Hey, so this is kind of awkward haha. Been a while, right? I mean I posted a collection area for my Restricted challenge-related writings, but I've been kind of ignoring this unfinished story (tbh was kind of hoping it would somehow magically write itself, but no such luck). I've let this go on for so long, so I decided it was time to sit down and give it an ending (finally) that hopefully turns out semi-okay. Either way, here it is

Secrets and Truth

Weeks. It had been weeks since the confrontation. Things had, for lack of a better term, become stagnant. The whole team treated him like a ticking time bomb. He actually wasn't sure what would be worse: them walking on eggshells constantly or them forcing him off the team because of his blindness. Either way it seemed to lead to what could very well be the end of the team. Or at least his participation in it anyway. While he wrestled with indecision, his friends (could he even call them that, with such separation between them?) were in a similar state.

M'Gann wouldn't even stay in the same room as him. At first, Robin had assumed that it was because she was hurt by his secrecy, but later found it to be the opposite. Indeed, she was doing her best to respect his privacy by not giving herself any chance to accidentally peek into his mind. He appreciated the gesture but greatly missed the bubbly personality of his sisterly friend.

Meanwhile, Conner was dealing with it in the same manner that he dealt with everything – he got angry. Holes appeared in the walls and cups went missing. Sometimes Robin would go to the training room to discover the remnants of a destroyed punching bag, poorly cleaned up. He never said anything to his older friend, instead finishing up the job by clearing out the last bits of sand. It was his fault that Conner was so upset anyway.

He'd lost yet another sister in Artemis. She'd withdrawn from him. The bond between the two human members withered due to lack of attention. Where usually they'd share unimpressed glances when Wally ran too fast into a wall or Conner accidentally broke something, now the blonde archer wouldn't even look in his direction. Occasionally, when her arguments with Wally escalated, she would turn to him – like old times – and start to request his support before immediately backtracking and abandoning the fight.

Speaking of the resident speedster, his absence was arguably one of the most missed. It was to be expected, honestly. The redhead had been one of the few constants in Robin's life for a little over two years now. The absence of that kind of friendship was sure to be noticed. It couldn't be ignored; he had tried. His best friend wouldn't even talk to him, always mentioning how busy he was with high school and such. He would come for missions, but just barely. And he always sped away the moment debriefing was over.

Kaldur had, at the very least, maintained a professional friendship with the hacker. But their casual friendship had vanished seemingly overnight. They used to go out for swims early on Saturdays. They used to debate mission strategies for fun. They used to watch ocean documentaries, with Kaldur pointing out all of the inaccuracies. Not anymore. That closeness had come screeching to a halt.

And Zatanna. She took nearly the same approach as Wally, but with a slight difference. She was missing missions. Wally made sure to come when called for a mission, but she only showed maybe a third of the time. If they were lucky. Despite the fact that she lived at the cave, she never left her room when Robin was there. She didn't go on many missions if Robin was going. There were some, sure, but they were few and far between.

His hand slipped and he went crashing to the ground. Luckily there was a mat. Or maybe not so luckily. Debatable. He cursed himself for losing focus, but deep inside he knew that he'd never really had it in the first place. He was just glad that Bruce hadn't seen him fail at such a simple trick. It was one of the first he'd learned. Either way, he shouldn't have been practicing gymnastics while being so distracted. He'd pretty much just been begging to make a mistake of some kind. He just couldn't help it though; doing tricks usually provided some kind of comfort.

He sensed the person just outside almost immediately. A glance confirmed it to be Superboy, probably having heard the crash. Robin stood and prepared to restart, trying to ignore the teen watching. If he acknowledged him, it was more than likely that he would go away. It was kind of pathetic, really. Having to pretend he didn't know his friend was there, just so that he would stay. It was his own fault though. His own stupid secret.

Silence reigned, but just as he launched into the routine, it was broken.

"Are you okay?" The words shocked him so much that he missed the bar and ended up falling. He tried to salvage it, but it was useless and he crashed into the wall anyway. "…Sorry. Shouldn't have said anything. I'll just… go." Footsteps retreated and everything was quiet again. Robin groaned, leaning against the wall. He'd ruined it. The first chance at normalcy since the incident. It had been offered, perhaps by accident, and he'd denied it. Typical.

He closed his eyes, thoroughly irritated with himself. He allowed himself a moment of self-pity before he began to pick himself up. Quickly, he glanced over at the gymnastics equipment and found that he didn't feel much like practicing anymore. So he collected his things and made his way back to the room he'd claimed at the start. Wouldn't it be nice to go back and prevent this from happening?

He'd been crazy to think that this could ever have worked out. Too many secrets. His name, his past, even his eyes were secrets. And he'd never known secrets to make friends. They did quite the opposite. They destroyed friends and ruined connections. He should have known. He just wasn't made to be on a team. He didn't know anything other than secrets and teams couldn't survive secrets. It was obvious what he needed to do. Robin nodded firmly, making up his mind.

The only sound was of breakfast cooking. The leader, the clone, the Martian, the archer, and the hacker sat silently. The quiet was thick and unpleasant. It certainly wasn't the comfortable silence of friendship. Only when the food had been served was it broken.

