In Titans Tower, Beast Boy was sneaking his way through the halls.
He made sure he wasn’t being followed, or that no one was around to stop him. He looked down both ends of the hallway he passed before finally making his way down each. He passed one door after another, making sure none would open while he passed and he’d be caught.
For a moment he saw a shadow on the wall and instantly turned into a fly to not be seen by whatever was making it. He went closer and peeked around the corner before seeing it was only a bush with light from a window casting the shadow. With a deep sigh Beast Boy changed back to his normal form and kept going.
He finally reached one of the smaller doors of the tower and knocked, doing one tap, pausing then three fast ones at the same time. It creaked slightly open and the face of Cyborg looked to him.
“Password?” Cy asked.
“Uh...” BB said, rolling up his right sleeve before seeing what he wrote down on his arm in pen. “Flown...the...coop.”
Just as soon as he answered Cyborg grabbed him by the collar and dragged him inside the room; BB giving a slight yelp from it. The door closed and BB found himself a dark cramped room with three other people inside, including Cyborg. Someone reached up and pulled on the string to turn on the small lamp hanging above in the room, or rather closet, revealing Raven and Starfire were there as well. Nothing but a small table in between all of them.
“Good to see everyone made it.” Cy said. “So...we all ready for what we’re doing?”
“Totally.” BB said, giving a thumbs up. “Robin’s had this coming for a long time.”
“I didn’t think it’d come to this, but I guess there’s no other option.” Raven answered in her usual tone.
All now looked to Starfire, who looked very melancholy about the entire plan they had in mind.
“C’mon, Starfire.” Cy said. “You know we’re doing this for the best. Whether he likes it or not, Robin has to face this.”
She gave a sigh and said “I know. But I wish we did not use such deception in our planning. I do not like to deceive Robin. They say it is bad when in the relation.”
“Trust me, Star.” BB said, leaning in towards her “He’ll totally thank you for it.”
Star seemed to hesitate at first before finally giving in and nodding in agreement with the plan, answering “Very well. If we must, then we shall.”
“Alright then.” Cy said. “But first...”
All looked nervous as he pulled out something from behind and slapped on the table. It was a blank paper with a fold in between it. All looked even more nervous before Cy pulled out a black pen. He looked to all of them and gave a heavy nod before writing on it.
Once he was done he passed the pen to Raven. She finished and passed to BB, who in-turn passed it to Starfire. Once all were done they gave a brief smile before closing what they had signed: A yellow and red card saying “Happy Birthday” on it.
“Well that’s out of the way.” Raven said.
“I still suggest we offer him a card of gifts for one of his favorite places.” Starfire noted.
“Don’t worry.” BB said. “I got him a coupon for the pizza place.” He held it out and showed everyone.
“Oh yeah?” Cy said, a bit disbelieving. “How much?”
“As-as much as I could afford, of course.” BB answered only to see disapproving looks from the others, before looking down casted and re-answering “Five dollars.” He saw the annoyed looks now before saying “Hey. Give me a break. I spent a bundle on the cake I ordered.”
“And you thought you needed five dollars’ worth of pizza to add to that as well?” Raven asked bluntly.
BB realized she had a point to what she said and gave an awkward chuckle.
“Forget about it.” Cy said. “Let’s just worry about separate gifts or now. I’m already working on mine.”
“Like I said. I’m handling the cake.” BB said. “And don’t anyone try and tell me it’s not a gift after he sees what I specially ordered.”
“Fine then.” Cy said before looking to Raven.
“I’m...working on it.” She said.
Cy sighed before looking and saying “How about you, Star?”
“I am having trouble deciding what I should give as a gift to Robin.” She said. “I am not very familiar with how you earthlings celebrate your days of birth.”
“Well how do they do it on Tameran?” he asked
“On my planet we celebrate by having the person eat an entire bowl of Zerka eggs. Then proceed with traditional games such as Thornuba wrestling. Then finally finish the celebration with family bath in the tarnik pits of Zanbar.”
The others all gave disturbed looks, imagining how “unsual” the Tamerans were.
