Disclaimer: Oh come on! How many times? Okay. (Takes deep breath.) Here I am sitting in a hot tub while simultaneously talking to some famous person that I don't care about on the phone. Wait, no I'm not. I don't own Teen Titans people, let's just leave it at that.

Author's Note: Well, well, well, the last One-Shot of mine for this batch. Wow. I actually really liked how this one came out. I hope you do too. So please, by all means I hope that you enjoy it!

-T-

Never Alone

I guess that I had convinced myself that when I got home, everything would go back to normal. I thought that when I got back, I'd be able to be care-free and enjoy myself with my friends. On movie nights, I'd scream at the monster in the movie with my friends and throw popcorn at them whenever someone started talking. I thought that when I trained, I would do it to the same extent, if not maybe a little less so I could hang out with everyone else more. I thought I'd be able to sleep. I thought that when I got home, everything would go back to normal.

It didn't.

I mean, I knew that some things would always be different. I knew that. I knew that I would always be the one in the group that knew the most about him, but even that, even that, wasn't that different. I knew that I would possibly be a target for revenge, but I could handle that. But there were other things...that changed. There were things that changed in me and things that changed in others.

I didn't even realize it until things happened. Sometimes we'd treat each other differently. They didn't know whether to ask me what it was like being in the apprenticeship or not. Sometimes, I wondered if they even wanted to know or if I even wanted to tell them because it was such a painful experience. I remember one day, the guys and I were training and the girls were doing something else. The three of us had just come out of a three opponent practice fight. We were sweating and tired, but we weren't done. We still had to cool down and continue practicing in our own specialized areas.

We continued the rest of the time in silence. Even after they ended, I continued. I bench-pressed. I did sit-ups. I did push-ups. I did pull ups. I ran on the tread-mil. I did acrobatics. Then I went back to the punching bag. I kept hitting it until my knuckles were numb. I didn't even know why I was doing all of this. I wasn't angry, that wasn't it. Then I realized what it was.

It had been my fault. They had been in danger because of me. I had been captured because I had been weak. Or at least, that's what my unconscious mind had figured. I knew that it wasn't my fault and that it was Slade's. But I didn't want to be thought of as incapable of handling myself. I wouldn't be able to take that. Even when Raven came in and offered me dinner, I said 'no'. Later I went into my bed. It was 10:45.

I'd been practicing for over eight hours.

I wasn't doing less training. I was doing more.

Then I fell asleep and was out like a light. When I didn't practice, I'd have dreams, but on some occasions, nightmares. Nightmares that were worse than what they had been before. I'd wake up in my room, shaking. Scared. Looking around my room like there was a monster in there that was hiding. Then I'd eventually calm down and lie back down to go to sleep. But instead, I'd stay up, waiting, waiting for the morning and the reassurance. But then, it would be too late. I'd have to get up and meet my friends.

Then the alarm would sound, alerting us to a need of someone in the city being attacked. We'd all be fighting, all in danger, and I'd realize that we weren't prepared for us. I'd see a teammate get hurt and feel like it was my fault, like I had punched them instead of the monster or masked creep that we were fighting. If not that, my mind would flashback to their bodies glowing and being painfully destroyed. I was more protective and when they got hurt, I felt like I had failed them somehow. I was their leader. I should be able to protect them. So how was it that I couldn't?

I wouldn't talk to them sometimes. I'd ignore them or stay away in my room. I remember one day, I stayed in my room and worked. When they came and asked me if I was okay, I told them to go away and that I was fine. I don't know why I did that. I guess I was trying to distance myself. I guess I was dealing with my worries in the only way that I knew: To isolate myself. It's how Bruce dealt with things and it made that my first reaction.

I found myself shocked at what I was doing. The whole reason I had gotten into that mess before was because I was too obsessed with work to care about them. So somehow, I was trying to solve the problem by doing the same thing that had caused it. It was like a never ending cycle.

Sometimes, I felt like I was being watched. I didn't know why, but I did. I felt like no matter where I went, I was bringing a danger somewhere with me. It scared me.

Slade scared me.

And I didn't know how to face it.

But time passed. I got better with things. But some things kept coming back. Again and again. I wouldn't tell my friends. I didn't want to tell them. I didn't want them to worry. And the thing is that even as I did that, I knew that it was going to be worse. Yet I didn't mind. I was used to giving things up for other people. So I accepted it. I didn't know if I was being smart, but I was sparing them, in my mind.

