Disclaimer: The Teen Titans aren't mine.
A/N: Well, I thought I had decided that this story wasn't ever going to be finished, but I'm not the kind of person who likes to leave things unfinished and I found myself with some time last night… long story short, I decided that it was time to bring some closure to DWYHTD. That's what this is. Originally, way back right after I wrote the last chapter, there was going to be another chapter and an epilogue. I don't have both in me anymore, so I opted to just write an epilogue. Maybe it does the rest of this story justice, and maybe it doesn't, but I'm happy with it because it does what I needed it to do and ends it. I hope it's not too disappointing to the people who kept asking me to finish it. It's not betaed, so I apologize for any rough areas.
There are some details that I couldn't fit into this narrative, so some story notes before you start… I have Alette being bald because the last time we saw her, she had a pretty significant crack in her skull and I had a friend with an injury like that and she had to have her head shaved for the doctor's to fix it… anyway, I'm just trying to be realistic. Also, Alette doesn't have any of her powers anymore, having done the whole transfer thing. And I would say that this picks up about a week after where the last chapter leaves off.
Epilogue: Don't Look Back
I do what I have to do.
And I have the sense to recognize that I don't know how to let you go.
- Do What You Have To Do, Sarah McLachlan
Violet gaze met violet gaze and for the first time since Raven had given birth to Alette, she was intimidated by her daughter. Perhaps the bald head was what did it, or the massive scar the baldness revealed, or maybe it was the way that, even devoid of power, Alette still seemed to emit a dangerous spark of energy. Whatever it was, Raven tried her best to ignore it.
"So, in conclusion," came the voice of the eighteen year old who was sitting crossed-legged on her hospital bed, arms crossed in defiance, "no powers, no hair, and no father."
"Your hair will grow back, Alette," Raven said in exasperation. "And I'm not denying you a father either. I just think… well, the Tower isn't our home. Gotham is. I think home is the best place for you to be right now. You can always come to visit. I'm sure Robin will insist on it, actually."
"And my powers?" Alette cocked an eyebrow and drummed the fingers of her right hand against her left elbow. Yes, intimidating was the word.
Raven sighed. "Like I said, Alette, I just don't know. Maybe with time we can bring them back but not until your body is fully healed. And even then, nothing might come of our efforts. I've never had to face this kind of situation before."
Alette slumped back on her bed and said nothing.
"Right, well, when you're done pouting, there's dinner for you in the kitchen," Raven said in her best combination of her you-don't-scare-me and you-won't-find-pity-here voices. She turned to leave the infirmary and was walking through the doors when she felt a hand take her own.
"I'm glad you're alive, Mom," Alette said. "I don't think I'd be able to do any of what I have to do without you here to help."
Raven pulled her daughter into a hug that Alette willing accepted. Silently, Raven disagreed with Alette. She knew her daughter well enough to know that she would fight through any adversity life might throw at her and she didn't need her mother's help to do that anymore. It wasn't the missing hair or the scar that had made Alette intimidating, it was the fact that she had grown up and become Raven's equal during the chaotic days they had barely managed to survive.
A brief memory of a little girl clinging to the ends of her mother's cloak, looking up in amazement and admiration flashed across Raven's consciousness. She tightened the hug as she felt a tear run down her cheek, mourning the loss of her daughter's childhood and celebrating the fact that she had lived to conquer the trials of adulthood.
"We're leaving tomorrow."
Nightwing paused, his fist inches from the punching bag in front of him, to look at his daughter as she walked into the gym. To the untrained eye, Alette might have looked fully recovered, and he knew that's what she wanted people to think. But he had survived enough injuries to know that her slow entrance was not one of apology for interrupting his session, but one that brought the least amount of pain to her still-healing body.
"We're leaving tomorrow," she repeated, "and I know technically our good-byes should be said then, but there are some things I want to say to you that I'd rather just be between us." She reached a bench and Nightwing joined her as she sat down.
"All I ever wanted was a father," Alette began. "When I was little that was all I used to talk about. Of course, I stopped voicing the wish once I realized how much the subject hurt my mom. But I silently kept on wanting him. I used to come up with crazy stories, reasons for why he couldn't be with us. Ironically, in none of them were you ever a superhero," Alette said this as she looked up into Nightwing's masked eyes. "You told me before that you would find a way to work things out. I didn't believe you then, but I let it go in favor of not fighting any more than we had been."
Alette stopped Nightwing with a raised hand before he could say anything else. "I'm not quite finished yet. See, things will never be normal between you and me. We missed a crucial part of the whole father/daughter relationship thing. You'll never have to cut up my dinner for me, or carry me when I get tired, or scold me for missing curfew but… I'll be giving the college thing a second try next fall and if you'd like to, I was thinking we could meet for lunch every once in a while and get to know each other."
Nightwing wrapped an arm around Alette's shoulders and she hesitated for only a second before resting her head on his shoulder. "Lunch sounds good," he said. "And you'll have to come visit the Tower occasionally too. I'm not the only one who wants to keep you around, you know."
"Yeah, I've already received some threats of being forcibly dragged here if I don't come around from time to time."
The two sat there in silence for a few moments before Nightwing said in a defeated voice, "I wish I could do more for you… could have done more for you."