“Uh, maybe you such just buy him a gift card.” BB suggested.
Suddenly all three of them heard something outside and went stiff as boards. Cyborg quickly turned off the lights ad all sat silently and listened as they could hear something walking past the door. BB quickly put his ear against the door and listened as whatever it was, was still walking by.
After a few moments everything was silent and Beast Boy said “I think the coast is clear.” Only to have the door suddenly open just as he finished speaking.
All fell out in a jumbled pile, even one of the mops falling down and landing on BB’s head, before all looked up and saw who it was that opened the door: Robin. He raised an eyebrow to them, with a bit of a disgruntled look on his face, as Raven quickly hid the birthday card under her robes before he could see.
“What are you all doing?” Robin asked.
All recovered, BB even pushing the mop back into the closet and closing it, before Cy said “Oh...you know...just....uh...”
“Planning something?” he asked, not sounding very happy about whatever it is.
All either whistled awkwardly, looked away or scratched the back of their heads, trying to avoid answering.
Robin gave a heavy, almost annoyed, sigh before saying “Guys, please. I told you before...”
“Aw. C’mon, Robin.” BB began. “We want to help you celebrate your big B-Day is all.”
“Can’t we just do what we did last year?” Robin asked.
“What?” Cy began. “You mean where we didn’t even get a chance to sing or do the cake because we spent the whole day taking down the Puppet King, Johnny Rancid, Mother May-Eye and a kid who stole a tricycle?”
“Yeah. Because it was so fun the first time.” Raven bluntly added.
Seeing Robin only giving a bigger annoyed look, Starfire suddenly said “Please, Robin?”
“Listen.” He began to explain. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate the thought, everyone, it’s just...I’m not exactly in the best of spirits when it comes to my birthday.”
“Which is why we intend to give you the nest one ever!” BB suddenly declared. “We’ll give the best, man. Don’t worry about it. We’ve got a cake. A banner. Some sweet presents to be sure.”
“Beast boy.” Cy tried to say, only for BB to keep going because he didn’t hear.
“Streamers. Some confetti.”
“Beast Boy.” Raven now.
“Oh, and maybe some goody bags. In case, you know, anyone else comes and...”
“Beast Boy!” both of them now.
BB stopped and looked at them before they all indicated for him to look back. Once he did he saw that Robin was already walking away from them. All gave down casted looks while Starfire only looked worried.
Later in the day Robin was in the main room of the Tower, checking on one of the computers in the room to see if anything was wrong in the city.
He’d been checking for over an hour now, around the time when he’d left the others in the hallway, only to find everything quite for today. He only grumbled at this, after checking for the 50th time, before slumping back in his chair. Even he knew this was all just him trying to avoid thinking about his birthday, which was tomorrow.
He leaned forward and started checking, yet again, while Beast Boy came into the room to find him where he was. He gave a sly grin before sneaking up towards Robin, a birthday blower in his hand. Once he was close enough, BB readied to blow it right above Robin.
Just as BB put his lips to the blower, Robin reached up, not looking away from the screen, grabbed the other end and forced the blower to explode in BB’s face.
“Not in the mood, Beast Boy.” Robin said bluntly, still not looking away from the screen.
BB only gave a defeating moan before walking away, leaving Robin to continue his fruitless scanning.
Some time passed, now towards the afternoon, and Robin was in the gym, training with one of the punching bags.
He seemed to be going more and more harder with each punch or kick he gave to the bag. As he continued on, the door to the gym opened and Cyborg came walking in. He seemed to have a cheerful enough expression on his face as he walked up to Robin, making sure to stay out of the way as he kept training.
“Hey, man. How’s it going?” Cy said, leaning against the nearby column.
Robin didn’t answer and only kept attacking the punching bag.
Cyborg, trying to lighten the moment, cleared his throat and said “Sooo...been thinking over about your whole birthday thing and I was wondering: how about, instead of just any ordinary streamers, I make some awesome neo-light streams that’ll work even when it’s night?”
“Not interested.” Robin said, taking a moment between the punching to answer.
