To Hunt a Robin
“Tim, its time to get up!” Dick said as he trotted into the younger boys room.
The teen had his toothbrush hanging out of his mouth, and his uniform was in disarray. They were late for school, again. The ten year old whined and opened his blue eyes to look at his foster brother.
“I don’t feel good.” He mumbled, rubbing is eyes.
“You say that every morning. Now, up!” Dick insisted, pulling off his blanket off of his body making him tense in the cold apartment. Winter was in full swing and they couldn’t afford to run the heating all the time.
“Bathrooms nice and toasty after my shower, hurry and go get dressed.” Dick said smirking and taking hold of his tooth brush to resume scrubbing.
He headed into the kitchen, spitting and rinsing his tooth brush off before tossing it onto the newly cleaned counter. Poor as they were, Dick kept an exceptionally clean apartment so Tims crippled father Jack had an easier time when he came home from the hospital.
Jack Drake had once been a very wealthy man, whose family lived very nicely in a big house, but when his wife died in an accident, he lost all his drive for work and quickly lost his hard earned money to gambling and his hospital bills. Dick had met them by chance on the streets, when young Tim recognized some acrobatics he was doing on a lamp post (to impress a girl no less) as one of the Flying Graysons moves. They chatted for a while, and Dick revealed he was living in a shelter for orphans nearby and offered to watch Tim when ever Jack needed. The man offered to foster him until he turned eighteen, so he jumped for it. With the young boy around, Jack had somewhat recovered from his depression and was even holding a job as a secretary at the hospital, which allowed him cheaper medical care too.
By earning a couple scholarships, Dick had managed to get himself and Tim into a private school, and worked a part time job to help pay bills and buy groceries. It wasn’t a perfect life, but it was better than living on the streets.
“Tim! Lets go!” He yelled, straightening his uniform and looking around for his back pack.
Tim exited the bathroom, fully dressed and looking much happier now that he’d warmed up. Dick tossed him an apple from the counter and collected his keys and wallet.
“Lets go!” Tim agreed.
The walk to school wasn’t a horribly long one, thirty minutes if they walked fast, forty if they strolled. On days like this though, the acrobat had to force his brother into running so they’d make it before the gates locked. Dick could easily get over it, but Tim? Last time he’d tried, he broke his arm falling off the damn thing.
“Did you get that essay done?” Dick inquired looking at the boy.
“Yes…” Tim said uneasily, not meeting his eyes as they ran.
“Tim! If you don’t pass this class, you won’t be able to attend next year!” Dick scolded him with a heavy sigh. “Scholarships require good grades, remember?”
“I know! Its almost done, really!” Tim said jogging along side him the best he could with his shorter legs. “I just can’t get the last paragraph! Its due tomorrow too!”
Dick sighed, taking pity on the boy. “I’ll help you out on my lunch okay? When you come by the café after school.”
“Really?” Tim asked, eyes sparking happily.
Dick smiled and nodded, continuing to run alongside him.
They ran in silence the rest of the way to the school. Tim started to lag behind, so Dick had to coach him on with a hand on his shoulder, but they made it without a moment to spare. The bell rang, and the student body began to herd towards its respective classes. Dick ruffled the shorter brunettes hair and headed to history.
School passed quickly for Dick, which was unusual seeing as he was normally bored to tears. He finished all his work too quickly and found no challenge in the material the teachers gave him, but the day had sped by. His friends had fun stories to share with him, and two teachers had substitutes so they spent the day playing jeopardy with quiz answers. The winners got to leave for lunch early.
After school it was straight to the café he worked, with Tim in tow. He took his usual booth in the corner, and Dicks boss appeared to coo over the young boy. Alison, or Mama as the employees called her, was a kind woman with no children of her own, so she adored when Dick brought his little brother in. She gave them free food and drinks, and often times gave Dick some extra hours even though he wasn’t suppose to work past 20 hours a week.
“Okay Tim, you work on your homework, and on my lunch I’ll help you with that essay, okay?” Dick said, stuffing his blazer into his bag and pulling on his work vest and apron instead. The younger boy nodded, a hand full of fries crammed into his mouth prevented verbal responses.
