Robin the ghost of the future continued down the main road of the dark abandoned Jump City with only the moon for a source of light.
As they walked the ghost still had its hand on Robin’s shoulder which made Robin feel a little uncomfortable as it did. It had such a cold touch to it that it almost felt like icicles would form on the spot. There was also the green crow on its shoulder that cawed aver now-and-then. To him, each time it cawed, Robin thought he heard a slight sound of the word fool or doom from it. That only made things more unsettling, as well as the silence from both the ghost and the area they were in.
“Where are we going, exactly?” Robin found himself asking out of impulse.
The ghost did not answer but, to Robin, it almost felt like it was answering as he began to see the scenery around them change. It was so much that everything changed overall, more like things were being added on to the already dismal settings as they were.
Cars began to appear, some parked and in good condition and others that have been vandalized or plain broken-down. Graffiti appearing on walls. Stores with windows broken into or that look like fires had been set in them. A few people walking around on the sidewalks while other, looking homeless, stand around a make-shirt fire from a trash can, and even the feint sounds of many police cars in the distance giving chase or on their way to a scene of a crime.
Robin only looked in horror as he saw all this unfold before him. He could see gangs of punks and thugs walking around and laughing at the misfortune of others. The buildings both, great and small, all started to look run down or abandoned. Even the sky seemed like there was a touch of grey in it that only made everything more bleak.
“Wha-what happened here?” Robin asked, stopping and looking around. “The city it’s-it’s a wreck! Where are the police? And what about...?”
He stopped, after looking around more, to see one of the answers to his questions. He was looking out to the bay where Titans Tower was still standing, only it looked as abandoned and run down as the other buildings; maybe worse given how it used to be so glorious to compared to most.
“I...I don’t understand.” Robin said before looking back to the ghost. “Are you trying to tell me this, all of this, happens just because of my birthday? How? Show me, please.”
The ghost did not answer, again, but instead raised its arm and pointed behind Robin. He looked back just in time to see a car, being driven by a bunch of odd looking biker punks, coming down fast on the road, obviously after committing a crime. A police car came right in behind them and gave chase, only for one of the punks to lean out and start firing at them with a small handgun. He managed to hit both the windshield and the right tire, forcing the car to a stop.
Just as he leaned back in to laughing in victory with his three other buddies, and passing by Robin and the ghost, a giant green rhino came from the opposite direction and changed towards them. The punk at the wheel tried to turn away in time but they were too close and went straight into the path of the rhino, which made them come to a stop once they rammed in the middle.
The rhino backed up just as the punks, shaking off the sensation of their sudden stop, and all pulled out weapons like the handgun also bringing a knife, a crowbar, a metal bat and even one putting on a pair of brass knuckles. The green rhino slowly turned back into the future version of Beast Boy. He looked very similar to what Robin remembered Starfire saying he looked like when she went to the future; a balding head and looking overweight in his suit. The future BB watched as he was slowly surrounded by the punks as they snickered at him.
As they did one, the one with the crowbar, of them said “Looky, looky, buddies. Got us some green jean geezer getting in our business.”
Another spoke, the with the brass knuckles, said “Yeah. Can’t stand it when green jean geezers and buddy buddies stepping in on business.”
“I says we slice and dice ‘em.” The one with the knife said.
As they closed in on BB he said “You clowns really want do this? Run home now, or I’ll be spanking your rears all the way back to juvey.”
In response, the punk with the metal bat whistled loud, loud enough for it to echo for a moment. Following that was the sound of a few dozen footsteps running their way towards where they were. Even Robin could tell what it was before it showed up: close to thirty or forty more punks, all in the same gang as the others, coming in and surrounding Beast Boy.
“What green jean saying again about spanking?” the leader punk asked.
BB, seeing he was surrounded, didn’t seem to afraid, or at least acted as such, as he was all of them surround him. All had different weapons from more bats to chains and pieces of wood with nails in them.
He smirked to himself and said “Bring it.”
Five of them ran towards BB before he turned into a bull and charged at them. Robin felt useless as all he could do was watch from the sideline in his ghost-like state while watching BB fight off all the punks on his own. BB managed to mow down a few punks before more came at him, swinging their weapons in the process. He changed into a lion and leapt for them, knocking some down while other backed away for a moment. He growled and roared before they ran at him, BB changing into an ankylosuarus and swatting them away with a good swing from his clubbed tale. Other took the opportunity to get on top and start smacking at BB’s back and head, forcing him to turn back to himself either due to the stress or even loosing concentration in his old age.
