A/N: Okay, here it is, final chapter. Pretty much just a fluffy wind down.
And thank you, a hundred million times to all you wonderful people who read and reviewed. Your comments and feedback always brought a smile to my face and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that you took the time to comment. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. :)
"Recognise, Robin B 01. Recognise, Batman 02."
The automated voice echoed in Robin's ears and he swallowed nervously as he and Batman materialized at Mount Justice. Flexing the fingers of his good hand to help the pins and needles wear off, Robin glanced up at his mentor.
It had been almost a week since his nightmare kidnapping and this was the first time he had been back to Mount Justice. Wally had been to see him at Wayne Manor almost every day, but he hadn't seen the rest of the team since they'd discovered his real name and, much as he hated to admit it, he was nervous about facing them. Would they be angry that he had told Wally and not them? Or would they treat him differently now that they knew who he really was? As Dick Grayson, ward of billionaire Bruce Wayne, he was all too frequently on the receiving end of jibes about being a spoilt brat. He couldn't bear it if his friends now thought he was one too.
Batman smiled down at him reassuringly, placing one hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently.
Robin gave him a small smile and moved forward awkwardly using a large wooden crutch that reached up under his arm for support. Because his left fingers were heavily splinted, he was unable to use a regular crutch and had to use his right hand to move it forward. The crutch made him look like Tiny Tim and he freaking hated it! But if he wanted to be mobile than this was currently his only option.
He and Batman entered the control room and found Red Tornado, Black Canary and Flash clustered around the holographic computer. All three looked up as they entered and Flash's face split open in a wide smile before he zipped over to Robin.
"Robin! It's good to see you! How're you feeling?" he spoke quickly, ruffling the boy's hair.
"Fine, thanks," Robin grinned up at him, feeling a warm surge of gratitude.
That he was alive today was partly due to the actions of the Flash. Seeing his nephew so upset about his best friend's kidnapping, Flash had visited Mount Justice the night before the ransom drop and deliberately talked to Red Tornado about the connection between Dick's kidnapping and the Mexican drug cartel within earshot of Superboy. His intention had been for the team to get involved purely to distract Wally until the ransom drop took place; he had never dreamed that they would end up saving Dick's life.
"Where's the rest of the team?" Robin asked, mentally cursing the tremor of apprehension in his voice.
"In the kitchen waiting for you, although I don't think they were expecting you just yet. Why don't you head down there and surprise them?"
"Okay…And, Flash, thanks," Robin added softly.
Flash smiled, patting his shoulder. "Anytime, Kiddo."
Nodding hello to Black Canary and Red Tornado before throwing a last nervous glance at his mentor, Robin headed in the direction of the kitchen. He had to pause a few times to push his sunglasses back up his nose as the unsteady movements of the crutch caused them to slide down. Despite the team now knowing his identity, Batman had insisted that he continue to wear the dark glasses as there were still League Members who were unaware of their real names. Truthfully, Robin was glad of the excuse to wear his glasses; he was uncertain of his friends' reaction to him now that they knew who he really was, and he felt a lot less exposed with them on.
As he approached the kitchen, Robin could hear yelling. He realized Wally and Artemis were bickering about something and smiled at the easy familiarity of it. Arriving at the kitchen, he paused in the doorway and snorted with laughter to see that Artemis had Wally in a headlock while the speedster yelled furiously at her.
"I told you! I didn't eat your stupid cake!"
"Oh yeah? The only person here who can't keep his hands off other people's food is you, Kid Moron!"
"That was one time!"
"One?! Try three, Jackass!"
"Robin!" M'gann's voice cut across their bickering causing the heads of everyone to swivel towards him. Robin felt his face go warm.
"Rob! You're here!" Wally beamed from where he was trapped beneath Artemis' arms. "Geroff, Harpy!" he mumbled, using the momentary distraction to wriggle free before zooming over to the younger boy and slinging an arm around his shoulder. He glanced down at the crutch. "Dude, you look like Tiny Tom."
"Tiny who?" Artemis demanded as she and the others joined them.
"You know, that kid from A Christmas Carol."
"That's Tiny Tim you idiot," she retorted, rolling her eyes.
"Robin, it is good to have you back," smiled Kaldur, placing a hand on his shoulder. "How are you feeling?"
"You don't look fine," said Conor bluntly, pointing to his fingers and the crutch.
Robin glanced down and wriggled the splinted fingers from where they stuck out over the crutch. "It's not so bad," he offered. "And...it...it would have been a lot worse if it wasn't for you guys." He swallowed. "Thanks for getting me out."
"That is what friends do," said Kaldur quietly, squeezing his shoulder gently.
"We wanted to visit...you know, after?" Artemis put in. "But Wally said you were pretty tired and needed to rest."
"What?! No I didn't, I was bored out of my tree! Wally!" Robin snagged the arm of the speedster who had been slowly easing away. "Why did you tell them that?"
The red-head shuffled his feet before blurting, "Ididn'twanttoshareAlfred'scookies!"
"In English please," Artemis told him, "we don't all speak idiot."
He glared at her. "I didn't want to share Alfred's cookies, okay?"
"Who's Alfred?" asked Connor, frowning.
"Our Butler," Robin spluttered, laughing. He couldn't be mad at Wally; the older teenager was such a doofus sometimes.
"Never mind," said M'gann warmly, leaning over and giving Robin a kiss on the check, causing him to blush and Wally to mouth soundlessly in indignation. "You're here now and that's what matters. Come on, I made cupcakes!"
