Continuity: Teen Titans animated series, mostly, cobbled together with bits inspired by the comics verse and Batman: The Animated Series, and stuff I just made up from scratch. Sort of an AU? Takes place after the end of the Teen Titans series.
Characters/Pairings: Robin (Dick Grayson), Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Raven, Alfred Pennyworth, Clark Kent, original character; Robin/Starfire
Word Count: 3628
Summary: Robin and the Titans reach Gotham City. Introductions are made. An absence is keenly felt.
Warnings: Not much, this chapter. ANGST; discussion and description of violent death. No spoilers.
Disclaimer: Most of the characters and locations in this story are © DC Entertainment Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment. All content is fictional and for entertainment purposes only, not for profit.
Posted to robin_fans, we_love_dick, batfic.
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The eastern horizon glowed faintly blue as the T-ship approached the outskirts of Gotham City. Dick inhaled sharply, lifting his head for the first time in three hours and reaching for his mask. With every indication of unflappable calm he replaced his headset, adjusting the microphone before speaking. “Cyborg. Give me the con, please? I’ll take us in.”
Thick clouds hung low over Gotham, heavy with impending rain and smoldering with the lights of the city below. Robin pushed the T-ship into a steep dive as they entered the city limits, plunging through the dense veil. Gotham City, exposed, was an explosion of bright lights that, paradoxically, only served to emphasize the dark negative space of its shadowed alleys.
Robin aimed directly towards a dense cluster of the city’s tallest buildings– Gotham’s financial district. The T-ship screamed into the midst of them at high speed, Robin banking sharply to avoid monoliths of steel and stone and glass as he took a labyrinthine path through the skyscrapers.
The Titans held on for dear life. Beast Boy sacrificed his octopus’ tentacles long enough to yell, “Robin! Dude! I’m gonna be seasick. Do we have to– watch where you’re going!”
Robin’s gaze strayed frequently from his twelve o’clock, his eyes flicking down and to either side as he guided the T-ship with careless nonchalance through a maze of narrow streets and looming buildings. “We’re not supposed to be here. I’m bringing us in literally under the radar– and the financial district is mostly empty at this time of night.” Robin yanked abruptly on the control column, sending the T-ship tearing around the corner of a Gothic tower, bringing the Titans’ canopies within inches of its snarling gargoyles. “Also,” he continued, “confusion tactic. Any eyewitnesses will have conflicting accounts of our flight path. …You don’t fly to the Batcave in a straight line. That’s one of the Rules.” The Titans shot past Wayne Tower, and Robin turned his head, watching it for a few seconds as it dwindled behind them.
“DudeAAAAAHHH!!” Beast Boy shrieked. A pedestrian walkway stretched across the T-ship’s path, connecting two bank buildings at their twentieth floors across a wide avenue. Robin twitched his wrists before he’d even started to turn and look, and the T-ship slipped neatly under the obstacle. A night janitor gaping at them from within the glass tunnel was visible for a split second before shrinking into the distance.
“Relax. I have done this before,” Robin pointed out wryly, the barest flicker of his habitual dry humor reappearing.
Robin made for Gotham Harbor, leaving the cover of the buildings behind. “Switching to aquatic mode,” Robin said, flicking some switches. “Brace yourselves.” The T-ship fell from the air as if shot down, shuddering with the impact as it dived into the sea.
“The entrance to your Cave of Bats is… underwater?” inquired Starfire hesitantly, unsure whether it was okay to speak to Robin again.
“One of them,” Robin answered briefly. He guided the T-ship up the coast to the north a little ways then into what appeared to be a shallow sea cave. When he touched a button on his utility belt, a cleverly disguised door slid out of the way, revealing a dark, flooded tunnel. Once they were inside, away from prying eyes, Robin brought the T-ship to the surface, the sub’s running lights affording the Titans a view of a low ceiling thick with stalactites.