“What? Think I can’t do it?” Cy said, sarcastically. “Well check this out.”
He held up a small streamer, that looked like it was mixed together with some of his tech and an electric wire, and held it out long enough before reaching over towards the light switch. He used a mechanical extension in his arm to reach all the way over from where he was standing to the switch on the wall. Once it was off, the streamer managed to light up a good portion of the room, even to the point where Cy could see Robin still training with the punching bag.
“Well? What do you think?” Cy asked positively. “Pretty sweet, huh? Huh?”
Robin only answered “Like I said...not interested.” While still punching and kicking the bag.
Cy reached over and turned the lights back on before saying “Aw. Come on, Rob. I’m sure you’ll love them once it turns out the party lasts all the way until night. You’d be surprised how...”
As Cyborg kept mentioning the party, or Robin’s birthday in general, that only aggravated him even more. So much to the point that he finally gave one very hard bunch to the bag that it broke off the chains holding it and went flying towards the wall. Cy looked in both shock an fear when he saw this while Robin only took deep breaths to recover.
“Uh...I’ll get back to you on that.” Cy quickly said before rushing out of the room.
It was closer towards night and Robin was now back in the main room, watching T.V. to pass the time.
He flipped through one channel after another before finding one program about cooking that caught his eye. He tried to watch it only for the cook to change to baking and how he was making a special cake for his niece’s birthday. This annoyed Robin so much he went back to surfing through the channels again.
As he did, Raven walked into the room and wound up standing next to Robin, who was still channel surfing.
“Hey.” She said, not getting a response from him. “I’m fine. How about you?” still nothing. “Great to hear. So anyway, about tomorrow...” still no response. “Yeah, I know. But I was just thinking about your present.” Still nothing. “Right. Just what I thought. Anything else in mind.” At this point he stopped looking at the T.V. and now to her, with a very annoyed look. She barley seemed to be phased, at least outwardly, before saying “Yep. Glad had this talk too.”
She started walking away, Robin watching as she did, before he went back to trying to find something to watch on T.V.
“And I thought I hated my birthday.” Raven said to herself before walking out of the room.
Now Robin was in his room as it was much closer to nighttime.
He was sitting at his desk and looking over a few files of some unsolved cases. Some involved Slade, others Red X, even some file that seemed as if it had been hidden in the file cabinets for a while now. It was clear this was more of Robin’s attempts to avoid the problem everyone could see he had.
He signed before pushing all of it aside and pulling out something from a box he was keeping underneath the desk. It was a rolled up poster which he unrolled once he had it out and on the desk. It was a poster for a round country tour of “Haley’s Circus” as it read. The poster had pictures of juggling clowns, performing animals like elephants and apes, and even a picture of three very talented looking trapeze artists; a man, woman and child act.
As he idled over it a little more, having a mixed look of anger and sorrow, there was a sudden knock on his door. He quickly put the poster back and got up from his seat. He half stormed over to the door, annoyed because he knew what it would be: one of the other Titans trying to cheer him up.
He opened the door and said “I told you guys I don’t...”
He stopped when he saw Starfire standing there, smiling, as she had her hands behind her back.
Robin only groaned before saying “What is it, Starfire?”
“I have noticed that you seem very glum today.” She answered.
“Really? What gave you that idea?” he said sarcastically.
“I only thought you might want something to try and lighten you spirits for such an occasion.” She noted.
Robin began to say “If it’s a present, a party favor, some kind of decoration or a cake I’m not...”
He stopped when she showed him what she was keeping behind her back: a box of exotic looking chocolates.
“Uh Star,” Robin began to say in a awkward manner. “it’s not February. And usually it’s the guy who gives these to the girl.”
“Oh, but these are not ordinary chocolate finger snacks.” She said, holding one up. “They are special delicacies from Zartan VII. They are helpful when you want to try and make someone happy. I insist that you try one.”
At first he seemed like he would deny it, which made Star look a little glum, but after seeing that he shrugged and decided to give in. He picked the one out of her hand and tossed it in his mouth.
