This story is a reedit/rewrite of one posted on 12/31/09 and is a prequel to my fic 'Jukebox' (in progress) but can work alone. In the Teen Titans Cartoon-verse, it takes place at the end of the year after Season 5 and Trouble in Tokyo. The atrocities of my early attempts at writing has affected my forward progression in my current stories as I've read through them (along with [finally!] the sale of my parents' home after my father's death and my nagging health issues *sigh*). I have been working on all my stories and should have chapters up very, very soon!

Auld Lang Syne

But the seas between us have roared since long ago...

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Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans in any form and I am too young to own Auld Lang Syne nor have I inherited it, although I am a MacKelvey and a Presbyterian, which makes me plenty Scottish.

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It was the afternoon of December 31st and the time for the traditional Titans New Year's Eve party. Well, as traditional as something is when that something has happened two years in a row.

The previous year was the momentous get together after the defeat of Brotherhood of Evil in Paris. Nearly the entire Titan Network was there in the tower shaped like a 'T' on that small island in the middle of the bay. And with the exception of a heated debate about the length of prison sentences under French and International law, most agreed that it was a great time. In all fairness, that argument was reasonable: how could there not be concern over the limited sentences handed down given the nature of the crimes the members of the Brotherhood had committed: kidnapping so many teenage super heroes along with some older but worse yet some younger, transporting them France, threatening to kill them, freezing them, risking an international environmental disaster with the nuclear device, and the list went on. But at least they were off the street and out of play for the time being.

One exception was Control Freak. The Titans agreed that six months in a French prison for the remote wielding do-badder seemed like something they could live with. He really was just an over-sized fanboy with a vendetta against the 'popular kids', or in this case teen heroes. He also would have the most potential for rehabilitation when he was released.

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Last year... there was so much to celebrate then. Starfire remembered feeling so hopeful at that point and it was only about four4 months later that she and Robin officially became a couple. It seemed so simple at first. Starfire, Robin. From the best friends to the boyfriend and the girlfriend. Kisses, snuggles. From longing glances to knowing looks. It's about time...

But, as life is want to do, it had been an uneasy relationship, a word that may even be considered as being used loosely in this case. Robin vacillated regularly between needing Starfire's 'light' to balance his own 'dark' and the entirety of his concerns: how their relationship would affect the team, how she could be used against him, how they were heroes first, and all the other reasons he had for not dating a teammate.

On the one hand things were not all that different from when Robin and Starfire were best friends and not 'more', but on the other hand they were both emotionally messier and hurt more. Was it all worth it?

But there had already been so much between them and there always would be. From the moment Starfire crash landed and started blowing up parts of Jump City, what was then Robin's new home town, there was something that linked the two profoundly. They always had the power to hurt each other or support each other, the breadth and depth of their relationship much greater than between any other of the Titans. Their highs were higher and their lows were lower. Why would that have changed once romance was added to the mix?

Yes, from that first kiss they shared; well, to be fair, the one that Starfire initiated, no, forced upon Robin, the one Starfire needed to learn English. Yes, and in that newly acquired language she spoke those first brutal words to Robin in his own language. That started it all, and the ups and downs that followed. First with her metamorphosis after they defeated the Gordanians and she shed her Tamaranean face crown and armor, donning her uniform for the first time, stepping graciously into her superhero persona as if she wasn't even related to the hissing, growling shackled escaped prisoner hours before. The stress over the times she had left earth, for her transformation and her betrothal, with the thought that she would be gone forever. Or the other time when they all left Earth and became stranded on that terrible planet, when Starfire found herself stripped of her powers because Robin couldn't handle Cyborg's teasing about her being Robin's girlfriend. For a moment that seemed to have ended with an understanding, an understanding that there could be more, but then life again got in the way.

And the list could go on and on concerning the dynamic between Starfire and Robin long before they were a couple.

But perhaps the most poignant time there was was that hint of the future. Catapulted twenty years and seeing what Jump and the Titans would be like without her, Starfire saw a dark, desolate future before she returned to her time and was given the chance to tell the others what she had seen. That gave them the chance to change that future. In that time line Robin had become Nightwing, and even though the future had been changed, Robin, or rather Dick Grayson, knew that Nightwing would be a natural part of his progression, of his evolution. But the question had to be, when?

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As the time came to purchase a new calendar, Robin and Starfire had been an official couple for more than half of a year and things weren't getting much easier. The ups and downs of Starfire and Robin the couple continued, as did the tears out of love and the tears out of hurt. And when Robin needed her, Starfire was there, making it far too easy for him. Not that she wasn't aware of that of course and she was happy to be there for him, and as far as she was concerned, she was not really being used. Things hadn't even progressed to that level yet.

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Another thing that had been happening as the days grew shorter and the nights grew longer was that Slade was back in their lives, not that they were yet to quite grasp the gravity of the situation at that point. What they did know was that Slade had started to contact his son Joe Wilson, someone very close to the Teen Titans. Joe Wilson was the hero and honorary Titan, Jericho.

