Summary: After a mission gone wrong two years ago, Artemis was permanently de-aged. Robin, who feels responsible for the accident, stays in touch with her mother and helps out when he can. One day, the Titans follow him... YJ Anon Meme fill. Genpairings. Two-Shot.
AN: Yeah, so this really isn't my best work. Really. I haven't even read over it, and the whole thing was written on my iTouch at three AM after stalking the livejournal forums. The idea just sort of stuck, and I decided to try it out in an attempt to get to sleep-never actually intending to post it on here. That being said, I figured I might as well put the first part out. I've never seen anything like it before, and I really want to see what people say.
Also, I'm totally aware that Paula and Artemis lived in Gotham during the YJ era. That'll be explained, so bear with me.
Please review and tell me what you think~ I may or may not continue it, but only if I get a decent response. Also, if anyone's willing to read it over and fix my screwy iPod typing...?
And, of course, I have to throw in a shameless pitch for my ongoing YJ story, "Wings of the Knight". It's about an older Dick well into his days as the second Batman travelling back to the YJ time. Please check it out!
Disclaimer: I am only a humble fan fiction writer bowing to the awesomeness of television/comic book writers, and own nothing.
The Titans had learned long ago that, sometimes, Robin simply disappeared. At first, it had been worrying; one minute, he'd be standing right beside to a teammate, and the next there wasn't even a flutter of wind to indicate that anyone had ever been there. The five teens' first few missions as a Team were especially unnerving, as there was constant worry that he had been injured or captured whenever he mysteriously faded into the shadows. The Boy Wonder had discovered quite some time ago that his silent, solitary ventures during a fight hurt more than helped a group dynamic, and understood that communication between heroes was key. At first, though, his vanishings had been purely accidental. He had become so accustomed to his teammates knowing every thought during battles, and it had never consciously occurred to him that the others would not understand what he was doing. Needless to say, it was not a quality held by any decent leader without an extremely close connection to his partners, and he, after one, particularly horrible misunderstanding, he made a point to curb the habit in the field. That, however, did nothing to change the way he acted when retiring; or, as Batman's former protégé like to put it, relaxing- because heroes were never "off-duty".
And, so, it was never any surprise when the Boy Wonder would, at times, declare that he had business to attend to, might be gone for however long-there was rarely any actual explicit timeframe stated-and that Cyborg was in charge during his absence. Most of them had long-since stopped pressing for his whereabouts, content with the knowledge that, should they need him or one reason or another, he would always return at their call.
Still, that didn't stop them from wondering at and speculating around his little covert adventures.
Beast Boy, in particular, was most intrigued by his leader's secret endeavors. The young, green-skinned metahuman was always eager to talk, and his naturally curious personality made keeping things out of reach rather difficult. If he wanted to know something, he and his massive, half-metal best friend would do everything they could to find it. It became a sort-of game between the two as time marched forward, with questions and answers ranging around everything from fellow vigilantes' secret origins to whether or not Bumblebee was interested in a certain someone. Their antics did, of course, pose a bit of a problem for Robin, but it was simply another carefree, teenage aspect that brought a bit of grounded normalcy to the otherwise outlandish group of masks and capes. He tolerated it, and, after ensuring that there was NO WAY they could uncover anything too in-depth about him or his identity, let some of their less chaotic mischief slide under his disciplinary radar.
Even so, Beast Boy couldn't help but ask every single time where his friend went gallivanting off to for hours-sometimes days-at a time, refusing both help and company from the four people he was supposed to be closest to. It was yet another fascinating mystery added to the enigmatic boy's already-impressive tally of unknowns, and the changeling, after a while, could not help but feel slightly betrayed as his questions were deflected-yet again. Robin had entered the common area early that morning-just as Cyborg had begun preparing the usual hearty breakfast he served, without fail, every day-and announced that he was needed elsewhere for time being on an important assignment. He never gave away the source of these cryptic missions, but both Beast boy and the machine-man had their theories-each more unbelievable than the last. This, however, seemed to be the metaphorical last straw. The team had just returned mere weeks ago from Tokyo and all the chaos that had taken place there-nearly splitting them up in the process-and the Tower was finally starting to look more like home than a heap of rubble. Things between the friends had been tense for a while, especially since they had not had much of a change to relax between their homecoming following the international Brotherhood of Evil battle and that second, transpacific departure. And here was their leader-their rock and guiding force in times of crisis-announcing that he wouldn't be around due to undisclosed reasons.
