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So Surely to the Sea (darling so it goes, some things are meant to be)

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For all Robin's incredible prowess on the battlefield, for all the legend that he's become under the dark wing of the Batman, for all the cool unwavering intelligence that guide them all in times of great need, none of them forget. None of them ever forget.

Not Starfire, who possesses perhaps the greatest deal of affection for their leader, and understands what it means to be weak but does not think him so. Not Cyborg, who was so vulnerable once, and sometimes envies Robin such a luxury. Not Raven who is Robin's closest confident, who knows the deepest recesses of his heart and who in turn trusts Robin with the dark depths of hers. Not even Beast-Boy, the youngest and most careless of the five, whose bruises disappear with every morph.

And Robin? Robin pretends not to notice. He turns a blind-eye when the others deliberately take hits meant to take him out. He gives them a grin and a thumbs-up when they save him although it stings at his pride for hours after. He makes horrible, necessary, dangerous decisions and only grits his teeth when he's forced, through his teammates'stubborn looks and the damned pragmatic voice in his mind that sounds just like Batman, to give the job to someone else.

It's hard to watch them bleed for his mistakes. To watch them burn for his own ends. To watch them pick themselves up and smile at him, all their trust and loyalty weighing his shoulders down the way no hurts ever could.

The mantle of a leader is not easy to bear. The burden of being the only human in a team of super-beings, even harder. Robin takes ten days to recover from something that only takes minutes for the others. Their enemies see him as the team's weakest link, and often he is targeted as easy prey. He is attacked with the hardest hits, the strongest blasts, the most serious blows - because everyone thinks that without their leader, the Teen Titans fall, but Robin's trained them out of such a mistake a long time ago. And Robin's shout to charge is bright and unwavering as he flings himself into the fray with fierce abandon.

And his team of gods, his team of superheroes, his team of Titans, keep one eye on the battle and the other trained on him.

On their brave little mortal soldier.

-

The loud whir of the helicopter quickly proves to make obsolete Robin's excellent hearing, but his other senses do much to make up for it. He's holding his own against three armed men when-

He's hanging off a branch with his bare hands, rough wood cutting into his palms, as a waterfall roars beneath him. He clings on to the tree for several long moments, arms straining with an ache he's not felt since he was back in the circus and as green as any trainee. He takes a deep breath, and falls into-

A dark warehouse, wrists bound, ankles tied to the chair legs. Robin braces himself for the next blow. His head snaps back as it connects with his jaw, an explosion of pain promising a sizable bruise in the morning. He grits his teeth and-

Wakes up to an impossibly familiar room, light streaming through stately french windows. He rolls over, wondering if he's finally woken up, when-

Everything hurts.

He's dying and everything hurts.

He's lying in a puddle of his own blood, his mouth full of copper and bitter with the ashes of everything he's built since leaving the dark shadow of his father, as he waits for the end. Terra looms over him, eyes full of hate and tears, blood and dirt streaking her face and hair. He shifts slightly, feeling the edge of the cliff just underneath him. He wonders if Bruce will ever forgive himself.

"Goodbye, Robin." Terra rasps, clutching his badge in her good hand, the other hanging limp, dislocated for sure. He feels her boot dig sharply into his side, her leg bent at the knee, and she hesitates - ear cocked as if listening to someone just beyond them. Robin remembers Slade's voice from his brief stint as Slade's apprentice, the man's voice oily-slick and insidious in the inside of his ear. Terra's eyes betray a single fleeting moment of absolute terror before her face shuts down abruptly and she swallows audibly. Robin remembers the consequences of failure all too well. Slade knew how to inflict the highest degree of pain while keeping the traces at a minimum. Robin still gasps awake some nights with the memory of electricity igniting his whole body with agony, or Slade's hand keeping his face to the ground, or the indignity of being allowed to crawl out of the training room simply because he was in too much pain to walk.

Robin feels a deep pity for the girl standing over him, a sharp emotion that he cannot help, because she killed them all. She murdered his friends in cold blood. And yet, Robin finds himself thinking of the too-skinny girl who they had found what seemed like an eternity ago - dirty blonde hair in her face, blue eyes wide with wonder at the room they had given her. Terra's eyes harden and Robin has to look away because he had let her in. Cyborg had found another sister. Raven had found a friend. Starfire had found a companion who wouldn't turn her nose up at Starfire's attempt at cooking. Beast-Boy had loved her. Robin feels like choking, feels like getting up and shaking Terra until her teeth clacked, because Beast-Boy had loved her.

