Falling was never something Richard Grayson necessarily feared, sure it was up there on a mental list of shit he’d rather not do, but heights were something to be loved by him. To fly and be taken back to his days at Haly’s Circus was truly something priceless, something he’d never let anyone take away. It justifiably took him a while to climb back up any sort of trapeze after he watched his parents fall, but Dick was too stubborn to simply quit the last connection he felt to his mom and dad. He would not let that night be his last memory of flying. Bruce was such a huge part of Dick being able to get on his feet again and giving him something worth living and fighting for; getting him out of the juvenile detention center – where suspiciously Dick, with his Romani heritage, was shoved into with all the other lost immigrant kids who needed help and care, not a detention center – was the best thing anyone could have done for him. Bruce gave him a sense of family again, gave him a father figure to love and to be loved by, something Dick would never forget despite the rough patch the two were currently going through.
A rough patch he supposed would never end now.
Dick, as he fell, had a million thoughts racing through his head, but solutions for his current dilemma were none of them. From the moment Deathstroke delivered the final blow that snapped his spine and threw him off the Wayne Tower, Dick knew he was dead. Batman was definitely occupied with Deathstroke now that he didn’t have any back-up, Robin as well as Red Robin were still tied up, and Red Hood had blown them off earlier because when wasn’t he in a rough patch with Bruce?
At least he would still be alive to fix his, Dick thought, because he was truly screwed as he got closer and closer to the ground. He was really starting to chastise himself now, why hadn’t he just taken the time to change into his Nightwing suit? The moment Slade had contacted him and demanded he meet Dick on top of the Wayne Tower, cold shivers flew up and down his spine. Maybe if he had just decided to bring his grappling hook, Escrima sticks, or fucking something, he wouldn’t be falling with a half-numbed body. Racing to the tower on a whim to see what Slade wanted was rash and stupid and Dick would have chastised himself more if the creeping suspicion that this was the inevitable outcome wasn’t there. While seeing his two youngest brothers tied up in their patrol attire when Dick arrived had anxiety grasping his chest, he knew inside that Slade wouldn’t really hurt them.
Damian and Tim weren’t quite the Robins he wanted, after all.
Slade and he held a strange relationship that teetered between enemies and allies, but there still was obvious hard feelings lingering around past interactions, especially including Slade’s past obsession with taking the former Robin for his own. The past hard feelings and grudges were definitely solid and present now as Dick couldn’t help but be absolutely pissed that Slade really just did that too him. Not only did he get Damian and Tim involved by capturing them while on patrol, but he got Batman involved too, all to put on a show of killing Dick in front of them.
What still absolutely confused Dick was why Slade had done it, out of hundreds of past opportunities where Deathstroke held the upper hand and could have mercilessly killed him, he waited until now to initiate the interaction and include the rest of the family. This couldn’t have been Slade finally snapping and losing it, there was a method to his madness and Dick was almost glad he wouldn’t be around to witness what could have possibly caused this. The killing of Dick Grayson was not something that Deathstroke would do for money – as he proved before – so whatever this was must have been coordinated by someone else who knew his identity and benefited from this.
But there were too many things to think at once beside from what lead up to his current situation. Would Damian ever be able to be okay after this? He had just watched his brother be thrown to his death. After all the work and bonding it took for Damian to begin feeling at home in the manor, for Dick to finally be able to provide a sense of security to the boy and offer him what it truly felt like to have a brother. He still remembered the first time Damian hugged him of his own accord, prompted by a near death experience on Nightwing’s part during patrol – Dick supposed he wouldn’t be getting one of those this time – and that was when he knew he truly made it as a brother.
Presently, though, Damian had already recently been acting out, snapping at everyone in a mile radius and acting colder than usual. Was he angry that Dick hadn’t been around as much due to his fight with Bruce? Did he miss him? Though the answer to that was likely yes, Dick supposed he would never find out. He could only hope that Bruce would put his brooding aside after this to be the support system that not only Damian needs, but Jason and Tim.
He hoped they all would remember how much he loved them.
Dick knew that his death would truly crush Tim, but he was curious as to how Jason would react. He knew deep down that Jason loved him; he realized that most of the time he was the only one on Jason’s side, the only one to fight for him and his place within the family.
Bruce better fucking fix that.
He was getting really close to the ground now, time felt like it was infinitely sped up but slowed down at the same time. The feeling of stress began to pressure around his being, there were still too many loose ends to tie up. What would Bludhaven PD do without him? Would Amy be okay? Who would carry on the name of Nightwing? Would Damian even want to after this? Would Cassie be okay? Barbara? Stephanie? Wally? God, there were so many people that loved him and an equal amount of people he loved back? He prayed to whoever was out there for the people he loved that everything would be alright. He prayed that his more dangerous loose ends wouldn’t come back to bite everyone’s ass.
There was just too much he still had left to do, too many things he would never get to experience. Birthdays, weddings, holidays, hang outs. All of it was just over now and Dick didn’t want to accept it. There was a Sunday brunch with Selina he planned that was now never going to happen, a birthday present he picked out for Damian’s sixteenth that he’d never get to give him now, a movie with Wally that he’d never get to see. Fuck, there was still so much to read and watch and experience.
He almost wished that he could stay around to haunt Slade for this bullshit.
But staying here after death truly sounded like a nightmare. Being forced to watch the people he loved mourn? Definitely not. Plus, he would never be able to see his parents again, if whatever deity that was out there was kind enough to even reunite them. If such a deity existed. Now was definitely not the time for a religion crisis, Dick figured he had enough of those while he was not so close to death.
Finally pushing that to another compartment in his head, he thought about his parents during what felt like the infinite fall.
His life sure felt like a bad sitcom sometimes. Unlucky orphan Annie gets adopted by a millionaire and has adventures as a hero? The only thing missing in his life was the laugh track and cheesy title sequence that had some nostalgic nineties’ music playing. The ultimate end to the joke, he supposed, was that after learning to fly without his parents, he would fall just like they had.
To die like your parents, what an unfortunate joke.
Time began to regulate again, deciding he had enough time to think back and contemplate life, and Dick began to snap back to the present. Shit, he really hoped he didn’t hit any pedestrians on the ground. Maybe then would he sacrifice finally resting to haunt Slade.
Screams began to filter into his ears, Dick was grateful that he was too far down to hear his family’s screams. Not that the cries below – who were about to see a nice, splattered body on the ground – were any less jarring.
Dick had once read that falling off the Empire State building would take about ten seconds. He realistically knew that his fall couldn’t have been more than five seconds, but it really felt like hours. He was glad.
A quick fall wouldn’t have allowed him to remember his family. His first Christmas with Bruce, his first day at Gotham Academy, meeting the team he once had at Mount Justice, meeting his Titans, watching his wonderfully dysfunctional family learn how to become whole again after never-ending tragedy, watching Damian grow.
So with his final breath, Dick smiled.
Because while his sitcom of a life wasn’t perfect, he undeniably loved it more than anything. He had so much to be angry about but even more to be grateful for.
Dick never felt the impact of the ground.
Never heard the throat tearing screams of his family as they made it to the ground. He didn’t get to see the way Damian gripped his body and wouldn’t let go; how Bruce tore himself apart over this, the way Jason never stopped regretting blowing them and patrol off, how Tim felt the crater of loss burned deep and unfillable.
This was for the best.