It’s hard being a teenage superhero. Well, sidekick. Dick was a sidekick. Not a superhero. Yet. Of course not. He wasn’t good enough. Not yet. Sometimes he thought he would never be good enough for old Bats but that’s just his sixteen year old insecurity speaking, isn’t it?
It’s hard being a teenage superhero, but it’s harder when you’re Batman’s teenage superhero. It’s hard when your best friend can be a total douche in the sense that he’s a wonderful person, it’s hard when you aren’t ever enough, it’s hard when you might be in love with your douche of a best friend and- well, it’s just plain hard.
Being kidnapped was also another thing that made his life extremely horrific. This was the predicament he was currently in.
He was used to being kidnapped as Robin and as Dick Grayson. But it was never like this. Usually it was by dumb thugs who didn’t know how to even handle an acrobatic hostage. This was the Joker and this was horrible. He couldn’t escape. Voices from various minions of the Joker, and the Joker himself, would sound throughout the chamber. Yelling at him, amplifying his every insecurity, and making his head ache. His heart yearned to be home with Bruce, but maybe Bruce wasn’t yearning for the same things.
Perhaps they were right. “Hey, Robbie, Daddy Bird isn’t looking for you to come home.” A slice in his shoulder, a crowbar swung to his kneecaps. It was just two of the Joker’s men right now, to Dick’s relief.
There was a video camera right in front of him and Dick knew exactly what its purpose served. These videos were going straight back to the Cave. The whole League was looking for him…they were, they were, they were…
That thought alone kept Dick fighting, kept him sassing his torturers. The sassing quickly turned to begging. There wasn’t much he could do, tied standing against a column in the middle of a dankly cement room. He felt hopeless, unworthy of calling himself Robin.
And the voices called on.
“Y’know, I thought superkids were supposed to be…super. You’re n’thin but a coward.” A lanky masked figure said with a slow cut along Dick’s hip. “If Bats even decides to show up to get your sorry ass, he’ll probably leave you off at the orphanage so he doesn’t have to deal with you.”
A manic cackle and a punch to the gut. Dick tried to erase the words, but it’s hard to do when the words were drilled into his head. And who knows? Maybe this moron was actually right. Maybe Batman wouldn’t come. He usually could find him within the day of his kidnapping, at least…that’s what usually happens. When he’s usually kidnapped. (And isn’t it sad that being kidnapped is a usual thing?) But now it had been several days and each time he had been knocked completely unconscious, he’d been moved to a different location. Each had the same basic cement idea and each time he was tied up the same way, upright on a column.
“Oh, poor little Robin!” Another voice entered the chamber. It’s the Joker’s turn to have some fun. “Are my boys being mean to you? Well, I’m getting a little bit cranky myself. I was expecting your daddy to come running but I guess he just doesn’t want you back right now. So we get to keep you for a while longer! Time is ticking, baby bird. I hope your little wings aren’t crushed before daddy gets here.”
Dick breathed heavily, attempting to keep himself sane. The Joker chuckled darkly and before Dick could blink, there was a blinding pain in his upper right thigh. He couldn’t stop a sob from escaping. The Joker had slashed a gash in his leg and it fucking hurt.
There was just laughter and screaming echoing through the chamber. As Dick quieted, the Joker leaned in close to his ear and whispered, “I’ll be back in one hour, Robin.” He took his men with him and left Dick alone in the dark, haunting room. The door was shut with a loud slam that burned through Dick’s ears.
Gathering all the strength he had, Dick raised his head and looked straight at the camera. “Where are you?” His voice was shaky and gritty from the yelling and prolonged silences. “Where are you, Dad?” A pause as a few tears rolled down his cheeks. Loneliness flooded him; he was overwhelmed with the intense pain it brought. “I know you don’t like it when I’m weak, Dad, but I don’t know how much longer I can hold out and I just want to come home. Please…take me home. I’ll scrub the whole Cave with a toothbrush, I’ll sit out of patrol for a month, I’ll make you hot chocolate every night for a year…please just-just bring me home.”
