A/N: That's it. Finis. C'est tout, mes amies. The last chapter. ::goes off singing, 'And another one bites the dust!'
Thanks: To everyone who's reviewed (especially the few people who assured me that THEY DID indeed, care about why Mr. Haly had asked Robin over.). Especially, as always, to Kysra who played beta for me on most of this one. Specific responses on 'emsscraps' sometime tomorrow. I think.
I hope you enjoy!
Home, Chapter 11
"Home' is any four walls that enclose the right person."
- Helen Rowland
"You must be Rachel."
Raven blinked at the warmth in the greeting and stopped dead in her tracks at the door as if she weren't sure she shouldn't be running in the other direction. Only Robin's hand in hers kept her grounded and she was able to focus on the friendly features of the man who had stopped in front of her, waiting.
"I am Rachel," she finally answered when she realized an answer was expected.
"I've heard much about you," the man said, using his thumb and forefinger to comb at his jet black mustache, only slightly gray, in what she guessed was a habitual gesture more than a necessary one. "And I must say, even Skip's exuberant praise doesn't do your beauty justice."
She decided with that gesture, that she would like Mr. Haly and found it incredibly difficult not to smile. "You are too kind," she answered.
Mr. Haly smiled at her and turned to Robin at her side. "Boy," he greeted, a warm smile still on his face. "You've grown up well."
Robin smiled, and only Raven could feel the slight tightening of his hand in hers, so only Raven knew of his unease. "Thank you for inviting us," Robin spoke.
"Sheesh!" Izzy exclaimed from behind them, pushing Robin and Raven further into the room as she pushed her own way inside. "Y'all are being so formal!" She walked across the room to her father's side and hugged him with one arm.
Raven squeezed Robin's hand once and let it go. Robin took the hint and extended it to Mr. Haly. "It's good to see you again, Sir."
Mr. Haly took his hand and pulled Robin into his embrace. "I've missed you, boy."
Robin, who had started out surprised at the contact, returned the hug at Haly's rough words. "It's been good to be back."
"Well," Izzy said, smiling as the two parted. "Now that my job here is done..." she started to walk away toward the exit. "Don't be too long, daddy, supper'll go cold." Raven followed her exit, wondering whether she should do the same or stick around when Izzy winked once at her before closing the door with her inside the room.
"Well, now, have a seat, both of you," Haly offered, motioning to the seats in front of the surprisingly neat desk. "We can catch up over supper later on, we best get down to business right now as I'm sure you've been wondering why I sent for you."
Robin and Raven sat and waited for Haly to do so before Robin answered, "I figure it has to do with my parents."
"It does," Haly confirmed. He pulled open the side drawer of his desk, reaching into it and out of their sight. Without further ado or preamble, he pulled a box, about 8 inches wide, 10 inches long and about four inches deep, wrapped in brown paper and tied with a simple string. "Your mamma and pappa left something with me, Richard, before they passed on, and made me promise to give it to you just before your eighteenth birthday." He placed the box on the table top and, caressing it once, slid it over the worn but smooth top toward him. "You turn eighteen next month, don't you?"
Robin looked at the box as if he weren't sure it wouldn't shock him if he touched it.
"Now, I've of a mind to leave you here to look it over in peace and get on my way, but there's something in there I need to be around to explain to you, and although I hate to hurry you, I did promise your mamma that I'd make sure you opened that, so..." he trailed off and shrugged, leaning back in his chair.
Raven started to stand, but got no further than resting her weight on her feet in preparation of pushing off the chair before Robin's hand found her wrist, stilling her. She met his eyes and needed no further invitation to stay, so she relaxed in the chair and nodded to him.
"This is why you called me here?" Robin asked, looking from the box to Mr. Haly.
"What did you think I called you here for, boy?" Haly asked, curious.
"I thought it was..." he trailed off and looked at Raven.
"Danger," Raven answered. "He thought you needed his help for something."
Haly looked from Robin to Raven and laughed, chuckling at first, and then at their continued look of serious expectation, the chuckles turned into uproarious guffaws.
Robin couldn't help but smile as he remembered that laugh.
"You're a good kid," Haly finally said when he could. He nodded as if he were convincing someone. "You were good when you were knee high to a monkey, but you grew up good, too," he smiled at them. "Your pappa would be mighty proud."
Robin smiled and his eyes drifted to the box, "Thank you." Then Robin felt the warm press of Raven's hand slide against his and squeeze. He smiled at her and turned back to the box, letting her hand go only when the box was on his lap and he had to.
He went through the process of undoing string and slipping off paper almost reverently, marveling at the texture of the aged paper, slightly yellowed with the passage of time, half wondering if it had been his mother or his father who had wrapped it so neatly and what their thoughts had been at the time.
