Day 1: Firsts/Lasts
The first time you call him “Robin,” he nearly slips off the rooftop edge he’s perched on in shock.
You’ve resisted using the name with him for the longest time–it was always “Tim” in the cave, and you avoided the title when he first went out into the field. It had felt wrong. Wrong to be using Jason’s name for someone else so soon after his death. Wrong to refer to the boy who was so different from both of your sons in so many ways by a name that brought memories of smiling, joking partners in pixie boots.
Wrong to be sending out another child soldier into a merciless war without end.
But as much as all of those things had weighed on you, made you distant from the child who had done nothing wrong other than worming his way into your life so soon after your son died–it wasn’t fair to him. You’ve watched the boy push himself hard, constantly convinced that he’d never live up to his predecessors but determined to work until he made it as close as he possibly could, seen him sweat and bleed and give up sleep so he wouldn’t let you down…and seen the subtle, but persistent, yearning for approval, the need for validation that he desperately craved but never expected. He will never be the acrobat that Dick is or the fighter Jason was, but he’s worked harder than any of them and he’s come so far.
In spite of this, you still resisted calling him by that name. So you suppose you shouldn’t be surprised that the first time causes such a reaction–especially when preluded by a “Good work,” and a clasp on the shoulder.
He’s quick to compose himself, and unlike the nervous (but determined) boy he’d been when you met him, all he does not stutter an awkward thank you and instead says, “I was just doing what you trained me to do.”
He’s humble. Not cocky, which is good, but it stems from the feeling that he doesn’t belong here. And you doubt the way you’ve been dealing with him has been helping.
But problems can be resolved, and you’re still adjusting. That’s what Robin stands for: hope–and second chances.
“Let’s go, Robin.”
This time, there is a hint of a smile tugging at his lips, but overall he remains professional. “Yes, sir.”
Robin. It feels right.
When you return from the “dead,” you are not surprised by most of the names that have been exchanged. You are not blindsided by Dick wearing your cowl (in spite of telling him not to,) and Stephanie wearing the Batgirl costume was by your design, and as such you knew Cassandra would have to wear something new.
You are surprised to see your blood son wearing the Robin symbol, and your son Tim wearing a costume and using a name that don’t belong to him.
Tim is almost an adult now, and Robin has never carried past teenagehood. But it’s also the only name he’s known, and it shows in his choice of new name.
He isn’t as open with his feelings as Dick is, or Jason or Stephanie or even Damian. But you know Tim, and you can see how having his title, his name stripped from him and given to the one who’d tried to kill him hurts him.
So you cheat. You only do it when it’s just you and him and under the pretense of “oh, ‘Red Robin’ is a bit of a mouthful,” but you call him Robin. Damian was never yours anyway–he’s too attached to Dick and as proud as you are of him (both of them,) you wouldn’t try to take his place. But Tim–everyone else mourned you but for Tim, you were the only one he thought he had, in spite of everyone believing you were dead. And you never officially fired him from Robin–it would be unfitting (and downright disrespectful toward Dick) for him to take the name again, but you hadn’t taken part in the decision. And he was yours.
He’s definitely noticed, and understands why you do it, but never comments on it. He even seems happier, which is good.
Until one day, he corrects you. “It’s Red Robin–Red for short, if you want,” he says, and instead of the grimace that eerily reminds you of a mirror or his neutral (displeased) expression, he’s smiling in a way you haven’t seen in a long time–he almost looks like a boy again. Happy. Full of hope.
“You sure?” you ask. You want to be certain that he’s doing this for his own sake, not to make Dick or you or Damian (more for Dick’s sake) comfortable. You want him to be happy.
He nods, and it’s nearly impossible to place him with the same boy who’d been so unsure of himself all those years ago. “I’m sure. This is who I am now, and I’m happy with it.”
If there’s a lie, you don’t see it–and you have faith that he wouldn’t deceive you over something like this. “Red Robin,” you agree.
It feels right.