This is my new 'big' project. My friend and I have been doing an AU roleplay where Dick, Jason, Tim, and Damian have been growing up as brothers. We talked about turning it into a fic and...here it is. I'll still be updating Wishes and On With the Show, but this story will be my main priority as of now. The story will shift between their different points of view as things progress. But first we have to get their origin stories out of the way, since we will be tweaking things here and there. All chapters will be posted on my deviantArt account first (MsWikit), so if you want to see them a bit sooner you can follow that account. Reviews and feedback are always appreciated!
Also, I apologize for the length of Dick's chapter. He's a storyteller and never shuts the hell up. Jason, Tim, and Damian's stories will be much shorter.
I arrived in Gotham under the impression that I would only be staying for two weeks. In those days I was still traveling with Haly's Circus. My parents had been with the circus since before I was born, and when I turned four they simply integrated me into the act. But I was never allowed to participate in the finale, which was always done without a safety net. Not that I ever fell during a show or anything. I barely fell in practice. But my parents didn't want to take the risk.
We got off the train around noon. The sky was dark with clouds. A light misty rain was falling. It made the entire train yard – and the entire city for that matter – look gray. Familiar voices began to shout familiar orders as we began to unload our train's cargo: excess luggage, props, animals, set pieces. Most of which had to be transported to the fairgrounds so we could set up our big top. Usually I liked to help with the set-up. It was hard work but you got to have fun with the other members of the circus. But I was noticeably worn out from the long trip. My dad handed off our lighter luggage to my mom.
"You go check into the hotel, alright? I'm going to help get everything set up at the fairgrounds." Dad told her. "I'll meet you two in the hotel restaurant for dinner."
My mom shouldered one of the bags. "What time?"
"Around six, maybe seven. If I'm late just go ahead and eat. And…stay at the hotel. Don't go out on to the streets." Dad kissed her cheek, then ruffled my hair.
My mom and I caught a cab and stored our luggage in the trunk. The driver said nothing as we told him the hotel name. He looked us both over silently, appraising us through his rear view mirror. Once he was satisfied he started the car and began driving to the hotel. I leaned against my mother's shoulder. There was a gun resting on the dashboard in plain sight. Suddenly I remembered what my dad said about staying off the streets. He'd never said that before. Usually I was encouraged to go explore. For the first time I began to realize that Gotham was different than other cities we'd been to before. It was dangerous.
We reached the hotel on the northern side of Gotham, which was the wealthier and safer part of the city. My mom and I checked in and went up to our suite. (Mr. Haly always got good rooms for his performers, but as his star act we got a bit of special treatment.)
Mom went to work on unpacking. I crawled on to one of the soft beds and went right to sleep. I could never sleep on the train and sometimes I would end up passing out as soon as we got to our hotel. When I awoke a couple of hours later, I heard my parents speaking softly. They were trying to talk about something without me hearing. That almost never happened. We were a close family. So we never kept secrets from each other. I feigned sleep to hear what it was that they didn't want me to know.
"…he demanded Mr. Haly pay him." Dad was saying.
"Pay him? For what?" Mom asked.
That confused me. Why would we need protection? I thought of the gun on the dashboard. Again I got the feeling that Gotham was a dangerous place.
"Can you believe it, Mary? Right after we get off the damn train, some mobster is already breathing down our neck."
I almost gasped. My dad wasn't a very serious man. He preferred to joke and laugh about everything. He only swore when he was very angry, and he never swore in front of me. Whether I was asleep or not.
"What did Mr. Haly do about it?" Mom asked.
"He told him to get out. The guy said he would get in touch two more times. And after that there may be an 'accident' that he couldn't prevent. We tried contacting the police but they refused to do anything." My dad sighed. I could hear the frustration in his voice. "This place has gone to hell, Mary. I thought it was bad when I was growing up…can you imagine what it would be like if we'd tried to raise Dick here?"
"We'll be gone in two weeks, John. Just try not to worry too much."
I sat up then and looked at my parents. "What's going on?"
"Nothing, baby." Mom said gently. "Let's go get some food, ok?"
