Disclaimer: Don't own Young Justice.
Written for YJ fic meme: Robin is sick, but no one is willing to tell the team that their friend may be dying but they can't see him because Batman is paranoid about secret identities.
The first time one of them notices that something is wrong, it's during training. Robin and Superboy are practicing their hand-to-hand, and Robin does a flip to get out of range of a blow.
He doesn't land right. He stumbles, and Superboy is on him in an instant, pinning him.
Wally laughs. "Wow Rob, everyone's beating you up today."
Robin gets back up, but it's not the graceful movement it would normally be. "I'm allowed to have an off day, aren't I?"
"Does Batman even know the meaning of off day?"
They laugh, and forget about it.
Their next mission doesn't go so well. As per the usual, a simple recon explodes in their faces, and fighting is inevitable. Artemis fires off arrows as fast as she can, trying not to think about the stern words Batman is going to have for them once this is over and done with.
It is right as she lets loose an arrow that she sees a thug coming up on Robin from behind, who is busy fighting the guy in front of him. Artemis knows as she quickly notches the arrow to the bowstring that it's not going to get there in time, but that doesn't worry her. He's the Boy Wonder, he undoubtedly knows about the second guy and is planning to have them take each other out or something.
But that's not what happens. Robin notices the second thug just too late, and dodges just too slow, and the thug's knife draws blood. Artemis lets her arrow fly, and a second quickly follows. The men are down, but so is Robin, gasping and clutching at his wounded shoulder. He pushes through it, still fighting as best he can, but he's vulnerable now, wounded, and the men they're fighting know it.
As Artemis protects Robin with her arrows, she accepts the fact that Batman is going to kill them.
They only stay long enough for some quick field medicine, then it's back to the cave and the wrath of the Bat. But Batman is less mad and more concerned than they had all expected he would be, as while Robin's injury was extremely ill-timed it was hardly life-threatening.
"Robin, infirmary. Now. The rest of you, get cleaned up. We'll debrief later."
They all trade curious glances as Robin is quickly herded off by Batman.
They're still waiting for Batman and Robin to reappear for the debriefing an unexpected amount of time later when Black Canary shows up. She claps once, even though she already has everyone's attention. "Okay. Something came up that Batman needs to deal with, so he's asked me to do the debriefing."
Kaldur frowned. "What about Robin?"
"Yeah, where's Rob?" Wally chimed in.
Black Canary smiles, but there's something about it. Not untruthful, but not all there. "Batman sent him home. I'm sure we'll do fine without him."
The team trades another round of curious glances, but figure they'll just ask Robin next time they see him.
As it turns out, there won't be a next time, at least not for a while.
"Due to his recent injury, and other concerns," Batman informs them, "Robin will be taking an extended leave of absence from the team."
There is a chorus of responses, groans and complaints being the bulk, but none of them voice what they're really thinking until they're alone.
Artemis flops down on the couch, arms folded, as soon as Batman is gone. "Robin gets one little injury and suddenly Batman doesn't trust us to keep each other safe. What do you want to bet it's like a billion years before our next mission?"
Wally frowns, looking at the ground. "You'd think Robin would at least show up to say bye before Batman pulls him back under his wing."
"We must abide by Batman's decision, whatever his reasons," Kaldur states, though he looks a tiny bit miserable too.
Artemis is putting her books in her locker at school when she catches part of a conversation being held by three freshmen walking down the hall.
"Hey, did you hear? Grayson's out sick!"
"Probably just wants to avoid that test we have in fifth period."
"No, I mean really sick! In the hospital and everything!"
"Oh man! And I'm his partner for that stupid history project. Guess I'll have to do it all myself."
The next time they see Batman, he's announcing that it's been far too long since they've all had a thorough health checkup, and that that will be happening next week.
Superboy, M'gann, and Artemis just smile and nod, not knowing better. Wally and Kaldur, having been around longer, trade looks.
"I don't see why we all needs checkups," Wally complains to his Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry as he eats dinner at their house. "I feel fine, and Mom just dragged me to the doctor a couple months ago."
Barry's brow furrows, and Wally actually stops moving for a moment to realize just how worried he looks. "You may feel fine, but the superhero life is a bit crazy. You never know what's going on under your skin that you don't feel."
Wally opens his mouth to argue, but instead ends up putting food in it because there's something hanging from his uncle's shoulders, he has no idea what but there's something there, oppressing the atmosphere in the room and telling Wally to for once in his life shut up and do as he's told.
