DISCLAIMER: Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. I don't own squat in this story, except for the actual plot, and even then, I take many a cue from other established continuities created for Batman. That said, this exists in its own continuity and should not be considered to be part of any already defined by the comics, television series, or movies.

Home again. After a long night's work, Bruce Terrance Wayne, billionaire playboy and heir of the Wayne Family Fortune, was home again. But not home again to his mansion, though he was sure he'd be arriving there soon enough. No, home again to a dark, grungy, dank cave filled with bats and rats and all manner of computers and high tech equipment. And he didn't arrive in a limo, but rather a dark and sleek monster of an auto-mobile, equipped with about as much gadgetry as he himself was.

Coming to a halt, Bruce sighed as he opened the canopy of the vehicle. He swung his body out, his heavy boots hitting the ground. He made his way over to his main computer, his dark blue, almost black cape draped around himself like a cloak. Reaching up, he pulled back his dark, bat-like cowl, his tired eyes now bare instead of being hidden behind the white lens of his cowl. Finally, he reached his destination: the computer chair. Knowing he would be spending a number of nights in front of his computer, who knows how many hours digging through files, Bruce decided it best to get as comfortable a computer chair as money could buy. After all, sitting too long in an uncomfortable computer chair could have bad repercussions on his body, and the less exploitable targets on him when he was doing his 'night job', the better.

"Good morning, Master Bruce," he heard a kind and elderly voice call out from the nearby stairwell.

Bruce blinked, taken slightly by surprise. Not an easy thing to do to the Dark Knight. He turned to face his butler, who was carrying a silver tray with...breakfast? "...Morning?"

"It's 5:27 AM, sir," Alfred replied. "Nearly time for breakfast. So I thought it best to have it ready for you."

"The nights are getting longer, Alfred," Bruce groaned, rubbing his temples. "I didn't even realise how late it was..."

"Fortunate for you, Mr. Fox has everything covered for today's operations at Wayne Enterprises," Alfred went on, placing the tray on the computer console. "Also, you'll be happy to know young Master Richard finished his homework, no faults that I could tell...Good heavens, sir!"

Bruce's eyes glanced to Alfred's, seeing what he was looking at: A large gash in the left side of the bat-suit, and a nasty looking cut exposed for all the world to see. "It's not as bad as it looks, Alfred."

"Master Bruce, I absolutely insist you let me stitch and bandage that up for you immediately!" Alfred pressed. "If left exposed, it could become infected!"

Bruce sighed hard. He knew his butler all too well: If he said Bruce was going to have medical attention right now, he meant RIGHT NOW. And while Bruce might be Batman, the Caped Crusader, the man who spent nights cracking the jaws of criminals with ease, the one opponent he could never defeat was the old man standing before him. After all, only someone as stubborn as Bruce could ever live to deal with him.

"...Let's just get this over with, alright?"

The stitches hadn't been that bad. They never were. After all, Alfred had spent time as a field medic in the military in his youth, taking care of wounds inflicted to troops in the middle of harsh fire-fights. He had a lifetime of experience stitching up wounded soldiers. And really, Bruce thought as he made his way toward his bedroom, he was no different. Just a slightly different kind of soldier, fighting a VERY different kind of war.

Before arriving at his room, he stopped at a door to a different room: What was once Bruce's bedroom when he was a child, now with a different occupant. Carefully easing the door open, he looked inside. The room's sole occupant, a dark-haired youth, aged 13, was sound asleep in his bed. Apparently it had been all too easy for Alfred to convince Dick to get his homework all done in one night, even though it was now the weekend. After all, he was nearing the end of his training, and had been chomping at the bit to finally join the Dark Knight in the field for a patrol, to battle the scum of Gotham City as a crime-fighter, a superhero.

What am I doing? Bruce wondered as he closed the door and continued to his room. It's bad enough I didn't have a childhood, that I dragged myself into a war with crime and darkness and evil, now I'm doing the same thing to a completely different child? As if his innocence weren't shattered enough by that bastard Zucco, now I'm dragging him along to play sidekick to the Dark Knight?

