circus came back through Gotham, I would see him again. I climbed up on his chest and hugged him tightly.
"Dickie", he mumbled sleepily. He put his arms around me gently, but I could tell he was still mostly asleep. "What's wrong?" he murmured.
"Nothing", I lied, "I just love you, so much."
"I love you too," he yawned, "now go back to sleep." He rolled over onto his side, his arms still around me, and fell back into a deeper sleep.
I kissed his chin and said softly, "Bye, bye, I'll miss you." I crawled slowly out of his arms and got out of the bed. Then, I padded swiftly down to my room. I packed my things quickly, everything I thought I might need. I stopped when I noticed the picture on the mantle.
It was of me, balanced on Bruce's shoulders at the zoo. I remembered that day, but I knew there was no going back to that. I packed the picture and the rest of my things and quietly climbed through the window.
I was wearing my Robin costume under my clothes because I thought it might come in handy. After all, I could fight criminal scum while I traveled with the circus. I toyed around with the idea of taking one of the bat bikes, but I would have felt to guilty stealing one of Bruce's vehicles and after all, what would I do once it ran out of gas. I couldn't exactly stop at a gas station. No, I would take a bus.
I looked over the schedule I had printed off the circus website. They would be in Louisiana right now, Baton Rouge to be exact. I would have to find a way to get there before they left. I tried my best not to think too far ahead, because I wasn't sure what I would do just three steps past this one in my plan.
I stole quietly over the grounds like a specter and vaulted over the large iron gates. Then, I was on my way. I turned around to get one last look at Wayne Manor, blew Bruce a kiss, and raced away.
I got to the bus stop just as the sun was coming up and I was exhausted. After checking the bus schedule, I picked a route I would need to take and planned to take it. I would have just enough money to get to the next city if I planned right and didn't eat. After that, I would have to hitch hike the rest of the way.
The bus stopped and the doors opened with a large creak. The driver stared at me. "Where're your parents kid?" he asked.
"I'm going to meet them", I lied, "I have money." The driver shrugged and I boarded. The only other people in the bus were an old man that reeked of cigarette smoke and a dirty looking woman with a baby squalling in her arms. I took a back seat, next to a window, and looked outside.
The rhythmic moving of the bus lulled me into a sense of security and peace and, against my better judgment, I found myself falling asleep. Well, I said, I'll just close my eyes for a little while. Then, I was asleep.
I woke up to someone shaking me. I opened my eyes blearily and found the bus driver standing over me. Last stop kid, he said. I nodded and got up slowly, collecting my things. The Bus driver gave me the bill. I was shocked. It was so much more then I had originally figured. In fact, it was every cent I had.
I paid quickly and got off the bus. I thought I could do math better then that. I looked around and immediately felt the bottom drop out of my stomach. This wasn't the stop I was supposed to be in. I didn't even know where I was. The bus pulled out and drove away. It was late afternoon and the sky was starting to turn red. I was scared.
I recognized this place because I had seen pictures of it on Batman's computers. This was the bad side of Gotham, the side Batman had told me explicitly never to go to. I put my arms around myself shivering. I must have missed my stop after falling asleep. I silently cursed myself, not believing how stupid I had been.
The people around me eyed me coldly and I knew I didn't fit in here. I started to walk around, as if just to seem I had a purpose. Batman had said that if I looked like I knew what I was doing, others would believe that I did.
I thought over my plan as I walked and the more I thought about, the more stupid I felt. How could I have expected to get all the way to Baton Rouge on my own, I was just a little kid after all.
As I was walking, deep in thought, I heard a voice yelling at me. "Hey kid", it said, come over here. I didn't turn around, I ignored the voice and kept right on walking. It was a creepy male voice and I didn't like the sound of it at all. "Come here kid, I got something for ya", the man yelled again. I simply increased my pace. I could hear him coming after me and I broke into a run.
Unfortunately, though Bruce always says I'm as fast as a bullet, I'm really not. I'm not even as fast as a grown man and soon enough, he caught up to me. He grabbed me. "Leave me alone", I shrieked frightenedly and jumped up, wiggling from his grasp. He tried to grab me again, but I wheeled about, flipped foreward, and kicked him hard in the face.
Before he had even hit the ground, I was running as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I ducked into an alley and breathed heavily, trying my best not to cry. I ripped off my outer clothes to reveal my Robin costume underneath and stowed them in my backpack.