And anything was worth that.

-T-

The night had been fun. The five teens had spent their time playing in a videogame/obstacle course tournament. Both Raven and Star had gotten eliminated in the first round and then became part of the obstacle course, trying to keep the boys from getting past them. Beast Boy had been next and then Robin, so in the end, Cyborg had claimed victory. After that, they watched a horror movie and were all laughing by the end of it.

"Dude, I've never heard you scream like a girl so much in my life!" Beast Boy shouted.

"Please, what is wrong with screaming like a girl?" Starfire inquired.

"Nothing, it's just a demeaning form of expression that guys use too often for their own good," Raven answered.

"Spoil sport," Beast Boy said in response.

"Do I care?" Raven asked.

Cyborg said after a moment's silence, "She has a point."

"Shut up," the changling stated.

"Alright, alright," Robin said finally, "Break it up. C'mon, let's go to bed."

"Yeah, y'all as tired as I am?" Cyborg asked.

"I do admit to feeling the sands in my eyes," Starfire told him.

"What?" Beast Boy said.

Raven told him, "Forget it."

"'Night y'all."

A round of 'goodnights' answered Cyborg as they all split to go to their own rooms. By this time, it was around eleven o'clock. They were all ready to collapse on their beds. As Robin and Starfire walked down the hall, it was amazing that they were able to lift their feet. Star even preferred to walk over flying, she was so tired.

"Do you like horror movies, Robin?"

"Huh?" Robin asked, but then answered, "Oh, um, a little, I'm not a big fan, though."

"Why?"

"I just think there are other things to be scared of and you're just setting yourself up for nightmares," he answered.

"Oh," Starfire looked down and then asked, "Do you think that we will get the mares of the night?"

Robin laughed, "Not likely, that movie wasn't that scary. But really, we should worry more about Raven getting nightmares."

Star laughed. They got to her room where they said their final goodnights of the evening. She watched from the doorway Robin walk down the dark hallway to his room. She sighed. It had been a fun evening. Robin got to his room and got into a pair of shorts and a top before letting his head hit the pillow. He was ready for a good night's rest.

Falling onto his bed, he scanned his room, his walls plastered with newspapers. Shutting his eyes, he willed for sleep to take him over. As he did, he thought about the movie, about his friends laughing at the fake scenes, and about Starfire on the walk to her room. It had been so much fun and he had had an excellent time hanging out with his friends. So… why wasn't he at ease?

Before the question was answered, he slipped willingly into his dreams.

The night dragged on as the Titans slept soundly. Dreams allowing for them to take part in stories beyond where reality took them carelessly into an easy slumber. Robin found himself walking in a busy city. He saw Starfire up ahead and waved. He ran over and she smiled. He felt himself becoming nervous. Nervous, at first, because he didn't want to look like a complete idiot in front of her. Nervous, later, because something, something was telling him that there was danger. Darkness surrounded him and Star's hand disappeared into thin air as the darkness engulfed him and pulled him back. He fell hard and slowly sat up. He stood up and looked around at the black nothingness. Behind him, he felt a hand being placed on his shoulder.

"That's my boy."

"No," he whispered. He got kicked in the ribs as an answer.

Robin turned and ran away quickly. He felt pain tearing at his body as though the more he ran, the more the pain increased. It hurt. Every inch of him hurt. And it didn't stop. What was worse was that voice and everything that it whispered into his ear:

"Thrilling. I know it seems bad now... Attack Robin. Betrayal, Destruction, Revenge... But...if you disobey even the smallest request... Robin!!! I gave you an order. It's the only way to save them. But trust me; you'll learn to like it. It was a thrill wasn't it? We really do think alike. Attack with everything you've got. If you won't attack, my probes will. I will annihilate them, Robin..."

"And I'll make you watch."

Shrieks filled his ears. He saw them crying and slowly collapsing. As they did it felt as though the strength was being sucked out of him, his life force being taken away...

He screamed as he fell onto the ground. Suddenly, Robin found himself in his own room. The feeling was still there. The one telling him that danger was there. He wasn't even sure what was going on. But he felt himself ache. He jumped out of bed and ran.

Starfire was sound asleep when she heard the pounding of heavy footsteps run past her doorway and down the hall. Yawning, she got up and grabbed a silk robe. Looking outside of her door, she saw nobody there, but she was sure that she had heard somebody. Walking down the hallway towards the main room, she still could not see anyone. As the door opened to reveal the main room, Star heard the sounds of someone panting and the refrigerator door closing. Looking over, she saw Robin huddling by the sink holding something to his side, surrounded by a wet rag. He looked… distressed.

