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As Riley bolted, Robin froze for a moment. Her backpack and jacket were in the kitchen still, which might have seemed minor things to leave behind but they were really all Robin had in the entire world and she had learned early on the streets to keep things she valued always in her sight - but that was the opposite direction Riley had fled from. She stood, all the muscles in her body tense and tight.

 

"The hell is wrong with you people?" She growled as she turned to follow Riley, vaulting over the couch in one smooth motion and abandoning her possessions. People were more important than objects. Her parents would have understood. At least, Robin told herself so as she broke into a full sprint, using the frankly inhuman speed to launch herself at the lower branch and pull herself up after Riley with more natural ability than tree-climbing skill. "Riley?"

 

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She found Riley sitting in the tree, his legs around one great limb like he'd been born there, staring at the house where he had been. But not this house; not in this world. "He left them," Riley said quietly, his voice level, his accent stripped from his words as he kept them calm and controlled. His voice was low and almost a whisper, the sound of a hunter waiting in a blind. "He left them two years ago, when Riley started taking hormones. He said he didn't care what Peyton thought, that he wasn't going to let his little girl turn into something she wasn't, and that if he couldn't stop it, at least he didn't have to watch." He gripped the branch in front of him tightly, tighter than Robin knew he needed to in order to hang on. "Riley told me about it."

 

He turned his head, slowly, and looked at Robin. "Do you think my dad would have been like that, if he'd lived?"

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"Nope," Robin's answer was quick and certain as she pulled herself up onto the same limb with ease. She straddled it, facing Riley, knee to knee and if not as natural on her perch, certainly steady. "You don't either. What your world went through changes people. Changes what they think is important. That guy's never had to struggle and fight like your parents did. He'd have been grateful you were alive and healthy. They're not the same - they look the same and all of that but tragedy has a way of stripping people down to their core and I don't think your dad was bad at his core."

 

She gave a little shrug of her shoulders, the too thin shirt shifting a little with the movement. If it hadn't been so baggy, the seams would have given out long ago. "Most people aren't."

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Riley leaned close against Robin, burying his head against her shoulder and wrapping his arms around her. He didn't cry, not really, but she could hear the slow, ragged edge to his breathing as he slowly relaxed against her. When he was calm, he turned his head and kissed her, long and slow and sweet, and they both got into that for a while - taking advantage of what was left of the fall foilage in the tree for a modicum of privacy. It was still chilly, though, so everything was still on when there was a call from ground level. "Hello up there!" 

 

Down below, Peyton was looking up at them. "Would you like to talk?" She smiled slightly as Riley, with a glance at Robin, came down the tree to join her cautiously on the grass. "You know I've caught my son with girls too, but never in a tree..." She rubbed her eyes and looked at Riley, growing more serious. "Son, I'm sorry. Riley's father was not invited here - and I have told him he is not welcome unless he can make some apologies to both you and the other Riley." 

 

"Why'd he come here, anyway?" asked Riley suspiciously, crossing his arms. "Thought you weren't gonna invite him." 

 

"I didn't," said Peyton, shaking her head. "He invited himself."

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Robin dropped from her branch once Riley had made his way down and not promptly bolted off. Rather than follow her boyfriend's agile path down, Robin merely dropped from her high perch, landing on the grass on quiet feet from a drop that could easily have broken a normal girl's ankle. It was chilly outside, and without Riley to lean against, Robin was cold in her thin shirt and jeans but she was used to dealing with minor discomforts. Tucking her hands in her pockets, she turned her grey eyes on Peyton from behind Riley's shoulder.

 

"Is he still here?" Robin wanted to know. "Is he staying?"

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Peyton shook her head. "I'm not going to let him ruin our family Thanksgiving. If he wants to make his apologies to my son, and to Riley for ruining what was supposed to be a special occasion, he can do it on his own time." She looked at the two teenagers and said, her voice calm and sympathetic, "I know this isn't what either of you may have wanted. If you need to leave, I understand." 

 

"No!" said Robin's Riley, his voice high and hard for a moment, hands tight at his sides - the idea seeming to hit him like a physical blow. "No, I'm not going to leave. We came here to have a family time, and that's what we're going to do." He reached up and put his hand on Robin's shoulder. "Family's supposed to stick together, right?"

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Robin was quiet, her position slightly behind Riley and to his non dominant side. She remained there, her head slightly cocked to the side and her hands in the worn pockets of her jeans as she waited for Riley to make his choice. She didn't flinch at the mention of family although a muscle flexed along her jaw before she forced it to relax. "Whatever you wanna do," she told Riley, her gaze remaining level and her posture relaxed, "Shame to let good food go to waste, regardless. I mean, best thing to do is not let things ruin your plans, you know?"

 

She finally unbent her posture, pulling her hand from her pocket to give the hand on her shoulder a gentle, reassuring pat. "Or your meal, really. Everything's better on a full stomach, anyways."

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The uniquely blended family (and Robin) eventually did sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, Riley having stuck close to Robin once they were back inside the too-familiar house. Robin's Riley didn't have much to say once he'd helped his other self bring in the food, but he looked a trifle more relaxed now that he and Robin were together. He'd caught her tension earlier, of course, but neither of them were the sort to have that kind of emotional conversation where other people could hear them. 

 

Well, almost.

 

"You know, this is the table I had growing up," Riley had commented, patting the heavy oak table they were eating around. "The roof was gone in the living room, but my parents were able to get people to drag it back to the new place by the plant..." 

 

He stopped talking. Determined to keep it together after his earlier display, Riley kept his hands under the table, clenching one into a fist as it occurred to him that his mother was probably sitting at that table right then, sitting there eating and believing that her son was gone beneath the teeth of the Ferals. 

 

"Will we be seeing you for Christmas?" Peyton spoke up, giving Robin a bright smile as the other Riley silently watched his double, a frown on his face. "I've invited Riley and any friends of his here for the holiday." 

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Robin didn't exactly help the uneasy silence as she wasn't prone to conversational chatter at the best of time. She did, however, remember her manners and murmur her please and thank you's as food was passed around the table. She was careful not to take too much of anything, erring on the side of too little and when she ate, it was with slow measured bites as she mentally reminded herself to not bolt her food. At the question, Robin paused and put down the fork. 

 

"I, uh, maybe?" Robin said, cutting her grey eyes towards Riley then, her discomfit clear on her features before she turned her expression politely to Peyton. "I mean, thank you for the invitation but we hadn't discussed it though I, uh, don't have plans." Robin winced slightly as her words fell flat even in her own ears. She glanced back down at her plate and reached for her fork once more, her movements carefully measured as she tried to find a way to deflect the conversation from herself, "What sort of things do you like to do for Christmas?"

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