A/N: A special thanks to Jedi Ani Undull, Random Under the Sun, TheGrayson, FuzzyBee013, Sophia Griffin, KKCopper, and Adriva J. I have used inspiration from you guys to help write this chapter! It is super greatly appreciated. If it hadn't been for you (and all of my wonderful reviewers and followers) I may never have finished this story.
Thank you to everyone!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
A few days later:
"Where are you going?" Richard's voice was light and teasing as he trained on the acrobatic equipment in the batcave. He flipped from one bar to the next, finally coming to rest beside Batman as he finished putting his Batsuit on.
"There is a meeting up at the Watch Tower." Batman said simply.
Dick gave a lopsided smile. "Can I come?" It was something he asked more out of habit, as a joke, rather than because he thought Bruce actually would let him. Besides, Batman knew that he could easily hack into the watch towers' computers to watch if he wanted to. He'd done it often enough times before. Batman hadn't yelled at him though because, secretly, he was proud of him for doing so.
"Not today." Batman said. He pulled on my gloves and looked Dick over. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine." He said. He looked fine too. After the Scarecrow incident with Young Justice he'd been bedridden for two days. He seemed alright now, happy, unphased by the gas, and eager to get back to his team. He'd even gotten to go on patrol last night. He'd gotten knocked around by some thugs, but even so he was still doing pretty well.
"Good." Bruce smiled at him. "I'll be home in time for patrol if you're feeling up to it."
"You bet." Dick said with a laugh. He was back on the parallel bars almost immediately. "Hey, can I go to the Mountain today?"
"If you must. Be careful."
He laughed again. "Yea, yea, sure." He rolled his eyes. "Stop being so protective."
Batman gave him one last, small, smile before heading towards the teleporters. "Behave."
"Don't I always?" Bruce caught his last laughed words just as he was taken to the Watch Tower.
When Batman arrived J'onn was waiting. The martian's face was impassive as usual. The fact that he was around to greet Batman was odd though. Shouldn't he be in the meeting? Usually he was the first one there. The rest of the Watch Tower was empty too. The usual occupants seemed to have disappeared.
"Has something happened?" Batman asked as they walked to the meeting room.
"I only wished to greet you." The martian said, but his words were hesitant- fake.
Bruce frowned. "Something happened. This isn't a routine meeting."
J'onn didn't deny the truth to the words, but neither did he make to explain what was going on. Batman frowned and began going over multiple scenarios in his mind. He couldn't remember anything happening with the League to cause such tensions. He knew Luthor and Joker and many of the other super criminals were still in jail, so it wasn't that. Then what was it?
The two heroes entered the conference room and Batman froze. The original seven members were waiting along with Aquaman and Green Arrow. Batman frowned. Perhaps it was something about the children then.
"What is the meaning of this?" He questioned as he took his customary seat.
"We need to talk about Robin." Superman's voice had a hard edge to it. Batman glanced up at him.
"What about him?"
"You are no longer fit to take care of him. We're removing him from your protection."
"Hey guys! How is everyone?" Robin entered the Cave and grinned. None of his friends smiled back, not for real. M'gann and Wally gave a hesitant smile. Everyone seemed nervous though. They were sitting on the edge of their seats. Black Canary was there with them too, a deep frown on her face.
"Uh, did something happen, guys?" Robin asked nervously. He took a seat on the couch and tilted his head to the side, wondering why they were acting so strange.
Suddenly M'gann gasped. "What happened to your neck?" she cried.
"Huh? Oh. That." Robin pulled the neckline of his costume down a bit, revealing deep bruises. "Nothing much, I just got strangled last night." He shrugged it off.
"Where else are you hurt, my friend?" Kaldur asked.
Robin frowned at them. "Really, guys, it's nothing."
"Where else, Robin?" Black Canary asked softly.
"Well… I got lobbed in the back of the head too, but that's already healed. And, uh, a couple days ago I cracked a rib in training but that's nothing."
