It was movie night at Mount Justice, and nearly the entire team, sans Robin, had gathered in the entertainment/kitchen area and were having fun watching M'gann put on a little show. Robin was running late for some reason, but that only gave M'gann an excuse to both practice her shape-shifting and show off a bit.
Of course, Robin wasn't actually late. He was in the mountain, hiding and working up his nerve so he could go and hang out with his friends without being overly depressed. Mother's day had been over for a whole two days and he was still having issues for some inexplicable reason. He couldn't stop thinking about his mom, and even the happy memories made him feel like just sulking all day instead of being productive. If he didn't kick this in the butt his grades might start to suffer, and who knows about his performance on the team? He couldn't afford to slip up on a mission or patrol. There was no room for failure, ever.
After a while, Robin looked at the containers of popcorn he had brought from the manor for the movie night, sighing. He imagined Wally downing the popcorn like an animal within the first few minutes of the movie and demanding more - it made him chuckle.
There. He'd be fine. As Robin poured the popcorn into a large glass bowl he'd brought, he continued to assure himself by thinking of all his other friends – like Barbara, Roy (invited to the movie night, but of course he didn't show), and even Zatanna (she had been invited too, but they hadn't heard from her about it and had just assumed she couldn't come). He really, really wished she could be here – having somebody who could understand him and his fascination with prefixes always made things more fun, and could help take his mind off of less pleasant things.
Finally sporting his signature smirk, Robin made his way to the entertainment room, where there was already a little party of sorts.
"Oh, oh, me next!" Wally encouraged, jumping up and down. M'gann was currently in the form of Tula, Kaldur's ex-girlfriend, and Kaldur was looking her over to see how accurate she was with a wry smile on his face.
"Alright Wally, give me a second!" M'gann said, giggling, and focusing on the images she could make out filtering from Wally's mind. Meanwhile, Wally did his best to think of his biggest celebrity crush, wow was she a hot babe-!
Meanwhile, Robin was in the hallway, and could hear the commotion in the entertainment room. As he entered, he saw M'gann (it could only be M'gann) shape-shift into a very attractive woman, and although she was familiar, he couldn't quite place her.
"Not quite, green-cheeks," said Wally, although he didn't sound particularly disappointed. "But just to let you know, it's good enough for me!" He put his head in his right hand, eyes lidded and full of lust, smiling. M'gann ignored it, and giggled at him, seeing as his other hand was busy squirting ketchup onto a hot dog…and missing.
Connor was looking on with relative disinterest, not finding the game particularly interesting. He liked how his girlfriend looked normally; she didn't need to keep changing her appearance or anything, he felt it was unnecessary. Artemis was sitting near him on the couch, attention half on the other three and half on the superboy next to her.
Robin laughed. "What're you guys doing?"
All eyes turned to him, and M'gann exclaimed in delight, "Robin! There you are!" she floated nearer to him, seeing the popcorn his was carrying, and smiling happily as she shape-shifted back into her normal visage. "We've been waiting for you!"
"Miss Martian has been entertaining us with her shape-shifting abilities," Kaldur added, still smiling softly.
"Hmmm?" Robin replied, taking a bite of a piece of popcorn and shifting his weight onto his right foot to stand more comfortably.
"Oh, yes!" cried M'gann. She floated into the middle of the room. "Everybody else has gone, so now it's Robin's turn," she said. Robin raised his eyebrow in confusion and curiosity. Turn?
"Hey everybody, check this out!" she said, drawing even Artemis's eyes, and shape-shifted yet again into a woman…wearing and red, yellow and black leotard…medium-length red hair…blue eyes, the same shade as…
The bowl of popcorn Robin was holding crashed into the ground, glass breaking with a loud and jolting noise and drew all eyes and attention to the boy wonder.
Robin could only stare. He stood stock-still, unable to move or take action because of the violent, contradicting emotions and impulses roiling through his body. He couldn't believe what he was seeing, but at the same time he knew what she was – not his mother, just a M'gann that looked like her.
His mother was standing right there. Her beautiful face and her loving eyes and her calloused yet soft hands, her comforting arms and warm chest, her powerful legs and strong gait –
The last time he had seen that face was when it had fear and agony frozen upon it, a face of death. Blood splattered everywhere and pooled underneath her, those same arms and legs broken and twisted and covered in blood. He could remember the sickening crack of her skull as it hit the unforgiving earth…
"Robin…?" she said, with a concerned and confused look on her face.
Her voice. It was her voice. Last he had heard it she was screaming his name, screaming in fear…He could only dream and pray and cry to hear that voice again, wanting so desperately to hear it every time he kneeled in front her tombstone and asked her questions like are you ashamed of me? I am so sorry…would you be proud? Of all the people I've helped, how hard I'm trying? Using everything you taught me to fight, to help…
Do you still love me?