It was the day after Christmas and Jericho came to the Tower via the help of the Herald's Gabriel's Horn. Slade had contacted Jericho on Christmas and had apparently said a lot of things. In his anxiousness to obtain the information – Robin would never get quite past his obsession with the outlaw – Robin found that he was unable to keep up with Jericho's signing, not that Robin was that proficient in ASL anyway. In a fit of frustration, he asked Starfire to translate.

This backfired a bit for Robin, that whole lip contact thing...

Sure, Robin got all the information that he wanted and got it right away that way. Starfire could tell him all about Slade trying to recruit Jericho, about a new threat in his daughter Rose Wilson or Ravager, but something about Starfire having to kiss Jericho, and to do it in front of a handful of people...

Yup, it definitely backfired on him and Robin had to think about that. And the more he thought about it... it really, really backfired. He did not like that lip contact thing one bit. He had to do something, something more about their somewhat tenuous situation. He had to make a firm decision, not just to lay claim on her, he had to show the world he loved her... or walk away.

And if Robin was going to stop vacillating, truly verify that they were a serious couple, he had to get past how he felt in that moment and suppress the urge to do it in a Neaderthalic manner. It had to be more cerebral because he was more cerebral, they were more cerebral. Robin had to come to terms with it one way or another. And that 'it' was even hard for Robin to say: that 'it' was Robin and Starfire: the couple. He had to decided whether or not he wanted 'it' or more precisely 'them' to be in a real relationship and have future together.

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Nothing was ever simple or easy for Robin, whether by circumstance or design. As if it hadn't already been a difficult enough holiday season for the leader of the Titans, Christmas in Gotham showcased a new Robin. Another complication, another stressor in his life. So if one was to say that the original Robin, Dick Grayson, the one there in Titans Tower, was already on edge? Well, yes - that's a fact.

Was it really time to fully step out of Batman's shadow? Time to grow up? To be his own man? He had thought about a new persona for months, no, years now. Since that fight with Warp, since yet another time he thought he had lost Starfire. Another time he thought he had lost her before he had the chance to tell her how he felt.

But in reality, Robin, no Dick realized, wasn't that decision already made for him? Dammit Bruce, it had been his persona, his. It was based on his family's circus act, on his nickname. Merry-stinkin'-Christmas. Just send a card next time. Directly or indirectly, perhaps it was the last decision Batman would ever make for him.

Time to grow up indeed.

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In those final days of the year, Robin reflected back on the last time he had thought long and hard about the move toward Nightwing. He and Starfire were going through a particularly good period in the weeks leading up to Halloween. They had even taken time off and had attended a Halloween costume party at Titans East Tower in Steele City.

Flashback:

Starfire walked out of Bumblebee's room, dressed as Ariel. Robin let out a low whistle. Sure, it was something that was a bit out of character, but he couldn't stop himself.

"You know Starfire, you really look very sexy in that Little Mermaid outfit."

If she could have seen his eyes, she wouldn't have missed how they had darkened with desire. It was the bikini top made to look like it was just two (in her case large) shells that blew him away. He hadn't had the opportunity to see her in so little before.

Starfire looked over Robin and pouted a bit. "Robin, I must admit as much as I am the attracted to you, this undead being that sustains itself on blood-"

"I'm a vampire Star," he advised her, a bit saddened it hadn't had the desired affect on her.

"-this Vampire is not something I find sexy. I do not understand why so many other girls do," she mused.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," he said with a smile. Sure he wished she had found him irresistible, but that pout was too adorable. He pulled her in for a cuddle, but considering what she had just said, decided against his original plan of nipping at her neck. He then pulled back to look at her, "What costume would you have preferred?"

"Hmm..." And then came the 'a-ha' moment and her face lit up. Still, somehow, she drew out the conversation for once. "I know of a costume that you would look very sexy in."

"And which one is that?" As much as he loved their playful conversation, he was hoping she'd just get to the point.

"I wish you were dressed as Nightwing," she replied, her voice low.

Dick swallowed hard, "Nightwing. As in me in the future?"

"Yes."

"And you thought that was sexy?"

She leaned forward and purred into his ear, "Extremely."

The blood rushed to Robin's pelvis so fast he saw a few dark spots before his eyes. "I'll keep that in mind."

Not surprisingly, soon after, Robin sent his measurements to Alfred and have Harold commissioned to make him the Nightwing prototype.

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The guests were arriving for the New Year's Eve celebration at the tower. Robin and Starfire were alone, busy with a last minute tidying up of Ops.

"Star, we have a lot to talk about," Robin started carefully, "I've been thinking..."

Kid Flash suddenly appeared, "Hey boss, got some eats?"

"Happy New Year to you too, Kid Flash," Robin replied, more than a bit unhappy for the interruption. He should have talked to her about it earlier, there had been time and she had a right to know before the others...