"After we eat, I have something I'd like to say." Wide, uncertain eyes darted around, looking everywhere but at Robin.

"Alright, Robin." Kaldur no longer used the term 'my friend' with him. It was one of the first hints of separation he'd noticed. The Boy Wonder nodded. M'Gann slipped out to deliver Zatanna her food, returning a few moments later.

Throughout the meal, Robin had many conflicting thoughts and emotions. His heart wanted to stay, obviously, because he cared about them. His brain thought he should leave before he destroyed something that he was never meant to be a part of. Honestly, it didn't matter how much the two raged; his choice had already been made. This would be his last meal as part of a team.

Finally, the clinks died down and Miss Martian cleared the table with merely a thought. Everyone's gaze finally rested on him. It was the first time that M'Gann and Artemis had looked at him in a long time, and even then it was reserved, distant. Blank, even.

"I believe you had something that you wished to tell us?"

The prompting was gentle, but restrained. Robin sighed, before nodding. It was for the best. It was. Really. "Yeah. Look, it's clear that there's some tension around here. There has been ever since… well, let's just say that I think I've found a solution." They looked confused. The ghost of a smile graced his features and he took a deep breath before forcing the words out. "I've decided to leave the team. This will be my official resignation. My room's already clean; all I had in it anyway was a few spare costumes. Never got the chance to personalize it or anything. So yeah, um, bye. Tell Wally and Zee that it's okay, that they won't have to see me anymore."

Before anyone could say anything, he was moving and the cold, feminine voice was announcing his departure.

Bzzz. He rolled his eyes. That had to have been the tenth call today. Three hours since he'd officially quit the team, his communicator had started to go haywire. He was half tempted to disable it, but some part of him refused to sever his last connection to them. So he let it buzz. And buzz. And buzz. Batman hadn't fought him on the subject, despite the man's clear surprise over the turn of events. Alfred had been a bit pushy, but had relented soon enough. Now it was the stupid communicator's turn, why wouldn't it just shut up? And then it did. It stopped buzzing. They'd given up. He should feel relieved. So why didn't he?

"Ugh stupid essay," he groaned, plopping himself on his bed. He barely ignored the urge to pull out all of his hair. No matter how much he disliked English, it had to be done. His hands hovered over the keys, silently debating how to start. Just before the first letter was tapped, it happened. Bzzz. It had been two weeks. He thought they'd given up. Shaking his head, Richard forced himself to focus. He couldn't. He had a really bad feeling. Why did they only try once? They'd always tried at least three times before stopping. Before he could stop himself, he was up and moving, picking up the somehow-foreign, somehow-familiar tech. A few quick taps and he had their coordinates pulled up. What were they doing in Bludhaven?

Ten minutes later Robin left on his motorbike, headed straight for the location of his former team. It had been Kaldur. All the time since he'd left and Kaldur had never bothered him. He'd given him privacy and respected his wishes. So the fact that he'd reached out now was unsettling to say the least.

He arrived in record time, pulling to a stop outside of the warehouse. He swiftly hid his vehicle before slipping inside, sticking to the shadows. A quick glance around confirmed his suspicions. They were in trouble. It was the only plausible explanation for Kaldur reaching out to him. He counted a little over a dozen men, wondering what the problem was – ah. Of course. Bane. The man was pacing in front of the incapacitated group of teenagers. Inhibitor collars restricted the abilities of the powered members and Artemis was restrained with chains that held her firmly in place. Her bow lay on the ground at her feet, tauntingly out of reach. Every few seconds she would struggle, but the attempts were always short-lived. Robin closed his eyes, thinking over his options. He could take on Bane and his men, but on his own? It definitely wouldn't be pleasant. He could send out a concussion grenade, but that would knock out his friends as well. (He ignored the fact that he and his 'friends' hadn't really been on the best of terms in a while). He could slip in and free one of them and then distract the enemies. Masked eyes opened, mind full of the details of his 'plan' – because, really, it wasn't nearly thought out enough to be called that.

Robin edged closer and closer until he was as close as he could be, without revealing himself. He ignored the sound of Bane's voice, knowing that his words weren't really all that important at the moment. He waited for the chance patiently. There! Bane turned his back and his men's focus followed him. In a fluid series of movement, he sped out and knelt behind Artemis. Pulling out his chain cutter he paused for a moment, pressing a second object into her hand.

"I'm going to cut your chain," he whispered hastily. "I just gave you a tool to deactivate the collars. After I get you out, I'm going to give you the chain cutters. Free the others. Nod yes or no."

The moment her head moved, he started the process. Bane turned at the sound, watching as the metal bands fell from the blonde's wrists. Robin didn't give him time to think or react, carrying out the next part of his 'plan': distraction. He didn't risk looking at the group of heroes, too focused on making sure Bane and his men were fully concentrating on him. It wasn't long before he heard Zatanna.

"Erif nrub, nordlauc elbbub!" A fiery blast came from the other side of the room, knocking out several of the men. The black-haired spell caster joined his side not a minute later, shouting out various incantations every few seconds. The others soon came and then it was only Bane who was still resisting them. All of his men were out of commission.

