Timeline: season 5, right before the episode Trust. Spoilers up through that point.

In a dimly lit underground bunker, a lone figure stood bent over a table, hands palming its dusty surface as hidden eyes poured over printouts, newspaper clippings, and maps. This steel and concrete aviary on the edge of the desert was just the latest in a long line of hideaways, but it didn't bother him any. After all, he'd started in a cave.

More to the point, Robin didn't have the time to be bothered. Right now his team was spread thin, making preparations for the fight against the Brotherhood of Evil. This new threat was unlike any other they'd ever experienced. For all of Slade's diabolical villainy… he was just one man. Brother Blood had the most manpower, but for all his intentions with H.I.V.E., they were still mere students of crime. Who could say which seasoned villains were now aligning themselves with the Brain? Robin shuddered at the possibilities.

His Titans' Rogues Gallery was dangerous enough, but the Brain's influence was global. Villains like Mumbo Jumbo, Mad Mod, and Control Freak were mere annoyances on a scale that included the Brotherhood's known members, but now the Brain was recruiting. What horrible worlds could the Scarecrow create with Mod's cane and Mumbo's hat and wand? What disasters could Control Freak's remote cause if its technology wound up in the hands of the Joker?

Would even the Justice League stand a chance, if Brain allied himself completely with Vandal Savage or Rās al Ghūl?

Robin forcibly shoved such thoughts out of his mind and redirected his attention to the table in front of him. Letting his imagination get the better of him wouldn't help matters any. Information was the key to defeating the Brotherhood—information which they sorely lacked at current. Not for long though, the Boy Wonder vowed, as he flipped the page of an Algerian newspaper.

"It's nearly dawn."

Robin went rigid at the sudden intrusion of Raven's voice, but he relaxed—marginally—when his tired mind managed to process the fact that she was not a threat. Not today, anyway. At least, not to his personal safety.

"What do you want, Raven?" he asked at length, though he didn't turn to face her.

The empath was nothing if not direct. "When was the last time you spoke to Starfire?"

"I spoke to everyone during the teleconference yesterday," Robin reminded her, exhaustion lending a patient quality to his voice that he didn't quite feel.

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Raven came right back, irritation in her voice to match his apparent apathy.

Robin hung his head and sighed. He didn't have the time, the energy, or the desire to have this conversation right now.

"Do you know what today is?" Raven asked, changing tactics when it became clear that he was avoiding her previous question.

"The anniversary of our founding," Robin answered through grit teeth. "But I'm surprised you would remember that."

"I didn't," Raven confessed flatly, ignoring Robin's attempt to dodge the subject yet again. "Starfire reminded me."

Something akin to a low growl rumbled deep in Robin's throat. Raven didn't need her empathy to feel his aggravation; indeed she felt the same way for being put into this position.

"That makes it the anniversary of when we all met."

"So it does," Robin conceded, at last turning to face his teammate. "What's your point?"

"Starfire wonders if you'll say anything about it."

"Starfire needs to shift her focus from the calendar and back to her assignment."

"She's been foolishly optimistic about you ever since our little field trip for the Justice League."

"Oh you mean when she jeopardized everyone's lives with her little temper tantrum?"

So Robin was in a caustic mood. Raven wasn't about to let him get away with it.

"When you admitted to having feelings for her."

Robin sighed again, looking away. He didn't want to be having this conversation, now or ever, and certainly not with Raven. Not that he thought for a minute that Raven would respect that. Not when she was given to forcibly invading his mind under the guise of acting in his best interests.

And she didn't disappoint.

"She thinks you're in a relationship. You need to do something about it."

"I don't have time to handhold lovesick Tameraneans," Robin groused dismissively as he turned his back to her again.

Raven scoffed. "You've had plenty of time."

Robin though was equally incredulous. "Yeah, when? Was I supposed to squeeze her in somewhere between stopping the apocalypse and globetrotting behind the Doom Patrol?"

Now it was Raven's turn to heave a frustrated sigh. "Starfire loves you. She thinks you two are dating. If you don't, or if you're not, then you need to tell her."

A heavy silence stretched out between them, but finally Robin broke it. When he did, his voice was painfully human.

"Last time I tried, she got upset enough to lose her flight powers. What happens when I willfully break her heart?"

"She'll grieve, but she'll get over it," Raven answered after a brief pause. "Eventually," she added grudgingly.

"And in the meantime she'll be vulnerable," Robin informed her in a voice suddenly gone cold. "When I need her strong."

Raven's eyes widened as realization dawned. Robin had confessed his feelings at a time when their lives depended on Starfire's ability to fly, but then the issue was brushed aside as the threat of Trigon loomed. Now, it was the threat of the Brotherhood.

"You're using her," she accused, her voice flat.

"I don't have a choice."

"Lies are always a choice."

"Are they really?"

Raven was all set to answer, but then suddenly found that she couldn't. Not without hypocrisy.

"You can't hide the truth from her forever," she said instead, knowing that he couldn't refute it.

"I don't need forever. Just until we defeat the Brotherhood."

Raven's voice was uncharacteristically sad as she asked, "and what about the villain after that?"

Because Robin could not answer.

"You'll hurt her." In the wake of her words, Raven sensed something she'd never felt in her leader before. Something beyond exhaustion, beyond resignation. Something much more insidious.

Total, utter defeat.

"I know."

There was nothing she could say—or would—to halt the chilling echo of his words.