The night had proved to be a fiasco. The intel I'd had was false and led me straight into a trap. They'd gotten a lucky shot and hit me in the left thigh, barely missing the femoral artery. Still, it bled enough and kept me from moving easily. To make matters worse, a ricochet had taken out my comm-link, so there was no calling for help from the League. Not for the first time, I missed Robin guarding my back. Although I would never admit it to Dick, I had been feeling lonely out on patrol alone. The boy's endless chatter made the long nights bearable and his sharp eyes had saved me more than once.

I was huddled in a dark corner of the warehouse, hidden by some boxes while the gangsters hunted me, when I heard a new, lighter footstep. I saw movement from between the boxes; man with a gun was visible. I fired off a batarang but just missed him before he ducked behind some shelves filled with boxes.

"Hey, Bats! Good luck with that!" The gangster yelled. "We know you got shot. You're leavin' a trail of blood wherever you go an' it's just a matter of time before we get you!" He'd found me. Time to run. I ran for new cover, but moved more slowly than usual. I noticed the blood trail I'd left behind. The quick tourniquet wasn't working and I was weakening. I had to end this, soon, before I passed out.

I heard the *poom!* of a grapple gun, then the loud whoop of a young boy's voice. Robin? Overhead, a red, green and yellow figure climbed to and overhead beam, crouching there. The boy looked like Robin, but didn't sound like him.

"Hey, you assholes! You forgot that Batman has a partner!" He grinned broadly, showed them all the finger and swung to a perch deeper in the building.

Of course I knew what Robin was doing. This was an old tactic of ours. Robin would draw the enemy's fire while I crept up from behind. But who on earth was this boy? Dick was blind and in any case, this boy's build was sturdier, his voice younger.

The boy was nimble enough, although he was not as graceful as Dick Grayson. With difficulty I moved forward until I was behind the rope boxes he was perched on. The boy and I both saw the gunman who appeared across from him. Robin seemed frozen while the goon raised his gun, aimed it and grinned at him. No, this wasn't Robin. Dick would've been on the move by now, instead of allowing himself to be transfixed by gun.

I threw a batarang at the gunman while simultaneously, I pulled hard on Robin's cape, pulling him down just as the gun went off. The boy landed on top of me, landing on the injured by an collapsing both of us to the ground.

"Who are you?" I gritted in a harsh voice.

"For today, I am Robin," The boy said and gave been impudent smile.

I glared at him, but grabbed him by the arm. "Come on let's get out of here."

But escaping wasn't that easy. Two gunmen were waiting at the exit, and I had begun to flag long before. The blood trail left behind was heavier, and I was limping badly.

The boy noticed that I was in trouble and slung an arm around my shoulders, taking some my weight. Hiding behind more stacked boxes, 'Robin' and I could see two gunmen between us and the exit. Gesturing with my hand, I motioned to Robin to fire his grapple gun at the web of beams overhead, then to follow me.

I hoped that the boy would obey and fired my gun. I swung up to the overhead beam and was glad to hear him following me closely. Even before I had landed, I fired off a stream of exploding batarangs at the two goons. "Come on, Robin!" I shouted and led him as we swung through the smoke. I kicked open the doors with my feet and we were outside. A car came roaring up, Alfred and the batmobile.

'Robin' and I climbed inside and soon the car was driving swiftly away in a hail of bullets. I leaned back against my seat in relief. My leg was beginning to go numb. "Thanks, Alfred," I said.

"Hey, what about me?" 'Robin', in the rear seat took off his mask and Jason's green eyes sparkled back at me. I sighed, the truth I had tried to avoid facing was now staring me straight in the face.

"Dick sent you, didn't he," I growled.

"Indeed he did, sir," Alfred replied calmly. "And I agree with his judgment. You were in need of assistance and Jason was the only one available at the time. Ah, we have arrived. Shall we discuss this later, after I have finished looking at your wound?"


I think he was really mad at me. Batman couldn't say a word altering the drive back to the Batcave. Me? I was just happy to get a ride in space the Batmobile. Alfred was gonna go pick up the car the next day.

Anyway, all was very quiet in the car. When we got there, Dick met us and helped open the door. He and Alfred helped pay Batman out and took him over to what looked like a medical corner. Batman sat down abruptly on the examining table. Alfred pulled over a cart with medical supplies and began stripping off his costume.

"So how did he do?" Dick asked Batman.

Batman glared at him, but Dick couldn't see it. I saw plenty and it scared me. Batman looked really upset, but when he spoke, it was with the gentler voice. "Dick, what on earth possessed you to put Jason in costume and send him out as Robin?"

"You needed help," Dick said softly. "The League is off planet and so is the Team. There was literally no one I could send to help you. I was stuck here on the other end of the radio and you didn't answer. What was I supposed to do? Just let you die?"

Batman paused a moment, clearly thinking over Dick's answer. He said, "I could have saved myself."

"There was a reason you took on a partner," Dick said desperately. "There were times out there that you would have died if I hadn't pulled your ass out of the fire. You needed someone watching your back today. And I couldn't do it."

Listening to this, of course I had to interrupt. "Hey, guys, I'm still here in the Robin costume. I made a decision too, y' know ." An' there I was, standin' there in the cape an' all, an' they're fightin' over me. "I'm right here an' I had somethin' ta do wit' all this! You," An' I pointed at Batman. "You wouldna been saved if I weren't there. Y'shouldn' blame Dickiebird."

Batman turned on me, now. But I could take it. I was seein' that Dickie was about ready t'cry and I wasn't havin' it. "Dickie didn't give away any o' your secrets. I found the door to the cave and figured it out myself. An' if Alfie hadn't caught me, I'da gone back upstairs with you none the wiser."

"You shouldn't have been out there all," he said with a gravelly voice. "You aren't untrained child. You could've been killed."

"Yeah, but I wasn't was I?" I said. "An, what's more, Dickie is right. You do need a partner. And, since Dickie can't do it, I volunteer. Somebody's gotta be there ta watch your back or you're gonna leave him an orphan again."

I could see he was thinkin' about what I said, cause he didn't say anything for a few minutes and kinda eyed me up and down.

"If you really want to do this, it will take discipline. I expect you working out at 5 AM every day, including schooldays." He kinda glared at me and poked at me with one finger. "And you don't hit the streets until I say so. Understood?"

Dickie was looking happier, so I guessed this was what he wanted. Still, he had been Robin for years and I felt guilty. "Not unless Dick says it's okay," I said. "Dickie, I don't want to steal Robin from you. Is all this okay with you?"

Dickie kinda smiled, though I could tell he was sad. "Jay, since I can't be Robin, I'd rather you take up the job than anybody else I can think of." Dickie turned to Batman. "If it's okay with you Bruce, I'd like to be Robin. I can help with the training if you want."

Batman looked kinda guilty for a moment. I realized that he'd made the decision about Robin without even asking for Dick's permission, and he had just realized it to. Maybe it was time he had somebody like me as his partner, somebody who'd fight back if needed. "Thank you, Dick. I would appreciate your input. Are you sure This is okay With you?"

So, he finally asked his son the big question. A little too late, in my mind. I'd also be watching out for Dickie. And the Big Guy wasn't gonna have it all his way. Not while I wore the cape.

Author's Note:

This concludes the first part of Dancing With Monsters. I will continue the account later in a second part which will cover Jason's time as Robin, working with the Team and the birth of Nightwing. I've been diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, so I'll be backing off writing a bit (or at least I'll try). I am busy trying to train my dictation program, Dragon, and it ain't easy. Still, much of this chapter was written with the use of Dragon, so maybe there is hope.