It was ridiculous. It was hurtful.
"Come on, Robin!" Beast Boy exploded, shooting up from the table where all but the Boy Wonder and Cyborg-who was busy at the stovetop-had been seated, peacefully enjoying their meal. "What's your deal? Don't you trust us enough to tell us? Even after all we've been through as a team, you still don't think we're worthy enough to know a little bit more about you?" the others immediately lapsed into an utterly shocked silence, completely stunned by the usually-jovial boy's grating questions and uncharacteristically harsh tone. "This is just onelittle thing; don't you think that's only fair?"
Robin, however, only sighed as his friends looked on, running a hand over his perpetually-masked eyes and through the spiked, black hair atop his head for good measure. "It's not that; and, believe me, if I couldtell you what's happening, I would. Things are just..." he trailed off, shrugging tiredly.
"Complicated?" Raven supplied, closing the book that she had been attempting to read while eating. She raised an eyebrow at Robin, who nodded sheepishly at her response.
"No offense, man," Cyborg interjected, waving a spatula somewhat accusingly while still maintaining a more diplomatic demeanor than his younger friend, "But that's crap, and we all know it. You really could tell us if you wanted to."
There was a beat of silence, during which Starfire quietly spoke up, turning her wide, innocently emerald eyes toward the hero she had come to consider both a beat friend and boyfriend over the past few years-and, more recently for the latter, weeks. "I must agree with Friend Beast Boy, dear Robin. I too am most curious as to your whereabouts when you are not present with us." Her perpetually-peppy voice held an unusual undertone of forlornness, mounting the Boy Wonder's guilt to an even higher level-if possible-than before. He hated seeing Star upset almost as much as he hated being the cause of that distress, but there were certain thin that he would not-could not-budge on. Even for her. Even for the Team; his family.
Raven, for her part, kept mostly silent, watching the exchange with an indifferent-but still highly concerned-gaze. After empathically linking herself with the leader, she understood him better than any one else on the team, having seen the pain-filled past liked away in the dark inner-workings of his mind. She, more so than the others, also knew the necessity of secrets-both as protection and a comforting coping mechanism against life's hardships and trails.
"It has nothing to do with trust," Robin responded, sincerity and dejection creeping into his usually strong and commanding voice. Even the most thick-headed and dim-witted person could determine that something wasn't right. This, however, only fueled Beast Boy's resolve.
"Dude, then what does it have to do with?" the bitterness in his words was painfully clear. "We're your friends, man, and, if something isn't right, we can help."
Cyborg nodded solemnly, having put down his cooking utensils and crossed his arms. "You can't always be going off, thinking you can handle things on your own. Everyone needs backup sometimes-even you."
The Boy Wonder shook his head, giving a small, appreciative-but-at-the-same-time-apologetic smile; the kind that showed that there was nothing they could do to change his mind. "Thanks, guys-really. I don't think you get how much that means to me. But this? This... This is something I really do have to do on my own. There's no way around that." with another sigh, he gave another half-grin and turned from the room, effectively putting an end to the conversation.
That was, of course, the moment boys decided that their leader did need them, but just didn't know how to ask. And if following him and being there whether he liked it or not was the only way to do so, they weren't above a little covert-opps practice for the good of their team. It was fairly easy to get Starfire on board with the plan-she was just a concerned about Robin as they were, and needed little convincing in regards to anything she thought would help-but Raven was a different story. The dark empath blatantly refused at first, going so far as threatening to tell their leader if things went any further. Eventually, though, Beast Boy managed to wear her down with enough pleading, begging, and puppy-dog-eyes-though she would never, neveradmit to the last reason.
