he was the golden child.
born into a family of acrobats, the flying graysons, he was the youngest, he was his parents little richard—a little bird amidst the stars of the traveling circus. his childhood was amazing. he never felt like he didn’t belong, and his family went far outside just his biological one. the circus was his home, each individual person who made it up felt like his family, but he wasn’t older than 9 years old when everything changed.
he overheard two voices outside the tent during a performance, peeking around he saw two gang members threatening the owner of the circus for money, and when the owner denied them, he figured the situation had been handled and completed. he didn’t expect to turn back see his parents doing their arial stunts and for the wires to suddenly turn to acid, disintegrating and dropping his parents what must’ve been 80 feet. he ran towards them, he was in the back and holding his breath as he sprang forward, but he didn’t make it time. he would’ve never been able to make it in time, and as the crowds suddenly realized the gravity of the situation and that this was in no way, part of the show, it turned into a frenzy.
people were running in all different directions, shouting in fear and confusion as dick grayson, now completely alone, held his mother’s head upright in his hands, and he wept. he’d never seen tragedy until then, sure—sometimes the animals got sick, they got old, they needed to be gently put down but there was nothing gentle, nothing merciful about a random killing. there was nothing kind or sympathetic about letting innocents die.
the anger and hatred that pooled inside him, the rage that fought to be free was directed towards fighting those who had brought wreckage on his home, his life. his parents death had been quick, painless, he hoped to believe that was the case and at first, he wanted them to feel the same thing his parents had—but before he could even run off after anyone to make them pay, he was taken away by social services.
he was not a child of violence, not really.
he was a child of circumstance, bad circumstance, but he was the type to fight back when cornered, he was the type to stand his ground when those he loved were in danger. and now? being driven away from his home? he felt more hopeless than ever.
dick was going to be thrown into social services foster care, but since the orphanage in gotham city he was supposed to go to was full, he was thrown into the juvenile services system first. even in a juvenile detention center, dick didn’t seem to belong—and other kids, those who were bigger, older, meaner than him found no problem in beating up the newest addition. he was just a little acrobat who’d been thrown in due to overcrowding and everyone seemed to know he wasn’t going to put up too much of a fight before getting overpowered and knocked out.
the guards and warden of the center must’ve realized the situation and found a catholic orphanage to send dick away to instead, and it was like a respite from hell for the young boy. he was still bitter, still angry and at a loss and all he wanted was for his parents to come back into his life and hold him close and tell him it was going to be okay.
instead, he was met with bruce wayne. resident billionaire, gotham’s biggest deal, came waltzing into the orphanage and when his eyes fell on dick, who was wistfully pulling at blades of grass in the outside courtyard, told the nun in charge that dick grayson would find himself a home at wayne manor.
but being taken in by bruce wayne sounded better than it actually was, and dick grayson felt the distant aloof mannerisms from bruce and the child went neglected. he was used to constant socialization in the circus, whether it was with his family or other members of the circus itself, or it was from people who came to see the shows--dick grayson grew up with constant attention, constant loving physical contact, and now it seemed like in the course of a few months, suddenly he was alienated from the world and other people. and not only was he ignored and had free run of wayne manor, but dick was still so angry and resentful towards those who had killed his parents, it shouldn’t have been surprising that under the ‘not so watchful gaze’ of bruce wayne, (and poor alfred) dick snuck out into the night and ran off to try to find anything he could in order to make the people responsible pay for taking his family away from him.
before he could even think about going to the police, a man dick knew as the vigilante batman was stepping into his space, was telling him that those two men worked for a a crime boss and if dick said anything about it, surely he’d meet the same fate as his parents. the emotions still ran rapid inside dick but he had no choice but to listen to the batman as he seemed to have a plan.
he always had a plan, young grayson would soon discover.
a lot happened between then and now.