Kaldur pokes his head into the mountain's kitchen, wondering if M'gann needed any help with dinner. Instead, he sees M'gann and Superboy having a quiet, serious discussion. He figures that they must be having a relationship talk, and so retreats.
A few days after his checkup, Barry takes Wally out for ice cream. Wally asks what the occasion is. Barry asks if he needs one. Isn't being alive and the fact that ice cream is so good enough?
They're all sitting around the table, playing a board game because at this rate Artemis was right and it will be a billion years before their next mission. Red Tornado passes through, glancing at them as he does so. "Perhaps you five would be better off choosing healthier snacks," he says, eying the bowl of potato chips.
Gameplay grinds to a halt as they stare at Red Tornado's retreating back. Artemis is the first to talk once he's gone. "Is it just me, or has the entire Justice League turned into a bunch of health nuts?"
"Yeah, I'm starting to get a bit confused," Wally replies. "Since when does a robot even notice those kinds of things?"
M'gann starts worrying at her lower lip, staring at the ground and fingers fiddling. Kaldur is the first to notice. "What is it M'gann?"
"Well I..." She looks up, notices that everyone is now looking at her, and looks back down. "I-it's probably nothing, but..."
"Come on, spit it out," Wally urges, impatient.
M'gann remains silent for a moment, then looks back up. "What if Robin's sick?" she asks clearly.
Wally quickly laughs it off. "A little cold never hurt anyone!"
"I don't mean a little cold!" M'gann responds hurriedly. "Superboy overheard Batman and Black Canary talking, and that's not what it sounded like! Superboy, tell them what you heard!"
Suddenly all eyes are on Superboy. He pauses nervously, then starts talking. "Black Canary was asking about Robin, how he was doing. Batman said that he was holding up, to which Black Canary asked, 'He's not doing well, is he?' Batman didn't respond, and Black Canary just started saying she was sorry. That's all I heard."
Wally starts shaking his head almost before Superboy finishes talking. "No way, they'd tell us if Robin was really sick."
Kaldur frowns. "It would not be the first time they have kept something from us," he says, playing devil's advocate.
"It would all make sense then," Artemis explains. "They wanted to make sure nothing's wrong with us too, that's what the checkups were all about."
Wally grows serious. "Dude, no way guys. They'd tell us. They'd tell us if there was something seriously wrong with Rob."
"Are you sure about that?" Superboy asks.
"Get real! There's no way they'd keep something like that from us!" And with that said Wally jumps up and disappears from the room.
Artemis speaks to fill the silence. "Well if he is sick, they're not going to just tell us if we ask. We have to figure this out ourselves. Starting's easy enough. We just have to get into Gotham hospital records and look for someone recently admitted who fits Robin's description."
Kaldur nods. "He could be somewhere else, but it is a start."
"There's a vital flaw in this plan," Superboy points out. "You're planning to hack some files to find our hacker. And the other guy who knows about that kind of thing just stormed out of here."
M'gann stands up. "I'll go talk to him."
Wally gets the files, insistent they won't find anything. All of them are hoping they won't find anything, but they can't deny that it's a possibility. And at the very back of their mind they all think that if they do find something, then at least they would know what's going on.
"Oh my god," Artemis says, leaning back against the chair and staring at the monitor in front of her wide-eyed.
Kaldur's head jerks towards her. "What is it? What did you find?"
Artemis digs her fingers into her hair, staring at the keyboard. "Why didn't I see it? Why didn't I see it before?"
"What Artemis?" M'gann asks this time.
But Artemis doesn't answer, fingers flying across the keyboard. She pulls something up on the screen and stares at it. She runs a hand across her face. "Found him, guys."
They all crowd around her workstation, staring at the hospital records of Richard Grayson.
"Who says it's him?" Wally argues. "Could just be a coincidence."
Artemis shakes her head. "It isn't. I go to school with him. On my first day, he took a picture of the two of us and said that we'd laugh about it later. It's him."
Kaldur skims the records. "Right age, right admittance date."
"And he doesn't live with his parents," Artemis adds. "His legal guardian is Bruce Wayne."
Wally looks at her like she's grown a second head. "You're saying that Bruce Wayne is Batman," he says with the same deadpan delivery that he might use if he were confirming that she'd said the sky is green.