Faint light appeared ahead of them, and grew, and suddenly the ceiling lifted away, all but disappearing in the shadows as they glided into an immense limestone cavern. The T-ship pulled up to a small jetty next to another submersible and a boat, both of which looked mean and fast and sported black paint jobs. Robin killed the engines, lifted his canopy, and hopped to the jetty, where he stood for several long moments staring up into the dim expanse while his friends disembarked and gathered around him.
“Welcome to the Batcave,” he said unnecessarily.
Robin led the way up a long, steep staircase cut into the stone. The Titans’ arrival at the top of the staircase was punctuated with gasps and whoas as the Batcave’s main levels came into view, revealing the Batcomputer, Batmobile, Batwing… trophies….
“Duuuuuuude,” breathed Beast Boy reverently; then, “Dude! What’s with the big money and cards and the dinosaur and stuff?”
“They commemorate battles won and villains defeated.” Alfred Pennyworth’s cultured tones echoed through the Batcave as he crossed the broad platform towards them.
"Alfred!" Robin cried, and then he was running. His sprint ended with his arms clasped tightly around his friend, face burrowed into his shoulder, Alfred's arms encircling him with gentle firmness.
The old butler and the young hero stood that way for a little while, eyes closed. Words passed unspoken between them, a simple confirmation: You're here... I'm here....
Slowly, reluctantly, Robin pulled back, giving his friend and surrogate father a good looking-over. He didn't like what he saw; Alfred had never looked his age before. He wondered what Alfred saw when he looked at him.
Robin turned to the Titans, who were respectfully standing a short distance off, waiting. Beast Boy was staring at the Batmobile, his jaw hanging open; a moment later he snapped his attention back to Robin, looking guilty. Although his heart was heavy, Robin's lip twitched just a little.
"Guys," he said, "this is Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred, meet the Titans: Beast Boy, Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven." He gestured to each of his friends in turn.
"So this is your team." A new voice came from across the Cave. Its source was a tall, broad-shouldered, but otherwise unremarkable-looking man in a plain suit and thick frames. The man came down the last few steps to the main level of the Batcave, hands in his pockets.
"Clark–" Robin said, and he was off and running again.
The Titans exchanged bewildered looks; Robin had never mentioned any Clarks.
Robin flung his arms around Clark and held on tight. "I'm glad you're here," he whispered.
Clark's own grip tightened a little. "It's good to see you, Dick," he murmured.
Robin pulled back, giving Clark the same critical scrutiny he'd given Alfred, frowning at the tired sadness in Clark's eyes and the lines of his face. A spark of fond amusement lit in Clark's eyes, and he poked Robin's forehead with a finger. "Frown lines, Dick. You don't want to end up like–" He cut himself off, a flash of pain returning to his face. Robin swallowed, reached for Clark's hand, squeezed it.
After a moment Robin jerked his head towards Alfred and the Titans, tugging on Clark's hand. "Come and meet my friends," he suggested softly.
Clark offered a brittle smile and nodded, retrieving his hand as they crossed the Cave and tousling Robin's hair with it. Robin batted at the offending hand, glaring, then poked Clark in the ribs in ineffectual retaliation.
"Everyone, this is– this is, uh...." He glanced at Clark; Clark nodded. "...Heh. This is Superman."
The Titans gaped, glancing back and forth between Clark and Robin, not sure whether to believe him. Robin's lip twitched. "Glasses, Clark," he said. Clark obligingly removed his glasses. He ran a hand through his hair, and his signature curl fell into place on his forehead.
The Titans' jaws dropped to about the vicinity of their kneecaps. "Oh my– wow!" Beast Boy burst out. "You're really– I mean– I mean, uh... it's an honor, Mr. Superman, sir!!" He snapped to attention, his spine straight; Robin was reminded strongly of the first time they'd met.
Clark laughed, stepping forward and offering his hand. "It's Beast Boy, right? Please, call me Clark."