He closes his eyes behind the mask she had let him keep for some indiscernible reason, and makes peace with the world. He thinks about Beast-Boy's crooked smile, Cyborg's booming laugh, the sweetness of Raven's quiet company, Starfire's blazing eyes. Starfire's smile. Starfire's wondering look the first time he had shown her around the city.

Robin falls and the ground rushes up to meet him.

-

Robin smiles when Raven catches him, half-dead and bleeding into her mud-crusted uniform.

"You're alive." There's wonder in the slur of Robin's voice, relief evident in the tilt of his lopsided-grin. It hurts just to look at him.

"Shut up," Raven snaps, sharper than she means to. Robin just laughs and chokes on the blood in his mouth. He raises a shaky hand to his face, and his glove comes away a sticky red.

"That's not good." Robin says mildly, staring at his fingers. Raven looks down at him again and is inclined to agree.

"Where're we?" Robin slurs as Raven finally lays him down gently, cradling his head.

"Nevermore." She answers soothingly. The others gather around them as soon as they arrive, and Raven thinks something dies a little in Beast-Boy's eyes when he sees the extent of what Terra has wrought.

She calls up Anger, Happiness, Carelessness, Sorrow. She calls up every emotion she's ever felt, their multicolored cloaks swaying in the force of her wishing, and merges with them until her cloak changes color and her power intensifies. Robin's blood stands out in stark contrast on the white. She pours everything she has into his wounds until he can breathe without the rattling wheeze of liquid in his lungs. He falls unconscious in Starfire's lap as the alien tenderly wipes away the blood from his face.

-

"If I die-" Robin begins as the girls flutter around him, Raven's hands glowing over his ribs. He could definitely do with living the rest of his life without seeing that particular hollow look in the greens of Starfire's eyes as Raven pronounces the hole in his lungs finally healed.

"Don't be stupid." Raven mutters as she starts to work on the long bruises on his side. She'd sent Cyborg over to the Jump City hospital to 'borrow' several pints of Robin's type of blood, because she's a mage not a miracle-worker. Beast-Boy had been given the task of obtaining food, new uniforms, and water. Beast-Boy had saluted her with a funny smile on his face, said 'yes ma'am' in a tired voice. Raven thinks they all grow up a little bit more today.

"Okay," Robin says, cheeky, "When I die, I have a request to make."

"You are not going to die." Starfire interrupts, the basin of water in her hands stay remarkably still, "Do not say so."

"I didn't say 'when I die now'." Robin says reasonably, pain straining the humor he's attempting for, "Anyway, when I die, I don't want anyone to peek under my mask. Capiche?" Robin winks, well, his mask winks.

"Who wants to see who you really are anyway? You're probably someone dull and ugly." Raven teases in a monotone. It's the stress talking, but Robin cracks a pained grin anyway.

"You know you want me." Robin says knowingly, a tendril of gratefulness tentatively creeping out of the stronghold usually blocking Robin's emotions from Raven's empathy. Then, "Hey, I'm going to pass out now alright?"

Even with the warning, it's alarming how limp Robin goes on the ground. Starfire's lips thin in worry and she brushes Robin's hair out of his masked eyes. Raven puts her hands on her lap and waits for Starfire to speak. After years of living, fighting, laughing, and fighting together - Raven knows all of Starfire's moods. Right now, the blood-lust is coming off the alien in waves so strong that Raven catches Caution casting worried looks in their direction - though the brown-cloaked emotion prudently does not go near them.

"If Robin does not live to see the next sun," Starfire says at last, "I will meet Terra. And this time, I will not hold back." Starfire says coldly, and Raven is reminded that underneath the naive bubbly girl Starfire chooses to be most of the time, Starfire was a warrior. Is a warrior. Starfire doesn't bother to conceal the rage simmering under her skin, anger glowing green in her eyes.

 

-

Robin survives. He wakes up to strange suns and black skies and red-eyed ravens and remembers everything.