M'gann puts a hand on Wally's shoulder. "Wally, it all fits."
Wally looks like he is about to argue, but instead deflates.
When you're five teenage superheroes, sneaking into a hospital is not all that hard. They undoubtedly could have gotten in easily if they just said they were friends of Dick Grayson, but if it turned out they were wrong despite all evidence to the contrary that would probably get awkward. So they snuck in, just in case.
Wally pokes his head through the door of the private room, everyone else waiting outside. There are a few books on the table next to the bed and a television in the corner, but none of the books are open and the television is turned off. Instead, the boy lying propped up slightly in the bed has his dark head of hair turned away from the door, towards the window. But when he hears Wally enter he shifts, and the head turns on the pillow and looks at him.
They were wrong. This isn't Robin, this can't be Robin. Not this boy, this weak, pale boy who looks so alone and scared and longing and tired. Robin was never any of those things.
But then the boy frowns, and speaks. "Wally?"
Wally opens his own mouth to speak, but his voice is caught in his throat. He tries again. "Robin?"
Dick Grayson's mouth lifts ever so slightly in a smile. "Yeah."
They have all gathered in the room and are talking, laughing quietly, avoiding the elephant that is the room, the building they're in, when Bruce Wayne shows up. He stares at them, and they glare at him, and he sighs, and it's clear he's not quite sure what to do. He shifts uncomfortably. "I'll, um... I'll talk to you all later. Right now I'd like some privacy with Dick, please."
As they file out, Wally says, "You'd better talk to us later," and it comes out far more viciously than originally intended, but he finds he doesn't mind.
Batman does talk to them later.
He had suspected that there was something wrong with Robin, but he'd written it off, he'd thought it was nothing. He'd thought Robin was dealing with something personal and that he'd get over it. But then he was stabbed on that mission, and that was the last straw. Whatever Robin was dealing with, he wanted it dealt with before it endangered any more lives.
But Robin hadn't been dealing with anything. He'd just been feeling a little out of it lately, not quite right, which just opened a whole new can of worms over why he didn't tell Batman he wasn't feeling well. At which point concern turned into worry which snowballed, and it turned out for good reason.
They're not entirely certain what caused it, but they have good reason to believe it was because of the mission about a month before Robin was stabbed. The fight had ended up knocking over some barrels full of an unknown substance, and Robin got splashed. The team had all gotten a little bit on themselves, but Robin got the worst of it.
They're trying, but they don't know how to fix it. They don't know how to help Robin. And they're not sure if they'll figure it out in time.
All Wally hears is, Your best friend's dying, and we didn't tell you. He's dying, and we wouldn't let you spend his last time on Earth with him.
When everyone has processed enough that they feel like moving from the warm, safe mass on the couch that they have become, they slowly start to drift their separate ways. Wally stays the longest, up until he realizes that he wants nothing more than to run to Central City and yell at his uncle. Then he ends up first out of the room.
When he gets to his aunt and uncle's house however he realizes he's lost his internal momentum. He doesn't want to yell at his uncle anymore. He just... he doesn't know.
Then Aunt Iris opens the door and smiles at him. "Any particular reason you're just standing out there instead of coming in?"
Wally frowns, and cocks his head. "Did you know?" he asks simply.
"Know what Wally?"
"About Robin, did you know about Robin?"
Aunt Iris looks thoughtful. "Robin, that's one of your hero friends, right? What about him?"
And Wally just starts spilling everything to her right there on the front stoop, and Aunt Iris quickly looks around as she drags him into the house and shuts the front door behind them, and it makes Wally feel better to know that he wasn't the last person on the planet to learn that his best friend is sick. And Wally feels even better when Uncle Barry comes home from work and Aunt Iris yells at him for him.
Artemis looks at the pitiful looking flowers in her hands, rethinking this idea. It had seemed like a good idea earlier, but that was before she realized how expensive flowers were, and that it was either going to be very few flowers or that she was going to be making a detour to a park for dandelions and daisies. On the other hand, she's already spent good money on the red ones so she steels herself and opens the door.
She is surprised to hear a voice, and even more surprised when she sees who it is coming from. Wally is sitting in a chair at the side of the bed, one of the books from the table open and he is reading to a sleeping Robin. Sleeping, because it is a much better word for what he has been doing for the past week, much nicer word than comatose, much less one-step-from-death.
She shuts the door, listening to the sounds of the hospital all around her. "Wally? What are you doing here?"
