Disclaimer: I believe I hear weeping from time to time when I say to people that I don't own Batman or Robin. Not sure if it's someone I know or if it's just me.
FYI, turned more into a Robin Origin story with lots of Daddybats fluff. My take on it. Still not sure when Dick's B-day is. One person said first day of spring, another said early November. Can someone make up their minds? Anywho, takes place (in all actuality) within a month of his 9th B-day. Story's not divided up because it's mostly just Bruce's thoughts. Remember that.
Bruce jolted upright in his bed, sweating heavily from the terrors he just witnessed. It took him a minute to realize it was all a dream, but the feelings, the fear, the pain he endured through it were real enough to wake him. He hadn't had such a horrific dream in quite some time. Nightmares plagued the dark knight since childhood, but long ago he learned to overcome them.
This nightmare was different from the others. It brought out a new fear in him.
He looked to the side of him and let relief wash over him. Dick, the nine year old boy with more courage in him than years, slept quietly at Bruce's side.
The kid never failed to climb into his bed when he started having bad dreams. There was a time Bruce would have objected. The kid had a nightlight in his room to help him sleep. He had everything his parents owned in the adjoining rooms should he need their comfort. Alfred provided warm milk and cookies should the solution merely be a full stomach. And the kid knew where the sedatives were.
Yet he always found a way to have Bruce next to him. He snuck in less and less these days, but it still happened. And after patrol that night, Bruce was too tired to object. They were both too tired to think otherwise. Maybe the kid thought he'd have nightmares after being up so late and after fighting so many bad guys. Either way it didn't matter. Dick was wearing street clothes from the previous day rather than pajamas. After Bruce had changed twice in a row that night, he found Dick curled up on his bed asleep. He didn't bother to wake him or move him partly because of exhaustion.
And partly because he didn't have the heart to.
And after that nightmare, Bruce was glad he didn't take the kid back to his room. The dream was becoming hard to remember, but what he saw terrified him. It was about Dick, he was certain about it. He remembered seeing several rouges in it: Joker, Two-face, Killer Croc, Killer Moth, Clayface, Black Mask and several others he could vaguely remember. Then he saw blood. More blood than could come from a single adult body. Not even two adults. Then it started to rain. Not blood, but birds. Small birds.
As they fell from the sky, Bruce saw some kind of twisted form. A body so badly beaten and broken it couldn't be alive. It was clothed in bright colors.
That was when he woke up, keeping his shouts in his throat. He couldn't wake Alfred. He never wanted to trouble him with his nightmares. As a kid, he used to stand in front of Alfred's door at night, not sure whether he should bother him with them. Bruce as a kid had too much pride. How he wished he was like Dick back then, not afraid to run to the person he considered a father when he was scared.
Instead Bruce watched over Dick's sleeping form. His Robin. In a way, his child. He was still new at this. He had no idea what he was doing. Raising a kid and taking down criminals were entirely different things. Even running a company was a different ballpark than this. And yet Bruce had taken the kid in. Gave him a home when his was ripped away from him. Gave him protection when his was destroyed. Even gave him confidence once more when it was shattered one painful night. He didn't even know why he did it.
Everything changed that fateful night. The night Bruce went to the circus instead of patrolling Gotham. The night the flying Graysons performed. It was over half a year ago but the pain would always be fresh for them. Like Bruce, Dick watched his parents die. The only consolation was they received justice. Dick saw enough before the show, heard enough information by accident as a child playing, that he could pinpoint his parents' killer. And like Bruce, he did everything in his power to take him down.
Yes Bruce had taken him in before Zucco was imprisoned. He still wasn't sure why. Batman wasn't looking for a successor. Bruce Wayne could surely find himself a wife and have a family if he wanted one. He imagined he'd be a lousy father, and even worse mentor. Yet he took Dick in. Maybe it was because they were so similar, at least when it came to tragedy. Maybe it was because Bruce saw himself and wanted to do something that wasn't done for him. Alfred did his best raising him, but it just wasn't the same. Nothing would ever be the same.
Bruce remembered the month following Dick's adoption. Looking back, Bruce knew he acted colder and far more distant than he should have. He was trying to keep up his act all the time so Dick wouldn't discover he was Batman. But the kid's heartbroken face and emotional eyes broke him down. Members of the league may say Batman has no heart, but they didn't know how hard it was to behave like that all the time. Around this kid, he hardly could.
He remembered hearing Dick's screams one night after patrol. Bruce barely managed to throw on a robe over his costume before lunging into the house and up the stairs to the kid's room. At first he thought the screams were because of an intruder, but it was just Dick having a horrific nightmare. He was deeply asleep, but the nightmare held him in a state of pure panic.
