Robin Is A Family Name
When Bruce tried to take away his mother’s name, Dick was devastated. It was one of the only things that he had left of his family. Everything else had been left to the ravaging of time. He had only been 8 when his parents died, and left without much to hold onto of them. He had his family’s colours, those they always performed under, and his mother’s name. That was what Robin meant to him, he never wanted to start a legacy, never wanted anyone else to wear his family’s colours. They were his, and his alone as the last Flying Grayson. No one else had the right to wear them.
Yet Bruce passed them on as if he didn’t know the meaning of them, as if Dick hadn’t spent nights crying over his parents, explaining the meaning behind each part of his costume. As if Bruce himself didn’t cling to what he could of his parents, what stories Alfred had told him, the manor itself, and the business that his parents had left him. Bruce knew how carefully he had chosen his suit, in order to pay homage to his family. Bruce understood, or at least he had thought he had.
Then someone else popped up, calling himself Robin, bobbing along behind Bruce like he belonged there. When Dick first saw the articles he had to go throw up. He’d had copycats before, but this was different, this was Bruce ripping away the last piece of his family, and the circus, and his life before and giving it to someone else. Bruce adopting this new kid was just the last straw. He knew they were arguing. But Bruce had no right. To replace him, to use things with so much meaning that the new kid would never know. He was done.
Nightwing was a new beginning for him. He tried to forget about Robin, about all the complicated feelings tied to it. Nightwing, god of rebirth, and rising from the ashes, helped. Setting out on his own, without Bruce helped as well. Or at least it did, until the new kid sought him out. His name was Jason Todd, and Bruce had found him on the streets. The kid was excited to meet his “brother” and Dick tried to be nice, it wasn’t his fault that Bruce hadn’t told him the history behind the suit. The history embedded in the name of Robin.
He visited the manor for the kid and Alfred, neither of whom were at any fault. Each visit still ended in a blazing argument with Bruce however. No matter what was said he didn’t say anything about Robin and betrayal, not only did the new kid not deserve to hear it, but he couldn’t trust Bruce with it. Not anymore. Once was enough, he needed to try to get over it.
He had just returned from a mission in space when he heard. Jason Todd, the new Robin was dead, and he wanted to laugh, this was why he never wanted Robin to be a legacy. Because if it was a legacy, it would be a legacy of sorrow. Filled in death, and now someone had died in the Robin suit, in the suit he had created to honour his family, who had also died. Death followed the name. No one else should have been Robin.
Next thing he knew it was six months later, and this boy was sitting in his apartment in Bludhaven having tracked him down. He introduced himself as Tim Drake, one of their next door neighbours, as much as Wayne Manor had neighbours anyway, and told Dick that he knew he was NIghtwing, and that he needed to go help Bruce. He scoffed, why would he go help Bruce, it wasn’t like Bruce helped him. Last time he saw Bruce he kicked him out of the manor, again.
Tim was insistent, Batman needed a Robin. Tim wanted him to go back and take up the mantle again. But Robin wasn’t Dick’s anymore now was it? Apparently it belonged to Bruce, apparently it had always belonged to Bruce. He didn’t see why he should care, so Tim left.
Next thing Dick knew, Batman had a new Robin. He knew it had to be that rich kid. He was smart, yeah, having figured out their identities. But he didn’t know that the Robin legacy only held sorrow, so Dick headed to Gotham to teach the newest kid bearing his family’s colours what Bruce wouldn’t. How to survive as Robin. If he had done this for Jason, if he had done more for Jason than just leaving him a phone number to call if he needed…
Then perhaps Jason would have survived.
Eventually Tim became Baby Bird. He couldn’t call him Little Wing, cause that was Jason’s nickname. But he was Robin now, and like it or not, he was wearing his family colours, answering to his mother’s name. He was family. Dick had a new little brother. After all that was the meaning of Robin, family. Jason and Tim might not get that, and Bruce definitely didn’t understand. But Dick knew, and he knew what it truly meant, and he opened up his heart and life to Tim.