BB, cowering on the ground, looked up as the punks surrounded and looked down on him, smirking. Robin looked away, not wanted to see his friend be hurt anymore and knowing he couldn’t stop it, when the ghost pointed towards something that Robin was not seeing. Just as he turned back, a bright beam of energy went slicing through the gang of punks and taking some of them down.
All, including Robin and BB, looked to see Cyborg, a very aged Cyborg, standing there with his arm cannon still smoking from the blast. Robin thought he looked a bit like the ghost imitating him from before did, minus the robe and birthday hat. His skin was still wrinkled and his armor looked a bit rusty, but his mechanical insides, the ones that glowed blue, were still bright enough.
“I’m only going to say it once.” The future Cyborg threated. “Beat it!”
The gang hesitated before finally scattering into the alleyways and down the streets. Cyborg turned his arm back to normal and walked up to BB, who was getting to his feet himself.
“I could have handled them, you know.” He said to Cy as he finally reached him.
“Don’t even bother lying to me, BB” Cy said. “Another minute and they’d have torn you in two. And then we’d have to be morning over you next.”
Beast Boy seemed both annoyed, angered, and hurt by that response before looking away from Cy and brushing himself off while saying “Why did you even help me? I thought you didn’t want to be a team player anymore.”
“What did you expect? After what happened, Raven left and only you and Starfire can’t face the facts. The Titans are history. Okay?”
BB retorted by saying “Maybe. Bu that doesn’t mean either of us are going to stop trying to put this city back together. By Starfire and I are doing it as a team. Not just vigilantes, like you.”
“I not just some idiot going around and trying to clean a city. Got that? I’m only looking out for my side of the town. My neighborhood. The both of you are just wasting your times. You should get while the getting’s still good. Where is Star anyway?”
“Did you forget? Today’s his day.”
Cyborg looked down, a little saddened, and said “Oh. Yeah I guess I almost did. Why aren’t you with her? She needed some time on her own. I didn’t want to try and intrude. Being how close they are.”
“Were.” Cy corrected him, both now looking very saddened.
Robin, confused by all of this, looked back to the ghost and began to say “Are they....does this...have to do with...?”
Before he could finish the ghost stepped to the side and revealed that the scenery changed again. Now they were no longer in the city but somewhere on the outskirts; a small grassy hill that overlooked most of it. But Robin examined further and saw that the grassy hill was actually a section in the middle of a cemetery. He then looked and saw someone kneeling down in front of one and was shocked when he could already tell who it was.
Her hair had grown a little and was slightly rattier than it usually looked. Instead of her normal costume, she was wearing a black dress that reached to her knees. Arm long black gloves and matching shoes. And finally a small hat with a veil rested around her eyes. When Robin would finally see her, her skin only so much older that BB’s or Cy’s. She now looked like a matured woman instead of an old crone like he’d though she might look.
Robin was stunned with fear and sadness at what he was seeing before hearing the older Starfire finally speak. When she did, this wasn’t the same voice that he’d know Her voice was augmented with age, as well as a subtle tone of anger.
“It’s been so many years, and half of them I keep wondering why I bother to come.” She said. “The city is lost and yet Beast Boy and I still keep fighting. I don’t know why though. Everything went, as you earthlings say, downhill after that. But I think it started long before that. You remember, don’t you? When we tried to make you happy on your birthday. But all it did was make you angry again. So much that you kept pushing us away. Your team away. Your friends away. You pushed me away. And then you just let emotions drive you. And that cost you everything. I hope whatever place human souls go to rejected you the moment you came there.” Tears began running down her cheeks as she stood and placed a single white flower on the grave in front of her. She tried wiping them away as she said “Goodbye, my love. So much for trying to bring you the perfect gift.”
Robin never did see her eyes the whole time he watched her. They were blocked by the veil she wore and the fact that she held her head down the whole time. When she finally flew away into the air and back towards the city, Robin finally looked back and saw who was buried where she was morning.
On the headstone it read “Here Lies Robin. The Boy Wonder.”
He dropped to his knees, too weak to walk after the sudden shock of the moment and looked at this defeat in his soul. Because of him his city fell, his team disbanded, and he died before seeing this and making any amends. Robin dropped to both his hands on the ground and tried to hold back from crying at all. He gripped his fists, pulling out some of the grass below in the process, before slamming his hand on the ground. He then looked and saw as little wet spots were appearing on the ground below where he looked. They originated from his eyes and dripped down, despite how hard he tried to fight them back.
