Through the window opening to Commissioner Jim Gordon's office, Bruce Wayne silently eyed the small boy being guided into the cedar-wood, visitor's chair at the front of the desk. The boy posed himself with perfect posture and with a perfectly arranged expression of disinterest and serenity. It couldn't have been more of a lie. Bruce would know. He had been in that same chair a long time ago.
"Richard John Grayson. Son and only living relative of Jonathon and Mary Grayson passed on at eight twenty four this evening. Both parents were registered American citizens as well as their son. One of them of Roma des—" Coming up from the east entrance of the department building, tapping Gordon's shoulder, Harvey Bullock cupped a hand up and whispered into his ear. Gordon's voice faded off.
Bruce focused back on the boy as one of the female officers — Josephine "Josie Mac" MacDonald, psychic, unsurprisingly had a soft spot for kids — stepped into view through the glass. Mildly intrigued, he watched the boy deceive her with a sugary, youthful smile and probably cleverly rehearsed words as he accepted a mustard hot dog and Styrofoam cup of soda from her with a thankful nod.
The film of tears still gathered in his oversized and pleasantly blue eyes were a dead giveaway.
"Was there a reason you called me out here, Commissioner?" Bruce asked aloud, interrupting the two men still talking with one of his own very handsome, patent façades. "I am sorry to seem like I am rushing police business but I've got some of my own business involving two bottles of imported French wine and a lady friend with a flight back to Costa Rica early in the morning." Hm. Sounded good actually.
"You've done an excellent job in being cooperative with us tonight, Mr. Wayne." A faint smile peeked underneath Gordon's bushy, white mustache as Bullock grunted, giving the millionaire a look of utter disdain before stepping out of the wait room. "There is something else. A favor that the city would like to ask of you; however, you are under no obligation to take on this task since it is strictly voluntary…"
"Our newest guest's personal belongings have been sorted out in his living quarters," Alfred informed him, walking down the grand staircase to Wayne Manor along Bruce's side to carefully remove the shaving towel from Bruce's shoulders. "And how long is the Young Master Grayson staying with us?"
Making what would appear to be a natural and unsuspecting pause at the very bottom stair of the foyer, Bruce lowered away his face to frown broodingly.
A tinkling of crystal glass high above.
Without looking around, Bruce answered his butler, "Maximum of five days according to the state. The Gotham PD and Commissioner Gordon need a fixed period of time to put through his papers to the open adoption agencies… that is…" Bruce turned his head up, calmly addressing the small circus boy — for one reason or another still clad in his green, spandex one-piece suit, the "G" blazing yellow — hanging upside down from the ceiling, "…if he can manage to not break the expensive chandelier."
"You could have just let them dump me in juvie."
Bruce's eyes lit up with semi-humor. "Would you have preferred that instead, Dick?"
"…Do you ever open the curtains to this place?" Dick asked, accent thick, snickering and pitching his knees hooked tight and secure to the edge of the unlit chandelier, his arranged expression opening.
On the third night, his ward — somewhat wayward and refreshingly energetic, Alfred pointed on more than one occasion — went missing for several hours.
Or so Bruce estimated from when his butler discovered Dick's bed empty. Bruce knew for certain that his Father's study was barred from any sudden invasion of curious houseguests (only allowing the prints of Alfred and himself access). This was most likely going to be an all-night hunt.
Bruce eventually found the half-conscious boy in one of the sitting rooms on the other side of the Manor. Dick had huddled to himself against the opening of a Chippendale period mahogany desk, one of the carved gilded handles above him hanging out. The boy had what looked like one of the clean laundry sheets from the nearby laundry room wrapped around his torso. The borrowed and much-too-big satin pajamas from Bruce sliding off his thin, pale shoulders. Dick's brows were formed together and his eyelashes darkened with wet. Of course… the nightmares. They always came eventually.
Crouching down to where Dick hid, it felt like Bruce was staring directly at an eerie mnemonic of himself at that age: helpless, parentless, and lost in his grief.
"Alfred, he's over here."
With the help of a flashlight's glow, Bruce maneuvered around the small space beneath the desk to ease the boy into his arms, laundry sheet dangling to the carpet. "Mmmph," Dick mumbled grumpily, sleepily, burying his face deep into Bruce's collarbone and tightening his arms around his neck.
"I can't imagine that it was comfortable."
"…You have nothing to apologize for, Dick."
Dick Grayson was resilient.
He displayed boldness and concentrated intelligence, the edge of quickness on his feet, a great amount of talent and skill, and finally, the determination for justice.