The lid slipped off without protest and Raven had to stop herself from leaning forward to peer inside, and then, only by reminding herself that Robin should have a moment alone with these things that had belonged to his parents, things left for him. What could he possibly be feeling? In her small bank of emotional experiences, Raven could think of absolutely nothing to relate it to, and so, couldn't even begin to imagine.
Robin glanced inside the box and his eyes widened a little in obvious surprise before, as if he could somehow tell she was thinking of him, he turned to her and smiled, then pulled out a brown leather book that she guessed was an album of some sort, obviously worn with age. He handed it to her carefully and went back to the box.
Raven touched the cover of the album for a moment, but turned her attention back to Robin as he unearthed more treasures from its relatively shallow depths. Slightly confused, Robin pulled out several smaller items that looked alien to her. He glanced at her and shook his head.
"I think they're cassette tapes," Robin told her.
She nodded, familiar with the vocabulary even if she had never seen the type before.
"I forget how young you both are," Mr. Haly spoke up from across the desk, smiling a little.
"My parents recorded these?" Robin asked Mr. Haly.
Haly nodded. "You were maybe a year old when they did it," he answered.
Robin swallowed hard. He took the tapes and almost reluctantly handed them to Raven. She took them solemnly and cradled them on her lap, atop the photo album.
Finally, Robin pulled out a much heavier book, larger than most and much, much thicker.
Raven's eyes widened in surprise, "It's an illuminated bible?" she half-asked. If there was anything Raven knew, it was books.
Mr. Haly nodded and smiled at her. "Very good, little one," he told her proudly. "As far as we can tell, it's from around the eighteenth century, possibly older, but your parents had never taken it to be verified."
Robin ran his eyes over the inlaid intricacies of the cover, lingering on his family name engraved near the bottom.
"Your dad told me once," Haly began, "that it was the only thing he took with him when he ran away from his house after his parents passed away."
"It's beautiful," Robin breathed, noting the intricate detail.
"What you need to see is inside, son," Haly said softly.
Robin looked at him for a moment, then back to the heavy bible and pulled open the cover. For a moment, he looked at the intricate drawing without realizing what it was exactly he was looking at. All he saw were lines and small scribbles. And then, one name in particular, caught his attention, then three, and finally, four.
"It's a family history," Raven spoke from where she was leaning against him to better look at the detail spread on his lap. "Look, Richard," Raven said, awed. "There you are," she reached out and gingerly caressed his name near the bottom of the page.
Robin met her eyes and they locked for a few moments, until Raven smiled. Stronger now, Robin turned back to Mr. Haly. "I thought everything of theirs was burned," he spoke. "Certainly something like this…"
"Burned?" Raven asked, too surprised to censure herself.
"It is a Romany tradition," Haly answered her. "Especially when someone dies in a violent manner, to allow the souls of the departed to move on and not feel attached to anything here in this world." He turned to Robin. "But I could not burn this, Richard," he explained. "Your father and your mother, they asked me to keep it for you."
"But why would they?" Robin pressed. "They couldn't know they wouldn't be around to give it to me themselves…"
Haly looked uncertain for a moment. "It was a precaution," he explained. "And if you look at the family tree again, you might understand why it was given to me."
"You're Richard's godfather," Raven said. Robin's head lifted in surprise to Raven's. She inclined her head to motion the book, so Robin's eyes lowered to the yellowed pages only to find that indeed, there, linked to Robin's name, was Roderick Haly, godfather.
Haly nodded, eyes focused on Robin. "I was to take you in should anything happen to your parents, to take care of you," Haly said. "It was the promise I made before your parents and God," his voice was just slightly thick, like he was having a hard time forcing the air out of his lungs. "But I let the rich man, Bruce Wayne take you in." Haly lowered his head. "For that, I apologize," he finished.
Robin was speechless. He remembered how scared he was to be leaving everything he had ever known when he was still so young, how he hated having to leave all the nooks and crannies that reminded him everyday of his parents and the people who had been as family to him. What would his life have been like if he had stayed with the circus? Under the care of this man who he remembered was always as affectionate and free with his love as he was strict and rigorous with his training and his desire that they all go to school and try to better themselves. Would he have been a normal kid now, like Izzie or Skip, going to school and working the circus on weekends and holidays when the mood struck them? What would his life have been like if he had known that no matter where he went, he had a family to come back to, instead of the Batman and a cold cave and even colder house?
He had gone with Bruce thinking that no one else wanted him.
"Why?" Robin finally spoke even as Raven's hand slipped back under his.