Wally abruptly stops reading and swivels in the chair. "Artemis! I was, I just..."
Artemis holds up her pitiful bouquet. "I just too."
Wally gives her a small smile.
Artemis walks over to the vase which is already pretty full, a mass of colors, and starts shifting what is undoubtedly Bruce Wayne's exorbitant flowers to try and find a place for her dandelions, daisies, and the red ones with the long complicated not worth remembering name. "So what's going on?"
"Huh?" Wally starts. "Oh, not much."
"I mean in the book. What's going on in the book?" Artemis elaborates.
"Oh, that." Wally makes a face at the book. "All I can say is that whoever put these books here has horrible taste. This is the most interesting looking one in the stack, and it's really dull."
Artemis smiles. "You're a good friend, Wally West."
Wally gestured towards the vase of flowers. "You're here too."
The room grows quiet, neither of them knowing what to say next.
Their eyes widen in unison and Wally jumps to his feet so fast that the chair falls over and then he backs up and trips over it but it doesn't matter because Artemis has already thrown the door open and is shouting into the hallway: "Help! Nurse, doctor, anyone, help!"
They're huddled together on plastic chairs.
They're huddled together on plastic chairs unable to cry because they've just done so much of it.
They're huddled together on plastic chairs unable to cry because they've just done so much of it when Bruce Wayne shows up and looks down at them.
They're huddled together on plastic chairs unable to cry because they've just done so much of it when Bruce Wayne shows up and looks down at them and they look up at him.
They're huddled together on plastic chairs unable to cry because they've just done so much of it when Bruce Wayne shows up and looks down at them and they look up at him and they see the tears in his eyes and start crying again.
M'gann isn't expecting her cellphone to ring because it never rings, it's just something she got to help fit in at school and just in case. So when it does ring she jumps and spills batter and has to wipe her hands off before she can pick it up. She sees that it's Artemis calling and answers. "Hi Artemis. What's going on?" she asks, wondering, because Artemis isn't using the Justice League communications system and isn't showing up in person to say whatever it is she has to say.
And on a dark, rainy day, Dick Grayson is buried in the family plot behind Wayne Manor.
M'gann has an idea. She's not sure what Batman would think of the idea, in fact she's almost certain he would not approve. But she thinks it's a good idea, and so asks Black Canary about it.
"Batman would not like this," Black Canary confirms, and M'gann's face falls. But then Black Canary's expression changes, and she says, "But we won't give him a choice in the matter."
It is three weeks and two days after the death of Dick Grayson that the Justice League informs the world of the death of Robin, the Boy Wonder. It is seven days after that that the memorial service is held at the Hall of Justice.
It feels like the entire planet is gathered outside and in the streets surrounding the hall. And they know that the entire planet is watching, glued to their televisions, radios, whatever they can get their hands on.
Superman steps up to the microphone, tugging inconspicuously on the black sash he is wearing, the one all heroes present are wearing. "We are here today to remember a fallen hero, a compatriot, companion, and friend. Before we go any further, I would just like to say that wherever Robin is, I hope and wish he could see this. That he could see how loved he was."
Everyone speaks. Everyone, including a few Arkham escapees who claim to have broken out just to show up today. Batman looks ready to bust heads open, and there is some not-quite-violence (none of the heroes want to fight today, and the villains aren't provoking them), but somehow they manage to convince everyone of their sincerity and the Joker leads the group of lunatics in a terribly sung song about how much they'll miss having the Boy Wonder ruin their plans. Then the whole ragtag group willingly goes back to Arkham, to everyone's surprise.
And then it's Wally's turn.
"Robin," his breath hitches, and he really looks at the hundreds of people in front of him, and thinks about the millions who will hear this, and he takes a deep breath, and, "Robin was a good friend. He was my best friend. And I know, that if he could see all this, he would be completely... whelmed."
Batman sighs as he makes his way back to the batmobile. Nothing is happening. Literally nothing. And he appreciates it, really he does, but it would be nice if the criminals of Gotham would let him know when they would stop doing nothing because a break is no good if he's worrying about not being on the streets when it stops being a break.
Well, nothing is happening except for the kid who's jacking his tires. That's certainly unexpected.
And as he talks to the kid named Jason and finds out more about him, he can see Dick smiling widely and bouncing on the balls of his feet next to him, and he's saying, Can we keep him?