That was the moment Bruce broke down. Instead of following logic or carefully laid plans as Batman always did, he followed an instinct. He darted to the kid's bedside and shook him awake in desperation.
Dick woke up, tears streaming down his face. He shook uncontrollably, just staring, terrified, at Bruce's face. Concern must have taken control of Bruce's because in an instant the kid, not thinking of him as scary, lunged into a hug, crying. Awkwardly Bruce held him. He really didn't know what to do in this scenario. The kid held onto him for dear life, sobbing and mumbling things between hiccups. Bruce caught a few words: mom, dad, sorry, please, wake up, why, don't leave me. Hearing it all again, something caught in Bruce's throat and he slowly returned the hug. He said those words to his pillow as a kid. There was no reply back then. There was none he could give the kid now. All he could do was hold onto him, giving Dick the support he needed right then and there.
That was probably the night they first really started to become close. Another night that week, Bruce had made it home early after patrol. Slow night and no more leads on Zucco. He was just going to bed when he heard a small knock at the door. Curious, Bruce answered it and saw Dick clutching a bright colored, patchwork pillow looking up at him. They stared at each other for a minute before Dick spoke.
"I had a nightmare. Can… can I sleep with you?" When Bruce didn't move—mostly out of shock—Dick tried to make it not sound so bad. "I'll be really quiet and I don't take up much room. Please? I just… I just don't want to sleep alone right now. We slept in a small trailer before…"
There was still that awkward silence between them, then Bruce stepped aside to let Dick in. "I guess…"
It was probably the first time Bruce ever saw relief in Dick's eyes. "Thank you Mr. Wayne!"
He scurried into Bruce's room and onto the king sized bed faster than any child he'd seen move before. The kid practically leapt onto the bed, showing off his roots for a moment. He found a small place on the bed for himself just as Bruce was shutting the door for the night. He crawled under the covers as Bruce made it to the bed, snuggling the patchwork colorful pillow happily. Bruce recognized it as something from his family's trailer. Being pieced together, it was possible his mother made it for her son. His own teddy bear.
Bruce forced himself to stop analyzing the kid and his family's choice in comfort and colors. As they both fell asleep that night, Bruce watched the kid drift off, seeing the smile on his face.
For a moment, the kid was completely at peace. And all it took was someone near by.
Watching the kid now, Bruce could still feel that peace. This kid was brave, maybe braver than himself. He dared to do things other kids merely dreamed of. Instead of going into perpetual morning like Bruce, the kid tried his hardest to smile and be happy. Bruce remembered the kid trying to talk to him during the rare meals they had together back then.
He tried to ask Bruce questions about his every day life, about his childhood, and about his parents. Bruce gave small answers, not keen on speaking of his past. Thinking about his parents was painful, even when he remembered the good times. For him, one moment stayed in his life and froze the happiness he once knew.
When Bruce didn't tell him much, Dick started rambling about his life in the circus and about his parents. He'd laugh at the silly things that happened, though he spoke a little quieter about his parents. The painful memory was still there after all. It just didn't have to stay in the front of his mind.
"How admirable," Alfred commented to Bruce as the kid left to get ready for school one morning. "The young master is able to live in the memories of his parents' lives rather than their deaths. One could wish the whole of humanity could do the same."
Bruce remembered giving Alfred a sidelong look before commenting. "Some people are lucky I guess."
Those rare instances became common once the boy found the bat-cave. Bruce found the kid gaping at the dinosaur one night after a patrol. At the moment Batman felt a little betrayed, dismayed, then a little frustrated. It was inevitable Dick would find it or suspect something since he was living with him. As Bruce Wayne, it was a little bit of a relief. There would be little to hide from the kid now, and he was sure the kid would keep it secret. The fear of Batman's wrath or being sent back to the orphanage hung over the kid, he surmised.
"Richard, what are you doing down here?"
Dick jolted and turned around slowly, facing the Batman for the first time in his life. "Uhh… exploring?" Batman said nothing in response, so the kid filled in the silence, pointing to the T-rex. "That's a dinosaur."
He pointed to Batman. "You're Batman."
"Mr. Wayne?" The kid's gaping expression was almost humorous.
Bruce pulled down his cowl, giving Dick a cold, analyzing stare. "Did you think I was Alfred?"
"You're Batman?" The mixture of emotions contorted Dick's face. Everything from disbelief to frustration to pure amazement shown through his bright eyes.