"Robin?" she walked over, but he didn't even turn to look at her. He just stayed there gasping deeply every so often, taking in deep breaths.

"Robin?" She reached out and touched his shoulder, when he grabbed her wrist in a sudden panic. The look on his face scared her. His cheeks were wet and his face was contorted into a look of panic and horror. His hair stuck to his forehead and the back of his neck with sweat. He looked at her as though she wasn't really there.

"Starfire," he gasped, then he fell onto his knees for a lack of support.

She fell down with him as he still had hold of her wrist, "Robin, what are you…?"

"Don't, no, you're not here, this is a dream. It's a dream," he muttered.

"No, you are awake," she said, softly.

She felt him squeeze her wrist tighter. She bit her lip, but didn't say a thing. He was only trying to make sure he was awake. That's all. He suddenly started to shake.

"Did you get a mare of the night from the movie?" she asked, but she highly doubted that that was the cause of his behavior.

His lip trembled, but he said nothing. Watching him, she noticed his hand still holding whatever that thing was to his side. Eyeing it, Starfire moved her hand to touch it, but he spoke.

"It hurts," he said.

"What hurts?" Starfire inquired, as she moved to reach out for the wet rag.

"Don't," he begged.

"Don't what?" she asked.

"Don't worry," he told her.

She looked at him as though he were crazy to say such a thing, "Of course I'm going to worry."

He repeated sternly, "Don't."

"May I see it?"

He shook his head 'no', but she tried again, "Please?"

Robin didn't look at her for a moment and seemed as though he was trying to compose himself. Stiffening slightly, he finally relaxed and nodded. Starfire held her hand up and perceived the object to be an ice pack because it was so cold. She moved it, and saw nothing there. It surprised her. She had expected a bruise, but there was nothing, just a side of his stomach near his ribs

"There's nothing there, Robin," she said slowly.

Robin looked down and slowly his eyes widened, almost shocked that there was nothing there.

After a long moment of silence, he finally whispered, "What… what's wrong with me?"

"What?" Starfire looked at him with a pained expression, trying to understand what he was talking about.

"Was that his plan? For me to go insane? Insane with thinking that he's hurting you and me and everyone, when he's not? For me to think that it's no use?" Robin asked to no one but himself.

"Who?"

"Slade!" Robin suddenly screamed as his voice cracked slightly, than his voice became softer and trembled, "Slade…"

Starfire, shocked, understood as Robin continued, "I… I… I've been having nightmares… on and off… and every time, every time…"

Starfire watched as her best friend began to break down and sob, "Robin…"

"Why can't I control myself?" he asked.

"Robin, you can, but…" she hesitantly took his hand and held him in a tight hug, "Everyone's afraid of something… I fear the Gordanians and the Psions."

"The nightmares, I hate them… I don't want them," he quietly whispered, letting himself being held in her gentle embrace.

"We all have the mares of the night, Robin," she told him, "It is not uncommon."

Robin suddenly looked up at her, "You have them."

"What?" she asked, a bit off balance at the shift in attention.

"You, you have nightmares," Robin slowly brought his hand up to her cheek and she let him hold it there, softly.

"Why?" he asked, "You, you shouldn't have them. You don't deserve them."

"And you think you do?" she asked back, "Why have you not told us about your mares of the night?"

"I didn't want you to worry," Robin answered.

"Robin, you are our friend, first and foremost. Then you are our leader," Star told him, "We care about you."

Robin smiled slightly, but it was pained, "I care about you too. That's why I didn't tell you. You're already are hurt enough. There's no need to make you hurt more."

"But there is no reason that you should bare pain all by yourself," she replied, "Why don't you let us bare it with you?"

"Star, I… no—"

"Please?" she inquired again, "I hate to see you like this."

Robin looked at the ground. Starfire once again, brought him into a tight hug, but he welcomed it. It had been so long since he'd let himself crash down, be a teenager, a teenager who felt like the world was being put onto his shoulders. He'd carried the burdens that he thought were his own for so long that it hurt. His fears snapped and scared him, made him weak, but he had so often refused the offered help. Now he couldn't take it, and he accepted the comfort that Star offered. The comfort that was honest and undiscriminating and not judgmental.