Wally's hands clutched at the armrests. He wouldn't meet Robin's eyes. "You broke a rib in training?" He demanded.
"I cracked a rib." Robin corrected. "I wasn't paying attention and I hadn't worn all my armor. Really, it's nothing."
"That's nothing?" Wally exclaimed. He jumped up, gesturing wildly. "You broke a rib, got a concussion, and almost got strangled and you're ok with this? What the heck does Batman do to you?"
Robin blinked. "Dude, calm down. I'm fine. Batman has prepared me for-"
"Batman!" Connor exclaimed now. "Batman is-"
"That's enough." Black Canary's stern voice broke into their words. "Boys, sit down. Robin, we need to talk."
"Obviously. What's going on?" Robin eyed each of them. M'gann looked close to tears and wouldn't meet his eyes. Artemis looked furious and she kept glaring off into space. Kaldur looked worried. Connor looked angrier than usual and Wally looked almost as upset.
"On your last mission you were all hit by the fear gas." Black Canary explained slowly. "Of the team, only you were able to keep your composure, even though you were under the fear gas for hours. M'gann mentioned that you'd said you'd been trained for that. We want to know what that training was."
Robin's heart sunk. No. They couldn't know about what had happened! He and Batman had kept it as secret as possible because they knew how much trouble they could get into.
Robin smiled and gave a short laugh though to cover. "Heck, I've been exposed that that stuff so much it takes forever for it to really affect me anymore."
"We checked." Wally said. His voice was flat and serious. "Robin, the effects of that get worse every time you get hit, not better."
"That's not true. That's only for certain strains. Besides, being hit with it so much I've gotten used to it."
"That's not what you said." M'gann whispered. Her fearful eyes met his masked ones. "You said that what Batman had done to you was worse. You didn't say what the Scarecrow had done, or Joker, you said Batman."
Robin fell silent as all the eyes fell on him.
"That is child abuse, Bruce." Superman growled out. They'd been at this for nearly an hour. Batman had barely said anything. He'd just sat, glaring at them and every so often uttering a few angry words. "You cannot just torture the child like this!"
"First of all, Robin is no longer a child." Batman said sternly. "Second, as I have mentioned previously, he gave consent."
"Bruce!" Wonder Woman slammed her hands on the table. "Don't you dare give us that! Dick cannot be trusted to make decisions for himself regarding his training. He is only thirteen, which is still a child. And what's more? He worships you, Bruce. He would do anything you asked. If you asked him to cut off his arm, he'd do it for you! You cannot tell us that it was consensual for him. You might not have held a gun to his head and told him to do the training, but how could he have said no?"
Batman just glared at her.
Flash sighed deeply. Batman wasn't relenting. Nothing they'd said so far seemed to have any effect on him. The only thing that had made him show any emotion was when they'd told them they were taking Dick away.
"Bruce, at least tell us why." Flash said softly. "We've gotten a huge list of everything you've put him through. I can't see how this is justified, at all."
"It was a training exercise." Batman hissed. "The exercise was to put Robin in the worst situation possible to make sure that when something terrible did happen he'd be able to keep his head and survive. And he has obviously proven this. He saved the entire team on their last mission."
"He's just a child, Bruce." Hawkgirl said. "Even if it was a training exercise there is no excuse for putting him through that now, or ever. No son should ever be hunted by his father."
Green Arrow snorted. "Father. Right. Bruce doesn't deserve to be a father after what he's done."
That got a reaction from the Dark Knight. Batman jumped up, knocking his chair back and grabbed at the table. The wood splintered under his hands. "Don't you dare say that, Queen." Batman hissed. "Don't you dare say that about me."
"Why not? You're torturing the boy!"
"I am not! He asked for this. He begged me to allow him to do the training when I'd mentioned it. I am keeping him safe by putting him through this. I am making sure that he won't die."
"We called you out before about this stuff." Green Arrow said. "When you first wanted to have Robin as your sidekick we protested. We only agreed because you promised to keep him safe, to make sure he was ok, and not to hurt him. And what have you done? You've nearly drowned him, beat the heck out of him, and subjected him to fear gas! Who know what else you've done?"