Bruce sighed a little. "I thought we covered that." Quickly Dick punched him in the gut. "Hey!"
Tears had somehow sprung into Dick's eyes, confusion and pain evident in every feeble blow he gave Bruce. "Why didn't you save them? You were right there and you didn't save them! Why didn't you save them! Why are they dead!"
For some time Bruce took each blow, feeling he deserved them. The pain from the guilt of that night filled him once more. He wished he could have saved them. He really wished he had. He became Batman to rid Gotham of people like Zucco, to make sure no child would again endure what he had. And that night he had failed to do just that.
Dick's punches lost more and more strength as his tears ran freely. Quietly, trying to be the adult he was, Bruce placed his hands on the boy's, stilling them as he went to his knees. Now at the kid's eyelevel, he tried to make eye contact, but the boy's tears and pain drove him from doing so. Bruce had to calm the kid down, but he didn't know how. Instead, he chose honestly.
"I didn't know." Dick's sobs subsided for a moment as Bruce spoke. "That night, I was just Bruce Wayne, attending a charity function in hopes to help Gotham. I didn't know what Zucco was planning. There wasn't any chatter on the streets about a planned murder. You said so yourself; Zucco only appeared one day before, threatening Haley. No one knew what he was planning.
"But if I had known," Bruce continued, determination rising to his face, "I would have done everything in my power to stop him. I've gone out every night searching for Zucco, but found little. I will find him Richard, and he will face justice. I will not let your parents' deaths go unpunished."
As Bruce finished speaking, their eyes met and both of them knew it was true. Dick's eyes filled itself again with tears and he dived at Bruce, wrapping his neck in a desperate hug. Bruce held him close as the boy cried into his cape. Slowly he rubbed the boy's back, feeling rather than knowing what to do. The kid's knees gave out, causing Bruce to support him with his other arm. He picked up the child and made the long careful climb out of the batcave and into the manor above. Alfred would forgive wearing the suit upstairs this one time.
Dick didn't let go for nearly an hour, giving random sobs and cries as he clung to him. Bruce just held him, sitting in the large chair in the study, the clock wide open. When Dick's grip finally loosened, Bruce slid out of it, wrapping his cape around the small child. Dick didn't complain when he was set gently into the large chair, but his eyes didn't leave Bruce. Alfred had come in a while ago, then left to bring in some necessities. It wasn't until Bruce was wrapped in a bathrobe and a light meal was set before them that he spoke.
"I want in."
Bruce and Alfred stared at the boy. When he had stopped crying, a glossy thinking gaze had rested on his face. Now there was a familiar determined spark in his eyes. Snug in Batman's cape, Dick's eyes bore into them. He would not change his mind on this matter.
"I want to help catch Zucco. I have to bring him to justice. For them. For everyone else he's hurt."
"Master Richard!" Alfred started, alarm coming to his face. "You don't know what you're saying! What the Batman does—"
"It's dangerous and kinda illegal," Dick finished. "But I'll do what I have to, to stop that murdering scumbag."
"Richard," Bruce started, "this isn't a game. I spent most of my life training and studying to do this."
"And I've spent all of mine on a high wire." The determination on his face wasn't waning.
"That's hardly enough to fight crime on the streets of Gotham."
"But it is enough to be there when Zucco goes down." He shifted in his seat but didn't leave the cape. "And if it isn't, then train me. I can take it. Dad had me on the parallel bars for hours before he ever let me in a show. He never let me perform without a net."
"Fighting thugs and performing acrobatic tricks for people are nothing alike." Bruce stepped forward, trying to convince the kid. He couldn't let Dick have his life. At that age, he would likely die in a small struggle. And if Joker got him…
"And now much more different is running a company from it?" His rebuttal stopped both Alfred and Bruce in their tracks. Dick stubbornly got to his feet, the cap barely clinging to him now. "Look, if you won't help me take him down, then I'll just go after him myself. You can't always stop me. I'm way faster than I look and I've always been top of my class when I went to school."
For a moment, Bruce and Alfred just stared at him. They already knew enough about Dick's character to know he would do exactly that. Either Batman trained this boy and brought him in on the case, or he'd run off on his own to solve it. Bruce would ended up spending half his time hunting the child down to save him, and if anyone heard he ran away, it'd be the end of Dick's time with them. The kid's life would be over.
There really was only one option.
"Alright." Alfred jerked in surprise, staring at Bruce in slight horror. Firmly he clarified, watching Dick's face light up. "But just this case. It's a personal matter and that's the only reason I'm letting you come with me. Under no circumstances are you joining me in the field. Not without lots, and lots of training. Is that clear?"