The door opened just as Dick finished tying his apron, he smiled brightly and greeted him. The teen blinked at him in surprise, almost like the other had three heads. He was taller than Dick, and maybe around the same age, wearing a tan bombers jacket and jeans, black hair fell into his face, save for a white patch that hung over his left eye.
“Welcome to Alisons, just one today?” Dick asked, tilting his head. The man nodded and he picked up a menu. “Booth or bar?”
“Bar.” The other teen grunted.
He lead him over to the long bar in the back and placed the menu in front of one of the stools, moving to stand behind the counter.
“Anything to drink?”
“Uh… can I see your ID please?” Dick asked, quirking an eyebrow.
The teen smirked and pulled out his wallet, producing a twenty and holding it out to him. Dick gave him an unimpressed look.
“ID or the only beer I can give you will be rootbeer, sir.” He said politely enough.
“Geez, dick.” He mumbled, pulling out his ID and tossing it on the counter. He was only nineteen, Dick slid it back to him and shook his head.
“We make an awesome Rootbeer milkshake float, how about that? I can make it with pretty much any soda too…” Dick suggested.
“Sure, sounds alright.” He conceded.
Dick smiled and proceeded to make the drink, glancing over at Tim every once in a while. Making sure he was actually working and not playing around with Dicks gameboy. The customer watched him intensely, making Dick feel a little nervous when he returned with the drink.
“Have you decided on anything to eat?” He asked.
“Nah, not hungry.” He said scratching his nose.
“Alright, if you change your mind just let me know!” Dick said turning and flicking on the tv above the counter. He grabbed the remote and set it on the counter in front of him before heading into the kitchen to do the prep work for the cook.
When he came out, he scowled, discovering that the teen had moved over to sit with Tim and was currently pointing at something on his homework. Dick trotted around the counter and over to the two.
“Excuse me, but can you please leave my brother to do his homework?” He said calmly, crossing his arms.
“He was just helping me Dick.” Tim said looking up from his geography.
“I don’t care… if you need help, ask me, not a stranger.” He responded.
“Calm down Dick,” He chuckled, saying his name slowly making Dick glare. “You were in the back when he came up to ask… I offered my intellect.”
“How kind.” Dick said blandly. “But I’d really like it if you’d not…”
“Fair enough…” The older boy said standing. He retrieved the twenty from his wallet and tossed it at Dick. Picking up his milkshake, he turned and exited, not bothering to look back when Dick yelled at him about stealing the cup.
“Dick that wasn’t nice…” Tim mumbled, wrinkling his nose. “He was cool…”
“I didn’t trust him…” Dick responded, frowning. Tim accepted the answer, knowing that when Dick had a ‘gut’ feeling that he wouldn’t stray from it. “What’d you need help with?”
“We’re home!” Tim sang as he entered the apartment, throwing his blazer, bag and self onto the couch with a happy groan of relief. “Dicks a slave driver! He made me do my whole history packet!”
“You had spare time and were complaining about being bored.” Dick said rolling his eyes as he shrugged his bag onto the couch as well.
Jack Drake chuckled and pushed his wheelchair out of the kitchen to great the boys. His dark hair was messy and newly cut into almost uniform cut, Dick noted as he pulled off his shoes. The man truly looked like he could be Dicks father too, all three of the houses inhabitants had the same black hair and blue eyes, though Dicks were a little more azure colored than the Drakes sky blues.
“How was your day, boys?” He asked, folding his hands in his lap.
“Lonnie stole my blue crayon.” Tim mumbled from face down in the couch, his words muffled. “I’m not even joking… he stole my blue crayon… But its okay, cause I took his gel pen.”
“Ah, the drama of a ten year old.” Dick sighed dramatically. “Mine was good… although there was a creep at work that gave me the shivers…”
“He was cool, Dicks just grumpy.” Tim mumbled.
Dick glared at him and sat on the boy, making him yelp loudly and squirm.
“Dick! You’re so fat!” He whined.
“Dick, be nice to your brother.” Jack laughed. “Tim, if Dick didn’t trust him you should respect that.”
“Whatever…” Tim mumbled.
“Hey, go shower and I’ll get dinner.” Dick said getting off the boy.
Tim gave Dick a horrified look. “You’re not cooking are you?”
Dick scowled and stuck his tongue out at him. It was well known that he wasn’t a talented cook, usually burning everything unless it came from the microwave or toaster.
