Disclaimer: I don't own YJ, I am merely a fic writer
Set roughly 7 years ago
His parents had taught him how to walk, but Uncle Rick had been the one who taught him how to fly.
From a young age, Dick had always stared at the trapeze longingly. Images of graceful flying bodies - defying gravity and soaring- left him wanting. But he was a bit short of six and his parents didn't trust him to do anything more than simple routines.
"Trust me," he would plead to them.
"We love you Little Robin, but your wings are still too small," they replied. It hurt - they loved him, but they did not trust him. Their hugs only sufficated the freedom he longed for.
Uncle Rick had been more understanding - he had let his own son onto the ropes at age nine and understood that longing gleam in Dick's eyes.
"If your wings are too small, make up for it in determination," he had advised.
It was not the hand of his mother - nor his father - that Dick had grasped as he leaped into the air for the first time. The hand that had caught him was that of Richard Grayson - his uncle. It was the hand of a man who trusted him, and it was that man whom Dick trusted more than anyone else.
After that, Dick had practically imprinted himself to his uncle.
Even if he could not perform in public, he could perform with his uncle in the midst of the night. And that was enough for Dick.
For a short time at least.
It came to the boy's attention that his uncle had a tendency to disappear on some nights when Dick sought him out. Like the idolizing fanboy that he was, Robin had followed him one day only to witness his uncle killing another man. A gasp had given away his position immediately after the act.
He almost became acquainted with his uncle's knife, but was spared when the older man's eyes widened in recognition and stopped himself.
"Dick, what are you doing here?"
"I-I was following you," the boy stammered, still trying to reconcile the image of his smiling uncle with the hard-eyed murderer that he had witnessed moments ago. "You always kept disappearing at night," he added, his voice growing smaller as his uncle continued to be silent. Silence tended to be a bad sign in such a talkative family as his. "I just...I just wanted to hang out with you."
Blue eyes, identical to his own, softened slightly, but his uncle's voice was still serious. "You can't tell anyone about this."
A nod sealed the deal before his uncle, with a more mischievous glint in his eye, offered to teach his nephew parkour in the urban city before the circus departed again to a different location. Dick eagerly accepted and the thought of the previous murder was pushed away easily. His uncle could do no wrong in Dick's eyes.
Both acrobats flew through the rooftops, unaware of another pair of eyes watching them.
"Grayson." The voice was flat and professional. Rick recognized it immediately. How could he not? It was his former mentor.
"Cain," he replied, right as he dodged a knife to his throat. He was thankful that Dick didn't follow him tonight. His mentor would not have hesitated to eliminate the younger boy. "Why are you here?"
A hooded figure emerged from the shadows and opted to lean against a wall with a relaxed posture, although Rick knew better. The other assassin could easily strike from that position.
"You broke one of the laws of the League," the man stated simply. It didn't take long for Rick's thoughts to float towards his nephew. He had left a witness, and he knew that was unacceptable.
"Then why am I not dead?"
Cain gave a small smile at Rick's insight. "I came to propose an offer. The League has been low on recruits lately - killing you would not solve that issue. However, adding a bird to our flock would be within our interests."
Rick's eyes narrowed. He had been taken in by the organization while he was stumbling for a purpose in the worst times of his life. Haley's circus had nearly disbanded and he had been in search of a job. It was three meals a day, training that was needed to survive on the streets, and a source of income - he accepted it regardless of the pangs of guilt he felt after an assignment. Time did nothing to lighten his memories of the organization - it was not a place for children. And when they took people in, they took them in for keeps. Even now, he was still stuck killing for the league.
He didn't want his nephew to follow his path. Dick wasn't meant to be a killer. He was too innocent, too caring, too feelingfor such work.
Before he could voice his disapproval, another figure dropped in on their conversation. "I'll do it."
Dick had jumped from the roof of the building, breaking the speed of his fall by flipping off a window ledge and grabbing onto a sturdy laundry line to do a loop which merged into a flip as he landed elegantly in a crouch.
'Showoff,' Rick thought to himself affectionately, despite the situation at hand. It was impressive - not only had the boy managed to evade his notice, but he was improving by leaps and bounds on his acrobatic skills. Rationality quickly took back control. "Dick, you can't."
"I can," the boy insisted as he stared at his uncle with those pleading blue eyes. They had always been quite expressive. 'I don't want you to die,' they told him. Lips quirked up into a small reassuring smile - 'trust me.'
Rick froze, and for that moment, he cursed himself for ever letting the little Robin fly out of the nest too soon.
Cain took advantage of Rick's temporary silence. "Come, boy," he commanded.