The circus received its next warning on opening night. I never saw the man who delivered the message, but I heard people mumbling about it when they thought I wasn't in earshot. But I quickly forgot about it. Gotham was our last stop on our American tour. Next was the international tour, which would be a first for me. As it was our last performance in the states until the next year, everything had to be perfect. All of my time was spent training with my parents. Adding tricks, correcting mistakes. We didn't get back to the hotel until after dark on most nights. And my dad had strictly forbid me from venturing off. So my time before bed was spent watching cartoons and staring out the window at the Batsignal burning in the sky. I hated being confined to a hotel room. What was out there that they didn't want me to see?
I could tell our final show was going to be a big one. At the fairgrounds I could feel that low hum in the air. That hum was always a good sign. It meant that the audience was giving off a lot of energy. Performers can practically feed off of that stuff. It's part of one big cycle: the more energy the audience puts out, the more energy the performer puts out. And it just keeps going and going until the finale.
That hum was growing when I snuck to Mr. Haly's makeshift office. On the night of my first ever performance, Mr. Haly wished me luck and gave me a peppermint. It had become our tradition. Every night before a show I would go to his office. He would tell me to break a leg and then give me a peppermint. I was sneaking since people were arriving in full-force and I wasn't supposed to be seen in my costume. Even when I got close to the door I stayed in the shadows. It took everything I had not to jump out and run into the office. The hum was getting louder, feeding into me like a drug. But as I moved closer I heard Mr. Haly talking to someone. That was weird. Everyone knew better than to bother Mr. Haly before a show. But I didn't recognize the voice talking to him.
"…Haly, this is your last chance." The strange voice said. "I would love to guarantee the protection of your performers. But I'm afraid if I don't get some money soon, my powers will be severely limited."
"I will not be bullied by the likes of you." Mr. Haly replied. "And if you ever threaten any of my performers again, so help me I'll…I'll…"
"You'll what?" The other voice challenged.
"Get out of my office. OUT!"
The door opened. I pressed further back into the shadows, suddenly frightened. A man in a gray suit stepped out. He straightened his collar and stood in the light flooding out from the open door. In my mind it's like a spotlight. I memorized everything I could about him. The salt and pepper colored hair. The thin nose, the sharp beady eyes. He started walking off. I waited until he was gone before slipping into the office. Mr. Haly was standing at his desk, his back to the door.
"Mr. Haly?" I said hesitantly.
"What is it?" he asked sharply. When he realized it was just me, he turned and sighed. "I'm sorry Dick. I'm just…stressed." Mr. Haly reached into his drawer and handed me a peppermint. "Break a leg, kid."
I popped the peppermint into my mouth and started to slink out of the office. Mr. Haly called me back.
I looked over my shoulder at him. "Yes, sir?"
He'd never told me that before. I nodded and ran out.
As predicted, the show was a huge success. My family's act was up last. And with each act that went on, the energy in the atmosphere doubled. They were practically screaming at every little trick performed. My parents and I stood by, waiting for our turn.
My mom knelt in front of me and straightened my costume. "Ready to go, Richie the Robin?"
I blushed. "Moooom! You promised you wouldn't call me that anymore!"
Ever since I turned four, my mother had started coming up with embarrassing nicknames. Most of them had 'Robin' somewhere in them. I didn't mind it so much, but most of them also had 'Richie' somewhere in them. And God damn it, I hate being called Richie.
Mom giggled. "Sorry, sorry."
Dad smirked some and picked me up. "Embarrassing nicknames aside: are you ready to go flying, kid?"
"I'm ready!" I grinned.
"Are you sure?"
"Lift-off!" My dad threw me into the air like I weighed nothing at all. I screamed happily and hugged his neck when he caught me.
"Shhh!" Mom said with a smile. "You two will get us in trouble!"
Finally the Acabari Twins finished their fire breathing act. The lights dimmed dramatically. Our cue to go on. We started climbing to our positions. Once we were up, Mr. Haly went to center ring. A lone spotlight turned on him. As he talked the safety net was slowly hoisted into place.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'm sure you would all agree it's been a wonderful evening. Sadly, our time together is drawing to a close." Mr. Haly took off his top hat and held it over his heart dramatically. After a moment of disappointed sighing, Mr. Haly looked back up with a small smile. "But we still have one, final act left for your viewing pleasure. We have here tonight an extraordinary, death-defying family of acrobats! I present to you: THE FLYING GRAYSONS!"