“I’m going to order pizza!” He huffed. “I got paid today…”
“Pizza sounds good.” Jack conceded. “Do as your brother says…”
Tim grumbled and crawled off the couch, onto the floor before flopping onto his back. After a moment, he rolled across the floor, getting up only when he reached the hall door and had to walk properly.
“He is so odd….” Dick said staring after him.
“Dick, you do handstands while studying… how is that any less odd?” Jack laughed.
“I’m an acrobat! I have to keep up with my training! Even if I’m not in the circus anymore!” Dick said pouting.
“Hn, speaking of which… ‘training’ at school isn’t a good idea. I got three calls this month about your balancing acts on the railings and cartwheels down the hallways…” Jack said quirking an eyebrow as Dick pulled up the phone to order their pizza.
“Oops… I didn’t realize people spotted me…” He said with a sheepish smile.
Dick ordered two pizzas, one cheese for Jack and one with everything on it for him and Tim. Dick curled up on the couch, yawning as he groped around the sides for the remote, turning on a movie to nap through until the pizza arrived. Jack watched him quietly before smiling and shaking his head. It hadn’t taken more than a couple months for him to see Dick as his own child, but now, years later, it was hard to believe that he wasn’t. He’d truly lucked out finding him that day. Dick was kind and patient, he’d practically raised Tim when Jack was too far gone with his depression, and cared for him as well, sneakily helping him quit drinking and gambling by hiding his wallet and pouring out his alcohol in small increments every time he wanted a drink.
The door bell rang and Dick jumped, eyes blinking away sleep as he stood to retrieve their pizzas. Tim appeared on cue in his sweat pants for food, making the older two smirk. He was predictable like that.
“Two pizza’s right?” The man checked before accepting his payment and handing them their food.
“Nightwing!” Bruce yelled, watching his ex-side kick plummet into the frosted waters of the dock. He punched the thug he’d been fighting, knocking him out and sprinting towards the rippling water. A mad cackle sounded from behind him and he barely dodged behind a crate before a barrage of bullets.
“Joker!” He growled, glancing over the edge.
“Aw, Batsy! And here I thought you’d forgotten about me! Its been what… two years?” Joker laughed, his voice grating on the heros ears as he looked at the nearly still water where Nightwing had submerged.
“Two and a half…” Bruce corrected, darting out and throwing his bat-a-rang’s at the criminal. Joker cackled and used one of the thugs to block the weapons. A loud roar caught his attention as a motorcycle turned onto the docks, racing towards them. Jason Todd had finally shown up.
Joker growled, knowing full well that the ex-Robin had a much less kind approach to dealing with him. The gun toting ex-sidekick and the Batman were not a good combination.
“Aw, and here I don’t have time for a third play date! Your first Robins song was enough for me, so I think I’ll retire! I got what I want anyway!” He cackled holding up a glass cylinder with a grayish purple liquid held in the center of a magnetized container on the inside.
“Joker do you even know what that’ll do?” Bruce growled, eyes narrowing.
“Don’t insult me…” Joker laughed. “I’m gonna use this to play in all sorts of Gothams!”
Jason’s bike swerved and dismounted it, his red metal helmet coming off to reveal his domino mask.
“Red Hood, Nightwing drowning.” Bruce yelled, unable to move without getting a bullet at the moment. The red helmet was discarded and the teen raced for the edge, jumping unhindered into the water.
Bruce used the distraction to jump over the crates, shooting his grapple in an effort to grab onto the Joker. The criminal dodged cackling madly as he disappeared around a corner. Looking back Bruce saw Jason breach the surface, Dick in his arms. He used the older hero’s grapple to wench himself out of the water, dropping the smaller man onto the dock and proceeding to give him CPR. Content he was in safe hands, Bruce followed after Joker.
The device he’d stole was powerful enough to make a portal to different universes, developed by one Lex Luther and perfected by Batman himself. Joker had stolen it straight out of Wayne Corp, eager to destroy any and every Gotham possible apparently.
“So Batsy… do you think the other Gothams will have little birdies to sing for me?” Jokers voice echoed through the streets outside the warehouses lining the dock. “I heard that Richard has a particularly sweet voice…”
Bruce almost faltered, how did he know Dicks name?