I hoped perhaps I might get some respect dressed as Robin, because they might thing Batman was here with me. I climbed the building with the ease of a squirrel and jumped down into the adjoining alleyway. Unfortunately, I managed to jump right into an alleyway where a drug deal was going down. It just really wasn't my day that day.
Both parties took one look at me and said, get him. I gave a high-pitched yelp and darted away, but they were hot on my heels. It seemed out of every dark corner and rank sewer jumped someone with arms outstretched to grab me. Thinking quickly, I ducked into a dark building and curled up in a corner.
I put my arms around my knees and started to cry. I was so miserable and frightened, I didn't know what to do anymore. "There, there", a voice crooned in the darkness, "it's alright." I froze in place and looked around frantically.
"Who…who's there?" I asked.
"Only me", the voice replied, and a match was lite. Standing about three feet away from me was a man in green spandex, covered in question marks. I recognized him only from the Arkham database. I gave a shriek and cowered as deeply as I could in the corner.
"St…stay away from me." The Riddler frowned at me.
"So you're the mighty Robin my boys have told me so much about. Batman's colorful little shadow. Hmm, I pictured you a little older. It seems rather negligent of Batman to send a small child out to face me, but no matter. Now, get up so we can fight." I shook my head and buried my face in my knees, sobbing.
"I don't wanna fight you", I whimpered.
"You're not here to fight me?" the Riddler asked, sounding confused. I shook my head. "Then what are you doing here?"
"I'm lost", I wailed, "I just wanna go home. I want Batman." After I had choked out his name, I continued to sob miserably. Suddenly though, an idea struck me and I looked up hopefully. "Will you take me home", I asked, "please. Batman will give you some money I'll bet. He's got lots." The Riddler seemed to like the sound of this.
"Well," he said, "Where is your home?"
"It's…"suddenly, I remembered something. "I…I can't tell you", I said and started sobbing again.
"Alright, alright, well, don't cry anymore, I hate it when people cry I didn't cause it." He put a hand on my shoulder, an awkward one, but it was in a strange way comforting because it was another human being. "Maybe I can help you anyway", the Riddler said.
"How", I asked.
"I don't know", the Riddler replied, "but I suppose I could figure it out in the morning. It's getting dark and I don't think you want to be out on the streets at night."
"Then what do I do?" I asked, "I don't have any place to go." The Riddler closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
"Well," he said slowly, "I guess maybe, you could stay with me until I figure something out."
"Really", I asked hopefully.
"I suppose", the Riddler said, "I don't really want you to, but it would be negligent of me to leave you out alone on the streets all night. You'd probably be dead before morning. Come on, I'll take you to where I'm staying."
"Ohh thank you", I said happily, jumping up to hug him, knocking his little green bowler off his head.
"Ohh, now please don't do that", he said, "I hate it when people do that. We're supposed to be enemies remember, what if the tabloids got a hold of this, what then?" I wasn't really listening though, I was just so pleased to have this new friend that would protect me from all those scary things out there.
He wiggled out of my grasp and darted away. I followed him as quickly as I could. I think he was surprised that I could keep up. "Batman's taught you well," he grumbled, "now you'll be hunting me along with him soon. Ohh well, it'll just make the game more fun now, won't it."
I followed him late into the night, dancing swiftly over the rooftops. I realized that we were going in circles after a while and guessed it was because he didn't want me to be able to find his hide out again. It was getting really late soon and I was exhausted, stumbling to keep up. He saw I was tired and slowed his pace slightly, leading me to another old warehouse that seemed to me to look the same as all the others.
He guided me in through a top window and we dropped down from the rafters to the floor, which was littered with old junk. There were strange pieces of decrepit furniture all over the place and bottles hanging from the roof, tied on with strings. I looked around in wonder at all the things in there. The Riddler puffed out his chest, as if pleased at how he had impressed me. "Nice, isn't it", he said. I nodded my head.
"It's really cool in here", I said. There were a few lights in odd places, which illuminated small tables on which large, beefy looking men played various card games. They looked up at the two of us as we entered and, upon noticing me, took up arms.
"You caught that kid, boss", one said incredulously, "the kid that works with the bat." He lifted a large, scary looking club and advanced towards me. "Ohh, I can't wait to ruffle his feathers." I flatted myself against the Riddler's leg, gazing up in sheer terror at the man.