And so the mission began.
The next day, Robin quietly slipped into the Tower's garage, packed satchel in hand, and mounted his R-Cycle. It was still the wee hours of the morning-the sun had not yet even consideredrising-and the rest of his friends were asleep. After adjusting his helmet and securing his bag, the black-haired boy punched in the security code to unlock the hanger doors, before deciding into the depths of the underground. Originally, it had been Cyborg's idea to build a tunnel traveling under the harbor between the Tower and mainland, but no work on the project had actually begun until after they had returned from China. Robin had to admit-it was a much easier and more efficient mode of straightforward transportation, as opposed to constantly finding new ways across the murky waters without the aid of a flying teammate.
Upstairs, in his room, a computerized alert immediately roused Cyborg from his sleep cycle. In accordance with their plan, he had activated one of their more rudimentary-and, quite frankly, annoying and hardly-ever-used-security protocols that notified the mechanical man whenever an outside entrance was opened. After completing his reboot, Cyborg began his rounds, quickly waking the others to inform them that the time had come to get moving. Unsure of how long they would be gone, he sent a quick message via communicator to Kid Flash-because he was both freelance and, therefore, unattached to other Team obligations and city-limit restrictions, and he would be able to respond the quickest to their call when he received it. The four Titans, however, were not too worried on their territory's behalf. After the Brotherhood's defeat, most large-scale crime had ceased, and now only a few wannabe "villains" prowled the streets, searching for clichéd trouble.
Shortly after their leader departed-enough time to put the adequate distance between them and Robin while still maintaining a clandestine watch-they, too, set off, opting to split up and pursue using their own methods, maintaining communications through a designated, independent comm-link. Whereas Starfire and Beast Boy took to the skies-the latter in the form of a bird and the other remaining just above cloud cover enough to remain hidden-Raven sped through the shadows, and Cyborg moved forward in a camouflaged T-Car.
It wasn't long before they caught a long-distance sighting of the Boy Wonder-even in the dark, his cherry-red bike was easy to spot-and began their observations from afar ready to jump in should he need it. Though no one but Beast Boy would admit it aloud, however, they all knew that this little mission was a much for their curiosity's sake as Robin's safety.
Robin didn't dare relax-well, as much as he ever did, anyway-until he was miles outside the Jump City border with no signs of being pursued. After the Team's outburst the night before, he would hardly put I past them to tail him, but, as far as he could tell, they had left well-enough alone and let sleeping dogs lie.
Despite the ungodly hour-and the nonexistent traffic that came with it-he was careful to stay on the back roads and forest-lined, seldom-used streets. There was no use drawing any more attention to himself than was absolutely necessary; and, in fact, none was. An hour or so into his trip, a blink-and-you'd-miss-it-even-if-you're-looking weedy side path veered off the paved road, and Robin broke to a sharp right, immediately veering off into the woody underbrush. Something near two miles and a thousand curves later, he broke the bike through a small, relatively-hidden clearing. At its center rested what appeared to be a dilapidated, barely-enough-space-for-two-rooms, single-story cabin. From the outside, it looked as though no one had visited for years-let alone lived in it for decades.
Slowly, he dismounted, stretching out the kinks in his back from pressure-riding for so long. After unhooking his pack, Robin set forward and made his way toward the front door, rummaging through the bag's front pocket as he walked. By the time he stopped at the entrance, he had a set of silver, surprisingly-normal-looking keys in his hand. A smooth, jingling twist-and-click later, the wooden frame creaked open and the Boy Wonder made his way inside, shutting it behind him as he went.
The lights flicked on after his flailing hand fumbled for the switch, brightening what was, indeed, a single-room-and-bathroom interior. It was old, with little modern insulation, and wildlife could easily be heard even from inside.
Worn but well-loved blankets were folded neatly atop the twin bed occupying one corner, while a small couch and TV stood against the back wall. In the middle of the room, and old oak table with three, mismatched chairs stood proud, separating the other half of the area that served as a kitchen and dining section. Three doors stood out on the one remaining wall, and, after tossing his satchel half-hazardly onto the couch, Robin made his way over to one: a closet.