“Tony says he’s got a great anguish to each note… sweet and soft…”
“Dick, wake up…” Jack mumbled, shaking the boys shoulder.
Dick yawned and opened blurry eyes as he gave a confused look at his clock. It was barely even five am; normally he wouldn’t be up until six thirty.
“What is it?” He mumbled.
“I just got a call from the hospital, there was a crash and they need my help with the files. Think you can take Tim to work with you again?” He asked.
“Yeah, sure. You know Alison loves him.” He said with a yawn.
“Thanks kiddo…” He said, patting his head and rolling out of his bedroom.
Dick glanced across the room at Tim, who snored happily in his bed. Dick wrinkled his nose and sat up, if he was awake now he knew he’d end up sleeping in again. Forcing himself up, he shuffled into the bathroom to shower hearing the door open and close in the front room. He nearly fell asleep in the shower, forcing himself to go through the motions of cleaning himself before he flipped the water to freezing for the extra wake up boost. Once done, he shuffled into the kitchen, looking at the clock. It was five thirty. He heated up some pizza and plopped down in front of Jacks computer, easily getting past his password protected account so he could use the internet. His and Tims accounts didn’t have access unless Jack allowed it. Dick had quickly figured out how to hack into it though.
Flipping through a couple sites, he was pleased to read that one of his favorite comics had been updated and released. Something was going on in one of the big corporations in the city, and a new wave of crime had spread in the ritzier part of the city. Apparently the cities Vigilante was pretty swamped, and some new masked guy was on the loose. It wasn’t determined if he was a criminal or not yet.
Dick looked at Tim, surprise lining his face. The boy never woke up before the alarm did. There was only a half hour before he had to be awake too. Tim scuttled over to him and crawled right into the teens lap, clutching onto him. Dick wrapped his arms around him, understanding seeping into his mind. Nightmares. Every once in a while, Tim had nightmares about the accident that crippled his father and took his mothers life. He didn’t cry like he use to when he was younger, but having Dick close seemed to ease his worries; and Dick couldn’t refuse the ten year old.
“Want some pizza?” Dick asked, offering his half eaten pizza to the younger boy.
Tim nodded and began to eat it, keeping his head on Dicks chest as the older boy surfed the internet. Before long they had to get up and get dressed for school, then traverse into cold outside to get there on time. Dicks mood soured when he noticed it was snowing. He hated the cold very passionately.
“Come on Dick.” Tim chuckled grabbing his wrist and pulling him out the door.
The day continued as normal, boring and slow; but Dick noticed something was amiss. He was being watched. He could feel eyes on him, though he couldn’t locate them. He couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was staring at him. He spent the day looking over his shoulder and scanning for potential threats.
“Dick… whats wrong?” Tim asked as they left the school towards Alisons Café. “You’re walking really fast…”
“Huh? Oh… nothing. I’m just kinda hungry and I wanna get to work early enough to eat before my shift.” Dick lied, smiling at him. “How’d the teacher like your essay?”
“She loved it! I told her that I had trouble with the end, but she liked it anyway!” Tim said with a proud grin. “If I can get a good grade on the next couple essays, I won’t have to take the big test at the end of the semester!”
“That’s great Tim!” He chuckled, glancing over his shoulder again.
They entered the café and Dick felt his mood sour even more. The jerk from the day before was at the counter. He smirked and waved at Dick.
“I brought the cup back if it makes you happy…” He chuckled.
“How kind.” Dick said blandly, setting his stuff with Tim in their usual booth. He got ready for his shift, remembering that he needed to eat when his stomach complained. He placed a couple orders for chilly cheese fries, seeing as Tim ate every chance he got, he knew he couldn’t order just one.
“Bad day?” The man asked suddenly as Dick went to pick up the orders.
“Yes…” Dick sighed, flicking his bangs out of his face. “I’m not on shift, but is there anything you need before I leave the counter?”
He shook his head and followed him to his booth; sitting opposite of him and Tim. Dick raised an eyebrow and frowned at him.
“Can… I help you?” He asked.
“No, not really…” He said smirking. “Why do I make you uncomfortable Dickie?”
“Dickie? Seriously?” Dick snorted. “I’m not on the clock, watch it.”