He forces himself up, his body still weak but whole which is more than he could have asked for, and starts to dig a plan in the Nevermore soil. Raven's ravens blinks at him, their four red eyes winking black two by two, but he ignores them with the practice of living the better part of eight years in a cave full of bats.

"What do you think you're doing." Raven says flatly when she catches him at it, Cyborg hovers at her shoulder and gives him the stink-eye for almost dying on them.

"Terra thinks we're dead." Robin rasps as he sketches out a simple blueprint of Jump City, "This is the biggest advantage we have now. Slade however probably knows we're alive and kicking, or at least, the four of you are, since he can't very well retrieve my body now even if he looked for it. We need to lie low for a couple of days until Terra is lulled into a false sense of security. That's when we attack."

"Because that worked so well the last time." Raven points out dryly, floating a canteen of water to Robin, who takes it and downs half of it in one go.

"Yeah, no offense Rob? But we can't take on Terra, Slade, and his massive army right now. Now without the T-Tower and all our other stuff." Cyborg agrees, "We're all still recovering right now," The 'especially you, you stupidly human boy,' is unsaid but is heard loud and clear by all, "And we're in no condition to have it out."

"I have, of course, taken all your considerations into account." Robin says, and doesn't talk to them anymore so they give up and leave him alone. Starfire drops by to say how glad she is that he's alive and well. Robin thinks of bits and pieces of conversation the girls think he hadn't heard, and lets himself bury his face in her hair, lets himself wish for a while that things were different. Starfire leaves him be when he asks, a lingering joy on her face, and it's all Robin can do not to buckle under the realisation that she could have died. That all of them could have died. Robin wants to grab his teammates and tell them to stop fighting, to live normal lives, to be happy and never have to hurt or cry or almost die ever again.

Maybe this is what Bruce feels... Is the thought unbidden that pounces on his brain and refuses to be dislodged. Robin grimaces and resolves to give Bruce a phone-call, if he's still alive by the end of this.

He hears Beast-Boy before he sees the shapeshifter. Beast-Boy's shadow falls over Robin's markings. Robin waits.

"You're up." Beast-Boy says finally after fidgeting across Robin's blue-prints for five minutes, pretending to be totally absorbed in Robin's crude drawings. Robin nods and pretends that it's not the stupidest way to start a conversation at all.

"So, um, you're all healed now and everything right?" Beast-Boy says after another stretch of silence. Robin nods again patiently. Whatever Beast-Boy wants to say, he'll say it. Robin just has to give him time.

"She really did a number on you." Beast-Boy gulps as Robin starts working on the area where their favorite pizza-hangout was, "I mean, you looked really messed up. Blood everywhere and stuff. I didn't throw up though, mostly because Raven promised to kill me if I got puke in her mind." Beast-Boy chuckles nervously, "Last time- Last time me and Cy were here, there was this gigantic red rage monster thing. Like the Hulk y'know? But red, with horns and stuff, scared the crap out of me." Beast-Boy babbles. Robin finally shoots him a look that makes him shut-up. Beast-Boy looks faintly sick.

"Beast-Boy-" Robin begins.

"It's all my fault!" Beast-Boy blurts out, anguished, "I should have known-"

Robin lets Beast-Boy rant on and on until Beast-Boy peters out, throat dry, voice raw. Robin sighs and places a weary hand on Beast-Boy's shoulder, green on green. He declares wryly that Beast-Boy's pacing is giving him a headache, and forces the younger boy to sit still beside Robin, their legs dangling over the edge of the precipice. Raven would throw a fit if she caught Robin like this.

"I could have taken her," Robin says finally after staring thoughtfully at the vast emptiness around them.

"Sure you could've." Beast-Boy says, politely keeping most of his incredulity out of his voice.

"If I'd been aiming to kill, anyway." Robin amends without looking at Beast-Boy. Beast-Boy inhales sharply, but doesn't say anything.

"You could have died," Beast-Boy whispers. "So why didn't you?"

"I promised you to give her a second chance." Robin smiles ruefully, as if that second chance hadn't almost ended in too much tragedy to bear. And anyway, Bruce had not raised him to be a killer. His parents had not either, for the short time he'd had with them.

