Author's Note: This takes place after "Auld Acquaintance" and before Dick Grayson became Nightwing. The plot will contain elements of Robin: Year One, but I'm writing my own version of it which will depart from canon. This is Earth-16, after all. This story is the third in "The L Word" series, following "Partners". You don't need to read the previous two stories to understand this one.


DANCING WITH MONSTERS

(Batman)
where have you gone?
Have the spirits found you?
You were one of their own.(Batman)

I've seen evil,
It's worn me down,
and I would have made games if you'd been around.
In the darkness where are you now?(Batman)
Understanding my heart was true
with the lenses of contact you could see through
You could tell me what I should do.(Batman)
wherever you are
say a prayer for me.
I've been dancing with
monsters perilously,
Some so subtle, only you'd see...(Batman)
I've seen evil
It's worn me down
and I would have made games if you'd been around
Lost In the darkness where are you now?
In my darkness where you are now?

Poetry by Mary Fahl, modified by me.


CHAPTER 1

BATMAN'S JOURNAL

I'm still reeling from the discovery that I and five other members of the League lost sixteen hours of our lives while under the control of Vandal Savage. No matter how I try, I can't recall the memories of what we must have done during that time. Nothing good, I'm certain.

Worst of all is what I did to Robin while I was under mind control. He was forced to try to bring me down so that I could be treated for the mind control. I didn't hold back when fighting my boy, not one iota. Those memories are crisp in my mind while I tried to kill my son.

I almost succeeded but thank God, the boy is smart. He and Superman's clone, Superboy, worked together to body slam me against a wall. While I was unconscious, Robin gave me the antidote, then helped Conner treat Superman.

Now we sit and nurse our various wounds, physical, mental and emotional. Nothing more than bruises for Robin and he seems to trust me as much now as he did before I attacked him. I wish I could defeat my own sense of overwhelming guilt at what I tried to do to him. It was so very close. I could have lost him, killing him by my own hand. Nobody ever told me that parenthood would lead me from terror to terror about all the different ways my son could be either hurt or killed. I've been somewhat overprotective since the fight on the Watchtower. I suppose I need to wait until my own knees stop shaking before I allow him into anything too dangerous just now.

And now, some news has come to me that troubles me even more. Harvey Dent has been released on parole, supposedly 'cured'. During his ten years at Arkham, he behaved himself and has managed to convince both his psychiatrist and the review board of his sanity. I wish I could believe that, but there were too many relapses in the early years for me to have any confidence in his 'recovery'.

Worse yet, I know that Harvey has a vendetta against me. He thinks I betrayed him when I gave the testimony that got him committed to Arkham. My partnership with Robin is well-known in the criminal community. I suspect that Harvey might strike at Robin to get at me.

I am not sharing this news with Robin. Dent has been in Arkham since Dick was a seven year old, so there is still a chance that Dent doesn't know about the boy.


ROBIN'S JOURNAL

I just don't understand what's going on with Bruce these days. Batman normally doesn't explain much about why he makes the decisions he does, but I'm starting to get really mad. He's taken me off two simple cases, one involving the Penguin and the other an easy robbery that the Riddler committed.

I've been doing this for how long? Five years. I'm seasoned enough to handle anything Gotham can throw at me. For heavens' sake, I even brought Batman down when I had to! Okay, I had some help from Conner, but I still did it. And ever since that happened, Batman has been tip-toeing around me. He even tried to apologize to me. We were in the batcave last night. I was washing test tubes when he came up to me.

Batman cleared his throat. "Uh...Robin..."

I looked over and grinned. "I'll be done with chores in just a minute. I got all the batarangs I retrieved from patrol in the washer. I'll look them over for chips and damage tomorrow when they're dry. Once I finish these test tubes, I'll be ready for patrol."

"Uh...yeah...I mean, yes. Thank you, Robin..." Batman rumbled. "I...also wanted to...thank you for your part in freeing the League from mind control." He laid a hand on my shoulder.

I rinsed the last test tube and put it into the rack to dry. "No problemo, Boss. I was totally feeling the aster when we got you guys back."

"No...there's more to it than that," Batman said, his voice gone soft. "I could have killed you. I almost did. If you and Conner hadn't ..."

"That's okay," I said. "It's my job, y'know?" He squeezed my shoulder and I winced where I had a truly awesome bruise there. Batman flinched and pulled his hand away.

"I want to...apologize...for hurting you," he said uncertainly. "I didn't know what I was doing."

"Not your fault, Batman," I said. "Don't tell me you're feeling guilty about the fight. You weren't yourself. I know that. None of you were yourselves and we don't hold it against you."

Muffled voice. "I do. I could have killed you. I tried to..."

"Yeah, but you didn't. I'm fine and so is everybody else. You trained me pretty well, Bruce. I was never in any danger," I took off my mask and watched as Batman pulled his cowl back. "Look, you're you again and everything's fine now. You can stop worrying about me and you don't need to apologize." Because I knew that he wouldn't, I reached out and gave Bruce a big hug. Wally teases me about being such a hugger, but I was raised by huggers and I don't see anything wrong with it.

He held me close for a long time. I think he was really scared about almost killing me. He doesn't understand that I'm not a fragile little eight year old anymore. I'm older, wiser and smarter now and I can defend myself, even from Batman. When he finally let me go, he nodded toward the batmobile.

"C'mon Partner, let's go on patrol," he said.

It's funny. I love the Team and all, but sometimes it's great to be out with Batman, just the two of us and the night. We were doing our usual patrol and the wind was blowing through my hair as we swung from building to building. Suddenly, Batman pointed. The Bat-signal was up. I could feel the adrenalin rush as we took off toward the roof of Gotham City Police Headquarters.

We landed with a thump on the roof, my feet landing just behind Batman's. He began striding toward Gordon and his men while I scurried to follow.

"Batman, Robin," Gordon said. "I'm glad to see you two. Word on the street is that Harvey Dent has a beef with Judge Lawrence Watkins. Now, I have him in protective custody, but I was hoping you'd keep an extra eye on him. Just in case."

Batman frowned and looked...I don't know...worried? I haven't seen that expression on his face in a while. I was getting ready for a boring night on stakeout, when Batman turned to me.

"Go back to the cave. You're benched for this one," he said.

To say that I was startled is putting it mildly. I mean, c'mon, this was just a stakeout and who the heck was this "Dent" guy, anyway?

"Batman, why?" I demanded. "Who is this Harvey Dent guy?"

"Two-Face is his other name," Batman said. "I don't want you on this case. Go home. Now."

That's when I got mad. I've been Robin for five years now and I've seen it all, or most of it, anyway. Joker, Penguin, any number of space aliens, you can't scare me. And besides, Batman needs a partner out there. Gotham is just too rough for him to go it alone.

"I'm your partner, aren't I? You need me, especially if this guy is so big and bad!" I said and could see Batman's eyes harden through the eye slits in his cowl. He grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me away from the Commissioner and his men.

"You agreed when you became Robin to follow my instructions without question," Batman said in a rough voice. "Now, you will obey me or you're benched until you do. Go home," he said. Judging by the tone, I knew he absolutely meant it.

"All right, all right," I said, raising my hands. "I'll go. But we're gonna talk about this later!" I activated my grapple gun and shot over to the next building. But what Batman didn't know is that I stayed there. I knew he needed me and I wasn't going to let him handle something this dangerous alone.