Dick gave a dangerous grin in response. Bruce was starting to pity whomever stood in the kid's way during this fight. "Crystal. Thanks Mr. Wayne."
"Bruce," he insisted.
"Then call me Dick." Quickly he ran up to his new mentor and gave him a warm hug. Bruce placed his hand on the child's head, smiling lightly. Alfred merely stared at the two as if they were crazy.
Soon after Bruce sent the boy to bed, who darted straight over without any protest. He gathered up his cape to return it to the cave just as Alfred raised his concerns. "Are you certain about this Master Bruce? Letting him join you on your search for his parents' killer? Quite a risk wouldn't you say?"
"Better than letting him run off on his own and facing Zucco's gang alone." They walked back into the cave, Bruce to put his "toys" away and Alfred to continue his protests.
"He's merely an eight year old child still dealing with the loss of his parents."
"His parents were murdered and he knows it." He set his cape where it belonged, his hangs lingering in the warmth the boy gave it. "I would have run off after their killer if I knew who he was."
"And subsequently would have joined them." Bruce didn't miss the stern voice in this comment. He knew Alfred was right. That was why he had worked nearly fifteen years to become an extreme, perfect fighting force, the ultimate detective. He had to be the best so he could fight and keep fighting, to save as many lives as possible. It wasn't an easy road.
"What would you have me do!" Bruce turned on the man he almost considered a father. "Lock him up in a cage until he's thirty? Break his legs so he can't go after him? He deserves a better life! I want him to be happy! I want him to have the peace I'll never have! My parents never got the justice they deserved! I'm not going to have him go through this every day of his life!"
Alfred took a step back, not expecting this explosion of emotion. It surprised Bruce just as much. He never knew how much he held in. It was true. It was all true. He fought as Batman because of his pain, but the pain he felt shouldn't be forced on anyone else. Dick deserved better. He was a circus kid, grew up with dancing lights and clowns who make people happy. He should never be like Batman. Never. The pain… it was just too much.
As always Bruce held back his tears that night. He took a breath to calm himself. He shouldn't have snapped at Alfred. He was right to object. The kid shouldn't join Batman on nightly patrols and fight the lunatics of Arkham. It was just this one case. Richard Grayson had every right to be part of this one case.
He took another breath before speaking again. "Once this case is over, once his rage is put to rest, he's going to have a normal life. I won't force him into a costume Alfred. I'm not dragging him into this world."
Relief brushed onto Alfred's face, a slight smile on his lips. He nodded curtly, giving his approval. "Very well sir. And let us hope, after this particular event is completed, Bruce Wayne will take his role as a father more seriously. A child needs ample support after a tragedy, and I'm afraid my bones aren't up to the task this time around."
Bruce too smiled with relief that night, glad Alfred supported him in this. At the time, it was the right decision. He knew Dick well enough now to know he'd go after Zucco alone. He probably would have found him too. The kid was very clever. That may have been the night Robin started taking flight. The weeks following felt like a dream.
During the daylight hours, Bruce trained Dick. Everything from basic punches to vitals to just escaping capture. Basic survival for the field, that was all. At night, as soon as most people had gone to bed, Batman went out on patrol. On the last of the school nights, Dick was forced to stay in. Once summer had started, he went out with Batman more often. Course he stayed in the car most of the time. Scuffles and robberies were things Dick wasn't ready for. He fell asleep in the car a lot. He tried to stay up, shaking himself awake, but most of those nights Bruce would carry him to bed. He rarely had night terrors at that point.
After another month of searching, they found Zucco. For the most part, Dick hung back, this time allowed to watch the fight from the shadows. Batman had forced him to wear a Kevlar vest, but since this was a personal fight, Dick didn't have a mask. Batman was outnumbered of course, but was winning either way. He could see the excited boyish grin on Dick's face as he watched him fight, but it was quickly dropped when Zucco made a run for it.
That was when he sprung into action. A jolt of fear ran through Batman's body as the kid chased after his parents' killer. Both vanished from his sight within seconds, but Batman had his hands full already. It took ten minutes before the criminals were down and out, and shortly after he heard a gunshot.
'Oh God, please don't…' he prayed silently as he chased after the sound. Running as fast as he could, Batman wound his way through booths and stalls, dashing to the pier where the gunshot rang out. There he saw two figures, one small and the other quite large.
The large one was tied up and hanging upside-down over a hook fishers used to show off their prize. The little boy before him was grinning ear to ear, periodically tweaking the mobster's nose as he pushed him forward to make him swing. He only turned away from his prize when he heard Batman's footfalls.