He displayed all of this in less than twenty minutes in the juvenile hall's courtyard for any spectator to see, cackling as one of his frustrated bullies (two times Dick's size) missed another solid punch when Dick whipped out of his path with an effortless grace. The rest of the bullies on the concrete ground nursed their badly skinned knees from their own rounds, cheering on their remaining companion and then groaning in disappointment as Dick spun low on the balls of his heels, sweeping the bully off his feet and sending the bigger boy crashing down shoulder first, crying out but generally unharmed.
Dusting off the raggedy-looking teddy bear at his feet and hopping up onto the grassy area of the courtyard, Dick grinned and handed the bear back to its ginger-haired owner who gaped openly. Bruce bit back a rising smirk as he watched, and shifted in the office chair. "What can you tell me about that boy?"
"Him?" The hall's supervisor glanced out her office window with plain disapproval. "Richard Grayson. Orphan." Not unlike myself.
"He's been transferred from several different adoption centers in the last five months." And one neglectful foster home during two weeks.
"He appears to find satisfaction in starting fights with the other children." Highly unlikely.
"His records indicate that he has been a victim of bullying for his background as a circus acrobat." Aerialist, actually. And yes, kids are cruel. But so are adults.
"You did receive the call from my lawyer, correct?"
"Yes, Mister Wayne. I have the paperwork." The supervisor adjusted her glasses, checking over the forms and her eyes narrowed as they registered the name for the adoption. "… …Are you sure?"
A relaxed, open-handed gesture. "Believe me, miss. I think I've made the right decision, " Bruce said, leaning back in the upholstered swivel chair, smiling one of his confident and wildly attractive smiles.
A fist landed on the center of his chest emblem, pressing hard with the knuckles.
"You were there that night… weren't you?" His little, blue eyes burned straight through the Batman cowl.
"…I couldn't save your parents… even if I wanted to."
The fist slammed once again into Bruce's chest, and again; a broken heartbeat.
The comm. link was lodged in Dick's — Robin's — right ear and Bruce mentally considered if quadruple checking the security of the transmission was overkill. Or perhaps… listening in. Just to make sure his eleven-year-old adopted son and his friend — unfortunately, had to be the Flash's chatty nephew — weren't up to anything troublesome… Wally this… Wally that… Wally told me this… Wally is such a dork…
"Master Wallace seems to be a positive influence over Master Richard's recent experiences as a crime fighter," Alfred noted patiently, taking the untouched and now cool teacup away from Bruce's elbow.
Bruce grunted, smoothing his already slickened hair from his forehead. "I'm aware of what kind of influence that child is to Dick." He stood up, peering around the corner as the black-haired boy flopped backwards into a family room sofa, still talking animatedly. "Keep an eye on him for me, Alfred."
"Yes, Master Bruce." Alfred bent forward into a practiced bow.
He then added, amusement lacing his droning words, "And yes, sir, checking a fourth time is what one would refer to as 'overkill'."
Around Dick's twelfth birthday, they finally caught Tony Zucco — the mafia man responsible for the death of Dick's parents — and it was by chance. In the past, Dixon Dock had been an active home to a major run of narcotic drug chains, and since Batman's arrival, the area remained quiet. Zucco wanted nothing to do with the reputation of Dixon Dock, only somewhere quiet and off-the-map to intimidate his clients.
Crime never rested, and neither did Batman and his partner. Batman finished lassoing and cuffing the resisting members of Zucco's group when he heard the pathetic worm whimpering, scooting against a crate as a grim-faced Robin cornered him. "Listen, listen… don't hurt me, please, take me to jail…"
"So you can buy your way out in a few months and continue to hurt more innocent people?" Robin — Dick — let his true emotions reveal themselves to the enemy, snarling and fisting the front of the Zucco's pristine suit flecked with blood from Zucco's broken nose. "You should be getting the chair."
Ignoring the bellow of his field name, Robin yanked the now trembling man closer, "All of the innocent people that had to die because of you… how did they deserve this in your plans? What about the people like the Flying Graysons?"
"Wh-what about those f-freaks?.!.?" Hysteria-induced tears drizzled out from the corners of Zucco's piggy eyes. "I got jipped! Haley got more money for them being in the grave th-than being—" A shrill, watery cry as Robin's gauntlet-fingers clutched hard around the broken nasal bone.
Zucco's head flung back against the wood crate as Robin let him drop backwards to sink into a heap.
Expressionless, the boy slowly picked up the machine pistol Zucco had been eyeing longingly between the conversation. Batman's heart started thudding beneath the Kevlar — I've made a terrible mistake — and with the same unreadable expression on the twitching mafia man, Robin popped open the clip, dumping out its contents to clink-clink-clink onto the surface of the dock. "The worms don't even want you. I think you'll find better company alone in a cell."
