A/N: Just got hooked on Young Justice, but Batman has always been my favorite superhero and Robin is just plain awesome. Therefore, I decided to write a fanfic that explores their relationship. Hope you all like!
The first time Richard Grayson met the Dark Knight he had been only five years old.
The circus was in Gotham for a week and John Grayson had decided to show his son around the city in between shows, get the kid out into the world a bit. Wide, innocent blue eyes took in the tall buildings looming around him, the hustle and bustle of a thriving city, and the scents of various food stalls seemed to waft through the streets like an enticing embrace.
Little Dick had always been a bit small for his age, making him the perfect size to later join his parents on the trapeze. For now however, Dick's height simply made it easier to get lost in a city as populated as Gotham. John smiled down at his son, who was clinging close by while taking it all in. Everything was so big compared to the small world of the big top!
"Stick close son, wouldn't want to lose you." John laughed, lifting the little boy into his arms as they crossed the street. "How about some ice-cream little robin?" John asked, using the nickname affectionately given to Dick after he took his first flying leap off of his parents' bed and landed almost expertly on his feet after doing a midair flip.
"Yeah! Ice-cream!" Dick cheered, curling his small arms around his father's neck. "I want chocolate daddy!"
John couldn't help but laugh at his son's seemingly endless supply of exuberance as they stopped outside a small ice-cream parlor. It was an unnaturally warm day for spring, making the parlor a hopping place to be, and upon seeing the packed crowd inside John set Dick back on the sidewalk.
"Now Dick, daddy's going to go inside and get the ice-cream. Can you wait for me right here and not go with any strangers?" John knelt down to look the five-year old in the eyes. Dick nodded his head quickly, big smile still in place. John chuckled as he ruffled the mess of dark hair that was just starting to get in Dick's eyes. "Be right back, 'kay sport?"
Dick watched as his father disappeared into the ice-cream parlor and decided to sit himself down on the sidewalk and watch the legs of passerby. For all his hyper-activeness, Dick was a surprisingly observant child. He would sometimes sit in one place for hours and just watch the world around him, leaving everyone he got in the way of to step around him. Working in the same circus as the Graysons was always an obstacle course thanks to the youngest Grayson.
It couldn't have been more than five minutes before Dick noticed something odd across the street. A large electronics store was situated almost directly across from the ice-cream parlor, and Dick had just witnessed three men in dark clothing enter with their right hands hidden in jacket pockets. Dick had a very bad feeling about this.
Moments later the sound of gunshots filled the air, and the calm that had driven the everyday normalcy broke into chaos. Legs that had previously walked calmly by were now flashing across Dick's line of sight faster than the scenes in those action movies he loved to watch. People were screaming and running in a blind panic, hardly in the state to notice the small boy cowering against the side of a building, trying very hard to not get trampled.
Then, through the flashes of colored legs, Dick saw the men exit the store with large sacks over their backs to start opening fire on the general public, and one man was aiming right at a defenseless Richard Grayson.
Dick never heard the shot, but he saw the man's finger pull the trigger and knew he was done for. A second later and Dick's entire world turned black, but not in the way he had expected. It was suddenly just a bit warmer, like when he burrowed under his covers and pretended to be a rabbit hiding in its hole. It felt safe.
Looking up, Dick's eyes widened as he could make out a solid chest proudly sporting a black symbol that looked like a bat. Craning his neck up, Dick could just make out two slits in the cowl hiding the man's face from view and before he knew what was happening he was being lifted into a pair of powerful arms that seemed to instantly calm his racing heart.
The cape fell from around him, revealing the panicked street once again but no sign of the darkly dressed men. It was obvious that Dick's savior was not accustomed to holding a child, for although Dick was held securely to the man's chest the caped, cowled hero was stiff in countenance and looking down at the child as if wondering what the heck to do with him.
"Richard! Thank God you're alright!" John suddenly came into view, starting in surprise at seeing who was currently holding his son. "Batman, er, sir." John stuttered, making Dick tilt his head curiously at his father's odd behavior.
