It all starts when Robin is doing undercover work. He's done it as a girl before, but not in a while, not since he's started to get a little taller and broader in the shoulder. It doesn't really matter: it's always come easily to him, the natural showman he was at the circus coming out whenever there's acting to be done. But this time it involves a lot of time around people his own age (more or less) and while he's trying to get info out of some girl who's clearly on something about her supplier, she starts flirting outrageously.
She's calling him pretty, amongst other things, and he waits for the instinctive irritation at the whole affair and- it never comes. He's sitting in a skirt and small heels forcing giggles at a girl who is completely taken in that he's just like her and he doesn't mind at all.
He excuses himself and sits in the girls' bathroom, trying not to panic.
Sometimes he lies awake and thinks about choosing a new name. It doesn't mean anything, he tells himself, it's just... it's nothing, it's just curiosity. Would he pick something like his current name, Rachel or Dixie? Something new- Stephanie, maybe? Robin, even. It's a unisex name. And fine, he knows he could never really use his codename, Bruce would never allow it, but it works.
(Maybe Bruce would allow it. What would Bruce even think? He has no idea. This kind of thing is so... not training or the mission or anything. Would he think it pointless? Compromising? Not even worth mentioning?)
And that leads to him imagining that's what the team really mean when they call him Robin, and now he can't stop thinking it all the time.
Then he's trying out 'she' instead, quietly, just inside his head.
It slips into place with terrifying ease.
She buys her own clothes most of the time. It's not hard to put a few... less than male if not exactly female things in. Not skirts or anything. Just- jeans that hang differently, shirts that cling to her waist. Nobody notices, so it's fine.
The problem is that her training is starting to show more and more these days. Her shoulders are rounded tight against her sleeves, and clumsy, and wrong. She begs Bruce to cut back on the upper body workout a little, insists that gymnasts should be small and he looks at her oddly but lets her work on other things instead. Just so long as she doesn't waste her time.
After that's dealt with for the time being she looks up hormones online- concious the entire time that she may be a good hacker but so is Bruce and please don't check too hard, for once- and learns they can help with that, she figures that should be possible to get going. The internet is pretty forthcoming on the matter. She just bides her time until there's a trip Bruce has to take for a couple of days before ordering them. She dashes to get the mail before Alfred every day until they arrive and hopes he just thinks she's ordered porn or something embarrassing. He doesn't question it, at least.
The pills come in indistinct little bottles, and she's spent long enough staring at the dosages online to know exactly how many to take, and she's smart enough to know exactly what they do, what to keep an eye out for when it comes to side effects. But she still spends a long time double, triple checking. She tells herself it's just to make absolutely sure because seriously, she's about to start self medicating, and this is so stupid-
But she knows that really she's just stalling. Eventually, she gets up at six AM after a sleepless night to take the doses, and looks in the mirror for a long, long time before huddling back under the covers.
Any changes feel frustratingly slow. She feels a little better just knowing she's taking them, admittedly, knowing that at least she's doing something and her figure does start to shift itself around. She thinks. Maybe. But it's not fast and it still doesn't feel like enough.
She wants- she doesn't know what she wants.
On the one hand she can't bring herself to tell anybody what she's doing. She dreads Wally's reaction, and she can't anticipate the others'. Even after all this time they're not really close outside 'work' and the uncertainty is hard to bear. But it makes her angry that none of them seem to notice. Fine, she can't expect Superboy to notice anything or know what he would be noticing. OK, Wally's dense about this kind of thing. But, she starts to think, what about M'gann- can't she read it? Maybe Martians don't really care about that kind of thing. Aqualad is their leader and doesn't he pay attention? And Artemis fancies herself so wordly. Yeah, sure. Whatever.
She finds M'gann practicing her shapeshifting one day, and impulsively asks if she's gotten the hang of boys yet.
"Not yet," M'gann sighs, "but I hope I do soon. I've been trying, but I'm so used to my human form being like this..." she gestures downwards.
"...Uh, human?" because, well, she's green.
"Oh, my normal form is very different." She focuses for a moment and suddenly she looks-
Well. That's weird. And not like the Martian Manhunter's form, either, and now she's kind of getting why Miss M didn't react much to a few little changes because she doesn't think Martians really have the same idea of 'feminine'.
"Woah. That's really... something, Megan."
She smiles as she changes back, and Robin can't help but be jealous. At least for her it would just be a matter of practice.
"Well... good luck, anyway."
As Robin leaves, she tries to walk with even a little of the (affected, she knows now, so it can be learned, right?) femininity Megan has.
It's stupid. If she doesn't want to tell them, why does she want them to notice?
Her hair gets longer, and Wally teases about how she's going to be giving Artemis a run for her money at this rate. Robin just rolls her eyes as Artemis smacks him on the shoulder and they end up bickering.
"No arguments, Robin. You're going back on the training regime and that's final- you're not progressing as you should."
He hasn't noticed. But at least she knows now there's something in her body that he should have put two and two together about. It's a nice thought, anyway.
She buys a skirt and never wears it, but it's just good to know it's there. Except then she comes home one day and Alfred has cleared her closet out with no warning and oh damn, oh damn, oh damn-
She finds it folded at the bottom, underneath her jeans. There's a full minute of staring at it, making sure she definitely hadn't left it there herself, before she goes downstairs and finds him.