But something was wrong. It wasn't right. His mother never held herself like that, never seemed so awkward in her own body. His mother was always comfortable, graceful, commanding her own body with elegance. This wasn't his mother, not really.
This was a cheap imitation, a fake. It wasn't real, his mother was dead and always would be, and Dick would only ever see her face in pictures and could only hear her voice in his fading memories. Even if she was right there, it was just a cruel trick to make the pain of losing her even worse.
He wanted to run, so he wouldn't have to be reminded of his mom's permanent absence. But he wanted to stay, to keep looking at this imposter and watching because she was right there and he had prayed to God every night for months, and on for years just for this opportunity to see her one last time. He wanted to scream, to be angry, wanted M'gann to stop defiling his mother's visage, to stop torturing him. But he really wanted to run at her, feel her warm embrace for the first time in years and cry into her shoulder and pretend, just pretend for a little bit that his mother was still alive and breathing and everything would be right with the world if she would just hug him again, stroke his head with her gentle hands and sing for him again…
(that song his parents always sung for him to get him to sleep, that he sung to himself to stay connected to them somehow. But he couldn't anymore…he'd long forgotten the words)
As it was, he could do nothing. Not scream in anger or cry in agony, not run away or engulf her in his arms, not ask her all the things he had so desperately, desperately wanted to ask her and could only repeat over and over at her grave in some vain hope that maybe she would hear him. I love you Mom, I love you so much and I miss you and I wish you could tell me if I'm doing the right thing and if you think Bruce is treating me right…I haven't forgotten how to do a quadruple somersault, just like you taught me, see? Wouldn't you be proud, wouldn't you smile and clap and say 'just as expected from my little robin!' like you used to?
Nobody else moved either, didn't make a sound. They couldn't see the agony in Robin's eyes as they were concealed behind his sunglasses. They could see him trembling though, could see the shock on his face. And M'gann, guised as a red-headed woman she had seen a few times in Robin's mind, could feel his violent emotions. It was like a penetrating blast of hurt and sadness and longing assaulted her, engulfing her.
"Robin, are you okay?" she asked again, lifting her feet softly off the ground and floating a little bit toward him.
This seemed to break the spell, and the look of shock faded a bit and was replaced more with anger than with sadness.
"How do you know about her?" Robin finally asked, softly but full of emotion, voice shaking. With anger or hurt, it was hard to tell.
"…Rob?" Wally asked, the hot dog he was about to eat before the popcorn was spilled all over the floor dripped a bit of ketchup on the table. Robin ignored him and asked again.
"How do you know about her?" he practically yelled. Robin's hands were clenched into fists, shaking violently. Connor stood up angrily, ready to defend his girlfriend, but Artemis grabbed his arm and held him back, shaking her head. Her face was worried and surprised; she wanted him to let Robin cool down. "Getting angry won't help the situation," she whispered at him. Connor sat back down.
"I – I…" M'gann stuttered, using her normal voice instead of the one mimicking what she had heard in Robin's mind. "I saw brief flashes of her in your memories…I-I wasn't reading your mind or anything, honest! I just saw them! Really!" she thought he was hurt by her reading his mind and invading his privacy. Oh, if only.
Robin looked like he was about to yell at her to change back, but he didn't, his emotions filling with longing all over again. Why? Why didn't he say something, anything? What did she do wrong? She changed back into her normal form, not wishing to cause Robin any more hurt or anger (although she didn't know why).
And very suddenly Robin took a few steps back, away from her, and sprinted out from the room.
Robin ran away angrily from the entertainment room, heading towards the zeta tubes so he could get out of here. Being angry at M'gann, angry at everything, made dealing with it so much easier. He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't cry, dammit! He wasn't a child, he was being stupid, what was he getting all upset over? It wasn't like he didn't have his family's poster hung up on the wall opposite his bed so he could go to sleep every night looking at his mother's face. He saw it all the time! He could still remember what she sounded like, right? This wasn't that big of a deal, why couldn't these feelings and hurt just go away?
Except it kind of was a big deal. Everyone can agree there's a difference between photos and a real person. There's a difference between memories, or even a recording, and having the person in the actual room with you, speaking to you. There's a difference between an indifferent piece of paper and a real warm, soft body. A body Dick couldn't see or hear or smell or feel or touch because it was rotting in a coffin six feet under the ground, the only indication of its presence given by a cold, heartless tombstone. He hadn't been able to see his mother's body after the 'accident'. He could never remember how much time had passed until the police and ambulance had come, but it had been short enough that they could get his uncle to the hospital in time to save him – you call that saved? – and stuff the rest of his family into body-bags.
