Robin was thirteen when she got her ears pierced. Dana took her to the mall, as she'd promised for weeks, and helped her pick out the first pair—little aquamarine studs. In only a few seconds, the process was done, and Robin couldn't even remember if it hurt or not.

She does, however, remember that it hurt a little bit when her birthday came. Her earrings came from her parents then, a pair with her birthstone. Her friends gave her the usual gifts they all exchanged, but Arthur gave her a bracelet. She managed to smile at it anyway—as a Bat, she had to know how to hide her true feelings—but it never quite reached her eyes, and she noticed Terry suppressing his fatherly instinct to kill whoever was hurting his little girl. But she knew and he knew and Mom and even Warren knew that Arthur couldn't give her what she wanted because it meant too much. So she wore the bracelet with her parents' earrings and never complained.

Robin was sweet sixteen and had been kissed often enough since fifteen. But she didn't feel so sweet now, and those kisses felt less important than they had been in the past, not after the kiss she'd just seen. Max could see this and broke out the Bob and Terry's. It had been hard figuring out whom to run to. Mom was usually the choice for broken hearts, but this wasn't something she could help with. Daddy was out of the question. In the end, Aunt Max was the only one who could really understand because she'd been there.

"It's tough," she confessed. "That line between best friend and boyfriend is a bad one. Cross it once, and you risk losing everything." Robin nodded as she stifled a sob with a spoonful of chocolate. "You're going to have to figure out what you want. You can't be both."

When she got back home, nobody yelled at her for taking Terry's motherbox just to visit her aunt. Dana let her eat dinner in her room and tried to offer comforting words, even though she couldn't relate well. Even so, Robin broke down in tears and hugged her. She hadn't needed comfort this badly since the time travel when she was eight.

She'd lost her appetite after the ice cream, so she only picked at dinner before deciding to take a bath. As she stared at her reflection, she took out her earrings and threw them on her dresser, not caring when they fell on the floor. These she'd bought for herself last week. Later, she would step on one of them and yell and cry before finally picking them up and putting them away. For now, she didn't want to deal with jewelry and stupid Thanagarian traditions.

"Go for it," Terry insisted when the acceptance letter came in.

"But what about Gotham?" Robin asked. "I mean, I just started. Don't they need Batgirl?"

"Gotham can probably take care of herself for four years, minus summers," Terry replied. "You've done good. You deserve it. Don't sell yourself short."

Robin hugged him tightly, teary-eyed. "Thanks, Daddy. I'll make you proud."

"You know I already am."

Once she managed to get control herself, she called her friends with the news. First on the list was Arthur.

"I got in!" she declared.

"That's great," he replied, but it sounded a little forced. He'd had to attend Metropolis University, since it was the only place he could get a scholarship to. She didn't have to worry about scholarships. She suddenly felt guilty. "So you're going?"

"Yeah," she answered, more subdued now. "Daddy says I should. I'll be coming home for the summer, so I can fight then, and it's not like I'm leaving Gotham completely unprotected—they've got Uncle Matt to help, after all." Once again, she regretted her words. Arthur was still struggling with dual identities; Robin had had Terry to teach her how to juggle both lives. She didn't know why everything she said just came out wrong.

"Good luck," Arthur said finally at the end of their conversation.

"Thanks," she answered. "Bye."

Later, Daddy and Mom decided to take her and Warren out to dinner to celebrate. It was a semiformal restaurant that Robin liked, but Warren complained anyway about having to dress up. As she got ready, she debated jewelry in front of the mirror. Ultimately, she gave up on the earrings. They just wouldn't feel right anyway.

It was good to finally be home, she realized as she stood atop a building in costume. Now that she'd graduated, Robin had returned to Gotham and immediately started to show the criminal element that Batgirl—no, Batwoman now—was back to stay. Already, she'd stopped a robbery and two gangs. None of the crazy supervillains had come out of the woodworks yet, though she fully expected them to within the next week or so. So she was planning on enjoying her break as much as she could.

"Looks like that's it for tonight," she decided, jumping. She free-fell for several feet before extending the wings to glide away. She'd never appreciated her city this much until now. College had been quite an experience, with new faces and new rules. She'd dated around a bit and done a couple of things she would never let her father find out ever and even had broken her heart and a couple other hearts, but it had taught her to appreciate everything she had. Things didn't hurt as much anymore, and she felt far more grown up than she'd ever felt in Gotham or with the League.

At home, she put away the costume, showered, and dressed before grabbing the phone to call Arthur.

"Hey, I was thinking about going out to dinner. You want to come?"

"Sorry, I can't. I'm busy tonight." By the tone of his voice, he had plans with his girlfriend. It didn't hurt the way it used to.

"All right," she replied, a little disappointed but still mostly cheerful. "Another time then?"



After hanging up, she grabbed her purse and quickly peeked in the mirror. It took a couple of seconds to decide to put in a pair of garnet studs before she walked out the door.

Batman Beyond is the property of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Warner Brothers, and DC. Robin McGinnis, Warren McGinnis II, and Arthur Seaborn-Stewart along with all fanon are the shared property of Merlin Missy and the other writers of the R-verse. This fic was a birthday gift for Merlin Missy, just now cleaned up a bit.