"Look what I caught!"
Batman resisted the urge to break out in relieved laughter. This kid was going to be the death of him. Off to the side he saw the gun. It wasn't pointed at either of them thankfully, but he still wondered what made it go off.
"Get me down from here! This kid's crazy! Why do your parents let you out at night? Is he your kid?" Zucco was on the verge of a panic attack, just the way they wanted him.
Batman gave his best intimidating scowl to the man, knowing full well he didn't know who Dick was. Time for him to learn. He looked over to the boy. "Grayson, why are you here? Where's your guardian?"
Dick played his part perfectly. They practiced this "conversation" for weeks. Both of them watched Zucco from the corner of their eyes as he heard them talk. "Mr. Wayne's at home, probably sleeping off a party. I've been sneaking out to find this creep."
"Grayson?" Zucco finally remembered his double murder at the circus, and the orphan he made. "That circus brat?"
"Yeah." Dick grabbed the man's tie, stopping his swinging. His vengeful glare put Batman's to shame. "And you've got a lot to answer for."
"That's enough Grayson." Batman put a hand on the kid's shoulder. The kid really wanted to mess up the villain's face for everything he did, but it was obvious Batman wouldn't let him. Zucco was terrified now, more of the kid than the bat. "The police will take it from here. I'll take you home."
The kid didn't let go of Zucco's tie for a moment, his death glare putting an end to all of Zucco's thoughts. Somehow, within those ten, nearly fifteen minutes, Dick Grayson had put the fear of God into his parents' killer. Holding that tie for that long made a lasting impression on the man. It was a warning not to try anything against him again. Finally Dick let go and the man went back to swinging. Batman guided the boy to the car just as the sirens' call came to their ears.
They were almost there when the boy broke down again. His knees gave way, shaking madly, tears threatening to escape. Batman nearly panicked when he dropped out of his grasp, then he too fell besides the boy. His face was astir with different emotions: relief, sorrow, pride, terror, and the ebbing pieces of joy from accomplishing his greatest goal. Again Batman was at a loss of what to do, and again the kid chose for him. Quickly Dick latched onto him, holding on for dear life. Batman held him once more, letting the kid shake away his nerves, his terrors, his grief in his stronger arms.
They could only stay there for a moment, but that moment was all he needed. Batman picked the kid up and placed him into the car. The kid was silent the whole time, still in a distant mental state. Batman slid into his seat, just as silent as he turned it on and drove off.
They didn't go straight back to the cave. They went to their graves. Batman let Dick out of the car and find them, watching from a distance. He waited a few minutes before visiting his own parents. He could still see Dick staggering at the tombstones, part of him wanting to stay at the kid's side. But he knew better. This was a conversation for only the three of them to hear. Bruce Wayne or Batman had no place in it.
"I took in a kid," he told his own parents awkwardly. "I don't know what the hell I was thinking at the time. We've gone through the same things at the same age. I should have been able to save them. There're too many possible reasons. But I can't leave the kid alone. I helped him, helped them, receive justice. It's up to the courts now. Zucco will leave him alone now. You should have seen him. The kid's a natural. So much potential…"
He fell silent for a moment. "I promised Alfred it would only be this one case, to give the kid peace. It's a shame to bench him now, but he should have a normal life. I won't drag him into this world."
'But if he should choose this world…'
Batman pushed that thought aside. The kid shouldn't pick this world. Never should he join him in this world of darkness and danger. He shouldn't live a life of violence and terror. Bright circus tents, laughing with friends, going to school, that should be his life. It was Dick's right. He had the right to choose his path.
"I want him to be happy."
He lapsed in silence for a while, imagining feeling a piece of his parents' pride. They would be proud of him for this. He was certain they would. Batman glanced over to the boy at the graves and saw him curled up, sleeping against the headstone.
Swiftly he walked to Dick's side and wrapped his cape around him. There were signs he was crying a few moments ago, but a smile stayed on the kid's face. Batman let one escape him as he picked the kid up, nodding to his young charge's parents' graves. "I'll do everything I can for him. I swear it."
Before leaving the graveyard, he stopped again at his parents, slightly showing Dick's face to the two of them. "Mom, Dad, this is Richard Grayson. Dick, my parents, Martha and Thomas Wayne."
He heard a small grunt in reply from the sleeping boy but he didn't wake. Batman smiled a little more before going to the car and heading home.