Robin allowed himself to be led into the kitchen where his friends had set up a small party to welcome him back and felt warmth spread through him. They were glad to see him, and none of them were looking at him like he was a spoilt brat or treating him any differently. His apprehension at their reaction disappeared, especially once he realized that they hadn't even questioned why he was still wearing his shades; they just accepted it.
"We also had a cake," Artemis told him, shoving a plate with cupcakes into his good hand, "but that seems to have vanished." She glared at Wally who looked completely unconcerned. "I'll get you some soda."
As she headed for the fridge, Robin raised an eyebrow at Wally. "Did you eat the cake?"
"Yeah, but I'm not gonna tell her that!"
Robin rolled his eyes and laughed, relaxing in the presence of his friends. He wondered how he could have ever thought that they would treat him differently.
Artemis returned with his soda, then frowned as she realized he wouldn't be able to hold both the soda and the plate of cupcakes. "Want to sit down?" she asked, nodding in the direction of the couches. "Kid Dork won't notice."
Wally was now flirting shamelessly with M'gann, much to Superboy's ire while Kaldur attempted to mediate.
Robin chuckled. They really needed to clue Wally in on that score.
Artemis took the plate from Robin and led the way towards the couches. He followed awkwardly, scowling at the stupid crutch. Carefully, he lowered himself to the couch cushions beside Artemis and hissed as a slight pain twanged in his thigh. He couldn't wait for his leg to heal; being an acrobat, Robin hated having to curtail his movements.
He balanced his crutch against the cushions while Artemis placed the cupcakes on the table in front of them and handed him a soda, before opening her own and taking a very large gulp. Robin was surprised when he noticed her hands shake slightly.
He tilted his head and studied her in concern. "Artemis, are you okay?"
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye but didn't answer.
"Artemis?" he prodded nervously. Maybe this was going to be a little bit of weird after all. "Is something wrong?"
She finally looked at him and hissed, "We'll laugh about this someday?!"***
And then he knew what was bothering her; she wasn't concerned about his civilian identity, she was worried about her own. He had been so worried about how the team would react to finding out he was Dick Grayson he had forgotten that this might be an issue for Artemis.
"But you're not laughing," he pointed out quietly.
"And why do you think that might be, Boy Genius?!"
He winced at the barely concealed panic in her voice. "Artemis, I'm not going to betray your secret."
"How– how much do you know?"
"All of it."
Her eyes widened. "And...it doesn't bother you?!"
"Why would it? You aren't your family."
She stared at him.
He put a hand on hers. "Artemis, you're my team mate and my friend, where you come from doesn't matter. And I promise your secret is safe with me." He grinned. "Trust me; I'm good at the secret thing."
She looked relieved. "You're not as subtle as you think about these things, Bird Boy! I mean, we'll laugh about this someday?!"
"You still didn't know it was me though," he grinned slyly.
"Can you blame me? Do you know how small you look in your uniform?"
"Gee, thanks," he mumbled, blushing. Why the heck did everyone have to keep pointing out his size?
She smirked. "Serves you right after that stunt with the picture...and the spelling bee shtick!"***
He cackled. "I wish I could have recorded that! You suck at lying by the way."
"Yeah? Well, you're a little troll," she retorted fondly, punching him lightly in the arm.
"I'll have you know that trolling is an art form," he said cheerfully just as Wally flung himself onto the couch beside them, sending Robin's carefully propped crutch clattering to the floor. He looked distinctly put out as he helped himself to one of Robin's cupcakes.
"Supey really needs to work on his anger issues," he told them, biting into the sweet treat. "IdnttnkwhaIsidwafthtbam."
Artemis rolled her eyes. "And the English translation of that would be...?"
He swallowed. "I said, I didn't think what I said was that bad. I only suggested that maybe some M'gann sugar would wash down the cupcakes very well and then Supey– Owwwww!" he screeched when Artemis reached over Robin and slapped him upside the head. "What was that for?"
"Because you're a pig."
"What did I do?!" he demanded indignantly. "You know, if you were a flavour you'd be sour!"
She looked like she wanted to leverage the half eaten cupcake in his hand into his face. "Do you ever get tired of annoying people?"
"Nope. Especially not when it's you."
Robin grinned and leaned back against the couch with his hands behind his head as they started to bicker once more; Wally and Artemis were always entertaining. He revelled in the presence of his friends as Kaldur, M'gann and Conor joined them, seating themselves on the other couch and joining in the heated discussion.
Despite his brutal kidnapping just a few days earlier, Robin felt completely happy and at peace right now. Bruce hadn't gone to work once over the last few days, choosing to stay with Dick instead while he recovered. They had talked about a lot of things, which had done much to alleviate his fears and insecurities about not wanting to be Batman, while also making him feel like he mattered more to Bruce than just as Robin – something that had been bothering him for a while now.
And now his friends had just welcomed him back even after he had hidden stuff from them. Understanding why, no questions asked, they just accepted him as he was. It was the most free he had felt in a long time; he didn't have to hide his real self from either the team or Bruce anymore. He also felt a grim amusement at the irony that it took being kidnapped to finally feel this free.
Beside him, Wally was now engaged in simultaneously flirting with M'gann, arguing with Artemis and devouring cupcakes. Robin smiled. Wally was the one person he had always been able to be himself with; not hiding anything or feeling he had to prove something. He was lucky to have him as his best friend.
Wally caught his sideways glanced and smiled, handing Robin the cupcake that he had just been about to eat, before snatching another for himself. Robin grinned before biting into the sweet treat.
He was officially feeling the aster.
A/N: Referring to the Young Justice episode, Homefront.