Bane knew when he had lost, and so, with a taunting smirk and a parting quip, he vanished. All was silent. Artemis, who had retrieved her bow, walked up to Robin. She didn't seem to know how to handle his presence. A cold feeling of disappointment welled up inside of him, but he pushed it away. He hadn't expected for everything to fix itself just because he helped them out this one time. He was about to leave. He really was. Then the archer did something that completely shocked him – which was a hard thing to do.

Her weapons clattered against the warehouse floor and suddenly her arms were around him and she was laughing. He froze for a minute, before his own laughter came bubbling up to the surface and overflowing. They surely made an odd pair: two teenagers clutching each other and laughing hysterically for no reason at all. At the very least they probably looked insane.

Robin withdrew first, occasional chuckles escaping him as he did so. He looked over at the other members of the team. They were smiling. Well, Superboy's was small, but it was still there. "So," he paused, uncertainty crawling back in, trying desperately to gain a hold on him. "Been a while, hm?"

Silence. He started to lose the battle as worry began to claim its price, but, before it was totally lost, the quiet shattered. "Dude. So not our fault. You're the one who dropped all contact with us. We tried to talk to you." Green eyes looked at him, not quite glaring but almost.

Words forced themselves out faster than he could stop them. "Really? As Iremember it, you're the ones who stopped talking to me. And I'm not talking about when I left. I'm talking about before. You guys all pulled away. KF, you wouldn't even be around me if you didn't have to!"

The moment he let the words go free he regretted them. Sure, they were the truth, but they weren't the right truth. Not the kind that could fix all of this. He'd already proven that he wasn't ready to embrace that particular honesty when he'd left instead. The truth he was willing to accept was the truth that would burn bridges rather than mend them.

Before he could criticize himself too much, his thoughts were interrupted. "We… we weren't trying to upset you, Robin. We only wanted to respect your privacy. We thought that you'd want space, so we gave it to you." The red haired girl's words were sad, but honest. They thought that he'd wanted space? What had he ever done to reinforce that opinion? Oh, just about everything, hissed a traitorous voice. He ignored it.

"No, really I didn't want space guys. I wanted… oh, I don't know, really. But definitely not space. Never space. I'm not Batman. Batman wants space. Me? Not at all." He gave them a moment to process his words before making to leave. "Well, it was nice, I guess. See you. Or not."

"Wait!" He turned.

"Yeah?" He cocked his head to the side, giving that perfect air of impatience.

Zatanna frowned at him. "So you're leaving. Just like that." He nodded. "Of course. You say that you don't want space, but guess what Robin – leaving will give you just that. In fact, it's the best way to get it. So why are you leaving if you don't want space?"

His gaze flitted from face to face as he thought about how to get out of this one. His blue orbs shut as he realized the only option. Or, rather, the only option he wanted. "Because the more time I'm around you guys, the closer I get to telling you." It was okay. They would assume he was talking about his identity – they had no reason to suspect anything else. "It's hard to keep secrets. Even harder when you care about people. So there. That's why I left. Why I'm still leaving."

"That is just possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Startled, he turned to face the older teenager. "Robin, caring is a two-way street, you know. Just like you care about us, we care about you. Caring doesn't stop because of separation. It's something you just have to deal with and move on. It's not the end of the world, I promise. You understand?"

There was a tense pause, during which an epic battle of wills took place. Heart pitted against brain. Logic against want. Batman would choose logic. I don't want to be the Batman anymore. "Yeah. I think I do. Um," he reached up, scratching his head awkwardly. "Aqualad? Is there any chance of me, er, taking my spot back?"

A gentle smile graced the leader's features. "Of course, my friend. The chance was never lost."

They went back to the cave. The urges to tell them never stopped, and – eventually – he did. They laughed and teased him for ever being nervous about it in the first place, assuring him that they most certainly would not be forcing him off the team. Artemis, of course, put the pieces together soon after. He apologized to Bruce and was grounded for a week. But, in the process, he found that complete (or almost complete anyway) honesty was actually very refreshing.

Yes! Finally! This monster of a project (although in reality quite small) is done! I feel so accomplished, haha. I promised it would be done, and so it was done. This is officially the end though. I'm sorry, but you saw how long it took me to get a second chapter out. I don't really want to promise a third. I'm also really sorry about that crappy fight scene. I figured it wouldn't hurt to do kind of a summary of the battle since it isn't really the story's main focus. I'll tackle fight scenes eventually, just not today. I really hope that the second and final part lived up to expectations.

Also, the mini epilogue is my way of not leaving it hanging but at the same time kind of leaving some loose ends. Because, yeah, he does eventually tell them (was there any ever doubt?). But how? And when? And why? And where? Those are left kind of open, and I like it that way. I like to imagine that, when he's older and slightly more experienced with friendships and the demands of having them, he settled down and told them. I just didn't think that a 13-14 year old kid would be quite mature enough to make such a serious decision, and I think Robin knows that too. So no actual reveal, but you still know that it happened. Quick apology for any mistakes. I reread through, but it's possible I may have missed a few. Thank you so much for reading this and putting up with the ridiculously long wait. See you next time!