The letter arrived sometime after breakfast. It was a Tuesday, Robin remembered, and the team had just been called to a gas station robbery deep in the heart of Jump City. As he gazed at the letter in his hand, with the insistent beeping of his T-Phone ringing in the background space, he tried to convince himself that Alfred's handwriting wasn't shakier than usual, and that the smudged ink of his name and address was a matter of the thundering storm outside, and not a dried tear, carried to him from the Manor so far away.

He was loathe to admit it, but he was.. scared to open it. And so, when Cyborg called out an impatient "let's go, Robin!" from the elevator door, he pushed the letter into the back of his mind, and his worries deeper still, and went forward to meet his teammates.

! !

As soon as he got back to the Tower he powered straight for his room, ignoring a "cakes of pan, Robin?" from Starfire, and the way Raven was discreetly not-so-discreetly making faces about his aura and burying her nose deep in her books to avoid his pointed stare. With his door shut behind him he allowed himself a moment of discomposure, leaning tiredly against the door that lay strong across his shoulder blades, and running a gloved hand over his aching forehead.

The letter lay innocently on the bed, crisp white paper blatant against the matte black of his silken sheets. He straightened up, tightened his shoulders for the advance, and forced himself to stride towards the bed without reserves, swiping the letter from the bed in one harsh movement, opening it in another.

Dear Master Richard, it began, and he had to smile wryly at that - he could count on one hand the number of times Alfred had called him just Richard, despite the many hours spent over the years beseeching him to do just that.

It it with great regret and sadness that I am to inform of the passing of your beloved brother, Jason P. Todd. He was a man greatly loved by us all here at the Manor, and we wish to express our deepest sympathies for your loss.

And so it went on. By the time he reached the bottom of the letter the letters were blurring suspiciously in front of his eyes, and he barely took in the attached details for the closed Funeral service, scheduled for the Friday, three days from then. His hand ghosted over two more dried spots on the bottom of the page, and his hands trembled to think of Alfred - rarely was he so unprofessional as to leave apparent tear stains, but then he thought of how Alfred would hardly be able to rewrite the entire page again, adding to his grief tenfold. A third spot soon made itself apparent, wet nestled between the two dry, and, for the first time in a long time, Robin allowed himself to cry.

! !

He attended the funeral alone.

He didn't want the pity he had seen stirring in Star's eyes, or the comfort Cyborg had displayed by the simple gesture of a hand on the shoulder when he said to them he had to leave town for a few days. Beast Boy had been indignant about the departure, claiming that the team needed him, until Raven had lain a quiet hand across his knee and, with her calm, quiet demeanor, commanded they listen to his explanation. He didn't give them much, and avoided their eyes as he said a simple, "there's been a death in the family."

He could feel the guilt stirring in his gut like a thick, poisonous viper. He should've been there. Whatever happened, he should've been there.

Afraid he would betray the maelstrom of emotions swirling inside, he thanked the team curtly for their proffered support, but left as soon as the sun began to sink in the sky.

When at last, after a long ride to Gotham made worse by the fact that along the way he was left alone with just himself and his thoughts, the Wayne Manor rose like a monolith in the distance, a spearpoint for him to head to, he wondered briefly if he should be concerned about the faint stirrings of anger that clawed their way up his throat, until his breath was coming in hard, fast gasps, and he had to slew his R-Cycle to a stop along the perfectly trimmed driveway side to get his emotions under control.

The voices in his head shouted and screamed and his vision misted red for what seemed like an eternity.

Where the hell was Bruce?

His subconscious whispered that while Bruce wasn't there, neither was he, but he was angry and upset and grieving a whole slew of emotions that he couldn't identify, so he started up the motorcycle again and roared around the roundabout to come to a screeching halt in front of the grand hall entrance.

He burst through the front door like an explosion, startling a maid who was polishing the vast silver vases that braced the side of the entrance. He barely took in the flowers - bountiful and beautiful floral arrangements of cascading, stark white lilies.

The flower of death.

His legs took him faster and faster through the manor, and he blatantly ignored the extravagance around him - goldplated portraits of people long passed, and gilded halls of clean marble slates - until he arrived, chest heaving, at the door of the kitchen, but what he saw drew the strength from his bones and made him hesitate on the wooden threshold.

Bruce sat at the table, crystal glass of whisky on the rocks, just the way he always ordered it, clasped in one loose hand. He suit, always impeccable, was wrinkled, and his ramrod straight posture was wilted like a dying flower as he slumped, defeated, at the table. His eyes were cast in shadow, and Robin was almost afraid to seek them out, scared at what he might find in those bottomless depths.

"Master Dick." The voice behind him startled him, and he spun to find Alfred behind him, his clear blue eyes clouded with grief. It was really saying something that even Alfred, butler extraordinaire, could sneak up on him, regardless of the distraction of the defeated Batman sitting slumped at the table, drinking at nine in the morning.

It made him feel like a child again, running around Bruce's ankles and sneaking Alfred's hot buns from the oven while the elderly man pretended not to see, but passed over his special chocolate syrup with a wink and a smile. It made him feel like the hole that had opened in a chasm through his chest, the night of his parents' deaths, had torn open again, breaking all the careful stitching he had done all these years.

