20. Gone

"Oh, what will I do if I can't be with you? Tell me where will I turn to? Baby, where will I be? Now that we are apart am I still in your heart? Baby, why don't you see? That I need you here with me. I've been sitting here. Can't get you off my mind. I've tried my best to be a man and be strong. I've drove myself insane wishing I could touch your face. But the truth remains…you're gone." – *NSYNC

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or song.

Frustration, emptiness, desolation, regret. Those were the things Robin was feeling as he sat at the round, brown kitchen table of the Wayne residence sulking in his loneliness. He was drinking his usual, black coffee and taking turns between sipping and playing with his fingers as he stared out the window facing Raven and Wally's homes. Cars were lined up on the side of the road and in their driveways as people poured through Wally's door. Balloons were tied on the mailbox and smiles were spread across everyone's face.

Truth was Robin should've been over there with a smile on his face, too. Wally and Raven were throwing a welcome home slash going away bash for him and Speedy. Speedy was coming back from a hard, three-month stint in rehab while the going away part was for Robin, who was leaving the country to go to a prestigious university in London for their highly respected business program.

Part of Robin wanted to believe the reason he was sitting in his kitchen drinking coffee instead of Wally's drinking Bud Light was because he wasn't actually excited about going away. Despite the strong face he put on, he didn't actually want to leave his home. Jump City had welcomed him, Bruce, and Alfred when they moved from Gotham many years before. It was a much kinder, family-friendly, and overall happy place to live. The sun was almost bright and shiny no matter the temperature and the bay was always still and beautiful.

Not to mention it was where he made his lifelong friends, became the person he was today, and best of all, where he met her. Raven, his longtime best friend, his confidant, his sun, his moon, and now his rejecter. He knew she was the real reason he was staring out the window watching the guests as he had done to her many times over the past three months. After she chose Speedy over him, he had hoped everything would at least go back to how they were before. However, he soon found out he was foolish for believing it would ever be the same.

The Tuesday after that fateful day at the hospital had been the worst of his life. He had unwisely knocked on her door and asked if she was still up for hanging out at the café. He could tell she was reluctant to agree by the immediate look of unsureness that crossed her face, yet she agreed anyway. The short car ride to the old building was tense and awkward to say the least. Neither of them knew what to say, and neither wanted to be the first to speak. The whole ride Raven kept her signature blunt expression and never once broke character. Robin could almost feel himself suffocating again as he gripped his mug like he had gripped his steering wheel. He exhaled in despair as the memories of that night continued to flow through his mind.

"Thanks," Robin mumbled to the waitress who was setting his steaming, white mug of coffee onto the wooden table separating him and his purple-haired friend. The waitress nodded and went on her way. "You sure you don't want anything, Raven…?"

Raven nodded and muttered, "I'm fine."

Robin sighed. This was the first out of many times that Raven didn't order her usual herbal tea. It almost made him uncomfortable. He touched the handle of the mug and winced from the pain the heat brought him. Raven rolled her eyes and he couldn't help but smirk. Her response was a shake of her head.

"So," Robin tapped his fingers restlessly, "how's everything going?"

Raven let out a breath and removed her black hood from her head, revealing very tired eyes and shabby hair. "I finally got Speedy to go to rehab after four, gruesome days of dealing with his withdrawal. I think my hair still reeks of vomit and un-brushed teeth."

Robin frowned at that statement. He didn't really want to talk about Roy even if it wasn't in the best of light. "How'd you manage to do that…" He asked sort of quietly; he didn't actually want an answer.

Raven sat back and folded her arms across her chest. "I guess he just came to his senses after the seizure he had yesterday."

"Seizure?" Robin asked with round eyes while Raven just shook her head up and down. "That's horrible."

"Yeah…" Raven uttered, and before they knew it, they were being swallowed by silence again.

Sounds could be heard from the table as Robin began nervously tapping it once more. He picked up his beverage and took a small, uneasy sip. Suddenly, a question began brewing inside of him.

"Are you happy, Raven?" he blurted. He immediately slapped a hand over his mouth and closed his eyes, bracing himself for her wrath.

Raven glared at him with a side eye, then let out a sigh. "I don't know, Robin. All I know—"

"Don't force yourself to be with him because you feel guilty," Robin interrupted, sure that he was being helpful. "You'll never be happy that way."

