Summary: 'Robin John Blake' wasn't always his name. Before everything, it was Richard Grayson. Follow the story of the original Boy Wonder: his falls, his decisions, his reasons for changing his name the way he did—all without Bruce Wayne or the Batman. Spoilers for TDKR. T for safety.
Disclaimer: I don't own Batman or anything in the canon series/movies. Trust me, I wish.
A/N: Okay, who all squealed when they called John Blake "Robin" at the end? *raises hand and smiles* I irritated my sister so much with that. ;D Anyway, that got me thinking about Dick (because I adore Dick), and I started writing this! There will be flashbacks later to explain more, but for now, I hope you enjoy!
Fifteen-year-old Richard Grayson was normally willing to go along with what he was told. There were certain issues that people encountered when they didn't realize how strong-willed he could be, like his refusal to stay in any foster home for more than a week, but overall, he was obedient. Reasonable enough to get his way through wit and stubbornness instead of force if he felt his way was a good point, which admittedly was ninety-nine percent of the time. Down-to-earth, mentally and physically for the past year and a half. Smart enough to pick his fights and strong enough to win the brawls he did get involved in. Yet he always had a smile and was an expert at deflecting the topic when someone tried to ask about the gleam in his eyes behind it.
"This is ridiculous, Grayson." The owner/"manager" of the orphanage in Blüdhaven, Mr. Keystone, watched him incredulously out of squinty tan eyes. He was a slightly-overweight man in his early-forties with dark brown hair, the short crop doing nothing to hide the beginnings of lighter streaks. He wasn't really a bad man, but running anything in Blüdhaven meant being tough, and he couldn't turn that attitude on and off at will.
"So I've heard," Dick said, not in the mood. Pushing his black hair back, he turned to face Mr. Keystone. The startling shade of blue that his eyes were never failed to hide the gleam that he'd picked up from a fellow orphan who he'd known and understood better than anyone. "Which part are you saying that about now?"
"All of it!" Mr. Keystone spread his hands. "Changing your name, for one thing. You're fifteen years old!"
"Sorry I'm tired of being pestered about my life before this place. Moving to Gotham, there's several things," Dick said, turning back to his bag. "Technically, I'm 'transferring orphanages', meaning I'm moving to the St. Swithin's Boys' Home so I'm out of everyone's hair here. I practically live there anyways, since that's where all the foster homes are and I visit for a week all the time. Between the fact that my parents were murdered here and two months ago…" There he fell silent for a moment. Then he shook his head, shaking off bad memories. "I've had my fill of Blüdhaven. Besides, staying here would make the new name idea pointless. Here I'm Dick Grayson no matter what I do, but nobody knows me over in Gotham."
"The Flying Graysons were internationally famous," Mr. Keystone said. "You're recognizable."
"I've changed in the past two years," Dick insisted. "Even in the past fourteen months." And it was true. When his parents were alive, the gleam in his eyes hadn't existed. During the months after their death that he'd stayed with the circus, a new weight had filled them, but a fire had lit them, too, and he'd still looked like a kid. Since moving to Blüdhaven, the gleam had appeared, and he'd grown up. "Out there with a new name, I get to decide myself instead of my reputation announcing who I am. That's what I want from Gotham." Dick picked up the rolled-up-and-taped poster that was sitting on his bed. He smiled at it before putting it in his bag, careful not to let it fold when he zipped the backpack shut. Then he pulled it onto his right shoulder, sighing when he looked at Mr. Keystone. "I'm supposed to be there at ten-fifteen. Gotham is expecting me any time before noon. I can walk, but a ride would be nice. More convenient."
"I'll get my car ready," Mr. Keystone said quietly, eyes down. Feeling a little bad, Dick put a hand on his shoulder. Despite how tough he was, Mr. Keystone did his best for the orphans here. Blüdhaven was the problem, not him.
"As awful as this hole-in-the-ground Gotham neighbor gets, you still took me in so I could stay here to try and find Zucco," the teen said softly, meeting his eyes. "I'm not about to forget the past fourteen months. I'm not leaving because of anything you've done. Staying here is going to keep me stuck in the past, and I can't keep living that way. I have to move on."
"You're still a minor by law," Mr. Keystone protested. "You shouldn't be doing this on your own. Moving? Changing your name? Most adults go through their whole lives with the name they were born with. Plenty of people only move once, when they move out when they become adults. You're fifteen years old, Grayson. You shouldn't be going through with this."
"It's not like I'm moving to live on my own. I'm 'transferring orphanages'," Dick said in a soothing tone. He'd grown used to making this point in the past month-and-a-half, when they'd started working on the legal stuff. "Besides, you and I both know that age is the only reason anyone here is a minor. We've been through more to make us grow up more than half of those Gotham upper-classmen." Venom filled the last two words.
"By law," Mr. Keystone repeated insistently. Walking over to the window, Dick rolled his eyes, opened it, and near-glared at Mr. Keystone over his shoulder.
"I'm not deaf. I heard you." He slid halfway out the window easily, refusing to let himself tighten his grip on the windowsill. "Walk it is. See ya." Then he let go, letting himself drop. Instinct took over, and he flipped in mid-air, landing on one hand and pushing himself into the air again to somersault before landing on his feet with a natural blend of grace and balance. He turned to see Mr. Keystone's head and shaking fist out the window and hear the man shouting at him. Smirk growing, he bowed with the flourish of a born performer and waved to his imaginary crowd. "Thank you for attending the final performance of the last surviving Flying Grayson!" he yelled and ran off, snickering at the furious expression on Keystone's face. Oh, sure, the guy tried, but with how harshly he was forced to treat them sometimes, it was so worth everything to see that. Forced or not, Keystone could still be a complete jerk to the orphans, and leaving him furious was sweet payback. "Perfect!" he shouted aloud, fist-pumping, running, and flipping again. Blake would've loved it.