Batman remained silent, masked eyes narrowing minutely before looking back down at Dick, who simply smiled up at him and wrapped his arms as far around the hero's chest as he could reach. "Thank you Mr. Batman sir." Dick thanked the hero, taking the stoic man off guard before handing the child over to his father.
John happily clasped his son to him, fussing over the boy for a minute before looking back up to thank Batman again, but found nothing but an empty street.
The world had ended. That was the only explanation Dick could come up with in his distraught nine-year old mind. The whole entire world had collapsed in on itself and life would just halt in this moment of pain and loss, imprisoning Dick where he was in the middle of the circus ring, images of his parents' deaths looping endlessly in his head.
He sat right where their bodies had fallen, the ground stained dark with their spilt blood even as the bodies had long since been removed. He should have warned them, he knew something hadn't been right with the trapeze's safety, but he'd remained silent. Now his parents would forever be silent.
Drawing his knees into his thin chest, Dick let his head fall as his breath started to shake. How could this have happened to him? What had he ever done to deserve this? It wasn't fair! It just was not fair, and now Dick had no clue what to do. He would just have to sit there in the abandoned ring for the rest of his life, going neither backwards nor forwards.
Dick didn't even know what he was thinking anymore.
All of a sudden a warm darkness fell over him, making him look up even as tears blurred his vision. He knew this darkness, he'd felt it once before, and just like back then it seemed to immediately calm him for some inexplicable reason. Turning around, Dick automatically sought out the warm body attached to the cape and curled into it.
Batman knelt there on the ground, in the middle of a circus ring of all things, with a young boy crying his heart out into his chest, and he felt something. In his lonely world of crime fighting he'd become cold, jaded, without even realizing it. And yet one young boy who had just suffered a loss so similar to his own somehow thawed him.
Batman knew from experience that no words would be able to console, so he simply stayed where he was and let Richard cry himself out. Once the wracking sobs subsided and Dick got a hold of himself, he suddenly felt extremely embarrassed and attempted to hide himself further underneath the dark cape that had been half covering him as he broke down.
Well, that wouldn't really do.
Gently removing his cape from the small lump that had made its way into his lap, Batman gently lifted the boy's chin so that those red-rimmed blue eyes met his. Noticing the slight apprehension in the small body, Bruce was tempted to reveal himself from behind the cowl, but now was not the time.
"I have a friend, who would be willing to take you in for as long as you need." Bruce's voice was the flat monotone of Batman, but he tried to add as much warmth in it as he could. He wanted to say more, something about how he knew exactly what kind of gut wrenching guilt Dick must be feeling, but again it was not the time. Let Alfred soothe the kid a bit with some hot chocolate and cookies before diving into the hard stuff. Just as long as he didn't leave those dark feelings and thoughts too long, nothing good can come from that.
"Wi-will you take me there?" Dick whispered, wiping at his eyes with the cape that he'd unconsciously clenched in his hands. Batman's eyes followed the usage of his cape but said nothing, simply nodding in affirmation before lifting the still costumed Grayson off the floor.
On the drive home in the batmobile, Batman never once gave thought to the fact that he was driving with Dick curled securely in his lap with his black cape covering his small body like a blanket. It just seemed right.
"Still can't believe you thought you could keep this from me." Dick was wandering around the batcave in awe while Bruce stood beside the main computer console, rubbing at his temples in an effort to ward off the developing headache.
"I can't believe you found out so fast." Bruce muttered to himself.
"If I may, Master Bruce, Master Richard is the brightest young man I have met. I am surprised he didn't find out sooner." Alfred carefully hid his smirk as a toned down version of the bat glare was directed at him.
"Alfred knows what he's talking about." Dick grinned as he came to stand beside Bruce. "So, Batman, need a sidekick?"