A grin spread slowly over Beast Boy's face as he reached forward to shake hands with Superman, blushing under the green. "Garfield Logan," he said.
Cyborg stepped forward, extending his hand. He attempted to remain stoic in the face of celebrity, but his eyes were lit up like Christmas lights. "Victor Stone," he said as Clark took his hand. "Like BB said, it's an honor to meet you."
"Likewise," Clark said lightly, but with perfect seriousness. He was confronted next by Starfire, who beamed delightedly but held herself tall and dignified as she pressed her right fist to her chest. "X'hal! I am Koriand'r of Tamaran," she intoned solemnly, clasping his hand.
Clark gave her a grave nod then turned to Raven. "It's... just Raven," she said, blushing as she shook his hand.
"I'm glad to finally meet all of you," Clark said. "You've been doing great things in Jump City. I'd like to thank you on behalf of the Justice League for your dedication." The Titans each seemed to gain several inches as their spines straightened with pride. "And I'd like to thank you personally for keeping the Boy Wonder here out of trouble." He laid a hand on Robin's shoulder, smiling fondly down at him.
Robin snorted softly. "Clark, you have strange notions about the line of work we're in. Finding trouble is what we do." He ducked his head, starting to peel his mask off.
Cyborg smirked at Robin a little. "It's a tough job, but we do our best," he told Clark.
Running a hand through his hair, Dick glanced at Alfred, who had been quietly standing by. The butler cleared his throat discreetly. "I imagine all of you must be quite worn out from your journey. I've prepared the guest rooms. Would you care for some breakfast before you retire?"
Alfred's suggestion was met with a murmured chorus of affirmatives. Dick pulled off his gloves, leaving them with his mask on the Batcomputer's console and joining the queue as it filed up the stairs towards the manor.
With each step upward that Dick took, the vise that gripped his heart squeezed tighter. Batman hadn't been in the Cave; as the grandfather clock swung open Dick was forced to face the fact that Bruce wasn't going to be in the manor, either. Wayne Manor was the same as always: luxurious furnishings, soft, warm light. Yet the furniture looked stiff and unwelcoming, and the light seemed bleak. The manor looked like it had to Dick when he had stepped reluctantly into it for the very first time, when his parents had died.
The manor looked like an open grave.
Dick followed Alfred and the rest of the group to the brightly-lit dining room, where a hot breakfast was ready and waiting for them. Six place-settings were arranged at the opposite end of the table from where Bruce's favorite chair stood empty. Dick swallowed. The others started sitting down, reaching for toast and scones and fruit and bacon and hot porridge; Dick stood behind a chair towards the center of the table and stared out the open window, where the first, faintest beginnings of daylight glimmered. "Alfred," he said.
Alfred was standing off to one side, hands clasped behind his back. He would already have eaten. “Yes, Master Dick,” he replied softly.
Dick's hands tightened on the back of the chair. “...Where is he? Is he– is he here?”
All noise and motion around the table stopped. “Master Bruce is yet at the morgue,” said Alfred in the same quiet tone. “Dr. Thompkins is taking care of everything. I am led to understand he will be returned to us tomorrow.”
There was a moment of dead silence. Dick's thumb memorized the shape of a small device carved into the chair's ancient wood. “Has there been any more news...?”
“Not much as of yet, I am afraid. A few details, but the man has yet to be identified.” Alfred glanced at the lost and bewildered expressions on the Titans' faces then glanced back to Dick, his eyebrows quirking upwards just slightly.
“No, I– I haven't said anything to them,” Dick replied to the unspoken question. He reached up, dragged a hand down across his mouth. “Would you please...?”
“Of course, Master Dick.”
The chair next to Dick was empty. Dick hauled it away from the table. “Sit with us, Alfred,” he murmured. Alfred nodded and sat, clasping his hands in front of him on the table.