Several blocks later, he was slowing down. The reason was nowhere near exhaustion. Being raised as a circus acrobat meant intense training for the first thirteen years of his life, even for him despite literally being born for it, and he could still go for hours without getting too tired. He was wondering if the same could be said for the two guys in their twenties following him.
"Nothing in the backpack. Nothing in my pockets. My hands are open, so you can see I don't have anything there." His voice was light, like he was chatting about the weather. "Fact is, I've got nothing worth anything. Might as well move on."
"Yeah?" the first guy said. He was huge, serious muscle bulging from his arms, and he was wearing a baseball cap for the Gotham Goliaths baseball team. "Might as well prove it."
"Love to," Dick said calmly, "but I've got somewhere to be in ten minutes, and you know what they say. The early bird gets the best of what he wants."
"Too bad you ain't the early bird, boy," the guy with the piece of pipe said menacingly, stepping forward. He had more of the lean muscle, a lithe, cat-like build. Dick rolled his eyes.
"Who am I supposed to be more afraid of here? Figured I'd ask so I don't mess up my part or anything. Pied Piper with his pipe of death or David-Hater 'cause he's scarier-looking?"
"Pied Piper? The heck is that supposed to mean?" the guy with the pipe said incredulously, bewildered.
"You know, the Pied Piper," Dick said, crossing his arms when they stared blankly at him. "Plays his pipe and everyone follows? You haven't heard of him? Hey, you've got the wrong kind of pipe, but I've gotta call you something."
"Where in the world would you possibly get David-Hater?" the guy in the baseball cap demanded, his hand clenching into a fist.
"David and Goliath? Never heard that one, either?" Dick shook his head, amazed. "Deprived morons." David-Hater growled and lunged at him, but he dodged easily, flipping backwards when David-Hater swung a punch. "Well, Goliath was a big ugly creep, just like you, who was scaring everybody off, which you could use some work on. David was a kid who wasn't afraid of him, like how I'm not scared of you at all. He put pebbles in his slingshot and killed Goliath by adding an extra rock to the center of the ugly dope's forehead." Dick smirked when David-Hater hesitated. "Since you're obviously a Goliath fan," he said, pointing at the baseball cap, "it would make sense for you to be a David-Hater kind of guy."
"Punk! Think you can take both of us on your own?" Pied Piper ran at him, swinging the pipe like a sword. Dick blocked it with his forearm, whistling innocently as he tripped Pied Piper, sending him face-first into the ground. Crouching down next to the moaning mugger, the fifteen-year-old smirked. He took the pipe so he couldn't get unexpectedly whacked with it.
Spinning it slowly in his right hand, Dick said, "Yeah, actually, I think I—whoa!"
David-Hater had taken advantage of Pied Piper's fall and tackled Dick from behind, catching him off-guard to smash him into the ground. "Then think again!" he yelled, picking the teenager up and slamming his back into the wall. Dick barely bit his tongue in time to keep from crying out in pain, especially when he was thrown into the ground again.
"Run, and they never stop chasing you, but they wonder how you broke free," Blake had said. "Scream, and they never give you the chance to stop getting punched. You won't stand a chance of getting away. It's better to be chased than bloodied."
Wonderful advice, Blake, Dick thought sarcastically, coughing. I'm not getting that chance for free anyway. "Goliath's your idol, I get it," he managed through coughs, still trying to get his breath back. "Geez. Come on, do you have to take it so far as to weigh as much as he did?" He couldn't silence a groan when he got lifted up and forced into the wall again, a huge hand pinning him there by his left shoulder. Of all the days to run into muggers…you wanted to give me a good-bye present, Blüdhaven, a cookie would've been enough. Dick forced himself to meet David-Hater's eyes and smirk. "That all you've got?" he said cockily, breathing heavily.
He regretted it when David-Hater slugged him in the face. Stifling a gasp of pain, he struggled against David-Hater's grasp, but a punch in the stomach was enough to knock the wind out of him again. "Not so tough now, kid," David-Hater said, smug as he admired the black eye he'd given Dick.
"Just—getting—started." Dang it, he could hardly breathe and speak at the same time. Anger was a familiar feeling, and while most people would see it as a something that would cloud a person's judgment, he chose to think of it as a helpful adrenaline rush. Tightening his grip, he swung his right hand blindly, grateful he hadn't dropped the pipe. The side of his fist hit David-Hater's shoulder, but he twisted his wrist to slam the pipe into David-Hater's back. It was a bit high, hitting right below his neck, and Dick could hear a quiet snap before he was released and David-Hater slumped. Covering his swelled-shut left eye, Dick was on his knees and leaning on his free hand, coughing and struggling not to gasp for breath. After a few seconds, he crawled over to David-Hater and pressed two fingers against his wrist.
Pulse. Pulse meant breathing. Breathing meant living. Living meant pulse. Thank God. Leaving a murder in his wake was not a good way to leave anywhere, even Blüdhaven.
Pied Piper was gone. Fair enough. He shouldn't have tried to mug Dick in the first place. Thanks again, Blake, for showing me how to stay alive out here alone.
He bowed to the unconscious David-Hater. "Thanks for the good-bye wishes, Blüdhaven." Then Richard Grayson pulled his backpack tighter against his back and walked away.
A/N: So what do you think so far? I know I'm altering Dick's past a little, but as we all know, Bruce Wayne took him in after his parents were killed in the comics. Obviously, that did not happen in the movie canon. So I have to change things to make it work. More explaining will come next chapter and a character who should be familiar to all of the comic fans out there *winks and laughs* so stay tuned, 'kay? Reviews will definitely make me update faster~ *smiles* Please let me know what you think!