“This...this isn’t happening.” He said, standing and still looking at the grave. “This won’t happen!” He turned back to the ghost, who was just standing there, and said “I won’t let this happen!” He walked up to it and was almost face-to-face by the time he said “No matter what you show me, I know I can change this. All of this is only a possibility. One I WILL make sure never happens. Understand?”
When the ghost did not answer, yet again, this time it infuriated Robin. He grabbed her by the cape and shook her, so much that the green crow flew off after cawing in annoyance.
“Answer me!” Robin shouted at her before removing her hood to see what the ghost really looked like.
When he saw the true face underneath, Robin’s heart dropped. He let go and took a step back after being shock at what he saw. It was not Raven’s face he saw, nor was it some disfigured form of her. It was not her skeleton or even his like he’d expected. The face that looked back to him was someone else’s. It was....
The moment he said his name, the ghost that now looked like Slade grabbed Robin by his collar and held him up in his right hand. He tore off the Raven hood he, or it, had been wearing, revealing the same uniform Slade always wore, and then pulled Robin close so they could see eye-to-eye.
Robin was still shocked and scarred by what he was seeing as Slade’s one eye narrowed while looking at him. Even in this situation, when being haunted by ghosts that show the aspects of time, Robin was still plagued by his greatest enemy. But perhaps this was also part of the ghost’s plan, to scare him with yet another possible future looking him right in the eye. This thought passed through Robin’s mind an only horrified him more.
Slade held Robin out in his one hand still and Robin looked down to see the ground beneath him start to crumble and crack before splitting apart to reveal a deep dark hole that seemed to have no bottom to it. Robin looked back at Slade as he still held him out.
And finally, the ghost, Slade, whatever you want to call it, utter one simple phrase to him.
“Happy Birthday, Robin.”
Slade let go and Robin fell down into the darkness, screaming the whole way down. He felt like he was falling into nothingness and that he would never find the stop he desperately wanted. He saw one last glance of the light from above and could see the feint shape of Slade looking down at him as he fell. Then Robin felt it coming. The bottom. And at it was an open casket waiting for him. He kept screaming as he came closer to it, now wanting to see as he would finally reach it. The end of everything.
Robin fell face first on a hard surface with a sheet wrapped around half of his body.
Robin groaned as he picked himself up and saw what he hit. It was the floor of the medical room he’d been sleeping in. He could barely half believe what he was seeing as he looked back and started unwrapping the sheets around his lower-half. While sitting on the floor he looked up to the window and saw it was daylight out.
“It’s.....it’s tomorrow already.” He said, picking himself up. He suddenly found himself smiling as hard as he could before half giggling “It’s....it’s morning already.” He gave a brief laugh and aid “It’s...it’s my Birthday. It’s my Birthday.” He suddenly let out a yelp of joy before saying “And It couldn’t be on a better day then today.”
He chuckled and giggled more with happiness as he started to make for the door out of the room.
Inside the main room of the Tower, Cyborg, Raven and Starfire were still setting up for Robin’s party.
While Cyborg was busy putting on some more streamers here-and-there, the girls were putting up a large red banner with yellow painted letters reading “Happy Birthday.
Robin.”. Raven held it up with her magic while Starfire used her flight and strength to simple push the nails into the wall before it was finally secured.
“It looks excellent.” Star said, flying back down and landing next to Raven.
“Robin better think so to.” Cy said while still working. “I worked all morning on it.”
“I’d be more concerned if he wakes up in time.” Raven noted. “It’ been all morning and he’s still not up.”
“Well if his vitals were saying anything when I checked on him last,” Cy began “he was still in for a rough night. Almost thought he wasn’t going to make it for a sec. That’s why I had it linked with my alarm system in case.”
Starfire began to sound very concerned as she said “Oh! I feel horrible for having given him those chocolates.”
“If anything you can say it’s an early birthday present.” Raven said, attempting a joke.
Cy, finishing his work, suddenly said “Speaking of sweats, I wonder what’s taking BB so long. Last time I checked with him he said he was on his way.”
“I am sure Beast Boy is hurrying as fast as he can.” Starfire said. “I just hope of this is enough to cheer...”
Before she could finish her sentence, Starfire and the others looked as the front door of the room opened, with someone stepping inside. It was Robin, with a smile still on his face.