Then Joker decided to attack Tim, his little brother, another Robin. Joker’s taunts mingled in the air with the image of his family’s colours covered in blood again, from two little birds, and he couldn’t hold back. He was hurting because the Joker was trying to take away another member of his family. Bruce might not be part of his family as such anymore. But Robin? Any Robin was part of his family, that was part of being Robin. So he hurt the Joker, he hurt, and hurt the Joker for trying to take away his family again, trying to leave him with no one anymore. He had found his family in Robin, and he would keep that family for as long as he could. Then Bruce was there and pulling him away, and giving the Joker CPR. He had killed the Joker. No one touched his family.
When the Red Hood appeared and beat up Tim, Dick rushed to Gotham. His little brother was ok, and Bruce was hiding something from them. He didn’t find out what until he went out himself, and met the Red Hood, only to find out who was behind the helmet. If Robin meant family, then why was Jason attacking him and Tim? They were both Robins, they were family. It was so simple. Robin meant family. But no one got that. So he kept trying and reaching out to Jason, as he reconciled slowly with the family so he wasn’t instantly fighting them whenever he saw them.
Jason was hurt, he got that. It hurt to see a mantle you were used to seeing as yours given to someone else. It hurt to know that the people who hurt you were still alive. But did he have to take it out on Tim? Tim was family, they were a family, a family of Robins. Dick, Jaybird, and Timmy. His family was fighting and he didn’t know what to do.
Timmy had to retire from Robin, and his replacement, Stephanie Brown, also known as Cluemaster’s daughter and Spoiler, was amazing. Not only had he always wanted a little sister, and a female Robin was awesome! The only problem was that she was struggling with Bruce. Bruce had gotten on quite well with Tim, and Steph’s Robin was striking him as a lot more like the sort of Robin he and Jason had been. The sort who had ideas of their own, and struck out. He made sure to meet her, and help her as much as he could. He didn’t call her sister just yet. She wasn’t ready, nor close enough with Bruce for that.
He had hoped that maybe he was wrong about Robin’s legacy, Tim had retired semi peacefully after all. Then Steph got in a fight with Black Mask and was killed. His little sister, dead. He couldn’t even hunt down Black Mask, cause he had gone to ground. Tim was back in the Robin suit, and Tim’s dad was dead. Bruce had adopted him too.
There was a new kid around. She didn’t talk, and tried to help people. Bruce was helping her. He saw the side of Bruce that he had seen when he had first been brought into the manor. He couldn’t help but wonder at how long it had been since he had seen Bruce’s soft side. She was adopted too. Her name was Cass, and she had been trained by Deathstroke at one point. They had an understanding, the two of them did. One which led to her too, being a sister.
Then everything was a mess. Bruce was dead. Bruce also had a biological child with Talia Al Ghul. The kid, Damian knew nothing of life outside the League of Assassins and upon first meeting with Tim, tried to kill him to gain his “rightful place as Robin”, his so called birthright. Jason tried to claim the Batman mantle, so Dick was forced to become Batman to stop him. He couldn’t have Tim as his Robin, Tim, had nothing left to learn from him, and although once a Robin, always a Robin, he could still become someone else. Yet Tim refused to believe Bruce was dead and ran off. Cass was in Hong Kong still as Black Bat, and Steph, had faked her death? He was just glad that she was alive. He had two little sisters and he didn’t want to lose either of them.
He also had three little brothers. As Damian’s guardian, and Batman, he chose to give his little brother the bloodstained legacy of Robin. But also the message of family built in. He chose Damian as part of his family, not Bruce, not Tim, he got this choice. Lil’ D was a Robin now, not only that but his Robin, the one he got to choose, and that was special. Damian was his.
Eventually, it was all sorted out. Bruce was alive, and Tim had managed to find him. Jason was mostly over his pit madness, and able to work with the family again. Damian kept Robin, Tim now having taken the moniker of Red Robin, which made Dick happy, a sign that he still wanted to be part of the family. Steph was now Batgirl and one of the main bridges between his family and Babs’. The two of them having started a legacy of Robin and Batgirl to go down through the ages. And he was back as Nightwing again, released from the unrelenting weight of the cowl.
His family had gathered together one day. Not the whole family, just the former Robins. They were teasing each other, when one commented on how Dick was never adopted by Bruce. After which they all turned to him in question.