A few more beats of silence played out while Dick tried to control his emotions. He breathed in slowly, shakily as he tried to stop himself from crying like a child. He didn’t want to look weak. He wanted to be strong. He wanted to prove himself to Bruce and Wally…Wally.
“Wally? Wally, I know I missed out on our extreme bowling day yesterday. I meant to be there, I promise, but I guess I got too tied up.” He let out a humorless chuckle at his own joke. “But please come for me and then I’ll make it up to you. I will. And we can have a cheesy, chick-flick reunion and have a nice bro-hug and…that’d be nice huh? I could use a hug or two. That would be whelming. And maybe some food. I’ll buy you a lot of dinners. Dinners and dessert…and…I just…I don’t want to miss you…anymore…because I miss you so so much…” Dick started to get drowsy. He wanted to sleep. Sleep sounded nice. Rest, escape, darkness. “Don’t you guys…miss me?” And with that final word, Dick fell unconscious.
Young Justice and their mentors all crowded in the television room to watch every video sent from the Joker. Batman, of course, was never there. He spent every moment he had, every breath he took, trying to find his boy.
This time was no different. And just like every other time, M’gann and the other girls would excuse themselves with tears in their eyes, refusing to look at anyone. They found comfort in each other, and they talked about possible theories on where Robin could be.
Each with their own emotional reasons, members filed out. Soon it was only Flash, Kid Flash, Superboy and Superman in the viewing room. Superman wanted to leave, he couldn’t handle watching this boy being forced under such perilous torture, but he had to watch in case Batman didn’t stop. Wally couldn’t leave his best friend and Barry couldn’t leave Wally. Superboy wanted to be strong for all of them, especially Superman, but it was proving hard with each pained noise coming from their friend.
They didn’t expect Robin to start talking to them.
“Where are you?”
And that question resonated through them all. Where were they? Why couldn’t they find him? How could they be failing Robin like this? They were sitting around watching his torture and crying and not doing anything.
Robin kept talking. Superman knew he would have to take this to Batman right away. He knew it’d be horrible to show Dick being so broken, but it would give Batman extra drive and they were all so tired right now, it was needed. Superman was nothing if not practical.
If the speech to Batman wasn’t bad enough, the one following it tore at the four watching. Wally’s face crumpled and his lower lip trembled. “I’m an awful friend.” He cried. Barry pulled his nephew into a hug and attempted to keep his own emotions at bay. “How could I leave him there? Why can’t I help?”
“No one can.” Barry said honestly. “Not even Batman.”
“I miss you so so much…” Dick said on the video.
“I miss him too.”
“I know.” Barry held Wally tighter as his sobs grew louder. Superboy stood stoically behind the pair on the couch. Conner’s ability to keep his emotions in check during this made Superman extremely proud of him.
“Don’t you guys…miss me?”
All Barry could do was hug Wally closely as he buried his face in his uncle’s chest. “I just want my best friend back.”
Superman turned the video system off and went off immediately to find Batman and show him that his son was going to need intense tender Bat-loving care when they got him back.
Batman’s reaction wasn’t what Superman expected. He expected a dark glare at the screen and a brooding walkout that would end with the recovery of Robin. What happened was a bit different.
“Where are you, Dad?” The video was paused. Batman scrubbed a hand over his face.
“Why are you showing this to me?” He said with an edge of fury in his voice.
“So you know what to expect when you find him, Bruce.”
“I don’t need to see this.”
Superman started playing the video again. “Yes, you do.”
“I know you don’t like it when I’m weak, Dad…”
Bruce’s face grew horrified. “I don’t understand.”
It only got worse. Bruce was nearly shaking with anger by the end of the clip. He stood up suddenly and Clark had to grab hold of him to keep him in check.
“I know this is upsetting-“
“He think I would punish him for this! Dick believes I think he’s weak!” Bruce yelled. “Yeah, it’s pretty upsetting!”