Dick remembered watching as the police covered his mother's bloody face –her eyes were bulging out and wide open, fear and pain and oh god – with a blanket. He could remember her broken limbs lolling out from underneath the coverings as they put her body – her corpse – in a bag. He couldn't remember if he had cried and screamed and sobbed or not. He supposed he had, at least for a while, because Mr. Haley had quickly ran over to him after he had climb down from the platform in shock and held him back from rushing to his family, embracing him and massaging his back and saying it's gonna be alright, kiddo, it's gonna be alright. He hadn't been too convincing over his own sobs and shaking.
It hadn't been alright.
Robin shook his head violently to keep himself from remembering. He could feel his eyes tearing up. Damnit. He was already at the Zeta tubes and preparing to enter the transport code for Gotham. He briefly took off his sunglasses and rubbed at his eyes, dispelling the tears. He slapped himself in the face a few times, took deep breaths, made himself feel as angry as possible at his stupid teammates and their stupid game and stupid M'gann – how could she do this to him? (He wasn't angry, not really, it wasn't her fault-) He coughed and hummed to dispel the horrible knot in his throat and made stupid faces to get rid of his trembling lip. Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out. Heading into Gotham at this time of night looking like a lost, scared little boy was a very, very bad idea.
-Recognized: Zatanna Zatara. A-03-
Robin froze. Zatanna materialized out of the Zeta tube that Robin was just preparing to leave out of. He did his best to look nonchalant, but he was sure he probably looked more chalant. He was too far gone; no amount of slapping his face or breathing had made his arms stop shaking.
Zatanna smiled and pumped her fist into the air. "Alright! Zatanna is in the house!" she did a double take. "Or, cave, or whatever…it's party time!" Robin just stared, and the black-haired magician finally noticed him.
"Oh! Robin! Did you just get here too?" she asked, smirking at him like he normally would, but he was just not in the mood. Well, he'd have to get in the mood if he wanted to get out of here without alerting Zatanna to the little incident they'd had.
"Uh, no," he said, and he put up his signature smirk, although he imagined it looked a bit fake. His voice was starting to tremble with his arms and knees. This was bad. He moved to enter Gotham's transport code as he talked. "Just leaving, actually."
Zatanna could tell something was up. His face looked normal, if pale, but he was sweating and trembling. He looked sick. "Uh…I see," she said, eyebrow raised in curiosity and doubt. "You sick or something? There's no reason you should have to miss out on the fun just as I got here! I think I know some get-well spells that could – "
"No," Robin interrupted her. "I'm fine." He finally managed to enter the code with his trembling fingers. Why was this so hard? Zatanna was here, he didn't want to leave – but going back to the entertainment room with everyone else was something he was not willing to do.
"You sure?" she asked, and she walked toward him. He hadn't walked into the zeta tube, even though he had put in a code. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Ha. If only she knew.
"It's nothing," he said, and he made to walk into the tube. "You go into the entertainment room, everyone else is there. I'm sure they'll all be pleasantly surprised."
-Recognized: Robin. B-
Zatanna grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the zeta tube before the computer had fully recognized him. That was probably super dangerous Zatanna, you could have scrambled his molecules HELLO. "Ooh no you don't!" she said, turning him to face her. He looked shocked. "I'm sick of getting in here, you guys getting upset, and not telling me anything!" Robin really had no idea what she was talking about, but he could only assume it had something to do with how both Superboy's and Artemis's motorbikes were mysteriously destroyed several months back. "Now spill."
"There's nothing to 'spill'!" He said, ripping his arm from her grip. He averted his eyes from her, and Zatanna just continued to glare at him, putting her hands on her hips. Robin sighed. He should have known better.
"At least…not here. Can I please just get out of here?" Robin seceded, allowing his features to soften in defeat.
"You mean 'we', right?" Zatanna said, smiling softly at him. She took a step toward him and gently took his hand in hers. "I want to go to this party, but not without you. Let's talk about it and come back later, alright?"
Robin managed a smile. "…sure."
Wally had wanted nothing more than to drop his hot dog and run after his best friend, but M'gann had broken down and was currently gleaning comfort from Connor's embrace, though he couldn't tell if she was crying or not. Artemis was both trying to calm her down and speak calmly with Kaldur to speculate over what the hell had just happened. And to be quite honest…Wally didn't really want to find out what was going on with Robin. He had seemed so angry and hurt – he knew he should do something, but he had no freaking clue what. Sure, he was the only one who knew Robin's secret ID, but the fact that he knew was a secret, and he actually didn't know much else about the boy wonder besides his name and what he looked like behind his mask. He never talked much about his social life, his past, his work…anything about himself, really. The fact that Wally knew so little about somebody he considered his best friend just now dawned on him, and it made him feel like an idiot. He couldn't help and that was that…
Besides, somebody had to clean up the popcorn and glass all over the floor, and M'gann was obviously not up to it.