"I thought he could offer you what I never could, Richard," Haly answered sincerely. "I wanted what was best for you, and if you went with Wayne, you'd get all of it." Haly sighed heavily and met Robin's eyes. "I almost took it back when I saw your face as Wayne walked you to his big black limousine that morning, but I was sure you were meant for more than a being a carnie kid or a highwire act."
Robin couldn't tell Haly how wrong he had been or how he would have given up all the benefits Bruce's money provided to him for one chance to live a normal life. Would he still have been so obsessed to seek revenge for their deaths if he had stayed here, he wondered?
"Now, you're almost a man, and I have this other promise to carry out and you're old enough to understand why I did what I did and old enough to make a conscious choice as to whether or not you can forgive me for not carrying out your parents' wishes fully," Haly finished when Robin didn't say any more.
Raven's hand squeezed his and Robin could practically feel a sense of warmth and calm envelop him, and with it, he was able to think, to hear what the man he had looked up to as a father figure as a child was asking for and to know, in his heart, he could give it.
"There's nothing to forgive, Uncle Roddy," Robin said, unconsciously slipping into the nickname all the children had for the bear of a man. He looked down at the pages of the family bible and then back up at him. "You did what you thought was best," he looked up at the man and smiled. "You did exactly what my mother and father asked of you," he assured him, carefully packing the bible before raising eyes to him. "You took care of me."
Haly smiled and nodded and Raven had the impression he was fighting back tears. "I would like to remain your godfather if you'd like to think of me as such."
Robin smiled. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Roderick Haly's well-worn face broke into a brilliant smile. "You remind me of your mother when you smile like that."
Robin laughed and looked back at the family bible, fingers caressing his mother's name. "Thank you," he said and, smiled at Haly. "Thank you for keeping this for me and for everything you've done for my family." He stood, placing the bible back in the box and turned to Raven. "Ready to go home?" he asked her.
'Home,' Raven thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes." She put her hand in his and let him help her up.
"Oh, ho-ho!" Haly exclaimed, standing from his desk and coming around it before they could take three steps. "Where do you think you're going?" he asked them.
"It's late," Robin answered. "We'll be back, I promise."
"Damn right it's late," Haly emphasized with an air of offense. "Did you think we'd let you two kids go home without having anything to eat?" He shook his head. "I will not have it," he took the box out of Robin's hand and placed it in the chair. "That will be safe there until after we eat," he assured him. "Now, come! They'll be waiting on us for supper!" He motioned with his large beefy hands in a shooing motion and Robin and Raven stood and started for the door. "You remember where the mess tent is, Richard, I trust?"
"Even if I didn't," Robin said, hand on Raven's back leading her in the exact location of the mess tent. "The wonderful smell could never lead me astray."
Haly's booming laughter followed them all the way to the tent where they were heartily greeted like lost relatives.
Which Robin was, she supposed.
And which, apparently, Robin's touches and casual kisses made her in their eyes as well.
It wasn't until much, much later, after the food had been ingested and after Mr. Haly had been prevailed upon to take up his fiddle for a few rousing tunes, and finally been allowed to give the floor up to a younger fiddler, that Haly sat beside them again.
"We leave for our winter camp ground day after tomorrow," he told Robin.
"I figured," Robin answered, still smiling.
"We've always been your family, Richard, I hope you know that," Haly continued.
It took Robin a split second to put two and two together and Raven a second and a half. "You're asking me to come with you?" Robin asked.
"It might be too late, but…"
"It's not too late," Robin interrupted with a smile. "I am happy to find I can call you family, and I am very grateful for your asking, but I can't go with you." He shook his head. "I have a family here, now." He looked at Raven, then back at Haly. "And I belong with them."
Raven's hand tightened in his, but she didn't look at him. He turned to her and leaned in close, pressing his forehead against hers.
"Are you certain about this, Richard?" she whispered, her eyes closed. "This was your home…"
"Haven't you figured it out yet, Rae?" he whispered back, cupping her cheek with one hand. She leaned back a little to look at him. "You're my home now."
She smiled at him then, and he leaned in to kiss her again, still marveling at the freedom to do such a thing."
"What about the others?" she asked when his lips were still inches away.
"Hmm?" he asked, enthralled with watching her lips move as she talked.
"Cyborg, Beast Boy and Starfire?" Raven said.
Robin glanced up to meet her eyes for a minute and smiled wickedly, "Well, they can live with us, I guess."
Raven started to laugh, but his lips stole the sound.
Final A/N: So, I hope this worked to your satisfaction all you wonderful readers. This story has gone on for quite some time, actually. Much, much longer than I thought it was going to be when I first started it. But here you go…all things end.
Please enjoy, and remember to make sure and tell me what you thought of the way I wrapped it all up, 'kay?