Bruce sighed heavily. How had things turned out this way? Dick had been living at Wayne Manor for a few months now, was enrolled in Gotham Academy at the top of his class, and had bravely seen his parents put to rest. After the first few nights of sitting in the living room with a fresh plate of Alfred's homemade cookies, Bruce had managed to talk through most of Dick's feelings concerning the night his parents died, and in return even shared a bit about his own parents' deaths. It was therapeutic in a way. But this?
"Dick, I know I'm as human as you without the super powers of Superman-" the smug Kryptonian, "but crime-fighting is a dangerous job that I've been doing for years. You're inexperienced and I could never put you in harm's way." Bruce expected to see that crestfallen look Dick got whenever he didn't get his way, and so was a bit surprised to see the mischievous sparkle in those blue eyes.
"So teach me, I'm a fast learner. You know what I can do." Dick appealed to the older man, waiting with bated breath as Bruce scrutinized him with a steady gaze, cowl having been removed upon his return to the batcave.
Dick loved being Robin, Boy Wonder sidekick to the infamously feared Batman. From the moment he slipped on his new costume and donned his mask, Dick felt a weight being lifted. He now had a purpose, an outlet for the pent up energy that months of sessile living had caused, and he absolutely loved it. From the daily sparring/training matches with Bruce (interspersed with hydration at Alfred's insistence), and their almost nightly patrols (homework allowing) of the city, Dick was finally starting to feel like himself again.
Bruce had been reluctant at first, of course. Dick was his son (adoption had simply been a technicality) and Bruce feared the possibility of losing the only person besides Alfred who he could love openly without inhibition and be loved in return. But the young acrobat had proved to be determined and more than capable of donning the mask of a superhero, in time of course. For now, Batman would keep his little bird under wing until he was ready to fly alone. Literally.
He could never really understand it, the fascination Robin had with his cape. All Dick would say the one time Bruce asked was that "it's safe." Either way, whenever the opportunity would arise Robin would tuck himself into Batman's side, snug under the bat wing shaped cape. Kids.
After a long night of patrolling or taking down baddies, Robin would curl up in the passenger seat of the batmobile with his head against the window and Batman's cape covering him. If the crime fighting duo were on a rooftop stakeout and it started to rain, Batman would silently sigh in his mind before lifting up an arm for Robin to crawl under the waterproof/bulletproof/heatproof material that made his cape. Most of all, however, Robin needed the warm safety of Batman's cape after a close call with a particularly bad villain, whether that villain be physical or mental.
The first encounter with the Joker had been a mistake. Batman had had every intention of keeping Robin away from the big time criminals until he had more experience with everyday evil-doers, but of course everyone knows how meticulously laid plans pan out: not well. When the Joker was thrown into the equation, the end results turned catastrophic.
It had been a routine patrol night, the two of them spending an hour or two on a shadowed rooftop before moving on to another one in a different part of the city, but the instant Batman caught sight of the cars that pulled up to Gotham bank he knew things were about to turn ugly. If he had known that the Joker was the mastermind behind the break-in, Batman would have forced Robin home with no exceptions. As fate would have it however, Batman didn't figure it out until he was in too deep, they were both in too deep.
Robin more than proved himself to his mentor that night.
They had gone into the bank, planning on a simple knock out round up job, but were instead met with a dozen of the Joker's trained lunatics armed to the teeth with weapons. Batman and Robin had quickly been separated, leaving each to his own in the midst of a heavily outnumbered battle. Batman was systematically dodging and lashing out at each man as they came at him, and when he finally got the chance his eyes quickly sought out his young sidekick. What he saw surprised even him.
Robin, with all his speed and agility, was jumping off walls, ceilings, counters, people, anything that was within reach really. He was flipping around at such a speed that the masked men around him could barely discern where he was before they were taken down. Batman had never felt so proud of his protégé. Then entered Joker.