to find out that batman was the man who’d taken him in from the orphanage, the man who in so many ways, was a mentor and father figure to him was one hurdle to get over. it wasn’t a hard hurdle, either. just a regular hurdle, perfectly easy to do a backflip over like the acrobat dick was—and he was living in the home of bruce wayne, batman and they’d taken out the mafia boss, the crime lord together and gotham felt like a safer place as he and his gang members were dragged away in handcuffs.
to become batman’s closest companion and sidekick was another hurdle to get over. dick was well trained in acrobatics, yes, he was flexible, his dexterity was through the roof and he had no fear of heights whatsoever. all good things, yes, but he had to learn how to fight. that was, unsurprisingly more difficult than the first hurdle of accepting his mentor as batman.
and with batman, he was the golden child again.
it didn't take long for him to find such a strong bond with the billionaire, bruce wayne and batman as one person...well, he was too serious most of the time. too serious and broody, and maybe he found dick to be much like him, save for the overwhelming mysterious and edgy attitude. they were both left on their own in this world, both left to their own devices, and they both had to do whatever they could to overcome it.
losing his parents was no blessing in disguise, and dick missed them every day of his life, but he recognize that if they weren't gone--if he wasn't filled with rage and a drive to punish those who had murdered them? he would've never met bruce wayne at all. there's so much he would've never done, so many people he would've never met. dick grayson, robin, the boy wonder was an integral part to the success of batman throughout gotham. he missed his life at the circus, though, even to this day.
but, he found fighting crime to be...fun, most of the time. there was a surge of excitement every time the bat signal was sent vibrantly into the sky--batman had all sorts of tools and things, weapons that were constantly changing, constantly getting better, more efficient, and the two of them changed their approaches in attacking with whatever was thrown their way. they were a team, a true team, with the utmost trust in one another, and dick never doubted for a second that batman would come save him if he was in trouble.
he wonders if jason could say the same.
after years of growing up by batman's side, living his life in wayne manor--one could suppose it was only natural for his teenage self to want a sense of independence. he was synonymous with batman, robin didn't exist on your own, and that's what led dick to step away from being batman's sidekick and create his own group of heroes, all teenagers, all eager to prove themselves--the teen titans. batman was proud, of course, it was like his son was breaking away to do his own thing, and yet that left him with an emptiness. it wasn't long until bruce wayne had saved jason todd and took him in as a new robin.
at first it was a strange thing, to see himself replaced by someone only 4 years younger than he, someone who had all the potential in the world--would he be better than the original robin? whenever dick visited, leaving the teen titans behind for a bit, he always enjoyed jason's company, even though jason was far more sarcastic than dick would ever be. dick was mild mannered, polite, he was thoughtful and he processed his words before even speaking them aloud. this new robin was not grayson. it was comforting, in a way. at least they both had their own separate personalities and fighting style to set themselves apart.
dick was busy doing his own crime fighting, and it was in that time that he saw it. jason todd: status: deceased. the computer had everyone's records and dick stood with the teen titans, eyes reading over every little detail and he broke down into tears. dick himself was hurt at the time, wounded on a mission, and using his crutches to move closer to the computer, he could barely hear the voices of his teammates, "jason? dead? how old was he anyway?" or "richard? do you need my help?" even worse: "there's been nothing in the papers. almost like they're trying to hide it." bruce hadn't called him--the phones at the wayne manor continuously went unanswered and dick was falling apart.
batman didn't save him in time.
losing someone you were supposed to protect puts a heavy burden on you. dick felt that heaviness the second he walked into wayne manor, and his heart clenched in his chest. bruce wayne was a broken man to begin with. but this? jason had put his trust in batman and batman couldn't save him in time. wayne manor felt deserted.
dick went to jason's grave with star--and the amount of guilt that swallowed him up was unbearable. "bruce never called me to tell me what happened to jason...he didn't know i was half-way across the universe, but he didn't even leave a message on my machine, if danny hadn't found out.."