He sighed. “Yes, I was never adopted, that doesn’t mean I don’t consider you all family. Even if B was never my father. Do you know why I chose the name Robin?”
They all looked at each other, and he had never told any of them this story before, this story of Bruce’s shortcomings, and his failures.
“I chose Robin, for a reason. You all know I was raised in the circus, well the circus was family. I was the last of many generations of Flying Graysons, it was all I had known. My mom called me Robin, you know, as a nickname. Just like my dad was called Robin by his mother and so forth. Robin had a rich line of history behind it, and I was the last.
“Each generation of Robin always wore the same colours too, the red, yellow, and green. They were the sign of the new generation, and after they graduated they changed their colours. My colours for after my graduation were to be blue and black.
“I chose the name and colours as a way of honouring my family, of honouring those who came before, as the last Flying Grayson.
“I thought Bruce understood that, I thought that right up until he fired me.”
You could tell none of them had known this, by their faces. Likely up until this story they had all thought that Dick had left Robin willingly, to be more than a sidekick.
“It was hard when I found out he had decided to put Jason in my suit, Robin was never meant to have a legacy after I retired from Robin. Not even if I had a kid. Cause even if I have a kid, I would still be the last Flying Grayson.”
He turned to Jason. “I’m sorry for how I treated you at first Jay, I had to get over myself. Robin was a family thing for me and I didn’t consider you family then, I was too hurt. Between B adopting you, and replacing me, well…I can say that I never visited the manor to see Bruce during that time.
“Then Jay died, and all I could see is Robin having a cursed legacy, cause someone who wasn’t a Flying Grayson wore it. That’s why I was so against Tim wearing it. I had never wanted Robin to be resurrected after me in the first place. Batman didn’t need a Robin, I felt.
“But I tried, Tim was Robin, and I couldn’t let Bruce make the same mistakes that he had made with Jason and I. So I visited more often and soon Robin meant more than curses, and sorrow, and replacement. It meant family. You were wearing my family colours, and so you had become my family.
“And Jay, I started to think of you in the same way, and wish I had been there more for you, that we really could have been brothers like you said on that day you were adopted.
“And when Timmy seemed to retire peacefully, I hoped the curse was broken. I was excited to meet you Steph, I know I never told you this, but as soon as you put on that suit I considered you a sister. You were Robin, just the same as the rest of us.”
He met her eyes as he said this, hoping she could tell that he meant it.
“Then Steph died, and Tim came back as Robin. My family was dying again. Then Jason came back alive. I didn’t care what he did, he was still my Little Wing, still family, still Robin. So I tried, and tried to reach him, and no matter what I kept trying. And look at us now. Someone succeeded.
“Then the whole thing with Bruce happened. I never wanted to be Batman. I could see the weight of the cowl. But I couldn’t let my little brother feel that weight. It wouldn’t have helped him at all, the pit madness would have got worse. So I took it on, and I had nothing else to teach Tim as Robin, he was ready to graduate to his own colours, and so I told him. But Tim didn’t take it that way. All he saw was me not believing that Bruce was alive and firing him. I honestly didn’t know if Bruce was alive or not. What I did know was that Bruce had left me everything to deal with. Including his ten year old son, who had been raised in the League of Assassins.”
He leaned forward to look at his youngest brother here. “Dami, I gave you Robin. By giving you Robin, you are part of my family. No matter what. You wear my family’s name, and my family’s colours. You have become, in a way, a Flying Grayson. I am so proud of you, and so glad you stayed. You were the best partner I could have asked for.”
He leant back to survey everyone. “By wearing my family’s name and colours, and then graduating on your own, you all were Flying Graysons. You made it so I wasn’t alone in the world anymore. You gave me a family again, one I never expected to have. Thank you all. I love you all so much.”
They sat in silence at the end of this, slowly moving. Damian leant against one knee, while Steph came over and hugged Dick. Tim leant against the other side while Jason leant over them all from behind.
“A family, you know I like the sound of that. A family of Robins, bent and bruised, but carrying on the legacy of the Flying Graysons in our own way. Thanks Dickhead, we’ll remember this.”