Inside, several pairs of clothes-civilianclothes-hung proud, and, after taking a moment to smile and remember times long passed, yanked a t-shirt and jeans off the small rack, before disappearing through the second door-the bathroom-to change. What could have been five minutes later he reemerged, mask still in place, folding the colorful, spandex uniform he always seemed to wear over one arm. Gently, he tucked it in a locked box in the closet's farthest back cranny, completely hidden from sight. After a few minutes of hopping around on one foot as he put on a pair of dark sneakers, the Boy Wonder snatched up a bright green sweatshirt and black jacket, tossing them beside his bag before reaching down to grab another item from its front pocket: a glasses case. And, suddenly, he was peeling off his domino mask, pausing for a brief second as he rub his now-exposed eyes before recovering them-this time with a pair of dark sunglasses.
Quicker than a blink, the rest of his outerwear was on, and soon he was slinging the over his shoulder and exiting the way he had come, taking care to lock the door behind himself. As he walked, a hand reached up to smooth down a bit of his shaggy, spiked hair-though it didn't accomplish much. Before hopping back on the R-Cycle, however, he pressed a complicated sequence of buttons on the control panel. The familiar red and yellow shimmered, camouflage spreading until a black sport-motorcycle stood in its place.
And, just like that, Robin wasn't Robin anymore.
Only Beast Boy and Raven were able to enter the cabin-one under the guise of a well-hidden squirrel having snuck through a hole to the rafters and the other by simply melting her soul-self into the misplaced shadows. Starfire and Cyborg, for their parts, remained a safe distance away, awaiting reports from their two teammates.
Too many beats if tense silence later, the young half-demon's voice crackled through the comm. "We should not have followed him." By then, Not-Robin had already sped off back the way he had come, disappearing into the dark forest once more. Only then had she deemed it safe to speak, re-materializing in the place her friend had just vacated.
Beast Boy followed in suit, hopping down from the roof as simultaneously morphing to a human. The moment his feet hit the ground, he was talking. "Are you kidding? This could be our one chance to find out who Robin really is! How can you want to give that up?"
Cyborg immediately spoke up from several miles away. "Yo; what happened back there?"
"Robin changed his outfit." The shape-shifter was practically flailing.
"You watched him get dressed? Wow, man. Just, wow..." Cyborg could barely hold back his laughter.
"No! And, besides, that's not the point. Robin's in civilianclothes, which means he's not ROBIN anymore. Although, I have to admit, the sunglasses-at-night thing was a bit weird."
Starfire spoke up next, worried. "Robin is no longer himself? What has happened? Is he unwell?" As she said the words, the orange-skinned alien hovered down into the clearing beside her teammates.
"Nah, Star," Cyborg assured her from his car, "he's fine. Robin is still kind of Robin; just without the costume and fancy gadgetry. If what y'all are saying is true, he's going on to something as his real identity."
"I do not understand; has Robin been lying to us?"
It was the changeling's turn to cut in, "Robin is a code name, just like 'Beast Boy ' and 'Cyborg'. He's always been pretty secretive about who his counterpart is—and this could be our chance to find out why!" While his words had started out laced with bitterness, his excitement grew as he continued. "Think about it—unless something absolutely terrible happens, he doesn't even have to know we were ever here!"
Raven's low voice buzzed through, clearly unhappy with how things were progressing. "There is very clearly a reason that he has kept certain aspects of his life—and past—from us," it was a feeling she knew well, "And this has gone far enough. We've crossed the line between concerned curiosity and blatantly invading his privacy. I would be shocked if he trusted us with much after this."
Beast Boy flailed, "But that's the point! Don't you get it? He doesn't trust us, and we're just trying to figure out why."
"This conversation is going in circles," the empathy replied, pinching the bridge of her nose and sighing.
"Look; if you really think that's the case, fine," Cyborg shot back, "But if we have passed that point, there's no reason not to continue. At the very least, we'll have some of the answers we've been looking for."
