The knock at the door came as a surprise. After last night's failure of a mission everyone was in a glum mood. Robin had recovered from the day flu but M’gann was still feeling the effect of the fire. Artemis opened the door timidly. A girl with long blonde hair and in warm winter clothes stood there.
“Can I help you?” Artemis asked harshly.
“Yeah, hi,” she paused almost timidly, “I’m looking for a Dan?” She paused, “a ‘Dan Danger’” using air quotes to frame Robin’s cover name.
Artemis looked back into their compartment. Dick was leaning over his bunk when he caught sight of the girl in the doorway. “Oh shit,” he mumbled.
No one moved. The air filled with tensioned as Robin and the girl stared at each other. Then Robin tilted his head, the girl raised an eyebrow, Robin let out an exasperated sigh, the girl rolled her eyes and turned back to the hallway. “Crows,” she said walking away.
Artemis closed the door with a thud. Everyone looked at Robin, who looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. His face mixed with happiness, panic, and shock. Artemis broke the silence. “Who the fuck was that?”
Robin got out of his bunk and started dressing for the cold weather outside. “No one important,” he said shoving his foot into his boot.
Artemis looked at the rest of the team and raised an eyebrow, almost as if to say, are we really going to let this slide? But no one dared to say anything as Robin finished wrapping himself up. “I have to go deal with this, I’ll be back.” He said opening the compartment door.
“Wait Rob--- Dan, is everything ok?” M’Gann asked.
Robin turned with a wistful smile, “Yeah, I just have to say hello to an old friend.”
The door softly closed behind him leaving the room filled with silence.
Conner opened his mouth, but no words came out. Artemis brushed some hair behind her ear, and whispered: “Was that... was that someone who actually knows Robin?”
Dick trudged outside heading towards the main tent. The snow swirled around him as if telling him to turn around, to go back to the warm train with his friends. He passed posters that advertised different famous acts that had performed at the circus. He stopped at stared at the posters depicting his families act, The Flying Graysons, he looked at the poster hanging on the left of it. It showed a young contortionist with silvery blonde hair.
Lights and the sounds of drums filled the air. Dick ran around the backstage area to the curtain so he could peek out. Standing in the middle of the ring was his Uncle Haly. A drum rose to a crescendo the fell away.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” Haly’s voice boomed across the arena. “You certainly have a treat in store for you today. For the first time ever, may I present, for the first time the one! The only! Flo Rider!”
The crowd clapped and cheered as Flo swooped down from the ceiling wrapped in silk. Dick stood mesmerized but the girl only 3 years older than he, twisted and bent in ways that should have been impossible. The crowd loved her. She twirled and spun, winking and blowing kisses. Her act wasn’t as long as the others, but she entertained the crowd just the same. Dick couldn’t wait until he was 10 so he could also have a solo act.
All too soon the lights grew dim and Flo pranced off stage towards Dick. “So,” Flo laughed, pulling him behind the curtain, “How did I do?”
“You did great,” Dick said smiling up at her. Flo was taller that Dick since she was 3 years older than he was. But the age difference never mattered to them, they were best friends. They got in all sorts of trouble with each other around the circus.
“Thanks, Dick, the Riders may not be as good as the Graysons, but we can still entertain.” She teased.
“That’s right,” a man said walking up behind Flo and ruffling her hair, “you did fantastic up there sweetheart.”
Flo gave him a hug, “Thanks, Dad.”
“Now your mother and I have to go a perform, you two don’t get in too much trouble now, ya hear?” He said with a wink walking towards the curtain where his wife stood.
“Come on,” Flo said grabbing Dick’s hand, “Let’s go see if we can steal some popcorn.”
Dick laughed, allowing her to pull her along. He smiled and waved as he passed his family gearing up for the act at the end of the show. His mother waved back before turning to say something to his uncle.
Dick turned away from the poster with a sigh. Flo’s mother died of cancer a few months after that and then Flo and her father left the circus. He a Flo tried to keep in touch, it was hard though with all the traveling the circus did, and then, when Dick was 8 he watched has his whole family plummeted to their deaths. He stopped writing after that.
