Continuity: Teen Titans animated series, mostly, cobbled together with bits inspired by the comics verse and Batman: The Animated Series, and stuff I just made up from scratch. Sort of an AU? Takes place after the end of the Teen Titans series.
Pairings/Characters: Robin/Starfire; Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy, Kid Flash, Jinx, Alfred Pennyworth.
Rating: PG (PG-13 in general)
Warnings: Not much. Fluff, angst, death is mentioned, minor spoilers for Teen Titans season five.
Word Count: 2993
Summary: The unthinkable has happened. Dick must learn to live without.
Dick was sixteen, and life was pretty good. He was on good terms with Bruce again, and he had gone home to visit on a couple of occasions. A few months ago Batman had even come out to Jump City and met the Titans. Not long afterwards Dick had finally, with Bruce’s blessing, shared his identity with his teammates.
Now it was July; the weather was gorgeous, and for a few weeks the Titans had actually been able to enjoy it. Crime was down; the Titans had put most of Jump City’s supervillains behind bars, Slade hadn’t been heard from in months, and no one new seemed to be in a rush to fill that gap. The Titans still had to deal with the usual small-time thieves, burglars, and drug-dealers, but that wasn’t much of a challenge for a crime-fighting team of their caliber.
And so today had been like most of the days of the previous weeks: sunny, warm, and quiet. The Titans had made a perfunctory patrol of the city in the morning. When they had come across minimal trouble, they returned to the Tower. Robin had set them to training for a few hours and then given them the rest of the afternoon off.
Afternoon had passed into evening. The sun was still up, just barely. Empty pizza boxes lay scattered around the kitchen counter. Beast Boy and Cyborg were playing Ultra Racer X; Raven was sitting on the couch, quietly reading and pretending she wasn’t enjoying their company.
At least, that had been the scene the last time Dick saw them. He and Starfire were curled up together on his bed; both were still in uniform, but boots and gloves lay in piles on the floor, as did Robin’s cape and mask. Robin’s laptop was at the foot of the bed, propped on a small pile of pillows. They were watching Nigel Anaconda and the Golden Fleece, and Dick was finding that trying to explain the jokes to Starfire was twice as hilarious as the movie itself.
Dick snuggled contentedly closer to his girlfriend, breathing in deeply. He liked the way she smelled. There was something unique about her scent, literally unlike that of anyone else on the planet. Something to do with her alien physiology. He couldn’t put into words what the difference was or why he liked it; he just knew that he really liked it. He wondered if it was weird to like smelling one’s girlfriend. He decided he didn’t care. He could live with being weird. He loved how she smelled.
Dick pressed a kiss to her temple, just at the hairline, and smiled at the soft, pleased, “Hmmm~,” that she made. He wasn’t really watching the movie anymore. He didn’t need to; he’d seen it about a million times and could probably recite it in its entirety from memory. He watched Starfire watching the movie instead.
After a few moments the Tamaranean turned wide, perplexed green eyes on him. “Please,” she asked, “what is a Greek pig-dog? It is some manner of terrible beast, yes?”
Dick cracked up. His girlfriend pouted at him. “Rooobiiiin, you are laughing at me! Again!” She poked him in the ribs. Hard.
“Ah! No, I’m not! Honest!”
Starfire gave him the most doubtful, suspicious look she was capable of, which with her large green eyes and sweet face mostly just looked adorable. Against his will a large, goofy grin spread across Dick’s face. Starfire threatened to poke him again.
Dick held his hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay! Maybe this time I was laughing at you a little bit. I’m sorry.” He leaned up on one elbow and kissed her, soft and lingering. He pulled back, adopting a suitably penitent expression and working his baby blues for all they were worth. “Do you think you can forgive me this one time?”
The eyes worked their magic, and Starfire smiled. But then she sniffed, adopting a haughty expression. “I suppose I can find it within my infinite mercy to be lenient, just this once.” Her eyes gleamed wickedly.
Dick snorted; of course her grammar would be perfect for royal pronouncements. “Gee, thanks, princess,” he returned dryly. They grinned at each other and shared another brief kiss.