Dick pulled out his own chair and sat as well, looking down at his hands splayed flat on the rich tablecloth. Starfire was sitting to his other side, and after a second she placed her hand on his, curling her fingers underneath and squeezing. Dick looked at her for a long moment, then turned his hand and lifted, pressing her knuckles to his lips before returning their hands to the table, fingers entwined.
“Last evening Master Bruce attended the fundraiser for the Gotham Parks and Gardens Initiative,” Alfred began. “The function was being held at Ballard Park. There was security, of course, but at an outdoor event....” The lines around his eyes tightened. “I was told the man simply walked into the party, carrying a firearm in his pocket. He was dressed properly; no one took notice of him until he started screaming.” Alfred shook his head slightly, his lips thin. “It is doubtful that Master Bruce was a target. In all likelihood no one was. The man is believed to be mentally ill, and possibly drugged as well. He started to scream at one of the servers, just a young girl, and then he pulled his piece on her. There wasn't time... Master Bruce put himself between the girl and the gun. He threw the serving tray... it disarmed the man, but not before the gun went off. It was....” Alfred's features sagged with pain. “...It was an unlucky shot. It went through the throat, grazed the spinal column....” His voice became shaky. He swallowed, attempted to regain composure. “...It was quick.”
Dick's hand was gripping Kory's so hard it had to hurt, even for a Tamaranean warrior. He wore a frown that was familiar to the Titans, to Alfred and Clark. It was the frown of Robin trying to unravel a problem, compiling the data, integrating new information with the old. “It doesn't make sense,” he said.
“No, sir. It doesn't make sense,” Alfred murmured.
Dick inhaled sharply and blinked, turning to Alfred and gripping his arm, looking intensely into the old butler's eyes as if trying to communicate by photons alone. Alfred laid a hand on the teen's shoulder, meeting and holding his gaze sadly.
A few moments passed. Dick reclaimed both of his hands, picking up a scone and turning it in his fingers pensively. The Titans poked at their food. Clark sat with his fingers tented in front of his lips, watching Dick.
After a tense silence, Dick looked up. “Vic,” he said.
Cyborg jerked. He cleared his throat. “...Yeah, man,” he said softly.
“Could you work up active holograms for the team, like the one you made when you went undercover in the H.I.V.E.? Civilian disguises.”
“Sure, no problem. It would take a few hours... half a day at most.”
Dick nodded sharply. “Do that, please? For the... for the wake, and the funeral.” Cyborg nodded; Dick stood up, still turning over his scone. “You guys should eat, and get some rest. I need to make a phone call.” He hesitated briefly then went for the door, waving down any attempts to follow him.
In the hall next to the grand staircase, Dick pressed a hand to the wall and let out a long, slow breath, running a hand through his hair. Then he set his scone down on the telephone table, picked up the receiver and dialed, first entering the code to route the call through the Batcave's secure line.
The phone rang for a long time. Dick waited patiently. The man he was calling never picked up before the eighth ring; it was how he weeded out the people he didn't actually want to talk to.
After the ninth ring there was a slight click. “...Pennyworth?” guessed the voice on the other end of the line.
“I thought I might be hearing from you. I... I saw the news about Bruce and... aw, jeez. I'm so sorry, kid. I know he meant the world to you. I can't quite believe it myself... you know I owe him everything. And... I kind of thought he was... I dunno, indestructible, you know?”
Dick sank into the chair next to the phone table and leaned his head back against the wall, eyes closed and receiver pressed tightly against his ear. “Yeah,” he said.
“...Anyway, I'm... I'm really sorry, Dick.”
Dick swallowed. “Thanks, Vincent.”
“Sure thing, kid.” The sound of a throat clearing. “So. How can I help? You need me to spin some lies?”
“Yes, please, Vince. The usual. Debit card activity, passport checks, plane tickets... where's my floating boarding school supposed to be docked these days, anyway? I haven't checked.”
“Ummmmm....” Sounds of clicking and tapping. “Poreč.”
