"Haly's Circus takes care of its own," Mr. Haly says to all the people from the government, and all the social workers, over and over again.
Eventually they admit that they can't find any of Richard Grayson's relatives in the United States anyway. Therefore, if people take him on as a foster child, that's one less burden on the government.
Sometimes when they're setting up the big top, he hears his parents' voices.
But Haly's is his family, too, and he can help them by doing what he does best.
It's a good life.
One night in a little town, he hears a little girl crying, not too far from the circus campsite. There's a big guy pinning her down, probably weighs three times as much as Dick, who's twenty but not that big.
Dick doesn't even think about leaping for the tree branch, swinging high, and falling on the guy's head.
The guy falls sideways and the girl starts screaming.
The guy isn't moving.
"It's okay," Dick says, and helps the girl up. She's maybe ten, all dirty.
She hugs him. "I want my mommy."
Her mommy is waiting at the police station.
"Somebody ought to do something," Dick says, pacing.
"Sure," says Melanie. "But it's not like you can."
"Maybe. But we're always at the edges of places, and stuff happens out here, Mel, you know it does."
"Yeah." She frowns. "You gonna get a gun?"
Dick shakes his head. "That would be really -- no."
"It's gotta be hard to be a vigilante without one."
"I guess. But if I could just scare people into behaving --"
"How? Are you gonna dress up like something scary? A snake? A bat? A nuclear bomb?"
Dick blinks, then shakes his head. "Forget I said anything."
Man in Bat Costume Saves Child!
Mysterious Crime-Fighter At Circle K!
Who Was That Masked Man?
"Hey," Melanie says, and Dick closes his scrapbook. Not soon enough. "Are all those clippings about your performances?"
"No," he says, but he knows he's blushing.
She takes the book, opens it.
"Oh," she says. "It's you."
"Um -- well, yeah."
"I was kidding, doofus."
Dick sticks his tongue out at her. "I know, but look at all the stuff I've done."
"Isn't it dangerous?"
"Aren't quadruple flips kinda dangerous?"
Melanie shakes her head. "You ever need a new costume idea, buddy -- I'm your girl."
"Oh my god, Dick," Melanie says, and catches him when he's about to fall over from pain and blood loss.
"He had a knife," Dick says.
She drags him to her cot. "I'll get Ma Keenan, she's good at this. You're an idiot."
"Thanks, Mel," Dick says, and he passes out.
When he wakes up again, Ma Keenan gives him a glass of water. "You boys and your fights."
Dick glances at Mel. She shakes her head.
"Yeah, sorry, Ma," Dick says. "I should know better about townies by now, huh?"
"If your momma could see you, bleeding --"
One night in Gotham, there's this kid in an alley with his parents, well-dressed, and some thug mugging them.
None of the speed or tricks Dick's learned can stop the thug from pulling off the lady's pearls and pulling the trigger, once, twice.
Dick yells, "No!" at the same damn time as the kid.
He knocks the thug out.
The kid's staring, in shock. "Who're you?"
"Dick Grayson." He's not good enough to be Batman. Batman saves people.
"I'm Bruce Wayne," says the kid.
Dick hugs him. "I'll get you home safe."
"You didn't do it."
Dick stays in Gotham so he can testify. He wants to make everything easier for Bruce, but there's nothing he can do for the kid, directly.
Just hug him, whenever he gets a chance.
Bruce's guardian raises his eyebrow at Dick every time he talks to Bruce. Mr. Pennyworth is -- the nice word is reserved.
Dick wishes he could take Bruce to Haly's, where it's warm and bright.
After the sentencing, Bruce finds Dick and tugs on his sleeve.
He looks like he still hasn't cried.
"Come over for dinner," Bruce says, and Dick hugs him tightly.
"Sure I will."
Even the dinner table at Wayne Manor is gigantic. They're huddled at one end of it.
At the end of dinner, Bruce grabs Dick's sleeve. "Do you have to go?"
"I -- the circus --"
Bruce closes his eyes. "Yeah."
Dick pats his shoulder. "I wish I could stay."
"Master Bruce has access to a tidy sum," Mister Pennyworth says. "Enough for his guardian's upkeep."
Dick splutters. "I don't know how to be a good dad."
"A guardian, sir. And so few people do."
Bruce looks up at him and Dick hears that gunshot again. "Will you stay?"
Dick hugs him. "Yes."
"Is it ready yet?" Bruce says, running down the stairs.
Dick looks up from the package. "Your birthday cake? Ask Alfred."
Bruce frowns. "I'm ready. Richard Dragon said it three weeks ago and I did all my homework for the year."
"It's ready, too."
Melanie started with Dick's old costume and took out the yellow, darkened the colors, added tights.
The armoring still looks strange to Dick's eyes, but the deep red and almost-black green suit Bruce when he puts it on. He adjusts his gauntlets and picks up the mask. "How is it?"
Dick smiles. "You look dangerous, Robin."
"We can't challenge Two-Face heads-on," Robin says over the comm.
"Dent's dangerous," Batman says. "But we can take him as long as he thinks you're not here."
"Are you sure?"
"You know his tricks. Come when I need you." Batman breaks the lock on the door.
He just manages to save the judge from drowning -- not the least corrupt man in town -- and Robin dives in, bolos flying, to take Two-Face down.
"Great work," Batman says as they head for home. He squeezes Robin's shoulder. "I couldn't have done it without you."
Robin grins at him. "Yeah, I know."