Alette sighed heavily and pulled away from him. She stood up and faced her father, a smile gracing her lips. "We can't help what's in the past. I like to think I turned out relatively ok, anyway. And really, what's eighteen years missed when there are a good sixty, seventy, or maybe even eighty years left to work on this?"
"Eighty?" Nightwing repeated, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, you're right, eighty is pushing it. I have the feeling Tamara is going to be a handful. She'll have you in a grave by the time she's my age."
"Raven, what can I do to convince you to stay?"
"I was never going to stay, Robin."
The pair were sitting on the roof of the Tower, legs swinging off the side in ways reminiscent of their teenage years. Night was falling on Jump City, and Raven knew that it would be the last moonrise she saw from that particular position. Nightwing persisted in his argument.
"You belong with the Titans, Raven. We're your family."
"There was a time when I belonged with the Titans," Raven said, eyes observing some far off stars as they became visible. "And I've never felt as alone as I did during those first couple of hours after I left all those years ago. I didn't know what I was going to do without the people who had become my family. Then I realized that being pregnant meant that I was never going to be alone again. Add Bruce and Alfred into the equation and… I found a different home. Not better, just different. And that's where I belong now."
"But…" Nightwing's voice trailed off, and he hesitantly placed his hand over Raven's. Encouraged by the fact that she did not pull away, he continued. "You belong with me."
Raven turned her hand over in his so that their fingers interlaced. She studied the pattern saying, "I was wrong not to tell you all of what I'm about to say before I left the first time, but I didn't think Robin would have understood. Nightwing, though, I think he might be able to. I love you, and I won't ever stop. I wasn't really made for love and I certainly wasn't made to fall in love multiple times, so congratulations, you're the lucky recipient of my unwavering affection," she smirked here in an attempt to lighten the mood that was becoming increasingly somber, but Nightwing's frown remained in place. "But in learning to love you I also had to learn that just because you love someone doesn't mean they have to love you back or that they were meant to love you."
"Raven how could you say something like that! I do love you. As long as you have loved me, I have-"
"No," Raven said firmly. "You have Starfire. And though with me you try to deny it, I can see it. You married her, you gave her a child, and you have always protected her. I hardly think that any of those things could be accomplished without love."
"It's different with Starfire. She's not… she's not you."
"Yes, it is different with her. What we had was the passion of the love of two teenagers. Have you ever noticed that? Teenagers go around saying they're in love when they probably aren't even sure what it is. Looking back, I know that's exactly what we had and right here, right now, I know that I nurtured that love for all these years and it grew and matured with me. You didn't have Alette, and I know that she is what kept me loving you. So you looked to other people to fill that place that I had once occupied, and you found Starfire. I don't think you replaced me, Robin," Raven said, meeting his eyes with hers for the first time since the conversation had started.
He, however, could not bring himself to return the gesture. His eyes now turned to their still-entwined hands and he said, voice heavy with guilt, "But that's how I've felt ever since I let myself love Starfire."
"You can't help who you fall in love with," Raven said. She took her hand from Nightwing's and placed both of them on his face, forcing him to look at her. Then, so quickly he wasn't sure it had happened, Raven's lips met his in what he knew was one last kiss. Before he had time to enjoy the warmth her closeness brought, however, she was on her feet and halfway to the door.
"Raven!" Nightwing called out, shocked by the utter desperation in his voice.
He saw her shake her head back and forth… watched as her fists clenched… and heard in her voice the tears she was fighting back. "I made a choice eighteen years ago, and we're still suffering the consequences. We've gotten ourselves too deeply entrenched in lives that can't be lived while the other one is around. I won't let you ruin the life you have… I won't help you hurt that little girl of yours, Robin. The truth is, we can talk about how we wish things were different, but in reality, if we want to survive… if we want to make the best out of what life throws at us, then we do what we have to do to make what we're given good enough. I'm happy in Gotham with Alette and Bruce and Alfred and my little book store. And I know you're happy with your family and the Titans. And knowing that you've found an alternate route to happiness makes me feel not so bad about leaving you all those years ago. Just think if I hadn't, then you wouldn't have Tamara." There was a pause in which Raven chanced a glance up at Nightwing, who by this time had come to stand next to her.
"You are happy, aren't you Robin?"
He considered his words very carefully. "If this life with Starfire is what you want for me, Raven, then I'll be happy in it. I'll be happy because I know it's what you want for me. But that doesn't mean that I won't still think about you."
Raven nodded. "I think that's acceptable."
"Mom? Mom, are you up here?" The calls came from Alette, her voice getting louder as she pushed the door to the rooftop open. "Mom, Cyborg says…" Alette left the words hanging in the air as her eyes fell upon her parents, both looking beaten but resolute. She took in the sight of them together and stored it in her memory, knowing that moments like this one would be few and far between. "Um… Cyborg says that you can't spend your last night in the Tower on the roof by yourself," she finished, feeling awkward for having interrupted whatever had been going on.
"We were on our way down," Raven said. She left Nightwing's side and joined her daughter at the door and as he followed the two of them down the stairs, Nightwing made a silent promise to them and to himself to never let them get as far away as they had been before.