"This is ridiculo—" she started to retort, but the metal-made teen cut her off.
"I don't care if you aren't in on this, but I'm staying en route. We're this far, already, and I don't plan on turning back when we're this close."
"I'm with you, man." Beast Boy agreed, nodding even though he knew his best friend could not see. "Star?"
Instantly, both turned toward the redhead, who was floating several inches above the ground, large green eyes to the forest floor as she nervously rubbed a hand across her opposite forearm. "I am unsure at to the best course of action…" her voice was soft, and Raven felt bad for the other girl.
"It's simple," the changeling snorted, crossing his arms in an unusually serious manner, "Do you want to know what Robin's been hiding from us all this time?" Starfire nodded slowly, shyly. "Then you're with me and Cyborg." Another nod, stronger this time, and soon the Tameranian was rising into the sky. Beast Boy took a step back, preparing to morph, before he tilted his head slightly to the side and stared down the cloaked figure in front of him. "Just think about it, Raven. What if this is another Red-X? Do you really want to take that chance?" In seconds, he was gone—only the dark outline of an emerald eagle streaking across the horizon.
With a resigned sigh, Raven rubbed her temples before gathering her soul-self to her body and shifting away into the shadows. The least she could do was keep the others out of trouble.
An hour on, Robin veered off on another road—although, this time, it was visible and appeared fairly well-used—zipping past a sign that he had seen a hundred times before and could recite by heart: 12 Miles to Star City. He tilted his foot forward, picking up his pace to approach speeds that may or may not have been legal. It didn't matter, though—there was no law enforcement to be seen for quite a while.
In less than an hour, he was pulling into a sparsely-populated, slum-ish area at the far side of the thriving metropolis—the main reason his route was often deserted. The dark-haired teen slowed to a more pedestrian-friendly speed and continued on, leaving the neighborhood in favor of a somewhat-safer section of the city.
Rather than heading toward the standalone bungalows and townhouses, though, he made his way off into the parking lot of a decent-sized apartment building, coming to a stop in a space near the curb. After easing his body from his motorcycle and slipping off the stifling helmet, he stretched his back—sore from the long ride—and made his way up the steps toward a glass door that served as the massive building's entrance. A knock on the window alerted the guard sitting, feet propped up, at the main desk, and immediately the man jumped. Upon seeing who it was—a familiar young boy now sending a sheepish wave his way—he pressed the buzzer, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, kid; haven't seen you around here in a while." He greeted gruffly as Robin entered.
The Boy Wonder only shrugged, "I haven't been here in a while," as he made his way toward the elevator.
"You're going up to see Paula, right?" He nodded, shooting a look toward the greasy man. "I know it's none of my business, but one day you're going to tell me why you keep showing up. I know you're not her kid, and she doesn't get out enough to have any friends—especially your age."
Robin was now officially glaring the man down, though the effect was somewhat ruined by his sunglasses. The metal doors dinged, signaling the chasse's arrival, and he sent one last, mysterious, angry warning before stepping on. "I'd watch what you say, if I were you. Sometimes bad things happen to bad people." It was a clear threat—really not something that he would have ever considered saying up until a few years ago—and he didn't stick around long enough to hear the man's response.
Six floors later, he was stepping out into a dimly-lit hallway and adjusting the strap of his pack as it began slipping. Without hesitation, he marked straight for a single door around the first corner, labeled 678 in faded gold lettering. The minute he stepped in front of it, though, he paused, eyes shifting around the deserted hall with the practiced gaze of a hero. When nothing proved wrong—perhaps he was just being paranoid—he shrugged slightly to himself and knocked.
Almost immediately, the knob turned to reveal the weathered face of a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound Vietnamese woman. Upon seeing the dark-haired teenager, her expression brightened, lighting up the darkened hallway like a small sun. "Robin! Thank you so much for coming; I'm sorry this was such late notice." A little sigh passed from her lips and she ran a hand over her weary eyes, a small laugh escaping. "I really am terrible at planning things, aren't I?"