Even now, Bruce could give the boy a small smile as he slept. And the kid nearly always had a smile on his face. Even when Bruce refused to let Dick go out into the field as his partner he smiled. Trying to keep his promise to Alfred, and also determined to give Dick a better life, he told him again and again why Batman worked alone.
"But you need someone out there to watch your back!" Dick hung from the T-rex's mouth one evening, swinging around in protest to being left behind again. Summer was coming to a close and school would start up again soon, so the days of training (Bruce kept it up because they both enjoyed it and it let them talk) were going to end or slow soon. "I saw those bullet holes from last week. You need backup!"
"If I need backup," Batman explained for the umpteenth time, "then I'll call the League."
"And how often does Superman come to bail you out of jams?" Dick swung into the dino's mouth to get a better look at it.
Batman scowled in response, looking back at the kid as he reached further in than he would have liked. "Richard! Get out of that thing!"
Dick purposely ignored him and continued to fiddle with the inside of the dino. "Last I read online, you're a perpetual loner who only asks for help when one of the other leaguer's bad guy is in town. So when was the last time you fought Lex Luthor?"
"Richard! Get down from there right this instant!" Batman stood up from his computer, his nerves on edge.
Again he was ignored. "Does Superman ever drop by the cave, Mr. Wayne?"
"Dick! Get out of that dinosaur right now or you'll be cleaning the penny for a week!" Batman wasn't in the mood for one of Dick's games, nor his curiosity. The Hanged Man case was driving him around in circles, and people were still dying.
"Yes sir! Mr. Batman sir!" Instantly Dick leapt out of the T-rex's mouth, climbed on top of its head and slid down it's back and tail to the floor. He'd done it so many times before Bruce didn't worry about injury. The inside of that thing though was off limits. The whole time the kid was grinning. "Tada! Now Bruce, was that so bad?"
Batman continued to scowl at him. "Seeing you nearly get eaten? YES!"
"I meant calling me 'Dick'. I really prefer it. Richard just sounds too formal to me." He batted his eyes, grinning mischievously. He must have thought it was cute. Right then it was just annoying.
"If it'll keep you on the outside of the dinosaur, fine. Are there any other nicknames I should know about if I have to get your attention away from something else?" Really, Bruce avoided the nickname only because of the negative connotation it had become. But if it made him happy, he'd have to use it.
Dick looked up in thought for a moment, then embarrassingly answered, "Robin."
Batman blinked. "Robin?" Dick nodded, looking at the floor. Batman settled back into his chair, amused at the named. "Care to explain the meaning behind that one?"
"Only if you tell me why you picked 'Batman'."
Batman smirked. Cute. "Fair enough. My first night trying to take the law into my own hands didn't turn out so well. They weren't scared of me. I learned if they're scared of me, half the battle is over before it starts. I was… hurt that night and barely made it home. I needed an edge and prayed for something to help me the next time I went out. A bat crashed through the window before me. So I decided to become the bat."
"Because it crashed through your window?" Batman nodded. Dick looked up and around to where he knew the bats lived most. "Dang. I guess they are a little scary. But once you get used to them, they aren't that bad."
"I've noticed." Batman leaned back in his chair, ready to hear Dick's tale. "So, Robin is it?"
Dick flushed. "Mom always called me Robin. She wanted it to be my name but Dad stopped her. They compromised with 'Richard' as in King Richard from Robin Hood. Dad wanted to make it more manly I think. Used to read that book to me all the time. But Mom called me her little Robin. She said it was because I never held still, 'always bobbin' along'. She also said when I went through the air I reminded her of a robin."
Batman's expression softened as he listened. So, it was a very personal nickname. In a way he agreed with them. Robin suited him well, for each of those reasons.
"Batman and Robin." Both of them turned as Alfred came down with supper for them. "Names of significant weight for you both. Now would this dynamic duo have something to eat before they each lunge into their adventures? I do believe there is some summer reading left."
Dick gave Alfred an irked look before taking his plate and coming over to Batman's work table. He glanced over the papers there for a moment and something caught his eye. He pointed out the second clue the Hanged Man left. "Hey, isn't that supposed to say, 'Nine of you are safe'?"
Bruce left that memory as he laid back down in his bed, watching the child breathe. Dick's one question was the breakthrough in the case he'd been searching for. The Hanged Man faced justice within a few weeks of that night. But it would still take another month before Bruce would give up trying to keep Dick out of the vigilante lifestyle.
It started with a call from Alfred. He had checked on Dick in his room and found it empty. Batman searched Gotham half the night before he spotted a bright yellow cape zooming into a dark alleyway.
