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none of the big secrets

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The costume's pretty much broken in, now.

It took a while for it to get there; I mean, Batman designed the thing, so it's not like it's lacking in form and functionality. I can shimmy around faster than Beyonce's butt in these fifteen-micro-layer Nomex threads. But getting used to it, really feeling like I belong in the costume — that's a different matter. That took at least a dozen battles against your regular assortment of Gotham weirdoes and scum, hundreds of falls, thousands of hits, a googolplex of bumps and slams and rolls. But now it's like butter. I can't even remember what the Spoiler costume felt like, I'm so used to kevlar and insulation and flame-retardant. There's a definite something to be said for being officially taken under the boss's wing.

There's something to be said, too, for hitting the streets with him. There's nothing that'll strike fear in the hearts of evil-doers (and hey, normal citizens too) than seeing the Batman bearing down on them from on high. It's like nothing I've ever experienced. I've had guys run from the Spoiler, sure, but this? This is on a different scale. Even when they do pause and double-take at me, at the boobs and the blonde hair, it's never for more than a moment. Because no matter what, I'm in the Robin costume, and he's the Bat, and it's that simple.

I want to ask Tim if it was that simple for him, how he felt when he was on patrol with Batman, if it was that same dizzying combination of awe and adrenalin and security and terror. If the badguys made as much fun of him as they seem to do me. If his reinforced gorget hurt his throat like this when somebody grabbed him by the cape. But Tim and me...don't talk too much, lately. I know he always said that he didn't intend to be Robin forever, but I guess he thought he'd be Robin for way longer than this.

"Hunh," he'd said when he saw me in the costume. "I wouldn't have chosen that hair."

"I could always cut it short and dye it," I'd snapped back. "I hear you like that in your girls."

He'd sighed, oh-so long-suffering, oh-so above it all. "Steph. Look, you're not just filling in a position, y'know? Being Robin, it's not like...I mean, there's a lot. That goes along with the costume."

"Well gee, thanks for telling me so, Boy Yesterday. I figured it was like a summer job."

More sighs. "No, I just...look. Steph, that costume — and anybody in it — have a lot of enemies. Lunatics. People who just want to kill anything that's red and Robin-shaped. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Of course I do," I'd scoffed, and refused to talk to him anymore. But I didn't understand him at the time, of course. It took night after night of people mocking me and attacking me and Batman watching me like a hawk before I finally started to get an inkling of what Tim had been trying to tell me. That it's not really me they're targeting, and it wasn't really Tim, and maybe it wasn't even really Jason; it's years of built-up anger, it's four Robins' worth of gut hatred in the Gotham underworld. I assumed the mantle and I assumed the legacy of all that.

And since that moment I've been working like a dog to be as good a Robin as Tim was, a good enough Robin so that I'm not a liability and I'm not Batman's weak point and hell, I've done a good job. The thugs and villains don't pull back in surprise anymore when they see me coming. They still crack wise, but that's gonna happen when you're a girl and a crimefighter no matter what. I can deal with that. I've dealt with so fucking much already, I can deal with that.

It helps, when Batman and I are up on the rooftops one night taking down a bunch of black-market organ smugglers. Each swing of my fist is tight and controlled and there's real fear in these guys' eyes; they're as scared of me as they are of the Big Guy. Well, okay — maybe not *as* scared, but they're not mocking me. I'm Robin. It's my boots kicking their teeth in, it's my elbows catching them in the gut. I'm a force to be reckoned. The knowledge of that image sings in my blood and everything's racing together and this is what I'm meant to be doing, I'm sure of it.

The sharp chop of helicopter blades slices in and they open up fire on us from inside; Batman and I both dive behind a bank of pipes while the airborne guys mow half their own people before they stop shooting. Batman goes tense and I know he's got a plan already, worked out and checked over twice in the three seconds since we landed behind cover. I'm looking right at him when he goes, "Robin," and glances over at me, and there's a moment. I wouldn't have noticed if I weren't staring, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But I'm watching him real close and so I see that tiny fraction of a second where he pauses. Because he's surprised. Because here I am, the boobs and the blonde hair and the Robin costume. He gives me instructions about getting across to the other side of the roof and what to do once I'm there, but it's not the same as it was five seconds ago. For the first time, I start to wonder if it ever will be.

Costume fits, all right. But the person inside it's all wrong.