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"Life is being on the wire; everything else is just waiting."
His parents encouraged him. People came to a circus to see unusual things, so a boy cartwheeling down the aisle was just fine. In fact, it got attention. And it didn't really matter where his feet were, so long as he got his chores done on time.
So. It burned off his energy, kept him in practice, kept him happy, and, most importantly, it sold tickets. Really, if the kid could do that many flips on the ground, imagine what he could do on a trapeze! So yeah, maybe it was a habit.
Habits can be hard to break.
But then it happened, and he had to learn to stand still. Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne's ward, had to show up to dinners and be professional and stuff. No, Dick, you can't flip off the drink table; no, Dick, stand upright, yes, with your feet down, and on and on. It was hard, but the nights made it so, so worth it.
He puts on another costume, and performs. Granted, he's had to readjust his whole style, but he kind of expected that. He'd been taught how to plant his limbs exactly where people were not. It doesn't take much to reverse that.
The nights so make up for the days.
And then there is school. It's not quite a four letter word, but it should be. So, okay, he could have stayed home and been tutored, but there are kids here. There are girls here.
Circus educations are surprisingly well-rounded, but Bruce had rushed him through a few more subjects, as well. He knew enough of any subject to make it work, but now he got explore, go in depth. But hours in a little chair? That's not so fun.
And gym. Ha, gym. The lady had told them to warm up. Those were the words she'd used, "warm up!". Apparently, she didn't mean the same thing Bruce did. He'd learned quickly to tone it down. She didn't want him even flipping, but limited to tumbling. He simply didn't listen, though he didn't go over a single rotation. Well, a single and a bit. You know, most of the time.
But Bruce doesn't actually say anything about roundoffs in the manor, and Dick keeps it up. Though, one day, he finds a rigging up in the cave, full of bars and trapeze and grips and dangly ropes.
Best. Present. Ever.
He climbs and jumps and twists and drops and swings and leaps and flies. He also almost gives Alfred a heart attack or two, but that's just exaggeration, 'cause Dick knows what he's doing. He spends hours up there, and would spend more, but if he doesn't keep his grades up, the whole thing might just disappear.
Not that Bruce says that. But Dick knows about prices, and really, this one's easy.
Turns out that playground was a bad idea, 'cause now he's stronger and has more energy, and damn if school days don't go on forever. He tries Bruce's meditation, but it's never as soothing as the state he reaches up in the ropes, so he stops. So then patrol, and he can't sit still, which is good, because now he doesn't need to. There's this one building, that if he attaches his hook just right and gets the angle down pat, then he's got enough lift to do a quadruple, and then some. And the bank's roof has this rail that's just the right height for bar work, and the ledge of the courthouse is a perfect balance beam, and okay, so maybe Gotham is one giant jungle gym.
So Dick sits still in class and Robin gets to play on the city at night, and life is as good as it gets.
Until it gets better, because Batman's going to take him to the Justice League's Hall and he's going to meet them. Like, actually meet them, inside a building, during the day. Not chasing them out of the Bats' city at night. Not that he hasn't chased Superman out a few times, but, yeah. This'll be official and everything.
The first time he does a handstand in the mountain, M'Gann asks what he's doing. He tried to explain to concept of acrobats to her, because it apparently never came up in sitcoms. Superboy doesn't get it either. Wally keeps his feet on the ground and likes it that way, thankyouverymuch. Aqualad, at least, understands the tyranny of gravity, though he swims it off.
Robin drops out of the handstand, falling into a somersault, only to be stopped halfway through. He registers M'Gann's gasp and the fact that Superboy's grabbed his ankles.
"You were falling," he explains.
"Thanks," Robin says, chagrined. The bruises on his ankles last for a week, and he keeps the tumbling to a minimum around them after that.
Robin's having trouble sleeping, and he thinks he knows why. Between school and homework and patrol and commuting out to Happy Harbor, he's got less time to spend in his little haven, far above the Batcave. Years of lessons keep his feet on the ground in the mountain, and he doesn't want to risk tumbling around certain people again. Their gym here just doesn't have the equipment he needs to bleed off his stress. The energy buildup is making him twitchy, which is breaking his concentration. In fact, on patrol the other night, he'd missed his target with his grappling gun by a few inches.
He hasn't done that since he got it. And Batman looks at him and frowns, and okay, this sucks. Something's gotta give.
It comes to a head during the summer, when they've spent a whole week in the mountain, and he's itching to fly.
It's Miss Martian who comes to him first. Always the peace maker, she is. "I know I'm supposed to stay out of everyone's heads and all, I know, but you're kind of, well, mentally...screaming? I'm sorry! It's just...hard to ignore."
"Nah," he laughs, because he really did expect this, and he's gotten better about dealing with telepaths. Especially since Batman taught him that nifty little trick for blocking them. "It's fine, I know I'm being loud. It's just..." he sighs, "frustrating. I need to do more than I'm doing."