“Please, just clear your head. We need to find him, and now we have more urgency than ever. Get yourself together so we can bring your Robin home. You think this is bad for you? You didn’t see Kid Flash. Barry could barely keep the kid together.” He let go of Bruce. “We’re all upset, Batman, but let’s use it as drive.”
Batman’s heavy breathing filled the silence that followed.
“We’ll bring him home, Bruce.”
And with that, Batman was back out on his search to bring his boy home with a flame burning even hotter to push him.
“So, because your daddy bird didn’t come to collect you in time, here’s how we’ll punish him. Won’t this be fun?” The Joker laughed. Dick didn’t find it very funny.
“You’re not very fun today, are you? Well. I’ll explain the game and then you’ll find it fun!” He picked up what looked like a smoke bomb. “We’re going to use…hmmm…a lot of these green boys to let father dearest know where his widdle Wobin is hiding. Then, just for kicks, we’ll blow up this place just for him! I think he’ll really like that part.”
Dick had accepted that he would probably die at the hands of the Joker. He was okay with this, or as okay as one could be when facing their death. But he found it hard to think of Bruce without anyone to pull him away from work to play basketball, or Wally with no one to laugh with over their silly inside jokes, and maybe it was a little bit selfish but really, he just wanted more than anything to go home.
But he wasn’t going home. Not alive, anyway.
“It was fun, baby Robin, but now I must take my leave! I’ll tell Daddy Dearest you loved him so, but no promises he’ll care.”
The Joker left and the green smoke filled the room. It was suffocating, in more ways than one. All Dick could think was that his last moments would be in this little room filled with green and there was the possibility that no one would care.
He closed his eyes and thought of Bruce and Wally. He thought of Bruce comforting him when he was younger and had nightmares. He thought of running into Bruce’s room when there was a storm and curling up against his father because he was all he had and he was so scared. Dick was scared now, but he had to accept that he couldn’t find comfort in his dad anymore.
He thought of Wally’s hair, Wally’s smell. He thought of late nights staying up talking about anything they had on their minds, and the understanding they had for each other. He thought of bro-hugs and falling asleep on his shoulder during movie nights and how Wally wouldn’t move unless it meant transferring Dick’s head to his lap. He wanted to go back, he would give anything to be on the couch falling asleep on Wally but the universe doesn’t care and Gotham cares even less.
He fell unconscious with these images flashing through his head and a smile on his face.
The green smoke was visible from miles away. Batman knew what it was almost immediately and his heart twisted horribly in his chest.
He immediately called the Batmobile and sped towards his son. The ride was a blur of thoughts and images flashing through his mind.
He thought of playing floor lava with Dick when he was younger. He thought of pick-up basketball games and manly talks about colour coordinated costumes. He thought of his son and the idea of him not being there was too terrifying to accept.
He was a block away when the warehouse that was filled with green smoke exploded.
The explosion is what woke Dick up. The Joker had placed all the bombs on the outside of the warehouse, meaning he still got ripped apart but not enough to die. Although, Dick was sure the Joker didn’t care whether he died or not.
He couldn’t move, and he was seeing so much white that he was positive he was dying or already dead.
“ROBIN!” A voice yelled out. Bruce? He’s here? “Superman, bring Flash. Bring…bring Kid Flash, too.”
Wally was coming! A smile tugged at his lips in his loopy state. “Wally…”
“Dick…” The whispering voice was right next to him now and he felt his head being lifted up slightly. It was then gently lowered into what he could only assume to be Bruce’s lap. This was the most comfortable he’d been in a very long time.
“Dad…you’re here.” He’d deny it later, but Dick then clutched to Bruce and buried his face in his abdomen. “I’m so sorry, Dad, but I-“
“Shhhh…” He ran his hand over Dick’s hair. “You’re okay, son. You’re just fine. Superman’s coming, so is Flash.”
“And Wally.” Dick smiled. The white hadn’t quite gone away yet. Everything should hurt, he knew, but he was numb. All he could feel was his head pounding. “I like Wally.”
