This originated in a 15-minute-fic prompt on LiveJournal.

The R-Cycle limped lazily forward with no great care as to where it was headed; just that it was kept upright and wound up safely parked, because that was all that the young hero who guided it could manage at the moment. When the engine was finally cut, it puttered out in a gasping sigh—one that harmonized perfectly with that of its owner. Then finally Robin dismounted, and stretched his aching back until something popped.

He was beyond tired at this point—both mentally and physically exhausted, and most likely emotionally spent. Though to be honest, he couldn't really tell one way or the other with that last one. Perhaps the answer would come to him later, after he'd regained something of the seemingly simplistic ability to feel.

But still, it was good to be home.


A thought he'd kept so far off on the back burner that now it felt almost foreign, jangling awkwardly around the corners of his mind like the Tamaranean Starfire was attempting to teach him. Yet here he was, at long last. He had half a mind to pinch himself, so that he could wake up in his cold bed in his barren room inside the Tower, put this fantasy behind him and just get on with life.

The rest of his mind reminded him that "getting on" was exactly what he was doing now

The young hero groaned and dragged a green-gloved hand through his hair. He was just so damned tired; all his thoughts were running in circles.

Right now, that hardly mattered. Right now he was, well—

He pinched himself anyway.

The exhausted Boy Wonder plodded heavily through the Batcave and into the locker room. The Batman was out patrolling his city and wouldn't be back for hours, but Robin didn't possess the presence of mind to care about anything above the fact that he had the showers entirely to himself.

In the surprisingly sterile and well-lit locker room Robin shed his second skin. The brightly colored costume dropped from his lean frame to the concrete floor piece by piece—boots, gloves, vest, leggings, underthings, and finally socks. When Robin found himself standing before the overlarge mirror, his eyes fell upon his own too-thin, too-pale reflection, and he caught himself studying an ever-expanding labyrinth of scars. Almost all of them had Slade's name on them, though there were a few holdovers from his Gotham days as well: Two-Face's crowbar, the Joker's bullet, Catwoman's claws. And then, well, there were a few that he couldn't for the life of him remember how they'd gotten there. When asked about them, he would be forced to make something up.

He'd grown surprisingly good at that.

The shower itself was warm and inviting. Quite lovely, in fact. Afterwards, Robin toweled himself off and grabbed a pair of sweats from his old locker only to find they were too big at the waist and too narrow in the shoulders. Funny how much of a difference a year can make.

When at last he made it up into Wayne Manor, he headed straight for the stairs to the second floor, only for a a clipped British accent to suddenly call out: "Master Dick!"

Robin froze.

It wasn't that he'd actually forgotten his real name. It'd just been so long since anyone had actually used it, the sound of it jarred him harder than an impact with Slade's fist. When he turned around to face the man he considered his grandfather, to his surprise he saw Alfred gasp in shock.

Robin blinked, unsure of what had caused that reaction. Did he really look that bad?

Slowly, silently, the butler approached him, regarding his charge with a mixture of shock, sadness, and—oddly enough, reverence. Then, with one singularly deft motion, he reached up—

And peeled off Robin's mask.

Dick Grayson inhaled sharply as he felt the spirit gum give way, undoubtedly tearing a few layers of skin in the process. For a moment he just stood there, his mind staggering beneath the sudden onslaught, struggling to comprehend the kaleidoscope of forgotten colors the rushed to fill the whole of his vision. He blinked, and felt a certain heat creep along his cheekbones, and—belatedly—he admitted that he felt exposed, almost naked, without the mask.

At length he closed his eyes against a shuddering sigh as his body bled out all that latent tension, leaving him punch-drunk and boneless in his exhaustion. He felt subtle currents of air ghost across his eyelids, almost tickling, and in a flash of panic he realized—he felt vulnerable.

"Alfred—" but then he laughed. He felt actually giddy, and that feeling blossomed into a slow, stunning smile; one that broke across his face like midwinter's dawn, stark and brilliant after having lingered so long in the cold and dark.

He felt human.