42) Investigating

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Bruce gave Dick a sigh as the boy entered the manor, covered in dirt. Dick lowered his head and trudged towards him, already expected a scolding and a demand for an explanation.

"I thought we were past this phase, Dick," the man said tiredly. "I thought you trusted me, and I could trust you."

Dick's throat bobbed as he swallowed. He said nothing.

"Tell me what happened," Bruce ordered. His voice wasn't angry, but he sounded disappointed. That was the worst.

Dick took off his book bag and began, "I was in school and I found an envelope in my desk. I opened it and I thought- well, it said it was from Tony Zucco. He wanted to meet up at... at crime Alley. Alone." Bruce's brows furrowed, but before he could speak Dick quickly continued. "I didn't want to just leave without letting you know I was fine, but if I told you, you wouldn't let me go. So.. so I texted you and then left."

Dick paused to allow Bruce to ask any questions. He just said, "go on."

So he did. He told him about everything. Well, almost everything. He explained how he took a taxi to get to there, and how Zucco greeted him, but he wasn't actually Zucco, and instead was a stretchy woman who tried to kill him. Dick left out details, like how Ivy's plant knocked out a bulky grown man, and how the gang claimed him as their boss. He simply said that he tried to run away from Madame Rouge, but was found and compromised.

It was harder than expected to reveal that Oswald had saved him. Dick thought that the words would fly right out of his mouth, because he was proud of Oswald for being brave and selfless, even if it was only for a moment. Even if it meant nothing to him. He was proud of himself for being part of the reason Oswald was gradually changing. At least, it seemed that way.

But then he also had to admit defeat. All that training... it wasn't enough. Not if he couldn't win a fight against an enemy. One of many that he'd face when he'd become Robin. He wasn't enough. Hadn't Bruce said that Dick would take a test of some type to see if he was truly ready to take in the role of Robin? Bruce would only let him take it if he thought Dick was ready, and after this event, Dick doubted that the man would think so.

Bruce watched Dick get lost in his thoughts. He had sensed his restlessness for days, maybe weeks now. The child wanted so dearly to catch Zucco, and today had just happened to seem like the day it would happen. Instead it was just another trick, and finding the murderer of his parents began to seem like a childish and wishful dream.

Bruce wanted to ask who this woman was, why she wanted Dick dead, and where did she run off too. But he knew that Dick didn't know either, and instead he asked, "Did Penguin see you fighting?"

Dick shook his head. "No, he just arrived when Madame Rouge was over me."

Then he asked the question that Dick had been dreading. "How did he know where you were?"

The dirt-covered boy recited the lie that he and Oswald came up him. It wasn't a big deal. Just a white lie, right? But he knew that the white lies became bigger lies, and then he was just straight up keeping secrets from just about everyone.

Bruce nodded and put a hand on Dick's shoulders. "Dick, I don't blame you for what you did, but it just isn't acceptable. You said it yourself that you could've died if Oswald hadn't come to your aid." Dick bit his lip. "But maybe it's my fault as well. I think it's about time we let Robin fly. What do you think?"

Dick's eyes lit up. "R-really?"

Bruce kept his face firm. "Yes. We'll go on patrol and see how you do. Just so you can get the gist of what being a hero is like. But that doesn't mean that you can get away with things like this in the future, alright?"

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