Three spotlights turned on us. One on Mom, one on Dad, one on me. The crowd roared with approval. We waved and smiled. I could feel the energy growing into a crescendo. This was going to be the best show yet. Gotham was a hungry city. It loved a good show. It needed a good show.
"Allow me to introduce to you: John Grayson!"
Dad jumped out, did two flips, and caught one of the bars. Without losing any momentum he swung on to the next one. The audience roared with approval.
Mom jumped out next. She twirled in the air, her blonde hair whipping around her like gold. My father caught her wrists and swung her on to the next bar. More cheering.
I got ready to go.
"And their son: Dick Grayson!"
To be honest, the whole show was a blur to me. I remember jumping, swinging, spinning, rolling. The crowd was cheering somewhere in the distance. But I don't remember anything specific. Not until the safety net was lowered and I swung over to my perch. Sweat was rolling down my face. But I was happy. The crowd was happy. And the finale was coming up.
I didn't pay much attention to what my parents were doing. I'd seen their finale a million times before. But I snapped to attention when I heard the noise.
To be honest, I can't really describe what it sounded like. The appropriate term would be 'metal wires giving out.' But it didn't sound like that. I just remember it being a weird sound. Then I saw my parent's faces and knew something was wrong. I got on my stomach and reached out. They were swinging towards me. My mom with her arms outstretched, my dad holding on to her ankles.
My fingertips brushed my mom's. Our eyes locked. It felt like the moment lasted forever, but I know it was more like two seconds.
And then they started to fall.
I tried to close my hands around hers. But she was already gone, slipping away like water. I couldn't look away. At first the audience screamed in delight. And then when they realized it wasn't part of the show, that there was real danger here. Their screams turned into cries of fear when they hit.
The only way I can describe the activity afterwards is what happens after you step on an anthill. At first there's nothing. Then the next thing you know the ants are swarming all over the place without really knowing what the hell they're doing or what's going on. That was what it was like. First there was just a stunned silence. I kept my eyes on my parents, watching for any sign of life. But there was nothing.
The ant hill came to life. Mr. Haly and the other performers swarmed the rings. People started yelling in the stands, calling for someone to call an ambulance. I couldn't hear any of them. Somehow I ended up on the ground. I tried to run to my parents, but the Acabari Twins cut me off. They tried to block me from seeing them. I was crying and trying to dart past them. The twins were both wide and muscular. But I was small and too quick for them. I managed to dart underneath their legs and ran forward. There was a small ring of people crowded around my mom and dad. I shoved past them and stumbled forwards.
My parents looked like a couple of broken dolls. They didn't even look human anymore. Someone tried to pull me back. I whirled and smacked them away, but was too scared to get close to my parents. So I just stood there and cried. Well, sobbed. And screamed. Bruce told me later he could hear me screaming over everyone else. I don't remember being that loud but I wouldn't doubt that I was. Mr. Haly picked me up and handed me off to another performer. They carried me out of the tent as the paramedics were arriving. One of the paramedics came over and I was handed to them.
"The performers that fell were his parents." I heard her tell the paramedic quietly.
The paramedic nodded. He carried me over to the ambulance and set me down. He tried to calm me down, but in the end they had to give me a mild sedative. Someone draped a bright orange shock blanket over my shoulders. After what felt like hours, I saw two stretchers with white sheets draped over them being loaded into another ambulance. Watching it made me feel cold. I looked away and saw Mr. Haly talking with some police men. Finally a man with gray hair and a thick coat came over and knelt down in front of me. I didn't know it then, but I would get to know this man very well in the future.
"You're Dick, aren't you?" he asked. I nodded. The man held out a hand. "I'm Commissioner Gordon. I'm in charge of the police force."
I shook his hand, still feeling cold and numb all over. "Hi."
"How are you feeling?" Gordon asked me. I immediately began to like him. There was genuine sympathy in his voice. Almost fatherly.
I shrugged. I didn't really know what I felt. I just knew I didn't like it.