"You didn't do anything wrong, M'gann," Connor said, and although normally that sentence would sound comforting, coming from him it sounded so impersonal and had a hint of anger, just like most of the things to do with the superboy were.
Wally had zoomed to grab a broom and was cleaning up the mess on the floor when Kaldur (and Artemis) approached him. "Kid Flash, we would like to discuss with you-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, alright?" he said. "I don't know much about Rob either…I can't tell you why he ran off or freaked out, or how to get him to come back, or how to fix this." Wally finished gathering up the mess on the floor with his speedy hands, busying himself with cleaning so he didn't have to think about how very unhelpful he was.
"Well I'd have thought you'd know everything about him, mister 'best-friend'." Artemis said, her usual venom dripping from her voice, arms crossed over her chest.
"I get it, I'm a sucky friend, okay?" he yelled, stomping his feet in anger as he turned away from the garbage disposal that he had dumped the glass and popcorn into. Before he got too angry, however, he kept himself in check, took a few deep breaths, and looked around the room. "…can we just move on? We all came here to have fun and watch movies, not sulk and freak out."
"I do not think any of us are in the mood to watch anything right now," Kaldur said. Wally nodded. He wasn't. Hearing that glass bowl shatter had jarred practically everyone from any kind of good mood.
M'gann, now calm, was looking over the movies they had all picked out and were going to decide on when they had all been there, but now she didn't know if she wanted to watch any of them. She had never seen Robin so upset. Ever. He was always calm, friendly, confident – maybe on tough missions every once in a while she could smell a bit of fear from him, but normally he was always collected, if a bit immature. Earth was so confusing – why had he been upset? It sounded like he didn't like her reading his mind, but she felt like that wasn't it. That was like how Connor reacted to the first time she spoke to them telepathically; Robin had always been reasonable and understanding about her confusion with Earth customs. She wished somebody could explain it to her…
Connor could hear the zeta tubes announce the arrival of Zatanna in the distance, but he didn't say anything. They were too busy trying – and failing – to ignore the elephant in the room. He soon heard the zeta tubes announce the departure of both Robin and Zatanna – Connor tried hard not to think about what that might mean. M'gann needed him.
As they all got to talking, joining in a very uncomfortable conversation, Connor heard something else that really confused him.
-Recognized: Red Arrow. B-06-
"Red Arrow?" Connor said aloud. "He's here?"
Everybody stopped talking. "Red Arrow?" said Wally. "You mean he actually came?"
"Great," said Artemis. "Just what we need, Mister stick-up-his-butt to tell us all about how childish we are."
"I know for a fact that Red Arrow and Robin are somewhat close," said Kaldur. "Perhaps we can glean insight from him."
Wally scoffed. If he didn't know (and he WAS Robin's best friend), why would Roy know? It's not like the other red-head made any effort to stay connected with any of his friends.
"Insight on…what, exactly?"
"Roy!" yelled Wally, speeding over to the other redhead. He was wearing sunglasses (although Wally didn't know why. He supposed it just made him look cooler), a red hoodie, black jeans and sneakers. "Dude, you actually came!"
"I figured I could join you guys in your little clubhouse at least once or twice," he said, arms still crossed over his chest and sounding just as serious as he normally did. "You are my friends, after all." This lightened the mood considerably. But Red Arrow looked around the room and noticed the distinct lack of bird. "Am I early? I figured I'd be crashing the party late in, coming so unannounced. Boy wonder not even here yet?"
"That is actually what we would like to discuss with you, friend," said Kaldur, sounding a bit grim. "Robin came earlier, but there was an…incident. It seemed like M'gann – " he stopped himself when he saw the martian recoil into herself slightly out of guilt, "- we did something to upset him greatly. He left very suddenly, and we do not know why he reacted in the way he did."
"Upset? Upset is an understatement," Artemis cajoled. "It was like somebody pushed a 'pause' button on him. He looked like he was seeing a ghost or something, but then he started yelling, and then he ran off!"
"He yelled at M'gann," Connor said. Roy could tell that was a soft spot for him. "He never yells at M'gann. Not like that."
"Seems like you kids have had a little fight," said Roy. He tried not to sound patronizing, but that was just how he always sounded. Artemis growled. "What did you guys do, exactly?"
"I was practicing my shape-shifting," said M'gann. "I was seeing how accurately I could make my appearance based off of images from everybody's minds," she looked around the room nervously. "We were all having so much fun, and when Robin came in I figured he would want to join in, and I changed into somebody I had seen him thinking about a lot in the past few days…" she looked like she was about to cry.