"I loved her." Beast-Boy croaks, his hanging head hiding eyes red-rimmed with unshed tears.

"I know." Robin sighs, pulling Beast-Boy roughly against his still aching side. Beast-Boy sniffles into Robin's torn sleeve, although refraining from actually all-out weeping, and they stay like this for a while.

"I better get going." Beast-Boy says, straightening up and looking away from Robin, "It's my turn on food-duty."

Robin represses a sigh, because he had been looking forward to real meat tonight, instead of the soy substitutes Beast-Boy insists on getting despite Cyborg's protestations.

"Could you at least get juice-boxes?" Robin says hopefully.

Beast-Boy barks out a surprised laugh, and some of the glint in his eyes come back as he informs Robin how adamant Raven had been about the juice-boxes after Happy and Crude finished a whole pack in one go - the two usually obnoxious emotions becoming even more so after the sugar rush had hit them. Robin grouses good-naturedly, and Beast-Boy leaves. Not healed, not even close, but a little lighter than before.

Robin stays on the edge of the precipice long after Beast-Boy takes flight. He gazes into the abyss and he can still feel the phantom ache of Terra's boots pushing into his hips hard enough to bruise.

 

-

He calls Bruce two years after leaving the mansion in a whirl of righteous fury and hurt pride. Two years of which the only remnants of the life he had before was speaking to Alfred and Barbara - the former ever long-suffering in passing stilted messages from son to father to son, the latter yelling his ear off about emotionally retarded bat-men and stupid egos.

It's also two weeks after he nearly dies of a punctured lung and blood-loss so massive that he'd had to burn the costume altogether, pulled from the brink by Raven's magic and stolen blood-transfusions Robin's going to have to find a way to pay back for eventually. One week after he watches Slade sink into certain death that is not by his own hand. He wonders if the nightmares would go away if he was the one who'd pushed Slade in, but he doubts it very much.

Oh, but how he wants.

If he's being very honest with himself, Dick misses Bruce. He misses the easy partnership, the familiar rhythm, the freedom of not being the one giving out orders. He misses Gotham's comforting darkness even as he revels in Jump's technicolor. Gotham is grotesquely beautiful in the night as they'd perch upon her many stone buildings, like gargoyles - Robin a circus, Batman the night.

"How do you do it?" Dick blurts into the receiver when Bruce picks up, even though Bruce isn't actually a mind-reader even if he does act like he is most of the time. He knows that both of them are more than capable of setting up enough secure lines for a dozen video calls, but he suspects that both of them don't have the guts to do it. Not yet. Not when the memory of too-much-blood and crowbars in an empty warehouse is still so fresh in their minds.

"Dick?" Bruce says, his tone far too light to be anything but, "I'm not actually a mind-reader you know."

Dick laughs, because it's two am in the morning and Bruce still makes time for him, even though they're supposed to be estranged or some shit like that, "Nevermind," Dick says, before Bruce thinks he's going Joker mental, "How's- How're you?"

"Good, good. One of the merges just went through, you know the one with Korea? I'm confident that Wayne corp can really do something positive about that honestly terrible human-policy they have over there." Bruce replies, like Dick's ten years old all over again in the manor, and Bruce is somewhere in Thailand or Myanmar or India settling one of his business deals, making the world a better place one developing country at a time, "How are you?"

"Good." Dick parrots, "Not much really, after...after Terra. You probably already know about that little shit-show. Slade's dead, probably, which is the only good thing that came out of this mess." A hollow victory. Dick still dreams of half-orange masks, the single eye disappearing under molten lava. Sometimes Slade screams, most times he laughs, and Dick wakes up with the echoes of Slade's voice in his head. He wonders if Bruce snaps awake with the Joker's hysterics ringing in his ear. Shivers at the thought.

"Does it get better?" Dick whispers into the mouthpiece. There is a silence where Dick thinks Bruce didn't hear him, but Bruce's sigh crackles tiredly over the phone.

"Not really." Bruce says, brutally honest, like when Dick was nine and Bruce told him to his face that triple somersaults did not one vigilante make, "But you move on. And sometimes you'll see him when you look at yourself in the mirror. Sometimes you'll hear his voice in your head."