"I know things are tough right now, kid. But I have to ask you some questions." Gordon said. "Mr. Haly said you might have seen someone suspicious leaving his office. Did you?"
Suddenly it all came back to me. The man in the gray suit, standing in the spotlight. Every detail was burned into my memory. From the color of the buttons on his cuffs to the words he said to Mr. Haly. "I did."
"What did he look like?" Gordon asked. "Did you hear what he said?"
I told him everything. Gordon seemed surprised at how vividly I remembered everything. Almost suspicious, actually. But he wrote down what I told him on to a small pad, then tucked it into his coat. "You're going to have to come with us, son."
Automatically I resented being called 'son' by anyone other than my dad. But I already liked Gordon and let it pass. "Why? What did I do?"
"Nothing. It's just that…your parents are gone." Gordon looked me in the eye. The words were honest, but not harsh. "We need to find out if there's any family we can turn you over to. If not…"
"Can't I stay with the circus?" I asked, suddenly feeling even worse. The world felt like it was falling down on my head. My parents and my home all in one night? I didn't even know if I had any other family. We'd never visited any other relatives.
Gordon shook his head. "Afraid not. If there's no family that can take you…we'll find a nice foster home for you. Or send you down to Honorhall." I could tell Gordon was trying to keep his tone light, as if these options weren't so bad. But his eyes gave him away. Foster homes were bad. Honorhall, whatever that was, was even worse.
I was driven to the GCPD building in Gordon's car. I spent the rest of the night answering the same questions over again. No, my parents never mentioned any aunts or uncles. No, I don't know if I have cousins. No, I don't know who my grandparents are. By the next morning they'd gotten their hands on our family records. All four of my grandparents died years ago. Both my mom and dad were only children. They could find no relatives they could pass me along to. So early the next morning, arrangements began for me to be put into foster care.
The night had left me exhausted, but I couldn't sleep. I was lying on a wooden bench in the back of the GCPD building. They'd given me a pillow and I was using my orange shock blanket to keep warm. Now that I was calm, I started to actually think. What would happen to me? What had happened during the performance? How was the man in the gray suit connected to it? Everything felt scary and horrible. I closed my eyes and tried not to cry again. Part of me wanted to sleep very badly. I was exhausted. But the noise of the office was keeping me awake. Footsteps started towards me and I rolled on to my side so that my back was to everyone else. Someone touched me on my shoulder.
It was Gordon and a man in a suit. Slowly, I sat up and stared at the man. He was taller than Gordon with jet black hair and blue eyes. His face was handsome and vaguely familiar. Like I'd seen it somewhere before. The man offered a small, kind smile.
"Dick, this is Bruce Wayne." Gordon looked unhappy. The name registered in my mind. Bruce Wayne was a famous man. Sometimes he popped up in the gossip magazines my mom read. That was why I recognized him. "He's just adopted you."
As chance would have it, Bruce Wayne had been at the show last night with his latest girlfriend. Before the police took me away, he asked one of the officers to call him and tell him if/when they managed to contact any living family. The same officer called him shortly after they verified that I had no blood relatives left alive. And through the magic of money, Bruce Wayne went through the long, arduous adoption process in a matter of two hours. Before seven o'clock I was legally declared his son.
It was like something out of a storybook. A billionaire adopts a helpless orphan with nowhere to go. Just like in Annie. Any kid would be thrilled.
Well, I wasn't.
I stood there as Bruce Wayne spoke a bit with the police. They informed him that they might have to call me in for additional questioning, but otherwise I was free to go home. (Home being Wayne Manor.) I watched them from a distance and frowned. I heard Gordon grumble to another officer, "Should be illegal, using a kid as a charity case like that. Just trying to up his popularity and make a stir."
That was all I was? A way for him to end up in magazines? He was taking me in before my parents were cold in the ground so he could get attention? I hated him at once.
His butler, Alfred, was waiting outside with a limo. Usually this would have dazzled me. My family had been famous, but never limo famous. But since I'd already decided I hated him, I resented it. The butler held open the door for me and I got in without a word. Bruce got in beside me. We still hadn't spoken, even though he was legally my new father.