"I could feel him hurting…I-I don't know what I did, but he reacted so violently, I…" Connor held her hand to comfort her. "I didn't want to hurt him…"
"Hurt him?" Roy was taking this seriously now. He looked worried and curious. "Who did you change into?"
"We don't know," Wally said. "I don't know." He was trying in vain to reassure himself that Roy didn't know something he didn't. If Robin told Roy something, he'd tell him for sure…right?
M'gann looked at Connor for some sort of reassurance, and he granted it, although he didn't know for what exactly. She removed her hand from his and changed back into the red-haired woman that had freaked Robin out. Roy didn't react. At least not at first. He took off his sunglasses (why was he wearing them in the first place? Inside?) and squinted at her. He walked around her, rubbing his chin in thought.
"She looks familiar," he said at last. "But I don't really…" he stopped in front of M'gann, examining the wing-like pattern in yellow on her leotard. His eyes widened. "I think I might know," he rushed, realization dawning on his face. "Where's a computer? I need to check to make sure."
Wally's spirits sank. So he did know? Something Robin specifically didn't tell him? What if everybody else in the league knew, and he was just left out? But maybe he knew it from somewhere else. He kept his hopes up as they made their way to the holographic computer near the zeta tubes.
Red Arrow started the computer and searched quickly for something called the…the 'Flying Graysons'?
Grayson? That was Robin's last name.
Artemis also noticed this. Grayson…she knew that name. She'd heard it before, somewhere. But where?
Questions were answered when the search results came out. There was a poster, a circus poster, with 'Only at Haley's Circus…Witness the amazing, death-defying trapeze act of…The Amazing Flying Graysons!' on it. There was a picture of six people raising their hands to an out-of-sight audience, leaning off of a high-rise platform; two women, two men, and two young boys, all wearing leotards with patterns on them, exactly like the one their mystery woman was wearing. In fact, the woman near the middle of the poster, who was holding hands with a toned man with black hair huge smile, looked exactly like their mystery woman. Every boy in the family-it was obviously a family- had black hair, and the other woman was blonde.
Wally paled. It was a family, whose last name was obviously 'Grayson'. And the youngest of the group, who was smiling and waving at them as well as holding the other hand of the mysterious woman, looked familiar. Extremely familiar. Who was he kidding? It was Dick. Dick Grayson. His best friend came from a family of acrobats. Why hadn't he figured something like that before? That would explain how he had such monstrous agility and skill; skill that not even four years training with The Batman could give you.
Artemis saw the face of the young boy and recognized it too, but just as she was about to comment, Red Arrow began talking.
Zatanna had been in Gotham before, but never this late at night with nobody but a thirteen-year-old to keep her company. She wasn't worried, though, both of them could take care of themselves.
She was worried about the fact that, despite saying he would talk with her about what had him so upset, he had stayed silent throughout their little stroll through Gotham's streets. She hadn't wanted to be pushy, because he looked like he was really on-edge, but trying to appease him obviously wasn't working.
"Sooo…" she said, noting how very awkward this all was. She lightly touched her hand to his, trying to subtly get him to stop walking. They needn't worry about being overheard; the streets weren't very occupied this time of night. This wasn't New York. Robin sighed.
"I really shouldn't be this bothered by it…" he finally said, turning to face her, but still averting his gaze. He rubbed his left arm, looking very submissive and not at all like himself. "…but I just can't help it…"
"Help what?" she pushed. This was getting irritating. "Bothered by what?"
Robin sighed yet again. How could he even begin to describe this to her? Without giving too much away, without making her pity him or feel weird about him. "It's kind of a really long explanation," he warned.
"We've got time," Zatanna said, smiling. She grabbed his hand again and squeezed comfortingly. "Night's still young, and we're two kick-butt crime-fighters out on the streets of Gotham in our civvies. I doubt we'll have to deal with any interruptions." She guided him to start walking again, and he followed.
Robin smiled and squeezed back. "You know how it was mother's day a few days ago, right?" he began.
"Mhm," Zatanna replied, already paying full attention to what he had to say. "What about it?"
They turned the corner, and Robin spied the beginnings of the graveyard where his family was buried. Geez, he'd even led them there subconsciously. Maybe talking about it would help him out of this rut, finally.
"Well, uh…" he struggled to find the right place to start with this. "I've got my mom on my mind a lot lately, and I keep forgetting how much of an empath Miss M is…"
"That woman you shifted into was Mary Grayson," Red Arrow said, and a profile picture of the red-haired woman on the poster was brought up into the air as well. "Married to John Grayson, step-sister to Catherine Grayson and Mark Grayson, aunt to Charles Grayson," he paused, looking at Wally pointedly for a moment, "and mother of one, Richard Grayson."