“R-Robin!” Cyborg said, surprised that he was up. “Uh... hey man.” He began to said awkwardly.
He was trying to think of what to say since they’d all planned to surprise him in the hopes they might perk his spirits due to how he acted yesterday.
“Now...I know how this looks,” he kept saying “But I just think we should say...”
“I love it.” Robin suddenly said.
“Y-you do?” Raven said, a bit surprised.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better.” He said walking up to them. “It looks great. Thanks guys.”
Both Raven and Cyborg looked at each before looking back to Robin, very confused and stunned by what they were hearing. Both stumble over their words at the same time while trying to figure what to say. Eventually they both reached the same answer.
“Robin?” Starfire asked, walking up to him. “Are you alright? You seem so...”
Before she could finish he took her by both arms and said “I’ve never felt any better in my whole life.” Before bringing her in for a tight hug.
Starfire slowly returned his hug, smiling as she did. Both Cy and Raven smiled at this, seeing that Robin’s sleep was apparently what he needed to sway his mood about his birthday. Just as Robin finished hugging, the door to the room opened again and Beast Boy was walking in while pushing a small cart with something tall hidden under a white box.
“Okay, guys.” He was saying, not realizing Robin was there. “I got here as fast as I could.” He stopped and made his way to the other side of the cart. “So how before Robin...?” He stopped and saw Robin and the others looking at him before saying “Oh man. Don’t tell me. He doesn’t want the party right?” Before any could answer he huffed and said “Fine. I get it. I’ll just take it back then and...”
Robin stopped him by saying “Hold it, Beast Boy.” While walking over to him. “I never said I hated anything. In fact, this may be one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.”
“Really?” BB said, sounding more enthusiastic. “Then maybe you’ll like it better when I show you this.”
BB walked to the right of the cart in order to life up the box covering what he brought for Robin: his cake. It was a very specially made cake at that. It was shaped like Titans Tower. It must’ve been at least three feet tall and was so nicely made with the details of the tower being matched with icing and all other sweet little things decorating the cake.
“It’s perfect.” Robin said, seeing it. He looked to him and said “Thanks, Beast Boy.”
“No problem, Robin. Happy Birthday.”
Robin suddenly hugged him as well, making BB hug back out of impulse.
“So what are we waiting for?” Cyborg said. “Let’s sing the song, blow out the candle and dig in to this bad boy before it gets runny.”
For the next half-hour the Titans proceeded with the normal birthday tradition of singing happy birthday to Robin and eating as much cake as they could.
It came to a point where more than half of the cake was gone and the Titans were all sitting on the couch around the table in the room. Some plates were laying on it while others, like Cyborg and Beast Boy, still had there’s.
“Aw man.” BB groaned. “I think I had one piece too much. My stomach feels like a brick is sitting in it.”
“Sure you don’t want another?’ Cy asked coyly, holding out his piece in front of BB’s face. When BB answered with an even more sickening grumble, Cy shrugged and said “Well, means more for us.” Before gulping it down.
“That was really good.” Robin said, relaxing on the couch.
“Indeed.” Starfire added. “And now I believe it is time for the exchange of gifts during this earthling celebration.”
“Oh right.” Cy said, standing up quickly. “That reminds me. I’ll be right back.”
He suddenly rushed out of the room while the others waited.
“Oh here, Rob.” BB said, still slumping where he sat. “We all signed this card for you.”
He handed it to Robin, who looked at it before opening and reading what was inside and finally seeing everyone’s signatures.
“Aw, thanks guys.” He said. “I really appreciate it.”
“And that’s all your getting from me.” BB said. “After hauling your other gift, which is starting to give ME a stomach ache now, that’s all I can do.”
“Fine with me, Beast Boy.” Robin said. “I still like it all the same.”
Suddenly Cyborg came back into the room with something large and metal hidden underneath a sheet.
“Here it is.” He said, setting it just at the top of the small stairs in the room. He suddenly pulled off the cover and said “Surprise!”
Underneath was Robin’s R-Cycle. It looked the same for the most part.
“Oh, Cyborg.” Robin said, standing and looking at it now. “You made me another bike?”
“Nope. It’s the same.”
“So...what’s the difference?”
As Cyborg spoke, he demonstrated each thing he said, starting with “True, only this one has a state of the art guidance and tracking system. A fully weaved fiber coil attached to a light steel grapple hook that fires from the front and back. Enhanced boosters for a higher thrust. And I even threw in a little air freshener.” He took a whiff of it and said “Kentucky Greenwood. Nothing like it.”