"It is nice to meet you, Master Richard." Alfred said as he started the limo. He began to drive away from the police building.
I cringed. No one ever called me Richard unless I was in trouble. "Everyone calls me Dick."
"I prefer full names, sir." Alfred replied. "Keeps things proper."
A silence fell in the limo. Finally Bruce looked at me and said, "I'm sorry about your parents."
I didn't respond.
When we arrived at Wayne Manor, I was impressed by the sheer size of it. But still I refused to say anything. I slammed the limo door after I got out. For the first time I began to wonder about all of my stuff. All of my clothes, my souvenirs that I'd collected over the years, the family photos…where was it? Would the circus just throw it out? I allowed myself to be led up the stairs by Alfred. Bruce followed us for a bit, then proceeded down the hall and disappeared into his office.
Alfred opened one of the doors. "This will be your room, Master Richard."
All of my stuff had been moved in. My Flying Graysons post was tacked on to the wall above my bed. There was a shelf mounted on the opposite wall that held all of my souvenirs. The open closet door showed that all of my clothes (including costumes) were arranged neatly inside. Pictures of me and my parents were sitting in nice, new little frames and were sitting on a desk. It didn't feel like home, but it felt close.
"Oh…thank you…" I said, glancing at Alfred.
"It wasn't my doing." Alfred replied as he surveyed the room with a critical eye. "Master Bruce retrieved your belongings and arranged them in your new living quarters himself."
That surprised me. Maybe Bruce wasn't so bad after all.
"He also retrieved your parent's belongings. They're currently in storage." Alfred added.
The thought of Bruce touching my parents' things got me angry at him all over again. I resumed my silence. Alfred nodded respectfully and walked out, shutting the door quietly behind him. I sat on the bed and stared around at my new room. Everything felt unreal. Yesterday morning, I'd been eating breakfast on a train while my mom teased my dad for putting too much sugar in his coffee. The next day I was an orphan living with a billionaire and a weird old guy that insisted on calling me 'Master Richard.' It was like a nightmare come to life. I collapsed on to the bed and buried my face in the pillow. I started sobbing into it, wondering how things could change so fast.
I wish I could say that things improved between Bruce and I when some time passed. Some of the tabloids painted us as the perfect pair: the gentle paternal billionaire and the sweet orphaned acrobat. Other tabloids said that Bruce's life of partying would lead him to be a terrible father and I would end up ODing on coke at sixteen. At the time, I thought the latter was a more accurate idea.
Truth be told, I barely saw Bruce. He was never at dinner. I always ate alone. When Alfred saw that I was barely eating he would stand in the room with me. And when it finally got to the point where I refused to eat, he got Bruce's approval to send me to a child psychologist.
The therapy wasn't actually that bad. I actually kind of liked my therapist until she said I had to try to bond with Bruce. Then I hated her too. But she got results and soon my survivor's guilt/PTSD/mild depression began to ebb. Bruce, on my therapists' orders, began trying to act more fatherly. He ate breakfast and dinner with me, but usually left halfway through dinner. Once he tried taking me to a baseball game. We almost caught a foul ball, but instead I got hit in the face and we went home before the fourth inning. Every time we tried to bridge the gap between us, something got in the way. Whether it was him or me or the cosmos. Nothing was right. It wasn't until I accidentally discovered the Batcave did things begin to thaw between us.
I still don't remember what I was doing with the grandfather clock. Maybe I was trying to piss Bruce off and break it. Well, whatever I was doing, I ended up discovering a panel hidden behind it. I pushed the panel aside, revealing a pair of metal doors.
At first I didn't know what to think. I reached towards the doors. The motion sensor caught the movement and the doors flew open. Behind them was a brightly lit express elevator. I slowly stepped inside, not really sure what was going on. The doors closed and the elevator began to move. When it finally stopped, I was let out into a giant cave.
Your first look at the cave is one you always remember. I felt very small when I looked around. The cave looked enormous to me. There were metal platforms and walkways that led to different parts of the cave. Training areas, a workbench, computers…the Batmobile was at the center, parked and waiting to be used. Bruce was sitting in front of the master computer. He was so absorbed in his research that he didn't notice me. I slowly walked towards him, realizing that Bruce Wayne wasn't all that said he was. But my attention was quickly caught by the picture on the screen. It was of the man I'd seen coming out of Mr. Haly's office. I recognized him almost immediately.