"No, no", Goober, the Riddler said, "he's our guest for tonight." Goober stopped, looking confused. He scratched his head.
"But, he's the Bat's kid. Why aren't we gona beat 'em up?"
"I wouldn't expect a pea brain like you to fathom my brilliance Goober", Riddler snapped, "just stay away from him, all of you, or the Batman will have your wretched hides faster then you can say riddle me this." The men nodded. "Return to your games and pretend he's not here", the Riddler said, "now!" They backed off reluctantly, as if they really wanted a piece of me, and followed the Riddler's orders.
"Alright", the Riddler addressed me, "they might give us some problems but worry not bat boy, The Prince of Puzzlers will keep you safe, for tonight at least." I nodded, trusting him, quite frankly, because there didn't seem to be any one else to trust.
"Now", said the Riddler, "you can sleep over there." He pointed to a corner with some newspapers that looked like better accommodations for a puppy then a person. "I will be over there and hopefully, those bone headed Neanderthals will stay over there."
"Ok", I said, and I embraced him again happily, to tell him I was grateful.
"Nah, nah, nah", he said in a high, annoyed voice, "don't do that, seriously, it's bad for my image." I let him go and went off to my corner. He was grumbling as he walked away. "How does Batman put up with that all the time? Yeesh, that kid is like a remora (those fish with the suckers that attach themselves to sharks and other large sea animals)."
I curled up in the corner and tried my best to fall asleep. It was hard though. I lay up for a long while, looking at those men across the room from me. They kept looking over at me and doing strange things with their hands, which looked suspiciously like motions used to strangle and or beat someone to death. They really had it out for me.
Finally, I could take it no longer and trekked swiftly across the room to the Riddler, who was snoring quietly on a bare mattress. He gave a snort and rolled over so his back was to me. I climbed up on the mattress and curled up like a puppy up against his back, feeling safer with him near.
The Riddler woke up a few seconds later and propped himself up on one elbow, looking down at me. I gazed up at him innocently. "No", he said, "this isn't going to work, not at all. You have your corner over there, now go."
"But they're scaring me", I whimpered, indicating the men at the tables, "they keep looking at me and making faces." The Riddler glanced up at his men.
"I'll bet they do", he said mildly. He looked back down at me and found me gazing up with such intensity, he looked away. "Ohh, alright", he breathed, sounding defeated, "you may sleep next to me." He lay down and I snuggled into his chest, holding on to his shirt. He tried to push me away, but I held on tightly. He gave a sigh and permitted me to stay.
"Do you do this to Batman?" Riddler asked.
"Just when I have nightmares", I replied.
"No wonder he scowls all the time", he said, "If he has to put up with all this."
"He loves me", I said proudly. "He says I'm one of only two people he can put up with for more then twenty minutes."
"I can believe it", the Riddler grumbled, "so anyway, if you two are so very fond of each other, why did you run away?"
"They were gona take me away", I murmured softly.
"Who", the Riddler asked.
"The mean people", I replied, "they were gona try and make me live with another family."
"Ohh", the Riddler said. He closed his eyes and was silent for a few minutes before saying, "Well if you're getting all cozy on my chest, where am I supposed to put my arms, hmm?" I shrugged.
"Wherever you want", I replied.
"That's no kind of an answer", the Riddler said, "I'm serious."
"I suppose you could put them over me", I said. He frowned at me and then slowly lowered his arm over me.
"Like that?" he asked.
"Sure", I said, and then made another comment. "You don't do this very often, do you?"
"Ohh", the Riddler said sarcastically, "is it that obvious." I giggled.
"You're funny", I said.
"No, I'm not", the Riddler said, sounding affronted, "I'm evil."
"The penguin's evil, but he's kinda funny looken'."
"Well, that's old pengy for you," the Riddler said, "he's always been funny looking. Now, go to sleep would you please."
"Ok", I said, and closed my eyes.
About thirty seconds later, he broke the silence yet again saying, "What if Batman bursts in here, which I'm not entirely sure he won't, and sees us like this, what then?" I shrugged.
"What would be the problem?" I asked. The Riddler looked incredulously at me.
"You really are young, aren't you?"
"No duh", I replied, "I'm only nine." I held up nine fingers to emphasize. He laughed.
