"Someday, the weight of the world will give you the strength to go."

-Linkin Park

oOo

Blue eyes opened slowly, drinking in surroundings and remembering the events of last night.

The ebony catapulted out of bed and was in the Cave within seconds, where Alfred was already changing Bruce's bandages. He looked up, not at all surprised, and simply said, "Breakfast is upstairs on the table. You may come back down when you have eaten it."

Alfred returned upstairs to see that Master Richard had indeed eaten some of his breakfast, but his appetite seemed to have run out after one or two bites. The boy himself was nowhere in sight. After doing a fair bit of searching, Alfred found that he had gone up to the roof and was taking in the view, obviously in very deep thought.

"Master Richard?" Dick didn't turn around, but softly replied, "Yes?" Alfred sighed deeply and, against his better judgement, ventured onto the roof with him and sat, carefully, next to him. At this, Dick swiftly turned and gaped for a moment before composing himself and asking, "You're up here? Why?"

The butler chuckled and answered, "You obviously need someone to talk to, Master Richard, and I am happy to provide the service, even if it requires going quite a bit outside of my comfort zone." Dick smiled weakly and pulled Alfred in for a hug. After the moment had passed to an extent, Alfred asked the difficult question. "I can tell you feel very responsible for Master Bruce's current situation, but why?"

Dick didn't speak at first. He looked out at the city around him and thought for a moment. "I do feel responsible," he finally admitted. Alfred rubbed the teen's back gently before admitting himself, "Master Richard, I should be responsible. I told you I was coming in the jet to help you, and then I did not. I hadn't enough time to refill the fuel. I should have filled it beforehand, and I did not, so you were forced to seek your friends' help. I failed him and you as well."

"But Alfred, you've never failed us. You were always there. Wally was a better option than the jet anyway, he was faster. I'm the one who let Bruce get hurt in the first place. He gave me a job, and I got so caught up I forgot to do the first job Robin was meant for; watching his back. And look what happened. I failed him Alfred, not you."

Alfred nodded quietly to himself. It appeared this problem would have to be rectified by Bruce himself if it was to be truly rectified. "Well, as the saying goes, Master Richard, everyone makes mistakes. You are not an exception. Perhaps when Master Bruce wakes up, he call tell you his thoughts on the matter. Come along, it' cold up here. You look as if you need some hot chocolate."

oOo

Bruce hadn't woken up at all yet and, although Alfred had promised to keep him posted, Dick went to school that day with a sense of uncertainty in the pit of his stomach. Barbara couldn't help but notice his downcast demeanor over the course of the school day. For a hyperactive and talkative kid, he had mostly kept to himself the entire day. Barbara, being suspicious and wanting answers, had decided to ask him at lunch what had gotten him in such a bad mood.

How was she to know that Batman being stabbed would matter at all to Dick Grayson? She wasn't the only curious one, however. A certain Artemis Crock had also noticed this strange behavior and sat at the table where Dick and Barbara normally hung out to search for some answers. Barbara didn't like Artemis much, although she would never admit that it was because she was jealous of a non-existent relationship between the blonde and her best friend that had formulatedin her mind after Artemis' first day and Dick's attempt at being "friendly to the new girl."

Dick sat down and began to pick at his food absentmindedly while Artemis sat down across from the two friends. Dick mumbled a hello to the blonde, who replied with a 'hello to you too'. Barbara put aside her dislikes and decided not to glare at Artemis for the entirety of the lunch period. To begin the investigation, she took a bite out of her sandwich and asked him, casually, "How's your day going?" Dick looked at her with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes and said, "Fine. How 'bout you?"

"Great! So is there something going on I don't know about or something?" The redhead asked, much in a way that reminded her of her dad. Dick frowned. "No. Why do you ask?" Babs shrugged and, keeping her voice casual, said, "No reason. You've just been quiet all day." Dick laughed halfheartedly. "Oh, I've just been thinking." Don't be curious, don't be curious! He mentally pleaded. I haven't lied to you yet, please don't make me start now...