'Yellow?' Batman couldn't believe the kid's folly. 'Does he want to get shot?' He stopped on the rooftop right above the alley and stopped himself from jumping in and pulling the kid out. There was only one mugger and a screeching foolish woman in a tight red dress. This kid took down Zucco, a minor mob lord, on his own. And that man had a gun. One mugger with a knife should be easy for the kid.
'Let's see how he does first.' He leaned in to watch, straining his ears to hear every blow. The slightest sign his life was in danger, Batman would take over.
Instead of shouts and curses, he heard laughter. The costumed kid bounced around, flipping over the mugger's head to grab the fire escape ladder above them. It fell down with a snap, and slid between the adult and his exit. The kid flipped backwards against it, landing between the man and the lady, a grin shining from his face. Frustrated, the man waved his knife around wildly before him. The kid easily dodged it, grabbing a trash can lid as he went. He threw it into the man's stomach and he lost his grip on the knife. Quickly the kid jumped into a kick, knocking his head against the ladder behind him. Seconds after the kid landed, the man fell forward, knocked out.
'Clever.' Batman nodded unconsciously. The kid thought ahead, and despite the fancy flipping, took out the man with the least amount of energy and blows. It wasn't a style or method he'd personally use, but he had more training and was much larger than the boy.
He sighed as he prepared himself to drop down and confront the lad. The kid was courteously helping the lady off the ground, something he must have picked up from a movie or something. As he came closer, he heard the lady talking to him.
"Thanks Robin. That was amazing! How, why did you…"
'Robin' laughed. "Just doing what's right ma'am."
"Well you're really brave," the lady continued. "You're parents must be proud."
Joy lit up the boy's face at the complement, then he spotted Batman just behind her. 'CAUGHT' was written clear across his surprised face, making the lady turn around in curiosity. She jolted in slight terror at the sight of him. She gasped, taking a step back.
"Robin, is it?" Batman didn't hide the irked tone in his voice. For once he wasn't trying to be scary.
"Holy cow, Batman…" Robin tried to put up a confident smile but he couldn't hide his guilt. "Hi. Having a good night? Caught someone for Arkham yet?"
There was nothing said for a moment, then Robin scrunched his shoulders. "Just how much trouble am I in?"
"Quite a bit." Batman wasn't amused, but the lady between them looked back and forth between them, caught between terror and confusion. Batman's glare looked up and down 'Robin's' costume. "What are you wearing?"
Robin's costume consisted of a bright yellow cape, a red vest with a black 'R' on one side, and a green leotard. Green pixie boots and cloves covered his hands and feet, and a cheep black masquerade mask was tied over his face. He had a belt but nothing was on it. No weapons and the kid may as well be a traffic light fashioned to pedophiles. Worse yet, there was no protection against weapons, impacts or ammunition.
Robin gave a sheepish shrug. "I needed mobility. I thought it was a good idea."
"And how do you hide yourself in that?" The kid avoided his gaze, bighting his lip nervously. Batman gave a long frustrated sigh. Alfred was going to love this. "Come. I'll take you home."
The kid nodded, his gaze at the ground as he walked around the lady to Batman. The lady finally found her voice in all this, turning on the dark knight. "Hey! Don't be so hard on the kid! He saved me! He did a good job!"
"Did I say he didn't?" At Batman's words, Robin looked up, joy coming back to his face. "Take care going home ma'am. Robin, hold on."
Robin nodded excitedly, wrapping his arms around Batman's waist just before he shot a line above them. For extra security, Batman kept one hand on the boy as they shot through the air. When their feet landed on the roof, Batman retrieved the grapple then turned on Robin.
"I figured as much," Robin mumbled to the side.
"Do you have any idea how much danger you put yourself in tonight?" Batman was finding it hard to be objective as he pointed out every flaw he saw in the 'Robin' identity. "No body armor, no weapons, dressed like a state flag, minimal training, no back up. What if there were two men? Or three? What if they had guns? Or explosives? What if you ran across Joker? Or Two-face? They wouldn't hesitate to kill a child.
"And you left without telling anyone! For all we knew, you could have been kidnapped! And really, a leotard? Are you trying to attract pedophiles? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" Robin shrunk back, feeling worse and worse with each criticism. Batman gripped his head in frustration. He was tempted to pull back his cowl just to run a hand through his hair. This kid was going to be the death of him. "What in all the world possessed you to wear that get up and start taking on street thugs?"
"I thought…" Robin stopped for a minute, unsure if he should talk. Batman said nothing, but tried to make it clear through body language he could speak honestly. The kid gulped before continuing. "I thought if you saw me take down someone on my own, you'd let me help you out more."