After chewing for a few seconds he said “Hmm. You know, Star, these...these are that bad.”
“I am pleased you liked them so.” She said, smiling more as he picked up another one to eat. “It is said that they are used to calm the spirit when someone is troubled. And you have seemed very troubled lately.”
Robin ate another one of her alien candies, after finishing the last two, before saying “I know I have been. It’s just...I have a bit of a problem when it comes to my birthday.”
Starfire gasped and declared “You do not have some evil curse upon you like Raven did, do you?”
“No, no.” he said, waving her off. “Nothing like that. It’s...a little more personal.”
“Then what is it that has you so upset?” she asked. “Please tell me.”
He seemed to hesitate before starting to say “Well you see it’s...”
Before he could finish he had a horrible sensation growing in his stomach. He clutched his stomach and started groaning in pain.
“Robin!” Star said, running to his aid and holding his shoulder. “What is the matter?”
“I...think....those chocolates....are disagreeing with me...” he painfully said.
He suddenly collapsed on the floor, still holding his stomach, as gurgling sounds could now be heard.
“No dear.” She said, picking him up now. “I should have known Zartanian food would cause allergic reactions in humans. That must be why they only feed it to animals.”
Robin only gave her a look that said You’ve got to be kidding! before she rushed towards the medical room with him in her arms. In less than a minute she managed to get him inside and placed him down on one of the beds.
“Please, Robin.” She said nervously. “You’ll need to rest while this sickness works its way through your body.”
He groaned a bit and said “How long will...that take?”
“It may last the whole night.” She stated. “Given how many you ate.”
As Star walked over to a nearby sink in the room, Robin only said to himself “I guess they were...right about chocolate being bad for you.”
Once Starfire came back to his bedside, Robin took a quick drink of water before putting the glass back and relaxing as best he could against his pillow.
“Are you sure you will be fine?” Star asked.
“I think so.” He said, a little more relaxed now. “Like you said: a little rest may be all I need.”
She nodded and said “Then I will say goodnight, Robin.” She started walking out before stopping and saying “Robin? I am sorry if this is running your birthday even further.” With a sorrowful tone.
Feeling a little regret by what she said, Robin looked to Star and said “It’s...it’s alright, Starfire. I think it was spoiled a long....time....ago...” he managed to say before passing out in the bed.
Starfire looked back to see him sleeping now and started to wonder what he was going to tell her about before he got sick. Did it have something to do with his past? An old enemy maybe? Perhaps something very tragic happened and it’s been haunting him his whole life. She was not sure. She only decided, despite what Robin had been saying to the others, that she would try to find him the best gift she could.
With that she left the room and closed the door, leaving Robin to heal, more than just physically, on his own.
Time passed on as Robin rived and turned in his sleep. He was being haunted by horrible nightmares...or perhaps memories...of very tragic events.
As one finally started to get to him, he jumped up from his sleep and found himself still in the medical room. There was a little sweat on his forehead which he wiped away once he realized it was there. He then took a deep breath before looking at the clock on the wall reading 11:59. In another minute it would be midnight.
He reached over to take another sip of water from the glass. As he brought it to his lips he suddenly saw someone standing in the shadows in front of him. He spit his water out and dropped the glass before trying to get up.
“Who are you? What...” he began to say before dropping back on the bed, holding his stomach.
“Easy there, cowboy.” The stranger, who was a girl from the sound of her voice. “You’re still a little out of it from those sweets your girlfriend tried to give you.”
Robin suddenly realized something and said “That-that voice....it can’t be...”
He looked as the girl stepped out from the shadows and confirmed his suspicion: it was Terra. She looked like she did when she was with the titans; the same clothing she wore when she fully became a member and was their friend.
“Terra?” he said in shock. “But...but you’re...”
“Yeah I know.” She said, walking over to him. “But if it’s any consolation, this ‘state’ I’m in has helped me thinking about how horrible I was to you guys.”
She sat down on a chair next to his bed as Robin tried to sit up. Once he did he had to keep looking at her, thinking this must be a trick of his mind or something.