But he soon regretted it. "Like I was saying before I was rudely interrupted," Raven started through gritted teeth. "All I know is I've never felt like this before. I have someone who really cares for me and loves me and I actually feel the same. I thought I would be forever alone. The feeling it's…It's indescribable."

Robin frowned once again and stared at his hands. "E-even with the a-addiction thing?" he stuttered. He already knew the answer to the question; he just wanted to hear it from her mouth.

Raven rolled her big, amethyst eyes at what she thought was him being shallow. "You don't understand, Rich. Right now, all I want in life is to see him with a smile on his face. To be able to see his chest moving up and down. To be able to place a hand on his beating heart." Raven paused at her cheesiness and asked herself if someone had taken over her body and was forcing her to say those things. "The greatest joy of my day is holding his hand and feeling him squeeze mine for comfort and certainty from knowing I won't leave his side."

"Raven, stop," Robin choked; he couldn't listen any longer. "You sound like a nauseatingly cheesy chick flick."

Raven sighed and pulled her hood back over her messy bun. "You're right. I'm turning into someone else. Someone with emotions. But maybe that's a good thing."

Robin stared in disbelief as Raven gave him a small smile. 'Maybe she is happy,' he thought. 'And maybe she's right. Speedy's bringing out the best in her.'

"So, how's life been treating you?" Her voice knocked him out of his thoughts.

"Shouldn't you be at your own going away party, Master Grayson?" Alfred's voice startled him out of his daydream before his past self could answer Raven's question. He looked down and realized he was still tapping his fingers frantically on the wood after all that time.

"Uh," he began and looked up at the graying, old man who was wearing a muted smirk on his grave face, "yeah, you're right."

Robin stood up and raced to his room to change into something more decent than striped boxers and a white tee. He settled on something similar to what he wore for his and Raven's night on the beach, a moment he now cherished deeply. This time his shorts were more of a peach color and he left the first few buttons on his shirt unfastened. He gelled his hair back into more of a pompadour style and cleaned the lens of his glasses before placing them over his rich blue eyes. Finally, he was ready to face the crowd.

"Bout time you made it, man," Cyborg slapped Robin on his back when he finally made it inside the celebration. "Thought I was going to have to come drag you out of bed myself!"

Robin winced and rubbed his now throbbing shoulder. "Yeah, I overslept," he lied.

"Yeah," Beast Boy came out of nowhere with a beer in his hand, "Star's been looking all over for you. She made a special friendship dish for you. It's scary, dude."

Robin frowned at the thought of the extremely foreign and disgusting meal the girl had waiting for him, but his thoughts were quickly replaced with something else as he scanned the room. "Where's Raven?"

Cyborg smirked and answered, "She went to pick Speedy up from the rehab center." Then, he raised an eyebrow and asked, "What's going on between you two? You don't necessarily scream best friends anymore."

Robin chuckled at his bluntness which reminded him of the girl. "Nothing. She's just been…really busy with Speedy. That's all."

"Dude, I heard they're a couple now," Beast Boy rushed excitedly. "Twenty-dollars they'll be banging like gorillas tonight!"

Cyborg was about to shake on it when Beast Boy was suddenly being lifted off the ground by Robin's strong hands. "Dude, what's your problem?!" Beast Boy screamed as his feet dangled in the air.

Robin let go of his shirt causing him to trip over his feet and drop his beer can. "Don't ever say that again or I'll feed your body to a bunch of gorillas," Robin said evilly through gritted teeth.

Beast Boy propped himself up on his elbows and called after Robin who was storming away, "But, dude, gorillas are vegetarians!"

"Friend Robin!" Starfire ran over to the fuming, black-haired boy who was now standing next to the booming stereo trying to tune out the voices around him. Robin didn't acknowledge her, so she started again, "I've been awaiting your arrival!"

"Hi, Star," he mumbled, but was barely audible thanks to the blaring music.

Starfire smiled worriedly and pushed a dish of what looked like bug-filled gelatin in his face. "I have prepared my home country's traditional dish of friendship!" She paused and watched as Robin stared blankly into the crowd and bobbed his head to the deafening music. She sighed and said, "I will miss you dearly, Friend Robin! I want you to know you'll always have a friend in me!"