“Ooh, feisty.” The man laughed. “Look, I seriously just want to talk with you… I just can’t figure out how to put what I want to say….”
“… You’re not like…” Dick glanced at Tim, who was sidetracked by a level in Mario. “Coming onto me are you?”
“No!” The other growled, cheeks heating up. “Hell no… “
“Then what is it?” Dick asked, picking up his fork to dig into his fries.
The older teen was quiet, watching him for a moment as he drummed his fingers on the table. Tim had finally realized there was food and dug in, looking between the two curiously.
“How much do you know about the Joker?” The teen finally asked, lifting the cup he’d brought from the bar and sipping.
“Joker? Like… the villain?” Dick asked, raising an eyebrow. “Only that he’s supposedly dead, and he was like… the worst criminal Gotham ever saw… He torched four whole blocks when I was twelve…”
“That’s the guy who fell off that building and died fighting the Batman right?” Tim asked, getting a nod from Dick. “I wish I coulda seen it! The Batmans so cool!!”
The guy smirked, shaking his head.
“Well… Joker… isn’t exactly dead… he’s here in Gotham and we have reason to believe that he may be targeting you.” He said pulling a facial expression that made Dick narrow his eyes. He looked conflicted, like what he’d said wasn’t completely honest or that hadn’t come out in the way he wanted. Dick quirked an eyebrow and took another bite of his food before leaning his arms on the table top.
“Me? Why me?” He asked. “What would the Joker want with a sixteen year old waiter? Hmm?”
“I… can’t explain that without you thinking I’m crazier than you already do…” He said tilting his head.
“Hmm…” Dick looked at Tim, who was now staring at older boy with a suspicious expression matching Dicks. “I think it’s time you left sir… You’re obviously not a cop, and I don’t trust you.”
as ever.” The guy snorted, shaking his head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Yes you are…” Dick said standing up. “You’re going to go pay for your drink if you haven’t already, then you’re going to leave this café. If you want me to believe you, come back with a cop or someone with creditability. Until then, stay away from me… and my family.”
The other teen stood as well, squaring his shoulders as he stepped closer to the younger man. He was at least a head taller than him, and Dick could see his body was well sculpted, making him gulp slightly. He doubted he’d win if the guy decided to get violent.
“What makes you think I’m going to go?” He asked, grinning at him.
“Jeffery! Morris!” Dick yelled, craning his neck a little to see over the others shoulder.
After a moment, Jeffery, the cook and Alisons brother came out of the kitchen with his son Morris in tow behind him. Dick was slim and built for his profession of being an acrobat, but Jeffery and Morris were more like liner backers with thick bodies.
“Whats the problem?” Jeffery asked.
“This guy needs to leave.” Dick said calmly. “He’s a problem.”
The guy turned, giving the two men an unimpressed look. He rubbed his nose and let out a long sigh, finishing his drink.
“Alright, I get the hint. I’ll go…” He said setting the cup down. “Remember this though… you’re not safe… You thought Tony was bad? At least the Flying Graysons died quickly… you think you’re protecting your kid brother… but Joker plays with his prey.”
Dicks face paled and expression went blank, gapping at the words. The man headed for the door, zipping up his leather jacket before disappearing into the snow. Dick groped for the table to keep his balance, his entire body felt like it’d been doused in ice cold water. How had he known about Tony Zucco, his parents murderer? How had he known that he was a Flying Grayson?
“Dick? Are you alright?” Morris asked, putting a large hand on his shoulder.
“N-no…” Dick admitted. “I feel ill all of the sudden…”
“Do you need to go home?” Jeffery asked.
“No! I’ll be okay, just gimme a minute…” Dick said sitting down and resting his head on the counter. His mind was reeling at what the guy had said. Joker? After him? What had he ever done to him? Why would he want him? Did Tony Zucco find out where he was and want to finish off the last Grayson by hiring this maniac? It seemed impossible.
“Don’t push yourself… You look really freaked out.” Morris said squeezing his shoulder.
“Really, I’m alright. Just a little… shaken… That guy really freaked me out.” Dick said smiling weakly. “I’m fine, really. I’m tough remember?”