In response, the Boy Wonder grinned, hastily reassuring her that everything was alright. "It's no problem, Mrs. Crock. You know I'm always here if you need me."
"I hate to pull you away from your team, though—oh, perhaps we should go inside, then." With a difficulty masked only by years of practice, she maneuvered her chair back and to the side, giving Robin enough space to enter the small apartment.
"They'll survive without me," he shot a charming half-smile her way, and she let out a genuine laugh this time.
"Well, good—I'm not sure we would." She began moving into the kitchen as her visitor followed, looking like he wanted to help but respecting the strong woman's independence not to interfere. "And, please—how many times do I have to ask? Call me Paula, dear. Mrs. Crock sounds so… formal. You're making me feel old." She scrunched up her face teasingly, eliciting another laugh from the boy.
"Probably a few more, Mrs. Crock," he laughed, beaming a lop-sided grin at the woman. She was gathering her purse and keys, and checked her watch with a sigh.
"I'm afraid I'll have to take off soon. I should be back either tonight or tomorrow, depending on how this goes." Suddenly, the light, bantering atmosphere dissipated from the air, and Robin ran a hand through his hair worriedly.
"Is everything alright? You don't usually go out to Central for appointments…" he trailed off uncharacteristically as she rubbed her eyes once more.
"Dr. Mallard wanted to run some tests last time I was at his office, and he sent the results to a specialist over at the Central City branch without my knowledge. Now, the both of them want me to come in to discuss the results." Never a good sign went unspoken. After a beat, though, the elder woman collected herself, suddenly smiling. "Artemis is still asleep, but she'll be excited to see you. I swear, she asks me every week when you're coming back."
At that, Robin rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed. "Yeah, sorry about that; I really need to make more time to get away. It's just… really hard nowadays." Paula nodded, understanding.
"Oh, don't worry about it. That just makes your visits that much more exciting for her." With a practiced twist, she rolled back out of the small kitchenette and made her way toward the front door.
Robin, however, continued to watch her, concerned. "Are you sure you're alright getting all the way over there? I could call—"
She cut him off with a wave of her hand and a smooth head shake, "I've already called a taxi, and he should be out front by the time I make it downstairs. Thank you, though." She faltered for a moment, as through debating something, before softening and reaching out toward the young hero. "Come here, Robin."
Without questioning the sudden act of affection, he bent down to her level and gently returned the hug, smiling sadly as she squeezed a little tighter than was necessary. "I'll see you in a few hours, okay?" he said softly, releasing her.
She nodded, reaching up to turn the knob. "You know where everything is, so you should be alright. Remember to put her down for a nap, and please try to get her to bed at a decent time. I would prefer it if we didn't have a repeat of last December." She raised an eyebrow at the young boy, who laughed nervously as he remembered that particular visit. His charge had somehow gotten a hold of the chocolate ice cream quart housed in the freezer, and things had simply gone downhill from there. He would continue to plead innocent until proven guilty, though. Really.
"Yes, ma'am," another dashing smile made its way toward her, and she laughed one last time before exiting into the hall.
"Take good care of her."
"I always will."
He watched the older woman from the open doorway until the elevator doors closed, letting out a sad sigh and resealing the apartment once she was out of sight. The hero turned, surveying the main room for a moment before tossing his backpack beside the couch and flipping over the backrest to flop on its cushions in one swift movement. A hand went under his glasses, scrubbing his tired face as he closed his eyes, hoping for a moment of quiet before the girl in the next room inevitably woke up. Yes, he had been raised, as Batman's protégé, on three hours of sleep a night, but had unfortunately grown accustomed to the luxury of more time after his relocation to Jump City.
His reprieve was short-lived, though, as, suddenly, a little blonde blur shot out of an adjacent door and launched herself onto the teen. "Robbie!" A small, excited voice squealed as her makeshift landing pad let out an oof! of surprise. The Boy Wonder in question let out a breathy laugh as the little girl of no more than four years old latched herself onto him in a horizontal embrace, kneeling on his chest.