The night ended with Joker laughing his unhinged head off tied up in a burning warehouse while Robin helped a limping Batman back to the batmobile, barely concealing his own winces due to a number of cracked ribs. By the time they returned to the batcave both were barely conscious, leaving Alfred to tend to their numerous burns and gashes. With painkillers pumping through his system, Robin's foggy mind barely registered the fact that he refused to release Batman's cape from his almost death grip until Bruce assured him that they were both going to be okay.
For the next few nights neither Bruce nor Alfred said anything when they found Dick curled up under Batman's cape, fast asleep with nightmares for once kept at bay.
The day Robin teamed up with Aqualad and Kid Flash and decided to join Young Justice was the day Batman realized that his son was finally ready to leave the nest…cave, whatever. Robin, who usually argued and questioned Batman but in the end always ended up agreeing, was standing firm in his decision to stand on his own. He was ready, and nothing his father could say would change his mind.
On the long, quiet drive home Batman kept his eyes on the road but his senses on the boy-no, young teen, sitting in the passenger seat. Robin had his eyes trained on the scenery outside, for once not filling the batmobile with inane chatter in various languages about…who knows what. For once, Bruce was not sure what was going through his son's mind, and it was unnerving him to say the least.
"It's not like I'm leaving home or Alfred, or you. I just-I know I'm ready for this. And I know I'll probably stumble along the way and mess up, but-"
"You need to mess up to learn." Batman finished for his son, pulling smoothly into the batcave before killing the engine. "I know Dick, I know." He turned in his seat, removing his cowl to survey his son without hindrance. "You are ready, have been ready for quite some time now I've realized. It's just, hard to let you go." Bruce admitted, causing Robin's eyes to widen in surprise.
Reaching up to remove his son's mask, Bruce was rewarded with the bright blue eyes that had looked up at him with such innocent trust eight years previous. Had it really been eight years since Richard Grayson first came into Bruce's life?
"Just know that I'll always be there when you need me." Bruce said softly, ruffling his son's dark hair before opening the car door.
The next day the five members of Young Justice arrived at Mount Justice with their mentors to get themselves settled in. Kid Flash was talking animatedly to Superboy, who simply stared blankly back, while Aqualad watched on with an amused look. Flash had one eye on the kids and one eye on the cleanup of the cave when he noticed a dark shadow come gliding in.
Flash was about to ask Batman where Robin was, but before he could open his mouth to enquire Batman opened his cape to reveal the Boy Wonder in his civvies of dark shades, jeans, and black hoodie, standing comfortably beside his mentor. Robin looked up at Batman, gave a small smile that was (to Flash's utter shock) warmly returned, and then stepped out from beneath the safety of his father's wings to take his place beside his new teammates.
Years later, Dick found himself looking down at the silent streets of Gotham through the mask of a cape-less Nightwing, as somehow, donning a cape as part of his new identity just didn't seem right. Somewhere in the distance the clock tower struck midnight, yet other than that there was nothing to disturb the quiet peace of the moonlit city as Nightwing dutifully watched over its sleeping inhabitants.
He'd been sitting comfortably atop the old city hall building for most of the night, silent and still as a statue just as he'd been taught, blending seamlessly in with the cool autumn night around him. Without taking his eyes off the street or giving any indication that he could sense the other's presence, Nightwing waited patiently as near silent footsteps approached him from behind.
"Quiet night." Nightwing observed quietly, voice deeper and softer than it had been in his remembered youth. A dark, familiar warmth draped over him as the other man sat beside him, hidden eyes staring out at the deserted street.
"You could have called." Batman tried to sound annoyed, even though his attempts at cowing his son had proved futile years ago. Nightwing quietly chuckled as he leaned into the strong chest of his father, relishing in the comforting weight of that ever-present cape.
"No fun in that." Nightwing stated simply, allowing a comfortable silence to fall over the two of them as old memories rushed through his mind of countless times when he'd sit atop numerous rooftops with his mentor, partner, father.
The clock struck the half hour, garnering no reaction from the two silent vigilantes. Richard Grayson was now twenty-two, and all was well.