After assuring them that he was okay, the two disappeared back into the kitchen, getting ready for their dinner rush while Dick finished his food. He looked at Tim and gave him a reassuring smile, the boy looked equally freaked out, he and Jack were probably the only two knew exactly what the name Tony Zucco meant to Dick, he’d never been able to go to the cops about Zucco because he had no proof that it was him that had his family murdered. He’d have to bring this up with Jack later on.
The café filled up quickly once five rolled around, and Dick was too busy to dwell on it anymore. Tim moved up to the bar, working on his homework while Dick bustled around the Café. During his lunch, they ate burgers and Dick helped him with his work. The feeling of being watched returned and Dick couldn’t help but feel twice as paranoid. Paranoid enough to ask Morris to drive him and Tim to the hospital annex so they could wait for Jack to be off of work. He didn’t want to go home alone.
“Is he alright?” Jason asked, leaning over the bed to look at the unmasked face of Nightwing. He didn’t get to see it often after all. Dick rarely visited from Bludhaven, and when he did it was always under his vigilante appearance.
“He will be… but for now he needs to sleep.” Bruce grunted as he allowed Alfred to tend to a bullet on his bicep. “He took a pretty fierce beating before we got there.”
“So what now?”
“We have to find Joker before he finds a way to power the cylinder… I know he’s planning to disrupt other universes… And he knows Dicks identity….” Bruce said rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I fear what he’ll do with that knowledge…”
“So… Dickie-birds in deep shit?” Jason said with a low whistle, looking at the older man. “So what do we do if he gets the cylinder powered up?”
“We stop him, or if necessary follow him and keep him from damaging other worlds or time lines…” Bruce said with a heavy sigh.
“So… there are other universes? Like paradox shit?” Jason asked.
“Yes… and they can affect our world if you’re not careful.” Bruce admitted. “I’ve been to different realities where you never died… realities where I never became Batman and took my four sons camping every weekend. I’ve even been in a reality where you were Batman and you even had a sidekick… who wouldn’t eat meat.”
“You… camping?” Jason said with a snort. “Crazy world…”
“Mmhmm…” Bruce said looking up at him. “I think Joker plans on killing Robin in every alternate universe he can…”
“Don’t worry about it… apparently we bounce back pretty well.” Jason said with another snort, shaking his head at the memory of coming out of the Lazarus pits.
“Not all the realities may allow that.” Bruce commented, unamused at the teens jokes.
“Don’t worry… Dick’ll be fine. I’ll hunt down the Joker and report to you if I get anything.” Jason decided, picking up his mask and helmet.
“Bruce… is that… concern I hear?” Jason teased with a snide grin. Bruce just gave him a blank look and staring at him. “I know, I know… Jokers already killed me once, no need for a repeat.”
A week passed and everything fell back into its usual cycle. Dick didn’t see any signs of the guy or the Joker, though he did still have the paranoid feeling of being watched constantly. He spent a good amount of time at the Annex with Jack after work, waiting for him to be done before heading home, which the man didn’t question too much. He took the elevator to the sixth floor, with Tim singing along to the old song that was playing on the radio.
The annex was an eight story building, dedicated to medical records and emergency supplies for all the hospitals in Gotham. Jack had come to the place so often, they’d finally offered him a position as a secretary. Dick didn’t like the building very much, it gave him the creeps with how quiet and desolate the building was.
“Boys!” Jack said wheeling out of his office, smiling. “I have some great news! I’m getting a raise!”
Dick and Tim both grinned and rushed towards him, wrapping him in a big embrace as they praised him.
“Its about time they realize how awesome you are!” Dick chuckled.
“Does this mean you’ll get a better office Dad?” Tim asked, grinning.
“Yes! And that also means that we’re going to be able to afford a little more!” Jack said proudly. “Dick… you may even be able to quit that job if you like.”
“Nah… I like Alisons Café.” Dick chuckled. “Plus, it means I can buy my own stuff, or start saving for college.”
“Good idea…” Jack said nodding, he’d been smart enough not to get into Tims college fund when he sunk into his depression, so he had no worry for the younger boys education. They followed Jack into his office, where he’d already begun to pack up to head home for the night. “So how was work?”
Dick shrugged, proceeding to tell him about how Jeffery and Morris were trying to teach him to cook, with no luck either. He was mid-story when the building shook, startling the three men silent. Screams filled the air and there was another rumble beneath them followed by a strange roar.