"Hey, Artie; how've you been? I thought you were asleep."
"I miss you," she frowned down at him, and he instantly felt worse than he had when Paula had mentioned his absence.
"I've missed you too," he replied, stroking her hair for a moment. "But I'm here now, right? That's got to count for something." Instantly, he was grinning, and seconds later he had jumped up, scooping the laughing child into his arms and holding her halfway upside down as he bounced on the sofa.
"Robbie! Mommy doesn't like playing on the couch!" She giggled.
In response, the boy stopped and gave a dramatic, long-suffering sigh. "Fine. I guess we have to do what your mom says, then, huh?" Little Artemis was righted, and immediately began to pout. He only laughed at her expression, hopping onto the floor and swinging the child up onto his shoulders. "Well, since you're already awake, how does some breakfast sound?"
"Coco puffs!" she declared, gripping his hair with one hand while pointing in the direction of the small kitchen with her other.
"Oh, no you don't," Robin shook his head as he made his way over, ignoring the whine from above. "I'm under strict no-sugar orders, and I'd really like to stay on your mom's good side for the time being." Before she could protest, he flipped her down to a sitting position on a clear counter spot and set about inspecting various cupboards. "How to pancakes sound?"
"With chocolate chips?"
Resistance to her large, pleading brown eyes was futile.
"Just don't tell Paula, okay?" he waved a newly-found spatula in her general direction, feigning seriousness. "Living is kind of an important thing I have going for me right now." Artemis nodded fervently, happy to be getting her way.
Twenty minutes later, the grinning pair was well into the process of concocting the batter, and Robin was just pouring the first liquid-y circle onto an electronic skillet he had found on a low-lying shelf. The blonde child sat beside the device as he worked, watching with an innocent fascination that both saddened and warmed the Boy Wonder's heart. "Can I do one?" she asked, not taking her eyes off the food. At some point during the beginning stages of their min-adventure, the mix bag had ripped after a failed attempt to open it the old fashioned way—he was Robin, for crying out loud! Pulling open plastic bags shouldn't have been that hard to get into without a pair of scissors!—and now both chefs were thoroughly covered in a fine layer of off-white powder.
"Sure; just be careful. This thing is hot, so don't burn yourself." He handed over the dripping spatula and positioned his ingredient-filled bowl over an empty space, gently guiding her tiny hand as she constructed a slightly misshapen pancake. It was still beautiful, though.
Just as she was returning the utensil, though, she sneezed, jumping slightly in an attempt to cover her mouth. As she did so, however, she bumped her elbow against the hot black metal and shrieked, eyes immediately tearing up. With speed that would put Kid Flash to shame, Robin set down the glass container—sloshing a bit off the thickening liquid in the meantime—and pulled the crying girl into his arms. She wrapped herself around him, burying her face in his shoulder as he unconsciously began to rock back and forth. "It bit me," she sniffled as Robin carried her over to the sink.
"Yeah, cooking stuff can be pretty mean sometimes. Show me where it hurts?" He flicked on the cold water and leaned forward, gently running the already-angry-red line quickly swelling under its icy spray. She flinched at the temperature, but didn't say anything more as her soft sobs subsided. Once he was satisfied that she would be alright, he shut off the sink and reached for a clean dishtowel, gently dabbing away droplets from the injury. "See? I told you it would hurt." She winced a little bit as he pressed on the wound. "But you were very brave. Let's go patch you up, 'kay?" Artemis nodded, eyes still slightly red, and Robin unplugged the appliance as he passed on their way to the small bathroom.
After lamenting for a good few minutes at the absence of Justice League Band-Aides—superheroes are cool, she asserted several times over the course of their search—and a clash over the healing power of My Little Pony designs, Robin ultimately decided to go completely over the top and wrap her burn in a plain bandage and gauze. "Now I look tough, just like you!" She had beamed, showing off her battle scar. He would be sure to take it off before Paula returned—it really wouldn't do to worry her unnecessarily—but, for now, Artemis was happy.
And that meant that he was happy.