A/N: Truthfully, I don't remember what inspired this piece. I just know that I wrote it before I knew it and there it was: done. I think maybe it's the niggling thought that's been in my head since I wrote the insinuation in Estranged of what their initial parting might have been like. I wanted to sort of explore a different way that scene could've played out and ended.
Not beta'd. I was a little worried about characterization and wouldn't have been happy with it if I hadn't gotten the 'ok' from Kysra.
Playlist: This was also heavily inspired by music.
"I'll See It Through" by Texas
"All I Ask Of You" from Phantom of the Opera
"You Owe Me Nothing" by Alanis Morisette
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I claim I own nothing. I accept no payment for this. Only applause...and adulation. I'll accept me some adulation. Yeah, sure. Adule all you want.
In The End
"In the end I wanna be standing / at the beginning with you."
- At The Beginning, Anastasia
They watched Garfield's car disappear out of sight through the underground bridge in mutual silence until even the rumble of his engine faded into that silence, augmenting it, emphasizing the utter hush of the Tower around them.
"So," Raven's even voice emerged from the silence rather than breaking it. When Robin turned to face her, she was already looking at him. "What now?"
Robin held back from voicing his first thought, from giving it weight and substance even in his mind, pushing it away from him even before it could form. Leave it to Raven, he thought, to be blunt and straight to the point. "I suppose I'll shut down the Tower."
"Now?" she asked.
"Not right now," he added, turning around to look at the garage, seeming almost alien in its absence of clutter and cleanliness. "Once we've both packed, I guess."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her turn around, look at the same emptiness he saw and nod, once, succinctly. "When do you want to leave?" she asked after a moment.
He hadn't liked the process of disbandment from the get go, but this part, this was the hardest. And here Raven was, asking him so blandly for the day and time it would all end. Outwardly, he shrugged. "I don't know," he answered. "How long do you need to pack?" he asked.
She shrugged in response, walking to the counter and touching its metal surface and a stain of some sort there with something like nostalgia. "A few hours." She looked back at him. "I travel light."
He nodded and forced himself to smile in response to what he knew was Raven's idea of a joke. "Well, if I could manipulate space and teleport, I probably would too."
She smiled. "How long will it take you?"
The smile faded from his face and his eyes strayed from hers, searching out the small nooks and crannies of the all too familiar space. "I'll be ready to go tomorrow."
She nodded again, and with one last sweeping glance, walked toward the inner door of the garage. "Tomorrow then."
Tomorrow, he thought. He'd say goodbye to her tomorrow.
Later that night, over dinner of leftover Chinese and the last of the soda in the place, Robin watched Raven eat silently and wondered what his life might be like without her.
"I didn't know the eating habits of females was oh-so-very interesting," Raven spoke, her eyes still on where she was picking out bits of shrimp from her noodles, carefully setting them inside the empty paper bag alongside her.
"Just yours," he answered, with hardly a thought.
"Well, do forgive me if my dislike of shrimp offends you," she said playfully (which, for Raven meant not quite as devoid of emotion as usual).
"No offense," he assured her. "It just amuses me," he answered. "You do know there is such a thing as Chicken Chow Mein, right?" he asked after she paused before another bite to excavate more shrimp.
"And I would have ordered it too, but these are Victor's leftovers."
"Oh," Robin looked down at his own box and frowned, "This is a few days old then isn't it?"
She scoffed just under her breath. "No mold," Raven pointed out logically, and with expert grace brought the chopsticks and noodles up to her lips.
He shrugged and did the same.
"So have you thought of where we're going yet?"
Robin was so surprised by her question it took him longer than usual to figure out what exactly she had asked.
He knew she would ask about the future eventually. Some thought Raven was quiet and didn't ask or speak much, but he knew that wasn't true. He knew she asked plenty, if she had something to say or that she wanted to know. So he wasn't surprised that she asked where the road would lead come the morrow. Eventually, however, it occurred to him that she had used the plural.