“What the hell is going-“
A third rumble and the sound of snapping and crashing lashed through the air as the walls caved in, fire and debris flying everywhere as they were caught in an explosion. Dick screeched, latching onto Tim out of instinct, turning their bodies as they were thrown from where they stood. Dick cushioned the boy as they hit the ground, rolling on top of him to protect the ten year old from debris. Pain exploded through his head and leg, making his eyes water. His vision faded in and out, so he just laid there for a moment, Tim panicking beneath him. Screams still filled the air, and things were crashing around them.
“Dick! Get off!” Tim whined, though he clutched his shirt, terrified of what was going on.
Dick slowly sat up, pain lacing his movements.
“Are you okay?” He asked, blinking violently as something stung his eyes. He wiped his forehead, not even comprehending the red liquid on his fingers for a moment. He looked around, the entire building was coming down! Fire licked up the walls, and bits of the wall and ceiling were falling. A good portion of the office was covered in debris.
“Wheres Jack?” Dick asked, paling. “Wheres Jack!?”
Tim looked around, his blue eyes wide. The wheel chair was laying, dented and half crushed beneath a beam, where blood pooled and half a torso was exposed.
The two boys scrambled over to him, moving what they could. They were unable to lift the beam off of him though.
“Jack! Please wake up! Jack!” Dick yelled, crawling over the beam, ignoring the burns he got from the glowing embers on its singed sides. He knelt down, feeling for a heartbeat, then breath. Terror flooded through him. Jack Drake was dead. Dick felt his breath come in short pants as he began to hyper ventilate. Jack was dead, the building was on fire, they were in the middle, Jack was dead, and they were on the fourth floor.
“Tim… We can’t stay here…” Dick said after a moment, forcing himself to think. He had Tim to think about, he couldn’t blank out now. “We have to get out…”
“We can’t leave my dad!” Tim yelled.
“We have too!” Dick yelled back. “He’s…”
The older boy choked, scrambling back over the burning beam. “Tim, he’s dead…”
“The beam crushed him, and he has no heart beat…” Dick said, grabbing his shoulders. “You have to be strong until we get outside, okay? Can you do that?”
Tim just stared at him, face stricken. He was in shock. Dick grabbed his arms and forced him to climb onto his back. If the boy wouldn’t move, the older would carry him. Dick forced himself to stand, wincing as his leg protested the extra weight. He took a deep breath, coughing slightly, smoke had started to fill up the demolished office space. The only fire exit on this side of the building was to their left, where the explosion came from. It’d be inaccessible. He’d have to try for one of the windows, or if he had to the roof. He made his way into the hall, wincing as the heat bit at his skin and smoke made his eyes burn. Tim had begun to cry on his back, unable to grasp what was going on in his shock.
He found one of the offices that were along the side of the building and set Tim down so he could slam his weakened body against the door, thankfully it caved easy being a cheap wooden door. The office was virtually untouched, except for stuff that had fallen over and parts of the floor appeared to have caved in. He rushed to the window and wrenched it open. Cold winter air rushed in, as Dick stuck his head out of it. There was a thin landing, but no way down. He could hear sirens in the back ground of the city, screams and yells echoed inside and out. His eyes landed on a thick cord that went from the Annex to the building across the street. It was meant to hold up decorations during Christmas and new years, but three weeks into January, they’d been taken down. If he could walk the ledge, he could attempt walking across it. The acrobat looked at Tim, his face pale. He hadn’t walked the tight rope in years, though he practiced on rails, but those were thicker, sturdy, and he didn’t have a child with him.
He had to try though. His father had often carried Dick across the rope when he was very small, so long as he did not move, it wasn’t a problem. Granted his father was an expert and far stronger than he.
“Tim, listen…” He said kneeling down, and grabbing his arms. The boy looked at him, though his eyes didn’t really register him. Dick noted that flames were licking at the door now, he had to hurry. “Tim, I need you to stay on my back and hold on as tight as you can okay? You need to keep your eyes closed and not move… got it?”
“Do you trust me?” He asked.
“Y-yes…” Tim whimpered.
“Then just do as I ask…” Dick said turning so he could get on his back.