But Barbara was always curious. "About what?" Dick didn't lie. "Bruce," he replied quietly. Both girls at his table knew his relationship with Bruce was both strained and emotional and neither of them would ask too deep a question in such a personal situation. This Dick was counting on. "Oh. Everything okay?" Artemis cautiously ventured. "Fine." And so Dick quietly excused himself and the two girls looked at each other and sighed simultaneously.

Close one! Dick thought nervously as he trudged back to his locker.

oOo

Dick had tried to keep his exhaustion and frustration at bay for the remainder of the school day after narrowly avoiding an intense questioning by Barbara and Artemis. When the final bell rang and Alfred pulled up to take the boy home, Richard had barely buckled his seatbelt before he asked the question that had been in his mind all day, "How's Bruce?"

Alfred pulled out of the school's grounds and began the drive to the Manor with a calm and unreadable look on his face. "Master Bruce is doing fine. He woke up shortly after you left and has been in and out all day. He isn't in too much pain as I just added some painkillers to his IV and, yes, Master Richard, he wishes to speak with you. Now may I ask how your school day was?"

Dick slumped in his seat. "Fine," he mumbled, expecting the butler to chastise his bad manners, but Alfred remained silent and appeared to be intensely concentrating on the road in front of him. There was a good and a bad side to the information Dick had just been given. Bruce was doing okay and therefore he had no reasons to stress, but Bruce wanted to talk to him and Dick was at least ninety percent sure it was going to be a lot more scolding than talking to him.

He was right.

It had taken every ounce of self-control the boy had to keep from pouncing on his mentor and squeezing him in a tight hug the moment he walked in to the Cave. If nothing else, Bruce's expression certainly discouraged the idea enough.

Alfred recognised the tension in the room and left quietly so the two could "talk". Dick started off awkwardly, "How are you feeling?" Bruce kept his voice level, for the most part concealing his undertone of disappointment in his ward. "I'll be fine." Both of them knew that meant; the blade hadn't been poisoned. It was usually unlikely for a small-time criminal to carry a poisonous knife, but lately Batman and Robin had uncovered several interesting cases in which simple robbers or low-class drug dealers would have such dangerous weapons on them.

Thankfully Bane's goon hadn't been one of those men.

"So," Dick started off again. "You wanted to debrief me?" Of course, Alfred had only said that Bruce had wanted to "talk". Both Bruce and Dick knew the true purpose of the discussion, but neither wanted too urgently to begin it. "I did," came the answer. Dick nodded and sat down on a seat next to the bed his mentor lay on and fixed his gaze on the floor as the man began.

"You did one of your tasks correctly, that was good. I was informed that the shipment was destroyed even if Bane escaped. Your second task was not so well done. Your job was to watch my back; you failed. The primary reason for Robin's creation was to provide backup to Batman. That is still your primary job, and you failed. You disobeyed one of the most important rules of being Robin; you let your emotions control you.

"After our earlier discussion, you became intent on proving yourself, and in that action you caused a mission to go completely south and jeopardized lives. You are better than this, and you know it. Seeing how this mission went has caused me to have to make a decision concerning Gotham's protection during my recovery that you are not included in. Until I can patrol again, the League will be taking shifts in Gotham which you are to stay out of, is that clear?"

Dick grimly nodded before making eye contact briefly with his surrogate father and leaving quickly. He could only dread the next few weeks to come.

This'll be one long recovery.

oOo

hello again! Sorry for the wait, this is a bit of a bridge chapter and it took some motivation to pump it out thanks to the current frenzy I'm in over my newer story, "The Underworld Age". Another chapter of that should be up in a day or two, if anyone was wondering what on this good Earth could halt my five chapter writing streak on that one. Please review! I never know if anyone's really out there in the virtual world until I hear from them...

Have a good week, virtual people.