“You...you can’t be Terra.” He said. “This...this is just...I don’t know...maybe some kind of fever...or hallucination...but you’re not really here.”
“Maybe I am. Maybe not. Either way you ARE seeing me. So I guess you have to deal with that for now.”
Robin shook his head for a moment, trying to fight off the drowsy feeling in his head, before saying “If you really are Terra...prove it.”
“What? You mean like try to bury half the Tower or something?” she suggested. “Yeah. Little known fact: once you break from the mortal coil, you don’t really need powers anymore. But how about this.” she began to sound more sincere as she said “I really, and truly AM sorry for betraying you. All of you. Especially Beast Boy. And...I really liked the little memorial you all made for me.”
At that moment, Robin new this had to be more than a trick or something in his mind. There was no way Terra could have known about the memorial they’d made for her because she couldn’t have been there. Not to mention the fact that she did sound very emotionally invested in what she’d said to him.
And then there was the look in her eyes. Even though he didn’t have a strong relationship to her as Beast Boy did Robin could read people pretty well, and Terra, or at least this aspect of Terra, was speaking the truth with every single syllable.
“Alight.” He said. “You’ve convinced me. So what do you want? Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, maybe talking with Beast Boy?”
“I would.” She shrugged. “But then again, it’s not Beast Boy who’s turning into a grump over his birthday. Is he?”
He recoiled from her look after that statement, put his head down, and said “What does it matter. A lot of people don’t always feel so chipper around birthdays. Big deal.”
“It is a big deal, Robin. You just don’t realize it yet.”
This made him look back to her and say “What are you talking about?”
She sighed and said “Okay. No real straightforward way to say this, but if you keep acting like this your whole life it’s not going to end well. You might end up like some poor spirit who can’t get up to that big old paradise in the sky if you just keep beating up bad guys, saving the world, and yet STILL act like...well a Scrooge.”
“A...Scrooge?” he question. A second later he said “Oh...wait a minute. Is this what I think it is?”
“Think back to all those holiday specials they played. Especially the one they’ve been doing over and over and over and over again.”
Robin started to chuckle before saying “Now I KNOW I must be dreaming.”
“Hey I never said you WERE awake.” Terra began. “But more or less, you are in the same position right now.”
Robin looked at her with disbelief before saying “First of all: It’s July. Second: That was a major holiday and based off a book. Third: I may be a grump around my birthday, but at least I’m not a greedy guy who thinks everyone should be bitter on their birthdays.”
“Then let me give you my answers. One: True. It is July, but that doesn’t mean anything. Two: Sometimes any holiday calls for a little spiritual intervention. Besides, a birthday is like your own personal holiday. Third: That’s true, and you’re a better person for that. But that doesn’t mean you may end up regretting being like this and it’s too late to turn back. You might be surprised at how bad things can get when they start out so small.”
“So let me guess. This is the par where you tell me that I’ll be visited by three ghosts. And I can’t meet them all at once. And the first one will be at one. Right?”
Terra only smirked and said “Well at least you saved me the trouble.”
With that she got up from her seat and started to walk towards the door.
As she did, Robin noticed and said “Wait!” making her stop. “Before you go, I need to ask, why come to me like you are? Why not all rattling chains and the like?”
She only giggled and said “What, and freak you out even more?” he did smirk with embarrassment as how funny it did sound. “Let’s just say I thought it would be better if you got this info from a more friendly face. Trust me when I say I could’ve been worse.”
He only nodded before she started back away into the shadows more, making him say “You may have been all in my mind, but....it was good to see you again, Terra.”
She smiled a little and said “Yeah. Same here, Robin. Oh and by the way, tell Beast Boy I said hi.”
With that she finally disappeared into the shadows, leaving Robin all alone again. He looked up at the clock and saw it was already 12:55. He wondered how long he and Terra had been talking because it did not feel THAT long. But in any case it was five minutes until one, meaning Robin would meet his first spirit.
As he waited, he couldn’t help but wonder who or what it would be. And what sights it would show him. And how painful it might be for him in the end if his story follows anything like Charles Dickens wrote.