Batman opened his mouth but Superman cut him off. "Disregarding any of that." He said firmly. "Disregarding anything you've put him through or made him do… what about the future? Where will you stop Bruce?"
"Guys! You can't be serious!" Robin cried. He stared in horror at Black Canary. "Batman doesn't abuse me."
"He just cracked your ribs in training!" Kid Flash exclaimed. How was that not abuse?
"Are you kidding me?" Robin asked, rolling his eyes. "Everyone gets hurt in training. You break your nose every time you try to vibrate through the wall!"
"That's different. I hurt myself. Batman cracked your ribs."
"Because I didn't wear my armor and didn't get my defenses up. You're kind of missing the whole point of training, KF. We're supposed to get hurt during it. How else will we learn?"
"Let's ignore that." Black Canary spoke up. Her eyes bored into Robin and for a moment he felt the urge to hide. He didn't like her imploring gaze. He didn't like what they were implying. "Robin, what exactly happened in the training exercise that M'gann was talking about?"
Robin stared at the floor for a long moment. "Batman had mentioned it- the training. He didn't want to put me through it yet, but I asked him to." Robin glanced up; making sure his words had registered. "He gave me a mild form of the fear gas to make me disoriented. Then he chased me around Gotham and lured me into a trap and tried to get me to give away everyone's secrets. It was a worst-case scenario. We did it to make sure that in the future I'd be able to stay calm and survive when something like that happened."
"He beat you." Black Canary said softly. "Robin, what he did wasn't acceptable for training. He hurt you way more than necessary. He sprained your wrist, cracked two ribs; you had bruises for two weeks from the 'training', not to mention the fact that he also drowned you."
Robin's eyes were wide as he stared at them. How could they have known all of this? Batman hadn't kept a file about it. At least not that he'd know of. And the only other person who knew about it was… Alfred.
Alfred had told them. Someone from the League must have contacted him and Alfred had agreed to help him. Robin's face fell at the sudden betrayal. Sure, he knew that Alfred meant well. That would be the only way Alfred would ever do this to them but even so…
Black Canary took his disheartened look a different way. "Robin," She said gently, reaching out to grab his hand, "I know this is hard for you. I know you think of Batman as a father and that it's hard admitting that your father is hurting you, but please, trust me. This is better."
Robin jerked his hand away and flipped over the back of the couch. Horror mixed with fury. "How can you say this?" he demanded. "Batman is my father. He isn't hurting me. He's keeping me alive! How dare you suggest that he's abusing me? Everything Batman does is to make sure I'm ok! He'd never do anything to harm me!"
Superman's words seemed to hang in the air. No one knew what to say. "When does it stop, Bruce?" Superman asked softly. "What will you do next to make sure he is prepared? Are you going to break his arm, to make sure he knows how it feels? Are you going to torture him just so he knows to survive? Are you going to make him kill just so he'll never do it again? When are you going to stop?"
Batman didn't answer. His expression didn't change. He just stared at the man.
"That is why we're taking him away." Superman said. "We can't trust you with Richard's safety for the future. You used to be a great father to him, but now? Now you hurt him."
"The fact of the matter is, you've taken it too far." Wonder Woman said. "You used to balance yourself between father and mentor. Now it seems the father part has disappeared and all that's left is the mentor who will stop at nothing for the mission. And we can't allow that."
"And Bruce," Aquaman added hesitantly. "He said that you were the worst. He didn't say the villains or even that the training was worse than what he'd been through. He said you were."
"You propose to love and care for him," Green Lantern added in, "And yet…"
"This is insane! You guys don't understand! I'm going home." Robin sprung away from the group and rushed towards the zeta tubes.
Kid Flash was suddenly in front of him. "Sorry, dude, we can't let you leave until we've talked about this."
"Yea, well, we tried talking about it and it didn't work." Robin snapped.
