Summary: Years after leaving the Teen Titans, a now adult Richard Grayson struggles with the death of The Batman and what decisions that need to be made in regard of the legacy. Caught between seeking revenge against The Joker and whether or not he should take up the cape and cowl, an old friend is there to aid him along the way.
Chapter 1: Reflection
Being a masked vigilante, I've seen a lot of things in my life. Not that I wish to sound melodramatic but there was a lot of horrible things that I had to grow up with and see. My parents were murdered when I was just a kid. Bruce Wayne, who inevitably turned my entire life around, adopted me. For you see, Bruce Wayne turned out to be The Batman. He took me under his wing and trained me to fight the type of crime in Gotham City that had killed my parents.
I was his sidekick for a large number of years and I guess you could say I eventually grew into a rebellious stage in my life because I wanted to get out and make a name for myself. Step out of the Dark Knight's shadow and fight crime on my own terms. That's how I ended up in Jump City and formed the Teen Titans. Cyborg, Raven, Beastboy, Starfire, and I were part of a team that really earned its name with me as their leader. We had are differences but I like to think that we all were friends, heck even family. I may not have ever really gave them as much detail of my life as they have. They never knew the name outside of Robin and in my later years as Nightwing, after I left the Teen Titans; but I always thought back on each of them with fond memories.
Regardless of that, the point is, in my career of crime fighting I have seen things. I never gave up the fight regardless of the odds and have made mistakes along the way. Thanks to Bruce's training I felt that I was prepared to face any obstacle along the way. I know I'm not invincible but I felt that a logical trained strategist could think of any way around trouble. Anything but this one…
Batman is dead…
The Joker apparently had gotten the last laugh in their latest struggle. Apparently he managed to poison Bruce. The Joker is locked away in Arkam Asylum and the death of the Batman isn't public knowledge. I had gotten word from Alfred that Bruce made it back to the Bat Cave before dying. Apparently he had attempted to get back to the cave in hopes of creating some sort of antidote. The question raised from Alfred as what to do about Bruce and the Caped Crusader?
I got to Gotham the next day and announced Bruce Wayne's death publically. To protect the rest of the vigilante family we announced his private jet crashed outside of Peru (I made sure to make evidence to pass this knowledge). We held a funeral a week later. It had been a small gathering involving the family and the very few who knew of Batman's identity. There was still no answer to the second riddle, "What do we do about Batman?"
No one would say it but I knew that everyone was looking to me for the answer. As the oldest and first sidekick it fell to me to take up the mantle. I spent a large number of years fighting to get out of the Dark Knight's shadow and now everyone was looking to me to bury myself in it. Drop the Nightwing gig and pick up the Batman's mantle. I gave no answer that week or the month that followed but I did stay at Wayne Manor to smooth things over with Bruce's will. He had left a majority of his will to me and that included the company.
Being buried in personal business such as that doesn't make me feel better and it's times like those that I really miss the days of being a Teen Titan. I would shelter myself in my room and do research on cases to keep myself busy; all the while I would wallow in my misery for whatever reason. Regardless of the reason, someone from the team would eventually come to my door to cheer me up or simply kick me right out of my mope. Mostly it had been Raven as she would never believe the 'I'm working on a case' excuse. Being an empath ensured her to know when something was bothering me I suppose. She once mentioned that her empathy powers had grown after Trigon and it made her more in tune with everyone's emotions. While she hardly displayed any outward emotion, all the members of the team knew that her reclusive or indifferent responses or solutions were out of the goodness of her heart.
She and I had a mental bond that formed once during our times as Teen Titans which she created in order to save me from Slade at one point. It was a strong bond that made the two of us more in tune with where each of us were on the battlefield. She hadn't been sure if it was a permanent thing or not but it lasted all the way through our Titan career. On rare occasions, even after years apart, I sometimes think to myself that I feel that bond. Out of all the Titans, she had been the one that I had kept up with the least; as in not at all. She had apparently left the Titans shortly after I had and no one had heard from her since. She gave no warning and no means of contacting her. Cyborg had tried locating her trying to find out if she was kidnapped or killed. After a year he had located her briefly or rather, she located him to simply tell him that she was fine and not to worry.
The library on Wayne Estate had turned to favored location of mine since the funeral. I find myself standing in it more often than not just looking at the portrait of Bruce's parents. How often had Bruce stood on this very spot and gaze at their images? I had caught him doing it more times than not with a tortured expression. It was like every time he thought about hanging up the cape and cowl he would look at their image and remember why he fought crime in the first place.