Although that wasn't entirely accurate, Bruce realised as he entered his bedroom, tossing his robe onto a chair. He'd lobbied to become Dick's legal guardian after what had happened to Dick's parents and learning he had no other living relatives that could possibly take him in. Dick had made the choice to sleuth for leads on Tony Zucco, the man who murdered his parents. Dick learned Bruce's identity as Batman and insisting that he train him, let him become his partner. And, much like Alfred, somehow this boy turned out to have just the stubborn streak to get Bruce to agree. And his innocence wasn't shattered, so to speak. Despite having his parents die in front of his eyes, Dick had, over the past few months, shown moments of child-like happiness. And even though there was always a part of him that wanted to find Zucco and bring him to justice, he still looked at being a crime-fighter as being some kind of adventure. So different from how Bruce saw it.

Climbing into bed, Bruce looked up at the portrait hanging over his fireplace: That of his parents, looking so happy as the painter they'd hired did his work so marvellously. "...Mother. Father. Am I doing the right thing? I wish I knew for sure..."

It was the afternoon, and Bruce and Alfred were watching as Dick ran through his training course in the Bat Cave. He was doing rather impressively, breezing past laser traps, sliding steel obstacles, and goop-filled Batarangs. Bruce knew he could've never managed the obstacle course at this level when he was Dick's age. Of course, given his upbringing in the circus, it was only natural that he'd have an advantage over Bruce. Speaking of, he'd even gone so far as to redesign Bruce's old training outfit to reflect his family colours in the circus, going from a simple black to include lots of red, green, and yellow. He'd kept the R emblem, which had stood for Robin, since Dick's favourite hero as a child was Robin Hood, something that had brought a smile to Bruce's face. Yes, they would be Batman and Robin.

A buzzer sounded as Dick reached the end of the course. "Phew! What was my time?"

Bruce looked back to the timer, and it took all he had not to look or sound astonished, as to keep Dick from getting too cocksure. "...2:17. A new record for this level."

"Alright!" Dick shouted triumphantly. "Man, right now I feel like I could take that again!"

"One step at a time, Dick," Bruce replied with a smirk. "Let's look over the footage first, and see if we can pick out anything you could impro-"

Bruce was cut off as an alarm went off on the computer, one he'd set up for when particularly urgent calls went out on the police radio. Checking the computer, he immediately learned the cause: A break-in at the Gotham Radio Tower. Within moments, Bruce's hand was to his cape and cowl, slipping them on over his bat-suit, which he'd had on in case he felt like running the obstacle course himself.

"Gotham Radio Tower," Bruce declared, heading to where the Batmobile was parked. "Dick, continue your training. I'll be back soon."

"But Batman-!" Dick cried, his pleas left unanswered as Batman leaped into the Batmobile, driving off as soon as he could. "...Right. Continue training..."

Alfred placed a gentle hand to Dick's shoulder, looking to him sympathetically. "You'll have your chance soon enough, Master Richard."

Dick just stared down at the floor dejectedly. "...Yeah, maybe, when I'm 72 and have scoliosis..."

"...Or until Master Bruce grows old enough to be bound to a wheelchair and unable to stop you." Alfred half-joked, which managed to get a grin from the young teen.

Though then again, if he continues to have nights like he has been, that day might come sooner than later...Alfred added to himself, staring off to where the Batmobile had peeled away, praying to God that he was wrong.

As the Batmobile raced out from the hidden entrance to the Bat Cave, a single man watched on from the shadow of a nearby tree. A man dressed in light brown fedora and trench-coat, watching with interest as the Dark Knight raced by, unaware of his presence. He frowned as he sensed feelings of regret, anger, sadness, and confusion wash over him, all coming from the sole occupant of the Batmobile. He reached into his coat and pulled out a pocket-watch, and while the current time would have no meaning to anyone else that saw it, for him, it meant something quite dire: He was running low on time.

"...It seems I have no alternative," the man said, closing his pocket-watch. "He must be made aware of what happened all those years ago. He must know the truth about The Batman. He must know what you did...Thomas..."

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Whew! Been a while since I've been writing here on Fan Fiction Dot Net. Regardless, I decided to write this story after some inspiration hit me while writing about How Would I Rebuild The DC Universe From Scratch on my blog, as well as rewatching episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and watching clips of the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter what probably won't be a very long fanfic, unless I decide otherwise. Ja né!