"John, Cathy, Charles and Mary all died four years ago," Roy finished.
Wally's heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. Oh god. His face paled completely.
Artemis also seemed to go into a bit of shock. "I-I know Grayson! I know that…that kid, Richard." She said pointing to the young Dick on the poster. "He goes to my school! He's super high up on the ladder. He's Bruce Wayne's ward, I hear," her voice lowered in contemplation. "He was a circus kid?..."
"How did they…?" Wally asked, and Roy noticed the pure horror on his face. Yeah. He got that. Robin had told him his secret ID before Bats had really hammered it into him that he shouldn't give it out willy-nilly, but Roy had only just remembered re-reading about the Flying Grayson incident when he was looking through various news articles in an effort to gather information for a case. The name had stuck with him, though he hadn't known why at the time. He knew he would have made the connection quicker if he hadn't been so distant from his friends recently.
"The trapeze that the family used for their act had been tampered with," he said, pulling up the news article on the computer for the others to see. The headline was 'Flying Grayson's Final Trapeze Act Ends in Tragedy'. "The four who died all fell during their final act, which they perform without a net to add to the entertainment," he said. "Mark Grayson fell with them, but he managed to survive, though barely."
"I think we're missing the point here," said Conner, impatiently. "What does that have to do with Robin?"
"Look, Connor," said M'gann, voice soft and full of horror. "Look at Richard." She pointed to the young boy. Roy sighed, but enlarged the photo to show the kid's face. He pulled up a picture of Robin and placed it beside the other photo.
Wally didn't need to see it. The zeta tubes were finishing declaring -Recognized: Kid Flash, B-03- just as M'gann started crying again.
They were in front of the entrance to the graveyard now, and Robin was doing a great job of keeping himself calm. Saying it out loud, without mentioning all of the things that made it so personal to him, made this a lot easier.
"So Megan shape-shifted into your mom, and you freaked?" Zatanna said. She was trying to understand; he'd told her about the circumstances that lead to him rushing to leave the premises. But once she noticed exactly where they were when Robin suddenly stopped walking, realization began to dawn on her. She saw how Robin turned his head away from her to gaze at the graveyard. "…oh."
There was an awkward lapse in conversation. "They're all in there," Robin said. "My family." He turned his head to look at her from behind his sunglasses, and she could feel him squeeze her hand harder as his arms trembled some more. It was kind of weird having this heart-to-heart when she couldn't even see his face, but Zatanna figured that prying was not the best policy right now. And while she had a very sudden compulsion to hug him, she held back. Boys tended to not like being coddled.
"You gonna tell me more?" she asked softly. She squeezed his hand again, and intertwined her fingers with his. Robin smiled at this.
"They've been gone for nearly five years now," he continued. "I…I was watching when they fell…" his shifted his gaze downward. "That was the last time I ever saw her outside of a body bag or coffin…" Robin looked away from her. He didn't want her to see his pathetic face, and he didn't want to see any pity that might strike her features. He hated that.
Zatanna's eyes widened a bit when she heard him say it, but she quickly shook herself out of that and leaned in closer to him, worried. "Robin…"
"It was just so sudden, you know?" Robin kept going. "One minute everything was fine, and the next minute they were all dead on the ground and I couldn't do anything. I couldn't say goodbye, couldn't say sorry for something stupid and dismissive that I said to her before the show...and I had resigned myself to that, you know? I messed up, they're dead and not coming back, I've been moving on with my life and everything's great! I wouldn't trade what I have now for anything…even if I'm tired of talking to tombstones and comatose uncles as if I'll get a response."
He was on a role now. Zatanna wanted to say something, but she figured she would let him vent.
"And I got justice too. Batman and I caught the guy who did it, and I didn't kill him, although I really wanted to. But I can't help…I can't help wondering what she'd say, what my family would think when they see what I'm doing now. I think they'd be proud of me…but I can only think. Speculate. And that's been getting harder…I've been forgetting what she looked like, even though I have pictures of her. Forgetting what she sounded like, everything's just so fuzzy in my memory and I can only clearly remember what she looked like when she died. She's six feet under right now and then…she was just there, in the middle of the room, like nothing had ever changed, like she was still alive and all that was just some nightmare that I could wake up from…" He stopped himself before he could start tearing up.
"I just miss her so much, and seeing Miss M turn into her felt like some kind of slap in the face…"
Zatanna was at a loss for words, so she did the next best thing and just hugged him. It wasn't too awkward since she was only a few inches taller than him, but he did stiffen at first, and they were still holding hands. Robin didn't want to let go of her hand, so he just put his other hand on her waste to hug back. "Sorry for ranting at you…you really needn't have bothered."
