Seriously, did they honestly think they were surprising them?
An empty street on the outskirts of Gotham had lead the Dynamic Duo to a dead end at an outlet from the Gotham river and now the thugs of the ghost town had suddenly decided to become territorial.
"Get the freaks!"
Obviously alienated from the normal winds of news and gossip of the rest of the city...
"I call the ugly one!" a voice chirped as a bright form popped out of the shadows of the creaky buildings and attacked a mugger from behind.
"But-they were just in front of us!" one thug with a non-working chainsaw turned and received a dark colored, steel toed boot to the jaw.
"Which one's the ugly one?"
"Uh, good question."
"Take them out Gunner!"
The two sets of matching blue eyes flashed in perfect unity and understanding. The dark form jumped back while the chirping bird fell into a backwards handspring as gunfire exploded onto the pavement where they had been standing.
"Who are they!"
The mugger, who had previously gotten the steel toed boot to his jaw, got to his knees in dizziness just before the bird landed onto his shoulders, using the larger body as a spring board, launching himself up onto a nearby low rooftop. The gunfire exploded against the roof shingles like rapid hailing diamonds.
"Gunner take him down! He's just a snot-nosed kid!"
The gunfire stopped.
The unnamed one fell to the ground, just hanging onto consciousness to see a smirking youth's face over him, a domino mask hiding his eyes.
"Three strikes, you're out."
"Who are you?"
A scoff escaped the kid and he shook his head as another form moved into the mugger's clouding vision.
He passed out.
"Whoa! That was easy," Robin said, running a hand through his hair as his mentor turned to look at where the others had fallen.
"A slow night," Batman muttered, a silent sigh passing through his mind.
He had hoped the latest clue at Gotham's national Bank would have lead them to Black Mask's latest shipment of arms. Hmm, there was still that missing biological tank of Nitrous Decaoxide that had been taken by the Joker just last week.
"We'll meet with the Commissioner and call it a night."
"Sounds like a plan," Robin said with a yawn.
Besides, it was a school night.
It didn't take long for the Batmobile to find them, or for it to race them back into the center of the city. Specifically, the Gotham City Police Department Headquarters, where the Bat Signal was shining against a grey cloud in the sky.
Dropping down onto the rooftop and melting out of the shadows was always fun, especially when it scared the Commissioner. One would think he was used to the Dark Knight's ways after so many years of working with the vigilante.
"Ah! Would it kill you not to melt out of the shadows every time?"
"Sorry, it's just Bat's way," the smaller shadow said as the Dynamic Duo melted into the light.
"OK, the Bat doing that was bad enough, but how did the brightly color clothed kid get away with that?" Gordon thought, raising an eyebrow at the two and then shaking his head, "I probably shouldn't ask."
"We found small traces of Scarecrow's Fear Toxin at Warehouse 9 on the docks. It's really outdated, but you might want to check it out tomorrow night."
"Why tomorrow night?" Robin asked, stretching and sitting down on the edge of the rooftop.
"Because a visiting officer from Bludhaven City is going crazy with the finding. He thinks there's some connection to Blockbuster. He's got teams over there turning over every rock."
"Blockbuster is still imprisoned," Batman said at his partner, who had opened his mouth to protest that he had personally just put the heavy hitter away just days before, again.
Robin nodded at the reassurance and tried to stifle another yawn, failing horribly.
"Time to call it a night?" Gordon said, smiling at the kid.
"Yes," the elder hero said, walking over and placing a hand on his protégé's shoulder.
"Hey, can I talk to you for a moment before you two leave?"
Separating, the 'you' and 'you two?' Batman muttered an order for Robin to head back to the Batmobile while he finished up their meeting. The boy nodded, yawned again, turned and frighteningly dove off the edge of the building, nearly giving the elderly cop a heart attack again.
"You let him jump off buildings!"
"He's been trained all his life to do so."
James Gordon ran a hand across the back of his neck, "So what's with this kid?"
The Dark Knight's eyes went to the darkness over the edge of the building, Robin wasn't sick was he? The boy was exceptionally good at hiding illness, almost to a point that he was both extremely proud of and disappointed in the child, all at the same time.
"You didn't answer me last time," the commissioner pointed out.
"Two face," Batman growled under his breath.
Gordon looked at his ally and then back over the edge of the building where the boy had vanished and decided to re-ask the question he had asked a few months ago, "IS he your son?"
"He's my partner. He-"
"No offense, but that's neither a yes or a no."
"We're not of the same blood."
Cryptic Bat answer.
Gordon had worked with the Dark Knight too long. Perhaps he could still be shocked into a heart attack when the vigilante melted out of the shadows, but he knew when the guy was avoiding answering a specific question. He probably had good reasons but-
"That's not what I asked."
"Is the fact essential to you at the moment?"
Gordon straitened his slightly slumped over figure, "I'd like to know the kid's getting taken care of, especially after that incident with Dent."
Talking to Bats…
Brick walls held better conversations.
"Blood doesn't mean much. Remember my daughter, you saw her after Two Face's case?"
Batman nodded. Where was this going?
"She's actually my niece. I adopted her."
Gordon sighed, "Look, just take care of your…partner. We don't want another situation like Two Face."
"You should ask him," Batman murmured and walked to the edge of the rooftop before jumping off.
"It's your choice if he's your son. It's his choice if you're his father or not."
Robin looked up from a map of the West side of Gotham he had been studying and yawning over when the top of the Batmobile slid back and his mentor landed into the driver's seat.
"What was your talk about?"
Batman's eyes stared into his a little bit too long.
Robin frowned, "Is he hung up over Two Face still?"
"DON'T say that name!"
Robin started. OK, he got his answer. The sight jerk he reacted with made Batman look away in favor of starting the Batmobile and mentally chanting to himself that he shouldn't be scaring the kid, Gotham and its villains did that well enough.
"You did a good job tonight. I didn't see any bullets graze you."
Robin gave an uneasy smile, "Yeah, he was a slow shot anyways."
"I meant-," the elder hero stopped and took a deep breath.
"I didn't see any bullets graze you but I might've missed something."
Robin blinked twice rapidly, feeling the glue of his mask stretch a bit painfully on his face, but more of a reassuring 'I'm still on' pain than actual harming. Then his smile turned genuine.
"I'm not hurt, at all actually. Like you said, it was a slow night."
The two said nothing more. Robin sat back and looked up at the roof of the Batmobile, the missile-proof glass allowing him to stare up at the sky. The city never allowed you to see the stars much, so it was a good thing the main entrance to the Bat-Cave was some 14 miles outside the city. The stars were so bright out tonight and there was an red-orange harvest moon at the zenith of the horizon. It was kind of funny the last time he had seen the moon like this it had been completely red quite a few years ago when Haley's Circus had been in Tashkent. The Boy Wonder closed his eyes and let himself remember...
"Catch me if you can!"
"Dick be careful!" Mary shouted up at her little boy as she wove flowers, from the field their small family was picnicking in, into a crown.
The innocent blue eyed boy was up in a tree.
"We don't need to worry about our little flying squirrel Mary, he's at home up there," John said, taking the woven crown and placing it over his wife's head.
In response the woman huffed, blowing a wisp of hair out of her face, "OK, muscle man, you go up after the kid, I'll set out the food."
"A done deal," John said with a smile, kissing Mary on the cheek and scrambling up the nearest tree after their little bundle of joy who had just found his way to an outward branch that stretched over to the next tree.
"Come on son, it's time to eat. Isn't that stomach of yours always hungry?"
"But I want to reach the other tree."
"We'll sneak off later today and come back before the circus leaves."
"I promise. Now, let's get down before we give your mother two heart attacks."
The little boy's face lit up brighter than usual with his smile, "OK!"
The little one stepped forward, reached out and took hold of his father's hand.
When the Boy Wonder reopened his eyes he found that they were parked in the Bat-Cave. Why was that memory so slow at coming back to him?
The boy turned and looked at his mentor before shrugging an apology, "Sorry, must have dozed off."
"You're tired, get to bed. You have a history test tomorrow," Batman ordered as the top of the Batmobile slid away, revealing the overhanging flying rodents that littered the top of the Bat-Cave.
Robin chuckled under his breath as he leaped from the car, while his Mentor stepped out in the more normal fashion, "Like I'm going to struggle naming the presidents."
"Nevertheless, you should get to bed Master Dick."
The Dynamic Duo turned to the steps that went up to the Manor and spotted the retired agent standing in the shadows.
"No need for medical attention, it was a very slow night," Batman said as he reached up to pull down his cowl.
Robin followed suit by pulling his mask from his face, "But if the police are done with the dock warehouse by tomorrow we may find something on Blockbuster."
"I dread the day you two face that maniac once again Master Dick," Alfred protested with a shake of his head as he walked towards the two.
"Hey, we can handle it," Dick protested, "I took him down myself."
"Must I keep reminding you that it's past your bed time?" Bruce said with a light glare at the boy.
Dick smiled back at Bruce with those darn smiles that you just trusted no matter what, "OK. I'll get changed."
"And the dent on the Batmobile Master Bruce?" Alfred asked, his eyes catching how one corner on the front was slightly compressed inward.
Bruce looked away from the screen of the Bat-Computer, which he had quickly made his way over to when the elderly butler had moved to check over the automobile, and spoke slowly, turning in the chair only slightly, "One of the gang muggers with a non-working electric chainsaw."
"And am I correct in assuming that he believed smashing said chainsaw against the car was the only way to make it work?"
"You'd definitely be correct Alfred," Dick said as he walked back into the room, his crime fighting costume now replaced with a pair of grey sweatpants and a superman t-shirt.
Bruce scowled as the boy made his way over.
"What?" Dick asked when he met Bruce's scowl with his confusion.
Dick chuckled under his breath.
"I will see to the dent tomorrow morning Master Bruce, and I expect to see you upstairs in at least 15 minutes Master Dick."
"Roger," Robin said with another one of those smiles and a faux salute.
Alfred then frowned and turned his head slightly to make out the reflection the monitor of the Bat-Computer, was that-?
"Why Master Bruce I do believe that you're smiling."
"Where? I want to see!" Robin said, looking back to his Mentor, who couldn't hide a smirk.
Bruce then frowned, "Traitor."
Alfred smiled and made his ascent back up towards the Manor. When the secret door shut behind him Bruce turned to his protege, raising an eyebrow.
"Where did you get that?"
"Alfred got it for me."
Traitor! They were both Traitors!
Dick giggled and then threw off the Superman shirt, revealing the dark grey shirt underneath with the black bat symbol, "I didn't want to be rude, so I thought I'd wear them both."
If he hadn't been Batman, Bruce's jaw would've been somewhere between the desk and the floor. Only the Boy Wonder.
"So what was it that the Commissioner talked to you about?"
"Never mind. You should be getting to bed."
"I've got ten minutes. Hey, was it about another case you guys think I should sit out on?"
Well, he wasn't actually lying in that regard. Bruce began checking on perimeter monitoring devices around the city, his black gloved fingertips flying across the keys of the computer.
"Whew, thank goodness," Dick said, and then paused without speaking for a whole minute, "I know it has something to do with the-um case some weeks ago."
"It's not important," Bruce said quickly, and then mentally reprimanded himself for speaking the sentence much too rapidly, the boy would pick up on that.
"I knew it," Robin said with a smile-smirk only he had accomplished once he had reached the age of nine.
"So what was it?"
"He just asked about you."
"What about me?"
Silence. Dick tilted his head to the side slightly, the light from the Bat-Computer's screen hitting the irises of his eyes just right. Bruce took a deep breath and the boy smiled that trusting smile of his again. The man was sure this kid would be able to make a fortune selling something as medial as toothpaste with that look.
"That case some weeks ago, he asked why you were still working with me."
The boy's blue eyes grew a bit at that statement, "And, what did you say?"
"I said you were properly trained and had proven yourself a hundred times over."
Dick turned to glance at the screen of the Bat-Computer, then back at his Mentor who had stopped typing.
"And I take it that he didn't like that?"
"He was confused," here, Bruce looked towards the corner of the screen, obviously attempting to distract himself.
"What is it?" the younger asked, had Gordon said something that-
"He asked if you were my son."
Silence followed Bruce's answer until-
"And he asked that again tonight?" Dick asked, wanting to be perfectly clear on the situation.
"Yes," the elder said and finally looked over at the boy.
Dick smiled slowly, something that was very rare, "And you said?"
"That we aren't of the same blood."
The Boy Wonder laughed, "Obviously, Batman and Robin couldn't be any more different. Of course, that's also why we're the Dynamic Duo."
And there was that smile of his again that could sell toothpaste. He was absolutely sure this kid didn't have powers, right?
Bruce shook away his thoughts and turned back to the Bat-Computer, feeling the tension in the air dissolve instantly as Dick turned to watch the screens as he was. It was only a few seconds that had passed though when the billionaire caught the sound of fingertips tapping against the nearby counter top.
"What is it Dick?"
The boy was leaning against the counter top that bordered the Bat-Computer, tapping his bare fingers against the sheet aluminum that covered it, "I was just thinking of how different my life would be if you were my actual father."
Once again, he was Batman, so his jaw stayed attached to his skull, even if it felt the floor was very tempting.
The playboy billionaire had to mentally slap himself back to his right state of mind. Why did this little boy affect him like this? He'd seen tons of children in horrible conditions and not once had any of them managed to get to him, but this one? What happened?
"I could never presume to be John Grayson."
The mention of his blood father's name made the boy's mouth fall open a bit before he closed it again and turned around, leaning back against the metal counter top. His face changed from surprise to happiness, to sorrow and finally settled on a glance of contemplation. Bruce started back on the monitoring devices, this time focusing on two cameras that watched the North end of the Gotham river.
"You're right," the boy admitted.
That kind of stung, but he was Batman.
"You missed one fact there though, Dark Knight Detective," Dick said with that dang toothpaste-selling-smile again.
"And what's that?"
Darn it! Why had his voice gotten lighter at that moment?
"It's true, you could NEVER be John Grayson."
Sigh, the boy had to repeat that?
"But you know what? John Grayson, could NEVER be you."
When Bruce Wayne looked away from the screen again he found the boy at the top of the stairs already, waving down at him before he slipped outside the door and into the Manor above.