Black Canary walked over steadily and placed a hand on Robin's shoulder. "Robin," She said softly, "You can't go home."
"Watch me." He growled.
"No, you can't go home because Batman isn't your guardian anymore. You've been placed in the care of the League."
Robin's heart crashed to the pit of his stomach.
No. No no no no no!
Every single abandonment nightmare he'd had since he'd come to live with Bruce came swarming up. Bruce leaving him. He was gone. No family anymore. Taken away from his family- his father.
"No." Robin whispered. His body was trembling. They couldn't do that! They couldn't. He wouldn't be taken away from Bruce! Bruce would never allow that. They couldn't do that. Bruce was his father. He belonged at home with Alfred and Bruce. They couldn't just take him away!
He was panicking. "No, you can't." Robin cried. He spun out of Black Canary's grasp and stared at the team in horror. "You're joking. Tell me you're joking."
"Robin, he doesn't deserve you. No one should have to live with their abusive parent." Artemis said softly, wrapping her arms around herself.
"But-but- no. He's-he's my dad. That's my home!"
M'gann gave a sob at the feelings pouring off of Robin. Fear and anger and terror swirled around him like a tornado. They bombarded her senses. Connor wrapped an arm around her shoulders and just stared at the tiny boy in front of them. Connor could hear how high the boy's heart rate had become.
"Robin, it's for your own safety. Maybe later you can be reunited but-"
"No!" Robin gave a wild cry and rushed into the zeta beam tubes. A moment later the computer announced his departure.
"Great. He's gone back to the cave." Wally groaned. None of them would be able to follow him there.
"He won't stay there." Kaldur said. "He will be going to see Batman. You said Batman was at the Watch Tower, correct?"
Black Canary nodded. "Right. Everyone line up. I'll override the codes and we'll go."
Batman had tackled Superman to the ground. "How dare you?" He cried. As Green Arrow and Aquaman approached him, Batman swept out his feet and knocked them all to the ground. "How dare you suggest that I don't care for Richard? How dare you suggest that I deliberately put him in harm's way!"
Batman punched Aquaman and broke Green Arrow's bow before jumping out of the way of Hawkgirl's mace. "You of all people should know that I love that boy more than anything in the world." He hissed. His dark glare descended on each of them. "You saw me raise him. How can you take a single incident and turn it into a lifetime of abuse? I have done nothing to hurt him and I never will deliberately hurt him."
His breathing was ragged, both from the exertion and from the emotions. He stepped back and took in a deep breath. He had to calm himself. Going into a rage wouldn't help his case.
"Batman, please," Green Lantern tried. "We're only trying to help Richard. Let him stay with us until further investigation then-"
"No. He lost his family once. I am his family now and I am never going to let you make him leave me." Batman growled. "He won't lose another family."
"Bruce if you just-"
"Dad!" The doors to the conference room were thrown open and Robin burst in. His hair was devilish and his breathing was labored. Tears flowed down his cheeks. He stared at the Justice League members until his eyes fell on Batman. A sob escaped the boy. "Daddy."
The word didn't mean to come out, but it did. "Daddy." Robin sobbed again as if he was just a little boy.
Robin flung himself across the table and into his father's waiting arms. He buried his face deep into Batman's armored chest and wrapped the cape around himself. Batman clutched the boy close.
"They said I wasn't your son anymore." Dick sobbed. "Tell them their wrong. You promised you'd never leave me. They can't make you leave me. I don't want to lose you."
"Hush, Dickey." Batman murmured gently. His hand fell on Dick's head protectively. "I'm not leaving you." he glared at the other heroes, daring them to challenge him.
They did. "Dick," Wonder Woman said softly, "You can't want to stay with him. He hurt you. He won't stop. Next time it could be ten times worse!"
"Wasn't Dinah talking with you?" Green Arrow asked.
Dick just sobbed and looked up at Batman. "I'm not leaving." Bruce promised.
Suddenly the doors were thrown open again as Black Canary and Young Justice entered the room. They froze when they saw Robin buried in Batman's embrace.
