Notes: Ha. Haha. Misplaced.

Speak Now

There is no debriefing.

There is no return to the cave. There is no recount. There is only numbness, their's is only emptiness, a sense of neither loss nor victory nor failure. They didn't win, they didn't lose, they didn't fail – they bought. They bartered.

And the price of Fate is the grandest of them all.

As is natural, Batman takes command in the wake of the disaster, and though there's nothing in his expression to prove it, Robin can tell that under the cowl, Bruce is tired, wary of what's to come. Batman scans the destruction; he sees Zatanna crumpled in Miss Martian's arms, and glancing at the rest of the people around him—their sunken faces and sad eyes—he sighs. There's no avoiding what he's about to say, really, but it's Robin that solidifies Batman's decision, because it's Robin that gets to him the most, the small thirteen-year-old boy standing a distance away from his friends but watching them as carefully as he can, and he's rooted to the spot and he's shivering, but it's not from the cold.

Robin nearly jumps when the hand's on his shoulder and the cape's finding it's way around him, but he doesn't object, finds it comforting; he used to hide in Batman's shadow all the time, and now is one of those times where he wants to be useful but he knows he can't be, so he just wants to shrink and hide and disappear and he doesn't care what anyone else will think, don't they understand anyway? They share a look and speak no words and Batman clears his throat and tells everyone to go home, that he'll take care of Zatanna, and that it's best that everyone takes time to breathe before they discuss what's occurred, and before M'gann can offer everyone a ride to the cave and a zeta tube Kid Flash is already off and running.

Alfred comes with the Batmobile and Robin and Zatanna have to sit in the back and he tells her it's okay, you know? It's okay to cry and she doesn't have to hold anything in, especially not in front of him—I won't mind if you need me like you needed M'gann—, but she's quiet the entire way save for the occasional sniff and she's curled up into herself and he just kind of stares at the back of Batman's head, afraid to look at her because he's afraid he'll break before she will. There's a hurricane whirling up inside of him and he can't let it storm, not right now, because he's done with this and he's no right to feel salt on a wound when the wound's already closed, and it's unfair to Zatanna that he use her pain and twist it into his. It's just not fair.

So he holds in his tears, too.

When they're in the Batcave he does the whole Welcome to the Batcave! routine and she has the decency to attempt to look impressed, but they both know it's halfhearted and it hurts to see her try so he does what's stupid and he bails on her, tells her he's got to do something on a computer somewhere and he kind of awkwardly dashes out and he runs, runs up into the manor because he doesn't want to be Robin right now, doesn't want to be things that are useless, doesn't want to wear the stupid cape that feels like three thousand pounds of weight. It's the first thing he does when he's upstairs; he rips the thing off and throws it on the chair and he's about to hightail to his room to lock himself away for a day when he runs straight into Alfred and straight into a hug.

Which is okay.

"Master Dick," comes the most comforting voice in the world, as a snot-nosed hero sobs into his chest, "I have prepared a batch of lemon squares—your favorite, as I recall?"

"Mmfhesgoneffmm," comes the reply, and he's partially embarrassed as he pulls away, but Alfred puts down the platter he's carrying and acts just as always, kneels so he's Robin's length, and carefully pulls away the boy's mask, reveals blue eyes gleaming with tears and sadness and the terrifying question of What do I do?

Alfred doesn't have an answer, because it's something to be figured out on one's own, but Dick sits with Alfred for a while and eats the stupid lemon squares and they taste just like they always do, but he's not that hungry because they remind of his mom, remind him of his dad, remind him of Bruce. It's fresh in his memory, the feeling of losing everything, and he wants to reach to the girl that's still so near and tell her he knows, he's been there, he can help her, but at the same time he knows that he can't because there's nothing that wipes away the pain and she's got something that he doesn't, never did—


"There's still a chance that Fate can let him go," he says, more to himself than Alfred, and it's supposed to be comforting but it isn't, "and that's what makes it worse. He's gone but he's kinda not."

Alfred nods, stands as Bruce appears in the room with Zatanna in tow, and she knows now, knows who Batman is, and knits her eyebrow for only a moment at who he is when he looks up; he's worn and he's beaten and he's maskless, but he's still wearing Robin.

"Prepare a guest room, Alfred," Bruce says, running a hand through his hair. Losing people never stops aging him. "Zatanna will be staying the night. We can deal with... Mount Justice tomorrow."

Dick's head shoots up at the last bit, but it droops back down and she's watching him, and he wants to say something, but he doesn't know what, so he says, "Um," and by then Alfred's already led the young miss out and up the stairs and he's just left sitting there, Bruce studying him.

(He remembers meeting Bruce Wayne),

(Remembers learning who he was),

(Remembers being intimidated, like he is now).

"She needs friends," Bruce says, and he looks at him pointedly, but there's a warmth in his expression now, comforting and safe like Batman's shadow.

"Yeah," Dick responds, but he doesn't say anything else, doesn't move or look up from where his eyes are focused: the R on his uniform.

"You should talk to her," Bruce adds, taking the last lemon square on the abandoned platter, and his words hold the weight of a command, but they aren't.

A moment's hesitation. A deep breath.

"I know."