Dick was prepared to follow, but a heavy hand to his shoulder stopped him. Rick stared down his old mentor. "You can only train him at night. I'll sneak him out, but he'll have a normallife during the day. I've heard about your recent track record with children Cain, I don't want my nephew to end up as another one of your psychotic cases."
He had heard rumors of the apprentices that his former mentor had taken recently. They were all young, impressionable. They couldn't handle the brutality of the man's training - he had barely escaped from it himself and he had been much older when he had trained with the man.
The older man contemplated the demand for a moment before nodding. "A year, Grayson. I'll send you a meeting place every week, and he must be here by ten." If the boy broke within a year, he wasn't even worth training.
Mary and John had been amazed when Dick first performed the quadruple flip for them. So amazed that they failed to notice the layers of concealer their son constantly wore. Rick was the only one to notice. He flashed Dick a smile and a word of praise, but secretly he mourned for the growing amount of secrets that accumulated in their family.
Just as the two younger parents had failed to notice that their younger son was learning how to killevery night, Dick failed to notice that his parents had started to fit in extra work hours to fund the possibility of their son getting an education. Lately, it was only when the three family members were asleep with exhaustion that they were truly close.
In front of the audience of his circus family, Dick still acted as warm and affectionate as ever - he was a circus boy and putting on a performance came as naturally to him as flying. Only Rick was privy to the backstage scenes of an increasingly apathetic little boy who had made his first kill at a tender age of eight.
"He complimented me," Dick had confided to him with a whisper. Rick ran a hand through Dick's hair, a touch that helped ground Dick back to reality.
"You did good," he admitted. 'You're still alive, and that's the important part.' "It's all just another performance, and you just acted your part. You're still my stubborn stalker of a nephew at the end of the day." The boy seemed to smile a bit at the praise.
"I don't think the League would appreciate me putting the 'sass' in 'assassin.'"
"Puns are just a performance they can't appreciate, you can play with dangerous weaponry but you can't play with some words, huh?"
They were half-hearted joke, but the two laughed because it was the only semi-balance of normalcy they would reach in their double lives. He was immensely proud that the little bird had not yet broken, but it was horrifying to remember that the boy only had months until Cain would whisk him away permanently. For as long as he could, Rick resolved to serve as a lifeline for the boy's humanity.
The lifeline snapped shorter than expected - it broke along with the ropes that had been the Grayson's perch in the air. Dick looked in despair as his family - his uncle- fell to their deaths.
Afterwards, nothing stirred the catatonic boy's notice, even after Bruce Wayne took him to his new home. It was only when Alfred mentioned that his uncle was alive that the light in Dick's eyes returned.
A week later, Bruce had taken Dick to meet his uncle who was now a paraplegic. "You're alive," Dick stated in relief. As soon as the tears began, Bruce slipped out to leave them in peace. Rick regretted that he was trapped only to watch his nephew finally break down.
Bruce would later come to regret leaving the vulnerable young boy alone. An unfamiliar middle-eastern man entered the room minutes after Bruce had left and immediately captured the two's attention. His commanding figure was met with dread by the elder and suspicion by the younger.
"You both know what happens to operatives when they are no longer useful," he stated calmly as he approached the two. Dick immediately tensed, he knew this man was dangerous - and there was an undeniable threat in his words. But at least he used words - if the elder man had wanted to kill the two, Dick was sure he could have done it without a monologue. A monologue that he was content to continue.
"Right now, he is only a liability and a potential leak about our organization. But if you prove to be more of an asset, then that can easily be overlooked." After all, any information the elder Grayson had on the League would be outdated in time and the boy - a ward of the man he knew to be Batman - could only become more of an asset over time.
"What do I have to do?"
Ra's al Ghul smiled, and Dick couldn't help but feel he had gone in over his head again.
Bruce never caught on to the meeting. Dick, on the other hand, did catch on to his nightly activities quite quickly though, blaming nightmares and insomnia as his excuse when he wandered into the batcave. Soon, the knight of Gotham had a yellow-caped follower in his nightly mission.
A/N: So, I really really need to stop filling prompts on the YJ anon meme. But this one looked so fun that I couldn't resist. And I'm still trying to inch to my publish 50k words goal so I thought I'd post this up here. Updating for this may be VERY irregular though as I want to focus on my other multichapter fics more.
Just a quick note for anyone who doesn't know - Cain is a skilled assassin who works for Ra's and was apparently looking for an partner to do assassinations with...he apparently tried to train other kids with bad results and finally resorted to having a kid of his own (and proceeds to screw her over too, oh Cass...)
And apparently in YJ, Robin has an uncle! Awesome plot device to play with.