Dick settled back into the pillows, and Starfire snuggled up against him, resting her head on his shoulder. She slipped a hand up under the shirt of his uniform, sliding it over his stomach and chest; he shivered and reached to pull her closer.
Just at that moment there was a knock on the door. Dick sat up and paused the movie. “Yeah?”
His door slid open; Cyborg and Beast Boy were on the other side of it, wearing troubled faces. Cyborg spoke first. “Robin, hey man, uh… sorry to interrupt, but there’s this old guy on the screen, and he’s asking for you.”
Dick frowned, sliding his legs off the bed. Old guy…?
“Well, uh, actually he said he ‘would very much like to speak with Master Richard Grayson,’” Beast Boy hastened to add, putting on a faux English accent.
Dick had been in the process of leaning down to retrieve the discarded bits of his costume; at this he abandoned the motion and headed straight for the door, unmasked and barefoot.
“It seemed like it might be something serious,” Cyborg warned as Dick passed him. Dick merely glanced at him; it would have to be something serious for Alfred to call the Tower.
Dick paused for a moment at the threshold to the common room, alarmed by what he saw. It was indeed the kindly old face of Alfred Pennyworth on the main viewscreen, and there was a subtle nuance to his habitually grave expression that Dick had never seen before, a certain hollowness around the eyes that terrified him.
He swallowed, stepping into the room and crossing to the viewscreen, passing Raven where she stood awkwardly in the middle of the floor. The last rays of the setting sun were beaming through the Tower’s full-length windows; Dick touched a button on the console to increase the tint and cut the glare. Taking a breath, he looked up at his friend’s haunted and haunting eyes. How bad is it? he wanted to ask, but something wouldn’t let him. “…Alfred?”
“Master Dick,” Alfred said, and this was just as frightening; the man sounded weary. Alfred hesitated, glancing past Dick to the Titans. Dick turned his head to find that Cyborg had already taken an anxiously-hovering Starfire by the shoulders and was gently steering her back through the door; likewise, Raven had hold of one of Beast Boy’s arms and was hauling him bodily into the hallway with a, “Come on, Garfield. Let’s go.”
The door slid shut behind them.
~ ~ ~
The Titans waited anxiously in the hallway as the minutes ticked by. Beast Boy fidgeted. Starfire clasped her hands, staring worriedly at the door as if by sheer will she could see through it. Cyborg crossed and re-crossed his arms, then looked at Raven. She had her hood pulled up over her head, and she seemed to have shrunk in on herself. Cyborg frowned. “…Rae?”
In the shadow of her hood her eyes glinted; she, too, was staring fixedly at, or beyond, the door. “Something bad has happened,” she said hoarsely, almost whispering. “Something very bad.” She spoke with quiet conviction. Her voice would’ve sounded flat and emotionless to a casual stranger, but her friends, who knew her best, could hear the pain in it, echoing the feelings washing back to her through the special link she had with Robin.
This did nothing to inspire calm amongst her teammates. Cyborg frowned more deeply, lifting one arm to view his display screen and tapping a few buttons. “Alfred’s his butler from back home, right? I’ll check the news reports from Gotham City, maybe there’s some emergency….”
Before he could touch another button, the door to the common room slid open with a whoosh and a click. Dick stood in the doorway, blue eyes wide and blank, pale, wearing a shellshocked expression that in the Titans’ experience had no business being on his face. Not their leader, not the Boy Wonder, not Robin.
The Titans each hastily stepped toward their leader, and each faltered, unsure. Raven threw her hood back, round, worried eyes fixed on Dick. “What is it? What’s happened?” she asked, her voice quiet but insistent.
Dick lifted his head a little but didn’t quite focus on any of them. He swallowed, visibly searching for words and having difficulty finding them. With his mask, cape, gloves, and boots missing, he looked smaller somehow. Fragile. It was all so very wrong.
Finally his lips parted, and a moment later words came. “Bruce is… Bruce was shot. He’s… he’s dead.”
There was a collective gasp from his assembled teammates. Beast Boy was the first to speak. “Batman’s… Batman’s dead?” More than horrified, Gar looked crushed, as if someone had told him they’d killed God, or cancelled Christmas.