"i called alfred. bruce hasn't slowed down since jason died. he took a business trip the next day. the batman's been on the prowl every night. i gave jason my old robin costume. i should've been there."
there was a darkness that lingered for many years after that. batman chose to be alone, and sometimes he didn't even want to see dick, he just wanted to mourn on his own. it hit dick too, since jason and him had become close, the younger robin was eager to learn from the original, and dick had been so happy to help--there was no way jason deserved something like this to happen.
but batman didn't save him in time.
as the years passed, dick moved on and continued to fight against those who would do harm to innocents--but one thing batman had taught him stayed with him the entire time. killing a criminal was not justice. ending their life didn't solve any problems and just put you at the same level as them--so when dick heard there was a vigilante who was killing criminals, violently so, he found himself working with batman once more.
by this time he'd been with young justice and working solo, bouncing back and forth and no longer did he go by the moniker robin. it seemed best to let it go, it seemed like...well, there was...a sour taste in his mouth ever since jason died. yes, dick was the original robin, but he didn't want to let the robin that came after him fade into nothingness as though he were never there to begin with.
that was the name he went by from then on, his focus was the city over--bludhaven, so coming back to gotham and working with batman once again felt surreal. this vigilante set on murdering those who did harm...while dick could understand why this 'red hood' figure did this, it wasn't the way to go about fighting crime in gotham.
but the red hood was something to marvel at. he was skilled, quick, efficient in his skills, he was ruthless, and dick couldn't help but be absolutely stunned and impressed by the other vigilante. and his fighting style? it was...familiar. batman was frustrated, he was angry about the whole situation and the red hood was giving the two of them a run for their money. dick figured bruce saw the familiarity too.
there was no denying that the red hood, this vengeful, cruel figure was none other than jason todd.
he wasn't allowed to see him again so soon. dick wanted to see jason, he wanted to reach out and apologize for not being there more, for allowing this to happen--even though he knew this wasn't his fault, none of this was, he felt like he was supposed to help more than he did.
but jason was far gone. he was damaged, he was resentful, he hated with so much fire in his blood, and he blamed the batman for being too weak to kill those who would do harm to others. dick knew where he was coming from. dick remembered wanting to kill those who had killed his parents. he remembered.
his support from his childhood on had always been bruce, and alfred, and then the titans and young justice--babs, wally, kori, raven.....jason...dick was surrounded by love. he felt heartbreak when he thought about jason. he felt such a debilitating ache in his chest, all he wanted to do was apologize for not being there to save him.
returning to his friends after learning that jason was still alive and was a bloodthirsty vigilante was...difficult. wally always wanted to make sure dick had a smile on his face, and he appreciated that more than the speedster would ever know.
and bruce? he'd moved on and he had a new robin, tim drake, smarter than anyone else dick knew--he was kind and gentle and dick took it upon himself to be a mentor figure to tim more than he had been for jason. jason...he felt he neglected, he was too busy, he was doing his own things, he was becoming nightwing, but tim? dick wouldn't make the same mistakes with tim. he couldn't.
and the red hood started coming around more often.
he was more resentful towards dick than ever, it was like he blamed him for being the first robin, he blamed dick for being something and someone jay could never live up to be like--and all dick could do was try to be kind and his normal chatty, albeit sometimes annoyingly so, self. kill him with kindness, right?
tim drake was a successful robin, but it was when damien was brought into the so-called bat family that things got to feel a bit...strange. at first, at least. damien wayne, he was...in...technical terms, bruce wayne's son. biologically. and he took that right and went with it as far as he could go, and while dick, jason and tim were never blood related, they were never truly bruce wayne's blood, they suddenly seemed to be in a different place. and damien was...different.
dick tried to play the older brother card he'd played with tim towards damien, and sometimes it would work. sometimes it wouldn't. maybe there was some resentment in damien towards dick, as well.
he was, after all, still the golden child.
he'd grown up and moved out and was living a life on his own, and he went back to wayne manor whenever he could. but he was his own person now, not in the shadow of anyone else, and he could understand the other robin's resentment. like the eldest child, he put the expectations out there for the younger ones to follow.
but they had everything at their disposal to be better than dick. and dick would always be there if they needed any help. even if they don't want it.