"What are you doing?" I demanded. Why was Bruce researching this strange man?
Bruce turned suddenly and stared at me. "Dick! How did you-"
"That's the man that threatened Mr. Haly." I said with a frown.
"You need to leave." Bruce stood up. "I don't know how you got down here-"
It finally hit me then. Bruce was Batman. Why else would he be down here with all of this equipment? Why else would the Batman's car be sitting in here? "Is this what you're doing all the time? Being Batman?"
He sighed. "Yes. We'll talk about this later, alright? Go upstairs."
"No." My defiance wasn't unusual at this point, but Bruce still didn't like hearing the word. "I want to know what you're doing."
We locked eyes. Neither of us was going to back down. Bruce glared at me. For whatever reason that scared the crap out of me, and I looked away. But my feet stayed planted on the ground. Finally, we both broke.
Bruce said, "I'll tell you if you promise to go upstairs after I do."
"Ok." I agreed eagerly.
Slowly, Bruce sat back down in his chair. "The man is named Tony Zucco. He's a prominent mob boss and the prime subject in the investigation on the murders of your parents. They think he sabotaged the wires somehow so that they would break during the finale. But there's no evidence to support it, aside from the threats. He's untouchable."
The weight of his words began to sink in. This was the man that murdered my parents. He was the reason I was stuck with Bruce, rather than on my way to Europe for the international tour. He was the reason my parents were dead. Suddenly I hated him more than I'd ever hated anyone before. I wanted to see him suffer. I wanted to see him die. "So you're trying to find evidence against him?"
"And get a confession, if it all possible." Bruce confirmed.
"Why?" I looked at him. "Why do you care about him?"
"I don't." Bruce frowned as he examined the information on the screen. "I've been shutting down the mob one cell at a time, and Zucco has never been 'one of boys.' But now that the field is open he feels a bit more apt to play. He isn't a priority."
"So why are you doing it?" I somehow sensed we were on the threshold of something. The walls we'd thrown up between us were slowly beginning to come down. Or, as my therapist would have said, we were 'on the verge of a breakthrough.'
Bruce didn't look at me. "For your sake. I don't want your childhood to be consumed with revenge, like mine was."
I'd never thought about Bruce as a child before. I always figured he just popped into existence, full grown and wearing a business suit. "What do you mean?"
"My parents were shot in front of me when I was around your age. It's the reason I started all of…this. The reason I took you in." Bruce seemed to think he said too much. He frowned at me. "Now go upstairs."
I left without a fight, which surprised him. I went straight to my room and sat down on my bed to think. But my room suddenly felt small and cramped. Fresh air was what I needed. I opened my window and climbed on to the roof. For whatever reason, the manner of my parent's death didn't make me afraid of heights. (The therapist seemed to think it would.) I still liked being up high. I sat down and let the breeze go through my hair. From my perch I could see the Gotham skyline and the setting sun. Soon the Batsignal would turn on and Batman – Bruce – would begin working.
So, Bruce was an orphan too. And his parents were murdered just like mine. He was even trying to get my parent's killer brought to justice. Suddenly everything made sense. How distant he was, how disinterested in me he was. Hell; if I was Batman I wouldn't have paid attention to some bratty orphan either. Yet he was working on this case for my sake.
It got dark, but I stayed on the roof. Bruce eventually came up and sat beside me.
"Don't you have work to do?" I asked, hugging my knees to my chest. "With the case?"
"Not for another hour." Bruce replied. "Why are you up here? It's dangerous. You could fall."
I shrugged. "I'm not scared. Plus I think better when I'm up higher." I looked at him. "I decided that I want to help."
Bruce stared at me. "With what?"
"With the case. He killed my parents and I want to help catch him." I said, frowning slightly.
"Absolutely not." Bruce frowned right back. "It's too dangerous. You're just a kid. All you'll do is get in the way and get yourself in trouble."
"Not if you train me!" I protested.