Dick laughs, a dry painful sound, because he knows what that feels like all too well.

"But," Bruce says firmly, "You move past it. It will not always be this way."

Dick aches all over, suddenly. He tucks his knees under his chin, and is homesick in a way he hasn't been since his parents had died and Bruce's mansion was overlarge for a circus kid so used to cramped spaces, crying because he didn't get to properly say goodbye to his uncles - the clowns.

Bruce doesn't push, and Dick is glad of it. They talk about everything and nothing until the sun comes up. Bruce needs to catch a flight and Dick has to be Robin again, but they end their call with a lighter feeling in their chest than before. Bruce promises to get Alfred to send over an untraceable package with several batch of Alfred's home-baked cookies among other things. Dick promises to call anytime, and it somehow feels more like a favor to Bruce than the other way around.

They're not okay, not yet. Bruce still seems confident that the Teen Titans is nothing more than a passing phase, and Dick still shuts down whenever Bruce suggests he come home on the next flight out of Jump City. But they're- They'll be alright.

-

Their dreams bleed into each other's, sometimes.

Robin sees his parents fall into fire as strange symbols snake up his arms, his forehead, and he clutches himself and hurts and thinks my fault over and over and over again.

Raven runs laughing into sprawling colorful tents, tearing past freak-shows, scrambling under the bellies of elaborately dressed elephants, through somewhere that feels like home but can't be. It's not really a nightmare, but her hearts still aches with the taste of carefree happiness she never had.

Raven blinks awake the morning a month after Terra with tears in her eyes and the fading musky taste of a circus under her tongue. She rubs at her eyes roughly and turns over. It's three am in the morning, another four hours until sunrise, and her body aches to go back to sleep but her mind cannot find rest. Three-thirty, and she gives up. She grabs a random book off her shelf and pads into the common room, suddenly stifled and restless in her own and not in the mood for meditation. Robin is already there, heating a pan of milk.

"Hey." Robin murmurs sleepily, his back still turned to her, "Can't sleep either, huh?" Raven just makes a vague sound and moves to the sofa, finally noticing what book she'd grabbed when she left her room. She sighs and flicks through it anyway, her mind far away. The bond she shared with Robin used to be just a light, barely noticeable presence in her mind, and it was an advantage to know instinctively where her leader was in any situation. Robin never pushed or prodded into his end of the bond. The result was a very comfortable companionship which she treasured. However, since the day she'd poured out her heart and soul to keep him alive in the deepest recesses of her mind, the bond had become stronger than she'd thought was possible.

It was in the way they moved around on another, almost like one person inhabiting two bodies. It was in the way Raven would cast a spell before Robin could do more than even think about the order. It was in the way Robin would bring her tea in the quietest corner of the Tower's library and talk about how Cyborg wanted to change the training machinery until the dark clouds in her mind dissipated.

"How to Make Friends and Influence People." Robin's reads over her shoulder startling her. Then, "Oh come on, I just got that fixed yesterday." But there's still amusement in his voice.

Raven mutters a sullen 'Azerath Mentrion Zinthos' and the mess clears itself up, "You shouldn't have startled me." Raven says primly, flipping to a random chapter. Robin just laughs and claims a seat next to Raven, two steaming mugs in his hand. Robin's hot chocolate-making skills are exquisite, so Raven decides to forgive him. This time. She reads the first line, then abandons the book altogether. It had been a gag-gift from Beast-Boy several Christmases ago, and she hadn't bothered to throw it out.

There are shadows in Robin's smile, tired creases about his eyes, and it's obvious he's not been getting much sleep these days. He moves as fluidly as he always does during missions, but it can't last for long. Raven reaches through the bond without really thinking about it, and is shocked to see the frayed ends of it on his side.

"You should get some sleep." Raven says. Robin huffs a laugh and runs a hand through his ungelled hair, mussing it up. He's not wearing a mask tonight, just a simple pair of tinted aviators. That didn't mean Robin didn't have one stashed somewhere on his person though.

"I would, if I could." Robin admits, his steel-toed boots make no sound on the linoleum floor, "It's just- Whenever I close my eyes..." Robin shrugs, setting his now empty mug down on the coffee table.

"Slade?"

"Among other things." Robin says easily.