Robin looked the girl in her anxious, emerald eyes and gave his best attempt at a small smile. "Thanks, Star. I really appreciate it, and I'll miss you, too."

Starfire gave an uneasy smile and placed the dish on the table beside him before scurrying over to Jinx, KF, and Aqualad. Robin didn't want to be mean, but he didn't want to give her the wrong idea any longer. He no longer had feelings for her and, as of now, he wasn't sure if he ever did. Not to mention, she was Aqualad's all along. It was selfish of him to try to take her.

"Here they come!" Terra's scream suddenly filled the air.

Robin looked around, confused, as everyone got quiet. He didn't know it was a surprise party. How could it be a surprise with all the cars in front of the house? He braced himself as the door slowly opened. He didn't exactly know how his body would react to seeing Roy and Raven together, but he knew it wouldn't be a good feeling.

"WELCOME BACK!" Everyone minus Robin screamed when their faces were finally revealed. Kid Flash even had a confetti cannon that he fired on the couple as they strolled in, and someone else was tooting an air horn. Robin couldn't help but wonder why he didn't get this kind of welcoming; it was his party, too.

"Wow, guys," Speedy spoke in disbelief. He couldn't believe their friends had gone through all this trouble just for him, a recovering drug addict and a notable butthole. He almost wanted to cry, but he couldn't ruin his handsome face. He had finally gotten it back to its pre-drug stage.

"Why all this for me?" he continued and looked at his beaming, redhead best friend.

"We're proud of you, Roy," Raven nonchalantly replied instead with a squeeze of his hand.

Speedy looked down at the girl beside him and saw her signature subdued smile that was riding her face. Her smile was muted, but the joy in her eyes was unmissable. He returned the smile and pulled her into a tight embrace causing everyone, minus Robin once again, to let out aww's.

"Speedy," Raven struggled to say in his tight grip, "this is embarrassing."

But the boy didn't care. They had fallen deeply in love over the last three months. She stuck with him through all his up and downs and stayed beside him through every storm. She had come to every visitation day at the rehab center and had written him letters each week. He found himself longing for the weekend just so he could see her gentle face. He loved her, and she loved him back. Now, he was drug free, had a full track scholarship to Steel University, and his daughter was out of the hospital and doing well. Life was perfect.

"Come on let's party!" Wally yelled, causing Speedy to pull away from Raven with a smirk. He looked at her for consent and she just nodded in response. Soon, he was on the dance floor acting silly and doing things like the Gangnam Style and Macarena with his best friend. It was just like old times.

Raven shook her head at their silliness and walked further into the party scene. She grabbed a red cup of what she hoped was punch and posted on a wall to watch her friends dance and have fun. She took her eyes off them for one second and looked over towards the stereo to see Robin staring at her with a grim expression. She almost dropped her cup from shock, but quickly regained her composure. She slammed her cup on the table next to her and decided to walk over towards him. She could tell he grew uneasy with every step she took.

"Why are you staring me down like that, Boy Wonder?" she deadpanned when she finally reached him.

Robin scratched the back of his neck and said, "Um…you have something on your face…"

Raven squinted her eyes, but still asked, "Where?"

Robin chuckled nervously and tried to keep up his lie. "Um…right," he reached out to touch her face, but something within compelled him to kiss her lips instead, "here," he finished.

"Robin!" Raven screamed lowly and pushed him so that there was space between them. "Why'd you do that? You know I'm with Roy. He'd kill us both if he saw you doing that."

Robin finally gave in, "I miss you, Raven. No one thinks we're best friends anymore." He glanced up and looked her in her eyes. "It's that obvious that we're becoming distant."

Raven's eyes cut at the boy, annoyed. "Robin, you know I had to be there for him these last three months. Plus, I've been getting ready for school, too." She sighed and continued, "We're adults now. We're going to have separate, busy lives. That doesn't mean our bond will ever disappear."

Robin let out a breath as well and looked at the ground. "But, Raven, I'm about to be on the other side of the world for four, long years. This summer should've been our summer."

Raven followed his lead and stared at their feet. "I know. I'm sorry, Rich. I just got caught up."

