A New Outlook
The child's muffled sobs hurt Bruce's heart.
The dreary look of the institution was left behind them as Alfred drove them away. Bruce's own eyes started to water as he took in the sad sight that was young Dick Grayson. The boy's face was close to the window, his hands folded in his lap, and was trying but failing to cover up sobs. Dick had watched his parents die in front of him just a week before. Bruce had been there as well, he had comforted the small child, and something inside both of them were changed forever.
A spark ignited in Bruce, and he now felt the overwhelming need to protect this child, but the feeling was not similar to the one he felt when he was Batman trying to protect a child. This was much deeper. Dick had refused to look anyone else in the eye that night, but something about Bruce was calming to him. As the man had draped the jacket he had been wearing over the boy's shoulders, Dick was reminded of his own father, the one who had died just minutes before. The thought both comforted him and made his insides feel like they were being shredded.
But in the week that he went through Social Services he had felt unwanted, unloved, and most of all completly and utterly alone. He missed Pop Haley and the rest of his 'family' from his circus life. Even Dick realised Social Services probably wasn't going to be to eager to give the traveling circus custody of an eight year old. He found himself thinking of the kind man who gave up his own jacket and comforted him on the night that changed his life. The one they called Mr. Wayne.
He understood me, Dick thought, When he said he was sorry for my loss, it was so much more sincere than even the people that knew and loved my parents. He was sorry for... for me...
He hadn't known much about the billionaire, he hadn't known at the time that the sincerety came from the fact that Bruce had a similar experience in his childhood, watching his own parents be murdered. But when Bruce sat with the boy and comforted him he told Dick himself.
Dick thought about the conversation a million times in the past week. It gave him hope, and everytime he was shoved in the lunch line or threatened by older kids who saw his small size and bullied him, he thought of Bruce. The kindest stranger he ever met.
Now a week later everything Dick had been hoping for had come true. Bruce came back for him, and said he was going to get a good home. He met the charming old butler named Alfred and immediatly took a great liking to him. Now they sat in the car, the rain making a soft cadence on the roof, as the insitution pulled away from view.
Dick's sobs first came when he saw the sign, Gotham Boy's Home for Orphaned Children. Something in Bruce's heart twinged as he read the sign as well. Orphan... I've always hated that term. He bit his lip as he saw Dick break down after reading the word.
Dick turned back to the window to attempt to hide the sobs, and Bruce's heart continued to ache. A flashback of a painful memory hit Bruce so hard he made a small noise at the back of his throat.
He remembered the night his own parents died. He was taken back the GCPD headquarters and was told to wait until Commissioner Gordon could talk to him. Gotham City on the other hand did not care that a young boy had just become a victim of something no person should have to endure, and the man in charge of watching him got called to another place in town where a woman had been raped.
Bruce had wondered off by himself, having no supervision, and pressed his face to the nearest window. The weather was similar to the one in the present, rainy and gray. He had looked out the window and realised the world could never be beautiful again. Not when he closed his eyes even, because all he saw then was the spatter of blood across the concrete. And all he heard was the sickening sound as his parent's bodies hit the pavement.
Please don't let that be what Dick's feeling right now, Bruce begged to no one in particular, He's such a bright child, so intellegent, so talented, that I can tell from only a short time talking to him. He can't do what I did. He can't shut himself away and hope the world would end...
He made himself focus on the present, instead of the memories that still made his stomach churn. What do I do for a crying child? Damnit, why did I think I could be a parent?
He wished Alfred wasn't driving the limo, the window separated the driver's seat and the passenger area, he so he couldn't ask him for help. Ok think, Bruce! Your the Goddamn Batman! The World's Greatest Detective! The Dark Knight! But you can't stop a child from crying?
Another short sniffle came from the other side of the vehicle and Bruce had to turn away. He looked out the window of the car, and once again was reminded of that terrible night when he looked out the window of the GCPD building at the view of Gotham and heard the sound of his mother's scream over and over again in his head.
On that night he was positive that nothing in the world would ever be beautiful again. But something inside him changed forever when he met Dick. Maybe he was reminded of himself when he saw the all to familiar look in Dick's eyes, the look of terror and pain mixed all into one terrible emotion as he watched his parents hit the ground. He knew the moment he slipped his jacket over the young acrobat's shoulders, that he would not be able to leave the boy alone by himself. And as he said he was sorry for his loss, he realised that he really, really meant it. He continued explaining to Dick that he had lost both of his parents on the same night too, when he was slightly younger than Dick.
The social worker had shown up about an hour later, and before leaving Dick turned and gave Bruce a sincere hug. Bruce even hugged him back. He had never before held a child so tenderly. He knew at that moment he would never be the same.
And this thought became apparent as he stared out the window of the car. Even in the rain he noticed how the lights from Gotham City were arranged so sporatically that if you squint you could make them out to be stars. Something in his heart twisted as he realised he was seeing Gotham as a beautiful city again. Never again did he think it would ever happen, but he was seeing the positive side.
This boy had changed him.
After a moment he reached over and unbuckled Dick's seatbelt. The young acrobat looked up at him in suprise and confusion. A barrier broke in Bruce's heart. He gestured for Dick to move to the center seat, and when he did, Bruce wrapped his arms around the child and allowed him to bury his small head into his shoulder. Bruce could feel the tears hit his neck as the boy cried into it.
"It's okay, Dickie. It's going to be okay," he whispered to the boy. The sniffles became softer and when the boy turned his head up at Bruce he wiped the tears from his cheeks. Bruce couldn't break his gaze from the brilliant blue eyes so close to his own.
"Thank you. Thank you so much, for... for everything," Dick whispered back. Bruce pressed his hand to the back of the boys head and pulled him close for another embrace instead of replying.
Bruce turned to the window once again and was suprised to see that the rain had stopped. Ha. How cliche. Of course the rain stops, he chuckled to himself. He saw everything in a brighter light, and he wasn't so sure it was just because of the clouds that were moving away. They passed a giant tree near the entrance of Wayne Manor that Bruce was sure had been there as long as he remembered, when he saw a little bird on one of the branches.
The red-breasted bird was a strange sight to see in the weather around them. How strange... I didn't think we had robins around here... definatly not at this time of year.
"A robin," Bruce whispered to himself, "how strange."
At this comment Dick looked up at Bruce with wide eyes.
"Oh nothing sorry, I just saw a robin..."
Bruce feared he had said something wrong when the young boys eyes watered up again.
"My mother called me her little Robin," he paused before giving a weak smile, "I was born on the first day of Spring, and robin's are born to fly," he wiped his eyes, "just like she said I was..."
An idea formed in the back of Bruce's mind. He's such a brilliant young boy, but how could I ever involve him in the job I do as Batman? He's only a child...
His mind went back to the bird, Robin... he thought.
He continued to hold the boy tenderly in his arms as they pulled into the driveway.
"Everything's going to work out, Dick. Everything's going to be just fine."
And as Bruce thought about it he realised that it was the first time in a long time he really believed those words.