"This can't be very good for your performance." Raven points out, not unkindly, "One more night like this and we're going to have to start doing missions without a leader."

Robin barks a laugh, "You're right." Robin agrees, "But I've woken up screaming three times already this week, and it's only Tuesday."

"Meditation always helps me go back to sleep." Raven says. Robin's eyebrows furrow.

"Medication?" He says politely.

"Meditation." Raven smiles despite herself, "You definitely need to sleep."

"Your face definitely needs to sleep." Robin jokes back, rubbing his eyes like a kid. Raven struggles not to find that adorable as he rises and grabs both their mugs. He drops them into the sink and starts to wash up, discarding his gloves for a moment for the simple task. They hadn't bothered to switch on any lights, but Raven can feel his fatigue from all the way across the room, can feel the weariness rolling off him in waves.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Raven says, her brain only registering the words after they slip out of her mouth. But she weighs its meaning as it hangs there between them, and doesn't feel inclined to take them back.

"Nah, s'okay." Robin replies, drying his hands, "I can handle it. It's happen before when I'm working too hard. It should be alright." He grabs his gloves and doesn't bother to don it again, slinging it across a shoulder and shoving his hands into his pockets casually.

He's lying, Raven doesn't know how she knows, but he's lying. Robin's always been a good actor, but it's only these days that Raven finds that the walls he politely uses to block his mind and emotions from her crumbling down.

"I've been dreaming of the circus lately." Raven says quietly, it must be the right thing to say because he pauses at the doorway, the sliding panels patiently waiting for him to pass through.

"Hm?" Robin says offhandedly, like it's nothing to do with him at all, "That's interesting, I didn't know you've been to one before."

"It was colorful." Raven forges on, leaning against the back of the sofa, book lying forgotten on the coffee table, "There were clowns, speaking all kinds of languages, I think one of them was named Fred? Freddy?" Raven watches him closely, "Something to do with numbers, it's all very vague. It's a memory, isn't it?" She wonders if she's gone too far when Robin doesn't reply for several agonizing moments.

"Frederico," Robin sighs finally, his shoulders slumping although his spine is straight and stiff, "Yeah, he taught me math when I was a kid. Look, we can't talk about this here."

"We do have to talk about it." Raven says cautiously.

"I know," Robin says wearily, "C'mon, lets go to my room."

He offers her a seat on his neatly made bed, corners military sharp, and takes the chair on the side of the bed - sitting the wrong way, chin tucked on the back of the chair. Raven hovers a couple of inches off the mattress and tries not to touch anything that is his.

Robin cracks a grin, softening the awkward silence, "What else do you dream about?"

"Trapezes, I think that's what it's called?" Raven gets an affirming nod, "I mostly get impressions. Everything's very colorful, or very gray, and there are lots of animals. Once I dreamt of a lady with facial hair. Maggie...Maggie Harry?"

"Margie Harriet." Robin corrects with a funny smile on his face, "Hairy Maggie for short. She never minded, really. She always made jokes about carpets and curtains, but I didn't get what she was saying until I discovered the internet."

Raven covers a laugh with a hand over her mouth, "I didn't know you were that kind of boy." She teases gently.

Robin shrugs vaguely, "It was a long time ago." He says quietly, "What about Gotham?"

"Gargoyles," Raven says slowly after a while of thought, "And flying. Sometimes there's a lot of red, a lot of blood? And something that's supposed to be terrifying, but I never think so."

Robin nods pensively, "D'you think it's because of our mind-share...thing?" Robin muses.

"Why?" Raven says sharply, "What memories of mine do you dream of?" She feels a pang in her heart when Robin gives her a pained smile. Much of her past before the Titans hadn't been a very pleasant one.

"They're not all bad." Robin says halfheartedly, "Your mother is very beautiful, I mean, you had to have gotten your-" He gestures vaguely at her, "-looks from somewhere right? Definitely not your father." Robin cracks a grin which she returns humorlessly.

They talk through the night. Raven tells him about Rachel Roth, the girl she'd meant to become on Earth before Starfire had crashed unceremoniously into their lives along with an alien invasion. Robin peels off his mask and introduces her to Richard Grayson, ward of the Batman, son of Bruce Wayne. His eyes are blue, expressively so, and Raven remembers those eyes from snatches of good dreams and happy memories.