"Shut up and hug me, boy wonder," she snapped at him, voice trembling. Zatanna didn't know what she felt at being let in on this, but it was a mixture between being horrified and extremely happy at being trusted so deeply. "How could I let you just leave and sulk all night with this in your brain? You'd have imploded."
Robin chuckled. "Imploded?" he pushed her away from the hug, and she let him because she could tell he was fine. "You know, things can explode and implode, but they never just…plode, do they?"
Zatanna laughed. "What would ploding be?" They both pondered as they began to walk again in the direction they came from. "Would ploding be just…not exploding or imploding at all, just continuing to exist?"
"I think I like that," Robin said. He was smiling like an idiot now. "I feel very ploded right now. How 'bout you?"
"Most definitely ploding," said Zatanna. She noticed that they were still holding hands, and her palms were feeling a bit sweaty, but she didn't really care. "You wanna go back to the mountain and plode everybody else? I bet they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off."
After Robin finished laughing (she joined in), he looked a bit put-out. "In all seriousness…urgh." He made an unpleasant face. "How do I even begin with ploding them? I bet I made Miss M cry…" he cringed. "Superboy's gonna be pissed at me."
"Oh, don't worry about Mr. overprotective-boyfriend," she dismissed the notion with a wave of her unoccupied hand. "Nothing's going down so long as I'm there, and you know that he respects you just as much as everybody else."
"Respect's got nothing to do with it…" Robin sighed, grimacing as he contemplated various ways on how to start explaining himself "…man, I just remembered I broke a glass bowl and spilled popcorn everywhere. Wonder if I can clean it up as an apology?"
"I don't care, so long as we all end up watching a movie, which, y'know, was totally the whole reason I came and the only reason my dad let me."
They were laughing together, a block away from the zeta transport location, when Robin heard somebody calling for him, rushing at them very fast.
Wally wasn't familiar with Gotham's streets, but he figured if he patrolled the city in a circular pattern at near top-speed, he'd find Robin eventually. All he was thinking of was finding his best friend and apologizing for not doing anything, for being so stupid as to not realize who Dick Grayson was and what that meant. This wasn't even about what happened, he was just picturing what Robin had to have been feeling on mother's day and who did he have to go to to talk about stuff like that? Batman wasn't too much of a 'feelings' guy, obviously. Wouldn't that be his job, as a friend? He didn't even for a moment take into consideration the possibility that Robin hadn't returned to Gotham, and instead mindlessly searched the big, dark, scary, crime-filled city.
Just as he was returning to the zeta location to re-adjust his sense of direction, he heard familiar voices (he was too panicky to pay attention to what they were saying), and instead ran round the block to see where they were coming from. All he needed to see was the familiar lithe figure of Robin in the distance to start running for him and yelling like an idiot. "Robin! ROBIN! DUDE!"
It didn't take very long for him to reach them, super-speed and all. And now he finally saw what Robin was doing.
He was with Zatanna (where the hell did she come from?), they were laughing, and holding hands.
Aw, come on, the 13-year-old could get a girlfriend just like that and he was still just a hopeless flirt?
"…Wally?" Robin said, sounding very surprised. "How they heck did you – "
"Doesn't matter!" Wally said, just now realizing he had started to get out of breath. "Had to find you! We all know now, okay? Red Arrow came by and he figured it all out,"
"Roy came by?" Robin had the same reaction he had. "He actually came. Wow. Waddya know, miracles do happen."
"You invited Red Arrow too?" Zatanna asked, eyebrow raised. Robin just nodded.
"Well?" Wally asked, noticing the distinct lack of how could you's and I don't want to talk to you's and his overall good mood. "You…you're not angry? Or upset? Or…anything?"
"Not anymore, no," Robin said. He finally let go of Zatanna's hand to put his hands on his hips. "I was being stupid, and I got over it."
"Hey!" Zatanna intergected. "I helped, hello." Great. Now Zatanna was a better friend than Wally was. Tonight was just as fun as he'd imagined it would be.
"How pissed at me is Connor?" Robin asked him, grimacing. "Gah, how do I even begin apologizing to M'gann…she must be so freaked out."
"You could start by getting your butt back to the mountain," said a voice from behind them, and they all turned to see Artemis standing there, looking exasperated. "How did you even know Robin would be here, Wally? You must have incredibly dumb luck,"
"Wow, thank you so much for your concern, Artemis," said Robin. He grabbed hold of Zatanna's hand and started walking briskly towards the zeta location. "I take it you're completely C-O-O-L with everything?" he smirked at Zatanna, who was looking back at the other two, but managed to smile back at him.