He looks at her inscrutably, and then pats her on the shoulder and tells her Bruce will be running late tonight. She smiles back, and it's not perfect, but it's something (someone).
(She does make sure to hide her pills better, though. She doesn't think he'd be nearly as understanding about those.)
It has to go to hell eventually of course.
She's out with Batman in Gotham when they run into the Scarecrow. She's immunised against the toxin but Scarecrow's messed around with it since the last time they saw him, and Bruce insists on running tests when she complains about nausea on the way back. She doesn't think anything of it, blood tests so normal now they barely register for her, until she's halfway up to her room and she realises what those tests are going to show. Things like estrogen levels...
There's nothing she can do about it now. She freezes in the hallway and makes a split second decision. She knows she'll have to face Bruce eventually but she doesn't care as long as it can be put off as long as possible.
She waits in an unused room for Bruce to come up and pass by, looking for something, maybe looking for her, who knows, and slips back down into the cave. To the transporter.
She'll wait at the team's base. If he wants to talk, he'll come.
She's not sure if she wants him to or not.
Superboy finds her in the early hours of the morning and stares. She's been holding a handstand for a few minutes when he arrives, to try and work out some of the kinks spending the night scrunched into a corner on the couch has given her, and she waits a couple moments before letting herself down when he doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
"Why are you here?"
She shrugs and smirks, though he looks unconvinced by it. "Just got bored back at the cave."
"...This is less boring than the cave?" he asks, looking blank, and yes, fine, maybe that doesn't make any sense when she's just hovering around, but whatever, it's not like he really knows enough to tell that.
"Yeah, well. Batman's working on something."
Superboy looks at her for a couple seconds more, then seems satisfied and moves off towards the kitchen. And suddenly she just has to say it out loud, has to ask someone before it's Bruce doing the asking and she doesn't get a choice any more.
"Do I seem different to you?"
He turns back to her. "Huh?"
"Recently," she rocks on the balls of her feet, then backwards, and barely resists the nervous urge to roll into a handstand again. "Just, you know. At all."
Superboy thinks about it. "I guess," he says in that voice that means he doesn't really know what the big deal is but going along seems easiest, "a little bit. But that's normal. Right? People change," and now he sounds more unsure than before.
She thinks this over. Superboy is too... him to lie about something like this. "Yeah. 'Course they do."
She smiles, and dodges past him to snag the cereal he'd been getting out. Her body moves more brightly and naturally than it has in a while, it seems. It feels good.
Bruce comes to find her late in the morning. Well, no, Batman does, and she knows why- secret identity and all that- but it sets off a dull throb of resentment that they're doing this on such unequal footing, with her in just a pair of sunglasses and him in full blown armour. Like he's the one who's going to need it.
Not a great start.
Superboy's gone to train with Canary and Megan's not around at all from what she can see, and the silence is stifling. She almost wishes they were here so that there was something, anything she could hide behind, propriety or secret identities or anything to make Batman mince his words and hedge himself more than she knows he will.
He looks at her. She can practically hear him mentally looking her over, categorising all the things he's abstractly angry he missed, assessing the way her skin is just slightly different, her hips a little wider, her chest just barely starting to show under all those t-shirts she bought, and suddenly she's so angry she can't breathe because damn right you should have noticed and how dare you, this isn't just some checklist-
"That was unbelievably stupid," he says in a voice caught somewhere between Bruce and Batman, and- her anger deflates as abruptly as it grew. Still there, but small and huddled at the bottom of her, compacted into a little scrunched up ball.
"Yeah," she says sullenly, "yeah, well. Not like I had much choice. I'm not a child," she feels compelled to add, "I can make my own decisions, you know that-"
And she just wants him to understand. Just wants him to approve and understand and let her choose. She could forgive him not noticing if he just let her choose, she thinks.
"We're a team," he interrupts, and her heart freezes in her chest at that, "and it's not about you being a child, or not, and you know that. It's about trust. That," he repeats flatly, "was unbelievably stupid. And not just because you're too young to be on any kind of... medication. Let alone to be self medicating."
She stares. He sounds- not hurt, but whatever Batman's equivalent is.
Trust. A team. Risks, and the trust you need to get through them, the confidence she does know that you need to have in your partner. The trust you can't live without if you start to doubt your partner has it, because then you spend all that time doubting yourself and not making sure you deserve it in the first place.
Batman doesn't continue, waiting for her response. She stares incredulously.
"That's- that's it?" and she sounds way too angry for how she feels, so she hurriedly adds, "I mean you don't... mind? This?" She gestures down her body, swallowing hard.
He lets out the barest hint of a sigh. "No. You're my... daughter. Whatever happens. We'll be fine."
Suddenly he smirks just slightly. "-besides, this is nowhere near as strange an identity crisis as what you spend your nights doing."
And suddenly, her sore chest, her lack of whatever the hell it is she's looking for, the fact she can't walk quite like she wants and the way her hair isn't working for her doesn't really matter, because what she was looking for really- somebody else, she has it for real now. Just him, always him, saying what she is, it makes it feel real. A part of their partnership, a part of her life, not something hidden under her mattress, or folded small at the bottom of her wardrobe.
She giggles, and it's pitched just right. He smiles back just slightly, not a smirk but a tiny smile, and it's all fine just for now.
It's fine. She's Robin. She's herself. And they're a team.
"Speaking of which, you think a certain someone would be up to making a new uniform?" She plucks at her top. "I have some changes in mind."