"Now what?" Raven says softly as the first light of dawn creeps into the room.

Dick grins lopsidedly, blue eyes dancing, as he leans against her shoulder, both of them sprawled and comfortable against his headboard in the natural progression of two people sharing secrets. His hair is soft and very black, ungelled and floppy. He looks his age for a heartbeat, two, and Raven brushes a stray bang away from his eyes. The sun rises spectacularly from the sea as Dick yawns so loud his jaw cracks.

"No clue." Dick says cheerfully, more human somehow without the mask, "You have to promise not to tell, though, that's one thing I do know. Bruce will have my head if-" Dick quirks a wry grin, absently playing with Raven's cape, "Well, you know."

"I know." Raven agrees, she watches him as he fumbles around for his aviators, sliding them back over his eyes.

"We should do this again." Robin decides as he shows her to the door, then cheekily, "Good morning, Roth." Raven gives him a dry look before nodding.

Good morning, Grayson, Raven murmurs back as she turns a corner, her voice echoing quietly in Robin's head, and the memory of his bright, startled laugh follows her long after she reaches her room.

-

Robin dies on a rainy afternoon.

It is a Tuesday.

The forecast had been sunshine.

It takes half a minute to restart his heart. It was an accident, Doctor Light of all people getting an extremely lucky hit.

Raven feels the moment Robin's heart stutters and stops, and then the gasp of when it starts again. She turns to the villain slowly, very aware of what she looks like as her teammates back away from her. Tendrils of black crawl out, and only when Starfire takes her face into her strong hands, eyes glowing as green as Raven had ever seen it, does she finally release what formerly was a man.

"He's alive." Starfire says, her thumbs stroking once over Raven's grey cheeks. Raven knows, she knows perhaps better than anyone, but it calms her down slightly to hear Starfire repeat it.

"Cyborg." Raven says tersely.

"He's stable enough to take home." Cyborg replies, cradling their leader carefully in his half-human arms, "I'll need to run some tests, but he'll be fine."

"Good." Raven says, half to herself. Her feet touches the ground gracefully as she lands in the middle of them, black shadows enveloping the five of them as she whispers three words.

Cyborg has never been so grateful for his mechanical parts when his hands do not shake, not even a little, as they work on keeping his leader alive. That morning, they had been playing basketball in the light drizzle. Cyborg had been teasing Robin about his height disadvantage again, while Robin simply smirked and, leaping up to use Cyborg's shoulders for leverage, bicycle-kicked the ball midair from where Cyborg had thrown it - hands gripping Cyborg's shoulders, his wiry body a perfect cheerleader's arch. In Titan basketball no rules applied.

When it came to prank wars, late night snacks, and video games, it was usually BB and him. Robin never really participated in their activities, not that he was above it, but simply because his role as de-facto leader of their group came with a lot of work. Cyborg sometimes envied his friend the status of being leader of the quickly expanding Titans, but it was sobering to thank his stars that he wasn't whenever Robin had to make the hard choices. Cyborg had promised himself that he would follow his friend to the ends of the earth, and time too (but only because he's been there and done that, and knows it isn't all that bad). He hadn't actually realized that Robin never said that he would never die in order for Cyborg to make good on his promise.

When Robin wakes up, after feels like years underwater, he wakes sans his uniform. He doesn't raise an ungloved hand to his face, but he itches to anyway. Beast-Boy is at his side, reading one of his stained dog-eared comics.

"Hey." Robin says and takes immense pleasure in seeing BB crash, ass over heels backwards in his uncomfortable plastic chair.

"Hey." Beast Boy replies, looking more relieved than disgruntled, although there will certainly be an almost comical goose egg on his green head, "How're you feeling?"

Like I just returned from the dead, Robin doesn't say. Instead he asks for water and gets ice-chips instead. Half of it ends down his modest plastic gown. Robin doesn't complain although he does raise one, thankfully masked, eyebrow at BB's sheepish expression. Cyborg comes in to see what all the noise is about, and Robin gets to see one of his best friends loom over him with an expression that threatens...well, not actually murder, but certainly some very painful maiming should Robin even think about getting up and walking around on his own power.