"Robin," Superman grabbed at Robin's elbow. Robin gave a cry and shook him off.
"Don't!" Robin cried. "Stop talking, all of you! Stop talking and listen for once! You don't understand. I don't know if you ever will. Just listen!"
The others fell silent, letting the Bats take the floor. Robin glanced at his mentor, who gave a barely perceivable nod. "We aren't like you." Robin whispered to the crowd. "We don't have superpowers. We can't deflect bullets or have super strength or heal extremely fast. But I doubt any one of you would say that we weren't heroes. Half the time it is one of us who saves your butts."
His eyes searched out that of his team. "How many times has it been me who's come up with the last second plan? How many times is it my intel that's saved the group? How many times has little human Robin saved the mission? While I'm human that certainly doesn't mean I can't be a hero."
"But," Batman cut in now, "the only way we can stay that way is because of our different training. We have to train harder to stay on top. We have to go through these things to ensure that we don't die."
"When is the last time you've gone up against one of Gotham's worst?" Robin questioned. "Last time the team did they would have killed each other if it hadn't been for me. And Superman, when you tried to take down Joker in Metropolis he leveled four blocks before you could even find him, even with your super powers. What about Hawkgirl? She tried to take down him once and was in the hospital for weeks because of his toxins. Even Two Face! Green Arrow tried to take him down and he couldn't do it."
"Our lot of criminals is different than yours." Batman finished. "Our training only reflects this. And while you may think it is cruel or torture… to us it's the only thing keeping us alive."
"Not only us," Dick added softly, "But all of Gotham and you guys."
No one spoke. No one honestly knew what to say.
After a long moment of silence Artemis stepped forward. "I understand." She said quietly as he met the little bird's gaze. "I don't have powers either and… well, I understand where they're coming from. You have to train differently. Everything has to be more intense. And, dealing with Gotham's criminals? Obviously their training is working or else Robin wouldn't be alive today. If anything, I think we should take a page from their book. We should learn how to fight through the worst possible scenarios. Otherwise we'll just be risking our lives, the lives of our team mates, and civilians."
After another pause M'gann nodded. "I know my powers get out of hand." She said. "If I had had the training Robin had, disaster would have been averted." She gave a tiny smile as she looked at the two. "Besides, the only emotions I've ever felt from Batman and Robin is that of love. He's never been scared of his father. If he truly was being hurt that wouldn't be the case."
"Training as they did would have kept the mission from becoming the failure that it was last time." Kaldur said. "It was Robin who saved us all thanks to his intense training."
One by one the other heroes voiced their agreements. Some responses were labored, burdened with guilt. Others seemed to have seen the light and agreed with a quiet reluctance, admitting that they had been wrong.
Once everyone had spoken Robin breathed a heavy sigh of relief. He sank back into his mentor's arms with a weak happy sob. "Good." He mumbled softly. Batman said nothing and simply stroked the boy's hair. Robin looked up at his father. "I think I'm ready to go home." He said softly.
Bruce was unsurprised when that night Dick climbed into bed with him. "What's up?" Bruce asked softly as Dick cuddled up next to him. Dick was holding his old Batbear, which could only mean the worst.
"For awhile I thought they really were going to make me leave you." Dick whispered. "I thought they were going to take away the only family I've known since my parents' deaths. Bruce, you don't know how much that frightened me."
Bruce wrapped his arms around the child. "I do know." He murmured. "I was terrified of what would happen. But, I never would have let them take you, Dickey. You are my son and I'm never going to leave you."
Dick gave a soft nod. "I love you dad." He whispered.
Bruce kissed his forehead. "I love you too."
A/N: Thank you very much for reading this story, even though its taken me so long to update. I hope it was worth the wait.
I tried to cover every angle of the problem- from all POV's. How did I do? Please let me know!
A possible sequel may be in the works (but don't yet your hopes up yet. I'm working on three other stories, so it may take a bit.)
Thank you very much! Please leave me a review. Thanks for reading!