Megan, of course, takes it the wrong way, because Robin could honestly have phrased that better. "But you're already doing so much! I mean, I don't think even ninjas could set foot on the island without us knowing, now, thanks to your security updates. And comm system, and the new weapons, and..."
"Thanks," he says, shaking his head at her. "Thank you."
She's confused, but that's because he's not saying anything. She's good at this, normally, but he doesn't think she can help with this particular problem.
He spends a few more hours in their gym, but it doesn't work like it usually does. He stretches and tumbles and flips, but the height, the rush isn't there.
He contemplates asking Miss M to fly him up to the ceiling and drop him, but he thinks she won't like it, so he doesn't.
It takes longer than it should have for Aqualad to talk to him. Well, that's Robin's opinion, but then again, he forgets that not everyone is Bat-trained to notice these things.
"Hey, man," Kaldur says, leaning against a wall. "You okay?"
Robin smiles tightly. "Yeah, sorry, I'm just a bit...distracted."
Aqualad stares at him. "Can I help?"
Robin's about to snap something along the lines of nonowbuzzoff, but instead he counts to ten and says, "Got time to spar?"
It helps. He actually sleeps most of that night.
He's playing a video game with Kid Flash, and trying to talk Superboy into playing. The past week, he's had a lot of time on his hands, and he's crafted a controller from a really strong alloy, that might just maybe not break when Superboy touches it.
He's just dropping the controller into a dubious hand when his alarm goes off. It's the private alarm he's got wired to his earpiece, because the only ones likely to set it off are the League members, and given his notorious lack of forewarning, it's mostly for Batman.
He relaxes a bit, knowing his mentor is near, but Batman doesn't show up for a few hours more. Superboy is getting good at the game, good enough to actually beat Kid Flash once, Megan is in the kitchen, of course, and Artemis is probably still in her room. Robin's doing vertical pushups on the carpet, occasionally falling backwards into a somersault and stretch, but he's cautious about too much motion. It could distract the other boys, and that's the last thing they need after all the time they put into getting Superboy to actually try the video game.
He's debating leaving, going to look for Batman, but he's preempted by the man himself stepping out of the shadows by the television.
The other boys jump, spooked. Robin smiles, because Batman knows all too well that sometimes you have to make your own fun. The Batman glides forward a bit and says, "Robin."
He kicks his legs over and comes back up to a standing position facing Batman. He folds his hands behind his back and waits.
One of Batman's gloves emerges from under the cape, and tosses something at Robin's face. He catches it on instinct, and recognizes the feel of item in his hand.
It's a small piece of rope, of the same kind that makes up his little nest-gym in the cave. He stares at it a moment and then, "No way." Batman's got his look-how-amused-I'm-not face on, which means he really is a bit amused. "Really?" He gets a small inclination of the cowl, and he throws himself at Batman. A bit of a jump means he can get his arms around Bruce's neck, squeezing a hug, then using that as a pivot, swings up and around behind him, planting a foot on Batman's shoulder, and leaping backwards out into thin air.
He hasn't actually pulled that move in years, but Bruce still leans into the spin, and tilts his head to bare his shoulder for the foot, so he obviously isn't unhappy about it.
One flip, two, and he lands on the back of the couch, using that as a springboard for a twist and spin. Lands that, and bleeds out the momentum in a somersault, rolls right back to his feet, and then down the hall, with a whoop and a handspring.
There's a scramble from the couch as Kid Flash hits the pause button, and they follow Robin down the hall, Megan floating along behind them. Batman follows them, staying to the shadowed side of the hallway.
There's a thing in the gym, is the first thing the kids notice. It's a huge mass of nets and ropes and it takes up most of the ceiling. Megan increases her height a bit to get closer, only to drop as Robin falls out of the mess.
He catches the trapeze, swings once, twice, lets go, and then he's back up towards the ceiling, twisting in a way that looks impossible, catching a rope here to change his direction, and then another to drop a few feet.
He makes a happy noise, wraps the rope around his waist, and then just falls.
He doesn't notice the commotion on the floor as Batman calms them down. He's too busy hooking the rope around his leg, so with a twist and a swing, he can grab the vertical bar, and use that as a pivot to get to trapeze, which, in turn, lets him swing back out into nothing.
"What is that?" Kid Flash asks.
"A toy," Batman rumbles. "A Robin's Nest."
Superboy snorts at the name, but all eyes are on the young boy defying gravity, before he plummets back to earth. He ends up on eye-level, but upside-down.
"Thanks," he says to Batman. "Really."
Batman nods again.
"I knew you were an acrobat, but that was amazing!" M'Gann says, clapping a little.
"M'not an acrobat," Robin answers, shifting his weight enough to make the rope sway. "I'm an aerialist!"
And once again, Robin flies.