“Croatia?” Dick opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling. It was more daylight than not, now.
“That's the one. ...Who knows you're in Gotham?”
“Just Alfred. That's for Richard Grayson and Robin.”
“Robin going out this evening?”
Dick narrowed his eyes, voice dropping to a growl. “Yes.”
More tapping sounds. “I'll see if I can have Richard coming in late tonight, then.”
Dick rubbed the heel of his palm against his eye. “Sounds perfect. ...And, Vince... I've got the Titans with me. They're all going to need the full treatment. I was thinking, my friends from school?”
“Ahhhh... yep, yep, I agree. You wanna give me anything?”
“Cyborg's working up some holographic projections later today for their civilian disguises. We'll send you copies when they're rendered. Everyone speaks American English... Starfire's going to have to be foreign, her grammar's not always perfect. Somewhere in Europe, I think, somewhere not well known. Cyborg and Beast Boy are definitely American... Raven could be from anywhere, really.” Dick frowned a little. “We don't have much prep-time,” he said, thinking out loud. “...I'll give you first names. Cyborg is Victor, Beast Boy is Garfield, Starfire is Kory... umm... let's make it Rachel for Raven.”
“Right, gotcha. Same flights as you?”
“That would be best.”
More tapping as Vince typed. “Well, that's enough to get started. Anything else?”
Dick thought about it. “Not right now. If I think of anything else I'll send it with the rendered images.”
“Alrighty, I'll get right on it. You just leave everything to ol' Vinnie. And... stay safe out there tonight.”
“Thanks, Vince. Goodnight.”
“Good morning to you too, kid. 'Bye.”
Dick hung up.
~ ~ ~
Dick lay in his old bed, in his old room, and stared at the ceiling. The sun was up, now, but it was dark in the room with the heavy blackout curtains drawn. It doesn't make sense, he thought. Assuming that a man with a mental illness wouldn't dress himself neatly and expensively, put a gun in his pocket and walk into a party full of Gotham's socialites– and drug himself, if he was drugged– then someone else dressed him, gave him the gun, and left him there to– to what? Why? You can't assassinate someone that way, there's no way to direct your assassin to your target... so what is the point? ...I need more data. I need to speak with Gordon. I need more data.
Dick's hands clenched in the bedclothes, fingers twisting and tangling silk sheets. His hands started to shake. It became difficult to breathe, and his vision blurred. Dick sniffed loudly and blinked; he tasted salty mucous in the back of his throat, and hot tears ran down the sides of his face and into his ears. “Damn it,” he whispered.
There was a soft knock at the door. Dick pushed himself up and stared at the door wide-eyed, breath caught in his chest, tears cooling on his cheeks. A moment later the door opened a crack and Koriand'r slipped into the room, clad in a wispy nightgown. “Star–” The word strangled in his throat.
Starfire hurried across the room and crawled into the bed, wrapping her arms tightly around him. He rolled into her, burying his face in her shoulder and clutching at her clothes. “Robin,” she murmured into his hair, “I am here. I am here.”
“It isn't fair,” Dick choked out. “It isn't right. For him to die like that, at a party, by accident... shot by some crazy who didn't even know, wasn't even trying to kill him. He was Batman. It isn't right!” Dick gasped; it twisted into a sob.
Starfire frowned, stroking her palms soothingly against his back. “He was protecting someone, yes? Is that not what he has always done? Bruce Wayne protected that girl; he saved her. I think he would be glad.”
Dick shook his head mutely against her shoulder, gasping, his whole body trembling as he fought tears and lost. Starfire stroked a hand through his hair. “Dick... it is alright to cry. Even a warrior sheds tears when his brother falls in battle. Let go....”
She closed her eyes when she felt Dick's shoulders collapse, relax, as he gave in. “There,” she whispered. “Cry for as long as there is need; I will be here. I will not leave you. My Robin, my love... I will never, ever leave you....”
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