Starfire tore her hands from where she’d clasped them to her mouth and stumbled forward. “Robin–” she said, and then her arms were around him, clasping him tightly to her. Dick looked distantly surprised, as if the surrounding bodies and faces had lost all meaning to him, and he hadn’t expected them to be capable of will or action. He lifted his hands, hesitated as if unsure what to do with them, and settled them gingerly on her back.
As if this were an agreed-upon signal, the other Titans stepped forward as one, folding themselves around their leader and friend. Beast Boy attached himself to Dick’s side like a limpet, wrapping his arms around both Dick and Starfire. Cyborg stood behind Dick, resting his hands on the teen’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, man. I’m… I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. Raven clasped Dick’s upper-arm tightly with one hand, staring intently, agonized, into eyes that would not meet hers. There was no need for her to say anything; he felt her pain as strongly as she felt his.
Dick’s eyes fell closed and for a few moments the Titans stood like that, still and quiet. Then Dick lifted his head and opened his eyes, swallowing and shifting position restlessly. The knot of arms and bodies around him loosened then broke apart.
Dick was still not quite meeting anyone’s gaze. “I’m leaving for Gotham immediately. There’ll be the funeral, and….” He gestured vaguely, already heading down the corridor.
Cyborg nodded briskly, business-like. “I’ll run a pre-flight systems check on the T-ship. …How long will we be gone for?”
Dick froze mid-stride. After a moment he turned, mouth opened to reply.
Beast Boy cut him off. “Dude, don’t even. Of course we’re coming with you!”
A few different expressions struggled for dominance on Dick’s face. He sighed, looking away uncomfortably. “It’s… it’s not like you guys can actually go to the funeral. The Teen Titans don’t have any connection to Bruce Wayne… or Dick Grayson, for that matter.”
“Then we’ll sit in your fancy house and wait for you, whatever! We’re going,” Gar replied, stubborn and exasperated.
“Robin…” Starfire began, and then, more softly, “…Dick. We are your friends. We will not let you go through this alone.”
The expression on Dick’s face stretched thin and fragile. He swallowed, running a hand through his hair. “…Someone needs to keep an eye on Jump City….”
“Got it covered,” said Cyborg. “This is what the Titans network is for, right?” He tapped a button on his arm console. “Cyborg calling Kid Flash. Hey, man, you there?”
A face dominated by a pair of startlingly blue eyes and a shock of red hair appeared on the tiny viewscreen. “Hey Cyborg, what’s up?”
“We’re going to be out of town for a bit. Think you and Jinx can keep an eye on Jump City and the Tower for us?”
“Yeah, no problem. …How long’s ‘a bit’?”
Cyborg glanced at Dick. Dick hugged his arms to himself, frowning a little. “I… I don’t know,” he said. “A few days? A… a week? Maybe?”
“Call it a week-ish, and we’ll keep you updated, okay?” Cyborg told the speedster. “Can you be here in… let’s say an hour, and I’ll give you your security passcodes?”
“Sure, but what am I going to do with myself for fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds?” Kid Flash asked impishly.
“You could take me to dinner,” Jinx’s voice suggested dryly from the background.
The speedster flashed a grin. “Oooh, gotta run, looks like I have a date. See you in sixty!” The screen went black.
Cyborg looked over at Dick. “There,” he said gently. “All taken care of.”
Dick let out a long, slow breath. “Thank you.” He waffled in the corridor for a moment then all but fled to his room, vanishing into it.
~ ~ ~
Cyborg waited just outside the main entrance to Titans Tower. He gazed solemnly upwards at the stars that sparsely dotted a sky washed out by city lights. His thoughts rested elsewhere. On Robin. On Batman.
Damn, he thought. Damn.
Movement on the water caught his eye, and a moment later a colorful blur resolved itself into Kid Flash and Jinx, who was cradled serenely in his arms. Kid Flash set her gently on her feet, and she straightened her windblown hair.