Very carefully, he turned the signature Chinese takeout carton so it was just so, dug into his Moo Goo Gai Pan with his chopsticks absently and asked, "We?"
She paused midway to a new bite and looked at him. "Am I not invited?"
He sighed. "Raven...you don't have to..."
"I know perfectly well what I have and do not have to, Boy Wonder," she said succinctly. "I will not, however, force my presence on you, so if you do not wish for my company--"
"That's not what I meant and you know it," he said seriously, foregoing all pretense at eating and carefully setting the chopsticks over the open box.
"Do I?" she questioned, meeting his eyes, placing the chopsticks along the top of the box as well.
"Well, if you didn't, I'm telling you now," he exhaled. "You owe me nothing and I don't need --"
"I owe you everything," she interrupted and the quiet of her voice startled him into stillness.
He shook his head, "No, Raven, you--"
Raven frowned and slapped her hands on the table-top. "Must you argue with me over everything?" she demanded sharply. "Can I not even decide what I owe and what I feel about all that you have done for me? Can I not decide what saving me from my father and from villains time and time again, saving me from myself is worth to me?"
He was struck speechless by her words, surprised by the contradictions of emotions.
"You can," he said finally, because it seemed she was waiting for something. "You can even decide where you want to go from here and what you want to do with the rest of your life."
"In that case," she said. "I decide to go with you." And the air of finality to her voice might have made him laugh at some other moment.
She sighed and picked up her chopsticks again, looking into the box with noodles, but not like she was really seeing them. "Why?" she asked quietly. She wasn't really asking him to repeat the question, so he waited. "Because I want to."
It wasn't enough of an answer. If she couldn't come up with some other answer, if even Raven with all of her notable logic couldn't come up with a more meaningful answer, then that must mean there was none and despite all her protests, she was asking to come with him simply for the sake of what she perceived he had done for her. "Whatever you think I've done for you, I haven't--" he trailed off. "I did all I did because I wanted to, if I saved you at all, I did it because I couldn't bear to let you die, because I want you to live, and I want you to be happy." He shook his head, "I don't want you to follow me because you feel you owe me."
"That I owe you my life several times over has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I plan on going with you wherever you go," she answered after a few moments of silence.
"No?" he prompted.
She shook her head and absently picked at the noodles with her chopsticks. "I don't care where I go, I don't care where I live, and I don't care what I do when I get there. Because you're my friend, and the thought of..." she trailed off again and shook her head. "You were there for me when I needed someone and you never questioned me, you never questioned what I needed, just gave me what you could." Her eyes looked up at him before her face did. "I--" she pushed another few noodles into her mouth and chewed more as a way to stall for time than out of enjoyment of what she was eating. "But ultimately," she seemed to decide as she swallowed. "None of that matters, because I know I could never pay back all that you've done for me. The only thing that really matters is that you need me, Robin," she stopped and couldn't meet his eyes. "Or, if not me, you need somebody," she amended. She pushed the box away from her, leaving the eating implements to stick up at odd angles. "And I need you," she finished simply.
He didn't know what to answer and wasn't sure he trusted himself to speak at all. One part of him wanted to say 'Good' and another part wanted to tell her to go, to find herself some nice guy somewhere to settle down with, to have a family and a life, and even though he knew option 2 would be the best thing to say as far as she was concerned, he couldn't make himself say it.
They were both quiet, their dinner forgotten, half-eaten in their paper boxes.
"Do you want me to go on without you?" she asked.
He told himself to tell her yes. He told himself to set her free. He told himself she might actually believe she didn't care, but he knew she had to. He told himself she might think she owed him something so that she had to follow him instead of making a life for herself, but she'd regret it, someday. He told himself her words didn't mean what he thought they meant. Still...
She nodded, and looked down at her hands for a moment, exhaling. Eventually, she pushed back from the table, taking her box to the garbage bag they'd left there for the purpose dumping the contents. "Good," she said decisively, walking across the kitchen like she didn't need anything else and didn't need to say another word.
"Yeah," Robin agreed.