"Yo Robin, the gang's all here," Cyborg announced as a dozen or so members of the Titans Network came off the elevator.

Robin figured he better just go with it. "Oh good, a lot of you are here. I have an important announcement to make." The room quieted down and Robin took a deep breath, "I'm giving up being Robin. I guess it's time I grew up."

"Why did you not tell me?" Starfire asked, hurt evident on her face.

"I should have Starfire. I'm sorry but this is something I have to do."

Tears came to her eyes, "No you do not. You belong with the Titans, with me. Please change your mind."

Dick answered, "I can't. I can't be Robin any more. Don't you see? I'll always be the second half of 'Batman and...' But Robin belongs with Batman, fighting at his side. The trouble is, that's not where I belong."

There were murmurs among the other teen superheroes, but it was Starfire who spoke again, "I do not understand what you are doing. Why are you quitting the Titans?" Her tears fell freely.

"Oh, no, Starfire, no. I'm not quitting. I'm sorry I made you think that," Dick said, taking her hands.

"Then are you leaving me?" she asked quietly, scared of the answer.

"No, just the opposite, Kory," he assured her.

She smiled at his use of the shortened version of her birth name of Koriand'r.

Cyborg cut in, "Cut the drama, man. What are you trying to tell us?"

Beast Boy added, "Yeah, are you staying or leaving?"

"I tried to say it up front. Robin is going back to being Batman's partner, and I'm giving up being Robin. You know, once upon a time, Robin was known for making worse puns than Beast Boy makes. In my mind, I was still that Robin, still swinging along Batman as his kid partner. But that was the problem. I'm not that same kid anymore, I've changed. As long as I wear the same costume as I have since I was eight, I keep playing a role I long ago outgrew.

"What I am now is a person with responsibilities and a team to lead, not a happy-go-lucky kid partner. I am a member of the Titans and currently it's leader, and believe me guys that gives me more pleasure than I could say. So yeah, I'm a Titan and damn proud of it.*

"But I simply can't be Robin anymore. I've known since our fight with Warp and Starfire saw the future that I would become Nightwing. I'm going to go change now. It's a new year, and I am going to go by a new hero name now. Enjoy the party, I'll be back in a few."

There were cheers and high fives among the Titans.

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Dick looked at Kory and smiled, "Starfire. I could use a hand..."

"I would like to help," she responded. Dick was doing his best to ignore the slaps on the back and cat calls, his concentration fully on Kory.

"Star, you've already helped me, more than you'll ever know." He paused briefly and said softly in her ear, "but not more than you will know."

He turned his attention toward the others. "Excuse us a second guys." Robin grabbed Starfire's hand and they ran to his room. She turned her back as he changed from the red, green and yellow into his sleek black with blue uniform.

When she turned to face him, she forgot to breathe. "Wow, Robin... I mean, Nightwing..." she breathed.

He kissed her hard, and she 'eeped' in surprise. "No more being a side kick or a kid. No more always being in the Batman's shadow. It's time I've grown up. I love you Kory and it's time that I treat you like you deserve. It's time to be a man."

And as his own man now, he could live by his own rules and those rules would not include a 'no dating a teammate' rule.

"I love you too, Richard."

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Starfire and Nightwing returned to Ops, and Nightwing received loud applause along with a few wolf whistles over his new uniform. Dick acknowledged his friends, but nearly all his attention was on Starfire. It wasn't hard to miss that the dynamic had changed between the couple.

The party carried on as the music played and the merriment continued. Dick and Kory were in their own little world until Cyborg tapped none to gently on Nightwing's shoulder. "Too busy with your girlfriend Nightwing to ring in the New Year?"

"Yes," he replied with a smirked.

"It will be fun to join the countdown with our friends!" Starfire enthused.

"10!"

"9!"

"8!"

"7!"

"6!"

"5!"

"4!"

"3!"

"2!"

"1!"

And Nightwing and Starfire shared a kiss at Midnight, and with that Dick Grayson rang in a New Year, with a new costume, a new hero moniker and a new found commitment to a better, closer, and more consistent relationship with Starfire.

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FIN

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Auld Lang Syne is a ballad sung to a traditional Scottish folksong (the tempo has been slowed to fit the somberness of the occasion) and has been sung on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve in most regions of nearly all English speaking countries for over 220 years. Auld Lang Syne translates into "long, long ago", "old long ago" or even "once upon a time", (as in 'in the days of Auld Lang Syne').

*Adapted dialog from New Teen Titans (V1) #39, February 1984 when Dick is telling the team that he is giving up being Robin.

Harold exists. In the third issue of Nightwing (V1, 1995), Alfred commissioned him to make Dick an updated and third version of the Nightwing costume. Finally. It was the cool one with the sweeping royal blue bird on the chest of an all black suit.

Thank you for reading.

Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl't in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine,
And we'll tak a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint' stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

Modern English Translation:

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago !

Chorus:
For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For old long ago.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long ago.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale)
For old long ago!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago!