Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author: NorthernStar

Archive: Yes

Rating: U/G

Warnings: None

Timeline: Post Resurrection of Ra's, taking place shortly after Detective 839. While that does have some bearing on the story, this is not a "what happened next…" fic.

Summary: It's Christmas and the Bat-family gather to decorate the tree. Dick muses. (Rats, I am so bad at summarising!)

Notes: Happy Christmas everyone!

Never Told a Soul

By NorthernStar

The Christmas tree was huge; by far the biggest Alfred had ever procured. Its branches were spread wide, encroaching on the large living room making it seem smaller and somehow warmer and cosier too.

But in the back of his mind, Bruce guessed it had more to do with the people in the room, not the decorations.

They were home.

Bruce closed his eyes briefly.

Not all

Dick's voice pulled him back into the moment, giving him grounding, just as it had always done, from the moment the boy had entered this house. His eyes followed Dick, who was eagerly unsealing the box of much loved decorations that had appeared from wherever the butler stored them with his good arm.

Both he and Tim took out the various baubles and bells and little trinkets they'd collected over the years. The tree had as many mementos as the Cave downstairs, although none were quite so grand as a fifty foot dinosaur or a huge penny. But when had there got to be so many?

The two boys began to hang them on the tree. Bruce had noticed a silence between them, not hostile or angry, just tangibly there. He would have to question them on it later. Anything that might affect their ability to work as a team was unacceptable.

Dick held up a large red painted bauble and grinned. Alfred had brought it for him long ago, a sort of welcome gift for his first Christmas at the manor. He had done the same for Jason too, and as Bruce watched, the silver bell that commemorated him was also lifted from the box. In years past, there had been a reverence to this act that was muted now.

Perhaps Alfred should have left the bell in the box…

Just as he had left the cross he'd bought for his son's first Christmas here upstairs, hidden in the drawer. Waiting, perhaps, for the right time.

And yet, somehow, in his heart, even as he had handed over the money for the bell, he had known Damien would never get to place it on the tree. He just hadn't imagined it would be like this.

More decorations followed and then came the Star – a Wayne family heirloom cast in silver and encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Tim's face lightened some as Dick gave him a boost up so he could carefully place it on the top of the tree.

And finally, as always, the last decoration came out. Alfred handed Dick the so familiar small box. Bruce watched the smile creep across the young man's face as he opened it and took out its contents. He never knew what passed through Dick's mind, but he always wore the same wistful, secretive smile…

Dick carefully opened the little box. Inside, on a bed of cotton wool, was a beautifully enamelled European robin. Bruce had given it to Dick many years before. It had commemorated Robin's first Christmas.

Dick took out the little ornament, feeling its weight in his hand. It always brought back so many memories, of a simpler time, when he was just Robin, the Boy Wonder, so certain of his role in life…and in Bruce's life.

He wasn't Robin anymore, and the mantle had been handed down, mostly without his blessing or consent and that made him sad, but in end, when all was said and done, Robin was still his.

An image flickered in his mind. Damien, standing there, in his costume…

Dick quickly banished the thought and used the hem of his T to shine the little bird, making the enamel and gilt glisten.

He was older now. When he first encountered Jason in his stolen costume, using his stolen name, it had hurt much worse.

But he didn't hate Damien, he understood, maybe more than he wanted too. Anger could be so much easier, so much cleaner sometimes. Understanding weighed heavier.

Damien, Jason and even Tim…they had all taken those borrowed clothes in an effort to get close to Batman, to get as close to Batman as he had done.

Dick placed the robin upon the branch. It looked almost real, just like the one he'd seen all those years ago, amid the deep snows of Paris. …

He hid the secret smile he knew was creeping across his lips.

Robin. The name he'd chosen for the Dark Knights squire…

None of them knew, not even Bruce, the real reason it was Robin. They didn't know the truth and that was something they could never steal from him.

"I'm cold." Little Dick Grayson mumbled through dry, cracked lips.

Mary Grayson smiled and pulled her son's hood up over his head. "I know." She said, cuddling up closer to him. "Daddy won't be long."

Dick sniffed loudly and wiped his runny nose on his sleeve, earning him a frown from his mother. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and dapped at his face, making him squirm away.

John Grayson cast a concerned look at his son and doubled his efforts to dig up the small fir that was destined to be their Christmas tree. It was taking far longer than one very tiny tree ought.

Dick sighed and sat down on the ground only to be told to get back up or he'd turn into an icicle. Dick mulled this over for a while, imaging life as an icicle and decided it was one of those things that adults said but didn't mean.

His mother tapped his shoulder and put out her hand, directed her son's gaze to a gap in holly bushes. Between the spiky leaves was a small round bird, feathers fluffed up to keep it warm. It cocked its head, beady black eye watching them back.

Dick smiled then broke into a grin of delight as the little bird dropped down onto the ground not far from them and began hopping and bobbing around the upturned soil. The little bird had realised what John Grayson was doing, and knew that worms were on offer.

Dick watched it, his chill forgotten in the magic of this little bird. He looked up at his mother. "Why is it red?" He whispered.

"No one knows. There's a story...but…"

Dick looked eager. "Tell me? I wanna hear the story. Please?"

Mary snuggled up to her son, and then she looked at him seriously. He would come to realise she was judging whether he was old enough to hear what she had to say. Then she took off her necklace, laying the pendant in her hand.

The crucifix glittered in the light.

"That's Jesus." He said.

"He died on the cross." His mother told him softly and ran the tip of her finger over the head of the Lord. "They gave him a crown of thorns. It made him bleed." She closed her fingers around the cross. "A robin saw the Jesus was in pain and sang to him. A drop of the Lord's blood fell on the little brown bird, staining his breast red. He's been red ever since."

Dick watched the bird. The robin's head came up, watching him back, his red breast bright and cheerful, proudly wearing its mark of pain.

She put the necklace back on. "The robin gave Him comfort and strength." She told him. "Just like He gives me."

His father finally pulled the small tree free of the earth and hefted it onto his shoulder like it weighed nothing. Startled, the little bird took flight.

Dick sighed in disappointment.

Mary quickly bundled Dick up into her arms and began to follow her husband. Dick rested his head on her shoulder and looked back the pile of upturned earth. The bird was back now they were gone. He could see its red breast glowing brightly.

Robin's and blood…

Some time later, he wasn't sure how long, months perhaps, maybe years, but he remembered it was still bitterly cold, Dick and his mother were hurrying along the slush laden pavements of a city, darting across a busy road to the angry tooting of car horns. His mother was smiling and that made him happy.

That morning she had been crying. She thought he didn't see her, but he did. Her crucifix had been lost. It would not be replaced.

The shop his mother took him too had strange art in the window, small designs all over it which he recognised as tattoos. Greta, a very old gypsy from Haly's, had a whole bunch on her skin, bright and cheery images of animals and sea creatures that delighted everyone who saw them. The only tattoo that didn't was a set of numbers on her wrist – they made her sad.

Dick was made to sit in a plastic chair across from his mother, who removed her jumper and pointed to a spot on her shoulder. The man in the shop nodded.

Dick's eyes grew wide. "Are you getting a tattoo, mommy?"

His mother grinned.

"Don't tell Daddy." She giggled. "It's our little secret, OK?"

His father had frowned on his mother's desire to have a tattoo, pointing out they already had a 'painted lady' at Haly's and he wasn't married to her.

Time passed. He watched his mother wince as the man carefully drew something on the skin of her shoulder. Pretty soon he could make out the shape. It was a bird.

A robin.

It bled. Just like in that myth.

"That's a robin." He said when the man had finished.

Mary Grayson smiled at her son. "He's going to bring me comfort."

He looked seriously up at his mother and crossed his arms in an echo of his father's 'scolding' pose. "Daddy's going to be cross with you."

She pulled on her jumper, wincing a little, then showed him her back. "See, sweetie? No one will ever know." She knelt down. "Don't tell a soul, OK?"

Dick stepped back to admire the finished tree. He was old enough now to realise that his father had to have known about the tattoo. He imaged them "pretending" it was secret. That it was a private joke between them warmed him.

His eyes fixed on the bird – his costume, his name…his legacy.

I never told a soul, mom.

-Fin-