"Perhaps you might consider being my sidekick, we'd make a good team."
"No", I said, "I don't think so, your men are kinda scary."
"They are rather revolting, aren't they", the Riddler said. "Well, anyway, didn't I tell you to go to sleep?"
"I'm trying to", I replied, "but you keep waking me up."
"Nah ah, ah", the Riddler said, "no excuses, go to sleep." I closed my eyes again and this time, fell quickly asleep, feeling safe for the moment.
I woke up missing the warmth I had grown accustomed to through the night. I opened my eyes slowly and gazed out. I caught sight of the Riddler, pacing in front of me. "Ohh good, you're up", he said when he noticed I was conscious. I nodded slowly and closed my eyes. "No, no, no", he said, "don't go back to sleep, I think I may have found a way to get you home." I sat up slowly, suppressing a yawn.
"How?" I asked.
"I can just drop you off at the Police station, they can contact Batman, and then you can go home." I immediately stood up straighter, excited at the prospect of returning home.
"That'll work", I said happily.
"Good", said the Riddler, "then now we shall be off", and away he darted. I followed him over the rooftops as quickly as I could. I was still tired from the rag tag amounts of sleep I had been getting for the past few days, but I had enough energy to stay away for this.
He again led me in circles, but not for quite as long this time. Finally, we stopped, arriving at a building, which overlooked a small police station. "There you are kid", the Riddler said, "Your ticket home, but, are you sure you won't consider becoming my sidekick. I kind of like you and really do think we would work well together."
"No thanks", I said politely, "but thank you for taking care of me last night." He nodded.
"But don't go looking for trouble in this side of town again. You were lucky I was in the vicinity or you might not have made it." I nodded my head.
"Bye, bye", I said, hugging him tightly again. He groaned, but this time patted my back gently.
"Alright, now go on before you manage to get yourself into trouble again. I think you're accident prone." I nodded and released him before hopping down into the alleyway below. The Riddler dissipated into his surroundings like a shadow and just like that, he was gone.
I ducked behind a dumpster and put my civilian clothes back over my costume. After I had changed, I left the alley and went to the Police Station. It had been several hours and I was still waiting patiently on that bench. After I had gone into the station, I had introduced myself to the Police, who leapt up to help me as soon as they heard my name.
Apparently, word of my disappearance had gotten around. I suppose that's part of being a rich kid. They called up Bruce quick as lighting and promised me he would be there soon. I guess soon was simply a relative term because soon in my book was usually less then a minute.
Finally though, just as I was about to ask if they maybe had any toys in this place, an officer came up to me and said, "They're here son." I walked out of the station with him and was immediately bombarded with reporters and flashing lights.
I ducked away from then and rushed down the line of reporters, searching frantically for Bruce. Then, I saw Kathy. Richie, she called happily, and opened her arms to embrace me. I rushed right past her though because right behind her, was Bruce, talking worriedly to on officer. He looked more tired then I had ever seen him, but I raced up to him and threw my arms around his legs because that was about as high as I could reach.
"Dickie", he said, sounding absolutely overjoyed to see me. He scooped me up and hugged me tightly. "Ohh, you scared me half to death." Then, he held me at arm's length and looked sternly at me. "Don't you ever pull something like that again, do you hear me?" I nodded and reached out to hug him again. He pulled me foreward. His tone immediately changed to concern on his next statement.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, running his hands over me quickly as if to check for wounds.
"I'm fine", I said, "I didn't get hurt." He held me tightly and I could feel the tension in his embrace. He had been so worried about me.
"What happened?" he asked.
"I'll tell you about it later", I said. He nodded and gazed at me happily, as if drinking in the sight of me alive like a parched man would imbibe water.
"Lets get home", he said, and carried me back to the limo. He was shocked at my story when I finally related it to him, but he promised to send the Riddler some money, somehow.
Kathy was noticeably displeased that I had run off and did her best to blame it on Bruce, but it was kind of hard when I stood up in court and said I had run off because I didn't want to be taken away from him. After a long legal battle, most of which I slept through, Bruce was awarded full custody of me, which could not have made me happier. I got to live with him forever now.
I, of course, ended up fighting the Riddler eventually, but that was ok because for him, everything was just one big game. The world was once again bright and sunny, like it had been before my parents died. We fought crime and saved lives for many a day after that, just the two of us in Gotham. But that, was only the beginning…