Cyborg tapped a button on his forearm panel, activating the clock function. It had been exactly one hour since he’d spoken to Kid Flash, to the second. “Right on time.”
“Always~!” Kid Flash grinned. Jinx smiled fondly at him.
Cy jerked his head toward the Tower. “Come on, let’s get you set up.” He stopped in front of the security scanner next to the door. Cables extended from the fingertips of his left hand, plugging him into Titans Tower’s computer system; with his other hand he typed a few quick commands on a keyboard. “Okay, we’re using a retinal scan, voiceprint identification system, and password–”
Jinx cut in. “We have done this before,” she reminded him. “What’s the password?”
Jinx stepped forward, letting the scanner photograph her retina and speaking the password into a microphone. Kid Flash did the same. Cyborg typed a few more commands then disconnected from the console, leading the way into the Tower.
“Where’s everybody else?” asked Jinx as they passed through the hallways.
“In the T-ship already,” Cyborg said.
Kid Flash raised his eyebrows. “Wow, you guys really are in a rush, huh? What’s the big emergency?”
Cyborg hesitated. Jinx and Kid Flash were friends, Titans, and trusted allies, but they didn’t know Robin’s identity, much less Batman’s.
Kid Flash must have seen the conflict in Cyborg’s eyes, because he raised his hands, forestalling him. “Top Secret? Say no more, it’s cool.”
Cyborg gave him a grim smile. “Thanks,” he said. “And thanks for covering for us.”
“No problem,” Jinx told him. “You know what they say… ‘when there’s trouble….’” Kid Flash cheerfully whistled the T-communicator jingle, and Jinx gave him an amused glance.
As they followed Cyborg into the T-ship hangar, they sobered instantly. The subdued atmosphere projected by the Titans’ founding members was palpable. Beast Boy and Raven were grim; Starfire looked outright distressed. Robin’s expression was, as usual, inscrutable, but he was clearly impatient to depart; the very second they came through the door he started warming up the engines and, slipping on his headphones, began a conversation with air traffic control. Jinx and Kid Flash exchanged a glance, but said nothing.
“Looks like we’re off,” Cyborg said. “Thanks again, we’ll be in touch.” He clasped hands briefly with both of them and left them standing, silently watchful, by the hangar door.
Cyborg slid into his seat, pulling the canopy down after him and slipping his headphones on. He poked a few buttons on his console; all systems were go, and Robin had the con. “Hey, uh, Robin? You want me to fly? I mean–”
“I’ve got it, Cyborg. Thanks.” Robin pressed a button and the roof of the hangar began to retract.
“You sure? Because I can–”
“Vic. Please.” Robin’s grip on the control column tightened. “I’d rather be… doing something.”
Cyborg slid a hand over his bare head, sighing. “Yeah… got it.”
Robin pulled back on the yoke and the T-ship lifted off. At first Robin spoke only to the air traffic controllers; once the T-ship cleared Jump City airspace, Robin stopped speaking entirely. The Titans fidgeted, but kept their peace.
After half an hour in the air Robin abruptly spoke up. “Cyborg, can you take over?”
Vic jerked, sitting up straight; he’d been lost in his own thoughts. “Yeah, sure, man.” He reached for his control column.
“Switching over to you.” Robin quickly flicked a few switches and pushed his control column into the locked position then fell back into his chair and ripped off his mask, flinging it aside.
Starfire had spent the entire journey thus far staring worriedly at him from beneath her cockpit canopy. Now she pressed a hand against the glass, straining towards him a few more inches, as far as the confines of her cockpit would allow her to go. “Robin? Are you–?”
“Kori.” Dick shut his eyes tight, pressing the heels of his palms against his eyelids. “Please don’t. I just– I need to be still, and not talk, and not think and just– sit. Right now I just– I need that. Please.”
Starfire bit her lip, looking like her heart was breaking. But she didn’t speak again, merely resting her forehead against the glass and resuming her silent vigil.
Dick let out a long, slow, shaky sigh. He pointedly removed his headphones and set them aside, then just sat with his fingertips resting over his closed eyes. He didn’t move or speak again for hours.
It was the longest flight the Titans had ever taken.
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