He looked up, almost begging, into Batman's eyes. "I know you and Alfred don't want me to fight crime, but I really want to help you out here. Staying safe at home in the cave, maybe helping with the riddles and puzzles those crazies leave, it just isn't enough for me. I know how to fight, and I've seen you fight too. You need someone to back you up, someone who will be there to rescue you in a pinch, if only to give you a lock pick or serve as a distraction. I can do that. I can take down the stray bad guy, or maybe when I'm older and get better at it, I can take down the thugs and you can take down the big guys. Plus, you work hard at being scary. What about when there's a hostage? Or kids? Think they'll want to be saved by someone scary?
"I keep coming up with reasons why you need someone with you out here. I can be that person! You won't have to call up the league and Alfred won't have to talk to them if you go missing. Please, just give me a chance."
Batman watched the kid, listened to him long and hard. He could see the logic inside what he said, but the fact was, Dick is a kid. He didn't belong on the streets of Gotham fighting crime. He should be in bed dreaming of school or a movie he just saw. He didn't know the fear and terror this kid was inviting into his life.
But Bruce was learning the truth. Dick was his kryptonite. He was scared to lose him, scared to put him into any danger. But the kid boldly ran head on into danger for the sake of others, and he managed to save himself. He had a great deal of potential. He was a natural in this fight. Bruce wasn't. He trained all those years in order to become the best. This boy had to be a wonder if he was going to survive this war.
After what seemed like an eon of silence, Batman made his decision. Turning to leave, he spoke. "You're still grounded."
Robin gaped in despair just before he continued. "At least until I'm certain you'll survive out here. That costume has to change, and not just colors. Pants are required. We'll find something flexible and sturdy enough to work. We'll add weapons to your training. We'll work on your extra studies as we go. But you don't go out into the field until you've past my test. And there will be times you have to stay home. Some of the crazies here will kill you if given the chance. They won't get it. This clear?"
Robin slammed his body against Batman's back, hugging him tightly. He could hear the pure joy in the boy's voice. "Crystal! Thank you so much Batman!"
Batman allowed himself a brief smile, lightly touching the kid's hands grasping onto him. 'Well, I'm not dragging him in,' he mentally told himself. 'He jumped in on his own. I'm just making sure he doesn't get killed.'
He gave a brief nod for Robin, then muttered, "Now how are we going to explain this to Alfred?"
Bruce could still hear Robin's laugh from that day. Alfred wasn't pleased by the arrangement, but he let it be. Dick was going to do this anyway, and who better to make sure he didn't die than Batman?
Just last week Robin passed his test. Survived one night in Gotham streets alone, evading Batman the whole time. He even managed to take down a handful of criminals while he was at it. The costume was still brightly colored, but the yellow was on the inside of a black Kevlar cape now. Robin never wanted to forget his circus roots. His personal studies were going well; pretty soon he'd be able to speak three languages fluently, though French would have an accent for some time. There was still a lot to learn, but right then he was prepared enough to go on the streets.
The little Robin sleeping now was nine. He wasn't scared of Batman and laughed as he fought criminals. He hugged Bruce and Alfred for the smallest of things, and always when they needed it, even when they didn't know they did. The kid was a bright light in their lives. With him around, Bruce felt he could endure the darkness around him a little easier. With him, he felt hope.
As Bruce tried to drift back into sleep, he heard Dick moan. He looked over the boy as his breathing became irregular. He was starting to twitch. A nightmare.
Still new to this, Bruce followed his first impulse. He placed a hand on the kid's shoulder and rubbed it gently. Slowly the boy's breathing regulated and the twitching stopped. Bruce gave a small relieved smile before remembering his nightmare again.
It was likely this kid would endure the wrath of each of these men sometime in his future. He prayed it wouldn't be for some time. The kid needed more experience, more training, before he ever crossed paths with them. Until then, he'd protect him.
Bruce pulled the covers over both of them before letting himself fall back to sleep. Hopefully the future and the rest of the night would be brighter for them both.
A/N: Okay, wasn't intending to make it this long or involved, but it just came out. Originally just going to be the nightmare and Bruce second guessing his decision of letting Robin fly. Then it turned into a collection of memories. This is what happens when my mind wanders as I'm biking to work.
Like my version of how Robin came to be? I did! Got some follow up stories for this one too, 'Meeting Robin'. That won't be a one shot, but a series of them in chronological order. Mostly going to be fluff. Okay, it's all fluff. Hope you enjoyed!