Bruce chuckled sadly. “I know you do, Robin.”
“No, Dad,” Dick couldn’t stop saying Dad because he just had to make sure Bruce knew that he was his father and he didn’t want to let go. “I really like Wally. I love Wally.”
There was a beat before Bruce replied softly, “I know you do.”
“Can I go to sleep?”
“No, stay awake for me. You can’t sleep.” Or you might not wake up. But the thought was too horrible for Bruce to say aloud. “Talk to me, Dick.”
Because he was distressed and he wanted Dick to talk, Bruce said the first thing that came to his mind. He would later regret it.
“Tell me what you love about Wally.” He cringed right after the horribly sappy words exited his mouth. Well, at least it would keep him talking.
“I love his hair. It’s so…Wally. And he has a nice face. He’s nice to me. He doesn’t think I’m a spoiled brat. He makes me pancakes sometimes. He likes nice songs, like I do. Sometimes when no one’s there, we’ll dance to old jazz songs because Wally says it’s good for the soul.” Bruce laughed at that. “I love that he’s protective. He’s the only one who knows my identity, and I know you’re mad about that but you can yell at me later. He’s awesome at comforting and hugs. I would die for him, but for different reasons than he would die for me. I love him because he doesn’t hate me like a lot of people at school do.”
Bruce was quiet for a moment. “People at school don’t hate you.” How could they hate Dick?
“They think I’m a spoiled brat who thinks he’s better than everyone else just because Bruce Wayne is my dad but that’s not even true. They said you don’t even love me, so did the people in the warehouse…but...”
“Don’t listen to anyone who says things like that, okay? I love you. You know that. You know I would do anything for you, and you know that anyone who says I wouldn’t tear this damn universe apart to save you is a liar.”
“Are you proud of me?”
Bruce gave the best smile he could muster up at such a moment. “I have always been proud of you, son.”
Dick smiled and hugged his father a little tighter. “I love you, Dad.” Bruce knew this wouldn’t be the end, that after this haze was over Dick would be plagued by self-doubt and distrust but he could deal with that later.
In a flash of red and yellow, Flash and Kid Flash were beside the pair. Superman followed shortly after.
“DICK!” Wally cried. He collapsed to his knees by Batman. Bruce couldn’t bring himself to berate the kid for shouting Robin’s identity. He could save that for later when everyone wasn’t emotionally exhausted.
“WALLY!” Dick cried happily with a loopy smile on his face. The poor boy was in so much pain that he wasn’t sharing. Suddenly, Bruce felt like a third wheel.
“I’ll be back.” He then transferred Dick to Wally’s lap gently and went to speak with Superman about what they would do about the whole situation.
“Wally, I missed you so much.” Dick suddenly went from being happily loopy to upset. Tears filled his eyes blurring his already wobbly vision. “I didn’t want to leave you.”
“I missed you too, Rob. I’m so sorry we couldn’t find you earlier.” Wally pulled Dick up into a hug so Dick was sitting curled up in his lap. He buried his face in his hair. “I’m so glad you’re alive.”
“I thought I’d never see you again. I thought we’d never fall asleep on each other on the couch or have a fight over which game we play or wrestle over the remote. I thought you’d be all alone with no one to laugh with when Superboy is confronted with monkeys.” Wally laughed wetly.
“I thought I’d never have a best friend ever again.”
Dick burrowed into Wally’s chest, seeking comfort. “I love you a lot, you know?”
“Yeah, well, I love you more, Rob.”
“But no, Wally, I like really love you a lot.”
Eventually they’d have to move because Dick needed to get to the hospital and they shouldn’t have even paused for a reunion, but Barry, Bruce, and Clark didn’t even know how to interrupt the moment that played out before them. It reminded them all of why they’re in this business.
“We have to get Dick to a hospital now, Batman.”
“I know, Superman.”
“Flash, We need to get them to stop kissing.”
“You do that, Superman.”