He pulled back the tent flap and walked inside. It was dark inside, with only a few lights on that casted a weak dim light over the ring in the middle. Dick walked forward, eyes quickly adjusting to the dim light after years of training with Bruce.
“So… you go by Dan now huh?” A voice called out from above.
Dick looked up and there sitting on the acrobat’s platform was Flo with her feet dangling over the edge. Her silvery blonde hair cascaded down and framed her face. Dick smiled and started to climb up the rungs swiftly and surely, experience and confidence oozing off of him the higher he got. When he reached the top, he plopped down next to her. The sat there for a little, staring at the empty stands.
“How did you know I was back?” Dick asked, breaking the silence.
“Uncle Haly and I talk, he mentioned that you were back and using a different name.”
Dick turned to face her, eyes growing wide. “Wait, Uncle Haly knows I’m here!?!?”
Flo smiled softly, “You can hide that sort of talent in the air, the way you fly, even when we kids… you defy gravity. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Dick nodded, turning back to stare out at the emptiness. They sat there for a while, soaking in each other’s presence. Flo inhaled as if to say something, then with a shake of her head she exhaled.
“What?” Dick said nudging her.
“Why perform under a different name? Why Dan? I mean I get if your name didn’t start with a D but Di—“
“They don’t know my name,” Dick said cutting her off before she could say his whole name. “They don’t know who I am. And as for why, well, my name carries weight in certain circles. I guess it’s nice to perform without the pressure. Dan… well, Dan doesn’t have to be perfect. He doesn’t have the legacy to live up to.”
Flo nodded. “I get that, performing under the name is different. From what Uncle Haly told me, you’re living under the name, you didn’t even tell Uncle Haly who you are. And your team doesn’t even know who you are, how can you trust them.”
“I trust everyone in my act with my life. I found a group of outcasts like me. They don’t have any preconceived ideas about who I am because of my name. They just know me.” Dick said with a shrug.
Flo nodded, “Your name certainly comes with pressure. Even more pressure since you left the circus, before only performers knew who you were. Now it feels like the whole world does.”
Dick barked out a laugh. “Yeah, yeah I guess you could say that. What about you though? I haven’t spoken to you since… well, we haven’t spoken in a while.”
“Well after Mum died, my dad and I moved to Central City. Said he wanted to give me a proper life. We were good for a little bit, but I think Mum’s death hit him hard. He wasn’t used to living in the same place for that long ya know? He lived his whole life moving from city to city performing. He started getting restless and agitated. He got fired from so many jobs. He refused to move through, said he wanted me to have stability. He started drinking, became a real nasty drunk. He was a different man, he wasn’t my father anymore. About a year ago he was working the night shift one night as a security guard. Real boring, guarding a car park of all things. He, well, he was drinking and a couple of car thieves came and,” she held up her fingers in a gun shape a fired, “they shot him from behind. The damn liquor bottle still clutched in his hands.”
“Oh Flo, I’m so sorry,” Dick said wrapping his arm around him in a side hug.
“It’s ok, he wasn’t the man you knew. By the time he had died, I was pretty much self-sustaining. I didn’t have to worry about his temper anymore.” She massaged her wrist as if a ghost of an injury still haunted her. “Anyways, turns out it was one of the best things to happen to me. I got emancipated from the state, finished high school early and I am now going to a local college. Not bad for a 16-year-old eh?”
“Did you come to Europe just to see me?” Dick questioned.
“Wow, someone’s got an ego,” Flo laughed, trying to bring the mood up. “I was actually in Italy, visiting some Romani tribes when Haly called.”
Dick quirked an eyebrow asking a silent why? “It’s for school.” Flo said, “a professor in anthropology is studying nomadic tribes and their culture. She invited me along because she knew I have Romani blood and can you know, speak Romani. She was ok with me taking a little side trip. Especially when I told her it was to see an old friend. So, what about you, how have you been?”
Dick smiled before launching into some of the more mundane tales of his life.