Adjusting the boy, Dick pulled off his belt and wrapped it around Tims knees so it’d be easier to keep him up on his back. Tim tensed when Dick scooted them out the window and onto the ledge. He stood up carefully and grabbed onto the windows frame to balance himself. He took slow measured steps, taking what felt for ever to reach the wired cord. Dick stepped onto it slightly, giving it a little weight to test its resistance. It wasn’t as tight as a high wire, but it would do so long as he was careful and quick. Dick took a shaky breath, steeling himself against looking down or becoming jittery. Tim clenched on him, whimpering as Dick stepped onto the wire fully, arms out stretched to his sides. He heard gasps down below and had a brief feeling of nostalgia. He remembered his first time performing. He’d done the high wire act and fallen purposely, startling the crowd until his mother swept out of nowhere on an traipses and swept the young acrobat off into the Flying Graysons act. He’d been six back then. He could do this now.
Confidence slowly seeped into him and he started across the wire, using his arms counter act his balance whenever the wire shifted. He looked at the end, confusion meeting his eyes. A man, a strange looking man was grinning at him and clapping slowly.
“Oh my god! You are too cute!” He cackled.
Dick froze on the wire, scared to take another step.
“There’s not even a Robin in this world! But here you are! The little hero!” The man continued smiling at him wildly, his lips were too red and too large against his pale skin and almost green hair.
“Wh-who are you?” Dick asked, tilting slightly as he tried to stay balanced in place.
“Me? Oh! My apologies!” The man said slapping his knee. “You know, I always forget my manners!”
Dick glared at him, the man started to riffle through his pockets, pulling out a long pistol with green and white paint splattered on it.
“I’m a big fan of yours! Not that you’d really know about that would you? Huh… Anyway! I’m your biggest fan little Robin.”
“Robin?” Dick gave him an even more confused look. No one called him Robin, with the acceptation of his mother when she was alive.
“Yes! That’d be you! I had hoped that my present would have done the trick… but you fluttery little birds don’t really like to stay dead when I use fire…” He sighed dramatically.
“Who the fuck are you!?” Dick yelled, tensing as the gun was leveled at him.
The man ‘tsked’ at him. “Naughty language… Bats would never approve.”
Gun fire sounded, startling Dick into letting out a cry, flailing as he fell off the wire, catching the course wire with his hands just barely. Tim screeched in fear, tightening his hold on the older boy. There was no pain that Dick couldn’t account for, so he knew he hadn’t been hit. Looking up he saw the Joker was swinging a crowbar now, another man had appeared on the roof, a gun in one hand and the other clenched in a fist. He had a red mask on shaped close to his head with two gold dents where his eyes should have been.
“How the hell did you get here!?” Joker question, grimacing as a bullet caught his arm. He swung the crowbar at the mans waist and aimed the gun at Dick, shooting off a round that barely grazed his leg. Dick yelped losing grip on one of his hands, he dangled for a moment before he regained his other grip.
“Hold on Tim, hold on!” He yelled.
More gun shots rang out and laughing filled air. Dick grunted as he pulled himself up, swinging one leg up onto the wire and hanging koala style, looking at the two battling on the roof. He really didn’t want to get closer to the deranged man, but he couldn’t hold on longer. The course material was tearing apart his hands, blood had already begun to drip down his palms. Grunting he proceed to pull himself across the wire, hearing Tim whimper as he clung ever tighter to him.
“Its okay.” Dick promised, switching grip onto the brick. He hefted them onto the roof, panting for breath. He hadn’t realized how ragged his breath was, adrenaline was doing him a favor currently. Noting that the two were still locked into a fight, Dick forced himself up and rushed towards the fire escape on the other corner. His legs burned painfully, but he ignored it, tears welling in his eyes as he practically jumped onto the metal grating. He let Tim off his back and pushed him ahead of him.
“Go! Run!” He hissed, glancing back at them.
The two hurried down the four flights of the fire escape. Dick had to drop a couple feet to the ground before Tim would drop into his arms, but they were on the ground and out of the flames. Fire fighters rushed towards him, having watched his daring escape from the roof. One picked up Tim and one picked up Dick.
“My brother!” Dick yelled, “Keep him with me! Please!”
blinked his eyes. When did he get so tired?
“Tim…” He mumbled.
Everything went black.
Bruce, I found Joker and the cylinder. I’m going ahead of you.
--- J. T.