I hadn't gone down to the cave in all the time since I've been back. I kept my uniform in my old room. The cave felt like a foreign place to me now or perhaps just something sacred. I couldn't bring myself to step into there or into the master bedroom for that matter. Alfred had been attending all the details of keeping things clean and checking things out in Arkham Asylum through the main computer down in the Bat Cave. If anything came up he would tell me but nothing worthy of note had transpired since I came around. It felt like the criminal world subconsciously knew that The Batman is dead and they were given their respectful silence to their fallen adversary.
Some have claimed that the Batman was the very cause of the super villains that terrorize Gotham City; that if there were no Batman then there would be no super villain. They would have no worthy opponent or no need to go beyond any sane plan for crime if there was no caped crusader to foil their plans. As foolish as that idea sounds, I can't help but question if there is any word of truth in it at times.
"Some days I find myself expecting Master Wayne to come up from the cave." I heard Alfred say at the entrance to the door.
"I had hoped that you would have all outlived this old man." I don't say anything because there's no right response to it. "He was always proud of you Master Grayson, he really did view you as his son."
Bruce and I never saw eye-to-eye and our disagreements were not a secret. We had a falling out and our communications between one another grew sparse and far between over the years. The fact that he left me so much to his name was a surprise; although it's a wonder if he just never got the time to change his will.
"I…always imagined The Joker would get him…" I admit, "But I always imagined it would be the end of The Joker as well. Like… Batman would sacrifice himself to save the city by taking the Joker down with him. Instead that maniac lives and Bruce is dead." In my anger my fist strikes one of the bookshelves in front of me. I had been bottling up my anger and hatred for that clown since I found out how Bruce had died. In the first week I hoped the clown would escape Arkham to give me the pleasure of finding him and offing him. The clown has yet to break out or any other villain for that matter. Perhaps the latter is a good thing since I'm not sure how I would deal with any of the criminals for that matter.
"…a letter came for you sir." He held out a letter and I took it but didn't really look at it. It was likely more paperwork that I needed to look over that would just be tossed to the side without a second glance. Alfred moved towards the door but not before looking to the portrait of the late Waynes. "I can't help but think I've disappointed them somehow."
The doubts were there. What if I had been there? What if I was with Batman? What if I had just listened to Bruce and went back to Gotham City to fight by his side? He wouldn't have been killed. I could have saved him. There were infinite possibilities on how I could have helped but instead I was off on my own. Off working a job as a Detective and a vigilante at night. Trying to make a name of myself. Tired of working on a team and wanting to strike out on my own for a change.
I release a breath and glance down at the letter. Richard is written across the envelope and the address is from Gotham City. It doesn't appear to be one of the stiff formal letters of condolences from the higher ups in Wayne Tower or some official paperwork involving the transfer of ownership of Bruce's various things to me. I rip the envelope open and unfold the letter inside. The handwriting is neat, likely written with a quill pen, something uncommon in the age of technology but it feels a bit more personal and intimate in that fashion. The letter is short, one phrase.
I'm sorry to hear about your loss.
I felt the gears turning in my head as I worked out the name. It took me a good twenty seconds before I came up with 'Rachel Roth' as in Rachel 'Raven' Roth of the Teen Titans. I looked at the envelope once again to double-check that I hadn't read the address wrong before. Sure enough, it was an address located in Gotham City. Raven is living in Gotham City and for some time now if she has an address as well. It's only after this realization that I come up with the other one: she knows who I am.
This fact comes as a bit of a surprise as I had never told any of the Teen Titans of my identity. There are very few in the inner circle of superheroes that know my identity and it's not like we pass that information like high school gossip. The identity is a sacred and intimate knowledge that one shares when you truly trust another at your back. I never got the chance to share that knowledge with the Teen Titans or I simply never felt it was important. To them, I was Robin and that was the important thing. I dated Starfire for a short while but she never knew my name either. We didn't last long for that matter. She got called back to her planet from what I hear.
But Raven? How did she know who I am? And after so many years, that's all she can write? I don't know if I should feel insulted that she can't think to write something else or not surprised at all. No… this is Raven. There is always more meaning to what Raven says. She had stayed hidden from the rest of us for a good long while so it's hard to say what it is.
I stare at the letter and the envelope for a long while before I start to use my detective skills to deduce the message further. She's sorry for my loss. That much is apparent. She had spent the last six or seven years disappearing into the world and not giving a single word to any of her former teammates. Out of the blue she writes me a letter and mails it to me. She lives in Gotham based on her address.
That's it… The address is on the envelope. She could have very well dropped the mail in our mailbox herself or not have a return address on the envelope. She could have remained hidden from the world but the fact that she is freely giving her address meant something. Raven always took an extra thought or two in order to understand her actions. The address is an invitation to… what? To write? To visit?