Robin examined his new advanced bike before looking back to Cyborg and saying “This is great, Cy. Thanks a lot.”
“No problem, buddy.” Cy said before Robin hugged him, making him hug back.
Starfire suddenly said “Who will give the next gift?”
Raven stood and said “I will.” Before walking over to Robin.
She had her robe closed so Robin could not see what she was giving him. Once she finally reached him she signed a bit before holding out three different presents all wrapped up.
Robin looked and said “A movie , a video-game AND a new cd?” he said, still smiling.
“I couldn’t decide.” Raven admitted. “And the lady at the store said it was a bargain deal.”
Robin took them in one hand and said “Thanks, Raven.” Before hugging her now.
She looked like she was taken back a bit by the hug before slowly putting her hands up and hugging him back. She tried to hide the small smile growing on her face from the others, but Cy and BB could definitely tell from where they were. They could even see the small blush on her cheeks as well.
“I got to say, Robin,” BB began “you seem a lot more...cheery today. What happened? Did that alien candy mess with your brain?”
“Let’s just say I had a lot of time to look back on some things and, with a little outside, help, managed to see what was best, not only for me, but for everyone’s future.” He said, confusing the others for a moment.
“And now it is my gift to give.” Starfire said, holding up a wrapped up box for him.
He walked over and sat down next to her on the couch while starting to open it.
“And what’s this?” he asked, still opening it.
“Something that I would think you would find ‘extra-special’ for a gift.” She said, waiting to see his reaction to it.
Once Robin finally opened it he was it was tickets to something. He looked at them and his eyes went a little wide when he saw what they were for.
“I went looking through some of your things.” Starfire explained. “Forgive me for doing so, but then I could not help but find an old poster and assumed it was some sort of childhood memory of yours. I was not sure if you might want to see what was on there for yourself.”
Robin, putting the box down, looked to her and said “Starfire.....you’re the best.”
He brought her in and hugged her again, making her sigh with relief before he brought her close and kissed her on the lips. As both shared the kiss, the others looked to see that the tickets were for something called “Haley’s Circus.”
On the outskirts of Jump City, sometime afterwards, a circus crew was trying to set up in an open field near train tracks.
All were busy at work with moving crates, herding animals or even trying to get the giant tent up and ready. All different sorts of people went to-and-fro as they worked to get ready. All were being directed by a very old looking man in a familiar jumped and white shirt he wore.
The T-Car pulled up far enough away from the site that no one fully noticed they had arrived. All the Titans got out to see what was going all, but for Robin it was an all too familiar sight.
He looked back to the others, who were standing behind him, and said “I’ll be a minute.” He started to walk off before stopping and saying “Oh, Beast Boy, before I forget. There was a lot I needed to go through in order to change for the better. But I don’t think it could’ve been possible without help from an old friend. That’s why I’m very serious and sincere when I say...Terra says Hi.”
BB, and the others, were taken back a bit by this statement. Before any could question further, Robin had already turned back and started making his way through the field. He passed by some of the crew, a few glancing up from their duties to see him, before slowly reaching the older man in the center. Next to him was a very old looking black bear with a pink bow around its neck.
As he came closer, the bear looked up, while the man’s back was turned, and suddenly seemed to become excited at the sight of Robin. She started to hustle her way over, catching the attention of the man.
“Sassy? Where are you going girl?” he called out.
He turned just as the bear finally reached Robin and sniffed and licked him. Robin giggled as she did so before petting her on the head to calm her. He then walked over to the old man, a little confused seeing him, before it slowly became clear to him. Sassy followed Robin as he walked over and stopped once he’d reached the old man.
“It’s great to see you again, Mr. Haley.” Robin said.
Jack Haley had aged a little bit since Robin had seen him last. His face was more wrinkled, his back a little more arched, and more of his hair gone. But Robins still knew him all the same. Haley’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Robin before it finally struck. He gasped a little before calming himself and nearly crying and laughing at the same time.
“Oh...oh, my boy. Look...look at you.” He said before leaning in and hugging Robin tight. “It’s been so long.”
“I know, sir.” Robin said, still hugging him and nearly crying himself. “It’s good to be back.”
In the trees further away, a feint figure of a familiar blond hair girl smiled at the sight of the two hugging. Her business was done and she’d saved not only her friend’s spirit, but also his hope. With that she slowly faded away into nothingness.