Robin suddenly took her hand in his. "I'm really going to miss you, Raven."

She looked at him with sad eyes and pulled her hand back. "I'm going to miss you, too, Richard. I still love you, but…it's time to move on."

Robin's heart almost dropped. Did she just say she still loved him? The whole summer he assumed that she no longer felt the same, and he had no chance. But now he knew the truth.

"Look who's here, Raven," Speedy's voice made Robin's heart fizzle again. He looked up and saw the redhead holding a tiny, equally bright redhead in his arms. Standing next to him was a grinning blonde with dark gray eyes.

Raven turned around with a big smile on her face, which Robin thought was impossible, and said in her best effort at baby talk, "Hey, Lian!" but it still came out dryly. Then, she turned to the blonde and said, "Hey, Artemis."

"Hey, Rae," Artemis chuckled at her blasé attitude and crossed her arms.

Robin watched as Raven interacted with Speedy and his mini me and noticed how much they looked like a happy family. The baby reached out to touch Raven's face and easily grinned a toothless, slobbery smile at her and her dad, and that very smile and girlish giggle she let out as Speedy made a funny face made both of their hearts warm. Yet, it made Robin's turn cold.

"Can I talk to you outside, Roy?" Something inside forced him to say.

Speedy eyed him funnily, then said, "Sure." He handed Lian to Raven and led Robin upstairs to the balcony of the game room. "So, what's up?" he asked when they were finally being grazed by the breeze of the day.

Robin shifted uneasily and scooted as far away as possible from the redhead, remembering the night of the state track meet where he basically attempted to murder his own best friend. "I just want to say…make sure you treat Raven right."

Speedy let out an annoyed chuckle. "I'm the not one Raven has to be scared of treating her wrongly."

Robin grimaced and bit back, "I'm just saying keep her happy."

Speedy leaned on the rails and turned to look at his ex-rival. "I love Raven, Birdbrain. Her and Lian's happiness are my top priorities."

Robin snickered and shook his head. "Don't go sleeping around on her. You know how hard it is for you to keep it in your pants."

Speedy let go of the rail and stepped closer to Robin with a balled up fist. Robin stepped back nervously, scared that the boy might strike him. But the boy just let out another laugh instead. "Why do you think I'm so bad for her, Rich?"

Robin calmed down and leaned on the rail himself. He took a deep breath and admitted, "I just think she's making a big mistake."

"But why?" Speedy repeated. "You don't think I'm worthy of someone like her?" Robin might of thought Speedy was just toying with him, but he genuinely wanted to know why Robin always hated the idea of the two being together.

Robin shook his head again. "No—I mean yeah," he began, "I just…"

"You just what?"

'I just love her more than you ever will,' he thought to himself. "I just want what's best for her."

Speedy turned to look at his companion and let out a heartfelt, "How do you know I'm not what's best for her?" Robin just hunched his shoulders and stared at the ground below. "Robin, there's no competition between us anymore. High school's over and Raven's with me. We're not rivals. You don't have to hate me forever."

Robin turned his head to look at the serious look on Speedy's face. He nodded and turned to look back at the house across the street. Speedy gave him a friendly pat on the back and left him to mellow in his silence. Robin swallowed the gall that was brewing in his throat and thought about what the redhead had just stated. He came to the conclusion that Speedy was wrong. The competition was just getting started. And he was going to win.

A/N: The end lol. I hope you guys are satisfied with the ending. Thank you to everyone who ever read this story, and all of my reviewers. I have decided to write a sequel hence the last sentence. I have some ideas bubbling in my head, so hopefully I can execute them well. There's some foreshadowing for what the sequel is going to mostly revolve around, but I don't know if you'll be able to figure it out lol. If you want to read it, it'll most likely be called Hello, but I'm not quite sure yet. So, just be on the lookout! Anyway, enough rambling. Thank you all once again for taking time out of your lives to read this! I'm more than grateful :)

P.S. I just want to give a shout out to Alexandria Heart, baby19, and Satisfied Reader for your reviews of Chapter 19! Thank you guys 3

***I'm finally realizing that the lines I had separating the scenes in each chapter don't show up on the site. So, sorry if scene changes confused you throughout the story. Thanks for continuing!