He was scared. He was vulnerable. And he didn't know how to fix it.

And so he took the first step, offering Alfred a nod and a smile, albeit small, before he gathered his courage and stepped through the door, rising to meet the gaze of the man before him that now pinned his square between the eyes.

"Robin", the other man greeted, and the thick baritone of his voice greeting his second son conveyed more sorrow than he would ever admit to.

"Bruce", he responded, taking a seat across from the man. He sighed and ran an unsteady hand across his face.

"What happened?"

Bruce looked pained, and Robin could have sworn that, even for a second, he saw a flash of something that he once would have called guilt flash across his Mentor's eyes. Bruce sighed and looked him in the eye.

"We had a fight. Something stupid - he wanted the car, I said he needed more training to work solo, he said that you were allowed to work with your 'band of misfits', and I said too much about his immaturity. He claimed favouritism, and I tried to explain that it wasn't like that, that I care for you both equally, but he got aggravated and it escalated too quickly. He left in a rush, and stole my police responder. There was a break-in, a robbery, in Gotham Central Bank. He responded before I even knew, and went in on his own. He was so eager to prove himself to me. To you."

His voice broke off, and he took a long draft of his whisky, smacking his lips when he emptied the glass. He cleared his throat and started again, shoulders hulked over as he studied the intricate workings of the oak table.

"It was a late night raid, but there was one guard, and they had him hostage. Jason was...angry. He wasn't thinking straight. They set charges throughout the building, but he didn't stop to diffuse them, he just charged on ahead. That was his mistake. He was taught better. I watched the security footage myself."

Robin felt a twinge of bitterness twist in his heart - even when discussing the death of a comrade, of a family member, he couldn't stop assessing.

"They stripped him of weapons, claimed if he surrendered they would let the man go, and he was overconfident. He agreed."

Robin knew where this was going, could feel from the sink of his stomach that he wouldn't like where this went, but he didn't motion to him to stop. This was his punishment, his atonement. He had to know.

"The building blew too early - the charges were set on the wrong wires, and the shorting set it off earlier than even the robbers expected. When the building collapsed he jumped on top of the guard. He-"

Bruce's voice shattered and he looked into the bottom of the glass with eyes that couldn't quite focus on the present. A deep breath rattled in his chest, and he pushed himself to continue.

"He was severely injured… The explosions ruptured a gas pipeline deep beneath the building. The guard made it out before the fire, but Jason was trapped. He...he burned with the building."

Bruce slumped his head in defeat, and Robin just stared at the man before him, who, in the entire time of knowing him, could only remember a handful of instances that he had seen the broken man behind the mask.

Bruce lifted his head and beseeched Robin with his eyes, begging for a forgiveness that Robin felt incapable of giving.

"I'm sorry, Robin. I know that he was your family and-"

Robin snapped then - the anger that he felt on the drive in returned in thick cloying hands that grasped around his windpipe and squeezed until he was looking through a vision spotted with black and blue. He could feel the anger rising up his throat, exploding from behind tight lips into the stunted air between them.

"He was our family! He was ours! And you weren't there Bruce! Where were you? He needed you! This is all your fault!" he screamed, and he was standing now, and his chest was heaving in time to the gallop of his heartbeat, and his lips were screaming obscenities that landed like weights across Bruce's shoulder, and nestled into Robin's heart.

"This is your fault!" He shrieked, and shoved Bruce from his chair with hands that too easily clasped into fists.

"You don't think I don't know that?!" Bruce yelled back, his composure slipping from him like a black veil, and the glass that had been clasped in his hands met the wall in an unholy bang that left shattered glass showering to the ground with a tinkle like the death knell of the church bell chimes.

"You don't think I know that everytime I walk past his room, and it stands empty? You think I don't know that when his body is lying in a coffin in the living room where he once breathed?" Bruce's chest was heaving just as hard as Robin's, and as he yelled spittle flew from his lips, and his bloodshot eyes met Robin's mask.

The quiet between them was deafening as they stared eachother down, as Alfred wordlessly moved between them to the pile of glittering glass shards that littered the floor, picking them up with hands that trembled imperceptibly.

"It's your fault." Robin breathed, turning to leave the room, but, as he went, both of the older men heard him mutter to himself, in a voice too weary for one his age, "it's my fault."

! !

And so he attended the funeral alone, though he was surrounded by people. He stood staunchly at the front of the room, shoulders proud beneath a tux too tight across a chest that boiled with the effort of hiding things unsaid. He observed the memorial slideshows, the memoirs of the businessmen Bruce had invited regardless of the 'closed' state of the funeral, who offered condolences while their eyes were firmly trained on his pocket.

When the time came, he stood alone in front of a room of strangers and read robotically from the cards Alfred had pressed to his palm an hour earlier, unable to connect to the words that, with carefully phrased sentences and clauses, expressed his grief in a way that completely cloaked the underworld that had claimed Jason with claws and teeth and blood.

His hands, when he grasped the silver handles of the intricate coffin, were steady, and he watched with dry eyes as the husk of the man he once knew was lowered into the cold embrace of the ground, feeling as if a shard of his shattered heart was buried with him.

And so he attended the funeral alone, and so he left alone, and allowed himself to get lost between two houses that no longer felt like home.