"As if I am!" Artemis yelled back, and she huffed at Wally "are you coming or not?" before running after them. "Why didn't you say anything to me at school? Why do I even go to the same school as you? What the hell, Robin!"
"Batman wanted me to be able to keep an eye on you," he told her. "And just to let you know, I suppose we're even on the 'things I know about you' front."
Artemis looked flabberghasted. "Wait, you mean, you know about-"
"Yep," Robin said. "I don't have an issue. Batman doesn't either, s'all cool."
"Do you know what they're talking about?" Zatanna asked Wally, who had run up next to them.
"Not a clue," he told her.
"Wait a second…" Zatanna looked like she was piecing something together, and they were just turning into the alley with the fake telephone booth. "Is this something to do with that big 'secret' that you kept absolutely assuring me wasn't a 'secret' but totally is anyway? Robin can open up to me, but you can't, huh?"
"What does this have to do with anything?" Artemis groaned, hiding her face in the palm of her hand. "That was months ago…" Artemis and Zatanna went at odds with each other a bit, while Wally nervously tried to figure out how to approach Robin.
"Don't sweat it, Wally," said boy assured him, patting his shoulder. "If you all know now, then there's nothing to talk about. It was weird for me, really really weird, and I couldn't handle it right then."
"Why didn't you tell me about it sooner?" Wally asked, looking hurt. "We're best friends, aren't we? I could…I could've helped you…"
"And get you all worried and worked up? It's my problem, I didn't think you needed to be bothered with it."
"Bothered? I want to be bothered by you." Realizing how weird that sounded, he quickly added, "You know, more than you already do, pipsqueak."
"I am not short. I'm 14, dude. Well, almost 14."
"Are you taller than all the other almost-14-year-olds?"
"Point. Made." Wally smirked.
"Alright, are we going back or not?" Artemis yelled, silencing both conversations.
Robin bowed and directed his arms to the shabby-looking telephone booth. "Ladies first," he said, smiling at both Artemis and Zatanna. The two girls looked at each other, and Artemis quickly pushed forward after rolling her eyes.
"Gladly," she said, very irritated.
Roy, M'gann, Kaldur, and Connor were waiting nervously for Artemis to return with Wally. Roy had insisted that Wally would never be able to find Robin, and they needed to get him back before he did something stupid in Gotham of all places. He'd offered to go, but Artemis said she would, since she actually knew the layout of the city. She'd stumbled some excuse about her cousin, but she knew that Roy wasn't fooled. Kaldur had agreed that she should go alone, saying that there was no reason for everybody to leave the mountain.
Finally, the zeta tube announced –Recognized: Artemis. B-07 –
Then, surprisingly, - Zatanna Zatara. A-03 –
All four in the room looked at each other as Artemis, and then Zatanna, walked in from the tube.
"Well, hey there," Zatanna said, waving awkwardly at them.
- Kid Flash. B-03-
The computer wasn't done, though, after Wally walked in, and M'gann held her breath.
Robin walked back into the mountain, looking surpisingly calm and well…normal.
"Robin?" M'gann asked, softly, carefully, walking over to the boy wonder. She looked very somber. "I…I'm really, really sorry…I had no idea, I didn't mean to-"
"I know," Robin stopped her. "It wasn't you're fault. I should be apologizing for yelling at you. I should have just left to sort myself out instead of trying to make myself feel better by being angry."
Connor noticed how he didn't say that he'd overreacted, or deny that she had hurt him in any way. M'gann felt like crying both out of relief and lingering guilt, but Robin made sure to dispel that. "How about we all go and watch a movie? Doesn't that sound like a great idea? It's almost like we gathered here tonight for a purpose! What if that purpose was, say…to watch a movie!"
Zatanna laughed. Robin laughed. Wally joined in. Roy sighed and giggled along with everybody else as they all sprinted back to the entertainment room.
They all ended up watching movies until morning (they couldn't decide on what to watch after all), Wally made more popcorn, and everything ploded.
So, this long-ass thing was a fill for the YJ_Anon_Meme prompt 'Megan Shapeshifting Practice', wherein it was asked for M'gann to be innocently practicing her shapeshifting based on images she picked up off of her teammates minds, and she inadvertantly shifts into Robin's mom without realizing who she is.
And I sort of...extrapolated on that. I wrote just the angsty bit at the beginning, and then it exploded into THIS. It had 15 parts! DX And this is pretty much only the second fanfiction I've ever written, sooo...yeah!
Sorry for the shameless Robin/Zatanna, but I just love them together, as a couple or no. Same thing with Dick/Babs.
(Also, was I the only one who thought, when Zatanna was first introduced, that she looked a hell of a lot like Barbara, but with black hair? 'Cause I did.)