"Train you? Dick, I can't even take care of you. What makes you think I can train you?" Bruce raised his voice slightly, but I didn't back down.
I glared at him. "You're a bad dad but you're a good Batman! Didn't you want to do the same thing? Catch the guy that shot your mom and dad?"
Those words made Bruce go silent. Neither of us spoke for at least ten minutes. Then Bruce stood up and looked down at me. "I'll consider it."
To me, he might as well have said yes.
Training began after a month of consideration. At first, Bruce tried to scare me off. He laid on the toughest, most physically challenging exercises he could think of. By the end of each session I was black and blue. But I didn't back down. When he saw that I was intent, he eased the lessons slightly. The goal went from scaring me to actually teaching me. I learned pretty early on that my acrobatic skills were my biggest asset. I incorporated them into my fighting style so that I could even throw Bruce for a loop. I have a photographic memory, and that worked to my advantage in the lessons on detective work. Stealth training was probably the hardest. But over the months, I began to learn how to walk without being heard and how to stay to the shadows. I was never allowed to go into the field. Bruce would always bring information back and we'd work on the case together in the cave.
It wasn't until February did Bruce decide I was ready. Incidentally, we had all the evidence we needed by that point. All that was left was the confession. That had to be gained through interrogation.
Bruce had me dress in all black. I didn't have a mask or a utility belt, and I was expected to keep to the shadows as much as possible.
"You don't do anything without orders to." Bruce told me as he pulled on his cowl. "Understand?"
"Understood." I replied.
Zucco was going to be at a bar. When left to find his car, Batman would move in and the interrogation would begin. I was told to wait on a specific rooftop and not move from my spot. I didn't. And two hours after I arrived at my perch, Batman arrived with Zucco.
To my surprise, he shoved Zucco forward and said, "Get it out of your system." I didn't need to be told twice. I ran forward and punched him in the stomach. I poured all of my anger and hate into every punch and kick. By the time Batman pulled me away, Zucco had three broken ribs, a concussion, and a broken nose.
"That's enough." Batman said calmly. He glanced at Zucco. "Do you want to confess now? Or should I let him continue?"
"Just keep that little demon away from me!" Zucco cried. "I'll tell you whatever you want to know."
It was over just like that. The whole thing suddenly felt…small. My life for the past few months had been leading up to that moment. Yet it was over in half an hour. Batman turned Zucco over to the police, as well as all the evidence. Zucco confessed to sabotaging my parent's act. I went home feeling strangely hollow. The feeling persisted until the next day.
"How do you feel?" Bruce asked.
"Unsatisfied." I replied with a frown.
"I thought so." Bruce looked at me. "Do you know why?"
"It was just so…fast. The past few months have been leading up to that. Now it's over. Now what do I have?" I ran my hand through my hair and sighed. "No purpose, no nothing."
"You have school." Bruce replied. (I'd begun school at Gotham Academy at that point. Other than my new best friend Barbara Gordon, I hated it. I missed the days when my parents homeschooled me.) "That's something."
"School stinks." I grumbled. "I wish you would just let Alfred homeschool me."
There was a silence. I glanced at Bruce. He was obviously thinking about something. By that point I knew him so well I could practically see him mentally weighing the pros and cons. After a few minutes of deliberation he said, "What if this became a…permanent arrangement? The crime-fighting?"
The words came as a shock. I stared at him. "I…you…for real?"
Bruce nodded once. "You would still have to follow my orders exactly as I give them…you'll also have to undergo more extensive training. And you'll need an alternate identity…"
Suddenly the world seemed to open up before me. And I realized that I wanted to do more. I wanted to prevent some other kid from losing their parents to a money-hungry nut job. I wanted to protect Gotham. I loved and hated the city all at once, and I wanted to defend it. I accepted Bruce's offer without hesitation.
"You'll need a name." Bruce reminded me.
"I've got one. Robin." Funny how I used to hate being called by that. And then I became famous by that name. Batman and Robin suddenly became synonymous with one another. They started calling us the 'Dynamic Duo.' Bruce and I even began to get along better. The gap between us was slowly being bridged. Now that we finally had something to bond over, we stopped fighting. We became a bit more like a father and a son.
But I didn't stay an only child for long.