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Solitary Ghosts

I wrote this a long time ago for bnf_brawl and thought it was time I re-posted it elsewhere.

Title: Solitary Ghosts
Fandom: DC Comics, especially Robin
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Robin III, though mentions of others
Word Count: 529
Spoilers: The end of Infinite Crisis and Batgirl

Night in Gotham was always dark. Hell, day in Gotham was dark more often than not, the sky blocked out by buildings and smog. But the darkness was familiar and almost welcome, the Gotham night more Robin's home than any house. He sat on a rooftop alone in it, watching the street below and thinking, his cape furled around him to hide his bright costume, the lone spot of color in the entire skyline.

It was nights like tonight that he missed them. It wasn't just that he was alone, not exactly. He had often patrolled alone and the solitude would stretch unbroken until the first grey light of incipient morning sent him home, to pretend to have slept. But now he knew it would be that way when before he was never certain. He'd see a flash of bright color in the sky and know it for Superboy, feel a sudden kiss against his cheek and turn to see Spoiler, or just sense another presence and find Batgirl standing there. He never knew when they'd be there and when they wouldn't, but the possibility always existed, something to liven up the night, something worth waiting for.

But they were gone, all of them. Two of them dead, died fighting as he still fought, though it was more lonely and bitter without them. And the last... driven mad by the Lazarus Pit, by the same losses he was feeling, by a hunger for a legacy of her own... something. Robin didn't really understand her reasons and she would be unable to put them into the words whose use she never truly mastered, but he knew Batgirl was gone, off to make her own way. Maybe she blamed Batman for his role in letting the others die; Robin knew he wasn't blameless.

And knowing, maybe he should do as she had done: leave, make his own way in the world. Others had tried and failed to break free, but maybe he'd succeed where they had failed. Maybe. But somehow, he couldn't do it. He still believed, despite years of experience and losses that should have taught him better. Somewhere inside, he was still the little boy who haunted the alleyways and rooftops when he should have been in bed, desperate for yet another glimpse of his hero: Robin. And Batman, of course. No matter how those dreams had been tarnished, underneath the shine was just as bright. Batman needed a Robin and as long as that was true, he would be that Robin. It was who he was, more real than the face he wore during the daylight hours, just as it was for his mentor.

As he jumped off the roof, feeling the moment of vertigo before the line pulled taut, Robin knew he was alone. He knew Batman was far from perfect and Gotham was no better than it had been the day before, for all their efforts. But he thought he heard faint feminine laughter on the wind, saw a dark face watching from the shadows, felt warm lips brush his in a kiss. Only ghosts, nothing real, but Robin smiled. Sometimes, the ghosts were almost enough.