"Wanna run me through what happened?" Robin says as BB practically throws paper towels at him. Cyborg grimaces, a rare look of pain crossing his eyes, and Robin wonders with a regretful clench how the rest are.

"You were dead," Beast Boy says, which is surprising enough in itself that it shuts Robin up completely for a second, "And then now you're not."

"Doctor Light's in prison, where I don't think he'll be inclined to leave for a while. Or ever again. Depends if he ever completely wakes up from the catatonic state Raven put him in." Cyborg continues, checking Robin's vitals and frowning at his chart. Cyborg hasn't looked Robin in the eye in all the time he's been in the room. Beast-Boy looks from one to the other, before prudently excusing himself from the medic bay.

"Cy-" Robin starts, before Cyborg turns in a sudden burst of action, restless half-steel hands doing things to the machinery attached to Robin.

"Your vitals are looking good," Cyborg says, peering at the clipboard he's holding, "You're still going to stay in bed for the next week or two though."

"Cyborg-"

"No cardio stuff for a while too," Cyborg says, eyes still fixed on the steady rise and fall of Robin's heart-rate, "But you can do some light lifting if you want."

"Cyborg-"

"Maybe I'll talk to BB about putting you on one of his crazy food-plans. I wouldn't eat too much cholesterol if I were-"

"Cyborg!" Robin says sharply, and it gives him a vicious thrill of victory when his heart-rate spikes, and Cyborg meets his eyes instinctively. But now that Robin's got the steel man's attention, he's quite forgotten what he wants to say.

"You died, man." Cyborg says hoarsely in the thick silence.

"I know," Robin replies quietly, feeling the roiling stab of black despair every time he thought of how dead he had been for that precious thirty seconds, "But I'm not."

"You don't understand, man." Cyborg says, running his hands over his face, eyes hooded and mouth unhappy, "You were so still, and Raven was so furious, and all I could think of was that we never got to finish our basketball rematch. That we'll never get to finish it."

"I'm sorry," Robin says to Cyborg's bowed head, and he aches when he thinks of how he would react if he knew Cyborg was the one who died, even for a second, "But I'm not. And you can pound me as much as you like into the ground with a basketball after I recover."

"You better believe it." Cyborg says with a small wan smile, the tight corner of his human eye easing a little.

"Also, you were kidding about the BB diet right?"

"Nope."

-

Beast-Boy still visits Terra's grave once a month, bearing sweet-smelling flowers, because she had loved him back in the end and he had never quite stopped. Cyborg continues to trash Robin at basketball, trading insults back and forth as Robin continues his cheerful and very acrobatic damnest not to play conventional basketball. Raven teaches Robin how to strengthen and deepen their bond so that they are a force to be reckoned with - on and off the field. And Starfire...

 

-

 

Starfire meets him on the roof. The sun is rising in bright arrays of golds and pinks as Jump City starts to stir.

"Good morning." Robin says without turning around. His silhouette is wiry and strong against the backdrop of the city they all love and serve. Starfire cannot tear her eyes away from him.

"Starfire?" Robin says when Starfire doesn't reply. He turns around to look at her, and suddenly he is not the impressive hero that they all have learned to love and serve as fiercely as their city. Suddenly, he is just a boy, and she smiles because in that moment, too, she is just a girl. "Is there something wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong." Starfire says, because this morning it's true, and she can feel her heart beating with joy, joy, joy. Robin must see something on her face, because his answering grin holds an edge of wonder.

-

...and Starfire helps Beast-Boy buy the flowers, quietly trading stories of her until Beast-Boy can begin to smile at her memory as the months pass. Plays monkey-in-the-middle with Cyborg against Robin just so Robin will grab her midair and tackle her to the ground for the ball, landing on his back to bear the brunt of the fall. Encourages the bond between Robin and Raven with a fierceness that makes Robin want to work harder, be better, be stronger (for her, for all of them). And when they kiss, she tastes like pop-rocks and oranges.

-

She comes to stand beside him, watching the sun climb up the horizon, and slips a hand into his gloved one. He brings their joined hands to his lips and the kiss he brushes on each knuckle is grateful.

"Good morning." She says softly, because it is.