"I don't like to be like this… I just…" he pulled his head up to see her green eyes and continued, "I just don't want to see you hurt like this."

Starfire felt her jaw dropped and she hugged him tighter and this time, he returned the hug, "He's out there, Star, I can't let him hurt you. I'd rather it be me than you any day."

"I do not want it to be you," Star whispered, "Robin, the friends help bare the burdens of one another...You are not alone."

Starfire found herself in awe at the teenage boy in front of her, for everything that he was, for everything he worked for... He was only a teenager and somehow, she already knew that he had kept hurt and injury from them more times than they knew. She knew that he had given up his freedom for their lives. She wondered how blind they really have been. She wondered how she could help him...

But she already was. Robin was so grateful for her gentleness, her support, and her loyalty. He could still hear the screams sometimes, of those who got hurt. He could still recall all the hurt and agony that he had endured throughout that apprenticeship. He could still feel it. But being home helped. And being with her, being with her lifted some burden...

It was quiet. The two teenagers sat there, in the middle of the kitchen, on their knees, holding each other close. Robin's tears slowed as Starfire's started. They could feel one another's chests beat in tune with their hearts as they mellowed out. It was calming, soothing, to know that there was someone right there, someone who cared that much about you. It almost made any place a sanctuary from the cruelties of the world. And even though they knew that in the morning they'd possibly wake up to an alarm, it didn't matter. Because right now, they felt safe and cared for and loved. Slowly, Robin brought his head up.

"Robin?"

He thought back to a time where she had called his name out in question. A time when he had begged and pleaded for her not to be hurt. And to hear a voice whisper in his ear to attack and hurt them. Her in his arms, him calling out into the night... He remembered that night on the rooftop of Wayne Enterprises. He remembered the words that would always make him a slave.

"And from now on, I'd like you to call me 'Master'."

And she had stopped him. She had made it so that he would not have to say those things to Slade. How had he gotten so lucky as to have her as a friend? He didn't know, but he was grateful for it.

"Thank you," Robin said quietly.

"You're welcome," Starfire answered back.

"Star?"

"Yes?"

"I..."

They looked at each other for a moment and the sun began to raise, the darkness receding to the corners of the room.

"...I kept you up," he finished.

Star smiled slowly, softly, "You need not feel sorry. Do you need help going back to your room?"

"No, I think... I think I'm good."

The two Titans parted ways. As Beast Boy woke up to the sound of his alarm clock so that he could go in to play a prank on Cyborg, he saw Robin walk down the hall, away from the gym. He shrugged it off as he heard Robin's door seal behind its owner.

After closing the blinds, Robin crashed on his bed for a second time in an attempt to get some rest. He rolled over onto his side and looked around his room. His masked eyes drifted over the stuff on his floor and on his desk. Then they moved to the walls... Robin tensed as he saw the mask hanging on a nail on his wall. It looked almost inhuman form just hanging there. He frowned at it as though maybe it would make the thing move or look away. It didn't. For a moment, Robin thought he heard something out of the grate in the mask.

"I am the thing that keeps you up at night, the evil that haunts every dark corner of your mind."

Robin shuddered and turned away. It was then that he noticed a picture frame on his desk, one of the five of the Titans just hanging out one day. For some reason it made him smile, just to see them. He silently heard another voice. Her voice. Star's voice.

"Robin, you are never alone."

Robin shut his eyes and the teen wonder silently drifted off to sleep, knowing that what she said was the honest truth.

-T-

So yeah, some things changed. I know they did. I won't try to deny it. I think those nightmares will always haunt me every now and then. I now hear the same thing, but with different meanings. Slade says that I'll never be alone because I'll never be rid of his haunting presence. Starfire says I'll never be alone because I have my friends.

So in some ways, other things didn't change. They're still my friends. They still care. And they never thought of me any differently. But one thing did change... One thing changed for the better. I appreciated them more. I knew that we were more than a team. I knew that we were all as good as family. I think that when you can call your friends 'family' it means that you trust each other with your lives and will always be there for one another.

Starfire taught me that. I'm glad that she did. I'm grateful to her. She's wonderful to me, and I love her for that.

So I know one thing will always be true: I'll never be alone.

-T-

A/N: So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed it. You shouldn't have to wait too much longer for my multi-chapters "Sincerely Adeline" and "Flying". I hope you check those out, too. Until next time --

Rena