Robin's face twisted up a little, the whites of his mask narrowing, as if he had stepped in something particularly disgusting, as a snot-and-blood-covered Zucco threw himself forward. Robin walked away for where Batman stood with the tied up criminals, tossing the empty clip and machine pistol into the river.
Batman — Bruce — stepped forward. "That could have gone to evidence."
"You swim in the river and get it out… if the acidic quality of the water doesn't remove the prints first."
Batman reached out to clasp his yellow caped shoulder at Robin's brash smirk, squeezing warmly.
If there was a god… he was possibly thanking him. "Go call it in. I'll take care of the dead weight."
"As someone with a view into the inside dynamic, how do you think the team is performing?"
The orange basketball bounced between Dick's legs. A sour note. "Shouldn't you be asking Aqualad?"
"I'm asking you." Bruce grunted, stopping the hook shot from the thirteen-year-old with a defensive move. Though Dick was very much shorter than him, he was a good opponent during the game. Very good.
"…Adequate," Dick admitted, raising a wrist to wipe a bit of sweat with the white-and-sky-blue sweatband and smiling toothily. "But we're getting better."
"That's what I suspected." The aged lines in Bruce's face smoothed. "Make your time count."
"—Pffft!" Dick chased after the slowly self-dribbling ball, cackling, haughty. "Don't need to tell me."
The Mad Hatter was not a new villain in the case files. On record, there were nine different localized antidotes for the mind-altering neurotoxins Mad Hatter seemed to favor. And the ability to adapt to any situation presented was a given in the job description.
Still… down the line, something had gone array. If it was the exposure created by the large crack in Batcowl eyepiece or the inability to grasp Mad Hatter's purpose for this twisted form of entertainment for the evening… no one had said anyone had been flawless.
Hands curled around the straining muscles of Robin's throat, wringing, strangling him of oxygen. Hands that underneath the gloves were scarred and like iron.
The eye peeking out from the depths of the cowl was a pitch-black pupil overtaking the blue iris. Drugged. Hypnotized.
Though Batman could feel a rationalized part of himself in this situation, screaming internally to let his partner go — dickimsoimsosorry —, it was not enough to simply climb off him and stop. Beneath him came silent and irregularly-heaving gasping through an open, bleeding mouth. Robin's cheeks flared with effort as his hands fought against the larger pair pinning him down to the blacktop street scattered with broken bits of glass.
Under any other circumstances, his partner could have easily tucked a leg between them to force some distance but without breathing…
Kicking legs eased to the occasional thrash against the street. A good distance away in the alley, Mad Hatter spun around merrily, tilting the wide brim of his green Hatter's hat and chiming out a macabre rhyme about a child who compulsively lied and dead robins floating in teacups.
Robin managed to gag out, his purpling throat contracting against Batman's merciless fingers, "…Ba…ma-nnn…"
When no sign of acknowledgement was shown, Robin's hands gradually loosened from around his mentor's wrists to shakily come up to his own face, the black, gloved tip of one of his fingers poking underneath his mask. The sticky edges came apart from skin, displaying one of his blue eyes, clear and anxious to the open air Batman's fingers flexed harder — nodontdothatouthere — and Dick's exposed eye rolled a stark white in the socket.
Robin's back arched in—imkillingimkillinghim—and a smile weakly lifted Robin's mouth. "Ba…ru…sss…"
He began peeling away the rest of his domino-toned mask — neverrevealyourselftotheenemy — and found his hand trapped in place. The younger boy sucked in noisy, gulping breathes as Batman's hands freed his throat to instead clench rigidly around Robin's wrist, the pupil-dark eye rinding with familiar blue.
His thick voice sounded barely above a whisper, "Robin…"
"…Batman," Robin managed to work an answer after a moment, nodding firmly up to him and wiping the blood from his grinning lips with his free hand. "I'm…here."
I do not own YJ or anything with references to DC comic canon. Like the GPD. Or Dixie Dock. Or Tony Zucco. Or Mad Hatter. Heheh. You get the point. My wonderful Birdie or maplebird on here requested this a while back and it took me a while but I got it done so yay! She gave me: "Robin (Dick) couldn't understand him anymore. This man before him was not who he remembered. Those scarred hands could not have once held him so tenderly..." and essentially told me to form anything out of it. Really. Anything. So. End result. –waves hands- Much more complicated than expected. Heh. And I like it. I do. Comments always appreciated, yo.